Vegetable-Quinoa Skillet With Goat Cheese

Vegetable-Quinoa Skillet With Goat Cheese

Andrew Purcell, Carrie Purcell

Makes 2 Servings

Ingredients
  • 2teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 small bunch asparagus, woody stems trimmed, cut in 2-inch pieces
  • 2cloves garlic, minced
  • 1cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 1/2cups cooked quinoa
  • 1/4teaspoon paprika
  • 2ounces soft goat cheese
  • 2tablespoons chopped parsley
Directions
  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add asparagus and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until asparagus is bright green and starting to soften on the outside, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and tomatoes and cook, stirring, just until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute more. Add chickpeas, quinoa and paprika. Cook, stirring, just until everything is heated through.

  2. Remove skillet from heat. Add goat cheese and chopped parsley and toss to combine.

Nutrition Per Serving

463 calories
23 g fat (5 g saturated)
62 g carbs
20 g sugar
15 g fiber
22 g protein

Sheet Pan Tofu With Potatoes and Snap Peas

Sheet Pan Tofu With Potatoes and Snap Peas

Andrew Purcell; Carrie Purcell

Makes 2 Servings

Ingredients
  • 1tablespoon olive oil
  • 1teaspoon honey
  • 1/2teaspoon cumin
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 10ounces extra-firm tofu, cut in 1-inch cubes
  • 2 medium Idaho potatoes, cut in 1-inch cubes
  • 2cups snap peas, ends trimmed
  • 1/4cup fresh basil, torn
  • 1/4cup chopped pistachios
Directions
  1. Heat oven to 400° and line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

  2. Spread tofu cubes on a paper towel. Cover with a second paper towel and press to remove as much moisture as possible.

  3. In a bowl, whisk together oil, honey, cumin, salt, and pepper. Add tofu and potatoes and toss to coat.

  4. Spread tofu and potatoes evenly on sheet pan. Roast 30 minutes.

  5. Add snap peas to sheet pan, toss ingredients together, and roast until potatoes are cooked through, tofu is lightly browned in places, and snap peas are al dente, about 10 minutes more.

  6. Add basil and pistachios to sheet pan, and toss to combine.

Nutrition Per Serving

433 calories
21 g fat (3 g saturated)
43 g carbs
8 g sugar
7 g fiber
22 g protein

Shaved Asparagus and Snap Pea Salad With Roasted Chickpeas and Goat Cheese

Shaved Asparagus and Snap Pea Salad With Roasted Chickpeas and Goat Cheese

Andrew Purcell, Carrie Purcell

Makes 2 Servings

Ingredients
  • 1 (15 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 1/4teaspoon cumin
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1bunch asparagus, woody ends trimmed
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1teaspoon honey
  • 2cups snap peas, trimmed, thinly sliced diagonally
  • 2ounces soft goat cheese
  • 2tablespoons chopped pistachios
Directions
  1. Heat oven to 400° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

  2. Place chickpeas on baking sheet, drizzle with ½ tablespoon oil and, then season with cumin, salt, and pepper. Toss to coat.

  3. Roast 30 to 35 minutes, tossing after 15 minutes, until crispy and golden brown. Cool slightly.

  4. Meanwhile use a vegetable peeler to shave asparagus into thin ribbons.

  5. In a large bowl, stir together lemon juice, honey, and the remaining ½ tablespoon olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Add asparagus and snap peas and toss to coat.

  6. Top dressed greens with chickpeas and goat cheese.

Nutrition Per Serving

453 calories
19 g fat (5 g saturated)
54 g carbs
15 g sugar
14 g fiber
22 g protein

How to Train for a Marathon If You’ve Never Run One Before

Although I was a runner and ran regularly, I never had any intention to run my first marathon. One early spring day, I innocently joined my friend on her long run, with plans to run only a small portion of it. I miraculously managed to run with her the full 20 miles, and decided if I could do that, I could do anything! The following day I found myself signing up for a marathon that was—wait for it—eight weeks away. In those two months, I went on one 18-mile long run, peppered in a few shorter speed workouts, and thought a lot about the finish line bagels.

If you’re thinking about signing up for your first 26.2, use this article as a guide to prepare yourself the right way. (In other words, learn from my mistakes.)

Fast-forward to race day and reality kicked in. I hadn’t built the proper mileage base or enough confidence in my ability to finish, and I didn’t know how to properly fuel myself. By mile 10, my body felt spent, yet I still had a full 16 miles ahead of me. That’s when my mental game fell apart. The distance to the finish line felt like it was light years away. I checked my watch obsessively and started to doubt I would finish. I also wasn’t eating nearly enough calories as a I ran, and by mile 20, everything became a blur. I was almost crawling my way to the finish line and hating running the whole way—the sport that I had once loved so much. I somehow stumbled through, but I was very lucky to sneak away without an injury.

For my second marathon, I set myself up with a smart, 16-week plan. I strength trained and foam rolled, and learned what energy gels were and why I should learn to stomach them (more on that below!). I ended up finishing in 3 hours and 30 minutes, qualifying for the Boston Marathon. Since then I’ve run four marathons, including one trail marathon through the Utah desert. Now, I’m training for my first ultramarathon.

Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about how to train the right way. As Jason Fitzgerald, USATF running coach and founder of Strength Running, points out: “Your marathon race is a logical extension of your training.” If you train correctly, the race itself is just the icing on the sweat- and mile-filled cake.

Let’s lace up and dive in.

