How I Faced My Fitness Fears

About a year ago, I published a blog post entitled “3 Reasons Hiking is my Favourite Hobby for Exercise”. I provided those three reasons: a clear goal to achieve, no expectations about fitness levels, and the chance to experience the great outdoors. But I’ll tell you a secret, friends. Sure, I love hiking and its many benefits for the body, mind, and spirit. But the only reason it was my favourite hobby for exercise at the time was the second one on the list. I was afraid to try anything else because of judgment, both from others and myself. I was held back by my fitness fears. Continue reading

Excel Bar Graphs

These days, everyone and their mother has “Microsoft Excel” listed as one of their skills on LinkedIn. So you probably already know that Excel is a powerful tool for data analysis, manipulation, and visualization. Working in Marketing Analytics, I literally use Excel every single day. (In fact, you might have noticed that I’ve been AWOL on the blog recently — I’ve been so busy with work that all I can even think about is Excel.) Some people are “Excel Wizards”, using tons of shortcuts and fancy formulae. If that’s you, more power to you! But in the end, it’s the output that matters: how will you communicate your work to an audience of colleagues or clients? Often you’ll present your findings in a series of charts or graphs. And when I see a professional slide deck full of ugly, unpolished, or even default-style Excel bar graphs (or any graphs), it drives me up the wall.

I want to help you. Continue reading

Cruising in your Twenties

When you’re in your twenties and feeling the tug of wanderlust, you’ll find so many travel options. Between backpacking, road-tripping, all-inclusives, cultural experiences, and much more, you face the tough choice of how to spend your vacation days and best see the world. Have you considered taking a cruise? I personally just returned from my second Royal Caribbean cruise in as many years, and had an awesome time. Cruising in your twenties isn’t usually the first vacation that comes to mind. But cruises aren’t just for families and older travelers. Depending on the experience you’re looking for, it might be a great choice for you! Continue reading

Life Lately: Cruise!

Long time no see, friends! I’ve had an extremely busy couple of weeks, so unfortunately, I haven’t had much time for the blog. That’s a hard thing for me to say, to be honest. I’ve never been one to claim that I’m “too busy” for a commitment. But when it comes to Flinntrospection, I see it as a personal development project more than anything. And if I feel the need to step back from a project to benefit my mind, body, and soul, then so be it. Continue reading

2017 Tone It Up Challenge

*Peeks head out from under rock…* Hello there. Today is the final day of the 2017 Tone It Up Challenge. That means I’ve spent the past 4 weeks following along with the nutrition plan and daily workouts available on ToneItUp.com (since I started two weeks late). That means it’s been a busy four weeks. And I mean busy.

To recap, I started casually trying out Karena and Katrina’s Tone It Up (TIU) daily workouts back in mid-December. I posted about that here — and it’s funny, looking back, at how much has changed in two months! Continue reading

Choosing Your 30 Days of Yoga with Adriene

You may have heard of Yoga with Adriene. It’s a YouTube channel with around 2 million followers (at the time of writing) led by quirky, lovable yoga powerhouse Adriene Mishler. (Maybe you’ve read my two previous posts on the subject, here or here? Check these out if you’re curious about my experiences so far.) If you’ve heard of Adriene, then you’ll definitely know about the 30 Days of Yoga with Adriene challenges. They’re guided video practices released daily in January for the past three years.

Each series is available for free on YouTube, and contains 30 (or 31) videos at 15-45 minutes in length. If you sign up on the website, you’ll also receive a daily message to supplement the practice of the day. In January 2015, there was the original 30 Days of Yoga, and in 2016, Adriene released the sequel, 30 Days of Yoga Camp. This year’s series, Yoga Revolution, wrapped up this past week. I’m happy to report that I really enjoyed this year’s practice, but I’m finding that each one is unique, fun, and invigorating in its own way.

Why a 30 day experience? While it’s awesome to practice yoga wherever and whenever it fits into your life, a daily practice provides great structure for growth. This was true for me physically, mentally, and emotionally. Adriene gets into some of this in the intro video for her first series, 30 Days of Yoga:

So what if you’ve just found out about Yoga with Adriene, and want to begin a month-long yoga journey? Should you choose 30 Days of Yoga (2015), Yoga Camp (2016), or Yoga Revolution (2017)?

Naturally, I (and Adriene, I’m sure) would recommend all three — probably in chronological order. But perhaps you’re looking for a particular type of yoga challenge. If that’s the case, I want to provide you with some context and insight to help you choose, based on my own experiences with these three 30 Days of Yoga with Adriene series.

