How to Make the Most of Your Fitness Tracker

The market is filled with wearable tech, and topping the list of reasons for buying a wearable device is health and fitness. While there have been sport specific devices for some time – personally, I’ve had some form of a Garmin since I started running – the concept of tracking your daily activities is more recent.

These devices are constantly getting upgrades with new things to track and ways to track them, and we buy them up and wear them obsessively, but are they really making you healthier?

Like any gadget, it's what you do with the information that makes it useful. Click To Tweet

The way I see it, it’s completely up to you. Like any gadget or feedback tool, it’s what you do with the information that makes it useful. Whichever device you use, or if you’re in the market for one, here are some things to consider when looking at your stats.

Step Goal

The Big Kahuna of stats for wearables would have to be the step tracker. Even if you don’t have one, you’ve heard mention of people hitting the generalized 10,000 a day step goal.

While 10,000 is a solid goal, it’s not fit for everyone. For those first starting who consistently hit 4,000, a 10,000 goal may seem overwhelming. I suggest to clients setting a goal that’s a reach but seems doable. The whole point is to move more and whether that’s 6,000 or 10,000 it’s a good goal.

On the flip side, if you easily hit 10,000 by 2pm daily, set a higher goal for yourself! Of course you won’t keep raising it until you’re not sitting down in order to reach it, but you do want to challenge yourself.

Takeaway Tip: Adjust your step goal to ensure it takes effort, but isn’t overwhelming. You should be able to reach it most days of the week. If you rarely reach it even when putting forth your best effort it’s too high. If you always hit it without much thought, it’s too low.

Active Hours

This is a stat I pay a lot of attention to, and I feel is underused. It may look different on various trackers, but there will be some way to see how many hours of the day you are active. For my Fitbit, an hour where I get 250+ steps is considered active and I like to track the hours from 7am-7pm.

Here are two very different days of hitting a step goal; one with active hours, and one without:
When I worked at a desk job, I would run in the morning, walk to the train, then sit at work from 8:30-5. I’d get up to use the bathroom, get water or lunch, but that was it. Then I’d come home, walk the dog briefly and not much more. Sure, I was getting lots of steps, but there were hours of inactivity.

Now, that I work in a variety of spaces, my activity during my day is much more spread out. I’ll start by walking the dog (usually 40ish minutes), working from home a stint, biking to a client or walking to a meet up, walking to a coffee shop to work, biking to  yoga class, etc. I’m rarely seeing more than 2 hours of non-active hours in a row. My steps may be roughly the same, but I’m avoiding the dangers of prolonged inactivity which include:

Heart disease – blood flows sluggishly after a long sit.
Muscle degeneration – When you sit, your glutes are doing nothing, and get used to it quickly.
Leg disorders – Sitting disrupts circulation causing fluid to pool in legs creating swollen ankles, varicose veins, and even blood clots.
Brain fog – Moving muscles pump oxygen and blood to the brain releasing mood/cognitive enhancing endorphins, while inactivity slows this down affecting your brain function
Source: Washingtonpost.com

Takeaway Tip:
Avoid solely focusing on your step goal and look at your active hours each day with as much importance. See if you can avoid more than 1-2 sedentary hours in a row. If this is a real struggle (desk jobs make this tough!) set a timer or turn on the function where your tracker will alert you, and stand up to do some stretches, anything to move your body.

Check out this post – On the Job and on the Move – for ideas!

Sleep

The sleep tracking is perhaps my favorite feature of my Fitbit Charge 2. It’s made me aware of how much sleep I’m actually getting, and now that I have set a sleep goal I want to hit it! I am drastically more adamant about going to bed at a certain time, and place a priority on getting enough sleep by adjusting my morning accordingly if I get to bed late or have missed my sleep goal the previous nights. This could mean moving my workout to later in the day, which normally I would feel lazy about.

Sleep is a cornerstone of wellness and sets all your systems up for success. Think about it; when you’re tired you tend to make fewer healthy choices throughout the day, and reach for the quick-fix energy boost you need, often in the form of sugar-filled options and processed snacks. When tired, it’s easier to skip the workout you planned for the day.

