At Home with Christiana: Best Fitness Apps

Fitness is something that has always been a part of my life. From junior athletics to marathon running to postpartum recovery, fitness is a major source of stress relief, confidence, and balance in my life. So while a day in the life of home renovating and chasing little people is almost always a workout in some form, my personal fitness is something I work very hard to prioritize. For me.giphy4

We all know by now the countless benefits of exercise (if not, read up!) but sometimes LIFE HAPPENS and getting to the gym just doesn’t. Parent or not, sometimes just adulting feels like sabotage to your fitness routine. Then add the schedules of 1, 2, or 3 little people that have little no regard for your agenda, and well, you get the picture. Client meeting runs late and you miss your spin class. Baby changes her nap schedule and you miss yoga by 5 f&*ing minutes. Ugh. “Namaste!”  Luckily, for days like these, technology is here to literally save our asses. Praise to the Fitness Apps.

Fitness apps have been a game changer for me because they allow me to get a serious workout in whenever and wherever I choose. No gym, no trainer, nobody else’s schedule but mine. Even multiple little people can’t sabotage these – there is a pause button for diaper changes, (because sh*t happens) and frankly, babies make great kettle bell substitutes for those walking lunges.  Also, no one is around to judge me for drinking coffee during my morning yoga session. #mommasrules

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In sum, fitness apps are totally awesome! With one caveat. Apps are definitely a realm where not all are created equal, but don’t despair if you’ve struck out in the past.  I have included my three favorite, time-tested apps below.  They won’t let you down.

Best Strength/Cross Training App: Nike Training Club

Nike Training Club (NTC) is my go-to app for at-home cross-training. NTC features a wide variety of workouts designed by pro athletes and celebrity trainers (oh heeeey Ronaldo, I see you). Ranging in intensity and activity level, these workouts can get straight up hardcore.  I love that this app allows you to select a workout based on a number of criteria. Only got 15 minutes? There are workouts for that. No equipment on hand? There are workouts for that, too. Want to target a certain stubborn body part or muscle group? There are PLENTY of workouts for that.

Another great feature is you can play your own music without interfering with the app’s audio cues. Because NO ONE likes doing burpees in silence. No one. New workouts are uploaded pretty regularly so I have yet to get bored. You can also set up 4-8 week personalized plans via the app that provide you with workouts in the order and frequency you should do them based on your personal inputs. This app really gives you everything you need to get a serious sweat on. So get after it!

Cost: Free

Great for: Strength training, beginners to serious athletes

Best Yoga App: Yoga Studio by Gaiam

Anyone who spends the majority of their week surrounded by little people who have yet to develop the concept of ‘personal space’ can use a little zen. But sometimes a lot of the time your yoga studio’s schedule won’t jive with yours, your kids stay home sick, or you just plain sleep in. Fear not. Gaiam’s Yoga Studio is a great app that can bring the Om at home, on vacation, in the backyard… anywhere. Time to get those yoga pants doing some actual yoga, y’all.

I will be the first to say that I am picky about yoga, and I think this app does a great job of channeling the calming vibe of a studio class via your wireless device.  You can download a wide variety of pre-made classes and meditations (more of our thoughts on meditation here if you missed it) ranging from 5 minutes to over an hour that target specific muscle groups or problem areas (such as lower back pain, yoga for runners),  or a particular mood (strength, Relaxation, AM/PM). Or you can create your own custom classes too. The one-hour Relaxation class is a personal favorite in our household. After the kids go to bed, light a candle, roll out your mat, (maybe pour that glass of wine, because why not? You’re at home!) Annnnd enjoy some well-earned savasana.  You won’t regret it.

Cost: $1.99/month or $19.99 annually

Great for: All levels of  yoga 

Best Running App: Map my Run by Under Armor

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Running for me currently goes one of two ways…  either the stars align and I get a glorious solo run while someone else watches the kiddos OR I’ve loaded up the jogging stroller with kids, snacks, blankets, water bottles and goodness knows what else. Either way, I just want to GO before something goes wrong. I don’t want to worry about creating a route, monitoring my pace or distance, or fidget with a bunch of settings on my devices.

Enter: Map my Run. I can load saved routes with a touch of one button or simply “start workout” and go. All while my distance and pace and calories are reliably monitored and saved to track progress. You can add notes to your run once it’s completed (like perhaps “double stroller into the wind” or “goldfish spilled”) so you can track your training performance without trying to remember why you had a couple really off pace days.

