Let The Training Begin

I’m alive. I swear. I might have gone missing for close to two years, but I am back and perhaps more determined than I ever have been.

Remember when I swore I would run a half marathon in 2014? Well, I didn’t. But I am making that promise again and this time I plan to keep it.

I used to be able to run fast and  long. Well, long for me. Not the kind of long that I want to be capable of. Then I stopped running regularly and focused the majority of my fitness attention on lifting weights. I lifted, I lost, I kept lifting, I plateaued, I fell off, I gained a little here, I lost a little there, and so on. Oh, I also moved too… out of the country. I live in Grand Cayman with my boyfriend now; the same one that helped me lose weight when I first started this blog.

I have yet to find the perfect balance of running and lifting, but I am getting there. A little over a month ago I made the decision to just do it; to just start running again. I think what kept me away from it was the fact that I knew I had fallen off and was afraid of how hard the first months of training would be because I’d been there and I’d done that. And it wasn’t fun. But I knew that if I just dove in reminding myself that it is OK to run/walk at first, and it is OK to not run for time but for distance, then I would get back to where I was slowly but surely.

And it is slow. But it is also sure.

I have dedicated my Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings to running at least a 5K, and then filling in the remaining gaps with lifting and some yoga. Unfortunately, it gets hot enough here that if you don’t run bright and early or after the sun sets, you’re likely going to have a miserable time. So, I started by doing the majority of my runs on the treadmill (“dreadmill” more like it) at the gym, with the occasional dip into the heat. Each week, I would try to add another half mile or so to gradually build up my distance, until accomplishing the 5k distance became, well, easy. So far my longest has been 5.3 miles. I typically start around 5.8 speed and end up at 6.0. Not fast, but again, distance – not speed.

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Running on the dreadmill can be an absolute drag, so I always cover up the screen with a towel to avoid focusing on the numbers. If I look down thinking “I must have run at least 3 miles by now” only to see that I have only gone 2.2, my mood will be shot. Staring at the numbers ticking away can break the run, so the habit of covering the time and distance has helped me a lot. I also never listen to my playlist in the same order so that I can’t estimate how far I should be, given the song I am on. I try to psych myself out by switching to the next one halfway through, or starting a song over before it ends, so that I eventually stop paying attention to how many minutes of music I must have listened to.

After the 5k got easier, I decided it was time to get my butt outside. Some people say that you’re always faster outside than you will be at the gym. So, one completely odd day, I ran 4 miles in the morning on the dreadmill and then decided to run again in the afternoon (do not get used to this). We have one car so I brought it to my boyfriend and ran home. To my surprise, I kept the 3 miles just under a 10 minute pace. 9:58/mi after already running 4 in the morning? I’ll take it.

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After having a pretty successful start to my new running journey in March (25.5 miles run; 22.5 of which was done in about 2-2 1/2 week’s time), I set a goal of 40 miles for the month of April. Well, in less than three week’s time, I surpassed that goal with a total of 41.25 milesI have 3 more distance runs to go this week, so I am hoping to add another 10 at least. But, if this week is anything like the last three weeks, I am guessing it’ll be a little more than that.

I went for my second outdoor run on Friday around 6:15AM. There is a golf course right next to our apartment that has the perfect 5K route, and a couple of side streets if you are feeling ambitious and want to detour to rack up a bit more distance. I completed 3.1 in 30 minutes, or, at a 9:41/mi pace. I was satisfied with that, though I would obviously have preferred a faster time.

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There are two half marathons that I am eyeing: the Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon in Brooklyn in October and the Rochester, NY Half in September. Not sure which one I am going to do yet, but I am determined to rack up my miles in the coming months to prepare for whichever I choose!

Let the training commence!

 

ME TIME

Me time.

20140630-152549-55549461.jpgI have always known that “me time” was important, but I have never appreciated it as much as I have over the course of the past month.

I have been busting my butt trying to find a balance between what has basically become two full-time jobs while still squeezing in the essential workouts. Let me tell you, it has been rough! However, while working two jobs has been exhausting and a tough bite to chew, exercising truly keeps me going. I swear, I would be going even crazier than I already am if it weren’t for the 1-2 hours breaks I take for ME time at the gym.
Both of my jobs are in front of a computer. I sit at a desk and stare at a screen. All. Day. All. Night. It makes me feel flat out LAZY because the only time I get up and stretch my legs is when I am walking to the bathroom or the fridge. Usually these short walks are more like hobbles as my legs recover from my previous leg day – always a great reminder that I did well – but it’s not enough of a break! Sometimes I will take a push-up or squat break, but it just doesn’t satisfy me.

20140630-152549-55549426.jpgThe most wonderful time of day falls between my full-time job and my at-home gig, when I make a pit stop at LA Fitness. It is amazing and I cherish it more and more by the day. Not only am I getting my heart racing and my muscles burning, but I am also decompressing and relaxing before I start work again. Throwing on a pair of headphones and tuning the world out as I work myself tired is the best. It’s the best way to work off my stress and frustrations from the day, it’s the best way to stretch out those stiff legs and back after sitting in a chair for hours, and it’s the best way to pump myself up and feel ready to hit the ground running again when I get home to work even more.

If it were not for exercise, I think I would just go absolutely LOCO and not be an efficient and concentrated worker. I look forward to this me time so much every day!

 

 

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.

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.

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!!