A Different Perspective

*Disclaimer: We are all different. This is just my personal opinion.*

I have been a fitness instructor for almost five years. In college, I became a certified Spinning instructor and I love both taking and teaching that class! Then, last December, I became a PiYo LIVE Instructor. That’s the kind of workout I need to do more often as a runner, so I really enjoy teaching that format, too.

At instructor trainings, you are taught so many things to better your participants’ fitness routines. You learn a little bit of science about the human body, you learn about music and cues, and you learn more about the format you are teaching so you can help correct while you are teaching. Notice how I didn’t say you learn how to encourage your participants — because truly, you don’t go over that in detail. But as a fitness instructor, one of the most important things you can do is encourage your class!

I think encouragement in a group fitness class means different things to different people. It might even mean something different to you depending on what kind of mood you are in. That is true for me! If I am feeling a little lackluster about my workout and I have a really awesome instructor yelling encouraging things at the front of the room, I start to work a little harder. But there comes a point when encouragement in a fitness class starts to cross a line. Sometimes what is meant to be encouraging is actually kind of uninspiring.

Think of the quotes that we all too often see plastered across social media:
“Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”
“Unless you puke, faint, or die, keep going.”
“#teamnodaysoff”

And because we just had a major holiday, we were also #blessed with images like these:

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I’m pretty sure if you get sick or faint during a work out, you should stop. I’m also pretty sure that if you never take a day off, you will mentally and physically burn out. Maybe to some people these statements are encouraging, but I just don’t see anything positive behind them. I also don’t see anything encouraging about the workout image above. It gives me anxiety. It makes me not want to eat the food that my family spent so much time preparing. And for the record, how does anyone know how we prepare our food? We all have our own recipes. Maybe we make the healthy versions of our favorite dishes. 😉

I’m up on my soapbox right now because of a recent experience in a Spinning class. The day before I left for Thanksgiving Break, I took a class with an instructor who said things like this:

“The average person will gain 3-5 pounds this weekend! Keep going!”
“You better stick to that fitness routine this weekend. Don’t let anything get in the way!”
“Come on! Burn off that pumpkin pie right now!”

As someone who has previously struggled with food and exercise, I was very offended by this instructor’s encouragement. If his statements had encouraged me to work harder in class last week, they also would have encouraged me to go back to my old ways of thinking. Back in the days when I felt that I HAD to work out once, if not twice a day, and I spent hours planning my meals so that I could stick to my own “perfect” meal plan.

In retrospect, this was the first holiday where I worked out when I had time and ate pretty much whatever I wanted without feeling bad about a second of it. I have spent YEARS obsessing about when I am going to fit my workout in my day and how I am going to appear normal at the dinner table because I “can’t” eat the food that is being served. To know that I am finally getting to the place where I am not thinking about food and exercise all the time is exciting…but at the same time, I still don’t like the negativity that sometimes surrounds food and fitness.

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We should not work out because we hate our bodies. We should work out because we enjoy it and we want to keep our bodies as healthy as possible.

We should not “earn” our food. We need food to live. You are “allowed” to eat whatever you damn well please.

Every day of the year, and especially Thanksgiving, we should be giving thanks. Thanks for our health, thanks for the ability to cook way too much food, and thanks for time with family. We should not be filled with worry that we completely ruined our healthy lifestyle with one meal.

And for the record, what is the big deal about Thanksgiving food? There are plenty of other days during the year when we indulge and don’t make a big deal about burning the whole meal off. In particular, I’m thinking about every time I visit a Mexican restaurant. #allthequeso 😉

Did I work out every day while I was at home? No. But I will be the first person to tell you that I ran 8 miles on Thanksgiving morning. The plan was wake up, see how much time I had before the Macy’s Parade was on TV, and run far enough that I would be back in time for the start of the show. I woke up early, the weather was pretty, and I was feeling really good. So I ran far. My dogs even joined in! But it was fun. There was not one moment when I was out there when I felt like I HAD to be running. I wanted to be out there.

I know that the instructor didn’t mean to hurt my feelings or make me think about how I used to be. I am SURE that is not what he was trying to encourage at all. But going forward, I am going to be more mindful of the things that I say when I teach my own classes. I think it’s also a good reminder to just be nice to yourself. What kind of things do you say to yourself…or what kind of images do you pin on Pinterest to encourage your healthy lifestyle? They should be nice. They should be positive. You deserve to think uplifting thoughts!

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Do tell…do you feel like you “have” to burn off your Thanksgiving calories or are you just happy it’s the holiday season?!

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5 Ways To Make Your Workout Happen

Social media is a wonderful tool for connecting like-minded people to one another, but I think that too much connection can make us put some pressure on ourselves. There are so many articles, pictures, and pins on Pinterest about eating healthy and working out that I think sometimes we think if we are not 100% “on” all the time, we are doing something wrong. Because isn’t everyone else doing all that healthy stuff? The most important thing to remember is that working out is bettering YOUR health and YOUR body. A workout is not something to just check off our list or tell others that we accomplished, it is something that changes us mentally and physically for the better! We need to strive for balance, not perfection. Still, whether you are having a busy day or a “regular” day, here are five tips that will help you balance your life vs. your workout.

