Mental Health

Figuring out what’s next

I was planning on writing this week about my recent squat and deadlift PRs and yada yada yada but life got in the way.

I probably mentioned that my boyfriend is a personal trainer. We broke up this week, and instead of working on my squats and deadlifts I’m taking time to grieve and cope.

I won’t get into the specifics of what happened but he meant a lot to me, both as a boyfriend and on my fitness journey. He motivated me to be the best version of myself I could be and I will miss that.

He played a big role in why I got into weightlifting in the first place and why I became motivated to chronicle my pursuit of an active lifestyle. But just because he can’t be part of my life anymore doesn’t mean I’m going to stop trying.

Taking on this new challenge has made me a happier and overall more confident person. I might have to find a new routine and a new gym (suggestions in the comments below would be greatly appreciated!).

I’ve found something that makes me happy and healthy, and I’m thankful to my boyfriend for that. I might not be writing on here for awhile because I need time – to heal and to adjust. It feels unnatural letting go of someone so significant to me and who influenced this blog so much.

So I’m on a break for now while I figure out what’s next. Thanks for reading along.

 

Uncategorized

Sitting, and how to do less of it

We’ve all heard by now that sitting is the new smoking. You’d think that information would scare us as a country and, much like how we reacted to studies on smoking, we would find ways to counter our sitting habits and get up and moving. It turns out that’s easier said than done.

I started a new office job this week after a brief hiatus between office jobs. I forgot how much I have to sit in an office job.

That’s just the nature of 21st century office jobs; you come in, sit at your computer, maybe get up for a bathroom break, and then leave sitting in the car for your commute home. You probably spend lunch sitting down too (I know I do). When you’re home you probably spend  a fair amount of time sitting in front of the TV, at the computer, or generally getting things done.

Of course, there have been studies done that counter the claim that “sitting is the new smoking.” It’s not clear that sitting is the major contributing cause of cancers, cancer, heart disease or diabetes as other studies claim.

I don’t know whether plopping my butt down for a Netflix binge is slowly killing me or if that’s just a hyperbolic claim. What I do know is after spending a couple of months out of an office and consciously practicing not sitting, I can feel a pronounced difference going back to an office and forcing myself to sit all day.

So how can counter the effects of sit-down job and avoid going back to a sit-down lifestyle? Here’s what I’m trying:

Taking frequent breaks

It’s pretty much impossible to not sit or be sedentary if you work at a computer. I get sucked into my work pretty easily and before I know it, an hour has gone by and my butt has melted into the chair, my brain and eyes hurt, and I’m so used to sitting down that I’m too lazy to go to the bathroom. Don’t be like me. I’ve read that getting up every 30-40 minutes and getting away from your computer actually increases  productivity and, bonus, you’re getting your butt up and moving.

Don’t whip our your smartphone or computer the second you get home

Ugh, but this is so tempting. I get home, my bed looks so comfy I just have to sit on it. And hey, my smartphone is right there. I’ve missed out on all the memes of the past 4 hours. I’ll just look for 5 minutes… 2 hours and numerous SpongeBob memes later and I’m still sitting. Sometimes I think if I hid my phone or computer I’d be 10x less lazy after work.

If you can, walk

An old co-worker of mine walked to and from work everyday. She lived about 2 miles away whereas I lived around 15 miles away. But even if I lived where she did, I’d probably drive. I probably live a quarter mile from the grocery store and yet I still frequently drive. Short walks might not replace cardio or weight training but it does develop good habits.

Get a standing desk

I feel ambivalent about suggesting this because I used to have a standing desk and I hated  it. Standing all day was pretty uncomfortable – I shifted from leg to leg, squirmed, took multiple walks around the office so I didn’t have to stand still any more. That being said, it kind of helped get me to move more. If you just can’t stand (pun alert!) the idea of standing all day, get a sit/stand desk and try standing 1-2 hours a during your work day.

Just be aware of your sitting

I’m so much more aware now than I used to be of how much I sit. Like this week I took a few days off of working out and, with a new office job, I’ve been sitting a lot more than I used to. I feel it, especially in my back. It’s not the end of the world, but I honestly can’t wait to get moving again and feel better.

 

 

Mental Health · Workouts

How my workouts have influenced my other life goals

Starting this blog about my new workout goals couldn’t have come at a better time in my life.

