Pregnancy Essentials

Hey Everyone!

I decided to put a running list together of all the things that have helped me get through pregnancy so far. I’m currently 18 weeks and finally have started to feel a little more energized and less nausea — woo! I’m sure the list below will update as I continue on, but for now – here are a few things that I feel like are “essentials” – all on Amazon (for now..until I add more). Hope this helps you during your pregnancy or helps you figure out what to send in a care package to a pregnant friend/family member of yours 😉 I’m sure they would appreciate it!!

Prenatal Gummies – I initially had been taking Vitafusion, but I noticed they had more Vitamin A than I was comfortable with (too much pre-formed Vitamin A can cause toxicity in pregnancy!) I switched to these – they taste great! No Biotin or Iodide, which I didn’t want (as they can cause acne). I have never been able to hold down multi-vitamins, so I have always had to find gummies! These work for me 🙂
Foot Massager – Worth the investment. I enjoy it, Scott enjoys it. I basically couldn’t stop thinking about having my feet rubbed after I got a massage a few weeks ago. I even bought the remote here for when my belly starts getting too big. Totally worth it to put my feet in this after a long day! The high settings can even hurt a little bit at first (which I wanted to make them feel better). Then the next time around, my feet tend to feel better already!
Preggie Pop Drops (PLUS with B6) – Get the ones with the PLUS! They have B6 in them and this seemed to help me more than just the regular ones. Taste amazing too (like jolly ranchers)

Sea Bands for Morning Sickness – Truthfully, I didn’t wear these often because I was still trying to hide that I was pregnant. I’ve heard good things about them from other people! The days I did wear them they may have helped..but again, can’t say for sure as my nausea was up and down!
Tide Free and Gentle Laundry Detergent – Not a necessity, but I chose to switch to a “free” detergent to eliminate the chemicals and the residue it leaves. The residue from normal detergents and dryer sheets actually causes acne! Plus, you should be able to use this when the baby comes 🙂
Free and Clear Shampoo and Conditioner – Same thing as above – not a necessity, but I wanted to eliminate chemicals from my life due to previous liver issues and just the overall idea of wanting a toxin-free life. I like it! No fragrance, but that’s the point.
The Naked Bee Shampoo – This one is all natural AND non-comedogenic (doesn’t cause acne). I know, who would think about a shampoo causing acne, but I bet it does! I rotate this one and the Free and Clear along with my other OGX shampoos on occasion (just depends on the day). I try to use this one as much as possible though!
Maternity Pillow – Everyone should have this, pregnant or not. Best thing ever. That’s all.
HeartRate Monitor – I got this to monitor my heart rate during work and other exercise as I know I have a tendency to push myself. Generally, this isn’t worried about anymore, but again, knowing I may go a little too hard occasionally and I am very active– this was worth it for me.

Compression Socks – I got these before I was pregnant just because I was on my feet all day at work. So far so good!? These are my first compression socks so I can’t say much else about them.

Oh and another essential is a prenatal massage … got one already thanks to the hubs and my SI joint pain (had it before pregnancy on/off so now it was just back even worse..) and it was gone! Of course, if needed, I will go see a pelvic health PT, but I’m hoping to avoid that if necessary (given that I have basic PT knowledge…but def not a pelvic health specialist). Will probably get another down the road as I start to get more sore again (LOL who am I kidding, always sore right now). Highly recommend… husbands and family members take note 😉

I plan on updating this soon with my face wash and makeup that I’ve been using (all toxin-free)– Since many face products can actually be toxic and are not recommended during pregnancy! Stay tuned for that and MORE as I continue along this journey 🙂

Stay tuned!

– Jen

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My SkinCare Fails (and Lessons Learned)

Okay, so let me say a few things first here.

First off, I am not a skincare expert. I am just a girl who has suffered with acne FOREVER and I am tired of it. I have trialed so many things and I think I am finally finding some relief!

Second, I have chosen to use more natural products specifically because I experienced a few liver issues in the past year (for unknown reasons) and I would like to minimize any and all toxic products that I use, eat, etc. (Birth control is SO TOXIC–important sidenote!!)

Third, this is currently all about the topical things I am using, BUT skincare is way more than topical. In fact, for me, most of my breakouts have to do with how my body is feeling internally. Hormonal breakouts are inevitable for me, BUT can I limit it to just one pimple?? Hopefully! Getting your gut (and stress!!) under control is SUCH a huge component in all this. I will likely happily write about that soon too 😉 Eliminating sugars specifically has helped me tremendously… I’ll stop there, haha

Fourth, even if you don’t use any of the products that I use (because we ALL need something different), I would HIGHLY recommend checking your products for comedogenic (pore-clogging) ingredients. I like to use this list on the AOS website (they also sent me a bookmark with them all with my first purchase!! I carry it around whenever I’m shopping).

Fifth, because I LOVE Art of Skincare (I literally just stumbled upon them one day after so many searches), I am going to provide links to them. They have been so great to me. If you buy things through my link, they might like me more, so show some support 😉 Okay, but really, their website is super informative AND everything is marked “Acne Safe” if it is! They do the work without you having to look through the list. It’s awesome. I honestly don’t plan on buying skincare items from anywhere else anymore.

Okay, let’s get to it!

Things that didn’t work for me:

