Tag Archives: former athlete

17 Things You Need to Stop Doing Now

I’m sitting on my boyfriend’s couch a few weeks ago, and we’re all cozied up together.  There’s a fire in the fireplace, the flowers he surprised me with at the airport in a vase on the coffee table, and our bellies are full from a delicious meal we’d just cooked together.

To make our time together that night a little more special, we decide to turn on a movie.  But what to watch?

Something funny?  No.

A chick flick?  Haha in MY dreams.

Horror?  Yeah right! In HIS dreams!

No – we decided to go instead with White House Down.  You know, a real relaxing movie…

Anyway, so we’re about 20 minutes into the movie.  My face is glued to the screen; I’m hardly blinking my eyes and pretty sure holding my breath for 50% of the time.  Needless to say, I’m a little tense.

Then out of nowhere he slaps at my hand!

“What’d you do that for?!” I yell.

“You’re picking at your fingers again.  Stop it.”

Oh yeah, that.  So when I get tense or anxious, I tend to pick at my cuticles.  It’s a habit that leaves me with not-so-pretty nails, and the biggest issue is HALF THE TIME I DON’T REALIZE I’M DOING IT!!

As annoyed as I was that he smacked at my hand, I was thankful he did.  I’d rather know when I’m doing something that may not be the greatest thing for me.

Things to stop doing nowHe only tells me these things cause he loves me, as
evidenced by the card he sent me after I moved to NYC.

Hopefully you feel the same way cause today’s post is me virtually slapping your hand when you’re picking at your cuticles.  Today I’m sharing ## things you should stop doing now that are hindering you from getting back into shape.

There’s no shame or judgement here either.  I catch myself doing some of these all the time, but if you don’t know you’re doing it, you can’t stop doing it.  Awareness is the first step always!

Stop Doing These Things Now

1.  Assuming all calories are created equal.

Consider this – you can probably easily eat 2 Original Krispy Kreme doughnuts (~200 calories each) and end up hungry and with an energy crash an hour later.  But if you eat 2 skin-on chicken breasts (also ~200 calories each), you’ll be VERY full after eating them and probably won’t be hungry again for another 3-4 hours.

This is because these two foods cause very different things to happen in our body.  This is why it’s good to know what the macronutrient breakdown of your food is – carbs vs protein vs fat vs fiber.  High protein, high fiber/low sugar foods will help fill you up, keep you fuller longer, and limit the energy crash from high sugar/low fiber foods.

2.  Thinking you can out-exercise a bad diet.

Just because you burn 400 calories at the gym does NOT mean you just negated the effects of 400 calories worth of doughnuts.  Why?  Because calories aren’t created equal.  Focus your efforts FIRST on eating lean proteins, fibrous veggies and healthy fats.  Then your workouts will support your food choices instead of punishing your body for them.

3.  Drinking less than 2L of water a day.

Our body is made of mostly water, so it makes sense that we continue to give it what it likes.  Water is critical to healthy brain, digestive, and muscle function – and those are just a few of its benefits.  Buy yourself a Kleen Kanteen, fill it up and drink it 2x throughout the course of your day.

Hint – front load your day with your water intake so that you’re not waking up at night every few hours to pee.

4.  Only eating 1-2 servings of veggies a day.

Fibrous veggies are full of vitamins, minerals, and all sorts of phytonutrients that your body craves.  Even things like calcium are found in many leafy greens (i.e. kale)!  Check out this post to get some easy tips on upping your veggie intake.

5.  Taking care of everyone but yourself.

I know you’ve got all sorts of things to take care of – your family, friendships, SO’s, and your job.  But you’re not going to be able to take care of anyone if you wind up ridiculously frazzled or incapacitated from some illness.

Need ideas on caring for yourself?  Make time to plan and/or prepare your breakfasts and lunches for the week.  Set aside time for the gym a few days a week, and go for a 20 min walk everyday.  Walks are a great for your heart and for lowering stress.

