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Disclosure: As a member of the official Blue Ridge Marathon blogger-ambassador team, I received a free entry to the Slow K. As always, all opinions are my own.

Everyone knows you shouldn’t go straight from being very active, or running long miles, to couch-potato-worthy zero. Yet that’s what most of us do the day after a race. Worse, for destination marathons that fall on a Sunday, many runners hop an airplane back home the same day. Yikes!

Another problem avid runners face is the non-running-significant-other. It’s fun to have your spouse or boyfriend or whatever come along on race weekend, but I’m not sure how much fun it is for them when the entire weekend revolves around an event they aren’t participating in.

This year, the Blue Ridge Marathon races brilliantly solved both problems with The Slow K: an untimed 5k-ish event. It was brilliant.

The Slow K started across the street from our hotel, so we thought we’d walk over. Minor issue, part of the path was shut-off by a chain-link fence, so we had a little pre-5K parkour event. Upon our arrival, we found a super chill pre-brunch scene.

We felt all the love!

Upon checking in each not-runner received their number on a flower lei (not a bib), and a coffee mug. Pre-“race” there was plenty of coffee and hot cocoa, as well as some donuts to snack on. (Don’t judge. Most of us had just done a mountainous race!) The event was fairly small–this was the first year–and there was plenty of space to mill around, chat, and meet other runners.

It was fun to see runners just as stiff and sore as I was hobbling around and trying to get the juices flowing again, while non-runner husbands and girlfriends who were not walking like zombies filled coffee mugs. There were a few strollers and plenty of walking kiddos as well. That’s the great thing about a “Slow K,” it is literally for everyone. Exactly zero people were there to race, or even run!

You had me at “mimosa”

Off to one side was a mimosa bar where, for a small donation, you could DIY your own combo with sparkling wine, juice, and fresh fruit. I’m pretty sure the idea was to grab one after the Slow K, but the mimosa cups fit inside the coffee mugs so perfectly that some of us just couldn’t help ourselves!  They also had fancier coffee (in case the more pedestrian coffee that came with the donuts wasn’t up to your standards). Through the magic of square, I made my donation (I should have taken notes, I want to say this was for an arts or music program), selected some pineapple juice, made a little more room in the cup, and added fresh strawberries. Not a bad way to start a “run” (quotes intentional, as no one was running).

The added bonus of a slow event where you’re trying to get people to move but not run, and where you hand out coffee mugs instead of medals: it’s really, really hard to run with a coffee mug in your hand and not spill all over the place. At least as the event started, most of us still had full or semi-full mugs in our hands.

The weather was slightly soggy, but not really rainy–sort of a continuation of the weekend’s theme. The loop course wound along the river, through some park areas, and back to the start. There were a bunch of cute signs close to the start/finish to cheer on the “runners” too.

Slow K instructions

The Slow K was so much fun that I’m a bit confused as to how every race isn’t doing this. It’s a brilliant way to end a weekend and celebrate everyone’s accomplishments.

On the Seventh Day of Christmas, I encourage you to choose a fitness challenge for January. (Yes, the Seventh Day of Christmas. go look it up if you don’t believe me!)

January is one of the biggest months for fitness and workout challenges! Lots of gyms, studios, and boutique fitness locations host a January challenge to encourage people to start to build healthy habits to back their New Year’s resolutions. For example, Gold’s Gym has a 12-week challenge for gym members only. Some OrangeTheory Fitness locations will start their transformation challenges in January. And it’s not just the big chains and franchises: a quick google search led me to wish I lived in Charleston, South Carolina so I could do the Ignite 2019 challenge at This Time Fitness.

Online Fitness Challenges Work Just As Well

Personally, I find that a fitness challenge is a great way to help me stay on track, and you don’t have to belong to a gym or studio to participate. One of the groups I managed on Facebook has had lots of success with a monthly-themed challenge. If you prefer to work out at home, want to save money, or you just live too far from any facility offering a challenge, there are LOADS of options. The same goes for not starting in January. Maybe you’re moving house, changing jobs, having a baby, or otherwise just not down with January. Many sites with streaming content, such as Yoga International, have all sorts of options that you can start any time you want!

