5 Steps to Becoming a Morning Workout Person

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It’s time to say “sayonara” to the snooze button.

Even though experts claim that the best time to exercise depends on your schedule and your body, the odds are still in favor of morning workouts. I mean, really, who wants to say no to happy hour?!

Here are five ways I finally motivated myself to kick off the covers and make the shift from night owl to early bird when it comes to working out:

1. Adjust your attitude.

For years the excuse that I “just wasn’t a morning person” kept me from fully committing to morning workouts. But then I realized that even the earliest of birds aren’t necessarily always keen to wake up and hit the gym first thing.

It may sound corny, but it works: fake it ’til ya make it! Don’t expect it to be easy, but do expect more consistency, progress and success with your training when you prioritize it — and, ultimately, yourself — as the first accomplishment of the day.

2. Shift your schedule.

Previously, my MO was to sleep in as late as possible. Workouts would (or wouldn’t) get slotted in on the way home from work, then by the time dinner was made, eaten and digested, it was late and I’d push the alarm back to catch a few extra z’s.

What finally made a difference for us was deciding, as a family, to eat earlier (usually around 6 or 7 p.m., as opposed to 8 or 9 p.m.). This had a reverse domino effect on our day; evenings were longer, we got to bed at a decent time, and getting up an hour earlier became doable.

Monday-morning-workouts

3. Remove any roadblocks. 

Getting up from the warm cocoon of my bed when it’s dark and cold out is nearly impossible. Solution? I throw open the shade and adjust our thermostat to come on about a half hour before we wake up so it’s a more inviting atmosphere.

I also make sure to work through any other potential sticking points — whether it’s picking an outfit, getting my gear together or deciding which route I’ll take, etc. — ahead of time. Tee up the essentials, and the question isn’t whether or not you’ll work out, but when.

4. Use positive reinforcement. 

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I am not above bribery when it comes to getting myself to morning workouts. And my currency of choice? Coffee (along with the occasional pastry or biscuit — just #keepingitreal; you’ve gotta find what works for you).

If it’s a long run, sure, I’ll have a cup beforehand to get things moving. But if it’s a shorter jog or I’m cross training or strength training, never underestimate the power of that caffeine-fueled carrot: a lovely cup o’ joe.

5. Reap the benefits. 

Lest you think making the switch to morning workouts is a chore (case in point: all those “change this” or “don’t do that” ideas above), it’s important to recognize that there’s a pretty awesome payoff: Being able to reclaim my evenings was nothing short of life-changing.

Because, let’s face it, when you’ve got to choose between a workout vs. a last-minute girls’ night, networking event, work dinner or even date night, we all know the odds aren’t in favor of going to the gym. Get it out of the way first thing and feel empowered that you ran your day (literally) instead of it running you.

Are you down with morning workouts? Got any more tips to share? 

Get Explosive: 4th of July Firecracker Workout

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Light up your 4th of July with a plyometric workout designed to build explosive power. Performing these moves regularly can help you increase your vertical jump, speed and strength, which directly translates to better athletic performance.

A few words of warning, though: Plyo work can be pretty intense, so don’t do this workout in the heat of the afternoon or with a full belly. Your heart rate will soar, you’ll work several muscles at once and you’ll torch calories…but the last thing you want to do is pass out or lose your lunch in the process.

So what are you waiting for? Grab a towel, some water and feel the burn before that big family BBQ!

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Hint: If you’re not familiar with some of the moves listed, simply Google the term, and you’ll be able to find a description or video of it in action.

And, as always, remember to go at your own pace and use proper form. Think quality over quantity!

Are you planning a special workout for the 4th or taking the holiday as a rest day?

June Goal Check-In

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Giving Mary, leader of NoPo Run Club, a Team LUNA Chix Portland Run sandwich!

Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it. ~Russel Baker

Portland’s summer has not only arrived early (I’d been warned to expect rain off and on until the 4th of July), it’s also already kicked into high gear and promises to be one for the record books. In fact, rumor has it that this heat wave is likely to last well into early July and may end up breaking records for longevity, as well.

For example, last Saturday morning’s low at Portland International Airport was 71 degrees. This is the first time PDX has ever recorded a low in the 70s in the month of June.

Not that I’m complaining; I actually like the heat, and I’m thanking my lucky stars that my first year in Oregon has been a mild one when it comes to lack of rain. But it does make outdoor workouts a bit more tricky, so early mornings and advance planning have been key when it comes to sticking to my 2015 goals.

