We’re Moving (Again)! Here’s Where We’re Headed to Next

December 7, 2017

Big changes headed our way with a big move…

Moving Abroad

I’m excited to share some exciting life news–MM and I are moving to Spain next month! It feels like we just moved to San Francisco (though it’s actually been a year and a half since our epic road trip). We’ve loved getting to experience west coast life–I gotta say, it’s pretty amazing out here. But now it’s time to move on to our next adventure–in Barcelona!

In January we’ll be leaving San Francisco and making our way to Barcelona where we’ll live for 8 months. MM’s job is what’s bringing us abroad. He’s in a rotational program, which is also what brought us from NYC to SF, and this will be his final rotation.

We’re very excited/nervous/anxious about the move (and the many details like visas, flights and an apartment that are still being processed, eek). I feel like we’re being given an amazing opportunity and I want to make the most of every moment. I’m excited to spend a final 3 weeks in SF and make the most of these moments, then throw myself into the expat life.

I think it’s meant to be that we’re headed to Barcelona. We visited on a family vacation a couple of years ago, and MM and I both said that we loved it and that we could see ourselves living there. I feel like that’s a pretty big deal since we’ve never said that about other cities (SF included), and especially not about other countries.

This isn’t my first time living abroad. I studied in Australia for a semester in college; I loved the experience and wouldn’t change a thing. But I was a little jealous of all my friends studying abroad in Europe as they visited so many countries. Now’s my turn! I’ve been joking that I’m going back on study abroad (just slightly older and wiser now).

While MM will be working, everyone has been asking what I’ll be doing. Well, that’s a work in progress! I’ll discuss more on that topic soon, along with many other questions I’ve been getting.

There will be a lot more coming your way as we prep for this adventure and I’m excited to share the journey with you!

Moving to Barcelona

abroad

Pictures from our visit to Barcelona in 2014.

At Home Wellness: Teeth Whitening Kit Review

November 8, 2017

teeth whitening

I tend to get a little lazy about certain self-care and beauty practices. Go to the gym daily? No problem. Cook homemade meals? I got it under control. But when it comes to basic beauty and other wellness, it tends to be lower on my priority list and even the simplest habits get left behind. As I get older, I know I need to put more time, effort and focus into taking care of things beyond fitness.

Honestly, it’s a mystery to me why I don’t spend more time on my beauty and wellness routine. If I can get myself to wake up at 6 am to sweat for an hour at the gym, it should seem easy to get into a better routine with face lotion, hair care or massages. It’s a goal of mine to get better about all of this, even if it is little by little improving my habits.

Fortunately for lazies like me, there are so many at-home treatments available, you don’t have to book a facial or a professional teeth whitening appointment to look and feel good. A couple of months ago the folks at Smile Brilliant reached out and offered me a kit to try. Bright white teeth and no dental appointments required, I was in.

Before my wedding I toyed with the idea of getting my teeth professionally whitened but I never got around to it. I got my teeth pretty white with simple at-home solutions, but man I wish Smile Brilliant hit me up a year ago, I could have used it! Better late than never and I’m happy to be using the kit now.

Here’s a bit about the product and my experience:

Smile Brilliant sends you professional whitening gels, desensitizing gels, impression trays and the materials to make them yourself. This part freaked me out as some of my worst memories from the orthodontist were of getting impressions made. I also thought I’d for sure mess up the impressions (they give you a second set just in case), but I nailed it on the first try. It was easy, far simpler than I expected.

You send in your impression molds and Smile Brilliant sends you back your custom-fitted whitening trays. The trays are way more comfortable than other at-home trays or strips I’ve tried since they are molded exactly to your teeth.

It’s recommended to whiten for 45 minutes to 3 hours, depending on how sensitive your teeth are. Because I felt some sensitivity, I’ve been using the trays for about 45-60 minutes and do it every other evening to let my gums and teeth have a bit of a break. After each session, I use the desensitizing gel for 15-20 minutes.

