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Fitness Pro Rachel Buschert on Building a Smarter Workout Routine: Well-Balanced

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Equinox trainer and all-around badass Rachel Buschert Vaziralli. (Photo: Ryan Michael Kelly)

Since high school, when I blearily logged pre-dawn laps during swim team practice, I’ve been a committed AM exerciser. Dragging my tush out of bed is painful, but it’s way better than being sluggish and grumpy—the way I feel when I miss a workout. On the flip side, I’ve been known to go too far and ignore my body when it needs rest. With that in mind, I asked Rachel Buschert Vaziralli, one of my favorite Equinox instructors (not to mention a Master Schwinn Trainer and recent winner of Fit or Flop), for advice on balanced fitness. Read on for her tips, plus the best post-sweat breakfast. 

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Just Do It (Sign Up for Something!): Well-Balanced

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Ladies line up at the starting line of the More and Fitness Half-Marathon—which Mollie is running next month!

It’s hard for me to get motivated when fitness instructors talk about bikini season, and inspirational chants go in one ear and out the other. But give me a challenge and I’m all in. That becomes especially important in the mornings when it’s cold and dark and the last thing I want to do is haul my tush to the gym. 

Recently, I took the plunge and signed up for two fitness events. I’m not quite ready for a real triathlon (though it’s a goal!) so I’m starting with Purefy Your Soul, a run, cycle, yoga triathalon being put on by Pure Yoga, Lululemon, and Soul Cycle. It’s taking place this Sunday on the Upper West Side in New York and I’m excited to challenge myself with a group of 60 other women. And next month, I’ll be running More and Fitness Magazine’s Half-Marathon, an all-women race that takes place in Central Park. I’ve downloaded a training plan and I’ll be lacing up my sneaks three times a week to get prepared.

When it comes to fitness events, I have a few rules:

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Healthy Snacks for Every Craving: Well-Balanced

You wouldn’t know it from how much we talk about cookies, but Birchbox staffers are a pretty healthy bunch. We love our veggies and mind-clearing workouts, and are always up to try the latest fitness class or nutrition bar. Which is why we have new regular column: Well-Balanced. Check back weekly for our latest wellness obsession.image

I definitely need this waterproof, reusable snack bag by BonTon gifts.

Mea culpa. This week’s post is late because the dog ate it  I was traveling earlier this week and have been digging out of my inbox ever since. But my recent trip (Los Angeles for a whopping 36 hours) reminded me of the importance of having snacks on hand at all times. I was (duh) stuck in traffic on (duh) the 405 when I got incredibly, all-encompassingly hangry. I had nothing to eat on, not even a dusty lozenge, and I was nowhere near a delicious fish taco or green smoothie.

While I was sitting in my rental car, I had plenty of time to fantasize about the healthy snacks I should have packed. Here are wholesome plane- and car-friendly foods for all types of cravings.

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A Birchbox Pink Smoothie: Well-Balanced

You wouldn’t know it from how much we talk about cookies, but Birchbox staffers are a pretty healthy bunch. We love our veggies and mind-clearing workouts, and are always up to try the latest fitness class or nutrition bar. Which is why we have new regular column: Well-Balanced. Check back weekly for our latest wellness obsession.

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You may know our contributor Natalie Alcala as an LA-based blogger with access to fashion and beauty insiders. But what you probably don’t know is that the pint-size whiz is also a total wellness geek. She knows as much about chia seeds and kale as she does about runway trends and celebrity shenanigans. Recently, she emailed me out of the blue to say, “You need to try my beet n’ berry smoothie! It’s Birchbox pink!" Since I’ve never met a smoothie I didn’t like, I promptly went out to buy the ingredients and whipped it up for Sunday breakfast. The verdict? An antioxidant-rich fuchsia smoothie with a sweet, earthy taste. Click through for the recipe!

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Ouch! In Other Words, I Tried CrossFit: Well-Balanced

You wouldn’t know it from how much we talk about cookies, but Birchbox staffers are a pretty healthy bunch. We love our veggies and mind-clearing workouts, and are always up to try the latest fitness class or nutrition bar. Which is why we have new regular column: Well-Balanced. Check back weekly for our latest wellness obsession.

