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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lifely things

It’s been awhile since we’ve just chatted, so I’m back with a few life updates. As you know if you’ve been reading for awhile, I’ve been a cat mom for the better part of a year now and he’s pretty much taken over my life. He enjoys looking out the window, demanding pats, and following me around the house so that I cannot be productive. Simba is a sweet and healthy boy and I am very grateful for him!

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He needs to be touching me at all times.

I’m back to working as a personal trainer, which I love. It’s a rewarding experience to help people begin or re-inspire their health journeys. As I’m learning, there’s never an end,- until, you know…the end- and there’s a whole world of complicated health and wellness information to dissect, so it’s nice to help and learn from clients!

For the past few months, I’ve also been trying to lose weight again. It’s not always a fun or easy process and there’s many ups and downs, but thus far, I’m down ten pounds. For the past few weeks, I’ve been losing 2 ounces a week consistently, so it’s something. I’ll include a little more about that, including what I eat daily in an upcoming blog post.

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Much of my week, as everyone’s does, resides around work and daily happenings. My workouts have consisted of three days of running and three days of strength training with shorter bursts of cardio.

Another big part of my life right now is my now month-old niece who is a darling! I’m not sure how her parents feel about posting pictures of her, so I’ll hold off for now. It’s crazy to think that this little bundle, who I didn’t know for 28 years and five months, has now become an integral part of my life.

On weekends, I try to incorporate a healthy mixture of active and relaxing. Since the weather is getting nicer, I enjoy walking, running, hiking, and biking (and staying far away from the gym!) for exercise. Going out with friends and staying in with Simba are equally important.

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In addition to picking up my writing, I’ve been reading a lot, from fun summer reads like The Last Mrs. Parrish and some words of life wisdom, such as The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, as well as teaching myself basic coding to gain some computer skills.

I’m excited that summer has finally arrived and happy to be back writing to all of you.

Happy Thursday!

Arm Day

I kicked off a new workout routine and it’s been killer. While I love a good total body workout, there’s something to be said about the effectiveness of the split routine.

For this training schedule, I opted to break things up as follows:

Day One: Biceps, Triceps, Shoulders

Day Two: Quads and Glutes

Day Three: Chest and Back

Day Four: Hamstrings and Ab/Adductors

Day Five: Total Body

For each day, I always include core and some form of cardio. The breakdown is roughly 30x10x20—30 minutes strength training, 10 minutes core, 20 minutes cardio.

On arm day, I break each segment up by muscle group and perform three exercises each. One at the most heaviest with 4 sets of 8 reps, the second with medium weight at 4 sets of 10 reps, and the third at the lightest weight at 4 sets of 12 reps.

Take a look:

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After three core exercises- incline oblique lean downs, plank walkouts, bicycle crunches- I hope on the bike to spin it out for around 20+ minutes.

Give it a try! Check back next week for the next portion.

I’m Allergic to Apples But I Still Eat Them

A real daredevil I am…

My weekend started early Friday afternoon when I got off work and finished up a killer workout. I ate lunch and cuddled up on the couch watching old episodes of Will and Grace with this guy.

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That night, I went out to dinner with some work friends before heading to bed and preparing for another early morning at work.

Once I finished work on Saturday morning, my friend Stephanie picked me up to see our other college friends Erin and Katie. It’s been awhile since the four of us got together and we had a blast apple picking, laughing, and chatting.

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And eating apples… I’m slightly allergic, so I stuck to one and felt fine. Erin for the photobomb win!

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Even though it was not quite a fall day (hot!), we enjoyed being outside and snacked on apple cider donuts.

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That night, a few of us saw It, which was creepy and a little confusing, but fun! I’m ready for the Halloween season!

Sunday started like this.

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Kittens apparently do not have sense of personal space.

After grocery shopping with mom, I whipped up some french bread pizzas for a game day lunch.

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Both the Red Sox and Patriots had come-from-behind wins and though I’d prefer them just to do well from the beginning, those types of games are more exciting.

When the sun went down a bit and the air cooled, I headed to the track to fit in a 3-mile run. I started re-watching Big Little Lies because my mom hasn’t seen it yet and it’s still amazing.

