06-27-2016

Glute Strengthening Exercises Pt. 2

Now that marathon training has started, I really need to make sure to work on my glutes, especially my glute medius. I wrote a previous post (that somehow blew up on Pinterest) on strengthening your glute medius (and why it’s important).

Today I wanted to talk about some of my favorite glute exercises. I haven’t been strength training much, mainly because I have been balancing running, cycling and yoga. But I need to get back into the gym this week.

Your glutes are your powerhouse. When you’re running, you need strong glutes to push off the ground and give you, well, power. It’s not uncommon at all for runners, and most people in general, to have weak glutes from sitting all day and not really activating them. So here are a few exercises you can start incorporating into your routine. Plus, you can do them anywhere, either bodyweight or with dumbbells. So add a few reps and sets in after your runs and you’ll be on your way to buns of steel.

Here are my top 5 exercises to strengthen and grow your glutes! | http://reach-yourpeak.com

Step-Ups

These are so easy to do anywhere! If you’re out for a run, you can find a park bench or table to use. If you’re at home, you can use a chair or your stairs. You want to make sure your form is right with these, and that you’re not using your back leg to bounce you up onto the step. Your back leg should stay completely straight, and you should focus on using your front let (the one on the box) to push you up. Here’s an example of someone using that back leg to power them up (which means your front leg and glute are working less):

It might take a little practice, which is why it’s good to start off with your bodyweight only, and then progress to adding dumbells. Here’s an excellent tutorial video:

Walking Lunges

Another one that can be done anywhere, with or without weights. If you have knee issues or knee pain, you may want to stay away from walking lunges. You can do do split squats (stationary lunge) or reverse lunges instead. You can also switch those up by elevating your front foot. Lots of options here.

With walking lunges, take a step forward and really focus on keeping your chest up and shoulders back. Lower your knee as low as it can go, and then switch. Do not force yourself to go lower than what is comfortable. You also want to make sure that your heel on the foot that is stepping forward is planted on the ground. If you step forward and your heel is up or you’re on the balls of your feet, it means you’re not taking big enough steps.

Hip Raises

Hip raises are probably my favorite exercise, mainly because I can lie down while doing it :-P

Did you know hip raises are more effective at growing your glutes than squats are? Start off with just body weight hip raises. Lay on your back with bent knees. Plant your feet and lift your hips up as high as you can. Squeeze your glutes as you lift and really focus on utilizing those muscles. You may feel this in your hamstrings and calves too. Hold at the top for about 2-3 seconds, lower and repeat. In order to see if you’re using your glutes and not your hip flexors, try doing a single leg hip raise with one knee bent. What I mean is, take one knee to your chest and hold it there with your arms. THEN, do a hip raise. You should really feel that in your glute. Once you get the hang of it, you can add a weighted plate or barbell on top of your hips in order to make the move more challenging. 

Bulgarian Split Squats

This is a more advanced exercise, and a variation on lunges. You can work up to this by doing reverse lunges with your back foot elevated on a small box or step. Eventually, you’ll be able to do it with your back foot on a bench. Here’s what it looks like (including good cues and common mistakes):

Remember to always keep your chest up and shoulders back. You don’t need to lower yourself all the way down if you can’t. Go until you can, and then come back up. Work your way lower and lower over time.

Back extensions

You will need a back extension machine for this one, or you can get creative and use the end of your couch or bed. I’ll show an example after I explain.

Doing back extensions on an incline back extension machine will target your hamstrings and glutes, maybe your calves too if they’re a little weak. If your lower back is weak, you’ll feel it in those muscles as well. Lower down all the way, then squeeze your glutes to lift yourself up. Be careful not to hyper-extend. See how he is in a straight line?

Photo source

If you want to add weight, hold a weighted plate to your chest to make it more challenging.

Start incorporating these exercises into your routine and not only will you have stronger glutes, you’ll be helping your body stay injury free. Writing this just motivated me to get my butt to the gym this week. Another thing I need to work on ASAP is my core strength. Please leave me your favorite core workouts below because core is my least favorite thing to do haha.

What is your favorite glute exercise? How often do you train your legs/glutes?

*****************************

Follow Reach Your Peak: 

06-23-2016

My Marathon Training Plan

So it’s finally here…time to train for the NYC Marathon. This week is week 1. I was going to do a 16 or 18 week plan, but then read about the benefits of a 20 week plan. Like having more time to gradually build up and also more flexbility if you miss some runs due to unforseen circumstances. So I decided to do the 20 week intermediate plan from Running a Marathon For Dummies by Jason Karp.