6.  Eating meals that are carb centered.

Carb centric meals result in all sorts of issues.  Examples: cereal for breakfast, sandwich and chips for lunch and spaghetti for dinner.  A primary issue is they generate huge swings in your blood sugar.  This leads to an energy crash about an hour after you eat them – hence, carb coma or lunch coma.

Instead of carb centered meals choose to make a lean protein and veggies the star of your meal.

7.  Working harder to get better results.

We had it burned into our brains as athletes that to get better we had to work harder.  Problem is, this doesn’t translate to real life AND no one told us it wouldn’t!  So for example – your first instinct is to do more at the gym because you’re not losing weight the way you want.

I’m suggesting that instead, you do different types of workouts that are more efficient than what you’re doing now.  This training program is full of great options to help you do just that.

8.  Weighing yourself every day.

This is something you seriously need to stop!  I stopped doing this about a year ago and it’s been incredibly liberating.  See the scale only measures weight.  It doesn’t tell you if you’re just retaining water today or if you actually gained 8lbs overnight.

I’ve found that seeing the number dance around so much is just frustrating, so much so that I put my scale away.  It only comes out once a month when I take progress pics and do measurements.  See this post FMI on how I measure progress.

9.  Drinking diet sodas.

There’s a good chance that if you’re on Facebook you’ve seen all the memes floating around about how bad diet sodas are for you.  While I haven’t cut them out completely, I’ve drastically reduced my intake.  My biggest issue is with the fake sugars in there.  They train your body to do bad things, so I figure it’s better to limit them to about once a week or so.

10.  Eating whole grains as your source of fiber.

Overall, whole grains DO have more fiber than fruits or vegetables.  BUT (and this is probably the biggest “but” on the page) it’s the ratio of sugar to fiber in a food source that is important.  Remember, high sugar food =  blood sugar swings = hunger and energy drops.  So we want sources of fiber with as little sugar as possible.

Whole grains are approximately 2 to 1 Sugar to Fiber.
Fruits (like berries) are about 4 to 3 Sugar to Fiber.
Vegetables (like greens) average 2 to 5 Sugar to FIber.

11. Focusing on cardio only at the gym.

Moderate intensity, long duration cardio (40 min and up) is some of the least efficient exercise you can choose if you’re trying to lose weight.  Even worse? too much of it eats up your muscle.  Since muscle is critical to losing our pooch, we want to pick workouts that hold onto muscle.  Lifting heavy things helps you do that. :)

For those of you that can’t give up your cardio sessions, stick to high intensity interval training (HIIT).  Keep the workout to about 35 min or less, and cycle through periods of very low intensity and very high intensity.  I usually start by structuring it as a 3 parts rest and 1 part work.  So after a warm-up on the elliptical, I’ll crank up the resistance and go as hard and fast as I can for 30 sec.  Then I’ll ease up and back off the resistance for the next 1.5 minutes.  Then I’ll ramp it up again.  Get it?

12.  Eating non-stop (snacking) between dinner and bed.

Many people refer to this as “continuous meal.”  You know you’ve done it.  I’ve done it, too.  But you can stop it.  One option – make a drink from unsweetened cocoa, stevia, and hot water – the cocoa curbs cravings fast and gives you something to sip on.  Also, get your butt in bed!  You can always waste time online tomorrow or record that new episode of Say Yes to the Dress to watch later.  Staying up late means you’re gonna wanna eat, so just go to bed.

13.  Counting calories.

This drives me up the wall – and I’m even a numbers gal!!  Seriously, it’s not worth your effort.  Instead of tracking every single calorie, write down instead the kinds of foods you’re eating and approximate amounts.  Instead of choosing a low cal option (that make still be loaded with carbs and fake sugars), pick high protein, high fiber (so lots o veggies) foods.  Load up on those, then have a few bites of your favorite carb.