Decide what you are going to do the next day the night before.
I cannot stress this enough! You must decide what you are going to do and when you are going to do it the night before, or else it is all too easy to let the day get away from you. If I know that I have commitments right after work, like a meeting or my grad class, then I label that a long day and I KNOW I will not be waking up early. I will want to sleep as long as possible so that I have energy. Therefore, I will be working out when I finally get home…and that means I must pick a workout that I enjoy doing that is short. Am I going to feel like going to an hour-long Spin class after a 14 hour day? Definitely not. So be realistic with yourself. Maybe it is easier for you to wake up early and do something before your day begins, but if you are like me and save your workout for the evening, have a plan to do a short workout so that you don’t give yourself an excuse to skip it. I give myself many options: I do 30 minute workouts on Beachbody OnDemand, I know which classes at my gym happen in the 7 o’clock hour and are only 30 minutes, I give myself the option to run…but I always choose one of those options the night before. So, when you are laying down at night and going over all of the things that you need to accomplish the next day, decide what you are going to do when you finally get home and have time to workout. Short and sweet is key!

Workout as soon as you get home.
If you are a morning person, you can skip this one. Ha! If you are an afternoon or evening exerciser, I can’t recommend anything more than changing into workout clothes as soon as you get home and starting your workout right away! Maybe you drive straight to the gym instead. Whatever it is, do it right away. If you sit down on your couch, there will be no getting up! 😉

Schedule your workout!
In conjunction with the point above, you must decide the what and when of your workout, but what better way to make sure you get yourself moving than by actually scheduling it? Some gyms and fitness studios require participants to sign up ahead of time so that you don’t arrive at the gym and find your favorite class full. Likewise, these “sign ups” usually come with a late fee. If you sign up for a class and don’t show up, you are charged a small fee. Who wants to pay extra for not showing up!? That is definitely encouragement for me to show up, unless I have a legitimate reason not to go, like being sick. If your gym doesn’t require you to sign up or you don’t belong to a gym, schedule your workout by making plans with a friend. When I have plans with a friend and I am not looking forward to going just because I am being lazy, there is nothing like seeing a text message that says “Can’t wait to see you later!” or “We should run on ____ trail tonight!” Someone else is expecting me to show up and work hard with them, so I will! And you will, too. 🙂

Choose to do something that you really enjoy.
This stems from what I was saying above about doing what you think you are “supposed” to be doing. Your workout is changing YOU for the better, so you need to choose to do something that makes you happy. Obviously we all want to see results from our hard work, but you will be much less likely to see results and/or stay consistent if you don’t enjoy or look forward to what you are doing. I am a runner, and right now I really don’t feel like running. In fact, I signed up for Classpass for the next month so I can try a whole bunch of different studios and classes (it seems to be offered in big cities only so far!). Think about the workout you have scheduled for later today: are you excited about it? Do you enjoy that activity? Your answer should be “yes” to both of those questions. I know that yoga is so good for my mind and body, and I enjoy doing yoga, but I would never make myself do it by myself working out at home. I don’t enjoy that. I have tried many different online videos, but I am the happiest little yogi when I am at the studio. So figure out what you like and do that thing.

Give yourself a break.
I mean this in the most literal sense. If you are working out, you obviously need to incorporate rest days too, but that is not what I mean. I mean actually let yourself skip a workout AND not feel bad about it if you don’t want to do it or you really just do not have time. It is not our life’s work to spend every day in the gym. Some people love working out so much that they do make it to the gym every day, and others of us are like, why do I have to do this? I saw this article on Huffington Post recently and it really spoke to me:

“Losing weight is not your life’s work, and counting calories is not the call of your soul. You surely are destined for something much greater, much bigger, than shedding 20 pounds or tallying calories. What would happen if, instead of worrying about what you had for breakfast, you focused instead on becoming exquisitely comfortable with who you are as a person? Instead of scrutinizing yourself in the mirror, looking for every bump and bulge, you turned your gaze inward?”

Read the full article here.

How true is that? I am a religious person, so I am always working to be the best version of myself. The person that God made me to be. But even if you are not religious, isn’t your character so much more important than anything else? We are not meant to spend our lives fretting over being the most fit person, although social media can make that all too easy. We are meant for so much more. And that might start with letting ourselves be “okay” with missing a day at the gym or having a weekend full of indulgent food. Balance, not perfection, remember?

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High Five For Healthy Habits

It’s time to talk Friday Favorites with Andrea, Narci, and Erika and today I’m sharing my five favorite parts of a healthy lifestyle. Join us! Write about some of your favorite things and join the link up on their blogs!

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Are you the kind of person who has a healthy lifestyle?  I guess that depends on how you define the word “healthy”.

For me, the word “healthy” relates to my nutrition, my physical activity, my mindset, my social life, my confidence…it’s the whole picture.

For others, the word “healthy” means eating certain foods and forcing themselves to work out…otherwise known as a diet. Doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun, does it?

My very favorite quote that I have ever heard about diets is this one by Chalene Johnson:

“Don’t go on a diet. HAVE a diet.”

If you decide that you absolutely need to make a change and become healthier, try a diet. I’m not at all saying you shouldn’t. There are tons of different diets out there! However, there is a reason that so many people start a diet and then quit. It’s because most diets are meant to be a quick fix. It might also be because it’s not the right diet for them. You need to decide how you can eat and exercise for LIFE, not for a short period of time. What do you enjoy doing as physical activity and what do you enjoy eating? That is your personal diet. You don’t need some fancy name for it. That’s just your diet!

Now when I say what do you enjoy eating…obviously we all have our vices. I like peanut butter and cookies and popcorn and queso, but those are not foods that I need to be eating every day. Do I want to eat them every day? Yes, sometimes I do.

