It’s You and Me Baby–Head Games

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I’d always been under the impression that there are athletic people and not athletic people. I envisioned God smiling as he created me and thinking, “Well, thank Me she’s got some smarts because I know she won’t be going to college on a sports scholarship.”

Gym class was never the bane of my existence or anything.  I’ve always just been kind of average at it, and was never really challenged to improve.  Mostly I cared if I looked/smelled gross after class because I knew I’d see my 11th grade crush, Phil Wieszcyk.

Anyway, my point is I didn’t try very hard because in my mind I was average, and that is all it was going to be.  There were the star athletes and then there were those of us who were just waiting for fourth period to roll around.

What has changed since then? Mindset. You can’t change what you don’t want to do.  You can’t do anything you won’t prioritize. You won’t prioritize anything that you don’t desire or anything about which you have no passion.

My health remained stagnant until I started training with some heart. Seeing each small success and meeting each mini-goal has maintained a passion for being healthy that makes it ten million times easier for me to fit a workout into my day.

Heisman Trophy winner (and former Dallas Cowboy! And MMA Fighter) Herschel Walker said,

My God given talent is my ability to stick with training longer than anybody else. 

I’m sure there is probably some genetic argument people use to say elite athletes are predestined to succeed, but when it comes down to it, it’s all about having the mental toughness to stick it out.  Skipping the gym, in my life, is based 100% on my lack of motivation as oppose to actual physical impairment.

Obviously I’m not claiming to be an elite athlete, but even we normal humans benefit from a tough mindset. It is so hard when you’re huffing and puffing after some “beginner” class to remember that it will all pay off, but hey when you’re looking back after 60 pounds, you’ll get it.

So take a page from Herschel.  Take that training up a level. You can do it!

Oh, and GO COWBOYS 😉

Two Is Not a Winner and Three No One Remembers

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When M and I first starting dating, I was legitimately concerned when we were invited to our first game night. I mean, it was a perfectly harmless date, right? M was prepared for some fun times with our now best friends that we both love and get along with perfectly. 

The poor guy didn’t know any better; he didn’t see anything coming. I should have warned him, but it was month one and we were still pretending that we both had immaculate housekeeping skills no matter how busy we got, looked flawless at all times, and never went number two.

 Here’s the problem: Whenever there is an ounce of competition in the air, this typically bubbly and cheerful delight of a human being that he was growing to love turns into someone else completely. One of my dear friends/former roommate sent me this quote once, saying she had found the definition for my life:

 If you’re not prepared to lose every friend you have over a board game, you’re not playing hard enough.

 That about sums it up. I have this insane competitive streak. It gets pretty childish at times, and I hear myself saying things like, “We are going to rock this Cloodle, hop on the fast track, and beat your ass to the giant purple brain, son!”

 This competition embedded deep into my psyche affects every aspect of my life.  At work we completed StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath. The results really hit the nail on the head for me.  Basically, it assesses your top five strengths and shows you how you can use these to your advantage, and how to work with others. My number one was, of course, Competition. I love his description so I’m going to share the whole thing because, well, I can.

 Competition is rooted in comparison. When you look at the world, you are instinctively aware of other people’s performance. Their performance is the ultimate yardstick. No matter how hard you tried, no matter how worthy your intentions, if you reached your goal but did not outperform your peers, the achievement feels hollow. Like all competitors, you need other people. You need to compare. If you can compare, you can compete, and if you can compete, you can win. And when you win, there is no feeling quite like it. You like measurement because it facilitates comparisons. You like other competitors because they invigorate you. You like contests because they must produce a winner. You particularly like contests where you know you have the inside track to be the winner. Although you are gracious to your fellow competitors and even stoic in defeat, you don’t compete for the fun of competing. You compete to win. Over time you will come to avoid contests where winning seems unlikely.

 If I could have defined my entire outlook on life, it would not have been as accurate as those words. I remember as a kid, teachers would think I was looking off other kids’ papers to cheat. This was not to glean the maybe correct answers from the C student next to me, but rather because I was adding up the correct v.s. incorrect answers off his paper to compare our grades.  I got a rush, even then, from winning. M, please don’t leave me…

 This same competitive streak has been a helpful edge in my work life.  It ensures that I am constantly trying hard to stay on top of my game, thus earning the loving nickname A Game/Big Time (thanks Lar-Bo).

