Category Archives: Exercise

HIIT and Kickboxing and Salad Day

My motivation and inspiration has been rather low lately. I’ve been less consistent with my postings (sorry!) likely because I’ve been stressed and busy, though I know that’s never a good excuse – we’re all stressed and busy. Yesterday I had a particularly awful day with the kids (misbehaving, fighting, yelling, etc) and with other current worries, like job-searching and the feeling of being totally over my current life as an au pair and life abroad, and worries about being pretty much broke, and homesick, and of course I haven’t really had time to exercise as much as I would have liked, so I think the stress and anxiety got the best of me last night and I nearly lost it.

You know that feeling when you just really want to punch the living shit out of something/someone? Well, I was at that point yesterday and that’s when I remembered the beauty of kickboxing! There really is no better feeling than punching or kicking a big heavy bag with all of your power, letting go of all of your frustration and rage and stress in the most cathartic and liberating way. Before moving to Paris, I did kickboxing about 2-3 times a week at a kickboxing gym, fully equipped with bags, dummies, pads, etc and there was nothing better than heading out of work and straight to the gym, wrapping up my hands, slipping them into my red gloves, and beating the shit out of imaginary people. Never have I been stronger, sweatier, or braver than during that year of kickboxing. I am so, so eager to get back into it when I move home.

Today when I finally got my ass up and went out to exercise outside, I tried to let go of everything that was awful about yesterday and start the day in a new way. I ran to my park (about 10 minutes), then followed this HIIT routine. (I don’t remember where I found this because I had it written down on a piece of paper that I found on my desk, so I apologize to whoever I am failing to give credit to for this workout.)

0:30 high knees

1:00 squat jumps

1:00 mountain climbers

1:00 burpees

1:00 jump lunges

Repeat 3x

Then I did about 10 minutes of kickboxing, which entailed shamelessly punching the air (aiming at a nearby tree) while tons of French people (mostly creepy French men) stared at me and judged me, probably.

Then some crunches of all shapes and sizes, side planks, lower back exercises, and then I ran… more like wobbled… back home. A nice long stretch followed, as well as a CLIF builder protein bar (gotta restore those muscle fibers!) and an apple, and I felt so good. Amazing how quickly you forget how great a good workout is.

(If I eat a food bar, I try to find one that is as natural and raw as possible. These are pretty good, though they tend to be too dense and ingredient-rich, but its better than other options out there. My favorites are Lärabars.)

Later, I made a delicious salad (I think I’ve gotten better at salads over the years. I lived a long time thinking a salad had to be nasty iceberg lettuce and croutons) with lots of my favorite ingredients, and a few things I just had on had to make it well-rounded:

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White beans

Kidney beans

Avocado

Almonds

Red and yellow bell peppers

Golden raisins

Sesame seeds

Spinach

Lemon juice, salt, pepper

 

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How pretty was this avocado?? Nature is so cool.

 

It’s been a much better day today than yesterday. Exercise always helps more than I realize. I feel strong, sufficiently sore and tired, and well-fed.

Dinner tonight will surely be a challenge, but I’m going to go easy on myself and not feel guilty after eating whatever it is that we’re eating. I can only control so much, right?

Here’s to another good day.

 

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I’m just posting this for my own reference. I did this work out last week and it was SO good, as Zuzana Light’s workouts always are, and I didn’t want to lose it. So, if you have 20 minutes, knock this one out and you’ll be sweating like a dog in the end. In fact, I might just go do it again right now.

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Women and Weights

I have a sincere issue with the gender divide in health and exercise. When you step into a gym, you will usually see the cardio section occupied mostly by women, and mostly by women reading magazines or watching TV. When you look at the area with the mats, resistance bands, bouncy balls, and small dumbells, again, you’ll see mostly women, and sure, there will be a few women working hard, but more often than not, you’ll find women with their friends, chit-chatting and taking long breaks after 10 reps of bicep curls with 5 or 8 pound weights.

Scan your eyes over to the weight machines or large dumbells and you’ll see men. All men, only men, forever men. Men of all shapes and sizes, except not really… beefy men usually, sweating through their clothing, grunting, flexing, and moaning with each bicep curl. Often times with poor form. But one thing is clear: these men are cut and those women are not.

Let me just say… THIS IS BULLSHIT.

I used to be one of those women, who would spend 30 or 45 minutes on the elliptical at medium resistance, then maybe 15 minutes of weights (never more than 8 pounds), then I would go home and eat whatever the hell I wanted, thinking I had earned it. Early on in my college years when I started exercising more, this was mostly how I spent my time at the gym, and sure, I’d break a sweat, but I would leave with a false sense of success. I imagined I had burned 6,000 calories and that all those frozen lasagnas that I used to eat would be well-deserved. Honestly, if I burned 100 calories during my workouts, I’d be surprised. But I didn’t know any better, and most people don’t know any better either. Especially women.

There is a very terrifying lack of education in the female population about how to exercise and how to achieve the results that most of us want. Most women out there (even if they don’t admit it), in one way or another desire that “lean, toned” look, and most women think that spending their days fiddling around on the cardio machines is going to get them there. It pains me that this is our foolish reality. That women are so uneducated and so misinformed in fitness, and that they are so terrified of trying something truly challening, for fear of “bulking up”.

