Wellness

Stepping into the New Year, A New Way

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5 tips towards living a healthier lifestyle

The start of a new year can feel like a clean slate, and at the same time, incredibly overwhelming. Don’t let January run you over with overwhelming pressure to make drastic changes right away. If you’re someone who’s finding it hard to get started, know that you’re not alone. Some people get a surge of motivation on January 1 and go all-in with their Whole30, Dry January, and intense workout plan, and others need to take their time. And believe it or not, most of the time, taking your time is more beneficial for maintenance in the long run.

So take a deep breath. Set small goals and simple to-do lists that lead to a bigger focus for the year as a whole. Let the changes be gradual — not too big, and not too small. There is absolutely no rush when it comes to self-improvement, only consistent dedication, over time.

So instead of hitting it super hard all January only to burn out come March 2nd, I’ve got a few thoughts on how to step into the new year, in a way that sets you up for success, long-term. Whether you’re already in your groove and crushing your goals or just putting pen to paper, apply these 5 tips to help ease you in towards being a healthier you, every single day.

  1. START SMALL

 

Choose one or two small changes at a time to help set yourself up for success like drinking a full glass of water every morning before anything else, choosing one movement you enjoy and doing that for at least 20 minutes a few times a week, getting 6-8 hours of sleep every night, drinking one less serving of alcohol per week, ensuring you get protein in at every single meal, cooking one more dinner at home and bringing leftovers for lunch. Reminder: choose one or two at a time only.

2. KEEP IT SIMPLE / NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE BASICS

 

Choose basic workouts focusing on basic movements like mastering a squat, hinge, push, and pull or hire a trainer to help you create a program designed for your body; eat healthy-ish 85% of the time; visually balance your plate for nutrition vs counting macros and calories; choose simple and achievable habits that you can maintain and build upon over time. Again, one or two at a time only. Make one a habit and then add on.

3. PLAN FOR THINGS TO GO WRONG

 

Remind yourself that you are human and you are fallible and you do not have to do everything perfectly. Think gradual and continuous improvement through the normal, busy, messy, chaotic, and complicated ‘real life’ that happens to us all.

4. COMMIT TO DOING THE BEST YOU CAN IN EACH SITUATION

 

No healthy options at your work lunch? — attempt to balance as best you can with a protein, fat, carb, and veg. No time for your workout because your meeting ran late? — take 10 minutes to just move your body, stretch, etc and plan to get up early the next day and tackle your workout first thing.

5. BE CONSISTENT, CHECK IN, AND JUST SHOW UP

 

Remember, this is purely for you and your life. And REMIND YOURSELF it’s OKAY to be exactly where you’re at right now, in this very moment. Take it one day and one step at a time.

BONUS TIP: JUST BREATHE.

Everything is going to be just fine.


LET’S CHAT:

I’m curious: what’s one thing you need help with? What’s your biggest obstacle in living a healthier lifestyle? I’m refining content for you and want to know how I can best support you. Feel free to message me if commenting here is'n’t for you.

xx

Kirsten

Travel Survival Guide

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Simple Strategies For Staying Active And Healthy On Vacation

Holidays and travel in general can be a challenging time to maintain consistency with your health and wellness. However, it can be easier than you think to maintain all the great progress you’ve been making at home with a few subtle shifts. So much of your success when getting thrown off your daily routine comes down to mindset, how you approach your travel, and having a plan. And you know I am ALL about balance. Use this guide to stay active and healthy over the holidays, on your next business trip, or your next vacation.


PLAN TO MOVE DAILY 

Move daily – but don’t stress about your normal routine. Just choose activities that require movement. Moving for shorter bouts more frequently is more important than getting in long workouts.

This movement can be a family activity like a hike, or taking advantage of walking and exploring a city.

If you know you won’t be that active on certain days, plan to get up an extra 20 minutes earlier and get a quick full body workout in before you start the day.

(DOWNLOAD THESE BODYWEIGHT WORKOUTS)

Build time into your travel schedule – and let whoever you are traveling with know ahead of time so the expectations are set in advance.

Don’t forget to PACK YOUR WORKOUT CLOTHES.


SET YOUR NUTRITIONAL MINDSET

Think ahead and make a few simple preparations to set your nutritional mindset for your trip.

Think of what to “ADD” to your meals rather than what to eliminate. Make sure to incorporate greens and protein at every single meal and fill in the rest as desired. Eating foods with little nutritional value, meals lacking balance, or too little water can throw your body completely out of whack, causing bloating, constipation, and digestive issues.