Ready, Set, Build Your Base

The most important step you can take when prepping for your first marathon is to ensure your body can tackle the distance. It’s best to familiarize yourself with 5Ks, 10Ks, and then half-marathons as a way to physically and mentally prepare for longer distances.

“You’re going to be a better runner if you do more running,” asserts Fitzgerald. “Use the calculus analogy. You can’t go from not knowing how to count to taking a calculus class.” Putting in time on your feet will help you build that base that you need to continue tacking on more and more mileage.

Before diving into the marathon distance, Fitzgerald strongly suggests training for and racing a half-marathon first. Another good test is to make sure you can run comfortably for an hour. This will make marathon training way less harrowing; you’ve built up a baseline level of endurance and speed, and your body will already be used to the increased weekly mileage, sore limbs, and often insatiable appetite. That said, if you don’t have the time to really get into running and racing various distances, don’t worry: A good training plan will help you get used to adding miles and running longer.

Find a Good Plan

The next step is to find a solid training plan. A quick Google search will yield dozens of free training plans online, most of which are 16-20 weeks long. One of the most popular plans comes from the renowned runner and coach Hal Higdon. The “Novice” plan is 18 weeks long and covers your basics: long runs, cross-training, and rest. More advanced runners will want to also include tempo runs, speed workouts, and hill repeats; these should be included in most advanced plans you find online (here’s an example from Higdon). If you want something specifically tailored to your needs, paying an expert to write you a personal plan (that’s what I did for my second go!), or even hiring a coach, are great options.

In general, good training plans for first-time marathoners include these elements:

A combination of different kinds of runs. Not every run should be done at the same intensity. Your plan will include weekly long runs to build endurance combined with a few shorter tempo runs (tempo runs are runs that you do a bit slower than your current 5K pace) or speed workouts that are meant to build strength and speed. If you run at the same pace all the time, your your body will adapt and at a certain point your fitness will stop improving. This isn’t what we want for marathon training; we want to keep getting stronger and building endurance.

Make sure to take your long run each week seriously. “Marathoners are made from their long runs,” Fitzgerald explains. This is how your body will build the critical endurance it needs, especially so you can push through the infamous “wall” in the final 10K of the marathon.

A smart mileage progression. Your plan should strategically build up your mileage so you don’t take on too much at once. Many training schedules start around 15-20 miles per week and slowly but surely peak around 40 before tapering (with the longest distance of one single run maxing out at 18 to 20 miles).

Strength and cross training. Running will make you a better runner, but both strength training and cross training are critical components of your plan that will build strength and mobility and decrease your risk of injury. Fitzgerald recommends “sandwiching” in strength exercises before and after each run. This looks like dynamic stretches before a run (think: lunges, squats, mountain climbers) followed by 10-20 minutes of bodyweight exercises or a core routine after your run. Additionally, cross-training is a great, low-impact way to simulate running if your body is feeling extra sore. Try pool running or biking. I get my cross training in by cycling to my office (7 miles one way) as a way to sneakily build endurance.

Strategic and active recovery. When it comes to marathon training, rest is non-negotiable. Make sure your “passive recovery” includes taking 1-2 days off a week, and that you’re getting eight hours of sleep a night. For “active recovery,” take your easy runs easy. These typically happen the day after a long run, and are meant to help you maintain a higher running volume while dialing back on intensity. Fitzgerald suggests ditching your GPS watch and running by feel, going nice and easy in order to shake out your legs. Foam rolling, dynamic stretching, and staying hydrated are also important rejuvenation tools that should be done on the daily.

Learn How to Fuel Right

Once you start running 30+ miles a week, your stomach is going to notice something’s going on. Feeding your body with the right amount and type of calories is going to give you sustained energy so you feel great during your runs and you don’t feel sluggish during the day.

One of the trickiest parts of training for a marathon is figuring out how to fuel properly—especially during your runs. I never felt hungry while I ran and it was hard to know when my body was cueing me to take in calories. Did I really need 100 calories of this sugary gel stuff if I wasn’t having hunger pangs?

The short answer is yes. Lifelong Endurance running coach Kaitlyn Morgan explains if you’re running for longer than 45 minutes, you’ll need to eat during your run. Many runners eat gels (like GU) and chews, which typically come in 100-calorie servings and are packed with a mix of slow-burning and fast-burning carbs so that you can get a quick hit of energy and also replenish your body’s carbohydrate stores so that you have them for later, Morgan explains. Make sure to try all this out during your training runs so that your fueling strategy is totally locked in before race day.

If you’re not a gel fan, you can experiment with real foods too. “Take some of your favorite snacks that you would want to eat on a trail and try them while running and see what works,” urges Morgan. I love dried figs, peanut butter pretzels, and gummy bears but every stomach can tolerate different foods during a long workout, so use your long runs as a way to test out different types of fuel. When going long, Morgan says to aim for 100-150 calories every hour, depending on your body’s needs, which you’ll likely have to figure out by trial and error. (Though there are online calorie calculators you can use if you want some hard numbers to go by.)

After runs, workouts, and strength sessions, your body is going to need to refuel itself, too. (Gels don’t count as dinner.) While experts usually suggest that eating soon after a workout is better than waiting a long time, that “30-minute window” theory, where you must eat within a half-hour of exercise or else you lose your chance to recover properly, is contested.

No matter the debate, it’s a good idea to try and eat something within an hour of a tough run to give your body the nutrients (and energy!) it needs to recover and rebuild muscle—even if it’s just a snack and a full meal comes later. Focus on consuming a mix of protein and carbs, like Greek yogurt with honey, a banana with peanut butter, or a protein smoothie with fruit and your favorite protein powder. If you skip your post-workout meal altogether, you’ll likely end up feeling fatigued and lightheaded.