Wondering what this is all about? Read more on the five goals toward which I’m working this year.

Here’s the latest on my progress:

1. Seeking Balance

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, summer in Oregon means one thing: BERRIES! And taking into consideration the amount I’ve consumed thus far, I’m quite shocked I haven’t pulled a Violet Beauregard and morphed into a giant blueberry.

If there’s a second thing I’ve learned, it’s that summer in Oregon also means another thing: ALLERGIES. Spending an afternoon in the strawberry patch on Sauvie Island was totally worth it, even if I had to take Zyrtec for the next two weeks to keep from being a puffy, wheezy mess.

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And although I’ve started to hear the all-too-familiar siren song of fall marathon training, I’m trying to ignore it and stay focused on the present: Bouncing back from injury and enjoying that process before I sign up for my next major undertaking.

Luckily, Ben’s on board with this plan and has made it his mission to keep challenging us with weekend hikes that are as breathtaking in scenery as they are in elevation.

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2. Training Smarter

The biggest revelation — and relief — this month came from finally solving the mystery of my SI joint pain!!! I happened to overhear one of my trainer’s other clients complaining of similar symptoms and that his PT said kettlebell swings were the likely culprit. A-ha!

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Since he’s not a runner and the only common denominator in our workouts is kettlebell work, I decided to back off from swings to keep from jarring my pelvis. It’s been almost a month, and I’m happy to report that the pain has all but subsided during runs, so consider this my PSA if you’re having a similar issue!

3. Facing Fears

Swimming. My 2015 nemesis.

As I sit down to reflect and write my recap each month, I always cringe when it comes to this part. Yes, I’ve been in the pool a few times since my last update; no, I haven’t taken any of the steps needed to actually improve my technique and comfort level.

But that may have changed this past weekend. I was so inspired by watching Ben and friends in the Pacific Crest long course triathlon that I decided to re-commit to getting my ass to the pool.

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And Mary Anne, the swimmer from the women’s relay team (who kicked butt, by the way, and is training for a 5K swim later this season), graciously offered to get in the water with us and give Ben and me some pointers, so we’re going to set some dates and get moving on this.

Baby steps, right?!

4. Pushing Myself

My proudest moment this month came in the form of work: namely, launching my new company, Pulse Creative. After spending the past few years part-time for a start-up with freelance gigs on the side, I finally decided to make it official and fully align my passion (health, fitness and wellness) with my livelihood (helping people tell stories through PR, marketing and social media).

Just as coaches recognize potential and guide athletes to greatness, my goal is to work directly with small business owners to define challenges, recognize opportunities and help them develop the critical skills to be competitive and relevant in their respective market.

So if you happen to hear of anyone looking for help, I’d really appreciate it if you’d send them my way :)

5. Giving Back

Last but certainly not least comes Team LUNA Chix Portland Run. An extremely close second in terms of proud moments this month came in the form of being nominated for the Foot Traffic Women’s Hall of Fame for encouraging women to get active and providing a non-competitive environment in which to do so.

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Not only am I humbled at being included in the group they assembled — seriously, there were some pretty amazing competitors, coaches and local legends in there — but it also makes my heart happy to be able to contribute to the women’s running community here in Oregon.

And great timing, too, as we’ve been seeing some terrific attendance and momentum at our weekly workouts, so please come out and join us if you’re in the Portland area. We meet at 6:30 p.m. at the Duniway Park track — and all levels are welcome, both walkers and runners.

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Check out our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts for more info!

How are your 2015 goals coming along? 

Race Review: Pacific Crest Weekend Sports Festival

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Each year, during the last weekend in June, athletes, their family and friends, converge on beautiful Central Oregon to take part in the Pacific Crest Weekend Sports Festival. Pacific Crest is known as the “jewel of multisport events in the Northwest” and it has become a traditional destination race for athletes from across the nation, as well as from across the globe.

Ben and Nick checking out the swim and setting up the bike transition.

The night before: Ben and Nick checking out the swim and setting up the bike transition, respectively.

We’d heard great things about the event, so Ben jumped at the chance to test his mettle at two-thirds of the half-iron distance. He’s toying with the idea of making the jump up from Olympic distance in his next race, so this was the perfect opportunity to do a trial run on the swim (1.2 mi) and run (13.1 mi) portions.

