How to Eat Well on Thanksgiving

“Balanced eating is one piece of pie in each hand”

I’m about to drop something big on you all – Thanksgiving is next week.

Okay, blog lead-in was kind of a big letdown. Whether you noticed the calendar or influx of Christmas ads, we all know it’s Thanksgiving next week. But seriously, it’s Thanksgiving next week. That came fast.

I love Thanksgiving. It doesn’t come with loud noises that might scare your dogs into hiding until the next morning. It doesn’t require weeks of planning the perfect costume. Best of all, it doesn’t demand you shop for hours and lovingly wrap gifts that your siblings are for sure going to return the following week.

Thanksgiving is all about family, football, and food – and maybe even a nice long afternoon nap. Speaking of food, while I love that part, it’s also the part that can cause anxiety for those trying to eat well and balanced. So I’m going to share with you my secret tip for eating on Thanksgiving.

If turkey is your thing, eat all the turkey.

Eat whatever you damn well want to. That’s right. ALL THE FOOD.

No guilt. No feeling like you have to exercise the morning of or all day the next day. No counting calories. No shame in that second piece of pie.

It’s Thanksgiving. It’s one day a year and I think part of following a mindful, balanced eating approach the other 300-plus days of the year means you can enjoy everything wonderful about the day, including all – yes, ALL – of your favorite Thanksgiving foods. My plate will be filled with salad, lefse, potatoes, corn stuffing, and at least one piece of pumpkin pie and my aunt Janet’s special pumpkin torte – essentially, an amazing pumpkin cheesecake-like dessert. Can’t.effing.wait.

Happy Thanksgiving, fit friends. May your day be filled with family, football, and food, or all your favorite things on this holiday.

Do you allow yourself to indulge on Thanksgiving? Or are you more of a cautious, limited eater? Either one is okay as long as it makes you happy! Share with me in the comments or tweet me at @LindsayIRL. Be sure to use hashtag #wellirl to share your Thanksgiving feast on Instagram and Twitter.

How to Stay Safe Running in the Dark

“Hello darkness, my old friend”

Last week’s blog was the unofficial start of winter running, and I was excited to share tips to help all brave the temps and enjoy the outdoor miles during this beautiful season.

This week brings more on outdoor running during another notable time of year, though I bring it to you not as enthusiastically. It’s the only drawback that comes with running outside this time of year – darkness.

Don’t worry, Burton – we’ll be safe out there

The early morning daylight is a distant August memory and the evening daylight has been dwindling, with it all but gone now when most of us leave work for the day. If you’re like me and enjoy a post-work run outside or if you’re an early riser who hits the pavement, you’re going to deal with darkness.

While enjoyable and safe, dark running comes with a slew to strategies to ensure both of those benefits are met. Here are a few things to consider to stay happy and healthy during the season of darkness.

Ditch the Headphones
I’m a big fan of running without headphones for focused, peaceful, and mindful outdoor running. When it’s dark out and you need to be more aware of your surroundings, it’s an even stronger case for leaving the iPod at home.

If you need your tunes or podcast while you stride, at least turn down the volume so you’re not totally zoned out from the world.

Invest in a Vest
It’s a good idea to wear bright-colored clothing when running in the dark. Taking it a step further, a bright, reflective vest is a great addition to your running gear this time of year. The one I have it super lightweight so I barely even notice it – though I take comfort in knowing drivers notice it.

A small piece of gear that offers a big benefit

Plan Ahead
Mapping out your route ahead of time is smart, especially so you can include paths and locations that are well-lit and safe – and avoid areas that aren’t.

Bonus if you can leave the route on your computer for your roommate, spouse, or parent to know where you are and how far you’re going.

Bring a Phone
In addition to skipping headphones, my phone is typically something I leave at home during a run. It’s the one time in the day I feel like it’s okay to unplug and not be available. But there’s a good argument for having it on dark runs.

In the event something goes horribly wrong during the run – you roll an ankle on uneven ground, trip over something you don’t see, or encounter a shady individual – having a phone can be a literal lifesaver.

Don’t Forget Your Furry Friend
While it’s great to have your safety as first priority, don’t forget about your running buddy (if you have one).

Burton’s regular running leash is reflective so it’s great for those semi-dark or dusk runs. When it gets really dark or if I know we’ll be running on a path where we may encounter others, I have a little light that I can attach to the leash to make sure people and pets are aware of us.