Lastly, it’s important to stay hydrated, both while running and resting. During runs, consider bringing a hand-held water bottle or hydration pack, or plan your route near plenty of water fountains. If you start to feel unusually hot, tired, or disoriented, this is a sign you could be severely dehydrated, so you will need to pump the breaks and get some fluids. There’s no one-size-fits all recommendation when it comes to how much water you should drink on a run, so stay in-tune with how your body is feeling and stop running and start rehydrating before you feel thirsty and definitely if you experience any symptoms of dehydration.

Build Your Mental Game

Many runners often overlook the psychological part of training. But you should think of your mind like a muscle. Just like you need to build up strength in your hamstrings, calves, and core, you also need to train your mind to prepare for the challenges and discomfort you’ll experience. (Your long runs will help you with that, for sure.)

I’m a huge mantra fan. If I’m feeling particularly off during a run, I tell myself to “grind through it,” knowing that not every run will be easy and sometimes I have to grind my way over the pavement. If I feel good, I simply tell myself “smooth,” and visualize myself gliding over the roads. As for race day, I always write “You are stronger than you think” on my hand, a reminder that my mind will typically give out on me before my body.

Confidence is another key element of feeling mentally fit. Fitzgerald explains that getting comfortable racing will make you more confident at the start line. Add some 5Ks and 10Ks into your plan so you can learn how to navigate race situations and prepare for race-day nerves.

“Racing is a skill,” he remarks. “It’s one of the few times in your running that you’re going 100 percent, and you have to subject yourself to that to understand how to deal with your feelings and continue to push yourself through the marathon.”

Ready, Set, RACE!

When race day finally rolls around, the most important thing you can do is copy how you prepared for training runs. Don’t try anything different; stick to your same pre-run breakfast, wear your normal sneakers and socks, and try to get your typical amount of nightly sleep.

To ensure you’re smiling at the end, Morgan suggests setting multiple goals that you know you are capable of achieving. “Have a goal, go for that goal, but don’t be so stringent,” she says. “If you set that bar [too high] and you miss it you’re going to be devastated.”

For every race, she suggests creating an A, B, and C time goal. That way, you have a range to shoot for versus trying for one number and one number only. But remember, you don’t have to set a time goal, especially if this is your first marathon. As Morgan says, “For first-time marathoners, just finishing is a perfectly great goal to set.”

Lastly, remember to trust your training. If you put in the work, you’ll be prepared to run a marathon. The race will be uncomfortable, but it will also be incredible. Don’t go out too fast, keep relaxed when it gets hard, and run through the finish line toward your well-deserved medal—knowing you just completed an amazing athletic feat.

Why Does Spending Time in the Sun Make You Want to Sleep?

I’m not ready to let go of summer yet, meaning you can find me outdoors basking like a lizard in any patch of sunlight until further notice. But have you ever felt like spending time in the sun leaves you exhausted, even if you were doing nothing more strenuous than reading a book and sipping an iced tea? If so, here’s why you feel so wiped out after spending time in the sun.

Your body needs to maintain a specific internal temperature to work properly, and that can take a lot of subtle yet kind of exhausting work.

Think of your body as a factory with many different processes going on inside it. These processes, governed by chemical reactions, rely on molecules called enzymes. Your enzymes only work properly when your body is in its normal temperature window. Although the average human body temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, it can safely fall anywhere in the 97 to 99 degree range, according to the Mayo Clinic. Your internal thermostat has to keep your temperature at this specific level in order for you to effectively breathe, move, digest, and so on.

“When you spend time in the sun, especially on a hot day, your body is working overtime to maintain your body’s temperature at its usual 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit,” Seuli Bose-Brill, M.D. an associate professor of internal medicine and pediatrics at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells SELF. It does this through mechanisms like sweating, which is when glands all over your skin start churning out a mixture of water and salt, which then evaporates to cool you down. This extra work uses extra energy, which can translate into fatigue.

Even if you chug a ton of La Croix, excessive heat can cause dehydration that makes you feel wiped.

Dr. Bose-Brill flags another consequence of your body working hard: “Sweating to maintain body temperature can result in fatigue from rapid dehydration.”

Since sweating equals water loss, too much of it can dehydrate you, especially if you’re not replacing those fluids. “Less water means less blood volume, meaning there is less oxygen and nutrients circulating through the body to replenish the brain, lungs, and more, making you tired and irritable,” Heather Rogers, M.D., a dermatologist at Modern Dermatology in Seattle, Washington, tells SELF. Your heart has to pump harder to move that lowered blood volume around your body, compounding the problem.

Dehydration can cause headaches, nausea, and even dizziness and fainting. So, make sure to top up your fluid intake regularly in the heat, even if you don’t feel particularly thirsty.

Finally, the sun’s harmful rays can lead to chemical changes in your body, like sun damage, that might wear you out.

“Skin damage from the sun’s UV rays can cause a person to feel tired,” Alana Biggers, M.D., an internal medicine specialist and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Illinois-Chicago, tells SELF. “Your body is working to repair the skin damage, which causes it to use more energy.”

Radiation from the sun’s rays cause mutations in your DNA, Dr. Rogers explains, which your immune system then tries to correct. It does this with tactics like increasing your production of melanin, a dark, protective pigment in your skin, which leads to a tan. It also dilates blood vessels at the surface of your skin to allow oxygen and nutrients to attempt to repair the damage (hence the redness you experience from a sunburn). “The increase in blood flow to sunburned skin causes [a] loss of water … and therefore further dehydration and fatigue,” Dr. Rogers says.

