How to Stay Balanced While Traveling

Woof, it’s been a while since I’ve last written.

I went out to San Francisco for a long weekend and then the following week, I was out in Austin, TX for work. Let me tell you, I knew I would fall off my health track because I was on pure vacation mode. I ate mostly every meal out at a restaurant, had a few cocktails for dinner, and ate a LOT of meat (hello BBQ). It’s hard not to fall into the vacation mode trap while traveling for fun, or for work. I tried to work out in San Francisco, but by the time I got to Austin for work, it became a cycle of eating, sitting, eating more and drinking. Now that I’m back in Chicago, I feel like I’m a really off balance and need to get back into the groove of working out and making healthy choices.

Here are some of things I learned while traveling in order to stay balanced, and feeling healthy:

1) If you are on vacation, pick some activities that don’t revolve around food. I’ve gone on several vacations to urban areas (ahem NYC) where my main tourist activity revolved around visiting a brewery and then eating at well known restaurants and heavily snacking. Try to incorporate lots of movement into your vacation where you are checking out sites and walking around. In San Francisco, I went hiking and biked across the Golden Gate Bridge the following day. It doesn’t have to be vigorous activity, but any movement that keeps you away from staying stagnant will deter you from over consuming calories.

2) Eat breakfast. Do not skip breakfast otherwise you won’t have the energy to do everything you want to do on your vacation. If you’re working, make sure to eat breakfast to avoid unconscious snacking throughout the day. For breakfast, pick something with protein and carbs that will keep you full and give you energy. Even a little sugar won’t hurt. I like to pick a yogurt parfait with fruit and granola. Toast with peanut butter, or apple and whole nuts can give you a boost. If you’re going to have a long day, a breakfast sandwich will keep you nice and full.

3) Pack your water bottle and bring it out wherever you go to ensure you’re staying hydrated all day.

4) When you’re out at lunch/dinner, try to have one healthy option or incorporate some veggies into your meal. I usually like to make lunch the lighter option by ordering a salad and greens. Dinner, I’ll order the brisket and a side, but I won’t eat a pound of it. Consider portion control.

5) If you’re staying in a hotel and don’t have a gym, try doing jump squats, jumping jacks and lunges every morning in your hotel room. Something is better than nothing. Even if you are having a 10 minute private dance party, you are burning calories.

Are you traveling soon? What do you do on vacation or on the road to stay healthy?

Hungry for more,

The Midwest Marmot

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Ballin’

Want to build stronger abs? Here’s an exercise I learned in an aerial conditioning class at my circus school. It will make you sweat, it will make you shake and it will get you nice toned arms, legs and abs!

Yoga Ball Pike

1) Get on all hands and knees and with one leg at a time, get into push up position on the yoga ball.

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2) Keeping your legs straight, and squeezing your butt, legs, and core, PIKE and bring the ball to your face. You should be attempting to stack the hips above the shoulders and head. Do not bend the knees and bring it to the chest. Keep your legs straight and flexed.

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Pike

3) Hold this position for 5 breaths. Then repeat 10 times.

How does this feel? It is completely fine if you can only get halfway with your pike. Keep working towards keeping the legs straight and the core engaged.

Hungry for more,

The Midwest Marmot

Why You Should Keep Drinking

While normally I would promote the extra glass of wine (or whiskey) after a rough day, this post is about why you should keep drinking water. And lots of it!

Your body is made of 60% water. The organs in your body rely on water to function properly. Every time you sweat, pee, breathe, water is going out of your system and you need to replenish it.  You can survive up to three weeks without food, but you can only survive up to three days without water.

Why do you need to drink at least 8 cups a day?

1) Hydration is the key to maintaining a fully active, proper functioning body. Want to make sure you can get through your work out? Drink water before your routine and constantly take water breaks to rehydrate and regulate your body temperature for your workout without feeling ill.

