To the ladies (and gents) out there trying to get a “summer body”

It’s SWEATING SEASON.

Boston is finally starting to heat up and I am looooooving it. As if I don’t go through laundry quickly enough, I am wearing multiple outfits a day now to accommodate my perpetual sweatiness. Actually, I am perpetually sweaty no matter what season it is, but now it’s profuse perpetual sweatiness.

Not that you care.

Someone on Instagram asked me last week to talk about my fitness journey a little bit, to which I agreed. I have talked about it a few times here on the blog, but I am always happy to share my story (which is ever evolving anyway) with any new friends (hi!).

For those who are returning readers (ily) familiar with my fitness journey, perhaps you can appreciate this post’s current perspective, which is in light of “summer body” season.

I made a little collage comparing pre-college and graduate school Alison. This will serve as a bit of context for the rest of my story.

D i s c l a i m e r: Please understand that every BODY is so uniquely different. There are some of you who currently look more like “pre-college” Alison who are perfectly healthy (i.e., no disordered thoughts around food or exercise, regular menstrual cycle, happy gal). There are some of you who look more like “grad school” Alison but may struggle with disordered eating and exercise, etc. And then there’s every type of body in between and beyond. Please do your best to know thyself. ♥︎

I won’t dive too deeply into how my fitness journey started, because I recently wrote a post about how it started very humbly with a Beyonce dance video and 15 minutes per day on the elliptical. Essentially, I am a naturally lazy person who was motivated to start working out by the will to lose weight in my high school years.

My story follows a relatively common narrative seen in many young women’s lives. She starts having an obsessive eating/exercise disorder because of sports or an innocent (or not) desire to get “toned”/less fat/whatever ➔ she has a deeply cutting revelation of her health state and embarks a long but beautiful push-pull journey of recovering (e.g., needing to take breaks from intense exercise in order to get menstrual cycle back) ➔ sometimes revisits old habits in times of stress and insecurity ➔ overall remains 99.9% recovered.

In no way do I mean to minimize anyone’s unique story, nor my own, but I am simplifying the narrative as a testament to how easy and common it is to fall into the trap of disordered eating and exercise.

(Here is a post about when I felt I truly stopped becoming obsessed with exercise and here is a peek into my undergrad workout routine, which is kind of similar to my routine now, except I am currently more lax.)

In all transparency, I do still go through phases during which I struggle with my body image and wonder if X, Y, or Z will help me feel better about myself. I attribute this to being a human who uses social media. However, fitness has slowly but surely become something that is first and foremost FOR function, mental health, and happiness. It is NOT FOR (or I avoid at all costs to make it for) a certain physique, weight, or “summer body.”

Back to the photo above. I had ripped abs in high school. You could perhaps say I had a nice “summer body.” True, I did a lot of core work, but the main reason my abs were so prominent is that I had very little body fat due to restriction of calories and overexercising.

I was chronically tired and unhappy.

I would like to draw your attention to my wrists in the first photo. I have genetically tiny wrists in the first place, but at that time, even I would think they were on the brink of snapping at some point. I don’t look incredibly unhealthy in the rest of the photo; some would say I look great. I remember people commenting on how fit and strong I looked (again, just because you could SEE my abs). But recalling how skeletal my hands looked, and, above all, recalling how unhappy I felt within, I know now that no external appearance made summer any better for me.

My workouts at that point had to make me want to die or else it wasn’t really worth it. I must admit that I did grow a lot in my general fitness and strength this time, because I pushed myself more than I ever did in my life (remember, I am a naturally lazy person). However, I could only improve to a certain point. There was very little rest and very little fuel to keep me going.

Refer to some of the above posts if you are interested in the interim between pre-college Alison and grad school (current) Alison. It’s been a long journey!

As the photo caption says, I have since gained 40-45 lbs in both fat and muscle (and maybe bone honestly; I was a late bloomer). You can no longer see a 6-pack. Who knows what you can even see; I don’t like posting my midriff on social media now (for modesty reasons, not due to any sort of shame for what my abs do or do not look like).

I am a pear-shaped, lower-body-heavy person who is consequently challenged by any sort of leg raise exercise. People (usually older Asian folks) have commented on how large and bulky I look. I have also gained weight pretty much every single year since I entered college (although my weight is probably at its happy point currently).

However, I am stronger, faster, happier, and healthier than I was in the first two photos, and I genuinely look forward to working out. And this freedom and joy in moving my body is worth so much more than a photo of ripped abs could ever capture.

Regarding my current fitness routine, quarantine has of course made me get creative. But even if the gyms were available, I like to think that my routine and mindset would be the same. 9/10 times I make up my workout the day of, and I frequently modify the workout as I’m doing it, whether it’s too easy or too difficult.

I could not report to you the number of workouts I do every week, because I don’t log them or premeditate the number (although I have been posting some of my workouts on my Instagram story recently to share ideas, so I guess you can check there to approximate).

I have learned a lot from physical therapy school, which helps me to think about different muscle groups and exercises that are for far more than an aesthetic.

I also have come to appreciate intentionality during workouts (thanks to the knowledge of some cool women like Natacha Oceane and Tanya Poppett). In other words, whatever you are doing, do. it. well. If it’s supposed to be explosive, explode for every rep. If it’s supposed to be slow and controlled working every tiny muscle you never knew you had, then do that. If you’re stretching, focus continually on the positioning of your joints. Adjust the reps and time as needed to make it quality > quantity. With this change, every movement session is an opportunity for improvement in fitness (note: not necessarily improvement in physique), because all my brain power is going into something particular, even if it is just the positioning of a stretch, for example.

More intention = better form = better motor patterns = better movement. And get sufficient rest in between! I guess this is how I always wished I approached fitness. If I could give advice to those trying to build up their fitness in a healthy way, this would be it.

So to all the ladies and gents out there tryin’ to get a summer body: I’m not here to tell you to stop your fitness or food regimen to get shredded for the summer. There are plenty of people who can do that happily and healthfully. I will just, as always, implore you to reflect honestly about the motivations, the goal, and how happy and healthy you are in the process.

A practical self-check is asking yourself how much time during the day you spend think about how you can achieve a certain physique goal. I can’t give you a certain percentage of the day, but if it’s “most of the day”, that could indicate the need for re-evaluation of your current habits.

You might not be “one of those people” who can get shredded without compromising mental/physical health. I am here to tell you that I understand the frustration of that deeply, and you are not alone. But the freeing happiness to which you are called is worth more than a “perfect” summer body.

My “summer bod” (whatever that means for 2020) is a short and stocky conglomerate of all the cells that are uniquely me. I’m enjoying fitness right now and I feel rested and well. I hope you feel rested and well, too. Ain’t no time for summer stressing.

(Disclaimer #2: All my recommendations are coming from my own anecdotal experience, as well as from others with whom I have spoken. However, I am not a medical doctor nor an eating disorder specialist. Please speak with other trusted healthcare professionals if you are seeking personalized help. As a resource, my friend Lauren Bickford, RD, aka the Food Fight RD, is a certified intuitive eating counselor.)

The Great and Small Things I Learned in Physical Therapy School

I just made the title of this post and now I’m intimidated by it.

It’s a tall order to list all the great and small things I learned in all three years of physical therapy school, but I’ll try. It’ll be good.

(BTW, I’m a doctor now! I still need to take and pass my boards exam in July to be licensed, but I got the degree.)

This is my last “great and small things I’ve learned” post from my time at Boston University, and thinking about that just made my heart sink. Here are the ones I’ve written during my time in DPT school:

Let’s take a stab at reflecting on some of the great and small things I’ve learned throughout all of PT school, now that it’s over. I’m not going to look at any of my previous posts, so as to make this as candid and #raw as possible.

1) I am totally an external processor. Whether studying or figuring out the inner convoluted workings of my soul, talk talk talking is MAJOR KEY.

2) Starting a relationship while starting doctoral studies is challenging.

3) I truly had very little idea what was happening during my first semester of PT school. So much of what I thought I knew about physical therapy flew out the window, and I struggled greatly with the lack of context as I learned about so many different pathologies and interventions in a classroom setting. But it got better.

4) I learned how to embrace failure and let go of perfectionism.

5) It will always be worth it to reserve time and energy to pour into my faith and the community surrounding that faith.

6) That being said, I learned how to set boundaries between study time and my faith and social life. Not without a lot of struggle, strife, and sometimes hurt feelings, though.

7) I learned a lot about walking, and I can say with conviction that it is my favorite form of physical activity. It is one that I never want to take for granted.

8) Physical therapists help others to help themselves, and I love that about the profession. We want YOU to do the moving as much as possible, and we will help you get there.

9) My thoracic spine mobility is crap.

10) The answer to any of my personal problems is probably that I need to sleep and pray.

11) Having a diverse and loving group of friends in PT school is a blessing both in and out of the classroom.

12) In one instance, I cannot see myself doing anything but physical therapy. But in another instance, I can see myself doing something totally different.

13) Weaknesses really can become strengths, and often do.