If You’re New to Yoga

My recommendation for newcomers would be the original 30 Days of Yoga. Adriene’s guidance is very clear and informative in this series — but don’t worry, there’s lots of fun and silliness along the way. There’s also a natural progression of difficulty throughout the series. As a relative newbie myself, I found the earlier videos helped me build strength and mindfulness to prepare me for the rest of the series.

If You’re Looking for a Physical Challenge

Is yoga your workout of choice? Awesome! I’d recommend Yoga Camp. I found this series to be the most physically demanding of the three. Like the first challenge, this sequel series provides a ramp up to the more challenging videos. Adriene provides opportunities to practice new, more difficult poses, but also offers modifications as you work towards them.

If You’re Seeking a Journey of Self-Love

Committing to any yoga experience is an act of self-love, but if your ultimate goal is an emotional experience, then Yoga Revolution is for you. This series is the embodiment of Yoga With Adriene’s slogan/mantra, “Find What Feels Good”. The focus is much more on mindfulness, positivity, and “tapping into your inner smile” than the other two 30 Days of Yoga with Adriene experiences.

If You Want a Consistent Practice

Maybe you’re having trouble sticking to those New Year’s Resolutions. (It is February, after all.) If you’re looking to make yoga a daily ritual to carry you into the rest of the year, I’d suggest starting out with 30 Days of Yoga. I found this series to be the most consistent in terms of style and length. The day-to-day cadence of difficulty and focus was also more predictable in this series. This made it easier to fit yoga into my daily schedule. And after these particular 30 days of yoga with Adriene, I felt the most prepared to continue my home practice without YouTube video guidance.

If You’re Looking for Something New

After practicing for a while in a highly structured public yoga class (or the same old YouTube videos), things can start to get stale. Yoga Camp and Yoga Revolution will help you step out of your yoga comfort zone, in slightly different ways. Yoga Camp focuses on the link between mind and body, using mantras to channel energy and breath throughout both gentle and challenging sequences. I found Yoga Revolution to be a bit more instructive, as Adriene discussed alignment, energy, and chakras, for example, throughout the series. Both experiences incorporate a bit of Kundalini Yoga as well, which was new for me, and might be new for you.


I hope these considerations help you Find What Feels Good — whether that’s 30 Days of Yoga, Yoga Camp, or Yoga Revolution! If you’d like, take the next three months and do all three 30 Days of Yoga with Adriene series! Let me know which one(s) you choose! 🙂

My Tone It Up Meal Prep Process

Hey friends! If you’ve been following along on Flinntrospection recently, you’ll know that I joined the Tone It Up 2017 Challenge two weeks ago. It’s a six week healthy living challenge with both a fitness and a nutrition component. (Oops, I joined two weeks late!) I’d been following along with the Tone It Up workouts for a few weeks beforehand. So in spite of a crazy work schedule, I’ve been keeping up with the fitness portion. The nutrition, on the other hand, has been a struggle. There is a ton of planning, effort, and time that has to go into preparing healthy meals for the week. But this week, for my third round of Sunday Tone It Up Meal Prep, I’ve settled into a routine. If you’re on the TIU Nutrition Plan — or even if you’re not — this method might work for you!

Note: I do Steps 1-4 on Saturdays, and 5-6 on Sundays!

Step 1: Choose Your Meals

The 2017 Challenge edition of the Nutrition Plan includes a full six-week meal plan breakdown. But you’re fully welcome, and often encouraged, to choose your own meals. Plus, once the challenge is over, you’re on your own with choosing meals for the week. For Week Five of the challenge, I’m loosely following the schedule, but making lots of substitutions.

The TIU Nutrition Plan has some helpful printables for filling out your weekly meal schedule:

 Tone It Up Meal Prep — Meal Plan Template

Obviously, you can make this for yourself too. Just type one up in Word, or literally draw it on a blank sheet of paper. (Or you can grab one of these — not an affiliate link, just a cool find.)

Once you have your template, write in all the meals and snacks you’re planning to eat for the week. I’m following the Nutrition Plan’s lead in making each weekday M3 (lunch) the leftovers from the previous night’s M5 (dinner). More complex recipes will show up on weekends, when I have time for them. I’m also loving make-ahead meals for weekday breakfasts, like Overnight Oats.