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Do you feel me? 😉

But I know that there are other foods that I love just as much like chicken, yogurt, bananas, and eggs that are good for my body. They are the foods that have always been foods. They are real, they aren’t processed, they are full of nutrients. And so because this is my life and my personal diet, I eat all of those healthy foods and then sometimes I have one of my favorite indulgences. And I don’t feel bad about it. Because this is how I plan on eating for the rest of my life, not for the next few weeks. See where I’m going with this?

If you really like carbs, let yourself eat carbs. Just make sure you are getting lots of protein and lots of veggies in at your meals, too. If you really like to eat a snack before you go to bed, go ahead and do that. Just make sure that you aren’t eating mindlessly throughout the day because then when you eat that snack at night, your body will still need those nutrients.

It’s a balance game. It’s a guessing game. There is no one right answer and that is so frustrating to so many people! 45 million people go on a diet every year. That blows my mind. Are you a statistic? I am. I like to try new things. But I like to read up on what these diets are promising. Is it something I could do forever, or is it something that is only going to last for a few days or a few weeks? Because I’m telling you, if it promises that you are going to lose 10 pounds really really quickly, you probably will. But you will also probably also gain those 10 pounds back really really quickly. Figure out what works for you! It’s a puzzle. It’s a game. Puzzles and games are fun. 🙂

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So if you recall, I defined “healthy” as the whole picture: my nutrition, my physical activity, my mindset, my social life, and my confidence. And since we are planning on doing this healthy thing for life, we have to have some tricks up our sleeves when life gets in the way. You aren’t going to eat a perfectly balanced meal every time you sit down to eat, but you can try. Let’s start there:

– ONE –

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My biggest food tip is prepare.

Start the day eating a healthy, balanced breakfast.
Make lunch or prep ingredients for dinner the night before.
Keep nuts, fruit, a protein bar, or any other healthy snack you love in your bag AT ALL TIMES.

I cannot be trusted when I’m hungry. I have been known to eat while I’m cooking, which is very counterproductive. 😉 And when you are out and about at school or work or doing errands, you can’t be sure what your choices will be for a quick snack.

Prepare.

– TWO –

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Kill your cravings by hydrating. Half the time when your body tells you it’s hungry, it is actually thirsty. I have 32 oz. water bottles that I take with me everywhere. How much do you weigh? Divide that number in half and you’ve figured out how many ounces of water you should be drinking a day. I am actually working on drinking LESS water right now because I am constantly going to the bathroom. Ha! Hydrate yourself. I promise your body will love the crisp cool water. Or you can add some fruit for flavor if that’s your thing. 😉

Hydrate.

– THREE –

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Exercise is a huge part of being healthy. But for goodness sakes, do something that you LOVE. Do something that you look forward to! If I told myself I had to wake up every day and get on the StairMaster, I would probably never workout. I like running and Spinning and occasionally going to a yoga class or a hip hop class. Those are things that I know I will do FOREVER (I hope)! If you are feeling uninspired by your workouts or you can’t even convince yourself to GO to the gym, I encourage you to try something else. You might hate what you’re doing, but I promise you don’t hate working out all together.

Exercise. And love it.

– FOUR –

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Go to bed. I have been making a conscious effort to get eight hours of sleep every night and it is great. Of course the first few nights you have to “make” yourself go to sleep aren’t very encouraging, but when your alarm goes off and you actually feel like you are READY to wake up…well that’s totally worth it. And if you’re working out and eating well, your body is recovering and getting stronger while you sleep. You’ll probably concentrate better and be happier if you go to sleep.

(I like this article here about catching zzzz’s.)

EVERYBODY SLEEP! Hahaha

– FIVE –

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If you’re on this path to getting healthy FOR LIFE, you need to make more changes than just those to your diet and exercise. You also need to think about the rest of your life. That’s not overwhelming at all, is it? 😉 Truly…is your job fulfilling? Do your friends make you happy? Are you a caring wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend, cousin…? In all the craziness that is life, people take pride in saying they are SO BUSY! But are you making time for the things you love to do? Example: I like to ride bikes. I like to read. I like to bake. I definitely don’t do some of those things regularly, but when I consciously make an effort to do them, I feel so much better. Find the love in everything that you do, and most importantly…

Love yourself.

To review: prepare {food}, hydrate, exercise {because you love it}, sleep, and love yourself.

Five little changes to lead a healthier life…are you ready to take on that challenge? You’re doing such a good job already. 🙂

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What I Ate (Or Didn’t Eat) Wednesday

I think about food constantly. I am definitely not one of those people who “forgets” to eat. I had a conversation with my coworker last week about how I don’t understand those people. I eat lunch and think about what’s for dinner. It’s just how I roll. 😉 But there was a time in life where I didn’t just think about food…I obsessed over it. And that led to some very unhealthy habits. How are we even supposed to know what to do anyway? Paleo, vegan, “clean eating”, counting your macros, the Zone diet…IT’S ALL SO CONFUSING! I listen to Chalene Johnson’s podcast “The Chalene Show” and she said something powerful recently: you don’t want to go ON a diet, you want to HAVE a diet. Something healthy that you can continue to do for the rest of your life. That makes so much sense. But of course I am just now coming to this conclusion and it took me awhile to get here. A few years ago, I fell into the calorie counting trap.

