Thursday, July 30, 2015

Reverse Diet Update: Week 6

Good morning lovely people! I got some more updates coming your way. 

I just wanted to address something first about why I am sharing so much more about this reverse diet than I have previously. The first reason is very obvious that reverse dieting is gaining more popularity and awareness, and I'm happy to share my experience with people who are curious about it. Secondly, I want to prove that reverse dieting is not a bad thing. I know so, so SO many girls who are terrified of reverse dieting (I used to be one of them) and can't make themselves take the plunge. Even if they need to (again, that was me). 

I often come across posts that can really bother me. I won't point fingers or name names because that's not fair but in the posts I see something like this when talking about reverse dieting: 

"You WILL gain weight"

No, no, no, no, a thousands times no. I am not telling you will you not gain weight, or lose weight, or stay the same. There are absolutely no guarantees, and that's why it bothers me when someone is guaranteeing weight gain. 

Well, I can give you stats from dozens of women who have reverse dieted and they have either lost weight or stayed the same. Maybe gained 1-2 pounds (of muscle) but no huge changes in weight. My point is it is entirely unpredictable what will happen because it varies so much between people. 

In my opinion, if you gain a significant amount of weight during a reverse diet then you are going too fast. Unless you needed to gain that weight because you were at too low of a weight previously, then those pounds are unnecessary. I learned this from personal experience. The first time I tried to reverse diet, I had zero guidance and went at the rate I was told. It was too fast for my body but I didn't know this and ended up gaining 7+ pounds. The second time around last fall, I worked with my coach and she had me go half as fast. I ended up losing 3 pounds, and this current reverse I'm going just as slow and getting great results. 

Again, a reverse diet can be tailored to your needs. You can reverse faster (i.e. add in more carbs/fats per week) to put on weight/build more muscle IF that's what you want. If you don't want to gain weight, then try going slower. 

Once again, there are no guarantees. But what bothers me is when someone is saying weight gain is guaranteed, and then trying to tell girls not to worry about reverse dieting. If that was me last summer and having zero idea of macros, reverse dieting, lifting, or anything then I would have said "hell no". I would not have wanted to reverse diet because gaining extra weight would have sounded like a nightmare to me. 

If someone goes in to a reverse knowing that they want to gain weight then that is totally fine. I'm not against anyone and their goals, that is up to each individual. Some people go a lot faster because they're more after the muscle gains and don't mind some fat tagging along. Then they might do a cut at the end to shed some of that fat, and potentially go through the cycle multiple times. Again, up to each individual. 

I'm here to try to demonstrate that reverse dieting can be a very positive experience, and everyone that I have talked to about this has had great experience. I have seen people get positively ripped while reverse dieting, and again that is NO guarantee. I personally have great success reverse dieting when I do it the way MY body needs it. A.k.a. turtle speed (5g carbs and 1g fat per week) but it works for me

With all that being said, here are some pictures! I have no idea what my weight is because we're going on week 8 of not weighing myself. All my measurements are the same so things are going well!

Week 5 vs. Week 6
Increase of 5g carbs, 2g protein, and 1g fat

Week 1 vs. Week 6
Total increase of 20g carbs, 10g protein, and 5g fat

Previous Updates:

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Cookies 'n Cream Proyo Bowl

I can't be stopped. I'm obsessed. I think I have to make this every single day for the rest of my life. And that thought makes me happy! 

I know I've been making proyo bowls (mostly chocolate & cake batter) for some time but this is the one to trump all other proyo bowls. And it's not just because it's cookies 'n cream flavor ;)

I am a huge fan of PEScience for both the BCAAs supplements and their protein powders. This was the first time I used my PEScience protein powder in a proyo bowl, and the texture was out of this world! Compared to the other protein powders I've used, this was so much smoother, creamier, and did I mention I actually thought I was eating cookies 'n cream ice cream?! 

For 26 grams of protein and only a few grams of carbs? Heck yes! 

Three ingredients is all you need: 
1 scoop PEScience Select Cookies 'n Cream Protein Powder
1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
Couple handfuls of almond milk ice cubes 

Blend and enjoy! I was shocked at how much more ice cream-y this bowl was compared to the other proyo I've made with my chocolate and vanilla protein powders. 

It was just like eating real ice cream. I was in heaven! This is definitely my new nightly dessert :) 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Crockpot Chicken Chili with Lentils

Leave it to Amanda and me to make chili at the end of July in 90 degree heat. Well, Amanda wanted to making something different and use the crockpot (a.k.a. not having to cook at all). 

So we decided on chili! 

I love chili, and have no problems eating it in the middle of summer. I mean that's what air conditioning is for, right?! We just happen to have one right in our dining room so we kept it cranked up during dinner haha! 

The other main reason of why I love chili besides the taste is it is literally the easiest thing ever. You just throw everything in to the crockpot and let it do its magical thing. This time the chili was a little bit different because we used chicken instead of ground turkey, and added in some lentils. Trader Joe's has a package of pre-cooked lentils and Amanda had the idea of using those as well. It was a great addition! 

Here's what you'll need: 
4 medium-sized chicken breasts
1 package of pre-cooked lentils (17.6 oz)
1 can of organic pinto beans (15 oz)
1 canned organic diced tomatoes (32 oz)
1 cup frozen corn kernels
2 bell peppers, chopped
couple pinches of cumin, chili blend seasoning, cayenne, salt, & pepper

Throw it all in the crockpot and cook on low for about 6-8 hours. 

Here are the macros! This batch makes 11 servings with 1 cup being a serving size.  

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Reverse Diet Update Week 5 & More Questions Answered!

Good morning! As promised here are some more updates about my current reverse diet. I'm technically on week 5 but have only done 4 increases so far. As this past weekend was my birthday, I did indulge in the unlimited birthday macros and did not plan on doing an increase for this week! The main reason I decided was I knew I was going to loosely track for a few days plus my carbs are already high enough that my body wouldn't really need an increase on top of all the extra birthday macros. It was a judgment call because some weeks you might not be ready for an increase and it's totally fine to wait it out for another week.

I have no regrets about waiting or birthday macros since I'm happy with my progress. Still have no clue about my weight and it's been close to two months since I've weighed myself. It's just not a priority but my measurements are actually down a bit. Nothing too crazy but definitely off my waist and hips. I'll admit it's good to keep track of measurements and compare pictures but what I'm excited about most is just how I feel this week!

Week 4 vs. Week 5
Increase of 5g carbs, 2g protein, and 1g fat
Total increase since week 1: 15g carb, 8g protein, 4g fat

Wanna hear a funny story before we dive in to the Q&A part? Well, I took the picture on the right this morning and since it was 5am I was a little out of it. As soon as I looked at it I was like "OH HEY HAMMY I SEE YOU", only to realize it was just an illusion and my left leg was a little bit farther back than my right and made it look like my hamstring was popping out. It was very disappointing because my quads and glutes are forever hogging all the macros and refuse to share with the rest of my body.