What else do you do to stay safe and enjoy outdoor running this time of year? Comment or tweet me, @LindsayIRL. Share your dark running experiences on Twitter and Instagram too using hashtag #wellirl.

Don’t Be Scared of Running in Cold Weather

“The scariest moment is right before you start”

The leaves are gone, the first hint of white stuff is on the ground, and there’s a chill in the air. It can only mean one thing – Winter!

People think I’m nuts but I love the winter season. While it’s still a few weeks from the actual Winter Solstice as I write this, the closely-related season of cold-weather running indeed has arrived for many of us. Coupled with Halloween this week, it can be a scary time in more ways than one.

If you’re not a huge fan of winter and the idea of running in outside in the cold weather freaks you out, don’t fret. There’s nothing spooky about running this time of year. What you need is a good layering strategy.

As a self-admitted lover of the cold and, sometimes, an overly-enthusiastic winter runner, I’ve had a ton of friends lately asking for layering tips so they too can brave the chill and avoid something scarier than cold weather – the treadmill. Eeekkk!

Burton looks a little scared but our layering strategy is on point

Below are some layering basics for cold-weather running – in my experience, when temps dip below 50 degrees or in that range with wind. Keep in mind, everyone and every situation is going to be a little bit different.

For example, if you’re planning a longer run, you may not need to be quite as warm as a shorter run, especially if the temps are expected to increase while you’re out. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how quickly your body warms up even when the mercury dips below the freezing mark.

Wind is also a huge factor. Lack of wind can make a 20-degree day feel pleasant while a slight breeze can chill you to the bone on a 40-degree day.

Base Layer
Let’s start at the beginning. Aside from typical undergarments or commando if you’re that kind of guy, the first layer of running apparel is one of the most important. Base layers are designed to keep you warm while also keeping you dry, wicking away cold sweat and ensuring it doesn’t give you a chill. I tend to wear a base layer if the temp is below 40 degrees and sometimes if it’s above that with some wind.

Full tights and a long-sleeve top designed to be a base layer (in other words, not a long sleeve tee), ideally with a high neck for added warmth are the two keys to your base layer.

Mid-Layer
The mid-layer is one that, if the weather is around 25-30 degrees or above with minimal wind, likely the only other layer you’ll need in addition to your base layer. A high-quality fleece zip is ideal for a mid layer. It will keep you warm without being too heavy.

If it’s sunny and trending up towards that 40 degree mark, you could get away with a lighter quarter zip or even long sleeve tee as your mid layer and still be plenty warm.

Top Layer
Reserved for the coldest days, the top layer is your last line of defense against Old Man Winter. Especially if it’s even a bit breezy, your top layer should be of the wind-resistant type. Lightweight yet warm pants and a jacket are what you’ll want for a top layer if the temps get below 20 degrees. If it’s a bit warmer but also snowing, raining, or aggressively windy, you may consider the top layer in addition to the base and mid, or possibly skipping the mid layer in favor of just adding the top, as it will help keep that moisture away from the base layer – and your skin.

Extras
Again, depending on your personal preference and factors like wind or snow, extras should be considered as needed. Gloves are always good if it’s a little chilly, especially if you’re holding something like a water bottle or dog leash. They’re easy to take off and stash in your pockets if you end up feeling warm.

20 degrees, three different layering strategies, & a good run for all.

A headband is nice for the days you don’t need the top layer yet there’s a chill in the air; on the colder days, it’s good to go with a full beanie.

A scarf or neck gator is also good for the temps that are cold enough to demand the top layer, and a face mask should be added when temps get into the low teens or single digits. Keep in mind, your breath will freeze to the mask so look for one made with a quality moisture-wicking material. Don’t be surprised if you feel like pulling down the mask once you warm up a bit.

For one of the most important parts of your body, your feet, wool socks are a must. They may make your shoes feel a little tight so keep that in mind if you’re searching for a new pair of winter running kicks, and consider upsizing just half a size.

Finally – and this is more of a personal preference – consider a layer of chapstick and face lotion to avoid the dryness that comes from cold weather. If it’s sunny, make sure they have SPF.

With a solid layering strategy, you’re ready to brave the cold and get out there to run this winter. Don’t worry if you’re a little slower or stiff at first, it takes some getting used to with more clothes, breathing, and general comfort.