The process might seem long, but the trays fit so well that you barely notice them. You can have a conversation and go about your normal activities while whitening. When trying drugstore whitening strips, this was certainly not the case (lisps & drooling while trying to talk, ick). None of that is a concern with Smile Brilliant.

My routine each night of whitening was to put the trays in right after dinner (kept me from unnecessary post-meal snacking!). I’d then take Ollie for his evening walk. I end up talking to a lot of neighbors during our walks so it’s extra key that the trays are comfortable and allow me to speak normally. After the walk, I’d take the trays off and use the desensitizing gel while getting ready for bed.

Teeth Whitening Results & Cost

Depending on your teeth and how long you keep the trays in for each session, the time to see results will vary. I could see the difference after about a week and I’m very happy with my results so far.

I’ve always thought that I had white teeth. This recent improvement has made me realize they weren’t quite as white as I thought. I’m still continuing with the system and look forward to even brighter, whiter teeth. I’m glad I didn’t spend the hundreds of dollars on professional whitening when this is a really good option.

The kits cost between $129-$159 depending on which set you select. Compared with professional whitening, this is an amazing deal.

 

teeth whitening

teeth whitening

Beauty Next Steps

As someone who wants to focus more on my beauty routine with pretty much minimal effort, this fits the bill. It makes me want to do other little at-home beauty routines. I have a drawer full of face masks, I think it’s time to tackle those next.

Enter to Win!

My fellow lazy beauty-wannabes are in luck. I’m giving away a free Smile Brilliant kit to one lucky reader (non-lazy beauty people can win too!). Click here for your chance to win.

Giveaway is open to USA, UK, Australia and Canadian residents. Giveaway closes November 15th.

Teeth Whitening Discount Code

Can’t wait to see if you’re a winner? use code shapinup20 for $20 off trays.


Smile Brilliant gave me a free kit to try and all opinions are my own. Thank you for partnering on this post Smile Brilliant!

Getting Back on Track: 4 Ways to Spark Wellness Motivation

November 6, 2017

Wellness Motivation

Exactly one year ago today I was at the brunch after my wedding, digging into a huge piece of leftover wedding cake (carrot cake, damn it was good). I was joking with all my friends that I was so glad my wedding diet was over and I’ll probably never be motivated to be so healthy ever again. This post isn’t about my wedding diet, but I’ll just remind you that my wedding “diet” was extremely healthy. I didn’t crash diet or over exercise. I stuck to really healthy habits so I’d feel my best on my wedding day. It wasn’t about being my skinniest, but it was about feeling my most confident.

When the wedding was over, as I had half-joked, my motivation totally tanked. We moved to SF in the midst of wedding prep, so there were a ton of restaurants I had wanted to try but was saving for after the wedding. I tried ’em all, and they were delicious! Now it’s been a year and I haven’t quite gotten that motivation back. I don’t expect to ever be quite as motivated as I was pre-wedding, but my healthy habits have been wavering quite a bit. I still cook a lot and work out often, but I’m not where I want to be. And I’ve been okay with it.

Sometimes we’ll feel our best, and other times less so. But now I’m ready to get back to feeling really good, actually I’ve been feeling ready for a while but haven’t quite gotten it together (it’s hard!). I’ve been brainstorming ways to refocus and feel that once-strong motivation to follow a healthy routine.

If you feel that same motivation struggle, here are a few ways that have helped me.

Four Ways to Spark Wellness Motivation

Write it Down

Before you start action items, always think about the WHY. Why do you want to make healthy changes, what’s the motivation behind it all? For me, it’s feeling good and increasing my energy. Ok and to lose a few pounds if I’m being totally honest. Also, I have a lot of travel coming up and I want to go into that on top of my game. Traveling always tends to throw my routine upside down, so going in with a good base is key. Your goals might be different. Maybe you’re training for a race and have a big PR in mind, maybe you’re looking to solve food sensitivities, want to improve your strength, whatever it is, think about the WHY for YOU.

