Workout: dumbbell complex + video

April 17, 2017
A Fit Mess

Dumbbell complex workouts are a great way to improve strength and conditioning. They’re ideal if you (1) don’t have a lot of time, (2) want to fit in an intense workout, or (3) only have access to a limited amount of equipment and space. Dumbbell complex workouts are performed like a traditional strength circuit, however, the transition between movements is much quicker. There is no rest between exercises, but you should include a short break (60-90 seconds) after each round is complete.


The fitness center at our resort in Mexico was rather small and outdated. There wasn’t much equipment available to use and it got busy in the morning, making it feel cramped with only a handful of people there. Matt came up with this dumbbell complex workout for us to do and I loved it so much I had to share with you guys. Be warned: it is MUCH harder than it looks! All you need is a small amount of space and a pair of dumbbells. I used 15# DBs for this, but use whatever weight you feel is challenging yet safe. Remember, this workout moves fast so don’t be overzealous with your weight!


For this workout, perform 8-10 reps of each exercise in order (1-5). Do not rest until you have completed all five exercises. Take 60 seconds to recover before starting the circuit over again. Complete up to 6 rounds. The workout should take no more than 20 minutes.


A Fit Mess


I’ve included a short video of me performing each exercise in case you wanted a visual refernce. I’ve also included a written description of the movements below. If you follow me on Instagram, then you may have seen my video blooper when Madison decided to crash the scene. This happened several times so this video was the best of the bunch.  Keep in mind: the video only shows each exercise once, but for the actual workout you will complete 8-10 reps of every movement before moving to the next. For example, you would do 8 renegade rows to push ups and then 8 squat thrusters.



Exercise descriptions

Renegade row to push up: In a plank position with your hands on dumbbells (instead of the floor) perform a low row on each side. After completing a right and left row, perform a push up with your hands still on the dumbbells. This equals one rep. Be sure to keep your core tight and avoid rotating your hips. Try to keep the movement just in your arms.

Squat thrusters: Holding a dumbbell in each of your hands, bring the weights down to the ground and then jump back into a plank. Quickly jump back up to the top and stand up (still holding the dumbbells). You’re essentially performing a burpee holding dumbbells.

Squat to dumbbell curl to overhead press: Stand with feet at shoulder-width apart. Squat down and tap the dumbbells on the floor. Stand back up and curl the dumbbells up and press over your head. Slowly lower back down and repeat.

Bent over rows: Stand in a slight squat with your back flat and the dumbbells at your sides or slightly in front of your body. Perform a low row with both arms, pulling your shoulder blades together. Be sure to keep your shoulders from creeping up towards your ears.

Romanian dead lifts: With your knees slightly bent and your feet close together, lower the dumbbells down in front of your legs. Be sure to keep them close to your body. Reach slightly below your knee and use your hips and glutes to pull yourself back up. Bring your hips forward at the end.

Please let me know if you have any questions!



Mexico! Vacation recap + pics

April 11, 2017

Last week Matt and I visited Akumal Bay Beach and Wellness Resort in Akumal, Mexico and we had a fantastic time. We both agreed that Akumal Beach is probably the nicest beach we have ever visited. The week couldn’t have been more perfect.


Akumal Bay Resort is an all inclusive beach front hotel located near the Mayan Riviera. The service and care from the staff was excellent. Everyone was so welcoming and friendly. I would highly recommend this hotel.

Beach view. The water was calm and clear with hardly any waves. I loved snorkeling and swimming in the ocean. The water temperature was perfect! The beach was sandy and soft. There were no rocks or shell which made it great for beach strolls.

The resort was right on the beach and there were tons of lounge chairs and canopys to use.

This was our breakfast view each morning. So beautiful!

Decks throughout the resort and paved pathways made it easy to explore the area. We stayed at the resort the entire week, but walked into town once to buy souvenirs.

There were about five restaurants at the resort, including Japanese, French, and a Brazilian Steak House. Matt and I agreed that the buffet was by far the best so we ate most of our meals there. I loved the yogurt and fresh fruit!

Most mornings we went to the buffet for breakfast, worked out, and then headed back to the buffet for post workout coffee and mimosas.

I was so impressed by the resort staff. Everyone was incredibly attentive and friendly. There was definitely a language barrier at times, but for the most part we got by fine and even learned some words.

Espresso doble beachside. The coffee at the resort was truly incredible.

There was a beautiful spa located on the resort. It’s tucked away from the rest the hotel and so peaceful.

The spa offers a service called “hydrotherapy” which alternates between hot and cold temperatures to stimulate blood flow and remove toxins from the body. It’s also super relaxing. You begin with a shower and then spend 10-15 minutes in a sauna, 10-15 minutes in a steam room, and then you end with a cool whirlpool bath.

The whirlpool was so relaxing! I had the hydrotherapy treatment three times.