There are countless articles written about this subject, but in summary, women, listen up: YOU CANNOT AND WILL NOT GET BULKY UNLESS YOU TAKE STEROIDS AND/OR DEDICATE YOUR LIFE TO BECOMING A BODY BUILDER. You just cannot. We do not have the levels of testoserone that men have so no matter how hard we try, we just cannot bulk up! We can build muscle and lose body fat and achieve that “toned” look that everyone is after, but anything more extreme is supremely difficult for us to achieve. Women sadly live terrified of the real weights because they think they’ll look manly, and as a result, women exclude themselves from the one and only real way to getting the healthy, beautiful body that they desire.

Want to know what happens when women lift weights and drink lots of protein shakes?

Yeah, terrifying, right?

Women cannot be afraid of challenging themselves, because as they say, “What doesn’t challenge you doesn’t change you,” and if its change you’re after, then its change that you need.

The other part of this issue is the fact that men are not used to seeing women in the weights section, and women often feel intimidated and unwelcome, or perhaps a little too welcome, feeling more like a piece of meat than a strong woman who just wants to get her work out in like everyone else. This is true anywhere in the world, but I have become more aware of it since coming to France, where the spaces between the genders are much more culturally engrained. I was invited by a friend to come to her gym for a day, so after my insane 15 minutes on the spin bike (literally sweat flying everywhere, grunting and breathing heavily, getting all sorts of stares from the poised and clean French women leafing through Elle on the pussy-bikes next to me), I put on my weight lifting gloves and marched proudly into the weight room, which was separate from the other parts of the gym. Before walking in, I felt tough, confident, and excited to lift some heavy weights. As soon as I turned the corner, all the meatwad men with enormous biceps essentially stopped what they were doing, turned, and looked at me as I walked in to “their” section. Rather than going to the middle of the room to a spot where I could see myself properly in the mirror, I instantly felt like I was being eye-raped by these gross men, so I resorted to a corner of the room where I had a sliver of mirror and my squats would be as minimally disruptive as possible. It was a horrible feeling, but I pushed through it anyway, finding myself opting for tougher-looking exercises (lots of boxing moves, with weights) to assert myself as a strong woman. I felt self conscious and alone, like I’m sure many women fear feeling when considering lifting heavy weights.

The worst moment for me (a raging feminist and heavy-weight lifter) was when I was scoping out gyms in my neighborhood, and on the tour of one particularly gross-looking gym, the guy said to me something along the lines of, “…And downstairs we have the weight room. Its for men, but I’ll show it to you anyway.” And when we got down stairs, again he said, “So here you can see the weight room. It’s probably not of any interest to you because its mostly for men, but here is one machine that you could use if you wanted.” And he pointed to some dinky little cardio thing. I felt offended. I wanted to say so many things, but my limited French only allowed me to smile and say “Merci.” What a dick.

Ladies out there, my message is this: Do not be afraid of lifting weights. Real weights. Heavy weights. Weights that are heavy enough for you to feel muscle exhaustion after 8-12 good reps, without losing proper form. Weights that leave you utterly sore the next day. Weights that challenge you and push you out of your comfort zone. This is the only way to build muscle, aka “tone up” your body and get “lean”. Add cardio, yes, but good cardio (not 30 minutes on the elliptical while reading a magazine. Instead, choose a short, intense HIIT routine) a few days a week, and you will see the results you have always wanted (as long as you’re eating clean). And you will see them fast!

Again, I will use myself as an example. I had a personal trainer in college for about 6 months, and she entirely revolutionized my way of looking at exercise. She had me doing bicep curls with 15 pound weights, when I thought I could only handle 8lb, or maybe 10 if I was feeling tough. But she showed me that I could do better than that, and in just a few months, I remember looking in the mirror and actually seeing my arms look different. (At one point during one of our sessions, I remember her saying, “Damn girl, look at those guns!”… It was a proud moment.) The 15lb weights had been killer, but within a short amount of time, my body had actually changed in all the ways that all women want it to change. I wasn’t bulkier, I was leaner. I wasn’t manly, I looked feminine and strong. My arms looked amazing, my thighs were thinner, my waist was leaner, and I know it was entirely because my trainer forced me to lift heavier than what I thought I could. I’ve never looked back, and I can’t wait to get back to lifting weights again. It is the only thing that has ever made a significant difference in my appearance in all my years of being an athlete and fitness monster.

Also to note: There is no such thing as “weight lifting for women” or “exercising for women”. Anything that markets itself as women-specific is bound to sell you short and make reaching your goals that much harder and slower. We are all bodies, and we should all train the same way. To get the toned womanly body you want, you need to train “like a man.” That is to say, train like a human. (There’s a reason those men in the gym are cut, and yes, part of it is testosterone  but the other part is training. If you want to be firm and toned, you need to work for it like they do.)

So ladies, let’s break the stereotypes and the fears and the miseducation. The weight room is not just for men. I challenge you to go in there during your next session at the gym, and lift heavier than you normally would (even if its just a few pounds heavier. Strength and muscle take time to build. Also, please make sure you have proper form and consult your doctor before taking on a new exercise regimen. Thats my PSA for the day) and I promise, PROMISE, PROMISE that you will see results. You will have the “lean, toned” look in no time, as long as your diet is clean. You will wake up every day loving your sexy body, and you’ll be saying, “Thank you, C from Strong Fits Well. Thank you.”

You’re welcome.

