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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Coming to Life

Proprioception is the body’s ability to sense position within itself and with regards to the external environment. It’s something we lose awareness of when sitting at all, whether in front of the computer screen at work or the TV screen at home. I know. We need to work and we also need to watch TV, but giving yourself at least 30 minutes to move your body provides it with much more than calorie burn.

One of the coolest things about studying for my Personal Training certificate is understanding the complexities behind how the body functions and just how cool that is. Now when I exercise, I think about how everything ties together to create movement and it fuels me to work harder. Exercising wakes up the body, makes it move, and brings it to life.

It’s also a battle, messy, imperfect, and hard.

Next time you workout, think about your heart beating, feet meeting the pavement, limbs threading through the water, muscles powering weights, and realize how IMG_4132powerful that is!

This was something that stuck in my head during my morning swim and I found that it pushed me to move faster. I started the day with a kettlebell circuit followed by a body strength circuit that woke me up when my body would have preferred to continue sleeping.

My workout yesterday was a four mile run. It was hilly and difficult. My feet hurt from my new sneakers, which lead them to eventually fall asleep. My calves hurt from the extra pressure on them thanks to the feet. Blisters on my ankles were sore and bloody. I was a sweaty mess and yet, it felt great. Sometimes, it won’t feel great and sometimes I’ll have to walk or struggle my way through. There were obstacles and parts of it that weren’t fun, but it was something my body needed.

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Now let’s talk about food! Grilled tilapia with rice and veggies made up yesterday’s lunch after my run.

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Dinner was a chicken cutlet with creamy white sauce, spinach rice, and grilled Brussels sprouts I tossed with a mixture of olive oil and maple syrup.

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For breakfast this morning after my workout, I knew I need something to power me through a large chunk of time while I was at work. I went with an egg scramble with waffles, raspberries, and half of a banana.

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While I did have to snack on a few almonds at work and I munched on an apple right when I got home, I made a salad for myself with some grilled chicken for protein and a side of cranberry walnut bread that I grilled for an added yummy factor.

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I’m Onto You, Suzanne Summers

I had a dream two nights ago that Suzanne Summers was stalking me, so you better believe I’ve been checking over my shoulder whenever I leave the house. We were cool Ms. Summers, don’t pull a Liza on me.* In the dream, we were participating in a Hunger Games-esque event, except it had nothing to do with death. If I remember correctly, then if Suzanne “tagged” me, then I had to go live outside in nature. This all seemed very plausible in my dream, but now makes no sense at all.

*If you forgot that Liza Minelli stalks me, then lucky you. It’s a thing. I’m sure I’ve written posts about it before. She’s remained stagnant as of late. Let’s not jinx that.

Anyways….is anyone else slightly alarmed that it’s already October 21? I’m sorry, but I thought it was still July of 2012. Time is flying! I better step up my studying because my test date is approaching.

Here are some eats from the past few days we’ve been away from each other.

Scenes from my dad’s birthday dinner Act I. Act II actually doesn’t have a picture, but my family went out and it was fun, happy, and delicious.

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A very interesting looking meal with waffles, scrambled eggs with a chicken sausage, and a big bowl of berries. My breakfasts are often big meals because they fuel me for my workouts and because it’s the best meal of the day.

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This stir fry was impressive. Steak, zucchini, peppers, mushrooms, and spinach over rice with ginger sesame dressing drizzled on top.

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Peanut butter toast can do no wrong.

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Grilled tilapia, broccoli, zucchini, peppers, and rotini. Yum!

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This morning’s plate of cakes. I can’t get enough of these!

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Workouts the past few days included grueling strength training sessions, lap swims, spin classes, long runs (slightly painful thanks to new shoes which I’ll debut tomorrow!), and core workouts that left me with sore abs whenever I sneeze (I sneeze a lot, ouch!).

In other news, I hung out with my family a lot this weekend which is always good for laughs and fun, enjoyed the nice weather with a few walks outside, cleaned and prepared for fall/winter (still more to do, ugh!), worked (it’s a blessing to love what I do), and lost a few years of my life trying to buy Star Wars tickets. For whatever reason, they are starting to premiere the new film BEFORE midnight, so my friend Stephanie and I have our tickets for 11:50. We like to stick to the idea of premiering a  movie at midnight, but in this situation, beggars really can’t be choosers. It is very exciting though and we are now two months away!

