Increased risk of harm from cannabis across Europe

Cannabis resin and herbal cannabis have significantly increased in potency and in price, according to the first study to investigate changes in cannabis across Europe.

The study, published today (Sunday 30 December) in the journal Addiction by researchers from the University of Bath and King’s College London, draws on data collected from across 28 EU Member states, as well as Norway and Turkey by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction.

The findings show that for herbal cannabis, concentrations of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (‘THC’ — the main psychoactive constituent of cannabis) increased by a similar amount each year, from 5% in 2006 to 10% in 2016.

For cannabis resin (or hash), THC concentrations were relatively stable from 2006 to 2011 (from 8% to 10%) but then increased rapidly from 2011 to 2016 (from 10% to 17%). The price of cannabis resin also increased, but to a lesser extent than for herbal cannabis.

Lead author Dr Tom Freeman from the Addiction and Mental Health Group within the Department of Psychology at the University of Bath, said: “These findings show that cannabis resin has changed rapidly across Europe, resulting in a more potent and better value product.”

Unlike herbal cannabis, cannabis resin typically contains cannabidiol (CBD) in addition to THC. CBD has recently attracted considerable interest due to its potential to treat several medical conditions including childhood epilepsy syndromes, psychosis and anxiety. When present in cannabis, CBD may offset some of the harmful effects of THC such as paranoia and memory impairment.

Cannabis containing higher levels of THC and / or lower levels of CBD has been linked to greater long-term harms such as the development of cannabis dependence, and an increased risk of psychotic illness. New resin production techniques in Morocco and Europe have increased levels of THC, but not CBD.

Dr Freeman added: “CBD has the potential to make cannabis safer, without limiting the positive effects users seek. What we are seeing in Europe is an increase in THC and either stable or decreasing levels of CBD, potentially making cannabis more harmful. These changes in the illicit market are largely hidden from scientific investigation and are difficult to target by policy-makers. An alternative option could be to attempt to control THC and CBD content through regulation.”

It is estimated that 24 million people (or 7.2%) of European adults used cannabis in the last year. Across the globe 192 million people use the drug in a variety of markets, ranging from heavily sanctioned prohibition to commercialised legal sale. Cannabis policies are rapidly changing across the globe.

Recreational use is now legalised in Canada and several US states, and medical use is permitted in many more countries, including very recently in the UK.

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Bath. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

14 Benefits of Female Masturbation and Why Every Woman Should Do It

It’s kind of wild that female masturbation is still something of a taboo topic. This is especially galling when you take the benefits of female masturbation into account. It would be one thing if masturbation were just this thing you do without any potential payoff, but in reality, masturbation—and the orgasms it may cause—can bring a lot of good into your life. These benefits aren’t even just limited to your sexual health.

“I recommend [masturbation] to the women I [treat],” says Kelley Kitely, L.C.S.W., a women’s mental health expert based in Chicago, tells SELF. “But a lot of women are embarrassed by it. My hope is that we can normalize it for women, too, because it’s such a natural function,” Kitely says. “I like to refer to it [on the same level of importance] as eating, sleeping, and brushing our teeth.” Sign us up.

Although there’s not a wealth of science on the subject (can researchers pursue that a little more fervently, please?), many experts believe masturbation can improve your wellbeing in various ways. As a bonus, if you go with the most basic version, “masturbation is safe, easy, and free,” Wendie Trubow, M.D., president of Five Journeys Integrative Medicine, tells SELF.
Still not enough to sell you? Read on for why you should go ahead and get off. Whether you’re a master-bator, or a self-love newbie, think of this as a primer or reminder of why you should touch yourself, bust out a toy, or otherwise go after it in the way that delights you most. As Dr. Trubow tells SELF, how you do it is “really a matter of personal preference.” But we’d argue that it’s a matter of personal care that you do it at all.

Before we dive into our rationale, a quick note on terminology: We understand that you don’t need organs like a uterus or vagina to be a woman. In this article, we’re using terms such as “female masturbation” to represent the act in people with vaginas in accordance with the science on the subject—but many of these benefits are in effect no matter your gender or sexual and reproductive organs.

OK, now for the benefits:

1. The focus necessary to orgasm can help push stress from your mind.

Picture the most mind-blowing orgasm—or even the most incredible non-orgasmic sexual experience you’ve ever had. Chances are it probably didn’t happen while you were fretting about a big work presentation or mentally running through your endless to-do list.

Getting to orgasm often requires putting any stressful thoughts out of your mind, then the wave of pleasure compounds that effect. Orgasm “shifts the focus” away from anything that is stressing you out, says Kitely. While we can’t present you with a landmark piece of science backing this up, just think about how stress often recedes when you throw yourself into something you really enjoy. It’s basically the same situation here.

Since we’d be remiss not to mention that some people have a hard time achieving orgasm and that orgasm isn’t a necessary part of a fulfilling experience, let’s be really clear here: Any kind of sexual pleasure, orgasmic or not, may help take your mind off the stressful realities of day-to-day life. Even if it’s temporary, that’s still a win!

2. An orgasm-induced endorphin release can also help with stress relief and put you in a great mood.

So, here’s part two of masturbation’s stress-relieving powers: Having an orgasm releases endorphins that can help quell stress, at least temporarily, Dr. Trubow tells SELF.

Endorphins are neurotransmitters that can bring about positive feelings. To be fair, there aren’t scientifically solid major studies that show a clear link between masturbation, endorphin release, and positive feelings. However, it is a generally accepted medical fact that physical activity helps to increase your endorphins, according to the Mayo Clinic. What is masturbation if not an incredibly pleasurable form of physical activity? Think about the moment after you’ve had an orgasm: You’re all like “V is for victory,” right? (Right before you sigh, smile, and take a nap, which we’ll get to in just a second.)

FYI, those endorphins are like the ones you get from a great workout, says Kitely, so that runner’s high now becomes your orgasm high. This means that perhaps there’s something to the idea, then, that masturbating before heading into the office can leave you with a clearer head, just like exercise can. Some people have even reported having more energy post-masturbation orgasm, says Kitely, just as people can experience an increase in energy after exercise. All good things.

3. Having an orgasm could also make you really tired, potentially helping you to fall asleep.

Let’s chat about what happens as you work your way toward orgasm. This process is part of what is known as the sexual response cycle, and going through it is a major reason why orgasmic release feels so great.

As you masturbate or have sex, your body cycles through different stages that come with very real physiological changes. For instance, in desire, the first phase, your heart and breathing rates start climbing, and your clitoris becomes engorged with blood so you actually have a little erection, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Your muscles get all tense, too, in preparation for release. These kinds of changes ramp up as you approach orgasm.

When you reach orgasm, then, you unleash all that pent-up energy and tension. Your muscles spasm. Your blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing are at their highest, most frenetic rates, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Is it any wonder that all of this can be exhausting, and in the post-orgasm resolution phase, you may experience some fatigue?

It’s not just that all this work and release can be tiring. One theory holds that orgasm (whether through masturbation or sex) appears to prompt the release of more prolactin, a hormone that is linked with sexual satiety and is also implicated in sleep.

Obviously, it’s not like an orgasm is a failsafe sleep aid, especially if you have sleep issues like insomnia. But for some people, the relaxation masturbation provides can be a great way to get really tired really quickly (or really slowly, depending on how you go about your masturbatory business). “It’s great to do right before bed, in the bath, or during other relaxing nighttime rituals,” Kitely tells SELF. “It naturally just puts people in a meditative state,” she says.

