My aching back!

When my muscles start screaming, I know they are overworked and need a little TLC. In my earlier days, I would have popped a few Advil and called it a day, but now I rely on natural methods of pain relief. Here are a few things you can do to ease muscle tension and discomfort.

Drink more water

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Don’t like drinking water? Make it into an hourly game or buy fun water bottles like this one!

I think the girls in my challenge groups must be sick of me saying “drink more.” What happens when flowers don’t get enough water? They dry up. What happens when lakes don’t get enough water? They dry up. What happens when your body doesn’t get enough water? You literally dry up – flaky skin, brittle hair, chapped lips, etc. Hydrate your body and your muscles to help increase your energy and prevent muscle cramping.

Stretch

Never underestimate the power of the cool down. I used to hate this so much. Once I was done with the meat of the workout, I was DONE. That meant no extra time to stretch out those muscles I just literally worked to the bone. It hurt, and I quickly learned my lesson. Think of it as your reward for finishing a tough sweat sesh – your muscles and body deserve it. I also recommend stretching or light yoga just before bed to prevent cramping at night.

Eat up post-workout

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I love Icelandic yogurt with berries and pistachios post-workout. It’s a nice treat!

I never miss an opportunity for a snack! After working out, you’ll want something to fuel the day as well as calm inflammation, aid in muscle repair, and improve mental focus. I have a brand of gluten free post-workout bars that I absolutely LOVE, but you can also opt for eggs, a protein shake, grilled chicken, oatmeal, bananas, cottage cheese, berries, or a handful of nuts.

Take a warm bath

Nothing is more soothing than a warm bath with lots of bubbles. Add some Epsom salts and lavender essential oil and take a deep soak. Both help to ease the tension in your muscles and joints.

Rub on some essential oils

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I use these two oils post workout and also diffuse the lavender one throughout the day.

There are a host of oils that are good for post workout – cinnamon bark, wintergreen, and basil (for sore muscles and joints), grapefruit (lessons mental and physical fatigue), lavender (eases muscle tension), and peppermint (clears breathing). Diffuse in the air or rub directly on your skin. For sensitive skin, you’ll want to use a carrier oil or cream. Just mix a drop or two of your essential oil with your carrier and apply. I only use 100% pure essential oils of high quality so I know I’m putting the good stuff in my body.

Try a foam roller

Foam rollers improve flexibility and also help to massage tired, achy muscles. For this reason, it might be painful at first, but after prolonged use, it will feel oh so good! Benefits include the reduced likelihood of injury, better sleep, boosted energy, and soothed muscles aches.

Get some rest

wp-1501720797577.If you’re feeling sore, don’t overdo it. Curl up with a book or find something on Netflix and then get a good 7-8 hours of sleep. Your body needs time to recharge and create energy, so don’t skimp out on those old fashioned zzzs!

How do you relieve your achy muscles?

The Weight Loss Equation 

Did you know that there’s a pill you can take before bed that shrinks your waist by a few inches before morning? No? Well, that’s because it doesn’t exist (yet, anyway). Losing weight and keeping it off takes work. The equation is simple, but the process isn’t always easy.

Healthy Eating + Exercise = A Healthier You

I used to think that I could work out 3-5 days a week and keep eating crap. Then, when I didn’t see any movement on the scale I would get discouraged and give up. That’s the cycle most of us fall into. One day of bad eating or a missed workout isn’t going to do damage, but if it becomes a habit, it will. Like so, one good day of working out and eating clean won’t produce change.  It’s like Darren Hardy describes in his book The Compound Effect, small movements or actions over time will add up.

Make Healthy Choices

I love pizza and wish I could eat it every day. I still enjoy it, but in moderation. Instead of four slices, I’ll have 1-2 (depending on the size) with a side salad. Eat lean protein, healthy fat, good carbs, veggies, and minimal fruit. I don’t follow a specific diet or base my daily meals off the food pyramid. I’m mostly paleo, like the idea of the Whole30 plate structure, severely limit processed junk, and use portion control containers to make sure I’m not overdoing it. I don’t recommend one eating program over the next – I think you should do what’s right for your body and your lifestyle. I will say that I’m totally against smoking and any other unhealthy habits that cause bodily harm. Do yourself a favor and keep it clean!