I can’t get over this picture:

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I also bought another decal for my computer. I like the subtlety of my Harry Potter one that fits right over the apple on the Mac, and I thought I was continuing this trend when I bought this new one. Not so much. It’s huge! I had to cut it.

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I think my nerd is showing just a bit.

Also, my coffee mug looks super creepy in that picture and it was unintentional!

Happy Wednesday!

Memory, Well, It’s A Fascinating Concept

I was excited when I came off the wait list for Liane Moriarty’s What Alice Forgot because I’ve heard excellent things about the film version. I didn’t know much about the plot going in and my initial thought was it was about a person who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

The book starts out with a woman who has fallen at her gym and regained consciousness, thinking it was ten years ago and that’s she’s pregnant with her first child. Past this, I won’t go further to spoil the plot, but I find it an intriguing and terrifying concept to discuss.

From the movies (and books) the concept of hitting your head and suffering amnesia is a romantic concept, of which I have fallen prey. Not that I’ve ever lost my memory, but the idea of it hooks me in and gets me thinking, which is a mark of an effective plot device.

I often joke that if I ever lose my memory, the first thing I want my family to do for me is read Harry Potter because I’ll never have a chance to relive them as something new. If you really think about it, it’s not a light concept at all because there are so many terrible ways one can lose their memory, and never gain it back, and there are many unanticipated repercussions of realizing you’ve lost a few years of your life.

As someone who believes I have been suffering a quarter-life crisis of sorts, I sometimes think longingly of ten years from now, when I’m 35 and may seemingly have my life sorted out. It’s scary and difficult to start out on a career path that will consume and define so much of who you are. It’s also hard to try new things and go on exciting adventures because of time, money, and expectations.

One thing I have learned from hearing stories on the news, in my town, or personally, is that life really is so short. Anything can happen at any time that makes the small, daily trials and tribulations seem so small. It’s far too easy to get caught up in obstacles that life throws at you and to believe that the world is against you. Sometimes, it probably is, but I can’t claim that belief. As many tragic, terrible things there are in this world, there are also magnificent ones. In my tiny shell, I’ve been blessed with good fortune and seemingly smallish problems, and I try to focus on the good, while recognizing there is bad in the world.

It would be, seemingly, very easy for me to fall asleep right now and wake up ten years later to find what has happened to me. There a multitude of directions my life may take me, depending on so many different circumstances, happenstances, and choices I, or someone else may make, to get me there, or not. It would be easy and somewhat nice to wake up and find that I’ve met my soulmate (Chris Evans, waiting on you), bought a house, am succeeding in a career, pursue hobbies, travel, am fit and strong, etc, etc. I won’t even go into the bad things that may lie at my feet or the people and moments I may have missed losing.

Despite if I’ll be thrilled, mournful, exhausted, or a variety of a million different emotions in ten years on, I don’t want to wake up one day and find that I’ve reached that point, at least with no memory of how it happened. I want those ten years of memories. I want the hard moments where I feel as though I want to pull out my hair, cry myself to sleep, or feel such pressure of anxiety building in my chest, that I might explode. I also want those pure moments of happiness with loved ones, laughter, and love coursing through me. I want all the firsts, the lasts, and the in-betweens; the stress, relief, and rush of the unknown; I want to have gotten to a place of success, or failure, from the blood, sweat, and tears, that I remember with such poignance and purpose.

It’s not necessarily just what happens to us that makes us who we are, puts us where we are, defines what we are, how we do things, or why, but the processes, the actions and the evidence we put forward, that provide us with the wrinkles, scars, and memories.

I don’t think we can appreciate anything of substance without realizing how it came to be. Some things are serendipitous, though that is a definite opinion. I believe that everything happens for a reason, but with the condition that we have led ourselves to that point with choices, actions, mistakes, and purpose. Some things happen to us and for us that we have no control over, depending on where we are born, when, and to whom. We are so dependent on how other people act, believe, and live their lives, that it’s no wonder the world can be such a scary place to live.

Christmastime in particular motivates me to watch the old tapes my parents filmed of me and my siblings when we were older. Time is such an odd concept to me because in any particular moment, people are living and breathing and doing so vividly and then all but the memory, if that, exists. People disappear, no matter how real and alive they seemed. Time passes and surroundings are altered and we stop for a second and we look around or we think back and we say, how did it get to this place? Time is both terrifying and thrilling, burdensome and healing, temporary and everlasting.

