IDK, My BFF Lifting

If you are a product of the nineties, as I am, you may recall spending your mornings watching Saved By the Bell. (While eating Reese’s Puffs and packing your Lisa Frank trapper keeper into your JanSport backpack and checking on your gigapet, of course.)  During the show, you were likely enthralled in the coming of age tales, pure romance, and raw animal magnetism of teen heartthrob AC Slater.

Slater rocked the weight room. He lifted and sculpted for sports and to look fine for his ladies. As a young lady, however, I learned that jazzercising, step aerobics, and jogging with my girlfriends were the appropriate ways to get in shape. Preferably do these activities in leggings, definitely in a leotard. Leave the weight room for the fellas.

 Let’s get physical, physical

I don’t mean to make this purely a post for women, but I’m going to take a second to give a little advice to my lady readers. I’m a girl, and I feel that as a group, for some reason, we feel like we need to look sexy by doing strictly cardio workouts.  I hate to break it to you, but I didn’t get results by swinging my hips around and doing some leg lifts.  It takes some serious time in the weight room.

Girls, you will not turn into one of those lady-beasts you see at bodybuilding competitions, unless that is your goal.  It would involve an extremely strict diet, a coach, and you could stop reading this blog entirely because honey, I will not be of help to you.

Ok boys, you can come back now.  Please don’t hear only half of what I’m saying. Cardio is ESSENTIAL in trimming down your chub, and is vital to heart health, or so my trainers have promised.   Other side benefits include feeling great when you realize you’ve upped your endurance, and are no longer heaving when you get up the three flights of stairs to your apartment.   The fact still remains that you’re not going to get as toned and trim or realize physical results as quickly if you aren’t lifting.

These are a few of my favorite things

I’m about to change your life. No, for real. This Web site has been an enormous help to me, because all information I knew about lifting I gleaned from Rocky (really Rocky IV because that’s my favorite), The Blind Side, Remember the Titans, and Varsity Blues.

Here you will find a how-to of all those exercises that athletes throw around in conversation.  You know, the ones that you’re currently nodding and smiling about when they are mentioned as though you know exactly what athletes are saying.  It will also tell you exactly what muscle it is working, and why to do it.

I would like to recommend starting off by doing this with a trainer, or at the very least someone you are positive knows proper form.  Remember how we talked about looking like a fool when you first begin something?  Looking like a fool can be a really big deal when you’re lifting, possibly landing you in the hospital.

Want to try some real treats? I’ve got a few regulars. You should really try some.  No, but seriously, they work!

Cheers!

Run…squat…jump…good girl, Aly! Want a treat?

You must be juice fasting. Are you eating Paleo? Total body cleanse? Are you vegan?  Raw food movement? Have you tried the three-day diet? Did you know that if you drink nothing but cayenne pepper, lemonade, and maple syrup you’ll immediately turn into Beyonce?

After I slimmed down to my current size, the number one topic discussed with curious friends, family and colleagues was my diet. Actually, I’d say 90% asked about diet, 10% asked about what I was doing as far as working out goes.

What was I eating?  Did I consume evil carbs regularly?  You bet. I can’t live without carbs… or chocolate…or meat. My weight loss did not coincide with some big life-altering diet secret.  Rather, a new mindset for how I thought of and treated food brought about weight loss.

I’ve always had a problem with authority.  I view it is a person who tells me what I can and can’t do.  This I blame on the fact that I am a middle child. Listening to someone because they happen to be “in charge” is not a good enough reason for me if I don’t subscribe to what they are saying.  The trait isn’t all bad, and has actually helped me to achieve goals out of pure defiance.

For instance, my eighth grade English teacher, God have mercy on her current students, told me that she just didn’t believe I “had what it takes” to be a journalist. Had I peaked in middle school, as was clearly her experience, she was probably correct.

 Her words stuck with me and originally prevented me from choosing that major as a college freshman. Fast-forward a few years, and her face was burned in my mind as I opened a highly esteemed Washington, DC newspaper with a familiar byline.  I get enormous satisfaction from defiance of those whose words I do not respect.

This is how I feel about a diet. Who are you to tell me what I can and can’t eat? I’ll eat what I want thankyouverymuch.  You don’t know me!  As petulant and childish as that sounds, it really does go through my head. I needed a new plan—a plan to which I could wholeheartedly subscribe.

So here it is… my big secret—please share with all your friends!

Eat well to support your training; don’t try to make up for unhealthy eating and lifestyle habits by training.

 So many days I catch myself falling back into a habit of thinking, “I can eat this half pound bacon cheeseburger because I have a killer workout planned later.” Have you ever tried to push yourself in the gym after eating a half-pound bacon cheeseburger? … And maybe some sweet potato fries…and a couple bites of pie. And a beer. Ok, two.  You’re sluggish, unfocused, queasy, and probably had to run to that gross gym bathroom a couple times to deal with that rock in your stomach.

Roll over. Shake.

Changing a mindset of food as a reward for good behavior was a big adjustment for me as well.  You know when you’re teaching a dog how to do tricks and they get a treat if they do it right? I would do that with fitness goal success, which is pretty amusing and ironic. Achieved a new level of fitness goal? Have some cheesecake. Yeah, good plan.