Know Your Triggers

Are there foods that you love so much that you just can’t stop eating them once you get started? I feel that way about sour patch kids (a processed food exception!), kettle corn, and black cherries, to name a few. You might be thinking, “Whoa, wait a minute, cherries are healthy.” And they are – in moderation. But they are a food with no breaks for me, which means I can easily eat a full bag. And that can pack in over 300 calories, 52 grams of sugar, and 76 carbohydrates. Even though they are rich in vitamins and minerals, natural foods can be dangerous too. When possible, I do best when I limit trigger foods, because I know I really can’t get away with eating just one.

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These are the 21 Day Fix Portion Control Containers I use to get the right amounts!

Eat Slowly

It takes about 20 minutes for us to feel full (unless you’re me because I have the stomach of a dog and can eat for days. Second dinner, anyone?) Sit down to eat and chew slowly. It’s not a race and you don’t have to be the first one finished.

Eat The Correct Portions

When you go out to eat, your meal is generally not just one portion. That’s why most of us end up taking the leftovers home for another time. When you prepare and serve your own food, stick to the recommended serving sizes on the packaging. It really does make a world of difference because the serving sizes are usually much less than we would expect.

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This is a serving of fruit – 1 cup.

Stop Eating When You’re Full

Remember when your mom used to make you clean your plate? Well, you’re not 6 anymore. Don’t feel guilty about stopping when you’re full. You don’t have to toss the food – save it for the next day’s lunch.

Burn More Calories Than You Consume

I don’t advocate counting calories, because 150 calories of ice cream and 150 of grilled chicken will NOT get you the same results. So, sometimes it’s pointless. But I recently started plugging my daily meals and snacks into my Fitbit App and man was I stunned. Maybe horrified is a better word. What I thought was a a relatively healthy breakfast – lemon poppy seed muffin and a strawberry sunshine smoothie – turned into an 810 calorie breakfast. I think my reaction was “Holy Shit.” I didn’t count my calories for about a month after that experience. And then I decided to change how I was eating. Muffins = not good for me because they are loaded with carbs and sugar and don’t keep me full. My daily intake now is about 1,200 calories of predominately paleo (and healthy) foods. See what works for your body and run with it.

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Calories burned after a kick-ass MMA inspired workout.

Drink Water

I can’t say it enough. I even wrote a post about it last year. Water is good for everything – your skin, muscle soreness and recovery, your kidneys, the list goes on. Get a water bottle you like and drink up. I really like my Healthy Human water bottle because it keeps my water cold for hours and even overnight.

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This is my LIFESAVER. Without it, I wouldn’t get in my daily ounces.

Move Your Body

When you have a desk job, it isn’t always easy to get moving. I typically get 9,000-11,000 steps in per day, but I’m always on the move (I’ll save that for another post). You can easily add a few steps by walking to the break room to refill your water bottle or taking a trip to the farthest bathroom. When driving to a destination, don’t wait for a front row spot to open up. Park at a distance and take a leisurely stroll. Window shop!

Find A Workout You Love*

I used to hate working out. I don’t enjoy anything that causes me to be in pain – like bikini waxes (*shudders*). I stumbled upon a dance workout that is super fun and I love it! It’s good to mix it up and include cardio, weight lifting, yoga, HIIT, and others. You want to be motivated enough to workout at least 5 days a week. If one program doesn’t work, try another, and keep trying until you find your fit.

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Photo is the property of Beachbody, LLC.

Ditch The Scale

I’m serious. I weigh more now than I did in college, but I’m in better shape. Remember that muscle weighs more than fat. Focus on the non-scale victories. Do your pants fit better? Can you see that definition in your arms? Are you sleeping better? Do you have fewer cravings? The list of benefits goes on and on.

Reward Yourself, But Not With Food

I used to let myself have ice cream or candy after a workout because I thought I deserved it. Now that sounds completely ridiculous to me. Today I prefer a sudsy shower or bubbly bath. You shower every day after your workout (I would hope!), so why not make it something to really look forward to? I have sugar scrubs, rich lathers, and a nice cream to put on after. I save the baths for when my muscles are sore and drop in a bath bomb, some Epsom salts, or a scented bubble bar. Candles are a nice touch too!

To recap, there is no special pill, miracle cream, or pixie dust that will make you a size 2. It just takes consistency, persistence, motivation, and willpower. Keep it up and you’ll see results before you know it.

*Visit teambeachbody.com/KPfitMiss for more information on workout programs, to sign up for Beachbody On Demand, and to request me as your FREE coach!

 

Keep on blazin’ on

What is the Fitbit Blaze? A smart watch that, in addition to telling time, allows you to track your steps, calories burned, heart rate, and log daily exercise, among other things.
Who is it for? Anyone who wants to track daily activity, up their fitness game, add challenges, and look stylish while doing so.