12071502_10105632824760909_90456828_n

(Bought these books together and highly recommend Champion’s Mind too.)

I have chatted with Jason a few times previously and that’s how I learned of his book. I was debating between this plan and Hansons. I have used Hansons before (2011 NYC Marathon) which lead to a PR, but I wanted to try something new AND believe this plan might better suit my weaknesses.

For instance, tempo runs and long runs are very challenging for me. I dread them. Track workouts are no big deal. I love them and while they can be hard, I never doubt that I will be able to do it (unlike tempos and long runs).

This plan has a heavy emphasis on tempo runs and intervals, and then in the later weeks starts adding VO2 Max intervals as well. The intermediate plan peaks aaround 50 MPW I believe. The book also offers a beginner and advanced plan. Here’s a shot of one of the training plan pages (this is the advanced plan)

20130110-142648Photo source

This is the first time I’m going into a plan with somewhat of a base. While I was only running 15-20 miles per week, I’ve been consistent with that and my cycling classes since January, so I am WAY fitter than any other time I have started a plan (aka at 0 miles per week lol).

The first track/tempo interval workout this week was:

  • 2 mile warm-up
  • 3×1 mile at threshold pace (for me, 10 min./mile but I ended up doing 9:30ish pace because I had read the wrong pace chart lol)
  • 1 mile cool-down

I actually did 1 mile warm-up + 1 lap cooldown because of time constraints. 

But I actually felt really good. It was a big challenging but doable. I honestly doubted myself going into the run – I figured I’d do 1 rep of the mile then have to drop down to 400s or something. Because 1) it was super hot and 2) I haven’t done mile repeats in years probably. No joke. And this is in week ONE! 

I am feeling good though – I know it’s only week 1 of 20, and I know it’s only one track workout, but I think it bodes well that I was able to finish mile repeats strong and on pace. I actually progressively ran faster too. So here’s to hoping it continues and I can FINALLY get a marathon PR, since Chicago was such a disaster.

I will be interviewing Dr. Jason Karp, the author of this plan, soon, so stay tuned for more info from him. And if you have any specific questions about running and marathon training, leave them below so I can send them to him!

SIDENOTE: If you follow me on social media, you’ve probably already seen this, but my mom and I finally started a running group! We met this other guy through a friend, who is connected with Asuncion Runners in Paraguay (my native country). So we decided to do a New Jersey chapter of that group. It’s not only Paraguays, but also from other countries. I’ve talked with my mom forever about starting a running group for the Latinos in the area. Many are new to running and just need some guidance and support from others – which is exactly what our group aims to offer. We are running our first 5K together this Saturday! 

I know many have said it, but running with a group really does make runs go by faster and it’s nice to have that camaraderie. I’ve been named the official Coach of the group ;)

Do you have a running group? How did you meet them/join them?

What training plan are you following at the moment?

Leave your running questions below so I can share with Dr. Jason Karp!

*****************************

Follow Reach Your Peak: 

06-20-2016

How To Improve Your Running Form

I cannot believe marathon training starts in 2 weeks for NYC Marathon…and for some of you doing a 20 week plan, it starts this week. I’m going to follow the first 2 weeks of a 20 week plan loosely, but not OFFICIALLY starting until 18 weeks out. Getting nervous!! Because running will really ramp up.

I’m not 100% sure yet what training plan I will be using, but I will post more about that once I choose (along with the 2 I’m considering and their pros and cons).

Anyway, today I wanted to talk about running form. We have all read about running form in one way or another, I’m sure…especially about foot strike. 

Running form can affect your injury patterns (or whether you get an injury), your efficiency and how much energy you use to run, your strength up hills or in that final sprint, and more. Here are a few tips that I have found helpful throughout my running journey and can maybe help you improve your running form as well:

4 ways to improve your running form today! | http://reach-yourpeak.com

Arm Swing

Arm swing is something that really helps propel you forward, especially when you’re getting tired. When you watch race videos (or am I the only one watching elites race on FloTrack lol), you notice how they really use their arms and pump them hard in order to run faster.

This is why doing upper body exercises are essential as well, especially in your off season. The stronger your arms, the faster you will go once your body is tired (like at the finish line, or up hills). 