1. How do you know if you're ready to reverse?

This is one that is totally relative to each individual because a reverse diet can be utilized in many different scenarios. The most common ones are coming off a cut or after a bodybuilding competition and reverses post-show. But, you can also do them to fix a damaged metabolism after an eating disorder or kind of what I'm doing now which is to be able to eat more (no shame in more carbs haha!). Another scenario is someone has been on a cut for a long time and their body stops responding. In that case a reverse might be beneficial to have them continue the weight loss process. Again, SUPER relative to each person and it's not such a black-and-white obvious answer like your body isn't gonna send you a memo saying "okay, now it's time to reverse". My advice: contact someone who knows what they're doing and can talk you through your options (shameless plug-in to Katie). 

2. What's the difference between a reverse and a bulk?

A bulk occurs at a much higher rate (eating over maintenance calories) and there is usually more fat gained during a bulk. Putting on both fat and muscle requires a surplus of calories to build. That's why I go very slow during a reverse because I don't want fat gain, and if I did gain any weight I would want it to be mostly muscle which is also why I lift as heavy as possible to make sure those muscles are growing. People going through a bulk go in to one knowing that fat gain is going to happen but it's worth it to get the muscle gains as well. Both muscle and fat will grow under a surplus of energy which makes things tricky for reverse dieting. If only it could be one or the other ha! Life would be easy if we could eat tons more and build muscle while fat would automatically decrease. That's not the way it works, though, so I go as slow as possible to prevent any fat gains, and have great success that way. If you want to put it in easier terms, a reverse diet is essentially a very, very, very, very, lean bulk. Sometimes people use the terms reverse diet and bulk synonymously, but in my opinion they are two very different things.  

3. Can you do a reverse without tracking macros?

I'm gonna go with no on this one. I know of people who have increased overall calories slowly over time but they didn't specifically track macros, and they weren't lifting either. Personally I think that to get the best possible results with a reverse diet, it helps to have a balanced distribution of carbs, protein, and fats. I think it is also beneficial to have macros so that you can be sure that your body is properly adjusting to x amount of carbs, protein, and fats. In my opinion, it's not about the overall calories but the distribution of macros that your body adjusts to during the reverse. By tracking your macros you can also ensure you're properly fueling and taking care of your body throughout the reverse by giving it that balance of macronutrients. Lifting heavy can take a huge toll on your muscles and you need to make sure they're getting that fuel! 

4. How do you handle the initial bloat of an increase?

Two main ways: lots and lots of water, and eating more calorie dense foods the first couple days. Usually I am a huge volume eater but if I find that I'm feeling the bloat from an increase, then I scale it back and eat denser foods. It might stink because I feel like I'm eating less but it helps in the long run! I'm actually pretty lucky because I don't have a lot of problems with bloating around increase days but it can happen on occasion. Like I said, some weeks the increase goes over better than others it just depends. I like to drink dandelion tea every so often too, not even anything to do with increases. I find that it helps keep my tummy happy and regulated. I don't have any issues with food but we all have those blah days on occasion!

Hope that answers your questions for now :) 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Summer 2015 Workout Splits

I've gotten some questions lately about my workout splits and balancing everything out. I take the summers off from running so I've been focusing more on lifting lately. In fact, I think I'll keep it that way through the fall until I finish my current reverse diet. There's nothing wrong with running while on a reverse, but I really want to focus on lifting heavy the next couple months. I know I'm saying that now but when that fall weather comes, I'll probably be itching to run! So we'll see!

But for now, here's what my week looks like: 

Monday- dynamic day
*this literally can be anything I feel like doing: HIIT, spin class, track workout, cross fit, or working a muscle group that I feel gets neglected on a regular basis (usually abs lolz)

Tuesday- shoulders & HIIT

Wednesday- leg day #1 (hams & buns)

Thursday- bis/tris & HIIT

Friday- back & chest

Saturday- leg day #2 (quadzzz)

There you have it! My days do sometimes get switched around based off my work schedule but I try to keep a minimum of 2-3 days apart between muscle groups. That usually applies mostly directly to keeping my leg days separate but my point is to make sure you allow your muscles proper rest!

Another common question that I get is how long do my workouts usually take. Well, it honestly depends on the day. Saturday mornings I love, love, love to take that time for myself and really crush quads. It's my favorite day so I put it down for Saturday since I can spend as much time as I want working out! I'm at the gym for about an hour and a half that day, sometimes 2 if I get carried away.

Usually, though, I'm at the gym for about an hour for back/chest and hamstrings/glutes. I can still do shoulders and bis/tris at home since I have adjustable weights. On those days I lift for about 40 minutes and then do 15-20 minutes of HIIT.

On average, I workout for about an hour I'd say! 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

More Birthday Treats & a Crossfit Workout!

Yesterday morning, my coworkers surprised me with a mini birthday celebration! They decided to do it yesterday since I was off Friday, and our one coworker was on vacation last week. That way no one was left out! We take birthdays very seriously in our office haha as it's an excuse to sit around talking with each other as we indulge in some treats :) 

We also like to decorate each others' offices for fun, and it's always a surprise with what you'll get! This year, my one coworker got very creative and covered everything in my office including my computer screen and chair with streamers! She also gave me the sweetest present that I legit lost it and started bawling my eyes out. I got myself all collected then went over to thank her but as soon as I hugged her, I started crying all over again! Then we were both getting all emotional and having mild panic attacks that she's leaving so soon. She's my closest friend at the office, and she's going to Chicago for grad school at the end of next week. We've been putting off reality for so long because we hate the thought of not seeing each other every day, but it all finally hit me yesterday morning! I also never ever ever ever cry so this was like a huge deal guys. 

Although this just gives me a reason to go visit a really cool city so I'll definitely be making a trip to Chicago at some point!

Just the beginning of the streamers craziness!

She also made some treats for the office, and we took some time in the morning to get together and chat. Our office is pretty small so we usually all see each other throughout the day but it's always nice to be able to sit down as a group and catch up on stuff. On the menu were chocolate chip banana muffins which were amazing, and Oreo cheesecake bars! Like I said, Oreos are the way to my heart and my friends know it haha!  

I mean just look at those! I saved mine for dessert since I wanted to be good and stay on track with my macros. Yet another reason 2592803 I love her, but she sent me the macros the night before because she gets the macro thing. I converted her to Katie a few months ago so whenever we make stuff we always send the macros to each other out of consideration! So I was able to fit in both the a chocolate chip muffin and an Oreo cheesecake bar since I knew the macros ahead of time, easy peasy. 

