How The Nike Running App Has Changed My Game

For those of you who read my post about how I’m improving my health one day at a time, all I can say is THANK YOU! I can’t begin to describe how much I appreciated all of the incredible sincere and encouraging messages I received. Writing a post that made me so vulnerable was a bit scary, but everyone’s kindness made me realize that there’s absolutely no shame in my game. I’m giving it my best shot one day at a time!
That said, a lot of messages I received were filled with questions about the Nike running app that I referred to, as well as a more in-depth description of how I got started and what I’ve been doing to keep it up. I’m more than happy to share as much as I can about my journey, especially because I’ve found the positive feedback to be a huge motivator!
Truth be told, getting into the running game was a complete accident. I never had any intention of training for anything. There was a brief stint in college when I trained with the Couch to 5k app (which DOES work if you commit to it!), but I never took it seriously enough – I don’t think I got passed being able to run a mile without stopping. One of the big differences between that app and the one I’m using now is that they do a sort of “interval” training where you walk for two minutes, jog for 4 minutes, walk for 2 minutes, etc. Personally, that’s not something that works for my body. If I’m running and then I stop to walk, my body gets crazy tired and all of the energy that I had goes out the window. It because difficult for me to run for more than a few minutes again without stopping! The Nike app that I use doesn’t tell you when to walk/jog/run. The only thing it does is have you run a little fastest for a few minutes during the weekly benchmark run. Other than that, I go at my own pace on my own time.

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As I mentioned in my first post about all of this, I started using the Nike Running app because I signed up for a corporate challenge 5k race with my company. I really had no desire to even try to run for the whole race and on race day, I almost didn’t even go! On the way there, my friend Danielle told me she uses this app and that I should try it out. So I did, and I actually found it to be sort of like an addicting game. I’m pretty competitive with myself and when it comes to running, I was surprised to see that I would constantly push myself to go a little further than the distance that was set for that day. Who knew?! In fact, there’s only been one time in the last 10 weeks when I’ve stopped to walk in the middle of a run (more on that later).

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So what’s the key? For me, it’s discipline. I’m famous for letting myself off the hook for one or two workouts, which then turns into three months without stepping foot in the gym. I have yet to let that happen with this program. One thing that’s kept me on track is that I set up a personalized plan within the app that has me training for a specific goal- a 10k on October 7th. Despite the fact that my plans have changed and I can’t run the race on that day anymore, I’m still acting like I am and following the plan. I certainly don’t let it control my life- if I have plans one night or I’m really tired, I move the workout to the next day. As long as I get my four runs in for the week at some point, I’m golden. And the app banks on you being motivated by little rewards, so there’s an entire section dedicated to your personal achievements! Fastest 1k, fasted 5k, longest distance, most miles run in a week, the list goes on and on. It may sound silly, but I feel SO proud of myself whenever I unlock a new achievement!
A new thing for me is running outside. For the first month and a half of the program, I would almost exclusively run on the treadmill so that I could strictly monitor my pace and focus on my breathing. When a week came where I didn’t have access to a treadmill, I quickly learned that running outside is a wildly different experience. There are some parts to it that I find to be harder- namely, keeping a proper pace. But I also find that by trusting my body to adjust to a pace it’s comfortable with, I’m actually able to run much father than on the treadmill! Here’s a perfect example; when I ran 4.5 miles indoors, I pushed myself too hard and ended up taking in too much oxygen. You know what happens when you do that? You get intense stomach cramps and end up lying on the floor of your best friend’s apartment on Bachelor Monday, seriously questioning your life choices and being genuinely scared to run that far again. It sounds dramatic, but I’m so serious- when I found out I had to run 5 miles the following Tuesday for Long Run day, I didn’t think I’d be able to do it. Until I actually did it…
When I moved to Jersey City a few weeks ago, there was no way I could pass up the opportunity to run outside – I live less than a half mile from the waterfront, and the views are unmatched. It would be a crime to miss out! But let me be frank- clear through the first half of my 5 mile run, I thought there was no way I’d be finishing without walking g a little bit. It was actually raining out that day, but I refused to let that stop me – actually, it probably helped to not have the August sun beating down on me during my most challenging run to date. Somehow between mile 3 and 4, I got a burst of energy and realized that if I really tried, I could run the whole thing without stopping. And I did it! It was 100% my proudest moment to date on this whole training journey, because I’m still in shock that went from not being able to run 1 mile to being able to run 5 in under 11 weeks. WHAT EVEN?!

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Don’t let all of that fool you though. I am NOT perfect, not even close. The training schedule for that week had me running 5 miles on Monday, 2.25 on Tuesday, and then 5.5 on Thursday. I was still feeling a little tired from earlier in the week, and was also in pain from having a pinched nerve in my shoulder/elbow. I wasn’t going to let that keep me from going on my run, but I wasn’t totally in it. So you know what? I owned it, and I did the best that I could. I ran for three miles, and then walked for about 0.25, then ran another mile, walked for 0.25 and then finished it out. TBH, I’m pretty surprised that my average pace for the whole run was 12:19 – especially since it’s only a minute faster than my typical pace for longer runs.

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My point here is that the keys to success with training yourself to run distance, much like training for anything else, is to really commit. I’m not focused on doing this to lose weight or even really to fit into smaller clothes- that’s an entirely different goal. For me, this has been about pushing my personal boundaries far past what I ever thought my body would be capable of doing, and making myself proud every day. I may not fit into size 6 jeans, but I can certainly run a lot farther than some people who do. The cool thing about running is that you can literally do it any time, anywhere. You don’t have to wait for the gym to be open, or worry about your favorite machine being taken. You can just throw on your sneakers and go. Hell, you can even go barefoot and still get some mileage in! It’s a great alternative to what I used to do, which was to directly home and Netflix my life away for the next 5 hours. Not gonna lie, I still do that but at least now I have like, an hour of outdoor time 😂

xo, AJ

How I’m Working on My Health One Day at a Time

Working out (in a traditional sense) has never been something I’ve loved. When I’ve done it, it’s usually because I’m being forced/threatened by a coach, I’m trying to lose 13 lbs in 4 days for an event that I forgot about until yesterday, or because I got a burst of energy for a week and a half. That’s basically it. I was the girl in high school who, during the mile portion in gym, would hide behind the big blue mat used for track meets halfway into lap #2. By my senior year, my cheerleading coach would legit have to threaten me if she wanted me to run, and even then, I can’t recall a time where I did it without 5 minutes of negotiating first.