4. Exploring what gets you off the best can help you feel more self-assured in your sexuality.

There’s some outdated yet still pervasive cultural stigmatization when it comes to female masturbation. This can translate into people with vaginas often feeling ashamed of their own bodies and sexuality, Kitely says. A huge benefit of female masturbation comes down to doing away with that shame. One of the most enduring, immutable facts about human nature is that we’re sexual beings. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s wonderful.

“I really believe firmly in [masturbation] building confidence and self-esteem for women and knowing their own bodies and what they like,” Kitely says. Masturbation is one of the best ways to learn about your sexuality, help you understand what your preferences are, and learn how best to reach orgasm] if that’s something your body can do. And when you’re consistently, perhaps quite literally tapping into this really special part of yourself, you’re probably feeling pretty, pretty good. (Yes, that’s Larry David you hear saying that in the back of your mind.)

5. It may help increase your libido. (Yes, you can have your cake and eat it, too.)

This is the best kind of vicious cycle, in that it’s not really vicious at all.

Dr. Trubow explains it as a “feed-forward” mechanism, which means that the more one stimulates oneself, the more one wants to be stimulated. This is another benefit of female masturbation that really comes down to human nature: When you experience a little bit of something that’s amazingly pleasurable, whether it’s a delectable piece of carrot cake or a delightful orgasm, you’re probably going to want more of that good stuff.

This would be awesome no matter what, but there’s one reason why it’s particularly great: Many people with vaginas deal with low libido at some point. There’s a vast range of potential causes, including depression, pain during sex, drinking too much alcohol, chronic illness, and fatigue, according to the Mayo Clinic. No matter the source, it can be awful to feel like you’re losing touch with the sexual part of yourself. That’s where masturbation comes in for some people.

“A woman who is looking to get back into being sexual is encouraged to masturbate since it can lead to more sexual thoughts and better sexual response,” says Dr. Trubow.

With that said, sometimes masturbation isn’t enough to boost a low libido. You definitely shouldn’t feel like you’re failing in any way if this is your experience. All it means is that you may benefit from seeing a medical professional who can get to the root of your low libido and offer potential ways to treat the issue.

6. If you’re in a relationship, masturbation may make you more interested in having sex with your partner.

This comes from the same feed-forward mechanism Dr. Trubow explains above: Once you feed your libido, it often desires more. That might translate into even more masturbation, in which case, go you. And, if you have a partner, it can also mean more sex with them. It’s not just about quantity—the quality might go up thanks to your masturbation, too.

So, real talk for a sec: Masturbation did help my relationship. By heightening my own sexual awareness, I’m more conscious of what I like and can direct my husband to those specific spots or feelings. Figuring out what you like with a partner is special. But feeling the freedom to explore your sexual likes and dislikes on your own—then bringing that into your relationship—is another way of creating an overall greater sex life together.

More sex in a relationship is often a totally welcome and exciting development. The only exception is if masturbation is actually getting in the way of connecting with your partner, Kitely says. It’s one thing if you happen to masturbate more than you have sex with your partner and you’re both perfectly happy with that. But if you find that your masturbatory habits are disrupting your relationship or life in some way, seeing a sex therapist might be a great idea. Here’s how to find one.

7. You can give your heart a bit of a workout if you really get active.

To be clear, we’re not saying masturbation is enough of a workout that it can replace your usual exercise sessions. But remember how we talked about the sexual response cycle, and specifically how it involves an increase in your heart and breathing rate? It stands to reason that if you have a really long, intense bout of masturbation, you may get your heart rate up significantly enough to give it a workout.

Unfortunately, science hasn’t yet delivered a final verdict on how much of a heart workout masturbation, sex, and orgasms really offer. But, according to the experts, over time masturbation may be able to at least slightly contribute to improved cardiovascular health and endurance. “The power [of] this depends on how vigorously a woman is masturbating,” Dr. Trubow says. “If she can sustain her heart rate and work up a sweat, then it’s great for cardiovascular health!”

8. You can also give your pelvic floor a workout while you masturbate.

It’s pretty hard to talk about the benefits of female masturbation without discussing the pelvic floor. Your pelvic floor is a group of muscles that support crucial internal organs like your bladder and uterus, according to the Mayo Clinic. Having a strong pelvic floor is important because it can help you avoid or lessen issues like leaking pee when you sneeze, laugh, or cough. (This kind of thing can happen after you have a baby, for instance.)

The cool thing about having a pelvic floor is that it’s really just like other muscles in your body—it responds to strengthening exercises. In this case, these strengthening exercises are known as Kegels. The first step in doing Kegels is identifying your pelvic floor muscles, which you can do by stopping your stream of pee (or pretending you’re doing that even if you’re not peeing). Feel that kind of internal clench? Those are your pelvic floor muscles at work.

There are different Kegel workout regimens, like squeezing and holding the muscles for five seconds, then releasing, and doing 15 reps of that sequence three times over. But you can also work out your Kegels while you masturbate with toys like small, weighty Ben Wa balls you insert inside your vagina. As a bonus, a stronger pelvic floor may translate into stronger orgasms, too.

9. You might give your butt and inner thighs a mini-workout.

It would be pretty cool to see masturbation-induced gains at the gym, right? OK, let’s start with the (slightly) bad news first. Not to be too much of a downer, but just like masturbating isn’t going to work your heart the same way a cycling class would, it’s probably not going to give your thighs and glutes any kind of major strengthening benefits.

However, that doesn’t mean masturbation won’t do anything at all in this arena. Thanks to your sexual response cycle, your muscles do tense up and spasm as you get sexually excited and achieve orgasm (whether through masturbation or sex). So, the end result is that you probably naturally engage muscles in areas like your inner thighs and butt as you work to get off. There are few things better than finding a form of exercise that barely feels like exercise at all, which is just another reason why masturbation can be such a blessing.

10. Masturbating increases blood flow to the vagina, which may help counteract menopause’s uncomfortable effects on the area.

You’re probably already aware of some characteristic menopause symptoms, like hot flashes. But did you know that menopause can affect your vagina, too?

According to the Mayo Clinic, menopause happens when your ovaries start producing a low enough level of hormones like estrogen and progesterone that you no longer have a menstrual cycle. You officially enter menopause when you’ve gone a full year without a period, which typically happens in a person’s 40s or 50s in the United States. (The average age is 51, the Mayo Clinic notes.) Things like having a hysterectomy or undergoing cancer treatment such as chemotherapy can put a person into menopause earlier than this.

In addition to regulating your menstrual cycle, estrogen helps to promote vaginal lubrication, the Mayo Clinic says. So, when this hormone is dropping in the months and years leading up to menopause (perimenopause) and during menopause itself, you can deal with a phenomenon known as vaginal atrophy, which essentially means your vagina might be much drier than usual, leading to discomfort (especially during penetrative sex and masturbation).

There are various treatments for this, including vaginal lubricants and moisturizers, the Mayo Clinic says. But the organization also mentions the fact that staying sexually active can help because it increases blood flow to the vagina, prompting more lubrication. Whether you incorporate that sexual activity through masturbation or with a partner (or both), it may help relieve some vaginal discomfort.

