5 THINGS TO (ALWAYS) KEEP IN MIND AT THE GYM

Happy Monday! So I know everyone is thrilled that January is over, but honestly, February is when and where so many of our goals and resolutions go to die. Let's face it: flu season is worse than ever, the damn groundhog saw his shadow, and in general this is that time of year when it's truly tough to see that light at the end of the tunnel we call, "Spring!"

I know a lot of personal trainers and fitness instructors will motivate you to workout now because summer will be here before you know it. I understand this tactic doesn't work for everyone, but even if you don't give a shit about "tank top arms," here's what I DO know - you give a shit about SOMETHING. 

Your reasons for living a happy, healthy life may shift over time. In fact, they should! What currently motivates you to want to be BETTER? To work harder, to sleep more, to eat better? Is it an event or a timeline? Is it an overall feeling? Is it something you're still striving to define?

I dare you to look at yourself in the mirror today and say, "What's keeping me motivated? How am I holding myself accountable?"

Here's my current list:

- First and foremost I want to be my happiest, healthiest, best and most energetic self for my baby girl (due in just over 5 weeks). 

- I miss my pre-baby body. I want it back.

- We have a baby naming, two weddings and a family beach vacation planned for the summer and fall. I want to be comfortable in my own skin at these events and not feel like I have to hide under cardigans and cover-ups.

Now, a lot of this will be accomplished by sleep and nutrition, without a doubt. But for me, I'm at my happiest and healthiest when I'm making my workouts a priority 5-6 times a week. The gym is my happy place, and even if it isn't yours yet, I challenge you to keep these five things in mind during your next trip there. I think you'll be surprised by how much better it all feels when you do.

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1. Just because someone else is doing it doesn't mean you should. I can't tell you how many times I've seen a member or colleague I admire performing a specific exercise and thought "Cool! I wanna do that!" but the truth is that not every move is right for everyone. And what's more, tempting as it may be to try something new, we all have different strengths, goals and limitations. I love watching other people box jump, but after breaking my ankle last year, I don't know that I'll ever truly feel comfortable doing those again. If you're truly interested or curious about an exercise you saw that you think might be relevant to your own programming, do some research or talk to a pro first!

2. If it doesn't feel right, don't do it. DO NOT FORCE SOMETHING that feels painful or wrong.  I don't live by that old motto, "No pain, no gain." Soreness after a workout is one thing... pain during it is quite another. Listen to your gut!      

3. Not every workout will be your best. And while that may sound depressing now, it'll keep you coming back for more. There are days when a barbell feels light as a feather and other days when I feel like I'm moving through quicksand and can't believe how heavy everything seems. After most workouts I leave the gym feeling pretty good or at least decent, but once in awhile I walk away totally victorious - or completely defeated. Not every day be - or should be - a slam dunk. Revel in the wins and let the tough times humble you. 

4. You're stronger than you think you are. I'm not telling you to lift 100 pounds over your head right outta the gate. But I do want you to be really mindful and thoughtful of your strength throughout your workout. If you're breezing through sets with 15lb dumbbells in each hand, why not try the 17.5lbs?

5. Rome wasn't built in a day (and neither were you). It sort of boggles my mind to think that my daughter has been in my tummy for a good 8 months (and she's still cooking!) Good things TAKE TIME. One thing I always stress to my clients is to BE KIND TO YOURSELF! Crash diets are called just that for a reason; you may see results quickly but history shows us they're almost always temporary. Patience is key here. Your body will not change overnight or over a week. The best way to create long-lasting change is to find the right healthy lifestyle for YOU and stick to it!

So I'll ask again. What's motivating you?

Photo taken by DAG Photography.

WHAT I ATE AT 34 WEEKS PREGNANT

Honestly, yesterday was a bit of a boring day food-wise as you'll see below, but it IS fun to think about looking back on these posts someday when this pregnancy is far behind me in the rearview mirror, I have my abs back and I'm no longer mindlessly eating Girl Scout cookies. 