Make a Plan

It takes more than just saying you’re going to make healthy changes. What are those healthy changes going to be? Will it be waking up at 6am for workouts 3 times a week? Will it be cooking at home 4 nights a week? Make concrete plans and you’ll be more likely to stick with it. Making general or vague plans often lead to too much wavering with habits.

Enlist a Friend

I don’t have workout friends here that I can easily meet up with for consistent plans, but that doesn’t mean we can’t motivate each other, even from afar. My friend (who is getting married this weekend!) and I have been doing Kayla’s BBG workouts and keeping each other accountable via text. Even if she’s across the country, knowing we’re in it together and can talk about how much we hate Step Ups makes it more fun.

Count on your Community

If you have a favorite studio, check out special events and challenges coming up. If nearby studios don’t have any, chat with management about creating one together. I’m super excited to be starting a challenge today with my local Pilates studio MNT. I’m joining a 14 day challenge; the goal is to take 10 classes and comes with an optional cleanse system hosted by Molly of TheBalanceCleanse.com. I’m out of town for 4 of the 14 days so it’s going to be quite the challenge, but I’m going to give it a go.

Wellness Motivation

Any other MNT challengers out there? I can’t wait to get started!

If you’re struggling to find motivation and to stay on track, remember that you are not alone. Even as a wellness blogger and fitness instructor, I struggle often. On top of that, people tend to roll their eyes at me and say they don’t believe me. But it’s true, I struggle and for the past few months it’s been getting me a bit down and frustrated.

I’m ready to make some changes and if you’re in the same boat, I hope these tips help and you’re on the way to feeling motivated to hit your goals, whatever they may be.

 

Adaptogens: What are they and do I need them?

November 3, 2017

Doing a little research into the latest wellness buzzword: adaptogens.

adaptogens

Of all the latest buzzy health words being thrown around, adaptogen is one I keep hearing. If you asked me if I think they are good for you, I’d confidently say yes! From all the context I hear them spoken in and all the bloggers that I see raving about them, my conclusion is they must be super healthy. And also that I must add them to my diet asap. But in reality, I have no clue what an adaptogen is. Maybe you’re more enlightened than me, but if not, let’s do a little research.

What is an adaptogen?

Adaptogens are a class of healing plants that are known to help balance, restore and protect the body. They are said to help fight stress and fatigue, improve the health of your adrenal system and enhance your ability to cope with anxiety and stress (more here). There are 16 proven adaptogenic herbs, including ashwaganda, ginseng, holy basil and rhodiola.

Unlike medicine that specifically target disease or injury, adaptogens support your adrenals and adapt their functions to what your body needs. Adaptogens help with overall wellness; that sounds pretty magical to me.

Amazing Grass Adaptogen Powders

If you’re looking for the health benefits of adaptogens, but feel a little lost, let me tell you about my experimentation with Amazing Grass Elixirs. All the benefits of various adaptogens sound great, but also super overwhelming, which is why Amazing Grass’s products are ideal for newbies.

You can select from three types: Beauty Elixir, Belly Elixir and Brain Elixir. Each one contains a blend of adaptogens to support beauty, cognition and gut health.

Each powder can be added to smoothies, chia pudding or just mixed well with water. I’ll give you an honest warning, the flavor is overpowering at first. It’s a flavor I can’t really put my finger on, but it’s strong and it alters what you put it in. Even so, you get used to the flavor and the benefits are worth it. I felt the most immediate impact from the Brain Elixir. I tend to get a bad case of afternoon brain fog, but when the Brian Elixir was part of my morning routine, I felt clear headed and focused.

Knowing that what I eat in the morning can impact my brain power for the rest of the day, you better believe that these adaptogens have become a part of my routine. It’s nice to know there’s a simple element I can bring into my busy mornings to positively impact the rest of my day.

If you haven’t gotten into the adaptogen trend, check out the products from Amazing Grass and see if they might be a fit for you.

