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New Year’s Resolutions-friend or foe?

AFF

Asheville Family Fitness strong!

We’re back! After a much too long hiatus (Sam, we miss you), we’ve resuscitated our blog. And couldn’t be a better time! This is the time of year that many, possibly even you, decide to make positive change in their lives and get in shape. GO YOU! Don’t listen to the naysayers or statisticians that poo-poo the new years resolution-ers with balloon-popping data of drop out rates, unmet goals, and more inches to the waist-line. NO, you’re going to do it! And we’re going to help! Over the next 3 months we’re going to post

tips backed by research to help you stay focused & achieve your new year goals. Plus, were going to be posting and sharing exercises & videos on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/AshevilleFamilyFitness) to help you avoid injury.

So, without further ado….

Here are some tips from experts that REALLY WORK:

  1. Set realistic, attainable goals. If you’re learning how to play the piano, you wouldn’t set Beethoven’s 5th as your goal would you? Of course not. There’s nothing wrong with setting an easily attainable goal. Once you meet it, you’ll give yourself the feeling of accomplishment & success, and that will help build your momentum. Now set another, more challenging goal…and so on. Just like taking a flight of stairs, tackle…1… at… a… time.
  2. Have a workout buddy or partner. Lots of research says that this is the #1 factor that consistent exercisers have in common. Got an old friend or co-worker you’ve been wanting to connect with? Call them up, chances are they’ve been thinking about getting in shape too (we all do at one point or another, don’t we?). Need to mend some holiday bridges with a sibling or family member? Great opportunity to hold out an olive branch.
  3. Food journal. Simply keeping track of exactly what you’re putting in your mouth and when creates HUGE changes in your diet-research proves it. Successful programs like Weight Watchers have been doing that for years, and continue to, so it must work. But you can start simple & do it yourself: there are lots of free ones on the internet and inexpensive ones elsewhere-Wal Mart even carries one. Then the stage is set for you to begin shedding that extra weight and improving the way you look AND (more importantly) feel.
  4. Motivation is what gets you started, habit is what keeps you going. If you’re reading this, you probably have the motivation, but what you need to create is the habit. Don’t look short term (“I want to lose 30# for that party coming up”) but think long term (“I want to prevent my joints from wearing out.” or “I want to not only be around for, but be physically able to play and have fun with, my grand kids.”)

Implement these tips right away and they will add to your success in the new year, I promise!

Damon

Bust Out of Your Salad Rut with These 4 Original Recipes

Radish salad

The transition of seasonal change — even though it happens every year, four times — is always a bit… funky.

Not only are you swapping out your wardrobe, adjusting to the additional hours of daylight, and digging through your storage room for dust-covered box fans, but all of a sudden your well-oiled-machine of a mealtime routine goes to pieces. Who wants slow-cooker turkey chili when it’s 75 degrees outside?

It’s time to dust off the old salad spinner, y’all. And I’ve got four fancy-feeling salads that you’ll actually be excited to dig into.

Strawberry Fields

Serves: 1  Prep Time: 15 mintues

  • 3 leaves Lacinato kale, cut into ribbons
  • 4-5 Romaine leaves, cut into ribbons
  • 4 basil leaves, cut into ribbons
  • Handful alfalfa or broccoli sprouts
  • 2 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 5-6 strawberries, quartered
  • 1/4 C walnuts
  • 1/4 C goat or cow feta crumbles
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Black pepper to taste

1. Arrange greens and sprouts in a large bowl and toss to combine.

2. Top with radish slices, berries, nuts and cheese, and drizzle vinegar and oil over everything. Season with lots of black pepper.

Spring Green Salad 

Serves: 1  Prep Time: 15 minutes

  • 2 handfuls mixed baby spinach & arugula
  • 3-4 dandelion greens, chopped
  • 2-3 romaine leaves, torn
  • Handful alfalfa sprouts
  • 5 strawberries, cut into fourths
  • 2 T goat cheese, crumbled
  • Small handful of chopped walnuts
  • Drizzle balsamic vinegar
  • Drizzle olive oil
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine greens, sprouts, and strawberries in a large bowl, toss to combine. Top with walnuts and goat cheese.

2. In a separate container, mix vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper. Take to work and dress salad just before serving.