Yesterday started earlier than usual! We were all up by 5:20 and Ben was out of the house before 6. Winnie ran downstairs to watch him leave through the front window, and I tried to coax her back upstairs and into bed a few times, but no go. She parked herself on the couch in our living room and was quietly howling at the men shoveling snow down the block. As a kid, I always wanted my very own, real life Snoopy...hey, I was young and failed to realize that actual dogs don't play shortstop, hang out with little birdies, hand out Easter eggs, etc... but I will say that Winnie's howl sounds just like Snoopy's. So even though it can get a little annoying, it sure is a cute little sound. I finally dragged a pillow and some blankets to the couch and we both fell back asleep. Once she was up, I walked her, fed her and then made myself a bowl of yogurt with my favorite granola and blackberries. Iced coffee and water on the side.

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Afterward, I got some more stuff done around the house, walked Winnie once more and drove to the gym to do a 30 minute upper body workout. When I was in the locker room, a woman came up to me and said, "Oh my God, you can't even tell you're pregnant from the back!" I said, "That's so sweet. Thank you!" And then I wondered if it was meant to be a compliment, and if it was weird that I thanked her. And then SECONDS later, another woman looked at me and just said, "WHOA!!!" really loudly. I didn't say anything because I honestly had no idea how to react to that.

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{Wearing an old Lululemon top, Align pants, Edge Lux sneaks and carrying my Lifefactory bottle. Oh, and some of my favorite no show socks!}

I drove back home, grabbed an apple, leashed Winnie up and took her on a two mile walk. It wasn't as cold as I thought it would be, which was a nice surprise, but Winnie dragged a bit on the way home (which is uphill) so that was less than pleasant. 

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We got back home and I saw we'd gotten both our Plated delivery and our Chewy delivery, so I carried those inside and felt a wave of exhaustion wash over me. Lunch time! After I got Winnie settled, I threw together roasted butternut squash and rice (both cooked Monday so I could have them for lunch throughout the week) with baby kale, balsamic vinaigrette and dried cranberries.

After lunch, I got some writing done and FaceTimed with my dad while Winnie napped. I had a glass of whole milk and some frozen Girl Scout Thin Mints. 

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We got three Plated meals this week so I decided to make the coconut-crusted flounder with curried rice first. OMG. This was so, so, SO good!

That just about does it! I'm happy to have prepared and ate all of my meals at home which is par for the course these days. I do wonder if I should start making and freezing dinners for when the baby comes. If anyone has thoughts or tips on that, I'm all ears...

P.S. All the Plated links in this post are affiliate and will get you $25 off your first two orders (for a total of $50 off)!

FUN GIFT IDEAS FOR A WARM & WELLNESS-FILLED VALENTINES DAY

On the first Valentines Ben & I spent together, he gave me a gift that to this day is one of my favorite things he's ever given me - a Nike+ Sport Band. Remember those?! I want to say it was the first activity tracker on the scene, and let's be real - it wasn't great... the battery didn't last long and you had to plug it into your computer to retrieve your stats, but it was such a thoughtful gift, as I was training for a half-marathon at the time. 

Every year I talk about how my mom loved Valentines and made a BIG deal about celebrating with presents and candy. She always made it feel like a day about love - not just being IN love - which instilled in me an adoration for the holiday year after year, despite my current romantic status. I know it's typically an indulgent holiday - chocolate, wine, flowers, lingerie - but Ben has really made me see and appreciate the value of practical gifts. I also think it's the PERFECT time of year to treat yourself (or a loved one!) to something that supports their/your health and fitness goals as the dark, cold, long days can knock the best of us off the bandwagon. Mid-February is a great time to re-examine your progress and use a cute treat (or two) to keep you motivated! Here are some of my favorites (plus a few cozy pieces for good measure... and a few things to keep you hydrated in this cold, dry weather!)

Red Hooded Parka // Pompom Hat (I own two of these and they're my absolute fav!) // Giant Check Cashmere Scarf // Dog Vest (So you can take your pup out for longer walks - Winnie LOVES this brand!) // SPF Lip Balm // SlingShot Hip Circle (Take your lower body workout to the next level!) // Bluetooth Headphones // No Show Socks // Gel Hot/Cold Pack // Mini Facial Cream // Convertible Backpack (I love that this has a laptop pocket!) // Rose Red Sport Band // Pony-O's (My fav!) // Metro Quilted Tote (My dad got me this for Valentines Day a few years ago and I still love it!) // Cruiser Tumbler (My fav!) // Minnie Mouse Cross Trainers (I'm not usually a "Disney person" but OMG!)