It started at a time in my life when I felt a heightened sense of self-doubt, anxiety and insecurity. I had just quit a job that offered me a lot of security: decent pay, decent hours, reasonable commute. And yet, I was miserable and passionless; I woke up with no real motivation to get me through the day. So I quit and traded security for insecurity, with no real sense what I wanted from life or what lie ahead.

Rather than feeling elated when I left my job, I felt lost and insecure. Instead of looking forward to having time to discover my passions, I felt disappointed that I hadn’t figured it out yet (I mean you’re supposed to have your life figured out at 26, right?). And that stung all the more because I used to know what I loved and what I wanted to be: a journalist.

I knew I wanted to be a reporter since high school. I worked my butt off through college, landed a political reporting internship in Washington D.C., and was lucky enough to get a reporting position out of college. It was everything I’d worked for and everything I’d wanted.

Until it wasn’t. About a year into the job, I remember crying in my car on my way to an assignment because I was so exhausted and because my editor was on my ass again about something. I remember in that moment thinking I don’t want this anymore.

That was pretty deflating. All my life I’ve set goals and worked towards achieving them. And now I had no idea what to do.

When I started this blog, I didn’t think much would come from it. I’d hoped that it’d get me to go to the gym more and I set a goal for myself to participate in a competition, but in reality I had no confidence in myself that I could achieve any of it.

I could not have been more wrong.

In the two months since I started this, I’ve gone from going to the gym zero days a week to four, plus a ballet class twice a week. I can see the difference in my energy levels, my body, and most importantly, my confidence. Even the trainers notice the difference.

Setting a goal as small as “go to the gym more” made me realize that yes, I can in fact set and achieve goals successfully. More than that, I can set a goal and learn a lot from all the highs and lows along the way.

This little achievement has helped reignite confidence that I will, in fact, figure out a new career path. Doing something I never thought I could do — like weight training — helped me realize there are careers other than journalism out there for me.

And it’s made me realize that figuring it out is a goal in and of itself. There’s a lot I can learn along the way.

 

Body Image · Workouts

More women should lift heavy weights

The other day my friend was nice enough to invite me to check out her gym for free.

We went to a women’s-only gym that specializes in cross training group classes. The women were all so lovey and welcoming, the instructor was enthusiastic and motivating, the facility was bright and welcoming. My only problem? The workout. More specifically, the weights we used.

The actual exercises were good ones — deadlifting, squatting, kettlebell swings, etc, combined with all kinds of running and jumping to get the heart rate up. But when it came time to lift weights, I was a little disappointed at the size of the weights. The heaviest kettlebell couldn’t have been bigger than 30 pounds. When I grabbed a 20 pound kettlebell to deadlift, all the women tried to advise against it. I deadlifted 120 pounds for 5 reps the other day — 20 pounds is more than manageable.

I’m not telling this story to shame these women or to brag about myself. But after this experience, I realized that there is still this misconception that women shouldn’t be lifting heavy weights. Some of the most powerful, strong, and awesome women I know still believe this. Why do they think they shouldn’t lift heavy?

  1. They’ll bulk up and look manly
  2. They’ll hurt themselves
  3. Women can’t lift anything nearly as heavy as men can

Pardon my bad language, but these three reasons are total and complete bullshit! Women are so much stronger than even they give themselves credit for. Just look at your mom — she gave birth to you; if that’s not strong, I don’t know what is.

I am a petite woman, and I used believe in this myth that women shouldn’t lift heavy. I had my three pound dumbbells and that enough for me.

I’m not sure where this myth comes from and why it’s still being perpetuated. Even when I was looking up weightlifting photos for this post, I was shocked that almost all the photos were either of men lifting ridiculously heavy weights or women lifting delicately small, pink ones (see example above).

If you are a women reading this, please heed my plea : STOP lifting small and START lifting heavy!

But, you ask, what if I bulk up, injure myself, or can’t do it? I’m no weightlifting expert but from personal experience I can tell you….

No, you won’t bulk up and look manly if you lift heavy

The idea that women are delicate flowers who are limited by their femininity and gender drives me crazy (if you can’t tell, I’m an unabashed feminist). You are not going to suddenly become ultra masculine overnight because you lift heavy. Yes, you will put on weight — I think I’ve gained 10 pounds since I started lifting. But you will also feel better, look stronger, and be more confident in your body than ever.

