5 Reasons Why I Work Out (Almost) Daily

Photos by Deeana Kourtney Photography

Outdoor Voices crop top | Outdoor Voices tri-tone leggings | Adidas sneakers

It was about this time two years ago I got really into my workouts. So I have been thinking lately about why I have kept it so consistent in my life. Although I think one big reason is my addictive personality that won't let things go once I start them. I started ballet when I was in preschool and stuck with it through college, if that gives you any idea.  But I think the following about sums it all up:

1. I enjoy it
This seems pretty obvious, and I know this is not something everyone can agree with, but I truly enjoy working out. I have found classes that I find to be just so much fun! I like finding new ways to move, getting into the music, and have a lot of fun trying out new studios and classes. I like the endorphin rush at the end of a class.I like realizing certain movements become easier over time because I have become stronger.  I like feeling more ready for the day after a morning class. I like coming back from a morning workout and having a little time to myself before I need to get ready for work. I am actually currently writing this post between a morning yoga class and heading to work!

2. The community
I have mentioned this a few times before, but one of the main reasons I got into fitness classes was because I was new to Charlotte and didn't know a lot of people here yet. So I had hoped that I would maybe make some friends in my classes. However, that did not really happen until SweatNET Charlotte came around. I now have quite a few go-to girls (you've most likely seen them on my Insta story) to join me in just about any class. And because a lot of the SweatNET members and fellow ambassadors are trainers, I also take a lot of the classes that they teach! There is a good chance that if I show up to any of their events, there is someone I know there. I think sweating it out with friends is always a little more fun, and makes trying new things easier. I was usually comfortable enough to try a new barre or yoga studio by myself before. But I was always a little scared to try something out of that comfort zone alone. And I have tried quite a few classes in the last year!

3. Overall health
This is also an obvious one, and simply put, exercising is healthy. But not only that, consistent exercise and being involved in the fitness community has finally pushed me to make some big changes in my diet, which I elaborated on in this recent post. I quickly realized I would both enjoy the class more and see myself grow stronger, if I was correctly fueling my body to do the work. I also had become inspired by some of the community and what I saw people sharing on social media of their diet and food habits.

4. Opportunities to learn and challenge myself
I touched on this more in this post from last fall, but I have found it pretty fun to learn completely new types of workouts, or work my way up to a new level in some of my familiar workouts. It may be a little scary but I like the challenge of lifting some weights I had no idea I could even pick up. They're still on the lighter side, but I have made some progress from 2 or 3 lb barre weights I was used to. Or realizing I could hold my balance for longer than I used to be able to in a barre class, get through an arm series without dropping weights during the whole sequence, or nail a yoga pose I had been working on for a few months. I feel like there is always more to learn and so much I still need to try!

5. Escape from my day
Whether I am working out early in the morning or after work, there is nothing that will help me forget about whatever is going on in my life like a workout. I could either have a long to-do list to tackle when I get out of the workout or didn't have the best day earlier, etc. Once I get moving and into the music, I can usually zone in and forget about everything for 45 minutes, an hour, however long the class lasts!

Thanks for reading!

A Work Appropriate Valentine's Day Dress

Photos by Deeana Kourtney Photography
Black dresses can be nice for work, but I am all about this red one! I always have fun dressing for holidays, even for the office. I wear a lot of red sweaters and plaid skirts during Christmas time, quite a bit of red and pink sweaters or dresses right before Valentine's Day, and I have several green sweaters for St. Patrick's Day. I love the pleated and ruffle detailing on this dress, and it is currently on sale! I think the color of the dress is enough of a statement, so I paired it with neutral printed tights, my black wool coat, these black pumps, and added a little shine with my recent favorite gold bag!

