My Favorite Relaxing Yoga Videos

As the season of free outdoor fitness classes comes to a close, I’ve been on the hunt for a way to sprinkle in more movement without breaking the bank. I’ve since learned that Youtube has much more to offer than just hair tutorials and John Oliver segments, and have stumbled down the joyous rabbit hole of free Youtube yoga videos. Below are a few gentle routines that I keep coming back to. Nearly all of these routines are less than 15 minutes, so they are the perfect low commitment way to get into yoga if you’re new to the practice.

15 Minute Yoga to Wake Up (13:16) // Yoga by Candace

This video starts off super calm and gentle, so it’s a nice, soothing way to start the day, especially if you haven’t had your morning coffee.

Yoga to Get the Juices Flowing! (8:27) // Yoga with Adriene

If you feel like you have been sitting at the desk (or on the couch!) for too long, and need a quick stretch break to feel energized and get the juices flowing, this video is perfect. I also like to do this one in the morning when I wake up.

Yoga for Upper Back Pain (12:03) // Yoga with Adriene

Like most adults with a desk job, I tend to hold a lot of tension in the neck, shoulders, and upper back. Since regular massages aren’t in the budget, this quick yoga routine is a pretty nice alternative. I also enjoy Adriene’s 15 minute sequence for lower back pain.

Yoga for Tired Legs (26:58) // Yoga with Adriene

With cooler autumn weather making appearances in Boston, I’ve been trying to go running more regularly. My sore body has not been as amused as my health-conscious heart, so stretches that soothe achy legs are a welcome treat. I have tried a number of post-run or “yoga for runners” sequences, but this video is my favorite routine to fill that need. This video is a bit longer than the others on the list, but it’s super relaxing, and not at all strenuous.

5 Minute Before Bed Yoga (6:56) // Yoga by Candace

This short sequence is a great stretch to do right when you are ready to go to bed. Sometimes I also do this one right when I wake up, if I’m so tired that I can’t fathom getting out of bed. Candace also has a 10-minute, before bed yoga sequence that I enjoy.

Do you have favorite yoga or fitness Youtube videos that you return to time and time again? Share the link in the comments!

– Kelly

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Bicycle Season

Bike Season

After nearly a year of romanticizing leisurely bike rides to the farmers market and around the Esplanade, I finally took the plunge and purchased a bicycle. Reality set in quickly, as it’s a bit of a struggle to shove the bike into our small, creaky elevator, and I’m still too nervous to ride on city streets alone. Nonetheless, I’m over the moon about my purchase!

So far I’ve only biked to Tatte Bakery in Beacon Hill, and done part of the Esplanade and the Battle Road Trail in Lexington, but I have lots of bike trips in the works (including Burlington, VT and the Cape Cod Rail Trail).

Cute Bicycles

^^Luckily, I was able to snag both the bike and the basket on sale

When deciding on a cruiser, I scanned the web a lot (including Craigslist) and ended up narrowing my search down to the four bikes below (hand brakes were mandatory), all around the $150 price range. (Keep an eye on the price — they were nearly all on sale when I was looking about a month ago.) I’ve also included a roundup of cute bike accessories, including helmets and baskets.

These bikes aren’t necessarily intended to power you through iron man races, but they do encourage just the sort of enjoyable daily activity that is so closely linked with health and longevity.

Best Bikes and Bike Accessories

1. Schwinn Admiral Hybrid Bike (Wal-Mart, $159) – this is mine!

2. Front Handlebar Wicker Bike Basket (Amazon, $27.95) – this is mine!

3. Nutcase Mini Dot Helmet (Amazon, $69.99)

4. Huffy Fresno Cruiser Bike (Target, $139.99)

5. Huffy Sportsman Cruiser Bike (Kohl’s, $179.99)

6. Schwinn Pattern helmet (Target, $26.99)

7. House of Talents Oblong Bike Basket (Amazon, $49.94)

8. Schwinn Perla Cruiser Bike (Amazon, $177.75, also seen at Academy, Kohl’s and Wal-Mart)

Any favorite bike routes in New England? Do tell!