2) Feeling tired or moody lately? Most office workers will complain about that post lunch “two o’clock feeling” and it’s most likely because they had a sodium packed meal, caffeinated beverage, and haven’t drank enough water.  Symptoms of dehydration include: dizziness, fatigue, headache, and diarrhea.  Drinking water will wake you up, make you more alert and focused. If you are already feeling thirsty, you are dehydrated, and you need to replenish the water in your system.

3) Water aids with digestion. It helps move all that food through your intestines, so if you feel an upset stomach coming, drink a glass of warm water to help the digestion process.

4) Water flushes toxins out of your system. Why do you try to drink so much water when you are hungover? You are hydrating your body and ridding your body of the toxins from alcohol. The same can go for any toxins. If you have a cold or something in your body doesn’t feel right, drinking plenty of water will help get those toxins out of your system.

5) Skin looking a bit discolored or dry and flaky? Your skin is the largest organ and is made of water. Drinking lots of water can hydrate and add glow back into your skin.

Although I’m preaching the great health benefits of water, I am guilty of not always drinking 8 cups a day. My top excuses are that I don’t want to get up and refill my cup, or that there’s just no water available.

Here are some quick tips on how to make sure you are constantly hydrated:

1) Keep a glass of water by the bed and when you wake up, drink it right away. That is 1 out of 8 cups done! This will wake you up and replenish all of the repairing your body did while you were asleep. I’ve started drinking a glass of lemon water every morning as a habit, but I will blog about that in another post.

2) Carry a water bottle with you. EVERYWHERE. I carry a 32 oz bottle with me in my backpack or purse whenever I leave the apartment. My biggest excuse is usually when I am on the go, I don’t have water with me which eludes to me drinking only 4 cups a day. If you constantly have water with you, then you just have to drink it.

3) Have a glass of water before your meal. This little trick can help in weight loss and really help diminish those snack binges. Most of the time, when you think you are hungry, you are actually thirsty. If you have three meals a day, and you had that glass of water when you woke up, that knocks out 4 out of the 8 cups.

4) Keep a water journal. For one day, just track how many cups of water you drink. You can easily do this on your phone in the notes section. Just keep a tally after each glass and you can see how much water you are actually drinking each day.

After building these habits, I can actually say that my digestive system has felt a lot better, and I feel less fatigued during the day.

Do you drink 8 glasses a day? Have you seen any changes to your body, mood, or skin?

Hungry for more,

The Midwest Marmot

Two of My Favorite Balls…Exercise Balls

Hello hump day!

For my workout today, I decided to target my core. I stared at my two favorite (exercise) balls in the gym: Yoga ball and the Bosu Ball. These two fitness pieces are great for stretching, toning muscles, and finding balance. These work outs below will target the arms, core, and legs. If you are new to exercising with these balls, just practice getting down the technique of a flat back, and tight core. It is more important to do each exercise with proper form only a few times, rather than to repeat the exercise multiple times with poor form, which can result in injury. Exercise with caution and listen to your body.

Yoga Ball Pass Back

1) Starting position: Start off laying down straight on a mat holding the yoga ball above your head.

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2) Pass the ball: Keeping your neck lax, and back straight, bring your legs up and your arms (holding the ball) into a pike. You should be using your core, your legs, and your arms to crunch up and pass the ball from your arms to your legs.

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3) SQUEEZE your legs and slowly bring the ball down to the floor in a controlled manner. Try not to just drop and plop your legs to the mat. Keep legs straight out and do not bend at knees. Slowly lower your legs to the ground.

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4) Bring legs back up with the yoga ball, and pass the ball to your hands, and return to start position.

5) Try to pass the ball at least 10 times. If you cannot do the ball transfer between legs and hands, work on just raising the ball up and down with your legs from position #2 and #3.

If you can do this 10 times, move on to the next work out with my next favorite ball…

The Bosu Ball

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How do I use this thing? There are so many exercises you can do with the Bosu Ball and that is why I really enjoy adding it to my workout routine. You can stand on it and work your entire body, but let’s focus on the arms and core again. This ball will really help you build muscles for balance.