Step 2: Make Your Ingredient List

This step takes a bit of cross-referencing with your fridge or pantry. I pick a meal, look at the list of ingredients in the Nutrition Plan (if necessary), and write down whatever I don’t have in my kitchen. It’s also important to include quantities for the week, so you can aggregate them later on in the process. If you’re making enough for leftovers, make sure you’re duplicating quantities in single-serving recipes! After each meal’s ingredients have been accounted for, check it off everywhere it appears on your meal plan template. Keep going until you’ve listed ingredients for all of your meals, even if the ingredients overlap. It will look something like this:

 Tone It Up Meal Prep — Ingredient List

Step 3: Make Your Grocery List

Now you walk through your Ingredient List and consolidate it into a grocery list, sorted by product category. Cross them off on the ingredients list as you go, and don’t forget to add your quantities. I have one of those “All Out Of” grocery checklists, so that helps the process!

 Tone It Up Meal Prep — Grocery List

Why did I separate these two steps? Because it’s hard to look at a huge list of meals and flip back and forth between recipes to put together a list of, say, all the veggies you need for the week. I find it much easier to work by recipe. And once the ingredients are all on one page, consolidation is a breeze.

If you’re thinking of using the pre-made Challenge grocery list, a word of warning: it lies. (Okay, maybe not on purpose.) I followed it to the letter in my first week on the Nutrition Plan. I ended up missing some ingredients I needed, and having lots of things that weren’t even on the meal plan docket. For the sake of the environment and your wallet, I’d recommend making your own list!

Step 4: Write Your Meal Prep Checklist

The 2017 Challenge booklet also comes with a simple checklist for your meal prep adventures. It’s pretty reliable, but because of my volatile work schedule, I have to prep beyond the suggested list. Feel free to prepare whatever works for you. Pre-chop your veggies, make your frozen smoothie packs, cook your Monday night dinner, prepare your proteins, whatever! Make a list of all the tasks you’re going to tackle on Sunday.

Step 5: Grocery Shop

In the TIU world, Sunday has two purposes: Sunday Runday, and Tone It Up Meal Prep.

With your list in hand, head out to the grocery store and shop till you drop! But don’t drop. You have work to do.

Step 6: The Real Deal — Tone It Up Meal Prep

Organize your groceries, pull out your checklist, and start knocking those things off one by one. Try to prioritize oven tasks, especially with long cook times, so you can maximize your efficiency. This is where I find it was the most helpful to have my Nutrition Plan printed out for easy reference, especially for new dishes. I have tried fifteen new recipes in the past two weeks, which is absolutely insane for me! It also helps to clean up as you go. Prepare for high volumes of dishes, food waste/compost, and Tupperware filling up your entire fridge! (And don’t forget to share #tiuteam photos of the process and the delish food on Instagram!)


That’s how I do my Tone It Up Meal Prep! How do you prepare your meals for the week ahead?

My relationship with Fitbit has changed drastically over the last year. In September 2015, I purchased a Fitbit Flex and wore it religiously for eleven months. I lamented my Fitbit failings along the way. Then I lost the charger. (Hah.) I could have easily found a new cable and kept stepping along. But I found that there were some deficiencies in my Flex compared to my now-current fitness tracking needs. And after scoping out my options, I finally acquired a black Fitbit Charge 2. I’ve been using it for two weeks now, and I’m extremely happy with the results.

 Fitbit Charge 2 Review

What I Love

The Band and the Charger

After using a Fitbit Flex for a year, I noticed the band starting to wear out in colour and stretch. It was a solid colour, so the change was obvious. Plus, the clasp was (and had always been) precarious, and popping the device out of the band to charge it was an unnecessary strain on the band (and on me).

The Fitbit Charge 2 comes with an integrated device + band, meaning you charge the device while it’s still attached to the band. The Charge also has a belt- or watch-type clasp, so I’m a lot less worried about it falling off. Plus, the simple textured design will keep any discoloration down the road hidden for longer than a solid, smooth band would.

Heart Rate Monitor

This was the main reason I purchased the Fitbit Charge 2 over, say, the Fitbit Alta or something a little bit smaller. Now that I’m getting more active, it’s a lot more important for me to track my heart rate and cardiovascular health. This is Fitbit’s HR-monitoring option with the lowest cost and the most narrow band.

Simple But Sufficient Display

Unlike my Flex, the Fitbit Charge 2 doubles as a step counter and a watch. It also lets you cycle through other screens to see your heart rate, start tracking an activity (like a run), use a stopwatch, begin a guided calm breathing exercise, and view your upcoming alarms.