14.  Wasting time online and watching TV.

These are not stress lowering activities.  You’d think they might be since you’re not doing anything but research shows otherwise.  Shut off the screens and go get in a hot bath.  Or read a book.  Or TALK to the other people in the house.  Use your evenings for something other than electronics.

15.  Eating starchy carbs and fat together.

I weep as I write this because it’s my favorite combo ever.  This is the stuff I crave.  This is also the combo that’s like an atomic bomb to all your attempts at weight loss.  The stuff that happens in the body when you eat high carb/high fat foods together is no bueno.  In your meal choose one or the other, not both.

Culprits would be donuts, potato chips (damn it!!!), anything fried really, pizza, greasy hamburgers.

16.  Believing that lifting weights will make you bulk up like a man.

Enough already, ladies.  Sure your muscles will grow a little when you start lifting but that’s a good thing!  You need muscles to give you a round, firm bum and sexy shoulders.  Plus muscle is critical to your basal metabolic rate.  The more muscle you have the more calories your body burns at rest.

More info on why to save your muscle is here.

17.  Comparing yourself to fitness models in motivational memes.

This one has got me all riled up.  I used to do it non-stop, until I realized it was making me miserable.   Comparing myself to all those women in those “strong is the new skinny” pics only discouraged me.  They were motivational for about 2 nanoseconds, then I’d start feeling like the chunkiest athlete ever.

Stop the comparing – to photos, models, and other women in general.  YOU are beautiful.  YOU are strong.  YOU are sexy.  And numbers on the scale or on your clothes have nothing to do with it.


If I think of any others, I’ll be sure to let you know.  You’ve got fair warning though – if I see you doing any of these, you can expect a slap on the hand!

<3, Lauren

P.S.  I want to hear from you!  What not-so-good habits do you have that are keeping you from getting back in shape?




6 Ways to Relieve Sore Muscles

This week I started a new set of workouts. For the past several weeks, well months really, I’ve been doing mainly my killer bodyweight exercises from the program I designed. Why you ask?

Well for one thing, I don’t have a gym membership right now. There’s a gym at my office but I don’t know… It’s a little strange to me working out at the same time as some of the senior execs. To me, the gym isn’t really a place to socialize while I’m working out anyway. The gym is more of a place to #gsd and get my butt in shape.

[#gsd = get stuff (or whatever version of "stuff" you choose) done]

The other thing? The gyms in the city that are in my budget that I’ve seen are pretty nasty looking. And the nice ones are all waaaaaay out of my price range.

Plus, I haven’t had tons of time to devote to my workouts, so the 15 min workouts in that program have been perfect for my schedule recently.

This all means that my apartment and the surrounding sidewalks/playgrounds/Central Park are now my gym. And seeing as how I have less than 100 sq ft in my apartment to workout in, I’ve had to get creative with bodyweight exercises.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s been fun making up workouts that I can do basically anywhere, but the whole not using dumbbells recently is getting to me.

I miss lifting heavy things!

So I’ve embarked on a new set of workouts over the last week that made use of my PowerBlocks (freaking awesome adjustable dumbbells) and creative use of my apartment space.

And ooo wow! The workouts have kicked my butt and made my body, especially legs, ridiculously sore! The reason for the sore body is largely because I’m using dumbbells suddenly after quite the dumbbell hiatus AND because I’m challenging my body in different ways than I have the past several months.  Wins all around!

My guess is that my body started to adapt to those “no equipment necessary” workouts since I hadn’t really changed it up in a few months. So it’s a good thing I switched up my workouts!

Sore Muscle Relief

By switching things up, not only am I employing the power of muscle confusion to help aid body change, but I also have a real sense of accomplishment after I lift. Especially after I lift something heavier than I thought I could! If you have never lifted weights before (or only done the light weights for 20-30 reps at a time) you are MAJORLY missing out on all sorts of physical and mental benefits.