Swimmers (Mary Ann & Ben) and cyclists (Sara & Nick) getting ready on race morning.

Swimmers (Mary Ann & Ben) and cyclists (Sara & Nick) getting ready on race morning.

Our friend, Nick, was covering the bike (58 mi) portion of their relay. And we were joined by a few more friends who formed an all-female relay team: Mary Ann (swimmer), Sara (bike) and Britt (run).

The elites in the water, inching toward the first buoy as they prepare to take off.

The elites in the water, inching toward the first buoy as they prepare to take off.

I was excited to be able to play sherpa for the day; Ben’s supported me at so many races, I’ve got a lot of work to do to return the favor! Plus, it’s also worth mentioning that race-day temps were predicted to be approximately the same as the surface of the sun (100+ degrees)…so needless to say, although I was feeling a little antsy to be not racing, I got over it pretty quickly.

Mary Ann's and Ben's relay heat entering the water.

Mary Ann’s and Ben’s relay heat entering the water.

For as many events and participants in the weekend’s activities, I’ve got to give it to the organizers for keeping everything — and everyone — running safely and smoothly in conditions that were becoming less than ideal over the course of the day. On the swim, for example, their mantra was “for every 10 people who go in, we want to count 11 coming out,” so they did manual counts to double-check the numbers and make sure everyone emerged ok.

Sara headed out on the bike.

Sara headed out on the bike.

Another tough leg to provide much support (beyond intermittent aid stations) is the bike. By this time it was starting to heat up and get muggy, so both our cyclists decided to err on the side of caution and carry extra water in camelbacks in addition to multiple bottles on their bikes.

Nick getting ready to tackle 58 miles.

Nick getting ready to tackle 58 miles.

While they cycled around Sunriver, I took the swimmers back to our rental house to change and refuel. Ben also had to get ready for his second leg — the run — which would likely take place in the hottest part of the day.

Ben and Mary Ann take a breather after their  swim.

Ben and Mary Ann take a breather after their swim.

Showers and snacks done, we made our way to the bike-run transition, which was closer to the Sunriver Village. Sara and Nick finished within a 15-minute span; their runners got tagged in when temps were nearing 90, and we were just hoping that the cloud cover would hold for a few more hours.

Nick, done with the bike, coming in to tag Ben back in for the final leg.

Nick, done with the bike, coming in to tag Ben back in for the final leg.

Ben had a strong start, but the sun began to burn off quickly as the temps crept further up. Later, both he and Britt raved about the course support, however, saying that there were extra aid stations with ample water and people spraying down the athletes in between.

Ben starting the run: 13.1 miles to go!

Ben starting the run: 13.1 miles to go!

Thanks to that support nearly every mile along the course, both Ben and Britt finished strong despite the beating sun. As Ben crossed the finish, he was handed an ice towel and ushered to a shower tent for cooling — again, the organizers did a fantastic job of making sure they took care of the athletes!

Ben crossing the finish line in the heat of the afternoon.

Ben crossing the finish line in the heat of the afternoon.

It was definitely a tough race — both in course and in conditions — but the majority of people were coming across the finish line looking far less beat up that I would have thought, so that was impressive. And the volunteers were nothing short of amazing, braving the heat to help keep participants safe.

Team Your Pace or Mine: Sara, Mary Ann and Britt

Team Your Pace or Mine: Sara, Mary Ann and Britt

After our crew all finished, we met up in the Sunriver Village pavilion so they could rehydrate and dive into the post-race smorgasbord of food. There may have even been some talk about signing up again next year, as well as targeting a few more events in the meantime…#triathleteprobs.

Team Tri and Stop Us: Nick and Ben

Team Tri and Stop Us: Nick and Ben

If you’re interested for next year: Pacific Crest events begin Friday morning, with the competition and fun continuing into Sunday afternoon. The full weekend includes Tour de Crest Bike Tours, Long Course and Olympic Triathlons, Endurance and Olympic Duathlons, Marathon, Half-Marathon, 10k, 5k and three kids events — and we all give it our stamp of approval!

So proud of all the racers for completing their portions - safe and strong - despite the conditions!

So proud of all the racers for completing their portions – safe and strong – despite the conditions!

For more information, check out the Pacific Crest Weekend Sports Festival website here.

