Love Letter to Exercise

It was the summer before my senior year of college and I had no idea what to pursue in my professional life, but I knew I did not want to present myself to the world in my current condition. I was obese, self-conscious, and overwhelmed. Rather than sink further into this black hole, I decided to pull myself out of it.

313349_2351925314753_543759177_n

After work, every afternoon, I put in 15 minutes on the clunky elliptical we had in the basement. I blasted music and endured it. As the days and weeks passed, I started putting on episodes of favorite shows, like Friends and Golden Girls, and worked until the end. It wasn’t long before I realized how much I enjoyed the effort, the slick sweat and short of breath feelings grew addictive.

I could go for an hour, playing with speeds and intensities. I was losing weight and I felt good about myself for the first time ever. I was in complete control, pushing my body to limits I thought I would forever detest. My body craved more. After my elliptical session, I would do sets of jumping jacks and started lifting the light weights we had lounging around. By the end of the summer, I was more determined than I had ever been in my life and I knew I would keep going once I was back in school.

406508_10150581454176962_969397896_n.jpg

At my college, there were two gyms- one in the main building of campus and the other in the basement of a dorm. I loved both, they became safe spaces of comfort. Lifting weights awakened my body in new ways. I’d feel sore the next day, but it was a result of achievement rather than a painful deterrent. I had no knowledge about how to lift weights, no idea what exercise worked what muscle group, I just tried what I saw other people in the gym doing, or what I read about online.

In these days, I racked up one-two hours every day at the gym. It’s not what I recommend for everyone, nor something that is doable for busy people, but it was my saving grace. Gone was the anxious girl who ate her emotions. I found my strength.

557100_10150607549836356_1464453762_n.jpg

February of that year, I decided to tackle the treadmill. Growing up, I loved playing sports, but I hated to run. I started at 30 minutes, walking for 4 minutes and running for 1 minute in 5 minute increments. By Red Sox opening day that year, I took my runs to the outdoor track down the street and was running 3-4 miles at a time. I was a runner- and that is not something I offer lightly. To this day, I am not quick or smooth or a model of running perfection by any means, but I can run for miles and I will never forget what that means to the girl in the summer of 2011.

By graduation, approximately one year later, I was 100 pounds down, exercising six days a week and maintaining much healthier (and happier) eating habits. I was sad to be leaving school, but I was excited to see what the future held. That is not to say that I didn’t struggle after. I’m still confused as to what to do in my professional life in many ways, but that is the product of living.

74723_1588139023364_1061223921_n

But this journey that I continue on, allowed me to be okay with putting myself out into the world, to experience and experiment. I tried several different jobs and trusted my instincts enough to walk away from something that wasn’t right for me. I studied to become a personal trainer and help others who struggle like me or just need a little guidance and push. I moved to Los Angeles to pursue my dreams and listened to my heart when I knew it was time to come home to my family.

My life is not perfect. I am not perfect. I eat too much, I have a lazy exercise day or choose to gasp- take two days off from the gym sometimes- but mostly, I’ve maintained these healthy habits. Eating is a large part of losing weight and maintaining a healthy life, but exercise was my gateway. Without it, I would not have the strength to endure, two of my favorite words.

996628_10201403247780335_1398391979_n

Exercise is my time. No matter what, I will always have that hour in my day that I take for myself. It doesn’t have to be a full hour, it doesn’t have to be a perfect mixture of cardio and strength training, and it doesn’t always have to be crushing and exhausting.

Embrace the messiness of fitness- the sweat, the confusion, the pain, the results. It does wondrous things for the body, physically and mentally.

28685604_3169755162779_244208908933202120_n

Advertisements

Julie Andrews Is A Goddess Angel Baby

Last night, I drifted off to sleep listening to the Oscars. At some point, I woke up and it was still playing. When they announced Lady Gaga was performing next, I declared it time for bed. Little did I know that JULIE FREAKING ANDREWS would be making an appearance at the end of her performance. Julie Andrews is a goddess angel baby and I would have liked to see the beautiful moment when the entire audience gave her the standing ovation she deserves. I mean, I got to see it on Youtube, and for the record, Gaga rocked it, but it would have been a real life moment. This is why the Oscars don’t need to be 5.78 hours long. And on a Sunday night!