When you’re running up hills, think of your arms as pulling on a rope to get you up (at least that is how I imagine it). Pump them like pistons. Same thing when you’re tired. During track workouts, I will also imagine “whipping” my hand back with power in order to help me excel forward.

You also want to makes sure your arms aren’t crossing over your chest/mid-line. Your elbows should be swinging straight back, and your hands straight (or almost straight) forward. “Hip to nip” is what I’ve read in many places.

Lastly, make sure your hands are relaxed. It’s easy to get tense and make fists when you’re going all out, but you want to stay relaxed. Pretend you’re holding an egg in each hand – if you squeeze too hard, you’ll break the egg. 

So to review:

  • Use your arms as pistons when you need more power.
  • Hip to nip. Don’t cross the midline.
  • Relax your hands, don’t make fists.

Stand Tall

Good posture is key. And something I also have to work on. I’ve noticed after marathons/long runs, my neck hurts, and my lower back. During Chicago Marathon, about half way through, I had to stop to get ibuprofen from a medical tent because I had such a bad headache from my neck tension. As I mentioned above, you want to make sure you’re relaxed and loose.

On runs, I regularly check in to see how my posture is. More often than not, I have to re-adjust. A good cue (and one I’ve mentioned here in the past) is “chest up, shoulders back.” Once you roll your shoulders back, it will help align everything else. Your neck won’t be forward, your lower back won’t be too arched, etc.

Your gaze should be ahead of you not staring down at the ground (unless you’re on a trail run, in which case, look at the ground so you don’t sprain an ankle). And your core should be engaged. I will talk about that in the next point.

Quick review:

  • Chest up, shoulders back.
  • Look ahead.
  • Relax your face. It’s easy to get all tense when you’re working hard, keep your face muscles relaxed.
  • Head and neck straight up and down (don’t lean your head back or forward/down when you get tired)

Pelvic Tilt

Have you ever heard of “sitting in the bucket?” It’s a common term that describes many runners. If you have had lower back pain after a run, this might be why (and definitely why I do as well).

Sitting in the bucket is when, “the pelvis tilts forward and the hips push back. “This posture reduces the power of the hip extensors, stresses the lower back, and shortens your stride. This posture is responsible for a lot of runners’ back and hip problems,” from Human Kinectics.

According to Runner’s World, “when the lumbar area is contracted and weak, the pelvic girdle will begin to rotate backward, causing the back musculature to overwork. This causes pain and keeps you from activating the proper muscles to propel you forward, making you compensate with other muscles.”

If you were to lay on your back and press your lower back into the floor, that is the posture you should have while running. Obviously this is easier said than done, and requires good core strength, which is why doing core exercises is so important.

A good exercise to do (and one suggested in that Runner’s World article) is reverse crunches. Here’s my how-to video:

You can hold on to a heavy object or bench if you need to, and work your way up to just using your own body strength. I also like to do leg drops where I keep my lower back pressed firmly against the ground. I can only lower my legs a few inches, but the key is to not go to low where your back starts coming up off the floor. Eventually you’ll work your way up (or down I guess) to lowering your legs fully.

While you’re running, check in and see if you’re engaging your core. Sometimes on a run, I will place my hand on my abs or hips and push on them to remind myself to engage my core and move my pelvis back.

Foot Strike

This one has been controversial. Initially, people were all about forefoot strike, but then people started saying foot strike wasn’t the be all end all of running form…who knows exactly? My thoughts are that you have your own running gait/pattern. Your body moves in a way that is most efficient to you. Many elites have a heel strike, and many have a mid-foot or forefoot strike. I think the key point is that you don’t ever want to be OVER striding.

A lot of new runners I’ve spoken with have been like “so and so is so fast because she has really big strides, I need to do that too!” And I’m like please don’t! 1) You should be shooting for 180 foot strikes per minute and 2) big elongating your stride past its natural point, you will then be forcing a heel strike, which means more braking forces on your legs, which could lead to injuries.

Next time you’re on a run, count how many steps you take per minute. Surprisingly, I’m exactly at around 180 per min. This might vary depending on how you run, your leg length, etc. 

Going along with the stride length, I think another key point to remember is to try to land beneath your body (and not in front of it). You can achieve this by having a slight forward lean while running, as opposed to leaning back, which many do once they’re getting tired or working hard at the end of a race.

Quick review:

  • Don’t overstride. It will lead to injuries
  • Shoot for 180 steps per minute.
  • Have a slight forward lean…do not lean backwards!

