The Body as a Gift, not a Tool

I had a disappointing turn of events last Sunday. I was having a totally normal day, normal workout, normal life stuff, when out of nowhere my lower back seized up and really started to hurt. By Monday morning I was in excruciating pain and other than getting older I couldn’t pinpoint a culprit. Not immediately, anyway. It’s now Friday and I haven’t “worked out” aside from gentle yoga specifically to soothe my back. What I have worked out however is the culprit and it wasn’t one dumb thing I did or my age… it was a lot of dumb things.

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As I’ve expressed before, I tend to have tunnel vision. I get really focused, I love a good routine, and I kind of forget to step back and observe my progress or take a break. If something seems to be working I go full steam ahead. This can be great from a productivity standpoint but other times… it really isn’t so great. Like, I have a hard time hanging out if something from work is on my mind.

For months now I had finally gotten a new workout routine that I loved. I was working out 6 days a week, eating pretty well, and seeing some incredible results in my body. I also just felt stronger in general. But what was once a dope ass workout plan quickly became this rote practice. Sure, there were days I took off because I was tired, or I decided to do yoga instead of something intense. But for the most part I worked out everyday, in the same sort of style, because it was easier than assessing any sort of goal or next steps. And my body first got used to it and then got sick of it (stopped seeing results) and then finally gave me the big middle finger with an injury. It’s always an injury that is my wake up call.

I’m sharing this not as a pity party but to make a point to the people following along with me. Sometimes having a solid routine and insane dedication to it, isn’t always what we need. And the what we do need is to listen to that little, tiny, baby voice way back in our heads. It has great ideas. For instance… for a couple of months I considered taking classes again, having someone teach me proper from for a number of things. I thought about taking low impact classes like yoga or pilates but couldn’t find the time. I am also terrified of pilates. I thought about switching up the routine into longer workouts for less days. I thought of it all but I didn’t act on any of it because what I was doing was safe and I was being kind of lazy.

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But now that I’ve had the time off to consider all of this, I am re-dedicating myself to an actual healthy lifestyle. I will take the advice of the inner me; she really knew all along. I need to come up with some new goals, reassess my fitness style, find things that I love to do that push me in new ways, and let myself be led by others. It’s like, I know I have shit form for a lot of stuff, so I really need to get out there and learn from someone better. It’s embarrassing and super scary… but I really don’t want to get hurt again because I was being stubborn.

And stubborn I am. So, I want to know from all of you. What’s something in the back of your head that you know you could be doing better, but don’t? What’s that voice telling you? And I know this is hard because I would read stuff written by other people about this “voice” and I’d be like “I never ignore her!” But I secretly was. That’s how tricky this is!

I also wanted to make it a point to be open about this injury and the fact that I am not always right. I get a lot of messages on my IG stories about my dedication and how motivating it is but also how down people feel on themselves because they aren’t doing it the exact same way as me. Guess what, we’re all different and we all need to listen to what our bodies are telling us. They are gifts, not tools to a destination. What I need to remember is that there is no end to healthy living. It grows and changes with you. Better start adapting!

 

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Seriously, I Don’t Have a Gym Membership

I am well aware that there’s a lot of problems with this statement. Draft after draft of this post butt up against them and I kept trying to counter any argument that could be made and make sure I didn’t leave anyone out. Exhausting.

So… Disclaimers

1. I am not anti-gym. I love the gym! My mom just joined a gym and I am so proud of her! If you love the gym, please, go forth and get swole as hell and then come and tell me all about it. I am proud of you too!

2. I’m not asking people to give up their gym memberships and join me in some at-home workout cult or pyramid scheme. Or making some claim that you don’t need to work out and that eating chips on the couch is the best workout of my life. (But I do wish that was reality.) With this post, I want to share the strange encyclopedia of free and low cost workouts that I use daily to stay in the best shape of my life.

3. I am by no means jacked with a six pack you can rest a giant block of ice on and then break with an ice pick (I saw this once) but I am personally, in the best shape I have ever been–better than when I did have a gym membership.

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So…What happened? 

I let my last gym membership fizzle out. I was transitioning from one phase of life to the next and I was honestly burnt out of the “lift heavy, run sometimes” mindset. I was low on dough and low on motivation. A terrible combo.

I decided the best solution was to give heavy lifting a rest (goodbye squat PRs) and focus on shorter workouts I could do from home. I needed to save time (so I could freelance to make extra income) and money (because again, rough times = broke). It sort of happened naturally and getting sick of the gym didn’t mean I was sick of working out.

