Girls Gone Sporty Total Wellness; Healthy Food & At-Home Workouts for Women Mon, 06 Feb 2017 21:11:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 55253480 Why learning to swim as an adult is so important Mon, 06 Feb 2017 21:11:45 +0000 learning to swim as an adultYou guys may not know this about me, but more

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learning to swim as an adult

You guys may not know this about me, but I managed swimming pools for the first six years of my professional career, and was a certified lifeguard and swim instructor for 13 total years. I can’t remember a summer when I didn’t head to the local pool every single day, logging countless hours between swim lessons, swim team, hanging out with friends, and eventually working there as a teen. All those hours in the sun also probably played a big role in my bouts with skin cancer.

The point is, swimming has always felt natural to me, but I know that’s not the case for all adults. My own mother gets a little anxious around water, and the first few adults I personally taught swim lessons to were substantially more fearful than most children. Which makes sense – adults understand risk better than kids, and they’ve had more years to cultivate their fears. It’s nothing unusual, and it’s certainly nothing to be ashamed of.

But it also shouldn’t stop you from learning to swim as an adult, or improving your swimming skills as an adult.

The benefits of swimming stretch beyond “fun”

Aside from the fact that swimming is just plain fun – a reprieve from hot summer days, and a great way to cross-train for other athletic endeavors – it’s also a critical life skill, one that doesn’t diminish in importance as you get older. Sue Mackie, the Executive Director of the United States Swim School Association (USSSA), says, “I feel it’s important to swim as an adult particularly if you have children – so you can participate in water activities with them, model positive behavior around water, and assist or rescue your child if he or she gets in trouble in the water. It can also enhance your life forever, offering a great form of exercise, particularly as an older adult.”

Finding adult swimming lessons or classes

The challenge, of course, is sucking it up and learning the new skill, particularly if your local swimming pool doesn’t publicize adult swim lessons. I know this first hand from having managed pools – the vast majority of lessons are marketed to children, and it’s a rare adult, indeed, who would volunteer to jump into a class with four-year-olds. (Aside from the difference in age and size, the instruction appropriate for a child versus an adult is substantial.) That doesn’t mean, though, that your local facility doesn’t offer adult lessons.

Mackie says, “Call and ask about adult programs. Check with the local swim school, YMCA, or City to see if there are group or private lessons for adults.” Understand that checking the website or program manual may not be enough, as lessons geared to adults may not be specifically labeled as “adult” lessons, but may fall under, private, semi-private, or private group lessons.

Overcoming fear to make the experience positive

The first time I taught an adult to swim, I was 16 years old and taught a woman in her 40s who didn’t speak English. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, in part because of the language barrier, in part because I didn’t really know how to adapt the programming from a child’s perspective to an adult’s perspective, and in part because the woman was so terrified that she would literally tense up and shake in fear. By the end of the course, she wasn’t a fabulous swimmer, but she could float and paddle around, and she wasn’t as terrified of the water. For what it was, it was a success.

It wasn’t until probably six years later that I had my next chance to teach an adult. Being able to communicate with the woman about her fears, and why she was so afraid, made the experience infinitely better. I could encourage and coax, reassure and back off,  throughout each lesson, helping her face her fears in a positive way. The beautiful thing about adults is that they have the mental capacity and gross motor skills to learn quickly, assuming they’re able to conquer their own mental barriers.

If one of the reasons you’re not a proficient swimmer is due to a past trauma or fear related to the water, share that with your instructor. “I once had a student over the age of 60 who wanted to learn to swim,” says Mackie, “After watching a brother drown in childhood, this person had avoided water for decades, but eventually the fear was overcome and I was able to teach the person how to swim and be comfortable in the water. It’s never too late to start, and there’s no reason to be ashamed.”

And that’s the most important takeaway. There’s no shame in being unable to swim or swim well. As Mackie reiterates, “Some people never run a foot race until retirement and no one judges them for this. Learning to swim should be viewed with the same sense of accomplishment.”

Plus, if you can swim, you can compete in triathlons, go scuba diving, feel comfortable paddle boarding, surfing, or kiteboarding. It pretty much opens up a whole new world of adventure. Why would you want to miss out on all that?

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How to maximize space in a tiny home gym Tue, 24 Jan 2017 05:59:54 +0000 tiny home gym headerTo help cover the costs of running Girls Gone Sporty, more

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tiny home gym header

To help cover the costs of running Girls Gone Sporty, some links included in posts are affiliate links. Some products have been received free for editorial consideration, but all opinions are my own. 

Friends, in my entire adult life I’ve never lived in a house with more than 1,300 square feet. Currently, I live in a roughly 850-square foot renovated barn with my husband and three large dogs. It’s not quite small enough to be considered a tiny home, but it’s certainly not large. And when you consider the almost embarrassing amount of exercise equipment I own, it’s a wonder I’ve made it all fit. Here’s the truth, though: You don’t need much space to have a killer (but tiny) home gym. You just have to be smart about how you make it work.

Tip #1: Put your equipment on display

Who says workout equipment has to be considered an eyesore? I’ve made the most of my tiny home gym by using my dumbbells, kettlebells and medicine balls as decorations in my makeshift entryway.

tiny home gym equipment display

If you have an office or an entryway where you’re comfortable highlighting your love of fitness in a not-so-subtle way, go ahead and position your small weights and accessories on sturdy shelves or on your desk. You could hang a vibrant yoga mat on the wall like a tapestry (check out a few really cool mats here), or use wall hooks to show off your outdoor gear, rather than trying to hide it away.

Tip 2: Choose compact cardio equipment

There is absolutely no room in my house for any type of large cardio equipment like treadmills, bikes or elliptical trainers, but I don’t let that stop me from giving my heart a workout in my tiny home gym. Sure, I incorporate outdoor running into my regular routine, along with long walks with my dogs and weight-based circuit training, but when I want to get a cardio bump while watching my favorite TV show, I rely on compact cardio equipment: jump ropes, a slideboard, and a mini trampoline.

tiny home gym compact cardio

Jump ropes are especially easy to wrap up and store in a gym bag or hang on the back of a closet door. I keep my seven (yes, seven!) Crossrope jump ropes in a gym bag I hang near my front door. Admittedly, slideboards and trampolines are a little harder to put away, but both are actually exceedingly narrow. I found I can store my slideboard vertically, fitting it in about a two-inch space between a cabinet and the wall, and the Bellicon rebounder I’ve been testing for an article on another website has foldable legs, which makes it incredibly easy to break down and put away, either standing it against a wall or sliding it under a bed. And each of these items is every bit as effective as a traditional machine… and a whole lot less expensive. Not to mention, they have fewer ongoing maintenance needs since they don’t have motors or mechanical issues. Sometimes low-tech really is better!