Takeaway Tip:
Set a sleep goal and review your sleep habits at least twice a week if not more. I recommend setting a goal of a minimum of 7 hours. Remember, the time counted towards your sleep is when you are actually asleep, not when you lay down in bed! If you’re used to going to bed much too late, aim for 15 minutes earlier for a few nights, then 15 minutes before that. Suddenly attempting a 10pm bedtime when you’re used to going to bed at midnight will not be a smooth transition!

Don’t miss my post on creating a bedtime routine, here!

Social

Whichever tracker you use, there is some type of social aspect to it. From earning badges, comparing your stats to others, to creating and joining challenges, there are lots of ways to leverage your tracker to keep you motivated and moving.

We are either motivated by competition with others, ourselves, or both, and the social feature(s) play right into that. On Fitbit, you can see your friends’ 7-day step total and where you rank. Even if you don’t think you’re competitive, if you see you’re 3rd on the list you may just take an extra walk around the block.

Challenges are great because they are rather short term. From a one day personal challenge to reach your step goal to a group challenge of who can get the most during the work week, a challenge will pit you against whomever you choose in a super focused goal.

Takeaway Tip:

Take advantage of the challenge feature and challenge yourself or create a group challenge for others and watch how a little competition and accountability gives you that extra push to reach your goals!

When it comes down to it, your body is a tracker. It’s giving you constant feedback; achy joints may mean your posture is off, lack of energy in the afternoon means you aren’t getting enough sleep, growling stomach means you aren’t getting enough food, and unhealthy weight gain means you’re getting too much, etc.

But we often ignore the signals it’s giving us. Using a fitness tracker is a great way to start tuning into how your daily actions effect how you feel. It’s tangible in that you are looking at numbers that you can compare from the past week, month, year, and see your progress.

Do you use a fitness tracker? How has it changed your health habits?

 

25 Minute Cardio Circuit

A good heart-pumping workout will get your endorphins flowing! Try this workout when you want to move but don’t want to leave the house. You’ll be done in 25 minutes, perfect to do during your favorite show 😉

Want more cardio workouts that take less than 30 minutes? Check out my Strongher in :30 e-book and get fit at home!

5 Essential Oil Recipes for Naturally Healthy Skin

While diet and fitness are likely the top searched topics when it comes to getting healthy, a healthy skincare routine is just as important. Your skin is the largest organ, so keeping it healthy – and keeping it healthy naturally – is crucial!

Adding essential oils into your skincare routine is a natural way to get healthy glowing skin, and it’s much more affordable than other products on the market that may not be so healthy when you look into it.

Here are 5 ways you can use essential oils to boost the health of your skin!

Makeup Remover

First things first, get that gunk off your face! The astringent and regenerative properties of lavender plus the the restorative effects of frankincense make this makeup remover powerful and rejuvenating.

2oz. almond or jojoba oil
2 drops lavender
2 drops frankincense

Mix all ingredients in a small glass pump or dropper bottle. Shake well. Apply with cotton balls, gently wiping until makeup is gone.

Body Scrub

This one is great to keep at home or make for gifts. I like to store mine in a small mason jar, you can pretty it up with some ribbon for gifting.

1/2 C fine white or brown sugar
1/2 C coconut oil
4 drops lemon
4 drops lavender

In a glass bowl, pour sugar, than oil and mix. Add essential oils and combine. Pour/scoop into whatever jar you choose.

Anti-Cellulite Oil

The natural skin toner qualities of juniper combined with the uplifting benefits of wild orange, and the rejuvenating effects on the skin from melaleuca make this oil blend a go-to for fighting cellulite!

1/2 c almond or jojoba oil
15 drops juniper
15 drops wild orange
15 drops melaleuca

Combine all ingredients in a dark glass roller bottle (like these), shake well and apply to areas of concern, rubbing into skin with your fingertips.

Facial Steam

Make your own spa experience at home with a super easy facial steam! All you need is a large bowl, water, essential oils of choice, and a towel.