I’ve always struggled with my weight and body image, which is, unfortunately, not new for many girls. There was a year or two in high school when I would consider myself to be a normal size (never thin, but not heavy), but for the most part I was overweight. I try to keep it open and real on this blog, so I’ll just say it- I reached my heaviest weight of 230 lbs in August of 2015. That’s a number I don’t think I’ve ever shared with anyone before because I was so ashamed. I was working at a job that made me miserable, ordering seamless every night and was never active. I’d been in the city for just over a year when for some reason, I woke up one day and decided I’d had enough. I began working out every day, eating super clean and in just over two months, I was down 30 lbs. I struggled a little to manage the loss because I’m normal and I like junk food, but I found a routine eventually, and another 30lbs came off over the next year. All of a sudden I was getting attention from guys, getting compliments from my family, friends and colleagues, and feeling really confident. But I still hated doing any workout that wasn’t the elliptical or Zumba, which are my comfort spots.

 

A few months ago I signed up for the J.P. Morgan corporate challenge in NYC. It’s a little longer than 5k through Central Park, something that was laughable to me because I couldn’t even run a mile without stopping. Literally I’d be winded at 0.75 miles and have to stop. I almost didn’t show up on the day of the race. Luckily, some of my friends from work also signed up and encouraged me to go with them. One of my good friends Danielle (of @packinglightly) told me about the Nike Running Club app and told me I absolutely had to download it. I almost didn’t, but I’m SO glad I did! I finished the race feeling so insanely proud of myself, and then started playing around with the app and set a goal for myself to run a 10k (6.2 miles) in October, and then the app created a plan for me. If you have any doubts whatsoever about downloading an app or thinking you could ever be a “runner”, hear me out. In the last 8 weeks, I’ve gone from not being able to run one single mile to being able to run 4.5 miles without stopping. I’m not fast by any means. I run at a 5 mph speed. Grandmas with walkers could probably pass me if they wanted to. But 4.5 miles without stopping?! Hell yes!

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Danielle of @packinglightly – I owe it all to her!

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7/28/17: 2 months down, and 4.5 miles without stopping!

My health has become less about losing weight (although there’s about 30lbs more that I wouldn’t be sad to see go), and more about seeing how much my body can accomplish. Don’t get me wrong, 4.5 miles isn’t a breeze for me. I’m sweating like a pig, huffing and puffing towards the end and red faced for about an hour afterward. But my body can do that. I’m so psyched about it, and I find myself pushing myself to keep going towards the finish line, even when I feel like giving up at the beginning of mile 2. The other perks haven’t been bad either- my arms are a little slimmer, my tummy is a little flatter – my hair is constantly a sweaty mess which is something I could live without bc ugh, hate washing my hair every day (you already know the struggle).

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The best advice I could ever give to 12, 16, or 21 year old me would be to push myself. Forget about all the unnecessary nonsense that truly doesn’t matter. Be a good person, be kind to everyone, and be kind to myself. Treat myself to ice cream, and then treat my body to a nice little run after. I wish I’d started being kinder to myself earlier in life, but so happy I started when I did. If you’ve been looking for a sign, or some encouragement to get started, here it is. Throw on some sneakers, run (or even walk!) just to the stop sign and back if that’s what it takes. Just do it – then tell me how it went 🙂

Xo, AJ 

7 Healthy Smoothies That Require Zero Skills

I’d like to preface everything I’m writing here with the fact that I cannot make an edible meal to save my life. Anything beyond sandwiches and cereal is too advanced for me lolll Patrick is so lucky to have me 🙂  🙂 🙂 Not only am I awful at following a recipe, I’m also a picky eater – I have vegetables with a burning passion. Like, I was legit the kid that had to sit at the dinner table for an extra hour because I wasn’t allowed to get up before my veggies were gone, and I would carry on for a good 45-75 minutes about what an unjust world I lived in. Once, my dad threatened me with no TV for a week if I didn’t finish my cauliflower. I ended up scarfing it down so fast that I threw it right back up. This was back in the day when Lizzie McGuire was bae and hello, #PRIORITIES – I was not about to miss that show.

Anyways, I still hate vegetables – nothing has changed there. But now I know that I kind need them to survive or whatever. Ugh. So inconvenient. I recently purchased a nutri-bullet, and it’s legit the best thing I’ve done in 2017. I make smoothies with not much more than fruits, veggies and water every morning, and I can already see the difference it’s making with my metabolism and my body. I’ve pulled in 7 of my favorite recipes for you – check them out and let me know what you think!

1. Pink Sunbutter Smoothie

Tbh, I first made this smoothie because it was hot pink and I thought it was really pretty. It also incorporates beets, which isn’t a food that I typically include in my smoothies or would’ve thought about much before. Get the full recipe from Coffee and Quinoa here !

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2. Berry + Cauliflower Smoothie

This is my favorite one! I make it way more than the others, because it amazes me that even though I despise cauliflower with all that I have, I throw it in with my berry combo and I cannot taste a thing. Like, it legit has a whole cup of cauliflower and I couldn’t tell at all. #Miracles. Get the recipe from Simple Roots Wellness here !

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3. Cranberry Mango Layered Smoothie

This is another super pretty smoothie that caught my attention primarily because of how fun it looks, and also because it includes ingredients that I don’t typically add to my smoothies. It’s refreshing and tart, and reminds me of summer days – perfect for the end of June! And don’t let the name fool you – it also includes 2 large handfuls of spinach, so you’re still getting your veggies in. One thing to note about this recipe – there is an inclusion of orange juice that you can totally follow, but I try not to because just added sugar that you seriously don’t need – the natural sugars of the fruit will sweeten this plenty! You can get the full recipe from Peas and Crayons here !

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4. Sunset Smoothie

Yet another sneaky smoothie that’s delicious + nutritious. This one has a different ingredient than the rest – carrots! The vitamin C is also fantastic for your cortisol levels – AKA what causes belly fat. The only thing to note is that the recipe includes OJ which is something that I don’t use in order to lower the sugar and carb intake. Get the full recipe from Happy Healthy Mama here !

