App Love | Health & Fitness

I swear, lately I've gotten more attached to my phone than ever. It's kind of out of control. But I have discovered some really great health and fitness apps, which I use at home and also throughout the day wherever I am. Living a more healthy lifestyle was one of my New Year's Resolutions (see my recent check-in here), so I thought I'd share some of the resources I've been using!


Breeze- I've tried a few of these pedometer-type apps, most recently Argus and Human, and Breeze is the one I've liked the best out of the three. I like that it's easy to see a snapshot of your week, you can see where your most activity took place geographically, and it gives you a smart step goal based on your activity from the last seven days, so the longer you use it, the better it gets. This is only available for the iPhone 5s (previous models don't have the necessary technology).

Runkeeper- The people who make Runkeeper are actually the same people who make Breeze, and I've discovered both recently. There are a bunch of apps that do similar things to this app, but this is the one I'm using to keep track of my runs in conjunction with the next app. This lets me know how long, far, and fast I ran, an estimation of how many calories I burned, the route I took, and allows me to record some notes.

Get running- I started using this app ages ago and never got through the whole program for various reasons, but I recently started back up again. This is a great app for beginner runners--the running schedule is super manageable, the voice is encouraging and gives you time benchmarks, you can listen to your own music while you're using it, and the app records your runs and keeps track of your progress. This app does not include maps or pace data or anything like that; that's not what it's designed for. So I use this and Runkeeper at the same time so I can have this running the program and Runkeeper keeping track of all of my stats. That info isn't important to the couch to 5k program, but I'm thinking ahead to after I'm finished with it. Cannot recommend enough if you want to start running. 

7 minute workout- There are a bunch of these apps in the app store; I think I had two different ones at one point and chose this one between them. All you need to do the workout is some floor space, a little bit of blank wall, and a chair. In seven minutes you do a high intensity workout (it wears me out!), and then you get to move on with your day feeling good about yourself for having gotten a workout in. 

Calm- One of my birthday goals was to try meditation, and this app has been helping me do it. The 7 steps of calm series is such a great introduction to what meditation is, what it can do for you, and how to do it, and it only takes a few minutes a day. The app store has some not great reviews (apparently this app used to be cooler, maybe?), but I've been really enjoying it. Note though that you only get a couple of free meditations, and you have to upgrade to get the rest.

Happier- This may not really seem like a health app, but focusing and remembering the positive things in your life is so important for mental health and well-being. I've been using this app to track the things that make me smile throughout the day, and one of the things I like about this that I couldn't do in a paper journal is categorize my happy moments, so that when I go and look back I can see how many entries I have in each category (so what types of things make me smile the most), and also just re-visit moments in certain categories or look at my happy moment in reverse chronological order. Some of my categories are getting stuff done, watching tv, work, cooking, chilling out, eating healthy.

Youtube- Okay, so obviously this is not health-specific, but I've been doing Tara Stiles' morning and evening in bed yoga every day just to help me stretch out and feel good, and I've been doing the videos on my phone rather than my laptop because I do the morning one first thing and the evening one last thing. This is also a great resource if you want to do a mini workout while you're at work or in a hotel or just away from home for whatever reason. There are so many great health and fitness channels on Youtube (maybe I should share some favorites in a separate post?).

What are your favorite health and fitness apps? Please share!

Yours Truly, Jen

P.S. Check out my Healthy Living Inspiration board, my Fitness board, and my Health & Weight Loss board if you're interested.

Let's Talk Bikini Bodies

I am so happy about this warmer weather. Winter hung around so long around these parts, and I was so over it so fast. But then there's this thing that happens every year when I get over the joy of putting away my winter sweaters and think wait, am I really ready to bare my arms and legs? Once I stop wearing the heavier clothing, I tend to take a hard look at myself and notice how my body has changed over the winter. And then I get scared about wearing skimpier clothing, and heaven forbid the idea of putting on a bathing suit. I think a lot of women have this moment.

The other day I was reading an article that a friend had shared with me on the Women's Health website and a pop-up came on my screen saying X steps to your summer bikini body. And this is the time of year where we see this a lot, right? Eat this (or don't eat this) to get a bikini body, do this detox, do this cleanse, do this exercise routine, take this miracle pill, sprinkle this product on your food, everything for the bikini body.

The thing is, people and magazines and companies throw around this term "bikini body" like it's a definitive thing, like there is one right answer for what that looks like. And I take offense to that. These people who are throwing around this term mean thinner. They want to help you lose weight so you can wear a bikini out in public. Maybe they say they want to help give you the confidence to wear a bikini. Maybe they say the bikini is the motivation you need to shed those last few pounds you've been wanting to get rid of. Maybe they say that they want to help you feel good in a bikini, that you're going to wear one all summer long. Regardless of their claim (or really, their intentions), they're telling you that you need to be thinner or maybe even more toned to look good/feel good/wear a bikini.

And I'm here to tell you that isn't true.