Now we’re back to Monday- make it a great one to kick off this week!

summer workout tips

It’s summer! We’re in the thick of the heat, from the east coast to the west. I love the sun and the vibrancy of summer, but I do not love being hot. Building up a sweat at the gym is not the same as being sticky and uncomfortable out-and-about.

I will always choose running outside on an outdoor track or around the neighborhood  than being stuck on the treadmill, but how do I stay safe?

  1. Drink a lot of water. Why does this tip keep popping up on my lists? Why do I keep making lists? One, because water is the most important thing you put into your body. Two, because it looks better than lengthy paragraphs. Drink water throughout the day in preparation of that after work run or workout or maintain hydration throughout the day, then start your day with two glasses before your morning run.
  2. Dress appropriately. I’ll workout in a tank top and shorts during the winters of Boston, or at least leggings, as I’ve never come around to the idea of sweatpants, but this is especially prevalent during the summer. When working out, comfort needs to be optimal. Clothing should be breezy and prevent you from such atrocities as chafing.
  3. Go early in the morning or later in the evening. Regardless, be safe. The heat of the day (in LA is pretty much always, but it’s better in the morning or before the sun goes down) can be brutal, so try to find the sweet spot that works best for your schedule. Unless you thrive in the brutal heat and humidity (who are you?!), you’ll need it to survive. *I actually love running at night in the summer, but this is not practicing what my mother calls situational awareness, as I’d be on my own. As my favorite podcast, My Favorite Murder, says, I need to “stay sexy and not get murdered.”
  4. Sunblock. I need to be better about this. My upper body has quite the tan thanks to all my outdoor runs (and okay, time lounging on the beach), but I do try to ‘block before I get out there, even if the sun isn’t fully out yet because, like most things in life, sunlight is better in moderation- too much or too little can be detrimental to your health.
  5. Mix it up. When I headed to the track the other day, it was still hot out around 6:30 at night. I was hot and not up for a long run, so I mixed it up with intervals of running and walking. This can actually be more effective to heighten your heart rate and I found it more manageable to know walking was only a few minutes away than a steady run.
  6. Hike, Swim, or Strength Train. Running is great cardio exercise, but it is not the end all be all. After six years, I still have a love-hate relationship with running that will never quite be defined. I love that I can do it easily, quickly, and without fuss, but sometimes it can be brutal to get through. For an outdoor workout, try hiking as it will tend to provide shade and better allow you to be present in nature; swim laps, splash around, or just tread water, as it is one of the best exercises for all types of people, but beware if you, like me, dye your hair blonde, because green looks good on very few; body weight train and use any and all equipment available to you- I’ll do yoga, go through a quick series of bodyweight exercises, jump rope, or sneak equipment outside if the AC is malfunctioning and the room is crowded.
  7. Eat well before and after. Dehydration is not the only pitfall of a heavy sweat session. Your energy stores will need to be replenished with both sugars and salt post-workout, especially when out in the sun. I personally don’t drink gatorade or juice because I’d rather enjoy my calories in other ways, but before my workout, I make sure to eat a healthy snack like peanut/almond butter and baby carrots or a piece of fruit after my workouts. In a crunch, a popsicle is never a bad way to go! *Of course this works better for afternoon/evening workouts. I usually workout in the morning and don’t eat right before, mainly because I sleep as long as possible, but my meals the night before are healthy and well-rounded to help me get through.
  8. Listen to your body. One of the most obvious pieces of advice you’ll find popping up on healthy living posts, but one of the hardest to follow. At some point, I’ll address my lack of concentration inspired by my phone and the cultural idea of “multi-tasking,” but for now I’ll stay on topic. Your body wants to tell you everything you need to know, but we don’t know how to listen well. Whether it needs a certain food, more water, more exercise, less, the body knows. If you’re out running or exercising and you start to feel dizzy, light-headed, or an undefined “wrongness,” stop. If it feels too hot and stuffy before you start to workout, go inside. If you absolutely can’t bare to be indoors after a long workday of sitting in a frigid, unnatural air conditioned environment, keep the intensity to an easy/medium level, length of time brief, and enjoy. Sometimes, the best part of summer can just be a walk around the neighborhood.