4-6 c water
2-4 drops essential oils

Essential oil ideas for facial steam:
Lavender – calming and regenerative
Geranium – natural astringent
Eucalyptus – helps with acne and nasal congestion
Fennel – has anti-aging antioxidants
Chamomile – helps soothe irritated skin
Rosemary – good for oily skin

Boil your water and pour into large glass bowl. Add in oils and stir. Hover your face over the bowl with a towel draped over your head and either side of bowl. Enjoy for 5-10 minutes. If you feel it’s too hot, move away from the water for a minute and return when ready. Do not burn yourself!

Varicose and Spider Veins Blend

Feel confident to show off those legs with this essential oil blend for varicose and spider veins.

2.5 oz coconut or jojoba oil
9 drops cypress
5 drops each bergamot and geranium
3 drops each grapefruit, tangerine, helichrysum
2 drops frankincense

Add all ingredients to a lotion pump bottle or roller bottle and shake. Apply to areas of concern and rub into skin.

Try any or all of these and start noticing healthier skin!

5 Meatball Recipes

While there’s nothing more Italian than spaghetti and meatballs, you’re missing out on a ton of amazing flavor profiles when you limit meatballs to one style of cooking. When I’m playing hostess, I often have meatballs going in the slow cooker, and have come across many delicious recipes over the past few years.

If I’m throwing a party, I buy frozen turkey meatballs (Trader Joe’s has a great choice!), but when I’m cooking dinner for my family I like to make my own. Here are 5 meatball recipes that aren’t Italian, but are drool-worthy!

Spicy BBQ Pineapple Turkey Meatballs

Pineapple BBQ is my most recent venture with non-Italian style meatballs and they were a hit! Full disclosure, I made mine in the slow cooker with frozen meatballs as an appetizer on their own, but we had a lot left over and put them over brown rice the next day and loved them. I found this recipe for homemade meatballs for the next time I want them for dinner!

Yellowblissroad.com

Teriyaki Meatballs

The ginger in this recipe gives these meatballs a special kick. I like these served over either cauliflower rice or brown rice, although they can be just as good eaten alone. Don’t skip the sesame seeds! Seriously, I finally caved and bought a jar and use them more than I thought I would in other recipes.

Natashaskitchen.com

Greek Meatballs and Cauliflower Rice

Ok, this one is from my own blog because I’m really proud of it! I make greek style burgers often and decided to try them in meatball form and was super happy with how they turned out. I did them over cauliflower rice, but you can also serve them in a pita like you would falafel. Mmmmm!

Simplywellcoaching.com

Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

I’m not saying you have to make these for whatever Superbowl party you attend, but I am strongly suggesting it. These are great on their own as appetizers (as pictured here) but also make a great meatball sub!
Skinnytaste.com

Black Bean Vegetarian Meatballs

Fear not veggie-heads, I got you covered, too! When I eat vegetarian meals, I don’t want faux meat, I want veggies that make me wonder why I eat meat in the first place. These black bean based meatballs do the trick and are great served over grains or more veggies.

Pureella.com

What’s your go to meatball recipe?

Naturally Clean Your Kitchen and Bathroom With Essential Oils

The two rooms I (and I assume you, too) clean the most are the bathroom and kitchen. The number of spray and cleaner bottles under both sinks are vast and when you look at the ingredients on the labels it’s…ugh. Scary. Sure, bleach will clean just about anything, but it’s irritating to the skin and the fumes are toxic. Not something I want to use around myself or my family!

Cleaning is one of the main reasons I got into essential oils. I saw the savings instantly when I made my first shower spray (dubbed my MildEW Spray), and have been slowly replacing those store bought bottles under my sink with my own essential oil cleaners. Here’s how you can do the same!

Kitchen

All-Purpose Counter Top Cleaner

Equal parts water and distilled white vinegar
10 drops On Gaurd
10 drops Eucalyptus
10 drops Lemon

Combine all ingredients in spray bottle, shake to combine.

Oven Cleaner Spray

1 C warm water
3 TB baking soda
1 TB castile soap
5 drops Lemon
5 drops Clove

Combine all ingredients in spray bottle, shake to combine.

