Reader’s Choice Beauty Awards: Part 1

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Okay you guys, I know this was a long awaited post…and as I was going through ALL of your amazing beauty recommendations…SKINCARE was the #1 type of recommendation you sent in! So Part 1 is going to focus mostly on skincare! And I will save a majority of the rest for Part 2.

I have to admit, I am a complete minimalist when it comes to skincare. I really don’t use much of anything except a moisturizer. So this was a true learning experience for me to see ALL the the many amazing products you all use on the daily…and I am going to have to check a few of them out for SURE.

I had asked for some natural recommendations since eventually I am leaning that direction of switching over some products. That being said…there are still some products that aren’t “natural” that I use and love and I am open to learning about ALL products right now, so I have recommendations on all fronts listed here. I have linked them all for your convenience, especially during this holiday season since you may find something for yourself or as a gift for someone else! Please let me know if you have specific questions about anything!

Without further ado…here are your FAVORITE SKINCARE products!!!

 

Moisturizing Oils:

Cocokind Chia Seed Oil (face)

Cocokind Chia Seed Oil

 

Maya Chia Face Oil

Maya Chia

 

Almond oil (whole body) – no brand specified, but found this one at Target

Almond Oil

Marula Oil (evening) – no brand specified, but found this one at Sephora

Marula Oil

Young Living Rose Ointment

YL Rose Ointment

Doterra Geranium Essential Oil

Doterra Geranium Oil

 

Moisturizing Creams:

 

Belief True Cream Moisturizing Bomb (day)

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Natura Culina Skincare Set – this is actually a full set, not just a moisturizer, but wasn’t sure where to place it

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Young Living Sandalwood Moisturizing Cream

YL Sandalwood

Beautycounter Countermatch Adaptive Moisture Lotion

Beautycounter Adaptive Moisture

Beautycounter Brightening Face Oil

Beautycounter Brightening Face Oil

Doterra Immortelle

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Murad Day Cream (with SPF 30)

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Olay Age Defying

Olay

 

 

Astringent/Toner: 

-Witch Hazel – no brand specified, but I found this one at Target

Thayer's Witch Hazel

Heart Grown Wild

Heart Grown Wild Toner

 

Exfoliator/Scrubs:

Sunday Riley Good Genes Acid Exfoliator

Sunday Riley Good Genes

Beautycounter Exfoliating Facial Scrub

Beautycounter Exfoliator

Homemade Pink Himalayan Salt, coconut oil, essential oils for body – here is a good recipe

Himalayan-Salt-Scrub-Recipe

 

Cleansers:

Philosophy Purity along with a Clarisonic

Philosophy Purity

Beautycounter Cleansing Balm

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Beautycounter Charcoal Cleansing Bar

Beautycounter Charcoal Cleansing Bar

Marie Veronique Replenishing Oil Cleanser

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Serums:

Sunday Riley C.E.O

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Young Living Rejuvenating Serum

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Drunk Elephant C Firma

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Heart Grown Wild

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Aster + Bay Purify Serum

Aster and Bay

Agent Nateur Youth Serum

Agent Nateur Youth Serum

 

Mists:

Beautycounter Rosewater Mist

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SPF:

Josie Maran

Josie Maran SPF

 

Face Masks:

Manuka Honey

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Natura Culina Rose Berry

Natura Culina Rose Berry Face Mask.jpg

Beautycounter Charcoal Mask

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Makeup Remover:

Coconut Oil – How to remove your makeup with coconut oil

Aveeno Wipes

Aveeno Cleaning Wipes.jpg

 

Hands/Body:

Dr. Bronners (both bar and bottle)

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Dr Bronner Bottle

 

J.R. Watkins Coconut Milk & Honey Hand Cream

JR Watkins Hand Cream

Trader Joe’s Hand Cream

Trader Joe's Hand Cream.jpg

 

Lotions:

Homemade beeswax, coconut oil, olive oil combo – Instructions for how to make this

Nourish Organic Lotion

Nourish Organic

 

Eye Creams:

Cocokind MyMatcha Stick – under eye puffiness (also great as a chapstick) – not really a cream

Cocokind MyMatcha Stick

100% Pure Coffee Bean Caffeine Cream

100 Percent Pure Coffee Bean Eye Cream.jpg

Young Living Wolfberry Eye Cream

YL Wolfberry Eye Cream

 

Deodorant:

Primal Pit Paste Stick

Primal Pit Paste Stick

Nivea Pure Invisible

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Spruce Tips Apothecary Orange Cardamom

SpruceTipsApothecary

Native Deodorant

Native Deodorant


WHEW!!!!!!! WOW, you guys….I am completely BLOWN AWAY!!!! Thank you SO much for all of your beauty recommendations for Skincare (and a few other things). I will absolutely be trying many of these out, and I hope you are able to do the same!