In general, an online or virtual workout challenge will include (1) a workout plan or template, (2) a qualified professional (e.g. for a running challenge, a coach with Revo2lution Running, RRCA, or USATF certification), (3) a Facebook group or other forum for chatting with other participants, and (4) prizes (maybe). Not every challenge includes all of these items, and some may include more–videos, printables, etc. Depending on the challenge’s rules, you might be required to check in each day, submit photos, or provide measurements–but don’t let that stop you. MANY challenges don’t have any requirements, and you can play along with any challenge by doing the workout even if you don’t submit materials to win prizes.

I’m collecting up all the challenges I can find to share with you–pick one and jump right in! (There’s still plenty of time to choose and get ready!)

The Challenges

Run the Year 2019

Website: https://runtheedge.com/run-the-year-2019/
Challenge: Run 2019 Miles (or your choice of miles) alone, or as part of a team
Led by: Run The Edge (Adam Goucher, Tim Catalano, and friends)
Start/Duration: January 1 to December 31, 2019
Cost/Discount: $25, $37, $57 (depends on swag pack selected) $3 discount if you use my affiliate link: http://runtheedgestore.refr.cc/elizabethbain
Content: Basic package includes access to the tracker (online/mobile), RTY 2019 Mileage Guide and plan, private Facebook groups, access to RTY FIT (a community for planning meet-ups) and local/regional Facebook groups. I expect there will be some fun monthly challenges as well!
Swag: Upgrade to Deluxe to add a Challenge Medal, Legacy Coin for 2019, a mileage tracking poster and stickers. Upgrade to Get It All to add a hi-tech challenge shirt.
Disclosure: I have done this challenge every year it has existed, and I collect the Legacy Coins. I am the Lead FITster for Portland, Oregon and the moderator of the related Facebook group. If enough people use my affiliate link, I get credit to use in the Run The Edge store.

100ABChallenge

Website: https://www.blogilates.com/100abchallenge-begins-jan-1st-you-in/
Challenge: Perform 100 reps of a specific Pilates abs exercise every day
Led by: Cassey Ho, aka Blogilates
Start/Duration: January 1 to January 31
Cost/Discount: Free
Content: Printable calendar of exercises, daily video of each exercise performed by Cassey. (If you haven’t checked out the Blogilates YouTube channel, you should! There are free workouts in the app, too. Plus if you subscribe to the newsletter, every month there is a new workout calendar–free–with a theme or focus.) There is a designated hashtag for social media posting/community
Swag: None (but it’s FREE)
Disclosure: I’m a huge fan of Cassey. Nicest most real-deal Pilates instructor I have ever had the pleasure to meet.

30-Day Be a Better You Challenge

Website: https://grokker.com/individuals
Challenge: choose from four challenge options (mindfulness, healthy eating, fitness, yoga)
Led by: Various instructors on grokker
Start/Duration: January 2 to January 31, 2019
Cost/Discount: Free if you are new to grokker, with a 37-day trial period (but after January 31, access to grokker is $14.99/month OR you can choose to pre-pay a year at $9.99/month OR you can cancel)
Content: 30 videos selected by the grokker team (but you also have access to all of the other videos on grokker during your trial)
Swag: Four winners who accrue more than 100 points will receive an an Apple TV; winners selected via raffle/random drawing from all eligible participants
Disclosure: I signed up for the yoga challenge–why not? I’ve never tried grokker. (Look for a review sometime later…)

