It's no secret that I love yoga. I've been practicing on an off for about 15 years. I discovered yoga through, of all things, cable television. There weren't any studios in my town at that time so practicing with a live person wasn't even an option. While flipping through stations one day I stumbled across a high energy instructor who played fun, contemporary music and made yoga fun, not stuffy and intimidating. There was no chanting or "oooommmms" involved and it was a great workout to boot. I was hooked. I practiced along with the show for years until it went off the air. I was so sad! My yoga practice pretty much stalled at this point. I had babies and toddlers to take care of and little time for finding a class to take the place of my beloved program. If only YouTube had existed then! I could have continued my practice from home. How did we survive before the internet? Luckily, a few years later I was able to find a local studio with a welcoming and attentive teacher and classmates who quickly became friends. Around the same time, I found a wealth of classes on YouTube I could do from home when I couldn't make it to the studio. I suffered through my share of less than stellar classes but through trial and error found some really fantastic classes and instructors that I loved! I still prefer the studio over home practice but YouTube is a great alternative when need be!
One of the comments I get most often is "I want to try yoga but I don't know how". Many people are intimidated by going to a studio, especially if they are yoga newbies. They picture the stereotypical studio as portrayed by popular culture and are hesitant to take that first step through the door. Many studios are far from this stereotype and I'm confident most people can find the right fit with a little trial and error. Unfortunately, going to a studio isn't always feasible whether due to time constraints, finances or where you live. This doesn't have to stop you from beginning a practice that can benefit your physical and mental health tremendously. YouTube offers many high quality, full length classes that range from beginner to advanced practices. Searching out the best instructors and classes can be overwhelming and time consuming so I did the work for you! Today I am sharing my top 5 favorite YouTube yoga channels so you can practice at home. Check them out and be sure to let me know who you tried out in the comments section!
1. Yoga by Candace
This was the first YouTube yoga channel I discovered that offered high quality, full length classes. It remains one of my favorite channel for all things yoga. Classes are organized in a variety of ways (length of video, type, body part focus, etc.) so it is easy to find the right class for your needs. Candace has a soothing voice and gives clear instructions. There is a companion blog and community forum as well as a free app so you can take your practice with you wherever you go!
2. Yoga with Adriene
Great channel for beginners with a wide variety of classes to choose from. Practicing with Adriene feels like hanging out with a fun girlfriend. This channel offers an extensive class list and is nicely organized to make it easy to find just what you are looking for. This is a perfect channel to start your yoga journey!
3. Sean Vigue Fitness
If you think yoga is stuffy and serious then you have to check out this channel. Sean Vigue makes yoga fun and anything but stuffy. This is a great channel for those looking for fitness based yoga and is perfect for guys who think yoga is just for the ladies. Sean offers a free 30 Day program for beginners as well as classes geared towards athletes, classes for weight loss and so much more. There is also a free app to complement this channel.
4. Fightmaster Yoga
Leslie Fightmaster (yes, that is her real name!) offers a wide variety of full length classes, including a free 30 Day program for beginners and a 90 Day Yoga Fix program. The instructions are clear and easy to follow and she offers a variety of modifications to fit all ability levels. New videos are uploaded weekly so you never have to worry about getting bored!
5. Yoga with Tim
This channel offers high quality yoga classes with a focus on having a balanced practice. There is a free 30 Day Total Body program to create total mind and body wellness. The classes are perfect for beginners and seasoned yogis alike.
Have a favorite channel I didn't include? Share it with us in the comments!
Picnic season is upon us! Graduation parties, barbecues, holiday celebrations... summer is the time for party food! This can be a real challenge if you are committed to eating clean. It's tough to find healthy options among the creamy, cheesy, calorie and fat laden party favorites. Today I'm sharing one of my favorite dishes to take to potlucks, parties, showers and more! Rice Salad is a delicious and updated alternative to classic pasta salad. It's a versatile recipe that can easily be adapted to meet your family's veggie preferences. I first had this salad years ago when my sister made it. Everyone raved over it and I had to have the recipe! Of course, I can't leave any recipe as-is so in the years since I've altered it to fit our flavor preferences and come up with this simple recipe that will be the hit of any party. Since this recipe doesn't use a creamy dressing it is safer to leave out on the buffet table than many traditional picnic salads. No one wants to end the party with a bout of food poisoning!
The original recipe starts with a base of chilled white rice but you can experiment with basmati rice, quinoa blends or ancient grains. Find the combination that works for you!
Plan to make it? Share your favorite variation with us in the comments!
This weekend was a big one for me! I turned 40 and ran not one, but two Spartan Races to celebrate my big day. To make it even better, my oldest son and husband ran both with me. We took on the Virginia Super on Saturday, a beautiful 9 mile course dotted with 28 challenging obstacles. It was my first attempt at the competitive division and my first race in the Master's age division! I finished in a respectable 3rd place in my age group and 12th female overall. We had such a great time on the course that we decided to come back the next day and take on the shorter Sprint course just for fun....or at least that was the plan. Turns out this family is a little too competitive to do a "just for fun" lap. Sunday's finish landed me in 2nd place in my age group and 4th female overall in a small field of women finishers. It was awesome watching my 14 year old son overcome each obstacle with determination and grit. He refused the offers of women's weights for heavy carries and put grown men to shame with his refusal let any obstacle beat him. I loved hearing all of the cheers and encouraging words other racers offered him time and time again. It was truly a weekend and birthday I won't forget!
The combined 13 miles of running and roughly 50 obstacles coupled with a 5 hour drive home left us feeling pretty sore and beat up the next day. Even if crazy obstacle races aren't your thing, you probably know the feeling all too well. We've all been there. You worked hard the day before and when you roll out of bed in the morning-ouch! You feel like you've been hit by a truck. Delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, is no joke. I've pushed my muscles to the limit too many times to count and I want to share my tried and true methods for reducing pain and speeding the recovery process with you. Remember, recovery days are part of the process and pushing yourself too far invites injury and burn out. When you are sore and fatigued take a day off or enjoy gentle recovery activities like hiking or swimming. Always listen to your body and respect when it is telling you to slow down and take on a little self care!
Whether it is caused by a workout you took to new limits, a full day of yard work or a weekend full of home remodeling projects, the DOMS aches and pains can be enough to slow you down. But they don't have to! Try my no-fail methods for recovery day success!
The end of the school year is here-yay! That means lots of time to spend with the kids enjoying a well deserved break from busy school schedules. With all that extra free time comes the inevitable chorus of "I'm bored" once the novelty of being home all day wears off. Summer is the perfect time for family workouts disguised (or not!) as playing. Why not kill two birds with one stone? Help the kids beat boredom (without a device in their hands!) while also getting a great workout.
Here are 6 of my favorite family friendly workouts:
Most kids love exploring nature. Hit the trails to get a great workout and enjoy the great outdoors at the same time! Older kids can enjoy taking on challenging terrain or longer distances while little one will love a nature walk or scavenger hunt. Bonus workout for mom and dad if you make the trek with the littlest one on your back!
Cycling is fun for kids of all ages. Find a bike trail or park near you or explore your neighborhood. Don't forget the helmets!
Yoga is a great family activity and can be done at any age. It requires little to no equipment, very little space and can be modified to fit any age or ability level. Check out your local studio or practice at home using free online videos through YouTube. Another fun option to try is yoga cards-this one always ends in laughs at our house! There a lots of kid friendly options out there! Explore your options to find the right fit for your family!
4. Playground Circuits
This one might get you a few funny looks from the other parents but your kids will be the envy of the playground! Join in the fun instead of watching from the sidelines. Playgrounds offer lots of opportunities for fitness fun. Monkey Bars are great for pull ups and dead hangs-unleash your inner Ninja Warrior and swing from bar to bar! Park benches are perfect for step ups, decline push ups, jumps, triceps dips and more. Get creative-climb poles or ropes, run, jump- do anything that your 10 year old self would have loved! Sky's the limit!
5. Fun Run 5K
We are a family of runners. Not everyone is! But that doesn't mean your family can't enjoy one of the many fun runs that can be found most weekends during the summer and early fall. There is a theme to fit just about every interest these days. You'll find races featuring things like bubbles, colored powder, zombies, costumes, mud and more. Grab your family and friends and hit the road for a fun day! Bonus-many races benefit worth while charities. Do good and have fun at the same time!
6. TV Fit Breaks
Not every summer day is picture perfect. When rainy days or high temperatures keep you indoors turn to TV fit breaks to stay active. Use commercial breaks to challenge the fam to see how many push-ups, high knees, squats, jumping jacks, sit ups, etc. they can fit in before the break is over. Give the moves silly names for younger kids, take turns pretending to be the Coach or play Simon Says. Have older kids who love competition? The person with the most reps gets to control the remote!
What activities keep your family on the move? Share your favorites with us in the comments and inspire other families to join in the fun!
Short on time? Intimidated by meal prepping? Try this beginner friendly way to prep your lunches AND plan your dinners at the same time!
Here’s the truth- eating clean is more time consuming and requires more planning than just eating whatever you happen to grab from the drive thru or making old favorites that taste delicious but are heavy, high in calories and low on nutrition. Sorry, there’s no magic trick out there. Just like all good things, eating healthy requires good old fashioned hard work, dedication to a goal and planning ahead so nothing deters you from that goal. Is it easy? No. Especially at first. But it is worth it and it does get easier- I promise!
I’ve put together a 5 day menu of meal prepped lunches created predominantly from week night dinner leftovers. This plan was a lifesaver for my husband and I recently when we found ourselves too busy to prep on a recent Sunday. It was a great excuse to get creative with our lunches and also helped make dinnertime easier since I’d planned ahead. No more last minute trips to the store or scrambling to come up with dinner ideas when everyone was tired and hungry after a long day.
Remember, this is just a suggested meal plan. You may make substitutions to fit your family’s needs. The key to success is finding healthy foods you love and want to eat! Try it out for yourself!
It's May! If your family is anything like mine the month of May is packed full of activities. Sports, family gatherings, end of school year programs and more fill the family calendar. On top of that, hubby and I are training for a half marathon obstacle course race at the end of the month so we need to use our limited hours at home wisely. I'm always looking for ways to balance training and meal prepping with our family time, errands and other commitments. I value all of these things and don't want to give up on any one of them!
As the days have gotten warmer and the sun started setting later we've struggled a little to get our Sunday meal prep done. Let's be honest, it is much easier to spend an hour in the kitchen meal prepping when it is cold and ugly out than when it's 75 and sunny! So how do I balance my desire to be outside enjoying the beautiful spring weather with my equally strong need to have healthy lunches ready to go each day? In times like these I rely on time saving kitchen hacks and gadgets. Time to work smarter-not harder!
I have two can't live without it kitchen appliances that help me save time, cook with less mess and save me from eating sad school lunches even on the weeks we fail to prep properly.
(BTW-This is not a sponsored post-I really do own and love both of these appliances! )
The first is a rice cooker. When my husband suggested getting one of these I was skeptical at best. Another bulky counter top hog that would go the way of the juicer-no thanks. Hubby bought it anyway and soon I realized it was the perfect way to cook those tricky to make ancient grain or mixed rice medleys. I'm a pretty good cook but when it comes to these rice and grain blends I've had limited success on the stove top and down right disaster attempting it in the microwave. I can dump the rice in, add water, push a button and walk away. An hour later I have a week's worth of perfect, healthy grains cooked without a single stir of the spoon from me. These grains make up the basis of many of my lunches. I love using them in burrito bowls, tossed with roasted veggies and grilled chicken, or my new favorite-as a cold salad with a light lemon vinaigrette. Delicious!
My other time saving, can't live without it kitchen appliance is the old stand by slow cooker. I have two different sizes, the one that comes to my rescue is the small, cheapie 3 quart that I picked up on clearance. Best $10 I ever spent! I love my giant slow cooker with all of it's bells and whistles but when it comes to lunch prep sometimes less is more. Its the perfect size for just a few chicken breasts or a small piece of meat and it is ideal for overnight steel cut oats. Easy clean and easy to store it is a lifesaver time and time again. I could never have imagined needing or wanting two slow cookers before I started this journey but now I can't imagine living without them! Each serves its purpose and is invaluable in its own way.
There are so many great kitchen appliances and gadgets that can make healthy cooking easier, more cost effective and even help to reduce food waste. Do you love your spiralizer? Can't live without a bullet blender? Please share your favorites in the comments!
Obstacle course racing is one of the fastest growing sports in America today. There are races of all distances, themes and difficulty levels. Some are "fun runs" while others are serious tests of strength, endurance and athleticism. With a little research, anyone can find the perfect race! If you've ever thought of signing up but didn't know where to start or how to train, you're in the right place!
One reason Obstacle Course Racing, or OCR, is so popular is that the obstacles are like a giant playground for adults. You'll find monkey bars, mud, rings, mud, climbing walls, ropes, cargo nets, did I say mud? You get to run, climb, jump, splash and generally relive your childhood out on the course! People of all ages, shapes, sizes and fitness levels participate in races and experience the amazing feeling of crossing the finish line after overcoming obstacles, both literally and figuratively! With a little preparation, anyone can have a fun (and safe!) run on the OCR course of their choice.
I was beyond nervous before my first Spartan Race. I wasn't sure how to train or what to expect on race day. Since then I've earned 3 Spartan trifectas and run 11 races with at least 5 more scheduled this season. OCR is addicting and definitely keeps me focused on staying fit and strong! Signing up for a race is great motivation for keeping on track with your fitness goals and could be just the boost you need if you've found yourself at a plateau.
Here are a few things I wish I'd known before hitting the course for the first time.
5 tips to help you prepare for your first Obstacle Course Race
1. Run Trails
Courses vary in difficulty and distance but I've found that if you have a background in cross country or trail running then you automatically have an advantage over many people on the course. It doesn't matter how strong you are if you can't cover the miles to get to the finish! Running on a treadmill or even road running is nothing like running rugged, hilly trails. Trail running requires you to be very aware of the course ahead of where you are running. You will need to make constant adjustments to account for rocks, ruts, tree roots, hills and other racers. Unlike road racing, your gaze should be on the ground 10-15 feet ahead of you. Some courses feature sections of technical trails and steep uphill climbs. Get out into nature and run. You'll be glad you did!
2. Practice your grip
Many obstacles require you to hold your own body weight as you hang from rings, ropes, or bars. It's harder than it sounds, especially when you are wet, muddy and tired. Remember, if you're wet and muddy the obstacle will be, too. Having the ability to hang will be a major help. Practice dead hangs, L-hangs and Pull Ups. Have a playground or swing set nearby? Use it! Practice hanging from the monkey bars or using momentum to swing from every other bar. Many obstacles, such as walls, require you to pull your body weigh up and over. Pull ups will help develop this skill and grip strength at the same time.
3. Strengthen your core
A strong, stable core does more than just create nice looking abs. A strong core helps protect your back and engages the muscles in your hips and pelvis as well as abdomen. A strong core will help you tackle everything from the barbed wire crawl to the bucket carry. Some great ab exercises to incorporate are Dead Bugs, Hollow Body Holds and more of those killer L-Hangs or Hanging Knee Raises. Bear crawls not only help to build core stability, they will develop shoulder strength, endurance and are great practice for barbed wire crawls.
4. Lift heavy things!
One obstacle motherhood prepared me for was heavy carries! If you've toted a 40 pound toddler around for any length of time then you've already practiced this one. You may encounter obstacles that require you to carry logs, sandbags, wreck bags, or buckets filled with sand or rocks. You can prepare by carrying any heavy object, practicing farmer's carries with dumbbells or kettlebells, doing deadlifts or even heading to the home improvement store to grab a bucket and some sand for a true OCR experience!
5. Practice your Burpees!
My favorite OCR series is Spartan Race. I love the competitive nature and focus on athleticism over "mental" obstacles like ice water or electric shock obstacles. But that's just me-to each his/her own! In Spartan Racing there is a 30 Burpee penalty for failed obstacles. These are a major energy suck. Practice them regularly in your runs and workouts so your body is used to continuing to operate at a high heart rate and in a state of exhaustion. Even if you go with a different race, Burpees are a total body workout and a move that will help you succeed at any OCR event.
Still nervous? Don't be! Signing up for an OCR event is great motivation to get in shape, stay focused on your goals and have fun in the process. The community is encouraging, welcoming and friendly! There is always someone willing to lend a hand if you need help on an obstacle. Grab a few friends and hit the course-you won't regret it!
Have a training or race question? Ask away in the comments!
. I love social media, I've "met" some wonderful people and found a community full of inspiration and encouragement. Social media can be a great thing, but it can also give a distorted perspective into what other people's lives are like. We can easily forget that the things people post online are the highlight reel. It is rare to find honest posts about the rough days, setbacks, missed workouts or ridiculously bad for you meals. We see post after post of people out there just killing it and it's easy to begin thinking you are the lone rider on the struggle bus. It's just not true! Everyone has setbacks along the way, including me! My goal in sharing online is to show the true journey. I strive to inspire others and be a good example but to also be honest in all aspects of this lifestyle. Committing to a healthy lifestyle is not always easy and getting discouraged by post after perfect post is not what any of us need!
Last week was standardized state testing for my own children and my students. Not the most relaxing week. Some well meaning sweet souls but a giant basket of treats in our teacher's room and boxes of donuts were a daily fixture. Stress + easy access to sugar = a full week of fails. That's right, I ate donuts, processed packaged treats and candy. Now, in these situations we have choices. We can beat ourselves up and quit on our goals because we messed up. We can go back to the old habits, keep eating the junk and continue to fail. OR! We can choose to shake off the setback, forgive ourselves for the poor food choices and MOVE FORWARD! Guess which one I picked?
This is real life. This is a typical, if unseen part of committing to living a healthy, fitness focused life. One bad week does not undo all your hard work. Maybe you've fallen out of your good habits longer. Repeat after me: It's NEVER too late to turn it around. Each day is a new opportunity to get back to what you know your body needs. I'm ready to focus on the new week ahead. My meal prep is underway and I'm drinking plenty of water to flush out my system. I'll be starting this week with renewed focus and energy. I hope you'll join me!
Sometimes I write my health and fitness posts to inspire others, today I'm writing this one for me! If I had to choose my worst 'bad habit' it would be not drinking enough water. Ever. Rarely does a single day go by that I hit my target amount of water. Every night I tell myself tomorrow will be the day I get in more ounces of water than coffee and every day I struggle to do it. To make it even more challenging, the old 8 x 8 rule of drinking eight 8 ounce glasses a day is outdated.
The current recommendations suggest basing intake off of your weight, gender and activity level. I like the simplicity of this calculator:
www.bodybuilding.com/fun/water_calculator.htm but there are lots of others out there.
Being chronically dehydrated really takes a toll on the body and I'm recommitting to hydrating myself properly-starting now! I hope you'll join me! We can support each other and reap all of the benefits of being well hydrated. My favorite benefit is healthy, glowing skin with fewer fine lines and wrinkles! That should be motivation to keep on track as I inch closer to the big 4-0!
Here are just 5 of the many health benefits of drinking enough water each and every day!
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Teaching is a big responsibility. I know every job has its challenges and there are lots of important careers out there that impact people every day. But throw in dozens little humans and the impact skyrockets. Even if you can't remember the name or face of every teacher you had, you remember the impact they had on your life. You remember the way they made you feel about yourself and your world for those 9 months you spent in their presence. It's a big responsibility!
My job goes beyond teaching my students the old 3 R's. Teachers are modeling a way to be. Consciously or not, they will pick up on my attitudes, my reaction to situations, my values and my beliefs about the world-even if I never once explicitly state these things. Today was a good reminder of that.
I recently gave my class an assignment to write and illustrate their own simile or metaphor. There were funny ones, silly ones, some made up and many familiar.
Then there was this one:
"Mrs. E. Miller is as tough as a WWE wrestler" accompanied by a picture of me smiling and flipping tires, crazy curly hair and all.
My class knows I love working out, eating healthy and Obstacle Course Racing but sometimes I forget how much the little glimpses into a teacher's life out of school means to kids. When I saw this one I couldn't help but smile. This paper reminded me that even my hobbies have the potential to impact my girls in a positive, empowering way at an age when they are on the edge of leaving childhood behind for the rocky teenage years. I hope that the girls that pass through my classroom over the decades will leave me knowing that strength is beautiful, powerful women are awesome and that you don't have to choose between being a badass and being feminine. I want to plant a seed of confidence in them, show them that there need not be limits to what they can do just because of their gender. These are the lessons I teach my own daughter and the message that I hope my students will remember when the body confidence issues come calling in the middle school years.
I'll be keeping this paper. It will remind me of the role model that I want to continue to be. It is an honor and I don't take it lightly.
Want to join me?
Here are 3 things you can do today to empower the girls in your life!
1. Read books with strong female characters
Someone jokingly remarked that I love my "girl power" books and they were right. I love using books with strong female characters for read aloud and including powerful women in our biography studies. Kids of both genders enjoy them because they love a good main character they can relate to-regardless of gender!
2. Focus on what bodies can do vs. what they look like
Easier said than done, I know. It sets a great example for the little girls in our lives and also helps us break a nasty habit that pretty much every woman I know engages in. Big thighs? Think how powerful they are when you squat. The soft midsection ou hate grew your amazing kids for 9 months. Focus on all the great things you can do with the body you have and teach your daughter to do the same.
3. Change your inner dialogue
Again, not the easiest thing to do. Stop talking to yourself in a way you would NEVER (I hope!) talk to your daughter or another woman. I'm guilty of this one for sure. Girls pick up on the way their mothers and female relatives talk about their bodies and internalize it. They see you, they hear you and they are listening. Tell the mean voice in your head to shut up! Shifting your mindset and inner dialogue is so powerful! Try it. You might have to fake it till you make it but isn't it worth it to be the body positive role model a little girl needs?
Hi! I'm Erica, a fitness and healthy food loving wife and mother of three here to inspire you on your wellness journey!