Dr. Trubow also specifically recommends that perimenopausal and menopausal people try masturbating with internal toys such as dildos to “maintain vaginal resiliency.” “[These toys] can train the vaginal muscles to expand and maintain elasticity,” Dr. Trubow says.

With that said, you don’t need to try this technique if it’s uncomfortable for you. If you’re dealing with symptoms like vaginal dryness and discomfort, talk to your doctor to make sure you land on the most effective treatment plan possible.

11. Masturbating can help relieve menstrual cramps, too.

If you get cramps when you get your period, you might not want to move at all, much less put in the effort required to have an orgasm. But it may actually be able to help lessen those cramps, at least in the short-term.

Quick biology refresher: When you have your period, it means your uterus is sloughing off any endometrial lining it’s built up to support a potential pregnancy. It would be super helpful if your uterus could do this without bothering you at all, but sometimes it results in pain. You can thank prostaglandins for that.

Prostaglandins are hormone-like chemicals that prompt your uterus—which is a muscle, FYI—to contract in order to expel that unnecessary lining. Voilà: Now you have cramps. And, while it may feel like masturbation is no match here, we’ve got one word for you: endorphins. Those feel-good neurotransmitters don’t only help relieve stress, they actually seem able to relieve pain, too. This can result in your cramps dwindling, perhaps even significantly if you’re lucky. (Tried it. It works for me.)
The major caveat here is that sometimes these endorphins aren’t going to be a match for period pain, no matter how strong the orgasm. If you have period cramps that are painful enough to really interrupt your life, don’t leave this one up to masturbation—see your doctor for help.

12. You can experiment with having multiple orgasms.

This huge benefit of female masturbation is a real reward for all your hard work. Here’s the deal: If you have one orgasm, you can probably have another one again—and soon. Dear reader, welcome to the incredible world of multiple orgasms.

Let’s return to that sexual response cycle for a second. Once your orgasm is over, your body basically returns to normal functioning. Your heart rate and breathing decline, your vagina and breasts come down from their heightened swollen state, your brain can produce coherent thoughts again—you get the gist. At this point, you can go about whatever else is on your agenda for the day. Or, if you want, you can go after another orgasm again pretty much immediately.

It’s much easier for people with vaginas to have multiple orgasms because there’s no need for a refractory period, which is the recovery time people with penises need before they can reach orgasm again, the Cleveland Clinic explains. Depending on how your specific body works, you might want a little break anyway if your genitals are feeling overly sensitive. But overall, having a vagina means you can get back on the orgasmic horse much more quickly than if you had a penis.

13. Sexual activity—including masturbation—is associated with better cognition as you age.

You might feel like your brain and vagina are two completely separate entities, but they may be more connected than you think. Some research shows that sexual activity, masturbation included, is linked with better cognition in aging adults.

For instance, a 2017 study in The Journals of Gerontology studied 73 people between the ages of 50 and 83 who participated in a range of sexual activities (including masturbation) at varying frequencies. The study authors found that more frequent sexual activity was associated with higher scores on cognitive tests that evaluated thing like memory and verbal fluency.

These study results backed up a similar study from 2016, this one published in Age and Ageing. This earlier study was much larger, examining 6,833 adults from the ages of 50 to 89 who participated in various forms and frequencies of sexual activity, including masturbation. The study authors found that, overall, sexual activity was associated with a “modest benefit” in various aspects of cognitive function in older adults, specifically between sexual activity and memory recall in older women.

Experts aren’t yet sure why this connection may exist, but they posit that neurotransmitters like dopamine, which is involved in sexual activity, may offer a protective benefit for the brain.

None of this is to say that masturbation is the key to keeping your brain sharp no matter your age, or even that it’s certain to directly benefit your brain health for the time being. But what scientists have found so far here is pretty cool.

14. And, perhaps amazingly, some experts believe masturbating can even temporarily strengthen your immune system.

OK, stay with us here. This is by no means concluding that masturbating is going to make your immunity skyrocket. Sometimes things like the common cold are just going to get you no matter how much very happy time you spend playing with yourself in bed or wherever else strikes your fancy.

But there may be something to the idea that good sexual health can translate into good overall health. One admittedly tiny study (again, science, more attention on this subject, please!) supports this notion. A piece of 2003 research in NeuroImmunoModulation recruited 11 very game volunteers who agreed to abstain from sex for 24 hours, watch pornography, then masturbate until orgasm. There was also a control session that involved watching a documentary and not masturbating at all.

The researchers found that five minutes post-orgasm, the study subjects had an increased level of certain types of lymphocytes (white blood cells that help your immune system fend off illness). The scientists concluded that specific components of the immune system appear to activate with sexual arousal and orgasm.

Is one 11-person study enough to say that you should definitely masturbate because it will absolutely make you less likely to get sick? Nope. But think about this: Your immune system is at its best when you’re engaging in a variety of healthy lifestyle habits such as getting enough sleep and reducing stress as much as you can. As you now know, masturbation can help you succeed in these areas—so, in some senses, it really may make you healthier overall.

Additional Reporting by Zahra Barnes

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Dry January Can Be Amazing For Your Health, If Done The Right Way

Dry January, aka ditching alcohol in the first month of the new year, is an annual tradition for many people. For some, it’s part of a New Year’s resolution to drink less, while others claim it’s a way to “detox” from excessive drinking over the holidays—but all swear that it’s going to do beneficial things for their health.

At SELF, we’re not usually fans of fad diets or gimmicky health changes that may not be sustainable for the long haul. That’s because any type of deprivation with an expiration date tends to not have a lot of benefits once it’s over. Even if you reap some benefits in the short-term, you might end up overindulging once you reach your goal.

But, as far as wellness trends go, dry January seems pretty harmless—in fact, it could actually do really great things for your health—if you approach it the right way.

First, come up with your “why.”

Before you commit to dry January, it’s important to consider why you’re doing it. There’s obviously nothing wrong with abstaining from or limiting your alcohol intake. Excessive drinking and binge drinking can lead to several negative health effects, including weight gain, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, women’s health expert Jennifer Wider, M.D., tells SELF. “Excessive drinking also impairs your sleeping patterns and increases the risk for certain diseases, including breast cancer, heart disease, stroke, and liver problems,” she says.

But taking a one-month hiatus from drinking won’t necessarily turn back the clock—nor will it make it acceptable to drink as much as you want the rest of the year. So it’s important to consider why you’re taking a break from drinking this month.

Next, consider how much you’re actually drinking these days.

In most cases, the benefits of Dry January will depend on what your baseline drinking behaviors are, George F. Koob, Ph.D., director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), tells SELF. Someone who drinks occasionally probably won’t notice as much of a difference as someone who has four or five drinks in one night—several nights a week. So, for our intents and purposes, let’s assume we’re talking about someone who drinks more than what’s considered “moderate,” which actually depends on who’s defining “moderate.”

The USDA Dietary Guidelines defines moderate drinking as up to one drink per day for women, while the NIAAA defines low-risk drinking as no more than seven drinks per week for women, or no more than three drinks on any single day. So if you’re drinking a lot more than that, keep in mind that this transition may be a bit harder for you than someone else.

You should also be careful—and possibly give your doctor a heads up—before abruptly stopping drinking if you’ve been drinking a lot, as you may experience withdrawal symptoms. “Most people are going to think of it like a hangover but if you have a predisposition to seizures or you’re on seizure medication, abruptly stopping alcohol could trigger a seizure,” says Koob.