What are you treating yourself to on Valentines this year?!

5 WAYS TO MENTALLY DOMINATE YOUR NEXT WORKOUT

In my prenatal yoga class over the weekend, a woman whose due date is right around mine said that she feels very lethargic these days and she misses the energy she felt in the second trimester. (At the start of each class, we go around the room and every woman says her name, how far along she is, etc.) Her remark gave me pause; I'm not sure if I'm feeling energetic because I'm feeling energetic or I'm forcing myself to feel that way. Does that make sense? 

Prenatal yoga is hands down my least favorite workout of the week, but I do it because I hear it's good for labor and I also feel that I owe yoga a lot: it's the first form of fitness I did consistently back in 2011 when I committed myself to live a happier, healthier life. Yoga made me hyper aware of my body which in turn motivated me to eat better and move more. These days I think of it as more of a workout for my mind than my physical being, but I do appreciate the stretch!

We all have mental and emotional roadblocks to overcome when it comes to fitness. For some of us, we're just getting started and the unknown is scary. Perhaps the temptation to compare yourself to others is proving to be a real motivation-killer. And I think for all of us, we have to do what I call "get comfortable being uncomfortable." It's called a WORKout for a reason, right?

Today I want to talk about pushing through those mental hurdles. Oftentimes we let our mind get in the way of our body, and it can be damaging not only to our self-esteem but to our fitness! Here are five thoughts I want you to keep in mind the next time you're doubting yourself on the pavement, in the studio, or elsewhere.

1. You're lucky to be there. If you have the means - physically, financially, mentally, emotionally, etc - to exercise, you're lucky. If you have the time and the energy to dedicate to your continued well-being, you're fortunate. Above all else, be grateful for your drive, determination and health. (You're already there and in so many ways - that's half the battle!)

2. Only you can make it worth your while. Those weights aren't going to lift themselves and the instructor isn't going to do the set for you. If you leave the gym feeling accomplished and amazing, that's all you! But if you leave knowing you could have - and should have - done more, that's on YOU and no one else. Put your head down and get to work!

3. You are not worse (or better!) than anyone else around you. The temptation to compare yourself to others can be crippling - I know. Push that thought and instead focus on the fact that you and everyone around you is where they are to better THEMSELVES and no one else. We're all at different points of our health and fitness journey, but it's almost too easy to open up Instagram and see some figure competitor or fitness model and think, "Why not me?" Stop putting your behind-the-scenes, cutting floor dirty work up next to someone else's front page news or vice versa. Use that energy to focus on YOUR progress and betterment! 

4. You are stronger than you think you are. You had the will to get there, and you have the will to keep going, even if you don't feel like it. Cheesy but true: you can't spell 'challenge' without 'change'. If you want one, you've got to learn to embrace the other, too.

5. You WILL feel better afterward. Last week, I mentioned having a mantra that keeps you motivated. Mine has long been, "I will regret skipping, but I'll never regret going." I don't depend on it as much as once days, but there will always be days when I'm feeling sluggish and know I can dig this up in a pinch to will myself to keep going. Elle Woods WAS RIGHT. The endorphins are REAL and I can pretty much guarantee you will feel better after your workout than you did before it! Something to look forward to!

What's your biggest mental hurdle at the gym?

Photo taken by DAG Photography.

10 THINGS I ALWAYS HAVE IN MY GYM BAG

Happy Friday! I hope you've all had a good week and are looking forward to a little relaxation in the next few days? I have to know - who else watched The Assassination of Gianni Versace? Ben and I were so captivated by the OJ series (and Sterling K. Brown) that we were pretty psyched for it to come back, and I was especially intrigued when I heard this season would be about Versace. Ben's a little older than me, so he felt more attached to the OJ story because he remembers watching the trial, etc.