To get started, I invested in a few key pieces–couple of dumbbells, a jump rope– and re-purposed others. I use a wooden storage box as a bench. I hang bands from door frames. I actually did box jumps on a couch once… And I did some research.

BTW, an added bonus to working out at home is zero excuses. I am really stubborn with time. I like to be able to do what I want, when I want. Having my home be my gym, instead of traveling to one, has been INCREDIBLE. It’s always open on my schedule and it’s there whenever I want… or don’t want.

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So… Here they are finally…

That was a really roundabout way for me to get where we are going. In the end I just want to give people proper tools to get fit at anytime, anywhere, on any budget. I think it’s so important to get your sweat on, and money is the last thing that should hold you back from being your best self! I am only including programs I have participated in.

There are many more I’ve researched, but these are my favorite resources. The workouts range from TOTALLY, HONEST-TO-GOODNESS FREE to Eh, There’s Some Cost Associated Here. Let’s begin…

FREE

Yoga With Adriene – Adriene goes to the top of my list because her videos aren’t just free, they’re amazing and life changing. (No BS!) I’ve never loved yoga, but went occasionally because I knew I should. Adriene’s funny, calm, sweet, forgiving, wonderful way taught me to have fun with yoga and to also be gentle with myself. I look forward to her videos and find myself doing yoga far more often. She has videos of all lengths and types.

Find Her: https://www.youtube.com/user/yogawithadriene

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DoYogaWithMe – A second free yoga option is DoYogaWithMe because I feel like everyone needs to find their perfect instructor and though Adriene is mine, maybe she isn’t for you. DoYogaWithMe features a whole bunch of different yoga teachers with videos of all different kinds and lengths–all searchable.

Find Them: http://www.doyogawithme.com

Blogilates/Cassey Ho – If you’re a dude you’re probably thinking, “Oh Pilates, how hard can it be?” Freaking hard, dude, freaking HARD! To this day Casey’s videos remain some of the most challenging I’ve done. I even sometimes find myself yelling at her during the videos. But in the end, I love her. Everything on her YouTube page is free to use. If you fall in love she does have full programs you can buy as well. If you sign-up for her e-mail blasts you’ll gain access to her FREE monthly workout calendar that instructs you to use the YouTube videos in a structured and beneficial way. You don’t need to figure it out on your own! Plus, she just has a really good energy.

Find Her: https://www.youtube.com/user/blogilates

Betty Rocker – For a long time Betty was all I did. Morning, noon, night. She has an amazing band of followers whom I’ve bonded with via social media for YEARS. Literally, years! She hosts great challenges and is truly inspiring. Her recipes are amazing. If you like her freebies, she also has more complex routines available for purchase.

Find Her: https://www.youtube.com/user/TheBettyRocker

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Tone It Up – I’ve switched it up and done Tone It Up before as well. They fall lower on the list because some of their challenges are just far too intense for me. They have you working out a lot and doing A LOT of cardio. But, it’s a great way to mix up your routine if you feel stuck and in need of a good push. All of their workouts are FREE if you sign-up for their e-mail blasts. They tend to shill a lot of things to purchase (from meal plans to bikinis to towels) but if you’re just in it for the workouts, it’s well worth signing up. They have a good energy and an INSANE following.

Find Them: http://www.toneitup.com

Not-Free 

These programs aren’t free but in the long run, fairly reasonable to buy.

Hot & Healthy Habits – With a hashtag like #OMGNeverDietAgain, you have to love these ladies. I bought their 8 Week routine for something like… $12. It’s no longer available on their site but they’ve recently launched a FULL e-Course that focuses on not just workouts but healthy eating habits. NOT a diet. They’re workouts are perfect for doing at home and most can be done in 30 minutes (or less!)

Find them: http://www.hothealthyhabits.com/

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Kayla Itsines – Omg omg omg. Where do I even begin with my love affair with the BBG? I love these workouts. They are TOUGH! I mean TOUGH! You have to be ready to sweat your ass off and WORK but they are amazing. Workout guide costs a little more than $50 but it is fully comprehensive and has been one of my go-tos for a couple of years now. (There is also a BBG2.) This routine taught me that yes– you can feel like you’re dying without a gym. I cycle back to Kayla still every few months to shred (and I mean SHRED) body fat. I have to cycle it in though because its so intense, I like to give my body other things to enjoy. Worth every penny.

Find her: https://www.kaylaitsines.com/

ZBody Fitness – No freakin’ joke. If you want to build a booty. Get thee to Zoe. I actually had to stop doing this for a time because I couldn’t fit my butt into my jeans anymore!! This is another one I need to pick back up for a good change of pace. If you follow her instructions exactly you will change your butt. It’s crazy effective. Book costs a little ($20) but it’s well worth it if you want to work on your butt 3x a week.