Price. Starts out at $199.95, but can be caught on sale.

Why I like it

Stylish. The watch has received criticism for its 80s-like retro feel. (As if that were a bad thing!) I prefer the Fitbit’s rectangular shape over a circular watch face. But really, it’s just about personal preference.

Comfortable. I’ll admit that when I first saw the watch in person, I wasn’t sure I would be able to sleep with it. It’s pretty large in comparison to my small wrist. BUT, like (un-itchy) clothing, once you have it on, you don’t really feel it anymore. The band is soft and flexible and there are plenty of holes to find the right fit. I don’t even notice it while sleeping.

Awesome App. The app is very user friendly and automatically syncs to the watch to provide you with updated stats upon launch. You can see your steps, miles traveled, calories burned, time exercised, sleep quality, and so much more. You can even look at trends for the week or month. It also shows you how much battery is left and when you need a recharge. It’s really awesome and gets an A++ from me.

Move Reminders. If you have a desk job, you’ll appreciate the hourly reminders to get up and move. Small movements throughout the day add up – if you take 250 steps each hour while at work, you will have taken 2,000 by the time you quit for the night. Take a walk to refill your water, grab a cup of tea, or, like I prefer, walk to the farthest bathroom and back.

Sleep. Easily track your sleep quality and habits, and awake to a silent alarm each morning. I wasn’t sure that the slight vibrations would wake me up. They do. The problem is hitting snooze!

Customizable. There are so many fun ways to switch up your style. Fitbit sells a variety of interchangeable bands, but some cost upwards of $75. Check eBay for many bands under $5. You can also change the way the clock displays – there are 9 digital and analog styles to choose from.

Battery Life. The battery lasts about 4 days, which is fantastic (and a lot longer than other smart watches). You also get a pretty long warning before the system shuts down. Mine blinked red for over 8 hours and I was able to plug it in before it flat lined (not ideal, but it happens).

Why some people don’t

Display. The Blaze has been criticized for NOT having an Always On display. I can tell you that I’m not a fan of always on for two reasons – it drains the battery faster and it is kind of annoying. With the Blaze, you click the left button to turn on the screen and it stays on for a few seconds – long enough to check the time, the date, and your stats. You can also raise your wrist (as if to check the time) and the display will appear. If that’s a total deal breaker, you might want to look into other smart watches.

It’s not waterproof. I’ve had other activity trackers that you can shower and swim with. It would make it more convenient, but it’s not a must for me. I just remove it with the rest of my jewelry before I hop in the shower and put it back on when I’m done. No big deal.

Charging. The only thing I’m not crazy about is the method of charging. You have to pop the device out of the band / unit and put it into the charging “dock.” I would much prefer wireless charging, or another method that doesn’t require disassembling the unit. But it does only take about 2 hours to get a full charge that lasts 4 days – I definitely can’t complain about that.

These future upgrades would be totally awesome

Notifications. You can get multiple notifications – text, email, calendar appointments, etc. sent straight to your Blaze. I wish you could respond to them with a touch of a finger, but you can’t. While the watch is smart, it’s a smart FITNESS watch, with fitness being the top priority. Future models could include the ability to respond and I’m sure the ratings would be off the charts.

FitStar. The watch comes with a built-in module called FitStar, which helps you to get fit anywhere through body weight workouts. You can do a warm-up, 7-minute workout, or 10-minute abs. The problem? If you don’t use the application, you can’t remove it. Is it annoying? Not to me, but I’ve seen a few complaints about it. Future models could suppress this feature.

Camera. Typical smart watches include the ability to point the camera with the phone and snap a picture from the watch. What an awesome feature this would be on the Blaze. The technology to make a shutter button is out there – think Bluetooth selfie sticks!

The icing on the cake (AKA why this is my must-have fitness gadget)

Heart Rate

  • I started tracking my stress levels and heart rate a few months ago to see if they were migraine triggers. I know that my resting heart rate is between 68 and 72, so when I’m feeling stressed or upset, I can check the watch and see if there is any elevation. Of course there usually is. I know that when my heart rate is elevated I need to practice some relaxation techniques to bring it down.
  • I can also track my heart rate during exercise to see what my average and max heart rates are and when I’m in the fat burning zone. This is also really helpful if you are looking to lose weight.