We walked the beach several times and enjoyed daily swims. There was a large main pool and four smaller infinity pools throughout the resort. There were also several beach and pool bars which made it convenient to enjoy drinks by the water.

This is the view of some of the rooms from the beach. There were beds and lounge chairs along the pool and garden. We often saw people laying on them for the entire day!

All inclusive meant a lot of eating and drinking. We both loved the margaritas and I ate my weight in guacamole.

I drank mostly white wine and margaritas on the rocks, but I did have a cosmo once and it was delicious!

Our room had a walk out deck complete with a jacuzzi and Adirondack chairs. I also loved the hammocks right in front and spent several hours reading in them.

Can’t beat this view! Laying on the beach doing nothing = total happiness.

This was such a relaxing and wonderful vacation for us. We cannot wait to go back to Mexico.


I hope you all had a lovely week!



Exercising for vanity vs. exercising for health

March 31, 2017
A Fit Mess

What motivates you to exercise? Have you considered the reasons why you choose to workout? Today I’m tackling a topic that I find myself thinking about more and more these days: exercising for vanity vs. exercising for overall health. To be honest, as I started this post my thoughts were a bit all over the place, but I’ve tried to focus on the main points I want to get across. I definitely have an opinion or two on the matter, and although you may not agree with me, I am speaking from my own experience and perspective.


I’m willing to bet that many people workout in order to look a certain way. In fact, I think appearance is probably one of the top reasons we take that first step into the gym. Of course, this is only one piece of the equation. It takes a combination of diet, exercise, and many other lifestyle factors to positively influence your overall health.


It’s worth acknowledging that while physical appearance may be a top reason for people to start exercising – it’s the other health benefits that keep us coming back.


For me, exercise is part of my lifestyle. While I might have been motivated by appearance when I was younger (and had NO clue that fitness was anything more than running on the treadmill), I now understand the positive effect exercise has, not only on the outside, but on my mental health, productivity, overall well-being, and relationships.


Exercise can often be viewed as an activity that is done solely for the sake of vanity. Frequent gym-goers may be seen as overly concerned about their appearance and narcissistic. Or some may view exercise as a punishment or as a way to offset other unhealthy behaviors. Please don’t mistake – I am not talking about those who struggle with eating disorders. If you are suffering from a health or exercise disorder, I encourage you to seek help right away. In this post, I’m discussing the connection between exercising for your appearance and exercising for your overall health. It’s fair to say these don’t have to be mutually exclusive. You can choose to workout in order to achieve a certain physical appearance as well as to gain the health benefits that result from exercise.


What’s my point? Exercise is so much more than a means to a good butt or killer abs. And while I certainly acknowledge that some may be purely motivated by appearance (totally fine, as long as you don’t struggle with an eating disorder or get self-critical about yourself), understanding and acknowledging the deeper benefits to exercise will help you continue on your healthy habits.

Some of my favorite benefits of regular exercise include:

  • Mental sharpness and clarity – I am so much more productive personally and professionally on the days when I’ve worked out. Running helps me break through mental blocks and lifting will inevitably increase my confidence and focus.
  • Manage anxiety and stress – I definitely turned a corner in my mental health when I began to consistently exercise. Fitness helps me manage stressful occasions, sort through personal problems, and keep anxiety at bay. One thing I really appreciate about my therapist is that whenever we meet she checks to make sure I’m exercising regularly.
  • Helps with aging and extends your lifetime – I’m sure you’ve seen these super-agers. They’re older individuals who appear and act much younger than their age. Not only are they active and healthy, but they’re smart, perceptive people. In other words, they are aging well and extending their quality of life.
  • Keeps health conditions, like heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis in check – Since I had gestational diabetes during my last pregnancy, I am more likely to develop type 2 diabetes down the road. Exercise helps regulate blood sugar levels and supports thyroid function. My family also has a history of heart disease (my mother and my grandmother both died of a heart attack at age 40) so I make it a priority to keep my body strong and healthy.
  • Offers a way to show yourself some love – Exercise is enjoyable for me. Sure, it’s hard as hell at times, but I never regret it. And I always feel better afterwards. Taking time out for activity gives me a break from my day, but it’s more than that. It can reset a bad attitude, challenge you physically and mentally, and it’s a way to show your body that you are invested it in long term.


I would love to know what your thoughts are on this subject.

Thank you for reading!



Dinner drama: 5 ways to improve toddler meal times

March 29, 2017
A Fit Mess

As most parents know, feeding toddlers can be challenging to say the least. I have to laugh when I think back to all the times when the girls happily ate the blended green beans and pea pudding I placed before them as babies. Matt and I used to get a kick out of how much they ate and the variety of foods they enjoyed (sardines were always a family favorite).


Now that my kids are older (the girls will be 4 this summer!) they have more defined preferences and tastes. As such, it can be difficult to get them to try new things and to incorporate the same kind of variety in their diets as when they were babies.


