3 Free Ways to Work Out at Home

I like to work out.

I know, you might like me a little bit less now. I know that the main struggle most people have with working out is that they simply dread it, but honestly, that hasn’t been me for many, many moons.

But don’t despair, dear reader; I still have my own struggles. For me, the challenge to working out is lack of time and, more recently, a redistribution of funds. That is to say, I’m working part-time now and because the money I make goes toward, you know, food and pants and junk, there’s not a lot left for fancy-shmance gyms and such.

Don’t get me wrong. I love those fancy-shmance gyms. I love spin. I love pilates. I love bootcamps. I just love affording food and car payments and trying to save money all while staying home with le bebe more.

But because I’m me, it was never an option to completely cut fitness out of my life. I love working out, remember? And not just because I like fitting into my clothes (although I do), but also because working out makes me feel more like me. Which is important when you change virtually everything about your life by doing something like, oh, I don’t know…having a baby. But you already knew all this. What I want to talk about today is how I manage to get in challenging, effective workouts without spending a dime — and often without leaving my living room.

To be totally honest, for much of my life I’ve thrown a mean side-eye at home workouts. I had a hard time believing that I could ever get the same results that I could at a gym or a studio because, well, I never felt like I worked out as hard at home. Or I always felt like the workout videos I would try would leave something to be desired. (And there’s nothing worse than working out enough to need to wash your hair but not enough to feel like you made any kind of impact in your overall strength or fitness.)

Fortunately, in the last few months I’ve found several online options that are not only totally free but also leave me feeling sore the next day. So, to save you the struggle of the lame at-home workout, I’m sharing my favorite free options here. Happy sweating!

Side note: I’m not even going to mention running because I feel like it’s too obvious, but running is obviously a big one for me. Totally free and I can bring the Viv in the jogging stroller. We go 2-3 times per week, and it’s awesome. (But you can’t do it in your living room, so maybe not as awesome as these other options.)

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1. Jillian Michaels (literally anything she does)

I first fell in love with Jillian when pretty much everyone did — when she was a coach/trainer on The Biggest Loser. I always admired the tough-yet-fair way she worked with her team, and, as a sort of exercise masochist, I secretly dreamed that one day she would scream at me to keep going unless I fainted, puked, or died. (I know, I’m sick.) The point is, when Jillian left the show (and especially when she explained that she left due to the less-than-healthy practices that often went on behind the scenes), I was sad to say good-bye to my favorite celebrity trainer.

And then I found out she had workout videos. And her videos were actually the first at-home workouts EVER to give me legitimately sore muscles the next day. I was an instant convert.

I actually own a couple of her DVDs, but it’s super convenient for me to pull up her YouTube videos on our Roku. And, let me tell you, no trainer’s workouts get me more sore the next day than Jillian’s. She’s a beast. Bonus: I love her affirmations at the end of each video. Because I did work hard, and I should be proud of myself, Jillian!

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2. Tone it Up

Speaking of girl crushes, I’m a little bit in love with Karena and Katrina. Not only do they have sick bodies, but they are both sweet, bubbly, encouraging, and incredibly fun to work out “with.”

Also, as the mom of an increasingly mobile little girl, I really appreciate that the videos are mostly less than ten minutes long. I typically do 2-3 videos at a time, but if Vivi is having a bad day, it’s easy to squeeze in an 8-minute workout while she plays in the morning and another 15-minute session when she naps in the afternoon. And since the gals are so entertaining, I’m usually actually enjoying the workout too much to realize how hard I’m working. (That is, until I can barely lower myself to sit down the next day.)
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3. Christine Khuri of GymRa

Oh, Christine. You could most definitely snap me over your knee like a twig. And I love you for it.

Christine Khuri’s workouts are probably the most old-school of the bunch, but you know what? Squats, curls, and lunges are staples for a reason. And when I have the time to fit in a solid strength workout, this woman knows what she’s talking about.