Considering food and its purpose made it easier for me to choose the right thing for my body.  There are no mandated lists of food I can and can’t eat, which makes life much easier. Food is now an energy source, not an evil fattening beast that must be contained. I also have gotten into the habit of eating small meals (really, it’s more of small grazing snacks) pretty much every two hours, not because it’s part of some big diet plan, but because I’m hungry and need some energy.  

That’s the thing about food—when you stop obsessing about every calorie you’re allowed to eat and not allowed to eat, and think about how what you’re eating affects your body, it’s way easier to make a better decision.  Then the weight starts coming off, not the other way around.  Full disclosure: Sometimes, my body does want the cheeseburger. And you know what? I enjoy every last bite.

Pinterest: A Love Story

Once upon a time, a young girl discovered a magical and life-changing key that unlocked the wisdom of the world.  This tool had a glorious collection of recipes, desserts, craft ideas, room décor, clothes, shoes, and ways to do your eye makeup so you could pass for a Victoria’s Secret model/streetwalker. It was a dream come true.

As in the beginning of many relationships, the two began to spend way too much time together. The girl was clingy and needy; each pin solidifying this addiction. Then, one day, she stumbled upon board after board of these incredibly fit women, with six, no, EIGHT pack abs, long wavy hair, guns like Michelle Obama, and an ass to make Queen Bey herself give a nod of approval.

How could she live up to these standards that her new love proudly displayed on each “inspirational” board in the health and fitness section? She felt that each pound (which was now approximately 15ish pounds) that she had worked off with her trainer was getting her nowhere. These women were the embodiment of sexy, at a level she could never achieve.

 Falling into the “thinspo” trap

When I came across the term “thinspo” on Pinterest, I had to google what it meant. Actually, that’s not true. I went to my trusty Urban Dictionary, where I learn all the things that I’m too old/white/non-hipster to know. In case you’re curious and did not just click on that link, it is a short for “thinspiration.” I know there is no “o” in the word “thinspiration.” I’m just as confused as you are. Regardless, the aforementioned bodies that women fill their healthy lifestyle Pinterest boards with are all part of this “thinspo” movement.

It is incredibly easy to get trapped by this idea—just as it is easy to look at models in any magazine or your favorite celebrities and think that you’ll never get there. Well of course you won’t immediately be a size zero. I’m not going to get all “I love my curves” on you. I just want to share that for me, it is detrimental to my fitness goals to focus on unrealistic body goals.

 Real inspiration

Finding something I could hold onto when I felt powerless to do one more squat, lunge, burpee, pushup, or lap was essential to my success. It wasn’t a touchy-feely quote, or a picture of a professional bodybuilder Photoshopped to a tan goddess level of perfection. It was a few simple goals that I had set for myself and achieved, and I still do that now.  I still have a little piece of paper with my first goals on them.  They sound so easy now, but that pride I felt when I could check one off was more than enough to keep me going.

My First Goals:

  1. Be able to do a man pushup
  2. Be able to jog a mile without stopping
  3. Be able to touch my toes

A word of caution: try not to make too many.  Three was a good number for me, but maybe you’re way fly-cool and can handle five.  Don’t feel silly or embarrassed that they may seem easy to others—they are for you! Everyone has to start somewhere.

My personal opinion is that you should not have a goal be a number of pounds to lose.  I only say that because goals like the ones I have above gave me something I could really focus on, such as some arm exercises to build muscle, a run/walk plan that helped my endurance, and stretching to improve flexibility and joint health.  As I became more fit, I was able to set more challenging goals for myself.  You will too! Promise!

Note: One of my current fitness goals is to be able to do a pull-up. I have the bar hanging to my closet. Right now it is perfect for hanging my delicates after I wash them. I’m only kind of kidding—anyone have some great strength building exercises for mastering that particular move?  Currently, I just kind of dangle and make silly faces.

They lived happily ever after

The girl did in fact discover a new world that restored her trust in her love once again.  This world was filled with exercise ideas, healthy eating tips, and fun recipes that she could actually use to help her achieve her personal goals. Though she would occasionally be haunted by ghosts of thinspos past, and get a little sad that she had not yet achieved an Olympic-level physique, she could quickly turn away and remember all the goals that she had accomplished. Walking off into the sunset, she devoured a life-changing, guilt-free brownie and drank a 100-calorie cocktail.

Cheers!

Do I look like I enjoy being active?

The absolute most annoying advice ever given to me when I began all of this was said by this horrifically in-shape, perky gym girl who randomly came up to me mid-workout.  She was not a trainer, but rather one of those delightful self-appointed fitness “experts” that gives their sage advice to that chubby girl heaving and sweating by the water fountain.

 After declaring she noticed I was in the “beginning stages of my fitness journey,” (yep, seriously) she shared that the key to success was as follows:

 Just find something active that you love to do!

 If, at that point, I loved doing anything active, do you really think I would have been 240lbs? You know what I love (and still do)? Watching Dallas Cowboys football games while drinking beer and eating hot wings.

