How I Improved my Sleep

Over the last few months I’ve been working on my sleep hygiene. Today I’m sharing some tips on what worked for me.

Going to bed at the same time

Having a routine every night was huge for me. Knowing that at 9 pm I put my phone away and started my night time routine made winding down for bed so much easier so that I could be in bed with the light off at 10 pm. So much of it was mental for me, and just going through the actions that told myself that it was bed time helped a lot.

Being an entrepreneur it’s easy to feel like I need to get one more thing done before I turn off the computer for the night. But now that I know that all work stops at 9 pm it’s a lot easier (and somehow makes me feel less guilty).

No electronics one hour before bed

A really tough one for me to do was to put my phone away an hour before I went to bed. I honestly didn’t even realize how often I was on my phone until I made a conscious effort to put it down for that hour before bed. To make it a bit more easier for myself I started with just putting my phone away for 30 minutes before bed, then slowly increased it to 45 minutes and finally an hour before bed after a few weeks. It was a slow progress, but I had to do it that way to make sure that I was successful.

Another thing that helped was making sure that I couldn’t reach my phone from my bed. Keeping it across the room helped so much in the temptation to pick it up to “check one last thing”. It’s so easy to talk myself into checking an email or posting one more thing on social media when my phone is within reach. But if I have to get out of my warm and cozy bed to get my phone, it gives me the chance to think about it again and I’m much less likely to actually use my phone.

Getting up at the same time

I also found that getting up at the same time each morning also helped. I’m typically up between 5:30 and 6 am. Knowing that I’m going to be up early helps me get into bed and turn off the light earlier. There’s nothing worse than going to bed later than I had planned and calculating how much sleep I can get if I fall asleep *now*. As the number keeps shrinking, it makes it harder to fall asleep.

There’s just something about having that night time and wake up time in place every day (including the weekends) that helps me to be able to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Meditation

I know I’ve written about meditation before (here and here), and it’s been so helpful in being able to slow down my mind so that I can fall asleep. I learned a lot about meditation when I did my 200 hour yoga teacher training.

I’m not a woo woo person, and meditation doesn’t have to be really woo woo. It can be as simple as staying still for a few minutes and simply counting your breaths. If you’re new to meditation I highly recommend the Headspace app. While it is subscription based, you can use 10 meditations for free over and over again for as long as you like. I have subscribed to it in the past and really enjoyed it, but it’s just not in my budget at the moment. Right now I’m just using those free ones.

Another app that I use on a regular basis to meditate is Insight Timer. I find that there’s a lot more “woo woo” content on Insight Timer, but I’m able to find lots of meditations that don’t make me roll my eyes. There’s some great yoga nidra meditations on there. Just type “yoga nidra” into the search bar to find them.

Even if I just do a few minutes of meditation during my bedtime routine, it really helps to let myself transition from to do lists and getting things done throughout the day to relaxing and letting myself wind down.

No looking at the clock

A big one that I was doing all the time that didn’t help me at all when it came to sleeping better was checking the clock when I couldn’t fall asleep. Like putting away my phone for an hour before bed, it was a tough habit to break, but I notice such a big difference now. It was well worth the work it took to break that habit.

I’m less stressed out and anxious when I have nights where I struggle to fall asleep. Looking at the clock doesn’t help me fall asleep any better – it just makes me more stressed that the amount of sleep I can get before my alarm will go off is shrinking. It’s not a surprise that the more stressed I am about getting enough sleep, the less sleep I get.

Read before turning off the light

Since I’m not scrolling through my phone before bed, I’ve been reading more at night. There’s something relaxing about being able to spend some guilt free time doing something that I enjoy just for fun. Like I mentioned above, I typically feel like I have to be productive as much as possible. But giving myself permission to read for fun helps me to relax and wind down before turning off the light.