—-

If all of this confuses you, I highly recommend getting a gait analysis done, or just filming yourself running. I’ve learned a lot about my running form by doing a slow-mo video from behind of me running on a treadmill. 

I wouldn’t recommend getting a gait analysis done at a running store because often times it’s just younger kids working there or they are trying to push a certain shoe…I don’t know, there are a lot of factors. 

I would say go to a physical therapist or athletic trainer to get a running analysis done…or even a running coach like my old coach Marc! He has a special software to watch your running videos and analyze all your specific angles (like foot strike, leg stride, arm angles, etc.) You can find his running gait analysis services here.

Have you ever had a gait analysis or had a PT tell you something that needed to be changed?

Have you ever felt lower back pain after long runs? The worst!

*****************************

Follow Reach Your Peak: 

06-08-2016

31 Running Tips For Runners Of All Levels

Soooo…I meant to post this on Global Running Day but lately I just have not had enough time to blog consistently. I apologize about that! I will try to get back to the regular scheduled programming soon :-)

Anyway, I wanted to share these great running tips I gathered from fellow runners. Whether you’re a beginner or more advanced, I guarantee you’ll find something helpful here. I’ve broken them up into specific topics, so I hope you find something helpful!

31 Running Tips For Runners Of All Levels! | http://reach-yourpeak.com

Training Plans & Tips

Getting Faster

Weather & Terrain Related Tips

Running & Life

So many great posts and tips! I need to read the trail running ones because I DO want to start running on more trails, especially since I have 5 week or so left where I can run for fun before marathon training starts.

For those of you training for a marathon (and marathon runners in general), do you run on trails even during training? Do you feel like it slows you WAY down? I run at least 2 min. per mile slower.

I hope these tips were helpful for you! If you have a link to one of your own running tips, please feel free to leave it in the comments so I can check it out and bookmark it for my next roundup.

Stay tuned for a France trip recap – spoiler alert: we only ran once lol.

How many times do you run per week as opposed to cross training? Or do you run every day?

*****************************

Follow Reach Your Peak: 

05-18-2016

Running In Paris (Or At Least Trying To)

I haven’t been blogging as much lately, so not sure if I’ve mentioned this (if you follow me on instagram you have probably seen it) but I’m heading to Paris and Nice with my mom and sister tomorrow!!

6672156239_89c77d53d8_o-2Photo credit

This has been on my bucket list since middle school. I took French in middle school and high school and always dreamed of going to France. Paris has been my number 1 dream location forever. I just can’t believe we are actually going!

We’ll also be hitting up Nice in the south of France to see Coldplay there. They are my sister’s absolute favorite band, so I got us tickets when they first came out as a graduation gift. 

I would love your help in planning our itinerary! Honestly, I’ve been so busy, I haven’t been able to give it much thought. But we do know we want to see the obvious: Eiffel Tower, Champs Elysees, Arc De Triomphe, and the Louvre. I would love to have time to go to Mont St. Michelle, but it’s about a two hour drive…so we’ll see.

Honestly, I am a bit nervous for the trip. I’m nervous about 1) flying over the Atlantic the whole time lol and 2) just general nervousness about the state of the world at the moment, and alerts for traveling to Europe. But my sister and others have said to think positive and not let fear dictacte what I do. So I’m trying to just not think about it.

Anyway, my mom and I DO plan on running while there. We need to continue our base building plan in order to start marathon training in July strong. So I found a few routes online and on Strava I figured I’d share in case anyone else ever is looking for places to run in Paris. Below are a few resources!

Running in Paris? Here are some running route suggestions! | http://reach-yourpeak.com

The Tuileries Gardens, next to the Louvre and encircled by a 1.1-mile path, are a prime Right Bank running locale. Two spots outside central Paris good for hill work are Parc des Buttes Chaumont and Parc Montsouris, another Hemingway favorite.

I can’t wait to explore the city!

Please do leave any suggestions or recommendations for places to eat and things to do :)

*****************************

Follow Reach Your Peak: 

05-04-2016

6 Basic Yoga Poses For Beginners

I went to a yoga class with my friend yesterday. It was a last minute decision, and since we were so rushed to get to class, I didn’t really get to fully explain the class or anything (it was her first yoga class ever). Afterwards she said she would have enjoyed it more if she knew the poses and didn’t feel totally clueless as to what the yoga teacher was talking about – which is totally understandable…and which is what led me to this post.