  1. Jojoba oil. I bought this straight from Trader Joe’s with the intent of using it as a moisturizer. I had read it somewhere and was excited to try something natural. It basically just made my skin oily. I didn’t see any extreme differences either way, but that’s both good and bad. Maybe it works on people that need some oil/moisture in their lives, but I DEFINITELY don’t need that! I do now use this for my hair, though! I put it on my split ends – just not too much because it can make it oily/stringy looking.
  2. Rodan & Fields Unblemish. I used this routine for YEARS. At first, it looked like it helped a little bit, but it wasn’t drastic and there’s a good chance I was hoping it would work just because it can be an expensive thing to invest in. Plus I needed to justify getting that PC Perks membership. I didn’t want to let it go for so long just in case, but I finally cut it loose a few months ago! It just didn’t work for me. You have to make sure you look at ALL of the ingredients!!
  3. Tea Tree Oil face wash (this one). I don’t know why I trusted a random stranger who said this helped her hormonal acne, but I did. I used it for about 6 months and all I saw was more blackheads.
  4. Charcoal scrub sponges. Okay, I don’t know about these. I like how they feel on my face, but I don’t know that it really does anything. My face might feel slightly smoother, but I also might be pushing dirt and dead skin back into my face. IDK. But if you want to try one, I’ve tried both 100 percent pure and Bkind and I hands down prefer the one from Bkind. It stays together WAY longer.
  5. Turmeric masks. Okay, I tried this with coconut oil and I thought it might have done something, but honestly I just think the slight tint of the turmeric made the redness of my acne go away for a few minutes while it tricked my mind and gave me a slight yellow/orange/tan tint. I don’t know, maybe it works for other people, but I can’t say I’ll be doing it again. Plus it’s messy and can stain your things very easily!
  6. Benzoyl Peroxide, Salicylic Acid, all those things. I used to even get prescription topical ointments from my physician. Those didn’t work. That’s really all I can say. This was years ago, but again, with hormonal acne – that is coming from inside. Maybe these would work occasionally, but Benzoyl Peroxide honestly just dried my face out partially and bleached a lot of my towels. Kind of sucked.
  7. Neutrogena Face Wash. Just didn’t work. I think it tried, but it basically did nothing. It was very basic and years ago, but not something I’ll try again.
  8. St. Ive’s Apricot Scrub. Nope, nothing there. Might have made my face feel okay for a hot sec, but nope. This was awhile ago, but it didn’t last long.

 

Things that might be working for me (I’m pretty sure): It really takes a few weeks before you can truly start noticing differences, so anyone that says “this changed my skin the moment I started using it” is probably either lying, going through a purging phase, or what I like to call a “switching products phase” where for 2-4 days your skin looks great. I don’t know why, it just does (maybe this is deep down the trick!? HA).

  1. Apple Cider Vinegar (Trader Joe’s brand). Okay, Scott HATES this and I don’t blame him. It obviously does not smell great when you rub it on your face, haha. BUT, I have noticed that it not only tingles when you put it on (I assume that is okay), but a few hours after/in the morning, it actually does draw things out. I’ll usually put this on at night, because I used to do it during work and then I had whiteheads pop up around 11am in addition to the other whiteheads that would pop up just due to excess oil. Now I put it on at night so that if anything crazy pops up, I’ll notice right when I wake up in the morning!
  2. Pink Clay Floral Face Mask (Bkind). I might use this 1 time every week or every other week. I checked it for pore-clogging ingredients and it’s GOOD! I notice my skin looking a little clearer but nothing super dramatic here either. It might work, it might not. I don’t notice much to be honest. I also like their rose facial scrub, but it has pore-clogging ingredients so I haven’t used it in awhile (it leaves my skin feeling so smooth…but probably clogs my pores too HA).
  3. Blueberry Acai Scrub (Trader Joe’s). I only use this once every 1-2 weeks also. I think it does something, but I’m not sure. It also could just be pushing things into my skin. It’s all natural and not pore-clogging and it makes my skin feel a little soft afterwards. It feels good when I rub it on too, but again, not sure if it’s truly helping or not!?
  4.  Face Reality Mandelic Acid Face and Body Wash. This is MY JAM. I use this in the morning and at night (for about 4 weeks now) and I have seen a difference in my skin. My pores are smaller and my forehead is shiny in a good way, not an oily way. Needless to say, I’m super excited to get more mandelic acid things soon (see below)!

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5. ClearStem SkinCare Anti-Acne and Anti-Aging Serum. I really like this serum, but I will probably switch to Face Reality soon just because during my consult, they recommended I have a higher dose of mandelic acid in my serum at present. That being said, I really like this serum and I will definitely buy it again. It is expensive, though. I feel like it has helped me get rid of my scarring and just make my skin smoother and shinier (in a good way). I really like that it’s natural, too!

6. Face Reality Hydrating HydraBalance. I use this probably about 3-5x/week, usually right after I apply my apple cider vinegar. I haven’t seen anything dramatic, but I don’t use any other moisturizer or anything right now, so I think it’s important. The lady that gave me a facial told me that my skin may be overproducing oil because it’s dehydrated? I’m not sure because she also put an algae mask on my face when I asked her to use non-comedogenic products (then tried to sell me a moisturizer that had comedogenic products in it too).. so who knows if it was a business tactic or what, but so far, no harm, no foul.

 

Things I’m going to be TRYING based off of my consult with Art Of Skincare! (fingers crossed they help!)

  1. Face Reality Mandelic Acid 8% Serum. You have to do a consult with a specialist to get this 🙂 **stay tuned for a deal on skin consults soon…Or message me to stay in the loop**
  2. Face Reality Cran-Peptide Cream. Just got a sample of this that I’m going to try! I know it’s pretty new so we’ll see!
  3. Face Reality Moisture Balance Toner. I think Scott will like the smell of this better than Apple Cider Vinegar hahahaha. I also bought these gauze pads to try with it – not sure how they’ll work, but I will let ya know 😉
  4. Face Reality Clearderma Moisturizer. Heard from a friend this is awesome! Excited to try it out 🙂
  5. Face Reality SPF 28. I haven’t had a good sunscreen in awhile. Heard this was a little greasy for one of my friends, but even if it doesn’t work for my face, I figured I can always use this on my body 🙂 Won’t clog my other pores 😉

DEFINITELY follow me on Instagram if you don’t already if you want updates on these (@jennpalmer19). I’ll do my best to update this blog, but any immediate updates will be there 😉

Makeups to try! This is HUGE. I won’t go through all of the things I threw out (it was a lot), but I actually sat down on a Friday night and went through all of my face products to see what had pore clogging ingredients. NOTE: It’s a lot. Even the ones that say they “help with blemishes” might have pore-clogging ingredients, so CHECK YOUR STUFF PEEPS!!