Bosu Ball Push Ups

1) Turn Bosu Ball upside down, so that the ball is on the floor, and the black bottom is facing you.

Start in a plank position. Back straight, hips up, and hands on the handles of the Bosu Ball.

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2) Lower slowly to a push up. Remember to keep back straight and aligned with hips. Do not let your lower back drop.

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3) Push back up to plank position. That is one push up! Do 10 push ups, then alternate exercises between the yoga ball and the Bosu ball.

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If your whole body is shaking during this push up, you are completely normal and doing well! That is how you know you are working on building your muscles in your back, abs, legs, and arms.

For beginners, hold position #1 for 30 seconds, then go back to your yoga ball and do the pass backs. If your arms or torso is shaking while trying to balance, tighten your abs, tighten legs, and raise your hips and hold as long as you can. Embrace the shaking because you will start building that muscle to keep your balance!

What are your favorite exercises ball? Do you use the yoga ball for any other activities?

Hungry for more,

The Midwest Marmot

A Day of Cleaning – 5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Space

Happy President’s Day all! I am fortunate enough to have the day off of my 9-5pm job and can spend the day relaxing…and cleaning.

Last week, I spent a lot of time at the office, came home late, and basically didn’t care about my personal space. I took a nice hard look around my apartment today and noticed all of the clutter. There was food all over the counter, the Christmas decorations were still up, and there was a basically a lot of commotion.

Studies have shown that your surroundings and the people you surround yourself with really influence your emotions and well being. Take an office for example, if you are working under florescent lighting all day, with no sunlight, in a messy, cramped up cubicle, how do you think you will feel leaving after working for 9 hours? The same analogy can be applied to your home. If your home is a place of rest and relaxation and you are living in a cramped space full of clutter and dust, are you going to feel very relaxed? You don’t have to wait until spring to do your “cleaning.” Do it now, and see how much better you feel!

Here are some ideas to improve your living space:

1) First, reduce the clutter and get rid of the things you don’t need. Make your space simple. The frequent buyer coupon from the restaurant you’ve only been to once? Good riddance. The boots that are worn out that you have been waiting to wear again, but you know you never will? Donate those leftover clothes and shoes.

2) Smells. To eliminate the smells in carpets, sprinkle the carpet with baking soda and let it absorb for an hour. Then, vacuum the powder up. To eliminate the smell in the kitchen, add a lemon to your garbage disposal, grind it up and it will smell a whole lot better. For a musty room, slice an onion in half, place on a plate and leave in room for a couple hours. That onion will absorb any weird odors. My favorite thing to do at the end is to light candles and add a nice smell to the room.

3) Feeling a bit claustrophobic? Hang mirrors to bounce off more light and make the room look bigger and more spacious. Utilize more light by including white furniture, or white walls.

4) Color is very important to the mood of room. Try adding tranquil colors such as blue and green to calm your mood. Red colors can boost feelings of warmth and love, but also signal intensity. Try using different shades of the same color.

5) Add life to your room and pick up some plants or flowers. Cacti are very easy to take care of. Gerbera daisies or tulips can add a splash of color and happiness to any room.

Gerbera daisies can easily brighten up a room

Gerbera daisies can easily brighten up a room

What are your cleaning strategies? Do you feel so much better?

Hungry for more,

The Midwest Marmot

Beet and Sweet Potato Mix

Have you ever come home from a long day of work realizing you don’t have anything in your kitchen to eat? I saw that I had a beet and a sweet potato left over from a week before and decided to finally cook them. Luckily, these two ingredients I had in stock are packed full of nutrition and super easy to cook. Beets are full of glycine betaine which aids in fighting the toxins that cause stroke and coronary heart disease, and can even ease depression. Beets can test how your digestive system works.

This quick and easy snack was inspired by a lyssandlemon’s back to basics salad, which is a nice and filling meal!