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You can also connect with your running buddies/family members that use the app to encourage each other along the way, which is especially fun if you’re training for an event together, even long distance, or just for added support.  That “NICE RUN, BUDDY!!!” text from your partner never, ever gets old.

Cost: Free

Great for: Running/walking/biking, tracking outdoor routes, race training

I hope these apps are as helpful for some of you to maintain or even begin your fitness regimen as they have been for me.  Shout out with your favorites if you have some to add!  Now go get you some Om. Cheers!

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Christiana is a Navy wife and mother of 3, attorney and former realtor, world traveler, home renovator and decorator, yogi, fitness enthusiast, and recipe and fine wine explorer.

 

 

 

Photo credit: Tara Liebeck Photography

Essential Oils 101

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So what is Aromatherapy? Do you ever think back to a time before modern medicine? Before the time that the answer to everything seems to be to pop a pill? Well, before we had pills, the people  looked to the earth for help (sure, a s*$t-ton more folks died back then, but also nobody was willing to scrape the mold off cantaloupe and stick it on a festering wound either….but I’m splitting hairs. ).

Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils, derived from plants, roots, flowers, and saps and adapted into a concentrated oil to be used as aids in wellness of mind, body, and spirit. It can be inhaled indirectly, like in a diffuser( This one is super zen. ), via direct inhalation like using an Essential oil in your bathtub or an inhaler, or can be applied directly onto skin (be careful to be under direction of someone who is certified and knows about oils before you do this) via carrier oil such as jojoba or coconut oil.

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In my massage practice, I am certified to custom blend about 21 different oils. I use these blends for each client in a room diffuser. My favorite way to wear them daily for my own personal sense of zen is via my Essential Oil Necklace.

“Each type of essential oil has a different chemical composition that affects how it smells, how it is absorbed, and how it is used by the body. Even the oils from varieties of plants within the same species may have chemical compositions different from each other. The same applies to plants that are grown or harvested in different ways or locations.” Says this article published by PubMed. This is important to remember when using oils for their medicinal properties.

Blending Smells

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Since the olfactory nerve can be sensitive to the chemical properties of the oils, it is best to smell each oil when pairing oils together. Each blend should have three different components. A top, mid, and bottom note.

Top notes are oils such as citrus oils: lemon, sweet orange, grapefruit, being good examples. These top notes have the properties to “lift” up a mood. These oils are well known for the antidepressent qualities.

The Mid note is an oil that functions to balance out the blend. Lavender calms and sooths, eucalytpus balances and flows, and geranium is said to help regulate hormonal imbalance. There are many more, these are examples of the ones that I use frequently.

The Bottom notes are important. These are your saps, resins, barks, and some plants. Thick and earthy smelling, these function to ground you. They have very great propensity to help with sleep, anxiety, stress reduction, and overall centering.

Creating a delicate balance of chemical properties is important when blending oils. Smelling each oil one at a time can help you determine if the chemical properties of the oil are something your body can handle at that moment. For instance, you could think you LOVE lavender, but today you smell it and it smells awful! There are many other oils with soothing properties that may be less offensive to your nose, so move on to the next!

It is good practice to smell your blend and add ONE drop at a time per oil so you can be wary of the strength of your blend, and customize it directly to you!

Tips to remember

  1. Never put an oil directly on skin without a carrier oil as a base. Some oils (especially citrus) are phototoxic (breakdown in the presence of UV light) and will make your skin super susceptible to burning in the sun.
  2. Since oils are heavily concentrated (about 200lbs lavender flowers go into making just ONE lb of lavender oil) try to never blend more than 4-5 oils together.
  3. Make sure your oil is pure, in a blue or brown glass bottle that has been shipped and stored in a cool dry place (these are organic matter essences and have a shelf life) To tell if it is pure, you should see its latin name as well as its country of origin written clearly on the bottle. StillPoint Aromatics is a company that I like to recommend .
  4. Please DO NOT FOR ANY REASON WHATSOEVER ingest essential oils. Unless you are under the direct care of a clinically trained Aromatherapist (not corporate trained), you should avoid ingestion. Like I stated above, these heavily concentrated oils can eat through surfaces like wood. Imagine what it could do with a stomach lining or liver!
  5. Be careful and do not use oils if you’re pregnant! Again, it is earth medicine and needs trained minds to approve before use.
  6. Have fun with it! It can become a very awesome ritual if you let it!

Here is an excellent guide!

 

Essential Oils Guide

Friday Feels: Dealing with Adult Bullies

Ever hear these lines?