The Barre3 January Challenge

Website: https://barre3.com/januarychallenge
Challenge: Follow the barre3 and Headspace Mindfulness Plan
Led by: instructors from barre3 (including founder Sadie!) and Headspace
Start/Duration: January 7 to February 3, 2019
Cost/Discount: $29 online OR $99 in studio
Content: Online option: unlimited access to 500+ Barre3 classes online (auto-renews on February 4, 2019 unless you cancel) OR Studio option: unlimited Barre3 classes in studio and free unlimited access to Barre3 online. Both options include one free month of the Headspace app, the Mindfulness Plan, and daily email with the daily plan.
Swag: None. You can purchase optional equipment (light hand weights, yoga mat, resistance band, core sliders, core ball) when you register.
Disclosure: I’ve enrolled in this challenge twice…and never actually finished it. Oops. Of all of the barre-based workouts, Barre3 is in my top two for quality of instruction and programming, and for being rooted in the science of movement. Unlike so many other barre-based workouts, this one won’t send you straight to the chiropractor!

Whole Life Challenge

Website: https://www.wholelifechallenge.com
Challenge: Commit to seven habits, every day, for six weeks.
Led by: Andy Petranek, Michael Stanwyck, and the WLC team
Start/Duration: January 19 to March 1, 2019 (additional challenges start in April, July, and September)
Cost/Discount: $39 for new players, $29 for returning players; $89 Annual Membership (four challenges)
Content: “The Whole Life Challenge is a six-week online, community-building, habit-changing game that challenges you to create a happier, healthier life by making small changes to your daily habits. Playing along with your friends, and family, you’ll score points every day, focusing on seven key areas of health and well-being: nutrition, exercise, mobilization, sleep, hydration, lifestyle practices, and reflection.”
Swag: Swag includes use of the app to track points, the Whole Self Assessment, and the online community. There are no prizes. The website includes free e-books you can read before you start.
Disclosure: I have zero personal experience with this one. A friend of mine who does shift work has, and he mentioned being disappointed that the app tracked the day as ending at a certain time, causing him to “lose” some days.

30-Day Get Strong in 2019 Challenge

Website: https://www.livestrong.com/article/1012163-30day-slim-down-challenge/ (blog post/preview) https://www.livestrong.com/get-strong-challenge/ (signup)
Challenge: 30 days of exercises and nutrition (new healthy recipes to try out)
Led by: Workouts by Jordan Shalhoub, other content by the Livestrong.com team
Start/Duration: January 2
Cost/Discount: Free
Content: Daily email with a workout, recipes, motivational memes, playlist, and tips and advice. In addition to daily-themed workouts, and a healthy tip for each day, each week also has a health goal. Challengers have access to a Facebook group just for challengers.
Swag: None
Disclosure: I have no experience with this challenge.

Fit Chicks 28-Day Challenge

Website: https://www.fitchicks.ca/challenge
Challenge: Daily workouts and nutrition plans for women to build habits
Led by: Laura Jackson, founder of Fit Chicks
Start/Duration: January 1 to January 31
Cost/Discount: $297 (though the website showed  me a $97 offer)
Content: 28 workouts under 30 minutes, 50 exercise tutorials, 8 streaming workouts, meal plans (vegan and vegetarian options available) with grocery lists, 45 simple recipes, healthy lifestyle videos, daily email motivation, Facebook group, private members site, email support.
Swag: None (that I know of); additional purchases offered at a discount
Disclosure: I have no experience with this challenge; I thought a challenge for women only might appeal to some of my friends. The challenge page has some video workout previews.

The Self Challenge

Website: https://www.self.com/join/sign-up-new-years-challenge
Challenge: workouts and fit tips, including suggested meal plans
Led by: contributors to Shape
Start/Duration: January 2, 2019
Cost/Discount: Free
Content: a workout plan, meal plans, nutrition tips, and more via email. Facebook group to talk all things challenge.
Swag: None, but there are prizes. Sweepstakes prizes include a vacation at the Grand Fiesta American a Coral Beach.
Disclosure: True confession, I have a soft spot for this challenge, which I first participated in way back in the 1990s. This year’s program includes 20 new bodyweight workouts, daily emails with motivation and advice, a Facebook group.

