Episode 24: Streaming Fitness: Choosing a Home Workout Option Can Be … Well, A Workout

Woman lying on a balance ball
Uggghhhhh. Whyyyyy do I have to do so much work just to workout?

Streaming fitness, where you can participate in a workout from the comfort of your home, certainly isn’t new. But the plethora of sites proliferating workouts and classes all over the interwebs … well, there are new options. Lots of options. So. Many. Options. 

So, with all the workout goodness to choose from, how do you pick?

If you’re AJ, you undertake an exhaustive study of every class out there, perform a thorough cost-benefit analysis, and use a database to streamline reporting. Or at the very least, you bust open an Excel spreadsheet.

Wait! Come back! You don’t have to be like AJ! We promise!

If you don’t wanna commit that much time, effort, or nerd power to this exercise (Tee, hee, hee! See what we did there?), we created some criteria for you to consider and listed out some of AJ’s favorite options in the Further Info and Deets section below.

First up, why bother with streaming? Maybe you prefer to workout from the privacy of your home. Maybe you’re not ready to rejoin the sweaty masses. Maybe during lockdown, you put on a little weight. Maybe a lot of weight. Maybe, for instance, maybe you outgrew your size XXL sweatpants. It could happen. We’ve heard … from friends. … OK, OK, samesies. But there’s certainly no judgement in the privacy of your own home. 

In addition to privacy, there’s convenience, variety, and savings.

As far as costs go, there’s quite a range, from free options to services that can cost you nearly a hundred bucks a month or more.

When it comes to picking the right service for you and your goals, here are some tips:

  1. Set an intention for your membership. What are you after? Is it to lose fat, build muscle or endurance, prep for a race or competition, get some stress relief, become more flexible? Knowing your end goal can help you narrow your options. 
  2. Figure out what will motivate you. Live classes may give you a feeling of community and accountability, something to look forward to and the transience of FOMO if you miss the class. Do you need variety because you have the attention span of fruit fly? Do you want to try something you’ve never tried before like Bollywood-style workouts, Barre, or boxing? Or maybe the idea of training with one of the hottest, most sought-after trainers appeals to you?
  3. Set a price point. What can you afford to spend? Will this replace the gym or other fitness classes, or are you planning to add streaming to your regular workout routine?
  4. Choose a streaming method that fits your lifestyle. Ask yourself if you prefer:
    1. Mobile device only, like a cell phone or tablet.
    2. Television streaming, including Roku, Amazon, AppleTV.
    3. Audio oriented, i.e. guided workouts with verbal cues
    4. Special interactive devices like a mirror or bike (not reviewed in this round)
    5. Or ALL or most of the above.

So, after all that careful consideration, which sites did AJ prefer, or which won the knock down, drag-out, nerd-off?

  • Best for Variety of Workouts and Platform Options: NEOU — This is AJ’s go-to.
  • Best for anyone with ADD: Les Mills — Actually AJ really liked the workouts, so she kept this one too (don’t judge).
  • Best for Yoga: Alo Moves — Per one of the listeners, Chandra, oh she of the supreme bendyness.
  • Best Free Option: YouTube — It has as many, if not more, types of workouts as NEOU.
  • Best Audio Guided Option: Aaptiv

What are your experiences with streaming fitness? Do you have a go-to class or service that you love? Or tried and hated? Dish in the comments, or let us know our Facebook page in the related post comments.

DISCLAIMER: This post and others on this site contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, Hillary and AJ may receive a small commission. This helps support the show and site and allows us to continue our sassy shenanigans. Thank you for the support! Everything on this site is based on information we learned from our own experience and/or research. Please do your own research before making any important decisions, and always consult a medical professional before adopting or changing exercise, eating or fitness plans. You and only you are responsible for your health and wellbeing.

Further Info and Deets

Yoga with Adriene

Obe Fitness

Peloton

The Five Stages of Peloton

Episode 23: Does Meditation Really Calm Your Inner Coked-Up Squirrel, or Is It Just Glorified Napping?

Squirrel lays on rock surface
Hey gurl. How you doin’? Oh, you know me. Just meditating and getting all zen and shit. Come over to my nest later, and we can have lots and lots of nuts.

Do your thoughts tend to race? Do you have trouble focusing on one thing at a time? Do you find yourself buried under a deluge of anxious messages from your ungrateful brain, telling you Tiffany from high school was right and that you’ll never amount to anything and that you walk like an orangutan with scoliosis?

If so, do you have a moment to talk about our lord and savior, Meditation? 

All sacrilege aside, meditation is having “a moment,” is it not? No longer is meditation considered an activity practiced by zen yogis who subsist on wheatgrass smoothies infused with the tears of ancient gurus who reached enlightenment faster than you can say “plant-based vegan meatless patty dredged in turmeric.” 

