We are thrilled to bring you a new post in our Healthy + Whole series on a topic we haven’t covered much in this space: exercise. Along with diet, fitness is a significant part of a healthy lifestyle. While we tend to focus on balanced, healthy eating in our regular content, we’ve found a balanced approach is an essential part of the conversation that should be highlighted as well. To do so, we bring you Ashley McLaughlin of the blog Edible Perspective: a knock-out food photographer, recipe developer, fitness guru, and most importantly, a dear friend of ours. We couldn’t agree more with Ashley’s balanced approach to integrating working out into everyday life. Let us know your thoughts in the comments, and make sure to check out Ashley’s blog for her stunning recipes and photos!
All photos by Ashley McLaughlin Photography
It’s such an honor to be guest posting on A Couple Cooks today. Sonja + Alex are two of my favorite people ever, and I absolutely adore this blog. I was lucky enough to meet them a few months back and just didn’t get enough during their short visit. So since we can’t hang out all of the time, I do things like bug them on Google messenger and take over their blog, instead.
My favorite part about Sonja + Alex’s blog is how they seamlessly integrate such diversity into their post topics. It’s not just about the food, but an overall approach to a living a healthy and happy life. So today I’ll be talking about working out and staying active and how I make that part of my everyday lifestyle.
I’ve always been a pretty active person. I think it started from playing sports growing up and throughout high school. Our high school workouts were pretty intense, and this is when I learned how to lift weights, gain speed, jump higher, build strength, etc. I’ve always felt like those were important tools to learn at that age and they’ve stuck with me throughout the years. They gave me a good foundation to build from and made me realize how good it feels to be active, consistently.
Since high school, my workouts have varied greatly. In undergrad (OH-IO!), I was a gym rat. The gym was free, it was close to home, and it was easy an easy option. For four years I lifted, rode the bike or elliptical machine, and also speed walked around campus trying to make it to class on time. I didn’t really have the time or energy to get creative with my workouts, as most of my time was spent in the architecture building.
Then, for most of grad school I actually didn’t work out. I would go through little phases of running or lifting but wasn’t consistent at all. There just wasn’t enough time! In my last semester of grad school, though, I was introduced to a hot vinyasa yoga class and fell in love. This happened at the same time when my husband Chris and I were starting to be more mindful of our eating habits. We were fairly healthy before then, but decided to start making small changes after becoming more educated on our food system, organics, sustainability, animal welfare, etc. A few of the first steps we took were cutting down on our processed food intake, making more meals from scratch, lowering our meat consumption, and eating more vegetables. We started small and made improvements that made sense to us.
This is the time when I really started to create balance and diversity in my workouts. I wasn’t as focused on how many calories I was burning, but more on how good my mind + body felt when I left each yoga class. I felt strong, mentally and physically. It was a major turning point in my way of thinking about working out. I wasn’t working out to burn off the previous night’s dessert, but to clear my head and gain strength.
So for the past 6 years I’ve maintained a very active lifestyle and it’s felt extremely natural. It’s part of my daily routine and is something I don’t give much thought to. It just happens. Staying active keeps me sane, especially since I work at home by myself. There isn’t any one routine or strategy I follow for my workouts. I don’t count calories I eat or calories I burn. I like to switch things up and make sure I’m enjoying whatever I’m doing. Because if I’m not enjoying it, why am I doing it?
Whether it’s walking the dogs each day, cruising around town on my bike during the summer months, hopping on my road bike for a long ride, snowboarding during the winter, or hiking in the mountains with friends, I love any and all time spent being active outside. It lets me soak up some vitamin D. It lets me clear my head. It lets me breathe fresh air. It makes me calm.
I also like to incorporate more formal workouts into my routine a few times each week. This could be anything from riding our stationary bike at home and doing a few sets of pushups, to getting to the gym for a strength training sesh or swim at the pool. I’ve also recently become obsessed with The Dailey Method barre classes. It clears my head and centers me like no other workout I’ve ever done, plus, it’s incredibly challenging physically. (You can typically save a lot of money on barre/yoga/etc. classes by volunteering to work the front desk!)
Over the years I’ve learned not to stress about missing a workout, or even two or three. If I only have time to walk the dogs, hop on the bike for 15 minutes, or do 3 sets of pushups, that’s okay. It equals out with the days of more intense workouts. My focus is on an overall picture of good health. It includes my physical health and mental health. It includes what I’m putting into my body and how I’m staying active. It includes rest and downtime. It includes ice cream + chocolate. It’s about balance and showing myself kindness.
This is my way of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.