Gixo #FitForward Challenge

Website: Use Alyse’s affiliate link to get your free first week
Challenge: I’m fuzzy on the details right now, but I bet it’s a month of workouts and sharing on social!
Led by: Gixo trainers
Start/Duration: January 1
Cost/Discount: first week is free, then $19.99/month (or $14.99/month if you pre-pay a year)
Content: live audio and video classes via the Gixo app. These are NOT pre-recorded videos you can play over and over, but a live class, with an instructor teaching in real time, and other classmates sweating right there with you.
Swag: Unknown at this time–I’ll update as I learn more!
Disclosure: While I am not (yet?) a Gixo subscriber, I am a Sweat Pink ambassador, and Sweat Pink has an ongoing relationship with Gixo.

Lululemon 40/80 Challenge

Website: https://www.strava.com/challenges/lululemon-40-80-challenge-2019
Challenge: Run 40k or 80k in the first two weeks of the year
Led by: YOU!
Start/Duration: January 2 to January 15, 2019
Cost/Discount: Free (Strava’s premium membership, Summit, is optional; pricing varies–an “all three pack” is $5/month when you pre-pay a year)
Content: Go run! Use Strava to record your runs, or use a device (such as Vi) that connects with Strava.
Swag: Unknown–it’s a surprise every year. Last year there was a discount code good for online or in-store purchases. Also, you get a badge in the Strava app.
Disclosure: I’ve run this one, and am signed up for 2019. If you are training for a race, like to run with friends, or already track your miles, go for it!

New Year Yoga Reboot Challenge

Website: https://www.yogadownload.com/Challenge.aspx
Challenge: 3o minutes of yoga for 30 days
Led by: rotating instructors on the YogaDownload platform
Start/Duration: January 2 to January 131, 2019
Cost/Discount: $12 for one month of unlimited access to Yoga Download ($30 for three months, $90 for a year; all are cancel at any time)
Content: A curated selection of “reset” and “reboot” yoga videos. Log in each day, do that day’s video, and then leave a comment about how it went. NOTE: if you like the idea of a daily yoga challenge but the idea of “reboot” doesn’t do it for you, Yoga Download also has a variety of other challenges (e.g. 5-Day Evening Yoga, 2-Week Yoga for Busy People, etc.).
Swag: Unknown–there is a grand prize package, but I haven’t scoped it out.
Disclosure: I’ve had a Yoga Download membership for years, so I’m in!

 

Other Challenges…

In your neighborhood. Since January is absolutely the most popular challenge month, there are literally dozens of other options. Check the website for your local gym, yoga space, cycling studio, or boutique fitness class for special class packs and challenges.

Online. Also check out Instagram! One of my Sweat Pink sisters, Katie Arnold, aka @iamkatiearnold, is hosting a yoga challenge in 2019. You can read all of the details on her blog: http://www.talkless-saymore.com/weekly-workout-wednesday-13/

Did I miss your favorite? Drop a comment and share it!

 

Disclosure: Merrithew Health & Fitness sponsored Sweat Pink’s BlogFest at IDEA World Convention for several years, and I am thankful for their sponsorship and for the programming they provided. The prizes for this giveaway were provided to me by Merrithew Health & Fitness as part of Sweat Pink’s BlogFest with no strings, no compensation, and no requirements (e.g I was not asked to write a blog post, host a giveaway, or do anything else). The entire contents of this post, including all words and opinions, are my own honest opinions.

Hey, it’s time to celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas! “Wait,” you may be asking, “wasn’t Christmas yesterday?” Indeed, it was! The Twelve Days of Christmas are actually the twelve days in between Christmas (the First Day of Christmas) and the day Christians celebrate as the day the magi (the three wise men/three kings) arrived, also called Epiphany. Traditionally, the last of the twelve days was the day you took down the Christmas decorations (I swear, I am not making this up). You know Shakespeare’s play, Twelfth Night? That’s about the twelfth night of Christmas. But enough of the history lesson…On the SECOND day of Christmas, I offer you this review and giveaway!