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5. Mojito Smoothie

Feeling the island vibes this morning? Try this fab + healthy Mojito dupe! The lime + mint combo is crazy refreshing, especially on hot summer mornings where you feel yourself dragging. This is also great for cutting out sugary alcoholic drinks from your diet. You still get the taste without the alcohol. And if you feel the need to slip some rum in there for Happy Hour, you can feel better knowing that the mixer is healthy and fresh! Get the full recipe from Wonky Wonderful here !

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6. Tropical Green Smoothie

Ok, so I’m mostly obsessed with this because I die over anything that will get me to eat my greens without having to taste them even a little bit. So the idea of having as much as 3 large handfuls of spinach in this recipe without being able to tell is nothing short of amazing to me. The sweetness of the pineapple is really what masks it from tasting to “healthy” – you honestly probably wouldn’t be able to tell at all if you didn’t see the green coloring of it. So many vitamins jam-packed into this delicious smoothie, and it keeps you full for hours. Try out the recipe from 52 Kitchen Adventures here !

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7. Blueberry Banana Smoothie

You can’t go wrong with a classic, which is why this last-but-not-least smoothie is my absolute favorite. Bananas, blueberries and cauliflower are the three main ingredients here (there’s also cashews in this recipe, but I don’t personally add those for myself). The cauliflower (as I’ve preached about above) is packed with vitamins C and B, as well as fiber. One of the healthiest recipes on this list, I recommend this to be the first one you try! Get the full recipe from Harriet Emily here !

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5 Ways to Improve Your Health by Tomorrow

You know when you see those #Fitspo posts on the ‘gram and you’re 50% like, “yaaas kween #LIFEGOALS!! But then you also get momentarily paranoid bc you just rolled your eyes SO hard into the back of your head that you think they might get stuck there?? Because you have a life and a job and friends and you like food and this girl clearly has none of those things because if she did she wouldn’t have time to look like that?? TBH if you haven’t felt like that before, not even once, then you and I prob wouldn’t be friends IRL. One of the top requirements I look for in a friend is their ability to insta-judge sooo..

Anyways, just because you may not appear to be photoshopped 110% of the time like the #Fitspo models of the world, that doesn’t mean you’re not healthy. And can I get really honest with you for a second? Like, for real, no jokes? Thanks! Because I’m here to tell you what you probably should already know but definitely don’t remind yourself of, which is that being healthy doesn’t always mean having a flat stomach and a thigh gap (if you have a thigh gap, this is another thing that would probably also mean we can’t be friends- I know, I’m the worst, UGH!) When thinking about if you’re healthy, you should think about it in all senses. Do you take vitamins? Do you make a conscious effort to get some sort of movement going every day? Do you pay attention to your skin? Do you pay attention to your mental health? All of these things are extremely important to your health – not just if you ate your recommended servings of fruits + veggies, and ran on the treadmill for 45 minutes yesterday.

I have 5 things that I actively try to incorporate into my daily life to improve my health. Check them out and see if you can try to add one or two of them into your life too!

1. Getting enough sleep. I can’t stress this enough! I used to be a serious night owl. Like, going to bed before 1am (a.k.a the “hour of the f*ckboy) on a weeknight would be early for me. But my boyfriend is practically a grandpa and goes to bed around 9pm so once we started dating, I would get really bored after he went to bed and start winding down a lot earlier. Now I try to be in bed by 11pm – it helps me get 8 hours (my alarm goes off around 7:15am every morning). And I’ve been SO much more productive at work! Need help getting to sleep earlier? Check out my post on tips + tricks for a better night’s sleep here !

2. Take your vitamins! In my first 24 years of life, I seriously neglected the vitamin industry as a whole. Flash-forward to April 2017 when I slept at my friend’s apartment and she handed me two gummy vitamins that promoted restful sleep. I took them, felt sleepy within 20 minutes, and then slept through the entire night like a rock, then woke up feeling the most rested I had in months. The next day, I went out to CVS a bought not only the Restful Sleep vitamins, but the Undeniable Beauty (vitamin C, Biotin, borage oil) the Hello Sunshine (vitamin D), and the Women’s Super Foods (Vitamins D, E, B6, B12, Folic Acid and Biotin). They’re all from the Olly Nutrition company – ever heard of them? They’re new to the market, and the best part is they’re extremely affordable. Each container is only $13, and I’ve truthfully felt healthier since the day I started taking them. I highly recommend you check them out ASAP! You can shop them here.

 

3. Protect yourself from the sun. I’m going to share some stats with you that are straight from skincancer.org:

  • Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon.
  • Over the past three decades, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined.
  • One person dies of melanoma every 54 minutes.
  • An estimated 87,110 new cases of invasive melanoma will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2017 (and melanoma only accounts for less than 1% of skin cancer cases).
  • The vast majority of melanoma cases are caused by the sun. In fact, one UK study found that about 86% of melanomas can be attributed to exposure to UV radiation from the sun.
  • Regular daily use of an SPF 15 or higher sunscreen reduces the risk of developing squamous cell carinoma by about 40% and the risk of developing melanoma by 50%.
  • More than 419,000 cases of skin caner in the U.S. each year are linked to indoor tanning.
  • More people develop skin cancer because of tanning than develop lung cancer because of smoking. 

Scary, huh? This is a biggie, especially for those of you who are fair-skinned like I am. Not exaggerating, I’m so pale and my veins are so blue that my dad once mistook them for being magic marker drawings on me when I was younger. Even though I’m not a fan of being as pale as I am, I try to give myself credit for doing my best to protect the skin I have. I went to school down south and if you know anything about southern girls, you know they loooove a good tan, which is why there’s a tanning bed on every corner at most college campuses. Despite being the girl with practically translucent legs, I never once stepped foot into a tanning bed, because the dangers of what could happen far outweighed having darker skin for a week or two. I also do my best to apply sunscreen whenever I spend time outside, because I know that anything over 10-15 minutes in strong sunlight will have me burning, which puts me in greater danger of skin cancer. Luckily, we also live in an age where there’s 3028235 different self-tanner products on the market. I’m personally a huge fan of the Bondi Sands Liquid Gold. Having spend approx. half a lifetime testing out the different products that are available, I’d consider myself somewhat of an expert on this stuff. Here’s what I can say: It’s easy to apply, it dries quickly, it doesn’t smell bad, it’s not streaky, and you don’t look orange after you apply it. It is difficult to get it applied correctly on your hands and feet, but that’s true of pretty much any product on the market. The Nest.com has a really great article on applying self tanner – read it here.  The bottom line here is that you need to protect yourself and your body from over-exposure to the sun. There is no such thing as a safe tan. If you see something on your body, don’t wait – get it checked out. Safe > sorry.