If you’re ahead of me with the trend, how do you include adaptogens in your diet?

adaptogen

Thank you to Amazing Grass for partnering on this post. Amazing Grass provided me with product and compensated me for this post, but as always, thoughts are 100% my own.

Travel Diary: 9 Things to do in Portland

October 27, 2017

Take a weekend up to the Pacific Northwest and make sure you check out these 9 things before you leave Portland.

Portland Travel

As part of our life on the West Coast, we’ve been trying to explore as much of this part of the country as we can. Portland’s been on the list for a while and this past weekend we finally made it up there. Only a short hour and a half flight from SF, it’s perfect for a quick weekend getaway.

Portland’s got a lot going on, and much like the way I often travel, it was a mix of eating a lot, working out, and wandering around. When I go on vacation, I want to try the local favorites (Portland’s famous treat would be donuts!), but I also want to feel like myself and feel good (even after that third donut…), which is why I try to fit in a few workouts, or at the very least hit my 10,000 steps each day. Thanks to an active scene in Portland, I was able to visit two awesome studios and kept well above my step goal while exploring.

We created our itinerary based on recommendations from friends and friends of friends and I think we hit up a lot of the musts. If you’re planning a Portland trip, here’s what you shouldn’t miss.

(1) Sample the Donuts

I’m no donut connoisseur (I’m more of a cake gal), but when it comes to Portland, eat the donuts! The two most recommended spots were Voodoo Doughnut and Blue Star Donuts; to get the full experience we had to try both. These two shops are pretty much complete opposites of each, though both house unique flavors. Voodoo is kitschy, bizarre and grungy and Blue Star is upscale, refined and classy. Both spots were pretty tasty though–I preferred the Voodoo flavors and MM preferred Blue Star, so it’s a toss up.

Portland Travel

Portland Travel

(2) Drink your way through breweries

Portland’s got a great beer scene, grab tastings (& food) at Deschutes Brewery and 10 Barrel Brewing, I highly recommend the cucumber sour at 10 Barrel. Looking for more beer? Check out 19 more Portland options from Eater here. If you experience rainy Portland weather, ducking into a local brewery for a flight is a great way to pass the time.

portland travel

(3) Break A Sweat

You know I didn’t eat all those donuts and drink all those beers and NOT workout. It’s not really about burning off the calories though; I love visiting studios in new cities to check out the scene. After asking around, I narrowed it down to two studios. First I visited Firebrand for a row class. This studio was enormous with separate studios for row, Lagree, cycling and barre and the biggest boutique gym lobby I’ve ever been in. The staff was super friendly and the class was awesome. The class was intimate with about 10 rowers. It was a mix of rowing, floor work and resistance band moves. Great vibe and great instruction.

Next, I visited Barre3. This studio is now open in NYC too, but it didn’t arrive until after I left. I see so many fitness bloggers raving about the workout so I was pretty excited to have the opportunity while in Portland. Barre3 was founded in Portland so it was the perfect place to give it a go. The hour long class had bigger movements than your typical barre class and everyone was pretty sweaty by the end. Another class with really good energy.

Between the two classes I visited, I can report that everyone is super friendly and the instructors are extremely welcoming. The vibe is more low key than a lot of NYC or SF studios and there are far fewer Lululemon-clad gals filling the classes (lots more Nike!). Maybe it’s because I was going at odd times, but the classes were also filled with people of all ages, whereas I feel like everyone in the boutique fitness scene in SF is under 40. I know some people get intimidated by boutique studios, but these didn’t have that vibe at all. If I were to visit Portland again, I’d go back to both studios.

(4) Stay Central

We stayed at the Kimpton  Hotel Vintage and I highly recommend it. We were walking distance to many of our activities (15 minute walks to Firebrand and Barre3, plus close to restaurants and breweries) and the hotel was super cute. They host a wine hour from 5-6 every night and it was quite the social hour in the lobby/bar area. Our room was spacious and it’s a very dog friendly hotel, they even stopped by the room to bring Ollie a special bag of doggie treats!