–  Kelly

Apps I Love: Map My Run

Best Running App - Map My Run

The long awaited signs of spring (blossoming magnolia trees in Back Bay, sailboats on the Charles, pleasantly cool temps) ignite an uncharacteristic urge to lace up my Nikes and soak up the sunshine on a scenic jog. With the Boston marathon in town this week (yesterday, actually!), running seems to be contagious throughout the city, inspiring me to kick up my mileage and pace. With these goals in mind, I’ve been especially happy with a new app I just downloaded: Map My Run (the #1 running app).

Simply press start when you begin running (and stop when you finish), and the app will map your route, keep your time, and calculate your pace, along with a host of other features and statistics. It’s an excellent tool to monitor the progress of your workouts, especially if you’re training for a race. 

I’m fairly certain I’ve used a primitive, web-based edition of Map My Run a few years ago, slowly plotting my route on a computer to track my mileage, but this weekend was my first experience with the app, and I absolutely love it! In fact, I just might be inspired enough to make this running thing a habit. No promises, though 😉

– Kelly

How to Determine Which Healthy Tools are Worth the Investment

If you want to train for a 5K, there’s an app for that. There’s also an app that shows you how many calories are in your favorite breakfast cereal, and one that can wake you up at the ideal point in your sleep cycle.

From apps, to personal trainers, to activity trackers, to nutrition counselors, there is no shortage of tools to help you live healthier. But among all of these choices, which ones are worth the money? And just as important, how do you determine which one is right for you?

Fitbit Fun

^^Counting steps with my FitBit

EXERCISE:

Follow along with me: On a scale of 1 to 10, rate your exercise regimen.

If you didn’t give yourself a 10 (I sure didn’t!), where do you have room to improve? What is stopping you from rating your exercise regimen as a 9 or 10? Finding where you have room to improve or where you need the most help will help you determine where your investment is best spent. Below are a few common barriers to exercise, as well as some tips and tools to help you overcome these barriers.

1. I don’t have time to exercise.

  • Build more activity into your daily routine. If you can’t bear to wake up any earlier for a pre-work run, or can’t seem to make room for a post-work gym session, then start making tweaks in your daily activities. Walk or bike whenever possible. Take the stairs, instead of the elevator. Make a habit of walking after meals. Also, look for pockets of time during your day to be active. When you step away from the desk for a lunchtime stroll (or even a lunchtime workout), you return with a renewed sense of energy and concentration.
  • Consider an activity tracker. Once you’ve started making small changes, such as taking the stairs rather than the elevator, or going on a walk around the block during the lunch hour, an activity tracker (such as a FitBit) can help you quantify these changes. Some companies are even seeing the value in these devices. When I worked at Boston College, employees formed walking teams and received Fitbits to compete for a number of prizes. Similarly, at Oscar, a tech-based NY and NJ health insurance company, employees are given a Misfit Flash activity tracker and can earn cash rewards when they meet their own personalized goals within the Oscar app.

2. I can’t motivate myself to exercise.

  • Sign up for a race. Rather than just exercising for the sake of exercising, signing up for a race (such as a 10K, a sprint triathlon, or an open water swim) will give you a specific goal to work towards. There are also apps and meetup groups that can help motivate you along the way.
  • Find a gym buddy. If you have trouble motivating yourself to go for a jog, convincing yourself to hit the gym is also going to be a struggle. But if you find a gym buddy that you can be accountable to, then a gym membership might actually pay off. If any of your friends or coworkers frequent a gym, consider joining them for classes or weight lifting sessions. Another tactic is to schedule regular activity dates with friends (such as yoga class, walking around the city, or going on a scenic jog), instead of (or perhaps in addition to) post work cocktails or weekend brunch. Additionally, some activity trackers (like the Fitbit) have challenges that allow you to compete against your friends to see who took the most steps or was the most active. Nothing like a little friendly competition to light the fire under you!
  • Join a team. Does your office have a basketball league? Do any of your college friends play softball or soccer? Joining a team is a great way to build accountability, since your teammates are counting on you to pull through. Teams also often meet for regular practices and games, meaning that you’ll have a workout automatically built in to your schedule.