3. To make this a bit more hearty, add some sliced turkey.

Fennel Apple Salad

Serves: 1  Prep Time: 15 minutes

  • 4 T fresh orange juice
  • 1 1/2 T fresh lemon juice
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 3 tsp chopped fresh tarragon
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, thinly sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch watercress, tough stems removed
  • 3 handfuls of baby spinach
  • 1/4 C chopped walnuts

1. Mix juices, oil, tarragon, mustard, and salt in a large bowl. Add salad ingredients and toss to coat.

Chard & Cherries Salad

Serves: 2  Prep time: 10 minutes

  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, shredded (you can dice the stalks if you want, or save them for stock)
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • Big handful alfalfa sprouts
  • 3 radishes, thinly sliced
  • ½ a green apple, thinly sliced
  • ½ T nutritional yeast
  • Handful dry-roasted sunflower seeds
  • Handful dried cherries

Combine everything except the yeast & sunflower seeds in a big bowl and toss with dressing. Just before serving, sprinkle yeast & seeds.

For the dressing:

  • Equal parts apple cider vinegar & extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic
  • Dash coconut nectar (optional)
  • 1 tsp dried tarragon
  • Sea salt & black pepper to taste

Mix it all together and enjoy. You might need to adjust the seasonings depending on how much liquid you use. This is best if you make it early and let it sit for a few days. It doesn’t need to go in the fridge.

Salad doesn’t have to be boring. You just need a little variety!

P.S. This will be my last blog post for AFF. The blog will stay live for several months to come, so you can access all of my previous posts forever and ever.

If you want to keep up with my writing, follow me on Medium.com, where I’m writing about insomnia, the power of silence, Prince, and… well, whatever the fork I want.

Peace out!

Samantha Pollack, Holistic Health Coach & owner of Insider Wellness
 
 
 
 

Samantha Pollack, Holistic Health Coach, Insider Wellness

I’ve been cooking for a long time.

My sister and I always had to help with dinner. (I was in charge of the salad.)

When I moved into my first apartment, I thought, “Crap! I don’t know how to cook anything. I’m gonna starve and/or eat Ramen noodles every day.”

My mom gave me a handwritten recipe book of all her family dinner staples. And you know what? I was halfway into my first batch of chicken picatta when I realized — I DO know how to cook. I’ve been learning for years.

Sneaky moms. 😉

Over the years, I’ve gotten better. Faster. And… lazier.

There are certain cooking-related tasks that are just a pain in the assss-paragus, if you know what I mean.

 

Here are my favorite, can’t-live-without-them, hacks for making cooking WAY more fun.

1. Not chopping onions. I decided a couple years ago, I would never chop an onion again. I cut them in half long ways, then slice into half moons. ALWAYS. If you need smaller pieces you just slice really really thin half moons.

2. Give your greens some air. You know how greens get all slimy and gross-smelling when they sit in the fridge for too long? It’s because they need to breathe. Poke a few holes in the plastic bag before storing in the fridge. The same works for sprouts.

3. Smash garlic in a dish towel. UGH. Peeling garlic is the worst. To save time (and get some crazy out of your system), wrap the entire clove in a dish towel, then bang the heck out of it against the counter. Open it up, and all the garlic will be separated from the peel. Save what you don’t need in a sealed container in the fridge. You’re welcome.

4. How to clean mushrooms the right way: Use a damp dish towel to gently wipe the dirt off each mushroom. Don’t run them under water; they’ll turn slimy. (Bonus tip: save the stems for chicken stock!)

5. The easiest chicken stock ever. Place a 3-4 pound chicken in your slow cooker, on a bed of celery, carrots, and onion (just rough cuts; no need to chop). Cook for 4-6 hours on low. Remove the chicken, carve, and eat, leaving the veggies, drippings, etc. in the pot. Return the carcass to the slow cooker, with 8 cups of water, some bonus vegetable scraps (like those mushroom stems), and a few sprigs of fresh rosemary. Cook on low for 8-12 hours. Cool, strain, and you’re done.

6. Speaking of chicken stock, add it to everything. If you have homemade stock on hand, add it to all your home-cooked dishes for a flavor boost. Add a splash to your stir fry. Steam your greens in it. Simmer beans with some onions and peppers for an easy weeknight meal. Cook your rice in half stock and half water. The applications are endless.