I was a little apprehensive when Christine’s videos first popped up in my recommended list, but I figured there is no way she could be so jacked without knowing a thing or two. And given the fact that I could barely raise my arms to wash my hair the next day (from an at-home workout, folks), I would have to say my suspicions were correct. And don’t feel like you have to be a fitness pro to do her workouts — you can always modify your weights, and everything she does is super accessible.

 

For all you work-out-at-home warriors, I want to know: What are your favorite free workouts?

 

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The Time I Tried to Drown My Phone

I’ve had a cellular telephone since I was 15. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s almost 14 years of wedded mobile bliss.

And while I’ve never been what I would call tech-obsessed, I had a pretty good track record with my phones. I’ve never lost a phone. I’ve never damaged a phone beyond the usual scuffs. And nary a cracked screen has tarnished my record of smart phone ownership.

Until this week.

My mom had been in town, and she, Vivian, and I were returning from lunch. Viv had fallen asleep in the stroller, so my mom offered to keep pushing her for a few more minutes while I ran home to do some work. I left her the diaper bag (just in case) but grabbed my keys and tucked my iPhone in my back pocket.

Those words will echo hauntingly in your ears until the end of this post. (OR BEYOND.)

Like most moms of babies, I also had been waiting a while to be able to use the bathroom. So before I started my work, I decided to take care of that little bit of business. As one does, I de-pants’d and was about to take a seat when I heard what sounded like something falling off of our over-the-toilet shelf and falling on the ground. (There was no splash. I always assumed there would be a splash when something fell into the toilet. Either this is not true, or my phone is heading to Rio this year with the U.S Olympic diving team. AND IT’S GONNA WIN.)

You guys. I almost just ignored the sound and proceeded accordingly. CAN YOU IMAGINE?

But, by the grace of the Apple gods, I did decide to see what had fallen. I had completely forgotten my phone was even in my pocket, so you can imagine my surprise when I looked down and saw it chilling in the murky depths.

My heart in my throat, I grabbed it without even thinking and started drying it off with toilet paper. And here’s where I made a mistake: I started using it to see if it still worked.

Apparently, according to the Internet, you should just turn your phone off completely to keep the circuits from frying. Alas, my perfect record of smart phone ownership had not yet taught me this life lesson. So I clicked around, feeling incredibly relieved that I was still able to access everything normally.

And then the screen went a weird shade of pixelated gray before the phone died completely.

Fortunately, I am not a total idiot and had at least heard of the ol’ phone-in-rice trick. I removed the case and stuck mine in a bowl of long grains while I waited for my mom to get home. My research (read: Google-ing) also told me to just leave the phone untouched in the rice for at least 24 hours, so I knew I had some time to kill before our fate was sealed.

Going 24 hours without a phone is an almost unheard of feat these days. (Unless you’re one of those people doing it on purpose to prove something. I don’t have that kind of time.) In general, I like to think that I’m pretty good at putting my phone away during the times when I want to be fully present and I don’t consider myself addicted to technology. Even so, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I didn’t feel like I had lost an arm or anything leaving the house without a phone.

What I did notice? Daaaaaaaaang, my phone makes my life more convenient.

For one, I store everything on that sucker. From photos to lists of hashtags for clients to time logs, virtually everything of any importance is on my phone because I just know I’ll always have it on me. For another, I guess I just forgot how much more work it used to be to get anything done. With my phone, Vivi can fall asleep on me on the couch and I can still get 30 minutes of work done (albeit one-handed). Without a phone, all I could do was stare longingly at the computer across the room and make mental lists of everything I needed to do when she went to bed that night. Plus, have you ever tried making plans without a cell phone? I had three separate plans that day, and two of them had to be canceled because the back-and-forth communication was just impossible. Not great.

Not to mention the fact that, well, I like to take a lot of pictures of Vivi during the day. (I’ll give you a second to recover from the shock of that statement.) I send them to her family and to Joey so they all feel connected and don’t miss anything of importance. I literally spent most of the day hoping she didn’t hit any milestones because I knew Joey would be so bummed to miss them completely.