No, no, friend. Meditation is FOR EVERYONE WHY AREN’T YOU MEDITATING RIGHT NOW OMG IT’S SO GOOD FOR YOU!!!!!1

Which is to say, meditation is pretty trendy in a borderline obnoxious kind of way. However, that doesn’t mean the practice of focusing your mind and your breathing isn’t without merit. 

So, the highlights, care of Mayo Clinic, include:

  • Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations
  • Building skills to manage your stress
  • Increasing self-awareness
  • Focusing on the present
  • Reducing negative emotions
  • Increasing imagination and creativity
  • Increasing patience and tolerance

But that shit ain’t all emotional. Oh nononono. There’s a big ol’ hunk of physical benefits too. A meditation practice can help you manage:

  • Anxiety
  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Chronic pain
  • Depression
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Sleep problems
  • Tension headaches

So, if something has that many health benefits, why don’t more people — AJ and Hillary included — do it?

There are a couple of theories. Often, those who want to meditate but don’t cite a lack of time. For others, they don’t know where to start or how to meditate. 

Both are valid objections. Yes, it does take time to meditate, though maybe not as much as you think. And it can be hard to know where to start or if you’re doing it right or if it’s working. 

Also, it’s possible for those with perfectionism tendencies (*cough, cough* “Hillary” *cough, cough*), the stress of “not being able to meditate perfectly the very first time” … well, that can be off putting. The fact that there is no way, really, to “meditate perfectly” seems beside the point. … Shut up, OK?

Anyhoo, since Hillary is trying to overcome her perfectionism, she set a goal this year to start — and stick with — a consistent meditation practice. Once she’s through her 90 days of gratitude, she’ll move on to meditating, so as to “habit stack.”

If you’re considering meditation, what kind should you try, seeing as how there’re about eleventy billion different types? (Sorry for all the links to Headspace. This isn’t a sponsored post. They just have some handy resources that are free, though their app isn’t.)

Anyway, you’ll have to do a little research to find the right meditation for you, and it’ll probably take some trial and error to find one you like and that works for you. Some of the most common types are mindfulness, spiritual, yoga, movement (like walking), manta, and visualization. 

As far as tools, there are lots of apps out there (Hillary likes Insight Timer, though it can get a little overwhelming) and tons of free resources. AJ is planning to try more walking meditation — including labyrinths — as soon as the weather breaks (she’s very delicate). The link below contains a labyrinth locator.

Check out the “Further Info and Deets” section for links to some YouTube videos to get you started on your path to “ommmmmm.”

What about you? Have you tried meditation? Got any success or horror stories? Spill the tea in the comments!

Further Info and Deets

Walking a Labyrinth as Spiritual Exercise

Ommmmmm … bitches …
Let’s! Get! Calm!
OMGOMGOMG, we love us some Yoga with Adriene. *fan girl swoon*
This better only take 10. These “Parks and Rec” reruns aren’t gonna watch themselves.
As U2 said: “Walk On.”

Episode 22: Gratitude: If Nothing Else, There’re Always Sweatpants

Person walking while wearing brightly colored tights and shoes from Magnus Olsson, Unsplash
OMGOMGOMG, who remembers “Daria”? Let’s start a petition to bring it back!

After a year where we witnessed a global pandemic, racial unrest, one of the most divisive elections in recent history, murder hornets, “Tiger King,” and Mario Lopez as sexy Colonel Sanders, talking about gratitude can feel … tone deaf. 

No one wants to be the obnoxiously cheery “look on the bright side!” person (well, AJ might want to be that person.) And trite phrases like “everything happens for a reason!” or “it’ll all work out in the end!” do more than make you want to crane kick the utterer. They can also fall into the category of “toxic positivity.” 

But gratitude is more nuanced than just always having a positive attitude or never feeling down. And it’s not convincing yourself that you shouldn’t feel bad because some other random person might have it worse. 

Gratitude is just the conscious decision to find the good in your own life. 

Yeah, sometimes that can sound like a lot of work. Which might be why more people don’t consciously decide to practice being grateful. 

But the emotional, physcological, and physical health benefits are pretty striking. 

Here’s a quick example from a study that Harvard Medical School highlighted:

“One group wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. A second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them, and the third wrote about events that had affected them (with no emphasis on them being positive or negative). After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation.”

Other studies have shown that grateful people:

  • Have less pain
  • Report feeling healthier
  • Are more likely to take care of their health
  • Have reduced levels of negative emotions, like envy or frustration or regret
  • Are more empathetic
  • Sleep better

The lists go on and on. 

In the nearly two months that Hillary has been practicing being grateful (that sounds like a humblebrag, but it’s … fine, it’s a humblebrag. When she reaches peak enlightenment, she’ll be sure to remember all you little people.) she has noticed a subtle shift in her perception. She’s more likely to notice small things that make her happy or smile, she feels (mostly) less worried about the state of things, and she’s generally more optimistic that things will work out or that she’ll have the tools to deal with them if they don’t.