Oh, I forgot to mention: Muscle burns a ton of calories, so the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn when you’re not doing anything at all. So the more muscle you build, the more fat you’ll burn off, making it easier and quicker to see those pretty, shapely muscles under the layer of fat that currently hides them. Just a fun fact.

Watch this video. Very funny, very relevant.

 

A few links for those of you who have had their curiosity piqued:

The Best Strength Training For Women, Women’s Health Magazine

8 Reasons You Should Lift Heavier Weights, Shape Magazine

Why Ladies Should Lift Weights, Fitocracy

Why Women Should Lift Weights!, BodyBuilding.Com

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Killer Workout

Todays workout was killerrrrrrrr and now I’m a killer so watch out.
I ran to the park, about 10-15 minutes away, and found myself a nice spot on the big grassy area and spent probably an hour doing all sorts of body weight exercises. I had (following what my friend and I did in Brussels) previously written down all all the exercises in this Zuzana Light video (featured below), and after finishing all 3 rounds (barely!), I went wild and made up my own exercises. I did lots of kickboxing, earning me plenty of stares from the others in the park (apparently kickboxing alone in public is “weird” here? Anywhere?) and more push-ups, burpees, lunges, and as many ab exercises as I could handle. I hate doing abs. Absolutely hate it. Whenever I’m doing them, my brain is saying, “Stop! Keep the belly! Do not continue. It’s not worth it.” And, more often than not, I listen   :-/ . Any tips for enjoying ab exercises, or at least not wanting to kills self after 5 crunches?? I need to learn to like those.
Anyway, after about an hour of working out with a good level of intensity, I ran back home, this time challenging myself to do short sprint intervals. Not only were my legs feeling like lead after my workout, but the way back is slightly uphill and my legs hate it. But finishing felt SO good and when I finally got home, I felt an overwhelming sense of pride over my hard work. It was not easy, but so worth it. There’s nothing like feeling the sweat from your forehead drip into your eyes and your mouth, making you burn and cringe at the same time. Now THAT is hard work! I should make that a goal every time I exercise: “Sweat so hard your eyes burn and you go momentarily blind”.
This is the written version of Zuzana’s killer workout:

10 Dive Bombers (like downward dog pushups)

5 full burpees

20 (each side) squat leg lifts – squat, down, come up, lift one leg out, repeat on other side

5 burpees

10 side plank lifts (each side)

5 burpees

10 pistol squats (each side) – one legged squat

5 burpees
Repeat 3 times total

 

Sweat your heart out!

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Mid-Day Mind Munchies and Yoga

Sometimes I wonder if I think about food too much. Am I alone here? Or does anyone else ever feel like they just obsess over food all day, every day. I plan my whole day around my food and exercise, and I plan my food and exercise around each other, and its not because I’m some inspiring, intense, die-hard foodie or fitness goddess. I’m not. At all. I’m the laziest sonofabitch you’ll ever meet, and (as you know if you’ve been reading my blog), I seem to love stuffing my face with food until I want to cry. It really should be pathetic.

But, alas, I somehow still get myself to exercise, and since food already takes up 90% of my brain space, I inevitably plan my exercising around my food and my life around my food.

I FUCKING LOVE FOOD. And I think everyone out there does too, but some people like to act like food doesn’t consume their thoughts, because they think it makes them look cool. Or strong. Or healthy. Or who knows. But don’t kid yourself… I can see riiiiight past it. Your brain is salivating.

Anyway… What I meant to say was… Here are some pictures of my food today!

Because, I love food, and I take pictures of food and I don’t care.

photo 1

Lunch salad, which I ate out of a huge bowl, because spinach takes up a lot of space, and its easier/more fun that way if you’re savage and happen to be eating alone like I am. It kind of feels like I’m the guy from Forgetting Sarah Marshall, eating an entire box of Lucky Charms out of a huge mixing bowl, like a boss:

Anyway… My salad consisted of spinach, chickpeas, corn, carrots, tomatoes, almonds, pine nuts, raisins, and for dressing, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

photo 2

[This part needs to be read in a snobby British accent.] As the second course for todays prix-fixe menu, we have featured our house specialty, the Artesanal Dry-Farmed Herloom Beta-Carotene Puree with an H2O Reduction Sauce.

In other words… microwaved sweet potato.

Literally the most gourmet thing you’ll ever find in nature. It blows my balls off.

Sweet potato is what happened when God had a lot of liberating sex on Saturday night with Mr. God (or Mrs. God, since LadyGod could have very well been a lesbian. Who am I to make that kind of assumption…) and was feeling happy and overly generous to Her children on the 7th day, so She said, here, kids, take all my gold and my money and my secrets and run wild. So they partied hard, got really drunk, and passed out in the dirt and all the gold got stuck somewhere deep in the soil, and months later sweet potatoes popped up. So now you know some agricultural history. You’re welcome.

Later in the afternoon, I was feeling hungry (as if my enormous bath tub of salad wasn’t enough), so I made myself a smoothie much like this one, but with almond butter instead of peanut butter. After it was blended, I added a little more almond butter, and right now, as I’m drinking it, I keep finding little chunks of heaven amidst this delicious smoothie, and I’m patting myself on the back for having such a brilliant idea.

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So far, so good. I actually didn’t eat oatmeal for breakfast, because my almond butter needed attention (I can already see that my goal to not finish this jar by the end of the week is going to be really difficult), so I ate an open-faced sandwich: whole wheat bread, almond butter, banana. Bomb dot com.