Look, I'm not trying to peer-pressure you into buying a bikini this year. If you like one pieces, wear one pieces. If you are rocking that tankini, rock that tankini. If board shorts are your thing, do your thing. Girl, wear whatever you want. I'm just saying that if wearing a bikini didn't feel like an option to you, or that you had do something special to make that an option, you, my dear, dear friend, were mistaken.

Last summer I was a nanny for two kids and we spent a lot of time by the pool. I don't remember many people I saw by the pool that summer, but I do remember this fat girl wearing a bikini, and it was a revelation. I only saw her once, and I still remember her. She was probably in high school, maybe college, and all of her friends were skinny by anyone's standards. And she was wearing a bikini and she did not care. She was laughing, eating french fries, sitting in a chair without covering her stomach with a towel. She was rocking that swimsuit. It fit her, it was appropriately sized for her boobs, and it was obvious that she felt good in it. And I had some serious envy for her.

This story is not here to say that you, my fair readers, are fat. Some of you ladies are thin, some of you are curvy, some of you are pregnant, and yes, some of you, I'm sure, are fat. Many of you, I'm sure, do not feel confident in a bikini, or would never ever consider wearing one in public. Regardless of your weight or size or shape, you are fabulous, and you get to wear whatever bathing suit you want. You are a grown up, you shop for yourself, and you wear whatever makes you feel like you. There's no "getting away with it." There's no social stigma. Anyone who tells you that you can't wear something is someone you shouldn't listen to. I want you to know that you can and should wear a bikini if you are so inclined, if you want to give it a try, if you find one so cute you just can't walk away from it, and size or shape or whatever shouldn't enter into that equation. And to help you out with that, I've rounded up a few of my favorite bikinis around the interwebs this year.

1 / 2 top bottom / 3 top bottom / 4 / 5 / 6

You just cannot go wrong with a classic black swimsuit. I love the cobalt blue and that color is going to look good on pale skin and look better and better as you tan. I'm mildly obsessed with floral prints this year, so of course that's going to translate to bathing suits. I'm not sure if a high-waisted bikini bottom would be flattering on me or not, but I love the classic look, especially two-toned in polka dots. And that sporty pink bathing suit is so sporty and fun. Which would you choose? And what kind of bathing suit are you planning to wear this year?

Yours Truly, Jen

Saturday Mornings are for Boogying

Every time I hear this song I start moving. There's something about the soul and the beat and the sound. Be lazy this Saturday morning. Eat pancakes. Watch TV and drink too much coffee. Catch up on your blog reading for the week. Watch some Youtube videos. Do yoga in bed. But, you know, where you're good and ready, put on this song and dance. Have a little joy in your life. You deserve it!

Yours Truly, Jen

P.S. You can listen to Chet Faker's full album online here.

Do Yourself a Favor & Re-invigorate Your New Year's Goals

Yo! Have you completely forgotten about your New Year's goals? If you're guiltily like hey, I'm going to close this tab and pretend like this confrontation never happened, don't do it! I don't judge, and I've definitely forgotten about some of mine a little bit. But you know, it's April now....can you believe we're like a third of the way through the year already? I can't. And yet, I can, because in some ways I've already come so far this year.

I feel like a lot of people set their goals, work toward them for a couple of weeks or a couple of months, and then slowly forget about them or give up on them. I mean, if you really tried to reach those goals and then realized that they were ridiculous or unrealistic or you no longer wanted those things, that's fine. But, you know, if you still want to reach those goals, let's try, try again. You can re-invigorate/re-jigger your goals at any time. No one's watching you and saying hey, you dropped the ball on that goal for six weeks, so you don't get to have that goal anymore. Right? It's silly to tie self-improvement to a time of year. So what are you waiting for?

If you missed my New Year's goals or want a refresher, you can find my post about them here. I titled that post the way I did because I really wanted to focus on being happier, healthier, and more productive this year. I thought this would be a good time to check in on my resolutions, and encourage you to do the same!

1. Live a more active lifestyle-While I'm definitely not where I was hoping to be fitness-wise, I've really improved my healthy eating habits and am continuing to improve on that front. I have a small group of ladies on Facebook that I talk to online pretty much every day--we have a private group page where we post what we ate, what exercise we did, what health-related questions/problems/concerns we have, good resources and recipes that we come across, and all kinds of other stuff. This has seriously been the best thing for me. I've gotten turned onto some really great free exercise resources (I'll be sharing these with you soon!), and am generally much more conscious of what I eat because I know I'm reporting it to this group of ladies who are also focusing on their health (makes me so much less likely to scarf down a whole box of Girl Scout cookies or have Taco Bell for lunch while I'm running errands). I seriously cannot encourage you enough to get with even just one or two other people to work on a similar goal together. Having that support system (and also accountability) makes all the difference. Another thing I've done is create a healthy living inspiration board on Pinterest with some inspiring words and images and little items I can purchase as rewards when I reach certain goals.

2. Be smarter with money-This is one that I haven't been as great at. I've been really working to hone in my kind of random spending (you know, like walking around Target when you're bored and just buying a bunch of stuff in the dollar spot), but with my healthier eating has also come negotiating a healthier grocery cart and keeping my spending down, so that's something I'm still figuring out. I'm also starting to take stock of what stuff I'll need to buy when I move out on my own, so that's been encouraging ot help keep me from buying stuff I don't need because I know I'd rather spend that money later on a nice blender and set of knives.