Base your approach to food on respect for your body and how food makes you feel. Vegetables, high-quality protein, and fiber-rich whole grains fuel your body and give you sustaining energy that leaves you feeling good.

Yes, there are definitely foods that are just simply delicious and pleasurable — and you are on vacation and life is meant to be celebrated. Duh. No one wants to be told not to eat pasta in Italy or that slice of pumpkin pie for breakfast. Live your life, fuel your body well, and remove the guilt from your thought process. It’s ok to indulge, it all comes down to finding balance in the day to day.


HYDRATE, HYDRATE, HYDRATE

Drink plenty of water, especially mid-flight or staying at a high-altitude destination where air is dry and dehydration can cause jet lag and altitude-related illnesses.

Bring a water bottle with you to the airport and fill it up after you get through security and before boarding your flight. Drink the entire thing. Yes, I want you to get up and use the restroom. You can use that time to stretch your legs. And if you can, try to avoid alcohol mid-flight as well as those salty snacks.

And drink before meals and snacks to help prevent over-consuming.


IN-FLIGHT TIPS

Be prepared and pack your own snacks that fall in line with your current eating since healthy options may not always be available. Pack along nuts, fresh fruit, Rx protein bars, nut butter packets, collagen protein packets, greens powder packets, oatmeal cups, etc.

RELAX — Take a few minutes to do deep belly breaths in your seat to calm the nervous system and bring about relaxation. Bring one hand onto your belly and close your eyes. Take a deep breath in and expand your belly into your hand, feeling your ribs expand and your low back press toward the seat. Pause when you are full. Slowly exhale the breath out until you are empty, drawing the navel in and up and pause. Repeat for 2 minutes.

STRETCH — Being stuck on a plane or in a car for an extended period of time can leave muscles feeling tight and achy. Book an aisle seat so you can get up frequently and do these stretches or do them right in your seat. Make it a goal to get up once an hour to do a full body stretch and be the person in the back of the plane stretching their legs, back and shoulders. Your body will thank you — everyone else will be envious.

 

Seated Figure 4 — Cross right ankle over left knee and sit up tall to lift chest while tilting your tailbone back behind you to anteriorly tilt the pelvis and enhance the stretch. Hold for 30-60 seconds and switch sides.

Eagle Arms Shoulder and Upper Back Stretch — Sit up tall in your seat and hook right elbow underneath left elbow and cross forearms to clasp hands. Squeeze forearms together as you draw shoulders down away from ears and lift fingertips up towards ceiling while dropping chin down. Hold for 30 seconds and switch sides.

Seated Trunk Rotations — Sit up tall in the middle of your seat and turn your torso to the right to place both hands on the armrest, keeping hips forward. Hold spinal twist for a few deep breaths and repeat on the other side. 

Ankle Circles — Lift right foot off the floor slightly and keeping leg still, draw the largest clockwise circle that you can with your toes and repeat 5 rotations before switching to counterclockwise and then switch ankles.

Neck Circles — Engage your core and sit up tall. Keeping your torso and shoulders still, draw your chin down towards your chest, turn/rotate your chin towards your right shoulder, draw right ear towards right shoulder, extend neck back and around until left shoulder moves towards left ear, drop chin down towards shoulder and rotate back to neutral and reverse direction. Repeat twice in each direction.

Forward Fold — hinge at your hips and fold forward, hanging and holding opposite elbows. Relax shoulders, neck, and low back and take a few deep breaths.

Hip Flexor Stretch — Stand with left foot forward and right foot back about 2 feet apart with toes pointing forward. Tuck pelvis under into a posterior tilt, engage abdominals and gently shift hips forward slightly as you reach up through the right arm as high as you can. Repeat movement for 5-10 repetitions and switch sides.


POST-FLIGHT TIPS

Getting in a short and easy full body workout when you arrive at your destination has been proven to reduce fatigue and jet lag. A post-flight workout that falls within 24 hours of flying should be on the mellow side and purely just to bring movement and energy into the body. Think gentle mobility movements to warm up, 4-5 easy bodyweight exercises and a few stretches and belly breathing to cool down.


HEALTHY TRAVEL RECAP:

  1. Move daily

  2. Eat protein and greens at every meal

  3. Hydrate

  4. Pack healthy snacks

  5. Drop the guilt and enjoy yourself

  6. Stretch on the plane

  7. Try these workouts 



From Dysfunctional to Functional Breathing

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Master this breathing technique to unlock your body and enhance your overall well-being.

