Tuesday, April 22, 2014

how to establish an early morning workout routine

Gradually over the last couple weeks, the days have been finally finally FINALLY getting lighter and warmer again! I've literally been waiting for this moment for months on end. I spent way too many dark, subzero pre-dawn mornings delicately tiptoe-ing around sheets of ice and mountains of snow on my way to and from the gym this winter, and to be honest it sucked. A lot. But if I skip a workout I'm cranky and have anxiety issues, which is all the motivation I need to stick to my routine. (Although the motivation of my Tone It Up community on Instagram helped too!)

This spring and summer I promise to NEVER take a 6 am sunrise, chirping robins, or 45-degree temperatures for granted! Have you been trying (or wishing) you were one of those insane morning people who could fit in a workout first thing in the morning? Now is the perfect time to establish that routine, since the sun and weather will be on your side!

If I told you that I wake up at 5:00-5:30 am every single day to work out, how would you respond?

The usual reactions I get are always something along the lines of

"You are CRAZY!"
"I could never do that!"
"I am definitely not a morning person..."

etc. etc.

Come on, people! You're stronger than you think! Confession/rant: hearing people make blanket statements or assumptions about their personal limitations is one of my pet peeves. I am a strong believer that you (yes, YOU!) can do anything you set your mind to, if you are willing to put in a bit of effort and determination. It's all about priorities.

If you want to establish a regular workout routine, let me break it to you with some tough love. Morning is the BEST time to work out. Getting it done before you are distracted and drained by all the other commitments of your busy life is the best way to become consistent and make it a habit. Don't give yourself a chance to make excuses. Plus you will have more energy, you'll sleep better, you'll feel oh so good about yourself and exude a sense of superiority and confidence that will drive your coworkers bonkers, and you'll be more motivated to make healthy choices throughout the rest of the day! And don't we all want to be more fit, happy, and energized?

I realize that establishing an early morning workout routine is much easier said than done. In a perfect world, we would all be getting ten hours of sleep every night and would wake up naturally, without an alarm, bright eyed, energetic, and excited to take on the day with the first chirping of the birds. Does this sound like your life?? I'm going to assume it does not. Mine either! 

Let's be real.

The first five minutes after you wake up are going to be rough, and it doesn't matter if it's 5:00 or 7:00 or 9:00. Trust me when I say that exercise is the FASTEST way to wake up your body and mind, so you might as well set that alarm a few minutes earlier and fit it in!

Full disclosure: it took me a while (as in, weeks) to get into the habit of consistent morning workouts. I've discovered several tips and tricks that I can play on myself in order to keep me motivated and on track, and since I've established a routine I almost never cave into the temptation to hit snooze or sleep in. 

I challenge you to fit in an early morning workout three times a week for the next three weeks. It takes 21 days for a habit to fully sink in, and the first two weeks are the hardest. If you can make it 14 days, you've got it in the bag. Remember: consistency is KEY!

How to begin

Baby steps! You need to start slowly so you don't burn yourself out, especially if you're a fitness beginner. Begin by setting your alarm 10 minutes earlier than normal and doing a short routine in your living room first thing before you shower. You can find oodles of effective, short, and fun workouts for free on YouTube, for literally any fitness level!

Some of my favorite fitness channels:

Once you've successfully completed a morning workout, you will probably notice how much better you feel throughout the day and will be motivated to do it again! Slowly increase your wake up time by 5 minutes a day, until you have enough time for a full 30-60 minute workout.

Here are the steps I take EVERY SINGLE DAY to make sure my workouts happen

One: Set your intentions the night before. Visualize your workout. Visualize what you are going to do when your alarm goes off. Write yourself a note, or label your alarm on your phone with a friendly or kick-butt reminder to yourself. When your alarm goes off, remember that at some point in time, you WANTED to do this. Do not even give yourself the possibility to wimp out! If I tell myself "I'll see how I feel in the morning..." guess what? I'm going to sleep in.

Two: Have a workout plan. Know exactly what you will do when that alarm goes off, because you won't be able to make decisions in the morning. If you're working out at home, lay everything out the night before. Move the coffee table, put your weights out, stick the DVD in the player so you just have to push play. If you're heading to the gym, have your water bottle, gym bag, keys, etc. waiting for you at the door. NO EXCUSES!

Three: Put your alarm/phone on the other side of the room, so you physically have to get out of bed to turn it off. If you use your phone as an alarm, disable your snooze feature!

Four: Have a glass of water ready in the fridge or kitchen to chug right away. Most of the groggy feelings we experience when we first wake up are a symptom of dehydration, since we just spent several hours in a warm bed without eating or drinking. Have a quick bite of a banana or energy bar if you're hungry. Also, splash cold water on your face when you go to the bathroom.

Five: Get moving before your brain realizes what's happening. Don't think, JUST GO. The first five minutes after waking up are the worst--if you can make it through five minutes you're good to go and I promise you will never regret a workout!

Six: Set your coffee maker on auto-brew so you wake up to the smell of fresh coffee. Have a cup if you need the extra boost!

Seven: Establish a routine--workout at least 3-4 days a week, but also give yourself "off" days or easier workouts so your body and brain don't burn out!

Extra credit bonus steps

Eight: Get to bed on time! Surprisingly, this is not essential. Shoot for 6-8 hours of sleep as many nights as you can, but do not let a late night be a deal breaker! Exercise will energize you much more than an extra 30 minutes of sleep. 

Nine: Sleep in your sports bra, or even your entire workout outfit. This is a great trick, because putting on a sports bra at 5 am is struggle city, but if you wake up wearing one you can't NOT work out! Even if you end up snoozing through your alarm, you'll still have to take the damn thing off--fit in at least 10 mins of jumping jacks and crunches before you shower! I know, genius!