So what health benefits can you reasonably expect from dry January?

1. You might lose some weight.

If you’re having several drinks a week, one of the main benefits of dry January could be a decrease in your overall calories, since a standard drink typically has around 150 calories, says Koob. If you’re trying to lose weight, cutting alcohol is one way to do it without compromising any of the fuel and nutrients your body needs.

“Alcohol contributes calories but doesn’t make us feel more satisfied—it often amps up hunger,” New York-based registered dietitian Jessica Cording tells SELF. Since alcohol has a dehydrating effect, it can also contribute to bloating, she says, noting that its ability to impair your judgment may also lead you to make poor food choices that can contribute to weight gain.

2. You could see how your body feels without booze.

“The biggest benefit is learning where your body is in relation to alcohol and what you want your relationship with it to be,” says Koob. If, for instance, you’ve been feeling not your best lately and you suspect that your regular (or excessive) drinking habits might be contributing to that, it could be helpful to see how you’re feeling (mentally, physically, socially, etc.) when you don’t have booze for a month.

“For some people, it can be a great way to hit the reset button and get their systems back on track,” says Cording. Dr. Wider agrees, telling SELF that “it’s not a bad idea, especially if you are trying to cut down on your drinking.”

3. You might sleep better and feel more energized.

“It may help you feel more clear-headed and experience better sleep along with regular digestion,” Cording says. “This can help you feel more energetic and stay motivated to get in your workouts and stick to overall healthy eating habits.”

And the sheer fact that you’re not going out drinking most nights can lead to sleeping more and skipping fewer workouts. All of that can impact how productive you are, how focused you are at work, and how you feel overall, says Koob.

4. Your immune system may be in better shape.

When it comes to your immune system, the snowball effect of positive health habits may be more influential than just abstaining from alcohol. According to Koob, being intoxicated can acutely suppress immune function making you more vulnerable to pathogens, while chronic drinking can lead to inflammatory reactions throughout the body. While there isn’t data to suggest that ditching booze can protect you from the flu, it’s reasonable to assume that drinking less, sleeping more, and exercising more can all have a positive influence on your immune system.

5. Your general health may improve.

As we mentioned, excessive drinking can lead to things like weight gain, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, all of which can increase your risk of developing serious health conditions. So, even though abstaining for one month won’t turn back the clock, it likely couldn’t hurt as far as your health is concerned.

While we don’t know exactly what effect dry January will have on your liver, we do know that alcohol puts metabolic stress on the liver and that about half of all liver disease deaths are from alcoholic liver disease, says Koob. So it’s reasonable to assume that abstaining from drinking is generally good on your liver—as long as you don’t use this hiatus as an excuse to drink however much you want the other 11 months of the year.

6. You might reevaluate your relationship with alcohol.

Once Dry January is over, check in with yourself to see how the experiment went and what that might mean for your drinking habits going forward. Do you feel better? Healthier? More productive? Have you saved money? Do you really miss being able to chat with colleagues or a date over a beer? Maybe you’ve found that you’re more energized without all those hangovers, or you’re less anxious after a night of drinking. Or maybe you’ve found that you lost a few pounds, but you otherwise feel the same and just miss the social aspects of drinking with friends. All of these are helpful takeaways to consider after your experiment.

Bottom line: Dry January can have some great health benefits if you go about it the right way.

Obviously it doesn’t hurt to participate in Dry January, but you’ll reap the most health benefits if you think of it as a springboard to revisit your overall relationship with alcohol. Oh, and don’t forget that your tolerance to alcohol’s effects will often be lower after a month without drinking, Koob says, so be careful not to overdo it the first time you have a drink again.

Remember, ditching alcohol for a month and then resuming your usual drinking habits isn’t going to do much for your long-term health if you tend to overdo it. “This isn’t a great pattern: binge/abstain, binge/abstain,” Dr. Wider says. “Just like other substances, alcohol in excess has health consequences, regardless of whether you go dry for a month.” That’s why she says it’s better for your overall health to be a moderate drinker in general rather than going from one extreme to the other.

Cording agrees. “This is a great time to think about what a realistic amount of alcohol is for your lifestyle,” she says. “Think about how to fit it in in a way that feels balanced.”

“Learn from the experience,” says Koob. “What is your relationship with alcohol, and where do you want to be?”

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7 Ways to Look Flawless While Transitioning to Natural Hair

While the transition from relaxed to natural hair texture is usually a beautiful and empowering experience, it can often be a real struggle. Styling hair when it’s in-between textures—or straight, wavy, and/or curly at the same time—can make it tempting to disguise your hair in a top knot every single day of the week.

“When transitioning from relaxed to natural, retaining moisture and proper detangling is key,” says Monique Rodriguez, founder of hair brand Mielle Organics. “As your natural hair grows, you may experience a new challenge in caring for two different textures. Products designed to make your natural hair more manageable are best during this period.”

I’ve had plenty of moments in my personal journey where, after a wash and go, my hair has been super coily in certain sections, while simultaneously having straight ends in others. Needless to say, these moments can be extremely frustrating when you’re ready for your hair to finally have one cohesive texture. To find out how to best manage transitioning hair (without wanting to pull it out entirely), we spoke with a few natural hair gurus to get details on how to help your hair look and feel healthy in 2019 and beyond. These expert tips will help make your curls really pop.

1. Consider the “big chop”.

Peathegee Inc/Getty Images

Going all in on the “big chop”—or dramatically cutting off relaxed hair into a short style—is one of the fastest ways to start your natural hair journey, but it’s definitely not a requirement. “It’s not for everyone, but a big chop is very therapeutic and it naturally pushes you headfirst into self-acceptance and understanding your texture,” celebrity hairstylist Angela Stevens tells SELF.

If you’re interested in hanging on to your hair length for a little while longer, don’t feel pressure to chop it all off. During her transition process, celebrity hairstylist Monique McCorkle would snip her relaxed ends after each shampoo. “Every time I washed my hair, the dead ends would get all knotted up, so trimming my hair made it more manageable and cut down on my styling time,” she explains. For those who don’t feel as comfortable cutting their hair totally off, regular trims at a salon are a great option for keeping hair healthy and even while it grows. Stevens advises trimming hair every four to six weeks, because as curly strands grow, straight hair is often more prone to breakage at the meeting point.

2. Experiment with protective hairstyles.

Protective styles, like weaves, braids, and wigs, to are great tools to help protect new growth,” explains McCorkle. While it’s easy to pull your hair back every day, hairstylist Sammy LaCombe says these looks can thin out your hairline and damage your roots from all the tugging and excess force. Instead, try out different protective styles that put less tension on the hair, but still keep your ends tucked away.

“Braids and weaves are great protection when done with the health of the hair in mind,” says Stevens. “Here are some things to consider: Pain and hydration. At no point in the service should the styling be painful, although it is a common misconception that has allowed hair loss to prevail. If it’s too tight, speak up, or reconsider your hairstylist. It’s also very important to make sure the hair and scalp are moisturized prior to implementing a protective style. Brush through the hair with a paddle brush after oiling the scalp to evenly distribute the moisture on the hair that’s meant to be braided—it will help increase circulation, which helps to promote hair growth.” While protective styles can help give your hair a break, hairstylist Gabrielle Corney suggests wearing these styles in moderation, as more breakage could be caused between natural and relaxed parts of hair.

3. Disguise straight ends with a well-placed curl.

Even if you’re dealing with particularly straight ends, it’s still possible to wear a curly hairstyle while transitioning. A two-strand twist out or foam roller set can completely hide the appearance of relaxed hair by helping to make it more uniform. Bonus: Since foam hair curlers are cushy and narrow, they won’t tug at your hair like many plastic rollers can, and can be purchased at most drug or beauty supply stores. To get a curly look with foam rollers at home, wrap a one-inch section of conditioned damp hair around a rod at a time, then sit under a hood dryer until hair is completely dry. Next, gently remove the rollers to reveal a bouncy set of curls. LaCombe’s preferred curly style method is created with two-strand twists. “At night I’ll put my hair in thick twists, coil the twists into buns, and pin them,” she explains. “In the morning, I’ll take them out and shake them out.”

4. Try out new hair accessories.

Mireya Acierto/Getty Images

With the chill of winter months ahead, you’ll probably want to avoid going outside with a wet head. If you don’t have time to style your hair before heading to work in the morning, there are plenty of accessories—some made specifically for natural hair types—that you can use to illustrate your personal style. One versatile accessory is the head scarf or turban, which can be tied into a wide variety of different shapes to completely cover or accent your hair. Other quick and easy accessory ideas can include decorative headbands or barrettes for days when you want to keep hair out of your face, or spice up a second- or third-day hairstyle.

5. Make heat protectants your new BFF when using hot tools.

PeopleImages/Getty Images

When heat is used properly, it can be a wonderful aid for styling natural hair. Hairstylist and author Anthony Dickey recommends transitioning women use hooded dryers, hair dryers, and other hot tools on a low setting to better protect against heat damage. If you’re looking to completely straighten your hair while transitioning from a relaxer, a great heat protectant is key.

“Some natural hair lines that I love with heat protectants are Mielle Organics and Alodia,” says Stevens. “I usually like to use a thermal leave-in cream before blow drying, and a heat protectant spray throughout the hair before straightening. Lastly, one pass of a hot tool per section is the best protection against heat damage—don’t overdo it, ladies!”

6. Supplement your shampoo routine with co-washing.

Youngoldman/Getty Images

Co-washing is a process that utilizes a conditioner to hydrate and cleanse hair in place of shampoo. Using this method can help to not only reset your curly wash-and-go style, but also provide moisture outside of your go-to leave-in conditioner. Reserve use of a sudsy shampoo for about once every two weeks to help remove any product build-up from hair.

“The reason to love co-wash is that the cleanser is made of antimicrobial oils that still clean the hair but give it added moisture,” says Stevens. “Any style that’s heat-free will love the benefits of co-wash.” While this cleansing method can be useful to help keep hair hydrated, Corney says it should never take the place of a regular shampoo.

7. Schedule a consultation with a hairstylist who can help you transition properly.

George Doyle/Getty Images

Just like any other life experience, you may need a bit of professional help on your natural hair journey. Although there are some things you can do at home, utilizing the expertise of a stylist who understands natural hair can be a total game changer. “Seek the assistance of a professional cosmetologist who specializes in natural hair,” Rodriguez explains. “They can provide useful information on proper care for your hair texture and recommend at-home solutions in-between visits related to dryness, heat damage, dandruff, and more.”

Many salons offer hair consultations before the actual appointment to help better assess their clients’ needs. “From the first consultation alone, you will know whether or not the stylist understands your needs and will give you what you’re asking for,” says LaCombe. “If within that consultation, you feel like there’s a misunderstanding or they’re not going to do what you want to do, it’s not a good fit.”

Corney suggests that while the internet is vast and plenty of information available, it won’t cancel out the advice of a professional. “Seek out a qualified professional who wants to be your healthy hair care partner,” she explains. “You may be surprised on how much healthier your hair can be.”

Workout Calendar: SELF New Year’s Challenge 2019

Welcome to SELF’s New Year’s Challenge for 2019! Below you’ll find the official workout calendar—think of this as your complete schedule of events for every single workout you’ll be doing this month. Every strength workout in this challenge was designed exclusively for SELF by Alyssa Exposito, a top trainer based in New York City.

If you’ve done a challenge with SELF before, you might notice this one is a little different. Your strength workouts are all here, but your cardio workouts are up to you! Read all about how to schedule your cardio days, and get several suggested workout ideas right here. Each week you’ll have three strength workouts, two cardio workouts, and two rest or active rest days. You’ve also got several warm-up and cool-down options from which to choose. We’ll remind you of this every single day, but warm-ups and cool-downs are super important and help you lower your risk of hurting yourself. So don’t skip ’em!

Something else you’ll need: Make sure to download our workout PDF. You can use this handy calendar to pencil in your cardio workouts, check off each day of the challenge, and track your sleep each night. Why sleep? Because workouts are only a small part of the health equation. Other factors, like getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, and managing your mental health can all contribute to a healthy lifestyle.

Another important thing: We are obviously big fans of fitness challenges around here (understatement of the century). But we want to be clear that our fitness challenges are not intended to lead to weight loss. There’s a lot of reasons for that: For starters, lots of evidence points to the fact that simply working out alone isn’t likely to help you lose weight. So… it won’t be effective in the first place. But more importantly, there are just so many wonderful reasons to work out that have absolutely nothing to do with your weight. Regular exercise can do amazing things for your cardiovascular health. For your strength. For your mental health and overall mood. For your sleep! And ultimately that’s what this challenge is all about: Helping you develop a fitness habit, and hopefully helping you build up some strength along the way. Just want to make sure we’re all on the same page about that before we get going. Cool? Cool.

And finally, we’ll leave you with this: It’s a good idea to check in with your healthcare practitioner before you get started with any changes in your fitness or exercise habits. And that’s especially true if you’re dealing with any underlying health conditions, which include a history of disordered eating. If you have any questions or concerns at all, definitely reach out to your doctor.

Now… let’s get to it! Happy working out!

Morgan Johnson

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4


Top image: Photographer: Catherine Servel at Brydges Mackinney. Hair: Tetsuya Yamakata at ArtList. Makeup: Seong Hee at Julian Watson Agency. Manicure: Julie Kandalec at Bryan Bantry. Stylist: Sara Van Pée at Quadriga. Model Mia Kang is wearing Carbon38 tank top, similar styles at carbon38.com; Athleta sports bra, similar styles at athleta.com.

Core Bodyweight Builder and Tabata Burnout Workout: New Year’s Challenge – Day 9

Day 9 of the New Year’s Challenge, coming in hot! Welcome to your first day with a Tabata burnout. If you’re unfamiliar with what a Tabata workout is, you’re in for a treat!

Tabata, and other similar protocols of training, are sometimes called high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Trainers love this type of training because it maximizes time (they’re short!) and they’re effective (you’ll build cardiovascular endurance and get stronger). But there’s a catch: In order for them to work, you really have to push yourself. A Tabata is only four minutes long, but you need to be breathless by the end. When you get to that part of today’s workout, move as quickly and as safely as you can, and remember that it’s only four minutes—you can do this!

Like all of the workouts in this challenge, today’s was created just for SELF by top trainer, Alyssa Exposito. Don’t forget to do a warm-up and drink some water before you get started!

Katie Thompson/Morgan Johnson

The Workout

Here’s a detailed breakdown of the moves you’ll do.