In the morning before work, I did a crossfit workout that I found on Pinterest. My Monday morning workouts are what I have now decided to call "dynamic days" which just means they're pretty open. I like to do a jumble of either HIIT, weights, bodyweight stuff, potentially test out a gym class, or try out some workouts that I find. It's just a more open day where I like to try out new things. I've been getting in to beginner at-home crossfit workouts that I find on Pinterest so I found this one and made some modifications!

It was a great workout and took me about 30 minutes. I rested about 30 seconds between rounds. It was convenient because you can do this literally anywhere since you only need your bodyweight. I can't do box jumps at home since I'm too chicken to use a chair ha! 

I also came home to another sweet birthday surprise! In Katie's Facebook group of clients, someone had the brilliant idea of doing a sort of secret birthday buddy thing. We've done secret santa exchanges at Christmas but she suggested we do it for birthdays too! So I came home to a surprise from my birthday buddy! 

It was full of some of my favorites: quest bars, cookies & creme cookie butter, and cookies! I love the cookies because they're not only healthy but they have the macros on the back! I already plugged in the one for my dessert tonight, and the other one is actually a protein cookie that I'm super excited to try. I'm thinking about using that as my post-workout tomorrow morning because there has to be some kind of science backing up cookie gains, right?! That sounds good so we'll go with that ;)

Okay one last thing I wanted to share this just in case anyone else needs to hear this! One of the things Rachael got me was the book Jesus Today which is by the author of Jesus Calling. I was excited because I didn't know she had written more books. The passage today was honestly one of those things that hit me, and was exactly what I needed to hear. It's crazy to me how God can time things like that! 

"No matter what is happening in your life now, your story has an amazingly happy ending. Though the way ahead may look dark to you, there is brilliant, everlasting Light at the end of your earth-journey. Remember that I am with you continually."

Such amazing words! I'm planning on reading each passage every day, and then writing in my God journal about it. I call it my God journal for a lack of a better name! I don't usually keep a regular journal but I like to write down prayers, Bible passages, lyrics, quotes, Bible study lessons, or my thoughts about certain things that I learned from a sermon or something. It all has to do with God which is why I call it my God journal! It's kind of a jumble of things but it helps me to write stuff out and I like to look back through it. 

I hope everyone's week is going well so far! 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Birthday Weekend Recap!

Good morning everyone! Sorry I've been away for a bit but I have two very good reasons: 

1) Rachael was in town visiting!!

2) it was my birthday

It was so much fun to finally meet Rachael in person and she's just as sweet as can be! Amanda and I showed her around the city, and I hope she'll be making another trip back to Pittsburgh. Layla, as to be expected, loved making a new friend and was all over her! Rachael also made me the BEST birthday package full of all kinds of goodies, it was so thoughtful! I realize now that I should have taken a picture buuuut I got way too excited and dug in to everything haha!

I ended up taking Friday off since my hours were pretty flexible so I was able to get a long birthday weekend. I'm not one to make a fuss over my birthday and it probably has to do with the fact that with it being in July I was almost always away on vacation for it. My family had a beach house, and we were usually there every summer for my birthday until we sold it. I just turned 24, and I'd have to guess that out of all the years I've maybe been home for about a third of my birthdays! 

So just having a quiet relaxing weekend is a present in itself for me! Growing up, my parents would always ask me what I wanted to do for my birthday or if I wanted a big party or something but that's not my style. Dinner with friends and family and of course ice cream is all I need! My cousin's birthday is the day after mine so we usually do something combined but he's just as chill about his birthday as me so it's never anything big.  

I kicked off the long weekend Friday morning with a good old back attack session! Working back is strangely growing on me and I think it has to do a lot with the progress I've been seeing lately. I tried out my new protein powder afterwards, and I'm in love! PEScience is quickly becoming my favorite company because I've been using their BCAA blend, and give it two thumbs up. The cookies 'n cream is deeeelish, and I used it to make my trusty cookies 'n cream protein shake after getting home from the gym. 

Friday afternoon, Amanda and I met up with Rachael to show her some of the city and make a Trader Joe's run! Call me crazy but that's one of my favorite stores. I much prefer grocery shopping over any other type of shopping haha!

Saturday morning on my actual birthday, Amanda made me blueberry pancakes! There are pretty much two essential ways to my heart: pancakes and Oreos. And they either have to be plain pancakes or blueberry, no exceptions. Amanda made a batch of chocolate chip ones for her and my mom but I won't bother with those! She set out a whole spread of different toppings, it was so cute. It was the perfect start to my birthday morning! 

I did a leg circuit before breakfast because even though I'm a firm believer in unlimited birthday macros, I didn't want to skip my workout! 

After a day running around in the city with Rachael, we came home for dinner. I felt bad because Amanda grilled salmon as a treat but I could not for the life of me eat anything. It had nothing to do with overeating during the day, but sometimes the heat and humidity can get to me so badly that I get really bad stomach cramps. I didn't drink as much water as I usually do, and my body was not happy with me! This happens to me every so often, and all I have to do is rest up a bit and slowly drink some water over the course of an hour and then I'm fine! 

Which meant I was just in time to enjoy the Oreo cake she made me :)

All it is is Oreos and cool whip. You dip the Oreos in almond milk to moisten them, then lay them in a layer on the bottom of the pan. Top with cool whip, and then do another layer of Oreos and keep repeating that until you fill out the pan! Let is sit overnight so the Oreos soften with the almond milk, and you have yourself one amazing cake. Here's the full recipe if you wanna check it out! (which you totally should)

Sunday we hung out at my dad's house. We made chicken salads together for dinner, and it was the perfectly light dinner for such a hot humid day! I'm telling you, we can't catch a break with this weather. It's 90 degrees every day with what feels like 100% humidity which does not make me a happy camper. I'm trying not to complain and be positive but sometimes the heat can just get to me.

Last night, I found out right before going to bed that it was National Ice Cream Day! Luckily, Amanda remembered that we had some vanilla ice cream from Trader Joe's so I had a small spoonful to celebrate. Even though I took a break from exact tracking Friday and Saturday, I still made sure to eat balanced during the day so I could enjoy some birthday treats. I was back on track yesterday and will continue that way for the rest of the week! I didn't do an increase this week because I knew I'd be celebrating my birthday so I'll have an update for you guys about my reverse diet early next week!

Hope you all have a great Monday! 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Running With Your Pup

So lately I've gotten some comments and questions about how I take Layla running with me. I figured I'd have to split it up between posts of how I trained her but also another information about running with your dog in general. I'm going to start with the general one! 

First thing first: whether or not you want your dog to run with you is irrelevant.

The number one thing is, does your dog want to go running with you? If the answer is no, please don't force them!

Layla 100% really and truly loves running with me. Otherwise, I wouldn't make her! If you don't enjoy a certain type of exercise you don't do it, right? So why would you expect your dog to do something they don't enjoy? 

Just because they can't physically say "I don't like this" doesn't mean it's fair to take advantage of that. And don't be fooled, there are ways to tell they don't like it even though they can't speak. 

Which brings me to my second point: know your dog. 

You're probably thinking "well that's silly and obvious" but I mean it. Pay attention to your dog as you're running to keep tabs on how they're doing. I can read Layla like the back of my hand, and when we first started running together I watched her very closely. 

Before even getting her, I read up on books about body language in dogs, signs about health complications, and just general information on dogs. This has helped me a lot with not only training her but understanding her behavior and signals. So when we started running, I was able to keep all of that in mind. 

 The main thing I'm asking is please do your research before taking your dog running with you. The fact that they can't tell us when something is wrong like a person can just makes it more of a responsibility to know your stuff. 

Okay, so now you might be wondering: how can I tell if my dog likes running? 

This can also be breed specific because there are obviously some dogs that are better equipped to run than others. These are the typical "sporty" dogs that you think of like Labradors, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, etc. They also tend to be higher energy dogs which can make them very enthusiastic running partners. 

Other breeds that are not so equipped can be on the smaller side such as Bulldogs, Basset Hounds, Pugs, or a lot of the dogs you see with shorter legs. Size doesn't have everything to do with it, though, because take Boxers or Pitbulls for example. You want to be careful since dogs with shorter muzzles like that can develop breathing problems, and running may not be the best thing for them. 

Some signs you want to look for to see how your dog is doing include checking that they're not lagging behind and can keep up, how they're breathing, and any type of limping or pain.

The way I can tell Layla enjoys running is very simple and straight forward. First, if I ask her "Wanna go for a run?" Her ears perk up, she tilts her head to the side, and races over to the door. When we get outside her tail is constantly wagging, and once we start running she gets so so excited! Throughout the run she'll wag her tail every so often, brush against my leg, lick my hand, look up at me, or want me to scratch her ears. Her body language is relaxed, her ears and tail are low in their natural state, and she's curious about her surroundings. Layla is a very curious (more like nosey haha) dog and constantly pays attention to what is going on around her. While we're running, she'll often put her nose to the ground and sniff things as we're passing or sniff the air, if we see people or other dogs she'll look over at them and wag her tail, but what that tells me is she's not overtaxed because she's able to pay attention to other things. She also often pushes the pace and wants to run faster so I have to make sure I keep her reigned in or else she'd crap out after one mile haha! Sometimes at random times she'll just get so excited and happy that she bounces around on the sidewalk, and again I have to reign her energy in and remind her of her training. These are all signs that she's doing well on the run but that she's also enjoying it!

Random side story: this morning I took her for a run since the weather was honestly perfect for once this summer. It was 50 degrees and zero humidity, I actually wore long sleeves! Anyway, I wasn't thinking but as soon as I took Layla outside to go potty I said "Wow, Layla this is perfect weather for a run!" (because I talk to her all the time, normal right?! haha!). I didn't mean to say it but I came to regret it because her little ears perked right up at the "r" word as me and Amanda call it (we usually spell it out so she can't tell), and she got SO EXCITED. Immediately when we got inside, she was doing circles in my room as I got changed in to my running clothes. She kept pestering me to go faster, and legit could not contain herself. When I went to put on my shoes, I thought she almost gave me a bloody lip by accident because the spaz bumped her head right against my mouth as I was bending over while she was still bouncing around doing circles! She's been on maybe 2-3 other runs since May and clearly had missed running. 

Secondly, if you have a young dog make sure they can handle running!

It's super important that you don't take them when they're really little or you can seriously damage their growth and development. This is something that I absolutely recommend talking to your vet about, no excuses! This varies between breeds so make sure you get a professional opinion about it. Some main things you have to consider are: age, nutrition, and intensity of the exercise. 

We talked to our vet about Layla and he recommended waiting til she was older to take her on a regular basis which is what I transitioned her to this past fall and winter. When she first started running with me end of last summer, he said to make sure we gave her a food with a higher fat percentage so that she got the necessary nutrients, especially since she was the runt of her litter. Considering her size now, I'm pretty sure we didn't inhibit her growth at all! We have since moved her to a lower percentage but it is still enough to support a dog with a more active lifestyle. In my peak running season, Layla goes for a run with me about 4-5 days a week in addition to her usual daily walk so nutrition is important!

When I first introduced Layla to running, it was very gradual. I took her for a run only once a week for 2 miles max. The first time I ran with her, we jogged the first mile really slowly, took a walking break for about half a mile, and then jogged another mile home. Then I slowly had her run 2 miles consistently for another couple weeks. I still only took her once a week since she was young but the vet said that it should be fine.

I kept her at that schedule for the whole summer, only once a week 2-3 miles at about a 10-11 minute mile pace. That was much slower than usual for me but I wanted to give her time to adjust and get in shape. I built her up slowly. During September we went twice a week then in October we started adding in 3 running days a week, and so on until she was running about 4-5 days with me. Again, I made sure to take it slow because she's in for the long haul with running just like me:)

Build up their mileage gradually

Another important thing to remember is your dog has to get into running shape, too! You couldn't go from the coach to running 5 miles, right? It took training and time. So make sure that you treat your dog just the same way you did when you started out running. You probably ran at a slower pace, lower mileage, and didn't increase right away. Your dog is just as prone to running injuries as you are so make sure you don't force them to take too much in the beginning.

So please don't expect your dog to suddenly be able to run 5 miles with you out of the gate. I've been running Layla since August and the farthest I've taken her is 6 miles. Towards the end of this past winter there was so much ice that I wasn't able to take her with me for a solid two months. When we started back up again in early spring, I made it gradual for her. This summer I've hardly been able to take her at all because it's been so much hotter than usual plus all the constant rain makes the humidity nearly unbearable. I've been taking most of the summer off running, but even if I wasn't there's no way I'd take Layla in those conditions. 

If possible, run on the most natural ground.

I live in a very small town which comes in handy because sometimes I'm unable to run on the sidewalks due to snow/ice or the fact that they just don't exist. Yes, there are some roads that just don't have sidewalks so I just run on the side of the road. It's quiet, though, and not a lot of cars so I'm able to do this without any problems. This comes in handy for Layla, too, because I'm usually able to keep her running in the grass next to me. She naturally seeks out the grass so I try to allow her to do that as much as possible.

I do this because the grass is much softer than cement or bricks. The second best option is asphalt because again it's a more forgiving material compared to cement sidewalks. This goes for people, too! If you can, run on trails or asphalt because it's much easier on your body.

The last thing you want to be mindful of is the weather.

Again, certain dogs are happier in either warmer or colder temperatures depending on the amount of fur they have. Something that is again breed specific. Layla is literally a polar bear, even for a Golden Retriever she has really thick fur! So in colder temperatures, she's in heaven!