This beet and sweet potato mix can be eaten at any time. I ate these as a side to my pot roast, and then ate some of the leftovers for lunch and then breakfast for the next few days.

Three ingredients:

1) Beets

2) Sweet Potato

3) Nuts – sunflower seeds, almonds, pecans. I used sunflower seeds!

Five Steps:

1) Wash and peel beets and sweet potato

2) Cut beets and sweet potatoes into cubes

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2a) To reduce clean up time, place saran wrap on top of your cutting board as the beets dye everything pink!

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3) Toss sweet potato with a spoon of coconut oil

4) Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes

4a) Option – The beets will be crunchy after baking. For a slightly softer beet, you can steam for 15 minutes. For super soft beets, you can boil, but boiling strips the beet of its nutritional value.

5) Mix seeds and nuts with beets and sweet potato.

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Beets, sweet potatoes and nuts are the only ingredients you need – and it’s a quick and easy side.

How did your recipe turn out? What else did you mix in there?

Hungry for more,

The Midwest Marmot

Too Busy for This

Who I am – Busy

These days, everyone is too busy for everything. You can’t make a friendly call to your husband/wife/parents because you’re too busy with a meeting. You can’t prepare a meal because you’re too busy cleaning a mess. You don’t have time to work out because you’re busy planning your wedding/engagement. You can’t work on your book because you’re busy uploading pictures to your new social media site. You can’t make dinner because you’re too busy writing your blog 😛

Are you really that busy? Or are these just easy excuses to make?

In my family, social, and professional life, I am always seen as the busy one. I constantly have some event to be part of or somewhere to be, never content just being. I used these events as a distraction or an excuse from what was truly important – myself.

Why I’m Here

The purpose of this blog is to help you get rid of your excuses and help you make the conscious decision to do things that are good for your body, mind, and the others around you. This blog is full of simple ideas, and small additions you can add to your daily routine if you truly are “busy.” These ideas mainly revolve around health and fitness, but will help you figure out what is truly important so you are not so busy all of the time.

7 Ways to Cure the Winter Blues

Almost to the end of January already!  After the end of a long, drawn out sinus infection, the weather and lack of sunshine in Chicago has been bringing on my winter blues.

Recently, my cousin and one of my best friends/twin just moved to Denmark.  She mentioned that the winters in Denmark are long and cold, much similar to Chicago’s, so she introduced me to the Danish custom of Hygge (pronounced  hy-ooguh… someone please correct me on that). Hygge is what gets the Danish through the cold nights and what keeps them such a happy country. Hygge is a state of warmth, comfort, and happiness. It is to appreciate the people and things in your life. You can experience it all year long, in the winter, and even in the summer. Really, it is a state of mind. Here are some things I’ve been trying each weekend to embrace the concept of Hygge and make it feel a bit warmer to lift my winter spirits.

1) Listen to warm weather music. For real, put on some reggae and island music and get yourself a young coconut. This can be fun and mentally relieving.

Young coconut

Young coconut

2) Get active! If it’s a sunny day, it’s not snowing and above 30 degrees, go for a brisk walk outside and get your vitamin D.

3) Make a warm drink like tea with lemon, or a hot cocoa to warm up your insides.

Warm tea with lemon

Warm tea with lemon

4) Take a bath with some essential oils. If you’re a renter and don’t feel like your bathtub is all that clean, take a nice steamy shower and put on that island music!

5) What is your favorite summer meal? If you have a grill at home, grill your favorite veggies or burgers to get some summer tasties. Fruit available? Make a quick summer fruit salad by chopping up some pineapple and strawberries. Yum.

6) Head to a place with lots of sunlight. It’s not always sunny in Chicago, but when it is, and it’s too cold to explore outside, go to a coffee shop, restaurant/bar, or library with lots of windows to let the sunlight in. Some of my favorite cozy, well lit indoor areas in Chicago include Summerhouse Santa Monica, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Lincoln Park Conservatory, or Next Door Cafe or the Starbucks on Rush street.