The sun can lead to other chemical changes in your body, Dr. Rogers adds. “These changes must be addressed by the body, making the inside work even if the outside is fast asleep poolside,” she says. For instance, overexposure to sunlight can bring about immune system suppression, which is why some people with herpes develop cold sores after spending time in the sun. Being in the sun also prompts your body to make more vitamin D, so that’s yet another process adding to its workload.

There are a few things you can do to avoid needing a nap the second you get home from a sunny day out.

If you plan ahead and try these tips, you may be able to avoid a post-sunshine crash.

Stay inside during the hottest hours of the day. “The sun’s rays are strongest between 10 A.M. and 2 P.M.,” Dr. Rogers says. “If your shadow is shorter than you are, seek shade.” Dr. Biggers also recommends, if at all possible, avoiding strenuous activity when outside during the hottest hours of the day.

Wear sunscreen (and actually follow proper sunscreen instructions), and use other sun protection, too. Obviously it’s not always feasible (or fun) to avoid heading outside when the sun is at its brightest. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends protecting yourself by applying one ounce (enough to fill a shot glass) of water-resistant, SPF 30+ sunscreen to your body 15 minutes before going outside and reapplying every two hours or after sweating or swimming. Your sunscreen should be broad-spectrum, meaning it protects from both UVA and UVB rays (the former can cause skin aging, the latter can lead to sunburns, and both can bring about skin cancer). (UVC rays exist, too, but since the ozone layer blocks most of them, they’re not really a cause for concern.)

Dr. Rogers also suggests covering up with items like a hat and long sleeves to protect your skin. “There is no safe way to tan,” she says. Any sign of a tan means your skin has undergone damage.

Limit your intake of alcohol and caffeine. Water is your best bet. We’re not the fun police who are here to say you can never have an alcoholic or caffeinated beverage when you’re enjoying the sunshine, but don’t overdo it. Alcohol and caffeine can both act as mild diuretics, meaning they can increase how much you pee, the Mayo Clinic explains. Combined with your sweating, this can make it easier to become dehydrated.

Alcohol in particular can be an issue here. If you have too much in your system, you might feel less concerned with re-applying sunscreen. It can also compound the sun’s tiring effects, maybe lulling you to sleep by the pool only to wake up with the start of a blistering sunburn.

While you can definitely enjoy caffeine and alcohol when out in the sun, make them more of the exception than the rule.

Also, keep an eye out for signs of any heat-related conditions that may require medical attention, like heat exhaustion.

Heat illness is an umbrella term for issues like heat exhaustion and heat stroke, the Cleveland Clinic explains. They’re most likely to happen if you’ve been exerting yourself physically when it’s hot out. Heat exhaustion is less severe than heat stroke, though it can lead to heat stroke if it’s left untreated.

Signs of heat exhaustion include fatigue, heavy sweating, dizziness, fainting, thirst, headache, and more. While heat exhaustion doesn’t feel great, you can usually DIY treatment with methods like drinking cool fluids, taking a cool bath, and resting in a cool place, according to the Mayo Clinic. If you don’t get better within an hour or experience more intense symptoms that could be heat stroke, like a rapid pulse, a strange lack of sweating even with a temperature of 103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, nausea, and confusion, you’re dealing with a medical emergency and need to call 911 or go to the emergency room if you’re able.

Luckily, if you follow those preventive tips up there, you can ward off the chances of dealing with a heat-related illness—or of conking out the second you reunite with some sweet, sweet air conditioning indoors.

Related:

Here’s How I Conquered Weight Room Anxiety

I walked into a gym’s free weight area for the very first time about six years ago. The room was buzzing with dudes grunting over the clatter of metal on metal. There were no women deadlifting or spotting each other’s bench presses, like I regularly see in my gym now. It took all of 30 seconds before the low-grade panic set in: I’m not supposed to be in here. I pivoted on my heel and retreated to the fleet of ellipticals from whence I’d come.

In retrospect, I highly doubt any of those guys even noticed me at all, but for the duration of my quick experiment, I felt like every single pair of eyes was on me, wondering what I was doing there, if I’d gotten lost. That’s the joy of social anxiety, which for me reaches thrilling new heights in the spaces where I feel conspicuously out of place.

My short-lived foray into the weights area was in 2012, after I’d stumbled upon an inspiring stranger on Tumblr who eschewed the low-calorie, high-cardio model of fitness that had been ceaselessly drilled into my and every other woman’s head at the time. But in a tale as old as time (or at least my life), my curiosity was piqued, but my nerves got the best of me. Back to the treadmill I went—for another four or five years.

Turns out, these jitters are surprisingly common—and most seasoned gym vets likely felt them when they first started, too.

Rachel Denis is a competitive powerlifter living in Brooklyn who holds multiple New York state records in the sport, but when she first started lifting weights three years ago, she says she felt out of her element. “I remember feeling like everybody else definitely knew what they were doing, and I was just kind of wandering around wondering what I should do and if I looked silly,” she tells me. And when April Henry, another competitive powerlifter and former personal trainer living in New York, first joined a gym several years ago, she says the thing she felt most intimidated by was the equipment. “I wasn’t so nervous about people looking at me, or people judging me, but I was very nervous about not knowing how to use the machines.”

While those initial new-kid nerves can ebb with experience, many still struggle with gym anxiety long after the newbie phase.

