The Healthy Lifestyle Guide for Busy People (aka Everyone)

Raise your hand if you're busy. Yep. That's just about everyone. We are all busy. If you want to live a healthier lifestyle, the good news is that you don't have get up at 5am to exercise for two hours a day and survive on kale and skinless chicken breast. You don't have to change your whole life to live healthier, rather you can find success by fitting healthier habits into your current (already busy) lifestyle.

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5 WAYS TO SET UP YOUR ENVIRONMENT FOR BETTER HEALTH

Whether we like it or not our environment has an impact on our decisions. We can control our environment to a certain extent. We can stay out of bars if we don't want to drink alcohol. We can clean out our cabinets so that only healthy foods are within arm's reach. We can try to spend more time with friends who want to eat healthy and exercise with us.

However, there are always going to be factors that we can't control. Our husbands and kids may not want to eat healthier and beg us to order pizza. We may be chained to a desk eight hours a day while our co-workers try to push us to have that piece of cake. ("Oh, come on, you know you're just going to run it off later anyway"). The healthiest choice in the vending machine is organic Doritos. Spoiler alert: not healthy. 

I am not suggesting that you get a divorce, quit your job and give away your kids. We can't always control our environment (and we happen to love those darn kids) but we can learn to navigate it to set ourselves up for better health. It's not about being perfect all the time. That would be impossible. It's doing the best we can in every situation in the life we are already living. 

1. ATTACK THE SNACKS

The best defense against poor choices is planning ahead. When you're starving and rushed, you're more likely to hit the drive through, vending machine or deep dive into the ice-cream aisle. I try to keep healthy snacks close at hand. If I always have nuts, seeds, a piece of fruit or a protein shake nearby, I'm less likely to make poor choices because I am hangry.

2. THE IDEAL MEAL

How and where you eat your meals has an impact. We usually eat the amount of food that is served to us (or we serve ourselves). I am always reminding hubby of proper serving sizes because he thinks nothing of filling half my plate with buttery sweet potatoes. While I love buttery sweet potatoes, I don't need a half plate of them. I use Precision Nutrition's cupped hand portion serving size as a general guide. Not complaining about hubby cooking and serving dinner though.

If we use smaller plates, we tend to put less food on them and naturally control our serving size. If we finish eating, then wait 15 minutes or so and still feel hungry, we can always eat more. The idea is that we are not mindlessly eating just because it's there. If we serve food on smaller plates, eat slowly and stop when about 80% full (this takes practice) we solve most of our food portion issues.

Sit at an actual table (not of the coffee variety), turn off the TV and put away the phones so you can savor and enjoy your meal. If you work outside of the home during the day, pack a lunch and eat it away from your desk. Sometimes just the act of slowing down and paying attention can yield big results. 

3. YOUR KITCHEN MISSION

Clean out your cabinets and remove any foods you have trouble maintaining control over. I usually have to keep salt and vinegar potato chips out of my house. It's not to say you have to get rid of all unhealthy foods, because there is definitely room for treats in your diet. Only keep the foods around that fit within your goals. If you have to get dressed, put on shoes, find your purse, comb your hair, get in your car and drive to the store to buy it, you're less likely to indulge in it when you have a craving a 9pm. Just make it a little harder on yourself to get those types of foods. You can have them when you really want them, just don't make it so easy on yourself.

Sign up for a CSA box so that fresh, healthy produce and/or meat is delivered to you. In Texas (and other states, I hear) we have Bountiful Baskets, a co-op where you can pick-up fresh fruits and veggies for $15 a week that have a retail value of around $50.

Spend time on the weekends prepping and cutting meals and veggies. If necessary, buy pre-cut veggies. If you don't have time to meal prep, sign up for a healthy meal delivery service.

4.PRACTICE BEING ACTIVE

No matter how much or how little you workout each week, you can set your environment up to get more activity in throughout the day. Remember, it all counts. It doesn't have to be structured exercise to have an impact.

Park your car in the farthest spot away from the entrance of school, work and the grocery store so that you have to walk. Ride your bike or walk instead of driving to places that are nearby.

Do squats while you brush your teeth or incline pushups against the kitchen counter while waiting for the microwave to ding. Do a four minute tabata workout when you get out of bed in the morning to kick your day off on the right foot. It all counts. I promise.

5. FIND FIT-MINDED FRIENDS

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Join a run club or active social group to find a workout buddy. Find like-minded people who are interested in their health, fitness, and nutrition. Ever hear of November Project? Just show up. Organize your social events around being active; go for a walk, run or hike instead of meeting up at a restaurant or bar. Find friends to sign up for an obstacle race or fun 5K with you. Join an adult soccer league. Whatever floats your boat. Hey, good idea. Go swimming off of a boat! When exercise hour becomes social hour to catch up with friends, the more likely you'll do it. 