7) Sun setting soon? Light a few candles and relax! Do some light stretching or snuggle with a book or some board games with friends.

Candle time

Candle time

What ideas do you have to make your winter more bearable? Have you found hygge?

Hungry for more,

The Midwest Marmot

Sick Workouts

This post is about some sick work outs, literally.

Unfortunately, I’ve been sick with a sinus infection for the past week and with that, I haven’t done much exercise, with the exception of my ab crunches every time I cough. Symptoms include sneezing, coughing, grogginess, and very fluffy belly. Although exercising may be the last thing you want to do, some light movements or fresh air can make you mentally and physically feel better.

One general rule is to check whether your symptoms are above the neck. If you have sore throat, runny, stuffy nose or headache, you may be ok to do some light exercise. Fever or body aches? Skip the work out and REST. Hydration and sleep are the key to recovery.

What are some easy exercises you can do to get out of the funk?

*For these exercises, skip the gym or fitness class. Focus on doing these exercises in your own home and on your own. Avoid places where the sickness can spread to others or you can get worse.

1) Mild stretching and yoga- check out the candle light stretching post for some stretches. I did a few yoga videos by Tara Stiles which only take 10 minutes. Very quick and easy.

2) Take a walk outside – with a friend, with a dog, or with your wonderful self. If it’s a sunny day, it’s not snowing, and above 30 degrees, go for a quick walk outside, about 10 – 20 minutes. In Chicago, it is FRIGID, but getting fresh air can make you feel a lot better than being stuck in bed. The cold air won’t hurt you, but may dry out your sinuses so be weary, and bundle up! Make sure you wear all your winter accessories – hat, scarf, mittens, face mask (cover up your nose and mouth)!

3) If you want to try to break a sweat, do a few jumping jacks, ice skaters, mountain climbers, squat jumps, and running in place. Do each exercise for one minute for a total of 5 minutes of continuous exercise. Then end with a stretch. Do not exert yourself and go at your own pace.

Have you gotten sick this winter? What are you doing to stay fit?

Hungry for more,

The Midwest Marmot

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A New Year

Happy New Year! How did you celebrate the new year?

I know it is time to make your resolutions and kick the old bad habits you made in 2014. Usually I spend each January 1st making a list of new habits I want to form. 1) Appreciate the things you have 2) Exercise everyday 3) Stop eating french fries

The list really goes on and on. There are so many goals, and sometimes they are so vague. How do you stick to these resolutions?

I am taking a new approach this year to find inspiration in one quote or one phrase that will form better habits to make 2015 a year that is productive and life enriching.

The quote I found is by Mark Twain.

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

Here is what speaks to me about this quote:

1) It’s stating that you should be thankful for what you have – A life to live. Do the things that matter to you that bring you joy and happiness. Do something for yourself.

2) The day you find out what your purpose is. This is such a deep and thoughtful statement. Sometimes I think about what my purpose is here, not in a cryptic way, but in a big picture way. What am I going to contribute to society, my family, my community? I don’t think you have one purpose. You can serve multiple purposes through different periods in your life, but what you contribute to those around you, during those different periods has a ripple effect. If you can figure out what your purpose is at a point in time, you could use that skill set to effect and help, or change others.

This quote really inspires me to figure out what my purpose is and to be grateful for what I have at the moment. My focus for 2015 is to seek purpose in my every day. You can go through the motions of your daily routine; in comfort, watching tv, reading the paper, eating the same food, seeing the same people, or you can change and make decisions to do something better for yourself.

Find a quote or a phrase that really speaks to you. I checked out pinterest for some ideas. It can be something simple, related to fitness, health, a career, or a hobby.

Use that phrase to find out what your focus can be on 2015. Hopefully this will inspire you to try something different and change who you were in 2014. Either way, you don’t need to make a list of resolutions, especially if they are the same ones you make every year.

What quote or phrase are you focusing on for 2015?

Hungry for more,

The Midwest Marmot