3. I want to get more in shape, but I don’t know where to begin.

  • Start a race-training program. Having something specific to train for (such as a 5K) can help focus your efforts and make your desire to get in shape more quantifiable. It will also help get you in the habit of regular physical activity. From in-person meetup groups, to apps and online training regimens, there are a number of “couch to 5k” training programs to choose from.
  • Consider joining a gym with classes. Whether you opt for a yoga studio, a spinning studio, or a large gym with multiple options, classes are a great way to focus your exercise regimen. The instructors will lead you in the workout, which means that the hardest part is just showing up!
  • Enlist the help of a friend. We all have that friend that is incredibly in shape and enjoys touting the benefits of regular exercise. This is the person you need to share your desire to start working out with. They will likely have some great pointers and ideas for you, and may even invite you along to join them for a workout or two!

4. I’m fairly active, but I want to kick it up a notch.

  • Try a new activity. If you’re a regular runner, give swimming a try. If you’re a pro at spin class, mix it up with yoga. Finding a new activity to use different movements and muscle groups is a great way to challenge your body and get out of a workout rut.
  • Consider a personal trainer. If you find yourself going through the same motions at the gym each week, you might consider working with a trainer. A trainer will push you outside of your comfort zone, and challenge you to try new workouts that you might not have tried before.
  • Step it up with a race. Mastered the 5K? Give a 10K a shot. Enjoy running and biking casually? Challenge yourself to a sprint triathlon. Training for a race (especially a distance that is further than your normal route) is a great motivation to kick your training up a notch.

Lunch at Sweetgreen

^^ Quick healthy lunch at Sweetgreen

FOOD:

Follow along with me: On a scale of 1 to 10, rate how you feel about the healthfulness of your diet.

If you didn’t give yourself a 10, where do you have room to improve? What is stopping you from rating your diet as a 9 or 10? Again, finding where you have room to improve will help you determine where your investment is best spent. Below are a few common barriers to healthy eating, as well as some tips and tools to help you overcome these barriers.

1. Making healthy choices is too complicated.

  • Don’t get bogged down in the details. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins (like fish and chicken), beans, and healthy fats (like olive oil, avocado, and nuts) are what you should be piling on your plate. Refined sweets (like candies, cupcakes, and ice cream), deep fried foods, soda, red meats, and ultra-processed junk food are what you should be cutting back on. The nutritional difference between kale and broccoli is nothing to lose sleep over. However, the difference between an apple and apple flavored fruit gummies is pretty significant. If you’re looking for guidance, David Katz’s book is a great place to start. Also, the Fooducate app is a wonderful tool to help you compare foods.

2. I don’t enjoy cooking or meal planning. I just want to grab something quick and easy.

  • Look for healthy shortcuts at the grocery store. Canned beans, dried fruit, frozen vegetables, and precut fruits and vegetables are all healthy shortcuts that make cooking (or meal prep) way easier. There are also a number of healthy meal delivery services that can make cooking easier.
  • Consider time saving appliances. Are smoothies your preferred way to get your greens in? Consider a high powered blender, such as a Vitamix (or the more budget-friendly, entry level Nutribullet). Blenders can be a great motivator to help you get more produce into your diet in one easy, drinkable snack. A slow cooker is another great investment if you prefer to spend your time away from the stove. Just fill it with veggies, beans, and spices in the morning, and come home to a healthy, simmering chili. You can find an abundance of slow cooker recipes in cookbooks or on the web (but you might have to comb through to find healthier, veggie-driven recipes).
  • When eating out, choose wisely. If you rely on take out for most of your meals, it helps to have a few go-to healthy menu items in mind–dishes that are loaded with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Use the hot bar at your local Whole Foods to build a healthy meal with fish, veggies, and whole grains. Brave the line at Sweetgreen, (or a similar salad place like Chop’t). Burrito shops nearby (like Chipotle or Boloco)? Go for a whole grain bowl with beans, chicken, and a ton of veggies, but opt for guac instead of cheese and sour cream, and forgo the unnecessary tortilla.