If you agree with something on this list, I want to hear it!!!

If you believe something needs to be added to this list…I want to know!!!

And lastly…as I work on Part 2, I’m still taking recommendations for:

Concealers

Eye Shadows/Liners

Mascara

Blush

Lipstick

Foundation

Gloss

Nail Polish

Hair Products

Thanks again for all the amazings recs, and I hope you guys are having a fantastic week!!

My Christmas Cards are finished, so now I am busy over here thinking about Christmas shopping and about our new ab + booty focused workout program that is pre-launching SO soon! (December 14th). Getting excited. I just love this time of year!

Hope you are enjoying the holiday season too!

XO,

Gina

Meet Meagan: A Coaching Story

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Meet Meagan!!!
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Meagan and I went to college together at the University of Maryland and met on the Women’s Club Soccer Team. While we have a similar athletic background and we are now both mamas, I just love Meagan’s story. She is one inspiring lady who seriously does it all…she takes care of animals, takes care of her daughter, she’s an amazing wife/daughter/sister, and now she is back to taking care of herself as well. Meagan is working toward BIG goals, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled that she decided to trust in me to join Team SPARK! and take this journey as a coach alongside me. She is a TEAM player, a HARD worker, and she DREAMS BIG. Not only has she had incredible success with her health + fitness journey (she has lost at least 42 lbs post pregnancy to date of this interview…and possibly more now), she is also building her own team and making great strides toward achieving that type of freedom she craves with the business side of coaching. She has grown so much, and I cannot WAIT to see where this journey will take her next!!
 
Progress Photos:
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Beginning of Coaching Journey:
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Mid October:
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Without further ado, I will let you read my interview with her below and you can meet her for yourself! 🙂
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1) Tell us about yourself (where you live, family, hobbies, interests, anything else that you would like to include about yourself). I live in Baltimore, MD with my husband and daughter. We have 2 dogs and 2 cats. My husband and I are both from PA so our families are atleast 1.5 hours away. I’m the oldest of 6 girls so life for me has always been crazy/busy, non stop, always on the go. Living away from family means that help with our daughter’s childcare can be a little difficult at times. I work three 12 hours shifts in a row as a registered veterinary technician (nurse) at a very busy animal hospital with a very high standard of care. So work can be exhausting (mentally and physically) and stressful but I love it. I also bartend on Saturday nights at Phillips Seafood Restaurant where I have worked since graduating from college (this year makes 9 years!). My husband’s days off are two of the days that I work so he can be home with Charlotte. On Saturdays I go into work with Charlie and hand her off to Daddy and then he takes her home. So we only have to pay for one day of childcare. This plan, however, does not allow us to have any days off together. That has it’s own challenges, of course. I don’t have much time or the ability for activities for myself (I used to play football, kickball, and softball on local social club teams) but when ever I have off, I have my daughter (and daddy is at work) and it’s not always easy to find help to watch her if I need/want to do something. So, I can’t do it, unless I can take her.
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I love sports, animals, being outside and being adventurous. I like doing anything that I can take the dogs along for. They love to swim and fetch, they are very active and energetic but it’s hard to bring them with me sometimes since it’s usually just me with Charlie and both of them.
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2) What is your fitness background? I played soccer for 16 years. In middle school, I ran track and played basketball too. In college and afterwards I played on several club teams for kickball, football, softball, volleyball, soccer. If you need a person on your sports team, I’m your gal. Haha. I may not be awesome at all sports, but I can get by in most of them. My Dad was a soccer player (He played for the San Jose Earthquakes in the 80s) and he always played softball when I was growing up, so my love of sports comes from him— he taught me everything I know about throwing a baseball and football and kicking a soccer ball. My mom was always active also, she was a flamenco dancer in a dance company when I was young, trained with a body builder and would often go on long runs when I was in high school. She used to take me to an MMA gym where we would take a boxercise class and tae-ke-bo class. So my fitness always revolved around sports. I didn’t like running for fun until college which was when I picked up a love for yoga also. Both were a great way for me to de-stress and clear my mind. As great as yoga and running are for my mind, I have always loved team sports.
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3) Why did you decide to become a Coach on Team SPARK? I wasn’t expecting to decide to be a coach that day in May 2017. I saw one of your posts about daring to dream. I think it just hit home for me and I knew I had to jump on it, without much thought, I jumped in. I had been feeling very BLAH for months. I was in a funk, a bad one. I WANTED to workout more, but I just couldn’t seem to get it done. I had started taking regular walks with the dogs and Charlie in the stroller and I was more conscious about what I was eating. I was 160ish pounds in Dec2016/Jan2017 and by April I was hovering around 145. So, progress was being made but I knew regular walks weren’t gonna to get me where I wanted. I just couldn’t seem to figure out how I was going to get it done. My husband is naturally tall and thin and would choose to eat Taco Bell every night if he could (even though he is an amazing cook). He wasn’t going to be the one to motivate me. We had worked half way through P90X twice (we could only ever seem to make it to 45ish days haha). He grew up playing volleyball and baseball. We played kickball together on a social team and he can be very competitive and that’s how we got through P90X. I worked out during the day because I worked nights then and he would workout when he got home from his day shift— we always kept each other on track. Nowadays, he’d rather not workout— so that leaves me to motivate myself. It wasn’t going very well. I didn’t want to get a gym membership, becauseI knew I wouldn’t use it. Plus, not all gyms have childcare and like I said before, I always have Charlie.
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I’d also been dreaming of not having to bartend on Saturday nights anymore. It’s not a bad gig, but I’m just ready to call it quits. The money I make there each month pays my gigantic student loan bill and although we could probably survive without it.. it seems stupid to not work 4 days a month to be able to make that payment. I was trying to figure out what else I could do that would allow us the freedom we have financially without making any sacrifices. After several weeks/months of feeling like there was something missing in more than 1 aspect of my life, there was your post. Dare to dream. I had been seeing your posts for years. Busy mom, fit mom, working mom. Killing it. So I said, what the hell. Why not try it, what could it hurt. I knew just being a challenger would not be enough to make this a lifestyle change. Being just a challenger would probably get me as far as I got with P90X and then I would fall off again. BUT being a coach, being able to motivate and inspire others? That should do the trick. I always loved being a team captain, I loved coaching, and I had been thinking about taking looking into teaching at the local vet tech school. I wanted something to spend my time that was fulfilling, that would allow me to help others. But coaching/teaching was just another something that would take me away from the house and require additional childcare costs and less time with family. COACHING was it! I could check off all the boxes. PLUS, even if coaching wasn’t a financial success, I would hopefully have my athletic self back again. I had been missing since college. So, without overthinking it, I said yes. I’m so happy I did.
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4) What was the first Beachbody program you tried? What did you like about it?  P90X. I liked how challenging it was and I liked that variety of workouts. Since becoming a coach, the first program I tried was 22 Minute Hard Corps, because I knew I liked Tony as a trainer, and I was familiar with him so I picked that one first. Plus the shorter workouts would make for an easier transition into a fitness routine.
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5) What was tough or challenging for you?  The hardest part at first was waking up early to get my workout in before my long shifts. That had been an excuse of mine for a loooooong time. There was no way that I would be able to wake up before a 12 hours shift earlier than I needed to just to work out. I had been working on eating better for a few months, but nutrition was also a big part of what I struggled with. Not because I don’t like healthy foods, but because I was terrible at planning and I would stop at fast food restaurants all the time because I wouldn’t have food in the house. I would stop in the morning on the way to work for breakfast— because I wouldn’t give myself enough time to eat at home— and I would stop when I was out running errands because it was easy. I was getting fast food at least 3-4 times a week AND going out to eat with hubby once a week or every other week. Shakeology has really helped with that, it’s my breakfast in the car on the way to work and my go-to lunch on my days off when we are out and about!
 
6) What has your progressed looked like in terms of pounds and inches? How did you stay motivated to get to this point?  I’ve lost 15 pounds and 10 inches since becoming a coach. I went from a size 10 to a 4 (just realized I was in a size 4 the other day)! My motivation came from the accountability/support groups. Watching everyone live busy lives and still find time to workout and eat right was great. It made me feel like I wasn’t alone. I knew it was going to be a constant battle and somedays I may lose the battle was I was going to win this war. It all comes back to my love of team sports. That was this is like for me. We are all on a team, we win together, we lose together, we support each other, we motivate each other. We all have something to learn from one another, and I find that the most inspiring. The honesty and the open-ness of the group allows for a safe place to be honest and open with yourself. Sharing my story has helped me stay on track and hearing how people are inspired by what I’m doing when I run into them, that’s worth it. Even if they aren’t joining my group or supporting my business, they are driven by when I share to be more active and make better choices. That’s huge.
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7) How do you feel today, and what are your goals moving forward?  I feel awesome. My goals are constantly changing, which is so cool! I’ve surpassed my original goals which is sooo surprising! Instead of quitting because I’ve reached my original goals (which is part of the reason I stopped P90X midway through— I felt like I was at a good place and could stop), I make new goals. Now that I’ve lost the weight, I want to build muscle and tone my body. I want to be able to one day do a hand stand and at least 5 pull ups. I want to continue inspiring other people to reach their goals. My ultimate goal is to inspire my husband to join me and start his own fitness journey. Any wife knows that you can’t make them do anything they don’t want to do, so I’ll just wait for him to have the grand idea all on his own. 🙂 Haha. I just want people to realize that if they WANT to do it, they can do it. I’m a TV junkie. I love naps. I love junk food. I procrastinate. I’m always late, and I hit the snooze at least 3 times every morning. But here I am, surprising myself everyday. If I can do this, anyone can do this.
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8) How has your life changed since become a Coach on Team SPARK? My life has changed in so many ways! I LIKE waking up early before work to work out. I feel energized, accomplished, and proud. I make regular trips to the grocery store and keep my fridge stocked with good foods to eat! I plan more, plan meals for the week, plan my days, and plan to be better than I used to be. I’m happier. I don’t feel sluggish or tired (sometimes yes, but not nearly as often as I used to). I’m confident. I like the person I see in the mirror and not just because of my pants size but because of what I’ve been able to accomplish. Being a coach has given me my life back, I feel like myself again.
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So flippin’ proud of this girl, and can you just look at that SMILE!!!! That is EVERYTHING. 🙂
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All it takes is a leap of faith when you dare to dream. This girl is doing it. And this team is going places. Watch us. Or join us. Only you can make that decision spark that fire and FLY.
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Hope you are all making the most of your week!
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XO,
Gina

#SUMMERSTRONG

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Holy smokes, you guys…Memorial Day is RIGHT around the corner, and before you know it, we are in JUNE!!!

 

There is never a perfect time to get started on making a change. We are never “less busy” than usual. There will always be parties, and holidays, and soccer practice, and traveling. So the perfect time to get started often has to do with something within.

 

There has to be something within you that wants to make a change. A reason. A why that is propelling you forward. Without that why, you may start something new excitedly, but then quickly fall off because you weren’t serious about making your change or you didn’t fully understand why you jumped in.

 

So maybe you are the:

 

*Former athlete turned mama who wants to get back to her old self again

*The working mom who just can no longer fit in that gym commute

*The gym rat who loves working out, but it somehow just not getting the results

*The one with the sweet tooth who cannot stop late night snacking and wants to improve with healthier habits

*The gal who just wants to feel confident in her bathing suit this summer

*The woman who is daily going through her closet disliking everything she puts on.

*The mama who just seriously is craving some ME time

*The person who is tired of being sick and tired and wants that boost to energy and motivation

 

Because I have been ALL of these women and more at some point and time…

 

And I can say now that:

 

*I am happier + healthier than ever before

*I have found a community that supports each other and lifts each other up

*I have gained a ton more confidence in myself and my capabilities

*I feel excited to get dressed in the morning

*I feel strong in mind, body, and soul

*I have opened my mind to so many more possibilities and have learned so much

 

I may never be completely confident in my bathing suit…but hey we all have our insecurities, and no one is perfect.

 

But it’s not about being perfect. It’s about improving yourself and being the best version of yourself there is.

 

If you are READY to commit to making a change. If you want to reach your full potential. If you want to be happy and healthy. If you want to feel #SUMMERSTRONG…

 

Then I would LOVE to include you in my upcoming #SUMMERSTRONG health + fitness Challenge Group starting June 5th!

 

Each person in the group will be following an at-home workout program that I will help to recommend based on your goals and interests, drink a daily superfood shake packed with clean energy and nutrition, follow a nutrition plan, have my full support as your coach, and be surrounded by other positive uplifiting challengers like yourself who will motivate each other to reach our goals.

 

These groups have been LIFE CHANGING for me, and I know if you are ready, they will be for you too!

 

Please comment below with your email address or email me if you would like to learn more! Make it a great day everyone!!!

XO,

Gina

Homemade Apple Butter

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After our recent trip to Fishkill Farms, I knew that this was going to be the perfect opportunity to finally make homemade apple butter this season. With fresh organic apples from the farm and a recipe from Skinnytaste, I decided to spend a Sunday afternoon making this delicious spread that reminds me of my childhood days. I was nervous with how it was going to turn out, but I have to say, it was pretty spot on!

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Ingredients:
 
  • 6 large apples, peeled, cored, finely chopped (honeycrisp, gala, ambrosia) – *I used a couple extra apples and the apple type was whatever we found at the farm
  • 1/3 cup raw sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, not packed
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg – *For all the spices, I had an Apple Pie spice that I used instead which had these ingredients

Directions:

Place the apples in a slow cooker. Top with sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg and mix well. Cover and cook high 5 hours, or low 10 hours, stirring once halfway, until the apples are tender and dark brown.

Uncover and puree with an immersion blender. *(I do not own an immersion blender, so I actually had to spoon it out and blend it in my regular blender…not really recommended, as it’s hot and this is a difficult procedure! However, it got the job done.) Cook on high uncovered 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until thickened.

Spoon into jars or containers, cover and refrigerate.

Makes 2 cups.

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Nico has been enjoying peanut butter and apple butter sandwiches for lunch as I did as a child, and he absolutely loves it! I have enjoyed some on toast as well. If you have other great ideas for how to enjoy apple butter, please share!

Hope you all had a fantastic Halloween last night. My boys dressed up as Curious George (Nico) and the Man in the Yellow Hat (hubby). Luca was a skeleton (with a pumpkin hat), and I was a panda (naturally). We enjoyed our neighborhood Halloween Parade, which was fabulous, and then took off for some Trick or Treating. Nico had his first candy this year, and had no idea what to do with a lollipop. It was a pretty funny experience to say the least. We let him have a few pieces…and then my husband and I had a few too many pieces…and now I need to GET IT ALL OUT OF MY HOUSE!

21 Day Fix Round 2 starts tomorrow as well as my Thankful for Fitness Challenge Group, and it’s healthy eating and living from here on out so that I am going into the holidays feeling happy, healthy, and strong.

Who’s with me?

Happy Sunday!

XO,

Gina

Why I’m Tougher This Pregnancy

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Pregnancy. What a wild ride it is…and each time is different. My first pregnancy was cut tragically short due to a miscarriage after 7.5 weeks and ended in devastation and sadness. My 2nd pregnancy, I was a nervous wreck for the entire 1st trimester and then some. Afraid to work out. Afraid of another loss. Eventually as time wore on, I started to become less nervous and embrace my pregnancy along with all the ups and down, scares, vomiting, nausea, itchiness, heartburn, early contractions, duck waddling, and more. With every sonogram (and I had a lot of them) I felt closer and closer to my Little Monkey. Eventually, on August 29, 2013, my little boy was brought into the world and everything made sense. All of that craziness was worth it, and my life was forever changed. I can’t believe that little boy is now almost 2 years old, and I have another on the way.