Merrithew Fitness Circle Lite (image from Merrithew website)

The Pilates Fitness Circle. If you’ve ever looked at a Pilates Fitness Circle and thought, “that’s a weird gadget that I can’t imagine doing much for me,” I’m with you—I used to think the same thing. (Pilates Fitness Circle Resistance Ring is a trademark of Merrithew Health and Fitness. You may also have seen a similar gadget called by another name: Pilates ring, magic circle, exercise circle, exercise ring.) Even in my Pilates classes, the Fitness Circle was largely used to help with body placement and awareness. It never occurred to me that the Fitness Circle had a role to play in athletic conditioning.

Workout. I took the DVD “Athletic Conditioning with the Fitness Circle” for a test drive, using the Fitness Circle lite. (The Merrithew Fitness Circle also comes in two other models, flex and Pro. Flex provides less resistance and has a unique handle design that differs from the lite and the Pro. Pro is similar in design to lite, but is made of steel instead of plastic; as a result, the price for the Pro is $65.00 while the price for the lite is $34.99. It’s also a bit heavier than the lite.)  This workout is part of Merrithew’s CORE line, focused on athletic conditioning and performance training, so it is not strictly Pilates. According to Moira Merrithew, who introduces the workout, the 27 exercises in the workout are focused on strength, alignment, and efficient biomechanics. I now have an entirely new outlook on the Fitness Circle (and I’m glad I have one of my own!).

Athletic Conditioning with the Fitness Circle (image from Merrithew website)

The workout is led by John Garey, a Master Instructor Trainer for Merrithew Health and Fitness. Two additional Merrithew Instructor Trainers (meaning they train teachers to teach the classes) demonstrate all of the exercises. John’s instruction is clear and detailed, carefully explaining body positioning and movement step-by-step. If you have never done any Pilates or mat-work style exercise before, you’re in good hands with John—just follow his instructions. Of course it is a video, so if you miss an instruction, you can take a look at the movement on the screen and follow along. That said, if these exercises are new to you, there are some exercises you may have a difficult time performing at the same tempo/speed as the DVD. I found this true of the hinge-back with rotation exercise.

The warm-up uses the Fitness Circle to assist with some stretches that may already be familiar to you. Throughout the workout, the Fitness Circle acts as a replacement for a yoga strap in some stretches, which limits both the range of motion (in a good way—making the stretch more stable) and the amount of tension on the wrists and forearms.

DVD and Fitness Circle lite
CORE Athletic Conditioning with the Fitness Circle (and a Fitness Circle lite)

I was skeptical of the “Level of Difficulty” rating, which is four out of five. That is, until about five minutes into the workout, when there is a series of kneeling hinge-backs that incorporate the Fitness Circle. (A “hinge-back” from the kneeling position involves keeping everything from your knees to the top of your head in a line, and taking that line straight back to a 45 degree angle.) Holy quads and abs! Several of the exercises involve using the Fitness Circle either between your ankles (pressing in on the Fitness Circle) or with both feet inside the Fitness Circle (pressing out). I found these more difficult than they looked, as one of my legs is clearly bossier than the other! I enjoyed the variations on classic Pilates exercises, including a modified version of The Hundred and a version of Shoulder Bridge where you press one arm behind you on the Fitness Circle.

What really kicked my butt, however, were the single leg bridge variations. The gist of the exercise is to press up into a bridge pose, then lift one leg while pressing the Fitness Circle into that leg. My other hamstring was ON FIRE. So much so that I couldn’t do even half of the set on either leg. WHOA.

While I am currently not at my optimal level of fitness, I found this DVD very accessible with an appropriate level of challenge. Given my experience teaching yoga to very muscular men, I strongly suspect that serious athletes (like CrossFit junkies) would find at least parts of this program very useful in conditioning smaller muscles that don’t get much love during a typical workout, such as the multifidus, and for the range of motion and movement principles.

Brand new to Pilates type movements? The DVD includes a tutorial on the Five Basic Principles (Breathing, Pelvic Placement, Rib Cage Placement, Scapular Movement & Stabilization, and Head & Cervical [spine] Placement).