 

4. Take care of your teeth! Raise your hand if you’ve ever rolled your eyes and/or laughed out loud when your dentist asks you how often you floss. *Raises hand* – that’s what I thought. I’ll be the first to admit that my dental hygiene game isn’t as strong as it should be. Yes, I brush, but I don’t use mouthwash and I hardly ever floss. It’s not a great look, and I generally don’t appreciate the lecturs and judginess that’s handed out by my dentist every 6 months, but what can ya do? I did my homework on this, and here’s what I found out from Colgate aka the Kings of Teeth.

  • The 47% of adult Americans who have gingivitis have a higher risk to developing dementia. This is because the bacteria from gingivitis may enter the brain through either nerve channels in the head or the bloodstream (um, ew!).
  • Bacteria from inflammation of the gums can enter your bloodstream and travel to the arteries in the heart and end up hardening your arteries. This causes plaque to develop on your artery walls and decrease or blood blood flow through the body. This, in turn, can lead to an increased risk of heart attack or stroke.

Bottom line- I think we can all manage to spend a few extra TLC-filled minutes tending to our dental hygiene each day in exchange for being healthier overall.

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5. Find a proper work/life balance. There’s no denying that your job should be one of your priorities, but does it need to be THE priority? Chances are, the answer is no. Whenever I get super-stressed at work, my boss is famous for saying in her soothing voice, “listen. We’re not curing cancer here. This is NOT the end of the world, and it’s NOT a big deal. Let’s just work on how we can fix this.” And you know what? She’s completely right. I’m not curing some horrible disease, nor am I saving the world. I’m working with formula companies and wedding invitation designers to create advertising campaigns for parents and brides and grooms. That’s it. XO Group (where I work) has a phenomenal perk for all employees: Unlimited PTO. Yes, you read that correctly. In theory, I have unlimited vacation time throughout the year, and it doesn’t affect how I’m paid. Granted, we’re expected not to go overboard, but in my two years with the company, I’ve never requested vacation time and been denied. And you know what? It’s allowed me to stay sane. When I’m able to step away from the daily chaos that can come along with my job and focus my energy on my friends + family, and having new experiences and visiting new places, I’m so much happier.

You should absolutely work hard at your job. When you’re there, you should do the best that you can and give it your all (even though it’s ok to have an “off” day once in a while – don’t beat yourself up over this). But you also need to value your life outside of work. I’m going to let you in on a little secret: unless you are in charge of national security, or you’re literally someone who’s working on the cure for cancer (bless you), the world will not end if you don’t check your email at 9pm on a Friday night. I promise you, from the bottom of my heart, you will survive. Your boss will survive. Your clients will survive. In fact, if you’re getting emails from clients at 9pm on a Friday night, you should be worried for their sanity. Whenever this happens to me, I genuinely feel bad for the person who sent that email. Like, it’s Friday night. You could be out at a bar, or you could be neflixing on your couch, idc. But you definitely shouldn’t be sending out emails that can wait until Monday morning.

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I have a task for you: Just do me this one favor, ok? Go on Airbnb and create a wishlist for all of the cool places you’d want to visit in the next five years *you can check out my recent article all about Airbnb here*. It could be somewhere that’s only a 2 hour drive away, or it could be somewhere that’s halfway across the world. Hell, it could even be just doing something in the same city that you currently live in, but you’ve never seemed to have the time to do it. Go on there, make that wishlist, and book a vacation or a stay-cation for sometime in the next 6 months. If you can’t take off of work, book it for a weekend. Invite friends! Invite your mom! Invite your boyfried! Go by yourself! Just do it. You have the responsibility to treat yourself right and spoil yourself every once in a while. One of our execs at XO Group told me once that the day you get back from your vacation is the day you should start planning your next one. It gives you something to look forward to, and I think that’s something we could all use!

 

Have more tips to share? Sound off below!

xo, AJ

What’s in my bag?

Are you a clutch type of lady, or more of a tote bag girl? In lamens terms, are you cool with getting around town with just your headphones, wallet, sunnies and a single lipgloss, or do you prefer to also have 50+ extra items, ya know, “just in case”?

Personally, I fall somewhere in between. My bags are usually on the larger side, but a full on tote is often slightly overwhelming and frankly, encourages the poor hoarding behavior that I’m trying to avoid. But this girl likes to be prepared – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cleaned out my bag and then the next day, been in desperate need of whatever it is I decided I would literally never use. Because Murphy’s Law works like that.

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Jokes aside, carrying an over-stuffed, heavy bag can actually damage your health (don’t worry, I talk about that more below). Being a woman for 24.5 years on this earth will teach you a lot, and I’m ready to bless you all with my purse wisdom. It’s not a perfect science (yet), but here’s what’s in my bag:

The Essentials:

Whether your bag fits in one hand or practically doubles as a duffle, every girl must have the absolute bare essentials. If I’m using a really small cross-body, I use a phone case that allows me to put 2 credit cards and an ID into the back of it so that I can leave the wallet at home. I’ll stick a $20 in my bag, my keys and breath mints and I’m good to go. You never know when your bank will turn against you. Say you’re on a health kick and haven’t gone within 100 yards of a pizza place in the last 3 months (LOL unless you live in NYC, bc that’s impossible). You go out with the girls and then decide you’re craving a buffchick pie, so you throw your Chase card down (#payday). Your bank is all, “that’s not Jessica, she would never cheat on her diet!!! Identity Theft!!” Well then. #1) RUDE. #2) Thank God you brought that $20, amiright? Yes, I am. Also, hand sanitizer. Just do it. You never know who was hanging on to the subway pole before you. Ignorance is bliss, but hand sanitizer saves lives.

