One Year.

20140224-110238.jpgI never thought I would post this. It’s been a year since I began my weight-loss/fitness journey.

I am not much of a selfie poster; definitely not much of a personal photo poster. Every time I looked at the photo from last year and compared it to a progress shot, I thought hell no, I will never share this with anyone beyond my boyfriend and perhaps my mother. I hated, well… I hate looking at it. But then I thought, why not? You may not be comfortable with how you looked a year ago but that’s just it… it was a year ago. It isn’t today. You’re better today. Why not allow yourself to be proud of how far you have come rather than hide it?

I did something about it, that’s what matters.

Today I am far more comfortable and confident in my own skin, I am healthy, I am fit, I am 40lbs lighter and I feel that I earned the right to post a damn selfie.

This is a year’s worth of hard work. This is a year’s worth of not only undergoing a total body transformation but a lifestyle transformation as well. I committed myself to a regular workout routine (that I once considered an obligation and now I consider a want and a need), and I have also changed my eating habits drastically.

It’s true, what they say, about eventually not craving the crap once you stop eating it. People tell me to splurge, let loose a little and go ahead and “let yourself” eat some cookies – everyone else is.  But that’s the thing… it’s not a matter of not allowing myself anymore. I just don’t want it. I don’t crave it. I don’t need it.  I prefer a yummy smoothie over a plate of bacon for breakfast; I prefer a nice salad topped with all of my favorite vegetables, egg, chicken, you name it… over a burger and french fries; I prefer to snack on blueberries, cherry tomatoes, and hummus and carrots instead of a bag of chips.

Now, I don’t deprive myself of a “treat” that doesn’t fall within my regular diet if I do occasionally  want something like that; I know I am allowed to and I don’t cheat myself. I just no longer have the regular taste for it and that’s just fine.

Additionally, I exercise regularly. The gym has become my home away from home. When I’m away on a break day or something, I miss it. People look at it as obsessive, but I don’t. I wake up in the morning and yearn for the exhausted feeling of accomplishment that I get at the end of a great workout; I crave the endorphin high I feel from a run, especially ones that are faster and further than those previously; I stretch and get excited when my muscles are so sore that I struggle walking to the bathroom or removing my clothes for the shower because I know that the soreness is a sign of a killer workout.

I also look forward to signs of progress. To me, there are few feelings better than noticing your progress – no matter how small. The little changes in your body that sometimes even happen in just days, that the average person wouldn’t notice (if they do, they’re looking too closely), but you do. It’s the best. I get excited when it’s time to try a new workout routine, and it’s thrilling to me when I give a new meal plan or exercise a shot and can notice the changes that occur with it.

Learning my body has been interesting, difficult and exciting all the same.

So yes, I will flaunt that selfie and I won’t feel an ounce of shame about it!

Can’t Stop Me, Pax!

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m not going to let something as silly and inconvenient as a Nor’Easter stop me from getting my workout in!

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Living in New England has always made for an interesting time in terms of weather, and yesterday was an absolute mess! Storm Pax plowed it’s way through Massachusetts from Thursday morning through the wee hours of Friday morning, leaving behind tons of snow covered in a thick layer of ice. The conditions on the roads were bad enough throughout the day that it  would have been extremely difficult to leave the house at all yesterday.  So, not only did I have to work from home but I had to workout at home as well. Time to improvise!

Having equipment to workout at home with is key. You don’t need a squat rack, you don’t need a bench and you don’t need a treadmill in order to get a good workout in. In my opinion, you can really get by with a decent set of dumbbells. They are well worth the small investment and they get the job done. I have a couple of pre-weighted dumbbells as well as a cast iron set that comes with two bars, screws and plates allowing me to set my own weight. Additionally, I have a yoga mat and a stability ball. Having a few things at home leaves no excuses!

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I have kind of been on a circuit/super-set high, so I put together a workout of my own that is challenging in that I was quickly hopping from one workout to the next in order to complete a set. For example, one “set” in circuit 1 consisted of 10-12 push ups, followed immediately by 12 v-leg crosses for abs, a 45 second plank, and 10 dumbbell push ups into a row lift. Overall, the goal was to target a few different muscle groups in a short period of time and to not only focus on strength but to also perform each workout rapidly enough that I could get my heart rate going… “cardio,” if you will. Each circuit was performed 3 times, with just a minute or two break between each set.