But anyway… :)

Oh!  In case you hadn’t heard of it before – muscle confusion is a training approach that helps avoid plateaus when your body has adjusted to workouts. By changing up workouts frequently, you keep your body guessing as to what challenges it will have to overcome next. This helps you avoid plateaus in your body change goals – be it fat loss or muscle gain.

But anyway, my muscles are so sore from these new workouts that I’m feeling the pain in my legs within 24 hours. And if you have ever done any sort of weight lifting you know that the pain/soreness usually peaks at about 48 hours out from the workout. So when you’re extremely sore at only 24 hours out, you know you’re gonna be hurting bigtime at 48 hours!

But why? Why is that new movements create such discomfort in the body? (As a chemist, I tend to always ask “why”. It’s helpful for science related things sure, but not always for other stuff like people and relationships, lol… but that’s a discussion for another time…)

Back in college, I remember a common explanation for ridiculously sore muscles, that I felt like I always had during preseason, was the buildup of lactic acid in the muscle tissue. Another explanation for sore muscles was – “micro-tears” occur in the muscles leading to painful inflammation.

But you know what? The actual causes of DOMS at the cellular level are relatively unknown.

Let’s pause here and talk a bit more about DOMS for a minute. DOMS is short for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. It is a soreness that creeps into muscles usually 24-48 hours after muscles have been worked in ways that are different that what they’re accustomed to and tends to last for several days – sometimes up to a week.

The types of movements that lead to DOMS can be active, passive, and can also be the result of pressure (this is why you might feel sore after a deep tissue massage – hurts so good, right?). But often for us former athletes (and really anyone), it is initiated by movements that involve contraction of muscles while the muscle is actually stretched or lengthened.

Now as much as I hate being so sore that I can hardly walk down stairs, or have to plop into my chair from a high altitude, or stifle shrieks of pain as I gingerly make my way down the stairs, and struggling to stand up from the toilet (sorry for the visual but it’s true, isn’t it?!?!), I have to admit I really like knowing that I challenged my body in a new way.  I EARNED this pain, baby! :D

But after a few days, the soreness is annoying and I’m tired of hurting. Too many days of pain and it’ll be more than just my muscles that are suffering. The intensity and frequency of my workouts might suffer, too.  And less intense workouts are the last thing that I want when keeping my workouts under 30 minutes!

To get around this, recovering faster and reducing soreness are key.  That way, I’m able to go “all out” in my workouts as soon as possible.

What are the solutions for sore muscles? Back as a student athlete, they made us sit in an ice bath for 20 minutes after each preseason training session, but I can’t quite do the whole ice bath thing anymore for 2 reasons. 1- I don’t have the time to sit in an ice bath after I workout and 2- I don’t have a giant tub and unlimited ice to make one with!!

So what’s a former athlete to do??


1. Get moving even if you’re super sore and the last thing your muscles want to do is MOVE.
Resist the urge to not do anything because you’re crazy sore.  Go out for a 30 min walk or a light intensity jog or spin on the bike.  Getting the blood flowing will help circulate the nutrients your body needs to recover and flush out any toxins that are chilling in the muscle fibers.

2.  Drink plenty of water.
In case you’re not already drinking tons of water, you should definitely do it when you’re really sore.  Technically, your muscles are injured after a workout, and your body needs more fluids when sick or injured.  Adequate water intake means your body is well-hydrated and your circulatory system is effectively running on all cylinders moving blood throughout the body.  It’s going to be able to get rid of any metabolic byproducts that might have resulted from an intense session at the gym.  This is the main reason your massage therapist tells you to drink plenty of water after a deep tissues massage.  Gotta flush out the garbage!

3. Stretch after your workout.
It doesn’t hurt to take about 10-15 minutes while your muscles are still warm to do a bit of stretching.  While lifting, your muscles are doing all sorts of contracting.  Why not do a little lengthening, too?  You know, yin and yang??  Contract and stretch?  Get it?  J

4. Supplement with L-glutamine and Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs).
Supplementing with amino acids can be a huge help in aiding muscle recovery and decreasing soreness.  In fact, I wish I’d known about these supplements back in college!  They would’ve been a lifesaver!  If you’re already drinking a protein shake post-workout, you may already be taking in enough L-glutamine and BCAAs in the protein powder itself.  If not, consider adding them to your post- or even pre-workout routine.