Drain Cleaner

1/4 C baking soda
1/4 C distilled white vinegar
3 drops Wild Orange

Pour essential oil directly down drain, follow with baking soda, then vinegar. Allow to sit 15 minutes, then pour hot water down the drain, followed by cold water to unclog.

Sticker and Goo Remover

1 TB baking soda
1 TB vegetable oil
2 drops Lemon

Mix in small glass bowl. Apply small amount to sticker/label/goo and let sit 1-2 minutes. Use a cloth or paper towel to remove. Apply again and repeat if needed.

Bathroom

Soap Scum Remover

2 C hot water
1/2 C borax
10 drops Lemon

Add all ingredients to spray bottle, shake well and spray, then wipe dry. Stores up to 2 months.

Glass Cleaner

2 C water
2 TB distilled white vinegar
2 TB rubbing alcohol
5 drops Peppermint

Add all ingredients to spray bottle and shake well. Spray on windows/mirrors and wipe dry. Stores up to 2 months.

Mold & Mildew Preventer

3:2 ratio water to distilled white vinegar
30 drops Melaleuca
10 drops Peppermint

Add all ingredients to spray bottle and shake well. Spray directly on mold/mildew or tile after a shower. Let sit, do not rinse. This can be used daily!

Toilet Bowl Cleaner

1/2 C baking soda
1/4 C distilled white vinegar
10 drops Melaleuca

Mixx ingredients until baking soda dissolves. Add to toilet, let sit 5-15 minutes. Scrub with toilet brush and flush.

Spray Bottles

The best type of spray bottle to use is a dark glass, like these. If you really want to use plastic (I have a few in plastic simply because I’m afraid they will break where they are stored and how often they are used), go with the following and avoid thin plastic containers:

  • HDPE plastic (High Density Polyethylene)
  • #1 plastic
  • #2 plastic
  • Thick, food grade plastic

Happy cleaning!

What’s Your Fall-solution?

We all seem to jump at the chance to make a New Year’s Resolution. January marks the start of a new year, but as Anne Marie Chaker points out in her Wall Street Journal article “September is the Real New Year”, there is a lot change and newness to the start of fall.

Our entire childhood is spent with fall marking a new school year, new grade, new teachers, and new friends. Even if we don’t have kids, that memory lingers and as summer winds down, we feel it’s time to refocus ourselves, recommit to things we often let slide in the summer.

We take vacations in the summer, we spend more time outside, get together with friends we haven’t seen, go to events that seem to celebrate every weekend of good weather. Then, when the weather starts to turn, so does our attention to our schedules, our routines, our personal growth.

So why not take advantage of this natural transition? When you think about it, September is a great time to reflect and renew. In January, we’re stressed and exhausted from the holidays, but in September, we’ve had time to refresh our batteries. The weather is still nice, so without the winter blues nagging, we generally have more optimism and energy, naturally.

My point is, the fall is a great time to refocus and set – or reset – goals for yourself. Here are some ideas if you like the concept, but don’t know what to do to make the most of this gorgeous time of year.

Master the holidays

Instead of A) waiting until the holidays are over to take your goals seriously, B) letting the stress of the holiday’s spiral you backwards, C) treating mid-November through January 1st like a vacation from real life, or D) all of the above, try something new this year.

Go into the fall with a plan. How will you take care of yourself – with exercise, nutrition, self-care, etc – when the busiest time of the year is here? What can you do now to have a solid base for the next season? What will you do to manage your stress in a healthy way? Think of these things now, right them down, form a plan, and crush it.

Stay in touch

It’s easy to meet up with friends when it’s nice out and there are tons of events going on, and taking holiday weekend trips happens more ofter, but we often get buried in our own worlds when school starts up and summer Fridays are a thing of the past.

How can you keep your friendships strong as you head into the later part of the year? Can you set a goal of checking in and sending updates? Schedule regular coffee or movie dates with those that live in the same city?

Be a boss

Whether you work for a large company, small startup, or a solopreneur, focusing on your career goals can make the rest of the year and winter highly goal oriented. Instead of thinking of what 2018 will bring to your career, picture where you want to be by the spring.