Calories Burned

  • I had another fitness tracker that wasn’t so great at the calorie tracking. I was getting so discouraged because my morning cardio workouts were only registering as 33 calories burned. I felt like I was just wasting my time. With the Blaze, I can see that I’m burning over 200 calories for every 30 minutes of exercise. That really motivates me to keep it up!

Smart Features

  • This is not just your typical fitness tracker. You can see your texts and calls, and control your music with the tap of your finger. This comes in handy at work when I need to pause my music or audiobook to take a call or if someone stops by my desk – it’s faster than pausing through the phone.

Badges

  • You can earn different badges for exercise milestones and then share them on Facebook or Twitter. When I was in Colorado in early December and we hiked up a gigantic mountain, I got a Stadium badge for climbing 150 floors in a day! I’ll probably never get close to that again, but it was a pretty awesome achievement.

 

Bottom Line: This is, hands-down, the best investment you could make for your personal health. Why? Because you will either see your fitness efforts paying off, which will push you to keep going OR you will realize how inactive you really are during the day and form better habits. I would totally recommend this to a friend.

Fall fun

Autumn is my favorite season. I love the crisp hoodie weather, the crunch of the leaves, spooky Halloween stories, carved pumpkins, all things apple (crisp, cider, pie), spicy scents, and the thrill of it. Most of all, I love that you can move around and be outside without sweating bullets. It’s one of the best times to get out and get moving. And what better way to do that, then to check out some of the area’s best haunted attractions!

My fiancé and I started a tradition of going around to different haunted houses hayrides each weekend in October. This will be our fourth year. Not only is it a crazy good time, but between the scares, belly laughs, and trekking through cornfields and woods, it’s also a pretty awesome way to burn a few calories. And afterwards, you can enjoy a few fall snack to put those calories (and then some) back on. Uhhh…triple win?!

I’m really not sure what’s going on in the state of Pennsylvania, but they have some kickass haunts. They are perfectly creepy, gory, and even funny. But beware, because if you are traveling from New York or another state that has strict rules about practically everything, you will be in for a shock. Some of the haunts in PA don’t have any metal detectors or security checks, and actors are allowed to touch you. (Touch you in the sense that they can poke, prod, run fingers through hair, and in some cases, put you in a cage or jump up on a wagon and drag you off.) Call me crazy, but I think these things add to the suspense, fear, and entertainment.

Tips

  • Plan Ahead – We (well, I) like to map out our haunts in September so we have a clear action plan. Some of the places we travel to are over 3 hours away (this is serious stuff!). If you don’t want to drive 6 hours or more round trip, you could see about hotels or other things you could do in the area and make a weekend trip out of it.
  • Visit Early – Most attractions are open the last two weekends of September, which is actually the perfect time to go. (Keep this in mind for next year.) Lines are short and you can get by with paying for the base ticket instead of upgrading (see below). 
  • Dress in Layers – Fall weather is unpredictable. Remember the time it snowed on Halloween? It’s always a good idea to wear pants if you will be in a wooded area (think deer ticks). I usually opt for jeans, boots, a long sleeve shirt, and a fleece jacket. One time last year we needed hand and foot warmers because the wagon ride was so cold. Just check the weather before you go.
  • Wear Proper Footwear – This shouldn’t have to be said, but still – don’t wear flip-flops, sandals, or heels because…duh. Wear something that will support your feet while walking on uneven ground. Boots or sneakers are always a good choice.
  • Splurge for the VIP Pass – When it comes to haunted attractions (and amusement parks), I really believe in going all-out. You might spend $25 or more per person for a VIP ticket, but that will allow you to skip the lines and go first. Why is this a big deal? Believe it or not, you could be waiting in line for hours before you even get to go through one attraction. That just sucks the fun right out of everything. Do yourself a favor – get this pass and you can do the royalty wave to everyone else as you board your wagon first.

My Top Attractions

#4 – Bates Motel and Haunted Hayride

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

Location: Glen Mills, PA

Cost:

  • $40 – Friday/Saturday (Base) Combo
    • General admission to all three events
  • $75 – Friday/Saturday VIP Combo
    • Front of the line privileges to all three events
  • $100 – Friday/Saturday Super VIP Combo
    • Front of the line privileges to all three events, PLUS: VIP parking, hot dog, popcorn, soft drink, and t-shirt

Theme: The Walking Dead Meets Prehistoric Times

Duration: 90 minutes (minimum)

Review: There were zombies, there were dinosaurs. There were also spiders, snakes, and clowns. A scare for everyone. It was just okay. We went on a weekend in September – there weren’t any lines so we were able to get by on just the base ticket. There were only three attractions – hayride, corn maze, and haunted house. The theme was a bit odd, but the special effects were pretty great. I love Psycho and A&E’s Bates Motel series, but there was little connection to both. I think the majority of my disappointment stems from just wanting more.

