Wise Words

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“Live from the heart of yourself. Seek to be whole, not perfect.” – Oprah Winfrey

I first posted this photo on my social media accounts thinking I would kick off the day with an inspiring life quote. I initially took it as a generalized suggestion of living a life of fulfillment – in work, family, friendship, love, etc. – rather than striving to be perfect in everything you do.

Working a job that you leap out of bed every day to get to rather than one that you hate but tolerate because it pays you a great salary; remembering that your family is the most important element in life, and that nurturing your relationships with each member means more than, say, a night out with friends, because in the end your family will always be there; holding onto friends that accept and love you for who you are, flaws and all, rather than people who you constantly have to impress and chase for approval; recognizing and admitting your faults and mistakes in your relationship with the person you love so that you can both rest assured that you are understood, rather than being hard-headed and in need of being right.

The more I reread this quote, the more I recognized how much it pertains to every aspect of life.

Because this is a fitness blog, I looked for ways in which it could be attributed to health, fitness and being comfortable and confident in your body. I have worked hard on finding my “happy body” for a while now. I have pushed myself to limits that I never thought I could reach, yet still find myself thinking, “really? That’s it?” or, “I’m not seeing any progress,” or “I should be HERE by now, but I am still down here.” I think these things because I allow myself to get stuck in the “I must be better, I must be the best” mindset. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be better, but, why must we want to be the best?

In the back of my mind I know that my progress goes hand-in-hand with the effort I put in. I know that I have my bad days, my cheat days. I know that there are times that I am going to miss the gym, or eat something that is “off-diet,” but why beat myself up over it?

What’s perfect to me, anyway? I should be telling myself, “wow, you’ve never looked like this before,” or, “you feel better than you ever have,” or, “your hard work has and will continue to pay off.” I feel fulfilled and I will keep working hard to feed that fulfillment, regardless of my end-game desires.

We must seek to be whole, not perfect. Who IS perfect anyway?

Thanks for the morning inspiration, Starbucks.

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PS, I love squats

20140509-111030.jpgI love squats. I really do. If I could convince my body to do them every day, I would. Weighted squats, free squats… all day, every day.

I find myself taking a break from my desk job and dropping my butt to the ground to practice my form. I’ll holler out “GIVE ME 25 SQUATS!” and those who entertain my insanity around the office will drop what they’re doing and do them at their desks, in the middle of the hallway, at the lunch table, in the middle of the staircase (safety first!), wherever. There’s never a bad place to do them. If I am being lazy and find myself absorbed in a TV show binge, I will do squats during commercial breaks. Productive, right?

I did a kick-ass leg session at the gym earlier this week and my glutes and quads are still recovering. I have been walking around like a freak and feeling like my muscles are going to burst through my skin for two days. I love a good muscle spasm. Means I did something good and hit the right spots, you know? I might lose feeling and turn into a lead-foot driver for a moment, but what’s more important here? Kidding, kidding. But really, leg day is the best day.

 

BETTER things come to those who DON’T wait

I’ve never fully understood or agreed with the phrase “Good things come to those who wait”…

20140414-103206.jpgTo me… BETTER things come to those who DON’T wait. Sure, there are some circumstances when the slow and steady waiting game wins the race, but more often than not, I think the opposite.

Thinking back to all of the ups and downs of my journey, the hurdles, the challenges, the hiccups… if I had WAITED to make a change, then I wouldn’t be where I am today. If I had WAITED to take control of my health and well-being, I would still feel unhappy, uncomfortable and unsatisfied with myself. If I had WAITED, I wouldn’t be – in my opinion – the best me that I have ever been in both body and mind.

GREAT things – not just good – have come out of NOT waiting anymore and working extremely hard to better myself. There have been countless times, particularly in the beginning, when I was convinced I couldn’t make the change and that my body was just stuck where it was for the long-term. But, with the support of those around me and with a determined mind-set, I never gave up and accomplished things that I never thought I could. Every milestone I hit to this day, I think back and thank myself for not waiting anymore.

 

Workout buddy… Finally!