Here’s some never before seen footage of me and my friends:

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The Beauty Bag

Since I usually carry a medium-size bag, I also put a small makeup bag in there tokeep things organized. Absolutely nothing is more annoying than when I’m looking for something in there and I feel like freaking Mary Poppins pulling out 14 different items first (including a kitchen spoon during a meeting a few months back, that was a really nice surprise).marry poppins

Any of the beauty-related things I have in my bag go in here. I usually carry around at least 2 different lip shades, because you never know if you’ll be in a pink mood or a ~nude~ one. My two current favorites are Maybeline’s Vivid Matte Liquid in either Grey Envy or Twisted Tuplip (only $6.99 at Target), or my Lipsense kit. Speaking of, if you’ve never tried Lipsense but you’re super tired of catching yourself in the mirror at 3pm and seeing that 83% of your lip color is gone, you might want to try this. There’s like, 20+ colors and it seriously lasts you the WHOLE day! You need to be careful about re-applying the gloss every few hours so your lips don’t dry out but other than that, I’m convinced it’s worth the investment. My friend Mandy is a distributor, and you can contact her on Insta at @everbelipsbymandy.

At any given time, my hair can be a real nightmare to deal with (as you may have read in several of my earlier posts). It tangles easily, it gets in the way during Zumba and it sometimes betrays me by looking greasy on same day washes!! That’s why I always carry around 3 hair essentials: My Milk & Sass Macaron hair brush, Milk & Sass Sugar Twists and a mini bottle of Batiste dry shampoo. The brush + hair ties are designed to protect my hair from breakage, and the dry shampoo clears up any oily spots on demand. #MajorKey. The Macaron brush also has a mirror on the cap, so I’ve been able to remove the compact mirror I used to keep in my bag and swap in this lil cutie. Kills 2 birds with 1 stone, and I have one less thing to schlep around with me.

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The final beauty bits are crucial, especially as the weather starts to get warmer out. In just a few short months, we’ll all be trying to mask the sweat stains that formed while we were waiting 12 minutes for the delayed Q train to arrive. Fun Fact about New Yorkers- most of us suffer through subway commutes that force us to stand on top of each other while waiting in underground stations that are 20 degrees hotter than the already-blazing summer temps raging above ground. LOL summer is fun. As a wise lady (probably) once said, you can’t force yourself to not sweat, but you can def make sure you don’t stink from it! Ta-da! I give you the mini Marc Jacobs Daisy Sorbet perfume. It’s so cute and smells amazing. I got mine for $20 at CVS, and I get compliments on it all the time. If Daisy Sorbet isn’t for you, there’s tons of other options. Most major perfume brands sell mini versions of their scents, so check out Ulta or Duane Reade or Sephora.

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When I Feel Like Being Extra

Generally speaking, if I know I’m going some place where I won’t be in total control of my surroundings, I’m extra af. I’m a notorious over-packer, but it’s simply because I don’t want to be in a position later on where I wanna kick myself for not bringing the thing I KNEW I should’ve brought. Don’t believe me? Here’s what I dumped out of my tote the last time I went somewhere for longer than 12 hours:

  • Water bottle / snacks (obv)
  • Extra phone battery
  • Extra underwear (TMI, IK)
  • Dairy pills (I’m lactose intolerant)
  • 2 books for the subway
  • Extra contact lenses
  • Eye drops

The list goes on, but I don’t think I need to bore you with the details….


The Bottom Line

Over-packing and constantly carrying heavy bags on your shoulders could end up doing permanent damage to your body. Carrying a heavy bag on one side of your body consistently could lead to muscle spasms and pain in your neck/shoulders/lower back. Even if you’re consciously leveling it out as you walk, you could be doing even more damage! It can cause pain in your hips and oblique muscles on the side you carry your bag on, and neck strain on the opposite side caused by your body trying to level out your shoulders.

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Here’s what you can do to save your poor body:

  • Use a backpack (I know, I LOLd too, but there are some pretty cute leather ones out there – try TJMAXX or the outlets!)
  • Switch shoulders
  • Use a second bag (one purse for your essentials, a second tote for your workout clothes) – this helps distribute the weight more evenly
  • Avoid wearing heels when you’re carrying a heavy bag, because heels alter your gait which emphasizes the issues you’re already having.

 

xo, AJ

5 Thing You Use All The Time That Are Super Germ-Infested

It’s time to talk about the gross tiny creatures that are crawling all over you and everything you love. GERMS.

It may finally be warmer out, but I’m here to tell you that germs aren’t going anywhere. Even though it’s no longer technically cold & flu season, these guys are still EVERYWHERE, and they have No Mercy mentality. Obviously we all knows the basics- your phone is covered in bacteria, you should always use hand sanitizer after riding the subway, blah blah blah. But do you really know what types of bacteria you’re fighting or what it can cause? If you have a weak stomach, I’ll warn you – you probably don’t want to read below..

1) Your Laundry Basket: This one really grossed me out – did you know that a load of underwear can transfer at least 100 MILLION E. coli bacteria to the washing machine, where you then go and cross-contaminate with all of your other laundry? According to Reader’s Digest, front-loading machines are the worst offenders – “water settles at the bottom and creates the moist environment bacteria loves.” I’m really not happy about this. If you can , a good way to clean it is by first washing your whites with Bleach, which will disinfect – then run a towel over the insides to soak up moisture and leave the door open to air-dry.

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2) ATMs: Ugh, yet another reason to stop spending so much money… There have been some studies done recently that show ATMs typically have high levels of bacillus and pseudomonads. Ever heard of them? Me neither. Fun fact- it’s the same bacteria that’s found in public toilets. So basically, withdrawing that $20 a few hours ago is the same thing as running your hand around the rim of the portapotty at GovBall. FML.

3) Your Bathtub: This one hits me in the feels. I’m all about #MeTime and taking bubble baths (see post here). I’d say I’m pretty consistent with cleaning but after learning what’s breeding in my tub, I’m about to douse it in bleach. What fun treats can your bath tub give you? Staph infections, pneumonia, septicemia and urinary tract infections. This is usually caused by build-up around your drain that accumulates over the days/weeks between scrubdowns. Moral of the story? Break our your Mr. Clean, Scrubbing Bubbles, etc. before you try for a relaxing soak.