It’s not all roses and puppy dogs. There are still bad days and dark nights when doubt and worry creep up on her in moments of insomnia. But overall, 10/10, would recommend. 

Here are a few ways to cultivate a gratitude practice:

  • Keep a gratitude journal, either by hand, online, or through an app (Hillary’s digging an app simply called “Gratitude.”).
  • Write thank-you notes to people and/or send fan mail (or emails) to those you admire or who did something nice for you.
  • Set a daily reminder to make note of something — or multiple things — you’re grateful for.
  • Get specific with the small stuff. It’s great to be thankful for your kids, but detailing a funny story they told you that made you laugh or how they made their beds without being asked is more likely to stick in your mind.
  • Keep a gratitude jar where you can toss in notes about little things you’re grateful for.
  • Make sure to go back and review what you’ve written to remind yourself of the good stuff. That’s especially useful when you’re having a bad day or moment.

What did we miss? What’s your experience with gratitude? Like it or loathe it? Make us even more grateful for y’all in the comments!

Further Info and Deets

We will never not share this.

Episode 21: Hells (Kettle)bells: How One Piece of Exercise Equipment Packs All the Punches

Woman stands in front of kettlebells
Behold! I stand before you with my magnificent booty and these equally magnificent kettlebells! Bow before me!

Hells (kettle)bells

Hells (kettle)bells, you got me swinging

Hells (kettle)bells, my heart rate’s high

Hells (kettle)bells

Oh, come on! It’s been for-eh-ver since we started a blog post with song lyrics. So, as usual, apologies to AC/DC for bastardizing their hit, and the rest of you are welcome for the earworm.

Anyhoo, much has already been written about why and how kettlebells make for the ideal piece of workout equipment. But if you don’t feel like clicking links, googling, or doing any more than reading than this here blog post, we’ll hit the highlights for you:

  • They’re portable.
  • They’re simple.
  • There’s a wide range of exercises you can do with them.
  • They’re great for cardio and/or resistance training.
  • They’re awesome for building all-around strength.
  • They can improve your balance.
  • They can help you build core strength.
  • They can help you build your grip strength.

Are they sounding like the magical unicorn of workout equipment yet?! Well, they kind of are. However, like anything — insert your own kill-joy music here — there are a couple of drawbacks.

One, they can get spendy, depending on the weight you want to use. This is especially true if you need more than a couple of kettlebells, depending on the exercises you want to do and your fitness level. Also, once the pandemic hit, kettlebells got real, real popular, so they can also be difficult to find.

A couple of options that might help are shopping at your local Play It Again Sports, if you have one, or splitting the cost of the kettlebells with friends. AJ found some kettlebells later on during the pandemic and was kind enough to share one with Hillary. Hillary has done nothing to reciprocate because that’s the kind of stone-cold bitch she is.

Wait, what were we talking about?

Oh, right. Kettlebells.

Anyhoo, another option is to purchase a dumbbell and then get one of these contraptions. Dumbbells tend to be a little cheaper, and that gripper do-hickey is really handy. Hillary swears by hers (which again was a gift from AJ and … you know what, we’re not gonna go there.)

Also, once garage sales start up again, you can sometimes get a sweet deal on some kettlebells. Or check out Craig’s List or Facebook Marketplace.

Oh, also, theoretically, you can make your own kettlebells. However, as AJ and Hillary discovered, that’s kinda a pain in the ass. And we’d recommend it only as a last resort … or if you’re really bored as the pandemic stretches on. 

What about you? Have you used kettlebells? Any favorite exercises or routines? Give us the dirty deets in the comments.

And check out Further Info and Deets below for some solid workouts that’ll have you screaming “I got my bell, I’m gonna take you to hell. I’m gonna get ya, Satan get ya!”

Further Info and Deets

Kettlebells 101: How to Get Started + Beginner Kettlebell Workout:

ALL STANDING Beginner FULL BODY Kettlebell Workout / Plus Size, Senior, Disability, Injury FRIENDLY:

Beginners Kettlebell Workout | The Body Coach with Technogym Master Trainer:

20-Minute Kettlebell Workout | Class FitSugar:

50 Of The Most Effective Kettlebell Exercises For Your At Home Workouts:

The Ultimate Kettlebell Workout (Kettlebell Khaos) This is pretty advanced, so be warned:

Episode 20: Go Out and Get Yourself One of Them There SMART Goals

brown bear stretches in the water
Maybe you want to get more flexible in 2021. … Give us a break, OK? It was hard to find a decent free stock image of goal setting. Our goal in the new year is to have this podcast thing make us some money so we can pay for shit like fancy stock art.