Gym anxiety is so common,” says Lis Saunders, a powerlifting coach based in Atlanta who says that the number-one concern she hears from clients is whether they’ll look like they don’t know what they’re doing or will be judged by others. Saunders herself still deals with gym anxiety, despite working in the industry for years. “I’ve always battled social anxiety, so even though I have lots of lifting and coaching experience now, I still feel anxious every time I go to the gym.”

Nowadays, many weight rooms—like the one I work out in—are likely to host a much more diverse array of gym-goers than 10 or 20 years ago, which is comforting. And for the most part, I’ve reached a point where I can squeeze in a gym session without fleeing to the safety of the cardio machines. Yet, I still find my nervous little brain occasionally corkscrewing down the “I shouldn’t be here, and everyone else knows it” path.

Here are a few tactics that I, and others who’ve struggled similarly, find helpful to keep those nerves at bay:

1. Have a plan before you go.

Wandering around a gym aimlessly without a plan in mind only heightens the sensation of feeling like I don’t belong (or suspecting everyone else is looking at me like I’m lost). When I come equipped with a list of exactly what I want to accomplish, down to the number of reps for each set, that feeling subsides and I’m able to actually focus on getting it done.

Henry agrees: She believes research is the number one thing everyone should do before even setting foot inside a gym. “Having and executing a well-researched plan helps build a sense of accomplishment and will help you stay on track and focused on only you,” she says. Try this beginner lifting workout, and browse SELF’s Workout Finder for many more ideas. You can find loads of pre-designed programs for all skill levels around the internet, and you can even get ideas from Instagram. Try not to overthink it—just pick one you’ll stick with.

2. Spend some time learning the basics on your own.

When doing something, anything, in public, one of my brain’s favorite songs to loop is “Am I Doing This Right?” (Often followed by my other smash hit single, “No, and Everyone Is Judging You.”) This can be assuaged by the confidence in knowing that you are, in fact, doing it right. I was fortunate to train with a small powerlifting group at a neighborhood gym for two years, under the watchful eye of a seasoned powerlifting coach; now that I’m back at a commercial chain gym, that foundation has made a huge difference for me.

If you’re brand-new to weightlifting, Denis says the internet is a goldmine of helpful videos breaking down correct form. “Educating yourself before you go in will go a long way in increasing your confidence,” she says. See also: form checks on the women’s fitness subreddit, r/XXFitness, another online treasure trove of advice, knowledge, and support. You can also find videos online to answer pretty much any of your equipment-related questions, like how to load and deload a bar, how to properly pick up a kettlebell, or where to find collars for the barbells. Familiarizing yourself with these basics will help you feel more prepared—and less overwhelmed—when you first walk into the weight room.

And if working with a trainer is an option for you, a one-time session may be all the technical instruction you need to feel confident (and not to mention, lower your risk of injury).

3. Find a gym that feels welcoming, and be open to switching if the atmosphere doesn’t feel right.

The truth is that different gyms have different vibes, and if the one you belong to makes you feel out of place no matter what you do, then maybe it’s time to cut ties and find a new spot.

Most gyms offer a trial week, or will just give you a quick tour if you’re interested. Either can be a chance to get a sense of the atmosphere. Take the opportunity to scope out the vibe and culture as much as you can and decide whether it’s for you: Are people monopolizing the equipment, or politely working in with each others’ sets? Is there a diverse array of bodies and skill levels, or is it just swarming with peacocking bros? Do people re-rack their own plates, or do they leave them for the next person to deal with? In my experiences it’s rare to find a gym with absolutely zero incidents of creeps making it weird by staring or taking up more than their fair share of space, but some places truly are better than others. If you visit a gym or do a trial workout and get an “all eyes on me” vibe that is definitely not just your imagination, it might not be an environment that you’re going to want to spend time in regularly.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask a gym employee for help figuring out machines (or for a quick tour).

Every gym is a little different, and learning the ropes of what goes where can feel awkward. I recently spent at least five minutes trying to adjust a leg press machine for my 5’0” frame right after a very tall man had used it. (Reader, my toes could barely reach the plate.) After what felt like an eternity of self-conscious tinkering, I caved and politely asked the front desk for help, which they provided in a snap (and it was—gasp—no big deal). If you’re joining a new gym or braving a specific area for the first time, it can feel like trying to figure out how to work the copy machine on the first day of a new job. Getting the lay of the land from a staffer can help you feel a tiny bit more in control. Knowledge is power; getting lost between the lat pulldown and the leg press is decidedly not.

Henry recalls this as her biggest source of anxiety starting out, but one which was easily quelled: “Learning how to use the squat rack, learning what the different bars weigh, learning how to set up the safeties…I was a little nervous about all of that. But I put on my big girl pants and I just asked someone.”

5. Get comfortable saying “no thanks.”

Men! In my experience, many of them love to give advice, especially the unsolicited kind. And especially in the gym. Saunders has several clients who train with her, in addition to doing their own solo sessions in commercial gyms. They tell her that when working out alone, they’re frequently approached by guys looking to share some unsolicited commentary and advice on everything from technique to how much weight they should be lifting. In this scenario, unless someone is genuinely and appropriately concerned for your physical safety, a polite but firm rebuff can make all the difference. “My response would be, ‘Thank you, but I am following a specific training program and I do not need your help,’” suggests Saunders. And if someone is persistent or otherwise making you uncomfortable, don’t hesitate to loop in the staff.