  1. Not ALL things from 100% pure are non-comedogenic. They are natural, but natural things CAN STILL CLOG YOUR PORES (read that again). I didn’t know this until recently, so don’t feel bad. I don’t know why I didn’t think about it, but duhhhh. So I have this foundation from 100% pure that is non-comedogenic. Because I have oily skin, though, sometimes my face does push it out and it can get a little cakey towards the end of the day. Not sure if I’ll get it again, but maybe if I was better at applying it, it would be better? I’m just not great with makeup lolz
  2. Sharing the all-natural mascara that I LOVE from 100% pure. It’s tinted with berries and therefore smells like them. I don’t know if this is non-comedogenic, but I figured it’s okay to use anyways since it’s on my eyelashes!? Hopefully! I’m obsessed with it. And like I said, I’m not a makeup person.
  3. Mineral Essence. Found this on ArtOfSkinCare again – I really love it right now. I will buy it again for sure. It has good coverage and makes my skin look less oily when I first apply it in the morning. Of course, with oily skin, it kind of melts away as the day goes on, but that’s normal with everything for me. (on the hunt for a non-pore-clogging-makeup-spray). If you don’t like this makeup – you can always look at all the other ones on their website. Like I said, they do the work and write “acne safe” next to it. I just like to look for more natural things 🙂 Might get Au Naturale next in addition to this!!
  4. I got this Naked Palette (I think it was this one…) from 100% pure as a free gift from buying so many items one time. It’s non-comedogenic from what I looked up, natural, and I like it. I’m pretty basic.

That’s kind of it because I don’t really wear makeup sooooo

Don’t forget about your shampoos and hair products! I’m working on switching these still. I found a shampoo that is all non-comedogenic and natural. It’s Naked Bee. I haven’t been able to find a natural conditioner yet that is not pore-clogging. I’ve truthfully been switching back and forth between Naked Bee and OGX shampoo just because, honestly, my hair doesn’t feel amazing after the Naked Bee one. It doesn’t feel awful either, it just doesn’t feel silky smooth unless I put a bunch of leave in conditioner in (or jojoba oil). This is probably because it’s all natural and not coating my hair, but it is hard to get used to – just to make you aware. I have noticed less clogged pores along my hairline since I started using this! Especially because I’m active and sweat a lot, this has helped me!!

 

OKAY everyone. Sorry that I didn’t include many pictures.. maybe I’ll update this and include some more at some point 😉 I TRULY hope this helps you narrow down your skincare items and routine. It will always be a work in progress and I am so happy to be transparent and share everything with you. Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions/comments, ANYTHING!! Just remember, you’re not alone in this acne struggle. ❤

 

Until next time,

Jen

PS if you’re wondering how to save money to pay for all these crazy skincare products, check out my other blogs regarding Simple Ways to Save Money and All About My Student Loans. 🙂

Leave Your Shoes, Take Everything Else: Cartagena, Colombia

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Well it had been awhile since I traveled outside of the country (almost a year!) and I was certainly getting antsy for an adventure.. so off to Colombia we went!

People keep asking me – why Colombia? Honestly, Scott and I never really had a “honeymoon” so I wanted to go somewhere warm, but I was afraid we’d get too bored if we stayed at an all-inclusive place for more than 4 days. I looked at splitting up places and traveling between countries (like my usual speed travel), but ultimately we decided on spending 6 days in Cartagena, Colombia with a focus on RELAXING *gasp*!

My expectations of Cartagena truthfully came from different Instagram accounts, pictures of AirBnb places we had looked at, and a few random strangers who said, “So-and-so just loved Cartagena!” After all of this, I was like, welp, YOLO – let’s go!

I’m not gonna lie to you – it was hard at times for me to actually relax during the vacation. Whenever I’ve done my budget travels, I’m always so focused on seeing as much as I can and spending as little money as possible (Check out Singapore, Malaysia, Bali, and Thailand). This was clearly different.

Over our 6 days, Cartagena made it SO easy to enjoy AMAZING food at great prices. Seriously, I was not expecting the food to be great, but it was honestly the highlight of the trip for me.

The first day we arrived, we ate dinner on a beautiful rooftop, tried some fish soup and steak with a Colombian coffee sauce. We walked around outside to hear music playing at the square nearby to us while horse carriages passed by. Talk about a dream! It really felt like a fancy European country, all right in Colombia. We headed to bed early, knowing we had to get up and be ready for our adventure day of island hopping and snorkeling.

We were picked up at 6 AM, right on time, for our island hopping trip. To be honest, it was advertised as a snorkeling trip too, but we really were only able to do about 30 minutes of snorkeling in a guided tour, kind of a bummer. One thing I did notice here, as compared to the southeast Asian countries I’ve been to, was that the tourism industry wasn’t quite as developed yet. Likely because Colombia is still on the rise as places to visit.

We went to multiple islands in the Islas Del Rosario on our trip including Playa Blanca, Isla Baru, Cholon, and Playa Azul. As our guide told us, each one had a very different vibe.

Playa Blanca was the most accessible from Cartagena, which makes sense as to why it was so packed.

Cholon is known to be the “party island.” Since we went on a Thursday, it wasn’t quite as packed, but they did sell some awesome (and overpriced) Pina Coladas in a pineapple. Honestly, the rum was strong, local, and awesome.. but I’d recommend getting a Pina Colada back at Playa Blanca – cheaper and just as good!

Playa Azul was a very chill, relaxing beach that we hung out for about an hour. There were people selling things everywhere, but I think this beach probably had the least amount.

As a sidenote (but also main note): Nothing is free and you ALWAYS need to ask how much before you buy anything from any vendor on the street, beach, or even taxi. “Cuanto Cuesta” is the phrase to know. We actually did get a little ripped off by a person who “thought we bought another girl’s drink,” yet charged her as well AND charged us more than what it cost. Luckily, we were on a trip with a big group and the tour guide confronted him about it. It was definitely a positive to have an insider with us during the trip to give us these tips and talk directly with the locals. They WILL take advantage of you and they are VERY good liars! Just be aware and ask how much everything is before you purchase it so they verify it beforehand!!

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The next few days consisted of a lot of the same: walking, exploring, eating, and drinking. Here are a few highlights of the neighborhoods we adventured to and the places we ate at:

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We stayed inside the walled city, so just walking around the wall itself was fun! There are so many little streets you can just jump off on and walk down. Each has a bunch of little stores, restaurants, bars, whatever! And it’s all fairly self explanatory since it sits inside the wall.

Getsemani – The “hipster district.” We walked here a few times, tried a few coffee shops, found some craft beer (although we weren’t that impressed with the beer, which is understandable). There are so many murals here, even people painting them as we walked by! It was a cool little area to check out. If you are vegan, you will definitely find eats here!

 

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Las Bovedas – Just along the wall near we stayed, Las Bovedas is a series of little shops. This is a perfect area to pick up all your touristy items! Not to mention, there are tons of vendors trying to sell you coffee, snacks, and other drinks nearby if you want to grab a snack!