This means, though, that she's much more sensitive to warmer temperatures. When we started out last summer, I would make sure it wasn't too humid for her or too warm. If I was uncomfortable and way too hot then I wouldn't take her. I was much more mindful of looking for signs of dehydration or any discomfort on her part. If need be, keep a water bottle on hand. I run in the early morning around 5:30 so Layla isn't in the direct heat or sun. Please, please be considerate of things like that because I for one know I'm miserable if I try to run in the middle of the day so I'd never even consider taking Layla with me. When we get home from our runs, I make sure she has fresh cool water, I turn on the air conditioner for her, and give her either ice cubes or frozen veggies to chew on. That way she can cool down plus she loves ice cubes! I put them in her water bowl every so often to try to keep it cold but she takes them out within five seconds so she can eat them haha!

I was also very careful not to increase if she wasn't ready yet, and there was actually one time where I thought she was ready but she let me know she wasn't. The way my running routes work is that they build off one another. So what happened in this case is there's a point where I could either make a turn for a 2 mile loop or keep going and do 3 miles. The same thing goes for 4, 5, 6, 7 miles etc. Layla has been running enough with me that she knows the routes and the turns. One morning I wanted to go for 3 but when we approached the turn where we could take 2 miles, she started to turn. I gave her a slight tug to pull her back to me to let her know that we weren't going that way. But she dug in her heels and was adamant that we take the 2 mile loop! So what did I do? I listened to her!

She was clearly telling me that she was done, and wanted to go home. I decided to respect what she was trying to tell me and did not want to push her if she just wasn't feeling it that morning. We all have good and bad runs, even dogs! Running with Layla is just as much about her enjoying it as I am. I run with her because it's a great way to bond, spend time together, allows her to get her energy out, and add in training.

I hope this answers most of your questions, and I'll work on getting the training post up soon! 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Getting Over Gym-timidation

Sometimes I think I'm much funnier than I probably am ha! Like for example I really enjoyed my mash-up pun in the title but everyone is most likely rolling their eyes. 

Ignoring my attempts to be punny, this is actually something that has come up with every single woman that I know when she first started lifting-- crossing over in to "bro territory", the "brozone", whatever you want to call it the point is it can be intimidating. I will hands down tell you that at any given time, I am the only girl lifting at my gym. Occasionally there are nice older ladies who use some of the machines but none of the free weights. I'm not saying that no other girls lift at my gym but obviously we are on different schedules haha! Not until the other day was there a girl joining me on that side and I got so excited and wanted to become instant BFFs with her. But I decided that would probably creep her out and scare her away. 

In general, I think I've lucked out with my gym. It's smaller and never really super crowded which is nice especially for supersets or not having to wait for machines. It's also nice because there usually aren't a ton of people around that I would get intimidated. 

When I first started lifting last year, though, I was very self-conscious and was constantly feeling like everyone was watching and judging me.

So here are some tips that I think can be useful when dealing with gym-timidation:

1. Do your research

When I first started lifting, I was looking up all kinds of exercises, tips on form, and watching a lot of videos. has a fantastic database and it's convenient because you can zero down your search to what muscle group you want to target plus what equipment you have access to and voila! All kinds of exercise at your fingertips. This helped me immensely with not only proper form but increasing my confidence in what I was doing. Even now, I like to refresh myself and make sure I'm always using proper form. That's why your gym has mirrors so use them! They're not just for selfies people ;)

2. Schedule a personal training session

If you really want a hands-on experience then I'd recommend investing in a personal training session. I see them happening all the time where the trainers walk around with someone and give them a general explanation of what to do, and an overall introduction or orientation to weight lifting. I've also seen actual sessions going on where the trainers spot them or correct their form. Again, more knowledge means more confidence. 

3. Take advantage of gym classes 

I personally think this can just broaden your horizons. For example, I wouldn't have found out that I love spinning if I didn't go to a class! I only do the free classes available to members but I've seen advertisements for other classes where you pay. Some of those include: weight-lifting courses, kettle bells, or body pump. All are great options and if I wasn't trying to save up every penny for grad school, I'd probably invest more money in taking classes like those too!

4. Bring a friend!

I have been trying to get lots of people to come to the gym with me but it never happens. My friend at work sadly goes to a different gym that's farther from my house and more expensive but we talk all the time about how we wish we went to the same gym to workout together. I would love to have a gym buddy so I'll be accepting applications, ha! Just kidding. But no really if you wanna be gym buddies that'd be totally cool. Anyway, if you can get a workout partner that can always help to have someone else around that you're comfortable with. Plus, they can be an accountability partner and you can help motivate one another. Everybody wins! 

5. Keep your goals in mind

This was probably the number one thing when I first started lifting that helped me really get over that gym-timidation. One of the first times I was lifting I got super self-conscious since there was a whole group of bro-guys over in the weights taking up almost everything. I debated on what to do because I knew I was supposed to do back but was too nervous to go over there where all of them were. I eventually just panicked and did cardio and then kicked myself the whole time driving home. I was so upset with myself, and couldn't figure out why I was so afraid to go over there.

Then, I gave myself some tough love. I said "Sam, what the heck! Are you gonna let what those guys think of you get in the way of your goals? Who cares what they think! Do you really want to look back in a year and not see the progress you want just because you let something that silly get in your way?! You have goals dang it so go out and chase them!"

That lit a fire under my butt. I knew what I wanted, I knew how to get what I wanted, and I had all the tools I needed to get it. So what was holding me back? Myself. That's when it hit me, and that's when it changed. I basically said screw everyone else, I'm doing this for me. 

6. Have faith in yourself

This is something that you have to find within yourself. You have to know what you want and keep your goals in mind, but you have to tell yourself that you can do it. And not just with empty words but actually have faith that you can do it. Not to get cheesy or emotional but when I think back to last year and the person who I was then, I'm not the same. It hasn't just been a physical change but a mental change. When I'm lifting, I feel empowered. I don't care that I'm the only girl lifting because to be honest when I'm in that zone I feel like a bada** (sorry guys but I just can't swear ha). I love walking in to the gym and knowing that I'm about to take another step closer to my goals. When I look back on progress pictures, I get so proud of what I've accomplished. It feeds my passion, makes me feel alive, and I love it. I know what I can do and sometimes my bigger dreams can scare me but that only makes me want it more. Keep the faith and you can move mountains.

Proverbs 46:5 "God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day" 

Last but not least here's another thing I've learned this past year: 

No one really cares that much what you're doing. 

Most of the time people are so focused on their own workout that they're not really paying attention to everyone else. I'm in the same boat as them. When I'm lifting, I'm lifting. I'm not looking around at everybody else. I will admit that when one of the trainers is on the floor either with a client or doing their own workout, I do creep a bit. But that's legitimately only for gaining knowledge or learning more about form, etc. I find it really interesting to watch them because I pick up stuff that way. 