Tip #3: Make use of every available space

I may have mentioned I have an obscene amount of exercise equipment. To give you a quick run down, I have:

  • 2 BOSU balls
  • 2 aerobic steps
  • 1 24-inch plyo box
  • 1 battle rope
  • 1 slideboard
  • 3 weighted bars
  • 3 foam rollers
  • 2 medicine balls
  • 2 skateboards
  • 6 yoga mats
  • 6 sets of dumbbells
  • 2 kettlebells
  • 7 jump ropes
  • 1 suspension trainer
  • 10 resistance bands
  • 1 bike trainer
  • 1 under-desk cycle machine

And that doesn’t count the sports equipment I keep outside in a shed, like tennis racquets, bikes, snowboards, and more. And may I remind you, I live in a tiny house with absolutely zero closets.

Amazingly, I don’t feel overwhelmed by equipment. I store larger items, like the BOSU balls, aerobic steps, foam rollers, weighted bars and the battle rope under a bed, hiding them from view with a dust ruffle. I use the plyo box as a storage container, flipping it over (it’s a solid wood box) to hold my skateboards and yoga mats. As already mentioned, I display my dumbbells, kettlebells and medicine balls as decorations, and the rest of my equipment I keep inside decorative storage boxes. Everything’s readily accessible and available, but also mostly out of sight.

Tip #4: Use your mats as rugs

Who says gym mats can’t serve as everyday rugs? I actually have three gym mats currently doing double-duty.

First, I have a FitnessMat from WellnessMats that’s perfect for core work and any exercise where I need some extra cushioning (it’s a really thick, heavy mat that feels amazing). But when I’m not using the mat to exercise on, I keep it in my kitchen between the sink and stove so I can stand on it while I cook.

tiny gym kitchen mat

Next, I use a basic yoga mat as a runner just inside my sliding glass door. I frequently do yoga over here, so having the mat ready to go helps to cut down on any barriers to getting started. Plus, my dogs like the extra cushioning when they lounge in the sun – it beats lying on the cold, hard tile. When it’s time to actually use the mat, I just spray it down with a little mat wash to clean it off before I get started.

tiny home gym yoga mat

Finally, and absolutely best of all, are the SoftTiles home gym flooring squares the company sent me in a red and white configuration. Don’t they look like a legit rug?

tiny home gym softtiles collage

We have tile floors, so using weights on the tile is a tricky thing – it would be really easy to break a tile if I set a weight down too hard. But with these SoftTiles in place, I just have to scoot my dining table and chairs out of the way (it takes less than three minutes to do), and I have a really nice-sized gym floor that I can safely use my weights on. When I’m done, I just put my table and chairs back in place, and – boom! – it’s a decorative rug again. This particular configuration costs right around $75 and requires the following pieces:

  • 10 SoftTiles 1’x1′ in Red
  • 18 SoftTiles 1’x1′ in White
  • 14 Side Borders in Red
  • 4 Pairs of Corner Borders in Red

And, of course, you could choose different SoftTile colors if the red and white configuration aren’t your thing.

Tell me: Do you have a tiny home, or a tiny home gym? How do you store your equipment creatively?

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Homegating: Classier football party decorations and supplies Sun, 15 Jan 2017 00:53:14 +0000 football party decorationsEntertainment doesn’t get much tougher than good ol’ American football, more

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football party decorations

Entertainment doesn’t get much tougher than good ol’ American football, but that doesn’t mean your Sunday night homegating party needs to be rough ‘n tumble, too. Use these tips to class up your football party decorations and supplies so you can cheer on your favorite team in style.

Set the scene with personal style

homegating in style 1

Red Solo cups and kegs are for the college kids. While not every game day needs to be a fashion-forward affair, the first step to classing up your homegating party is to set the stage. Skip the sweatpants and running shoes and opt for jeans, a fitted tee or jersey and a cute ballet flat in your team’s color scheme. Throw a Dooney & Bourke NFL bag over your shoulder, pour a glass of wine into these team-branded glasses, and cork and display your best bottle with wine accessories fashioned after NFL-blazoned high heels. Sure, they’re a little girly, but they’re also rad. So there’s that. And if you’re an especially big fan, deck yourself out in an understated watch you can wear every day.

For the record, I received a Dooney & Bourke Cowboys Zip Top Shopper bag for the purpose of this article, and it’s amazing. Really well-made and spacious – big enough for my laptop and cosmetics case, among other daily necessities. If you’re a diehard football fan, their NFL-branded line is killer, for sure.

Switch out your drink dispensers

No one’s saying you have to ditch your light beer or your boxed wine, but it can’t hurt to class up the presentation a bit. Every form of alcohol has its own dispensing options, but these are my personal favorites:

  1. Put your boxed wine in Boxxle. This stainless steel countertop dispenser works with any 3-liter container of boxed wine, turning the unsightly cardboard into a beautiful display. I’ve had (and used) my own Boxxle dispenser for about three years, and I actually just bought one for my brother and sister-in-law.
  2. Dispense beer from the BeerTender. Instead of bottles, cans, or a giant keg, pick up a mini keg of Heineken, Heineken Light or Newcastle Brown Ale and slip it into the attractive black-and-stainless countertop BeerTender that dispenses ice-cold beer at the pull of the lever.
  3. Pour spirits from the Stone Drink Dispenser. No one needs to know (or care) what type of alcohol you’re serving, because when you dispense it from the Stone Drink Dispenser, it’ll look like a million bucks. These handcrafted dispensers are made from cobbled granite and are affixed with a beach stone lever – both classy and contemporary.