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Kelsey Dress

Photos by Deeana Kourtney Photography
If you were to ask me which bloggers inspire me, Gal Meets Glam will always be one of the first ones that come to my mind. I have followed Julia's blog since about 2013, and have loved watching Gal Meets Glam grow from blog to brand. I always have to check out the new arrivals of GMG dresses when they are released each month. And you may remember I wore one of their holiday dresses for my best friend's wedding rehearsal in December. So, I was incredibly excited when the GMG team offered to send me one of the dresses from the January collection! I chose the Kelsey dress and I just love how detailed it is. From the ruching at the waist, the buttons on the sleeves, and the shade of periwinkle, it is so elegant and feminine. The full skirt is also much fun, I even gave Deeana a fair warning that there was going to be lots of twirling in these photos! For sizing, I'm 5'2" and wearing a 00 regular. Some styles in Gal Meets Glam run in petite, and this one has a petite option in the navy!

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Gray Sweater Dress

Photos by Deeana Kourtney Photography

J. Crew Factory sweater dress | J. Crew Factory coat (marked down to $60 today!) | Similar bag | Riding boots | Similar hat

I haven't worn a lot of sweater dresses since high school, but this one with the fun bow detail has become a go-to for work! I pair it with black tights and black ankle boots for the office. The dress also coincidentally matched this hat I bought for my trip to Colorado in December. But it ended up being much warmer than I expected there, and didn't even wear it. However, I did end up wearing it this weekend in Charlotte to go ice skating! I also just realized this is the first time I have posted these riding boots I found back in November on the blog. I found them at Marshall's for only $40 (normally around $200) and they are great quality and so comfortable. I have loved wearing them to work and around Charlotte!

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Wellness Wednesday: Healthy Eating Update

I have been consistent with some dietary changes for about 5 months now, so I thought I would take this post to share some of the results I have been seeing. I don't know if Wellness Wednesday is going to become a thing or not, but I think the name makes it a little more fun. I think it is also important to say I never really grew out of being a picky eater from when I was younger. Anyway, I mentioned back in October that I had started taking dairy out of my diet.   I quickly saw changes in my skin, and got rid of some persistent adult acne. You can read more about that here, but I basically made the change after experiencing a side effect of an antibiotic prescribed for acne that affected my digestion. I also was working on improving my diet at the time, but was still eating quite a bit of dairy (mostly cheese) and carbs. I now only use topical prescriptions to keep acne in check, and have stopped taking antibiotics for the first time since high school.

The major changes in diet:
I first thought the digestive side effects I experienced from the antibiotic was my body becoming lactose intolerant. So naturally, I tried to avoid dairy to see if I felt better. It did not help much, so I went to a doctor and she suggested I stop taking the antibiotic and see if the symptoms stopped. I was worried about how my skin would react without it. But when I was also avoiding dairy, I realized it was not even needed! Without really intending to, I also started eating less carbs. This is because I typically ate them together in things like sandwiches, pizza, mac and cheese, and quesadillas. I know, that is not quite an ideal diet of someone in their mid-twenties that works out almost every day. I haven't completely cut out dairy, I just eat much less than I used to. I have been looking for some dairy free options, but I still eat some lighter cheeses like feta and goat cheese regularly. It is a change I knew I had to make at some point soon for my overall health. But, this is what got me to actually go for it and stick to it! I have also been influenced by the fitness community around me, but I think I still needed an extra push.

The effects:
As I mentioned above and in this skincare post from a few months ago, the most obvious change I saw was in my skin. The biggest change was the spot on my cheek that was constantly broken out, finally cleared up. I was typically a little broken out on my chin and some on the other cheek as well. Which doesn't seem like much, but at 24 years old, it was not something I was expecting to deal with anymore. I used to have clogged pores throughout my face that luckily were not very visible, but they were also quickly cleared up.

