How to Exercise Intuitively (Plus, Links!)

Ever since I wrote about my recent fitness class fatigue, I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of intuitive exercise. It’s something I first heard about while doing an intuitive eating challenge back in May; the idea is that, rather than dragging yourself to the gym and doing whatever will burn the maximum amount of calories, you should stay active in ways that you actually enjoy—and it definitely doesn’t have to involve doing the same exercises every day. Rather, just as you would listen to what your body is craving to eat intuitively, you should do the same with exercise and move in whatever way feels best to you in the moment.

Granted, everyone has those days when you don’t want to start working out because of sheer inertia—but are so glad you did afterward. Still, I’ve been making more of an effort the past several days to really ask myself, “What type of workout are you in the mood for today?” and make my decision of what to do based off of that. Today, I did a short bout on the elliptical at the gym (while reading The Silkworm; I know you’re not “supposed” to read while you’re working out, but I love it!). And I also biked to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden with my boyfriend. No, it wasn’t as intense as a cycling class. But it was way more fun—and I saw some gorgeous flowers! Take a look:

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I’m going to continue to make an effort to exercise intuitively (including not forcing myself out of bed at 6:30 a.m. when I’m really enjoying evening workouts more lately). Here’s what else I have on my wellness radar this week:

Have a well-intentioned week!

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Are You a Sleep Procrastinator?


Last night, I probably could have gone to bed at 10 p.m. But I wanted to write a blog post…and get a couple of things done for work…and watch an episode of Orange is the New Black…and then watch another episode. Chances are, you can relate: Half of the people in a recent study said they suffer from sleep procrastination, or “failing to go to bed at the intended time, while no external circumstances prevent a person from doing so,” according to a recent study conducted by Dutch researchers.

I know it’s a little ironic writing about this at 10:30 at night, but I thought it was important to talk about how incredibly hard it is not to push back bedtime when you feel like there’s constantly so much to accomplish. Right now, for example, I really feel like I need to e-mail the company that manages my apartment building, pay my electric bill, text my friend who I’m visiting this weekend—and I’m also in the middle of baking cookies for a co-worker’s last day tomorrow. In other words, it’s not just a lack of self-control that’s the problem—despite what the researchers are suggesting. A lot of people, myself included, have so much they want and plan to do each day—so it’s hard to know when to say when and save the rest for tomorrow so you can get an adequate amount of sleep.

I also sabotage myself at other times, planning early workouts for myself and/or booking things every night of the week—whereas if I gave myself the night or morning off a few times a week, I would be able to sleep later or check off some of those little things on my to-do list (including unwinding by watching Netflix with my boyfriend) earlier.

Are you a sleep procrastinator? And do you have any tactics to make sure you get enough shuteye (rather than staying up late doing things that you could easily put on hold until tomorrow)? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Hangover Survival Kits for My Friend’s Bachelorette Party


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Hi, everyone! I’m at my friend’s bachelorette party this weekend, and I ended up being in charge of the favors for all of the girls coming. I made “Hangover Survival Kits” by printing out a simple design on brown paper bags (you can get a tutorial on how to print on lunch bags at Oh Happy Day—although I have to warn you that my printer was more finicky with the bags than I expected after reading this post). Here’s what I put inside:

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I think they turned out well! And they were a pretty simple way to put together a favor that felt creative and personalized. I’d definitely recommend it if you have anything coming up soon for which you have to provide goodie bags. (And just in case you’re interested, here’s the editable Niki Bags I used to print the design on the bags.)

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My New Favorite Sunscreen

As I mentioned in Tuesday’s post, I’m currently in Miami for a friend’s bachelorette party. We hit the beach today—which means I slathered on the sunscreen to protect my (very fair) skin. This is actually the tail-end of Melanoma Awareness Month, so I’m happy to take this opportunity to toot my sunscreen-loving horn. Back when I was in high school, I actually used to sit out in the sun for two hours a day for the express purpose of getting a tan. Now, I shudder to think about what kind of damage I probably did. It’s part of the reason that I try my best to wear sunscreen daily now (along with the fact that I’ve written and edited several articles about skin cancer so far in my career).

In case you didn’t know, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S.—a whopping 20 percent of people will develop it at some point in their lifetime. It’s also a largely preventable disease—and since melanoma is deadly, it’s so, so important to wear sunscreen (and wear it correctly). OK, I’ll stop with the PSA because I also know that putting on sunscreen can kind of seem like a pain. But that’s why I love this new Neutrogena Beach Defense Sunscreen Spray Broad Spectrum SPF 70 I recently picked up. The spray isn’t greasy and doesn’t have that typical sunscreen smell—so you don’t feel weird wearing it when you’re heading to work or to run errands. It also comes in a fun yellow bottle:


Seriously, this stuff is great. You just have to make sure to go over every area on your body (I like to do two separate sweeps so I don’t miss any spots). To learn more, check out these sunscreen FAQs from the American Academy of Dermatology. Aaaannnndddd just for fun, here are some of my snapshots from the beach in Miami so far:

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An Ode to Standing Desks—Plus Some History!