Check out our Boxxle review >>

Class up the joint… by which I mean your home

homegating in style 2

Please, for the love of all that’s holy, ditch the plastic inflatable football chairs and beanbags and make your den look like actual grown-ups live there. Instead of relying on tacky flags and foam fingers to create a team atmosphere, why not paint an accent wall in one of your team’s colors? Glidden Paint, available at The Home Depot, has a special line of “Team Colors” paints to match all 32 NFL teams. Other little accessories, like stainless steel coasters, a natural fiber door mat, and insignia-etched beer glasses from Pottery Barn, all work together to give your home the party atmosphere you’re craving without the blatant plastic debauchery so common to low-brow tailgating. Not that there’s not a place for low-brow tailgating, but that place doesn’t have to be your home.

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Acorn squash chocolate pudding Tue, 10 Jan 2017 22:42:50 +0000 acorn squash chocolate puddingY’all, I know pudding made from acorn squash sounds disgusting, more

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acorn squash chocolate pudding

Y’all, I know pudding made from acorn squash sounds disgusting, but bear with me. This recipe I adapted from Young & Raw for acorn squash chocolate pudding is, frankly, delicious. My version isn’t vegan, so if you want a vegan recipe, you’ll need to stick with the original, but it is worth trying, especially if you’re looking for ways to sneak more veggies into your everyday life.

This is the second time I’ve made this recipe, and I promise, my husband didn’t even know there was squash in it when I served it to him. It’s also super simple. Yes, it takes some time because you do have to cook the acorn squash, but that just takes 45 minutes and you can be doing other things while it’s cooking. Otherwise, it’s just a matter of blending together all the ingredients and allowing the pudding to chill (if you want).

Dude, you can make chocolate pudding out of acorn squash – check out this recipe!
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First, you just cut the acorn squash in half, scoop out the seeds and prep with some of the coconut oil, cinnamon and honey (details in the recipe below).

acorn squash before cooked

You then bake at 350 F for 45 minutes. When you remove it from the oven, let it sit and cool for five to 10 minutes.

acorn squash after cooked

The rest couldn’t be easier! Just scoop out the squash into a blender or food processor and add the remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth.

blended acorn squash pudding

I didn’t soften my chocolate chips in the microwave before using them, so the resulting pudding wasn’t quite as smooth (it’s hard to get the blender blades to find all those tiny chocolate chips), but it didn’t change the overall result. The pudding was still chocolatey and delicious, with the added benefit of offering the fiber, vitamins and minerals of acorn squash!

acorn squash chocolate pudding

Don’t forget to pin the recipe for later!

pinterest acorn squash chocolate pudding

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Easy Breaded and Baked Chicken Tenders Sat, 07 Jan 2017 21:37:36 +0000 baked chicken tendersWe didn’t go to restaurants all that often growing up, more

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baked chicken tenders

We didn’t go to restaurants all that often growing up, but anytime we did, you could pretty much guarantee that I would order the chicken tenders. There was one restaurant, in particular, Peppers on the Falls, in San Marcos, TX, where I vividly remember always ordering the chicken strip basket and a Cherry Coke. I’m pretty sure this was before Cherry Coke was an actual “thing” (does that age me?), so it was a coke with cherry syrup and a few actual cherries thrown in. Peppers on the Falls closed down while I was a pre-teen (which totally bummed me out since I ended up attending college in San Marcos), but my love for chicken strips lived on.

That is until I decided to quit fried foods.

That decision came sometime between my 18th and 19th birthdays, and while it’s not a “rule” I stick hard and fast to, it’s definitely one of my well-established habits. I’ve tried a few baked chicken strip recipes over the years, some of them pretty good, some of them terrible, but I’m always on the lookout for a new recipe to try. I stumbled across this Oven Fried Chicken recipe on Baked Bree and decided to turn it into oven fried chicken strips.

I won’t lie, I’m not a huge fan of buttermilk, so this recipe ended up just “okay” in my book overall. Weirdly, the chicken tasted great dipped in ranch dressing, but just so-so by itself or dipped in ketchup, mustard or barbecue sauce. I did love how crispy it ended up being, but the buttermilk flavor did me in. Next time I try these breaded and baked chicken tenders, I’ll probably experiment with marinades and do something that’s a little more spicy or lemony.

Note #1: The prep time does not account for the time it takes to marinade the chicken! You should leave yourself at least four hours to allow the chicken to marinade.

Note #2: The first six ingredients make up the marinade. If you want to experiment with marinades, switch out these ingredients for the marinade of your choice.

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Tough move of the week: One-legged deadlift variations Sat, 07 Jan 2017 21:19:00 +0000 one leg balance deadliftThere’s nothing I love more than a great balance more

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one leg balance deadlift

There’s nothing I love more than a great balance exercise. Not only do balance exercises require you to engage more muscle groups during the movement, they’re also a key component of full-body fitness. As you age, if you don’t maintain your balance and flexibility, your range of motion shortens, your gait changes and you become more susceptible to falls and fall-related injuries. In order to continue living functionally well into old age, it’s critical that balance and flexibility form a cornerstone of your wellness routine.

While any exercise that’s performed on a single leg or that requires you to change body position during the movement (like walking lunges) will help you enhance your balance, it’s important to continue challenging yourself as you improve. One-legged deadlift variations are a great way to target your glutes and hamstrings while challenging your balance and coordination.

If you’re new to the exercise, try your hand at the floor-based version of the one-legged balance deadlift shown below. You don’t need to add the pulses or raise your leg to a height parallel to the floor. The main things to remember are to:

  • Keep your core engaged and tight throughout the movement
  • Press your hips back to start the movement, keeping your spine neutral as you tip your torso forward
  • Only hinge forward until you feel a stretch through your supporting hamstring — don’t force yourself to reach beyond your natural flexibility
  • Use your hamstring and glute on you supporting leg to “pull” yourself back to standing

If you’ve already mastered the floor-based version and you’re looking for a way to step up your routine, consider trying the variations shown below. You can perform the exercise with or without added weight, or while balanced atop a balance tool. Just be careful — if you feel yourself losing your balance, step off the surface and try again, rather than continuing the exercise and setting yourself up for a fall.

Remember: Always consult your doctor before starting an exercise program and be sure to listen to your body while performing any exercise. A little discomfort from physical exertion is okay, but actual pain is not okay.