It’s funny how time can change perspectives in a second, minute, hour, day, week, year, ten, twenty, fifty, hundred, a lifetime. No matter what lays ahead, no matter how scary, we are going to eventually reach that point, or we won’t. Sometimes it takes a moment of courage and a deep breath, but we try to live in the present, to appreciate and remember even then, with the anticipation of what might be coming next.

All of these thoughts, this is what a good book with an interesting storyline does. It inspires thinking and reflection. This very blog post is the product of quality entertainment because it places you within something bigger and more meaningful.

I Like To Move, Move- Updated Workouts!

Writing this out, I understand that these workouts might seem intense. Keep in mind, I dedicate/have a lot of time in order to workout and I always listen to my body’s signals. This month’s workouts are great because they can be broken up into segments that people can pick and choose to their liking. I always get excited about formulating new workout plans, and these have definitely kicked my butt in a good way!

Day One:
Strength (Using Barbells)
– Rows
– Bicep Curls
– Front Deadlifts
– Snatch and Presses
– Squat Presses
– Bench Presses
– Lying Tricep Extensions
– Front Shoulder Presses
– Shoulder Raises
– Leg Press

Body Strength
– Step Ups
– Lunges
– Deep Squats
– Dips
– V Push Ups
– Leg Lifts
– Single-Leg Hip Lifts
– Sit Ups

Cardio (HIIT)
– Jump Rope
– Treadmill Sprints
– Bike Sprints
– Rower Sprints

Day Two
Strength (Using Ball and Medicine Balls)
– Burpees to Throw Downs
– Wall Throws
– Lunge Twists
– Single-Leg Deadlifts
– Squat Swings
– Rollouts
– Elevated Hip Lifts
– Hundreds
– Russian Twists
– Mermaid Raises

Body Strength
– Box Jumps
– Dips
– Rope Swings
– Leg Swings
– Jump Rope

Cardio
– Swim or Elliptical depending on time

Day Three
Strength
– Yoga

Cardio
– Run

Day Four
Strength (using cables)
– Pull Downs
– Chops
– Rows
– Tricep Extensions
– Flies
– Leg Presses

Strength (using kettle bells)
– Swings
– Goblet Squats
– Alternating Knee to Elbow Shoulder Presses
– Single-Arm Snatches
– Front Rows
– Bench Presses (on ball)

Body Strength
– Box Jumps
– Push Ups
– Mountain Climbers
– Leg Lifts
– Backwards Lunges
– Split Squats to Standing Kickbacks

Cardio (HIIT)
– Jump Rope
– Treadmill Sprints
– Bike Sprints
– Rower Sprints

Day Five

REST

Day Six
Strength (using dumbbells)
– Bench Presses
– Flies
– Hammer Curls
– Front Raises
– One-Leg Rows
– Deadlifts
– Shrugs to Lunges
– Shoulder Presses
– Tricep Extensions with Calf Raises

Strength (using barbells)
– Plie Squat Presses
– Leg Presses
– Angled Bench Presses

Body Strength
– Hanging Leg Raises
– Box Jumps
– Split Squats
– Lunge Twists
– Push Ups
– Spiderman Climbers
– Mermaid Raises
– Alternating Ankle Grabs
– Single-Leg Hip Lifts
– Russian Twists

Day Seven
Strength
– Yoga

Cardio
– Run

For sets and reps, it depends on how I’m feeling that day and how much time I have to workout. Lately, I’ve been trying to push my workouts to the next level, so I’ve varied between 4 sets of 12, 5 sets of 10, and 3 sets of 15. The heaviness of weights also depends on the amount of reps per set.

On most days, I end my workouts with a series of planks- front planks, side planks, reverse planks, and also include shoulder stands and full bridges. I also try to walk as much as possible to fit in as much movement throughout the day.

Soon, I am going to start studying to become a personal trainer because I think I have a unique background and the drive to help a lot of people. For me, exercise is energizing, fun, and stress-relieving. I like testing my body and proving how strong I am. It doesn’t always have to be this intense, depending on your preference. Please feel free to use some of these moves and incorporate segments into your own workout.