I wanted to highlight some of the basic yoga poses that are done in almost every yoga class, so that if you’ve never been to a yoga class before, you sort of know what to expect. You can also do a few online yoga videos before going, in order to feel more comfortable. 

The yoga instructor was super nice, and let her know that everyone starts somewhere – which is true of many things in the fitness world. So often we are intimidated or scared to start something…whether it’s going to yoga, or joining a running club, or going to the gym. No one was an expert the first time they showed up to any of these things.

So anyway, here are 6 basic yoga poses for beginners :)

6 Basic Yoga Poses To Know Before Your First Yoga Class! | http://reach-yourpeak.com

Child’s Pose

I actually don’t really like this pose too much, but it’s a restorative pose, and one that we go into when we are taking a short break in between flows. You can go into child’s pose at any time during the class if you need a break. You can either do knees together or knees apart. I like to reach  my fingers out as far as possible, or you can rest your bands behind you by your feet.

Photo source

Low Push-up To Up Dog

Low push-up (or chaturanga) into up dog is part of almost every flow in a yoga class. If you’re not able to do a low push-up yet (like me) you can skip it and just go into downward facing dog, which I’ll talk about in a second. So here is low push-up:

Photo source

and from this pose you flow into upward facing dog:

Photo source

I have a really tough time with this flow because I can’t yet get low enough in low push-up, but I am working on it! Once you’re in upward dog, you will go right into downward facing dog usually, so I’ll talk about that next!

Downward Facing Dog

From up-dog, you curl your toes under and then basically stick your butt up into the sky. You want to maintain a flat back. If you need to bend your knees to keep your back flat, then do so. Your down-dog should look something like this, depending on your flexbility:

Photo source

If you need to modify it, it can look like this:

Photo source

This is also used as a break sometimes in between certain poses, or as the beginning of different flows (like downward dog into lunges, etc. which I’ll talk about in a second). Notice how their backs are flat and it is one straight line from their butt to the crown of their heads. That is key!

Warrior Poses

Warrior 1,2, and 3 are usually all done within a class. Definitely 1 and 2. So let’s go over them. Here’s Warrior 1, which is basically a lunge with your hands overhead:

Photo source

Basically, throughout any pose or sequence, you want to make sure your neck and spine are in a neutral position. You don’t want to be slouching or hunched over. I always like the cue “chest up, shoulders up.” Ok so moving on to Warrior 2…

Photo source

Something my yoga instructor has been saying a lot to me about this pose is to make sure your ribs don’t collapse. In this pose, many people tend to bend at the ribs, instead of getting deeper into the lunge. So as you lower down, keep your ribs and spine straight up. I didn’t even realize I wasn’t doing this until the instructor came over and straightened me out. Only bend at the knee – it is so challenging but such a great leg and glute exercise! And here’s the last one, Warrior 3:

Photo source

This woman makes it look easy! I have a lot of trouble in this pose (and any balancing pose haha). But definitely a great one, especially for runners. As always, spine and neck should be straight. Really engage your core and plant your foot down. If you fall out of it, no problem, just get back into it. In most classes I am always falling all over the place :-P

Triangle Pose

I’m not yet flexibile enough to do this pose without blocks – which is a good point to address: use blocks if you have to! There is no shame in that. They really help get you into certain poses. Most yoga studios provide them for you. If you’re unsure how to use them, you can as your instructor before class. For this specific pose, I put the block on the inside of my foot and place my hand on it for support, but those who are more flexible will be able to reach down to the floor. Always remember to hinge at the hip. My instructor says the first movement is, “reach out as if you’re going to shake someone’s hand” then keep reaching until you can’t reach anymore and THEN hinge at the hip and lower yourself down, keeping your spine straight. If it bends at all, then you need blocks. See how this woman’s torso is totally straight?

Photo source

Pigeon Pose

Ahhh, my favorite pose. I do this one after all of my runs. It’s a great hip opener and glute stretch. Let me show you a few different variations. So this is full on pigeon pose:

Photo source

You can also place your head on the floor, as long as your hips stay squared off (not leaning to one side). If this is too deep of a stretch for you, here are two modifications:

Photo source

Or you can lie on your back and do it this way:

Photo source

Pull your knee in and you will still feel just as much of a stretch. Build up to pigeon pose.