Find Her: https://www.instagram.com/zoelivelovelift

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WHEW! And that’s it. These women are incredible and offer amazing services at low prices. They’ve managed to keep me in shape, happy, and totally, 100% on my own schedule– which my stubborn ass loves. 🙂

Never think you don’t have the time or money to be your best self. There are always options. You just have to look and work a little.

 

 

 

 

Create a New Story & Live It

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I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about meditation, mantras, and visualizing goals. I keep reading about mental blocks and holding yourself back from the things that you want and the things you deserve because of patterned thoughts and “stories”– the things we tell ourselves to keep us from going for something. We tell ourselves that we will never have money because we’ve always been broke or we’ll never find love because we’ve never been worthy or never had it before. We take the same paths over and over again because we don’t believe we can take another. It isn’t always about blazing a trail but simply taking a left instead of a right.

I get asked a lot where all my energy comes from. How do I get up early, how do I write at night after work, how do I have a dog… etc. etc. And while I sometimes thought I was just a high energy person by nature, I realized it’s really because I believe I am a high energy person.

Did I lose you right there? Wait! Stay with me.

I know this stuff can sound weird and can scare the living hell out of you but listen… just stop and think about the things you have always just assumed about yourself “I am just a nice person”, “I am just a lazy person”, “I am a math person”. Where did those things come from? You made them up! Or someone told you were good (or bad) at something and you believed them and created your story from it. We naturally want to do the things we are good at and avoid the things we are “bad” at, I get it. Life is easier that way. But what if the you you are now, is based on a series of stories that you wrote for yourself?

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To prove my point I’m going to break down a couple of my stories, both good and bad.

I Am Not A Math Person. Numbers bore me.
This is a story I started telling myself in the 7th grade. What’s funny is that I was in the “gifted” math group in the 5th grade, but it took just a couple of years of consistently being told I was a great writer, that I’d publish a book one day, and that math was my weakest subject, to reject the whole thing all together. No one explained to me that though it was my “weakest” subject, I was still very much “good” at it. I believed what I was told and leaned into my writing and let my math muscle deteriorate. Combined with two unhelpful middle school math teachers who laughed at wrong answers, and of course, puberty, I rejected the whole notion that I could ever be good at math or science and by the time I hit the 9th grade I lived in perpetual fear of it.

And then I had a wonderful Chemistry teacher who was TOUGH on everyone. She was this way because she believed we could do anything we worked for. I spent hours after class with her going over formulas again and again until I could do the most difficult problems she wrote. I worked my ass off and got an A. Because she believed in me, because she made me focus, and because she made me work as hard as she knew I could.

It still took me some time after that, years and years of undoing the bad story, but here I am, working at a company, doing math, handling my own finances, figuring shit out. The stories we tell ourselves are sticky but they can be unstuck if we focus and move past our setbacks.

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I am high energy. I don’t require sleep.
When I got to be about 16 years old and was forced to work my ass off at boarding school (a school that I was getting a free ride to and thus was in perpetual fear of getting tossed out) I told myself that I required little sleep. I worked a part-time job, I stayed up late doing homework, I had a boyfriend, friends, extracurricular activities, started playing sports…I jam packed my days and found that if I pushed outside of myself, the energy was there. The same went for college, I pushed my limits, always feeling a heightened awareness that college was going to end and that I needed to soak up as many experiences as I could. I went to parties, I took lots of weird classes, I worked as an RA, I said “I can do it all” because I truly believed I was that type of person. If I pushed, I found the energy for it all just outside my comfort zone.

Flash forward to me as an adult trying to do as much as I did in college but adding in new responsibilities: rent, a dog, full-time job, bills, navigating NYC, cleaning my apartment… At times I would come to a screeching hault all of a sudden and realize “Maybe I can’t do it all.” But I had always been that person, I had always told myself I could do it all. And the moment that belief faltered, so did my ability to do the things I wanted to do.

It took me a few years (yes, years) to right this ship. It took learning a new way of doing things and getting things done to get there. I went through months and months of stress and of simply doing it all wrong. I tried to apply what I knew in college to my new life and that failed miserably. And now I do believe I can do it all, just in a different way.

