What I wish someone told me

In light of all the New Year’s Resolutions, I felt like the topic of fitness, exercise and health was an important one to write about today. As most of you know, I grew up generally disliking exercise and absolutely hated running. I also didn’t have the best diet, my favorite food usually consisted of some sort of fried or processed food. And for most of my early life, I got away with my unhealthy habits and still was skinny. Or skinny-fat, which if you don’t know what that means click that link to learn more.

But half-way through college, the donut holes caught up to me. I was eating too much and just not working out. I didn’t know where to begin, but my mom insisted I take some sort of self-defense class to protect myself, and my boyfriend was a little too concerned over my new-found chub. With these wonderful people in mind, I enrolled in once weekly Tae Kwon Do and started pushing myself to go to the gym 2-3 times a week. Nothing crazy. I also started eating less processed foods and more veggies and protein in order to feel full for longer. But the biggest struggle I experienced was my lack of knowledge at the gym. I would show up with no idea what or how to do anything right. I would run on the track some 30 plus laps until I was sweaty and then be like now what?

There were these strength machines that I would just use like in a loop, the same machines every time. And I didn’t really see much in ways of toning up or getting stronger. Not to say I didn’t feel better, I definitely did, but I was just lost. So lost that after dumping said boyfriend and graduating, I went back to my sedentary life of which I was all too familiar with. Pounds started piling on and about two years later, new boyfriend same situation. This time, I knew I had to do something differently. Going to the gym was just too over-whelming for me. I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out how to do more than just run around like a hamster or sit on some random arm machine and pretend to work on my biceps.

This boyfriend was the evolved version of previous boyfriend and he too didn’t understand gym equipment as was apparent by his severely lacking muscle tone and way too skinny ass. But, I digress. Lucky for me, he had half a brain to suggest an alternative to the gym. One that I had already done before, but rather than just once a week actually push myself to practice martial arts more often, closer to 4+ times a week. We found and enrolled in a local Kung Fu school and the rest is history.

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Kung Fu led to me starting to run which also led to me wanting to learn said confusing gym equipment and proper exercises. Many years and Kung Fu belts later, I become a certified personal trainer and finally know how to go to the gym with an exercise plan that I can successfully execute and build upon. Where was this knowledge years ago when I was sitting on a leg curl machine next to my ex wondering what was the purpose of building this one muscle in my leg when my belly was the issue?

So my one piece of advice for those of you looking to get started, or restart your fitness journey is this. Do something you love AND are comfortable with. Or at least comfortable being pushed to learn something new. Having a teacher or coach is invaluable. Over the 6 years that I practiced Kung Fu, I dropped easily well over $8,000 that I didn’t even have. And every dollar was well spent. I distinctly remember one day I literally took every dollar I made from tutoring that week from one of my clients just to pay for Kung Fu for that month.

My point is, don’t do this journey alone. Find something you’re passionate about and if you have no idea what you’re doing, get with someone who can show and teach you. Their knowledge will help you grow and achieve your fitness goals. I wish you the best of luck in your journey, grasshopper.

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Body image and self love

It feels like I’ve always had body image issues. Looking back, I can’t seem to remember a moment where I loved the way I looked. I would try my best to be content with my body, but I would always find something I’d like to change.

When I was a baby, I didn’t have a neck. My uncle called me Jabba the Hut since I was all baby fat. I didn’t ever crawl, because I was way too happy being immobile. Once I started walking, I lost the baby fat and thinned out. In high school, I was pretty active and stayed relatively thin but still felt chubby. I didn’t see myself as sexy and focused way too much on my extra-small boobs.

Freshman year in college I’d skip meals because I felt chubby. The other three years of college, I gained about 25 to 30 pounds that I instantly hated and tried to combat best I could. My boyfriend encouraged me by working out with me, but at the end of the day I felt fat and didn’t know what exercises to do other than run and some strength machines. Through the years, I’ve gone up and down in my weight. I started my fitness journey 7 years ago when I weighed in at my heaviest. I still hated my body, but decided to finally do something about it. So I joined a local Kung Fu school and started practicing traditional martial arts.

Even over the last 7 years, I still felt chubby and fat. In the beginning, my diet was crap as I was trying to workout 3-4 times a week. About a year into my fitness journey was when I decided to watch a few food documentaries. These altered my world and my diet. I was vegan for almost two years, and that was when I noticed the real change occurring in my body. I finally liked my body weight, and almost liked how I looked. My endurance was increasing but I felt like I needed more of a challenge. So I started running in addition to the martial arts training.

