pick-me-ups

bouquetbgtimage by dthoskins

Unfortunately, I have been battling illness for the last month (3 doctors  visits, 2 antibiotics), so my kick-off to summer has been less than smooth.  The usual excitement I feel for the start of the summer season simply hasn’t been there.  My sweet family has been great about trying to provide some pick-me-ups while I’m on the mend.  Here are some of my favorites:

  • Fresh flowers: I love having fresh flowers around the house!  An arrangement on the dining room table.  A small vase placed in the bathroom on a silver tray.  I’ll take them anywhere!  Summer lends itself to bright color palettes.  The bouquet my mom brought me is so vibrant and lush,
  • A bath: I love a steamy bath with any LUSH products and lit candles.  I especially love soothing bath time meditations.
  • Fragrance: Those that know me well know I love perfume!  Spritzing some on, even on these days I’ve barely left the house goes a long way to improving my mood.
  • Exercise: A little walk or a quick workout can certainly be a boost.  Even when I didn’t feel up to it at the time, a walk to our neighborhood park was just what I needed.

What are your favorite pick-me-ups?

katherine Greene

deadlift

weightsbgtimage by dthoskins

If anyone were to ask me today what single exercise that I think that everyone should be doing on a regular basis, my answer would definitely be the deadlift.

Of all the resistance training exercises that I have done, the deadlift has had the most noticeable impact on both my physique and my overall health.  Great for the buns, hamstrings, and especially the lower back, this exercise mimics movements used in everyday activities such as BENDING OVER AND PICKING SOMETHING UP.

I decided to incorporate this exercise when I began to hear a loud groaning noise every time I bent over followed by a gasp when I stood back up.  Sound familiar?

There are two types of deadlifts that you can try.  The first is the Romanian deadlift which is described below via weighttraining.com:

  • Step 1: Start with the barbell in front of your feet and bend over and grab the bar about shoulder width apart.
  • Step 2: Bend slightly at the knees, lift the weight upward to your waist.
  • Step 3: As you lift the weight to your waist thrust your hips forward.
  • Step 4: Lower the weight down to mid-shin level and repeat exercise. You should not lower the bar to the ground.

The second type of deadlift is the stiff-legged or straight-legged deadliest.  It’s important to note that the stiff-legged deadlift can cause injury if done improperly.  Here is an excerpt regarding the stiff-legged deadlift from a most excellent post by Krista of stumptuous.com:

…There are some important lessons here.  First, never do this exercise as a maximal lift. Do not test your 1 rep max, do not go to failure, and do not use a 100% effort. Treat it as a light endurance and conditioning exercise only, rather than a go-hard-or-go-home movement like I did.  Focus on using the glutes and hamstrings to drive the movement. And if you have a history of back pain and injury, especially a disc herniation, pass on this movement. There are many other options for glute and hamstring training.

Note that she is referring to the stiff-legged, not Romanian deadlift here.  The whole article is great and was one of the first things I read when I became interested in weights.  I strongly encourage you to read her full article on deadlifts HERE.

That’s a lot of info, but don’t get overwhelmed!  Just practice the bending motion with no weight to begin with and slowly add as you gain confidence.  Also, if you’re at the gym and you see someone deadlifting (with good form) ask them to watch you.  Maybe you’ll find a training buddy!

Remember to always check with your physician before starting any new exercise regime!

transitions {guest post by Meredith Swim}

Super thrilled to have a guest post today from the insanely sweet Meredith Swim about transitioning to the fall season.

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Fall

Summer gives a dramatic, sparkly bow, leaving me a bit sun-dazzled as Fall sweeps onto center stage. The early bloom of a new school year marks an official end to carefree summer frolics, setting in motion a change in routine and signifying a time of transitions.

Though I am not returning back to school, I still feel the familiar flutter of nerves and excitement for a new unfolding chapter. Fall is ripe and ready for creating and implementing a new routine, or spicing a mundane one up to inspire and nurture. My beloved coffee shops fill up with studious college kids and the presence of their textbooks and stuffed backpacks makes me eager to work a little harder. The arrival of the Virgo ruled months plucks me from summer daydreams and pushes me to concentrate on turning those wishes into a reality, so it’s time to buckle down, sweat a little and take care of the practical, nitty-gritty details.