Believe me when I say it, winter running can be really enjoyable. The glitter of frost on the roads, the peacefulness of snow, the added concentration you get from more focused breathing – it all adds up to a great way to spend your workout time. And there’s nothing like the long, hot shower you get after.

Do you have questions about layering or cold-weather running tips in general? Comment or tweet me @LindsayIRL. Share your cold-weather running moments on Instagram and Twitter with #wellirl.

A Different Kind of Balanced Meals

“A balanced diet is an apple in one hand, a cookie in the other”

Cooking has never been my strong suit. I don’t have an educated background in it, I don’t have a natural talent for it, and I don’t have the personality to enjoy it (aka, I’m too high-strung and it causes me anxiety).

The photo doesn’t do them justice – these bad boys were gooooood

Despite all this, I follow a few recipe sites on Facebook and have pinned a few things on Pinterest, hoping someday I’ll get a burst of cooking inspiration. While it wasn’t a recipe, I did get inspired to try something new today – actually, I had some zucchini and enchilada sauce in the fridge that needed to get used up so I came up with the idea to make enchiladas.

I figured, throw together some black beans, broccoli, spinach, cheese, and spices together, roll em in some tortillas, top with cilantro and Greek yogurt, and voila – I’d have a little something. After baking about 27 mins at 375, the result? I had a little something! My lean, bean, green enchiladas turned out really well.

I was pretty proud of myself for coming up with something so ‘real’ and figuring out a recipe to cook it on my own. Maybe I could become a semi-adventurous chef?

Then, in that same thought, I recalled the week prior when my dinner creation of the night was a package of ramen noodles topped with frozen Asian medley vegetables. So…maybe I won’t become that great a chef anytime soon. But hey, balance, right?

Do you have a super-simple yet delicious recipe? Share it in the comments. Or tweet me a pic of your best food creation at @LindsayIRL. Be sure to include the hasthtag #wellirl.

 

Making the Case Not to Race

“Take it Easy”

It has been quite a week. Last Sunday, I laced up and joined 40,000+ runners to take a 26.2 tour through the streets of Chicago. Hot, crowded, and not feeling the greatest, combined with an unusual and light training season, this was one of the tougher marathons I’ve run. I did my best to take it easy on myself and try to enjoy the ride, and was pleased to finish in 4:03 and. Best of all, while I was sore that day and the next, it wasn’t bad. In fact, I even went running again just two days after the marathon. Usually it takes me about a week to get back at it.

Slow, steady, and happy

Then, on Saturday, I hoisted a 2:30 finish time sign and paced the annual Fargo Mini Marathon half marathon through the parks and trails of Fargo and Moorhead. Chilly, a few great runners by my side, and feeling really good, it was a great run for me. The best part was I paced a first-timer who was smiling, happy, and strong throughout the entire race. I was so excited for her.

These experiences made me realize something. Most of us, especially veteran runners, show up to race day with every intention of pushing ourselves, always looking for a new PR. If we get it, we’re often greeted with extra post-race pain or sometimes a longer recovery window. If we don’t get it, we’re often left feeling disappointed and like we failed, even though we trained hard and finished the race.

I went into both these races knowing I wasn’t going to push hard, I was going to enjoy them. Halle, the girl who finished her first half, went into it planning to run easy and finish. I think our plans paid off for both of us. A pretty cool way to end a long, tough summer of training and final races of the year!

Have you ever run a race with the intention of simply enjoying it, not trying for a PR? Or do you have every intention of pushing yourself every time you step up to the start line? Comment or tweet me @LindsayIRL.

Oh Yeah, I’m Running Chicago Marathon Sunday

“Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes”

As I write this, I’m getting organized to head to Chicago. With my parents. To visit my brother and his family. Oh, and to run the 40th Chicago Marathon. That’s happening too.

It’s crazy, I haven’t wrapped my mind around the fact I’m going to run a marathon Sunday. For the first time in my marathon running life, it hasn’t received the bulk of my focus and attention these past few weeks. It’s not at center stage.

Me, dorking out at the Grandma’s finish line in Duluth – and I wasn’t even running.

This isn’t totally shocking, even for me, as this marathon has also been the strangest training period for me. In addition to my mental state being off, I’ve admittedly focused less on my actual training than previous marathons. Mileage has been lower, nutrition not strict and tracked, and cross-training and other details that are usually crucial to me during marathon prep haven’t been.