When I was in high school, I danced and ran cross country. During my junior year, I also started going to the gym for fun. But I never worked out because I felt like I had to. Being active was just something I did. The same goes for food: I honestly can’t even tell you what I ate back then because I know I didn’t like a lot of pretty normal food…think scrambled eggs or lasagna with red meat…my picky childhood habits still existed. Ha! In any case, food was food to me. I ate what I craved and I ate when I was hungry. And now that I think about it, my high school lunches usually consisted of the salad bar, a side of fries, and a chocolate chip cookie. I’m dying. Hahaha

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June 2010

Anyways, like I said, I just didn’t give much thought to what I ate or how I worked out…or how I looked. That all changed when I went to college. The four years I spent at Duquesne were four of the best years of my life, but I became SO hard on myself. Freshman year, I was a statistic. The usual girl who gains the freshman fifteen. Except it was like the freshman eleven, so I was kind of proud of myself. Ha! I had just continued living my life the same way…eating what I wanted, working out how I wanted…but I threw some other things in the mix too. Like snacks in the library when you’re studying. And alcohol. And snacks with your friends when you’re watching a movie. 😉 Plus, I just wasn’t moving as much. I was still dancing, but I wasn’t running anymore, and going to the gym was like social hour for me. In any case, I felt bloated and gross by the time I went home for the summer and I knew I was going to do something to change my ways.

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April 2011

It started off REALLY well. I LOVED indoor cycling classes at my gym and I started just being more conscious of what I was eating. If I knew I was going to indulge later, I would try to eat healthier earlier in the day. It was very balanced throughout the summer and all the way through my sophomore year. I even became a certified Spinning instructor! And I really did feel a change! But that was the extent of my thoughts about food and exercise. Point for me.

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April 2012

Then, I discovered the app My Fitness Pal and that little app rocked my world. Suddenly I was counting the calories in EVERYTHING. I certainly wasn’t eating less, but I really cared how many calories were in whatever I was eating. I worked an office job that summer so it was pretty easy to control what I was eating because I could only eat what I packed in my lunch box. If you aren’t familiar with My Fitness Pal, you can enter a bunch of statistics about yourself and it calculates what how many calories IT thinks you should be eating. It’s not very accurate (because everyone is totally different) and it doesn’t take into account what is in food…protein, carbs, fat, sugar…it just counts calories. So that’s what I did. And I became a maniac.

All of these crazy thoughts were just in my head. I fell into the trap of thinking 1200 calories per day was the way. I am not saying this is the wrong number for everyone, it was just the wrong number for me. Using My Fitness Pal to track my calories, I remember getting excited when it told me how much weight I would lose if I kept up these eating habits. And I remember how I excited I was when it said I didn’t reach my calorie goal. So wrong. But at this time, I really thought losing weight and getting to that number I had in my head would make me so happy.

I didn’t want to be the weird person who didn’t eat certain things so I would order them or eat them, even if it was just a few bites. I did get to the point where I didn’t want to eat at restaurants because that food didn’t come with a label that told me how many calories it was. I was the girl at the table Google-ing the restaurant’s nutrition facts while I looked over the menu. I also was the grocery store’s number one fan of everything low-carb, low-fat, low-calorie. I am sure my mother loved grocery shopping with me. But I wouldn’t let myself believe that I was doing anything wrong because I still ate “bad” foods sometimes…even though eating that food made me seriously panic on the inside.

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Exhibit A… 🙂

 I didn’t even let myself believe something was wrong when I was at the hairdresser and I got so dizzy sitting still that they called an ambulance. I was dehydrated…but I was probably also hungry. Other weird things started to happen to me too…and I knew they weren’t supposed to happen. Like I started missing my period. I was tired more than usual. And I craved sugar all. the. time. I remember telling my boyfriend at the time that I was worried that I was doing something wrong, but that I just wanted to be healthier. And because I was losing weight, I felt like that meant I was getting healthier. He told me to delete My Fitness Pal but of course I couldn’t do that. Besides, the only comments I ever heard about the way I looked at this time were, “Wow! Have you lost weight? You look so good!” So even though I was questioning what I was doing, I kept right on going. I was losing weight in all the right places (which I had identified as my stomach and hips) and even though I was getting closer to that number in my head, I had no intention of stopping. I was so proud that I looked so good!

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August 2012

When I got back to school in the fall for my junior year, I rediscovered my love of running. My friends and I had moved off campus and into an apartment and I loved waking up in the morning and running around the city. It was so pretty and such a refreshing way to start the day! But because I was still a maniac at this time, I also loved that running was one of the few exercises that burned the most calories. So if there was a day when I didn’t get to run, that was very very bad.

Finally, I started to hear some negative comments, and because deep inside I knew I was doing it wrong too, these comments really resonated with me. One friend told me he had never seen me eat a piece of pizza and he knew that I would never eat something like that. Just so you know, he usually ate lunch with me and I usually ate salad. And a cookie. Because #allthesugarcravings, remember? Another friend (behind my back) mentioned to one of our mutual friends that she noticed I had lost weight…and I looked too skinny. Those two things really stuck with me because I didn’t want to be that girl. I also didn’t want to be the kind of person who ate at The Cheesecake Factory and then came home to run (even though I already worked out that day). And yes, that did happen.

