Best Running Gear & Gadgets

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I love talking about and reading about running, working out, and nutrition. I could do it all day (sometimes I do). From running tips to new workouts, and people’s favorite gear — I can’t get enough of it! So today, I thought I’d share some of the best running gear and gadgets I’ve found. None of these things are groundbreaking, or even new, but I love them all and use them regularly!

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Best Running Gear & Gadgets

FlipBelt // I use this every time I go out for a run! When I had a gym membership, I used it every single day. I had read about FlipBelt for a couple of years and tried some knock-offs, but they didn’t last. When I saw FlipBelt at a race expo, I finally got one for myself. It holds my house key, my phone, my inhaler, and anything else I need to stuff into it during a run!

 

Fitbit Charge 2 // I know there are probably many activity trackers on the market that are a lot better, but I’m happy with my Fitbit! I used to use a chest strap heart rate monitor, but the watch didn’t have GPS and I wanted an all-in-one tracker! I love the social aspect of Fitbit and seeing my steps throughout the day helps me stay motivated! Those of you who have used a Fitbit and then switched to a different watch, what changed your mind?

 

Thorlo Experia Socks // Until I started working out regularly, I never gave a second thought to the kind of socks I wore. When I started training for my first half marathon, I experienced an array of issues from black toenail to chafing under my bra strap. My mom found these socks for us and they are fantastic! They have extra cushioning on the heel, ball of the foot, and at the toe. They’re also a little tighter than a lot of socks around the arch. I love this feature because I have very high arches.

 

Brooks Juno Sports Bra // I’ve talked about this bra before, but it deserves another mention! I have the old style Juno by Moving Comfort, as well as the new style by Brooks. The biggest difference between the two is the coverage in the back, but I don’t prefer one style over another. If I had all the money in the world, my sports bra collection would be ONLY Junos. 🙂 I love that Brooks is putting these out in colors other than just black or white. “Pretty” bras can be so hard to find in bigger sizes!

 

Asics GEL-Exalt 2 // Right now, I’m wearing these shoes by Asics. I’ve been a fan of Asics from way back in my cheerleading days, but just started wearing them for running within the last couple of years. I will have to replace my current pair soon, but they’ve but they’ve been great! Again, I love the bright colors. My day-to-day wardrobe consists of a lot of neutrals, so when it comes to my fitness gear, I love to brighten things up!

 

Ok, your turn! Tell me all your favorite gear — shoes, bras, tech gadgets — I want to hear it all. Today, I’m linking up with Nicole, Annemarie, and Jen for Wild Workout Wednesday!

Fitness Tips for Teachers

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Teaching is easily the most stressful, yet most rewarding job I’ve ever had. I hear it’s second only to parenting… But since I’m not a parent yet, I can neither confirm nor deny. 😉 With so many responsibilities, extracurricular activities, and directives being pushed down on teachers, it can be difficult to make health and fitness a priority.  However, it doesn’t have to be impossible. My fitness tips for teachers can help make the fight a little easier!

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Fitness Tips for Teachers

I changed my lifestyle about two years before I started teaching, so it was an extreme adjustment with lots of trial and error once I no longer had a traditional 8-5 schedule. I was used to leaving for work at 7:45 to make it there by 8:00 (but really, not starting work until 8:15 or 8:30), getting a one-hour lunch break each day, and leaving work and all its baggage at the door at 5:00. Very quickly, I realized that teaching wasn’t going to give me those same luxuries — which I didn’t even consider to be luxuries at all when I was working an office job! I’m in my third year of teaching, so at this point I’ve come up with a routine that is working very well, at least for now.

1 // Take Advantage of Your “Alone” Hours

As a teacher, you probably put in a lot of hours before and after school. I know I do! I have to be at school by 7:30 to welcome kiddos into my room by 7:45. Since I prefer to get a little bit of work done before the day starts, so my commute starts at 7:00 a.m. If I want to get a workout in, I need to do it early in the morning before my day gets going. I’ve talked about how I wake up early to get my sweat on, as well as the advantages of working out before the world wakes up. I find that I’m much more consistent when I’m working out early and I’ve been able to maintain that schedule for the better part of five years.

If you are not an early riser, that doesn’t mean there’s no time for a workout! Schedule your workout just like any other appointment and don’t let yourself cancel. It can be easy to let life and other obligations derail your schedule, but putting yourself first is equally as important.

Fitness Tips for Teachers

2 // Maximize Your Time

As just mentioned, I don’t have a lot of time to work out. This year more than ever, I’ve been taking advantage of shorter, more intense workouts. I like to make breakfast for my husband each morning so I spend a maximum of 45 minutes working out — warm up to cool down — and then I move on to my other responsibilities.