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I absolutely know what you’re thinking right now. Really! You’re thinking that this can’t possibly be true, that there are things standing in your way but just remember, someone who was born with more than you has fallen and someone born with less than you has risen. It’s all a matter of perspective and of creating stories for yourself that fit. If you secretly wish you were “A Morning Person”… Tell yourself you are, set your alarm like you are, GET OUT OF BED like you are. If you wish you were kinder. Tell yourself you are, do kind things, enjoy the feeling that comes from doing kind things!

I’m not saying this cut and dry and I am not saying it is easy. It actually kind of sucks most of the time. Re-writing your story is HARD. But like… what else are you doing with your time here?

Shakshuka for One & Getting Past Bad Days

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I’m having one of those weeks where I feel bogged down but can’t find the source of the bogging. I am searching in every drawer but I can’t find what it is bringing me down. The grind of 9-5 job doesn’t help despite the love and support of coworkers and each day I find myself coming home depleted, worn out, and demotivated. Probably sounds familiar and despite my sadness, it makes me feel better knowing I am not alone.

I am fully capable of psyching myself up, repeating mantras, believing, and feeling inspired but I find very few outlets for that good energy. I have yet to find my gift to give and the process is endlessly draining, discouraging, and tiring. Hanging on to the belief that I’ll find my gift is not easy.

When I got home last night, unable to use my subway commute to determine what I should do with my life, I focused on dinner. I wanted to eat something that would taste like comfort food to take my mind off of the chaos for a bit. I wanted something to stick to my ribs but not weigh me down anymore than my own thoughts already do. So I decided to make shakshuka and make it for the first time. And of course, being as inwardly focused as I am, I recorded the process and wrote a little recipe.

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I started by surveying what kind of spices and vegetables I had on hand to build this yummy egg dish around. I did not use a recipe. I am happiest when I am just grabbing whatever I have on hand and experimenting.

I love cooking but don’t have strong feelings toward recipes. I am including one here today and yes, I read them all the time. I believe the true pleasure of cooking is not following rules but taking something and make it your own. I like to use recipes as guidelines.

From my fridge and cabinets I pulled and used the following:

3 cloves of garlic
1 stalk of green onion
1 handful of Picholine olives
Olive Oil
3/4 cups of tomato sauce
Pepper, parsley flakes, and turmeric
3 eggs
1 cup of arugula

I do love simple and minimal recipes and this one certainly falls into that category with a fairly short ingredient list and the use of a single pan.

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Eating olives instead of cooking

To start I diced up the garlic while heating up a decent amount of olive oil in my pan. I kept the heat on low as I added the garlic. Next I rough chopped the green onion and tossed it in. And followed it up with some olives. The only olives I had on hand had pits so I spent a good amount of time both eating them and pitting them. Do yourself a favor and just go buy pitted olives and rough chop them as well. Toss them in with everything else and keep the heat low. Low heat requires patience but I usually use that time getting myself organized.

I let everything get tender but not mushy and poured in my tomato sauce. I used a Barilla pasta sauce that, while cheap, is pretty tasty. I stirred everything all together.

After that I sprinkled on some pepper, parsley flakes, and a tiny bit of turmeric because I like its anti-inflammatory properties and add it where I can. I did not stir these in, I left them on top to help season my eggs. Which I cracked right on top of the mixture. I wish all 3 eggs would have sunk in a little bit more from an aesthetic standpoint but in the end they all cooked nicely so it wasn’t a big deal.

After the eggs were cracked and plopped in, I covered the whole thing and turned up the heat to medium. I let them cook for about 10 minutes but should have done 7. The sauce cooked down just a touch too much. Full disclosure, I was texting my friends and making my lunch for the next day so I wasn’t paying as close attention as I should have!

I pulled everything off the heat and after a little photo shoot I dumped the mixture onto a bed of arugula.

And then I ate until I felt better. Which is perhaps not a healthy statement, but it is true.

Cooking is soothing and keeps me feeling level when days are long and difficult. Cooking dinner gives me a sense of purpose when I feel like I have none. I think perhaps that is why I cooked elaborate meals every single night when my former relationship was falling apart. It makes me feel needed and accomplished. It is the best escape.

Give the recipe a try and let me know what changes you make. There is a million things you can add to this! (Avocado, feta cheese, tomatoes, etc.) Also, what do you cook when you are feeling blue? Why does it make you feel better?

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SHAKSHUKA FOR ONE
3 cloves of garlic
1 stalk of green onion
1 handful of Picholine olives
Olive Oil
3/4 cups of tomato sauce
Pepper, parsley flakes, and turmeric, to taste
3 eggs
1 cup of arugula

  1. In a small to medium pan, heat olive oil over a low heat and add diced garlic, green onion, and olives
  2. Once tender, pour in tomato sauce and stir
  3. Sprinkle with pepper, parsley, and turmeric, do not stir
  4. Crack eggs on top of sauce
  5. Cover and turn heat up to medium
  6. Cook for about 7 minutes or until eggs are baked through
  7. Remove from heat and lay on a bed of arugula
  8. Enjoy!