After I finished all of the circuits, I tacked on two additional workouts – 5 sets of a side lateral-front raise combo with dumbbells and 4 sets of love handle ab bends with a heavy dumbbell.

If you’re stuck at home for whatever reason, I would definitely suggest giving my workout a shot, and maybe even add on a few of your favorites! Also, if you have any questions about any of them, feel free to shoot me a message – I know that some of the names may be a little confusing (like the Stability Ball Pull-ins, which I should have called “Stability Ball Leg Pull-ins”).

I was tired, satisfied and proud of myself for not taking a lazy day just because the snow was trying to beat me!

It’s a journey

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This graphic speaks a thousand words. It is so spot on in regards to the journey that is weight-loss and becoming fit. There are so many obstacles we must face along the way that might steer us away from our original plan, but that’s what makes it an adventure. If it were simple, we wouldn’t appreciate our successes as much. If we didn’t hit any road-blocks, if we didn’t have any bad days, and if it were all smooth sailing, everyone would do it… right?

Back in the Game

I am finally back in the swing of things and am slowly but surely starting to feel strong and healthy again. After having a bit of a set-back from an invasive  surgery, I wasn’t able or allowed to workout for two straight weeks. I also wasn’t sleeping well at all due to the discomfort. During the week following that “red zone”, I started to ease myself back in to a regular gym routine, however, I wasn’t able to do much lifting. I started small doing a little cardio here and minimal and light lifting there, avoiding anything that would cause pressure on my surgery area.

Let me tell you, it was rough! All I wanted to do was lift something heavy and run run run. I’m glad I listened to my doctor, family and a few wordpress followers (thanks, guys!) by not jumping into anything that was too heavy, too soon. If I had given in to my crazy need for a good workout, I could have lengthened my recovery time, thus resulting in more laying-on-the-couch misery!

20140130-090917.jpgWhile I was recovering, I focused heavily on my diet. I always eat well but figured that if I was going to be forced into temporary laziness, I might as well cancel out some calories that I would have otherwise burned at the gym. I tracked what I was eating on MyFitnessPal to get an idea of the number of calories I was taking in, and have continued to do so ever since.

I eat small and often – usually every hour and a half to two hours, depending on what I have. I feel like I eat non-stop but the frequency and portion size helps prevent your body from having the opportunity to store additional calories as fat. For example, 2 large egg whites and some blueberries is only about 75 calories, but for me, it is filling enough to keep me comfortable for the small length of time between that meal and the next.

I also drink a TON of water. I did a small test the other day to see how much water I drink on a typical day. My water bottle is 30oz and on a regular work day I drink at least 2 – 2 .5 of them. In the morning I have a glass and at the gym I have at least one full bottle. At home after the gym I have a couple of glasses as well. So, I figure I am consuming about a gallon (128oz) – if not more – a day. Drinking water throughout the day and with each meal helps make you feel more full, thus preventing you from over-consuming your food. The mind has a sick way of making you feel more hungry than you are, and before you know it you have consumed about twice as much as you needed to feel full, and about twice as much as your body can successfully digest before storing the rest as fat. I also usually have lemon in my water which is great for cleansing the body, digestion and boosting your metabolism.

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My diet consists of lots of fruits and veggies, low carbohydrates, and high protein. I even started to do a little bit of my grocery shopping in the gluten-free/vegetarian section at the market, where I found this new granola that I am obsessed with – KIND Healthy Grains! It’s relatively low in calories (1/3 cup for 120 calories) in comparison to other granola brands that I have had. It’s also rich in Omega-3 and is 100% whole grain – made with quinoa and has chia seeds! I have it almost every morning with low-fat greek yogurt and some kind of fruit mixed in – blueberries and/or bananas is delicious with it.

Now that I am out of my awful no exercise phase, I am weaning myself back onto lifting heavy. My surgery was almost four weeks ago and the discomfort I felt on my first days back at the gym is slowly starting to go away. If I feel any at this point, it’s usually only after the gym rather than during my workout.

I am going to visit my boyfriend on the beach in just two weeks – got to get bikini ready!!

Don’t Give Up

20140123-115001.jpgI have been rather down on myself since I had my surgery a little over two weeks ago. My body did exactly what I had feared during the time that I wasn’t able to exercise. I put on a few pounds, I felt gross and I was extremely unhappy with how I looked.

