Get Your ‘Beach Body’ Back in Time for the Summer

The following is a guest article, submitted by one of RJR’s readers. If you are interested in submitting a guest post, follow the guidelines listed here.

It sneaks up on us every year. It’s still a little chilly outside, and your snuggled up on the couch eating a big bowl of homemade macaroni and cheese when the weather reporter hits you with upcoming temperatures that make you drop your fork—beach season is upon us.

Most people indulge a little more throughout the winter. With the holidays and the undeniable satisfaction of comfort foods when it’s cold out, it’s pretty common to put on a few pounds. But not to worry! It’s never to late to start working towards a healthier beach body. Get the motivation you need with a few of these helpful tips and tools to you get started.

Get Ready

In their post on taking steps toward attaining your beach body, Verizon Wireless says the first step is “assessing the damage.” For many people, just thinking of stepping on the scale can cause anxiety, and even discourage them from moving forward with a new routine. If you find the fear of the scale holding you back from getting started, Verizon suggests trying out the Fitbit® Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale, which apparently “greets you with a grin each time you step aboard.”

Not only does the scale give you your accurate weight, but it can provide you with your body fat and body mass index, so you can focus on getting healthy, instead of just seeing the pounds you’ve lost. To make the process even easier, the scale syncs with your smartphone, “so you can log your food, carry your diet plan and know how many calories you’ve burned throughout the day.” It’s a hassle-free, easy way to get started on making healthier choices.

Make Small Dietary Changes.

You’ve probably heard it before, but it remains true: there are no “quick fixes” for losing weight. If you try and restrict yourself  earlier on, you’ll likely end up binge eating later, or making even poorer choices to substitute your cravings. Take it slow when changing up your diet. The cold weather probably had you staying indoors and eating heavier, high-calorie foods a lot more than you normally would during the summer.

Start by swapping out one meal for a lower-calorie option. Prevention states that even though it may seem like a small step, it’s proven to go a long way in helping you reach your goals. More vegetables, fewer carbs. More grilling, less frying. Once you’ve gotten into a routine of eating a little healthier, you’re more likely to be motivated to incorporate healthier alternatives into other meals throughout your day.

Kick Up Your Exercise Routine.

No time for a workout? Well then it’s time to reevaluate. Fitness Magazine argues that there is always something you can switch out for a quick 30 minutes of exercise. Try biking to work, or use part of your lunch break to go for a walk. Not only can it help you stay on track throughout the day, but Prevention states that light exercise (away from the office) has been proven to make you more productive.

No babysitter? No problem. You can take the kids with you. Pushing a stroller can add additional resistance and muscle exertion while you walk, and some gyms even offer child daycare while you sneak in a workout.

If you’re feeling good, and ready to push yourself to the next level, remember to do so safely and take things slow. You might want results fast, but if you pull a muscle from over doing it at the gym, you’ll end up having to put your routine on hold, ultimately slowing your progression. Make little changes first. With every small victory, you’ll gain a little more motivation and confidence to keep going.

sara upton

About the Author:

Sara Upton is an advocate for healthy living and a clean lifestyle. She lives in Charleston, SC with her husband, Jeff, and their golden retriever, Henry.

20 Must-Read Running Books to ‘Fit’ In for 2014

Recently, I surveyed runners from around the web, asking them what their favorite running-related books were. The results were astounding. Thank you to all of you who participated in the conversation! The following are some great running books to check out. Have more suggestions? Leave them in the comments!

#1 – Body for Life, by Bill Phillips

It breaks the workout and nutrition down scientifically, but in everyday language. It explains how most people either train the wrong way and/or overtrain. It begins with a 12 week cycle of the proper way to eat and work out, which is so much more simple than you can imagine. I felt like I wasn’t doing enough for the first several weeks, but my personal end results were incredible.

After being a college and professional athlete who was always in decent shape, this book took me to extraordinary shape. The workouts are short, but specific and include one day to eat anything I want. The pictures of results they show in the book (and probably a website somewhere) are accurate and true, no matter how much you say “no way.” I work in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles and have turned many actors on to this program and every single one has had success. I am in no way affiliated with Body for Life, but really do believe it enough to write this. *[suggested by David R.]

#2 – The Lore of Running by M.D., by Tim Noakes

This is an incredibly thorough book that covers just about every facet of running, from a renowned medical doctor/running aficionado Tim Noakes from South Africa. *[suggested by Bill L.]

#3 – Spark by John Ratey M.D.

This is a book about the correlation between running/exercise and how good it is for the brain and emotions and psychology of humans. *[suggested by Bill L.]

#4 – Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall

Born To Run is great. Doesn’t matter if you want to run barefoot, etc. I found it very interesting to read and it touches so many topics. *[suggested by Ninjawolf on Daily Mile]

#5 – Anatomy for Runners, by Jay Dicharry

*[suggested by Bill P.]