This was a difficult adjustment for me because I’m used to working out for an hour. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea that a 30-minute workout could be just as effective as a longer one. To get past that, I started doing a lot of HIIT workouts and AMRAP workouts. I set my timer and went to town! In October, I started a new program and I fell in love with short workouts all over again. Find my favorite program, Jillian Michaels’ BODYSHRED, here!

3 // MEAL PLAN AND PREP

I seriously cannot sing the praises of meal planning and meal prepping enough! In Texas, teachers get a 30-minute duty free lunch. By the time I drop my kids off in the cafeteria, take a restroom break, grab my lunch bag from the teacher’s lounge, and finish eating with enough time to get back to the cafeteria int time to pick up my students, my break is more like 20 minutes. Sometimes it’s even as low as 15! If I didn’t spend the time I do each week to get my meals in order, I would most certainly eat crap for lunch each and every day.

Fitness Tips for Teachers

4 // Take a Midweek Rest Day

I used to think Sunday was the only day for rest day. Most workout calendars suggest Sunday as a rest day, and at some point I pigeon-holed myself into this thought process. Those 4:30 a.m. wake-up calls started to beat me down and I found myself skipping workouts for sleep more and more. I knew something had to change, so I reorganized my workout schedule for a rest day to take place on Thursday. I’m loving this! On Thursday mornings, I sleep in about 45 extra minutes and take my time getting ready. By Friday, I’m ready to roll again.

Since teaching keeps me on my feet, taking a midweek rest day helps give me that “active rest” factor. Most Thursdays I still get my 10,000 steps because I’m running around chasing kids all day! Which brings me to my next tip…

5 // Utilize the “Power Zone”

Do you know what the power zone is? The power zone keeps teachers on their feet and roaming between desks and rows throughout a lesson. When utilizing the power zone, within just a few steps you should be able to reach any student in any part of the room. As a teacher, you probably do this naturally, so use it to your advantage. Think of that power zone time as exercise! This is how I get my activity during the day, especially on my rest days. With intervention groups, read alouds, and other activities, it’s impossible to ALWAYS be in the power zone (and also — you work hard and need a break!), but if you realize you’ve been sitting for more than 10 or 15 minutes, get up and take a walk. Utilize that power zone!

Bonus Tip 🙂

Check out the #tiuteacher feed on Instagram. Those ladies will absolutely get you motivated!

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What are your fitness fail proofs for a busy life?

 

 

How to Meal Prep Effectively

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Hi, y’all! Welcome back. 🙂 I hope you had a wonderful Valentine’s Day filled with lots of love! And chocolate.♥ Now chocolate is true love, right?! Last week, we talked about how to meal plan effectively and today, we’re taking the next step! What do you do once you have all of that food?? Well, you meal prep, of course! Preparing your food a few days in advance may seem like a huge chore, but once you get the hang of how to meal prep, it will become second nature.

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How to Meal Prep Effectively

If you are new to meal planning and prepping, or have not read last week’s post on How to Meal Plan Effectively, click here to get caught up!

1 // Develop a Plan

Just like your first step of meal planning is to make sure you’re organized, meal prep is much the same. You cannot walk into the kitchen without a plan and expect things to go efficiently and effectively! I used to spend probably four hours every Sunday making one meal at a time. At a certain point, that didn’t work for me anymore. I have less time and more responsibility than I used to, so I had to come up with a different method. Now I can be in and out in 90 minutes and wrap up with breakfast, lunch, and snacks for the week, plus dinner for that night!

Take stock of your meal plan for the week. Go over prep times, cook times, etc. Develop a plan, either written or in your head, so you can maximize your time in the kitchen. Do you have a slow cooker dish? Do you have a dish that requires 30+ minutes in the oven? Work smarter, not harder, by prepping those meals first and using their cook time to prep other meals.

Based on the meals you’ve chosen, sometimes it’s smarter not to prep them in advance. That may seem counterproductive based on our topic, but hear me out. Is your breakfast pre-packaged oatmeal? Are your lunches microwavable freezer meals? Don’t waste your time by prepping these in advance when you can use that time for preparing meals that will take more time.

I also choose not to prep my weekly dinners in advance. My husband and I like to cook together during the week, but I still have ways of saving time with those meals, which I discuss here! Another great meal prep tip — if you’re making a meal later in the week that requires shredded chicken, throw that in your slow cooker with water or broth and let it cook over a few hours. Shred when it’s ready and store in the refrigerator. BAM — chicken is prepped and ready to go.

How to Meal Prep Overnight Oats Effectively

A week’s worth of overnight oats prepped and ready to go.

2 // Gather Tools and Ingredients

I find that I save a lot of time by having everything I need in front of me instead of going back and forth to cabinets during my prep. I know my kitchen like the back of my hand, yet if I don’t have my garlic powder right in front of me, I might mistakenly omit it. For that reason, I like to gather everything I need for a particular dish before I start the prep, then I can put it away as I go.