Transitioning. As earth-beings we are in the midst of a seasonal transition. The transition from summer to fall is bittersweet. There’s a tender sadness that accompanies Summer’s bon voyage and the debut of Fall. I’m sensitive to the disappearing sunlight and the too-soon fading splendor of the leaves. As a person prone to daydreams, it’s easy for me to get swept up in the winds of change. I can feel ungrounded and overwhelmed by the longer to-do list.

I lovingly acknowledge my sensitivity to transitions, so I’m adding a few self-care essentials to the to-do list. I’m intending to take time to center and create small, comforting rituals to help me ground and weather this transition with grace and ease. I’m sharing some suggestions, perhaps one will resonate and feel like a big YES.

*Let’s begin with the breath. During the day, if I’m stressing over the future or in multi-task, super-woman mode, my breath becomes quick and shallow. Just bringing awareness to the breath will invite it to naturally deepen and lengthen. Take the time to breathe mindfully, knowing that pausing and having a moment of non-doing will actually create more space and clarity for purposeful action. I use my inhalations to welcome and fully be in the present moment. Fall in Kentucky is vibrant and gorgeous, so as I inhale I bear witness to the unfolding beauty of leaves. As I exhale, I envision sending the out-breath down my legs and out my toes, rooting into my feet and feeling less scattered and more grounded in my body and in this moment.

*Rituals can also be incredibly comforting and grounding during a transition. My mornings always begin with a few mindful breaths and a yoga practice. No matter where I am and no matter what mood I awake in, I commit to that time in the morning to be with my breath and to be with my body. This ritual travels with me and has kept me connected to self as I’ve embarked and undergone transitions. This ritual can simply be sipping coffee and reading the paper, journaling, or taking a stroll after dinner. Decide and commit to having a ritual that grants satisfying “me time.”

*Go easy, too. A wild and wide variety of emotions can appear during a transition: excitement for pursing passion, or fear of the unknown to name just a few. As the Sufi poet Rumi says about emotions, “Welcome and entertain them all for each has been sent as a guide from beyond.” Breathing mindfully and having a ritual allows for emotions to be acknowledged. Let this inner listening be one freed of any judgment. There is no right or wrong way to feel. Just be with the feelings present and let them be invitations to better understand self. If there’s need, take action or just be aware. Be gentle during this time. Maybe even be a bit indulgent and fully relish and savor those indulgences, a pumpkin cookie from a local bakery or a new stellar purchase to rock out Fall fashion.

Transitions can be smooth and easy. They can be a time of great self-discovery and a beautiful opportunity for growth, a shedding of the old and radiant emergence. Take it one breath at a time. Be present in the unfolding journey.

 

 

Meredith

Meredith Swim is a sparkly daydreamer who adores heart shaped sunglasses and impromptu dance sessions. Passionate yoga instructor, free-spirited writer, a Gemini on a life-loving quest for self-discovery and radical self-acceptance.

**All images were provided by guest writer**

 

 

new year’s resolutions

image by dthoskins
image by dthoskins

These are a few of our favorite tips and tricks for starting the New Year organized and healthy!

  • A great HIIT cardio workout that doesn’t take up too much time.
  • An organized desk is a great way to get work done and keep a clear head
  • Clear your winter sinuses with this neti routine
  • These stress-busting yoga moves will help you shake off the post-holiday slump
  • Start your day off with an easy, healthy breakfast parfait
  • Combat winter skin with this amazing routine
  • Plan your weekly meals and grocery shop ahead to avoid the take-out temptation.  We love simple slow cooker meals (even slow cooker desserts!)

What are your New Year’s goals?

BGTsig

biking in the bluegrass {guest post by ashley koch}

Almost immediately I fell in love with the Bluegrass after relocating to attend school in Lexington.  My fate was fully sealed when I finally started exploring the region from two wheels instead of four.  Fall easily became my favorite time to explore.  The cool, crisp air, which I find refreshing, turns away many riders and gives those brave souls more freedom on the road.  The diversity of foliage found in the area also makes for breathtaking rides as you enjoy the full array of colors fall has to offer.  Whether you are just starting out or a seasoned rider, start pedaling.