7. Only cook with wine you’d actually drink. Okay, so this isn’t really a hack, but wine is important. Don’t use weeks-old wine or $1.50 swill. If you wouldn’t drink it, don’t put it in your food.

8. Sharpen your knives at Ace hardware. Okay — those “sharpening sticks” that come with most knife sets? They’re actually called honers, and their job is to keep your knives true — as in, not crooked. To get them sharpened, let the professionals do it. Your local hardware store will do it for about $7 a knife. You’ll have to live without said knife for a few days though, so plan ahead.

9. No-peel applesauce. Most people don’t make their own applesauce because of all that peeling. Well, you can skip that step. Check out the recipe here.

10. How to separate leafy greens from their stalks: Hold the bottom of the stalk in your right hand. Grip the stem with your left hand, just above the right. In one quick movement, pull the entire stem, hard, with your right hand. The leaf should stay in your left hand, and the stem will remain in your right. This works best with curly kale and other firm greens, but it’ll work for all of them.

11. Frozen vegetables. Vegetables are frozen at peak freshness, so you’re not skimping on flavor or nutrition by going frozen. I always have a couple bags of broccoli, green beans, butternut squash, and whatever else strikes my fancy. Just stick to plain old veggies (none of these weird flavor explosions), and you’re good. Great on busy weeknights.

12. Blend your smoothies for a really long time. When you make a smoothie, does that smooth, creamy texture seem to elude you in favor of blueberry skins and tiny pieces of spinach that stick in your teeth? Blend your smoothie for at least one full minute, sometimes two, to eliminate even the tiniest chunks.

13. Clean your coffee pot with lemons, ice cubes, and salt. This is an old trick from the restaurant industry, and nothing works better. Cut a lemon in half. Squeeze the juice into your coffee pot, and throw the lemon halves in there too. Add ice cubes and kosher salt, and swirl around until the stain goes away. Then rinse really well, so your coffee doesn’t taste like a lemon drop. This will also work on tea stains or dingy soup pots.

Got some kitchen hacks of your own? Don’t be stingy — share!

How to Eliminate Soda in 4 Short Weeks (and Never Miss It!)

Soda!

Now that you have an arsenal of soda alternatives, you’re well on your way to ditching it forever (just in time for summer)!

If that doesn’t sound so exciting to you, don’t worry — we’ve got you covered.

This four-week plan will wean you off gently and easily. It’s designed to minimize cravings and withdrawal, and if you stick to it, you could be soda-free in four short weeks!

WEEK ONE

We’ll start by cutting your soda intake by a third (roughly). You can do this in one of two ways:

  • Drop a serving completely (I’d start from the end of the day and work your way up), or…
  • Consume about 1/3 smaller serving each time.

Do this by diluting your soda with seltzer, or simply enjoying a smaller amount.

Also, before you consume each serving of soda, drink at least 8 ounces of water FIRST.

WEEK TWO

Reduce your intake by another third. Apply the same methods as week one.

If you’re only consuming one serving of soda a day, you can probably shorten this whole process by a week, or even two. You can only wean yourself so far until you run out of soda. 🙂

Continue to have your 8+ ounces of water before each serving of soda. And this week, add one glass of water to your overall intake.

WEEK THREE

Wherever you are, reduce your soda intake by half.

If you’re still consuming enough soda that diluting it makes sense, go for it.

Otherwise, you’re probably at the point where a 50% reduction equals dropping one of your servings completely.

If you’re already down to one serving per day, don’t reduce the soda itself; but do drop a day, so you’re only having it every other day.

Add a second additional glass of water to your day as well. The best way to ensure you’re consuming enough water is to start each day with a pint glass of water, before you do or drink anything else.

(And yup, still drinking water before soda. You may find that after the water, you no longer want the soda as much.)

WEEK FOUR

Here’s where we rip the band-aid off, y’all.

If you’re already down to every other day, switch to every two days. (Or, if you’re ready, try to go completely soda-free, treating your go-to soda beverage as just that — a special treat.)

Implement two — or three, or even four, if you’re ready — soda-free days this week. Have as many soda alternatives as you need to, but stay away from the hard stuff.

If, with the recent water additions, you’re still consuming less than 8 glasses of water a day, add one more glass to your day.

BEYOND

Continue to drink water first thing in the morning, and whenever you have a craving. Especially if you decide to give into that craving — drink water first.