Directions

Directions: Do each exercise for 45 seconds, resting 15 seconds between exercises. At the end of each round, rest 60-90 seconds.
Beginners: Do 2-3 rounds
Advanced: Do 3-5 rounds

You’ll need:

2 dumbbells


Walk-Out to Shoulder Tap

x 45 seconds

Katie Thompson
  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and core engaged. Hinge forward at the hip and place both hands on the floor.
  • Keeping core engaged and legs straight, walk hands forward one at a time to come into a high plank position.
  • Lift right hand to tap left shoulder, then left hand to tap right shoulder, while keeping core engaged and hips as stable as possible.
  • Walk hands back to feet, and stand to return to starting position.

Forearm Plank With Knee Tap

x 45 seconds alternating sides

Katie Thompson
  • Start in a forearm plank position, with core engaged and legs extended behind you.
  • With your core tight, gently tap your right knee to the floor.
  • Return to your starting position, then gently tap your left knee to the floor.
  • Continue to alternate, focusing on control over speed.

Body Dip

x 45 seconds

Katie Thompson
  • Grab a bench, box, or sturdy chair for this move. Sit on the edge of the box, and place both hands at your sides, with fingers turned toward your body.
  • Using your arms, lift your hips a few inches off the box and walk your feet a few inches forward.
  • With your core and glutes engaged, bend both elbows until they get to 90 degrees, allowing your hips to lower toward the floor. You can stay flat on your feet, or rest only on your heels. Either way, very little weight should be in your feet.
  • Extend both arms to return to starting position, without allowing yourself to sit on the box. Repeat.

At the end of each circuit rest for 60-90 seconds. Do the entire circuit 2-5 times, then do the Tabata Burnout.

Tabata Burnout

Do each move below for 20 seconds, resting 10 seconds between moves. Do the circuit back-to-back for a total of 4 minutes.


Up-Down Plank

x 20 seconds

Katie Thompson
  • From a high plank position, with core engaged and hips level, slowly lower onto right forearm, being careful to keep hips steady.
  • Lower on to your left forearm, so that you arrive in a forearm plank position.
  • Maintain an engaged core, pressing shoulder blades down your back and keeping a relaxed gaze at fingertips to ensure there’s no tension in your neck.
  • Place right hand on floor directly under your shoulders, then left hand, and push up to return to a high plank position.
  • The next time, start by lowering onto left forearm first. Continue to alternate.

Mini Flutter Kick

x 20 seconds

Katie Thompson
  • Lie faceup, legs extended. Your hands can be interlaced behind your head, or folded under the small of your back to protect your spine.
  • Engage core and lift feet 6 inches off floor. Kick your feet up and down, making quick small movements.
  • Focus on keeping core engaged throughout. If you experience any back pain, stop doing this exercise immediately.

Top image: Photographer: Catherine Servel at Brydges Mackinney. Hair: Tetsuya Yamakata at ArtList. Makeup: Seong Hee at Julian Watson Agency. Manicure: Julie Kandalec at Bryan Bantry. Stylist: Sara Van Pée at Quadriga. Model Mia Kang is wearing Puma Satin Relaxed Cropped Top, $34, macys.com; Nike Swoosh Wristbands, $7, dickssportinggoods.com.

Workout images and gifs: Photographer: Katie Thompson. Hair: Jerome Cultrera at L’ Atelier. Makeup: Deanna Melluso at See Management. Stylist: Sara Van Pée at Quadriga. Workout images: Fabletics top, similar styles fabletics.com; Alala Score Seamless Tight, $54, alalastyle.com; Women’s Techloom Pro Grey, $140, athleticpropulsionlabs.com. Gifs: Alala Surf Bra, $85, alalastyle.com; Carbon38 High Waisted Takara Legging, $109, carbon38.com; APL Women’s Techloom Breeze, $200, athleticpropulsionlabs.com.

Glutes and Lower-Body Burn Workout: New Year’s Challenge – Day 8

You’ve got another lower-body workout to kick off the second week of our New Year’s Challenge, which was designed just for SELF by top trainer Alyssa Exposito. Today’s workout includes a staggered stance deadlift, and we’re not gonna lie—it’s a fairly technical move. So let’s break it down just a bit.

You started off this challenge doing a good morning, which is a great preparatory move to get ready for a deadlift. You’re utilizing the same movement pattern and engaging many of the same muscles. If at any point you don’t feel comfortable doing a staggered stance deadlift, you can always do a good morning instead. (Go back to Day 1 for an explanation of a good morning, if you need it.)

When you’re doing any type of deadlift, focus on keeping your core engaged throughout, and using your glutes and hamstrings to do the work. Don’t allow your back to arch or round—if you feel any lower back stress when doing this move, stop immediately. Let your arms hang naturally, and come close to your shins as you lower. Stop when your back is parallel to the floor. Keep your neck relaxed and shoulders away from your ears to get the most out of this move. And feel free to practice it a few time without any weight, before you add the dumbbells.

Ready to get started? Don’t forget your warm-up! Then check out the moves below.

Katie Thompson/Morgan Johnson

The Workout

Here’s a detailed breakdown of the moves you’ll do.

Directions

Directions: Do each exercise for 45 seconds, resting 15 seconds between exercises. At the end of each round, rest 60-90 seconds.
Beginners: Do 2-3 rounds
Advanced: Do 3-5 rounds

You’ll need:

2 dumbbells


Glute Bridge March

x 45 seconds

Katie Thompson
  • Lie faceup with knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and heels a few inches away from your butt so that your fingertips graze your heels when arms are at your sides.
  • Squeeze glutes, engage core and lift hips, keeping knees close together (don’t let legs fall wide as you lift).
  • Hold in the lifted position and march right leg, then left leg, without dropping hips.

Staggered Stance Deadlift

x 45 seconds on each side

Katie Thompson
  • You’ll need 2 dumbbells to do this exercise. Stand with your right foot in front of your left foot as if you were about to start walking. Your feet should be slightly offset—not as if you’re standing on a tightrope. Keep both knees slightly bent, holding a dumbbell in each hand with the weights lightly resting against the front of your thighs.
  • Hinge at your hips and send your butt back as you lean forward, lowering the weights toward the floor with a flat back and engaged core. Allow your left heel (back heel) to raise naturally as you descend.
  • Allow your arms to hang naturally, close to your front leg—do not lift the weights away from your body. Engage your shoulder blades, squeezing them together at the center of your back. Do not allow your back to round. Only lower as far as your hamstring flexibility allows.
  • Keeping your core tight, push through your heels to stand up. Keep the weights close to your shin as you rise up, making your hamstrings and glutes do the work.
  • Pause at the top and squeeze your glutes.
  • Repeat for 45 seconds with your right foot in front, then switch sides.

Goblet Squat

x 45 seconds

Katie Thompson
  • You’ll need 1 or 2 dumbbells to do this exercise.
  • Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and core engaged. If you’re using 1 weight, hold the weight at chest height, close to your body, with both hands. If you’re using 2 dumbbells, hold one in each hand at your sides.
  • Send your hips back and bend knees to drop into a squat, allowing knees to bend to at least 90 degrees.
  • Return to starting position by squeezing your glutes to stand.

Lateral Lunge With Dumbbell

x 45 seconds on each side

Katie Thompson
  • You’ll need 1 or 2 dumbbells for this exercise.
  • Stand with feet together and core engaged. If you’re using 2 weights, your arms can stay at your sides; if you’re using 1, hold the weight with both hands at chest height.
  • Take a big step to the right side with your right foot, and immediately bend right knee to sink into a lateral lunge, sending your butt back and keeping your left leg perfectly straight. If you’re using 2 weights, allow your left hand to gently come in front of your body while the weight in the right hand stays at your side.
  • Push off your right foot, and return to starting position.
  • Repeat on the same side for 45 seconds, then do the other side.

Top image: Photographer: Catherine Servel at Brydges Mackinney. Hair: Tetsuya Yamakata at ArtList. Makeup: Seong Hee at Julian Watson Agency. Manicure: Julie Kandalec at Bryan Bantry. Stylist: Sara Van Pée at Quadriga. Model Mia Kang is wearing Puma Satin Relaxed Cropped Top, $34, macys.com; Nike Swoosh Wristbands, $7, dickssportinggoods.com.

Workout images and gifs: Photographer: Katie Thompson. Hair: Jerome Cultrera at L’ Atelier. Makeup: Deanna Melluso at See Management. Stylist: Sara Van Pée at Quadriga. Workout images: Fabletics top, similar styles fabletics.com; Alala Score Seamless Tight, $54, alalastyle.com; Women’s Techloom Pro Grey, $140, athleticpropulsionlabs.com. Gifs: Alala Surf Bra, $85, alalastyle.com; Carbon38 High Waisted Takara Legging, $109, carbon38.com; APL Women’s Techloom Breeze, $200, athleticpropulsionlabs.com.

Total-Body Strength Workout: New Year’s Challenge – Day 5

Today’s New Year’s Challenge workout includes an especially innovative design. As you transition from move to move in this total-body strength workout, you’ll also be transitioning from standing upright, to the floor, and eventually back to standing again. You’ll begin the workout in a standing position, where you’ll do some squats. From there you’ll move to the floor for planks, then rise up again halfway for the bear crawl, and then finish with standing again for the walking lunge to back pedal. Moving from those high to low to high positions is just one more way to keep your body challenged throughout the workout.

Heads up: If walking lunges (forward lunges) don’t feel great on your knees, you can modify by doing reverse lunges in place for about 10 seconds, then back pedal in the space you have, do more reverse lunges for about 10 seconds, and back pedal to your starting point.

Don’t forget to spend time warming up first, and take time to cool-down once your total-body strength workout concludes. You’re powering through this first week and we’re so proud of you!

Katie Thompson/Morgan Johnson

The Workout

Here’s a detailed breakdown of the moves you’ll do.

Directions

Directions: Do each exercise for 45 seconds, resting 15 seconds between exercises. At the end of each round, rest 60-90 seconds.
Beginners: Do 2-3 rounds
Advanced: Do 3-5 rounds

You’ll need:

2 dumbbells


Goblet Squat

x 45 seconds

Katie Thompson
  • You’ll need 1 or 2 dumbbells to do this exercise.
  • Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and core engaged. If you’re using 1 weight, hold the weight at chest height, close to your body, with both hands. If you’re using 2 dumbbells, hold one in each hand at your sides.
  • Send your hips back and bend knees to drop into a squat, allowing knees to bend to at least 90 degrees.
  • Return to starting position by squeezing your glutes to stand.

Rainbow Plank

x 45 seconds

Katie Thompson
  • Start in a forearm plank position, with core engaged and legs extended behind you. Raise hips slightly.
  • With core tight, rotate hips to the right and downward, keeping legs straight. Stop just above the floor.
  • Now rotate hips back upward through starting position, then immediately to the left and down toward the floor.
  • Continue to rock hips back and forth in a slow, controlled motion. Keep legs straight and core engaged throughout.

Bear Crawl

x 45 seconds

Katie Thompson
  • Start in an all-fours position with wrists directly under your shoulders and knees directly under your hips.
  • Lift knees a few inches off the floor, so weight is in your toes and hands, and engage your core.
  • “Step” forward with your right hand and left foot, keeping hips level and not letting knees touch ground. Next “step” forward with your left hand and right foot.
  • Continue to crawl forward as space allows, then turn around and crawl back to your starting point until the time runs out.

Walking Lunge to Back Pedal

x 45 seconds

Katie Thompson
  • Stand tall with your feet together, core engaged, and hands on your hips.
  • Step forward with your right (as if you are about to start walking), and immediately bend both knees to 90 degrees, dropping into a lunge. Keep your core engaged and be conscious of keeping your pelvis in a neutral position.
  • Continue to walk forward, dropping into a lunge each time, as your space allows.
  • When you come to the end of your space, back pedal, by running your feet in quick, small steps back to your starting point. Keep a tight core, and keep your knees slightly bent throughout the back pedal.
  • Repeat until the time runs out.

Top image: Photographer: Catherine Servel at Brydges Mackinney. Hair: Tetsuya Yamakata at ArtList. Makeup: Seong Hee at Julian Watson Agency. Manicure: Julie Kandalec at Bryan Bantry. Stylist: Sara Van Pée at Quadriga. Model Mia Kang is wearing Zana Bayne harness, similar styles at zanabayne.com; Fabletics top, similar styles at fabletics.com.

Workout images and gifs: Photographer: Katie Thompson. Hair: Jerome Cultrera at L’ Atelier. Makeup: Deanna Melluso at See Management. Stylist: Sara Van Pée at Quadriga. Workout images: Fabletics top, similar styles fabletics.com; Alala Score Seamless Tight, $54, alalastyle.com; Women’s Techloom Pro Grey, $140, athleticpropulsionlabs.com. Gifs: Alala Surf Bra, $85, alalastyle.com; Carbon38 High Waisted Takara Legging, $109, carbon38.com; APL Women’s Techloom Breeze, $200, athleticpropulsionlabs.com.

Bodyweight Combo Workout: New Year’s Challenge – Day 12

Don’t be followed by Day 12 of the New Year’s Challenge—it’s not as simple as it looks! Today’s bodyweight workout looks like it’s just two moves, but really you’re combining four moves that you’ve already done before. You’ll start with a goblet squat, but instead of doing the squat over and over, each time you come to the bottom of your squat, you’ll place your hands on the floor, jump back into a plank, and do a rainbow plank. With the second move, you’ll bear crawl forward as space allows, then do a walking lunge to return to your starting point. It’s a straightforward bodyweight workout, but it really packs a punch.

After you’ve learned the new movement patterns, try to smooth out your transitions as much as possible. How fast can you safely move from a squat to a plank? If you find that you can do your walking lunges a lot faster than your bear crawls, slow your lunges so the speeds on both exercises are more even. As we mentioned on Day 5, if forward lunges don’t feel great on your knees, you always have the option to do reverse lunges in place.

This workout was made exclusively for SELF by Alyssa Exposito. Before you get started below, remember that warming up is an essential part of your workout. You can pick from any of these warm-ups in the list we’ve provided, or spend about five minutes doing your own. You’ve got a cardio workout coming up tomorrow, so make today’s strength workout really count!

Katie Thompson/Morgan Johnson

The Workout

Here’s a detailed breakdown of the moves you’ll do.