Are there any can’t-miss events on your calendar this summer?

Spirit + Strength: Use Yoga To Take Your Training to the Next Level

Think you’ve got to reserve yoga just for rest and recovery days?

Think again. 

Despite common misconceptions — i.e. that yoga’s purpose is simply to ease tension and melt away stress (although there’s most definitely a time and place for that variety) — a brisk, flowing session can actually do more than help you find your zen; it also improves digestion and circulation, builds lean muscle mass and helps increase your overall metabolic rate.

That’s fantastic news for weekend warriors. But it’s even better news for athletes who not only want to hone strength and flexibility, but also develop proper diaphragm use and breathing biomechanics, get back into alignment and discourage compensation patterns, as well as concentrate on activating specific muscles that have become inhibited.

“Yoga can be an incredibly beneficial practice for any athlete,” says Anabel Capalbo, a yoga teacher, spin instructor and Ironman triathlete. “A consistent yoga practice builds strength and stability, while also working to increase our body awareness and alert us to any weaknesses that could lead to injury.”

And instead of viewing yoga solely as a static practice, Capalbo says it’s helpful think of it as a moving mediation, a time for you to be present and become more aware of your body, your mind and forging a deeper connection between them.

“Not just physical, yoga turns our focus inward and towards our breath, teaching us to find a strong sense of peace and calm when on the mat. For athletes, that ability to turn towards breath and to find strength can be somewhat of a secret weapon,” says Capalbo.

Here’s a sample sequence that can help increase balance, flexibility and strength — not to mention up your athletic game, as well.


Source: Fix.com

Do you use yoga as part of your training routine? 

Give Your Body a Natural Tune-Up with Turmeric

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Growing up, I remember my mom always experimenting with one superfood or another. Whether it was flaxseed, papaya pills, pomegranate seeds, blueberries, wheat germ, spinach, dark chocolate or garlic — you name it, we tried it in the name of achieving optimal health.

So it should probably come as no surprise that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. As much as I like to “eat the rainbow” and get an array of nutrients and vitamins through my diet, I’m not opposed to giving Mother Nature a little leg up every now and then with whatever natural remedy is all the rage.

This is why turmeric is the latest supplement to pique my interest. Well, more specifically, curcumin — the antioxidant found in turmeric.

Turmeric Root

Used for thousands of years as a spice and medicinal herb in China and India, turmeric is a distant relative of ginger. Not only does it give curry and mustard their bold yellow colors, but it’s been long used to support healthy digestion, promote cardiovascular health and support the immune system.*

Usually, I take daily turmeric supplements in pill form to ensure consistent consumption, and I was in the process of mulling over a post on the topic when Gaia Herbs reached out and asked if I’d like to try their new TurmericBoost products as an alternative. Um, yes!

I say “alternative” because instead of a pill it’s a powdered mix that’s flavored with vanilla and chai spices with no added sugar or flavorings. It comes in two varieties, Restore and Uplift, both of which contain concentrated turmeric extract to support a healthy inflammatory response with black pepper to aid in absorption, along with a prebiotic blend to support intestinal flora.*

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I’m not gonna lie, I was a little worried about mixing the turmeric directly into food; especially because it has a powerful smell. But I knew there was one way to test it for sure — in one of my now-infamous shower smoothies post-ride this past weekend.

So here’s what I whipped up, using my immersion blender:

  • 1 frozen banana, quartered
  • 1 scoop of your favorite protein powder
  • 10 ounces unsweetened almond milk
  • 1.5 tsp Gaia Herbs TurmericBoost: Restore

Simply blend all ingredients until smoothie reaches your desired consistency. Prepare with a handful of ice cubes if you like it thicker and colder. Pour into a glass, and enjoy!

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With a warm, bitter flavor and a mild fragrance slightly reminiscent of ginger, the turmeric blended seamlessly into my smoothie. In fact, with the addition of the vanilla and chai spices, it reminded both Ben and I of one of our favorite holiday drinks: eggnog.

This one went over so well in the husband taste test that I’m excited to try Gaia’s other turmeric recipes here. The Pumpkin Chia Pudding and Overnight Oats look especially interesting because I’m always looking for healthy, grab-and-go breakfasts after my morning workouts.

Now, the disclaimer: Always be sure to check with your doctor before you start mixing herbs and medicines so you don’t experience any adverse side effects.