20140326-094736.jpgI finally have a workout buddy!

One of my best friends joined LA Fitness this week and I couldn’t be more excited to find a gym partner in her. Well, so far. We’ve only gone together once – this morning – but I have high hopes that she will stick with it.

We met at the gym at 5am this morning and I have to admit, I was unsure what to expect. She would always tell me that at her old gym she only did cardio and at home she would do workout videos for “abs in 30 days” or something. I wasn’t sure if she would humor me and try weight-lifting. Much to my surprise, she did everything I threw at her, no questions asked. When something was too difficult or she felt that she had done enough sets, she said so. But I was proud and psyched to see that she would at least give each workout a shot.

We started with a quick half-mile run, followed by deadlifts super-setted with push ups, weighted lunges, leg press, glute kick-backs, roman chair leg lifts super-setted with love handle ab bends, and ended with a short cool down on the stair climber.

She was very enthusiastic and excited about trying new things, and mirrored my love for getting it done early in the morning. While it’s hard to get up at that hour, working out before anything else is so refreshing and gives you such a satisfying feeling of accomplishment. “I’ve already squatted my own body weight and ran 3 miles, what have you done?”

It’s also nice to be held accountable to someone else, so that when you really don’t want to go, you don’t really have an excuse because you’re gym buddy will be waiting.

Our next date is tomorrow morning!

It’s interesting being the “teacher” instead of the “student” for a change. Sure, I am not an expert, but I definitely feel like I am at a point where I could whip someone into shape if they trusted me to do so and had the dedication necessary to make a transformation. Maybe she will be my new project.

I WILL run a Half Marathon this year

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It’s time to find a balance. I struggle with finding a good combination of lifting time and running time. How does one become both a body builder (of sorts) as well as an accomplished distance runner?

I love a challenge – it’s when I perform my best. During the month of February, my goal was to run 35 miles. That won’t sound like a whole lot to the average distance runner, but for me it was a challenge since I spend just as much time – if not more – doing strength training. I met that goal and have set my next at 40 miles during the month of March. 

Somehow, it’s only the 6th of the month and I have already run 11/40. Off to a good start, I’d say!

First of all, I have upped my warm-up distance. I used to do a mild .3-.5 mile on the treadmill or the elliptical to get warmed up before lifting. However, I recently started to run a mile as fast as I could. This week I have accomplished some of the best mile times I ever have! Yesterday I did it in 7:29, which is a little less than a minute faster than my best mile time from just a month or two ago. Running the distance at a faster pace – whether it’s just the mile warm up or a longer run – is becoming easier and easier by the day. Even though a mile isn’t too long, the speed will help with conditioning and being able to last longer distances.

Usually I do the bulk of my running after I have lifted (unless it’s just a running day). By the time I get through with strength training, the majority of my energy is drained and I can’t put as much into my speed and mileage. This is why I need to find a balance. I need to find a way to give both types of workouts my best, rather than feeling exhausted for one or the other due to pushing it hard on the first.

I truly want to try running a half marathon at some point this year.

There is a race in Hartford, CT in October that has a great course according to some of my runner friends. I am confident that I can get there if I can find the right balance and training routine. My fear is focusing too much on one thing and losing on the other. I know that to an extent, my strength training will likely suffer during the heavier running months, but I guess that comes with the territory.

Another struggle will be pushing myself to increase my distance appropriately over time. The other day I ran 4.53 miles and felt like I could have gone further – I haven’t run that far since track in high school! I was getting so used to – and too bored with – running a certain distance on the treadmill and then telling myself “ok, that’s enough”. You can only cover so much distance on a treadmill before the feeling of not going anywhere just gets flat out boring. However, it’s too cold out and icy for me to get back to running outside.

A friend of mine sent me a suggested half marathon training schedule where you add a mile to your “big run” each week up until race day, and my brother told me that I need to be running 15-25 miles a week when it comes down to the serious half marathon training. So, while my goal for the month is currently 40 miles, I’m thinking I may need to reevaluate and set weekly goals instead.

Any suggestions?

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!