Ten: Find an accountability buddy. This can be an actual friend, partner, or neighbor who will workout with you or meet you at the gym for a class, or even an online community of like-minded active women. Support is a critical component to success, because it will keep you accountable to your goals! If you're on Instagram you can find me at joyofanna

Good luck! I believe in you. Get out there and MAKE LIFE HAPPEN!

Were these tips helpful? What do you do to motivate yourself? 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

weekly food and fitness plan || April 7-13

Every Sunday I try to make time to relax, re-charge, and also prepare for the week ahead! I am planner and a control freak, so I feel a lot calmer if I am heading into Monday with a game plan for meals and workouts to keep me on track throughout the craziness of the work week. 

I typically only plan out our dinners in advance, since I prefer to be more flexible with my breakfast and lunch choices based on what I feel like the day-of. I choose about four or five dinners to make each week, assuming we'll eat leftovers at least once and go out at least once. Where do I find my meal inspiration? Pinterest, my massive cookbook collection, food blogs, polling Ben, and anything I'm craving! 

Since breakfast is my favorite meal, I make sure we are always stocked with the essentials (oats, eggs, yogurt, fresh and frozen fruit, etc.) Lunch is my least favorite meal of the day and I usually just pack leftovers or a salad with some pre-cooked chicken or tuna. After doing the 21 Day Fix though, I've started planning my breakfasts and lunches more often because it really makes grocery shopping a lot easier and cheaper when you are only purchasing the food you know you're going to eat! I tend to get a little overly excited at the grocery store, but sticking to a meal plan and grocery list helps me resist the temptation to impulse buy.

Here's what we ate for dinner this past week!

Sirloin steak cooked on the cast-iron grill pan
Mashed cauliflower and potatoes with mushroom gravy (recipe from the Oh She Glows cookbook)
Green beans (frozen and microwaved)



Quick and easy chickpea chana masala (also from the Oh She Glows cookbook...obsessed) 

Thursday dessert:
Plain Greek yogurt mixed with stevia, chocolate PB2, and cacao nibs. 
This is one of my favorite healthy "desserts" if I'm hungry after dinner. I also like mixing Greek yogurt with cocoa powder and stevia. It tastes like pudding and it's packed with protein to keep me full all night!

Chipotle salad (carnitas, black beans, fajita veg, mild salsa, corn salsa, extra lettuce, drizzle of vinaigrette)

Girls' night out (cocktails, salad with chicken, fro-yo....)

Sunday (on the plan for tonight):
Tofu and veggie stir-fry

And here's my workout schedule from this week:

Monday: 55 minute Les Mills Pump workout (at home)
Tuesday: 2.5 mile treadmill interval workout + abs (at the gym)
Wednesday: 60 minute spin class (at the gym)
Thursday: off!
Friday: 1 mile run around the 'hood plus two YouTube leg routines from Tone It Up and Fitness Blender (at home)
Saturday: 45 minutes of barre and abs from the Tone It Up Beachbabe 2 DVD  (at home)
Sunday: 60 minutes of yoga from Eoin Finn's Pursuit of Happy Hips (at home--LOVE this yoga dvd)

And there you have it! I love seeing the weekly food and fitness schedules of other people, so I hope you liked getting a glimpse at my week too! Maintaining a healthy balance takes a bit of time and effort, but once I'm in a routine it's fairly easy for me to stick with it and I love knowing that I'm treating my body the best I can.

Have a fabulous Sunday!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Chicken and Veggie Pasta Bowl

Do you ever throw together a random meal for dinner and it turns out to be the most amazing thing you've eaten all week? Well, that just happened to me tonight. I wish I could think of a catchier name, but Chicken and Veggie Pasta Bowl is going to have to do! It's 7 pm on a Tuesday and I have no more creative juices left in my brain. I'm in the middle of a month of school outreach programs at work, and driving to the far outskirts of the city and making data analysis seem fun and entertaining to hundreds of 7th graders all day will definitely take it out of ya!

This recipe is so easy it's not really a recipe at all--but it's perfect for those crazy busy weeknights when you come home exhausted and want a fast and easy big bowl of comfort food. Oh, and it's healthy too! Veggies, protein, carbs, all in one. My favorite kind of meal. Did I mention it makes a ton of leftovers so you don't have to think about lunch or dinner tomorrow either? Fast, easy, healthy, delicious, leftovers. Quintuple win.

Chicken and Veggie Pasta Bowl
Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 4-6
  • 1 lb chicken breasts
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Seasonings of choice
  • 3/4 to 1 box of pasta (Whole wheat for bonus points!)
  • 1 jar high quality marinara sauce (Look for one with less than 5g sugar per serving. I use the organic basil marinara from Aldi!)
  • 1 bag frozen bell pepper strips
  • 1/2 bag frozen spinach
  • Cheese for topping!
Preheat oven to 350* F. Place the chicken in a baking dish coated with nonstick cooking spray, pour the lemon juice over chicken, and season liberally. I used Italian Blend Mrs. Dash tonight.

Bake chicken for 25-35 minutes, until it's done!

Once chicken is in the oven, cook your pasta for 3/4 of the time listed on the box. You want it to be a little crunchy still, because you're going to continue to cook it in the sauce! Drain the pasta, and return to the heat source. Dump in your sauce and frozen veggies, and heat until veggies are hot and the chicken is finished cooking! Chop chicken, add to pasta and veggies, serve with cheese.

Enjoy! What did you have for dinner tonight?