All I wanted to do was ignore what my doctors told me and go to the gym. I am visiting my boyfriend in a few short weeks and I needed my beach body at its best! However, a few little birdies reminded me that doing so would hinder my recovery and make my wait even longer. Longer? Hell no!

I know this meme is in reference to not giving up on your workout when it gets tough – but I thought that it fit how I have been feeling lately. Despite the set-backs I have experienced, in the end you are better off not giving up on yourself and your body no matter what circumstances you might be in.

Surgery Set-back

20140114-140122.jpgThe gym is REALLY waiting for me. In fact, it probably thinks that I don’t exist anymore.

Having serious gym withdrawals and it’s not due to laziness! I had a personal surgery last Monday and I haven’t been able to workout at all over the past week because of it. I’m going on 8 days straight of no exercise – the longest I have gone without working out since I started my journey to get fit. Not only is it physically affecting me but it is mentally as well!

Going. CRAZY.

Will I gain weight back? Will I lose my running momentum? Will it be easy to ease back into lifting or hard? How long will I be out of commission? Do I have to start slow when I am ready or can I haul ass and get back to where I was? WHYYYYY?

20140114-141152.jpgMy surgeon and every nurse I have spoken with strongly emphasized no exercise for at least two weeks post-surgery. TWO WEEKS? I can’t lift, I can’t run, I can’t do anything but like… walk. And even that is too much sometimes. I came up with the grand idea of swimming but that was quickly shot down by my mother’s nurse friend who overheard me thinking out loud.

Between the pain meds and being sedentary, I feel like absolute crap. I’m extremely sore, I can’t move a fraction of an inch without searing pain, and I am bloated as hell!

Unhappy.

I guess you really can get hooked on exercise because now that I don’t have it, I am a super crank.

Keeping it up over the Holidays

I am happy to say that I managed to keep up with my exercise over the holidays!

The end of December is notorious for excessive eating, drinking and vegging out – all of which I am admittedly guilty of. However, this time around I did not fully neglect my body. Throughout any kind of fitness journey, we all must remember that it is OK to spoil yourself now and then. Countless times over the last two weeks I heard people say they couldn’t eat this or that because they “always gain weight over the holidays”. Umm, hello? We all do. It’s normal!

Multiple occasions filled with socializing with family and friends over holiday snacks, meals and drinks are crammed into one week and they are not typical of our regular diet.  Unless you are used to mimosas, baked brie and holiday cookies on a daily basis (invite me over), of course your body is going to react differently!

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Two of my holiday gym workouts were nothing short of loco. I typically have designated muscle days – one day will be squats, lunges, leg presses, etc. another will be shoulder presses, military presses, front raises, etc. – but I just went at everything. One day I did shoulder presses, curls, military presses, bench presses, a few ab workouts, squats and lunges. I attempted a post-lifting run and pretty much ran two steps, laughed at myself for even trying and crawled to the locker room. So, rather than depriving myself of or kicking myself for having that holiday treat that I really truly wanted, I just made some time to squeeze in my runs and gym trips. When I couldn’t do either of those, I improvised at home. I not only allowed myself to enjoy myself, but I also felt much better.

My other crazy workout was similar in that it had a lot of variety, but I targeted different muscles and tried some lifts that I don’t do very often, such as pull ups and dips. I used to do those on a regular basis and now I almost never do.

Oh, and yes… that IS 270lb leg press, thanks for asking. Multiple sets of 10 reps – cake! Pretty soon I will be adding more plates!

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I made a trip to Montreal between Christmas and New Years with my family. Obviously we had a lot of beer and poutine (which, by the way, is unbelievable). My body hated me after that poutine, but it was so worth it.

One morning while everyone was still asleep, I rallied myself out of bed and went on a quiet run. I almost didn’t go because it was freezing and I was exhausted, but I told myself that I would regret it later if I skipped out.

The streets were absolutely dead – I saw maybe three or four cars drive by – and totally slushy from some overnight snow accumulation. Despite the conditions of the roads, it was awesome, peaceful and felt great. I wasn’t running for time, wasn’t looking to maintain my average pace… I was just running. I went just under 3 miles and shockingly came in just about 20 seconds more per mile than what I typically do. I thought for sure it would be much slower as I was slipping and sliding and navigating my way through unfamiliar streets.

Along my way I came across a beautiful cathedral which was a nice find, and it was really cool to check out the neighborhoods and cafes along the way.

You can always make time for exercise! No excuses!