After watching a bunch of TED talks and killing all the ants I found in my room (don’t ask… I’m pissed), I did half an hour of yoga, following a Jillian Michaels’ video:

 

And now at the early hour of 4:49pm, I’m finally getting my day started. Its Sunday, don’t hate. I’m going to the movies, and I’m making my promise ahead of time – I will not eat anything from the concession stand. I’m bringing a bag of almonds and maybe a piece of fruit, if I get hungry (though this smoothie should keep me full for a while), and tonight I’m eating the rest of my salad (yeah… I forgot to mention, I couldn’t finish it) and maybe some plain soy yogurt with honey for dessert.

HOLD ME ACCOUNTABLE, okay!?

If all goes well, today will be another successful vegan day. Hooray!

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Nike We Own The Night 10k

I ran my 10k this morning, and it went so well! I was nervous because I really haven’t been running much at all these past few weeks (traveling, getting sick, being lazy), but I know I can handle the 6.2 miles since I’ve run that, and more, many times before in the last few months. For a while, I was training for a half marathon, but I ended up getting off track from my training and not being prepared for the event in Paris in March, though I do hope when I get back home in the summer, I can start training again. I aim to finish a half before 2013 is over.

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Anyway, today’s run went really well. I ran a slow but decent pace and, and aside from pain in my knees (I’ve had IT Band syndrome aka runners knee for years), I felt strong in my heart and in my legs. My last kilometer felt like one long uphill sprint, but I pushed through and was rewarded by thousands of happy, proud women hugging and high-five-ing each other for accomplishing this exciting feat. Instead of a dumb medal (useless), we were given a really cute bracelet as a finishing gift (featured below… The top one is the bracelet we got with our race packet – has a cute Nike Swoosh on the ball. The second pink one is the finishers “medal”), along with tons of great snacks (way better than the ones given at the events I’ve done back home! I guess French people know whats up) like bananas, apples, nectarines, apricots, dried fruits of all kinds, baked fruit cakes and sweet loaves of bread, tons of water and juice… the list goes on. Awesome.

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At one point in the race, there was a station that was playing (on repeat) Run The World by Beyonce, and it was getting us all super PUMPED. I looked around and realized, you know, we’re all just normal-shaped women. Some of us have hips and some have skinny legs and some have big thighs and some are tall and some are small and most of us, no… all of us jiggle. Its what makes us women! But jiggle or no jiggle, celulite or none, we are all strong, reaching for the same goal, and it felt unifying and rewarding to be surrounded by so many motivated people. It was another reminder that I am blessed and thankful to have a healthy, functioning, fit body that allows me to do anything I could possibly want to do. My body is my machine. I want to take good care of it.

 

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Accidental Vegan For The Day

Without too much effort and almost without meaning to, today was an entirely vegan day. I feel amazing! I feel light, healthy, full of energy, happy, satisfied, and fulfilled. I really feel like today was the first time in a long time where I felt liberated by food – the thought of food didn’t consume me while I wasn’t eating, and while I was eating, I felt no anxiety whatsoever. I found myself eating slower, being more mindful, and really appreciating all the distinct flavors of my meals, instead of mindlessly shoveling things into my mouth, stressing over calories or nutritional value, and feeling anxious about whether or not my food was in some way controlling me. Today, I felt free.

I woke up without an alarm (I had the day off) and eased myself into my workout clothes when I finally felt ready. I went for a 4-mile run and threw in some sprinting intervals as well as some bodyweight exercises, similar to the ones featured in this recent post, and I felt powerful and strong the entire time. Slow, but strong. At one point, I had been looking forward to using the adult play structure to do some pushups and other exercises, but when I jogged up to it, I realized that as per usual, it was full of beefy guys, and no women. In America this would be somewhat intimidating, but in France it is so much worse. There is a distinct divide between men and women in most aspects of the culture, including exercise, so I felt immediately hyper-aware of my womanhood and my instinct told me to run away and work out in the privacy of my own home. But, as if sent by Hera (Greek goddess of women) through my headphones, this song came on and my attitude changed instantly:

I redirected my path and set straight for the bars to do some spiderman pushups and pull-ups and a few other exercises before doing one final, balls-out, full-speed sprint. I guess theres some part of me as a woman that feels the need to compete with the big boys when I’m in workout situations where my gender becomes very salient. I always tend to step up the intensity a bit, perhaps to prove to the beefy men that I’m not just some girl, and that girls can be tough too. I don’t know. I guess that’s how I deal with being the only woman in a group full of men flexing their cock muscles and eye-fucking each others’ biceps.

Anyway… I refueled with an enormous banana and some almonds, and later had my real breakfast of oatmeal, protein powder, and walnuts.

For lunch, I ate a quinoa-bulgur wheat mix with sautéed veggies (leftovers from yesterday) and half an avocado. My dessert was a few prunes.