Merrithew yellow soft hand weights
Soft hand weights can be incorporated into many yoga and Pilates exercises

Merrithew also offers additional DVDs that use the Fitness Circle as the only prop, including Fitness Circle Flow, the Fitness Circle Challenge, Power Paced Fitness Circle, and Precision & Control: Pilates with the Fitness Circle. If you prefer a workout that incorporates a reformer or more props, you can find more titles on the Merrithew website. Finally, there are a variety of other brands/companies/individuals that produce video content that incorporates the Fitness Circle and you can find many other options online.

 

 

 

This prize pack includes:

  • Merrithew Fitness Circle Lite in black (MSRP $34.99)
  • Athletic Conditioning with the Fitness Circle DVD (MSRP $16.95)
  • Merrithew Soft Dumbbells 1.65 pound each (MSRP $23.99)
  • Miscellaneous treats and surprises
Bain's cat checks out the goodies
Professor Nick Sterling has thoroughly inspected the prizes!

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I AM HUMAN.
My body needs exercise.
My body will always need exercise.
This will never change.
It’s not negotiable—it’s science.

The world is filled with workouts and meal plans, most of them making promises that in X amount of time you can achieve Y result (and all you have to do is stop being so lazy and commit already). A quick walk through the exercise and fitness section of any bookstore demonstrates just how popular this formula is: 40 Days to Personal Revolution, 8 Minutes in the Morning… The last thing the world needs is  another book laying out a rigid plan and making promises that “all you have to do” is follow the plan. So Lyn Lindbergh did NOT write that book.

Couch to Active is a book for anyone who wants to transition from couch-ing to exercising. Though the subtitle is “The Missing Link That Takes You From Sedentary to Active,” I personally hate the term “sedentary” as the starting point.  Truthfully, many people who don’t exercise are not sedentary; instead, they are caring for young children or aging parents, working full time at demanding jobs, and otherwise constantly in motion mentally, if not physically. Lyn’s got your back, perfectly normal, average person with a full, busy life, and this book is for you.

Couch to Active–this could be YOU!

The typical fitness book is written with a mixture of tough love (“suck it up, buttercup”) and praise (“you finished today’s workout—see you tomorrow!”) that can leave you feeling bad and discouraged when you can’t follow the plan to a T. Couch to Active is written with compassion and understanding. A big focus of the book is finding self-compassion while creating YOUR exercise plan for life. I can’t really say “it starts with baby steps” because you, the reader, get to decide how big the steps are, but it does start with self-inquiry and the entire program is about tailoring the plan to your actual life (not the hypothetical one where you sleep 8+ hours every night and have a personal Pilates trainer).

The typical fitness book has a plan laid out and orders you to follow it. While this may work for people with an abundance of motivation, energy, and free time, it doesn’t work for the rest of us. Instead of starting with a one-size-fits-most plan, Couch to Active begins with the premise that “We need to actually enjoy the exercise we do.” From there, Lyn skillfully guides you through some basic premises—injury-free is always the goal, social media can be a help or a harm—and then walks you through a step-by-step system to create your active life. Over the span of eight weeks, Couch to Active asks you to think critically and creatively about your life, your needs, and the barriers and obstacles to the active life you want to lead. While the process is broken down into bite-sized pieces distributed over two months, Lyn points out that you can tackle the work at your own speed—take two weeks, take a year—as long as you tackle it in order. If you’re like me and you hate being told what to do, go ahead and read the whole thing before you start—I concluded the process is laid out in a logical fashion that nudges each participant to succeed.

Couch to Active doubles as a workbook and Lyn encourages readers to write in the book. Each chapter is set up as a week with a theme, a worksheet to plan your exercise, and thinking/writing assignments. There is plenty of space to write in the book, including response pages within each chapter. Exercise worksheets, and extra pages for notes, though you may prefer a separate journal for some of the more introspective portions. Each week, the exercise plan is up to you, and Couch to Active is not snobby about what constitutes “exercise,” recognizing that each reader will start in their own place. Instead of formulaic  workout grids with 10 reps of each exercise, Lyn has created templates that reflect different circumstances that might parallel a real person. Instead of beginner, intermediate, and advanced, the samples have names like “I Hate Exercise, But My Doctor Is Making Me Do This” and “I’m a Chronic Mess of Health Issues.”  Similarly, instead of generic checklists, Couch to Active has the reader create checklists tailored to their exact life circumstances.