Here we are, just days into the brand-spanking-new 2021. So, we’re assuming that you, like Hillary, have already shelved your New Year’s resolutions and are eagerly anticipating trying again in 2022. …

No! Wait! That’s not how a rousing, hope-filled, educational blog post about goal setting is supposed to start out!

Fine, fine, fine. We’ll try this again.

It’s a brand-spanking new year, filled with hope and promise. And after a rough 2020, maybe you’re ready to set some resolutions so you can become the best version of yourself.

Sure, there are plenty of nay-sayers who will tell you resolutions don’t work and that most people who set out to lose weight or get healthier or save money will fail before the month is even out.

But you’re not most people. … OK, maybe you are most people. But still. There’s nothing wrong with setting goals. And with some planning and a little foresight, you can set goals that are achievable.

Much has been written about setting SMART goals, so we won’t flog that dead horse — SEO be damned — other than to define the term.

SMART stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable 
  • Relevant 
  • Time-bound

SMART goals are helpful because they require you to think through your goals. For example, saying you want to lose weight in the new year is pretty vague. But saying you want to lose 25 pounds gives you a target to shoot for. 

From AJ and Hillary’s own personal experience, it’s helpful to consider what pitfalls you might encounter as you try to reach your goals. 

If you want to lose weight or exercise more, what happens when you’re tired or you’ve had a bad day or something unexpected pops up at the last minute? How will you handle those challenges and setbacks? 

And if something delays or derails your progress, how will you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and tell life that she hits like a bitch? YMMV (That’s how the cool kids abbreviate “your mileage may vary.”)

Also, not to rip off anyone’s ideas, but Forbes did a nice article about alternatives to resolutions. The tips are worth considering. (That’s what she said. No, Hillary did not resolve to be more mature in 2021. No need to thank her.) 

What about you? What have you found to be helpful or hurtful when it comes to New Year’s resolutions or goal setting in general? Give us the dirt in the comments!

Further Info and Deets

Episode 19: It’s a Hot Mess Filled with Vision Boards, Embracing the Suck, and Somehow Also Gratitude

Pile of old tires
Now, imagine that these tires are also on fire. That’s what Episode 19 is like.

You could argue that every episode that AJ and Hillary release is a hot mess. And you’d have a valid point. And yes, they frequently warn that an episode has “gone off the rails.” … We don’t really know where we’re going with this, other than to note that Episode 19 is no different, except for being a tire fire on steroids.

Yet despite their often-incoherent ramblings, AJ and Hillary did manage to hit on a few points of interest, and — dare we say it? — occasionally even managed to be pithy and a smidge philosophical. Trust us: No one was more surprised by this than AJ and Hillary themselves.

Here’re the highlights of what these two weirdos discussed:

Vision boards: These popped up about a decade and a half ago thanks to the book “The Secret” and it’s “law of attraction,” wherein like attracts like … or some bullshit like that. Hillary had a traumatic vision board work experience that crushed the tiny remainder of her soul and so mostly pooh-poohs them. But AJ remains a proponent. 

Allow us to “womansplain.” a vision board — sometimes called a dream board — is a visual representation of what you want to manifest in your life. Usually, it’s poster-sized and has cutouts of magazine pictures and words and phrases. Depending on how hippy-dippy you wanna get, it’s supposed to be your way of “putting out into the universe your deepest desires.” Most science debunks it or warns that it can be harmful.

But with a lot of things of this nature, it probably depends on your expectations and how you use it. If you just want something that’ll help you organize your thoughts about where you’d like to go in life, it’s probably not the worst thing. But if you don’t make an action plan for what you want to achieve or get overly enmeshed in the outcome, well, that could be problematic. 

Embracing the suck: Although the phrase has its origins in the military, it’s also useful for us civvies. 

This article was a little vague on specifics, but it offered an interesting take on the suck: “It’s a very Buddhist concept. When we deny what reality is giving us, what is really happening, then we create suffering. So life is a dance between minimizing expectations and surrendering to what our lives actually reveal to us.”

Which is to say that most of life — goals, relationships, careers, your health — will have an element of suck. And that’s OK. You don’t have to wallow in the suck. But you can be honest about it with yourself, how it makes you feel. Sometimes, you can ride out the suck, and sometimes, you just have to sit with it. Either way, the suck’s gotta be addressed.

There’s a tendency to give in to toxic positivity when things get hard. And while having a positive outlook is generally helpful, minimizing or dismissing negative feelings is not.  

Gratitude and Goals: Despite it being an absolute shitstain of a year, both AJ and Hillary managed to find that there was, surprisingly, a lot to be grateful for. 

For AJ, it was surviving with her husband and her animals and that her family, despite multiple COVID scares, stayed mostly healthy. She was also grateful for completing NaNoWriMo again and — are you sitting down? — starting this absurd little podcast with her frenemy. (Yes, Hillary is still in shock. Please think of her during this … really weird time.)