Because soda is so addictive, it’s really easier to just institute a never-ever-drink-it policy. It’s pretty painless to maintain. Even at barbecues and restaurants, there’s always an alternative. Iced tea, seltzer, etc. Not hard to come by.

And unlike some more “extreme” dietary changes, like going gluten-free or dairy-free, kicking soda is a widely accepted positive change for your health. Meaning: lots of people are doing it, and your peers and loved ones will have an easier time supporting you.

And remember, ANY reduction in your soda intake is good.

Because it’s not about being perfect.

It’s about feeling better, all the time.

 

7 Things You Can Drink Instead of Soda — And Love

Iced Tea

If you drink soda on a regular basis, count yourself lucky — you are officially in possession of the most accessible, most bang-for-your buck, most inexpensive lifestyle change I know of.

Cutting back on your soda intake (and yes, diet soda counts here*) makes a massive impact on weight loss. It’s a one-two punch: cutting down a huge source of sugar, plus upping your hydration levels.

That combination leads to long-term benefits like:

  • Reduction in joint and muscle pain
  • Better mental clarity and cognitive function
  • Reduced food cravings
  • Appetite regulation

And even better news? You’ll start to see most of these changes within the first week of cutting back your soda intake.

*Attention diet soda guzzlers: The artificial sweeteners used in diet soda are one of the top contributors to sugar cravings. Which lead to increased consumption of things like baked goods and alcohol. Which leads to weight gain, and the opposite of all those bullet points you see above.

But giving up soda is no small feat. Both diet and regular sodas are formulated to be addictive, so you’re probably addicted to it. Plus, if your tastebuds are accustomed to that level of saccharine sweetness, everything else is going to taste super boring.

Try these 7 alternatives to soda to help you step down.

1. Cut your soda with seltzer water. This is the same approach I use for people who need to wean themselves off juice – start cutting it with increasing amounts of water. With soda, you can do this by adding seltzer water. Start with a 2:1 ratio of soda: seltzer. After a few days, go to 50/50. Gradually increase the amount of seltzer until you reach a 1:3 ratio.

2. Ginger beer. A great step-down from soda, because it still tastes more or less like ginger ale. Most ginger beers are sweetened with natural sugars (make sure to find one that is), but it has a greater proportion of ginger. This is my favorite ingredient for mocktails (see below).

3. Mock-mojito. In a tall glass, muddle together 3 basil leaves, 2 mint leaves, and a lime wedge. Pour in ginger beer to about the halfway mark, and fill the glass with ice. Give it a little stir, and finish with a splash of seltzer. Drink with a straw to avoid a mouthful of basil leaves.

4. Herbal tea spritzers. Brew an extra-strong batch of herbal tea. My favorites are chamomile, peppermint, and relax-y type blends. You could also use the fruity flavors and/or sweeten with a bit of honey if you like. Chill in the fridge. To make a spritzer, pour about 1/2 – 3/4 a glass of tea over ice, then finish with seltzer and a wedge of lemon.

5. Apple cider vinegar cocktail. Apple cider vinegar will directly help curb your soda cravings, because it alkalizes your body and satisfies that need for sweet. Add 2 tablespoons of vinegar to a glass of sparkling water. Sweeten with honey if you prefer, and garnish with a lemon wedge. It’ll take you a couple days to get used to the taste, but once you do, you’ll start craving this as much as soda.

6. Flavored seltzer waters. (Noticing a theme here? We’re keeping the fizz.) I know from experience that die-hard soda fans kind of hate these drinks. But I have to include them, because there are so many flavors now, and they’re just such a better option. Keep trying different kinds until you find one you like.

7. Kombucha. This fermented, fizzy beverage has all the sweetness of soda, without all the crap. It’s so IN right now; you’ll find endless flavors to choose from at your local health food store. Plus you’ll get a hefty dose of probiotics, which aid digestion, support your immune system, and help curb cravings.

We get it — that afternoon craving for something cold and fizzy is powerful stuff. And nothing satisfies like an ice-cold can of Coke. (That used to be my preference, back when I was “using.”)

We’re not wagging fingers or waving the shame card in your face. We just want you to feel better! And we know (’cause it’s our job) that cutting back on your soda intake will have a direct, almost immediate impact on that.

Give one or two (or all) of these alternatives a try for ONE WEEK and see how you feel. And let us know about it!