After a few months, I slowly started to see some other changes that I was not expecting to see.
Only over the last 6 weeks or so, have I noticed other changes in my face. I am not sure if dairy and carbs were making my face bloated, or I had some fat around my chin and jaw line. Regardless, it was always a point of insecurity for me. But my jaw line has become more defined since I have been eating less dairy and carbs. Sure, it may have also been from increased cardio in my workouts. But I started that months before I made the diet change, and did not notice until recently. Again, it seems small, but I was not expecting to see that change! And it makes me feel more confident about my appearance, so I have to consider it an added benefit.

The first photo is from about 2 years ago. I had just started getting into working out after college, only going once a week and still eating terribly. The second photo is from last spring, and shortly before I made the big dietary changes. I was working out almost every day and had started to make some progress with food, but was still eating a decent amount of dairy and carbs. The last photo is from just last week, but I first really noticed that change in November.

Looking back, I am starting to realize that eating healthier has made me feel less tired throughout the day. I think before I got into working out I felt tired all the time, so exercise also helps with that. But I have memories from the last year or so just feeling so tired and not knowing why, while I was keeping up a consistent workout routine. I also used to get some occasional heartburn, that I was worrying was becoming more constant. Which was another sign I knew I needed to make some changes. But thinking over the last few months, I don't think I have experienced it once since I made these big diet changes. So I think it is safe to say changing my diet has me feeling more confident externally, and with just a general better feeling internally. I am sure these changes have helped me in other ways I am not yet aware of as well!

What I have been eating:
I have been documenting this as I go along in my Fitness Friday posts (usually with recipe links), but for a typical week:
I have been replacing the sandwich I used to have for lunch every day with a hard boiled egg and a protein bite, made of: oats, almond or peanut butter, flax seed, raw honey, and chocolate chips. I also pack an apple, some grapes, an orange, and some Skinny Pop popcorn. However I had been bringing those same snacks since before I started to eat less dairy.
I have been replacing carby dinners like quesadillas, pastas, and pizzas with salads and bowls. My favorite salad at the moment is: spinach, apples, avocado, with chicken and an apple cider vinegar based dressing. If I make a rice bowl, it is made with: chicken, avocado, rice, and salsa. Or an egg bowl, made with: chicken, avocado, spinach, egg, and feta.
It has also been easier than I was expecting to keep up with at restaurants. At Mexican places I have been opting for chips with the salsa already on the table instead of getting queso dip, and either a burrito bowl or tacos without cheese instead of my old favorite quesadillas. I also never ordered salads at restaurants before (I know, I'm weird), but now I have been really enjoying them!

Again, I aim to limit, not eliminate the food I used to eat. I still enjoyed my holiday season full of carby food, even enjoyed some cheese plates, and slices of pizza. But I have also been trying to avoid buying some of my old favorites, because I do not think about them much if they are not in my apartment.

My next goal:
My main New Years resolution is to try to eat less sugar.  This is difficult for me at work where there is almost always some candy or sweets around. I also have a bit of an addiction to some sugary protein bars for after workouts. And during the holidays I had basically no self control in front of a plate of cookies. I do not feel guilty about it, I just know it isn't healthy. If I can feel so great without dairy and carbs, I can probably feel even better with less sugar. Again like dairy, I will not completely cut it out, just limit it. And I will not be avoiding natural sugar like in fruit, just the artificial and refined kind. So hopefully I will have another post in a few months with an update on that progress!

Thanks for reading!

Green Leather Skirt

Photos by Deeana Kourtney Photography

Chicwish pleated skirt c/o | Johhny Was scarf | Similar sweater | Sam Edelman heels | Brahmin bag

I have mentioned a few (...many) times before that I think pleated skirts are SO much fun. However, I have only worn them in lighter fabrics during warm weather. But I have always like the look of the leather-like fabrics for the winter, and I typically only see those in black or burgundy. I knew I needed this hunter green color as soon as I saw it! This one is from Chicwish, which has so many elegant skirts and dresses. I wore the skirt with a silk top to see a contemporary ballet production of Cinderella on my birthday last week, which was amazing! I think a skirt like this one is a great option for dressier occasions in the winter!

Thanks for reading!