So hopefully outlining a few basic yoga poses will help you before you go to your first class! Don’t feel intimidated at all. Instructors are there to help you, align you and show you the right way to do each move. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask before or after class.

Oh and every yoga class ends with you laying on your back with your eyes closed and relaxing for a bit…so enjoy! :-)

What are your favorite yoga poses if you’re a yogi?

Have you ever gone to your first fitness class and felt clueless?

*****************************

Follow Reach Your Peak: 

 

04-21-2016

Fixing My Running Gait

I think I have finally figured out my shin splint issue. I posted about it last night on instagram, and I will just re-post what I wrote so I don’t have to write it all over again ;) Here’s the photo plus caption below:

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 11.55.37 AM

Caption:

After watching myself on video, I realized my running form seemed off. I did some research and discovered I have major crossover gait. Take a look at my right leg in the left photo. My feet crossover as I run which leads to me landing basically on a straight line. After reading on Runner’s Connect and watching videos on YouTube by The Gait Guys, I discovered that this is due to glute medius/hip weakness and core weakness. Which is not a surprise to me bc I rarely work on either of these things.

So today I practiced running “wider” and a few drills from the Gait Guys (which is the right photo where you can see a difference). And I need to do a lot of clamshells, glute medius strengthening and core work. My goal is to try to correct this as much as possible before NYC Marathon training starts in July.

Has anyone dealt with crossover gait before or have tips? Or have you tried adjusting your running form in the past? Any insight is much appreciated!

Here are the articles and videos I am referencing if you’re interested:

After watching videos of myself running, it makes sense. I  mean, obviously who knows if that is the main problem, but judging by that harsh angle in the photo above (left vs. “correcting” version on the right), I’m sure that contributes to my shin pain.

This all started after my yoga class last week where the instructor pointed out my hip weaknesses and issues. So I started digging deeper. The Gait Guys say that it takes about 12 weeks to fix running gait issues, so my goal is to really work on this before starting NYC Marathon training. 

I know I need to do more hip strengthening and core workouts. This has always been my weak link because I hate doing both of those haha. But I need to fix my shin issues. 

Has anyone experienced or fixed cross-over gait, or any other running form issue?

*****************************

Follow Reach Your Peak: 

04-18-2016

39 Energy Bites Recipes

Happy Monday! Who is ready to crush it this week?

Today I wanted to share a bunch of awesome energy bites recipes from my blogger friends at Bloggers Gonna Blog Community. I love making my own energy bites and protein balls/bars because I know exactly what’s going into them. I also have a crazy sweet tooth, so these are the perfect mid-day sweet treat without the added sugar and calories.

All of them sound so delicious, I don’t know which one I’ll make first.

Pictures match with the recipe linked below it. Enjoy!

39 energy bites recipes to try out the next time you need a healthy snack! | http://reach-yourpeak.com

Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 7.35.04 AM

 Healthy Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Balls – A Fit Philosophy

Cake Batter Oatmeal Protein Bites – Fairy Burger

Cookies For Breakfast – Simple Medicine

Lemon Energy Balls – The Lean Grean Bean

No Bake Peanut Butter Nutella Energy Bites – Athletic Avocado

Coffee Cardamom Bliss Balls – Love Me, Feed Me

Brownie Batter Energy Bites – Gretch Runs

Cinnamon Bliss Balls – Fuel For Soul

Five Ingredient Raw Hazelnut Energy Balls – A Traveling Wife

Peanut Butter Trail Mix Bites – Little Chef, Big Appetite

Blueberry Chocolate 50 Calorie Breakfast Cookies – Hello Spoonful

Mint Chocolate Sunflower Bites – Strength & Sunshine

Peanut Butter Energy Balls – The Simplific Life

Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 7.47.24 AM

 Gingerbread Protein Bites – Fitful Focus (featuring my favorite protein powder!)