ALL of the plazas! – We stayed very close to San Diego plaza (did not plan that, haha). Many nights there was live music playing (for donations)… Of course there are plenty of restaurants.. and so many cool/strange statues! Each plaza had its own vibe, which was cool to check out for sure!

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This is a pretty horrible picture, but YES you can find a few wild animals in Cartagena! They are all in the Parque del Centenario – very close to Getsemani. We wandered through this area a few times but only saw the sloth once. Big tip is to look for the group of people staring up into the trees…

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And then here is just another one of us standing on a random street corner…

Our 4th night there, we decided to book an evening harbor cruise with a 3-course meal. We booked this through Viator (I book most tours through this when I travel abroad). Everything went smoothly using Viator, but I will say it is less developed in Colombia than when I used it in other countries.

The harbor cruise was awesome! The food was great (not the best we had, but definitely still good). The view of the harbor was probably not very different from your typical harbor view at night, but it was a great experience nonetheless for a very reasonable price. I’m sure if we had done something like this back home, it would have been at least double the cost. Check it out here!

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That night, we checked out a bar (Bazurto Social Club) nearby that had been featured in a few travel guides I had read. It was awesome to get a feel for the Colombian nightlife and their style of dancing! We definitely tried to fit in, but I think we’ll need some practice 😉

The next day we spent relaxing and recovering in Bocagrande.

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Bocagrande – We spent about $100 USD for the day for use of the pool and hotel room at the Hyatt in Bocagrande. This is the more Miami-esque, downtown-kind of vibe. It was nice to just lay by the pool and feel like we were living the “rich life” .. or something like that. The food wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t amazing either. I would definitely try to eat at the more authentic restaurants in the old town area!

The next day was spent wandering around some more coffee shops and restaurants, getting our last few meals in and soaking up the warmth of the country before we headed back! Check out my post (coming soon) to read more about ALL the food and drinks we tried while we were here! – it was seriously the highlight of the trip!!

Overall, if you are looking for a place that offers so many different things (beach, city, culture, art, food, you name it).. Cartagena is an amazing place to go! You could spend a lot of money or you could spend very little. It’s a great place to go no matter what you can afford. Plus, the weather is great (especially in January) and it is still an up and coming touristy area! So most likely you’ll be the first of your friends to go 😉 You trendsetter you!

Oh, and we did get our photographs done while we were here, and I love the few that I have posted, but I can’t necessarily recommend our photographer for the price we paid just yet. I think she needs some time to grow and a little more experience 😉 BUT feel free to message me if you want to know who our photographer was 🙂

Be sure to check out my other posts from places I have traveled to in Asia (Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Bali) if you’re looking for a different type of experience 🙂

Until next time,

Jen

 

 

I’m No Dave Ramsey But… Student Loans 101

I’ve gotten many questions recently in regards to paying off student loans. There are a few different options that you can take when addressing this issue, but I will talk you through what I have been doing.

To give you some background, I had undergrad and grad school loans totaling about $160,000 after graduation. People always tell me, “Oh you should’ve gotten scholarships” or “You could’ve went to community college” – Yes, I get it. But the reason I chose my school was:

1) To get my Doctorate in 6 years at a 3+3 program – hellooo one less year of school

2) As long as I maintained my GPA, I wouldn’t have to take the GRE to get into grad school

3) I did get scholarships. Half-off tuition for my first 4 years, 1/3 off for my last 2 years. In addition to some amazing other scholarships (Huge thank you to Central Scholarship) for a few hundred to thousand each year. So yes, this debt is on TOP of those.

And if anyone says the whole “you should’ve worked while you were in school.” Yeah, not buying that either. I worked multiple jobs while in school, of course at a minimum wage rate. I did anything from help at athletic events to answering phones, and on holiday breaks and some weekends I was a cashier back in my hometown. Yes, this is in addition to playing a collegiate sport and being involved with just about every club on campus. As you can see, I was very busy.

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So back to the loans. In May 2015, I had about $100 to my name, $160,000 in student loan debt, and a brand new car loan (another $17,000). My car had been a run down car for years, literally car parts fell off on the road, and I had decided the safest/best thing for me was to invest in a car for the long haul. I knew I wasn’t going to end up living near my family, so knowing I had that for safety was comforting, even if it did add to my debt.

I moved to my first apartment in Virginia Beach in June 2015, all by my lonesome. I figured, I’m going to be a PT, I can afford this! Sure, I could, but not with much leftover. I immediately upped my credit card limit (I hadn’t done that since I was 18), and invested in a nice mattress and a $15 folding table from Craigslist. All I needed was a good night’s rest and a table to sit and study at (because yes, I started working before I took my licensing exam). I spent that first month working and studying just about every night until my boards came, luckily I passed.

I was able to start saving about $50/month to rebuild up my personal accounts. I saved a little more these first few months before my official loan payments started since I had my new “big girl” paychecks, but I also wanted to start adding a little furniture to my life. Maybe eat some food, ya know.

I have always been a frugal person, never really buying anything unless I needed it, so the need to save money came pretty easy to me. I learned to focus on things that meant a lot to me, spend a little on that to treat myself, but put a majority of my paycheck to getting out of debt.

First thing was first, my credit card.  This by far had the largest interest rate and the lowest amount of debt, so I wanted to tackle this first. All of my extra money (besides necessities and $50-$100 to savings) went to this initially. I wanted to get rid of it stat. To this day, I still use my credit card, but pay it off immediately. This way, I get the perks of having credit and getting points, but I don’t have to pay that crazy interest! This is important. I would recommend targeting whatever debt has the highest interest rate first!!

Once this was paid down a few months later, I began paying my student loans – only part of what my eventual monthly payment would be, but I wanted to start as early as possible because I knew it would benefit me in the long run. Every day that passes is just another day of interest accruing! So yes, I am also that weirdo who wants to pay the random $20 payments whenever I get it – even if that means I make 10 payments a month – JUST because that $20 could equal $30 next year.. and that’s $10 that I could’ve spent on cute lattes, just sayin.