I think a lot of women are intimidated by the guys because they think they're either gonna get made fun of or hit on. Over the past year I've gotten over both of those worries because all of the guys at my gym are really nice and I've never felt intimidated by them. I've had nothing but positive experiences at my gym, and feel totally comfortable. It's always nice when you begin to recognize the regulars and they know you so you kind of just go about your own business. 

My favorite story is one time I was doing box jumps and this sweet little old guy comes up to me and asks me what my event is. I don't understand what he means but then he goes "well, no one does those just for fun! Do you high jump, track, professional football player?!". I couldn't help it but I laughed out loud when he said he thought I might have been a professional football player! But he was being very honest and sincere. He was so impressed and was nice enough to come over and let me know. I told him I was simply training quads, and he was amazed that was my only reason haha! 

Overall, it's something that takes time to get over but if you truly want to reach your goals it's something you have to overcome. It was a big step for me outside my comfort zone because I didn't know much about lifting but looking back I have no regrets. If anything my main regret would have been not doing it. I have fallen head over heels in love with lifting, and wouldn't change a thing! I honestly didn't think I could ever find something to rival my passion for running, and that's why I think it's so important to explore outside your comfort zone. Who knows what you might find! 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Reverse Dieting Update: Week 3

Hellooooo! I've got some updates for y'all. Reverse dieting is steadily gaining popularity and awareness which often incites a lotttt of questions. Which is totally understandable! I remember the days where I was completely clueless to the wonders of reverse dieting, and I'm happy to answer any and all questions regarding my own experience with it as best as I can. 

And if I can't then I refer people to the reverse dieting queen a.k.a. the amazing Katie Ringley

So I'll be doing the occasional post with updates and just answering general questions that I get. As always if you have any questions just leave it in the comments section or shoot me an email! I'll do my best to answer :)

The first and main question that I've been getting a lot, even with family and friends, is why are you even reverse dieting more?

Two words: More. Carbs. 

Haha! But yeah, really. I think my body could utilize the extra fuel. Fats as well so I'll increase those a bit. Protein is usually not one of the macros to change during a reverse BUT that is not always the case. Cue the cliche "everyone's body is different", and seriously that could not even apply more here in this situation. For purposes doing this reverse, I actually am going to add in a few grams of protein here and there. My previous two, protein remained constant. 

Secondly, another two words: More. Muscles.

More carbs equals more fuel which means I have a lot more energy in the gym and more fuel going to dem gainz. One of the main goals of a reverse diet is to slowly change your body composition by increasing lean muscle mass. That muscle will then help boost your metabolism, and enable you to eat a higher amount of calories without gaining any excess weight.

It is NOT scientifically proven whatsoever but I know so, so, so many girls who have also gone through reverse diets same as me with wonderful results. I personally lose weight while going through a reverse. Not a ton, maybe a couple pounds but I know women who have lost 10-15 pounds. The standard result (and what you ideally want) is no change in weight at all. Why do you ask? That means you're getting as close to an even exchange as possible.

How much do you increase?

This again varies between people as some can handle much larger increases than others. I personally have done a 10g carbs, 2g fats increase and a 5g carbs and 1g fat increase on a weekly basis. The first was way too fast and I ended up gaining weight instantly. The second is a much more effective method for my body. I've heard stories of where people could do as much as 25g per carbs a week, insane! I have carb envy of people who can do that.

It might seem ridiculously and painfully slow to some people but it's what works for my body! It's also what my coach (Katie Ringley) recommends and all of her clients have had much success with this method. Again, it's not proven at all and different things work for different people. You might just have to play around with numbers to see what works best for you.

How do you know if it's too fast?

The dead giveaway is weight gain. Now, this is something you have to be careful of because increasing carbs will initially lead to an increase in water weight (carbs have water). The first few days after an increase I am sometimes bloated and I DO NOT weigh myself because I will only be asking for unfair mental games. I usually wait until about Thursday or Friday to weigh myself (I increase on Sundays) when I know for a fact that my body has adjusted to the increase. Some weeks I don't weigh myself at all. In fact, I haven't weighed myself in 3 weeks and just go by pictures and measurements. Truth be told I'm not too concerned about weighing myself regularly because I know this method has already worked for me in the past, and I like going by progress pictures and measurements better.

So, if you do an increase and are up 3 pounds the next morning, don't freak out. That doesn't automatically mean you went too fast, that just means your body has not yet adjusted to the new amount of carbs. Some weeks the increases go over much better for me than others. There's no way to tell, you just have to trust the process!

If you are going too fast, though, you have two options. Option 1 is lessen the amount of carbs and fats you are increasing, and option 2 is waiting it out for another week and skipping an increase. Some people do a bigger increase every two weeks or do smaller ones every week (like me). If after 2 weeks it still seems like too big of an increase then lower it down a bit.

I thought I'd include some general progress pictures over the past three weeks because I found that when I first started reverse dieting, it was a scary process for me. I was terrified of what would happen and how my body would respond so it was always helpful to follow and connect with other girls going through the same process. For me, reverse dieting is so much more about food. I joke around and talk about getting to eat more carbs which is obviously an amazing bonus but in reality it's an investment in my future health. It's about taking care of my body, giving my body what it needs, and keeping my metabolism healthy!

What if you do gain weight?

I will be totally honest the first time I did a reverse I was still very fragile mentally and when I saw that scale jump 7 pounds, I freaked out. My advice: breathe. Just breathe. In and out, deep breaths because everything will be okay. At the end of that reverse I was able to shed most of those pounds before doing my second. The reason I needed to do a second one is the first did not completely fix my metabolism as it should have. The main reason I attribute to that is I went through a giant company that treated me as a number. No one was even accessible to answer my questions so I kept going with the reverse because I didn't know what else to do. I was given a set of numbers and few specific instructions and one of them was to keep going even if I gained weight, so that's what I did. Looking back now, I could have prevented all those struggles with the knowledge I have now but then again I wouldn't have met Katie. She has been nothing but amazing and coached me through my second one, day by day, week by week. She was blessedly patient with me and loved me throughout the entire process. She was an answered prayer and everything I needed. I learned so much from her, and her coaching is the main reason that I can do all this on my own now!

So if you start to gain some weight, do yourself a favor and try your best not to stress over it. I know, I know that doesn't seem to help in the moment and trust me I can close my eyes right now and instantly bring back those old feelings that I experienced. I understand what it's like but I also know freedom, and it's worth fighting through those bad feelings to get there. You have to keep in mind the grand scheme of things and that it's for your health. There will be time later down the road to cut if you want and lose any weight you might have gained, but you have to keep the big picture in mind. If you're just starting out you can play it on the safe side and go super slow like I do. In fact, that's what I personally recommend (again, not a professional) because you can slowly introduce the process of reverse dieting to your body and then potentially play around with higher numbers. If you all of a sudden throw 25g of carbs a week at your body there's no telling how it will respond. The human body is amazing but it is also unpredictable.