3. I find myself snacking, even when I’m not hungry.

  • Try a diet tracking app. Logging a few meals with MyFitnessPal, Fooducate, or even the FitBit app is a great way to find patterns in your eating habits. Once patterns start to emerge, look for triggers, and ways to redirect those feelings. Do you always plop on the couch with a box of cereal when you get home? Get a glass of water instead, and try sitting somewhere else. These apps can also encourage positive eating habits, because you may be less likely to have that 10PM donut knowing that you have to record it.
  • Talk with a dietitian. A registered dietitian is a trained nutrition professional that will work with you to learn more about the root causes behind your eating choices, and create an individualized eating plan for you.
  • Read up on healthy eating. There are a number of books that offer practical tips for healthy eating. Some of my favorites include Disease Proof, by David Katz, Slim by Design, by Brian Wansink, French Kids Eat Everything, by Karen Le Billon, and Intuitive Eating, by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.

Which tools do you use to stay healthy?

-Kelly

Fitbit Fun

The Blue ZonesIn The Blue Zones, author Dan Buettner investigates the cultures that live the longest, from Sardinia, Italy, to Okinawa, Japan. One key ingredient is daily movement.

“Longevity all-stars don’t run marathons or compete in triathlons; they don’t transform themselves into weekend warriors on Saturday morning. Instead, they engage in regular, low-intensity physical activity, often as part of a daily work routine.” – Dan Buettner

One of my favorite low-intensity physical activities is walking. So it’s no surprise that one of the biggest hits in my family this Christmas was a Fitbit. (One for me, one for dad, and one for my 18-year old brother, Jack. In other words, the non-marathon runners of the Toups clan.)

Not only does the Fitbit track steps like a pedometer, but the Fitbit app allows us monitor each others progress, message and cheer (or taunt) each other on, and challenge each other to various step competitions. (There is also a sleep tracker and a food plan feature, which I am only just beginning to explore.)

Fitbit Fun

Getting my steps in, rain or snow (or both!)

The preset goal on the Fitbit is 10,000 steps per day, which is roughly five miles (this step goal is adjustable in the settings of the app). According to Buettner, “walking five miles a day or more provides the type of low-intensity exercise that yields all the cardiovascular benefits you might expect, but it also has a positive effect on muscles and bones–without the joint-pounding damage caused by running marathons or triathlons.”

Once you make a habit of taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking to the park instead of driving, and running errands on foot whenever possible, 10,000 steps a day becomes much more attainable.  Robert Kane’s quote in The Blue Zones drives this point home.  “Rather than exercising for the sake of exercising, try to make changes to your lifestyle… chances are that you will sustain that behavior for a much longer time. And the name of the game here is sustaining.”

Fitbit Fun

Scenes from my Back Bay commute

Thankfully, I live and work in Boston, so my weekday routine has a lot more walking built in (1.5 miles to work each way) than that of the average suburban office worker. However, my weekends tend to be a bit lazier. It’s been fun trying to build in some extra steps into my regular routine with the Fitbit, especially when I can see that my dad and brother are edging ahead of me. What’s your trick to getting more steps in?

(Psst… Note to the fashion-savvy: Tory Burch makes gorgeous hinged bracelets that can fit the Fitbit flex tracker.)