 

Could You Have Allergies You Don’t Even Know About?

unsplash_522b9cc0386f1_1

Ugh. Just looking at this picture makes my eyes water.

“The pollen is extra high this year.”

Call me a jaded Northerner… but don’t people say that every single spring? Seems to me, people who have allergies just have them. And people who don’t? Well, don’t.

Or do they? (Muah ha ha)

You don’t hear about it much, but seasonal allergies lead to a multitude of symptoms, and they’re not just limited to scratchy throats, clogged-up sinuses, and itchy eyes.

You might have allergies… and not even know it.

Lesser-known symptoms of seasonal allergies:

  • Muscle soreness & joint stiffness (chronic)
  • Depression — like an inexplicable “funk” you just can’t seem to shake
  • Irritability, impatience, short temper. Sometimes it’s just ’cause you really don’t feel well, but can’t put your finger on why. Other times it’s just… yeah, allergens make you cranky.
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia

It’s hard to say whether these issues are a part of the allergic response itself, or secondary symptoms created by the inflammation that occurs when you’re exposed.

Either way, treatment for these more insidious, less “popular” allergy symptoms is the same as that for the usual ailments.

For natural options, drink nettle tea every day (about 16 ounces), incorporate unheated local honey into your diet, and rinse your sinuses with a neti pot every night.

If you’re serious about fighting your allergies sans drugs, you’ll have to deal with your diet too.

Oftentimes eliminating dairy does wonders for allergy sufferers. Same goes for gluten, soy, corn, and sugar. (In fact, your true allergy may be to one of these foods; all the pollen floating around just exacerbates it.)

And of course, if all else fails, or if you just want to feel better like, now, then by all means — medicate. You could even use a non-drowsy brand as an experiment: Take one, and see if your depression lifts, or your head clears a little, or your mood lightens.

If it does, then you know: You’ve got allergies! 

WAMP wamp. (Sorry.)

The good news is, now that you know, you can make it better.

Because nobody likes a cranky-pants. Especially in the spring.

7 Little Things You Can Do to Get A Better Night’s Sleep

Doggie sleeping

We all know — we need to get more sleep. We hear it everywhere we go. Need to lose weight? Get more sleep! Stressed out? Sleep more! Getting sick all the time? You need to rest!

So, duh. Sleep rules, we don’t get enough of it, and we need to fix that.

But life is stressful and full of computer screens. Our modern lifestyles are not very conducive to a solid night’s sleep.

So I — a bona fide insomniac for three years running, I’m sorry to say — have compiled a list of the 7 things that have helped me the most. Some might be old hat, but one or two should be brand new.

Especially #7. That guy’s awesome.

7 Ways to Get a Better Night’s Sleep

1. Turn out the lights. Your sleeping chambers should be pitch dark at night. Like, can’t see your hand in front of your face. No more night lights or leaving the door open a crack. I’m talking blackout curtains, getting rid of any electronics with glowing lights, sleep masks, and whatever else you have to do to achieve optimal blackness. You’ll be way less likely to wake up in the middle of the night.

2. No electronics, especially before bed. Make your bedroom an electronics-free zone. No smartphones. No laptops. If you like to read or use a sleep app, put your device in airplane mode. Avoid looking at a screen at least an hour before bed. It messes with your melatonin (which is what makes you sleepy).

3. No sugar at night. Blood sugar (too high OR too low) is a major culprit behind disturbed sleep. Try to avoid sweets at night. And if you know you’re hypoglycemic, eat a few bites of protein before bed. Like a slice of turkey or a handful of nuts.

4. Eat more protein. This goes back to the blood sugar (see #3 above), but it also helps muscle recovery, appetite, and seratonin production. (Seratonin isn’t just a happy-making neurotransmitter; it’s also essential for a good night’s sleep.)

5. Separate covers. If you share a bed with someone, lots of problems can ensue. Separate covers can eliminate a big one — the motion transfer you feel when your partner tosses and turns. Snuggled in your own personal covers, you won’t even notice. Also, bonus: this lets each sleeper cover up according to his/her temperature preferences, which can vary wildly from one person to another.

6. Keep it cool. We sleep better when we’re a little cold. Try to keep your room a couple degrees colder than feels comfortable. You can always turn the heat up in the morning, or let the sunshine in to warm things up.