“It’s not about you, it’s about them.” “Take it as a compliment that she is so focused on you still after all this time.” “Just ignore them.”

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These are all things other people will say to you when you are the target of an adult bully. These are what they will tell you to think to yourself as you take deep breaths and  “let it go” (thanks Elsa). But, the ugly truth is that engaging in this calming behavior, while helpful to you, doesn’t help address the continuance of the behavior of the bully. 

Someone very smart once told me, “power and insecurity are a dangerous combination.” Power comes in many forms – physical size, career position, money, and/or social influence, to name a few.  (Political power is the form currently reflected in the administration of our country, but I won’t get into that right now). This is the common ground underlying bullying whether age 2 or 92.

So, since I like to focus on solutions, I want to talk about things you can do to attempt to curb the behavior without sacrificing your own integrity and sanity (and ultimately avoid becoming a revenge-bully yourself).  But first, a little bit of background:

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I personally have been the target of a bully.  This person has spent the last two years telling people various inaccurate and reputation-damaging stories about why I left my previous career to become a full-time financial advisor. More than a dozen people have told me some version of her story after they heard it.  I won’t bore you with the details, but the most alarming untrue story she likes to spread is that I had post-partum depression due to my daughter’s emergency surgeries and couldn’t face returning to work.

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It shouldn’t have surprised me, really. She had said rude, untrue things about many other people in my presence, and you know what they say – if someone talks sh*& about others, they will talk sh*& about you too. And even though I hope that the majority of people she said these things to realize there was no truth to them, the bottom line is: they might wonder if there is a kernel of truth in there. And as Señora Gibson told us all in high school, “You only have one reputation. Protect it with all of your might!”

So, what actually works to combat a bully?

Here are my tips:

  1. Find compassion. Remember that at the root of the bully’s behavior is insecurity. Start fresh with this thought, “I want to see this person for the first time.” (thanks Gabby Bernstein). Allow compassion to be your starting point. This won’t stop the behavior (remember, you can’t control what others do, only your own actions), butsad mean girls GIF-source.gif it might prevent your blood pressure from rising or result in screaming in their face like you want to.  People who are happy and secure don’t feel threatened by other people’s success. They don’t find pleasure in or feel compelled to harm others or put them down.  Picture them as a child themselves, experiencing bullying or their own trauma. It will potentially shift your view enough to give you the space to find empathy instead of anger in a challenging moment.   
  2. Let go of the “why”. Asking, “Why??” is a waste of energy. We often create these stories in our minds about other people that are not helpful. There is a great kids book called Have You Filled A Bucket Today? that breaks it down. The basic storyline is that everyone carries an invisible bucket around with them, filled with love and happiness. Bullies have empty buckets. They think that by emptying other people’s buckets they will fill their own, but the truth is that every time they are mean to someone else, they not only empty that person’s bucket but they also empty their own as well. You don’t need to know “why” their bucket is empty. All that matters is that you remember that the bully’s behavior isn’t about you. 
  3. Confront them calmly and kindly (over and over again if needed). Have patience and remember that this is a process. I confronted this bully after this first began and asked her kindly to stop spreading misinformation. She denied it washappy excuse me GIF-source.gif happening and carried on. No surprise. Doing it once usually doesn’t do the trick but you have to start somewhere. You have to be consistent and clear. Every time they say something rude or condescending to you, respond with a simple “What do you mean by that?” Interestingly, this usually stops them in their tracks (I swear, try it!). In a situation where they are forced to explain the meaning behind their comments, you will usually find that they backtrack or walk away altogether. If they alternately, explain an explicit threat – you then have grounds to take more formal action. Write it down immediately with date and time. This works in the workplace, in social settings, and at home.
  4. Be mindful of the record. If they send you something mean or rude in writing (like an email), do not respond in writing. If you feel you must, keep it short, without malice, and consistent with other communications. For example, “I am not sure exactly what you mean by this. However, I would prefer a face to face conversation to prevent any miscommunication and feel confident that you will treat me with respect.” Set the tone proactively.  Stop the cycle of condescension.  30124233_2081515945450971_2698465873672939413_n.jpg
  5. Don’t give their words life. When someone wrongs us like this, spreading rumors and causing heartache, you want to run around and shout from the rooftops- “Can you believe what this person said?! It isn’t true!!!” But when we do this, we end up giving their voices more power. We are further spreading the rumor!!! Don’t repeat it.  Don’t give it life.  Complain to your spouse, partner or besties, but leave it there.
  6. Allow your frenemies to expose themselves and then say goodbye to them. Perhaps the greatest gift a bully can give you is clarity around some of your relationships. If people believe the bully, or worse, if people participate in the gossip, they are showing you their true colors. Don’t make it a dramatic break up, just stop including them in your life. People with integrity will always stand up for what is right, even (and especially) when it is hard, no excuses. As my husband says, “Excuses are like buttholes. Everyone has them and they all stink.” Shoutout to Mrs. Driscoll’s banner in her classroom in 7th grade: “What’s popular isn’t always right, and what’s right isn’t always popular.” 
  7. Spread your story, the truth, far and wide – with positivity.  Send out a letter announcement or email saying your truth. Be your own PR agent – a PR Agent of Truth.  While legal action is always an option, slander cases are rough on the accuser too. Consider this PR Campaign for Truth as a less costly, positive alternative to battling it out in a court of law (although that’s always an option if it gets bad enough to harm your potential or current relationships, particularly your professional relationships.) 
  8. When they go low, you go high. Be the bigger person when responding to the michelle obama GIF by Election 2016-source.gifrumor mill. I saw a mutual contact in a bagel shop a few years ago. She said, “Wow – Margo. Why are you so dressed up in a suit today?”. I looked confused and said, “I’m on my way to a meeting!” She, even more confused said, “She told me that you left your job to stay home with your kids.”. I smiled and said, “No, actually, I had been planning this career change for quite some time now – took my series exams the year before, …etc.  But how are you?” Ultimately, I heard from a few others that this person, outraged at the lie, became an ambassador for my truth, without me even requesting that she do so. This is the absolute hardest one for me. My gut reaction is to want to fight back. But, in every relationship in your life, you are doing a dance with the other person. Don’t engage in a revenge-bully tango with the Bully.  It will ultimately bring you down to their level. Before you speak about someone, ask yourself: “Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary?”. Keep your bucket full. 
  9. Engage in self care. Go to yoga classes. Start using self-affirming statements. Seek counseling if you need it. Don’t let it harm your mental health. If anything, let this be a stimulus to Rise Up