4) Your Re-usable Water Bottle: Just when you think you’re helping out the environment, you learn you’re also practically poisoning yourself in the process. Basically, re-using your water bottle is the equivalent of eating out of your dog’s dirty food/water bowl. The Daily Mail even reported that lab testing of 12 refillable water bottles used by athletes over the course of one week showed an average of 300,000 colony-forming units of bacteria. That’s super great news, considering I’ve been using the same water bottle for a month and can’t remember the last time I stuck it in the dishwasher 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

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5) Your Phone (obviously): Turns out people are pretty gross. 90% of Gen Y, 80% of Gen X, and 65% of Baby Boomers have reported using their phones while on the toilet. I get it, what’s a trip to the bathroom without a little game of Candy Crush to get you through, amiright? Except, you’re a breeding ground for an immune system catastrophe. Here’s what Reader’s Digest has to say about it: “In a 2013 study, British researchers swabbed 30 tablets, 30 phones, and an office toilet seat. The tablets had up to 600 units per swab of staphylococcus (also known as staph, which can cause severe stomach sickness) and the phones had up to 140 units. The typical toilet seat had less than 20 units.” That Candy Crush level 48 isn’t looking so appealing now, is it?


So how are we supposed to combat all these germs if they’re crawling all over the place?! Don’t get your germ-filled panties in a bunch just yet – death is not necessarily on the horizon. First of all, it’s important to remember that up until now, you probably didn’t know about all of these different kinds of bacteria and how you’re swimming in them right now, but you’ve still survived. Your body knows how to handle + combat most of this. Second of all, now that you know, just take regular pre-cautions. Wash your water bottles more often, scrub down your bathtub more than once every three weeks. Carry a travel-sized Purrell with you in your bag.

I’m sure you’ll be fine but if not, it’s probably because I told you all of this info and you didn’t listen sooo just saying, told ya so.

How to eat all the ice cream you want & still get your summer bod

Yaaaas, warm weather, yaaasss! It looks like warmer weather is finally here, and it’s here to stay! After what felt like the longest winter of all time (thx Phil the Groundhog), the sun is out, the birds are back from their nice Florida vacations and the flowers are in bloom. There’s just something about the smell of Spring in the air that makes me all happy!

But, as we all know, Spring means Summer is just around the corner.. but my summer bod is not. I really let myself get in a rut the last few months in terms of eating healthy and working out. But what’s a girl to do when she’s had a 24-year love affair with ice cream? I’ll tell you one thing, I’m not willing to compromise my relationship with the best food in the world for a six pack that will last me all of 3 months, that’s for sure. JOKES because I will never in my life have a six pack. I’ve come to terms with this and have accepted it. But that doesn’t mean I want to be unhealthy. I’m all for body positivity, but I’m also v. shallow at times. Frankly, I’d rather spend more of my time on social media double-tapping and silently judging than I would miserably + frantically untagging myself from unflattering photos.

Which is why I’m here to save us all! I’ve put together a list of my favorite healthy ice creams – because we can have our (ice cream) cake and eat it too!

1) Edy’s Light Slow Churned Vanilla

100 calories, 3 grams fat (per serving). The best thing about this is that it tastes like you’re eating regular full-fat ice cream, non-fat milk and buttermilk. It’s higher in sugar than some of the other options listed here, but it’s made from all natural ingredients, so I’m fine with it. You can find Edy’s pretty much anywhere but just in case you’re not sure, click here to find the closest retailer near you.

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2) S’mores Halo Top Ice Cream

320 calories – for the entire pint, 20 grams of protein. Yes, you read that right – 320 calories for the entire pint. That’s almost as many calories as the amount is a single serving size (1/2 cup) of Haagen Daz. HELL YES! Halo Top currently sells 17 different flavors, and most are under 300 calories for a whole pint. And the best part is that even thought it’s actually healthy for you (tons of protein in it), it still actually tastes like ice cream. It’s low-sugar, low-carb, low-fat and doesn’t have any synthetic growth hormones, so you can obviously taste a slight difference between this stuff and Haagen, but it’s worth it. It can be tricky to know where you find buy, so click here to see where your closest retailer is!

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3) Enlightened Frozen Hot Chocolate

90 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 7 grams of protein (per serving). Another winner in my book, Enlightened sells 21 different flavors in tons of major grocery stores across the country. Similar to Halo Top, you can taste the difference between this ice cream and your regular full-fat treats, but if I’m still getting my fix while cutting out more than 50% of the calories/sugars/carbs/fats, I’ll find a way to make it work. Click here to find out where you can purchase.

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4) Arctic Zero Salted Caramel Dipped Bars

80 calories, 3 grams of protein (per serving). Arctic Zero actually sells pints of ice cream as well, but I’m not a huge fan. To be fair, I purchased the cookies ‘n cream flavor back in 2014 when the company claimed that an entire pint was only 50 calories. That might be true, but it tasted like flavored frozen water, so it wasn’t worth it to me. They’ve since changed their recipes and pints are now 300 calories or less, but I haven’t given the new flavors a fair shot so I won’t comment on that. The bars, however, are delicious! Once in a while I attempt to practice portion control and would rather go for the bar than for the whole pint. I’m a lady like that. They come in 5 flavors: dark chocolate, vanilla, cake batter, mint and salted caramel. Click here to see where you can find them near you!

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5) SO Delicious Dairy-Free Ice Cream

120 calories per serving. While this certainly isn’t the lowest calorie option on this list, I included it because all of their options are dairy-free. DF is a huge trend in the health market right now, mostly because dairy can cause additional weight gain and bloating. I’m actually lactose intolerant, so SO Delicious is great because it means I don’t need to take take a Lactaid pill or live in fear that I’ll get sick from eating my most favorite food in the world. Instead of regular milk, SO Delicious offers almond milk, coconut milk, soy milk and cashew milk substitutes. You can find their yummy flavors here!

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Do you have other healthy ice creams you love? Send me a note! I’m all about frozen treats all year round!

xo, AJ

5 Secrets to a Great Night’s Sleep

I’m about to let you in on a little secret. I’m not necessarily proud of it, but it’s my reality, and I’m all about trying to be real with you guys, so here it is. There’s literally not been one weekday morning where I wake up and don’t lay in bed for 5 minutes thinking about calling in sick.

Ok, so that’s not that big of a secret because tbh, I know you all do it too. You can lie and shake your head no and be like, “omg me? I could never do that!!” But we all know you’re lying, so save it, sister. Just accept it and own it and know you’re not alone.

It’s not that I don’t like my job – I do! And honestly, the only reason I never actually do it is because I’m too terrified of the workload that would pile up for the day that I’m out. Not to pat myself on the back or say I’m special or anything, but the place would fall apart without me  (lol kidding, mostly.) I just really am terrified of coming back into the office with 193 unread emails. You know the classic dad joke, “I need a vacation from this vacation”? That’d be me – I’d need a legit sick day from taking a “sick” day.