What gives? You’d think I wasn’t excited to run Chicago Marathon for the first time. A race I’ve wanted to run for a few years now. A race I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things about. A race several of my family members are attending to watch and cheer.

Aside from some significant life changes that have come the past several weeks (which have been good, no worries there), I can’t put my finger on this one.

I know this training season has been one of the hardest I can remember, primarily due to the fact most of it occurred during the summer (a first for me). I wonder if the fall race timing is throwing me off a bit too, as I’ve never run a marathon this time of year? A big part of why I think this hasn’t sunk in yet is I’m still in denial about my brother not being able to run with me.

After training hard and jumping through a few hoops to get into the race, which would have been his first marathon, he found out last week a stress fracture is going to prevent him from running. I’m selfishly bummed to not have him by my side, taking a 26.2-mile stroll through the city he calls home, but I’m especially bummed for him having to miss out. While he probably has major FOMO, I’m over here all blasé to the fact I get to participate in this iconic race. Seriously, Lindsay – what gives?!

This face sums up my typical pre-marathon mood.Yes, this is what I want.

Regardless of why I’m so off on this one, I think once I get to the city, attend the expo, pick up my packet and all those goodies, it will start to sink in and the joy, excitement, and nerves will follow – I hope anyway! The pre-race anticipation is one of my favorite parts of marathon training, and I want those butterflies and excitement. It’s funny, I used to wonder if there would come a time that I wouldn’t get so neurotic and edgy before a marathon. Now that time appears to have arrived and I’m not happy about this change of mood. Still, change can be good so perhaps I’ll get into the marathon spirit and have a great race!

Shoutout to all running Chicago Marathon Sunday. Those of you I follow on social media, I’ll be watching for your pics and moments throughout the weekend. Use hashtag #wellirl so I can easily find and retweet you.

Have you ever had an off reaction to an upcoming race? Were you uncharacteristically cool and aloof like me – or the opposite, and ball of nerves instead of your usual, cool self? Comment or tweet me @LindsayIRL.

7 Days, 7 Ways to Prepare to Run a Marathon

“It seems I’m spending so much time…waiting…”

I can’t believe I’m saying this but it’s time to run the Chicago Marathon! My fellow runner friends, the countdown is on.

I’ve said it before and it’s still true, the week before a race is always tough. All the weeks, months, even years of hard training, come down to one day. Actually, one morning. Actually, just a few hours. It’s a lot of pressure mixed with nerves and anticipation – it’s so close but you’re still counting down, waiting for the big day.

Marathon week is a lot like standing on the edge of Chicago’s Willis Tower

Whether your emotions are getting the best of you in these last few days leading up to the race, or it’s your first race and you need a little help preparing, I’ve put together a week’s worth of pre-race to-dos. Yes, this is partially to distract and keep you busy but a lot of this stuff is really useful and you’ll be glad you did it.

Monday – Food Prep
Today, do your shopping and food prep. Not only do you want to stock up on all the foods you’re familiar with, you know sit well with you, and give you energy, you might want to make selections based on the weather forecast. For example, if it’s going to be hot and humid on race day, buy a few extra salty food options to help retain water and ward off race-day dehydration. And a couple extra bottles of Gatorade, always a good idea.

If you’re traveling to Chicago like me, be sure to plan ahead for snacks and foods you can bring with you.

Tuesday – Toenails
Today, trim your toenails. Not too short but a good trim. Trust me. Do it
.
Wednesday – Check And Plan
Today, go online and review all the location details of the race so you have a clear idea of where everything is happening. This includes where to pick up your packet, where the start and finish lines are, and where to park.

A few other things you may want to do is figure out the best route to get to the course and alternate routes to account for heavy traffic on major roads. Find out if and where the bathrooms will be on race day. Also, find out if there’s a bag drop or if you need to leave stuff in your car (that will determine what you bring with to the race). Lastly, you can also check out the course map – or don’t if you like to be surprised.

Thursday – Shopping
Today, go buy stuff like Band-aids, BodyGlide, sunscreen, gum, anything you might need for race day. By now, you should have a good idea of what the weather is going to be like so, if need be, now is also your last chance to shop for new clothes. Why today? If you do buy something new, you have the opportunity to try it out on one of your last runs. You never know how things will move with you, where they’ll rub, or what could be a major chafing hazard, and you don’t want to be stuck with that for 26.2.