The material appearing on Girls Gone Sporty, LLC is for educational use only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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Thrillist 31-day fitness challenge alternatives to squats and lunges Sat, 31 Dec 2016 21:14:53 +0000 pain free alternatives to squats and lungesHey, y’all! If you landed on this page, chances more

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pain free alternatives to squats and lunges

Hey, y’all! If you landed on this page, chances are you’ve signed up for Thrillist’s 31-Day Gym-Free Fitness Challenge – I’m so glad you’re taking part! Lots of you have been contacting me about alternatives to squats and lunges, primarily due to your bum knees. I get it. Sometimes these exercises hurt me, too. Below you’ll find a whole slew of options, but I want to make a few notes before proceeding:

  1. If you’re dealing with an acute injury (something that just happened and is causing intense pain), please don’t start or continue the program until you’ve either: 1) talked to a doctor and you’ve been cleared to exercise, or 2) you’ve given the injury time to rest and it’s no longer causing acute pain. Preferably do both.
  2. I’m not a doctor and I’m not there with you to see or interpret which exercises or motions are causing pain. Use your best judgment when selecting alternative exercises and focus on those movements that don’t irritate or exacerbate whatever you’ve got going on. Not every exercise listed below will work for every person. 
  3. When in doubt, rest or stick to low-impact cardio, such as walking, swimming, or cycling. Even if you’re gung-ho to get on track with your exercise routine, it’s best to allow injuries the chance to heal, and it’s best not to exacerbate chronic issues you already have. Slow and steady wins the race when it comes to a lifetime of health.

Now that that’s out of the way, feel free to proceed! I’m embedding videos of each exercise (some are mine, some are other people’s) below, with a few quick notes on proper form. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out in the comments, on Twitter or Instagram @girlsgonesporty, or through email:

Another note! Many of these exercises are unilateral, which means they work each side individually. Make sure you always balance out the exercise by performing the same number of sets, reps, and/or time to each side. If you have questions about this, ask!

Equipment: While the Thrillist exercises are all equipment-free, some of these variations do suggest equipment, namely dumbbells, a stability ball (you can sub sliders or paper plates), resistance band, and a low step or bench.

Squat and lunge modifications if you want to give ’em a try

Squats and lunges aren’t for everyone, so there’s no need to feel bad if they’re completely off-limits for you, but if you can slowly work your way up to these movements, I highly recommend trying. You see, both exercises are compound, closed-chain, functional moves that target all of the major muscle groups of your lower body while also engaging your core. They’re also great for developing and maintaining bone mass through the legs, hips and low back. If you want to try a few modifications, check these versions out:

Shallow squats

Shallow squats are essentially the typical squat movement, but you only perform roughly the top quarter of the exercise. So instead of squatting down until your knees form 90-degree angles, you just press your hips back and lower your glutes a few inches. You can do these up against a table or counter, as shown in the video below, or without, as shown in this video (they wouldn’t let me embed it – sorry!). Just remember, keep your weight in your heels (try wiggling your toes while you squat to prevent yourself from shifting your weight to the balls of your feet), and initiate the movement by pressing your hips back first, rather than bending your knees first.

Wall squat

The wall squat is a static exercise that helps build strength at the exact angle where your knees and hips are positioned. You can perform wall squats with any degree of bend in your knees, so there’s absolutely no reason you have to perform the exercise with your knees bent at 90-degrees. Another advantage is that because you’re pressing your hips and torso against the wall, you remove some of the pressure from your lower body while still challenging your quads, hamstrings, glutes and core.

Chair squat

Chair squats are a good alternative because they focus on the “negative” or eccentric half of the squat, where you control the downward movement as you sit down into a chair. They also help you focus on proper squat form. If you’re working your way up to a regular squat, don’t even worry about how you stand up from the chair after you squat down. Stand up in whatever way feels comfortable to you, reposition yourself, then sit down again, using proper chair squat form.

Reverse lunge (shallow or deep)

Doing a reverse lunge is easier than doing a forward or walking lunge because you maintain more control over your torso and weight placement (your center of gravity doesn’t shift forward with your forward momentum), making it easier maintain proper form, particularly in your front foot. Just make sure when you step backward, you keep your weight in your front heel (remember to do the toe-wiggle, like with squats), so when you bend your knees into the lunge, your front knee remains behind your toes, and aligned with your toes. You can try shallow or deep reverse lunges.

I love this example video, but again, they won’t let me embed it.

Static lunge (shallow or deep)

With the static lunge, you start with your feet staggered, one in front of the other, and you maintain this staggered position throughout the exercise. As you perform each lunge, with a shallow or deep range of motion, you focus completely on proper lunge form without worrying about shifting your center of gravity forward or backward as you would when taking steps to the front or back. As always, remember to keep your weight in your front heel and your torso upright and straight as you lunge.

Alternatives to squats and lunges

If for any reason, you want to ditch the squats and lunges suggested in the Thrillist 31 Day Gym-Free Fitness Challenge, that’s completely fine. Here are some options for you to consider. Not all of them will feel comfortable for everyone, so give each movement a test to select the ones you like the best. The first five exercises listed below are compound in nature, targeting more muscle groups at the same time, while the last couple exercises do more to isolate the hamstrings and glutes. You can also sub in single-leg deadlifts or bridges, both of which are already included periodically in the Thrillist fitness challenge.


Step-ups are very similar to lunges in terms of the muscles worked, but because you have control over the height of the step and the change in forward momentum and center of gravity shift due to an overall smaller step-width, they tend to be easier on the knees. Start with a low step – about 12- to 18-inches tall, and work your way up to a taller step or bench as you feel ready. As always, remember to keep your weight in the heel of your front foot. Also, step down carefully from the step, fully controlling the downward motion.

Lateral box step-ups

Lateral box step-ups are a good alternative to squats, with the added bonus of greater engagement of the abductors and adductors. Start slowly with a low step, about eight- to 18-inches in height, gradually working your way up to a taller step or bench. Remain in a “baby squat” with a slight bend in your hips and knees throughout the exercise, and make sure you’re fully planting your foot on the step, with your weight in your heel, before shifting your weight to perform the lateral movement. As you get stronger, you can progress to a lateral step-over (shown below), crossing up and over the box.