I kept running (because I love heart love running for more than the number of calories it burns) but I decided to back off calorie counting. Because I had started to doubt myself in this whole journey, I had discovered the term “orthorexia“, which is defined as an unhealthy obsession with eating “healthy” or “right” foods and I kind of thought that fit the bill for me. I wanted to be in control of my food, I wanted to eat only fruits and vegetables and chicken, and I judged other people HARD for their food choices. But when I finally decided to make a change, even though I felt like I identified with orthorexia, I didn’t seek professional help. I felt like because I could recognize this in myself that I didn’t need to get serious help. And that ended up working for me. Instead, I told my mom, my best friend, and my boyfriend at the time what I was thinking…and I told them to watch me. Because I was going to be watching myself. No extra workouts. Giving up the long list of restrictions. And DELETING My Fitness Pal.

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January 2013

I will not lie to you…it was very, very hard. I counted calories for so long that I could still count them even without using the app. I still judged other people for their food choices. I worked out extra hard on days I knew there would be “bad” food choices. And I couldn’t bring myself to reintroduce certain foods to my diet without feeling guilty…but you can’t expect instant change overnight. Also, my family got a puppy, so I had a new obsession. 🙂

I still don’t actually like how I think about food and exercise, but I’m getting better. Ask my friends and family…I probably talk about food and exercise TOO much…but I am just trying to find balance now. I was very unbalanced for so long. I want to be in a place where food is just food and I don’t label it as “good”, “bad”, “healthy”, or “unhealthy”. I really want to know when my mentality shifted so much. Why did I used to be the kind of girl who didn’t think about food or exercise and still loved life? How did I became the kind of girl who judged herself SO MUCH? We all say that we are our own worst critic and I really believe that is so true. But I also believe that we need to work on loving ourselves because we only get one body. Even though I lost weight in this process, I really was not in any way living a healthy life. I was eating the most random assortment of food and working out for way too long. It’s hard for me to be at the weight I am now because it is almost 15 pounds heavier than I was at my lightest…but I honestly don’t believe that my body is made to be at that low weight. I am 5’9!!! Maybe with the right nutrition and exercise, I would get back there. I don’t know. I don’t care. I do know what I don’t want to weigh (don’t we all know that number? ;)) but anything under that certain number in my head is okay with me. Why? Why am I suddenly okay with weighing any number?

Because I’m really happy. Because I have forgiven myself. Because I eat healthy (actually truly healthy…not Kylie is crazy healthy) foods. Because I work out 6 days a week and that is MY choice. Because my clothes fit. And I can buy more if they stop fitting. 😉 Because my friends and family will love me anyway. And because I deserve to eat a cupcake when I want to and not feel bad about it.

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Move It Monday: PiYo Edition

My love for working out and teaching crossed over a few years ago when I became a certified Spinning instructor. I have loved teaching Spinning classes for the last four years at various gyms, but last December I added another certification to my resume…that of a PiYo LIVE instructor.

So what is PiYo? Well the name starts to give it away…it is a sort of a cross between Pilates and Yoga…if you are familiar with either of those classes, you might recognize some of the moves. BUT, PiYo is NOT Pilates or Yoga…it’s completely its own. It’s a fast-paced, low impact workout that combines cardio and strength training while just using your body weight! It is perfect for someone like me who loves to do high-impact activities like running. Sometimes you just need to slow it down and stretch it out! Each song focuses on a different part of your body…lower body, full body fusion, core…we do it all in just an hour. I love PiYo because it is choreographed and the music is catchy so everyone in the class really gets into it! I wrote more about PiYo here, but today I want to share with you a few of my favorite poses from the round I am currently teaching.

– ONE –

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Yoga friends…do you recognize down dog? I love this pose because I can feel the stretch all the way down the back of my legs. My pose is getting better…it can be difficult to do down dog correctly. It’s so easy to put a ton of pressure on your wrists! I have been working on pushing my weight back and sharing that same technique with my class. We are all improving. 😉

Because PiYo likes to shake things up, check out this variation of down dog…

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…my elbows are bent and I’m doing a small push up in down dog position. My hands have moved into a triangle…thumbs and pointer fingers touching.

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Then I raise back up to regular down dog. We do these pushups in sets of 8. They are a killer. 🙂

– TWO –

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Can I hire one of you to be my photographer? 😉 Still in the same position, now I am in single leg down dog. This really tests your flexibility and balance!

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It feels great to go from single leg down dog to a low lunge. The low lunge stretches your hips, quads, and glutes, and kind of bringing your equilibrium back after being upside down in single leg down dog! At least that’s how it feels for me. I feel grounded here. 🙂

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You can make the low lunge even better by opening the arm and chest. Stretching all the muscles! In either of these low lunge poses, you have the option of dropping your other leg down so that you are on your knee. The point of the low lunge is simply to stretch…so if it feels better to have your other leg on the ground, that’s what you should do. The power of PiYo: making it work for you. 😉

– THREE –

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A table top position works our core. Why do you need a strong core? Well, a six pack would be nice;) But with strong abdominal muscles, you’re taking pressure off your lower back, making your posture better, and even making everyday tasks like lifting a lot easier. Right now in class, we are doing a lot of core work with each leg raised. We pulse the bent leg up, pull it down and up, bend it straight out and back in, and pulse the straight leg up. Once we have done all of that, it feels great to get into modified pigeon:

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Pigeon pose…or modified pigeon pose…is a really common stretch for runners. Lots of tension can build up in the hips, so this is a great way to loosen it all up.

– FOUR –

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Finally, we have modified mermaid. Here, you sit with your legs in a kind of “star position”. One leg is bent in front of you and the other leg is bent behind you. In PiYo, we plant one hand down on our side and reach up and over. This will help you stretch your hip flexors and lower back and really help you open your chest and shoulders.