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During my Parisian outing, I ate an apple, a banana, and some more almonds. And when it came down to have dinner, instead of going home for dinner with my host family, I bought a book and did a little search online for nearby vegan/vegetarian restaurants, and treated myself to a healthy, cozy dinner-for-one. I went to this restaurant called Le Grenier de Notre-Dame and I ordered the “formule”, mainly because it was the same price as any one dish, and I was hungry. For a starter, I ate a chickpea mush (I’m sure there’s a much prettier name for it) which was delicious and flavorful and was great for spreading on the whole wheat bread they gave me. My main dish was a mixed vegetable-brown rice-black bean dish, served with soy tofu, seaweed, and a salad. YUM. I ate the whole thing but didn’t feel overwhelmed. I still felt light, at least in spirit. For dessert, a warm vegan apple tarte with a few fresh apple slices. As I was reading while at dinner, I felt calm and relaxed around my food and I didn’t feel any urge to rush through my meal, which helped achieve that level of mindfulness that I mentioned earlier. Amazingly, when the dessert came around, I actually waited a minute or two before starting to eat it (because I was entrenched in my book) and then I only ate it in small bites, slowly, over 5 or 10 minutes. I felt so powerful, knowing that food didn’t have to control me! I’m really proud.

Eating vegan is actually way easier than it seems. It feels so good to eat so clean, and I know my body will thank me for days to come, not to mention my soul. This was such a great day and I’m feeling really happy about myself. I hope I can keep this up!

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Question for vegans out there: I am thinking about making dinner for my host family one night, and I’d ideally like to make something vegan, but I have no idea how to create a dinner-party-style vegan meal, and I wouldn’t know what to prepare. I want it to be impressive, so no one can find any reason to discredit vegan food, and I want it to be relatively easy, since I’m lazy and don’t want to spend all day cooking. Suggestions? Thoughts? Email or comment if you have any insight!!

 

 

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Healthy Weekend!

This weekend was such a success! I was traveling, again, this time visiting friends in Brussels, and overall, I’m pleased with my choices. This is one of the few times I’ve come home from a trip and not felt entirely guilty, so I’d call that a small but significant traveling accomplishment.

On the bus ride from Paris to Brussels, I brought a few healthy snacks with me, like a banana (note to self: bananas do not travel well) and some nuts. When we made a quick pitstop, I went to buy some food but of course, as with all gas stations, everything offered was pure filth. Chips, nasty pre-made bacon sandwiches doused in mayonaise, soda, candy… things that people have somehow been allowed to call “food.” (Honestly I don’t know how this stuff looks appetizing to anyone. It’s repulsive. It’s not food! Its like, hey, why don’t we go eat some concrete-flavored sandpaper and dip it in liquid mercury. Yum! Seriously… Unbelievable that processed food-like edible items exists, much less get eaten by billions. Barf.) I found some pre-sliced apples in a package (not ideal, as they have preservatives to keep them fresh… I hear these are often cancer-causing. Eek), but I figured sliced apples was probably my only safe-ish bet, so I ate that, and cringed at everyone on the bus fussing with that packaging that was keeping them from their wholesome, nutritious, life-giving Doritos.

On to the rest of the trip…

One of the friends I was traveling with (who reads this blog and shares many of my same feelings and goals – hello friend!! I see you!) was entirely on the same page as me the whole time, which helped both of us stay on track for the most part, while still allowing ourselves little indulgences along the way. We agreed before the trip to work out in the mornings and to share any heavy meals/treats we might consume, since often times all we really crave is just a bite and not the entire thing (like for example, with Belgian waffles), and we did exactly that. Our first morning we all got a late start so exercise didn’t happen, but at least we walked a lot that day and did not overeat. We shared one Belgian waffle between 3 girls, which was actually perfect (those things are so big and sweet anyway that eating a whole thing makes you feel like dying), we had a small burger for lunch (like, a correctly portioned patty, no bigger than 3 or 4 ounces) which my friend smartly ate without the bun (I ate half of the bun) and for dinner our friend and host made us some pasta with veggies and ground turkey and a little bit of red wine. That night, while out at a bars, we shared a beer and later a mojito (no need to drink the whole thing…), which was perfect. We got the taste, but none of the bad side effects. Not bad for a day of travel, where most of the time I spend too much money and calories on eating out and drinking at restaurants.

Day 2 was started off on the right foot when we set our alarms earlier and went outside to exercise, enjoying the surprisingly sunny weather in the process. We started with a short walk, then a 15 minute run to warm up. When we got to the park, we did a series of running sprint intervals, and after this exhausting set, we buckled down for a short HIIT routine before walking back home. (Our exact workouts are featured at the bottom of this post). After exercising, we bought some pineapple and water and fresh squeezed orange juice and refueled before setting out for the day. Our sightseeing was accompanied by a few healthy snacks (nuts, protein bars, green tea, etc) and of course, a few bites of a Belgian waffle. We shared our beers that afternoon, and all four of us in the group shared a few macaroons, and at dinner time, we allowed ourselves to indulge in our first and only true Belgian meal. I ate a chicken stew with veggies and potatoes and for dessert, a waffle. I’d like to think this was my only real indulgence of the trip, which is slightly amazing and really exciting that I didn’t indulge more than that.

Monday, day 3, was our last day, and I left at around 1pm. In the morning, my friend and I went out for another quick workout (featured below). Before leaving, I ate a panini (not the best choice, but also not the worst) and I took a banana and a raw, all-natural granola bar for the drive back to Paris. Dinner with my host family was, surprisingly, a healthy salad! I was so happy to be eating greens!