I prefer BCAAs pre-workout for the little jump of energy they give me.  The L-glutamine?  I like to take it post-workout because it’s especially helpful with muscle recovery.  You can typically buy these online or at any vitamin or health shop.  I usually just get the unflavored kind of both then stir into water with a couple squeezes of fresh lime or lemon juice and chug.  Not the most pleasant flavor but they get the job done!   And don’t forget that the key to supplements is CONSISTENCY.  I don’t notice an effect from the L-glutamine if I take it one day, but if I take it 3 days in a row, then I totally notice.

5. Foam rolling.
You’re gonna hate me for this one but I promise it’s effective once you get past the pain.  What you’ll want to do is grab a foam roller – pick one up on Amazon or TJ Maxx for a high quality roller at a good price.  Put the roller on the floor and the sore muscle in contact with the roller.  Then you’ll use your body weight to push down on the muscle (this is why it’s soooo painful – cause sore muscles don’t like pressure!) and roll the muscle BETWEEN the joints over the roller.  Do not roll OVER any joints.

Repeat a down/back process usually about 10-15 times per sore muscle, and you can repeat this several times a day.  It’s not comfortable at first but I find it most helpful before and after a workout.  Essentially it’s a deep tissues massage, so that’s why it’s probably not comfortable….  If you’ve never done this before, there are tons of great resources on the web.  Just google that!

6. Epsom salt bath
I absolutely LOVE a good soak in a steaming hot bath.  One of the few “must-haves” when I searched for my NYC apartment was a full size tub that I could sink into at the end of a long day.  And these hot soaks come in particularly handy when I’ve got sore muscles.  The hot water helps circulate blood to muscles that are trying to recover (therefore bringing nutrients and getting rid of any garbage), and the Epsom salt is a great source of magnesium, a mineral that also aids muscle recovery.  So next time you’re crazy sore, turn on some steaming hot water (don’t burn yourself though!) and throw in a half cup of Epsom salt while the water’s still running.  Sink in and relax for the next 30 minutes… you’ll be so glad you did!


Hopefully, you all love the workouts currently on your calendar.  But if they’re leaving you with DOMS of any kind, then consider trying at least one of the techniques above and let me know how it works for you by leaving a comment or sending me a message on Facebook or Twitter.

And by the way, it’s perfectly fine to use ALL of those techniques at once…  Ok, well I don’t recommend trying to foam roll in the tub… I see that ending in disaster!  But anyway, you get what I mean!  Combining all of my suggestions can be even more beneficial than any one on its own.  But the important thing is to do what works for you!

<3, Lauren

Destroy your Cravings Without Destroying your Diet

Things in my life have been a little bit crazy recently.  Ok, they’ve been A LOT crazy.  I am finishing up projects for a job assignment that ends the first week of June and am preparing for my next assignment with the same company that will take me from Michigan to the New England area.  Eek!

I’ll be working in New Jersey, but this nutty Midwestern gal has decided to live in New York City for the next 9 months.  I’ve always wanted to live in a big city for a while, so why not go for the biggest one, right??  Lol, yeah I have no idea what I’m getting myself into… I realize this :)  

While this is all SUPER exciting it’s kiiiiiinda stressful at the same time.

[Apparently, the unknown freaks me out a little even though I can manage it pretty well.  Lol]

Anyway, with all of this and trying to finish projects and orchestrating a pretty big move, my stress levels have been higher than normal recently.  This means then that my appetite is funky and mainly that my cravings for chocolately and any sweet things are through the roof.  And that is telling because my close friends and family all know that this girl normally craves salty stuff – potato chips, hamburgers, fried foods, etc. 