Hillary was grateful for her dog and her husband, who managed to fight off the plague, despite being as sick as she’d ever seen him. She was also thankful for the opportunity to work from home and for all the little moments of truth and wisdom that popped up over the course of the year. Yeah, the year sucked donkey balls. But if it had been a regular year, she wouldn’t have had to be attuned to all the quiet little moments of bliss that still managed to happen.

For goals, Hillary is making 2021 The Year of Health and will drag AJ — and you as well, dear reader/listener — along for the ride. She’s also got plans to hack her emotional shit, so watch for more about that because there’s sure to be some podcast fodder there.

AJ’s looking for the podcast to make Oprah-type money (fingers crossed!), all while getting her novel or novels published and losing 60-ish pounds. 

So, yeah, as promised: Tada! A hot mess. But thanks for sticking with us this year and sharing our crazy fuckery with friends and family. We hope to continue to drop wisdom nuggets on your face, all while making you laugh at our antics.

Now, tell us what you’ve got in store for yourself in 2021. We wanna read some inspiring comments!

Further Info and Deets

This man is Hillary’s spirit guide.
Entertaining and inspiring. Stop that. Stop that right now.

Episode 18: The Holiday Special

Stuffed gnomes in some kind of winter scene
Is this a lame holiday photo? Yes. But if you can find a free holiday stock image that’s also funny, please, be our guest.

“It’s the mooooossssssst wonderful time of the …” 

You know what, Andy Williams? Shut it.

Fiiiiine. That’s a little harsh. Bah humbug. 

But you gotta admit, even if you love the holidays, they can get a little … tense. And in a year when there’s been a global pandemic and whole lotta political shenanigans, time spent with your family — even if it’s just a Zoom group chat — could get awkward.

But even in the best of years, the holidays are a recipe for stress and frustration, and your physical, mental, and emotional health can take a hit.

The thing is, in all likelihood, we know what we should do when it comes to the holidays. We should practice mindfulness, we should focus less on the perfect gift and more enjoying time with our loved ones, we should get rest, we should stay hydrated, we should limit our holiday indulgences, we should go easy on the booze.

The reason we probably know all this is because it’s basically the same advice that health experts give for just, you know, living our lives the other 10-ish months of the year. 

So, our gift to you this season is to not pile on with another holiday to-do list. Maybe just give yourself a little more grace than you usually word — and do the same for others.

The reason we probably know all this is because it’s basically the same advice that health experts give for just, you know, living our lives the other 10-ish months of the year. 

Oh, and here are two other gifts for you: Holiday cocktails. 

Yes, we know we said go easy on the booze. We’re not encouraging you to chug 37 of these after Uncle Ted goes on another racist tirade. But sometimes, a little cup of holiday cheer can make the holidays at least seem merry and bright.

Dashing Through the … Whoa

  • 4-6 ounces honey crisp apple cider
  • 1½ ounces good quality bourbon or rye whiskey
  • 3 dashes black walnut bitters

If drinking warm, combine all ingredients in a microwave-safe mug and nuke until hot but not boiling. If serving cold, combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, and shake until combined. Pour cocktail over fresh ice, and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Keto Cocktail: The Dirty Snow Martini

Add all of the ingredients except olives in a mixing glass. Stir until very chilled, usually 60-90 seconds. Strain the drink into a chilled cocktail glass. Add olives on a skewer or drop them into the bottom if a skewer is just too much effort.

What’s your go-to survival tip for the holidays? Gift us with your knowledge in the comments!

Working Out in a Winter Wonderland

two women at a snowshoeing event
Obviously, fashion is a HUGE part of winter outdoor activities.

NOTE: The accompanying podcast will drop a day earlier than usual, so watch for it on Wednesday, Nov. 25. That way, you can be on the lookout for all the Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals on the gear we mentioned because you know you’re gonna wanna do alllllll the winter activities. 

It seems that some of you are under the extremely misguided — maybe even dangerous — misconception that summer is somehow the best time to get outside for a workout. 

Now, we’re not going to speculate as to why you’re so profoundly broken or why your parents raised you wrong. But we are here to tell you why winter is by far the superior season for outdoor activities.