#6 – Barefoot Runner, by Paul Rambali

This covers the life of marathon champ Abebe Bikila who won the Olympic marathon twice in 1960 and 1964. *[suggested by Simon B.]

#7 – The Running Man, by Gilbert Tuhabonye

…which is a biography of Gilbert, primarily growing up in Burundi. *[suggested by Simon B.]

#8 – Run to Overcome, by Meb Keflezighi

His is a truly inspiring story and I highly recommend his book. It’s very engaging and a pretty fast read. *[suggested by Lisa A.]

#9 – Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else, by Geoffrey Colvin

Ryan Hall mentioned he was reading “Talent is Overrated” so I picked it up. Great read! *[suggested by Luis G.]

#10 – The Big Book of Endurance Training & Racing, by Philip Maffetone

At different level they both change my mind and way of running and training. *[suggested by Luis G.]

#11 – The Runner’s Field Manual and the Runner’s Rule Book, by Mark Remy

A little light/humorous reading. *[suggested by Michael Y.]

#12 – Chicken Soup for the Runner’s Soul, by Jack Canfield, et al.

…Also short stories but a good read as well. *[suggested by Michael Y.]

#13 – Running the Highway to Hell: The 28th Sultan Marathon des Sables, by Graeme Harvey

#14 – Bowerman and the Men of Oregon: The Story of Oregon’s Legendary Coach and Nike’s Cofounder, by Kenny Moore

#15 – Running with the Buffaloes: A Season Inside with Mark Wetmore, Adam Goucher, and the University of Colorado Men’s Cross Country Team, by Chris Lear

These are two of the better running books I have read. *[#14, 15 suggested by Glen S.]

#16 – Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner, by Dean Karnazes

#17 – Feet in the Clouds: A Tale of Fell-Running and Obsession, by Richard Askwith

Both of those should get you fired up for the new year! *[suggested by Gareth E.]

#18 – From Last to first, by Charlie Spedding

#19 – More Fire: How to Run the Kenyan Way, by Toby Tanser

#20 – Bounce, by Matthew Syed

Bounce is a brilliant read, and focuses on the science of success rather than the myth of talent. *[suggested by Stuart L.]

Sacrificing Fitness for Finances: Can We Find a Balance?

I spent nearly five years working from home as a professional web copywriter and project manager for an Internet marketing company. A true testament to my discipline and work ethic, I found that working from home worked really well for me. I was more efficient, often completing work tasks in half the time it would take me when at the office. Clients were happy, my boss was happy; I had the freedom to travel and spend weeks at a time with family in New York (because my work came with me)…

This work arrangement afforded me the time to fully indulge in the healthy habits I’d already established: physical fitness and a general, overall healthy lifestyle. I could go for an 11-miler in the morning, come back, shower, physically prepare a meal and actually sit down at a table to enjoy it without checking the clock and thinking about traffic.

I got the sleep I needed, I enjoyed my work, and I always felt energized….

I was in the best physical and mental shape of my life.

But sometimes, life happens.

Fitness vs. Finances

When the door to my cushy WFH job closed, I found myself opening a new door into a working world filled with an hour-long commute in bumper-to-bumper traffic, cubicles, multiple staff meetings, ringing phones and loud office conversations. To further complicate things, I no longer had one job- I had three. 

In the struggle to hold on to an important part of what defined me, I found myself straining to get out of bed at 5 a.m. to go running. I’d then make a mad dash back to my house so that I could shower and squeeze in some work for Job #1 before leaving home for Job#2. After spending most of the day fighting to maintain focus, I’d rush home, barely putting my bags down before opening up the laptop to start in on the next batch of work for Job#3. If there was time leftover, I’d do additional work for Job #1.

If I was lucky, I’d maybe make it to bed by midnight before getting up and repeating this process a l l  o v e r  a g a i n.

There was no TV – no leisure writing – no real hobbies – no friends. There was simply no time.

The running, which had once energized me, was draining me. During soccer games, I actually found myself needing to sub out for breaks. I became frustrated at how slow and sluggish I felt, even after our runs were done. I felt tired all of the time; I had trouble focusing on or remembering things. My eating habits started to suffer. My coordination was off. My sleep was abysmal. And then it finally happened.

I tore my hamstring during one of our soccer games.

Falling Down

Being injured was, by far, more devastating than losing a job ever was. It took away the one thing that brought me joy and sanity: physical fitness. Sure, with running and soccer off of the table, I now had more time (hypothetically) to…sleep and work…just like any other normal person.

But I was miserable.