When I was younger, I used to watch The Sound of Music over and over again- bless my Nana who watched it with me- but I was an active participant, pretending to be Liesel or Maria, putting on a pretty dress and leaping across my living room while singing as loud as I could. I’ve probably mentioned this before, but I feel it is a pertinent moment in my life. Julie Andrews is the essence of talent and class.

My love of celebrities battled my love of sleep and sleep won out. Granted, not until after I saw Chris Evans present. It doesn’t help that many of my favorites didn’t even attend. In that case, my curiosity would have gotten the best of sleep.

Despite keeping me up later than usual, waking up this morning for my workout didn’t prove too difficult. It was more of the prospect of stepping outside into the freezing cold world that made things difficult. After a large glass of water, I brewed myself a small cup of coffee and ate a tortilla stuffed with almond butter, banana, and strawberries. I made a few of these, along with a couple of eggs, to be prepared for the week ahead. I did try to mix things up a bit, so you’ll see more throughout the week.

photo 1

My workout today included a kettlebell circuit that got the blood flowing. I ran through 4 sets of 10 reps of swings, deadlifts, high lifts, arrow lunges, and kickback rows. After, I did a few planks- 1.5 minutes for a front plank, 1 minute on each side for side planks. More strength training was on the menu and I did 4 sets of 10 reps of dumbbells- alternating shoulder to knee presses, hammer curls, then shoulder raises, overhead tricep extensions, and bench presses on the stability ball. Nouha joined me, which helped me forget how early it was!

I wanted to take a break from running due to my left foot falling asleep the day before, so I rode the elliptical for a mediocre cardio workout for 20 minutes, followed by 4 minutes on the bike doing a Tabata Interval workout. It was a great workout and an amazing way to start the day!

After coming home and getting ready for the rest of my day, I made an egg and cheese sandwich. One egg, a few pieces of pepper jack cheese, on top of an English muffin, and a side of blueberries and sweet pineapple, made an excellent morning pick-me-up.

photo 2

It’s hard to believe that four of these meatballs are one serving because they are so filling and tasty! On Sunday, I stir fried a bunch of vegetables and brown rice, enough to make two lunches, and took half of it for yesterday’s lunch. To go along with these ginger teriyaki chicken meatballs, I sautéed everything in a teriyaki marinade, which was an excellent combination. To complete my meal, I polished off a pear- a recent obsession- and two hershey nuggets. Perfecto!

photo 3

Dinner provided a medley of flavors and colors. Steak fajitas are one of our favorite meals, which we complemented with peppers, mushrooms, and a salad made of lettuce, carrots, and tomato. For mine, I folded my tortilla in half like a quesadilla and filled it with cheese. I had a couple of spoonfuls of rice to go along with it.

Snow Days Doesn’t Have to Mean Rest Days

This week, my workouts were thrown in a bit of a loop due to the snow.

Wednesday is now my off day because I have a screenwriting class that runs late on Tuesday nights. Not even that late, but late enough for an early riser!

Thursday, I was back at it for a kettlebell strength routine that was followed by twenty minutes on the elliptical. For kettlebells, I try to incorporate both strength and core moves that affect the entire body. This includes a circuit of swings, goblet squats, high pulls, shoulder raises, and kickback rows. The next circuit is core focused with tricep pullovers on the stability ball, lunges, mermaid raises, hundreds, and Russian twists. Effective!

Knowing that I wouldn’t be able to get to the gym on Saturday, I ran on Friday morning. First, I started with my go-to body strength workout that I really enjoy. Starting with step ups, I go to dips, plié squats, lunges, kickbacks, push ups, mountain climbers, mermaid raises, ankle grabs, hip lifts, bicycle crunches, and Russian twists. After a few reps of those, I completed a few planks before hopping on the treadmill. To mix things up, I like to run for five minutes flat at a medium level, ran slow on a slight incline, then fast on a flat surface. After going through that circuit twice, I ended with a five minute medium run on a flat surface, my legs were feeling it later!