7. Andrew Johnson apps. This guy is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. (Don’t tell my husband.) A gentle Scottish man talks you into a deep relaxation, then whispers sweet nothings to your subconscious mind, helping you to sleep, drink more water, or…actually I don’t really know what he says, because I’m always out cold by this point. It’s like having Shrek read you a bedtime story.

There we go!

Have any sleep strategies I missed? Share them in the comments below.

Sleep can be some elusive, slippery prey. But with these tools in your arsenal…

I think you’re about to catch some.

 

Get Glowing Skin at Any Age (Without Chemicals)

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The other day, my 10-year-old nephew came in from outside and said, “Hey Aunt Sam. Your epidermis is showing.” (Snark snark.)

Ah, kids.

He had a point though — it was showing. It’s always exposed, to sunlight, air pollutants, the chlorine in my water, and who knows what else.

(In case you’re feeling secretly out of the loop right now, epidermis is a fancy word for your body’s largest organ: your skin.)

You’re never too old to start loving up your skin. Sure, it’d be great if we were taking care of it all along, but hey. Live and learn.

Today I’ve got the mother lode of skin care tips. Take what you will; they’re all fairly simple, and any one of them will make your skin happier.

FYI, I’m not talking about “anti-aging.” That is just a ridiculous concept to me. Everything alive ages. And sure, nobody loves to discover a new wrinkle. But what I’m talking about here is your health.

I’m talking about upping the glow, amping up the brightness. Improving your skin’s elasticity and overall appearance. Preventing sunspots and skin cancer. A few wrinkles? Just means you like to smile. 🙂

Sam’s favorite skin care quickies:

Apple Cider Vinegar cocktails. This little miracle is alkalizing (which means it has loads of other health benefits), and it’s been shown to improve some pretty serious skin conditions like Psoriasis and Eczema.

Drinking this daily will help your skin glow and shine, partly because it improves your digestion. Put two tablespoons of ACV in a pint glass of water, and drink up. And make sure to get the raw, unfiltered kind, with the “mother” still floating around in there. You can add lemon or honey for taste.

Skin brushing. Use a medium, natural-bristle brush and brush your skin all over (except your face) before you hop in the shower. Start at your toes and fingers and work towards your heart in short, quick strokes and/or circles.

This exfoliates dead skin, and the vigorous rubbing brings blood to the surface of your skin, which improves circulation and lymph flow.

More water! It’s almost a joke at this point, how I keep bringing up the water. Almost. Because healthy skin is well-hydrated skin. No two ways about, kemosabe. You can up your hydration by drinking aloe juice and/or coconut water, but at the end of the day there’s no substitute for good ol’ H2O.

More skin care tips:

Truly great skin is a reflection of a healthy body. Your skin is the last place in your body to receive nutrients, so if you’re deficient in some way, guess where it shows up?

On the other hand, if your diet is abundant in veggies, fruits, healthy fats, and clean food, your skin will shine.

I’m not an expert on supplements, but vitamins E, A, and C are super important for healthy skin.

Eat plenty of healthy fats. Add a fish oil / Omega-3 supplement to your regimen, and stock up on the coconut oil and avocado. Healthy fats are what gives your skin that glow.

Extra credit: Down a shot of olive oil before bed. Hardcore! (But not as nasty as you think.) Down a shot glass of olive oil, with a lemon water chaser, at night. This not only lubricates your intestines and helps with healthy bowel movements, it also lends a buttery glow to your skin. (The higher quality oil you get, the better it tastes.)

Bathing & beauty:

Swap out your soap, moisturizer, and deodorant for natural alternatives. Many commercial soaps dry your skin, depriving it of its natural oils. They also contain fragrance and other chemical — and all that gets absorbed through your skin.

Get rid of fancy body washes and anti-aging “formulas.” (Unless you’re using something specific, like tar shampoo for scalp issues, or acne treatments.) Mostly this stuff is just a rip-off, to be honest. The more natural, the better.

You can moisturize with natural oils. Sesame and almond are both nice, and coconut oil is awesome after a sunbathing session. Alternatively, try a plant-based lotion (you can find some at your local health-food store).

Get a shower filter. Bad news: all that chlorine you’re filtering out with your Brita? Is getting absorbed through your skin every time you take a shower. Filtering your shower water reduces the need for moisturizer. It can also help alleviate Eczema or severely dry skin, reduces rashes and irritation, and calms Psoriasis.