3. Reach out to people more-This is one that I was doing really well at earlier in the year and have slacked on, so it definitely needs re-invogorated. I've gotten sick and busy and tired and in weird lonely funks and spent a lot of time alone. For my part I have rarely turned down invitations to go out, but I haven't been good at inviting people I want to hang out with to hang.

4. Write every day-Epic fail. I've been in revising mode this semester with my thesis and just haven't been writing new stuff, not creatively, not here on the blog, not anywhere. So need to really kick this one up.

5. Read for fun more-This one has been a bit of a fail as well. I've been reading a good bit about fitness and health, but I haven't really been reading much creative writing beyond what I'm teaching in my class or even magazines. I honestly think part of this is being in the last semester of my program and just needing a break, but I've had it now, so I need to get back into it. I love reading, but sometimes I seem to forget that. I guess spending six years where reading and writing is your job will do that to you.

6. Have some time away from screens and just relax and wind at the end of the day-I've been doing part two. I've gotten really into candles this year and have started lighting a candle at the end of the night and really relaxing while I do my evening routine, but I haven't been good about keeping away from screens before bed. I think doing a better job of this will help with my reading goal as well!

So that's where I'm at right now. How about you?

Yours Truly, Jen

P.S. I'm starting a new post series: do yourself a favor. This might sound bossy, maybe, I don't know; my goal is never to be bossy in this space. But, you know. Anyway, I wanted to do this series to inspire you to do little and big things that are good for you, or at least I think they will be. Mostly, these are things that I've done that are good for me, and I assume would translate well to others. So sue me if I want to encourage you to live a happier life. So, that's this series.

The Body Shop Skincare Haul

A week or so ago I wandered over to The Body Shop website thinking about trying some of their skincare products because Essie Button talks about them a fair bit on her Youtube channel and she's gotten me curious about it and my skin was acting up and I was thinking about switching up my skincare routine a bit (whew, that was a long sentence!). I happened to wander into a 40% off everything sale (yes!) and then I found a free shipping code on and so of course I went a little buckwild. Dudes, I just checked and that sale is back! So if any of these products strike your fancy, or you too have been wanting to try some things from The Body Shop, there's 40% off sitewide happening right this very minute. So yeah, that's a thing.

Vitamin E Moisture Serum- This serum kind of has a baby powdery old lady-y type smell to it. Not super strong or anything, but it's there. This goes on really smoothly and really helps pack in some extra moisture pre-moisturizer and primer. If you have really dry skin, this is great for you. I use this in the morning before a light moisturizer to make sure my skin is smooth and plump and hydrated, and so far I'm liking it.

Tea Tree Skin Clearing Toner- I've been curious about this tea tree line for a while, and since my acne flared back up again I decided to give it a try. Since tea tree oil can be drying, I use this at night to help remove the last traces of makeup and face wash and give me some blemish-fighting power all over my face since my breakouts tend to be sporadic.

Aloe Calming Toner- I decided to get this to use in the mornings. My skin can be quite red at times, especially just after I get out of the shower or when it's irritated and I thought this might help to calm my skin down before putting makeup on it. So far I haven't noticed it help much with redness, but it does feel really gentle and non-irritating, which is what I want out of a morning toner.

Tea Tree Face Mask- Mostly I've been using clay and charcoal masks, so I thought this would be a good change of pace. One of the cool things about this mask is that it doesn't dry so if a mask hardening on your face is bothersome or irritates your skin or creeps you out, this is a good option for you. I also like that this is a mask that actually targets blemishes, as reducing breakouts is a lot of what I usually want out of a mask anyway.

Camomile Cleansing Butter- I have been pretty curious about cleansing balms. I jumped on the oil cleansing train with the Sephora Supreme Cleansing Oil and was curious how a balm or butter would stack up. I was surprised that this product has a somewhat perfumey-type smell, which isn't exactly the calming fragrance I have associated with camomile tea. This does a pretty nice job of removing makeup and cleansing the face. The Sephora oil does a better job of getting off eye makeup in my opinion, but the butter definitely has the benefit of being really travel friendly and a lot less messy.

Cocoa Butter Body Butter- Now that I think about it, it was getting to be about time for me to re-up on body butter, which is actually the thing that got me over to the website. I kind of have a love-hate relationship with these body butters. They're really moisturizing and the packaging is good and you can always get them on sale, but the scents are also super inconsistent. Back in December I got the Vanilla Bliss body butter which smells like play-doh to me, and the scent of this body butter was really disappointing to me as well. I freaking love cocoa butter, and the scent of all of the cocoa butter lotions I've tried has always been heavy on the cocoa. This doesn't smell like that at all. It is super smooth and creamy--the texture is absolutely perfect. So I'm willing to look passed the smell. But it's also disappointing.

I would definitely say to get your body butter in the store if you can so you can smell them, but other than that, I've been pretty happy with my purchase. What have you tried from The Body Shop?

Yours Truly, Jen