How to Meal Prep Effectively

Another huge component of effective meal prep is having the right tools available. We are blessed in that we got some awesome kitchen gadgets when we got married last year, and I’ve loved using them for meal prep. Some of my FAVORITE kitchen tools are our KitchenAid Mixer, Nutri Ninja Auto-IQ Blender System (awesome blender/food processor AIO), and the One Second Slicer. I HATE chopping onions, and this thing makes it SO EASY!


I’m also super lucky that my husband is a knife connoisseur. He studies up on the best types of steel for any project he might undergo and we have knives hidden in every drawer. Ha! #manstuff He ordered me this SPYDERCO kitchen knife a few months ago and I use it all the time.


Having all of these tools readily available will make your prep go much smoother!

3 // Eliminate Distractions

With kiddos running around and various things going on, this can be easier said than done. However, I urge you to try and eliminate as many distractions as you can! Most women, myself included, are masters of multitasking. When it comes to meal prepping though, I try to focus on only that. Close the door if that’s an option, put on some music and get in the zone, or better yet, utilize nap time for the kiddos or a time when your spouse may be out running errands. If you can stay focused, you’ll appreciate the time saved.

How to Meal Prep Effectively

Real-life prep after my Sunday workout.

4 // Finish

My success comes when everything is prepped down to the container it’s stored in! I always finish my meal prep by packing my lunch bag for the following day and ensuring that every other serving for the rest of the week is ready to be thrown in my bag. As soon as a meal has cooled enough to store, I will divide it into containers and transfer them to the refrigerator. If one of my snacks for the week includes grapes, I pull out five plastic bags and divvy up the servings. I’ve learned if I tell myself, “I’ll do it in the morning,” I, in fact, won’t do it in the morning. 😉 Having my food ready in grab-and-go bags or containers is the most important step I take.

How to Meal Prep Effectively

5 // ENJOY!

Enjoy the extra time you have this week that’s NOT being spent prepping meals or running around crazily. Rest a little longer, spend time with your spouse, pat yourself on the back for making a healthy choice!

How to Meal Prep Effectively

Do you meal prep? What does it look like for you?

Linking up again for Wild Workout Wednesday with Nicole, Annmarie, and Jen!

#LookForLove Challenge | Weeks 5 & 6

Happy Monday! Can y’all believe we’re already THIRTEEN DAYS into February?! I cannot, but I’m not complaining because I’m just a few days from a three-day weekend and I’m so looking forward to it! Well, the Tone It Up #LookForLove Challenge has come to a close and I’m recapping the last two weeks.

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#LookForLove Challenge Update

If you’re unfamiliar with the #LookForLove Challenge, it’s a six-week fitness challenge designed by Karena and Katrina of Tone It Up. Every few months, they put together awesome challenges to get people excited about getting fit. I love their energy and positivity so I always jump in feet first.

All in all, I lost about four pounds doing the challenge since January 1. That’s not a whole lot, but it’s a lot more than nothing. 🙂 I practiced balance and mindfulness with my food and had great success. I’ve been watching my macronutrients lately and have felt better and more satisfied since starting that. I’ll continue to watch my macronutrients and loosely track my calories moving forward. That’s not to say I didn’t have a few slip-ups or cheats in the last six weeks — I just chose not to dwell on them. For me, that is as much a win as losing weight.

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As I mentioned in my last update, I strayed a little bit from the suggested schedule. I signed up for a 10K that I’ll be completing in March, so I had to expedite race training. 🙂 I haven’t ran in a race since 2014, so I also haven’t trained for a race since 2014. When I think back to my half-marathon training almost three years ago, I’m not met with pleasant memories. This training experience (even though it’s just a 10K) has been so much different — so much better. What’s changed? Well, a lot has. So much that it’s probably a completely separate post. BUT, I’m so grateful for a better and more pleasant training experience.

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On the strength front, I’ve been focusing on total body workouts twice a week, with a restorative stretch-and-strength workout each Sunday. This is working right now and I’ll probably stick with this type of schedule until at least the end of March. At that point I might scale back on running until time to start training for Wine & Dine. I love total body workouts, but I also don’t really know how to incorporate a balanced training split without spending hours and hours working out right now. Time is not on my side lately, so I’m just trying to practice prioritizing. 🙂 (Totally open to suggestions, by the way!)

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Your turn: Did you complete any New Year’s fitness challenges? How did they go? How will you be adjusting your fitness schedule moving forward?

To read my recap on weeks one and two, click here.

To read my recap on weeks three and four, click here.

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How To Meal Plan Effectively

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I’m linking up again for Wild Workout Wednesday, which is quickly becoming my favorite link-up. Be sure to visit Nicole’s blog and click around to get more health and fitness inspiration!