As I type all of this, I’m realizing that while its hard to have a perfect weekend, or a perfect trip (with regards to health), it is SO possible to make good choices given your constraints and to not completely blow it in two days. Surely traveling isn’t ideal for staying healthy, but it doesn’t have to be all or nothing! This is a big lesson I am just now starting to learn. After my travels through Belgium and Spain a few weeks ago (and my many indulgent moments therein), I’m seeing that it is still possible (though not easy, I admit) to be healthy while exploring the world and having fun with friends.

Another wonderful thing about this weekend was the power of friendship! Having someone who shares your goals and who understands your struggles is such a blessing. Not to mention, having that person be a great travel buddy… it makes all the difference. I know for a fact that I would not have worked out once if it were not for my friend, and its likely I would have eaten a whole waffle (or two, or three), several beers, plenty of fries, etc. But having someone to share the journey with (and to keep you accountable) was what truly made this weekend a success. Thank you, dear friend, for accompanying me on this journey!!

I feel proud and pleased. I had a great time, and food did not consume me nor did it cause me to feel any guilt, and that is something worth celebrating today. I hope all my trips can be as healthy as this one!

***

And now for a recap of our workouts, in case anyone wants to try it out. We came out sweating and sore in every possible way, so give it a shot, if you dare…

Workout 1:

Warm up: jog/run for 15 minutes

Jog (normal pace, resting pace) 1 minute

Sprint (all out, 90-100% effort) 20 seconds

Repeat 12 times

Then, do this circuit:

To warm down, walk or jog for 15 minutes.

 

Workout 2… We did both of these videos:

Then this one

To warm down, walk or jog 15 minutes.

***

Trust me, your ass will thank you after finishing these workouts. I know mine is.

 

Hooray for a healthy, fit weekend!!

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Running Demons

Well, my friends, I ran today. The gods were telling me not to, but a little reminder (you’ll know from my previous post) in the morning was just the encouragement that I needed to drag my tired, mildly sick body out the door first thing in the morning for a slow 4-mile run.

It is so, so hard to get back into the rhythm of exercise, and I see now why it’s so hard for people to start when they’ve never had a habit of exercising to begin with. When you’re in the habit, exercise is like crack. It’s almost a drug. You crave it and you need it to function, the way some people need coffee. But starting, after not exercising in a while, is THE WORST THING EVER. It’s days like today where I hate exercise, it sucks, and I’d rather be buried alive than make the slightest effort to burn a calorie. During the entire run, I was hating life. My knees hurt (remnants of a never-quite-healed running injury) and my legs felt like lead and my feet were sore and my heart felt weak, not to mention it was cold and slightly rainy and all around bullshitty in every possible way. But… I DID IT ANYWAY. Despite my whining and complaining and enormous desires to eat cookies and cry at my miserable existence (ok not really), I just turned off my brain and tied my shoes and ran.

This is a reminder to myself that I CAN. Maybe I don’t always want to and maybe there will always be a million ways to rationalize not doing it, but my body can run, and therefore my mind can too. And the mind, after all, is the biggest, dare I say the ONLY hurdle at all.

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Take The Stairs

Take The Stairs

Whenever given the chance, always take the stairs. Don’t be a lazy fucker! If I could do it while carrying 3 heavy bags and my laptop, IN HEELS, then you can do it too. Even if it takes you twice as long, make a habit out of always taking the route of most exercise. Everyone’s day provides them with ample opportunities to move a little bit more, so take those opportunities to do right by your body and soul. Take the stairs.

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Tone It Up

Some of you may have heard me mention Tone It Up here and there, but for those of you who don’t know, I’ll give you a brief synopsis. (Please note, I have no financial or any sort of incentive whatsoever to be talking about Tone It Up. I just really like them and want to spread the word!)

Tone It Up is a fitness, health, and lifestyle blog… or dare I say movement, that emphasizes positivity, self-love, teamwork, community, and flexibility. The two founders/trainers are Karena and Katrina, two real-life best friends and fitness professionals who have taken a really fun, carefree spin on wellness by encouraging their followers to get healthy through friendship and a friendly, relatable attitude. The success of Tone It Up can be largely attributed to how easygoing and normal these two girls are. Many fitness professionals take the intimidation route, where they yell, push, scare, and generally try to light a terrifying fire under your ass in order to achieve success. Karena and Katrina are not like that. They are silly with each other and with their viewers and it really works. Personally, I’m all about it! (Plus they’re really cute California girls and their whole vibe is very beachy and warm and incredibly inviting).

I first heard about them about a year ago, when I was buckling down to get fit for a friends wedding. I came across Tone It Up (TIU for short) on Pinterest, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I started by just following their blog and their Youtube Channel and eventually I registered (for free) in their community to be able to interact with other TIU members and to get encouragement from others who were working hard to reach their goals. I love the support network and the sense of family and I think this was one of the most important aspects of Tone It Up for me. Often times I didn’t feel that I had the full support or understanding of my close friends or family, so I looked elsewhere for people who understood my struggles and who cheered me on through every up and down of becoming healthier and fitter. I really love the community and I still use it, though I haven’t been as active since I’ve been in France. I’m hoping to dive back in soon! They are also all over Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media, and followers can interact with them, and with each other everywhere. You can also find plenty of regional TIU groups, where other TIU followers in your area can get together to exercise (or do whatever you want) together, extending the support network out of the internet and into real life. It’s super inspiring and I’m a big fan.