So the fact that I’m craving sweets means my stress has taken over…  My brain is probably dying for some dopamine or seratonin or something. 

Cravings like these make it kinda tough for this former athlete to lose weight, and I don’t want them to derail the progress I’ve made so far!  Soooo….

When cravings, especially for sweets, are this strong I turn to cocoa powder.  Pure unadulterated, unsweetened, 100% cocoa powder. 

This stuff is the bomb.com.  For realz. 

It is a miracle worker on my cravings and crushes them within almost minutes (usually the cravings have chilled about 30 min after I first start consuming the cocoa powder). Why does it do this?  Cause it’s awesome.  And cause it stimulates the pleasure centers in the brain. 

See cocoa powder contains some pretty cool compounds like seratonin, phenylethylamine, and anandamide

-We know seratonin levels are related to eating patterns (higher seratonin levels often mean less food intake). 

-Phenylethylamine is like an identity theif - it passes as dopamine in the brain and carries out transactions like dopamine would.  It’s waaaaay sneaky.

-As if these weren’t reasons enough to consume cocoa, anandamide has actually been referred to as “chemical bliss” for its ability to find and push the “buttons” in the brain that create feelings of euphoria (slightly more technically, it binds to receptors in the brain that stimulate euphoric feelings). 

This is why cocoa is such a power player when it comes to crushing cravings.

Now the question is — How to incorporate it into your diet?  Until I found this suggestion from Metabolic Effect, the only way I knew to incorporate it was to bake brownies or chocolate mint cookies.  And since that’s kind of counter-productive to our weight loss efforts, well then we need other options…

Metabolic Effect suggests making it into a hot drink.  Stir 1 tablespoon into hot water and then sweeten with stevia, xylitol or other low/no cal sweetener. 

Be aware, it’s bitter when you first try it.  Now I can do my drinks with just a smidge of stevia and 2 Tbs cocoa in ~10oz hot water.  But I had to work up to that.  I will tell you though, it’s great for an after-dinner option when you really feel like pulling out the snack items or sweets.  This gives you something to sip on for a while, and by the time you’re done with the drink, the bioactive compounds listed above are already starting to work their magic. 

**Do be careful though if you’re pretty sensistive to caffeine.  There is caffeine in cocoa powder, so proceed with caution when consuming in the evenings.

But there are times when I don’t really want a hot drink, and I want something that feels like dessert.  That was me this weekend, so I whipped up this dessert and thought I’d share it with you all.  It’s a paleo chocolate pudding and it’s so yummy!

 Destroy your Cravings Without Destroying your Diet

The cast of characters are cocoa powder (obviously), light coconut milk, chia seeds and chocolate stevia drops (can sub any other low/no-cal sweetener here but I LOVE these things).

Craving Killer Pudding

-3/4 c light coconut milk
-2 Tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
-1/4 c chia seeds
-2 droppers worth of chocolate stevia drops (or another no-cal sweetener to taste)

Whisk together coconut milk and cocoa powder until there are no visible lumps of cocoa powder (a hand mixer with whisk attachment helps with this).  Stir in chia seeds and sweetener until well combined.  Cover and place in fridge for an hour.  Mixture will thicken into a pudding-like consistency (this is from the chia seeds).  Stir and dive in.

 Craving Killer Pudding

See it’s that easy!  Throw a couple sliced strawberries on top and I’m in heaven!  It’s sooo good!!  Even though it looks a little funny with all the puffy chia seeds, hehe, it’s a far better option than eating several chunks of a sheet cake or a quart of ice cream… which I may or may not have done before… **cough, cough**  Anyway, you get your cravings fighting cocoa powder and the feel of eating a dessert, plus it’s not too coconut-y which is good because I despise coconut.

So there ya have it!  TWO ways to use cocoa – the cravings crusher - to help you get in shape!

Try making either the drink or pudding this week to destroy your cravings and let me know how it goes!

<3 Lauren