Easy No Bake Berrilicious Vegan Protein Bars – Burpees 4 Breakfast

Superfood Peanut Butter Bites – Healthy Helper

Butterscotch, Chocolate & Oatmeal Protein Bars – Confessions Of a Mother Runner

Grainfree Chocolate Cookie Dough Bliss Balls – Rach Mansfield

Mint Chocolate Protein Bars – Fit Mitten Kitchen

Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 7.52.57 AM

6-Ingredient No Bake Energy Balls – Pumpkin and Peanut Butter

Vanilla Cookie Protein Bites – Breathe Deeply & Smile

Chocolate Beet Bites – My Healthy-ish Life

Cashew Apricot Balls – Side of Sneakers

Plantbased Sunbutter Energy Balls – Evolution by Ariana

Hazelnut Espresso Balls – Ana Goes Fit

Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 7.57.25 AM

Chocolate Covered Chickpea Protein Balls – Emilie Eats

Cinnamon Chickpea Crunch Protein Bars – Lets Get Up and Live

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Energy Balls – Lean, Clean, Brie

Healthy Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Balls – Sweet Sundays

Oatmeal Cookie Dough Bites – That Girl Shannon

Vanilla Cardamom Energy Bars – Chronicles of Passion

Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 9.25.11 AM

Pumpkin Pie Energy Balls – Food, Pleasure and Health

Chocolate Trail Mix Power Balls – Young & Rungry

Honey & Nut No Bake Pumpkin Energy Balls – A Lady Goes West

Nourishing Nut & Seed Bars – Jill Conyers

Nut Free Coconut Date Energy Balls – Ex-Sloth

Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 9.29.24 AM

Chewy Multigrain Chocolate Protein Bars – Dani California Cooks

No Bake Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Energy Bites – Hungry By Nature

Nutty PB & Dark Chocolate No Bake Bites – Balance with B

Wow…so many delicious options! I very rarely buy protein bars because I just can’t find one with minimal ingredients, which is why I like to make my own. Can’t wait to try these recipes!

Do you make your own energy balls or protein bars? What is your go-to recipe?

*****************************

Follow Reach Your Peak: 

 

04-15-2016

I Love Yoga

I had an amazing yoga class yesterday…and am so sore today.

So as I’ve written before, I’ve been really loving cycling classes lately. But yoga has been slowly growing on me too. Every time I go to a class, I end up leaving feeling good and on some sort of endorphin high. But for some reason it’s getting to the class that is hard. But after yesterday I plan on going more often for sure.

I got to class and it turns out it was just me and one other woman. The instructor said she would give us a workshop on “the basics” and do hands on adjustments throughout. 

She put us up against the wall and then we went through poses like Warrior I, Warrior II, Triangle Pose and more. We used the wall to align oursevles right, and the instructor gave me cues for things I had never even thought to do or engage. I am feeling it all today!

We ended with handstand practice. I’m no where near close to doing a handstand, but she showed me how to practice kicking up, how to engage my core and back, and other tips.

We used the wall to do revolved half moon pose but I just couldn’t get it. My foot kept sliding off the wall and then my standing leg hip started to cramp (why does this always happen to me??). The other lady did it perfectly haha. Here’s a photo of what it should have looked like:

revolved half moon posePhoto Source

I really, really enjoyed this class. I like that the classes offered at Ride + Reflect are strength based (along with offering more vinyasa flows and gentle yoga classes). I guess in the past I wasn’t going to yoga as much because I wanted to lift in order to gain muscle strength, but let me tell ya…yoga works your muscles. My glutes are on fire today.

So for you yogis and yoga teachers, I have a few questions and hopefully someone can help!

  • Why does my hip cramp up in the above pose and also crow pose? Is it because I need more hip flexor strength? My hips aren’t tight (the instructor and an athletic trainer told me this), so I’m not sure what the deal is. I legit can’t even get into crow pose because one of my hip flexors immediately will cramp up.
  • What are some cues you give to people for basic poses like the warrior poses? Something I need to remember is to keep my chest and ribs up.
  • Any tips for learning how to do handstand? Should I also be doing poses or exercises for my arms?
  • If someone has anterior pelvic tilt like I do, should we avoid poses where you bend backwards?

Thanks for your input!

How often do you take yoga classes? What do you think it has helped you with the most?

*****************************

Follow Reach Your Peak: 

 

04-04-2016

5 Things You Should Know Before Starting WeightWatchers

I just finished up month 2 of WeightWatchers and I love it! I have lost 7 lbs so far, and I’m pretty happy with that. Especially since I’ve had multiple weekends where I stopped counting points because I’ve been out with friends, etc. The main thing it has taught me is portion control. Turns out I was majorly overeating before. And the actual portion size of pasta still makes me sad…

I wanted to share with you all a few things about WeightWatchers, and hope it might be helpful if you’re considering joining or know someone who is. I love it and for some reason it has much easier for me (and holds me more accountable) than simply counting calories. I really can’t explain why but I think it’s so much easier this way, even though I realize it’s essentially the same thing.