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Part of this stems from the fact that I’m 24 and I still sometimes sit there and think, “lol ok guys, we get it, adults have jobs and bills and stuff but like, I’ve proved I can do it so when can I stop now??” But most of this stems from the fact that there’s no way in hell that I get enough sleep. And it’s not because I’m soo0o0 busy. Nope, it’s because I plan to go to bed around 10pm, and then I whisper to Netflix, “just one more episode.” Before I know it, I’m three episodes deep, I’ve re-painted my nails, organized my closet and started creeping my little brother’s ex-girlfriends new boyfriend on insta (I’m not impressed by him at all, if you’re curious). It’s sad how little willpower that I have. Also, This Is US on NBC controls my life now, and my schedule revolves around watching that show whenever I feel like I’m ready to cry. (Pro tip: If you’re not watching This Is US, you’re doing life wrong, and you should re-think your choices.)

I’m not here to be your mom and tell you to go to bed early so you can get 8 hours of sleep. That would make me a huge hypocrite. Instead, I’m here with 5 ways to work with the amount of sleep you’re currently getting and adding in a few tips + tricks to optimize the energy you have!

1) Make sure that your bedroom is set up as comfortably as possible.

I need my room practically pitch black and cool when I’m trying to sleep. I will never understand the people who can sleep in sweatshirts with 3 different blankets on top of them. That’s Satan’s way, IMHO, and I’m sorta judging you. Also, I’m about to hit you with some science. Your body temperature rises up to 2 degrees Fahrenheit while you’re sleeping, which is why if you do fall asleep with a sweatshirt on for some ungodly reason, you usually wake up at 2am sweating like a whore in church. I did a bunch of Googling for this (v. reliable info), and found that the ideal temperature for your room while you’re sleeping is between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit. Some other lil fun tips to throw in there – I keep a large standing fan on all night. The white noise is good for blocking out the obnoxious sounds my neighbors make when they decide to smoke up on a random Tuesday at 2am (it’s a work night, damnit!). I also love having my room as dark as possible. I’ve started putting wearing a sleep mask at night so it blocks out all the light that comes in through my curtains and it’s been a freaking game-changer. Phina’s Place has a few different ones on sale, but I’m obsessed with this one here, because it’s so freaking chic and glam. This lady looks like a boss!

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2) Get some protein in you, ASAP.

I know that we’ve been told our whole lives that breakfast is the most important meal of the time, and I don’t disagree. But the breakfasts that I’ve been having the last 24 years aren’t cutting it. Protein is actually the best thing you can eat in the morning, because it gives you tons of energy and keeps your body moving + alert. If you’re a chef then by all means, whip up something super fancy for yourself. If you’re like me and you legitimately haven’t cooked yourself a meal since 2013, then either suck it up and snack on a couple pieces of deli-sliced turkey, or splurge on a protein pack from Starbucks. I really like those (yaaas give me all the snacks), but they’re not that cheap and if you’re buying them on the daily, it adds up. The takeaway here: protein is your friend. Eat it , often.

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3) Get some sort of exercise during the day.

You know how parents with little kids always talk about how much they love when their mini terror runs around all day with energy that you could never dream of? The reason they love it so much is because of what every single one of them follows up with: “they’re going to sleep like a pro tonight!” Truer words have never been spoken, friends. Think about every time where you have a really active day – you go home and pass tf out into a sleep so deep, you’re actually worried you wouldn’t wake up for a fire alarm. That’s because your body is soaking up the time it has to replenish. Even if you can’t exercise every day, make a point to get up and move around once an hour. I read that somewhere once and in the interest of full disclosure, I have no idea if that works or not. But it can’t hurt, ya know? PS.. If you need some motivation, check out my 3 Ways to Get Motivated for the Gym post, or my Best Cardio Playlist Ever post!

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4) Don’t you dare hit that snooze button.

You, me, Beyonce and the pope are all guilty of hitting the snooze button once in a while. Apparently that’s like, a really bad thing to do. I’m v. interested in why the world hates me enough to try and take away the one thing I value in the morning, so I did some research. Thankfully, the nice people at Brown University summed it up pretty well.

“The body needs some time to get you ready to wake up. When you let yourself go back to sleep, your body thinks, “False alarm! I guess I didn’t need to do anything, because we’re not getting up after all,” and settles in. When that buzzer goes off a second time, Pelayo says that your body and brain are taken by surprise, resulting in that The body needs some time to get you ready to wake up. When you let yourself go bagroggy, fuzzy-headed feeling called sleep inertia. The more you snooze, the more confused your body and brain get (“So are we going back to sleep or not?!”), so you’ll probably feel more out of it even though you actually spent extra time in bed.”

Moral of the story? Stop being a bum and get up and get going.

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5) Cave in to the caffeine.

Science is nice or whatever, but you’re not able to tell me I shouldn’t be having caffeine. I don’t care if it stunts my growth or causes an addiction. Whatever keeps me from falling asleep in a meeting with my boss and getting fired is OK by me. Weirdly enough, I actually hate coffee so I need to get my caffeine fix elsewhere. (Pro tip: Go to Starbucks and order a Dirty Chai. It’s a Chai Tea Latte that they pour a couple of espresso shots into. You can’t taste it, but you still get the caffeine jolt coursing in those veins. Ahhh, Starbs. My first love <3.)

Also, get yourself a cute mug, one that’ll make alllll the other mugs jealous. Mine is perfect and you can get it from Phina’s Place.

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Do you have any other tips + tricks to handle insufficient sleep? Let me know about them!

xo, AJ


Where To Buy:

Sequin Eye Mask: Phina’s Place, $24

Eyelashes + Lips Mug: Phina’s Place, $14

The Best Cardio Playlist You’ll Ever Download

Happy Monday! This post will be short, sweet and too the point because uhm, it’s Monday, and I know you need all the time you can get to answer the emails you ignored Friday when you left the office and little earlier than you should’ve… I won’t tell.

One thing you should know about me is that when I commit, I commit. Therefore, I have gifted you with a freaking fabulous cardio workout playlist that will get you movin’ and groovin’ those weekend brunch calories right off! I’m no slacker, and I have a self-proclaimed fantastic taste in music (despite what my mother thinks). This 60-song list is packed with upbeat popular classics, with a few throwbacks to the middle-school days, and a few throw-WAY-backs to your mom’s middle school days.