(5) Explore the Neighborhoods

There are a bunch of cute little hoods throughout Portland, one of our favorites was walking 23rd. It’s full of shops, restaurants and Salt & Straw ice cream (which is also in SF so I was able to hold myself back this time around).

(6) Eat, Eat, Eat

So many restaurant recommendations, so little time. Much like the rest of our itinierary, after getting recommendations from a bunch of people, we made sure to hit up the most recommended. First on the list, brunch at Tasty n Alder. It seems like waiting for a table is a big thing in Portland, so be prepared. Not in the mood for an hour+ wait, we ended up eating at the bar at a few places. We had a delicious dinner at Pok Pok. Go and order the spicy chicken wings. I don’t even care for wings and these were amazing–best I’ve ever had.

And on the day we left, I grabbed lunch at Por Que No, a Mexican spot on Mississippi that a bunch of locals recommended, including a friendly guy in my row class.

(7) Hike, Walk & Take it All In

While everyone recommended visiting in the summer, or September at the latest to avoid the rainy season, it felt pretty magical to visit Portland in late October. While the weather didn’t totally cooperate (see #9), the fall weather was gorgeous. The colorful leaves and crisp cool air (when it wasn’t raining of course) reminded me of fall in New York or New England. The weather in SF is consistency pretty good, but when I feel the changing seasons elsewhere, it makes me miss it.

portland travel

(8) Drink all the Coffee

If you go to Starbucks while in Portland, I’ll be mad at you. It’s not that I don’t like Starbucks (love you sbux!), but there are so many cute coffee shops in Portland, and you should try as many as you can. Even if it means 2+ coffees a day 🙂 We visited Stumptown, Barista, Public Domain and a few others along the way. Stumptown was my fave, but they were all great.

(9) Embrace the Rain

When we realized it was set to rain the entire weekend, we asked some folks living in Portland–what do people do in the rain? The answer? Everything! Fortunately it only rained one full day while we were visiting, and we powered through. We didn’t go on any big hikes like we had wanted, but we still explored the city in the rain. You never know what kind of weather you’ll get on vacation; don’t let it stop you from exploring and enjoying. I appreciate that the people of Portland seem to ignore the rain and go about their business. I used to feel like a badass when it would be blizzarding or 0 degrees in NYC and I’d wake up for a 6am workout, trudging through the snow. Now in SF when it drops below 55 I’m freezing and complaining. It’s crazy how quickly you can become a weather wimp out here! Thank you Portland for reminding me to push through whatever the weather is and just embrace what’s around me.

Portland Travel

Have you been to Portland? Any favorites we missed out on?

 

How to Get the Most Out of a Solo Workout

October 25, 2017

Spoiled by fancy group fitness classes and struggle when it’s just you and the weights? Here’s how to push through and get the most out of a solo workout.

Solo Workout Tips

Let me start by saying I absolutely love group fitness. So much so, that I’ve become a bit dependent on it. Can you even remember a time before group fitness was the standard way to workout? You might need to think way back, maybe it was before you worked out. I’m sure some of you started working out when group fitness became popular and more accessible.

I’m a certified personal trainer and have been a group fitness instructor since college. With all my workout knowledge and the ability to lead a class for 50 people, even I struggle to stay motivated when it’s time for a solo workout. Whether you’re an instructor or not, I think many of us have become dependent on group fitness classes and have forgotten that we can workout on our own and not pay $35 to sweat it out for an hour.

Boutique studios or gyms like Equinox that have an excellent group fitness lineup (IMHO as an employee 🙂 ) offer attendees a lot more than you might get from working out alone.  In classes, you get guidance from a professional, help with your form, feel extra motivated by those around you, and it builds a sense of community. And one of my favorites–you don’t have to think. You just have to do. The instructor tells you to do something, you do it. Workout done! (I know it’s not that simple, but the thinking part of a workout is a really challenging part, whether you realize it or not).