6. Wireless headphones are game-changing.

Perhaps this is a no-brainer, but a $25 pair of Bluetooth headphones from Amazon made such an enormous difference for me. Headphones have always been a gym bag essential when I’m logging minutes on the elliptical, but I never liked the interference of cords or arm bands while racking my weights or getting set up in a squat rack. Being able to walk around a gym untethered, all while blasting my own personal soundtrack, helps me feel more confident, keeps me focused on the task at hand, and prevents me from spiraling too far into my own head.

7. Keep your eyes on the prize by keeping in mind why you’re at the gym in the first place.

Having a goal in mind, whether it’s, “I want to bench-press my dad,” or, “I want to crush a watermelon with my thighs,” gives your brain something to focus on when self-doubt begins to creep in. Even focusing on the immediate positives—as in, the relief you’ll feel after finishing your workout—can help prevent that prickle of anxiety from ruining a workout. “Training helps me feel strong and gives me confidence,” says Saunders. “I try to remember how good I’ll feel afterward, and usually that pushes me through.”

8. Remember that, in all likelihood, most people are paying less attention to you than you think they are.

Easier said than done, I know. But when I loudly drop a plate or spectacularly fail a set, I try to remind myself that no one came to the gym to gawk at me: They’re in their own heads, doing their own workout, hopefully trying just as hard as I am to avoid eye contact. My new mantra comes courtesy of Henry: “Those other people are not paying your gym membership. And they’re not going to get the work done for you. So come in with your plan, remember your goal at all times, make sure you got your headphones, and just get it done.”

An Ob/Gyn Explains if You Actually Need to Check Your IUD Strings

Birth control has been around for decades, but all those options can sometimes be confusing. That’s particularly true when it comes to intrauterine devices (IUDs), which are becoming more and more popular due to their combination of wow factors.

You can keep an IUD in for up to three to 10 years, depending on the type you choose, and they’re over 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy. For good reason, use of IUDs has increased from 1.5 percent of women ages 15 to 44 in 2002 to 7.2 percent of women in that age range in 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As an ob/gyn, this delights me to no end. I’m all for people finding the best birth control out there for them.

In over 10 years of counseling patients on how to do just that, I’ve seen many people who are interested in IUDs but have a laundry list of questions. One I hear often is, “Do I actually need to check my IUD strings?” Though it’s not the end of the world if you don’t, I—and many other doctors—recommend you do. Here’s why.

An IUD is a T-shaped device that goes into your uterus with strings extending through your cervix into your vagina. Those strings serve a few purposes.

As a quick primer, there are two types of IUDs: copper and hormonal. They both have great profiles for different people, although they’re different in how they prevent pregnancies. Copper IUDs work by creating an inflammatory, toxic reaction to sperm in the uterus. Hormonal IUDs use progestin to thicken cervical mucus and thin your endometrial (uterine) lining. Here’s more about the differences in IUDs and how to know which might be a good option for you.

No matter which type of IUD you get, your health care provider will insert the device by pushing it through your vagina, past your cervix, and into your uterus. The T-shaped part of the IUD will sit in your uterus, and the strings will trail through your cervix so that a small length of around 2 to 3 centimeters remains in your vagina.

The strings are there to help your health care provider confirm the location of the IUD once it’s placed, enable them to remove the IUD with ease when the time comes, and allow you to try to confirm your IUD’s placement on your own. Doing so is a good way of verifying that your IUD is exactly where it’s supposed to be, which is why I encourage my patients to check their strings monthly—at least for the first three months after insertion.

You might be wondering, Wait, where else could my IUD go? Good question.

Very rarely does the IUD make its way out of the uterus on its own. This phenomenon, known as expulsion, is estimated to happen in 2 to 10 percent of all people with IUDs.

One of the most common signs of expulsion is the IUD actually falling out, so you wouldn’t feel any strings inside of you in that instance. But sometimes the device does not fully expel, so you may feel the strings lower than expected and a hard portion of the device protruding from your cervix. In the (again, rare) case of expulsion, you would possibly also experience bleeding and cramping.

Then there’s perforation, when an IUD starts to migrate through the uterine walls. It’s also very rare, happening in an estimated 1 out of every 1,000 people with IUDs, and it can cause abdominal pain or severe pelvic cramping. Or, in some cases you might not feel that anything is physically awry but also not be able to feel your strings, so you go to your ob/gyn and find out the IUD has moved because the doctor sees as much on an ultrasound.

If you’re concerned about not feeling strings during a self-exam, and if you have excessive spotting or bleeding, change in vaginal discharge, or pain with intercourse, I would advise you to make an appointment with your ob/gyn to have an exam. Otherwise, let’s go over how to check those strings, shall we?

Checking your strings is simple: Insert a finger into your vagina and feel up toward your cervix. They will usually feel like thin bits of fishing line.

It helps to know what the strings feel like before you try to find them, so don’t feel too shy to ask if you can touch them before your IUD is inserted.

Once you do brush up against your strings, you might be shocked by how close to your vaginal entrance they seem. Aren’t they supposed to be way up by your cervix? The truth is that your cervix can move lower and higher depending on your menstrual cycle and the amount of blood flowing to your uterus. This does not change the effectiveness of the IUD and will not increase the risk of it falling out or perforating your uterus.

On the other hand, you might not feel the strings at all when you try to check them. Definitely not something to freak out about! Once the IUD is placed, the strings can “curl up” around the cervix so they’re flush against it or in a location you cannot feel with your fingers. This will not decrease how well your IUD works or make complications more likely.

Issues like expulsion and perforation are most common in the period soon after insertion, which is why I recommend my patients check their strings for a minimum of three months after getting their IUDs.

You can continue to check after that if it eases your mind or if you simply find it interesting to get to know your body a little bit better.