Bear squats

Personally, I’m a huge fan of bear squats, as they’re a full-body exercise that takes you through the same range of motion as traditional squats, without placing as much weight on your lower-body joints. That said, they’re not for everyone, especially since they require a decent level of core strength and shoulder flexibility. The key thing to remember about bear squats is that your knees never touch the ground.  You start in a high plank position, then press your hips back toward your heels as you bend your knees and extend your shoulders. It’s as if you were performing a traditional squat, but from a plank position rather than a standing position. When you’ve squatted back as far as you can (never letting your knees touch down!), you press through the balls of your feet and extend forward, returning to the plank.

Dumbbell Romanian deadlifts

Dumbbell deadlifts are a great way to work your posterior chain – the muscles along the back half of your body. Make sure you focus on form – this exercise should primarily work your glutes and hamstrings, using them to “pull” you to the standing position, rather than relying on your back to do the bulk of the work. As with most of the exercises on this list, remember to keep your weight centered over your heels, and be sure to initiate the movement by pressing your hips backward, keeping your core tight and strong throughout.

Lateral band walks

Lateral band walks aren’t a perfect substitute for squats or lunges, but they do engage many of the same muscle groups while also working the abductors. If you can, lower yourself into a shallow squat while performing the band walks, pressing your hips back and bending your knees slightly (doesn’t have to be much!) as you perform the movement. As you step to the side, your center of gravity will shift, so move slowly at first, focusing on form, without allowing your momentum to take over.

Stability ball or slider hamstring curls

To target your hamstrings and glutes, try performing a modifed hamstring curl using a stability ball, sliders, paper plates, or even a towel. I’m including several sample videos below so you can see the differences. The main thing to remember is that your hips should remain lifted, glutes and core engaged, before and during the entire hamstring curl movement. These are surprisingly challenging, so stop if or when your form starts to suffer.

If you choose to use paper plates, a towel, or sliders, make sure the apparatus moves smoothly across the floor. You don’t want it to awkwardly stick or catch during the exercise.

Quadruped hip extension

Quadruped hip extensions are great for targeting your glutes unilaterally. Really concentrate on squeezing the glute of the acting leg, controlling the exercise throughout. Consider adding a resistance band for a greater challenge. Remember to keep your hips level and as steady as possible throughout the exercise.

Cardio alternatives if you need ’em

There are some cardio-based exercises included in the Thrillist fitness challenge that might not be comfortable if you have a hard time with squats and lunges. Consider subbing in the following, as needed.

Jumping jacks (jumping or stepping)

Select between the higher-impact, traditional jumping jack, or the lower-impact step-out version.

Side slides (slow or fast)

You can perform side slides fast, as shown, or you can slow them down and step them out for a lower-impact, lower-intensity option.

Bear crawl

Bear crawls are already included in the Thrillist challenge, but they’re a great alternative to burpees or mountain climbers if your knees can handle ’em.


Step them out like an overexaggerated march, or jog them out at full speed.

Butt kicks

The video only shows butt kicks at-speed, but you can also slow them down to a walk, reducing the impact and intensity. Just make sure to swing your arms as you do the exercise to help get your heart rate high.


This exercise is included in the upper body days of the Thrillist challenge, but it’s a good substitute for more lower-body focused cardio. If you have some space to move, try the version shown in the second video.

Crab walks

If you don’t have shoulder pain, this is another good alternative for lower body-focused cardio.

High-low planks

Your lower body maintains static strength, while your upper body and core get a killer workout.

Lateral walking planks

This active motion is great if you have a strong core and shoulders. If you tend to have shoulder pain, this wouldn’t be my first substitution suggestion.

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Thrillist 31-day fitness challenge alternatives for upper body exercises Sat, 31 Dec 2016 02:06:57 +0000 pain free exercise alternativesThere’s a good chance if you’re reading this article, it’ more

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pain free exercise alternatives

There’s a good chance if you’re reading this article, it’s because you’re completing Thrillist’s 31-Day Gym-Free Fitness Challenge. I’m so glad you’re taking part, and you should know I’m rooting you on from afar! That said, you’re probably only here if you tend to have upper body pain, which is a real bummer for a couple reasons: First, you have pain. That’s never fun. Second, a lot of the moves included in the fitness challenge require shoulder stabilization and engagement, as well as pushing and pressing movements which can exacerbate shoulder problems.

The challenge, of course, is that when it comes to equipment-free exercises for the upper body and core, the common options tend to include things like pushups, planks, mountain climbers, dips, and burpees, all of which engage the shoulder joint in the same general way. If these are off limits, the primary alternatives for upper body exercises are those that require equipment of some sort.

So, what I’ve got for you below are a series of modifications and variations, some of which are equipment-free, and others that require a resistance band. I apologize in advance if this means you have to run out and buy a band, but really, they’re inexpensive and lightweight, so they’re about as close to “equipment free” as it’s possible to come without actually being equipment-free.

A few more notes about upper body exercise alternatives

Because I’m not privy to notes from your doctor or physical therapist, and because I don’t know exactly what type of pain you’re experiencing or when you’re experiencing it, you’re going to have to use your best judgment when it comes to selecting and performing modifications or making substitutions. The good news is, upper body exercises tend to be a little easier to work around than lower body exercises. Here are options you can try:

  1. When dealing with an acute injury, follow your doctor’s orders. If your doctor has suggested you stick to lower-body exercises and lay off the upper body movements, do it. On upper body days during the challenge, opt for steady state cardio, like walking or jogging, and core work that doesn’t require shoulder stabilization (options are included below). If your doctor has prescribed physical therapy exercises, this is the perfect time to add them to your schedule.
  2. Work one arm. If you have pain in one shoulder, elbow or wrist, and you haven’t received instructions from a doctor or physical therapist on how to proceed, don’t push your luck. Opt to only work the arm that’s pain-free, giving your other arm the chance to heal. There are lots of exercises listed below that can be done unilaterally. This means laying off any exercise that causes or exacerbates pain. Again, don’t push your luck, and if the pain doesn’t subside, get in to see your doctor.
  3. Focus more on pulling exercises than pushing or pressing exercises. Sometimes, shoulder pain is related to an imbalance in strength at the shoulder joint, with the muscles along the front of your body over-developed and shortened due to poor posture and overuse, with the muscles along the back of your body weak and underworked. By focusing more on pulling exercises, such as rows, lat pull-downs and reverse flys, you can start to overcome these imbalances and reduce pain. Obviously, if your doctor or physical therapist offers different feedback based on your personal situation, follow his or her orders.
  4. Try modifications. If you have minor or occasional pain, you may find that some exercise modifications are completely safe for you to perform. For instance, if you have occasional wrist pain when doing pushups, you may find that doing pushups while using pushup bars with your wrists in an extended, rather than flexed, position, prevents pain from occurring.
  5. When in doubt, scale things back. There’s no shame in not being able to perform an exercise due to pain. While exercises like pushups and dips are great, equipment-free options, they’re not the only way to build upper body strength. It’s better to switch out an exercise or skip it completely than to cause or extend an injury.