When my loan payments were about to begin, I made sure I had the right plan. For me, the standard plan was not going to work the best. It was around $1600/month for 25 years (AHH). I could pay that, but I wanted to make sure that while I was starting my career and life, I had a little give just in case I needed it. Plus, my savings account still wasn’t looking great. I opted for the extended graduated plan, meaning I’d start around $600/month. This would then increase by 100-200 every 2 years. I figured I would still continue to pay as much as possible (sometimes the same as the standard amount), but like I said, I wanted to be able to have money just in case something happened!

About 2 months after I began my loan payments, I decided to get a PRN job. This was always on my mind, just because I had almost always worked a few jobs at a time. I just wanted to allow myself a few months to get adjusted to the real world. I already worked full time in an acute hospital, but I lucked out and found a PRN job that was perfect! A few hours here and there when I could, and my boss was super chill (yes, that can be hard to find). I decided that all of my PRN money would go straight to my loans. This could be anything from $50-$300 a paycheck

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This trend continued for a few months and I was eventually able to get my credit card payment down to 0, my car payment down a little bit, and still pay all of my other bills on time (loans, rent, etc). It was going well, BUT I will say one thing I don’t necessarily regret at all, but would advise, is that you do not live alone for a few years. I’m not saying you have to live with your parents, but at least have a roommate if you can tolerate it.

After a year on my own, I moved in with a roommate while my boyfriend (now husband) was over in Japan. By cutting my rent payment in half, I was able to put a solid extra $400 towards my car and student loans each month. I ended up prioritizing my private loan first (highest interest), the first federal loan I had (small but through a different company because my college switched after my first semester), then my car loan (2ndlargest chunk), and then my GIANT federal loan.

Certainly, the smartest thing is probably to pay off whatever has the most interest. Which is basically what I did. BUT my car definitely had a lower interest rate than my giant federal loans. That being said, I just wanted to get rid of it.

At one point, I ended up doing a travel job for 3 months while keeping my PRN jobs a few hours back. Yes, I traveled at least once a month to work at those jobs, meaning at times I’d work 12 days in a row. It sucked, but it was fine. I was alone in the mountains and had plenty of time to explore and hike. It was cool, but I could talk about travel therapy a different time.. Long story short of that snippet of life is that: I made a lot of money to put toward my loans. Definitely a perk of travel therapy.

The months to follow consisted of juggling multiple PRN jobs trying to get as many hours as I could before I decided to leave and live in Japan for a few months. While I knew my husband and I would have the funds to make ends meet, I wanted to know that I’d have enough money to put more towards my car and loans, if possible. EVEN if it was only $5 extra. I had saved up about $12,000 alone just to live off of. That sounds like a lot, but when you have to live off of it for 8 months and you have about $1,000 in bills alone (car+loans), it doesn’t get you very far.

In Japan, I super budgeted because I wanted to be able to travel as well. Yes, I EVEN traveled these last few years. I stayed in hostels and went to Malaysia, Thailand, Bali, and Singapore on my own. While I didn’t have to work when I returned to Japan, my husband and I both knew how much it meant to me to be able to pay for things myself. STRONG INDEPENDENT WOMAN YA HEARD. (of course, marriage is about give and take and this was definitely a moment where I had to learn that it was time to let my husband take care of me…again, another story).

I worked as an English tutor in a variety of ways. I taught conversational English, I edited translated papers prior to MDs presenting them in International conferences, I taught anatomy to Chinese Medicine lover, and I even taught English at adventure camps. I wanted to make money and make the most of this experience – my loans ALWAYS hovering over me in the back of my mind.

Flash forward to now, I’ve been in San Diego about a year and have had multiple different jobs. I have been out of school for almost 4 years, paying on my loans this whole time. I have gone from $160,000 in student loans to $99,000 (although my interest is still 5.3% which means I pay about $530 in interest only every month! So yes, think about all that interest I paid off already…). I have no credit card debt. My car is paid off.

Since I have been in San Diego, it has been incredibly helpful to live off of one income instead of two between my husband and me. All of my income goes to my student loans. I fully understand this is not a luxury that everyone has, but here are some things I can recommend knowing what I have been through and what I am still currently going through:

  • Live with a roommate. Your friend, a stranger, your boyfriend (if it’s the right time lol) – whatever. It will save you money.
  • If you qualify for loan forgiveness by working for a non-profit, apply for it, but don’t bank on it. That’s 10 years and I BET you could pay it off sooner if you really dedicate yourself.
  • Treat yourself, but don’t get crazy. Put that $5 towards your loans instead of that latte every once in awhile, that’s a treat in itself.
  • If it makes sense for you to consolidate, do it. But make sure it’s the right company and that you aren’t trying to get PSLF – because it may not qualify after you consolidate.
  • Pay off whatever interest is higher. I have my giant loan now and instead of paying towards all of it each time, I am paying directly towards my large, high interest (6.95%) loan. This means my interest that accrues each month drops since it is such an outlier. SUPER helpful!
  • If you can find a trustworthy company that can refinance your loans for a lower percentage, GO for it. I personally think I should but haven’t looked into it enough yet to do it. We will see!
  • COUPON!!! I use so many silly apps, answer surveys, watch random things for pennies -no joke, I wrote a blog on them here. And then I just put this $20 at a time to my loans. It’s simple and makes me happy 🙂
  • Breathe, try not to cry. But then if you do cry, remember you’re not alone. This sucks and I think everyday about what I could be doing with all my loan money. (Last year I paid $11,000 in interest ALONE on top of the $14,000 I paid to my principal balance. And yeah, we only get $2,500 deducted from taxes..)
  • Something else might work for you—I have heard of people investing instead and paying things off later. You do you, but don’t forget about your mental health! My anxiety about everything alone makes paying these silly things off SUPER worth it.

LennyLarryYou are NOT alone in this battle. I hope my journey has given you some insight!! I am super hoping to pay my loans off totally in the next 3-4 years. That’s my goal!! We got this!!

Feel free to email me, DM me, comment, whatever – if you have any questions/comments 🙂

Until next time,

Jen

Quality of Life vs Burnout: A Real Healthcare Dilemma

When thinking about what you’d want more – improved quality of life vs feeling burnt out, the answer is almost always very clear. A better quality of life, of course. Nobody wants to feel run into the ground, under appreciated, underpaid, etc. to the point of hating or quitting their job. That’s common sense. But what if I told you there are actually issues in emphasizing this superior quality of life mentality?

While there are pros and cons to all companies, it’s pretty astounding to me that improving employee quality of life could actually cause issues within a healthcare system. Hear me out on this one.