On Thursday, I went to my podiatrist (I’ve been going periodically ever since I first started experiencing severe heel pain in October)and I got some good news! While I still can’t run until Memorial Day, I can now use my standing desk again! I’m fortunate to work in an office that provides sitting/standing desks to employees who want it, particularly since we’ve covered the dangers of sitting all day pretty extensivelyso it’s nice to be able to practice what we preach. Check me out:

Coincidentally, The New York Times Magazine also covered the history of standing desks recently. Did you know that they’ve been around since at least 1797?! Here’s a quote from the story:

Office life in the 19th century involved much less sitting than it does today. A self-help book from 1858 suggested that professionals practice penmanship on their feetsince “nearly half” of all business writing was done at standing desks. Inventors of the era filed patents for bureaus that could be adjusted with cranks. Yet by the mid-20th century, the practice had grown rare enough to seem an eccentricity. Upon visiting Ernest Hemingway in the mid-’50s, George Plimpton noted that he kept his typewriter on top of a bookcase and stood while he wrote, even though he had a “perfectly suitable desk in the other alcove.”

Of course, you don’t need a standing desk to spend less time sitting on your backsideyou can also just visit the water cooler, the bathroom, or a co-worker’s desk from time to time. Do you have any tricks for avoiding sedentary work days? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Everything You Think You Know About Health Studies Is Probably Wrong


I’ve spent the better part of the past couple of days writing a story inspired by recent research that suggests running too much may be linked to a shorter lifespanat least, that’s what the headlines about the findings would lead you to believe. But then, today, when I got the researcher on the phone (he’s a cardiologist named Martin Matsumura), he told me that his study didn’t even look at the lifespans of runners. Rather, he and his team were inspired by a couple of previous studies that hinted high-mileage running, over the span of a lifetime, may be connected to decreased longevity. So Matsumura, thinking there must be some other factor besides the running that explained the decreased lifespan, surveyed more than 3,800 runners about their health habits and tried to deduce if there was some commonality between the people who ran 20-plus miles a week, when compared to those who ran shorter distances. Turns out, there wasn’tbut that still doesn’t prove that running “caused” the elite runners to die earlier. It just means that this study didn’t identify another more likely cause. Of course, that level of nuance doesn’t make nearly as snappy a headline, and you have to do a fair amount of legwork to understand those kinds of intricaciesso many media outlets just don’t bother, preferring to regurgitate the misconstrued information put forth on other sites.

If you’re interested in learning more about the other research surrounding this topic, you can check out my article on about how much running is too much. The answer to that question wasn’t the only interesting thing I learned while doing the reporting for this story, though; I was also reminded of something important about health science in general: Even if you try to stay up on the latest health, nutrition, and fitness findings, you probably have a pretty over-simplifiedif not straight-up wrongunderstanding of them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen another media outlet cover research in a way that we at realize, after looking at the full study text and speaking to the study author, is fraught with inaccuracies. Sometimes, even the press releases issued by the universities that conduct the research are wrong (this can happen when someone who works in the university’s media office writes the press release without actually talking to the study author and getting them to verify that the release interprets the findings correctly).

In other instances, a media outlet will cover a study accurately, but they fail to put it into context. This happened to me recently while I was reporting on a study that suggested mammograms don’t save lives. The New York Times took the study findings at face valueand because my boss’s mother happens to work in radiology, we knew the study was flawed and its findings were biased. Since the study findings seemed suspect, we made the decision to cover them in a more comprehensive way that got at the larger issue of whether women should continue to get mammograms. Of course, I’m not saying we cover every study flawlesslynot even close. But we do make an effort to devote the time and resources necessary to not just accurately report on the research that’s core to our brand, but also to put it into context.

So what can you do as a health-conscious media consumer? If you ask me, the truth is that most of the latest study findings, while they can be interesting, aren’t anything that should radically change your habits, particularly when they contradict what you think you know about health and wellness. One study isn’t proof that lean meats are bad for you and should be avoided at all coststhere’s no such thing as a perfect study design, and you may not even have been reading an article that accurately reports on the findings. Instead of driving yourself crazy trying to live by all of the latest research (which gets back at that idea of using health and wellness as tools, not weapons), do yourself a favor and wait until there are at least a dozen studies suggesting the same exact thing. When the evidence on any big health point becomes too clear-cut to ignore, you’ll know.

Health and Wellness Are Tools, Not Weapons


I was at a mindful-eating workshop a few weeks ago when the woman leading the workshop said something profound: “Nutrition is a tool, not a weapon.” (To be fair, it was just one of the many profound things she said that weekend.) Isn’t it interesting that so many of us turn information about how to lead a healthy, happy lifestyle into a punishment? How many times have you said—even just internally—”I have to work out or I’ll feel guilty going out to dinner tonight” or “I want the fill-in-the-blank, but I should get a salad”?

I used to feel bad if I didn’t work out for an hour a day or if I “messed up” and ate something unhealthy (which, of course, happens all the time—I can’t help it if I have a weakness for cake!). Oh, and then there’s this: I’m an editor at a health and wellness magazine. So it’s my job to cover weight loss, nutrition, and fitness news on a daily basis. It’s basically the fastest way to feel like your attempts at healthy living are inadequate: One day, the latest study says you’re not eating enough protein; the next day, new research suggests that high-protein diets can increase your risk of cancer. You go to cycling classes regularly and are a fixture on your gym’s elliptical—but then fitness experts say that strength training is, in fact, superior to cardio exercises.

And that’s essentially what this blog is all about: Learning how to use health and wellness as tools for a better, more fulfilling life—and not something to beat myself up about. I hope you’ll join me as I seek out that elusive health-related happy place—I could use some company along the way!