The main thing I like is that you count your points and have a set number of points for each day, AND you get bonus weekly points so you can splurge a little on things you want. So anyway, here are 5 things you should know before starting WeightWatchers:

Here are 5 Things You Should Know Before Starting WeightWatchers | http://reach-yourpeak.com

You might be really hungry in the beginning

There is definitely an adjustment period, which can be said for any new nutrition plan you might start (IIFYM, Paleo, Whole30, counting calories, etc.). Especially if you have been overeating, like I was. I felt like I was always hungry, and still starving after my dinners. But that goes away in a week or so. Your stomach needs time to adjust. When you’re hungry, eat some fruit if you need to, which is 0 points. Nowadays, I find that I can stick with 3 meals and 1 snack before a workout, whereas in the past I would have a snack every 2 hours or so. Not that there is a problem with that, but if you’re trying to lose weight, it’s important to know what your total daily intake is, no matter what plan you’re on.

There’s a new points system

I did WeightWatchers in the past with their PointsPlus system and liked that, but now they’re using SmartPoints which is even better. When calculating points, it takes into account protein and sugar. So if something is high in protein, it will lower the points value (since we know chicken, fish, etc. are great sources of protein and should be encourage), and if something is high in sugar, it will really up the points value. I used to buy the WeightWatchers mini cakes and snacks (because I have a major sweet tooth) and loved that they were only 2 points for a little mini carrot cake. However, now those cakes are 4-5 points…so not worth it! There is more to this new point system I’m sure I’m leaving out, but I wasn’t an avid user in the past so I don’t know everything that has changed.

Activity points doesn’t mean you can eat more

This is another aspect of the new points system that a lot of people had opinions on. In the past, if you exercised, you were able to eat back those points. So if running was 5 activity points, I had 5 extra points daily to eat. Now, activity points don’t count towards food. WeightWatchers wrote on their FAQ page:

In a nutshell, no. Exercise doesn’t cancel out food choices, so moving shouldn’t be an excuse to eat more. If you don’t do any exercise at all, you can still lose weight on the Your Way Program. But doing both is of course optimal. Watching your FitPoints™ add up and hitting your weekly exercise goal can be great motivators and there are so many health benefits to gain from regular activity.  

However, if you’re doing high-intensity workouts (for example, training for a marathon or attending multiple spin classes) at least three to four times a week, you might want to swap some of your FitPoints™ for food to account for the amount of energy you’re expending. 

At first I was like, “But I exercise daily I need extra calories!” But like everything else, you adjust. Now if I will be exercising twice in one day and hour long sessions or more, I don’t feel guilty about eating extra, and that’s what those weekly bonus points are for anyway. I think what they say makes sense, and I know I’ve been guilty of thinking runing 45 minutes means I can eat extra…when in reality those 45 minutes only burn 300-400 extra calories. 

There’s a great support system

There are many online forums for WeightWatchers users, but the app itself has its own social media platform. It’s a great way to connect with like minded people and get any questions answered from other users. You can upload photos as well, and it’s almost liek a combination of Facebook and Instagram. The WeightWatchers website has a lot of resources and recipes to help get you started. And of course, you can find a myriad of recipes on Pinterest! Oh also, the app gives a lot of values for popular restaurants. You might be shocked to know how many points some of your favorite entrees have. I was when I found out French Onion Soup is around 20 or so (insert crying emoji).

It’s flexible and non-restrictive 

I think this is my favorite part of it. I can’t believe that even with weekends of drinking and eating whatever, I’ve still lost 7 lbs. in 2 months. I mean, I’m also exercising but I haven’t been able to lose weight in  years and have just been stagnant. Since you get weekly bonus points (around 28) it really allows you be flexible and still indulge. I usually try to save almost all of those for weekends when I know I will be going out with friends. Or you can also have extra points daily if you want to have that sweet treat after dinner or a glass of wine :) According to WeightWatchers, even if you use all of your weekly bonus points, you should still lose weight.

So that’s that! I will continue to use WeightWatchers until I hit my goal…another 10-12 lbs. to go! It has taught me good portion control and even when I’m out and not tracking, I still know how much I should be eating and about how many points everything has. 

What do you think about not counting activity points towards extra calories/food points?

Do you find you eat more when you workout and justify with “Well, I worked out today sooo….” :)

*****************************

Follow Reach Your Peak: