What I Bought: Gold’s Gym Foam Roller

foam-rollerWhat I bought: Gold’s Gym 18-inch massage foam roller (Walmart)

What I paid: $14.77

My healthier choices challenge has motivated me to kick it up a notch with running: I run four or five times a week (instead of two or three times), and I’ve been pushing myself to run a little farther than I had been in the last couple months. This is mostly because I want to eat more food, which is hard to do when my calories are limited. Running four miles burns approximately 400 calories, which is a whole lot of food goodness!

OK, back to the post that’s supposed to be healthy…

To make sure my run is the best it can be, and to make sure I’m in as little pain as possible after my run, I decided to get more serious about pre- and post-run stretching.

I hate stretching. I don’t know why — it usually feels good. I think it’s the time involved. Before I run, I just want to get on the treadmill as quickly as possible. When I’m done with my run, I just want to get food or get showered as quickly as possible. It’s like I can’t be bothered to spend an extra five minutes stretching.

While I’ve been pretty lucky and haven’t had any serious running-related injuries, I do have pain every so often in a few of my muscles and nerves. I read that using a foam roller before and after my workouts could help, so I finally decided to try it. After doing a little research about what kind of foam roller to buy (basically not the most expensive one but also not the cheapest one — shocker), I went to Walmart and bought the Gold’s Gym 18-inch massage foam roller.

My local Walmart had a few options, but there were really only two versions: super dense (hard) with massaging bumps or moderately dense (still pretty hard) with no massaging bumps. The super dense with massaging bumps would have been a little too intense for a beginner like me. Then my choices were what size to get. I think my options were 12-inch, 18-inch and 24-inch. Other stores (and Walmart.com) have 36-inch options as well. It all depends what you want to use it for (some people use the roller while doing Pilates and the taller rollers work better for that). I opted for the 18-inch, for no reason other than I didn’t want the shortest or longest.

The roller comes with an instructional guide that illustrates a few moves, but I desperately needed a video. I watched a lot of videos on YouTube, but this one from Runner’s World (found via a “how to use a foam roller” Google search) was my favorite. Not only did it include videos, but it was also set up so that you knew which moves to do before your run and which to do after. Thank you for the specifics!

A few other videos I watched warned me that certain moves would be more painful than others, and they were right! But it still felt good, and I felt like my muscles were a little more primed for the run and the recuperation. A few articles I read about foam rollers recommended that you use them every day, not just before and after workouts. I think I’ll have to look into that more closely to see what moves I’d want to do. I saw a few instructions for upper back massages, which would be really good for me.

Overall, I’m very satisfied with this purchase. I might have been able to get a cheaper roller via Amazon, but I was impatient and wanted the roller NOW. Since Walmart is only two miles from my house, that made it an easy decision.

I also bought a yoga mat during my Walmart trip — it might be awhile before that gets put to use. Any recommendations for beginner yogis? If I’ve never done yoga, am I allowed to say, “yogis”? Is “yogis” even the right term for ‘people who do yoga’?

What I Bought: Merona Premium Control Top Opaque Tights

premium-tights

What I bought: Merona Premium Control Top Opaque Tights (Target)

What I paid: $8-10 (on sale for $8 on target.com right now!)

I have absolutely horrible luck with tights. I can snag a pair of tights before leaving the house. I once wore a pair of tights to work and realized after about an hour of being in the office that I had a long, visible run all the way down my leg. I went to Target and bought a cheap pair that I could slip into. I snagged the new pair about three hours later. Seriously!

Before I talk about these premium tights (which I actually like), let’s talk about tights in general. Why are they packaged with a giant piece of cardboard on the inside? I have snagged at least two pairs of tights just trying to get that cardboard piece out. I have to be doing something wrong. Right? Why can’t tights be packaged in some kind of vacuum-sealed plastic wrap, similar to those bulk packs of crew socks? I get that sometimes you want to feel the texture of the tights before buying them…maybe there is a little square of the plastic bag that is open — almost like a scratch & sniff-sized opening. But do we really need to feel them before buying them?

It’s possible that I’ve been buying the wrong size of tights. I feel like when I wear them, they almost cut off circulation in my stomach, similar to Spanx. I realize you want them to be tight to kind of suck things in and smooth out a few bulges…but I just get uncomfortable.

So a couple months ago (actually on Black Friday, so I’m sure my credit card number has been stolen) when Target had their Merona premium tights included as a Cartwheel deal, I decided to give them a try. My expectations were low, as they are with all tights. I also bought a size up from what the box sizing told me to do.

I’m really happy with them! They truly are opaque, unlike so many of the other “opaque” tights I’ve purchased. They are totally black. They feel thicker, almost like there are two layers. The larger size fits without suffocating me, but still serves the purpose of smoothing out bulges here and there.

I would highly recommend them.

How I’m Doing: Healthier Choices Challenge Update

Time for a goals check-in.

Make everything I eat a little healthier
The biggest contributor to success for this goal has been portion control. I’m making sure that I measure (or accurately “eye-ball”) what I’m eating so that my nutrition info in MyFitnessPal is correct. I’ve tried to make the majority of my meals and snacks healthy, but unhealthy things slip in there from time to time. I just limit myself to a small portion, then enjoy it.

What needs work: My snacks. On some days, my snacks were close to half (sometimes more!) my total daily caloric allowance. Yikes! While most of my snacks are healthier than my snacks used to be, I don’t always practice portion control, so the calories end up super high.

Eat at least one fruit/one veggie serving per day, then increase to two during week two, etc.
This is the goal I thought I’d struggle with the most. The first week was a breeze. The beginning of week two was a little harder. I realize that sounds pathetic, but that’s my reality! I haven’t made any super-awesome recipes to incorporate my servings — so far it’s almost all been through snacks. I’ve relied heavily on the frozen steamer side dishes to get veggies into my main meals. So far my favorite vegetable incorporation has been adding lots of spinach to eggs. I cook the spinach in a pan with a teensy bit of olive oil, then add a scrambled egg. I love how crispy the spinach gets. Yum! Probably the only time you will hear me use “yum” and “spinach” together. Oh, and I’ve been putting tons of spinach on my pizza. Ha, my cheese-stuffed-crust pepperoni pizza. Nobody’s perfect!

What needs work: It would be great if I could make an effort to find a few recipes that incorporated fruits/veggies in them so I’m not always having them just on the side. That sounds like more work, though, and I haven’t been organized enough to put in that extra effort.

Walk at least three miles a day at work
I’ve done awesome with this! There was only one day where I didn’t meet my at-work goal, but I made myself walk that extra distance on my treadmill that night. I’ve had a few days with excessive amounts of meetings, which has made the walking a little more challenging. I try to do close to two miles in the morning (when I have less meetings and there are less people in the office) so that if my late-morning and afternoon get a little hairy, I can still get most of my walking in. So far so good!

I did have to bring a more walker-friendly shoe to the office. I typically only wear flats in the office, but they have NO arch support and are about as comfortable as a piece of cardboard. These Dr. Scholl’s “Jamie” sneakers are some of my FAVORITE shoes for walking. They come in tons of different colors, but the orange pair below is my favorite.

drscholls

What needs work: Nothing really — I’m very happy with my behavior here.

Stand at my desk at least two and a half hours per day
Eh, this one has been OK. There have been several days that I either didn’t stand at all or only stood for about an hour. I tried to overcompensate on other days, but I’m pretty sure I’m still behind.

What needs work: I’ll have to try a little harder. I’m just not as passionate about this goal, apparently.

What I Tried: Ojon Damage Reverse Restorative Hair Treatment

ojon1What I tried: Ojon Damage Reverse Restorative Hair Treatment

What it costs: $19.50 for 1.5 ounces at Ulta, Sephora and other stores

I bought this at an Origins store using some kind of coupon. Spoiler alert: In my opinion, no percentage discount would have made this product worth purchasing.

I originally went into Origins to find Christmas gifts for my mom and Dan’s mom (seriously, Origins is like my go-to store if I desperately need gifts). I had just recently noticed that my hair — especially my roots — were extra dry and brittle-feeling. I told the sales clerk, and she recommended Ojon’s Damage Reverse Restorative Treatment. Normally before making a purchase like that, I’ll do some research, but it was sort of a “must use coupon right now” kind of moment.

The first time I tried it, I applied it as the packaging instructed: scoop product into palm of hand, warm by rubbing hands together until product turns into an oil, distribute evenly through hair and scalp; repeat steps until hair is full saturated; comb through hair and let sit for 20 minutes.

Typically I wouldn’t apply a product like this to my roots, since I consider my hair to be relatively greasy on its own. But the main reason I purchased the product was for treatment at my roots, so I went all out.

I let the product sit in my hair for probably 30-45 minutes, then showered. I should have shampooed two or three times (and many of the reviews will say that), but since I had just recently colored my hair, I didn’t want to wash out the color any faster. So I only shampooed once. Yikes.

My hair looked HORRIBLE for the rest of the day. It looked like I hadn’t washed my hair in days. If I didn’t have bangs, I could have just pulled all my hair into a bun and maybe it would have been fine. However, I do have bangs, which looked disgusting. Thankfully the only thing on my agenda that day was a lunch with my parents. (Sorry, parents, for looking like a hot mess.)

When you open the cap, the product looks like a hard wax. You basically try to scoop bits out with your hands. It was kind of fun to rub it between my hands and watch it turn to an oil. That’s where the fun ended though.

ojon2

The second time I tried it, I only applied it to the mid-shaft and ends of my hair. Totally defeats the purpose of purchasing it for “restoration” of my roots, but whatever.

Neither time did I think my hair was magically transformed. I’m going to assume I probably have to use it multiple times a week for a few months in order to see some kind of change, but being the overly cynical person that I am when it comes to product claims, I’m going to make another assumption: it will never transform my hair.

I wouldn’t recommend this to any of my friends or anyone with relatively fine hair. Maybe it works for those with course hair?

If you’ve had better luck with this product (or a product similar to this), let me know! The product has fairly high reviews. The one- and two-star reviews were all people who had the same experience I had. A lot of the reviews also complained about a “smokey” smell to the product. I believe Ojon changed its formula somewhat recently — the product I purchased didn’t have a bad smell to it. The scent isn’t citrus-y or fruit-y at all, either. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s not bad, but it’s not good.

What I’m Using: MyFitnessPal app

MyFitnessPal

What I’m using: MyFitnessPal app for Android (also available for iPhones…isn’t everything?!)

What is costs: Free (available from the Play store)

When I first started running several years ago, I found the best way to keep myself motivated was to track my progress. I documented my distance, time and calories burned for every run and marked them on a calendar (pretty sure it was a “cute kittens and adorable puppies” calendar that my grandma gave me for Christmas). Doing this was so helpful because I was able to see week-to-week progress, as well as days or weeks where I struggled (for example, if I had a bad run or stretch of runs, I could look at any other week and remind myself, “Lindsey, you can do it”). It was also awesome to see how much I’d improved month over month. And pictures of kittens and puppies (seriously, cuteness overload) didn’t hurt.

I wanted to do the same kind of documentation for my healthier choices challenge, but wasn’t sure how to do it. Initially I opened up a blank Word document and started typing what I was eating and what kind of physical activity I was doing. I quickly realized this wasn’t too scientific, and wasn’t going to show much in the way of progress.

After doing some research for food/exercise-tracking phone apps, I found this article from LifeHacker with their user-generated top food and nutrition tracker apps. I ended up choosing MyFitnessPal (the top-rated app). I chose it solely because it was top-rated. I also did an informal poll on Facebook — multiple friends recommended this one, but most of the others on LifeHacker’s list were favorites among my friends too. I’m assuming you can’t go wrong?

I like to enter my activity as it happens because it helps me to make better choices as the day goes on, but it’s easy to enter later in the day (as long as you can remember what you’ve eaten and how much of it you ate). Or, if you’re someone who is really good at planning, you could theoretically input all your food for the day in the morning (if you know what you’re having for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks) and then edit it if things change. I usually know what I’m eating for breakfast and lunch, but dinner is a wildcard. Maybe as my challenge continues, I’ll get better about that.

Entering your food and exercise activity into the app’s “diary” is pretty easy. (These are instructions for an Android phone — other phones might be different.) From the home screen, click the myfitnesspal icon in the top left corner, which provides you with a list of options. Select diary, then click the little + icon in the top right corner to add your food, exercise, water or notes. The meal tracker is broken down into breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, and exercise is broken down into cardiovascular or strength. When you select a category, you can then do a search for whatever it is you ate or did, and enter in the amount you did.

My favorite thing about this tracker (other trackers have the technology too) is the ability to scan the barcode on the bags/boxes for my food. For example, instead of searching for the exact kind of Hamburger Helper I had last week, I was able to scan the barcode and myfitnesspal pulled up all the nutrition facts. It was so easy! I’ve been scanning almost everything (bags for loaves of bread, bags for spinach leaves, boxes for pasta, milk jug, ice cream….whoops).

The exercise hasn’t been quite as simple. Well, it’s easy, it’s just not as easy as I’d prefer. I had to do a little self-calculating when entering my walking activity. I wanted to just enter the distance I walked, but the tracker instead makes you select a speed at which you walked, then you can enter how long you did that for. There’s an option to create an exercise, which might work well for those with an accurate pedometer that tracks your calories burned.