A four-legged furry fit friend can be the best kind. Get a dog that needs a daily walk. Can't have a dog? Borrow from a neighbor or volunteer to run with shelter dogs. I guarantee they will love you for it.

You don't have to overhaul your whole life to live healthier. Use this healthy lifestyle guide to help you incorporate new healthy habits into your busy day. You're never going to be less busy, start making small changes today. 

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TRAIN SLOW TO RUN FAST: WHY SLOWING DOWN CAN HELP YOU SPEED UP ON RACE DAY

Train slow to run fast. Wait. What? That sounds counter-intuitive. 

A mistake a lot of runners make is that they run too often at a pace that is too hard. While fast-paced runs have their place in your training, if you run at a hard (tempo) pace every day, it could be holding you back from improving. If you add additional speed work on top of daily tempo runs, it's a recipe for a running disaster: injury. 

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SLOW AND LOW THAT IS THE TEMPO

If you run your slow runs too fast your body will not be properly recovered and ready to do the speed work at your full potential. You'll end up limiting improvements by staying stuck in the middle with your slow runs too fast and your fast runs too slow.

Most coaches recommend aiming for about 80% slow runs and 20% fast runs in your training week. That means most of the time you should be running slow. I know we all want to post our speedy times on Instagram every day, but the slow runs strengthen your base so that you are ready and able to perform the fast runs at your full ability.

It takes a great deal of restraint to run slow. While you may worry that people are judging you for your snail-like pace on those slow run days, let me assure you that no one cares about your pace as much as you do. Most people are just impressed that you are out there at all.

Slow runs should be about one to two minutes slower than your race goal pace. Slow runs should be performed at a conversational pace, which means just what it sound like: You can hold a conversation with your running buddy without gasping for air between words and sentences. My running partner has four legs and he doesn't talk back, but you get the point. Get out there and actually enjoy your runs. You shouldn't be pushing yourself to the limit on every single run.

THE BENEFITS OF RUNNING SLOW

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Running slow may not make you an instagram star, but there are benefits that far outweigh a few new likes on your Strava image. Running slow helps build your tendons, ligaments and joints to adapt to the stresses of running. This helps you stay injury-free. Slow running builds your aerobic base and increases your glycogen (carbohydrates) stores which you will need if you want to run long(er) distances. Slow running allows you to put in more miles each week while avoiding burnout or injury from overtraining. 

VARY YOUR PACES

I am not advocating that you should always run slow. Remember the 80/20 rule. 80% slow but the 20% fast is important too. If you always run slow, your body will adapt and you will become really efficient at running slow. If you want to run faster, first build your aerobic base by running slow, then most athletes will thrive on just one or two speed sessions per week. It's about finding the balance between work and recovery. Everyone is a little bit different, you may have to experiment to find what works best for you. Listen to you body. 

RECOVER FROM SPEED WORK

Without proper recovery you can't keep improving. You get stronger and faster during rest, not during the workout. If you push your pace on every run and don't rest enough for recovery you will not allow your body to get stronger and faster. Resting and slow running are not signs of laziness, they are important components of a well-rounded training plan. Got it? Good. 

Next time you hit the road for a run, make a conscious effort to slow down. Go slower than you need. Sing the Beastie Boys in your head (or out loud for all I care) "Slow and low that is the tempo". Do the talk test. Can you hold a conversation without taking deep breaths for air? Enjoy your run. This is supposed to be fun. 

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LONG INTERVALS: SPEED WORKOUT FOR THE DISTANCE RUNNER

Welcome to the latest edition of workout Wednesday when each week I share a new running or strength training for runners workout. This week we are talking about speed for the distance runner. If you are a long distance runner training for a 10K, half or full marathon, then this is the workout that will help you progress.

Long intervals are speed intervals from 1/2 mile to two mile repeats with shorter periods of recovery. Long intervals are great for distance runners midway in their training cycle who want to improve their race times.

BENEFITS OF LONG INTERVALS FOR DISTANCE RUNNERS

  • Trains the cardiorespiratory system
  • Trains fast twitch muscle ability which means improved speed and power
  • Trains mental strength to endure longer intervals at an uncomfortable pace 
  • Increases strength and promotes an efficient running form
  • Helps increase the anaerobic threshold which means you can run faster with less effort
  • Helps prepare for faster paces during longer races

Convinced these are worth your time? Great. Now like any good running coach, let me warn you of the potential pitfalls. Intervals workouts should generally be introduced into your training plan after an aerobic base has been established.