Starting in Midway, this trek out to Woodford reserve and back is my favorite fall ride.  While it is beautiful any time of year, it is the perfect way to enjoy two gems of Kentucky while absorbing the changing colors of the regions varied trees.  The ride itself follows the gently rolling hills on the western edge of the bluegrass and truly showcases the colors of fall.  Not to mention a taste of some of the best Kentucky has to offer to warm you up after the first half, or to get you going for the ride back, makes this ride phenomenal with or without the added bonus of the fall colors.  Don’t forget to take in a late lunch or dinner in downtown Midway to finish the entire experience.

For those looking for a longer ride or a ride that can be broken into individual pieces, this ride is a great place to start.  I have never completed this ride in an entire run (245 miles can be hard on the butt…) but I have pieced almost the whole thing together over many different rides.  While you cannot go wrong choosing any section of this trail, my favorite section is the loop around Lexington-Fayette.  As you travel around the heart of the bluegrass you get to see all that the region has to offer historically, culturally and geographically; the horse farms, and rolling (some more than others) hills, homes dating back to the first settlement of the area, and historical markers from the Civil War, just to name a few.

For a family friendly ride, or for those looking to stay more urban, follow this route and explore the remarkable history Lexington has to offer.  When I bring my little girl to Lexington for the first time she will definitely enjoy the tour from atop two wheels.  This ride, with all of its memories, reminds us that biking is definitely more about the journey than the destination.

For more rides I highly recommend consulting the Bluegrass Cycling Club.  I was a member for a year once I finally found the courage to try riding with a group of experienced cyclists.  I could kick myself for not joining them earlier; they welcome any willing riding with open arms.  Their website also has great maps and rides with cues that are very easy to follow.  Do not hesitate to walk into a bike shop and ask for recommendations from the workers.  They make their living working with bikes for a reason.

There is never a bad time to take a ride around the Bluegrass but if you are looking to start out, fall is the perfect time.  If you are still not sure of which route to follow, just grab your bike, a map, maybe a friend or two and head out and get lost for a while.  There is no such thing as a bad ride around the bluegrass.

-Ashley

Ashley is a mother and science teacher currently living in the Bay Area. She can’t wait until her daughter is big enough to join her for biking adventures.  She was a 2007 graduate from Transylvania University.

images by dthoskins

HIIT cardio workout

One of the ten million fitness barriers that people face is finding the time to get in a good workout.  Enter High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT.

HIIT alternates periods of high intensity exercise with periods of rest (or very low intensity exercise) for a set number of intervals.

In a HIIT workout you are increasing both your aerobic and anaerobic fitness, which improves your endurance and burns more calories in less time than a steady state cardiovascular workout.  The best part about HIIT is that if done regularly, these workouts can actually increase your resting metabolic rate (RMR), which allows you to burn more fat even when you’re not working out!

For me, the best part of HIIT is that I never get bored during these workouts–my mind is always trained on the clock.  Another benefit is that these workouts can translate to many types of gym equipment and venues:

  • treadmill
  • elliptical machine
  • rowing machine
  • stationary bike
  • indoor/outdoor track
  • pool
  • jump rope

You definitely need a timepiece for these workouts.  Anything will do, but if you don’t have a heart rate monitor and you’re serious about your fitness, I highly recommend getting one.  Click HERE to see mine.

Here is sample HIIT workout for beginners :

  • WARMUP: 2 minutes
  • HIGH INTENSITY INTERVAL: 60 seconds– Here you should be exercising vigorously and should not be able to talk comfortably.
  • REST INTERVAL: 2 minutes– Here you should still be moving, but at a comfortable pace.
  • REPEAT 6 TIMES
  • COOL DOWN: 2 minutes

The above workout should take a total of 22 minutes.  If you push yourself during the high intensity intervals, you should get a great workout.

Just for fun (and for an extreme reference point), I’ll throw in an advanced form of HIIT. Also called Tabata training, it takes only 4 minutes to complete and has been compared to running for an hour on the treadmill:

  • HIGH INTENSITY INTERVAL: 20 seconds
  • REST: 10 seconds
  • REPEAT 8 TIMES

WARNING!  The above workout is super intense (I’m actually afraid to try it because I don’t like throwing up after I work out).   Check with your physician before starting any new exercise regime.