One thing I wouldn’t recommend buying this close to race day: shoes. But, like I always say, different strokes for different folks. One year, my friend Jason bought a new pair of shoes the day before we ran a half marathon. He wore them for the race and – claims – he had no discomfort at all. So if you’re “that” guy or gal, go ahead and sport those new kicks straight out the box.

It sounds cliche but pasta, zucchini noodles, & veggies is still a pre-marathon fave

Friday – The Big Meal
Today, eat your biggest dinner. What that dinner is, that’s your call. Some people carb-load. Others believe in fat-loading. Some don’t care what they eat at all. But it’s still usually a good idea to have your biggest meal today vs. tomorrow. That gives your stomach time to settle and fully digest so you don’t feel heavy on race day.

Saturday – Stuff And Rest
Today, organize your stuff, then rest. Pick up your race packet. If packet pickup is at the same location as the race start and/or end, bonus, as you get a chance to navigate the area before the chaos of race morning.

Before you head to bed, set your alarms and lay out everything you need for the next morning. In addition to your bib, your watch, outfit, chapstick – even your shoes. Have it all ready to go so you don’t have to think about anything tomorrow morning except getting to the start line. And speaking of bed, don’t worry if you can’t sleep. With all the nerves, excitement and anticipation, most runners don’t sleep well the night before a race.

Sunday – Kick Some Ass
Enjoy the run, thank volunteers and spectators, and be sure to celebrate after. I’m counting on my fam, the locals, to take us to the best pizza place for a post-run meal.

Good luck, Chicago Marathon runners! If you have other pre-race questions, or some good tips of your own to get through pre-race week, comment below or tweet me @LindsayIRL. Please share your Chicago Marathon photos on Instagram an Twitter with hasthtag #wellirl.

A Family Outing at the Chicago Marathon

“Big brothers – the only guys who will pick on you, yet beat up anyone else who tries”

Earlier this week, as I was working on an idea for a new blog, it occurred to me I run Chicago Marathon in just two weeks and I’ve barely blogged about it. I’m usually good for at least a few pre-marathon blogs.

Why do I have seemingly no love for Chicago? Maybe because it has been really difficult for me to train in the summer? Perhaps because I’ve been fighting more aches, pains, and soreness than ever before? Probably because training for this marathon has been a less-than-enjoyable experience and I like to keep it positive in this space.

Speaking of positive, I do have one super-awesome story I haven’t shared yet about Chicago Marathon – it’s going to be quite the family affair.

From fancy pants then to running gear in a couple weeks

This will be the first marathon for my oldest bro who lives in Chicago. He got into running and triathlons just a couple years ago and is hooked (must ‘run’ in the family – see what I did there?!). What’s even cooler is he has a family and big-time important job where he travels the world frequently, yet still makes time to train and race in other events.

When he and his family were back for early Christmas last year, we somehow started talking about Chicago Marathon and how cool it would be to run it together. In spite of the horrified looks from his wife and two daughters, we giddily signed up for the lottery and hoped for the best.

Fast-forward to today, we may both be struggling a little bit with injuries and issues, but we’re still excited to line up and finish together. How cool, right?!

Not only will my sister-in-law and two rad nieces be there to cheer us on, my dad and stepmom are making the trip to Chi-town too. If you follow my blog, you know my mom has only missed one full marathon in my life and has been there with my stepdad for several other races. But my dad and stepmom have never been to a race so they’ll be there to see Terry and me – and all our marathon phases: excited and smiling at the beginning, still happy through most of the miles, pained and angry in the 20s, then exhausted yet elated at the finish. Oh, how fun for them!

So there it is, a great story about Chicago Marathon that’s long overdue on the blog. Big shoutout to my big bro and I’m kind of nerdily honored to be there with him for his first marathon. Definitely something that has helped me gut through some of those extra-tough training miles.

Who else is running Chicago Marathon? Those of you who have run in the past, what was your favorite part or something on the course we should look forward to? Comment or tweet me, @LindsayIRL. Share your run brags on Twitter and Instagram too using hashtag #wellirl.

Make More Room for Joy

“Getting what you want starts with getting rid of what you don’t”

Having football back is the best, am I right? Now that we’re a couple weeks into the college and pro seasons, it feels official. And I love it.

Last year I did something that made me enjoy Sunday football even more; something I hadn’t done in at least 10 years. Last year, I quit playing fantasy football.