Image: Healthy Stream

A few weeks ago, I went to a friend’s place, ostensibly to watch Downton Abbey. Little did I know that both football and a rerun of the CrossFit Games were on, and that the man of the house was home. Needless to say, the historical British drama was trumped by sports. Read on for my experience:

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The Best Dark Chocolate on the Planet: Well-Balanced

You wouldn’t know it from how much we talk about cookies, but Birchbox staffers are a pretty healthy bunch. We love our veggies and mind-clearing workouts, and are always up to try the latest fitness class or nutrition bar. Which is why we have new regular column: Well-Balanced. Check back weekly for our latest wellness obsession.

It’s a well-documented fact, that I am a Cookie Monster of the first order. I’ve about given up on conquering my sweet tooth, but I am attempting to make healthier choices. When I chatted with Food Matters founder Tricia Williams, she told me that one of her favorite snacks is dark chocolate, preferably raw and/or organic, which has the highest concentration of antioxidants. Fun fact: raw cacao has more antioxidants than any other food. With that glowing endorsement, I embarked on the herculean task of finding the best healthy chocolate on the market. Click through for my favorites.

One Lucky Duck: This New York-based raw food cafe has a knack for making virtuous food taste absolutely decadent (witness their beloved Mallomar). I recently discovered their line of raw (and organic and vegan) chocolate bars, and I’m hooked. Their five-bar gift set would make a great Valentine’s Day present for your greens-loving buddies. My favorite: The Buckwheat Chocolate Bar, which sounds ridiculous, but tastes amazing. Think grapenuts plus chocolate. Or just toasty chocolate—either way, it’s fantastic.

Pacari Ecuadorian Chocolate: This family-owned company is known for its artisanal bars, made in small batches from single-origin Ecuadorian cacao. All of their products are organic, but they also have a line of completely raw bars, which are produced at extremely low temperatures. Unlike some organic chocolate, Pacari’s bars have a smooth and melty mouth feel, and come in a range of exciting flavors. My favorite: The Salt & Nibs, which pairs flaky Peruvian sea salt with organic dark chocolate nibs.

NibMor: our director of marketing, Deena, introduced me to this line of New York-based organic, vegan chocolate. It’s dairy-free, gluten-free, GMO-free, refined sugar-free…and somehow still tastes indulgent. My favorite: Dark Chocolate Almond, for its nutty crunch factor.

Fine & Raw: I love everything about this Brooklyn-based line, from the gorgeously designed recycled paper wrappers to their high-brow flavor combinations. I’d eat a bar a day if I could. My favorite: Bonbon Bar, a deep dark bar laced with vanilla, sea salt, and agave.

What’s your favorite healthy chocolate? Tell me in the comments!

The flip side of being a cookie addict? Being equally loyal to exercise. Check out our take on the latest fitness craze.

Healthy Snacks and Ice Cream Alternatives From Food Matters NYC: Well-Balanced

You wouldn’t know it from how much we talk about cookies, but Birchbox staffers are a pretty healthy bunch. We love our veggies and mind-clearing workouts, and are always up to try the latest fitness class or nutrition bar. Our weekly column, Well-Balanced, is dedicated to our latest wellness obsessions—they might become yours, too.

Nutritionist and chef Tricia Williams in the kitchen.

Photo: Food Matters NYC

For this month’s Birchbox Magazine, I test-drove Fitist, a new startup that brings boutique fitness classes together into a single program. In addition to creating a custom workout plan for me, Fitist also introduced me to Tricia Williams, the founder of Food Matters NYC, a personalized food delivery service.

Williams, who is a chef/nutritionist, works with clients to design meal plans based on health history, workout routine, and goals. Instead of using calorie counts, she employs medicine guidelines to create the routines—that means no gluten, dairy, or refined grains, and Williams even focuses on the pH of the foods by cooking ingredients in high-alkaline water. If you’re looking to rehab your diet on your own, Food Matters also has health coaches and professional chefs who can visit your house to do a full “pantry purge.”