And when all else fails and you want to scream? Go for it (in the privacy of your own home). Call your besties, pour yourself your favorite glass of wine or grab your favorite treat and remind yourself that tomorrow will be a better day and that bullies never prosper.  Because after all, living a life of unhappiness and insecurity is punishment enough. Thank goodness that’s not you, right? 

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Margo is a married mom of 2, financial advisor and software developer in Maryland.

Kristy, Au Naturale: Daily Meditation for folks who don’t have time to freaking meditate.

As a massage therapist and energy worker, I put a lot of pressure on myself to put out a “zen” vibe to others. To be perfectly honest though, I have the knowledge and the tools to become and remain grounded, but I am just like many of folks in rest of the world when it comes to my ups, downs, spaz-outs, and whirlwind emotions. The struggle has been real when it comes to self-doubt and judgement about how much I am not focusing on harnessing the inner strength that I know lives within me.

I have, though, found some simple, do-able things you (yes YOU!) can do to integrate meditation into your life.

Take five

It is during the most stressful times that I find it amazingly important to spend 5 or even 1 minute shutting off my mind, and really just listening to myself breathe.  That’s as easy as closing your eyes. Forget your to-do list (those can wait), no phone calls (silence that sh*&), and just really breathe.

“But how do I ‘just’ breathe, Kristy?” Truth is, I don’t use a certain style of breathing like ‘diaphragmatic breathing’ or ‘yoga breathing’. My answer is simple. In and out, people. In and out. Then, When you open your eyes…smile. Fake it if you have to. But smile. Find something you find funny and really SMILE. Think about something you hold dear and feel the love of that something within you, and surround yourself with it.

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ONE TO FIVE MINUTES. This can be done at stop lights (with eyes open of course), right as you sit down at your desk, as soon as you open your eyes in the morning. Brushing your teeth…..anytime or anywhere. No excuses. We all drive. We all brush our teeth… (hopefully). Set a reminder on your phone if you have to… oh then put it away for five minutes.

Other people do find special breathing techniques helpful or grounding. There are great online tutorials like this one on YouTube or on apps such as the Insight Timer.

After you breathe, step two is finding a way to be mindful about setting your energy and intention up for the day by learning something new about your inner self and practicing it throughout your day.