 Now, before I’m too harsh, I know she had good intentions.  I actually believe that statement now, and have found plenty of active things I love and look forward to doing. However, blast back a year and I truly hated working out. Hated it. Every minute.  I was constantly winded, and my clothes would rub me wrong, making me all chafed and man was I sore.  It was torture.

 Not only was I uncomfortable in my own skin, but I also looked like a fool because I didn’t know what I was doing. When you start anything, you suck at it and look silly. Think about a baby learning to walk, a child learning to read, your first try at a new hobby or sport, or Chris Farley beginning his fitness journey as a Chippendale dancer.  All ridiculous looking.

 So what do you do when you need help? Admit it. Get some.

 Working with a trainer

At this point, I have had three different personal trainers. I do not have one anymore, because my main goal was to learn fitness techniques and my way around a weight room, and I have met that. That being said, it was the best decision I have ever made to invest in one.  Please, please, please don’t write off the idea! Shout out to Jackson, the man who made me take charge of my own life.

 So what was this new adventure like? My first time was great! We measured my body (ok, that part was a little shocking and somewhat alarming), did a weigh-in and talked about all these fitness and nutrition goals. The very first question out of my mouth was, “But can I still drink wine?” Yes, yes I could. In my experience, trainers preach a lifestyle of moderation, so it was nice to hear I didn’t have to quit everything I enjoyed cold turkey.

 I was stoked! I was hyped! I was going to be a Victoria’s Secret model in mere months! Then I went to the second session and realized that this was hard work and I hated it… but maybe not as much as I hated that damn treadmill that I’d been jogging on for months with no results.

 Introductions to new activities made me feel even more out of shape and uncoordinated.  Ask Jackson about how ridiculous my burpees looked at first. I think “effed up frog” was the term he used. Regardless, my trainers were all extremely encouraging and wonderful at explaining these great workouts, but working out still has a learning curve.

 It was around the seventh time I decided it wasn’t the worst thing in the whole world.

 This sounds terrible.

My advice?  At the beginning, just KEEP GOING!  Make it a point to go to the gym and do what your trainer says. You’re going to be sore, and probably whine. I know I did. God bless my roommate at the time.  Then, slowly but surely, you’re going to start thinking crazy things like this:

 “I feel kind of sluggish after not working out today. I think I might go to the gym.”

“I wonder what workout we are going to do this week. I kind of liked the last one.”

“Maybe I don’t want the Texas Cheese Fries AND the double bacon cheeseburger. It makes me feel kind of gross.”

“Whoa—these jeans! I can button them and they just came out of the dryer!”

 

Cheers!

Who is this girl?

Well hey there!

In an effort to answer tons of questions from friends, family and colleagues, I decided to start a blog on how I lost what I refer to as my “College 60”.   Disclaimer: I’m not a personal trainer. I’m not a nutritionist. I’m not an extreme athlete. I’m just a 24 year-old girl who was sick of being chubby. 

So here you go, from the beginning.

How does a girl even gain SIXTY pounds? In four years. Without eating her family and loved ones. I think I’ve narrowed it down to three main factors: Taco Bell runs at 2am, The OC, and Margarita Mondays. Basically, it was a lot of fatty food, parties, and sedentary, albeit super fun, group activities. Splitting sleep between three hours per night with an afternoon nap that lasted about two hours was likely a valid culprit as well.

The crazy part is, I really did hit the gym on occasion and was really involved in sports. Wait, does hitting the gym to check out the swimmers and soccer team count? Oh, and you’re saying that sitting and drinking beer while watching people play sports does not actually count as being “involved in sports”? Mind blown. Though, to be fair, I was on a C League CHAMPION volleyball team! Shout out to the mighty Pteranodons.

Turning Point

I vividly remember the moment that I decided this insanity had to stop. It was not on a scale. It was not looking in the mirror. It was in a dressing room at The Limited, my all-time favorite store.  I couldn’t fit in the size 18 skirt I was trying on…even when I pulled it all the way up to my “natural waist”. It wasn’t even close. To be completely honest, I couldn’t even pull it on without my generous girth around the middle looking like I was stuffed into sausage casing. Sexy, right?

I immediately drove to the gym closest to my office and joined. I started to go religiously, jogging (ok, walking at a quick-ish pace) on the treadmill and looking at all the annoying spandex-clad gym rats thinking, “There’s no freaking way I will ever look like that.”

And you know what? For the next few months, there was not really a change. Talk about discouraging and depressing–I had made the decision to work hard and go sweat it out to change my body, and nothing was happening! What was I doing wrong?

Funny thing about the treadmill–it doesn’t do anything for you if you continue to do the same thing day in and day out. It’s boring. It doesn’t really burn any calories. You are forced to stare at really attractive and fit people while you’re not changing your body at all.

So here’s where the introduction is over and the blog begins.

This is where I really want to start sharing my discoveries on working out, eating, and my experience with everything from to personal trainers (the good, the bad, and the frustrating), to recovering from an injury and not losing all hope and all progress, to the joy of finishing my first race.  I can’t wait to share all the things I’ve learned along the way that have really worked, and the things that have really not worked.

Cheers!