– Kelly

 

 

Try a Tri

photo 1This past weekend, the Boston University Triathlon Team hosted an abbreviated, indoor triathlon event called “Try-A-Triathlon”. The purpose was to introduce people to the sport and to get a feel for transitioning between the various events.

The race consisted of a 200M swim (that’s 8 lengths of the pool), followed by a 15 minute ride on a stationary bike, followed by a 1 mile run around the indoor track. The bike could be set at any resistance that you were comfortable with, and since everyone had to bike for 15 minutes, the swimming and running are were the places to focus your efforts if you were looking to make good time. The race was staggered into 7 heats of about 10 people each, and most swimmers shared a lane (as there were only 5 lanes). In the photo above, you can see the pool to the left and the bikes to the right.

I am not really a swimmer (or a runner, or a cyclist), but the length looked manageable so I signed up willingly. Additionally, I was excited that I could try all of these events in the temperature controlled paradise that is the BU gym. After all, Boston winters don’t make for great triathlon conditions.

“Try-A-Triathalon” seems to be an annual event at BU, so if I’m in the Boston area next year I definitely want to give it another try. Have you ever finished a triathlon?

– Kelly

 

FREE Outdoor Fitness Classes in Boston

That’s right, FREE! The summer is going by quickly, so don’t let these opportunities pass you by.

Yoga on the Boston Common:

yoga

Come to Frog Pond on Tuesday nights (6:00-7:15 p.m.) for a FREE expert-led yoga class (power vinyasa flow). Participants are encouraged to bring their own mats and blocks, and all ages and levels are welcome. For more information, read here. Classes run every week June 4 – August 27.

Healthy, Fit, & Fun at the Esplanade:

The Esplanade Association is hosting FREE Healthy, Fit, & Fun classes this summer (through August 30). All abilities and ages are welcome to participate. For more information, read here. See schedule below:

  • Mondays: 2.5 mile Community Power Walk (meet at the Hatch Shell at 6:00pm)
  • Tuesdays: Zumba (meet at the Hatch Shell at 6:00pm)
  • Wednesdays: Sunset Yoga (meet at Fiedler Field at 6 p.m) & Run Club (3, 5, & 8 mile options, meet in front of Marathon Sports Boston, 671 Boylston St., at 6:30 p.m. warm-up begins at 6 p.m.)
  • Thursdays: CrossFit (meet at Fiedler Field at 6 p.m)
  • Fridays: Boot Camp (meet at Fiedler Field at 7 a.m.)

Hope to see you there!

– Kelly

Gym Rat

Gym rat

Exercise has never been my strong suit. While I go through spurts of motivation every now and then, for the most part, it is difficult for me to motivate myself to work out. I am no personal trainer. And now that it’s warm outside (and inside, thanks to the lack of AC) the last thing I want to do is work up a sweat.

So I joined a gym. A temperature controlled paradise with group fitness classes, towel service, and an outdoor pool. Maybe all of the amenities will lure me into going frequently? At least it’s worked for the past week or so. When I work out alone, it is far too easy for me to call it quits early. But in a group fitness class, I can’t just quit in front of everyone. So I keep going, and end up pushing myself to have a tough yet rewarding work out. And best of all, at only a 5 minute walk from my apartment, the location of the gym is hard to beat.

I know what you’re thinking. This sounds expensive. And I’m not gonna lie, the payment stings. But physical activity is the component of my health that has always needed the most help, so it only makes sense that it’s where I choose to invest. Wish me luck!

How do you stay motivated to exercise? Do you belong to a gym?

– Kelly

Exercising when traveling: A new way to experience the city

soulcycle

As a food and nutrition professional, one of my favorite ways to explore cities when I travel is through the cuisine. However, sometimes my travels have a tendency to transform into an all-out food fest, where many of my planned activities revolve around eating out. Not a healthy mindset.