When I started running, I mostly hated it. But my friend Sarah kept me accountable and we ran many races together over the years. Even as a runner and martial artist, I still struggled with my body image. Especially after I fell off the vegan wagon and started to be more open with my diet. And, you know, got married and comfortable. When I turned 30 only a year and a half ago, I felt embarrassed when looking at photos of myself. That chubby tummy and love handles were too much! I knew I needed more strength training and a better diet, but kinda let myself go. It was when my ex left that I reassessed everything in my life, but chose to focus on self love and body image.

I turned to fitness and working out to help me get through one of the hardest situations in my life. I upped the frequency and intensity of working out. I made a conscious decision to focus on my health and everything else would work itself out. I felt called to run the Chicago marathon last year, and I chose to focus more on strength training both while running and after the race. Even after running the marathon, I still felt chubby. But I sat down and created a fitness goal for myself in order to help me work towards the body I want rather than the one I had.

And guess what? I didn’t reach my goal. My goal was to get to 18% body fat by last week. I’m currently hovering just above 19% body fat, but I started at 25% four months ago. Despite not meeting my goal, I can finally say I love my body. Just the way it is. I know I’m still a work in progress, and I still have fitness goals I’m working on. But I realized it isn’t about the numbers. It’s not about how much I weigh nor how much body fat I have (as long as I’m not obese). It’s about how I look and feel. Hard work pays off, but most of the work I’ve needed has been mental. 90% mental, 10% physical.

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Suicide Prevention and the Holidays

With the holiday season comes an increase of sadness and depression. Some blame it on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) due to the decreased daylight, whereas other cases can be traced back to lonely or drama-included holidays. Speaking from experience, I can see where the holidays can be sad for someone since I lost my mom right before Christmas of 2015. I want to focus on suicide prevention and ways to lift your spirits despite the gloomy circumstances surrounding you.

Suicide Prevention: tips and tricks

  • Move! Stay active. I know it’s hard during these colder months, but staying active will increase your feel-good hormones. It may be too cold to exercise outside, but there are some great gym membership deals going on right now that you can jump on.
  • Eat better! Instead of grabbing processed and fatty foods, go for foods rich in protein, fiber, and/or good fats. I.e. eggs, avocados, oatmeal, etc. These foods will also help you stay full for longer and won’t tire you out.
  • Start or re-vamp a hobby! Whether you like to read books, watch movies, or play the guitar, pick up an old or new hobby to focus on. People who do what they enjoy find more joy in their daily lives.
  • Be social! Join a meet up group or a local running club. Whatever it is you like to do, there’s likely a group of people to do it with. Doing something you enjoy with others is a great way to make new friends.
  • Choose yourself. Love yourself. You are amazing and you are worth it.

If you find yourself considering suicide or suffering from depression, don’t hesitate to call 1-800-273-8255

Check out this website HERE for more resources and information. Let’s get the conversation going and let it continue on everywhere.

World AIDS Day

AIDS_ribbon-08-1024x1024Today is World AIDS Day which always falls on the first day of December every year. It is a day where people worldwide unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness. Founded in 1988, World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day.

Globally, there are an estimated 36.7 million people who have the HIV virus. Despite the virus only being identified in 1984, over 35 million people have died from HIV or AIDS. This is one of the most destructive pandemics in history. Thankfully, there have been scientific advancements in HIV treatment, there are laws to protect the people living with HIV, and we understand much more about the condition these days. Despite this, people continue to be diagnosed with HIV, people don’t know the facts on how to protect themselves and others, and there are still stigmas and discrimination in regards to the people living with the virus.

World AIDS Day is important because it reminds us that HIV has not gone away. There’s still a vital need to raise money and increase awareness surrounding the virus.

What can you do?

Show solidarity with people living with HIV on World AIDS Day by wearing a red ribbon. You can also donate towards HIV treatment research and education. Or, if you need a fun coffee pick-me-up you can go to Starbucks and they’ll donate 25 cents if you order one of the following drinks:  Peppermint Mocha, Toasted White Chocolate Mocha, Caramel Brulée Latte or Eggnog Latte. So go get your holiday drink and sparkle on!