The App

I’m used to using the Fitbit app from my Flex days. But with floor counting, heart rate monitoring, and more detailed activity info, there’s so much more to do now that I have a Charge 2! I especially love tracking my heart rate throughout the day. I went through a phase of tracking my nutrition via the app as well, but with the Tone It Up Nutrition Plan, it’s way too time consuming (and probably unnecessary).

Nitpicks

No Ability to Control Smartphone Music

I would gladly trade the smartphone text/call notifications for the ability to skip through a playlist via my Fitbit. Unfortunately, the Charge 2 doesn’t have this functionality. I would have to trade up to the Blaze smartwatch for that ability — but that’s a larger device, with an extra $100 on the price-tag. I opted for the simplicity.

Not Waterproof

I don’t do much swimming (at all), so removing my Fitbit for a swim isn’t a big deal. The larger challenge is remembering to put my Charge 2 back on after a shower. So far, it’s been two weeks and I have yet to forget. But I’m still concerned, as my memory is pretty awful. We’ll see how long I can last before I walk out the door without my Fitbit!


In summary, I’m very happy with my new Fitbit Charge 2. In spite of some slight shortfalls, I definitely don’t regret choosing this fitness tracker out of the others out there on the market!

How do you track your fitness?

Tone It Up Nutrition Plan First Impressions

After weeks of debate, and swooning over nutritious Instagram stories, I finally caved and purchased the Tone It Up Nutrition Plan. That means I’m a full-fledged TIU member! Never thought I’d be saying that, but here we are. Just a few weeks ago I started following along with the Daily Workouts on ToneItUp.com. I’ve really enjoyed the process and the community thus far. So before I get too entrenched in the TIU 2017 Challenge (for better or worse), I thought I’d share my Tone It Up Nutrition Plan first impressions!

 Tone It Up Nutrition Plan First Impressions: 2017 Challenge

Tone It Up Nutrition Plan First Impressions

Curiosity killed the…wallet?

Let’s just start off with the price. This plan is expensive, yo. Dropping $150 (USD, I might add) is a hefty commitment, especially since I’ve never done anything like this before. Can’t I just Google all of this nutrition info? Pull together some recipes on Pinterest and make my own plan for free?

Technically, yes, anyone could do that. The question is whether anyone will — and for me, the answer is a definite “no”. By the time I put in the effort to research which foods I need to fuel my body for mental and physical exercise, I’m already chowing down on Tim Hortons. I have made some healthier choices in recent months, but my self-regulation is my downfall. The convenience of having things explained, and aggregated in one spot is my biggest draw to the Nutrition Plan. I wanted to see whether the layout and guidelines of the plan would work for me.

I also took advantage of the current bundle offer. For $165 I received the Nutrition Plan membership and the Body Love video series. These video workouts currently appear quite often in the 2017 Challenge Daily Workouts. The challenge is already 1/3 of the way through, which is a bummer for the bundle. But from what I saw in December, members-only videos from previous challenges show up pretty often during non-challenge period Daily Workouts. Plus, I can always do the workouts whenever, right? (…Right? Hah. We’ll see about that.)

This Plan is Future-Proof.

Usually, when I’m making a commitment like this one, I’d take forever to come to a decision.

Should I wait until the next challenge comes along? Should I wait until I’ve used up all of the frozen pizzas in my freezer? Should I just try to eat healthy without any Nutrition Plan? (Continue ad nauseam…)

But the payment structure of this plan is a huge plus — or, rather, the lack thereof. It’s one fee. One-time. Flat rate. And you get every Nutrition Plan update and Challenge supplement download, for free, forever. This is perfect whether you just want to dabble, or if you’re an all-in-or-all-out kind of person, like me. Here’s the current spectrum of Plans available to members for download:

 Tone It Up Nutrition Plan First Impressions: All Plans 2017

I likely won’t use all of these, but they’re helpful to have when the opportunities arise. (Granted, TIU Challenges also usually require a paid set of videos, which are not included.)

Nutritional Science(ish).

I read through the “plan” portion of the download (i.e. not the recipes) on Saturday night. The guidelines seem solid, and there’s even some chemistry in there to explain the “why” behind them.

Even though I’ve got a Bachelor of Science, my biochemistry background is super limited. I appreciated the basic explanations Karena & Katrina included in the Nutrition Plan. But then you come across stuff like this:

Fatty acids are broken down by the enzyme hormone-sensitive lipase~ or what we like to call the “Burn Baby Burn Enzyme!”.

My boyfriend was reading over my shoulder and dying of laughter! So take the science sections with a grain of salt…

Meal Prepping is Madness.