Sometimes group fitness isn’t it the cards. Maybe it’s not in your budget (check out fellow instructor Kayla’s blog and her hacks for wellness on a budget). Perhaps the studio times don’t work with your schedule. Maybe you live in a place that doesn’t have class offerings, or you’re traveling and can’t fit in a visit to a studio. In these cases, you can still get an amazing workout, all on your own. Crazy to think about in this day and age when there’s a Barry’s, SoulCycle or PureBarre on every corner, right?

Even as a knowledgeable fitness professional, I often opt for group fitness to get a really good workout. Since I have a gym in my building and am not looking to spend all my money on workouts, I’ve been (*trying*) to focus more on solo workouts. From years of working out in a group setting and solo, I’m here to help you make the most of your alone fitness time.

Check out my tips for the next time you’ve got a solo workout on your hands

Workout Tips

Prep Before You Begin

Well before your workout time begins, figure out your game plan. If you’ve been to lots of group fitness classes, maybe you have some ideas already in mind. Think it through and put it down on paper (or I like to put it in my phone’s notes app); this will help you stick to a full routine and will make you keeping going to finish the workout, even if you get tired. There are plenty of workouts available for free online (Popsugar and Tone It Up are two of my favorite places to search) or download a program like Kayla Itsines BBG (so hard, so good).

Create Space

Once you’ve got your workout set, find the space you need to make it a successful workout. At the gym, carve out floor space with your weights and mat handy. If there aren’t any group fitness classes and your gym allows it, head into the studio space for more privacy and to ensure no one will get in your way mid-set. When you’re working out at home, create a mini workout area with all your equipment and water nearby. Make the space feel like a dedicated workout area (even if it’s just for the hour) to focus on what you’re doing, and not how comfortable it would be to lay on the couch instead.

Warm Up Properly

Don’t jump directly into your workout. Think about the 5-10 minute warm ups you would do in a group fitness setting and ease into your workout with jumping jacks, jogging in place, high knees, butt kickers and a couple of down dogs. If you’ve got a treadmill, can go for a short jog or do a few stair runs, it’s an excellent way to set yourself up for success.

Treat the workout like you’re in a group fitness class

When I first started BBG I would check my texts and Instagram feed between sets, I’d flip through TV channels, I’d check my email. I’d do things to take away my focus from the workout. You’d never do these things in a group fitness class (at least I hope you wouldn’t!) and you should treat these workouts with the same respect. Keep your focus, stay in-tune with your body and with the moves, whether it’s pushing through a tough set or taking a few seconds for recovery. Make it a rule not to scroll through social media or respond to texts between sets. Save it for after the workout.

Time Your Rest

If you’re doing sprints or HIIT moves, take the necessary rests between sets, but keep track of it. Without an instructor keeping time, it can be easy to take a long break and not even realize it. Try to keep your recoveries/rests around the 60 second mark. It’s enough time to catch your breath without letting your heart rate drop too low before the next set begins (heart rate up = more calorie burn!).

Make it Work For You

The great thing about working out solo is you can make it what you want. Hit snooze too many times and only have 20 minutes to workout? That’s great, use those 20 minutes! Remember to listen to your body; sometimes you’re going to want to hit it hard. Other days will be for low impact and recovery.

Don’t Skip the Hard Moves

If you’ve downloaded a program like BBG, there are inevitably going to be some moves that you hate or really suck at (hi push ups and weighted step ups!). If you’re in pain or aren’t yet strong enough to complete the moves exactly as they are meant to be done, modify. But only modify if you truly need to. Don’t skip the burpees just because you hate burpees. Go even harder at the burpees so you can get stronger and will one day love them (seriously, I love a good burpee set!). With no instructor or fellow students to hold you accountable, these workouts all come down to you. Do the moves that seem impossible, even if you have to do them super slow or have to make modifications to get through all the reps. Can’t do 15 push ups? Do 5 regular ones then drop to your knees as needed. Over time you’ll surprise yourself and suddenly those terrible moves won’t seem so bad.

With all these tips handy, will you try some solo workouts, or is group fitness more your thing?

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