My family still lived in Miami when Versace was murdered so this story hits closer to home for me (no pun intended). I remember standing next to my mom shortly after the news broke; she was sitting at her vanity with her face in her hands, crying, and I put my hand on her shoulder. I remember driving past his mansion on Miami Beach several days later and seeing the yellow caution tape strewn about. Ben said he can't recall much about this in the news back then and I figure it probably wasn't making the headlines here in Westchester County, but man, I vividly remember how big of a deal it was in Miami. I thought the first episode was phenomenal; the cinematography was stunning and I find the story itself to be (sadly) really timely and appropriate. And of course all the gorgeous views of Miami made me homesick. I loved seeing Ricky Martin - the Livin' La Vida Loca tour was the first concert I ever went to! - and it's fun to watch Darren Criss again. 

Another thing that happened this week: I had to make sure I'm all set up to freeze my gym membership temporarily when baby arrives, and it got me thinking about how much different my gym routine has become! When I was training clients full time, I had a stocked locker full of extra clothes, snacks, and toiletry items. These days, I no longer have that luxury and have to be mindful of what I'm carrying around. My current pre- and post-gym routine is pretty much the same every single day (I'm a creature of habit): streamlined and low-key. I see some women lay out more makeup on the locker room vanity than I have in my entire drawer at home, and I respect that. But it's also totally unrealistic to my lifestyle right now. I like to keep things quick and easy, but these 10 things are always in my bag, no matter what!

No Show Socks // I'm OBSESSED with no show socks and ALWAYS have extras on hand. My favorite styles are these, these and these

iPhone Lightning Cable & Wall Plug // No matter how much I charge my phone before I leave the house, it always seems to be low on batt by the time I get to the gym. (I guess I should blame those Parking Log Confessions.) A portable batter would probably be a sleeker choice, but then I'd always have to make sure it's charged, and we all know how that goes. The plug/cable combo is the old-school, fall-back choice. 

Mini Hand Cream // Weight lifting = dry, callused hands. I always carry one of these with me (and I keep one in my car, too.) My dad gets me these every year around the holidays and I love the little size!

Invisibobbles // I've tried ALL the pony-o's and these win, no contest. I love that these actually hold my bun in place AND they don't leave a weird dent in my hair.  (I usually wear brown so it blends in with my hair but I also love the blush and light blue.)

Hand Sanitizer // I don't really like to think about how filthy gyms are... but they are. Jeff Rossen said so. It's also one of the worst flu seasons we've had in a very long time, so you MUST be diligent about wiping your equipment and watching your hands. It never hurts to have one of these on you.

Deodorant // Just in case I forgot to put it on before I left the house. Hey, it happens. My favorites are this and this.

Mini Hair Brush // Most days I wear my hair down, save for my workout, so I always have a little brush to pull my hair back and up before I hit the gym floor. (As an aside, if you shower at the gym, you may want to pick up this wet/dry travel brush to kill two birds with one stone!)

Mini Bands // If mini bands aren't yet a part of your warm up, they should be! These are great for firing up your lower body; here are a few ways to use them. I've used this brand for the past few years (it's what my managers at Equinox gave me and I liked them so I ordered a bunch more for myself) but I'm loving the look of this Tone It Up set from Target.

Gummy Snacks // I often leave the gym ravenous but sometimes there's a bit of time between the end of my workout and my next meal. These little guys ensure my blood sugar doesn't dip too low. (I also love these.)

Shine Oil Lipstick // I don't wear much makeup to begin with so I don't feel the need to do any "touching up" post-workout, but slicking on a coat of this makes me feel a little glam leaving the gym.

What's always in your gym bag, no matter what?

Wishing you a warm and wonderful weekend!

CURRENT SKINCARE, MAKEUP & HAIR PRODUCT FAVORITES

Let me start this post by making several disclaimers. First, these photos are pretty bad and need work. Meaning, I need work. But I was eager to get this up and out because I've gotten a bunch of questions about it, so here we are. This is one of those posts that I feel semi-ridiculous writing, but enough of you have asked for it that I'm giving in! Another disclaimer (that I've already made to some of you over direct messages): I ALWAYS use the "sparkle" filter on Instagram stories (I'm sure that was obvious) reason being, it softens my forehead wrinkles. I LOATHE my forehead wrinkles. I've been on a really good skincare routine for the past 7-8 months (I started it RIGHT before I got pregnant...) that has definitely made the wrinkles better/lesser, but to be honest with you, late last spring/early summer I found a new doctor I love and we were talking about Botox and I was all set up to do it... and then I found out I was pregnant. And it's recommended not to get Botox while you're pregnant or breast feeding. So when I knew that was out for the foreseeable future, I knew I needed to invest in some good makeup!