Pro tip: Even if you don’t think you’ll make it to the gym today, throw this playlist on anyway. If your third cup of coffee just isn’t cutting it, these songs will get you feeling energized and ready to take on the day!

3 Ways to Get Motivated for the Gym- Without Actually Going to the Gym

Can I get really real with you guys for a sec? I honestly don’t like working out. Not in the traditional sense at least. Big shock, I know, since I’m soOoOo tiny and whatnot!!! But forreal, there’s very little about that act of exercising that appeals to me. Yeah, I know it keeps you from having clogged arteries at the age of 37 or whatever, but I just really don’t love the idea of sweating profusely and barely being able to breathe for an hour and a half if nobody is chasing after me with a knife, ya feel? I’m just saying, I’d prefer to live in a world where I can simultaneously never go for a run again in my life, while also being able to consume 3,000 calories a day and also looking like Kate Upton.

Sadly, scientists have yet to discover a pill that eliminates the destruction that the calories in my blueberry muffin from Starbucks causes (side note: it’s 380 for that f*cking “reduced fat” muffin, never ordering one again.. ), so here I am. Planning yet another workout plan for me to drop the next 10lbs. To be completely honest + transparent with you guys, I have always had self-esteem and body issues. It wasn’t until August 2015 that I decided to start getting healthier and actually sticking to it. The thing you should know about me is that I can never diet + exercise for longer than a few months at a time. I’m more of a lose, then maintain, then lose more kinda girl. From August-October 2015, I lost 30lbs. I put probably 10 or so back or during the winter and then started a new job. This job freaking KILLED me man. I literally didn’t eat lunch for 3 months and was running around like a crazy person, so those 10lbs came off by themselves, along with an extra 5 or so. And I maintained for a while. And then my office decided they would create a weight watchers group and pay for it if we went to 9 out of 12 sessions. So I joined. From August- October of 2016, I lost another 30lbs. And the compliments came pouring it- people couldn’t say enough nice things to me. It’s addicting, let me tell you! Motivating for sure. I was going to the gym almost every single day, being super careful about what I was eating, and I was happy.

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But as always, life gets in the way, and you adjust. So for the past 5 months or so, I’ve just been working on maintaining + not gaining anything back. Work has been stressful, I’ve put in more effort to spend time with friends, and I have a boyfriend who I need to make time for too. Some of my personal needs get lost in the shuffle. So I ask you – Raise your hand if you’ve ever been personally victimized by other people’s schedules!! Errrrbody should be putting their hands up on that one. Now put your hands way the f*ck down, because we’re done making excuses. From this point forward, you and me, we’re going to make the time + effort for ourselves that we deserve! As much as I freaking despise the thought of it, I actually don’t hate the gym so much once I’m actually there. I typically make peace with it by the time I’m 5-10 minutes into my hour-long cardio workout. Actually, it’s kinda nice being able to catch up on all the Bravo! drama – those housewives are like crack to me. Side note- comment below with your favorite show to watch during your cardio workouts! I’m in the market for a new series 🙂

Here are my top 3 tips to getting motivated:

1) Get a good night’s sleep

Yeah I know, you’ve been hearing since the dawn of time that you should be getting 8 hours of sleep a night. I can practically see your eyeballs rolling to the back of your head as you read that. But it’s actually doable. I used to go to bed at no earlier than like, 12:30 am bc tbh, prime Bumble trolling doesn’t start until at LEAST 11:00pm. Then I started dating my boyfriend who is like a 95 year old man and goes to bed at 9:30 the latest most nights, and I got super bored watching the 8th season of friends for the 23rd time, so I started going to bed around 10:30 or 11:00. It actually makes a difference, I swear!! I started waking up before my alarm. The first few times it happened, I immediately bolted out of my bed and tripped over one of my 35 throw pillows I threw on the ground because I thought I was running late. NAY. I was ahead of schedule. Since then, it’s been a whole lot easier to make some time to go to the gym in the AM. I actually kinda like it. The only downside is that for some reason, I’m super emotional in the morning so this one time I was on the treadmill and a commercial for a lacrosse team in Harlem for underprivileged kids came on and I actually started crying. Sorry I’m not sorry that I have feelings, bye.

2) Stay hydrated

I am the WORST at this. I can legit sit at my desk all day and not eat or drink anything for 8 hours because I’m so zoned in (side note: why am I not like 110 lbs LOL fml). And I love water! I just need to force myself to remember because it I don’t, I wind up feeling sluggish and having a headache and make excuses for not working out. NO MORE. TriCoastal designs sent me this super cute water bottle that I carry with me legit everywhere. It’s adorable and inspiring (stop judging me), and I make a point to drink three full bottles of water from it a day. It keeps my mind working right and I end up feeling a lot better and ready to sweat when I’m not depriving myself of the most basic necessity my body needs to function.

 

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3) Pick out cute workout clothes

There’s never been a day in the history of my life when I’ve turned down the opportunity to shop, and shopping for workout clothes is no exception. It’s a huge motivator for me because helloooo, look good/feel good, ya know? You don’t have to shop at crazy-expensive brand name stores to get the cute stuff either. Some of my favorite pieces are from Target and Forever 21 bc let’s be real, I’m 24 and I work in an industry where I’m on a Natty-light type of budget, even when I’d rather be on one that supports a champagne lifestyle #goals. (Side note: Forever 21 did NOT sponsor this post. I actually just really like their workout attire. You can find links to all items pictures at the bottom of this page.)

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So, my friends, here we are. I’ve imparted my wisdom unto you, and you must now get your lazy butt up from the couch and slide on into your bed and get some sleep bc RULE #1 = GET SLEEP, DUH. While you’re at it, go chug a cold glass of H2O, and also order some cute new sports bras. Do yourself a favor and spring for the 2-day shipping so you don’t lose your motivation while you wait for UPS to take its sweet time getting you your package. And stay tuned because I have a gym motivation playlist coming your way in the next few days that’s going to rock your world harder than the moment you found out Ben + Jen were calling it quits (still sad about it). TTYL!


Where to Buy:

Black Forever 21 Sports Bra – $14.90

Pink + White Forever 21 Tank – $17.90

Forever 21 Mesh Panel Leggings – $22.90