I also purchased the Tone It Up Nutrition Plan last summer, which I mostly use for recipes and nutritional education. I haven’t been following it very strictly in France, but when I get home I will hopefully get back into the swing of things quickly. Essentially, Tone It Up is all about 5 small meals a day, and the nutrition plan gives you everything you need to know about that lifestyle in order to achieve the greatest health success.

Best recipe ever… Protein Pancakes!

 

This is Katrina, one of the TIU girls… She’s a big inspiration because even though she’s a fitness professional, she strugged (and still does) to get fit and healthy. Her transformation is impressive and reminds me that anyone can do it!

Anyway, the reason for this post was to share the big “Bikini Series” that Tone It Up does every spring. It was through this series that I first started really following TIU and now, a year later, I’m excited to follow the Bikini Series once again. My resources are limited and my schedule is more complicated than it was last year, but I’m going to try to get back into my Tone It Up routine for the next 8 weeks, at least as much as I can! And I want to invite anyone out there (and it does not have to be just for women!) to join me in this years Tone It Up Bikini Series. There will be great recipes, workouts, education, and plenty of motivation to keep you on track for your goals, whatever they may be. If you are at all intrigued, be sure to check out the website and learn more. Once you sign up (all you need is your email address), you’ll get a cute little “starter pack” with recipes, and a few workouts to get you going from day 1.

Summer is coming… lets make this a good spring, together!

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Legs

I had a small but powerful moment yesterday as I began my run. I had just finished writing a long, long post (which I haven’t quite decided if I will post or not) about my experiences over the past 3 years with health, fitness, body image, etc, and immediately after, I went out for a run to clear my head. Within only the first 20 seconds of my run, I happened to turn my head coincidentally at the just right moment to make accidental eye contact with a young man, maybe a few years younger than me, who was sitting in a wheelchair. He was clearly disabled from the waist down and  has likely been in a wheelchair his whole life, and in that brief moment we shared, I was struck with an overwhelming sense of sadness and of appreciation at the same time. Perhaps it was the look he gave me, as I trotted past him in my fancy running gear, or perhaps I am just projecting what I thought he was saying to me with his soulful stare, but he really pierced right to my heart, and right after I passed him, I found myself short of breath and fighting back tears unsuccessfully.

I spend far too much time wondering if my thighs will ever not touch, or if my butt will be as hard as a rock, or if my knees will ever heal from my running injuries, and in that moment I suddenly felt so small and so pathetic for caring about such petty details. I have legs that work! Beautiful, strong, functional legs, and maybe they don’t run that fast and maybe they feel heavy sometimes when I run and maybe I have thighs that touch, but holy shit, how awesome is that?? I have those things. I. Have. Legs. And they work, really well.

I dedicated the rest of my run to that boy, and every time I felt lazy and wanting to quit, I reminded myself that if I was in a wheelchair, I’m sure I’d give anything to just take one step. So I kept putting one foot in front of the other, and being thankful each time I could do so. I am lucky and I want to keep taking care of myself so that I can have this fortune for decades to come.

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Just Do It

Really, just fucking do it. Stop over-thinking it, and go. When it’s over, you’ll be glad you did.

That can be about anything, but today, for me, it was about exercise (as usual). Spent all day feeling tense and agitated, like a dog that needed to be walked, and I was getting annoyed at all sorts of stupid little things. I had plenty of excuses not to work out (there are so many things to see on the internet!) and I didn’t have much time, but I stopped thinking about it and I just mindlessly/robotically put my workout clothes on and head out the door. I considered doing a workout in my living room, but I know myself and I know when I’m feeling unmotivated and hungry like I was, I would find an excuse to stop and head straight to the kitchen halfway through my workout, so I decided to go for a run instead, because I know that way I have to finish my workout if I ever want to get back home. So I did.

The run started okay, but still, my brain was too involved and I kept whining to myself about how I should just go back home and eat a bunch of shit, but I forced myself to turn off all thinking whatsoever, and just run. 45 minutes and several sprints, stair sprints, pushups, and crunches later, I was back home, run was done, and I wanted to break windows and punch people cus I felt/feel so FUCKING good.

Just DO IT.

Also, I have no relation to Nike whatsoever. Their slogan just so happens to be fucking rad and relevant. Deal with it. And I do not advocate consuming Jersey Shore in your diet.

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Great Run

Great run great run great run!

It’s really amazing how exercise can make you feel so much better, instantly. Endorphins!!! It’s like crack, only cheaper.

I’m following through with my intentions from earlier and I’m allowing today to be a good day. I had a great run just now, slow and steady, mixed in with a few impromptu exercises like running up and down stairs (workout below, for those of you that want to replicate) and using whatever I could find for push ups, crunches, etc. Followed by my daily bowl of oatmeal (I was feeling wild and decided to try it with bananas instead of apples today. What can I say, I’m a thrill seeker…), and now the rest of the afternoon will be spent adventuring around Paris with a friend. Like I said earlier… Life is good!

What will you do today to be stronger than yesterday? How will you remind yourself of your own power?

*** Stair workout ***

It’s easy. Find some stairs. Run up. Run down. Repeat.

Run up every step at 70%, keeping your arms strong as leverage. Run down.

Sprint up every other step (90-100% exertion), starting with your right leg. Run down.

Sprint up every other step (90-100% exertion), starting with your left leg. Run down.

Run up every step at 70%, keeping your arms strong as leverage. Run down.

10 push-ups

Repeat that whole set 3-5 times through.