Consider the following: 

  • Cross Country Skiing: Who doesn’t want to glide peacefully across a pristine meadow filled with freshly fallen snow while your skis make a gentle, relaxing “swish swish … swish swish” sound? What’s that? Doesn’t sound “hardcore” enough for you? Then what about the 460-600 calories an hour you’ll likely burn? Take that, jogging!
  • Snowshoeing: If you’re not sure you can stay upright on skis, there’s always snowshoeing. Although it’s done at a decidedly slower pace, you’re still burning a metric fuckton of calories, all while getting outside and soaking in some fresh air. Now, we’re not saying you should do any of these activities solely for the calorie burn. There’re a ton of great mental and physical benefits of getting outside, no matter the season. But if you’re deeply disturbed on a spiritual level like AJ and Hillary, well, there’s a good chance you *sometimes* workout just so you can eat more. No judgment, you Judgey McJudgersons. 
  • Back Country Trekkers: These are a little newer on the winter activity scene and are billed as a cross between cross country skis and snowshoes. They’re mostly meant as a way to get out into areas where skis could be a little unwieldy, while also being faster than snowshoes. AJ and Hillary haven’t tried them yet, but they’re looking to rent some this winter, since they are pretty spendy. Watch for more details and a review. 
Yep, that’s AJ and Hillary. Together. Not trying to kill each other despite the elevation.
  • Sledding: Sure, you need the perfect conditions: a goodly amount of snow, a steep hill, someone to pull you up said hill … But this is a fun activity for the whole fam damily, and it won’t cost you a fortune. You don’t burn as many calories as with other activities, but don’t underestimate how strenuous it is to haul your carcass up a big-ass hill. 
  • Fat Biking: We hit on fat biking a little bit in our “BIKES!” episode. As a refresher, with a fat bike, you can typically ride your bicycle (“bicycle! “BICYCLE!”) on groomed snow trails. The pace can be slower than a typical bike ride you might do on more traditional services, like payment or gravel. But the benefit is that if you fall off your bike, you’re a lot less likely to break something … like your head. 

No matter what winter sport you decide to try, you’ll want to keep a few key tips in mind:

  • Pace yourself: The reason so many winter activities burn so many calories is because they ain’t easy. You might be able to hike 10 miles, no problem-o. But that doesn’t translate into being able to snowshoe that same distance. Take it easy, especially when you’re starting out. And fortheloveofalllthatisholy, do some dynamic stretches first. You do not want to be a mile out in the snow and discover you’ve pulled your groin muscle. If you do want to do static stretching, save those for the end after your muscles, tendons, and joints are all warmed up. 
  • Get the Right Gear: Try before you buy. Lots of places either rent or loan gear. Check with your park service for outing dates. And when you’re ready to buy, try Facebook Marketplace, Salvation Army, Craigslist, Play It Again Sports, etc, so you aren’t blowing up your budget before you’ve even seen a flake of snow. With cross country skiing and snowshoeing, your gear will depend on your weight. So, you’re gonna need to have a come-to-Jesus moment about that so you don’t “underestimate” how much you weigh, only to end up chest-high in a snowdrift.
  • Dress for Excess: We go into a lot more detail in the podcast, but the right winter gear will be a huge factor in whether or not you enjoy your outdoor excursions. Try to get the highest quality clothing you can afford. Remember: Layers are your friend. You’re gonna sweat — a lot — so make sure you have a base layer that will wick that moisture away from your body … unless you enjoy feeling like human soup. After that, a mid-weight layer, such as fleece, will keep you insulated as the sweat dries. And for your outer layer, something windproof can keep the cold from cutting through you and giving you the chills. For your bottoms, try for long johns as a base layer underneath some kind of windproof pant. Or opt for snow pants that are lined but not too stiff so they don’t hinder your mobility. Choose socks that are warm but won’t make your feet sweat. Also, avoid cotton materials in any of your clothes; cotton is rotten when it comes to winter conditions. We’ve linked to some of our favorite gear in the “More Info and Deets” section. 
  • Reward Yourself with a Drink: Fiiiiiiine. This isn’t a requirement. It’s just an excuse for Hillary to promote her go-to winter drink: The Hot Toddy.
hot toddy with lemon wheel
You’ve earned the right to be lightly drunk.

Ingredients

  • 1½ ounces of decent bourbon (Buffalo Trace works well.)
  • 2 teaspoons honey (or to taste)
  • 6 ounces water
  • 1 serving of your favorite tea
  • Squeeze of fresh lemon

Directions

Mix water, bourbon, and fresh lemon juice in a microwave-safe mug. Heat until hot but not boiling. Add honey, and stir until combined. Steep tea until the desired strength. Add a lemon wheel or wedge to garnish.

Now let’s hear from you! What winter activity did we leave off the list but shouldn’t have? Shame us in the comments. But not you summer weirdos. You keep that nonsense to yourself.

Further Info and Deets

Check out our “Gear We Love” page for some our favorite pieces of winter apparel.

National Ski Patrol: How To Dress for Winter Outdoor Recreation

REI’s Layering Basics

Bearfoot Theory’s Winter Layering Basics

National Park Service Winter Snowshoeing

National Park Service Cross Country Skiing and Snowshoeing

Some great tips here for what to wear and what to expect.

Episode 16: Close Encounters of the COVID Kind

Person wearing gas mask sits on couch surrounded by toilet paper.
Just chillin’ in quarantine. I knew this gas mask I got for that steam punk costume would come in handy. TP is the new currency, right?