A huge component to a healthy lifestyle is effective planning. When I learned how to meal plan and prep effectively, everything clicked for me! With pre-portioned options waiting for me, I’m much less likely to make poor decisions. It also helps me spend less at the grocery store, because I’m not impulse buying or just throwing things in the cart willy nilly.

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How to Meal Plan Effectively

It took me quite some time to figure out how to meal plan. It started to get easier when I joined the Tone It Up Nutrition Plan. I suddenly had all of these amazing healthy recipes at my finger tips, along with a guide to what I should eat and when. Another fantastic feature of the TIU Plan is that I get lifetime updates for free. It is initially a large chunk of change, but in the long run, a fantastic value. I highly recommend it if you are feeling lost when it comes to your nutrition.

All right, let’s get to the fun part. This is a method I have tweaked throughout the years to fit our lifestyle. We are currently in a supremely busy and stressful season of life. Because of that, meal planning is basic and simple. However, it’s still very important to me, so I always take the time to do it.

1 // Get Organized

Each week, I sit down with my nutrition and fitness notebook (I’m using this one from Erin Condren right now), a list pad (I think mine is from Michaels), and my Tone It Up Nutrition Plan (and other resources). My nutrition and fitness notebook is literally just a spiral in which I write down my meals and workouts for the week. I break it down by listing M (which stands for MEAL) and the number or code out next to it. I eat three meals and two snacks a day, so I write M1, M2, M3, M4, and M5. It is so much easier for me to eat the same breakfast, lunch, and snacks every day, so I do! I cook dinner for my husband and myself about three times a week, so I list M5 three times.

How to Meal Plan Effectively

I like to divide my list based on the sections of my store. I highly recommend doing this based on your store! This saves me time by keeping from running back and forth across the store because I wrote things down out of order, or scanning up and down my list when I’m on aisle and then forgetting something because I overlooked it. I haven’t found a printable grocery list that fits my needs, so I make my own by dividing my sections up into 1. Produce, 2. Meat/Dairy (this includes eggs), 3. Canned/Aisle (basically anything not on an outside aisle), and 4. Other (slow cooker liners, foil, paper plates, etc.).

How to Meal Plan Effectively

2 // Plan It Out

Many of the Tone It Up editions include 6-8 week meal plans in which every meal is laid out for you. I loosely follow these guidelines for Meals 1-4. My sweet husband, as much as I love him, is not on the lean, clean, and green bandwagon most of the time. 🙂 He eats dairy, and lots of it, and likes 85/15 beef. I like 93/7, so we compromise by buying 90/10. :p He does not eat unhealthy, I just think his dietary requirements are different than mine. That said, my M5 selections are planned with him in mind. I eat dairy, pork, beef, and yes, sometimes starch at dinner!

I select our meals for the week based on a few things. 1. What we already have in our freezer/pantry, 2. What’s on sale at my store, and 3. What sounds good at the moment! As I’m deciding on meals, I write down every necessary ingredient in its category on my grocery list. When I’m finished, I’ll take stock of any staples we may be running low on and add those to the list as well.

How To Meal Plan Effectively

BONUS HACK: I already told you I cook dinner about three times a week. Each of those nights has a “theme” to it to help make my life easier based on the week ahead. Mondays always suck and Wednesdays are my long days, so whatever is planned for those days will always be coded M5 Easy (a sheet pan or one pan dinner) or M5 CP (something I can quickly throw in the crock pot on my way out in the morning). The worst feeling in the world is coming home from a long day and having to stand in front of the stove for an hour, or resorting to ordering pizza because you just don’t want to!

I also like to plan for at least one super quick, no prep snack! For example, I might add larabars (our fave) to the list, or elect to have a hard boiled egg with a piece of fruit. And yes, I will buy pre-boiled eggs.

3 // Shop

I plan on Wednesdays and usually head to the store on Thursday or Friday and try my darnedest to stick to my list! Substitutions are made when necessary and I throw in new products I think we might like, but for the most part I only buy what’s on my list. Sometimes this drives my husband crazy because he thinks we don’t have any snacks in the house. 😉

How to Meal Plan Effectively

That’s it. That’s how I meal plan! It’s simple, it’s mundane, but it gets the job done. Taking just a few minutes each week to put in the effort up front makes a huge difference in how my following week will go. At this point you may be asking yourself, “Ok, now what do you do with all that food?!” Well, come back next week for part two: How to Meal Prep Effectively, and I will gladly tell you how I get from plan to prep each week.

Other resources I use when meal planning include Lauren Gleisberg’s Eat Your Way Lean PlanTone It Up: 28 Days to Fit, Fierce, and Fabulous, Fixate, Mix-and-Match Meal Planner, Mix and Match Mama’s website, anything by Pioneer Woman, and of course, Pinterest!