Turmeric is known for being potent and playing well with others, so it might be something worth looking into if you’re searching for a more natural way to support your health and facilitate recovery.* Here’s a handy guide (below) with some additional information on turmeric’s health benefits, side effects and cautions if you’re interested in learning more.

Totally Turmeric: Your Complete Guide to Turmeric
“Totally Turmeric” on Health Perch

Why Gaia Herbs, in particular? Well, just as I like to shop at local farmer’s markets so I know where my produce comes from, I like the same level of detail when it comes to herbal supplements.

Every product manufactured by Gaia has a “Meet Your Herbs” number printed on the label, which allows you to trace every aspect of the product ingredients. This includes where the plants were grown, production methods, laboratory test results of safety and purity, along with information about scientific research and traditional use of herbs.

If you’re like me and are conscious about what you put into your body, that kind of transparency is much appreciated.

**Enter to WIN** Gaia wants to know how you ‪#‎livelifebrighter‬: Show how TurmericBoost helps you live a brighter life for a chance to win the ultimate smoothie pack + tons of healthy weekly prizes. Click here for details and to enter!

Do you ‘spice’ up your recovery process with supplements? 

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Disclosure: I received samples of Turmeric Boost and received additional compensation from Gaia Herbs for testing their product, but all opinions are my own.

Recipe: Zest Nutrition’s Lemon Yogurt Cream Pie

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When she’s not helping kiddos eat better by day as a registered dietitian or running around with Team LUNA Chix Portland Run on Monday evenings, Megan Fuetterer can often be found in her kitchen concocting some pretty amazing so-good-you-won’t-believe-they’re-actually-good-for-you recipes.

Case in point: this pumpkin pie, which landed her on the TODAY show in Joy Bauer’s “Too Good To Be Healthy” holiday pie competition.

Megan, along with her business partner Anna Rossinoff, founded Zest Nutrition, which is dedicated to helping women shed the guilt and overcome the struggle with food. Zest’s mission is to take a whole-foods approach to eating to support women in accomplishing health goals and truly loving their bodies, so they can spend less time in their heads and more time in their hearts.

This Lemon Yogurt Cream Pie that Megan created is one such example; she wanted a treat for breakfast one morning, so she whipped up something that’s sweetened with honey, nestled in a whole-wheat crust and packed with protein from a yogurt base. Go ahead, and indulge without guilt!

Zest Nutrition’s Lemon Yogurt Cream Pie

For the Crust

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup softened coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup cold water

Directions:

  1. Using a hand mixer, mix the flour, salt and oil together until you have good-looking crumbs.
  2. Add water and continue to mix. If your crust is too crumbly, continue to add water until you get the right consistency.
  3. Press crust into a the bottom and up the sides of a pie pan. You might have some leftover crust depending on how thin you make it.
  4. Bake your crust at 450F for 10 minutes. Let cool before adding pie filling.

For the Homemade Lemon Curd

Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Mix together eggs, honey and lemon zest in a nonstick saucepan or pot.
  2. Heat over low heat, then add coconut oil and continue to stir.
  3. Once melted, stir in the lemon juice.
  4. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes until it thickens.
  5. Let cool before adding to pie filling.

For the Filling

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Greek yogurt (Megan recommends 2%)
  • 1 1/2 cup homemade lemon curd (recipe above)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp powdered gelatin
  • 2 Tbsp water

Directions:

  1. Mix together yogurt, lemon curd, honey and vanilla.
  2. Put the water and gelatin in a microwave safe bowl and let sit for 5 minutes. Then microwave for 10 seconds until gelatin is dissolved and immediately whisk the hot gelatin into yogurt mixture.
  3. Pour into pie crust, cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate for at least 6 hours to allow pie to set up.
  4. Add any toppings or garnish as desired…enjoy!

Megan’s secret to making this pie pop is the addition of homemade lemon curd, which is actually much easier to make that you’d think (I even added a few key limes we had on hand to give it extra zip).

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Ben and I couldn’t wait the full six hours for the pie to set, so we dove in after about four, topping it with fresh berries and devouring it as dessert.

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Of course, by morning it was even better — not only did the filling fully set, but the lemon-lime flavor also mellowed out a tad. Start your morning off with a slice and a cup of coffee, and you’re pretty much guaranteed a good day!

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Pie for breakfast: Yay or nay?