 Where it tends to bite me back is when it comes to my personal life.  Being in a constant state of comparison has left me pretty down on myself in the past, especially during that whole college/immediately post-college phase. Dangerous waters, my friend!

 That new-ish tv show Go On, the one with Chandler playing Chandler but with sports, had a very pertinent quote in it the other day. 

 You can’t seek happiness from outside sources; happiness comes from within.

 My measure of success had always been placed on outside sources. If I’m going to do something, I want to be the best at it.  The thing about fitness was that I’m not really the best at anything. I am not the fastest runner.  I can’t lift the most weight. I’m not the most flexible. I don’t have the most Latina hip-shakin’ moves. It’s a hard world at that gym for a competitive mediocre athlete.

 Learning to stop (ok let’s be real, lessen my obsession with) competing with others and start competing with myself has saved me much grief. It’s also been a fun way to track my progress.  Celebrating mini-victories, like shaving seconds off my run times, or, as of late, my newfound ability to begin doing some yoga, have been ways I can still celebrate winning without the risk of falling into a comparison trap.

I have embraced the rush I get in competing while maintaining my sanity.  Don’t get me wrong, nothing quite beats that adrenaline rush from actually winning versus others, but it has been a great way to keep my motivation up.

 Game nights? Well, that hasn’t changed. UNO!

You’re Overcookin’ My Grits, Coach

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True confession time. I didn’t get up and do yoga today. I slept in. My alarm went off and M rolled over and said, “Babe, aren’t you going to do yoga?” I scowled at him as though he made a most ridiculous suggestion, rolled over, and grunted no as I reset my alarm 45 minutes later.

You know what? I think I was much more tired than if I would have just gotten up and done it. The extra sleep was so not worth it! I could kick myself!

Here’s the thing—I think yoga is hard. I really, really do.  It does challenge my strength, but the activities I love and look forward to do that. I’m used to pushing myself when it comes to strengthening my body. I love that challenge and the feeling of sore muscles repairing themselves.

There are two things that kill me with yoga. The first is that I am super inflexible. You know how giraffes are kind of awkward when they try to bend? I feel such kinship with them.  I’m 5’11” (and a half). My toes are really far away….

Even after a hard workout where my muscles got all nice and warm and pliable, I am just not flexible. Because of my lack of ability in this area, I’m having a hard time enjoying it. I feel like a new girl all over again, after I have worked so hard to achieve a higher level of fitness.

The second is my mind’s inability to focus with its multi-tasking default setting, which I’ve gone over before.  Why do I have to think about twelve things at once? I won’t belabor that point because I really haven’t had any major breakthroughs to share.

What this whole new routine reminds me of is the familiar feeling of utter frustration and contempt from when I first started working out. Every activity felt like a huge undertaking. A mile was climbing Everest—there is no way you’re making me go that far! Pushing that prowler was like taking on a semi truck.  Don’t even get me started on a pushup—are you trying to get me to hold the world on my shoulders? I was heaving after jogging for one minute. ONE MINUTE! And the word “jogging” is very generous for the relatively quick walk I was doing. Why was everything so hard???

Previously, I discussed the need to work harder and push yourself if you want to see results. How your body trains itself to tolerate strenuous activity is truly incredible. I’m trying to remind myself that this won’t be so hard soon.  I remember this epiphany I had while I was working out one day with Jackson, my fabulous and wonderful former trainer.

The activity isn’t getting any easier; I’m just getting better. I am able to tolerate it more. Jogging for a minute is the same level of difficulty as it was a year ago, the only difference is me. I’m different. There is very real, very tangible proof of progress.

One of the greatest exercises I did was after I’d lost about 50 lbs.  Jackson had me do the stairs with a 50-pound vest on.  It was a challenge that made me realize just how far I had come.  My body had become so much lighter and more efficient. I totally recommend doing an exercise like that no matter how much progress you have made just so you can really feel what you’ve achieved.