Like I mentioned in this post, last May or June I got a big bonus at work and literally walked right over to Sephora. I knew I needed to step up my skincare game. I was torn between Drunk Elephant (I use and love their lip balm, btw) and Dr. Brandt and chose Dr. Brandt because I was super familiar with the brand (he was also from Miami and I knew a lot of his patients, etc). I've seen A HUGE improvement in my skin since I started using them, so I've already repurchased this whole set when I ran out of everything (and am about to repurchase again!)

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I start every single day the same way: with one pump of this eye cream, and then I mix two pumps of this face cream with 3-4 drops of this vitamin C serum. I like to let this all sink in for a few minutes before putting anything else on top of it. I'll be very honest with you - when I first found out I was pregnant, I went BACK to Sephora and replaced all of my makeup with Tarte, because a) it's all-natural and b) it's been one of my favorite brands for years and years. But along the way I've realized I just don't want to obsess about cosmetic safety. So you'll see below that I still use a lot of Tarte, but not for everything. (For instance the mascara was a disaster, didn't work on me and always ended up running...) 

After skincare, I fill in my eyebrows with this brow powder in #3. This powder is a new purchase and I really like it but I do not care for the little tool it comes with, so I use this brush instead. Then I curl my lashes and apply lash primer and mascara

After that, I apply this redness reducer all over with this flat top brush. I stopped using this for awhile because it's a bit heavy, but honestly, I get REALLY red and nothing else works as well! So I try to use it as sparingly as possible. After that I cover up my undereye circles with this CC cream in Light-Medium. with an old version of this brush. (As you can see from the photo, I use a lot of old Tarte brushes that are no longer being made.) I also put a little between and around my brows to help shape them. I used different concealers on under my eyes for years and one day realized I needed something more geared towards dark circles (not blemishes) so I switched to this and really think it's the best. Concealer is no longer a part of my routine. Next it's powder foundation with a Tarte brush that was discontinued (womp, womp) but I'm thinking of getting this brush/sponge combo that was designed specifically for this formula. After that I tap this brightening powder under both eyes (a rec from one of my favorite bloggers, Liz of Sequins & Stripes) with this brush (a rec from a makeup artist at Sephora when I told her I wanted the powder). The last thing I do is apply a little bronzer - either this or this (I have the original but Volume II is prettier, oh well) - with yet another discontinued Tarte brush (similar to this).  

By now my mascara has dried so I use my blowdryer to heat up my eyelash curler, curl again and then I comb my lashes out. Sometimes I apply a little more mascara. I'm still getting all of this down to a science but if you've been following my mascara chronicles on Insta you know it's a huge improvement from where I used to be!

Most days I don't wear eyeshadow but this palette in Sierra Sultry is my new favorite for days when I want to look a little more done up. I use it with this allover shadow brush, angled crease brush and ultra-fine liner brush - all awesome and you can't beat those prices!

At night I use this Micellar water to remove my face makeup and these pads to remove mascara. (I've been using those since high school!) I use this exfoliator 1-2 times a week. I have a Clarisonic and LOVE it. I swear you can see the difference after just one use. I use it with this cleanser - the consistency is so thick and smooth that it feels like velvet on your skin. I don't do any masks because I've never used one I absolutely loved, and also, I am lazy. But I'm currently considering  this and this if anyone's tried either and wants to chime in!

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I've also gotten some questions about my hair. I rotate between two sets of shampoo and conditioner - both paraben- and sulfate-free, AKA all "pregnancy safe"! I use this and this from IGK and this and this from Kiehl's. For pre-heat styling, I use this balm and this spray. I've had this blowdryer for 3-4 years now and I love it - I'd been using much less expensive dryers prior to that purchase and it really does make a big difference! I've been using this flat iron for the past 3+ years and it's still going strong. I am loving this curling iron I got on Black Friday. (I have the 1.25" barrel.) 