When you begin your race training cycle, spend the first 4-6 weeks building mileage at a conversational pace. This period allows your body to adapt to running before increasing the intensity with intervals. You must train your muscles, tendons, joints and ligaments to adapt to the stresses of running before introducing high intensity runs. Speed work may sound fun and exciting (wait. what?!) but if you don't properly prepare for it by building a solid running base first you could end up sidelined with an injury.

It's also important to note that high intensity workouts should be followed by easy effort run days or rest days. Most athletes will thrive on just one or two high intensity runs per week. Work hard and then recover to enjoy the full benefits of the workout.

Coach rant over. 

This workout can be done on a track, a treadmill or a flat course if you have (affiliate link--->) a GPS watch to track your distances on the road. This is one I use, you can see it all over my Instagram feed.

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LONG INTERVALS WORKOUT

WARMUP

Always start your runs with a proper warmup. Check out this post with my dynamic warmup for runners. It's important y'all (insert my fake Texas accent here).

JOG FOR 1/4 MILE

Jog for the first 1/4 mile at an easy conversation pace at a RPE 4-6. Check out my RPE (rate of perceived exertion) chart to find out what the heck that means.

RUN FOR 1/2 MILE AT AN INCREASED PACE

This pace should feel comfortably hard, RPE 7-8. If you go out too fast you won't be able to sustain your pace for a half mile. You should be pushing yourself, it should feel hard, you shouldn't be able to talk much, but it shouldn't be so hard that you're gassed after one minute. Depending on your fitness it will likely take you 3.5 to 5 minutes to complete. It may take some experimenting to find what that pace is for you.

REPEAT TWO MORE TIMES

Repeat the interval/recovery periods two more times. If you are new to this, you may want to start out by just repeating once. Once you get stronger, as your body adapts, look for ways to continue to challenge yourself, either by running at faster paces, running longer intervals, decreasing rest periods or increasing sets. 

COOL DOWN

Walk the last quarter mile to cool down.

Are you training for a big race? Incorporate long intervals into your training cycle to enjoy faster race times. 

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Tomorrow Starts Today: Using the Power of Momentum to Achieve Your Goals

I stared at the dishes piled up in the sink, the crumbs that have fallen carelessly on the stove burners, the greasy fingerprints on the cabinet doors and the trash overflowing from the can. I'm sure the governor could declare the Genders' kitchen an official disaster area. I had a few choices: I could try to convince hubby to do the work (long shot), hire a cleaning service to show up in next 10 minutes (unlikely) or just set the whole thing on fire and start over with a new kitchen. Kidding! With my options limited, I did what I knew I needed to do. I rolled up my proverbial sleeves and got to work. 

I started with the sink, rinsing dishes and loading the dishwasher. I scrubbed the stove top and wiped down the cabinets and countertops. Things were starting to look up. I was gaining momentum. As the kitchen began to sparkle with its new-founded cleanliness, I started looking for new areas to clean: The inside of the microwave. The baseboards. The window sill. The crumbs that seem to mysteriously fall in the silverware tray.

What happened here? How did I go from feeling overwhelmed to seeking out more areas to clean? It's the power of momentum, my friends, and it works for everything. The hardest part is getting started. Once you start, it's becomes easier to take the next step, then the next one. It's breaking down the big overwhelming tasks to smaller manageable ones. 

That's why the secret to success in health and fitness is getting started and staying consistent. Aren't you glad I didn't say the secret was willpower and motivation? If it was, then I'd be doomed. If you just start and you are consistent with small healthy habits you will meet your goals. Money back guarantee. Oh yeah, this blog is free. 

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TOMORROW STARTS TODAY

If you've ever told yourself you would start tomorrow working on your goals, join the club. We've all done it, but it is not the way to achieve success. It reminds me of that sign that you sometimes see at bars: Free beer tomorrow. It's easy to offer something free for tomorrow, because tomorrow never comes. It's what you do today that matters. 

Start today. Build momentum. Do something today. Anything. Do a five minute action that inches you in the right direction. 

The worst part of starting tomorrow, or Monday, or next month, or the new year, or when you finish school, or when your kids go back to school, or when you get promoted at work or when you win the lottery, is that it gives you the excuse to do worse than usual today. I'm going to start my diet tomorrow, so I better hurry up and eat all this ice-cream today. I am going to start working out tomorrow so it's ok that I'm on the couch for a six hour Games of Thrones marathon today. 

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When in reality you'd be a lot better off if you starting making better nutrition choices today, while still enjoying a (single) serving of ice-cream if you choose. Do your workout before you sit down for an episode of Game of Thrones. It doesn't have to be all-or-nothing. You can work your healthy choices around the things you already enjoy. 