So, what do you think of PiYo? Have you ever taken a class? Will you search for a class near you? You definitely should! Get your body moving this Monday 🙂

Running Recovery

Runners do this thing where they love to run so much they forget to do anything else. I talked about how too many miles led me straight to injury, and how post-injury I have to pay attention to rest days and recovery so that I am properly taking care of my body. Still, there are days when I have thismuchtime to get my run in and warming up and cooling down feels like it gets in the way!

Usually my cool down looks something like this…

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Perfect 9 mile recovery: laying on the floor of your apartment. Ha!

Two VERY important reasons I (and you!) should be cooling down:

1. Avoid cramping and dizziness.
Your blood pressure rises when you are working out and so stopping abruptly and not allowing your blood pressure and heart rate to slowly come down can cause the blood to pool in your veins and give you a kind of dizzy feeling. Also, your muscles will rebel and you’ll start to cramp. I’ve definitely hopped off the Spin bike too soon and gotten a Charley horse!

2. Let your muscles recover for your next workout.

If you just jog it out after a run, your range of motion isn’t big enough to work out every muscle in your body. Obviously working every muscle in your body is a difficult task, but doing more dynamic movements will release the tension in more of your muscles, and you can avoid future injury (source). Do some high knee marching, high knee skipping, or straight leg shuffles. I can do it while I walk back towards my apartment…you can do it while you walk back to your car…we can make this cool down thing happen.

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I like to take pictures of my feet. Judge me.

I know what I am supposed to do…it’s just so hard to make myself do it. Usually when my GPS rings and I know my run is over, I immediately slow down and start walking. For the chorus of a song, for an entire song, for the amount of time it takes to upload a picture to Instagram…it’s a very carefully timed walk. Not. But after that, I will typically jog a quarter of a mile at a slower pace to let my heart rate come down. Then I’ll walk a little more and usually by that time, I am home. Outside of my apartment, I’ll do some simple leg stretches (hamstrings and quads) and stretch out my arms. I also bend over and touch my toes because I feel like that’s necessary, but apparently that can really strain your lower back. 😉

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And of course I have my trusty foam roller and massage stick once I’m inside! At times, we’re all slackers. We’re all busy with 104 things to do. If you’re slacking on a legitimate cool down you should at least do these three things:

1. Massage your muscles.
Use a foam roller or a massage stick…you will be glad you did.

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Colby tried to chew foam rollers in his youth.

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The hurts-so-good Stick.

2. Flush it out.
I know all the hoopla surrounding ice baths…the cold helps repair the little tiny tears in your muscles and the soreness that comes from repetitive workouts like running…but I just cannot bring myself to do it! I am a chronically cold person so exposing myself to more cold doesn’t sound good. Ice packs are the way for me!

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Mismatched socks are my favorite.

3. REFUEL!
EAT! AND DRINK! Your body needs protein and carbs after a hard run (or workout) and you need to replenish fluid and muscle glycogen and repair muscle damage (source). Once you remember why you have to do these things, it really reminds you that you are kind of beating up your body when you work out so you BETTER take a little bit of time to recover!

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All the beverages.

 My favorite protein + carb combo is eggs + sweet potato…and my love for ketchup knows no bounds.

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 Even though I’m talking about running, this recovery should come after every kind of hard workout! When I teach Spinning classes or PiYo classes, there is designated time at the beginning and end of our workout to warm up and cool down. We have to get our bodies ready to work hard and we have to bring our bodies back to reality when the craziness is over!

Happy working out and happy Tuesday!

10 on 10: March 2015

When I lay in bed at night, I replay my day in my head. What went right? What went wrong? Did anything especially important happen? What am I doing tomorrow? I’m sure we all have our own form of personal reflection, and in those moments, we really do remember how we felt, where we went, what we wore, who we interacted with…but as the days go by, the details fade and you really only remember the big events. Last weekend, I was crossing days off my training chart a few days late and I could not for the life of me remember what workout I completed on Thursday. I couldn’t even remember what I did on Thursday! I knew that I had class in the evening and I came home to watch Scandal, but everything before that was blank. It was probably like any other day. Wake up, workout, eat food, do homework, go to work, go to class…but since nothing earth-shattering happened last Thursday (thank goodness), the details had faded.

I have been reading Mel’s blog for about a year and I love her posts of the tenth of each month when she shares random bits from her day! It’s the little moments that will be the most fun to look back on. I’m linking up with Rebekah to find beauty in the ordinary. 🙂

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Wearing florals because spring! I wanted to wear my nude flats but my feet have not adjusted to the flats life yet. I wore a new pair yesterday that are CRAZY comfy, but after being in boots all winter, my feet need to adjust. I do this with flip flops too. It’s weird and silly and requires me to ruin outfits such as these with Toms but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

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Not the prettiest picture…but worth remembering because I go through phases with meals. I don’t have a breakfast rotation…when I find something I like, I LIKE it. For a long time, I ate a scrambled egg with cheese on an Everything Bagel Thin and a Danimals drinkable yogurt (yes, I know I’m 23) for breakfast. Then I got creative and ate scrambled eggs with PB and banana. Next, the obsession was oatmeal with PB, cinnamon, chocolate chips, and banana. To add a little nutritional value back into my breakfast (read: protein), I started adding protein powder to my oats. The above photo shows you apple cinnamon oatmeal 🙂 Oats, milk, vanilla protein powder, cinnamon, and steamed apples. Current everyday breakfast.