My grandma once said to me that she noticed I’ve put on weight. I told her that I’ve never felt better about my body.

You won’t injure yourself if you have the right trainer

I would advise any woman (or man) against weightlifting without learning proper form from a trainer. I’m new enough to weightlifting that I haven’t gotten my form dialed in and that is so, so important to lifting effectively and without injuring yourself. That being said, as a woman you’re not automatically setting yourself up for injury because you are lifting something heavier than 40 pounds. In fact, you’re doing your body a huge favor.

Yes, you can lift with the bros

How heavy you can lift is all relative to your size, genetics, and, yes, gender. It is true that men are, overall, physically stronger than women. But that doesn’t mean you can’t join the Bro Barbell Club. I’m 5′ 2″ and 103 pounds so no, I’m never ever going to out lift a 160 pound dude, but I’m learning to stop comparing myself to others and believe in my own ability to be a badass female weightlifter.

And there are women out there that are stronger than men. I’ve met some truly strong, badass women that out lift a lot of guys.

 

Have you ever lifted heavy before? If not, what’s stopped you? Let me know if the comments 🙂

 

Body Image · Workouts

My personal record and why comparing yourself to others is useless

Have you ever finished a great workout, felt super accomplished and strong and then looked to the girl next to you and thought “Sh*t, she/he’s better than me.” I know I have.

That girl next to me has really great arms, flat abs, and a killer squat all while looking effortlessly non-sweaty and not exhausted. I should be admiring her but instead I’m comparing myself to her.

We all do this from time to time in any facet of our lives.  It’s when you start letting these comparisons shape your perception of yourself that it gets unhealthy.

Having not been very athletic in the past, it’s hard for me not  to compare myself to other girls who are stronger, more toned, and more active with seemingly little effort. That insecurity has negatively impacted my motivation to workout in the past. It’s a daily struggle, but today I had something of revelation on my fitness journey.

I’ve been disappointed so far with weightlifting that I haven’t gotten the impressive numbers that all the other girls at my gym seem to have. But today I hit a PR (personal record) on my deadlift: 137 pounds for one at 103 pounds (my weight). Not bad for a relative novice.

I’m realizing just how useless it is to compare your body to someone else’s. Your body will always be your body. And if you treat it right, it’s capable of amazing things!

Everyone’s body is different and capable of different things. I don’t like not being good (or the best) at something but I’m realizing each week I train more, my body is pretty awesome and pretty strong on it’s own.

And bonus, I even made it on my boyfriend’s business Facebook page!

 

Mental Health · Nutrition · Workouts

Why resting is as important as the workout

So in writing all of these blog posts, I’ve realized I failed to mention something somewhat important to me and my fitness journey: I’m dating a personal trainer.

To be clear, I’m not doing this blog because of him — I’m doing it for me. I’m incredibly lucky to have him supporting and motivating me, offering me tips and, yes, sometimes training me. I’ll admit that sometimes I get self-conscious when comparing my athleticism to his but I also know that I bring other things to the table (I’m a mad oboe player, y’all).

I bring this up because my boyfriend has really helped re-frame the idea of workout recoveries for me. Some myths I used to believe about post-workout recovery:

  • Being sore is the goal forever and always
  • When you workout, you can veg as much as you want the rest of the time
  • Eat what ever want post-workout
  • If you feel fine, you don’t need to recover

For fitness newbies like myself, it’s hard enough getting to the gym in the first place. But having to think about what happens after? Why does that matter if I already did the hard work?

Well as it happens and is the general consensus, the post-workout recovery time is when your muscles actually start to grow. So resting is just as important as the workout. Aha, my laziness finally comes in handy!

Well, sort of. I’ve learned from my boyfriend* that recovering doesn’t just mean an excuse to munch on some Ruffles in front of your favorite movie (not ashamed to admit my favorite movie is “The Sound of Music.”).

But resting and refueling is important, especially after an intense workout. And how you recover will all depend on the type of workout you do and how new you are to it. When I first started weightlifting, my muscles hurt so badly that sitting on the toilet was an exercise in torture. Now? I can sit on the toilet no problem! Take rest days for as long as your body is telling you to (but seriously, don’t use that as an excuse to rest indefinitely).