Keeping this in mind as I aim to improve my struggles with flexibility and strength of mind through yoga is a source of inspiration for me.  These feelings are familiar.  I will get stronger. Everything is hard at first. Discipline, baby! Well, I’m working on it…

Cheers!

Because Sometimes I Need a Little Kick in the Keister

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Have you ever wondered why they call exercising “working out”?  I’m no etymologist, but I do notice that the word “work” is inside of it.

Webster’s Dictionary defines work…ok, just kidding. Dictionary.com defines work as “Exertion or effort directed to produce or accomplish something.” Exertion? Effort? Ugh. I thought that I heard I could just walk around the park a couple times and the weight will just melt off.

I apologize if you feel like I’m saying something that is just too obvious that it insults your intelligence, but I figure that if this took some learning for me, maybe someone out there needs to hear it.  You are not going to lose a substantial amount of weight from a leisurely stroll around the park once a week. You are not going to lose it by parking further back in the parking lot.  You are not going to lose it by taking the stairs to your second-floor dentist appointment every six months.

Changing your body requires work.  Real work. Sweating, groaning, some serious intensity, and probably some cussing. That lesson was a hard one for me, because I read articles with titles like, “Ten Easy Steps to Weight Loss,” or “Six Easy Things to Do For a Six-Pack.”  I’ve found that anything with “easy” in the title is code for ineffective. Getting in shape is an entire lifestyle change, and there’s nothing easy about it.

There’s a saying that’s all over the Internet to which I absolutely subscribe. You may recognize it because it’s at the top of this post. Or perhaps you’ve gone on the Pinterest “Health and Fitness” category page in the past six months. Or attended one of those inspiration work conferences.

If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.

It feels like common sense, right? But somehow, I spent several months just moving along on that treadmill feeling a false sense of accomplishment. I don’t mean to be a treadmill hater, it’s just that I didn’t challenge myself at all when I was jogging on it for months, and it was a huge discouragement.  If you’re not sore the next day, or at the very least if you’re really not even sweating and breathing hard, why bother?

That’s great for you. But shouldn’t it just kind of happen for me?

I think that we live in a time now where people (clearly myself included) believe everything should just happen for us.  This sense of entitlement permeates our consciousness. Things should be easy; life should be simple.  The idea of learning to relish a challenge left much to be desired for me at first.

My mind’s cure for this was the joy I got from taking on a challenge and coming out on the other end stronger—in the area of fitness, I mean that literally. Life isn’t easy, and neither is changing habits. If you’re going to succeed, you need to accept that you can’t do the same things you’re doing now and expect a different result.

There’s another big secret to losing weight that is basically the same sentiment.  By secret, I mean common sense idea that I took a while to pick up on.  

 Work harder. If you’re not getting results, you’re not working hard enough.

 The concept is so simple.  Step it up.  Don’t fake it. Try something new. Pick up something heavy. Punch something heavy. Hold yourself up. Run—really run. Ride your bike up hills. Make yourself go longer.  Make yourself go faster. Make yourself go heavier. Put more weight on that prowler. Throw on a weighted vest. Hike up something tall. Push yourself. Get the word “can’t” out of your mind, because it’s really just a substitute for “won’t try”. You’re better than that.

Not into it? Think it’s just too hard? That’s fine. The only person you’re cheating is yourself.

 

 

Mini Yoga Update:

Still on board. Still waking up to do it. Still the first week. Not a whole lot of change to share. I’ll keep you posted!

No Chrome on the Wheels. I’m a Grown-Up For Real

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My wedding is four months from today. That has nothing to do with anything I’m about to write. But there you go.

My support system has been an incredible blessing as I’ve transitioned to healthier lifestyle.  An amazing fiancé and a solid group of sexy ladies have kept me pushing through and encouraged me on any goals I’ve achieved.  It’s an irreplaceable thing.

Have you hit a plateau? Have you just lost the urge to go to the gym? Have you fallen into a trap of stopping at Krispie Kreme on your way to work everyday?  Share it with your support system! People who love you want you to achieve your goals and want to help you in any way they can.