So there were a lot of ramifications. But also…there were some good things too.

For one, it’s easy to get tied up in my phone, doing work or just goofing around, even when Vivi and I are hanging out. I don’t think I need to spend every second hanging over her obsessing about what she’s doing (girl needs some room to chill with her toys)(I’m always in the room, don’t freak out), but not having a phone removed the temptation to waste any of our time together. And not worrying about taking photos or videos of her silly antics actually let me enjoy them a little bit more.

I’m happy to report that after almost 36 hours in rice, the phone turned back on. So far, things seem to be running fairly smoothly (and, at the very least, I was able to back up the phone in case it needs replacing after all). Although my research did also inform me that there are numerous documented cases of a phone surviving a swim and then, months later, spontaneously overheating and dying. So time shall tell.

What have I learned? (Besides to NEVER FORGET YOUR PHONE IS IN YOUR BACK POCKET EVER.) Well, I’m still not addicted, and I’m still not one of those people who is going to eschew this brilliant little piece of technology just to prove a point. Mostly I’m just happy I don’t have to pay for a new phone. And I’m okay with that happy medium.

Plus, I also know exactly what to do if you drop your phone in the toilet. These are life skills, people.

In defense of the selfie.

I’ve debated writing this post for a while, which is something I find that I do whenever I want to write about something that makes me a little uncomfortable or that I think I won’t get a favorable response on.

Welp, guess you guys have liked me long enough anyway, right?

I want to talk about selfies.

Up until about a year or two ago, you probably had never even heard this word. I hadn’t. I mean, they existed. Every since the beginning of portraiture, mankind has been seemingly obsessed with capturing their own appearance. (Don’t believe me? History don’t lie.)

There’s even a fairly fun trend in the art world of turning iconic photos into selfies. (I kind of love it.)

The point is, selfies are not actually a new thing. What is new (and especially poignant with the onslaught of social media, which gave millions of teenagers a platform on which to project their faces), is the sudden and sharp distaste for the genre.

I mean, I can’t lie — I get it. I get that it’s irritating to see someone post photo after photo of their own face. Like, what, you think we forgot what you look like? You’re just doing it to get compliments. It’s totally self-centered. Right?

Well, okay.

Sometimes, I think that’s true. But I think there has to be more to it. Because, yeah, okay, I know a lot of people who are self-centered in general who post a lot of selfies. (It makes sense that so many teenagers, who are notoriously absorbed with their own lives and worlds, would be the biggest offenders.)

But I also know a lot of sweet, selfless, otherwise mild-mannered people who still post the occasional shot of themselves. (Usually with all the usual “eek #obligatoryselfie” disclaimers, of course.)

Heck, I’ve done it. I counted no fewer than 21 selfies on my Instagram account. And that’s not even counting the dozens of “half-face”, hair shots, and group photos I’ve uploaded in the last two years.

But, I mean, I also write a blog about my life, so clearly I don’t have that many qualms about showing you my face.

So why do we do it? Obviously, I have a theory. Two, actually.

The first is that a selfie is solid, near tangible way of marking a moment in time. This is me. On this day, at this moment. Here I am. I was.

It’s something you can point to and remember. Pine for or be glad is over. Selfies are a little peek into your history.

That’s one theory. The other theory is much simpler, and way less philosophical.

A selfie is a way of capturing a moment when you felt good about yourself. After all, most of us only post flattering selfies. I know when I do it, it’s sometimes a way of saying, “Look, you guys! I look pretty right now!”

And yes, that is a petty reason for doing something. But I also have a hard time judging someone else for feeling pretty. (And I try not to judge myself for feeling that way either.) There are too many reasons to feel ugly these days, and too many people perfectly willing to tear others down for the sake of some shallow feeling of superiority.