If you’re totally new to working out, take it easy and rest well. I’m good at that. But I’ve been working out long enough that my body feels fine engaging in active recovery like a nice hike, a ballet class, some body weight workouts, or chasing my cats around the yard.

And obviously crucial to the rest period is sleep. I’m an occasional sufferer of insomnia sometimes due to stress and anxiety, sometimes because I can’t tear myself away from my phone, and sometimes because Mercury was in retrograde and sleep just wasn’t in my cards. But sleep is so important to your mental and physical health, so please ignore all advice that you should squeeze that workout in and sacrifice an hour of sleep. And to get a good night’s sleep, don’t workout too close to bed time. 

Eating the right foods before and after working out is important too. There are a million zillion blogs out there with recipes of what to eat before and after and when, so I’m not gonna go there. But the general consensus, again, is to get some protein and complex carbs into your system to both fuel your energy and help you maximize recovery. It seems like silly, obvious advice — don’t forget to eat! — but something I often forget. Just the other day I skipped a meal before some tough cardio and man, I felt awful afterward. Don’t do that.

Lastly, take your recovery seriously! I know that I used to treat the time between workouts as my “reward” for being active and an excuse to be lazy. And on the flip side, gym addicts might see rest time as unproductive and being lazy. But seriously, take it seriously!

Looking for other advice on post-workout recovery (or anything about fitness)? Checkout my new Pinterest board:

I’ve also started a new YouTube channel with videos of my workouts and, *special bonus,* videos of my adorable, temperamental cats:

 

*Disclaimer: In case you’re wondering the validity of my boyfriend’s advice don’t worry, I triple fact-check everything he says. As a former reporter, he’s used to my incessant questioning like “Do you have data or research to backup that claim?”

 

 

Nutrition

7 things I’ve learned about nutrition and “eating right”

On my quest to becoming a healthier me, I’ve realized I don’t just need to move more to get healthier. I should probably that bag of chips for some vegetables. Ugh, but why?

Why is “eating right” so hard?

I partially blame it on the endless options and opinions out there on what constitutes “good nutrition.” And the food “trends” just make everything worse. Is gluten free everything really any better for you?

I grew up eating what is (or maybe used to be) the typical American diet: Meat, starch, and the minimal acceptable amount of produce. I loved soda. Growing up in an Asian household, rice was its own food group.

But as I get older, my body just can’t handle the junk it used to. I now have serious regrets when I eat an entire cheesecake (yes, I’ve done this multiple times…). So I’m relearning how to eat food that not only tastes good but makes me feel good, food that fuels me and doesn’t just squash that grumbling noise in my stomach.

It’s definitely a daily struggle but these seven tips have helped me stay on track:

  1. Don’t eat when you’re bored : I blame it on smartphones: I’m never simply content just doing one thing at a time. I need to be constantly entertained. If I’m Netflixing and slightly bored I’ll scroll through my phone, and when I’m bored with both of those I eat mindlessly. Instead of just policing myself, I’m trying to practice mindfulness and just enjoy doing one thing in the moment.
  2. Don’t buy that thing you want. You know what I’m talking about: For me it’s chips. If I’m hungry shopping, I cave and buy them. I gotta stop hungry shopping.
  3. Plan ahead: In order to avoid impulse buying In and Out, I’m trying to plan my meals somewhat in advance. I’m not great at this but I’m starting by having simple ingredients on hand for simple meals.
  4. Cooking is not that hard: While I’m a terrible planner, I do love cooking. So it’s really not a chore for me! I do hate dishes though…
  5. Buy on sale, in season: I’m on an extremely limited budget, so buying out-of-season, organic strawberries is never an option of me. But in-season strawberries are. And they are soooo much tastier.
  6. Stop limiting yourself then going HAM when it’s “cheat day”: I’ve never had a “cheat day” because, let’s be honest, most of my days are cheat days. But my friends who have tried this act like they’re suffering 6 out of  7 days a week then go crazy for junk food on day 7. I ask them “Why are you torturing yourself like that?”
  7. Learn to enjoy food: Speaking of, when did eating become such a chore? There are a million ways to eat vegetables, so why are you continuing to get that boring salad that you hate eat? I’m never going to stick to healthy habits if I hate them.