But as we all know: toddlers are completely independent, know exactly what’s best for them, and can make their own decisions. Period. Or as Madison likes to inform me, “No. I won’t listen to you, mommy!”


All joking aside, toddlers can be quite finicky when it comes to food, making their meals difficult at times. Over the last several months, we’ve incorporated a few things that have worked really well for our family and has made meal time easier and more enjoyable. I wanted to share these tips with you in case you, too, struggle with this as a parent.


I should probably premise this with stating that I am absolutely NOT an expert at parenting (far from it!) and some days these methods work and sometimes they don’t work at all. But we try to stay consistent with our practices and have found that they really help. As always, I would love your thoughts and suggestions. I want this blog to be a place where we can learn from one another (myself included!).

 A Fit Mess

1.  We sit together during our meal.

While this doesn’t always happen, we try to sit at the table for most of our meals. The girls and I have breakfast together almost every day (Matt leaves for work before any of us are awake), and they eat lunch at school most days. Dinners are spent eating together as a family. Some days Matt works late and will eat after us. Other times the girls are hungry as soon as I get home so I’ll prepare their dinner early and sit with them while they eat.

Why this is important to us: I don’t have many memories of eating around the table as a family when I was younger (mostly because my mom got sick when I was still little and my dad was trying to juggle everything). My dad cooked as often as he could, but we also had relatives make meals for us, various caregivers tended to us, and we ate a lot of prepared food. It wasn’t until I became an adult that I truly appreciated the act of sitting around a dinner table. Food connects a family in many ways. It’s a chance for us to come together and enjoy a meal. It allows us to talk and to share details of our day. It’s extremely important to me that we continue this tradition as a family so it’s definitely a priority in our house.

2.  Our kids eat what we eat.

For too long I was preparing items that I knew the girls would eat and got into the habit of making them “their” meal and then preparing something else for myself and Matt. I hated when I made them something and they wouldn’t eat it. I’d then run through the alternative items I could make them. The problem with this (other than the fact that I felt like a short-order cook) was that the girls weren’t being exposed to different tastes, textures, and smells. Not to mention all the vitamins and nutrients they missed. Sure, part of the issue was that I let them run the show. I worried they would go hungry so I tried to make them things I knew they’d actually eat. I eventually realized how crazy this was – my kids would NEVER go hungry and I needed to show a bit of tough love. Nowadays, the girls eat what we eat and I try to limit the items I prepare for them.  Sure, there are things that I make for them that I don’t often eat with my meals (buttered toast, popcorn, pasta) but for the most part they eat some version of what we are eating (protein, veggies, and starches).


3.  No toys or TV at the table.

Like a lot of toddlers, my kids can easily be distracted. While we try to limit their TV time in general, we definitely don’t let them watch TV during meals. And toys are to be kept away from the dinner table until they’re done eating. Meal time is not play time. This keeps the attention on the meal and the focus on your food. I’m trying to work on this as well since I often eat lunch at my desk and will inevitably skim emails and read while I eat.


4.  Keep portions small.

I used to load up the girls’ plates with a variety of food at once and I’ve recently transitioned to a different approach. Now I give them a little bit of food (protein, starch, and veggie) and I’ve noticed that they end up eating more than if I piled the food on their plates. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure why this works so well, but I think having a smaller portion encourages the girls to eat. And if they finish something and want seconds then I will give them more. Having smaller portions is also helpful if I want them to try something new (a vegetable, a tiny bit of meat, or something I haven’t prepared in a while). Additionally, I think sometimes my kids can get overwhelmed with choices if there is too much on their plate. And limiting the amount of food is a good way to check whether they are actually full or just eating for the sake of eating.


5.  Save fruit for the end.

My kids are fruit fanatics. If given the choice, they would eat fruit for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’ve started to wait until the girls have eaten their protein and sampled their veggies before offering fruit. This encourages them to fill up on the important foods before going for the fruit. I know some parents who recommend serving food in courses so that their kids will at least try certain items, but Matt and I don’t eat like that personally so it doesn’t really make sense for us to introduce that style in our home.


Additional notes:

  1. We are snackers. The girls really like to graze and I think this is typical toddler behavior. If the girls say they are hungry, I will always offer them food. I know some parents discourage snacking, but I don’t agree with this. Kids are extremely active, have fast metabolisms, and process food differently than adults. Their nutritional and caloric needs are not the same as ours.
  2. Some days my kids will have less or more of an appetite. This is something I try not to worry about. As I said above, my kids will never go hungry. I don’t force them to eat if they don’t want to and I don’t deny them extra servings (within reason).
  3. We talk a lot about what food does to/for your body. We really enjoy describing the benefits of the food we eat. For example, we’ll say that meat contains protein and makes you strong or sweet potatoes give you energy and vitamin C. Before eating something the girls will ask us, “Is this good for your body?” which always makes me smile.


I would love to know what your thoughts are on this. Have you made any changes to meal time that has helped?