Whenever I feel myself getting annoyed at someone for posting too many photos of himself or herself, I try to remember that. I try to to be happy for them for feeling pretty. Proud of them, even.

So, yeah, a Facebook album titled “Me*!*!*!*!*!<3lol” packed with 30 photos you took in the mirror is annoying. But the occasional “Woooo new haircut!” post? I can deal.

You probably look pretty spectacular, anyway.

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How to: 4 Steps to More Flattering Photos

Well, I guess this is the unofficial week of how-tos. I’m okay with that. Let’s begin.

I always say that it’s really hard to get a candid photo of me. For whatever reason, I am almost always acutely aware of when a camera is in my vicinity and especially when it’s pointed in my direction.

Okay, the “reason” is that I grew up in the age of Facebook and Instagram. And I know you’re going to put that picture online and probably tag me, and no amount of sepia filters is going to save it. This is a pre-emptive strike on unflattering photos.

People sometimes tell me I’m photogenic (*hair flip and heavy sigh*), but the fact is that I just know how to look like a normal, reasonably attractive human in a photo. Because, yes, it takes some forethought and effort for most of us.

AND TODAY I SHARE MY SECRETS WITH YOU.

(I know. I just got a little chill too.)

Actually, I’m really sharing tips from my photographer/model little sister. Yeah, she IS obnoxiously cool/attractive. Don’t believe me? This is her:

{photos (left-to-right, top-to-bottom) by Jake Blomberg, Figment Art Photo, Alyssa Smith, and Ben Blood}

Aaaand this is me:

So…yeah. But the fact is, girl knows how to take a pretty picture. Let’s let the professional give the REAL advice, shall we?

So without further ado, here are Joelle’s tips for not looking ridiculous in photos. (With my two cents where it’s relevant.)

1. Know your angles!
Everyone has good and bad angles. Everyone. Sure, some people have more of each, but everyone has at least one of each. Don’t believe me?

{source}

Obviously, this is not really an UGLY picture. (It’s Adriana Lima, folks. Like I said, some people just have a lot of good angles.) But it’s certainly not the most flattering picture of her you’ve ever seen.

The fact remains, it’s important to know that you have bad angles as well as what they are. As a girl with a crooked nose and a wide jaw-line, I know that 75 percent of my angles can be disastrous. But when I hit that sweet spot? I’ll break your heart.

Joelle had this to say: “You usually don’t want to face directly onto the camera. Always focus on your angles. [ed note: SEE YOU GUYS? I KNOW STUFF.] Even if it’s just slightly turned. And if it’s face on, cock a shoulder up or back so it isn’t a straight line.”

Fortunately, the best part about growing up with Facebook is that you’ve probably seen a lot of photos of yourself from different angles. You can tell which ones work best for you, or at least which ones you prefer to dwell in the public sphere. Don’t be afraid to insist on those angles. It’s a running joke with my friends that I insist on being on the left side or in the middle of group photos. Remember that crooked nose? Photos from the right are not kind to it. (AND THE INTERNET IS FOREVER.)

A bit vain? Perhaps. But I don’t see why purposely taking unflattering photos helps anyone.

2. You have the right to skinny (looking) arms.
I talked a bit too much on the last tip. Here’s Joelle’s advice on this one:

“People seem to have picked up on popping their hand on their hip to make their arm appear slimmer.. Try bringing it down a little lower to elongate the arm. To avoid the cliche altogether, just hold your arm away from your body slightly to avoid the smooshed look.”

Smooshed being the technical term here.

Again, my friends tease me about the “hip pop” being my signature photo move:

But if it ain’t broke, amiright?

3. Have fun with it.
When it comes to Facebook photos, you’re (most likely) not working on your modeling portfolio, but rather capturing a moment. Joelle recommends laughing (or faking a laugh) right before the picture to give your grin some sincerity.

“If you’re having a good time, it will come through in the photo,” she says.