Here's the thing. When you're pregnant, you just want to feel pretty. You're big and waddle-y and out of sorts and ANYTHING that makes you feel feminine and confident is a good thing. So big ups to these products and my favorite Instagram filter for making me feel like way less of a schleprock!

What are your favorite brands/products these days?

HOW I STAY MOTIVATED IN AND OUT OF THE GYM

I've gotten some questions lately about motivation. Mainly, how do I stay motivated? The truth is, I don't think there's an easy answer here and I do think it takes a lot of hard work to really cultivate long-lasting motivation that you can depend on and come back to again and again (and again). I wanted to share some of my strategies for how I stay motivated not only to get my ass to the gym, but also to keep it moving once I get there!

Before the gym...

Give yourself grace. Something important to keep in mind is that if you're a new gym-goer, you might find that you're really hard-pressed to feel motivated. That's okay! For me, consistency was and always will be key. I had to get into the habit of going to the gym more days than not to really feel truly motivated to keep it going. If you feel like you're dragging yourself to the gym, remind yourself that one day when you least expect it, you won't feel that way anymore. You're making it a part of your lifestyle, and at some point it WILL feel like second nature! 

Think of the big picture. When you're thinking about your next gym session and dragging your feet, remind yourself that's IT'S SO MUCH MORE THAN ONE HOUR. Every single workout you do contributes to your overall health and builds on to the next one, and the one after that, and so on, and so forth. Give your workout (and yourself!) the focus it deserves.

Have a mantra. Mine is, "I will regret skipping, but I'll never regret going." I used to repeat this to myself every single time I got dressed for the gym. These days, it's just sort of embedded in my mind so I don't have to actively think about it. 

Envision how you'll feel afterward. Once in a blue moon I'll leave the gym and think, 'Ugh. That sucked.' But I never regret going. Ever. And most of the time I feel pretty damn good! The next time you leave the gym, take a few minutes to actively acknowledge all of the hard work you just did. This will help you "bottle up" those good feelings and with time they'll become more and more familiar and memorable.

What's your why? WHY are you going to the gym? Is it weight loss, stress relief, or something else? For me, it's because it makes me feel good. Before pregnancy, part of my motivation had to do with some aesthetic goals I was working towards. These days, I just want to stay strong for me and my daughter. Your "why" might fluctuate, and that's fine! But make sure you're always digging deep for it, especially on the days when it's tempting to skip the gym altogether.

At the gym...

You're halfway there! For so many of us, making it there is half the battle. If you're taking a class, you already have a clear cut beginning, middle and end ahead of you. Awesome! However, if you're on your own, maintaining motivation can be a little trickier when you're not dependent on a a teacher for cues and instructions and other gym-goers around you to keep you energized. This is why IT IS IMPERATIVE that you go to the gym with a solid plan and goal in mind, whether it's to run for a specific distance or amount of time, do a weight circuit or simply break a sweat!

Make it count. When I'm tired (which is all the time these days) I remind myself that I'm already there and I'm going to give it my all because there's no use in wasting a perfectly good outfit, moment, opportunity, etc. I know that the harder I work, the better I'll feel afterward. 

Always look ahead. In between rounds, I'm always thinking about my next set. And when I'm on my last set, I'm thinking about how good it's going to be to walk out of that gym and proceed with the rest of my day. It may sound counterproductive but thinking proactively helps me stay focused and in the moment.

After the gym...

Write it down. If you already had "gym" written in your calendar/planner/agenda, circle it, highlight it or put a check mark next to it to indicate that you actually went. I also record that I worked out in my pregnancy app on my phone for two reasons: 1) it's a nice little humble brag/way to cap off my workout and 2) this way I can go back and see which days I went to the gym in case I forget. 

Thank yourself. Take a minute to recognize what your body just did, and feel grateful. We all have different strengths and limitations, but one thing I'll hope you'll recognize is that you should be exercising because you LOVE your body, NOT because you hate it. 

Think ahead. Crushed it? Amazing! Now, when are you going back? What will your next workout look like? I stay motivated by planning for the future.

Repeat your mantra. Again and again and again. Write it down on every surface if you must! Use these powerful words to hold yourself accountable.

Do you struggle with staying motivated? If so, I hope this helps! If not, what's your mantra?

Photo taken by DAG Photography.