Modifications if you want to give ’em a try

If you think you’re up for modifications for pushups, planks, dips, crab walks, crab abs, or any of the other exercises in the Thrillist challenge that require shoulder stabilization, consider trying your hand at these modifications.

Wall pushup

Due to the angle of a wall pushup, you end up placing less weight and stress on your shoulders, elbows, and wrists.

Incline plank

The incline plank is exactly the same, form-wise, as a standard plank, but it’s performed with your arms on a raised surface, such as a table, desk, counter or bench. As with wall pushups, the incline reduces the weight and stress you place on your shoulders, chest and triceps, making the exercise a little bit easier while still working the same muscle groups. The taller the surface where you balance your arms, the easier the exercise will be. Remember to keep your core tight, and make sure your elbows are aligned directly under your shoulders. Also, don’t allow your chest to “sink down” between your arms – keep your shoulders strong and engaged throughout.

Incline pushup

The incline pushup is slightly more challenging than the wall pushup, with a little more weight and stress placed on your shoulders, chest, and triceps. If you tend to have wrist pain, you may discover that this is the point where pushups start to cause pain. If that’s the case, don’t do them! Return to wall pushups, try a version using pushup bars, or switch out the exercise completely for something like chest press.

Pushup bar pushup

If you tend to have shoulder pain, pushup bar pushups may not be right for you, but if your main deterrent is wrist pain, they’re worth a shot. For many people, the flexed position of the wrists during a standard pushup is what leads to pain – it’s just too much stress on the joint. By using pushup bars, where you grip the bars and keep your wrists fully extended, you prevent the flexion that causes pain. Even if you don’t have access to standard pushup bars, you can mimic the exercise by using any raised apparatus that can be gripped easily with both hands, such as Lebert Equalizer Bars, a playground monkey bar, or a suspension trainer. As long as you can do pushups while keeping your wrists reasonably straight, it’s worth a shot. Here are a few examples of options:

Negative pushups

Working the eccentric (downward) portion of the pushup is a good modification for two reasons. First, it causes the muscle damage required to build strength through your working muscles, ultimately helping you get stronger. And second, it builds strength without requiring the pushing portion of the pushup that often causes pain. The goal with the eccentric pushup is to lower yourself in a slow, controlled fashion all the way to the floor. Once you get to the ground, you can get back up in whatever way feels comfortable – you don’t have to perform an actual pushup to return to the starting position.

Tabletop bridge hold

This is an isometric exercise that helps open up the chest while strengthening the shoulders and triceps, as well as the glutes and core. If you have wrist problems, consider trying it while holding onto pushup bars to reduce the flexion and pressure on your wrists. This is a good substitute for dips and crab walks if those exercises are uncomfortable.

Dip isometric hold

Again, for most people the problem with dips is the range of motion – you either lack the flexibility or strength to protect your shoulder joint through the full range of motion, ultimately contributing to pain. Here, you target the same muscles isometrically by holding a steady position, rather than moving through the full dip exercise. By working on the tabletop bridge and the dip isometric holds, you begin to develop strength while opening up the chest. This will help you get to the point where you can start testing shallow dips or pushups, eventually working up to the full range of motion.

Exercise alternatives for upper body moves

If pushups, planks, dips, or any of the other moves in the Thrillist fitness challenge just won’t work for you, consider switching them out for the following.

Scapular squeeze

The scapular squeeze is an excellent option if you have significant shoulder pain because it requires no equipment and can help you start to address potential muscular imbalances that often pop up if you have a desk job.

Prone letter exercises (Y, T, I, and ILY)

These “letter exercises” can be performed while lying face-down on the ground, on a bench, or on a stability ball, as shown. They’re equipment-free exercises that work to strengthen the muscles surrounding the thoracic spine while also improving stability of the rotator cuff. As you get stronger, you can consider adding resistance with light dumbbells. You can also do these exercises unilaterally, working a single arm.

Scapular wall slide

Still working on posture, shoulder stability and joint health, the scapular wall slide helps encourage good posture and range of motion through the shoulder. It also requires no equipment, making it an easy exercise alternative for any upper body moves that might cause you pain. If, for any reason, you can’t do the exercise to both sides, try it with one arm, instead.

Resistance band lat pull-down

I love the lat pull-down exercise because it’s a compound pulling movement that targets pretty much all the major muscles of your back, which means it does wonders for helping balance out muscular imbalances between the front and back halves of your body. In the first video below, the exercise is demonstrated using bands that hook securely over a door, but you can do the exercise with a band looped over a bar. If you don’t have anything to loop the bands over, you can try the same general movement by looping the band around a sturdy object, then hinging at the hips or lying on the floor to perform the same exercise, as shown in the second video.

Modified pull-up

Modified pull-ups are another excellent compound pulling movement targeting the major muscle groups of your back. This move is also easy to modify based on the angle of your body and how much weight you support with your legs. All you need is a bar positioned at chest-height or lower, or some sort of suspension strap. Depending on your body’s angle, the movement is sometimes more similar to a row than a pull-up, so play around with positioning to hit the back in slightly different ways. Check out the videos below for options.

Resistance band incline chest press

To this point, we’ve focused on back-strengthening exercises, but if you’re up for trying a pushing movement, you can sub-in resistance band or dumbbell incline chest presses in place of pushups. The slight change in angle of the incline press actually reduces the stress on your rotator cuff, making it a more accessible movement. Plus, when you use bands or dumbbells, instead of barbells, you can do these exercises unilaterally, isolating a single arm if one of your arms experiences pain.

Resistance band row

Rows hit pretty much all the major muscles of your back, but due to the angle of pull, you’ll use less of your lats than you did during the modified pull-ups and lat pull-downs, and more of your rhomboids and traps. There are several ways to set up and perform the row, each of them targeting your back in slightly different ways, so choose the version that works best for you. You can also isolate a single arm to perform the exercise to one side.