Are you happy with your current job, or have you been daydreaming of switching career paths? Is there a project you can add to? Would a mentor help you hit that next level? Set a goal for where you want to be when the flowers come back, and have monthly check ins with yourself, a coworker, or coach to keep it top of mind.

Get fit before “gym season”

Everyone is joining a gym in January. Fall is not only a great time to get a routine going so the holiday’s don’t throw you off track, but there are also great deals to be found!

Is there a new skill you can learn; rowing, boxing, pilates? A group class you can become a regular of? How about a race in the spring you can get on your calendar now to keep you on a training plan over the winter?

Routine mama

If you have kids in school, use this time to make new positive routines with them. What’s new for them can be new for you so focus on making changes for the better this school year.

If lunch was your biggest struggle last year, can you find 5 things they love that you can make super easily? If they’re old enough, can you start teaching them cooking skills and healthy eating habits by cooking a dinner together each week? If homework was a nightmare, what could make it easier for all involved this year? Pinpoint your biggest struggle, or biggest regret, and come up with a plan to make this year better.

Labor Day Leg Day Circuit

Got the day off? Great! Take 25 minutes out of your holiday weekend to work those legs! You can do this at home, and if you’re visiting family make it a family affair 🙂

Use Essential Oils for a Productivity Boost

When I first started using essential oils, I got a diffuser for my bedroom for the sole purpose of diffusing lavender to help my husband and I drift off to sleep. I feel many people understand the calming effects of oils, but once I got into using my oils for just about everything, I quickly took to using them to keep me on task and focused.

Whether you work in an open office, cubicle, home, or coffeeshop, it can be tough to stay productive, especially when your energy wanes or you’re tackling a big project. Turning to coffee or soda can seem like it will help – caffeine will carry you through, right? – but we know this is a quick fix that leaves our nervous systems jittery and leads to a crash in the end.

Essential oils can give you that boost and energy to stay focused, without the negative side… Click To Tweet

Essential oils can give you that boost and energy to stay focused, without the negative side effects. Here are my favorite oils for boosting productivity, along with different ways to use them.

Six Essential Oils for Productivity

Rosemary

Two of Rosemary’s primary benefits are supporting healthy respiratory function, and helping to reduce nervous tension and fatigue. When you’re breathing deeper, and your body is relaxed, you’re able to stay calm and ignore the distractions around you.

Ylang-Ylang

Derived from the tropical flowers of the ylang-ylang tree, this oil has a sweet and spicy aroma. It’s used to lessen tension and promote a positive outlook, just what you need when your deadline is fast approaching!

Peppermint

This just may be my most used oil. Peppermint, like Rosemary, promotes healthy respiratory function, and can boost your energy along with supporting digestive health. The aroma alone gives us that clean feeling, and the tingling sensation it leaves on the skin will wake up your senses.

Lemon

Lemon is a fresh citrus scent and powerful purifying properties (a bonus for office life!), and provides a refreshing boost. It is uplifting and energizing, promoting a positive mood to keep you awake and happy!

Wild Orange

Wild Orange has a bit sweeter smell, but still has that citrusy punch. When diffused it helps purify the air, while uplifting your mind and body, keeping you alert and positive.

Lime

Yet another citrus oil family member made the list! This sweet and tart smelling oil positively affects your mood all while stimulating and refreshing your energy levels. It has an uplifting scent and purifying properties.

Ways to Use Essential Oils for Productivity

There are 3 ways to use your oils; aromatically, topically, and internally. Here I’ll touch on each with a few examples on how you can use your oils specifically for productivity.

Aromatically

The aromas from essential oils can elicit powerful mental, physiologic, and emotional responses when the molecules of the oils send messages to the brain through the olfactory system.

The simplest way to use your oils aromatically is by opening the bottle and breathing in the scent. This is called direct inhalation. The other popular way – and my most used! – is through a diffuser. Diffusing essential oils is beneficial for affecting mood, changing the aroma of a space (goodbye dangerous candles!), and killing airborne pathogens.

Ideas:
If you’re able to, bring a small diffuser to keep at your desk (super easy if you work at home!). Start your morning off with a productivity boost by diffusing a couple drops of either one of the above oils, or a combination.