Sunday football is way better chillin with these two

Don’t get me wrong, fantasy football can be a blast. But it can also be miserable, and too many times, it ruined my Sunday Funday enjoyment of watching the pros toss around the good ole pigskin. More often than not, fantasy football was not bringing me joy. So I started to wonder why did I continue to spend time doing it?

This made me think about a seminar I attended a few months back. The overall theme was tips for making the most of the hours in your day. And one of the biggest takeaways I learned was about eliminating the things that don’t bring you joy.

How many things do we do because we feel we should? This is especially true for women; we feel obligated to say “yes” to everything, from committees to excessive volunteer activities to creating perfect Pinterest – everything.

Wellness is all about balance, taking time for everything that must get done and making time for ourselves. Eliminating the excess stuff that doesn’t make us happy or, as the speaker said, bring us joy, can free up enough time for the things we really want to do, and the ones that are good for our overall wellness.

Running brings me joy so I make time for it

From stressing over roster moves to jumping off the treadmill, grabbing my phone out of the locker, and making a last-minute roster change after finding out my top RB is sitting out, there’s plenty of upside to my decision to drop the joy-sucking fantasy football shenanigans from my life.

Is there something in your life that you do because you should, not because it brings you joy? What would you have more time for by eliminating the excess? Comment or tweet me, @LindsayIRL. Share your workout brags on Twitter and Instagram too using hashtag #wellirl.

Running in the Dark

“Zero Dark Thirty”

We’re always learning, right? No matter how young or old we are, new experiences and situations lead to new learnings all the time. For me, training for a marathon in the summer has taught me a lot – and, I admit, not all of these new findings have been pleasant.

One of the biggest things I’ve had to learn is how to adjust my training plan to avoid the unpleasant, fatigue-inducing summer heat. While some love to run in the heat, I’m so not a fan. I mean, in July I was already longing for snow and 30 degree days.

What it looks like when I start – and finish – running lately

My best beat-the-heat coping strategy hasn’t been taking my long runs indoors to the treadmill or track. Nope, I’ve been rising well before dawn and putting in a lot of miles before the first glimpse of sunrise peeks out over the eastern side of town. Whether a shorter weekday run or, sometimes, squeezing in a 14-miler before work on Friday, most of the time it’s dark when I start and still dark when I finish. Or, what my friend Terry calls, Zero Dark Thirty.

As someone who prefers running after work and, you know, in the light of day, this has been a dual adjustment for me.

First, becoming a frequent early rising runner isn’t easy – I love to sleep when it’s dark and early in the morning.

But, on the upside, it’s cooler so I get to bring Burton with me (he can’t tolerate hot-weather running either), and it’s pretty nice to start the day with a run.

Second, running in the dark can be a little, well, not to sound like a wuss, scary. I’ve nearly been hit by cars while running in daylight. Two weekends ago, less than a block from where I was, I saw a coyote run from my neighbor’s yard into the adjacent field next to our neighborhood. And don’t even get me started on all the stories of runners being attacked by creepers.

Getting up early – the struggle is real

But, on the upside, there are fewer cars and psychos out before 5 a.m. (they’ve gotta sleep sometime). And, potential wildlife encounters aside, running in the dark is kind of peaceful.

Especially this time of year when morning daylight has quickly dwindled, morning running is tougher than ever.

But, on the upside, after doing it the past several weeks and with only a couple more to go before Chicago Marathon, it has been an overall positive experience.

See? Perhaps we do, in fact, learn something new every day.

What’s something new you recently learning about running, working out, or just being well in general? Comment or tweet me, @LindsayIRL. Share your workout brags on Twitter and Instagram too using hashtag #wellirl

 

10 Reasons to Love Fall for Wellness

“Fall into fitness”

I know, I know, technically it’s not yet fall. But with Labor Day being the unofficial start of fall, leaves already starting to change, and temps noticeably cooler, we’re basically there. And I think it’s appropriate we start to celebrate one of the best times of the year.

Fall fitness is the best.

In addition to all the great things fall brings, it’s a great time to reinvigorate healthy habits or pick up some new ones. Here are five reasons the fall season is great for fitness, health, and wellness.

1. Outdoor Running
Y’all knew this was coming. After a hot, humid summer, the cooler, crisper air that comes with fall is a gift for most runners.

I admit, this is selfishly #1 on the list because it’s my favorite thing about fall. But I know I’m not alone.