 

 

workout updates

I’m quite pleased with my new workout routine I crafted a week ago. Before, I would either do total body almost every day or break it in different variations of triceps, biceps, chest, back, shoulders, and legs. For whatever reason, my body rebels against leg day and I have struggled to not resent those days.

However, I think I’ve found my antidote. Many people who do split routines do legs all in one, but this time around, I decided to break it up much like I do with the upper body. Here’s what my new routine looks like:

Day One: Triceps, Chest, Quads, Core

Day Two: Quick Total Body (Run Day)

Day Three: Biceps, Back, Hamstrings, Core

Day Four: Quick Total Body (Run Day)

Day Five: Shoulders, Ab/Adductors, Glutes, Core

Day Six: Yoga (Run Day)

And on the seventh day, I deserve a helluva rest!

Again, I’m only on my second week of this routine, but my muscles are sore and feel as though they have received the proper attention to each group. On Week 1, I ran through each exercise in three sets of twelve reps and Week 2 is four sets of ten reps at a slightly higher weight. For Week 3, I’ll do three sets of fifteen reps at a lower weight, and then my highest weight on Week 4 for five sets of eight reps.

Repeat.

For strength training, I like to incorporate body strength moves with weight training for the best results. For example, I’ll throw in some plyometric moves to hit my lower body, such as jumping lunges or jumping squats, and for my upper body, I’ll add a lot of push-ups and triceps dips. This adds a nice little dose of breathless to the equation.

For my core training, which I do every day at the end of my strength routine, I’ve tried to be better about hitting each spot of the comprehensive core. I do a lot to hit the obliques, like twists and lean downs, as well as stretch out the upper and lower portions of my stomach with rollouts or leg lifts, and finally strengthen the lower back  and pelvic regions with supermans and hip lifts.

On my non-run days, I do little bouts of high intensity cardio, including the spin bike and jump roping. It’s been awhile since I’ve jump roped, but I’m getting back into it and I just love it. It’s one of the best total body workouts you can do.

I’ve left the gym feeling sweaty and accomplished, which is really the reason we go in the first place. Or at least for me. I can’t speak for you.

My workouts are intense, but I love the challenge. My problem area has always been the eating and I know I need to rein in the sugar and extracurricular eating I tend to do when stressed or bored. Mindlessness is nobody’s friend, but I am feeling better about it.

What makes you feel strong?

a day to remember

This weekend was all about the Women’s March for this girl! It was an incredible experience to share with over 2 million women and men who represented love, hope, equality, and progress. I got to laugh, shout, and listen to the likes of Jane Fonda speak on the importance of representation and equal rights. It is a historic, memorable day that, despite critics suggesting otherwise, will be revolutionary to this country. I am also proud to say that both my parents joined in on the march, in support of their children and themselves, and I can’t emphasize how much it means to me that I have two wonderful, intelligent parents who raised and educated two daughters and a son with equal love, support, and expectations.

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One last note: Nothing of quality ever got done by sitting quietly at home and minding your own business.  Our country is built on it.

Other than the march, it was a low-key weekend, thanks to the rain and the aftermath of a cold I was battling all week. Entertaining friends and family is always fun and worth while, but it takes a lot out of me, so I welcomed the relaxation.

Thankfully, I was able to fit in a few solid workouts this week, although much of my time outside of work was spent sleeping. Colds are no fun, but thanks to my constant vigilance, it never accumulated into anything too serious.

Here’s some food from the previous week.

A huge salad with chicken, pita and hummus, and some tempura cauliflower I tried from Trader Joes.

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Cod, zucchini noodles and spinach, and baked sweet potato fries. I was missing ketchup for those fries!

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A hunk of a salad topped with garlic-butter shrimp.

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Sesame ginger chicken with broccoli and spinach.

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A grilled cheese and soup on my sickliest evening. Notice the spinach- gotta fit in those vitamins! The soup was a roasted corn and red pepper from Trader Joes.

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Apparently I’m not good at snapping breakfast shots. This was a warm bowl of oats with peanut butter, blueberries, and strawberries.

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My lunch of the week was salads with chicken, pita, and hummus. I love meal prep because it makes the week so easy.

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After lots of rest and healthy eating, I’m feeling invigorated and ready to face the week! Happy Monday!