TAKE ACTION TOWARDS YOUR GOALS

If it's exercise, then at least do a five minute workout, I have plenty of them in my workouts archive. You don't need to spend an hour. If it's nutrition related, make one or two choices in the right direction: Add a serving of lean protein to your dinner. Add an extra serving of veggies to your lunch. Eat your meal slowly. Then when tomorrow comes, you'll have already started yesterday. Momentum is your friend. Just start with the smallest action.

Some may argue, what's the point of such a small action? Five minutes of exercise isn't going to melt the fat off your body. Adding a serving of veggies to one meal isn't going to massively improve your health profile. It's true that these things by themselves won't make a huge impact, but when you combine them with other small actions consistently and you build on them over time, then big results follow. You have to start somewhere. 

It's a mindset thing. Instead of getting overwhelmed by the big goal in front of you, start with something small. When you are successful at the small things you build confidence, when you build confidence, you feel ready to tackle the bigger things. Use the power of momentum to reach your goals. Tomorrow never comes. Start today. 

What is one small thing you can do today to get started? 

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THE RUNNER'S GUIDE TO GEAR UP FOR FALL RACES

Ah, the fall racing season is upon us. So whether that means you are signed up the local turkey trot and jingle bell 5K or training for a fall half or winter full marathon, it is undoubtedly the most wonderful time of year for runners. The cooler temperatures and crisp air gives us a burst of energy that seems to magically increase our speed and endurance after suffering through those long hot summer runs.

If you've been training this summer, it's about that time for some wardrobe changes to accommodate the dropping temperatures and the latest gear and technology to give us that edge (even it's all only in our heads).

This post contains affiliate links. That means if you click on a link in this post and make a purchase, I make a small percentage of the sale with no additional cost to you. No one is getting rich here, it just helps with the running (pun intended) of this blog. Thanks, as always, for your support. I only recommend products that I personally use and love. If I ever accept payment for promoting a product, I will clearly disclose it. In other words, If I hate it, I will always tell you. 

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Running Shoes

I am a big proponent of shopping local. Buy those new shoes from your local running stores to help support the families and businesses in your community. Give back to the little guy. Comparison shop and read reviews online but go into your local store to get unmatched service and individual attention.

If you've been running in your shoes all summer, depending on your weekly mileage and your usual running surface, it may be time to replace. Everyone is different, but running shoes usually need to be replaced every 500 miles or so. If you look at the bottoms and the tread is worn down and inside the insoles are smashed in, it may be time for a new pair of kicks.

Remember to never wear anything new on race day, so if you do decided it's time for a new pair of running shoes, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to break them in before your big event. I love my New Balance shoes for distance running, but go into your local store so they can help fit you with the right shoe for your individual needs.

Compression Socks

Whether you wear compression socks during your race as a fashion statement, good luck charm (like me) or after your race to hug your calves as they are propped up on the couch for recovery, compression socks or sleeves are a staple in any runner's wardrobe. You can go wild with the patterns and colors, but the science is still out whether compressions socks offer any significant benefit, except when the runner believes it does. Go figure. ProCompression has consistently high-quality socks and sleeves with fun and funky colors.

Running Socks

Friends don't let friends wear cotton socks. Cotton absorbs water (aka sweat) which can cause damp feet, rubbing and blisters. It's the last thing you need while running a race. I was recently introduced to wool socks and I am hooked. They are not just for winter either, wool keeps you cool as well. Weird, I know.

Tops and Tights

The rule of thumb is to dress for 10-20 degrees warmer than the current temperature because once you start running, you will warm up considerably. Ideally you would dress in layers. Running tights, a long sleeve synthetic (aka not cotton) base layer, a warmer zip up on top and if it's really cold, a third layer. It's usually better to underdress than overdress, unless you are willing to leave a layer of clothing on the side of the road.

Running Belt

Unless your running tights have deep pockets, you're probably going to need some place to hold your belongings. You may need to take a selfie or call for a ride mid-run so having your phone and ID on you at all times is best. Once I tied my car key to my shoelaces and my shoe came untied on the trail. Ugh. That's a story for another blog. Now I'm much smarter and use a running belt to hold my belongings when I run. The FlipBelt is my BRF (Best running friend) and this color makes my emoji have hearts for eyes.

GPS Watch

While a GPS watch is not a necessity it is definitely a nice-to-have piece of running gear for the serious runner. These days the GPS on your phone running app is pretty reliable, but if you are obsessed..I mean, if you like to crunch the numbers of miles, paces, heart-rate, etc then a GPS watch is the way to go. This is the one I use, you can see it prominently displayed on my Instagram feed.

Are you ready for fall and the cooler running conditions? Are you geared up for all your fall races? What do you have on the schedule for the rest of this year? Did I miss any of your favorite gear?

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