Another thing that I realized (that’s probably common sense to most people) is that I can’t be on the go, getting things done every waking moment. I need time each day to goof off, watch Netflix, or watch some cheesy reality show like Teen Mom. Doing those things that I enjoy instead of working actually means that I’m more focused and ready to work when I do get back to my to do list the next day. It’s impossible to be productive all the time – it’s just a part of being human. Finally accepting that and actually being okay with it was a game changer for me.

Now that you know what worked for me, what are some things that help you sleep better at night?

Upper Body Superset Workout

Today I’m sharing a new upper body superset workout with you!

It’s already Wednesday morning – how did that happen? Monday was a busy one for me and I think that that’s setting the tone for me this week. I hope your week is going good so far.

Before I get into the superset workout I’m sharing today, I thought I’d write quickly about what I did at the gym yesterday for my workout.

It was really hard to get out of bed on Tuesday (hello snooze button), but I did eventually get to the gym and got my workout in. I don’t know what it is some mornings that makes it so hard to get out of bed. I was in bed and turned off the light at the usual time the night before.

I spent 30 minutes on the elliptical. Cardio usually it goes by pretty quick for me, but the last 10 minutes really dragged by. I stuck it out though and then spent another 15 minutes walking the track to bring my heart rate back down. It definitely wasn’t my greatest workout, but I got in a workout – very bit counts. I’m hoping that I feel a bit more energetic this morning!

And now onto today’s workout.

This is a superset workout which means that you’ll be doing two different exercises back to back that work the same muscle. Once you’ve done the pair of exercises you’ll get a 2 minute rest. After completing the last exercise on the list (tricep extensions), rest as long as you need before returning to the top of the list and starting from the beginning again. Do it 3 times through for a complete workout.

As for what weight to use, pick something that challenges you but also allows you to complete each rep with good form, including the very last one. Since it’s a superset workout your muscles should definitely be feeling it the last few reps of the second exercise. Remember, you get two minutes of rest before you have to work again, so make every single rep count. Don’t be afraid to change weights (either down or up) throughout this workout. There’s no use using something that’s too heavy and risking an injury, or using something that’s too light and doesn’t challenge you enough.

You’ll need to do this workout at the gym since it includes machine rows. If you’re looking for an at home workout, you can find them here on my workouts page. Below the graphic I’ve listed descriptions for all of the exercises that I’ve included in this workout just in case you need a reminder about any of them.

Machine row

Sit at a cable row machine with your feet centered on the foot platform and sitting on the bench so that you have a slight bend in your knees. Lean forward to grasp the handles of the cable and lean back to a standard sitting position. Start with your arms extended, and slowly bring them towards your abdomen, using your back muscles. Once your elbows have reached 90 degrees, extend your arms back out. 

One arm bench row

Put your hand and knee on the same side on a bench, which your hand directly under your shoulder and your knee directly under your hip. With your other foot on the floor and a dumbbell in the other hand, raise the dumbbell up to the side of your torso using your back and shoulder muscles, while keeping your shoulder and torso stationary. Return the dumbbell to the starting position and repeat. 

Dumbbell chest press

With a dumbbell in each hand, lay down on a bench or the floor. Your upper arm should be at a 90 degree angle to your torso and your hands directly over your elbows. Move the dumbbells up while they come above your chest. With control move them back down to the starting position. 

Push ups

Starting on your toes and hands, make sure your body is a straight line from your heels to your knees, hips, shoulders, and neck. Your hands should be a bit wider than your shoulders. Slowly bend at the elbows, lowering yourself to the ground. Try to get at low as possible, and then push yourself back up, all the while maintaining that straight line. An easier modification is instead of being on your toes, lower to your knees.

Bicep curl

Start with the feet hip width apart, and back in a neutral position. With a dumbbell in each hand, keep your elbows in close to your side and raise the dumbbell upwards. Movement should be at the elbow, not the wrist. Lower the dumbbell with a controlled movement, not allowing gravity to take over.