If you happen to have a play structure near by, or a park bench, or a fence or whatever you can get your hands on, try to add some push-ups, pull-ups, and crunches to your run. Your upper body will feel tight and strong as you continue running the rest of the way.

* Remember peeps, I ain’t a personal trainer or qualified professional of any sort, so consult your doctor or whoever before listening to anything I say. For all you know, I could be full of shit!! Ha.

But really though…

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Free Exercising

I wrote in an earlier post about using the internet as my “gym”, since I don’t have money to spend on a gym and I’m not going to be living here long enough to want to spend money on lots of equipment. So, I have my convenient resistance bands that are light and compact (great for traveling) and versatile enough to provide some intense strength training, and I have YouTube, for a plethora of amazing exercise videos to give me inspiration.

This morning I was able to squeeze in a 30-minute HIIT run, and I found myself with an extra 15-20 minutes later in the day, so I took advantage and did another quick workout. I wanted to work my upper body today since 2 days ago I killed my lower body and I know its best to give each muscle group a decent rest after an intense exercise, so I went searching through the internet for good upper body resistance band exercises. I came across this great video below by Stuft Mama which gave me some new tips on how to use my resistance bands in a similar way to using weights or machines.

I then followed this brief work out with another DailyHiit workout:

I only went through this video once because I was running short on time, but even once felt great, considering I had already worked out quite a bit earlier.

Another successful and FREE workout day, with some great meals (so far… lets see how dinner time goes with the family) which were all easy, quick, and super healthy.

Feeling pumped on life! Woo, bring it on, bitches.

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HIIT Running

Today I wanted to go for a run, a steady, easy long run, but my morning got past me and I found myself with only 30 minutes left for running before I had to be back home, so I decided to make the most out of my run by making it a HIIT run, which means High Intensity Interval Training. I adapted my intervals based on a running workout I found a long time ago online somewhere (I wish I could find the link to it!) which looked essentially like this:

5-minute warm up

Repeat the following interval 8 times:

1-minute normal pace (slow to medium jog)

30-second sprint (all out, 90-100%)

After the 8 intervals have been completed and you’re exhausted:

5-minute cool down

 

Simple enough!

Since my sports watch died (battery is dead and I haven’t been able to find a new one here in France), I don’t really have a good way of keeping time while running, so I adapted this general interval running routine to fit with my music. I ran at a normal pace with the timing of the verses of each song and I sprinted through the chorus, or, if the song didn’t lend itself to this pattern, I would use visual markers ahead of me that looked around 50-100 meters away (roughly) and I would sprint all the way to those. By the end, I had finished my 30 minute HIIT training and I had run a distance of around 3.25 miles, so not too shabby for a short workout!

Exercise doesn’t have to take up your whole day if you know how to exercise a little smarter. 45 minutes on the elliptical at the gym (while mindlessly reading a magazine or watching tv) and 15 minutes with pussy weights (5 pounds? Come on, I know you can do more than that) won’t do much if you’re looking for visible results, but half of that time spent doing a short HIIT routine and heavy weight training will go much, much farther. If you don’t know where to start, just search Youtube for HIIT videos and you will find plenty to get you started. There’s no excuse to not exercise!

Get off your ass and move, every day. If you have time to be reading this blog, then you have time to work out. Go.

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Mix-and-Match Workout

Yesterday I didn’t run because I don’t run 2 days in a row (and I ran on Monday), so instead I did a mix of a few exercises in the family room, in front of my computer. Since I don’t have a gym (I’m broke as shit, yo!), my exercising has consisted mostly of running and free videos online. I want to become proof that exercising and getting in killer shape can be free and can be done at home, so stay tuned to see how my progress goes between now and summer, aka bikini season, aka every girls worst nightmare (except the rare few that can’t wait to show the world their abs. #hatethem, #wanttobeoneofthemoneday).

I was introduced to BodyRock.Tv and the sister site, DailyHiit by a friend a few months ago, and I just recently started incorporating these workouts into my routine, and I fucking love them. They push me (as long as I push myself, of course) pretty damn hard and they are efficient and quick, which I like a lot since my schedule doesn’t really allow for a lot of time to spend working out. You go through each circuit a few times (they will tell you how many), so you press play, do a short but intense HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) routine, and when its over, you just hit replay and continue until you’ve finished. You’ll come out dripping sweat and loving yourself for accomplishing such a great work out.

Yesterday, I did this video twice:


And then I did a variation on this Ham & Glutes workout by one of my favorite fitness bloggers, Muffin Topless. Since I don’t have a gym or any weights, I used my adjustable resistance bands that I bought at Target (before moving to France) and used a both medium and heavy bands at the same time to add enough resistance for those large lower-body muscles to really work hard. For the parts of her workout that required a machine, I did whatever variant I could come up with using my bands, and I ended up skipping some exercises altogether because I got lazy and wanted to be done (yes, I admit it). In between each set, I alternated between different cardio or strength exercises, like jumping jacks, high knees, push ups, speed punches, roundhouse kicks, fast feet, burpees, etc and in total, my workout lasted about 50 minutes.

I finished dripping in sweat and I felt amazing. I followed my exercise with my tuna lunch (which I posted about earlier), and a really long, guilty-pleasure shower. Felt great the rest of the day (minus after eating those 3 cookies)! Amazing what exercise can do for your spirit.

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