Couch to Active is peppered with stories from real people, using their real names, though Lyn has also created two composite characters. These are people you can relate to–with jobs and kids and responsibilities–not celebrities with personal trainers on the payroll and unlimited me-time.

You CAN do this!

 

 

Unlike the typical fitness book, the only promise Couch to Active makes is that if you do the work to design your own active life, tailored to your situation and needs, and then follow your plan, you will end up living an active life. That’s the goal: an Active life.

Need some guidance on how to get to YOUR active life? Win a copy of Couch to Active! I have two to give away. Can’t wait to win one? Buy one here (affiliate link) via Amazon. Want a better price? Go to Lyn’s website, https://www.couchtoactive.com/shop  and get the book directly from the author! You can also join the brand new “Couch to Active” club, for just $11/month. More details at Lyn’s website, HERE.

 

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I’ve been a huge fan of keeping a food and exercise log/journal since I first started to dip my toes into the health and fitness arena. I call it “tracking,” largely because that’s how my Weight Watchers peeps refer to it. Yes, it’s kind of a pain in the butt sometimes, and I’m not 100% compliant with my own goal of tracking every day, but in my experience it’s been a huge help. When I write it down, I stick to my plans. I tend to eat healthier (because who wants to write down, “Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby, 1 pint”??). I tend to workout more because I can see lots of blank space when I haven’t been exercising.

There are many electronic options to track, including free and paid apps and websites where you can track both exercise and food (e.g. My Fitness Pal, Livestrong, FitBit) but I do best when I write things down. For one, I spend so much time on my phone and computer that I don’t really need to find another reason to do that. For two, when I’m using pen and paper it’s easy to track what I had planned versus what I actually did. Or doodle in the margins. Or reward myself with a cool gel pen with funky ink. Finally, I’m more like to review my data if I can thumb through the pages and compare multiple pages at once.

So you might wonder, why bother with tracking? Trust me, it’s not just my personal obsession.

Three reasons you might track

1. Lose Weight

My first experience with tracking was actually when my office started a Weight Watchers group. As part of the program, we kept track of what we ate each day, working to stay within our “points” allowance. Tracking to lose weight is a proven method for adherence to a weight loss program.A study called Long Term Weight Loss Maintenance indicates tracking is also useful for maintenance, noting that some of the factors for long-term success (taken from the National Weight Loss Registry data) include “self-monitoring weight, and maintaining a consistent eating pattern across weekdays and weekends.” (You can read the rest of the abstract for more.)

Mileage Data (Believe Journal)
Mileage Data (Believe Journal)

2. Collect Data

If you’re tracking food intake, you probably know to write down what you ate. Don’t forget to write down how much! You might also write down how you felt afterwards. (I know people who have discovered food sensitivities this way.) Food is really tied up in emotions, and you might discover you’re eating because you are upset or bored!

If you’re tracking workout data, what you track probably depends on what you’re doing. In the P90X programs, Tony Horton recommends writing down how many reps you got through of each exercise (in addition to how much weight you used). If you’re running, you probably want to track time and distance, but you might also want to track weather, road conditions, and other factors that could affect your run.

Tracking both food and exercise allows you to see whether there are correlations (I always run better after a half cup of coffee, I’m miserable if I had champagne the night before), or if you’ve fallen into a habit you’d like to keep up or break up with. Right now I’m also tracking my water intake and hours of sleep.

If you’re really into the idea of collecting up data, you might want to check out the Quantified Self movement and see if there is a meet-up or conference near you.