Resistance band shoulder press

Shoulder presses help build strength through the three heads of your deltoid muscles. You can do this exercise sitting or standing, or you can isolate a single arm and do it to one side.

Resistance band Triceps extension

If dips are out of the question, you can target your triceps with a resistance band triceps extension. As shown in the video, you only target one side at a time, making it perfect if you have an injury to one arm that prevents you from working both sides.

Core exercise alternatives

If your shoulders are a problem, you may not be able to perform some of the core exercises included in the Thrillist fitness challenge, such as planks, side planks, or crab abs. You’re always welcome to sub in one of these exercises, instead.

Wood chops

Wood chops target your entire core, but they do an especially good job of hitting your obliques, making them an excellent substitute for side planks and crab abs. You can do them without weight, with a resistance band, or with a dumbbell.

Leg lifts

Leg lifts are an excellent, core-stabilizing exercise targeting your recutus abdominis and transverse abdominis. Make sure you keep your lower back fixed to the ground throughout the exercise. Place your hands under your hips for support, and bend your knees to shorten the lever arm if performing the exercise with straight legs is too challenging. You can perform simultaneous leg lifts, or you can do more of a scissor-action by isolating each side.


When performed correctly, situps are effective at targeting the major muscles of your core. The key word here is “correctly.” Go slow, don’t allow momentum to take over, and really focus on using your abs, rather than your hip flexors, to lead the movement.

Oblique twists

Oblique twists are another exercise that target the entire core, especially the obliques. Perform the exercise without weight, or add a dumbbell or medicine ball to make it more challenging. Go slowly, controlling the twist, rather than flinging your body with momentum from side to side.

V-sit holds

A great, static exercise that works on balance, stability and core strength, the V-sit is a basic “sit and hold.” You find your balance and hold the position steady for as long as you can. Sub it in for planks. To make it easier, drop your feet toward the floor or place your hands on the ground behind your hips. To make it harer, extend your legs fully and reach your arms overhead.

Pilates 100s

The Pilates 100s exercise looks so easy, but it’s surprisingly challenging when you do it correctly. Focus on keeping your core tight and engaged as you take deep breaths.

Cardio exercise alternatives

There are lots of cardio exercises, such as burpees, mountain climbers, crab walks and inchworms that might not feel great if you’ve got a bum shoulder. Switch them out for any of the following.

Jumping jacks (jumping or stepping)

If the arm swing irritates your shoulder, try making the movement smaller or swinging them in front of your body rather than overhead.

Marching or high knees

Side slides (slow or fast)

Butt kicks

Power skips

You can do these in place, rather than traveling forward as you skip.


Squat jacks


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#HealthierTogether: Learning to brave exercise with your dog in the cold Sat, 17 Dec 2016 04:38:08 +0000 healthier together cuddling with champThis post is sponsored by Nulo™ and the BlogPawsTM more

The post #HealthierTogether: Learning to brave exercise with your dog in the cold appeared first on Girls Gone Sporty.

healthier together cuddling with champ

This post is sponsored by Nulo™ and the BlogPawsTM Pet Influencer NetworkTM. I am being compensated to help share information about Nulo, but we only share information we feel is relevant to our readers. Nulo is not responsible for the content of this article,

True story: I hate cold weather. Hate it with an undying passion. If I have to put more than a single, solitary layer on to stay warm, part of me dies inside. Inevitably, it’s the happy, nice part of me.

You’ve been warned.

I know, however, that other people don’t feel the same way. I have these weirdo friends who love cold weather (God bless their misguided souls), who strangely prefer working out in the cold than in the heat. Using their habits as guidelines, I’ve tried to learn to exercise in the cold, but no matter how I try, winter weather is not for me.

And yet, there’s this harsh thing called reality. A reality where Texas sometimes gets cold. A reality where I work from home in a tiny house. A reality where I share said tiny house with three large dogs, two of them young, all of them active. A reality where if we skip our daily workouts, all of our lives turn into a literal disaster. I can’t work, they can’t settle down, and none of us are happy.

It’s unpleasant.

Unfortunately, in the last few weeks I’ve had to work through the unpleasantness. You see, my oldest dog recently injured one of her feet. She was put on strict orders by the vet not to move around, which meant I couldn’t take the three of them on their usual morning walk (I can’t sneak out of the house with just two of them). Then it got cold, and my desire to stand in our frigid backyard to play catch with the younger two rated negative bajillion on a scale of one to ten.

sad champ and maybe


See how sad Champ and Maybe look? They wish they were going for a walk.

Sure, the younger two have each other to play with, and they do a lot of that, but if you have dogs of your own, you know they all have their own personalities, and Maybe, in particular, doesn’t want to just play with Champ, she wants to play with me.

That’s where toys come in.

I’ve spent more on dog toys since adopting Maybe and Champ, than I ever spent with our original pack of pups (RIP Billie and Scooby). I quite literally pick up new toys every time I go to any store.

christmas penguin dog toy

I’m a sucker for cute toys, like this Christmas penguin I found at PetSmart. I’m saving it as a surprise for the dogs on Christmas morning.

The thing is, I don’t buy toys just to keep the dogs occupied. I buy toys to keep them active when they’re inside. I buy balls they can chase, ropes they can tug on, and hard chew toys I can slide across our tile floors so the dogs go skittering after them.

tug of war

We probably go through a good rope toy every single week.

The thing is, exercise and play are good for the dogs and me, I make a point of using these toys with them, especially now that it’s cold outside and we’re all moving around a little less

Maybe loves playing tug-of-war, and Champ loves playing keep-away and fetch, so I’ll get in on the action and work with both of them in a massive Fetch-Tug-Keep-Away game. Frankly, it wears us all out. Granted, it’s not the perfect substitute for our long walks (more on that later), but it’s a good way to get us up and active without having to brave the chilly weather. I tried to get a picture of the game in action, but we were all moving so much, I had to take video, instead. Just check it out – we’re really working, and this was at the end of a good 15-minute play session. For the last couple weeks we’ve been doing two of these every day – one in the morning and another in the afternoon. It’s the perfect way to add some extra exercise and play time without heading outside.