As you enter activity, the app will tell you how many calories you’ve consumed, how many you’ve burned and how many you have left to consume (based on weight loss/maintenance/gain goals you established when you set up your account). You can also view a nutrition screen that will tell you where you’re at with intake on fat, cholesterol, vitamins, minerals and all that jazz.

While this method of tracking isn’t quite as visual as my kittens/puppies calendar, I think it’ll work. I’ve been using it for almost two weeks and I’m ADDICTED. After eating a heaping pile of Gardetto’s on day 2, I felt utter shame when I realized I had just eaten a fourth of my daily calories. It’s not like I ever thought Gardetto’s were good for me, but seeing the real numbers and how they factor into my day (meaning I had to eat a tiny dinner!) changed my perspective. It’s also given  me insight into how much sugar I used to eat. I haven’t had any pop in my second week, or ice cream, yet my sugar intake is still a little over my target.

I’m hoping that as each week goes by, I get better and better about making the healthier choice.

What I’m Doing: Healthier Choices Challenge

Hi, friends. I’ve once again been a negligent blogger. My apologies. I hope you all had a wonderful end to 2013 and are keeping up with your 2014 resolutions.

I didn’t actually make any resolutions, but I did spend some time reflecting on the last year (and the years prior to that) and thought about how I’d like this year to be different.

Over the last six months or so, I’ve been reminded how amazingly blessed I am and that I probably haven’t done that great of a job with giving back to those who have more struggles than I do. So last fall I decided to make a sizeable (for me, anyway) contribution to a few charities during my company’s annual giving campaign, which resulted in a dollar-for-dollar match from the company. Awesome! I’m hoping to look for volunteer opportunities so I can give back with my time too. I’m really stingy about my time, though, so I’ll need a volunteer opportunity that’s super close to home and relatively easy to do. We’ll see how that goes.

Along with being more charitable, I want to be healthier. I just need to make better choices, and it really shouldn’t be that hard…but somehow it is! I typically over-indulge myself with unhealthy foods thinking it’s OK because I run on a regular basis. You’d think I’d want to eat healthier so that I’m not wasting all the time spent on the treadmill, but I apparently prefer to look at it the other way around: Since I did all that work, I should be allowed to eat what I want.

Because I have an event in a month that may or may not involve shorts and swim suits, I have a short-term motivator. I know that I will lose 2-3 pounds at the most during this timeframe, but I think it would be great if I were able to modify my behaviors gradually and then have them become actual habits by the time my event comes.

In an effort to hold myself accountable, I’m (hopefully) going to post weekly updates with my progress. I’m not going to post weight check-ins or inches gained/lost — just how I’m doing with my activity goals and food goals.

Here are my current goals. Some of them will be super pathetic — I give you full permission to judge me.

Make everything I eat a little healthier. There’s no way I’m going to be able to cut out all the bad foods I eat — I’m just not that motivated. But I could look for ways to make them healthier, namely by choosing smaller portion sizes. Over the last couple days, I’ve looked for ways to add fruits or vegetables to my existing meal. For example, while eating some chili macaroni Hamburger Helper (ha, clearly not healthy), I added black beans and corn. I realize this isn’t a meal-changing adjustment, but I’ll take it. I also cut my serving size in half, and made a side of edamame to complement the meal.

Eat at least one fruit and one vegetable serving per day during week one, then increase to two during week two, etc. OK, here’s a goal that is really pathetic. “Lindsey, you have to set a goal to eat a serving of fruit and a serving of vegetables each day?” Yeah, these are the gross conditions of my existing diet.

Walk at least three miles per day at work. I’m super lucky to work for a company that promotes healthy choices, and the office building I’m in is flat with wide aisles and a pre-measured route for those who want to walk throughout the day. I’m trying to do one mile in the morning, one after lunch and one in the afternoon. There will be times when I’m unable to do one-mile chunks at a time, so instead I’ll have to try to squeeze in mini laps when I can. I’m carrying my phone with me (which has a built-in pedometer) to make sure I’m counting accurately.

Stand at my desk at least two and a half hours per day. Another example of my company’s commitment to health is my hydraulic desk. I can raise it or lower it at the press of a button. I’ve read articles online that have either been very pro-standing-desk or con-standing-desk. I don’t think I’ll stand for eight hours a day, but if I can do two or three hours a day, I’ll be happy. Note: I know that most companies don’t provide adjustable desks. It’s relatively easy (although maybe a little awkward-looking) to make your own. My dad bought a few small tables from IKEA to stack on his existing desk in order to create a standing desk. He loves it.

Wish me luck! And send me any healthy (and super easy to make) recipes/foods for snacks and meals. I think Pinterest will be my new best friend. This time for recipes instead of outfits.