 

 

A Jug Fills Drop By Drop

Okay, wow, I haven’t written about fitness since May. And for awhile I thought about just getting rid of the section all together, but I feel ready to tackle it again. I’ve come to a place where exercise has become a part of my daily life. So much so, that I rarely think about “having to workout” or “having to eat clean.” Most of the time, I just do what I want.

If I DO catch myself thinking “but I have to” it usually means that I am too tired to workout and I need a break or that I probably haven’t been listening to my body and been nourishing it incorrectly. How did I get to a place where I can honestly say I am in tune with my body? BY BEING CONSISTENT.

Consistency with my exercise and eating has transformed the way I live and has helped me to become more balanced and happy. Let me break down how:

a-jug-fills-drop-by__quotes-by-buddha-47I Can Miss a Workout
By staying consistent with daily workouts, I never feel guilty if I miss one because I am tired, or stayed out too late, or am having too much fun with a friend. The old me always felt frustrated and angry with myself when I missed a scheduled workout. I was obsessive about making sure I hit every workout at the expense of my own physical and mental health. If I missed a workout I’d torture myself about it until I made up for it somehow. I was also trying to do too many workouts at weird times that didn’t match my schedule because I thought it was what I ‘should’ be doing.

Now, I schedule in 30-45 minute workouts 6 times a week. I follow Kayla Itsines BBG most of the time and it has taught me that a lot can be done in a short amount of time. And it can be done at home. By making my workouts more accessible to myself and planning them in when I have no other commitments, I am more apt to do them more often and with great consistency. Their length hardly matters, it’s how often I do them and what I am doing.

I Can Eat What I Want
This is where people want to talk about genes and that I’m lucky and so forth. But that’s really not the case. If I didn’t move my body and just filled it with chemicals everyday, I’d probably look and feel a whole lot different. Actually I know I’d feel TERRIBLE.

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Not genes, just self love. 🙂

I don’t follow a meal plan or a diet or anything restrictive or crazy. I tried that, I tried many different ways ,and all it did was make me feel depressed when I cheated on it, depressed when I followed it, and generally just sad. Finally, all I wanted to do was eat and not calculate how far I’d have to run to burn it off. So I follow some loose guidelines I made up for myself:

-I try to eat mostly “real” foods (I try to stay away from chemicals and over processed junk)

-I try and get my recommended daily intake of EVERYTHING. (This includes meat, dairy, grains, fruits and vegetables.) The best thing that comes from this is that I am eating a little bit of everything and keeping my vitamins diverse.

-I only dine out a couple times a week. (Last night I had an entire pizza and didn’t even feel guilty.) And most of the time try to make smart-ish decisions while I am out (veggies etc.).

-When I’m hungry and it’s just a regular, old day with nothing fun happening I’ll eat veggies, fruit, whole grains. Doing this on boring days makes it so easy to splurge on fun days.

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I love breakfast.

I Am Doing Something Good For Myself Everyday
I have never loved myself more than this moment. Right now. I am eating right. I am moving my body. I am resting when I need it. It’s like I finally feel an amazing synergy through everything and from that I’ve learned to love my body just the way it is, just the way it looks and feels. I am respecting the one home I was given.

No One Else is Dictating How I Care for Myself
Everything I do is because it makes me feel good, makes me feel happier, and makes me healthier. Yes, I truly believe that housing an entire pizza last night makes me healthier. Because my mind is right.

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My proudest day. 🙂

The most amazing thing about this is that each part fuels another part. Because I trust myself to move my body, I can indulge, because I love the way my body looks no matter what, I want to move it more, because I move my body more, I can enjoy lazy days in my bed with my dog.

I have to say that this was not an easy process for me. I started my healthy living YEARS ago when I decided I wanted to start working out again. I was 21. 7 years later and I feel like I finally hit my stride. It was long, and I had to learn a lot, but the payoff has been amazing. I finally love my body! (Hurrah!)

My advice to anyone looking to get in touch with themselves and their healthier sides is to just be consistent. If you can’t put an hour in at the gym everyday, than play outside with your kids for 15 minutes before dinner, if you can’t live without chocolate, have a little everyday instead of trying to cut it cold turkey and then bingeing. Do a little everyday… and it will add up. I promise.