Jessica Shepherd, M.D., is an ob/gyn, women’s health expert, and also the founder of Her Viewpoint, an online women’s health forum that focuses on addressing taboo topics in a comfortable setting. As an ob/gyn, she practices at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Texas. Dr. Shepherd is also seen regularly as an expert on TV and radio.

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Why Environmentalist Lizzie Carr Is Paddleboarding 170 Miles Down the Hudson River

She’s already the first woman to cross the English Channel on a paddleboard and the first person to paddle from top to bottom of the island of Great Britain. And right now, 31-year-old Lizzie Carr is making her way 170 miles down the Hudson River, from Albany, New York, to the Statue of Liberty, to take her message global.

The message? That the world’s waterways are overwhelmed with plastic debris that breaks down into microscopic beads, killing off sea and avian life at a terrifying rate. She became wise to this unfolding environmental disaster because, as she recovered from surgery to remove her cancerous thyroid and lymph nodes in 2013, the lifelong athlete sought a new low-intensity sport she could enjoy. Convalescing at her father’s home in the Isles of Scilly off England’s southwest coast, she spotted a paddleboarder on the water, gave it a try, and became hooked.

Yet her ability to commune with nature on the rivers and canals around suburban London, where she lives, was marred by ubiquitous plastic litter. When she spotted a bird’s nest made of equal parts twigs and plastic refuse, she became an activist. “It was a horrifying moment,” Carr tells SELF. “It really upset me. And I started wondering, ‘What can I do to highlight this problem in our canals and waterways?’” Carr left her career in marketing to launch #PlasticPatrol, a U.K.-based non-profit that advocates for cleanups, public awareness, and a shift in culture away from single-use plastic items such as straws and cups that are rarely recycled.

Carr’s ambitious attempt to traverse the Hudson on her paddleboard alone is her latest effort to use her athletic prowess to draw attention to the issue of pollution.

Her trip started on Thursday, September 6, in Albany and is set to conclude on September 15 in New York Harbor. Carr plans to paddle at least 15 miles per day—which is no small feat. She only got 6 miles along on her first day because of storms, so on Friday, she was busy making up the difference. “The weather is looking better, sunny with a tailwind, which should make it a bit easier,” she told me over the phone on Thursday night, from an AirBnB in Saugerties, near Woodstock, New York. “It’ll take me nine or 10 hours, but it’s doable.”

Along the way, she’s also collecting water samples that will be analyzed in a U.K. lab to measure the amount of microplastic content. She did the same on the English Channel challenge in June 2017, and the results showed at least two types of plastic in every sample and plastics that had come from hundreds of sources. “The extent of the pollution is so vast,” she says. “It’s quite eye-opening.”

Still, the former marketing expert in Carr knows that to be effective, she must give the public reasons to care and ways to help.

Carr’s progress on the Hudson is being tracked in real time via a map on her website, and she’s organized three #PlasticPatrol beach clean-up events scheduled in partnership with local environmental groups in Poughkeepsie on September 9, Croton-on-the-Hudson on September 12, and Manhattan on September 14. Volunteers also get a free tutorial on paddleboarding. For the finale of her Hudson River challenge, Carr expects to join the Association of Paddlesurf Professionals for their pre-planned outing around the Statue of Liberty on September 15.

The public also can download her free smart phone app and, as some 50,000 others already have, upload geotagged images of plastic litter in and around waterways. Those pictures are fed into an interactive map to further illustrate the extent of the problem.

In addition to her environmental activism, Carr is an evangelist for paddleboarding as a pastime.

In the U.S., she says, enthusiasts primarily paddle around lakes, whereas Brits tend to “go touring.” As she glided, solitary, through the Catskills on Friday, she was saddened that more people here don’t embrace the opportunity to enjoy this sort of zero-emission exercise. “This is amazing up where I am,” she said by phone on her paddleboard. “It would be incredible to get more people to do long-distance paddleboarding when you’ve got this on your doorsteps.”

Yet to get to that point, she says, the image of the waterway’s cleanliness must improve.

“The Hudson River is iconic,” she says, “but it’s the same as the Thames in London. When you tell people what you’re doing, they say, ‘Ew, why would you do that? It’s filthy, it’s disgusting. Why would you go near it?’ Locals just don’t feel connected to their waterways, they think it’s disgusting. It shouldn’t be like that. They should be able to enjoy it, not telling people to avoid it.”

Hot streak: Finding patterns in creative career breakthroughs

You’ve likely heard of hot hands or hot streaks — periods of repeated successes — in sports, financial markets and gambling. But do hot streaks exist in individual creative careers?

A team of researchers, including two from Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology, examined the works of nearly 30,000 scientists, artists and film directors to learn if high-impact works in those fields came in streaks.

According to Lu Liu, a doctoral student in the College of IST and member of the research team, they found a universal pattern.

“Around 90 percent of professionals in those industries have at least one hot hand, and some of them have two or even three,” she said.

The team’s paper, “Hot streaks in artistic, cultural, and scientific careers,” recently appeared in Nature.

Liu says that there are two previous schools of thought regarding hot streaks in individual careers. According to the “Matthew effect,” the more famous you become, the more likely you’ll have success later, which supports the existence of a hot streak. The other school of thought — the random impact rule — implies that the success of a career is primarily random and is primarily driven by levels of productivity.

“Our findings provide a different point of view regarding individual careers,” said Liu. “We found a period when an individual performs better than his normal career, and that the timing of a hot streak is random.”

She added, “Different from the perception [in innovation literature] that peak performance occurs in an individual’s 30s or 40s, Our results suggest that individuals have equal chance to perform better even in their late careers.”