Hammer curl

Similar to regular biceps curls, hammer curls differ only in hand position. Stand with your feet hip width apart with dumbbells in your hands. Position your hands at your sides so that your palms are facing your legs. Keeping your hands in this position the entire time, bend at the elbow and bring the dumbbells up as far as possible. Lower yours hands back down to the starting position. Make sure you keep your spine in a neutral position the entire time. 

Bent over row

With a dumbbell in each hand (palms facing each other) bend forward slightly at the hips so that your torso is at a 45 degree angle to the floor, letting your arms hang straight down and keeping your back in a neutral position. Bring both dumbbells up towards your armpits while contracting your shoulder blades towards each other (kind of like pinching your shoulder blades together). Move dumbbells back towards starting position. 

Upright row

Stand with your feet hip width apart, a dumbbell in each hand just in front of your thigh, palm facing your thigh. With a neutral spine slide your hands up your body until your hands are almost at your armpit. Slowly lower your hands back down to the starting position. 

Tricep dips

Using a chair or bench, place hands on the edge with fingers pointing towards the back while stepping out your feet so that they’re hip width apart and your hips are above the floor. Slowly bend at the elbows to lower yourself and then use your triceps to move yourself back up to the starting position. Your knees can be bent (easier) or left straight (harder).

Tricep extensions

Laying on your back on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand, move your arms so that they are straight up above your shoulders. Bending at the elbow, bring the dumbbells towards each side of your head and then return to the starting position. 

What’s your favorite upper body exercise?

Mine are probably overhead presses!

As always, talk to your doctor before starting to workout. Honor your body and modify this workout as needed for you and your body.

Weekend Highlights: Jeans Shopping + Dog Petting

Good afternoon and welcome to a new week! How is it that weekends always seem to fly by but the work week seems to drag on? This past weekend was a good one for me. It was full of shopping, catching up with old friends, and meeting a new dog.

On Friday I headed to the mall on a mission to find a new pair of jeans. The ones I have been wearing are too big (woohoo for my hard work paying off and losing weight). Unfortunately there was only so much that my belt could do and my jeans were starting to look funny – aka baggy – and that’s not a good look on anyone.

The last pair of jeans I had bought were from Eddie Bauer and I really liked how they fit before they got too big, so that was my first stop when I got to the mall. Unfortunately it was a bust because they only had skinny jeans. They never fit right because I have big calves.

I ended up trying jeans on at 3 or 4 other stores before I finally stopped at Gap. I was getting frustrated at this point and was determined to walk out of the store with a pair of jeans. I’m pretty sure I tried on nearly every single fit of jeans that they had in the store minus the skinny ones. I finally decided on this pair.

I think part of the frustration is that sizing varies so much from store to store. Between the 4 or 5 stores I went to I tried on 4 different sizes! I’m not someone who enjoys shopping so it just added to my impatience. I honestly didn’t think it would be that hard to find a pair of jeans that fit. One day when I have lots of money I’m going to hire a personal shopper so I don’t have to go searching the mall for clothes.

Friday night was a quiet night in and I finished reading Olive, Again (affiliate link) by Elizabeth Strout. It’s the second book that I’ve read so far in 2020. My goal is to read 40 books this year, so I’m slowly but surely making a dent.

Olive, Again is actually the sequel to Olive Kittenridge, which I haven’t read. I didn’t even realize it was the second book until part way through Olive, Again. Do I think you need to Read the first one before this one? Nope. I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything.

Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads:

The iconic Olive struggles to understand not only herself and her own life but also the lives of those around her in the town of Crosby, Maine. Whether with a teenager coming to terms with the loss of her father, a young woman about to give birth during a hilariously inopportune moment, a nurse who confesses a secret high school crush, or a lawyer who struggles with an inheritance she does not want to accept, the unforgettable Olive will continue to startle us, to move us, and to inspire moments of transcendent grace.

Saturday morning my brother and his friend stopped by with her dog, Taquito. My brother has told me about her dog before, but this is the first time that I got to meet him. He was pretty funny to watch checking everything out and sniffing all the corners.