Accountability with a group of friends or a significant other, or your mom (thanks mom!) is a powerful tool. Be sure you have someone in that group who will be the person who lets you know when you’re slacking and pushes you to be better. There is nothing that will renew a fire in you more than a friend pointing out that you haven’t been true to yourself and your goals. And that your ass really does look fat in those jeans.

Then there is a different group of friends. You love them. They are so fun…but somehow they convince you to skip your gym session and drink four margaritas with a cheesy enchilada chaser. When you say you can’t hit happy hour because you’re really committed to a group class, you hear a chorus of “What’s one class?”

Jay-Z said it best. Jay-Z always says it best.

All the rappers be hating, off the track that I’m making
But all the hustlers they love it just to see one of us make it

Got Dirt Off Your Shoulder stuck in your head yet? You’re welcome. Your day will now be awesome.

So here’s my point. You will run into people who aren’t supportive, be it conscious or not, of your fitness goals. I’m not saying defriend them on Facebook, as well as in life. I am saying that it will take some effort to change their opinions of how you should be spending your time.  Your eating habits may take a blow or two from them, and you may give into some bacon cheese fries now and again that you otherwise could have spurned.

I always try to make the most time for the supportive, positive folks in my life.  It’s amazing the effect another person’s energy can have on my own! My boss always says that in this world there are energy-givers and energy-takers. So while you’re trying to align yourself with those who are building you up, I also encourage you to identify which category you currently fall into.

I’m like young Marvin in his hey.

Cheers!

The code is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules

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I’ve gotten a lot of questions about the fitness rules I live by. Let me clear up a point for everyone: I’m not so good with rules.  While at my insanely strict college, my lack of respect for arbitrary rules got me in a bit of trouble, namely a suspension.  That’s right, I got suspended from college. It was for having an all-girl margarita night in my apartment at age 21.  I know, I know, the nerve we had in those wild college days. Such rebels.

Anyway, I know this is a repeat of what I’ve already shared: I can’t follow arbitrary rules for the sake of having rules. It’s not in my blood. This is why I struggle with random diet restrictions, strict workout plans, and ideas I find to sound nuts. It’s my life and I’d like to live it, you know?

I don’t want you to think of these as some training/nutrition expert’s gospel truth keys to success. This is what worked for me, and if it works for you that is AWESOME!  My goal with this is to share ideas that gave me results. Disagree with me? Have more? Let me know!

Tips for SUCCESS!

Lift Lift Lift: I’ve said it before; I’ll sing the praises from the rooftops. Lifting is a magical tool for badassery. Get some heavy stuff. Pick it up. It’ll change your life. You’ll have these muscles popping out and a sweet byproduct is your fat will melt off. All sans treadmill/elliptical.

Eat food: Sounds obvious? One would think.  Have you checked the labels of what you regularly consume? If the package says low fat/diet/sugar free, it’s likely whatever you’re eating is a hearty bowlful of chemicals. Try eating the real thing, but less…which conveniently brings me to my next point.

Portion control: Figuring out how much food is required to keep you full and energized is an art. Some may disagree and call it a science, but I’ve found that it takes a lot of personal discovery and testing.  I did do a lot of research on correct portion sizes, and ended up more confused than ever. List after list of eat this at this time with this…no thanks. Solution? I started by using a smaller plate and fill at least half of it with veggies and fruits.  The other half I put some kind of meat/whole grain situation. Adjust as needed.

 Eat when hungry: Don’t eat because you’re bored. Don’t eat because your boyfriend pissed you off. Eat because your body lacks energy or your tummy is growling.

Water: Drink it. Lots of it. It will make you feel full, keep you hydrated, and your skin will glow. You’ll also tend to lay off the soda and sugary juices when you focus on drinking tons of water. Nuff said.

Don’t spot train “problem areas”: You know what’s super frustrating? Doing hundreds of crunches and still be flabby. Strengthening your core is phenomenal, but don’t think that training one spot is going to cause your fat to melt away. I only say this to keep your expectations realistic. Losing fat all over your body will help your awesome muscles pop out. This also means that your boobs might shrink. It’ll be ok. I promise.