The researchers also wanted to learn if individuals were more productive during their hot streak periods, which last an average of four to five years. Unexpectedly, they were not.

“Individuals show no detectable change in productivity during hot streaks, despite the fact that their outputs in this period are significantly better than the median, suggesting that there is an endogenous shift in individual creativity when the hot streak occurs,” wrote the team in their paper.

Through their research, the team analyzed data they collected from a variety of sources. They looked at scientists’ most-cited papers from Web of Science and Google Scholar, auction prices for artists, and Internet Movie Database (IMDB) ratings to gauge popularity of films and their directors. Then, they reconstructed a career path for each individual based on that data.

“The question starts from looking at the random impact rule,” said Liu. “We start from that to analyze if it applies to different domains. To our surprise, we found something more interesting.”

She explained that when the researchers looked at a scientist’s highest-impact work through their most-cited papers, its timing was random, as well as the timing of the second-most cited paper. But in looking at the relative timing of these highest-impact works, the researchers found that they are correlated.

“That’s how we find a hot streak period,” said Liu. “We then analyzed [this finding] in other creative domains, like artists and movie directors, to see if there are similar patterns in these careers.”

Liu said that there are many cases when the most famous works of an individual came in sequence. She cited Peter Jackson, director of “The Lord of the Rings” film series; Vincent Van Gogh, whose most famous paintings were completed late in his career; and Albert Einstein, whose four published papers in his “miracle year” of 1905 contributed significantly to the foundation of modern physics.

“[A hot streak] doesn’t just matter to these individuals,” said Liu. “It matters to society as well.”

Liu said that this could help to understand the innovative process, and have the potential to discover and cultivate individuals during a hot streak.

As the research shows that hot streaks do in fact exist in creative careers, the researchers hope to apply the research methods to more domains, including musicians, inventors and entrepreneurs.

“We know that these domains have different natures,” Liu said. “For example, scientists collaborate with each other and artists work alone. If we can find the triggers and drivers behind the universal pattern, that would be much more interesting.”

20-Minute Cardio Workout for People Who Hate Running

Running is often cited as a great go-to form of cardio. And, yeah, OK, it is. But the truth is that a lot of people don’t like running. Some may even say they hate running. Honestly, I’m a runner and sometimes I’m not so hot on it myself! Other people may avoid it because they have an an injury or mobility issue that makes running uncomfortable or painful. The good news is, it’s not really necessary to slog through it to get a decent cardiovascular workout. You could opt for other cardio workouts, like biking or rowing. Or, you could do a quick HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workout, which often packs a big cardio challenge into a small time frame.

“A HIIT series is a great sub for running or other steady-state cardio,” Juan Hidalgo, a certified trainer and group fitness instructor based in Los Angeles, tells SELF. Simply put, since a HIIT workout involves bursts of high-intensity cardio and strength work peppered with short periods of rest (so you can recover before the next intense push), you’ll get the heart-pumping benefits of a run in a shorter amount of time. And if you’re someone who hates running, you may find this form of cardio exercise way less daunting. Which is great—after all, the best workout is one you’ll actually do and stick with.

Hidalgo created the four-part HIIT workout below as an alternative to running or other forms of cardio. It focuses on short work intervals—during which you should be pushing yourself to give an effort of about 7-9 on a scale of 1-10—and brief rest periods. “Short intervals should allow for you to push yourself as long as you are maintaining good form, engaging your core, and protecting your lower back,” Hidalgo says. So while pushing hard and fast is the goal here, always remember that correct form is paramount and if that means you need to rest longer than the allotted time, that’s totally OK. (And, as always, it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor before starting this or any other new workout to make sure it’s safe for you.)

The workout combines Tabata circuits, where you’ll alternate 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest for 4 minutes; and an AMRAP circuit. AMRAP stands for “as many rounds as possible,” so the goal there is to run through the exercises (with the listed number of reps) as many times as you can in 4 minutes. This setup allows you to get a full-body workout “without taxing one area to the point that proper form cannot be maintained in order for each exercise to be performed safely,” says Hidalgo. He suggests adding this workout to your routine twice a week.

Ready to get started? Check out all the details below—and don’t forget to do a quick warm-up before!

Demoing the moves is Crystal Williams, a group fitness instructor and trainer who is certified in Spinning, Schwinn MPower Indoor Cycling, TRX Functional Training, and Urban Rebounding. She teaches at residential and commercial gyms across New York City, including Body Elite Gym and West End Health and Fitness, as well as boutique fitness studio KORE New York.

The Workout

Moves

  • Prisoner Jump Squat With Heel Tap
  • Walk Out
  • Mountain Climber
  • Plank Shoulder Tap
  • Lateral Lunge Into Runner’s Jump
  • Burpee Into Tuck Jump

Directions

Part 1: Tabata

  • Do Prisoner Jump Squat With Heel Taps for 4 minutes, alternating 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest.
    Rest for 1 minute.

Part 2: AMRAP

  • Walk out to plank, then do 20 Mountain Climbers and 20 Plank Shoulder Taps.
  • Walk back up to standing.
  • Complete as many rounds as possible of the above for 4 minutes.
    Rest for 1 minute

Part 3: Tabata

  • Do Lateral Lunges Into Runner’s Jumps for 4 minutes, alternating 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest. Alternate the lunging leg each round.
    Rest for 1 minute.

Part 4: Tabata

  • Do Burpees Into Tuck Jumps for 4 minutes, alternating 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest.

Here’s how to do each move: