If you read my last piece, you know I’m feeling some COVID induced fatigue. I’m an extrovert, plain and simple, and while I’m really glad my partner and I began living together at the start of quarantine last March, it still hasn’t been enough fresh air or socialization for me. We can pretend Zoom helps with the need for interaction, but I think what’s been affecting me even more is the stir-craziness. 

Before shutdown, I was out at my local bar with friends, going to whatever venue had a concert that night, watching my alma mater’s football games with the alumni around me in downtown Austin. Then the world ended, and I fell in love.

It’s been wonderful in that regard, don’t get me wrong, but he and I both need our space, and I need to MOVE. Fortunately, I live in two places where the weather stays temperate enough to hop on my bike and get outside to workout, so I wasn’t too put out by the gym closures. Even with that, I can’t say I actually did much exercise this last year. Between my new relationship, new entrepreneurial aspirations, new way of interacting with the world around me, oh, and three new cats (!!), last year I reached levels of burnout I thought impossible for the unemployed and lackadaisical. Turns out unprecedented times are mentally and emotionally draining… I made it out of 2020 alive and well though, and I can finally say I’m ready to hit the ground running towards my fitness goals for 2021. No more stir-craziness! 

Oh, and just so we’re clear, I don’t actually run, that was metaphorical. 

What I do enjoy however, is bodyweight training, swimming, and cycling. I have a goal this year to lose the fat covering my hard-earned muscles from years of really enjoying training, but also really enjoying eating and drinking. Over Christmas, I found a picture of myself in high school, but what I was ashamed of back then – strong thighs, popping delts, and defined back – I am really damn proud of now. I’m not the type to wish I could go back and tell that young woman to love her body, because it would’ve fallen on deaf ears. I am the type, however, to acknowledge that I love being strong from years of competitive sports since I was pre-pubescent. It has taken me a LONG time to reconcile that the number on the scale doesn’t accurately reflect what my body actually looks like, and that applies doubly for someone who has truthfully been working out her whole life consistently. 

Occasionally, I find myself browsing my height (5’3”) on the ProgressPics subreddit, and I have not yet, in four years, found my body with my weight on someone else. I used to think that was discouraging, now I find that motivating. I get to blaze my own trail for my ideal body journey, and perhaps motivate someone else who looks and is heavy like me down the line. But it is deeply confusing to have a goal with no real measurable metric to encourage me along the way. 

I have no idea what my goal weight is. I only have a vision of me in my head to aim for, and the understanding of the long-term consistency required to reach it. 

Consistency comes easily for me when I’m prepared to undertake it. That may seem contradictory, since there will always be hiccups on the road to consistency, but I like to plan for every eventuality – my brain THRIVES at the expectation of chaos. Chaos doesn’t derail me, boredom does. And consistency is too close to boredom for my comfort, so being prepared with variety when I’m bored goes a LONG way for my anti-habit-wired brain. 

What better way to trick myself into forming good habits than by periodically bringing in something new to try? And that is exactly what I’ve done!

The Gear:

WodBottom

As a cyclist, I need as many pairs of no-ride, no-camel toe, no-chafing, no-swamp ass shorts as I can get,and WodBottom delivers. For longer rides I of course have my chamois shorts, but not every ride is a long ride, and those are a pain to launder, so having numerous pairs of spandex shorts with slightly longer inseams helps for those midweek rides or spin classes. 

Being able to choose the inseam length on the fabulous prints of WodBottom’s shorts makes for an all-around perfect riding experience. I can protect my thighs from chafing against my bike seat, while still freeing the quad to move comfortably without the seam riding up my leg with each downstroke. The moisture wicking is superb for hiding the guaranteed crotch sweat I get from working hard, and I gotta say, the construction of the shorts keeps the booty *high and tight.* They wear awesome, they look awesome, and aren’t just for squats, though the WodBottom Shorties are primed for my fellow lifters, too!

HydroJug

I LOVE my Hydrojug. Seriously, L-O-V-E it! It’s such a simple concept for the fitness-minded, but before I was lugging my 40oz Hydroflask everywhere, and not always loving the weight. Since I began intermittent fasting four years ago, I’ve taken hydration seriously, always making sure my body was primed for fasted workouts and fat loss, aiming for the goal of one ounce of water per pound of lean body mass every day. Some recommend an ounce per pound of total body weight, but I found myself overhydrated at that amount due to electrolyte loss during the fasted state. 

Holding 2.2L in one fill, Hydrojug makes it easy to keep track of how many glasses of water you’ve had in a day, pretty much hitting the minimum of eight in one jug. The company has plenty of accessories to make your water-drinking experience optimal, like a custom straw that collapses when the top is closed and pops up when opened, or an insulating neoprene sleeve with pockets and carrying strap to keep your hands available, but none of that is needed to enjoy the Hydrojug. The built-in handle is perfectly angled for one-handed sipping through the spill-preventing spout. They genuinely thought of everything when engineering this important piece of fitness equipment. 

The Skincare:

Elevé Cosmetics Vitamin Sea Mineral Antioxidant SPF 28

You’ve got your Hydrojug and you’re doing so much good for your skin staying hydrated, now give it a little extra love by keeping it protected from the sun while you’re exercising outside. Vitamin Sea sunscreen goes on so much more nicely than traditional, greasy sunscreens, and has the added benefit of being a physical sunscreen with mineral filters, so even those with sensitive skin won’t be shy about using it. SPF 28 might not be enough for a day at the ocean without reapplication, but it will be perfect for a few rounds of beach volleyball or a longer run in the surf. 

Loaded with plenty of healthy-skin ingredients, this is one of the easiest sunscreens to recommend for daily wear. The special packaging gets you the most bang for your buck, too, as one pump doles out the exact amount of sunscreen you need to adequately protect your face and neck, approximately a half-teaspoon.  

CRYSTAL Magnesium Enriched Deodorant

As the weather warms up with our heart rates, good freaking deodorant becomes more important than ever. Since the science is iffy on aluminum’s overall effects on our health, I prefer to stick with deodorant over antiperspirant for now. And living in two humid climates where sweat is guaranteed means the deodorant I use has to be a damn powerhouse.

I’ve tried many, but so far the best has been CRYSTAL’s newly released line. Magnesium is already an electrolyte our body needs and uses, so its inclusion isn’t anything to worry about. I’ve worked hard since using this new deodorant, and haven’t had any issues with stank or excessive wetness. The scents smell really nice, my favorite easily being the Coconut Vanilla, and without any baking soda to irritate my pits, I find myself comfortable reapplying throughout the day as needed. 

The Recovery:

Rest Day CBD

Whether it’s due to starting over or adding to an existing fitness routine, you’re gonna have sore muscles at certain points along your fitness journey. I’ve actually lived with a shoulder tear for over ten years now, and have tried everything for the chronic pain associated with it. Whether hydrocodone or ibuprofen, each level of pain meds has only worked consistently with sustained elevated doses, which isn’t good for my liver long term. 

I remember when I had my first CBD (cannabidiol) edible, I had just gotten off a rigorous bartending shift and was having a particularly high pain level that day as a result. I met up with a friend for drinks to take the edge off at a bar where a new CBD store was promoting their opening with homemade brownies and cookies. I won’t lie to you, the goods tasted like I went out and grabbed a handful of dirt and sprinkled it with sugar, but I remember looking at my friend a few drinks into my first beer, maybe ten minutes after eating my cookie, and incredulously stated I’ve never been so completely without pain since injuring my shoulder in high school. The best part was there were no other effects from the CBD that impaired me, unlike other substances (including the beer).

I thought it was a damn miracle. So I’m a big proponent of seeing CBD becoming mainstream for pain relief and management, as there were a few times early on in my chronic pain treatment that I found myself on a slippery slope misusing my prescription medicine, and I didn’t want to go down that road further. But I’ve never once needed to overuse CBD, as for me there is no other noticeable benefit than relief. 

Rest Day CBD’s muscle rubs and bath soaks work really well as a replacement for, and step above, your Tiger Balm or Icy Hot. The menthol is still involved in muscle relaxation, but so, too, is the tried and true CBD creating a lasting effect. 

TRUST Biologic

In case you read my experience with CBD and thought, “Hmph, I’ve never noticed quite that response in my own use,” you may be more like my partner, who also hasn’t really had much noticeable results with his chronic pain with CBD alone. He has of course noted the anti-anxiety and sleep-aid benefits, but he still couldn’t quite figure out his pain management. Enter TRUST Biologic’s cannabidiol and cannabigerol (CBG) combination formula. 

Interestingly, the two cannabinoids together create a far more potent anti-inflammatory formula, aiding in a more “pain relief” targeted approach to topical ointments rather than simply addressing post-workout muscle aches. TRUST has a few different offerings with the dual formula, but my favorite is the 50/50 cream, due to its anti-aging and post-sun care use…if you happen to forget your Vitamin Sea sunscreen.

The Meal Prep:

Uber Air Fryer

I’ve been coveting an air fryer for the longest time, but really hadn’t found one I was willing to pull the trigger on before now. This baby is sleek with incredible capacity for the wing lovers (me) among us! Seriously, ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you my two favorite foods are cheese and hot wings. Do you understand how easy it is for me to gain weight now? At least I’ll be saving on oil calories from here on out though! 

Whether you go with the 5-quart or 3.7-quart capacity, Uber’s air fryers are sleek and user-friendly for the home chef and “could burn boxed mac and cheese” alike. Since I acquired my pressure cooker, I’ve realized just how much easier meal prep becomes with the right kitchen tools, so I’m glad I have the double-whammy of Instant Pot and Uber Air Fryer really making my calorie-tracking and eating-at-home life easier!

Smelly Proof

The name of the brand is appropriate: Smelly Proof bags do exactly what they say they do – hide smells. But what I like them for is…you guessed it – meal prep! The medium stand-up bags are perfect for portioning out all the cauliflower rice and chicken thighs your heart desires. Bonus points for being washable and reusable, as well as compatible with most heat and vacuum sealers for long term storage. 

Smelly Proof also took into account the various sizes any kitchen could need, and trust me, whether it’s a dozen bagels or a single serving of cat food you want to get out of the can, they have a bag for that. The affordability of these reusable ziplock bags cannot be overstated as well – I wish the silicone versions of these were as financially accessible.  

The Bonus:

Xtract Energy

What fitness junkie doesn’t also have an energy drink (even if it’s just black coffee!) pre-gym habit? I can’t say I’ve met any! The downside is most are loaded down with sugar and weird ingredients, leading to crazy insulin spikes and blood sugar crashes which is not what you want mid-workout. In comes Xtract, a CBD-infused calorie-free energy drink. Sweetened with erythritol and monk fruit, Xtract also cuts out the potentially carcinogenic aspartame and sucralose. 

I really liked Xtract, and I’m not big into energy drinks as it is. But a sugar and calorie-free energy bump before a late-afternoon workout is sometimes necessary, especially while eating at a calorie deficit. The flavors are simple, with only berry and citrus being offered for now, but really REALLY tasty. If you’re looking to step away from the Bangs and Red Bulls without losing your pre-workout motivation, Xtract is your new before-exercise BAE.

PureWine

In true Cassie fashion, it wouldn’t be MY article if I didn’t have some mention of “you are working out consistently, you’re sticking to your calorie goal each day…have a drink, you earned it!” But I thought it through this time, it’s not just earning your libation, it’s “libating” (is that a word?) smarter not harder! 

Dry red wines are a good inclusion in most diets, in moderation of course. It’s known to have many health benefits that support an active lifestyle… minus the nasty hangover. Pretty much anyone who has overindulged in their evening glass knows of the dreaded wine headache, but PureWine has created a simple solution to that: filtration wands! Removing the histamines and sulfites that naturally occur as a by-product of winemaking helps to diminish the side effects of wine drinking greatly, and that’s what PureWine’s filters do. The benefit to you? You can have an easier time getting up for tomorrow morning’s training sesh!

So go forth and be consistent in pursuing your goals, knowing that if the boredom of routine ever gets you down, you know what to do next!