Drink red wine! I’m not actually sure that this really has helped achieve my fitness goals.  What I can say is that it clearly hasn’t hindered them, and a little red wine makes life so much better;)

I hope these have helped! If you have any you think I missed, let me know. I might not know of your genius advice yet!

Cheers!

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like…I’m Never Leaving My Apartment

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My fiancé, thinks I’m two different people.

 I’m originally from a town in the very northwest corner of Pennsylvania.  It snows for ages and the sun never shines. This, combined with a terrible case of seasonal affective disorder, makes me want to curl up with a cup of coffee, warm socks, and a cozy sweater, and never leave my house after that first snowflake falls.

Summer Aly is vibrant, full of life, and doesn’t leave the house without a sundress and a smile.  I love it—every minute.  It doesn’t matter if it is 100 degrees outside; I want to soak it up while I can. I’m like a Disney princess on Christmas morning after just winning the lottery and finding out she gets a free puppy.  

Now I live in Kentucky and it is glorious.  I still get the seasons, but the winter is immensely shorter. However, you wouldn’t know it from the snow we are having today, which inspired today’s post. Southern people don’t understand the sheer length and brutality of a Pennsylvania winter.  They don’t get that once October hits, there’s no sun until well into the summer.  Your Memorial Day picnic could be frosted over.  I suppose I’m turning a little Southern now, thanks to my impending marriage to a Kentucky boy, and it makes me more depressed than ever to see the snow start to fall again today. Isn’t this supposed to be over?

But I’m still not leaving the house.

I say all of these personal details that you didn’t really need to know to make a point. Going outside is just not an option in the winter for me.  Inspiration is difficult. The great white north has ruined me forever. Those blogs about staying cozy on your morning run? Pointless for me, because there is no way you’re dragging my ass outside after it hit below 40 degrees.

What is a girl to do? I don’t even like driving to the gym if there’s any precipitation coming down. Are there at-home options for a pansy like me? Why, yes there is my friend!

Ok, I can’t actually top a workout that I do at the gym.  For me, there is nothing like the energy, variety and, most importantly, the buzz of people–especially in a group class.  I also don’t think I get the same quality of lifting in.  I love the atmosphere.  However, if I’m not going to leave the house, I get antsy and need to do something besides watch Gossip Girl reruns on DVD.

I’ve never tried P90x because it’s expensive and I’d rather spend my money on a Lilly Pulitzer dress, so I cannot vouch for those results.  People swear by it, and maybe one of these days I’ll check it out.  I can, however, recommend some DVDs and at-home workouts that I’ve found make me actually sore, sweaty, and show some results… and you could still buy that Murfee Scarf you’ve been eyeing.

My girl crush…the one that isn’t Beyonce

I’m a little bit in love with Jillian Michaels. I think if we were to ever meet in real life, I’d get star struck and be able to do nothing but blubber like a thirteen year-old girl meeting one of those British kids from One Direction.  I love love love her yoga DVD, Ripped in 30, and the shredder of all abs.   

I also have a big crush on Bob Harper. Like, huge crush.  His yoga DVD is the one of the greatest at home workouts I’ve tried for when I’m in the mood for a different sort of challenge. Yoga has this reputation for being a girl thing, and kind of low energy. If you think that it won’t be a challenge, I’m begging you to tell me how this workout goes for you.  Who knows, maybe I’m just a Nancy.

My favorite at-home workout of all time involves my fiancé’s second love. His Xbox Kinect: ZUMBA CORE!  There is a reason for my love of this game.  I get to work out and it’s a competition!! I’m hugely competitive and love that the game has you earn points and beat your own records. It’s the bomb. You also need to know you get all kinds of sweaty.

 There is a section at the beginning, or so I’ve heard, that teaches you the steps.  I’ve never been a read the directions kind of gal, but it’s been pretty great to just jump right in and learn as you go! M, that guy I’m marrying, keeps threatening to put videos of me doing it on YouTube.  Don’t get too excited, I haven’t pissed him off enough to make that happen quite yet;)

Anyone else have something they like to do when they’ve got the winter blues?  I’m always looking to try new things!

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!