Mentally, I was wiped out. All I wanted to do was NOT look at a computer screen…NOT hear one of my five emails going off…

Without the ability to do any sort of physical activity or the hobbies I once had time for, I lost the one ‘break’ that I had afforded my body and mind. But with all of the ‘stuff’ I had been doing, the fitness activities that had once added something to my life now seemed like more of a burden. Maybe it was a sign that I just needed to put childish things away and grow up. After all, what 31-year-old plays for a co-ed soccer league AND an adult women’s soccer league AND goes running nearly every day before the sun has even come up? That’s a recipe for disaster, right?

Do we risk losing who we are as athletes when we enter into the working world?

All of this made me wonder – how much of ourselves do we really give up in order to pursue other things that aren’t necessarily fulfilling, but are simply necessary?

Running, soccer, and an overall physically active lifestyle are part of what defines who I am. There’s no greater feeling to me than when I’m competing on the soccer fields with my teams and playing well – or when I’ve just finished running a 10-mile, killer hill run at 6:30 min/mile pace. But facing the facts, there was no feasible way to continue living the way I had. Something would eventually have to get sacrificed; some part of my life would inevitably suffer.

It was quickly becoming obvious – I wasn’t the “Wonder Woman Multi-tasker” I thought I was.

Small Sacrifices Now: Bigger Rewards Later

I keep telling myself that the struggles I face today are just small, temporary sacrifices, compared to where I want to go eventually.

I keep reminding myself that other adults face similar situations every day. I am not unique.

Sometimes difficult decisions are only as difficult as we make them out to be.

Sometimes, rather than looking up at an obstacle and trying to get over it, we need, instead, to plough through it.

Sometimes the decisions we end up struggling with are the ones that end up getting decided for us.

One night, after the work stress, injuries and failing health from 2013 reached a boiling point, I sat down and had a hard conversation….with myself. In the end, I reviewed the personal and career goals that I had written down for myself earlier in the year. How was my current work situation helping me work towards achieving those goals? What price would I eventually pay?

When I arrived back in North Carolina after Christmas, I came back to another closed door; but the door hadn’t even shut all of the way before another one blew wide open. Rather than stare at the closed door, I breathed a sigh of relief, smiled and crossed over a new threshold.

Finding a Balance

We make time for the things that are important in our lives, but when you’re in a situation where your finances really have to dictate the direction you’re going in, it can be difficult to stick to a quality fitness routine. In my case, even when I did make the time to work out, I was often too exhausted to reap the benefits.

In the end, things wound up working out for the best, but sometimes, we have to make difficult decisions regarding a career in order to make our health a priority. That said, finding a balance between fitness and your finances is possible. My advice?

  • Physically write down your personal, professional and physical goals, and keep it somewhere visible to only you.
  • Assess your financial needs versus wants, and evaluate the ways in which your current career and/or lifestyle is helping (or hindering) you from reaching your goals.
  • Evaluate your level of effort in each of those areas of your life.
  • Turn to friends and family as a source of encouragement and support.
  • Evaluate what is or isn’t working. Embrace change, & adapt as necessary in order to grow.

See what you’re doing wrong, laugh at it, change and do better. – Spencer Johnson

Product Review: All-Pro Science

Recently, I had the chance to taste test a couple of All-Pro Science products. It was great timing because (at the time) I was training for my first marathon and competing on a women’s adult league soccer team. **I use the past tense here because I have since torn my hamstring and will be out of commission for a while**. Despite this, I am still using All-Pro Science products as I slowly get crawl, walk and then run back into my fitness routine.

Finding a Whey Protein That Works

Protein is important in repairing and building healthy muscle tissue, which is crucial if you are an extremely physically active athlete. However, many semi-professional/professional athletes struggle to fit enough protein into their diets. Whey protein is not only convenient to consume, it helps you fit in the additional protein that your muscles need for proper recovery and repair.

As a someone who has always opted for a more ‘organic’ approach to their diet, finding a whey protein supplement that agrees with my stomach has been an ongoing issue. I’ve always steered clear of designer whey protein mixes and have always been careful to read labels before trying something. Yet, despite my best efforts, I continued to have stomach issues; so I shelved the idea of whey protein for a while. However, after I made the decision to train for my first marathon and my weekly mileage crept from 40 miles/week to 60+ miles/week, I decided to start looking around at some organic supplement options.

Coincidentally, I was offered an awesome opportunity to test drive an All-Natural whey protein from All-Pro Science (APS).

Sure- why not?

I should mention that whey protein and other similar all-natural supplements should never be a complete replacement for a nutritious meal. Rather, these kinds of supplements should be used as exactly that: supplements to your regular diet, provided that you are extremely active. To put things into perspective, here’s what a typical week/weekend would look like for me:

During the week:

Wake up every day at 5am; running by 5:30am; finished running between 8-10 miles by 7am; drive back to my house; shower, get dressed REALLY QUICKLY and spend an hour in the car driving to work…

On the weekends:

Saturday: Do a long run of 18-20 miles; come back, mow my lawn/do yard work for 2.5 hours….Sundays: 1.5 hour soccer game…

While this may not seem so bad to some people, it was still quite a lot work, effort and discipline…That said, I’m often pressed for time in the mornings- with just enough of a window to get showered and dressed and out the door. But after running sub 7-minute mile pace for anywhere from 8-20 miles, I also know that I need to get some form of nutrition into my body and fast.