We all breathe. But the problem is, most of us do not breathe properly. And few people understand the impact improper breathing has on mobility, strength, and power. Correcting and realigning with the proper breathing biomechanics that we were designed for can improve not only our workouts, but our overall wellness and daily life. (Big statement, I know, but it’s absolutely true.) 

Are you a chest breather or belly breather? 

Self Check — observe right now, in this very moment, whether your chest is lifting or if your belly is expanding as you inhale. Don’t try to change your breathe, just observe it’s natural state. How long did you inhale and exhale for and were the durations of each comparable?

CHEST BREATHER: If you noticed you’re breathing primarily into your chest with a relatively large inhales and a shorter exhales, you are a shallow chest breather, along with 90% of the population. You’re not alone. But we need to change that.

 

BIOMECHANICS:

Shallow breathing dysfunctionally recruits accessory muscles such as your chest (pectorals), neck (scalenes and sternocleidomastoid), and upper trap musculature to inflate the chest and hold your ribcage in place, which takes your scapulae (shoulder blades) with it. Your body then uses the recoil of these muscles along with a dropping of the shoulders to perform the work of the diaphragm (dispelling air from your lungs).

This, unfortunately, can cause chronic tension, limitations in neck, shoulder and back, and poor posture…all making you more susceptible to injury.

 

NERVOUS SYSTEM RESPONSE:

Chest breathing has a purpose. It’s intended for our stressed states (like running from a bear!) as it stimulates the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS - aka, our fight or flight response). But when we chest breathe in what is supposed to be our relaxed state, we in turn trigger that same stress response.

If you’re someone who spends excess time living in a sympathetic state (anxiety, high stress, lack of sleep, overtraining), you are adding unnecessary stress to your body which ultimately, is shaving years off your life.

BELLY BREATHER: This is how we are meant to breathe. Yay, you. But so often we get pulled out of this pattern from either the stress mentioned above, postural changes from poor lifestyle habits, previous injuries, or trying to hold our bellies in all day long.

 

BIOMECHANICS AND NERVOUS SYSTEM RESPONSE:

Belly breathing relies on your diaphragm, intercostal muscles, internal obliques, and transversus abdominis (TVA), activating our Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) and shifts us into a relaxed state which optimizes our body for rest, recovery, and digestion. 

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT:

Our ability to fully expand and contract the belly on our inhales and exhales increases lung capacity, improves sleep, digestion, and overall health and wellness, ensures a healthy relationship with the pelvic floor, deep core musculature, and diaphragm. (Postpartum ladies, get on this one), and gets our bodies moving properly. Contrary to what many people believe, core strength isn’t just about holding in our core and keeping our abs tight. The diaphragm is the king of the core.

From Dysfunctional Chest Breather to Functional Belly Breather:

The best place to start if you’re new to re-learning or re-wiring this breathing pattern is in a prone position (on your belly). Once you’ve mastered breathing in all four directions on your belly (belly into the floor, ribs laterally out to the sides, low back to the ceiling), you can practice supine/on your back, seated, standing and while walking.

Prone Belly Breathing:

  1. Lay on your belly and make a pillow with your hands to rest your forehead. Focus on deeply inhaling and exhaling through your nose (you can exhale through your mouth but consistently breathe in through the nose) with a 4-5 count inhale, a 4-5 count exhale, and a 4-5 count hold when empty. 

  2. As you Inhale, actively try to expand your abdomen and breathe your belly into the floor as well as breathe laterally into your side waist, as if your waist is an accordion.

  3. As you exhale, slowly let all the breath out with control and feel empty at the bottom of your breath, gently engaging the deep core musculature and holding for 4-5 counts to allow the diaphragm to functionally engage and initiate a proper inhale.

  4. Set a timer for 2 minutes (don’t poke your head up until the timer goes off).

Practice anywhere and practice often.

Working on breathing mechanics for just two minutes a day can significantly restore mobility and hardwire your body to begin naturally breathing in this way.

And if you’re a mouth breather… breathing through your mouth most often means you’re a shallow chest breather. I like to say that breathing through your mouth is sort of like trying to eat through your nose. (Not really, but, you get the point).