Quit bathing so much. Really, it’s overrated. If you’re covered in dirt from the garden, or stinking after a long run, sure. But day-to-day, you don’t actually need to wash with soap. Every other day is sufficient. This will help your skin retain its natural moisture.

Cool down your showers. Super-hot water feels great, but it can be irritating to the skin. Try warm showers instead.

Hot/cold plunge. Woooo! This one’s daring. At the end of your shower, run the water as hot as you can stand it for about a minute, then as cold as you can stand it for a minute, then repeat as many times as you can take it (I usually bail after two.) This draws blood to the skin’s surface and encourages circulation and drainage. It’s also good for your pores.

Experiment with natural alternatives to makeup and perfume. Makeup has come a long way here – there are some really great options out there. For fragrance, try essential oil blends instead of alcohol-based perfumes. For more info, visit two of my favorite online resources:

Summer’s right around the corner. Which means you’ll be showing a LOT more epidermis to a LOT more people.

Make ’em jealous.

 

 

Much of this material was originally posted at TheNotMom.com.

 

Image sourced from ThisOldHouse.com.

‘Tis the season… for achy backs, cranky knees, and shoulder knots that rival the tightest nautical techniques any sailor’s ever seen.

Yard work. Pulling weeds. A long hike in the woods.

All these activities are great, and your body definitely appreciates the usage.

But after a long, sedentary winter, you can pay a pretty hefty price for your weekend adventures. Here’s how to relieve and/or prevent the sore muscles and joints that tend to accompany daffodils and tulips as harbingers of spring.

1. Morning stretching. Build 20 minutes of gentle stretching into your morning routine, and your whole day will be so much better. Find a manageable yoga routine (like the one below), or just run through a head-to-toe joint mobility series. Think neck circles, knee bends, shoulder rolls, and twisting back and forth from your spine.

Image courtesy of bosu.com.

2. Evening stretching. Your evening routine can really just be a repeat of your morning movements. But you can also hold longer stretches in the specific areas you worked that day. My favorite? Lie on one side, with a bolster or several pillows propped under the opposite side. Hold for five minutes each side. Like that lady.

3. Drink more water. How many times have I told these people to drink more water? (I wondered while writing this post.) A LOT.  The thing is… it’s important! Dehydrated muscles stay sorer for longer. A lot longer. And they’re more likely to become sore in the first place. Just do it.

4. Take more breaks. This seems like a no-brainer (and it is), but the frequency of your breaks is directly proportional to the happiness — or unhappiness — of your muscles and joints the next day. Set a timer on your phone (and HONOR it). Stand up, stretch, walk around the block, drink some water… and get back to it! (See how that works?)

5. Epsom Salt baths. My personal favorite. Epsom salt is rich in magnesium, which helps your muscles relax, thus reducing soreness. The hot water is great for sore backs and necks (like, the best), and if that’s not enough, epsom salt helps draw irritants and allergens out, so they’re a key element in allergy relief too!

The more love you give your bones (and muscles, and joints), the better able to be to keep doing all those things that made you so sore in the first place.

You’ll be able to weed for hours! (Oh joy). You’ll summit that mountain like it was nothing!

Because when you take care of your body?

It takes care of you.

Change Is Good. Even When It’s Sad.

Sargeant Ross Flat

We close out National Transition Month with the granddaddy of transitions — losing another AFF family member to the great wide open.

That’s right — in case you haven’t heard, Ross is moving on. Before he starts the grueling Physical Therapy program at Western Carolina University this fall, he’s spending the summer visiting family, from L.A. to the Philippines. (And apparently summer starts in April in Ross-land.)

But get this. Not only is he leaving us to traipse across the country in an old Subaru Outback, he’s not letting us go without a final butt-whooping.

Wanna join us in sending him off?

Last Chance Bootcamp starts April 4th and runs Monday- Thursday (at a not-for-the-faint-of-heart 7:30 AM) through the 14th. (Which also happen to be his last two weeks at AFF).

Sign up at the front desk, or register online. (He’ll need the extra money in case he gets stranded in the desert.)

It sounds intense, but it’s adaptable to all levels. There will be some running drills, body weight strength, and….who am I kidding? I don’t know what all he has in store.

But I’ll be there, because it’s Ross.

And we love Ross.

Even though we don’t want him to go. 🙁