While I’m used to bigger dogs (we used to have a Cocker Spaniel and my boyfriend has an Emglish Bulldog), Taquito seemed so small weighing in at just 12 pounds. He has such an expressive face. I’m so glad that I got to meet him. It felt so good to have a dog in the house again.

Saturday night I cooked up some breaded pork and Brussels Sprouts. I cooked the pork in the air fryer and did the Brussels sprouts in the Instant Pot. I added some beef jerky to get in enough protein to reach my protein goal for the day.

I was pretty excited to head to the gym on Sunday morning because there was a new Group Power release. We got to do the January 2020 release for the first time and I have to admit that I really liked it.

Since I attend Group Power classes 3 or 4 times a week it’s always nice to switch it up and get some new music and exercises with the new releases. Have you done the January 2020 Group Power release yet? What do you think of it?

I’ve had Meet Me in Monaco (affiliate link) by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb on hold at my library for what seems like forever, and I finally got to the top of the list. I was very excited when I got the email that it had been downloaded to my ebook app from my library.

I got to spend a few days in Monaco the last time I was in Europe back in 2006, so it’s pretty cool that I can remember exactly what the scenery looks like. Although the book is set in the 50’s, I know that the beaches and water would have been pretty similar back then. I’m about 100 pages in and really enjoying it so far.

For lunch on Saturday I met up with a friend of mine. While we were having lunch we realized that we’ve known each other for just over 20 years now. Her and her family moved to Calgary a few years after my family did. It’s hard to believe that I was a teenager and she was a kid 20 years ago. It was great to have some time together to catch up and we’re hoping to make getting together a more consistent thing.

I headed to see my boyfriend for dinner on Sunday. We took his dog for a walk before we went to eat. Sunday was the first time since the cold snap started a week before that it was warm enough for him to go for a walk outdoors. My boyfriend had been taking Winston for walks in his parkade all week when it was -40 with the windchill. Winston was clearly pretty happy to be back at the park and getting pets from people on his usual route yesterday.

We dropped Winston off at my boyfriend’s place and then the two of us headed out for dinner at Vagabond. I was craving a burger so that’s what I went with – on a lettuce bun instead of the usual bread one. They have the best side salads there, so I chose that over fries.

What was the highlight of your weekend? Tell me about it in the comments below.

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Weekly Workouts + Meals: Unexpected Rest Days + Burgers

Today I’m recapping my week of workouts and food.

Workouts

Sunday

I went to a Group Power class at my gym. I was back at doing my usual weights after being sore for a few days last week after a really hard lower body workout.

It felt really good to be back at it. The new Group Power release is debuting on Sunday at my gym so I’m really looking forward to some new music and exercises!

Monday

I usually take a Group Power class on Mondays but I had an appointment so I wasn’t able to make it. Instead I went for a quick walk on the treadmill at home for 20 minutes. It wasn’t much but it helped me get in my steps for the day.

Tuesday

I made it back to the gym on Tuesday for a cardio workout on the elliptical. I spent 30 minutes doing steady state cardio on it before I walked on the track for an additional 20 minutes.

Wedesday

It was going to be a planned rest day on Wednesday, but I also woke up with a sore lower back. I’m thinking I slept on it wrong because I didn’t remember doing anything during the day that would have aggravated it.

Thursday

Thursday was also a rest day because I took my dad to an appointment. The weather was terrible which meant that traffic was bad so we had to leave really early. Since his appointment was at 8:30 am that meant that I wasn’t able to get to the gym and back home and showered before we had to leave at 7:30 am.

Friday

Friday was another rest day because my back wasn’t feeling any better and I didn’t want to make it worse with a Group Power class. I could have modified and gone with lighter weights, but there’s quite a few deadlifts and bent over rows. I just didn’t want to push it.