I feel honored to have worked in a variety of facilities within the last 3.5 years of practicing as a PT. Specifically, I have worked in larger hospital systems on both the east coast (Norfolk, Virginia) and the west coast (San Diego, California).

If you know anything about the differences between the east and west coast, just know this one- California values quality of life way more than any other place that I have lived. The labor laws entitle employees to multiple paid breaks throughout the day, a need to take a 30 minute lunch break or get paid extra, staffing ratios are way better (especially with nursing!). In Virginia, you don’t get these paid breaks throughout the day, staffing ratios are lower, and there is much more demand for productivity when treating patients. Again, these are specifically comparing these two states that I’ve worked in, but I imagine it carries over to multiple other states as well pending labor laws and culture.

Manduka

Reading this, you’re probably thinking – okay, so how could it be a bad thing that staffing ratios are up and employees are entitled to breaks!? That’s crazy! Well, this isn’t across the board with all facilities – it is definitely dependent on the health system you’re in, but I can say I have some experience with a few of them now.

Recently, I left a facility that I had heard AMAZING things about even when I lived on the east coast. “The benefits are great!” or “My aunt works there and she loves it!” I heard endless good things and decided I had to check it out once I moved. I was hired and worked in one of their facilities for 8 months before I decided I couldn’t do it any longer.

So what happened?

I had a 15-20 minute commute, I had been given free scrub tops for my position, they gave me multiple free things throughout the year, the hospital had a bunch of free workout sessions at lunch, a gym that I could use… what’s not to love?

Well, from the beginning, I noticed everyone was pretty relaxed at the facility. That chill Cali vibe. I figured I could get used to it. My first 1-2 months were focused around figuring out the documentation, finding my way around/between the various floors and settings.

The things I began to notice around month 2:

  • Everything I did was communicated to the “lead therapist” who then contacted the physician. Or I talked to the nurse. I had never been introduced to a physician, NP, or PA. I didn’t even know where the phone list was. Why? Because that’s not a thing at this facility. Staff PTs hardly ever spoke to the physicians or mid-levels directly. Yep, that means little to no autonomy. And yep, that means when the physician/NP/PA walked in the room, they definitely did not acknowledge who you were or show much respect (I know this happens everywhere depending on the person, but definitely more emphasized here). This also meant that whenever a lead therapist wasn’t present, the staff therapists claimed it wasn’t their role to call the physician because it wasn’t “part of their job,” at times leading to a delay of care.
  • Patients wouldn’t get seen/treated because people just didn’t want to/needed breaks. And it was pretty unlikely for another therapist to help another out, because most of the time, they wanted to leave early. Oh, and the priority to see patients was based on “who we got paid more for” not who needed it most based off diagnosis and presentation (YIKES).
  • Poor evidence-based care. Everything seemed very behind the times. I’m not sure the reason for this, but I have a few speculations:
    • Most of the employees come to work for a paycheck, they highly value their home life more than work. And don’t get me wrong–this is SO okay!!! BUT – in a healthcare profession, when your job is to advocate and assist patients, this can be harmful to patients if you’re not at least somewhat dedicated to your role.
    • Related to above, the bare minimum is done because nothing more is expected of the workers – and management doesn’t necessarily encourage more education and more progression. Employees didn’t take students, and when volunteers came to observe, nobody wanted them either. Many times when I asked why something was done a certain way, the answer was, “well that’s how we’ve always done it.” **NEWSFLASH** Healthcare is ALWAYS changing – if you are doing something because that’s how you’ve ALWAYS done it- chances are you are very outdated.
    • When I brought up the need to see certain patients at a higher frequency due to certain neuro diagnoses, evidence, and patient response, I got feedback such as, “we’re not staffed for that, so can we decrease the frequency of those patients?” And “We don’t get paid as much to see them, so we only see them 3 times a week.”

*slowly begins to pull hair out*

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I know these may seem silly, but being in a profession where we get PAID because of having these patients as our “customers,” some of this boggled my mind. The employees are getting treated better than the patients! Yes, I understand we need employees to be healthy to treat patients, but there is a very delicate balance that needs to be found. And YES I understand patients will come based on how you treat them – but to me, not providing the best, evidence-based care, is harmful and a true disservice to our patients. It’s truly not hard to treat the patients well AND provide evidence-based care, especially if you have a dedicated team of employees who work together to provide this.

We can’t keep delaying patient care because we don’t feel like doing extra work. I understand you can’t do extra work every single day, but sometimes we just have to go above and beyond – we need to advocate for our patients and stand up for them, not treat them like a dollar sign.

We can’t keep doing the same thing over and over – that’s a disgrace to the profession and healthcare overall. Be open to new ideas, change, and evidence, learn to progress with the profession and stay on top of your continuing education in a variety of realms. This is a profession with never-ending learning, don’t forget that.

I can walk out of the hospital. I can choose the hours I want to work so I don’t get burnt out. I can change my job. (Trust me, I know this is hard because of student loans, I have PLENTY). These patients can’t change how you treat them, the care they receive, the knowledge behind what you are doing. Treat them how you would want to be treated, they need you. End of story.

If you are feeling burnt out, find an alternative. What can you do that you love? Can you change your position around to make you happier? Will your manager help you re-organize this? Can you find a new position that requires less working hours so you can give it all you got for a few hours and then focus more on home? By doing the bare minimum at work, not only are you suffering from not wanting to be there – but the patient is suffering, those around you are suffering, and the profession is suffering. We need to keep moving forward, help yourself to help others. It is hard work changing jobs and searching for one that best suits your needs, but to make you overall happy – that work is 100% worth it. (I fully understand that this is difficult especially when there are financial barriers, really, I get it).

So back to my rant of how this improved employee quality of care can be harmful.. For me, it hurt me that I was consistently going above and beyond and working harder than almost everyone around me. I felt like I was trying to drag other employees forward to be better, trying to inspire a group of people who did not seek motivation or inspiration. I truly cared for my patients and wanted the best for them. I noticed many patients who were not able to advocate for themselves and therefore were pushed off to the side. They weren’t given the appropriate chance because they didn’t have the financial means of others, or they weren’t able to progress as quickly so others didn’t have the patience and want to take their time with them.