You can do this again after lunch to awaken your senses and lift your mood from the afternoon slump.

Can’t bring a diffuser to work? Bring a bottle or two, like Peppermint and Wild Orange, to keep at your desk and simply smell from the bottle.

Topically

Using your oils topically hosts a huge variety of benefits with many ways and places to apply them. The oils are fat-soluble and rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream which is another reason using quality oils is so important, and while high quality oils can be used “neat” (applying directly to the skin), another popular way to use them is by pairing them with a carrier oil. Applying oils with a carrier oil (such as fractionated coconut oil, grapeseed oil, avocado oil, or EVOO), is used for dilution and prevents the oil from evaporating.

Ideas:
My favorite way to use oils topically is with a roller ball, where you dilute the oil(s) with a carrier oil and roll onto your hands or wrists, or even heart area. This is a great way to start your day before going out of the house, and to use before starting a big project. I love putting peppermint oil on the back of my neck to wake me up and keep me focused!

Your feet have the biggest pores, so rubbing some Lime oil – either neat or with a carrier oil – into the soles of your feet when you feel your energy start to droop is a fast way to get the benefits of the oil.

Rosemary has a very herbaceous smell, so using as almost a perfume either with a roller ball on the wrists, or a small spritzer bottle every few hours throughout your work day is pretty unobtrusive in the office setting.

Internally

Just as they are quickly absorbed into the blood stream through the skin, these oils are delivered to all organs (including the brain!), and metabolized by the liver and other organs. It’s important to follow proper dosing recommendations when using your oils internally. Generally this is 1-5 drops every 2-6 hours for an adult (depending on the oil) and no more than 25 drops per 24 hours.

Ideas:
The citrus oils – Wild Orange, Lemon, and Lime – are perfect for adding a drop to your water. This can be done first thing in the morning to wake you up and get you ready for the day, or to replace that afternoon cup of coffee or soda.

Another quick pick-me-up is placing one drop of Peppermint under your tongue.

Keep in mind these aren’t the only oils that help keep you focused and energized, but they are a solid choice and easy to start with. Get creative when making diffuser blends, you don’t have to stick with just these oils. If there is a scent you love but isn’t designated as an uplifting oil, go ahead and put a drop in because you enjoy it! The other oils will work their magic just as well.

 

Cooking with Essential Oils

When I first started using essential oils, I primarily used them aromatically through a diffuser. I loved coming up with different combinations for the mood I wished to create, but knew there were so many other ways to use my oils.

Enter: cooking.

Now, I knew you could ingest essential oils (side-note: make sure you have high quality oils before taking internally! I trust dōTERRA but I read a lot about them beforehand.) but I thought more in the terms of creating my own gel capsules or adding to my water for flavor. Then I started looking into recipes.

Why cook with oils? 

Since essential oils are derived from plants, you may be thinking, “why don’t I just use fresh herbs?”. You can, and I do, use fresh herbs when I have them, but there are so many times I don’t have what I need on hand, plus it takes a lot more to get the same flavor profile.

For example, it takes 45 lemons to make just one bottle of lemon oil, and one tiny drop of peppermint oil is equivalent to 28 cups of peppermint tea! Personal example; I didn’t (and rarely do) have fresh lemon or lemon juice on hand, but I used two drops of my dōTERRA lemon oil for an entire 9X13 casserole and could have gotten away with just one! Money and resources saved.

Another benefit is the health factor. Many oils, like garlic, thyme, rosemary, oregano, and basil have been shown as effective in reducing the growth of bacteria in food products, making your leftovers last a bit longer. (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)

Recipes with Oils

Let’s get to the good stuff; the recipes! You can use essential oils in salad dressings, drinks and smoothies, in place of dry seasonings/herbs, and baking, just to name a few. Here are a variety of drool-worthy recipes to get you started!

Tropical Green Smoothie

Roasted Marinara Sauce

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Cinnamon Spice Salad Dressing

dōTERRA On Guard Pancakes

Have you used essential oils in the kitchen? Tell us how in the comments!