2. Gym Temps
The great outdoors isn’t the only place summer’s heat affects us. The gym tends to get a little extra hot and humid during the peak of summer. Between all the bodies and the constant stream of summer weather, sometimes the gym’s AC just can’t keep up.

If your gym is like mine, you’ll love the more comfortable environment that comes during fall.

3. Race Scenery
In addition to the pleasant weather that comes with outdoor running, fall is a great time to try a race, whether a 5k or marathon. Why? The beautiful scenery!

There are usually plenty of races happening in the fall. What better way to take in the fall foliage colors than during a race? It’s a win-win.

4. Workout Clothes
Sick of the same old shorts and tank tops? Tis the season for leggings, tights, and long-sleeve tees.

This one’s a little trivial but hey, anything that makes us feel good and more excited to work out is great in my book.

5. Pumpkin, Apple, Cinnamon – Oh My
Whether you hate the arrival of pumpkin-spice-everything or love it, you can’t argue with the benefits of the foods that are hallmarks of the fall season. Pumpkin is great for our immune systems (buh-bye fall colds), heart health, and skin. Apples are a great source of fiber and cinnamon has been known to boost brain power and keep cholesterol in check.

Healthy with pumpkin & cinnamon – and delish!

Keep in mind a lot of popular fall-themed foods skimp on the good, nutritious stuff so be mindful about balancing the treats (pumpkin spice latte, apple crisp, cinnamon baked goods) with better options (apples sprinkled with cinnamon, or my Very Berry Banana Oat muffins, swapping half a can of pumpkin for the berries – I tested this recipe last week and it’s a winner!).

6. Slow Down
Between weddings, vacations, and attempts to soak up beautiful weekends, summer tends to be jam-packed with commitments. Fall is a great time to get back into regular routines and make more time to slow down.

Try yoga, set aside 10 minutes on a Sunday to meditate, just remember to take time for yourself.

7. Meal Prep
With the slow down of summer activities, fall also is synonymous with getting back into routine, much of it thanks to back-to-school and kiddos. It’s a great opportunity to get back into a healthy meal prep routine that may have slid with your busy summer.

Remember, meal prep doesn’t have to take hours of effort. Wash and cut up fruit for an easy snack. Cook up and store veggies for easy reheating at dinner. Hard boil a dozen eggs to toss in your lunch salad. With meal prep, a little effort goes a long way.

8. Farmers’ Markets
Have you ever noticed the best veggies come from the local farmer’s market during the fall? I have – not sure if that’s a Midwest thing but there are so many great veggies readily available in the fall. I love hitting the downtown Fargo farmer’s market on Saturdays and loading up on yummy goods while, bonus, supporting local growers.

Thank you to farmers for fall harvest.

The other great part is these veggies can be used in all kinds of fall-appropriate – and easy – meals like soups and crockpot delights.

9. Clean and Fresh
Most of the time, husband and I are good about keeping our house pretty clean. We tend to set aside time on Saturday after our workouts, before college football games start, to sweep, clean toilets, dust, do the basics. During the summer, however, we’re spoiled with a lake cabin that we head to most weekends. Our cleaning regimen kind of goes by the wayside. Needless to say, one of the best parts of fall is getting back into our cleaning routine, especially with fall allergy time.

If this sounds like you, take advantage of the weekend time to keep your house clean. It feels great to have a clean house and the benefits of fewer allergens and germs will help keep you healthy as the temps shirt.

10. Beat the New Year’s Resolutionists
We all know it’s coming – the holiday season will be upon us before we know it. And, with the end of the holiday season comes the New Year’s Resolutions. Beat the rush and get your good habits going this fall.

Not only will your established routine help you stay on track during the holiday season, you’ll be much more comfortable navigating the gym, weight workouts, and new classes when things start to amp up.

If you’re not already excited for the fall season, I hope you are now! There are plenty of reasons why people are sad to see summer go but taking the change of season as an opportunity to focus on your wellness should make it easier.

Do you have a favorite part of the fall season? Is it one that’s on my list or something else? Comment or tweet me, @LindsayIRL. Share your fall wellness moments on Twitter and Instagram with the hasthtag #wellirl.

Eat Healthy, Eat Happy, Eat Inclusively

“Inclusion isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do”

Have you ever done Strengths Finder? In a non-certified nutshell, it’s a program that uses a series of questions to gauge a person’s top “themes” aka, areas of greatest strength. Companies often have employees go through the program to better understand where they shine, help them work better as teams, and help managers better manage based on people’s unique strengths.

Life is the best when everyone is included

In my top three strengths is the theme, Includer. Again, in an “I’m-not-certified-so-I-only-know-the-basics” nutshell, it means when I’m in a group setting, I proactively make an effort to ensure everyone feels included. This theme is one I definitely feel fits me. I always hated feeling left out of anything when I was younger so it’s important to me that no one else ever feels like they’re not being included.

I realized this inclusive trait extends to other areas of my life – one in particular, eating. Not shocking to anyone who reads the blog or follows my social accounts, I love food. More than that, I’m a fan of inclusive diets vs. those that deem you can’t eat certain foods.

I know, I know – this idea of inclusive eating probably sounds really bizarre coming from someone who voluntarily excludes a major group of foods from her daily diet. Yes, I’m a vegetarian. No, I don’t exclude meat because I think it’s bad or I shouldn’t eat it. I simply don’t like it; never really have. I wish I did though; I would totally mooch off my husband’s stellar meal prepping skills.

Anyway, back to diets. I think most people have tried a diet or two in their lifetime that comes with rules of certain foods you can’t eat. As in life, here’s why I feel an inclusive approach to eating is best.

1. Variety is the Spice of Life
Unless you’re allergic, intolerant, or simply don’t like something, there’s no reason you should have to exclude anything from your diet. Opening yourself up to all possibilities keeps things interesting, plus, you might find some new, healthy food combos that you really enjoy.

And, not only does restrictive eating get mundane, depending on how restrictive it is, it might be really hard to maintain IRL. Raw veggies and meat only might sound like a great idea in theory but it’s also really tough to exclude all the other foods – both from a convenience and willpower standpoint.

2. Nutrition
Speaking of high-restrictive, omitting certain foods could leave you lacking in nutrients. Most restrictive diets do just that – restrict. Whether dairy, carbs, gluten (which, p.s. is not a diet but too many people treat it like one), or fruit is off-limits, the body ends up missing out on the natural goodness found in those foods.

Not a perfect meal but lots of good, tasty stuff in here

Supplements are an option but typically the body doesn’t absorb the nutrients as well as it does if it were actual food. As someone who has tried really hard to make up for lack of protein with powders, bars, even beans and legumes, trust me, I know – it’s not quite the same as the protein power that comes from animal meat. Sigh.

3. Screw Deprivation
Ice cream. Skittles. Cheetos. While one could argue there is zero nutritional value to these foods and they should therefore be excluded from a healthy diet, I disagree. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a treat every now and then – even if it is a zero-nutrition, sugar-filled, empty-calorie donut. Mmmm, donuts. If you want the donut, have it! Then get over it and get back to the good stuff at your next meals. Deprive yourself too long and it could be a quick train ride to binge-city.

Plus, by labeling some foods as “forbidden” the desire to eat them might grow and you’ll feel awful about yourself when you indulge when, really, it’s okay. Again, move on and eat something better at your next meal.

4. Being Social
Take it from a vegetarian – when your diet doesn’t include a common, popular type of food, social settings where food is involved can be tough to navigate. Many times, my “dinner” has consisted of a hotdog bun with cheese because there was nothing else for me to eat. The upside, I wasn’t staring at the hotdogs and hamburgers, wishing I could have one.

A restrictive diet can be tough in social situations as much as personal ones. Not saying it can’t be done; I’ve been handling them for years (often resorting to packing my own food or at least ensuring I have a Quest bar and apple in my purse). But if you can avoid it and just enjoy yourself, that’s gotta be much more pleasant than having food FOMO.

5. Eat to Live
Finally, let’s be real for a sec and remember the true purpose of food. It’s meant to fuel our bodies to do great things, whether that’s curing cancer, running a marathon, or getting a two-year-old dressed and off to daycare without incident.

Jimmy Johns – fueling my marathons and long runs for years

Restricting foods gets us back to the relationship where we associate food with being “bad” and making us “fat” meaning we, as humans, must be bad and fat people when we want to eat. I’d like to close by throwing it back to a blog I wrote around the holidays a couple years ago and remind you: Food isn’t bad. You’re not bad.

Now that I’ve put that out there, I want to see this from the other side. Do you believe in restrictive diets? What benefits have you personally seen from one? Comment or tweet me @LindsayIRL. Share photos of your healthy food choices on Instagram and Twitter using hasthtag #wellirl.

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