As women we want to feel good and look good as we age, but with so many of life’s stressors coming at us everyday and a plethora of coping mechanisms that aren’t so healthy easily at our disposal, it can be hard to stay focused. That is why it is important to have real life role models and motivators beyond the cliche glossy magazine cover. Who better to seek advice on health and fitness from than a mom who is in her 40s and in the best shape her life? The mother of two small boys, Melanie Riley works just as hard at staying healthy as she does at being a wife and mother. We sat down to ask this insanely fit, gorgeous Southern mom what her health and beauty secrets are and her advice to women as they age.
I love how I feel now in comparison; I know who I am, what I want, and what I need.
What is your typical morning routine? I have two small boys, so I wake up before them, have an almond milk latte, and try to prepare for the morning rush! After I take them to school, I work out, then am ready for the rest of the day. I always like getting my workout done in the morning; it just sets the right tone for my day.
What do you choose to eat throughout the day? For breakfast, it really depends on the time of the year. In the warmer months, I will usually have a protein smoothie for breakfast. When it gets cooler, I want something warm, like oatmeal or a grain bowl. Avocado toast is common year round. After my workout, I try to have some sort of protein snack; I make and keep almond butter protein balls on hand, and those are a go-to. Greek yogurt with fruit is another. For lunch, I am usually in a rush to pick up my youngest from pre-school, so I keep my freezer stocked with homemade soups, veggie burgers, lean meatballs, etc., that are easy to heat and eat. I love to cook, so, on most nights, I am cooking a healthy dinner. We eat a lot of fish and chicken, and I am a member of a local CSA program, so we always have some sort of fresh veggie with dinner. Whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, farro, etc. make frequent appearances in my meals. I frequently go meatless at lunch, but I also try to incorporate a meatless or vegan dinner into our weekly routine once or twice a week.
What are you go-to meals? For breakfast, smoothies, avocado toast, oatmeal and grain bowls. For lunch, salads with lean protein, soup, veggie burgers. I try to make something different for dinner most nights, but I serve salmon at least once a week. My husband loves pasta, so I make various homemade sauces and serve them with chickpea or quinoa pasta, usually once a week.
What is your exercise routine? It varies, and I think that is the most important thing. In general, I work out 5-6 days a week. I have been going to a personal trainer for strength training, twice a week, for the past 13 years and that has been a game-changer. For cardio, I run, take various cardio classes, and I love spin class. That has been a recent addition to my routine, and it is an amazing workout. I am a big proponent of interval training, either on the treadmill or the elliptical. I also try to incorporate a barre workout at least once a week. I got to Mirela Booker of Mirela’s Fitness for training.
How do you motivate yourself to exercise? I am fortunate in that I have always loved to exercise, so the motivation comes easily for me. I think that group workouts can be a huge motivator. I meet a friend or group of friends to run once or twice a week, and I really look forward to it. In general, I think you just have to commit to it, make it fun, and part of your daily routine. Once you do and see the difference in how you look and feel, I think the motivation comes naturally.
What energy boosting habits do you make part of your daily routine? First and foremost, exercise. I can tell a huge difference in my energy levels on the days I am not able to get in a workout. I also think that sleep is extremely important. In the afternoon, if I am feeling draggy, I will have a matcha latte and that really perks me up.
What are your sleep habits? I am usually in bed by 10:00 and up by 6:00 during the week. Of course, there are frequent interruptions by small children trying to crawl into my bed, but 8 hours a night is my goal. Unfortunately, my internal clock is generally set to wake up at the same time every day so, when I am up later on the weekends, that goal is not always met.
What are your favorite skincare products? Well, I am a product junkie and am always trying new things, but my go-to’s are retinol cream and sunscreen. I am never in the sun without a high spf and a hat. If you see me with a tan, it’s a fake one. I also love a good facial oil and my current fave is Laura Mercier Infusian de Rose Nourishing Oil.
What is your favorite quote about aging? Audrey Hepburn said it best, “Elegance is the only beauty that never fades”
How does how you feel now compare to your 20’s? Well, I loved my 20’s, but I think that is the time that you are still figuring out who you are. I love how I feel now in comparison; I know who I am, what I want, and what I need.
What do you detest about getting older? Ha, well, let’s be honest, wrinkles are no walk in the park, but smile lines show a life well-lived. Ask me in a few years but, for now, I am very happy with who I am at this point in my life and have not found anything too unpleasant about getting older. 40 is the new 30, right?
What is your fitness advice to women? Stay active! Find something that you enjoy enough to actually stick with and continue. It doesn’t have to be intense or every day, unless you enjoy that. I think people often make the mistake of throwing themselves into something too extreme, then burn out and give up. Granted, my workouts are fairly intense and frequent, but that is what I like. Just walking a few times a week, for instance, can have enormous benefits. Most importantly, I cannot stress the importance for women, especially those of us getting older, to do some sort of strength training, even with light weights, once or twice a week. It’s never too late to start.