We know, we know. We’re all tired of hearing about COVID 19. Tired of the politics and arguing and masks and quarantine and distance learning and Zoom meetings and … yeah, we’ll stop now. Anyway, it’s all been exhausting, and there’s no end in sight.

But sometimes, it helps to hear the stories of those who’ve been exposed or who have loved ones who’ve tested positive. Especially if those people are some salty bitches who will keep it real.

Hillary’s COVID Exposure: My COVID Close Encounter was pretty tame, all things considered. And I know how lucky that makes me. 

Four friends and I had been getting together monthly to watch movies together. These were friends who I knew had been being careful and acting responsibly, so I had zero worries hanging out with them for a few hours.

One of my friends thought she was suffering from allergies, which was pretty common at the time, especially given how much smoke was in the air from fires raging to the west of us. But she ended up testing positive for the ‘rona a few days after we’d had our monthly get together. 

The worst part was worrying about how the virus would affect her and if she’d have any lingering health concerns once she recovered. Fortunately, she had a mild case, and though she sometimes still has trouble breathing, she’s mostly doing well.

Two days after I’d been exposed but before I knew about it, my husband and I had dinner on the porch of the elderly mother of one of his friends. That was really scary because I was sure I’d given it to her, even though I didn’t have any symptoms. Again, luckily for us, she didn’t end up getting the virus.

One of the things that stood out to me during the whole process was how unprepared I was. I didn’t know what to do, how long I was supposed to quarantine, if I should get tested, where I could even get tested. And I thought I was pretty in-the-know about the virus.

One of the things that stood out to me during the whole process was how unprepared I was. I didn’t know what to do, how long I was supposed to quarantine, if I should get tested, where I could even get tested. And I thought I was pretty in-the-know about the virus. But I ended up having to check and recheck the CDC’s website to figure out the latest recommendations.

Five days after my exposure, I thought I was having symptoms. After a frustrating process to figure out where I could get tested, I ended up getting the quick test from one of the urgent care centers in town. Did I say “quick test”? I mean “nasal cavity violation.” Seriously, that was a super unpleasant experience. Pretty sure the nurse swabbed the front of my brain with that Q-Tip. 

I tested negative but still was advised to quarantine for two weeks from the date of my exposure. That meant I wasn’t able to officiate my boss’s wedding, and that was really disappointing. She was able to find someone to take over at the last minute, but I felt like a total dick for leaving her in the lurch only a few days before her big day.

Again, I know how fortunate I was that my friend wasn’t sicker, that I didn’t contract it, and that I didn’t spread it to anyone else. But still, it was a scary and stressful experience.

From the Desk of Pastor Tom, AJ’s FIL

It’s very difficult to give advice that is comprehensive because COVID comes in so many forms and results in so many different symptoms from person to person.

My personal experience began with an initial feeling of “Well, yet another adventure!” That was followed by much coughing, some intense body aches, temperatures that wouldn’t drop below 100 for about 10 days and extreme fatigue.

The goal was to return home after the diagnosis and try not to die.

For the ten days of the quarantine, I drank lots of fluids, took some Tylenol and ibuprofen, and rested as much as possible. Blessedly I did not experience any respiratory difficulties.

I am glad when I see folks wearing masks in public, and I would urge those in my age bracket (upper 70s) to stay away from large gatherings where it is impossible to maintain a safe distance from those around you.

toilet paper and a mask
paper

Teenaged angst + COVID 19: One Mother’s Tale by Kristin, a FMATMIP friend

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional; this is merely advice from my experience. Also, I can be light-hearted about this because my family didn’t have any pre-existing health conditions and no one got terribly sick. 

  • Supplies: I don’t think COVID looks for a convenient time to descend upon your life, so you’ll likely be surprised and inconvenienced by this news. It’s helpful to be a little prepared because the only supplies you’ll be getting while quarantined are from well-meaning friends and grocery store deliveries/pickups. I was very thankful AJ had provided intel on Clorox wipes this spring, and I had some stashed away. I also had Extra-Strength Tylenol in the cupboard (once touted as the remedy for COVID symptoms) that I picked up when I saw it in the store. Lastly, I recommend having disinfecting spray around because you’ll want to disinfect everything. 
  • Mental Preparation: In my situation, everyone in the house didn’t get sick at once, so mentally preparing yourself for a two week quarantine isn’t realistic. If it takes up to two weeks for you and others in the home to develop symptoms after someone gets sick, THIS COULD GO ON FOR A WHILE. Don’t put undue pressure upon yourself and your family, just cancel all social engagements and obligations for the time being. This may actually be a benefit for some people.
  • Financial Implications: If you live with two teenage boys, prepare to spend a small fortune on food while everyone is at home (which, remember, can be longer than two weeks). Remember the money you saved from not going on vacation this year? COVID is the experience you are now paying for.
  • Am I sick?: When you live with someone who has COVID, you’ll spend most of your waking hours wondering if you have it too. Every cough, sneeze, nose twitch and headache might be a symptom. You’ll take your temperature 10 times a day. You’ll “worst case scenario” yourself getting sick, or maybe I’m the only one who does that. Your brain will experience this as if it’s being chased by a tiger for most of your quarantine, so plan to be exhausted.