I know this sounds heartless and a bit of a direct blow coming from me, but if you aren’t fully dedicated to this profession, you are harming this profession. As physical therapists, we need to advocate for what we do, show our importance, educate others on how we can help them. By falling into the norm, you are allowing our profession to regress while other disciplines keep moving forward.

Next time you head into work, I hope you remember why you’re there, why you got into this profession. Life happens all around work, but for just a few hours, you are there to make a difference in someone else’s life. A difference you were educated and trained for, and a difference that nobody else can provide. Dedicate yourself for those few hours, help those patients, remember what you are there for. That being said, don’t beat yourself up if you slip up now and then. Just keep trying to do the best you can, for your patient. The reward you will feel internally for helping others will be much more than a free water bottle or a phone case. It will reside with you for years. Search for that type of gift from your work.

LennyLarry

If you are ever in a position where you don’t feel like your current job is helping you improve yourself, improve the profession, or even worse – just not listening to you. Don’t be afraid to get out. Listen to your morals, follow your ethical compass. You are wanted and needed. And don’t forget one of my favorite quotes, “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.”

Get out there, find what you love, and use that to help others! I know if you are able to achieve this level of success, you won’t feel burnt out.

Feel free to reach out or provide any comments, suggestions, or alternatives you can think of! I try to stay as open-minded as possible 🙂 Find all of my contact info here.

Until next time,

Jen

Check out my other blogs including Simple Ways to Save Money, Observing a Japanese Day Rehab, and Life as a Small PT!

NPS and Pediatrics – Part 1

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The world of Nail Patella Syndrome can be scary and intimidating at times for yourself, your child, and your family. While most of the time, NPS is genetic and passed down from a parent, there are also times when it presents spontaneously and your child may be the first one to have it in the family. In any of these cases, having a child with NPS may leave you questioning what to do? Diagnoses and treatments change every year and likely the healthcare world is vastly different from when you were a child.

First things first, find a healthcare professional who knows what you’re talking about. Nail Patella Syndrome is not common, it is a rare disease. More and more clinicians are becoming aware of rare diseases; however, it will continue to take time. And heck, even if your healthcare professional does know about it, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will know which direction to go in regards of treatment. They will likely use the best evidence out there (which is, again, lacking) to provide the most adequate treatment. My hope is that you can use this article (as well as the others) as a resource when it comes time to talk to your physician, PT, other clinicians!

As a physical therapist, we are taught about many developmental impairments that may delay or impair function in children. Of course, NPS is not one of the main syndromes we focus on; however, as a profession, we focus less on the medical diagnosis and more on the functional impairment based diagnosis. We consider the background of what is going on medically, make sure we are aware of any precautions or restrictions, and then treat each individual appropriately. As we are all different human beings, it is important to remember that no child with one syndrome will present identical to another child with the same syndrome. In fact, there may even be times when one child may present more similarly to a child who has a different medical diagnosis. It is important to consider this and then move onto our specialty and focus on functional movements.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when working with a child with Nail Patella Syndrome (Fong Disease):

Clubfoot or “Pseudo-clubfoot”: Pseudoclubfoot ? This may just have been made up by me just now – but I believe it is really a thing. Basically, it may appear similar to clubfoot, but by definition and presentation, it is actually anatomically different. You see, clubfoot (congenital talipes equinovarus) presents with foot deformities where the mid foot and forefoot are medially spun in regards to the hindfoot. Muscle contractures may be present in this, but it may also depend on how severe clubfoot is and whether it is a fixed deformity or flexible. A great link that provides some insight on clubfoot is seen here: https://www.orthobullets.com/pediatrics/4062/clubfoot-congenital-talipes-equinovarus

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Typical clubfoot is treated more with the Ponseti method. Other deformities (as I call “pseudoclubfoot”) may appear like clubfoot with abnormalities at the foot and ankle; however, the rotational component may be coming from higher up at the tibia or femur. This is important to recognize early as it can drastically change medical and physical treatment as well as improve the outcome for a child. Treatments here can range from very conservative- just letting the child grow up and hope the cartilage and bones naturally align (if it is not that severe), to casting, to other surgical repair or external fixation. Again, if the rotation is coming from somewhere other than the foot, it is important to recognize this early and perform appropriate clinical tests (tibial torsion test, femoral ante/retroversion test) to determine the best treatment. Check out this link for other rotational deformities you may see!

Toe walking – This may be present and may be for a variety of reasons. Whether it be due to a contracture (muscle shortening), neurological, or by choice, the best thing to do here is to talk your physician and physical therapist. Surgery may be an option, but likely conservative treatment will be chosen first pending the severity. Again, this is a very case-by-case basis.

Congenital Hip Dysplasia – Some children may be born with their hips already dislocated or just very unstable and on the verge of dislocating. Keep in mind, this may not be present initially at birth. It may take a few appointments to realize this – therefore, it is important to take precautions as necessary (proper swaddling and positioning, etc) to decrease the risk of any potential dislocations.

Learn more about the basic presentation of various hip dislocations and treatments at THIS website or also here.

Small or absent kneecaps – Alike to everything else, this should be looked upon on a case by case basis. With no kneecaps, this will generally make the legs, quads specifically, very weak as there is more force required to straighten the leg. Even with underdeveloped kneecaps, it may be difficult to build muscle mass in the quads due to the decreased amount of force able to be placed through the muscle and tendon which then attach to the kneecap. Just because your kneecap is missing/small does NOT mean you cannot walk. Please don’t think this! It may be difficult, sure, but everyone is different! Talk to your physician and PT about this!

LennyLarry

One of the biggest takeaways from these numerous lower body deformities .. Does it affect their FUNCTION? This is something specifically that you will discuss with a physical therapist, as again, our goal is to look at the overall functional mobility. One impairment doesn’t mean someone can’t do something. It simply means that we need to find a way to make it work. Our bodies are amazing things and are able to adapt and create patterns without us understanding why/how.. Don’t give up hope!

Another huge takeaway is checking to see if your child is hitting the normal developmental milestones. This is important to discuss with your physician.

Of course having a child who is in braces, casts, etc. for part of their childhood or undergoing another specific treatment may be delayed in crawling, walking, or other milestones. The good news is that generally there is no cognitive delay or impairment associated with NPS, meaning many of those milestones may be delayed due to physical impairments, but likely the child will catch up. And, of course, they won’t be “behind” in cognition due to NPS. Check out more about milestones HERE.