This coming week, though, Abby will be cleared to exercise again, so we’ll be back to taking our morning walks. And just like last year, we’ll take them every single day, rain or shine, snow or heat. It’s good for us, and if you’ve got dogs, it’s good for you, too.

That doesn’t make it pleasant, though.

General tips for making outside winter workouts with your dog less terrible

If you’re a winter weather-hater like me, here’s how I make it work, despite the brutal temperatures:

  1. Bundle up. Wear more layers than you think you need, just make sure they’re easy to take off if you get overheated. Of special importance: gloves, warm socks (wool socks are wonderful), and beanies. I don’t know about you, but if my ears, fingers, or toes get cold, I’m absolutely miserable.
  2. Pay attention to your dog’s comfort level. Dogs may have some serious fur, but that doesn’t mean they’re immune to cold weather. My oldest dog, Abby, has super short fur, so if she’s out in the cold very long, she’ll start to shiver. All dogs are different, though, so pay attention. If your dog seems uncomfortable, or if her paws seem cracked or painful after you exercise outside, it’s probably time to focus more on indoor play, or to look into dog coats and booties to keep them warm and dry when exercising outside. The American Veterinary Medical Foundation has more great tips for keeping your dog safe when it’s cold.
  3. Shorten your workouts. You may be loathe to cut a session short, but when it’s very cold out, shorter workouts may be exactly what you and your pup need. Your body actually has to burn more calories to stay warm when cold weather strikes, and even if you’re exercising vigorously, your body temperature may start to drop the longer you’re outside. It’s no different for your dog. Slightly shorter workouts will still feel challenging without risking hypothermia for you or your pet.
  4. Focus on good human and pet nutrition, as well as total health. Muscle is thermogenic. That means it creates heat. When you and your dog are muscley and strong, you’re more capable of handling cold weather workouts and recovering quickly when you come in from the cold.  I pay a significant attention to my own nutrition, focusing on a diet filled with lean protein, organic produce, and complex carbohydrates. I pay the same favor forward to my dogs. If you haven’t already read my last two Nulo posts, it’s worth checking them out (here and here) – we’ve seen significant improvements in Champ’s health since switching him to Nulo’s premium, high meat protein dog food. High-quality food in people and pets helps to support muscle protein synthesis and hypertrophy, while also ensuring your body continues to click away on all cylinders, functioning at its most optimal level. It’s kinda a big deal.

To make it through the rest of what looks to be a brutal winter, pick up a slew of dog toys and check out Nulo at your local PetSmart or online. Trust me, you and your pet will benefit.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Nulo. The opinions and text are all mine.

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A healthy gut is easy with VSL#3 probiotic packets Fri, 09 Dec 2016 21:15:36 +0000 vsl3 probiotic medical foodEarlier in the year if you’d asked me what more

The post A healthy gut is easy with VSL#3 probiotic packets appeared first on Girls Gone Sporty.

vsl3 probiotic medical food

Earlier in the year if you’d asked me what I wanted for Christmas, my answer would have been immediate: “I want my intestines to stop hating me.”

In case you haven’t read my previous posts on the subject, from roughly February through mid-summer, my gut rebelled against me in the most unpleasant of ways. I won’t force you to relive the details with me, but you can read about them here and here if you’re dying to know. The gist is that I spent waaaay too much time in the bathroom, culminating in a colonoscopy and my doctor saying, “I don’t know. It’s probably IBS.”

Lovely. Thanks for the clear diagnosis.

It was in July that I was first introduced to VSL#3, a high-potency probiotic medical food that’s clinically proven to help manage irritable bowel syndrome. I’d tried other probiotics without much relief, but because VSL#3 is specially formulated with eight strains of live lactic acid bacteria and is 10 times more potent than the average probiotic, I figured I’d give it a shot, especially since it’s the first choice for many doctors given its proven track record for helping patients with the serious digestive conditions of IBS, UC and ileal pouch.

After a three-week test drive, I was pleasantly surprised by the results. While my symptoms hadn’t diminished completely, they were much more manageable, and I was looking forward to continuing to add VSL#3 into my daily routine.

Flash forward a few more months, and I’m still faithfully taking VSL#3 every single day. In fact, I recently switched from the capsules to the VSL#3® unflavored packets because they contain even more gut-friendly bacteria – 450 billion per packet, to be precise – and they’ve been clinically demonstrated to reduce bloating and gassiness in patients with IBS. And let’s be real, what IBS patient wouldn’t love being a little less bloated and gassy, am I right?

How to use VSL#3 unflavored packets

Plus, the packets are super easy to take. All you have to do is mix a single packet with the cold, uncarbonated beverage of your choice. Typically I use water (the packets really are flavorless, so they mix well with everything!), and the process couldn’t be easier! In fact, I made a video to demonstrate just how easy it is to #ShakeItUpWithVSL3:

So if you’re looking for a way to manage your IBS symptoms this holiday season (or any time of year, really), talk to your doctor about whether VSL#3 is right for you.

Oh, and good news, if your doctor says, “yes,” you can now take part in VSL#3’s new Patient Savings Program. Just print out this VSL#3 Patient Savings Card and bring it to your pharmacist, along with a prescription from your healthcare provider, to save up to $80 each month on your purchase of VSL#3 unflavored packets or VSL#3 DS. This is the largest savings ever offered for both VSL#3 and VSL#3 DS. Visit here for more information, and talk with your healthcare provider today to take part in the savings program!

For more information on VSL#3, please visit, and to purchase VSL#3, visit to find VSL#3 in a local pharmacy near you, or order it online at

You can also join VSL#3 on Facebook for giveaways and exclusive offers, and you can find delicious, IBS-friendly recipes at

To bring this article full circle, now when people ask me what I want for Christmas, I don’t have to say I want my gut to stop hating me. Now I can ask for what I really want: A pony.

VSL#3® is a high-potency probiotic medical food that’s clinically proven in the dietary management of IBS, ulcerative colitis, and ileal pouch. To learn more visit and LIKE the brand on Facebook.

This is a product-provided, sponsored conversation that contains affiliate links. All opinions, text and experiences are my own. VSL#3 is a high-potency probiotic medical food for the dietary management of IBS, UC and ileal pouch and must be used under medical supervision. Please speak with your healthcare provider for any specific questions. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. The product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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