Bottom Line: If you’re in the area, I would recommend checking it out for a fun evening. But if you have to drive over an hour, I would say skip it.

#3 – Headless Horseman

My Rating: 4 Stars

Location: Ulster Park, NY

Cost:

  • It’s cheaper to buy tickets online, but plan ahead because tickets are non-refundable due to weather. You can, however, use them for another night.
  • $43.90 + tax – Online Ticket
  • $46.95 + tax – On-site Ticket
  • $25 extra for Scream Pass (aka VIP badge of honor)

Theme: The Horseman’s Span

Duration: 2.5-3 hours (depending on wait times)

Review: There are 10 attractions (including a hayride, corn maze, and several haunted houses) and a little “village” of gift shops and cafes, which makes for a full evening of fun. All guests must go through a bag check / metal detector after purchasing tickets. Keep this in mind because that line gets long fast and all ticket holders are considered equal until you pass through the gates. The hayride theme changes slightly every year, but the other attractions are pretty much “fixed.” So once you’ve seen it, you’ve seen it. But you can have favorite parts, which makes it pretty cool. I like that this place is local (for me) and it’s been a tradition of mine since I was about 8 years old.

Bottom Line: If you live in or near the Hudson Valley, make it a point to visit at least once. It really is a lot of fun.

#2 Pennhurst Haunted Asylum

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Location: Spring City, PA

Cost:

  • $16-21 – Individual Attraction Tickets
  • $42 – Combo Pass
    • General admission to 3 haunted attractions
  • $47 – Super Combo Pass
    • General admission to 4 haunted attractions
  • $78 – Pennhurst VIP Pass
    • Front of the line privileges to all 4 haunted attractions
  • Note: online tickets have varying service charges

Theme: Insane Asylum

Duration: Approx. 2 hours

Review: This place is really cool because it is actually an asylum turned haunted house. The original buildings have been repurposed to create a haunted insane asylum, catacombs, and more. There isn’t a hayride, but you won’t be disappointed by the 3 main attractions: Pennhurst Asylum, Dungeon of Lost Souls, and Tunnel Terror. There are creepy clowns and walking dead, but the real terror here is the idea of the insane asylum and the horrible things that were probably done there. That and the fact that you spend a lot of time walking in near darkness and through strobe lights. The 4th attraction, Ghost Hunt, is just okay.  You get to walk through one of the asylum buildings that has been preserved to see if you can spot any ghosts. Spoiler Alert: there aren’t any. And once you see it, there’s really no need to visit the attraction again.  While you are waiting on the lines you may or may not be terrorized by the cast members. Luckily, the VIP pass will help you avoid this. Again, do the royalty wave as you enter.

Bottom Line: You’ve gotta go. I’m sure this one will be on your list for years to come.

 #1 Reaper’s Revenge Haunted Attraction

My Rating: 5 Stars

Location: Scranton, PA

Cost – CASH ONLY (ATM on site)

  • $35– General Admission
  • $60 – VIP Package
  • $3 – Parking
  • Note: online tickets have a $2.75 service charge

Theme: All Things Creepy

Duration: 75-90 minutes (minimum)

Review: I’ll admit that the cash only rule is a little annoying and silly. It’s 2016 – who carries cash anymore? But don’t let that minute detail deter you! There are 4 attractions including a hayride, a “Lost Carnival” themed walk in the woods, a pitch black maze, and “Bio-Nuclear Attack” themed outdoor haunt. There are zombies, hillbillies, spiders, government officials (super scary), and the Grim Reaper and Michael Myers make appearances out in the woods. There’s also something really cool that happens during the hayride, but you’ll have to just take my word for it because saying too much would just ruin it. The Lost Carnival was really fun – creepy fun. The pitch black maze is exactly how it sounds – it’s pretty terrifying. The combination of so many different attractions and a super long and enjoyable hayride makes this my number one choice. We were laughing, we were screaming, we were having so much fun. We wanted to do it again.

Bottom Line: Make the trip. I don’t care if you’re in California, Florida, or Toronto. It’s worth it.

I hope you go and have a great time this fall. I’d love to know if I’m missing out on any good ones 🙂

Happy October!