Have you or someone you care about had a ‘rona experience? What helped them or you get through it? How are you dealing with the effects? Tell us about it in the comments or drop some knowledge on our Facebook page!

Info and Further Deets

National Institute of Mental Health: Shareable Resources on Coping with COVID-19

Episode 15: You Are Getting Vurrrrrrry Sleeeeepy

Sleeping Koala
Suck it, koala. You might sleep like a champ, but we know you have chlamydia.

If you’re one of those people who usually gets a good night’s sleep and wakes up refreshed and ready to tackle the day, congratulations. We hate you and wish a pox upon your house.

But if you’re like AJ and Hillary and about a third of Americans, sleep can be an illusive beast at the best of times and damn near mythical during the worst of times. 

So, if sleep issues plague you, you’re in questionable good company. 

But Feed Me Goddesses, you might say, if so many people struggle to get to and stay asleep, maybe it’s just too common a problem to really give much attention to.

Oh, sleepy friend, your exhaustion is clearly clouding your thinking.

Turns out, a lack of good, quality sleep does more than just make you feel like a pile of lukewarm dog turds in the morning. It also has serious health implications, like weight gain, depression, anxiety, memory and cognitive issues, decreased sex drive, suicidal thoughts, high blood pressure, heart disease … yeah, it’s a long and alarming list that’s enough to make you lose sleep over (oh yeah, we went there).

Both AJ and Hillary struggle fairly regularly with sleep issues, often in the form of insomnia. So, they put together a list of 10 tips that help them catch a few more of those sweet, sweet zzzzzzzs.

None of these is a cure all, and they don’t work all the time. But if you’re having trouble getting to sleep or staying that way, give ‘em a shot. 

  1. Drop It Like It’s … Cold: Keep your room on the cooler side. A lot of experts say about 65 degrees at night is ideal for getting good sleep. But since everyone’s body chemistry varies, shoot for a range between 60-67 degrees.
  2. Bullet Points Before Beddybye: Make a list of all the things that are stressing you out or that you have to do the next day or that you don’t want to forget. Get all the shit out on paper so your brain doesn’t get stuck on a loop trying to remind you how stressful your life is.
  3. Natural Sleep Supplements: Some people swear by sleep supplements, while others don’t have luck with them or don’t appreciate the morning-after side effects. But if you’re thinking of giving a supplement a whirl (after talking to your doctor, of course), OLLY gummies, one of AJ’s current faves, may be worth trying. They contain a nice combo of natural ingredients like passionflower, L-Theanine, and melatonin, and lemon balm. Also, they’re nummy in the tummy. (Shut up! You grow up!) 
  4. CBD? Yes, please: The research about cannabidiol is still lacking right now. But there are some indications that CBD can be helpful in treating different health alignments, including treating insomnia. 
  5. Magnesium for Your Sleepisium: It seems a lot of adults are magnesium deficient, especially women. Increasing your magnesium could keep you healthy in other ways, not just by helping get some more shuteye. 
  6. Weighted Blankets: Yeah, it sounds weird. Sure, just go ahead and throw an extra 15 to 20 pounds of weight on top of yourself at night. But of all the things Hillary’s tried, it’s the one that’s made the biggest difference in her quality of sleep. 
  7. Slow Your Roll: Regular exercise is a great way to improve your sleep. Just make sure not to get that heart rate up too high too close to bed. Hillary usually finds that it’s best to avoid working out at least two hours before it’s night-night time.
  8. Put Down the Booze: You might think a nightcap will help you have a better night’s sleep. But the opposite is actually true. Though a glass of wine might make you feel sleepy, it’ll likely disrupt your sleep in the later part of the night and seems to have a greater impact on REM sleep. This one makes Hillary sad.
  9. Tell Yourself a Bedtime Story: “A 2009 study from researchers at University of Sussex showed that six minutes of reading reduces stress by 68% …” As if books weren’t magical enough. Just make sure if you’re reading on a tablet that you’ve got something to block the blue light, as that can negatively impact your sleepy-sleep. 
  10. Beware of Nap Time: Sleep deprivation can be a vicious cycle. You don’t get a good night’s sleep, so you take a nap the next day. But while short naps have a lot of health benefits, don’t catnap for too long. Long naps can disrupt your nighttime sleep patterns.

What’s your sleep success story? Have you found anything that works on the regular, or are you still struggling to feel rested in the morning. Tell us about your path to passed-out in the comments!

Further Info and Deets