Start at work

We all email, right? Sometimes WAY too much! How many emails do you write in a day? Read in a day? 10? 25? Well, before you start your daily “this meeting should have been a F*%#ing EMAIL, CARL!!!!!!” anger freak out, go here: The Daily Om

My wonderful mother signed me up one day during a hysterically crying episode of postpartum anxiety to receive these daily emails full of insights that helped me ground myself with purpose.

Madisyn Taylor authors this website and when you subscribe, you get wonderful emails each day as a reminder to consider yourself first. Through this webpage, there is also a series of free or donation-based courses that you can take ranging from ’21 day at home Yoga’, to ‘freeing yourself from people in your life who are energy vampires’, *f’ing Carl* .(that is the subject of a whole other post–people who DRAIN the every last shred of life out of you just by being in the same room).

It’s science

In the book Handbook for Happiness: A 4 Step Plan For Resilient Living, the Mayo Clinic sums up that emotional and physical benefits of meditation are vast. It can help emotionally with stress management, imagination, creativity, tolerance and patience (cash reward for anyone who can teach me these), reducing negative emotions, increasing self-awareness and sense of being in the present.

Oftentimes, we overlook the effects that meditation has on illness and medical conditions.

“Meditation might also be useful if you have a medical condition, especially one that may be worsened by stress…….” “some research suggests that meditation may help people manage symptoms of conditions such as:450300_300x340_Cover.jpg

  • Anxiety
  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Chronic pain
  • Depression
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Sleep problems
  • Tension headaches”

LOADS of folks deal with these chronic issues, so why not arm ourselves everyday with the power of mind to DO SOMETHING about it? For free. With no bad side effects.

The power you have within you to change the vibes your giving off each day is remarkable. You just have to remember that it is there. It is important to realize that YOU and YOU only determine the course of how you handle situations.  This information is key to starting each morning off with a bit of peace to face the day. You can take back  the power to decide how you will feel and use that power to decide how you will react to each situation. Or… at least fake it until you make it!

Good luck and Namaste!


Momday Feels: Kristy & Annie

Just because some parts of our region fall victim to the whims of a picky groundhog’s opinion on what is considered a shadow, doesn’t mean we can’t make spring bloom
whenever we (damn well) want inside our homes
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Go home March, you’re drunk!
Some fun indoor spring projects can boost the mind into happier places.  For instance, if you love summer gardening, starting seeds in February-March can get you a head start with those ripe summer tomatoes, squash and zucchini. Plus – seeds offer more variety (I see you heirlooms) and are wayyyy cheaper than buying started plants later on  (so more money for wine to go with that Caprese).
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Starting an indoor herb garden from potted herbs found at your local grocery store can not only provide you with some beautiful greenery indoors, but can also inspire delicious meals and teas for entertaining or relaxing. Or sometimes, you might just need to smash a sage leaf or lavender flower in your palm and snort sniff it when your kids won’t stop whining that they’re borrrrrrrrrred, when is it gonna be summmmmmerrrrrrr?!
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It doesn’t have to be plants either. Finding a way to do sometime just for YOU can turn your whole day around. Imagine if instead of getting addicted to cigarettes, or drugs or even your iPhone you were addicted to self care. It’s all well and good when you have those special times to really get away and treat yourself, but what about the days you’re stuck at home or at work?? Where could you sneak off to “get your fix”.
Maybe you take an extra minute hiding in the bathroom to swipe on your favorite lipstick.  Perhaps you hide in the pantry and just fully savor a bite of expensive dark chocolate. Maybe when the kids are (finally) good and distracted, you leave the laundry unfolded and dishes undone and just do 5 minutes of yoga, or dancing to your fave song, or put on a face mask or masturbate (lock the bedroom door for that one) or paint your nails… whatEVER makes you feel more present and joyful in YOUR body.
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I know keeping fresh flowers around my home helped me out of a rough bout of seasonal affective disorder. (Thanks to the suggestion of a certain DIY badass renaissance mama—love you Christiana) Seeing the fullness and brightness of the blooms, helped inspire the productivity of purging my kitchen of all the useless junk (tupperware tops with no bottoms and visa versa…why are there never matching sets??) which made more space for organization!  I also had the benefit and joy of picking out my favorite blooms and buying them for ME. Don’t wait around for someone to buy them for you. Treat YO-self!
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So try it sometime..buy yourself some of your favorite flowers, stop and smell them, and smile. I dare you to make yourself smile today…. Kindness to yourself is the ultimate gangster.
IMG_9104Kristy is a married mom of 2, doula, Crossfitter, homesteader and massage therapist in Virginia. Annie, doctor mama of 2 in California co-wrote this with her.