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The Vera bag of pain. You will find my laptop, my iPad, my books for class, my notebook for teaching at the gym, electronic device chargers, gym clothes, lunch, dinner, and snacks. I’m gone on Tuesday from 10 AM to 10 PM!

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I like to study in a clean environment. My environment was clean, but my desk was not. In other news, I think I got a decent grade on my midterm. 😉

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And even if I didn’t get a decent grade, at least my Dad believes in me. Hahaha

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Don’t mess with me and my bag. And yoga mat. And umbrella.

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It rained for approximately twelve hours today. BYE WINTER!

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Walking in the rain. My favorite umbrella is missing. Target saved the day. Late. Wet. Rain boot didn’t do its job.

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36 wonderful people came to PiYo class!

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Frozen Shakeology and Pretty Little Liars with my roommate to end the day. 🙂

Running: It’s All In Your Head

I love to run. I have been running ever since my favorite aunt took me to the park with her and let me “jog”. So what happens when you start to work out and you just feel kind of ehhh? If you are hurt, you should definitely stop whatever you are doing. If you just feel kind of uninspired, then you need to push past that mental block. That’s usually the name of the game in running. Even on the very best running days, you may find yourself wishing for a park bench or a water fountain. 😉 And even though I go through seasons of life where I am more dedicated to a different kind of workout than running, running is still my soul mate workout.

I explore.

I listen to music.

I get to wear fun shoes and clothes.

I clear my head.

It’s completely exhausting and some days much harder than others, but I love it.

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One of the best things about running (for me) is that it’s always there for me. I know that sounds cheesy, but when you look at the fitness world and see how much there is to offer (Zumba, BodyPump, Spinning, yoga, PiYo, Pilates, lifting, swimming, boot camp, etc etc etc), it can be hard to decide what you are going to commit yourself to. For two years in college, I did very little besides run and I completely wrecked my hip. I now have a small tear that will always be there. We need to be dedicated, but we also need to rest. Now when I race, I actually strength train during training and I actually take time off from running after the race. I didn’t do this before. And because I worry that I may get injured again, I take extra time off. That’s just my thing. I am still working out, but I choose other things to do besides running. So it is hard for me to admit that every time I start to train for a race, it feels like I am starting over. I feel slow and everything feels much harder than it should. Slowly but surely, I find my groove again, but it’s hard NOT to be envious of my previously speedy times or feel like I am completely out of shape. I am in shape, I’m just not quite in running shape…yet. 😉

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Right now, I am training for the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler in April in Washington, D.C. I used to think I was such a good runner that I could run without training…and then I got hurt. HA! Now I use a training plan for every race (like a normal person). On Saturday, I was supposed to run 4 miles and it was 45 degrees and sunny. Running > studying for stats;) I thought I was in for four easy-breezy miles!

Not so much. I was just feeling blah. I also kept getting a cramp in the same place on my side and those are never fun. Must practice breathing like a runner.

Here’s a little preview of my crazy:

Mile 1: Outside. I like being outside. These sidewalks are half slushy, half dry. Who is in charge of cleaning these?

Mile 1.5: Oh look, a hill. I’m going to be a badass and run up that.

Mile 2: WHY?!

Mile 2.5: Photo op.

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For some reason, there have been a ton of geese all over campus lately. And seagulls. All birds seem very confused with this weather!

Mile 3: If I just do one more loop around this side of campus, I can go hoooooooome!

Mile 4: Lots of fast music and darting around like a weirdo looking for every downhill possible. 🙂

There is a reason people say “you only regret the workouts you don’t do”. I felt so much better when I got back to my apartment even though it was a mental challenge to get through four measly miles. And yes, I sat down at one point and texted my friend to complain. Some days are like that! We just have to remember that the slow, hard days are paving the way for happier, faster days. Any run feels great after a particularly hard one!

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Today, I was excited for my Monday miles. You have to get excited because whatever workout you are choosing to do should be fun for you! I could have totally ditched them because I remembered the struggle from this past weekend. I also could have used the excuse that I didn’t have the right shoes…I usually wear my running shoes to the gym where I teach PiYo and run right after class, but I must have been half asleep when I got dressed because I wore the wrong shoes. I walked home after class and practiced saying, “Your legs are not tired, they are warmed up.” Walked in the door, changed my shoes, and walked right back out. Who am I?! It feels good to prove yourself right and start your day off on the right foot.

Happy running and happy Monday, friends! 🙂

Monday Musings

So, my weekend looked something like this:

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Photo Credit: Angela Fu

UMD hosted the Southeast Collegiate Fitness Expo from Friday to Sunday and to say I had no idea what I was in for is definitely an understatement! I was required to go because I work at the gym, but once I saw the schedule of events, I knew that I would want to be there! What could be better than a gym full of other fitness instructors who love working out and nutrition as much as me?! I have decided that being around like-minded people is the best. 🙂

Saturday morning started off with an equipment-less bootcamp style workout led by Abbie Appel, a master trainer from Florida! Unfortunately, she didn’t bring the warm weather with her, but that room was full. of. sweat. We did a 40 minute workout: 8 minutes of work…a different exercise every minute…and then took a quick rest period. The class flew by and it was a perfect kick off for the events to follow on Saturday!