I gave Williams a rundown of my diet and asked her for simple changes that I can make. Read on for a healthy ice cream alternative, cocktail party saver and more.

Better Than Ice Cream: Dairy is a no-no, but ice cream doesn’t have to be. Williams approved nut milk ice creams, which can be found at natural food stores or spots like Lula’s Sweet Apothecary in New York. I’m partial to Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss ice cream, which tastes even more decadent than the traditional stuff. (Note: these are not low-calorie by any means.)

A Smarter Pre-Game: For nights when you’re going to be drinking, Williams has a special pre-game cocktail: chia seeds and water. “Put a tablespoon in water and wait until the seeds expand. It will fill you up so that you’re less likely to nosh and also helps reduce inflammation.”

Eat Grains Earlier: You don’t have to give up grains altogether; just take them off your dinner plate. Williams says, “Have them earlier in the day so that your body can burn them off and use them as fuel. When you eat them at night, they just convert to sugar.”

Top Snacks: Dark chocolate ranks high on Williams’ approved snack list, as long as it’s raw or 70 percent or darker. She also loves, almonds, pistachios (the ones in the shell, so you eat them more slowly), fresh fruits and veggies, and nuts. 

—Mollie

Want more healthy eating tips? Read what the world’s best spa chefs have to say.

Your New Favorite Snacks: Well-Balanced

You wouldn’t know it from how much we talk about cookies, but Birchbox staffers are a pretty healthy bunch. We love our veggies and mind-clearing workouts, and are always up to try the latest fitness class or nutrition bar. Our weekly column, Well-Balanced, is dedicated to our latest wellness obsessions—they might become yours, too.

I consider myself a healthy snack aficionado. I didn’t used to be this discerning—a few years ago, I’d just throw any old granola bar in my bag, even if it was loaded with high fructose corn syrup and soy protein isolates (wha?). Nowadays, I’m much pickier. I go for products that are minimally processed and have all natural, real ingredients. 

Needless to say, when it came to picking our January lifestyle extra, I was very interested in taste-testing helping out. Click through for more about the delicious treats we’re sampling this month.

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Best Fitness Apps for Your Gadget: Well-Balanced

You wouldn’t know it from how much we talk about cookies, but Birchbox staffers are a pretty healthy bunch. We love our veggies and mind-clearing workouts, and are always up to try the latest fitness class or nutrition bar. Our weekly column, Well-Balanced, is dedicated to our latest wellness obsessions — they might become yours, too.

Photo: Crunchbase

By all accounts, this was a very techy holiday. The official stats aren’t in yet, but initial numbers show that 6.8 million mobile devices were powered up on Christmas Day. If you’re the proud owner of a new iPhone, iPad, or other shiny new toy, you’ve probably already started downloading apps. Instead of going straight for Angry Birds, try these healthy apps — you’ll get a headstart on those new year’s resolutions.

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Give Endorphins Instead of Cashmere: Well-Balanced

You wouldn’t know it from how much we talk about cookies, but Birchbox staffers are a pretty healthy bunch. We love our veggies and mind-clearing workouts, and are always up to try the latest fitness class or nutrition bar. Which is why we have new regular column: Well-Balanced. Check back weekly for our latest wellness obsession.

New York’s Figure 4. Photo: Verging on Serious.

Many moons ago, my college boyfriend gave me a gym membership for Christmas. My friends were appalled — ‘Is he trying to tell you something?’ — but I was thrilled. I had been dying to join a tricked out gym, but couldn’t justify spending the money when there was a perfectly good (read: free) exercise room in my dorm.

While they’re not as sexy as, say, a slick gadget or a sparkly piece of jewelry, fitness classes are one of my favorite things to give and get. Especially with the prices of yoga, spin, and other boutique classes rising, it can be hard to justify buying them for yourself — which makes them an ideal present. Click through for my picks for different types of workout geeks.

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