Shoveling is quite an effective winter workout. After putting my share in on Saturday, I relaxed for most of the day. It wasn’t until later on that night when I was ready to do another workout. I started a strength routine using this random ten pound dumbbell I found lying around. I did ten moves, ten reps, and six sets. I finished up on the bike for a half hour watching SNL trying to mock the Patriots’ situation.

It was good to be back at the gym on Sunday, especially because my gym time was cut short this week due to the storm. Starting with a strength routine using a stability ball and medicine balls, I was nice and stretched out by the time I hit the treadmill. For my strength workout, I started with wall throws, squats, lunge twists, kickbacks, push ups on the medicine ball, and kick outs. The next circuit was more core focused, doing roll outs, elevated hip lifts, hundreds, sit ups, mermaid raises, and Russian twists. This time on the treadmill, I ran at a steady pace, moving the speed up slightly every five minutes for 35 minutes.

Monday morning came early, but as always, I felt great after. I wanted to mix things up a bit with my dumbbell strength routine and my body was happy to be fooled. An elliptical workout was on tap for my cardio, knowing I would be doing quite a bit of body strength routines on the snowy days.

House ridden on Tuesday, I got my share of exercise shoveling. I also enjoyed an at home Yoga class, and a body strength workout of the routine I mentioned above, followed by a Plyometrics workout. For this, I do box jumps, jumping jacks, high knees, skater jumps, and jump rope. It leaves me very sweaty!

Though snow days are a great excuse to do some heavy relaxing and being productive around the house, it doesn’t mean that you can’t get some exercise in, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Pair something up with some shoveling, be creative, and then go back to reading by the fireplace or bingeing on Netflix. Heck,you can workout while bingeing on Netflix!

Exercise and Health: Even More Benefits

After my spin class on Tuesday last week, I went through a body strength workout with slightly wobbly legs. I thought it had to do with being tired from spin, but now I’m not so sure. Later on that day, the sickness hit me, and I decided that I would definitely take my rest day on Wednesday.

It proved later on that I wasn’t ready for a workout on Thursday either because my body was still recovering and exhausted. It wasn’t even that big of a deal for most of it, but it shows how sensitive the body really can be. Even this little, brief bout of weakness tore me apart.

I remember having a horrible cold over the summer this year, being incredibly dizzy and miserable, and it just puts everything into perspective.

I say this because I talk a lot about working out and how I believe it should absolutely be a normal part of your routine. And on most days, if you have little aches and pains, are tired, have a sniffle, or feel normal, then you can hype yourself up and barrel through that workout. Sometimes you’re too tired to brush your teeth, but you still do it. Or you should…

But the same thing goes for when you aren’t feeling well. You don’t have to feel guilty about not exercising on a day or two of being sick, or a few days later. I didn’t make it back to the gym until Friday night, finding it was more important to sleep in and get that extra rest, but I took it slow.

I met my sister and we went through a body strength workout at a slower, less intense pace then I am usually up for. After, we headed over to the elliptical and did a half hour on there. As I said, at the very least, the workout put me back into my routine and awakened my appetite.

On Saturday, I wanted to fit in a run, but I knew my body was still in recovery mode. I ended up alternating between walking on an incline and running for a little over an hour. It was an excellent workout anyways, but because I took it slow, the exercise ended up motivating my recovery, rather than stifling it. Exercise should be viewed as a means to maintain a healthy, happy body. As much as it’s important to rest, it’s also important to allow it to improve your health.

Lauren and Nick met me on Sunday and I led them through two kettlebell circuits. Before they got there, I did about fifteen minutes on the elliptical to warm up. I’m happy to note that the fitbit counts steps on the elliptical. We finished the workout going between box jumps and jump roping before finishing with some planks.

It felt good and revitalizing to get my workouts flowing again.