Most women would say that being pregnant the 2nd (or in my case 3rd) time around is more difficult. I would have to agree that it has been quite challenging. However, I think it has somehow made me TOUGHER. And here’s why:

1st Trimester Nausea & Exhaustion

I thought this was bad before, but this pregnancy was much worse! Previously, I would get sick, and then feel better, but I pretty much felt a constant wave of nausea all day every day for the entire first trimester. Even if I got sick, I did not feel any better. I tried ginger candies (I was repulsed), preggie pop drops, eating small frequent meals, and sea bands, but nothing really seemed to do the trick except letting time pass. I was also much more exhausted, but couldn’t exactly fall asleep whenever I wanted to. Knowing that I was able to get through this first rough of a 1st trimester with everything else going on in my life makes me feel like one tough cookie.

I Have a Toddler This Time Around

This is probably BY FAR the most challenging aspect of this pregnancy! Previously, if I needed a nap or I felt sick I could lay down and rest. As a stay-at-home working mom this time around, I cannot just take a break when I need to. My toddler is very active and wants to run around and play all day. He takes one nap a day, and at the beginning, I was napping right along with him! With the 2nd trimester, I gained a lot of energy back, and now I work during his nap time, but it was a a struggle in the beginning. There was a lot of time for planning during my last pregnancy, but I feel as if this pregnancy is just flying right by! Anyone that can get through a pregnancy while taking care of a toddler is tough in my book!

I am Running My Own Business

Speaking of work…since the company I was working for folded in September, I decided to take a step in a new direction as a fitness coach and freelance writer. I now stay at home with my son, work from home, and make my own schedule, but it’s also extremely tough to fit everything in in one day on top of being pregnant. Toddler playdates, doctor’s appointments, conference calls, emails, quiet time to write, taking care of the house, building a business…there is so much to fit in each day, and only so much time. I find myself working a lot of late nights trying to get it all done, and luckily my husband is good about letting me sleep in a lot so that I don’t run myself ragged.

I am Working on My Fitness

As I said before, I was previously scared to work out during my last pregnancy. I walked a lot, which was a great way to keep active, but I did not feel “in shape” at all. This pregnancy, I have been doing the PiYo program (combo of pilates and yoga) at least 4-5 times per week for at least 30 min per day, hiking on weekends, etc. My body feels so much more physically fit, strong, & toned, and my lungs have so much more endurance and capacity. I feel so much more energized on a daily basis after I have completed my workouts, and I generally just feel tougher!

I am Eating Healthier

I do feel that I generally ate pretty healthy during my last pregnancy, but since becoming a fitness coach, I have paid even more attention to what I am putting in my body on a daily basis…especially processed foods and sugars. Of course, this pregnant mama is never going to completely cut ice cream out of her diet…I mean we all have to live a little, right?!?!  Sometimes those pregnancy cravings will get the best of me for sure. I am not perfect, and will never claim to be!  But on the whole, I am conscious of what I am eating and I strive to make healthy, clean choices for myself and my growing babe.

I Have Been Through It Before

I have a newfound confidence this time around. I mentioned being afraid a lot during my last pregnancy…but this time I am more confident with my decisions, I realize that there are some things that are just out of my control, and I have to let go a little.  I generally have an idea of what to expect this time for labor and delivery (although I do understand that things could be completely different), so I am not super anxious about what’s going to happen. I understand that things may happen unexpectedly, I now know what contractions feel like (and I know to drink tons of WATER to prevent dehydration and early contractions), and I know not to freak out if I go into my regular check up and they tell me I am not leaving without a baby. I feel prepped and I feel calm.  I’m actually more anxious about how things are going to go POST-delivery when I have two children! Haha.

Curious as to what you other mamas are going through out there? How have you been feeling throughout your pregnancy? If you are pregnant for a 2nd time around, have you felt that it’s been easier or harder? Do you feel tougher as well or has it all been a lot to handle?

I definitely feel that my workouts combined with my nutrition have played a HUGE role in my “toughness” this pregnancy, both mentally and physically. It keeps me going and keeps me strong.

Happy Monday to all you Mamas, and everyone else out there reading! We had a nice weekend with family and friends. Today marks 28 weeks pregnant for this gal.

Let’s make it a great week!

XO,

Gina