The two major parts of dominating your health and fitness are sweating it out and conquering the kitchen. A couple weeks ago, I released a resource page, filled with all the gadgets and tools I use on a regular basis. You can still find that here.
Today I wanted to focus on my absolute top tools for sweating it out and conquering the kitchen. So if you’re overwhelmed by that big list, this is a great place to start.
Top 5 tools to help you sweat it out:
I love my Bose, but when I’m doing a lot of jumping or exercises where I’m laying down, I prefer earbuds. My Bose slip off my head when I’m doing those exercises. Plus, earbuds are easier to keep in the car so if I run out of the house or go to the gym from a friend’s house, I won’t have to go without music. I have two go-to’s for earbuds.
- Beats - I honestly bought beats buds because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Was the bass really that good? I figured the earbuds would give me a good idea of quality before having to really take the plunge into my wallet. The beats are good. The bass is good and I can still zone out when I use them. They’re small and compact which is great. The particular beats I have still come out of my ears when I’m jumping rope, but in general they stay in and are pretty comfortable for the whole workout.
- Wireless earbuds - It’s obvious by now that I have too many headphones. Because I’ve spent so much money on headphones, I didn’t want to drop a ton to get a wireless set. I opted for this cheaper version. The sound is decent. It’s definitely not the same quality as the Beats or Bose, but they’re also extremely cheaper. The extra ear piece is helpful for keeping them in my ears for workouts, though I still haven’t found anything that stays in (or on) while jump roping. These are pretty easy to pair with your phone and the charge is usually good for 2-3 workouts. I’m usually referencing my phone so frequently during a workout that it doesn’t usually bother me to have wired earphones, but the wireless ones definitely have their time and place. When I want wireless earbuds, these work great.
- Wireless beats - I’ve heard these are actually pretty great because the piece over your ear is adjustable so you can really mold it to fit your ears. I would love to hear from anyone who has used these. Let me know - is it worth it to buy ANOTHER set of headphones? Has anyone found jump rope - proof headphones?
Speaking of jump rope… most gyms have them available for use. They aren’t always laying around with all of the equipment, but most of the time they’ll be available if you ask someone at the front desk. Jump rope is great alternative to traditional cardio (running, swimming, biking). This is a great way to get your heart rate up and really engage your entire body.
If you do buy a jump rope, this is a great option. If you travel or workout at home, a jump rope should be a must for you. They’re super compact, lightweight, fairly inexpensive and provide a great full body, cardio workout.
A few examples of the variety a jump rope can give you: one legged jumps, running, skipping, double unders, regular jump rope. If you have a favorite jump rope exercise, let me know. I’d love to try it!
This is HANDS DOWN the best sports bra. For sooo many reasons!! First of all, it’s made by a company that’s made bras for YEARS.
- This is a maximum support sports bra - the kind I like best.
- They have underwires.
- You actually have two boobs when wearing them (seriously, I don’t know why most sports bras tout the uniboob. It’s not cute.).
- They’re comfortable.
- They have an adjustable hook in the back like a normal bra, meaning it’s easier to put on and you can adjust it as needed.
- There’s a ton of cute colors and patterns.
- And seriously, the best part of all is that they’ve come down in price. I bought these when they were more than $50/bra and I was so excited when I saw the price had dropped significantly.
The ONLY exception I’ll make is I sometimes pack one of those uni-boob sports bras when I travel because they take up less space… but if I have the room, the VS sports bra comes with me.
Normally I’m in the gym lifting weights and putting together my own circuit training, but I have a soft spot for hot yoga. I LOVE hot yoga! It’s great for body and mind. I try to go once a week but it doesn’t always happen.
- Obviously you need your own yoga mat if you’re taking yoga classes (even if mats are provided, having your own is a lot more sanitary. Ring worm anyone? No thank you.)
- Having a yoga mat also comes in handy if you prefer to workout at home. Sure, you could just do your exercises on the hard floor (ouch) or the carpet (assuming you don’t get rug burn), but again, a yoga mat will make your exercise more sanitary and possibly more functional.
- If you have bad knees (present!) or a bad back, you’ll probably do better with a thicker mat. Some will say that the more of an expert yogi you are, the thinner the mat you’ll use - or you might not use a mat at all. Let’s be honest, we’re probably not yoga experts and your joints are worth saving. I’m telling you, it’s a night and day difference to use a thick mat versus a thin mat. When I use a thin mat, it’s hard for me to relax and focus on the movements because all of my joints ache. And when your knees ache, then your back aches, then you start to overcompensate and it’s just bad news all around. Ain’t no shame in a thick mat. Everyone is in their own peaceful world anyway. So go ahead, get that thick mat and save your joints.
Ah, my cardio of choice. My “typical” form of cardio is some sort of interval that I’ve integrated into a circuit. However, I can appreciate some traditional cardio every now and then and when I have cardio days, it means I have Zumba days.
I’ve always loved dancing. I’m talking I NEVER turned down an opportunity to dance growing up. But, now I’m older and I’ve grown out of most of that.. Mostly because clubs just aren’t my scene. ZUMBA. Zumba is my scene.
Zumba is a place you get to dance your heart out with your best girlfriends and actually dress for the sweat. No trying to keep heels on as long as possible or debate whether you should put your hair up or not. Zumba is a workout - and it’s meant to be a workout. You don’t have to dress like you’re going to a club (and you probably shouldn’t because nobody does and it just wouldn’t make sense). One less thing to worry about! Wear your gym clothes and tennies, blast the music and dance your heart out.
I’m constantly amazed that one of my favorite Zumba instructors is a normal, happy mother and wife and lives in a town in Utah right by me. (Talk about a strong, independent woman with balance!) You may not be able to fly out here and dance with us, but you can still dance with Kass with one of her DVD’s.
Top 5 to Conquer the kitchen:
A couple of years ago, I decided to try Whole 30 with a big group of friends. It was fun because we all did it together and it really taught me a lot. That was around the time I bought my Blendtec. It’s a little on the pricy side, but it is totally worth every penny!! I can’t believe everything you can do with a blendtec. And, it’s incredibly durable.
Here’s a quick example of some of the stuff I’ve made IN my Blendtec:
- almond flour
- cashew butter
- mashed cauliflower
- banana pancakes
- banana bread
- banana ice cream
- and a variety of sauces
I’m telling you, a Blendtec will make your life better. It’s easy to use, easy to clean and is just sooo convenient. You know how bakers rave about their Kitchenaids? Blendtec is pretty much the all around kitchen equivalent of a Kitchenaid.
I travel a lot, so as much as I prefer fresh meat and produce, I’ve had to find acceptable canned and frozen foods I can keep on hand. Don’t get me wrong, I still buy fresh meat and produce, but only when I know I have an immediate reason to use them.
Canned chicken. This is pretty much my go-to lunch every day. Chicken salad. NOT ALL CANNED CHICKEN IS MADE EQUAL. Repeat that to yourself about a million times. The ingredients of canned food can really vary, which means the health benefits can really vary.
I have good news and bad news.
The good news - I searched for the longest time to find canned chicken that didn’t have a bunch of weird ingredients I couldn’t read. And I found it!! (Picture the heavens opening.)
The bad news - as much as I’ve scoured the internet, I haven’t been able to find it anywhere online.
The “trying to make it better” news - if you live in Utah, they sell it at Smith’s. If you don’t, this is what you look for… canned chicken that has the fewest number of ingredients possible. The simple truth canned chicken I buy has 3 ingredients - THREE FREAKING INGREDIENTS. Chicken, water, salt. Badda bing, badda boom.
Now, I’ve searched for a long time to find such simple canned chicken. If you can’t find one that ONLY has the ingredients chicken, water, salt, look for the one with the fewest ingredients. That’s a great place to start. If you’re really ambitious, you can even learn how to make your own canned chicken. (That’s on my list of things to learn. I’ll let you know how it goes whenever I try.)
Dove dark chocolate:
Because balance. I have never, ever been a person who’s promoted giving up foods you love. If I did that, I would be a total hypocrite. I don’t think you should give up the food you love. Not in the least bit. Food makes us happy. I refuse to be the one who takes your happy away.
For dark chocolate lovers like me, Dove dark chocolate is heavenly. (But these are also available in milk chocolate if that’s your thing.) Dove’s dark chocolate is truly dark, but it’s not so dark it’s bitter.
It comes in bite size pieces so you don’t have the excuse:
“oh.. You expected me to open the bar and not eat the whole thing?”
Grab a few pieces, savor that flavor. Let the dark chocolate give you that feeling of relief and joy that only chocolate can bring. Did I go too far? Oh well, you get my point. These are one of my faves, I almost always have them on hand and I’m a little cheesy so I love reading the messages inside the wrappers.
Again, I travel. I want to know I can buy fruits and vegetables and not worry about them going bad if I go out of town. Plus, it’s nice to know I have food when I come home.
- Price - These bags are only about $1 each and they hold about 2 large servings each. If you tend to eat small portions of veggies, this might be 4 servings. I prefer to load up on my veggies because I know they’re good for me.. And the longer I’ve eaten them, the more I actually crave veggies. Weird, I know.
- Convenience - Freezer obviously makes these convenient. They’re small and easy to store, but they’re also easy to cook. Pop these babies in the microwave for a few minutes and voila - you have steamed veggies. Hate the microwave? Don’t get your panties in a twist - you can just as easily open the bag and cook the veggies on the stove. When I have time, I prefer the stove too. But life and laziness means the stove doesn’t always happen. I’ve also defrosted the veggies before and added them to stir fry or similar dishes.
- Quality - Call me crazy, but I read the label of everything I buy. Not for calories or nutrition facts, but for ingredients. If I buy frozen fruits or vegetables, the only ingredient I want to see on the bag is the fruit or vegetable itself. Example? A bag of frozen broccoli should read - ingredients: broccoli. Plain and simple. If there’s other crap listed, I buy a different brand. I prefer the taste of frozen veggies over canned veggies, which is another reason I buy these. If you shop or eat organic, you can find organic frozen fruits and veggies - just take a look at your labels.
If you’re buying high quality foods, a quick glance at the label is all you should need. If there’s a long list of ingredients, give it a hard pass.
For those who are gluten free:
I know we’re not all gluten free and if you don’t have a need to be gluten free, my recommendation is to not do it. If I eat gluten, I pretty much feel like I’m going to die. So I don’t eat it. I don’t eat very many “gluten free substitutes” because most of them aren’t very healthy. Seriously. If it doesn’t make you sick, you’re better off with whole grain.
However, if you can’t have gluten, this is one of my favorite products -
Hands down I prefer non-gluten free brands that make gluten free products. Breton fits that description to a tee. Breton has been making crackers for years (kind of like how VS has been making bras for years.. But also completely different because clothes. Food. rabbit hole…) Because Breton has been making crackers for so long, I’d like to believe they’ve really mastered the flavor department.
Instead of figuring out everything from scratch, Breton basically had to figure out how to make a delicious recipe gluten free, rather than figuring out how to make a cracker and how to give it a good texture, and flavor, etc. Most gluten free crackers, bread, dough, etc. I’ve tried has really weird textures, sometimes falls apart, is crazy expensive and doesn’t even taste good. (Another reason why I rarely substitute).
HOWEVER, these crackers are seriously delicious. Even my very non-gluten free boyfriend loves these crackers (which tells me they’re not gluten free good, they're just plain delicious). I don’t always have them on hand, but when I buy crackers, these are always the ones I buy. They’re great with chicken salad or cheese or just as a snack.
Welp, there you go - my absolute top 5 “things” to really conquer the kitchen and be a boss at the gym. I want you to sweat it out here so it’s one less thing for you to “sweat” about. That starts with giving you the right resources. Give them a whirl and let me know what you think! I’d love to hear from you!