Examples from our respective engagement photos:

{figment art photo}

{Ben Blood}

And finally…

4. Look up.
“If all else fails, photos from above are fun!” Joelle says.

Plus, the chances for an accidental double-chin are greatly diminished. Just saying.

What are your tips for taking better photos? Do you agree that it’s unfair how attractive my sister is?

Share your thoughts in the comments!

Instagram and Anniversaries

You know what it turns out is really fun? Anniversaries.

I mean, I spent my whole life celebrating other people’s anniversaries. My parents’ was always a big deal because my grandparents would send a giant box of gifts for everyone. Two of my brothers have been married for over a decade, and the other one is only a few years behind.

It’s kind of surreal having our own now. I mean, grown-ups have wedding anniversaries. And yet here we are.

Our actual anniversary isn’t until tomorrow, but the festivities kicked off this last weekend. (What can I say? It’s our first one. We’re excited. And considering the next “big” anniversary isn’t until like, five years, we’re taking advantage of this one.)

(Side note: As you may know, Android FINALLY got an Instagram app last week. Which means I’m jumping on the bandwagon of Instagram photo blog posts. Woooooo joining!)(Although now apparently Facebook bought it and people are wigging out…I prefer to wait and see what happens before I jump ship.)(ALSO, my username is justinelorelle if you care to follow me!)

First, Joey started strong with presents with these lovely earrings. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a sucker for Kate Spade, and I’ve pretty much been wearing these non-stop for the last week.

Saturday, I had a hair appointment bright and early at 9 a.m. Cons: NINE A.M HAIR APPOINTMENT. Pros: My hair looked awesome all day. Win some, lose some.

That night was Brittany’s party. We booked a room at a karaoke place in the city and basically screamed out lungs out all night. All in all, a successful party!

Present #2 from the hubs! What can I say? I love a piece of simple gold jewelry.

Present #3! (Boy is knocking it out of the park.) Tickets to Augustana!!!! Which, as you may recall, is one of my favorite bands.

And finally, Joey’s parents took us out to dinner last night and got us a delicious cake along with a few other presents. So many presents!

Kind of crazy considering the anniversary hasn’t even happened yet. I don’t know what we’re doing for the official day (Joey has all kinds of surprises up his sleeve apparently), but I’m sure I’ll be back with another Instagram update. (I’m mildly obsessed with it.)

How was your weekend? Do anything fun?

What a waste.

I have a sort of shameful confession: Sometimes I forget to use the Groupons, Amazon Local deals, and Living Social deals I buy.

Don’t LOOK at me!!!

Okay. I know this isn’t the most shameful thing I could have confessed. There are loads of people who do this. You get excited when you see a deal for a massage and chiropractic evaluation (for only $40!!!) because, I mean, haven’t you been having weird back issues ever since you tried to convince your then-fiance you were stronger than him by picking him up, except you lifted with your back instead of your knees and tweaked something in your spine and things sort of got better over time but were never really the same and sometimes just getting up from the supine position is a lot harder and more painful than simply getting up from lying down ever should be when you’re not even 25 yet?

Or maybe that’s just me.

But anyway, the point is, you get all jazzed about a good deal, snap it up, and promptly forget about it for the next six months. And then, six months later, when you’re watching the deadline toward expiration slowly tick down, the money that you invested so long ago just suddenly stops feeling as important. I mean, you haven’t had the money for six months. What do you care if you got something for it or just donated it to the internet?

Well, I say this stops today. Because I do care, folks. I don’t think I will ever be so rich that I won’t care about just throwing money away.

Which is why today I made a few appointments. And I am going to be looking goooood come April. (Though I still need to figure out how to use that chiropractic evaluation since the office is in the city and I’m hardly ever there anymore. D’oh.)

Does anyone else ever find themselves as spontaneous internet philanthropists? (Sounds a lot fancier than “chumps who throw their money at impulse spa treatments and then never collect.”) Have any strategies for making sure you don’t forget to use your Groupons? Share in the comments!