However, on a recent trip, I met someone with a different approach. This person told me that she was taking a yoga class in the city, and that whenever she travels, she tries to take a fitness class. Now, I don’t exactly have the greatest fitness routine to begin with, but nonetheless, the idea struck me. I decided that moving forward; this is a practice that I want to adopt. So I did!

This past weekend, I trekked down to New York City for the Summer Fancy Food show (a trade show for food professionals). Knowing that eating was going to be a big component of my trip, I decided supplement my trip with a fitness class. Naturally, I chose SoulCycle.

I first heard of SoulCycle on a Regis & Kelly episode a few years ago. Since then, it has continued to gain hype from many of my favorite NYC based bloggers. Although I’m not an experienced cyclist, the class was completely rewarding. Hard work, great music, and even better attitudes. Also, whoever thought of holding a fitness class by candlelight, rather than unforgiving fluorescent lights, was a genius. Genius!

Not only is taking a fitness class in a new city a great way to maintain healthy habits when traveling, it is also a great way to break up the monotony of routine exercise. I found myself actually looking forward to the fitness class, because it was new and exciting to me. And now I can’t wait for my next trip!

How do you stay in shape while traveling? Have you tried SoulCycle?

– Kelly

Austin Fitness Bucket List

^^ Lady Bird Lake Hike & Bike Trail. Image via American Forests

^^ Stand up paddle surfing in Lady Bird Lake. Image via meetup

Austin is quirky and fun city with a great music and nightlife, a bustling university, and best of all, an amazing local restaurant scene! That being said, nonstop tacos and barbeque can begin to take a toll on your health. But don’t fear- Austin is consistently rated one of the healthiest cities in America for a reason. Are you looking for something active to do in Austin? Here are some ideas to get your muscles moving:

  • Go for a walk, jog, or bike ride around the 10 mile Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail, which winds through the middle of downtown and offers unmatched views of the city.
  • Another great way to enjoy Lady Bird Lake is by renting a kayak going stand-up paddle surfing. See here for rental info.
  • Pease Park trails and the beautiful surrounding neighborhoods are the perfect place to go for a jog, take a leisurely stroll, toss a frisbee, and gawk at lovely houses.
  • Spend a day outdoors in one of the many natural springs. Barton Springs, McKinney Falls State Park, the Greenbelt, and Hamilton’s Pool are just a few that come to mind.
  • Dance up a storm at Midnight Rodeo or the Broken Spoke.
  • Explore the city on foot! From the University of Texas campus, to the Capitol Building, to the shops along South Congress, there is so much to see. Austin is also incredibly bike friendly.
  • Drive out to Fredricksburg and go hiking or rock climbing at Enchanted Rock. Fredricksburg is also a great place to go peach picking in the summer.
  • Work up a sweat by volunteering. The Green Corn Project builds organic gardens for those in need, and is one of my favorite volunteer groups in Austin.
  • Give yoga a try! Black Swan Yoga has 4 different locations throughout the city, and offers classes (including hot yoga) for a minimum donation of $5. On a similar note, $10 yoga classes are offered on Wednesdays and Fridays at the Umlauf Sculpture Gardens.
  • If traditional yoga isn’t Austin enough for you, try full moon yoga. Every month (during a full moon) free yoga and meditation classes are offered at a scenic outlook.
  • Sign up for a race. From the Austin Marathon and Half Marathon, to the Capitol 10K, to the Chuys 5K fun run, there are always plenty ways to stay active. See here for a list of upcoming races.

^^ Yoga at the Umlauf. Image via Austin 360.

DSC03845

^^ Kayaking in Lady Bird Lake (view from the Congress Ave bridge, while waiting for the bats)

While the following activities won’t require quite as much exertion, these are still some excellent ways to check out the city and enjoy the outdoors:

DSC03869

^^Mount Bonnell

DSC00864

^^ 360 Overlook

Did I leave anything off of my list? How do you stay active in Austin, TX?

– Kelly