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.

 

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.

 

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?”

 

 

Body Image · Mental Health · Workouts

When life gets in the way

At the start of last week, I had ambitiously set a plan for my workouts for the month ahead. Writing a blog, I figured, would be a great way to hold me accountable and keep me motivated.

The plan for week one was ambitious, for me anyway: 5 days a week of combination strength training and cardio, with two “active” rest days incorporating some kind of low intensity activity like ballet or yoga.

And then life got in the way.

An often busy schedule and the hectic life lead is probably the #1 reason I fall out of my routine; after long, crazy days I’m much more inclined to skip the gym, skip a dance class, drive to the store when I planned to walk. But this week I faced a very different challenge, one that I couldn’t plan around.

I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression for several years now. While I have made many personal strides in managing it and becoming an overall happier person, I still struggle from time to time. This past week was hard for me and I skipped 3 planned workouts/activities. The situation was sort of a Catch-22: I was too overwhelmed by my anxiety to workout as planned and yet I was mad at myself for not following my plan thus making myself feel worse and more depressed. Saturday was a particularly hard day for me as I had a long to-do list prepared and accomplished none of it. I felt ready to give up on this challenge.

But I didn’t. I tried again on Sunday and went to the gym, went on a hike, enjoyed the sunshine, and moved forward.

The key for me in moving on and moving forward has always been forgiveness. I am my own worst critic and when things don’t go according to plan, I’m easily disappointed. As corny as it sounds, countering negative thoughts with positive ones and disappointment with forgiveness is key in any personal journey and especially true for me.

And in case you’re curious, yes I did workout this week! Here’s some of what I did this Sunday:

  • Bench Press: 35 x 10, 3 x 8 @ 40, 35 x 12
  • Back squat: 45 x 10,  65 x 10, 75 x 8, 85 x 5, 65 x 10, 45 x 10
  • One-arm rows
  • Lunges
  • Plank with shoulder taps

 

 

Body Image · Mental Health · Nerd Stuff · Nutrition · Workouts

Why am I doing this?

Everybody nowadays, it seems, is busy. Like scheduling every little task, outing, chore down to the minute busy.

All the “experts” say you should start creating healthy habits when you’re in your twenties. When I was in my senior year of college, I was way too busy to think about being “healthy.” I was trying finish a four-year degree in three years, writing for three campus publications, interning for two magazines and applying furiously to jobs all the while living off a limited food budget that could afford me spaghetti and rice and beans (though there was plenty money for beer, oddly enough).

Then at the ripe old age of 20, it was as if my future self came back to warn me If you don’t take care of your body now, you are so gonna feel later. That warning sign came in the form on debilitating back pain. It started as a sharp pain in my low back that traveled through my glutes down my leg.It lasted anywhere from a week to a month at a time.

Several years and dozens of trips to physical therapy later, I am finally not too busy to take care of my body. It took several years coping with the pain to realize that taking care of my body is just as important as my career, my social life, or binge-watching the last season of Game of Thrones before the new season starts.

But I’m not any less busy than I was in college. It has been a struggle to stay active when I, like many others, have so many competing priorities. That’s why I started this blog — to have a goal to work towards to keep me motivated and keep my health a priority in life.

The goal: attend my first powerlifting competition within a year. I’ll be working out 3-4 days a week doing mainly strength training and cardio (though I also do Pilates and ballet for fun). I’ll be filling in all you lovely readers with my progress (and inevitable challenges) each week and what I’ve learned along the way!

Want to know more about me and why you should follow my blog? Read this!