With all that being said, here are some progress pictures:

Week 1 vs. Week 2
Increase of 5g carbs, 1g fat, and 2g protein
Waist is down about 1/2 an inch and I didn't weigh myself

Week 2 vs. Week 3
Total increase from week 1 of 10g carbs, 2g fat, and 4g protein
Measurements the same, still no clue about my weight! 

I'm incredibly happy with how my body is responding to this reverse which just goes to support my initial reason for starting it. I feel so much better, my workouts are thriving, and I'm seeing a lot of progress with my muscles. It's only been 3 weeks so I can't wait to see what happens next! And for those of you wondering, no I have no idea how long I'll do this for. I'll just keep increasing until my body tells me otherwise!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Typical Dinner Post: Roasted Spaghetti Squash

So the typical dinner posts seem to be gaining some popularity so I'll try my best to make them a semi-regular thing! As I've said in the other posts, I've been keeping most dinners this summer to a lean protein and lots of veggies for sides. That's the way I roll for dinner, and especially with the hot summer nights. I don't want heavy carbs sitting in my tummy! 

This past week, I roasted some spaghetti squash to go with dinner. It was simple and easy! Like most of my dinners haaaa.

To prep the squash, I cut off the ends and then halved it. Be VERY careful as it's pretty difficult to cut and you don't want to lose a finger. I cleaned out the seeds and stringy stuff then drizzled it with some olive oil, salt, and pepper. Put it face down in the oven at 400 degrees for about 40-50 minutes until it's fork tender. 

I always forget how much I love spaghetti squash! I was able to have a huge serving (150 grams) for only 10 grams of carbs which in my opinion can't be beat. It was the perfect side dish to go along with the broccoli and chicken that I made! 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Chipotle, Chickens, & a quick Shoulder Workout!

Happy Wednesday everyone! I'm on the last day of my staycation, and it's been a much needed break. I feel nice and refreshed, and ready to tackle work tomorrow. 

Tuesday morning before heading out to lunch, I did a shoulder and biceps workout. I love having my adjustable dumbbells since I haven't outgrown them...yet hehe ;)

They can go up to about 40 pounds so that leaves me plenty of room to work with considering I'm only breaking in to using 20s now. My upper body is such a weak spot for me but I'm proud of the progress I've made especially with my shoulders! Turns out I can grow my delts quite nicely but biceps are a whole other story, talk about slow pokes. 

I did a combination of shoulders and biceps with more of a slight focus on shoulders because I personally love working shoulders and biceps aren't a huge goal of mine. I don't like neglecting a single muscle group, though, so I usually work biceps and triceps in on shoulder and back days! 

Those last two sets are killer! I like adding in challenges at the end such as reps until failure, drop sets, or more dynamic sets to really utilize that muscle and feel the burn. This took me about 35-40 minutes and after lifting, I did some incline walking on the treadmill for about 20 minutes and then took Lola and Layla for a walk. 

For post-workout, I had a strawberry yogurt parfait. 

Like I've said, I'm LOVING all the fresh fruits! And Sam's Club strawberries are still the best I've found! I mean just look at the lil beauties. 

For the parfait, I just mixed together a container of Oikos Triple Zero strawberry greek yogurt, and 100g of fresh strawberries. It was delicious! 

For lunch, Amanda and I treated our mom to Chipotle! My go-to is always the chicken salad without the dressing then add in fajita vegetables, salsa, and more lettuce. It's only 10g carbs, 7g fat, and 35g protein. 

In the afternoon, Amanda and I had to return one of the chickens that turned out to be a rooster! I couldn't stop laughing because I think it's hilarious but Amanda is less than amused haha. It just so happened to be the one chicken that was let's just say she/he was on the slower side. My theory is it took him this long to figure out he was a rooster because he's a little dumb since he should've started crowing awhile ago. The way we found out is also slightly hilarious. I was taking the dogs out and heard this really strange noise. At first I thought it was this little dog yapping away in the neighbor's yard. It had this hoarse and slightly strangled type quality or something so I had no idea what was going on. I came inside and immediately Amanda goes "Sam, did you hear that weird noise? It's Bubbles! She's crowing". But it wasn't like a real rooster's crow because like I said it kinda sounded like a small dog getting strangled.  He kept at it though for a bit, and when Amanda sent a picture to the chicken farmers they confirmed it was a rooster. So, we took him back yesterday before dinner, and now Amanda is on the hunt for more chickens! They're getting some older ones soon so we'll probably be making a trip back. Amanda has been dubbed an official crazy chicken lady! 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Power Workout & Lunch

Yesterday morning, I did a power workout at home to kick off my Monday morning! I've been loving my mini staycation except my body missed the memo that I'm off work and don't need to get up at 5am. I wake up around 5 or so but then I fall back asleep until about 6:30-7 and by that point I know it's no use trying to sleep in anymore!

It's funny because if you told me a few years ago that I couldn't sleep in past 7am anymore I'd laugh and laugh and laugh, and then wouldn't wake up until noon. I don't know how I used to be able to sleep that late! Random story but I had a dream the other night where I slept til 10:45am and was actually really upset haha! I was panicking that my whole day was wasted, and that I wouldn't be able to get anything done. 

Anyway, here's the workout that I did! If you're doing this workout at a gym or your own house, the jogging took me about 3 minutes and the sprinting about a minute and a half. In case you need a reference point! You can definitely use a treadmill but I simply went right out my front door and that was just as easy. 

It took me about an hour, and I was POURING sweat when I was done! 

One of my favorite parts about summer is all the fresh fruits now in season! I picked up some peaches this week, and I'm in heaven! As part of my lunch, I had a fresh peach chopped up with some plain Greek yogurt and of course a trusty Quest bar. 

Later today Amanda and I are making a trip back to the chicken farm. Hilarious story (well I think it is but Amanda doesn't hahaha) but one of the chickens turned out to be a rooster! It was Bubbles, and so I told Amanda that we have to rename him. So now he's Michael BublĂ© for the next couple hours until we send him back. We might end up coming back with more chickens as an "exchange" (Amanda's idea, not mine) so I'll keep you guys posted!  

Monday, July 6, 2015

Fourth of July Weekend Recap

Happy Monday everyone! It's an especially happy one for me since I'm home for a staycation! I had Friday off work for the holiday but then I took today through Wednesday off just for a little vacation. Things have been crazy at work with transitioning in a new coworker plus training her so the timing worked out perfectly. 