My original plan was to dabble in some recipes and try out the Nutrition Plan whenever I could fit it in. But I just knew that I would revert to pasta and takeout, and wouldn’t be giving it a fair shot! So instead, I spent Sunday afternoon grocery shopping and meal prepping, as instructed by the 2017 Challenge Guide.

Wowza.

That grocery run was so expensive! I probably could have guessed. So much healthy food, and some of it premium or organic. Also, I was stocking up on bulk foods that I wouldn’t otherwise have purchased, like coconut shavings and flax seed. (And apple cider vinegar. Apparently that one’s important.)

Joe helped me with some of the meal prepping, since he loves to cook and I’m a mess in the kitchen. But as we all know, practice makes perfect! I made Egg Muffins, Almond Butter Cookies, and Chia Seed Pudding.

Things I Wish I Had Known 24 Hours Ago.

I’ve only had this Nutrition Plan for a day, and it’s already been a learning experience. Here are some things that might be helpful if you’re taking the TIU Nutrition Plan plunge:

Print it out.

If you have an iPad or tablet, you’re probably okay, but it was a nightmare switching between my phone and my laptop all afternoon. There are also printables at the end of the Plan — so at least print those. Plus, there’s just something so comforting about holding the pages in your hands, isn’t there? Okay, maybe that’s just me. I’m thinking of printing and binding mine at Staples ASAP — at least the main Nutrition Plan book, anyway.

Rewrite the grocery list in an order that makes sense for you.

This applies if you’re following a Challenge, like the 2017 Look for Love Challenge, with your meals all laid out. Joe and I kept having to go back for things in the grocery store because we skimmed over an ingredient! Take more time to study the grocery list than I did…

Join the gosh darn challenge on time!

At the end of 2016, I was convinced that my reasons for skipping out on Look for Love were solid. I’m participating in Yoga With Adriene’s Yoga Revolution, and still following the Tone It Up Daily Moves. That’s all the time I have to commit!

But you know what I still had time for?

Facebook.

Netflix.

And lots and lots of dawdling.

So you know what? I’m going to bite the bullet, try something new, and hopefully be healthier for it.


Those are my Tone It Up Nutrition Plan first impressions. To summarize, I’ll say that I’m cautiously optimistic, motivated, and curious! If you have any questions (for a newbie like me), ask away!

(P.S. I also created a TIU Instagram account to document the journey — mostly so I wouldn’t annoy my main account followers, haha! Let’s connect @tiu.hillary)

Are you on the #TIUteam? What were your Tone It Up Nutrition Plan first impressions?

Happy Friday (the 13th…)! Just thought I’d check in and give you an update on my life lately. It’s been a busy couple of weeks getting back into the swing of things at work and settling into a daily fitness routine for the month of January (more on that here). But yesterday, I was laid out all day in recovery mode from my wisdom tooth surgery.

Okay, perhaps “surgery” is a stretch. I only had one wisdom tooth, and it was pretty small. The whole surgery process, from freezing to walking back out to the waiting room, took less than 20 minutes. I was pretty nervous going in. Multiple people in my family are paranoid about needles or dental procedures. I won’t say it was painless, but it was still quick and easy.

An unfortunate side effect of popping out that wisdom tooth is that I had to sit out from exercise for a day or two, to facilitate healing. I’m glad I completed my Yoga Revolution Day 12 (In Sync) practice yesterday morning so I could stay on track! However, I didn’t get a chance to complete my Tone It Up daily moves or my steps for the day. Bummer, since I’d been pretty consistent up until yesterday with both of those.

For context on the latter, I just purchased a Fitbit Charge 2 last weekend, which I totally love. You may remember (from this post) that I kinda… sorta… lost the charger for my Fitbit Flex in the summer and never bought a replacement. I started looking online for Flex chargers (since they’re outdated in stores now), but realized that I really wanted a heart-rate monitor moving forward, which the Flex doesn’t have. And when Joe said that he’d like to have a Flex, that settled it — I’ve got my new one, and he’s got my old one. You know, once we find a charger. I may post a review of the Charge 2 once I’ve had it for a little while longer!

As for my daily moves, I have to say that while I’ve only been following along with Tone It Up’s daily workouts for a few weeks now, I’m actually noticing improvements. The videos are becoming more manageable, and I’m taking fewer breaks and starting to enjoy the daily moves. Given that I started out completely loathing exercise, that’s actually pretty cool.

That’s my life lately. How’s yours?

Have a beautiful weekend!