Directions

Directions: Do each exercise for 45 seconds, resting 15 seconds between exercises. At the end of each round, rest 60-90 seconds.
Beginners: Do 2-3 rounds
Advanced: Do 3-5 rounds

You’ll need:

2 dumbbells


Goblet Squat to Rainbow Plank

x 45 seconds

Katie Thompson
Katie Thompson
  • You’ll need 1 or 2 dumbbells to do this exercise.
  • Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and core engaged. If you’re using 1 weight, hold the weight at chest height, close to your body, with both hands. If you’re using 2 dumbbells, hold one in each hand at your sides.
  • Send your hips back and bend knees to drop into a squat, allowing knees to bend to at least 90 degrees.
  • At the lowest point of your squat, set the weight on the floor and then place both hands on the floor directly under your shoulders, so you’re in a low squat with hands on the floor.
  • Jump both feet back to come into a high plank.
  • Lower onto your right forearm, then left forearm to come into a forearm plank.
  • Now, with your core engaged, slowly lower your right hip to the right so it comes close to the floor. Return to center, then lower your left hip to the left so it taps the floor.
  • Once completed, return to a high plank position, and walk or hop feet toward hands to return to a low squat. Stand to complete the move.

Bear Crawl to Walking Lunge

x 45 seconds

Katie Thompson
Katie Thompson
  • Start in an all-fours position with wrists directly under your shoulders and knees directly under your hips.
  • Lift knees a few inches off the floor, so weight is in your toes and hands, and engage your core.
  • “Step” forward with your right hand and left foot, keeping hips level and not letting knees touch the floor. Next “step” forward with your left hand and right foot.
  • Continue to crawl forward as space allows. When you cannot crawl forward anymore, stand, and turn to face the way you came.
  • Step forward with your right foot and bend both knees to 90 degrees to sink into a lunge.
  • Push off your left foot, take a step forward and immediately sink into a lunge on the left side. Continue to walk forward, dropping into a lunge with each step.
  • When you’ve made it back to your starting point, drop to all fours, and bear crawl forward to start the next rep.

Top image: Photographer: Catherine Servel at Brydges Mackinney. Hair: Tetsuya Yamakata at ArtList. Makeup: Seong Hee at Julian Watson Agency. Manicure: Julie Kandalec at Bryan Bantry. Stylist: Sara Van Pée at Quadriga. Model Mia Kang is wearing Puma Satin Relaxed Cropped Top, $34, macys.com; Nike Swoosh Wristbands, $7, dickssportinggoods.com.

Workout images and gifs: Photographer: Katie Thompson. Hair: Jerome Cultrera at L’ Atelier. Makeup: Deanna Melluso at See Management. Stylist: Sara Van Pée at Quadriga. Workout images: Fabletics top, similar styles fabletics.com; Alala Score Seamless Tight, $54, alalastyle.com; Women’s Techloom Pro Grey, $140, athleticpropulsionlabs.com. Gifs: Alala Surf Bra, $85, alalastyle.com; Carbon38 High Waisted Takara Legging, $109, carbon38.com; APL Women’s Techloom Breeze, $200, athleticpropulsionlabs.com.

Upper-Body Strength Builder Workout: New Year’s Challenge – Day 17

You won’t need any equipment for today’s upper-body workout—but that doesn’t mean it’ll be easy. For Day 17 of the New Year’s Challenge, the workout, created by certified trainer Alyssa Exposito, is all about using your own bodyweight to build strength throughout your upper body (oh, and we snuck in some core work, too!).

Here’s the deal: Your first move is a bit of a combo. Previously, you’ve done a walk-out to shoulder tap. This time, you’ll walk out the same way, but instead of doing a shoulder tap, you’ll do a push-up. You can do a classic push-up, or gently lower to your knees and do a modified push-up. If you’re familiar with rainbow planks and looking to switch them up, try this. Often when doing rainbow planks, we’re told to rock our hips back and forth, moving in one fluid motion. This time, try doing the rainbow plank as three separate movements: right side, center, left side. Stop and hold each position for a full breath. Force yourself to slow down and do a quick mental body scan of your form in each position.

Don’t skip your warm-up before you get started below! That’s especially important if you’re doing these workouts first thing in the morning when your body might feel a little stiff or cold. You should also always take time to do a cool-down—even if it’s just a few quick stretches. Tomorrow is a rest day, so give this one your all!

Katie Thompson/Morgan Johnson

The Workout

Here’s a detailed breakdown of the moves you’ll do.

Directions

Directions: Do each exercise for 45 seconds, resting 15 seconds between exercises. At the end of each round, rest 60-90 seconds.
Beginners: Do 2-3 rounds
Advanced: Do 3-5 rounds


Walk-Out to Push-Up

x 45 seconds

Katie Thompson
Katie Thompson
  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and core engaged. Hinge forward at the hip and place both hands on the floor.
  • Keeping core engaged and legs straight, walk hands forward one at a time to come into a high plank position.
  • From here, do a push-up. Bend both elbows, and lower chest, hips, and legs toward the floor in a single movement. Keep core engaged so hips don’t sag and stop when your elbows reach 90-degrees. Straighten arms to return to the high plank position, then walk hands back to your feet, and stand to complete the exercise.
  • Make it easier: You can do a modified push-up from your knees. Walk out to come into a high plank position, then gently lower both knees to the floor. With your core tight and hips level, bend both elbows and lower your chest toward the floor. Keep both your feet on the floor throughout (do not bend your knees or bring your toes toward your butt). Straighten arms to return to starting position.

Body Saw

x 45 seconds

Katie Thompson
  • Start in low plank position with hips level and core engaged.
  • With your core engaged and back straight, rock forward, coming up onto the tips of your toes, so your shoulders and collarbones extend in front of your elbows.
  • Now rock back, rolling onto the balls of your feet, and allowing your shoulders to come behind your elbows.
  • Continue to rock forward and back, keeping your core engaged throughout.

Up-Down Plank

x 45 seconds

Katie Thompson
  • From a high plank position, with core engaged and hips level, slowly lower onto your right forearm, being careful to keep hips steady.
  • Now, lower on to your left forearm, so that you arrive in a forearm plank position.
  • Maintain an engaged core, pressing shoulder blades down your back and keeping a relaxed gaze at fingertips to ensure there’s no tension in your neck.
  • Now, place right hand on floor directly under your shoulders, then left hand, and push up to return to a high plank position.
  • The next time, start by lowering onto your left forearm first. Continue to alternate.

Top image: Photographer: Catherine Servel at Brydges Mackinney. Hair: Tetsuya Yamakata at ArtList. Makeup: Seong Hee at Julian Watson Agency. Manicure: Julie Kandalec at Bryan Bantry. Stylist: Sara Van Pée at Quadriga. Model Mia Kang is wearing Norma Kamali Spliced One-Shoulder Mio swimsuit, $185, normakamali.com; Nike compression sleeve, similar styles at nike.com.

Workout images and gifs: Photographer: Katie Thompson. Hair: Jerome Cultrera at L’ Atelier. Makeup: Deanna Melluso at See Management. Stylist: Sara Van Pée at Quadriga. Workout images: Fabletics top, similar styles fabletics.com; Alala Score Seamless Tight, $54, alalastyle.com; Women’s Techloom Pro Grey, $140, athleticpropulsionlabs.com. Gifs: Alala Surf Bra, $85, alalastyle.com; Carbon38 High Waisted Takara Legging, $109, carbon38.com; APL Women’s Techloom Breeze, $200, athleticpropulsionlabs.com.