Alcohol & Fitness: How to find a healthy balance - Part 3

Healthy Tips For Before, During, and After Alcohol

I FREQUENTLY GET ASKED IF I DRINK ALCOHOL AND IF I MAKE CLIENTS CUT IT OUT, AND IF YOU KNOW ME, YOU KNOW THAT ANSWER!

If alcohol is something you've decided can be a healthy part of your life, I've compiled some clear information on how it affects the body and how to take care of and replenish your body before, during, and after in this 3-part series.

PART 1: HOW ALCOHOL AFFECTS OUR BODY

PART 2: ALCOHOL, NUTRITION, AND FITNESS GOALS

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 BEFORE

  • First, know your limits and set a boundary for yourself before your first drink.

  • Pace yourself and aim to savor and sip rather than gulp and guzzle.

  • Eat a well-balanced meal beforehand to slow down the absorption into the bloodstream and help stabilize blood sugar.

DURING

  • Go simple. My favorites: red wine, sparkling rosé, prosecco, blanco tequila with fresh lime juice and chili salt.

  • Avoid sugary mixes, concentrates, juices, and mixing various types of alcohol.

  • If you do choose to enjoy a more sugary cocktail (because...live a little...), follow up with extra water and move on to a low sugar drink after one.

  • Hydration: Alcohol is dehydrating so aim to drink 1 glass of water for every drink consumed and sip on water with your drink to avoid drinking down your delicious cocktail all too quickly and reaching for snacks when you aren’t actually hungry.

  • Eat a Balanced Meal: If you show up to happy hour or dinner with an empty belly, choose a healthier option with protein, complex carbohydrates like a grain or starchy vegetable, and a healthy fat such as olives.

  • Avoid eating heavy carbohydrates with alcohol to avoid a blood sugar spike (especially before bed).

  • Avoid consuming alcohol too close to bedtime to help improve the quality of your sleep.

AFTER

  • If you’re feeling hungry before bed, reach for a healthy fat like olives, cashew or sunflower seed butter, raw nuts, or half an avocado with rice vinegar and flaky salt to help stabilize blood sugar.

  • Drink a full glass of water before you head to bed along with a multivitamin that has a good dose of vitamins A, B, C, Zinc, and Magnesium.

  • Supplement with milk thistle (silymarin) – an herbal supplement that helps protect the liver, reduce inflammation, and metabolize toxins (aka alcohol) while helping balance blood sugar.

  • The Morning After: drink 12-16 oz of water with juice of one fresh lemon before anything else hits your system to stimulate the digestive system, support the liver and give your body a dose of vitamin C.

  • Follow the lemon water with healthy fats and fiber, a good dose of greens (perhaps a juice of all greens and lemon) or 1 tsp of liquid chlorophyll (since I know you won’t be craving a gigantic salad) before your coffee.

  • (In case you forgot last night..) Nourish your liver, help remove toxins, and replenish vitamins A, B, C, E and Magnesium with a Multivitamin.

  • Take a Probiotic.

  • GET A WORKOUT IN AND SWEAT! (non-negotiable)

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LOOKING TO CUT BACK? HERE ARE A FEW TIPS:

 
  • Choose a few nights a week that are Alcohol-Free

  • Choose drinks with a lower percentage of alcohol

  • Keep track of how much you drink in one sitting and per week

  • Drink a glass of water before and after an alcoholic beverage

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You can still enjoy moderate alcohol consumption and the social aspects of drinking and stay on track with your health and fitness goals. Determine how important your health goals are to you, consider your personal bio-individuality and genetics, pay close attention to your motivations behind drinking, and follow my healthy tips for before, during, and after.

And make sure that whatever you choose to drink, it’s totally worth it! Because life is too short for it not to be enjoyed and a good cab tastes extra delicious with a healthy meal. 

IMPORTANT: Make sure the drinks you are consuming are enjoyable rather than a form of therapy, numbing, social anxiety, peer pressure, or because you believe it’s beneficial to your health and well-being. Our relationship to alcohol, knowing our personal limits and how to maintain a healthy balance is extremely important.

Let’s Chat!

Do you have a question regarding social drinking and your fitness goals? Do you have any words of advice for others trying to navigate creating a healthy lifestyle? Ask or share below or start the conversation on social using #runningwithforks.

Alcohol & Fitness: How to find a healthy balance - Part 2

Alcohol, Nutrition and body composition

I FREQUENTLY GET ASKED IF I DRINK ALCOHOL AND IF I MAKE CLIENTS CUT IT OUT, AND IF YOU KNOW ME, YOU KNOW THAT ANSWER!

If alcohol is something you've decided can be a healthy party of your life, I've compiled some clear information on how it affects the body, tips for combining eating and drinking, and how to take care of and replenish your body before, during, and after.

PART 1: HOW ALCOHOL AFFECTS OUR BODY

ALCOHOL and BODY COMPOSITION GOALS

The alcohol and fat loss question can be confusing when you see certain individuals consuming alcohol on a regular basis and still maintaining their lean and fit physique while you feel like alcohol has the opposite effect on your body. It's true that alcohol has a better place in weight maintenance than in weight lossThis could be due to your body's hormonal response, the excess empty calories, the types of food combinations consumed while drinking, or a combination of these factors.

If your goal is to gain lean muscle mass and increase your strength, alcohol isn’t helping support those goals either. You’ll have less energy the next day to carry you through your workout and the ability of your muscles to recover and rehydrate will be impaired after drinking.

Ask yourself if drinking alcohol makes it more challenging to stay on track by increasing your cravings (which may lead to overeating or making poor nutritional decisions), affecting your sleep, and hampering your workouts. If the answer is yes, drinking alcohol may not be something that supports your goals right now. If it does fit into your lifestyle, come up with a game plan for how to enjoy it without derailing your current progress. This might mean switching the type of alcohol you typically choose, cutting back on the quantity or being conscious of the foods you eat before, during, and after drinking.

 

ACTION: Plan your drink choices ahead of time, set a limit for yourself, and eat a healthy balanced meal beforehand to stabilize your blood sugar and slow down absorption.

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NUTRITION facts of alcohol

While fun and enjoyable, alcohol contains 7 calories per gram and is considered "empty calories", with no nutritional value and no place to be stored in the body.

The amount of calories and carbohydrates/sugar will vary with each type of alcohol (wine, beer, liquor) as well as within each type. For example, the calories and carbs will be lower in a glass of dry wine vs sweet wine due to the sugar content and a light beer will have less calories and carbs than a strong IPA. For a lighter and healthier option, your best bet is to choose a dry red wine, a glass of bubbles, a light beer, or a cocktail made with clear liquor, citrus, fresh herbs, and bitters.

Side note – you still need to be aware of the sneaky ingredients that may be hiding in your alcohol. I recently learned that some tequila brands contain corn syrup (shame on you Jose Cuervo) and are not made from 100% agave. Choose blanco or silver tequila for more the purest options.

 

CALORIES / CARBOHYDRATES

  • 1 oz liquor 90-100 calories / 0 g carbohydrates

  • 5 oz glass of wine 100-125 calories / 4-10 g carbohydrates

  • 12 oz light beer 100-160 calories / 5-10 g carbohydrates

  • 12 oz IPA or craft beer 160-425 calories / 12-40 g carbohydrates

REPLENISH LOST NUTRIENTS post-alcohol:

Even in moderate amounts, we still get depleted of certain nutrients when consuming alcohol. Those nutrients primarily include: B-vitamins, vitamin A, vitamin C, zinc, and electrolytes.  It’s important to replenish these nutrients the next morning to help reboot your system and get you back on track more quickly. See Part 3 for how to replenish and my tips on taking care of your body before, during, and after.

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FURTHER READING/TIPS:

PART 1: HOW ALCOHOL AFFECTS OUR BODY

PART 3: HEALTHY TIPS FOR BEFORE, DURING, AND AFTER

The Take Home Message

You can still enjoy moderate alcohol consumption and the social aspects of drinking and stay on track with your health and fitness goals. Determine how important your health goals are to you, consider your personal bio-individuality and genetics, pay close attention to your motivations behind drinking, and follow my healthy tips for before, during, and after.

And make sure that whatever you choose to drink, it’s totally worth it! Because life is too short for it not to be enjoyed and a good cab tastes extra delicious with a healthy meal. 

IMPORTANT: Make sure the drinks you are consuming are enjoyable rather than a form of therapy, numbing, social anxiety, peer pressure, or because you believe it’s beneficial to your health and well-being. Our relationship to alcohol, knowing our personal limits and how to maintain a healthy balance is extremely important. 

Let’s Chat!

Do you have a question regarding social drinking and your fitness goals? Do you have any words of advice for others trying to navigate creating a healthy lifestyle? Ask or share below or start the conversation on social using #runningwithforks.