The big picture page (FitBook)
The big picture page (FitBook)

3. Plan Ahead

If you are training for an event, you probably have some kind of training plan. Runners often plan a certain number of miles or minutes per training day. But planning isn’t just for “those people” (if you’re not one of them!). Maybe you need to plan out your workouts because you’ve got a busy schedule and a full plate, and planning it out ensures it will happen. You could put the workout in your regular calendar like an appointment, then write out the details in your tracker. If you’re following a training plan from a book or magazine, you can pre-write your workout in your tracker. I find carrying my small FitBook much more convenient than bringing the magazine, and I can always note where I made changes or did more reps. Another example, you can use a tracker to plan meals for you or your family (and from that, create your grocery list!). It can save you a bunch of time and money if you plan your meals that way.

Trackers I have known and loved

First, true confession, I’m actually tracking different things in different places. I have a FitBook for food and workouts. I have the Believe Journal for running, where I also write about how the run felt, what I got right and wrong, and my general thoughts about events, etc. I track my weight in the FitBit app. It might seem horribly inefficient to have all this data in different places, but it works for me–I want the graph the FitBit app makes, but I want space to write about my runs. I use the food section of FitBook to track container equivalents from the 21-Day Fix eating plan, but formerly used it to track points.

While you can just grab any notebook and start your own tracker, I’ve not have great success with this. The main issue for me is that since the pages are not organized into days and weeks, it is just too easy to skip a day, and “just for today” turns into “I don’t track anymore.” When I first started tracking I wasn’t sure what I wanted to track, and I tried to do too much, which also made the blank notebooks less than effective. I enjoy the graphic elements of the published trackers as well.

An example of my inspiration collages
An example of my inspiration collages

Weight Watchers

There is a WeWa app now, and some of my friends love it. I’ve never tried it, in part because I found the website quite buggy when I tried to use it to track. Instead, I used the spiral-bound purse-sized trackers. Note that there is a free downloadable tracker, and those attending meetings can pick up single-week trackers (or used to be able to do so–I’ve not checking up on it lately). The link leads to the current journal, which is a 12-week hardcover, because I couldn’t find the spiral-bound one online. Pros: highly portable, used the covers for inspiration collages. Cons: not much room to track exercise, frequently ran out of room to write.

Red for 2015; Lavender for 2016!
Red for 2015; Lavender for 2016!

Believe Journal

This is a running-specific journal, with information, inspiration, and worksheet-like activities between the regular weekly tracking pages. It was created by professional runners Lauren Fleshman and Roisin McGettigan-Dumas. You don’t have to be a runner to use it though–you could use the weekly pages for any activity, the yearly overview for planning, and the worksheets apply to almost every sport. There are some runner-specific information sections that don’t cross-apply though, including a variety of speed workouts, pace charts, and training plans.  Pros: plenty of room to write, spaces are customizable, textured cover, knowledge bombs/content. Cons: too large to carry around in a purse, not designed to track both exercise and food.

Workouts on the left, foods on the right
FitBook: Workouts on the left, foods on the right

FitBook

I first met FitBook at IDEA World in…wow, 2010. FitBook had a table at the expo, and I was so excited at how much better the format would be for my purposes. FitBook has a place to record stats other than weight, a weekly planning page, and a weekly summary page with space to journal, reflect on the week and how to move forward. There are two daily pages; the left side is for exercise and the right side is for food. The FitBook website and email newsletter deliver some great content for free, including inspiration, receipts, and printable calendars and goals worksheets. Pros: lots of space to track both food and exercise, largely blank areas are highly customizable, spiral binding lays flat for easy use. Cons: some might find it too big to carry daily.

A giveaway!

FitBook and FitBook Lite
FitBook and FitBook Lite

I’ve got ONE brand new FitBook Lite! The “lite” version of FitBook is a six week version of it’s big sister, FitBook. Once you’ve got FitBook Lite in your hands, you can downdload a free kickstart ebook with a meal plan, recipes, tips, and a workout plan guide. Please note: this giveaway is not sponsored by FitBook (or anyone else) in any way.

a Rafflecopter giveaway