Alsoooo, Lola is visiting for the week! Needless to say the whole family is thrilled, especially Layla since she loves her big sister. 

My aunt, uncle, and cousins are all away at the beach, and of course they're right where all those shark attacks have been happening along the Carolina coast! So prayers please that they all stay safe because Hannah told me they're still swimming and going in the water. I told them that's probably not the best idea unless they want to see Shark Week live in action. 

Saturday morning both the pups were feeling extra lazy! My aunt was joking around and told me to make sure Lola actually got rest and relaxation since she knew Layla would be all over her. So, I sent her this picture to reassure her that Lola was getting plenty! 

Lola especially loves coming to our house since she's allowed on the furniture to snuggle :) in fact she's curled up with my mom right now! 

So for dinner that night, I made a little cauliflower stir fry that was really good! I've seen all kinds of recipes for cauliflower rice but I wanted bigger chunks. So that's what I did! I used the bigger chunks of cauliflower as the main base of the stir fry then added in some chicken, broccoli, frozen peas, and frozen corn. I tossed it all together in the pan with some soy sauce, garlic, salt, pepper, and let it cook! It was low-carb and macro-friendly. 

For the Fourth of July, we didn't do anything fancy. My friend Megan was in town for the weekend so we got together for lunch. It was great since she was able to catch up with my mom and Amanda too because she hasn't seen them since she left for Connecticut in January. We went to Burgatory and I got the elk burger again! I don't think I can ever get anything different than that when I go. It hit the spot! Burgatory also has gluten-free options so Amanda was able to enjoy her usual bison burger with a gluten-free bun, and a gluten-free milkshake. 

Sunday morning I had overnight oats before heading off to church. The salty caramel Jif whips is quickly becoming one of my favorites for making overnight oats. It's always bittersweet because I don't want the peanut butter to be gone but at the same time I know that I'll be getting overnight oats haha! 

For dinner, we grilled some salmon and I sauteed up one of the zucchinis from my aunt's garden. It was HUGE, and easily fed the three of us and then some. I have no idea how all the vegetables grow to the size that they do in her garden, and trust me Amanda is desperate to figure out her secret! 

As a sauce on the salmon I mixed together some sweet and hot mustard, some honey mustard, and whole grain mustard. I just eyeballed amounts and tasted it until I got the flavor I wanted. The whole dinner took less than 30 minutes and was healthy and delicious! 

Hope you all had a great holiday weekend, and a good start to the week! 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Dog Days of Summer

Summer is in full swing which means lots of outdoor activities, and if you're like me, more things to do with your pup! 

But to me that means all the more reason to be responsible, and to make good judgment calls when it comes to Layla and helping her stay cool. If you don't know about her already, which is probably really hard since I talk about her ALL.THE.TIME hehehe, but she's a golden retriever. A.k.a. my little cuddly polar bear. 

She has lots of thick fluffy fur which is A+ conditions for snuggling but not so much when it comes to 90 degree heat. So, I do all that I can to make the summer comfortable for her and to avoid dangerous situations like dehydration and heat stroke. 

Let's break it down in three basic scenarios. 


I just started my staycation this morning which is good news for Layla since she gets two walks a day especially since the rain is finally letting up! After legs this morning at the gym, I took her for a quick walk this morning to stretch out my legs and hers. It was about 10am and maybe 60 degrees which is unusually cool. Hey, I'm not complaining though! 

My point is, I was okay with taking her a bit later in the morning since it was still pretty cool, and I knew she'd be okay. I never, ever, ever walk her in the heat of the day. What I usually do is take her after dinner around 7-8pm when the main heat of the day has cooled off. 

The other option when I run her is I do it before 6am. I still make sure to be careful because there are some mornings when it's very, very humid to the point where it's uncomfortable for me. If it's like that, I will not take Layla with me. 

I keep her walks to about 20-30 minutes and that's pretty much all she needs because the heat drains her too. I even let her pick the routes because she knows our town very well at this point. It's hard not to since it's a square mile lolz. For example, this morning she only wanted to go for 20 minutes. I was planning on going a little farther but she would tug on certain turns that she knew would get us home sooner so I listened! 

The general rule that you want to do to find out if it's too hot for your pup is the 5 second rule. If you can't hold your hand against the pavement for at least 5 seconds then it's not safe to walk your dog. 

When we get back from a walk or run, I give Layla ice cubes which are her favorite! I give her plenty of fresh water, put in a few ice cubes, and then give her a couple to chew on to cool down. 

This morning after our walk she even went around to all the water bowls and took those ice cubes out too! 

Car Rides

I think everyone knows at this point that leaving a dog in a hot car with the windows closed is a deadly situation. I hear so many stories about dogs dying in cars because their owners left them in the car for hours at a time, and the poor things overheated. 

Layla loves to go for car rides, and I often take her with me to go on quick errands where I know she won't have to stay long in the car by herself. Now that it's summer I don't think she should have to stay home and not come in the car, it just means I have to be more cautious. 

I make sure to leave the windows down, and not just a crack. I will leave her several inches so her whole head can stick out. Not so much that she could jump out the window or anything but enough that she can neb around at everything, and possibly say hi to anyone walking by. She's definitely not a guard dog haha! 

Usually what I do is on the way to wherever we're going is to have the air conditioner running so that the whole car cools down. I put the back windows down for her so she can stick her head out. I know it sounds like a waste to some people to have the ac on with the windows down but we're talking like 10 minute errands that I run. Not even leaving our town or anything! I never take Layla if it's a long trip where she'll have to stay in the car for most of the time by herself. That's not fun at all for her. 

So by the time she has to stay in the car, it's already cooled down and then she has all four of the windows open. That way she can stay safe and cool! 

She's never alone for more than a couple minutes because like I said, I won't take her for long errands. Even with the windows down, that doesn't guarantee that the car will stay cool all that long.

Hanging Outside

When we're outside I always make sure Layla has access to two very important things: water and shade. My aunt has a pool and back deck so we hang out there a lot but we make sure that Layla and Lola don't get too hot. We fill up a tupperware dish full of water and put ice cubes in it. There's also shaded parts of the deck since it's at the back of the house, and there's shade under the furniture too. 

Both of them want to be outside with the rest of the family, and I don't think they should have to stay inside the whole time. We just keep tabs on them to see how they're doing. We'll often take breaks and go inside or make them go inside to cool off in the air conditioning for a bit. 

I just bought Layla an inflatable baby pool for our backyard which I will most definitely be setting up for her this weekend. Now that it's finally sunny, I want her to be able to enjoy the summer too! True to her retriever nature, she is a water dog through and through. I can't wait to see how excited she gets with the pool haha! 

Overall, just please make sure to keep your dog safe! Do some research and read up on warning signs to look for with dehydration and over-heating. You know your dog best so look out for anything out of the ordinary!