Saturday

I’m really looking forward to getting back to the gym today! My back is feeling a whole lot better now. I’m planning on some cardio on the elliptical.

Meals

Like I mentioned, it’s been really cold this week here in Calgary, so that meant that I was all about the hot and filling meals this week.

Hamburger

I picked up a couple frozen beef patties last weekend and I cooked a couple of them up this week. I had been craving burgers like crazy so it tasted extra good. I paired it with a piece of multi grain toast with margarine, plain Greek yogurt, and some coleslaw.

3 Cheese Omelette

I went out for breakfast with my boyfriend the other day. We went to Gruman’s and I ordered their three cheese omelette. I’d never had it before but it was so good. It came with a couple of potato latkes and toast.

Chicken Burger

Apparently I was all about the burgers this week, because in addition to the beef ones, I also cooked up some chicken burgers. I ended up going with one and a half on this day because I was really hungry after my Group Power class. I paired it with a slice of multi grain toast and some Brussels sprouts.

And now for snacks!

Pop Corners White Cheddar Cheese Chips

These were so good! I’d had the bag for awhile but finally opened it this week and I’m so glad that I did because they were so good!

These are one of those things that I have to portion out for myself because otherwise it’s really easy to eat the whole bag and not even realize it until it’s empty. If you’re looking for a crunchy and savory snack I highly recommend these.

Watermelon Nuun

I’m still loving these watermelon Nuuns. It’s a new to me flavor and I’m a bit surprised that it’s taken me this long to try it.

I pop a Nuun into my water bottle whenever I’m going to workout. It adds electrolytes which is perfect when I know I’m going to be sweaty minus all the the added calories and sugar in sports drinks.

What was a favorite workout of yours this week? Your favorite meal? Share in the comments below.

Friday Favorites: Chips + Heated Parkades

Happy Friday – the weekend is almost here! This week has been a busy one so I’m looking forward to some down time this weekend and catching up with a friend for coffee on Sunday. I hope you have some fun stuff on the agenda too for the next few days.

And now onto some of my favorite things!

Pop Corners White Cheddar Chips

I’m pretty sure I’ve eaten these before, but I honestly can’t remember what I thought of them. I actually bought them a few weeks ago but didn’t open the bag until a few days ago.

They were delicious and just what I needed when I was craving something savory and crunchy. White cheddar can sometimes have a fake taste to it, but I didn’t find that with these. I’ll definitely be buying them again.

Heated underground parkades

With the cold snap that’s been hovering over Calgary since the beginning of the week, it’s been pretty miserable. The temperatures have been in the -30’s C (-22 F), and with the windchill it was -41 C (–41 F) yesterday morning. That’s “wearing two pairs of gloves and making sure that the block heater in your car is plugged in so that it’ll start” weather. Needless to say I’ve been spending as little time as possible outside. Thankfully it’s supposed to warm up over the weekend and by Monday it’s going to be just above the freezing point. I don’t think that temperature will ever feel as warm as it will next week!

I usually park on the street when I’m downtown and avoid the parkades because they’re always more expensive. This week though I splurged and paid way more than I usually do to park in a heated underground parkade. To be completely honest it was so worth it despite paying more for it. I didn’t have to clean any snow off my car and it was nice and warm when I came back to it. I didn’t even have to worry about it starting. I’m pretty sure I got one of the last parking spots down there, so I’m grateful I got there when I did. If there was ever a time to splurge on a heated and protected parking spot, it was this week with the cold snap.

Breakfast at Gruman’s

On Thursday morning I was just south of downtown, so I made plans with my boyfriend to meet up for breakfast. We decided to go to Gruman’s because it was close and didn’t require much of a walk in the cold.

We were rewarded for venturing into the cold with a delicious breakfast. I went with the three cheese omelette, a couple potato latkes, and some multi grain toast. It was all really good. I don’t think I’d ever ordered the omelette before, but it was better than I thought it was going to be.

What’s a favorite of yours from the past week? Share it in the comments below.