Whey protein is a great alternative, and after speaking with APS, I decided to give them a try.

All-Pro Science 100% Grass Fed Whey Protein

I was given the Banana Creme Complete 100% Grass Fed Whey Protein to try, and I was pleasantly surprised. It’s actually really delicious. Normally, I’d have to add a milk or something else to a whey protein supplement to help mask the ‘artificial flavor’ of it. However, in this case, I decided to try it first as the directions suggested: mixing one scoop in 10 ounces of cold water. It tasted great by itself!

I found myself having to read and then re-read the ingredients to make sure I wasn’t missing something. This particular whey protein consists of the following:

  • BGH-Free Grass Fed Whey
  • Xanthan Gum
  • Apple Pectin
  • Stevia Suave
  • Natural Banana Flavor
  • Salt

What I really liked was the low sugar concentration – only 3 grams of sugar per serving and 23 grams of protein. Well done.

I also tried an individual sample pack of the Bavarian Chocolate Complete 100% Grass Fed Whey Protein.  In one word: DELICIOUS. By the time I got around to trying out the Bavarian Chocolate flavor, I had gotten injured and wasn’t exercising as much, but I figured that my muscles still needed the protein to help speed the repair/recovery process. So, I limited myself to half the suggested serving size.

For the chocolate flavor, I opted to mix it into a homemade smoothie that consisted of the following (pictured):

  • (1) frozen banana
  • 10 oz. cold water
  • crushed ice
  • 2-3 frozen strawberries
  • (15) grams of Bavarian Chocolate mix (or half of the individual packet size)

I also took some of the protein and mixed it into an Instant Jell-O pudding mix…another great way to fit in some extra protein while enjoying dessert!

All-Pro Science Recovery

I was given one, single serving size packet of APS All-Natural Blueberry Ice Recovery formula to try. Again, it was surprisingly good! Because it came in an individual serving size packet, it was super easy to just throw in my bag with my running gear and bring with me on the go. Once I got back to my car after one of my 18-milers, I opened the packet and tossed it into my water bottle and gave it a few shakes before consuming it.

Having ran an “accidental” 20 miles the weekend prior and forgetting my water- I made sure that I had extra water, plus the recovery powder. As most of us are already aware, when you expend so much energy over such a long distance and don’t have anything to replenish with during or after…well, you know what the risks and dangers are.

I always aim to take in some form of carbohydrate/protein mix within that delicate “immediate – 30-minute” window after running hard or playing soccer. Yes – even my soccer league games can be intense -especially when there are no subs and you’re playing 45-minute halves in 80-degree heat.

The ingredients on the Blueberry Recovery formula were as follows:

  • BGH-Free Grass Fed Whey
  • Fructose
  • Maltodextrin
  • Citric Acid
  • Ascorbic Acid
  • Trehalose (Ascend)
  • Lecithin
  • Magnesium Carbonate
  • Sodium Chloride
  • Natural Blueberry Flavor
  • Natural Coloring

My All-Natural Journey

I HATE taking medication, pills or anything unnatural if I can help it. Having been an athlete for most of my life now, I have always performed well based off of nothing more than a healthy diet and lifestyle. Therefore, a lot of thought goes into what I put into my body to produce the results I want. It is nothing short of a dream come true to have FINALLY found an all-natural whey protein supplement that not only works well but tastes great and doesn’t upset my stomach.

If you’re pounding the pavement with long, hard miles or tearing up the soccer fields for almost 2 hours each weekend (twice a week for me usually), having a healthy diet is your only option; and sometimes, including an all-natural supplement, such as whey protein, can help your muscles as they go through the tear, repair and rebuild process. APS is now, officially, my go-to whey protein supplement.

Interested in giving APS all-natural products a try? Visit the All-Pro Science website at and enter “JANELLE40″at checkout for 40% off!

About All-Pro Science (APS)

Founded in 2009, All Pro Science, Inc. (APS) is the creator of the first and only 100% all-natural line of sports nutritional supplements. Their mission is to provide consumers with a full-range of products which support performance, optimum health and well-being.

Activate Good and The Raleigh Color Run

Activate Good was the featured charity organization at this year’s 2013 Raleigh Color Run.

Early this morning, I (along with tons of other AG volunteers) took our places in downtown Raleigh, colorbombing 4,500+ runners as they ran by. It was a blast, and I managed to document a bunch of ‘colorful’ photos. Check ‘em out. Also, if you’re interested in finding out ways to volunteer, definitely stop by the Activate Good website 🙂