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She’s so cool she even took a selfie with us. 😉

After boot camp, I was famished because I hadn’t eaten breakfast yet, and I had ten minutes to hydrate, feed myself, and get to my next destination: Piloxing. Pilates + Boxing = Piloxing. And sweat. And fun. This trainer works in the D.C. area which is amazing because that means I can go to the class again sometime soon! I tried a bunch of different workouts on Saturday and ended the day in a seminar about social media…one, because it sounded cool, and two, because I just wanted to sit down!

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My mom sent me a care package last week and sent me all kinds of protein bars that sound like peanut butter and jelly. This bar was amazing and the perfect snack for my busy day. Why did she only send one?! Saturday night, we all had to find our second wind because there was a social at the UMD Golf Course. I really wanted nothing more than Netflix and pajamas, but it was so fun to see my co-workers all dressed up in “normal” clothes! We made sundaes at an ice cream bar with different flavors from The Dairy and danced the night away with what little energy we had left! Sunday started off bright and early with hip hop yoga…hip hop music playing in the background while we stretched and relaxed and restored our bodies from all the festivities of the weekend! I attended three seminars: one about personal branding, one about running, and one about body image. I took so many notes (#nerdalert) and left so excited about being a fitness instructor! There is just so much goodness about this job. What was left of Sunday looked like this…anything that required laying down, even homework, sounded great to me!

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During the weekend, there were certain seminars that we were assigned to monitor. Luckily, I monitored a session I wanted to go to! It talked about “fitspo” and how what we see on social media really affects how we think about our bodies, our exercise, our nutrition, and in turn, our happiness with ourselves. On Instagram, we are bombarded with images, but I feel like many of those are positive. My newsfeed is typically posts of people pre- or post-workout with an inspirational quote thrown in. However, there are so many “inspirational” pictures floating around the Internet that aren’t actually inspirational at all…they’re just degrading. That was not really something I had thought about before. I decided to look at my Pinterest workout board and see what kind of images I have been pinning:

I found six that made me shake my head. Three of them were shirtless images of Ryan Reynolds, Ryan Gosling, and Channing Tatum. I have no idea what that was supposed to represent for my workout life. Clearly, I am not a man;) But that kind of shows how men who aren’t celebrities might feel pressure to look a certain way.  Anyway, I have shared the other three here, but if you click on my Pinterest board, they’ve all been deleted.

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I feel like the body types represented here suggest that we should all be this thin. If you are a naturally thin person, there is nothing wrong with that. What I am saying is that you should not strive to push your body to an extreme that it cannot handle. I don’t have experience testing the jumping jack theory suggested on the left, but it seems kind of unrealistic to me. I do like the advice on the right…we can wish for whatever we want, but we are in control of our health, and that requires doing something to change your situation. Just like anything else in life. However, no one looks at that picture and gets all deep and thoughtful about the quote. When we remember that quote, we associate it with that picture. And really, I do not wear my sports bra to work out, so that picture just makes me feel bad about myself. I am proud of that girl for being so fit, though. 🙂

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If you clicked on this image on Pinterest, it took you to a page that told you how to get a nice butt. But honestly. I would rather see a photo with the actual exercises than these girl’s behinds. The bad thing about these images floating around is that even if we scroll right past them, we still think about them. Images are powerful and they can affect your thoughts. That is crazy to me. We need to change the norm so that we are surrounded by good thoughts and images!

Here…this motivates me to work! This is a great example of an image that is effective. We can’t play the comparison game because there are no butts to look at;) And it gives you steps to take the action you need to be a healthier, happier you.

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Another good example. Good message and an almost fully clothed girl;)

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Things that we say or read are powerful too. Luckily, most of the quotes I have pinned are about being a happier person. I was glad to see that after thinking about this topic. Here’s a quote that is everywhere in the media –> “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” I would like to disprove this theory by asking you to think about all your favorite treats. Queso, peanut butter straight from the jar, and cookies are pretty tasty, too;)

You should use images and quotes and social media and whatever else you have to motivate yourself to be healthier. I am 100% supportive of that. I am just thinking that we need to do this healthy thing for us. It’s not even just about looks…you may compare yourself in other ways. Someone lifts heavier than you. Someone runs faster than you. Someone can do a crazy inversion at yoga. We just have to know that we are doing the best we can and that truly, we will only ever look like, run like, lift like, eat like, be like…ourselves. And occasionally, we don’t favor our own self. We want to be beasts;) So we need to practice using those thoughts constructively.

I have worked really hard to change my mindset. I want to focus on what my body can do rather than play the comparison game. I can run long distances, I can lift dumbbells that are heavier than they were at this time last year, and I can correctly do down dog in Yoga and PiYo classes. Do I wish that I looked a little different? Sometimes, but we all have goals. Your health is your life, not a short term goal. So at this point, my jeans still fit. I bought a bikini on Friday. And I really like dessert. I just have to be happy with the body I have and make those changes in a healthy way. When I have those days of feeling bad about myself, I hope that I still share positive thoughts and images with others. There was a time when I didn’t like how I looked and I thought that restricting what I ate and working out excessively would help me change my body. Both of those things did help me change my body, but I was also tired, craving sugar, and unhappy. There’s a part of being healthy that requires being happy. And being healthy doesn’t mean being skinny. I learned this. It’s a trifecta of working out, eating healthy foods, and being freaking happy.

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I challenge you to look at the images and social media accounts that you find inspiring. What is so inspiring about them? They should make you want to be a better person in all aspects of your life.

Happy Monday. 🙂

Special thanks to Alicia for leading such a thoughtful session!