I hope this gives a little insight into what to think about when having a child and/or raising a child with NPS. Remember – everything should be a case by case basis. Nobody with NPS presents the same, and some may have very mild deformities that don’t limit a child at all! Don’t define yourself or your child based on a syndrome!

Be sure to check out a few of my other posts on NPS and stay tuned for more in regards to pediatrics! And, as always, if you have any questions, suggestions, or comments – feel free to message or email me! 🙂

Other NPS posts: NPS Overview, Your Knees and NPS, NPS and Pregnancy.

Until next time,

Jen 🙂

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My Basic Workout Schedule

Since I’ve head a few people ask me about what I do for exercise, I thought I’d write up a post for you all here!

Okay, so this is basically what I do for exercise. Each are not exactly in this order, but I generally follow a similar guideline each day, especially for leg day…

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Day 1 – Arms & Abs Pt 1: This day I focus mainly on biceps/triceps.

  • Start off with 10 minutes of cardio warm up (I usually do the elliptical just so I can get my arms in with the workout).
  • Optional: Row machine for 2-3 minutes for more cardio and to warm up the arms
  • Lat pull down: 3 x 10 reps (if you go heavier, you may only be able to do 6-8 reps)
  • Dumbbell bicep curls SUPERSETTED with tricep kickbacks/extensions: 3 x 10. Supersetting helps improve cardio PLUS you get your workout done faster 😉
  • Dumbbell Lateral raises (for deltoid muscle) SUPERSETTED with standing lateral external rotation. 3 sets of 10 Lat raises, 2 sets of 15 external rotation
  • AB WORK: I usually go to the assisted dip/chin up machine and perform a few of the following:
    • Hanging pike raises (however many you can do)
    • Hanging tucks side to side
    • Hanging tucks straight forward
    • Supported on dips handles – flutter kicks
    • Supported on dips handles – tucks
    • Supported on dips handles – tucks side to side

Day 2 – Leg Day Pt 1: I will usually do one heavy lift on this day, the other on the next. Let’s make this one squats.

  • Start with 10 minutes of cardio. I usually get on the bike or stair stepper for leg days.
  • HEAVY LIFT – Squats. I do a “ladder” technique
    • 10 reps bodyweight squats – check my form
    • 10 reps with the bar
    • 8 reps with some added weight (pending what you can do)
    • 3-6 reps x 3 sets of the maximum weight
    • 8 reps with added weight
    • 10 reps with the bar
  • Here’s the kicker – in between each of those sets when I rest, I also do 10 reps of lunges on each side, so yes, I superset that as well:
    • Forward lunges
    • Backward lunges
    • Side lunges
    • Skiier lunges (crossover)
  • Next I move onto the smaller muscles and more isolated machines
    • Leg extension machine 3×10
    • Prone hamstring curl 3×10
    • Hip abduction/adduction machine 3×10
    • Hip thrusters (as long as I can find a non-awkward-space) 3×10

Day 3 – Yoga + Run: I also do yoga throughout the week, and I’ll be honest – I don’t always run. BUT it’s a good idea to do some cross training in the middle of the week! Whether that be yoga, running, hiking, whatever! Yoga has helped me SO much when it comes to arm strength!

Manduka

Day 4 – Arms & Abs Pt 2: This day I focus mainly on my upper/lower back.

  • 10 minute cardio warm-up (elliptical)
  • Optional 2-3 minute row machine
  • Lat pulldown 3×10
  • Low Rows 3×10
  • Overhead press 3 x 10 (or however many I can do)
  • Pull-ups, assisted or not – however many you can do
  • Pull-ups/rows at an angle 3×10
  • AB WORK: I usually go to the assisted dip/chin up machine and perform a few of the following:
    • Hanging pike raises (however many you can do)
    • Hanging tucks side to side
    • Hanging tucks straight forward
    • Supported on dips handles – flutter kicks
    • Supported on dips handles – tucks
    • Supported on dips handles – tucks side to side

Day 5 – Leg Day Pt 2: Other heavy lift (deadlifts):

  • Deadlift with similar ladder technique as squats
    • Bar only – to check form
    • Add weight as able and complete a set of 10, 1-2 sets of 6-8, a set of 10 (or just however many you can do) – KEEP GOOD FORM ESPECIALLY FOR DEADLIFTS! Lighter weights are totally fine.
    • Superset with lunges in between
      • Forward, Backward, Side, Crossover/Skiier Lunges
    • Leg extension machine 3×10
    • Prone leg curl 3×10
    • Sidesteps with theraband (for hip abduction and more booty work!)

Day 6 – OTHER/RANDOM THINGS/WHEN ALL THE EQUIPMENT IS TAKEN/PERSONAL PT:

  • Kettlebell workout!! I do this when all the leg day equipment is taken..because usually the kettlebells aren’t 😉
    • Kettlebell Swings: 2-3 sets of 20 reps
    • Kettlebell Sumo Squats: 3 sets of 10
    • Single leg deadlift (try these first without kettlebell.. you will likely need a lower weight. Really focus on stabilizing core here prior to adding weight! It’s a good balance activity)
  • Personal PT workout for hips (I do this because I’ve had knee injuries and I want to prevent further injuries!)
    • Clamshells: 2 sets of 20 (both sides)
    • Bridges: 2 sets of 20
    • Single leg bridges: 2 sets of 15 (squeeze your booty first here-not your hamstring! People have a tendency to cramp up easily because of that)
      • On ground
      • On bosu ball for extra strength/balance requirement
    • Personal PT workout for arms
      • “Sahrmann Slides” – to help improve the movement of your scapula and help balance out your arm/shoulder muscles
      • Push-up plus – can do the push-up part, or just protract your shoulders and push into the ground to help activate your serratus muscle (again helps to improve scapular mobility and control)

After each workout, I try to either drink a protein shake (plant-based for me, but whatever you choose!) or eat a protein bar/cookie (highly recommend Lenny&Larry cookies, plus they always have a sale..) within 30 minutes. If it’s not that early, it’s okay, that just tends to be the most optimal time for GAINZ 😉

I will do my best to post pictures and videos soon. But in the meantime, hope this helps! Feel free to message/email me if you have any questions 🙂

Instagram: @jennpalmer19
Email: jnpalmer19@gmail.com

Until next time,

Jen

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