14) I can spend a whole year with my friend, Janice, by my side and not get sick of her.

idk if it’s reciprocal though

15) The brain (and the whole central nervous system) is an absolute enigma and something that I wish to learn more about, regarding its relationship to and necessity for movement. Maybe one day I will pursue a neurological clinical specialty.

16) America runs on Dunkin’ and I still run on peanut butter and banana every day.

17) I have come to appreciate my family and my life situation more and more as time goes on.

18) Finding deep and abiding freedom, peace, and joy is of utmost importance to me, even if it hurts at first.

19) Many walls of pride have been burned down in different areas of my life, and that is exactly what I prayed would happen in January of 2017, well before PT school started. It has been a painful but very good process, and it never stops.

20) I think I’ve finally learned to try new things that are either neutral or good for me. Trying new things is not naturally my jam (see #16).

21) I can get close to running a half marathon if I don’t almost break my leg in the process.

22) I have learned how to have healthy confrontation and disagreement. I hate confrontation, but it can be extremely fruitful when done with respect, clarity, and charity.

23) It’s really nice to be in a class of people who want to help each other up the mountain.

24) Expect the unexpected.

25) Everyone always knows more than I do. I don’t mean that in a self-deprecating way, but in an honest way. There will always be something someone else knows that I do not know. There will always be something that I can learn from any given person, whether that’s intellectually, academically, spiritually, emotionally, experientially, or physically.

our first Christmas / holiday season together as a PT cohort 🙂

25 is enough. It’s late now and, like I said, the answer is sleep and prayer. The true list of great and small things I’ve learned is inexhaustible, because the fruits of my experience in DPT school will continue to appear throughout my life.

There is nothing but gratitude and joy looking back at these last three years. Good grief is an appropriate phrase to describe it.

Thank you to all who made this possible, and thank YOU for reading along throughout this journey. I appreciate you.

A Routine For Now

You’d think with all this quarantine time I’d be blogging a lot more.

To be very honest, I haven’t had much motivation to blog. Not because I don’t love this space, but I think because I’ve been praying and processing through many different things. What I have in me to share is either super boring or deeper and more personal than I’m willing to share at this time.

I also just don’t really know what my life, your life, our life is anymore.

Just kidding, that’s so dramatic. It’s the kind of thing I exclaim when I’m tired but also want a cookie at 11pm (aka now?).

I’m graduating on Sunday with my Doctorate in Physical Therapy! It feels relatively anticlimactic, but I am still excited and we’re finding ways to celebrate.

wasn’t long ago (2 years ago) that I graduated undergrad (PC: John L.)

Boston is set to open back up this Monday. It feels surreal and I’m a little scared honestly, but we’ll see what happens I guess.

Anyway, the point of this post is to share with you how I have finally settled into a little routine these days. A quarantine routine — a quaranroutine, one might call it. This would be categorized under the “boring” things that I have to share, but I’ll add in some insightful reflections in there.

I’ll usually wake up anywhere from 4:30am to 8:30am. I kid you not. Occasionally, I will go to a hill in Boston to watch the sunrise and say morning prayer (usually with a friend or two — socially distanced and masked). That’s where the 4:30am comes into play. Those sunrises are always so worth it…as long as I can come back home and take a big fat nap 🙂

8:30am wakeup time happens if I was lazy about going to sleep on time the previous night. Yeah, I said it. TOO LAZY TO GO TO SLEEP; that’s how low I can go.

7:00-7:30am is the sweet spot though.

I have been praying first thing in the morning, which has been such a blessing. It would be very difficult for me to get up early enough to pray before school/clinical, so to have the flexibility to do that now and take my time with it is awesome. The absolute best thing about this quarantine has been spending a lot of quality time with Jesus.

Next I’ll eat some breakfast. You can imagine what that looks like (read: pb and banana in some form).

throwback banana pancake photo

I’ve been trying to do some spiritual reading or just eating meals in silence. Again, to spend more time with Jesus and also to savor my food more. It is rare that I am not thinking about 10,000,000 other things that I have just done and am about to do during the day. Sometimes my roommate will be in the kitchen and we’ll chat too. Sometimes I will be on my phone ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Key word was *try* to do spiritual reading and eat in silence.

Next will either be a walk outside OR studying for boards OR a combination of both, usually depending on the weather forecast for the day. One day a week, I’ll take the morning or early afternoon to grocery shop and do laundry as well.

I’ll typically work out right before lunch. I’ve been posting a lot of my workouts and exercise ideas on my Instagram story/highlights, so follow along there if you are interested! Despite closed gyms, I’m actually feeling quite strong and good with my workouts, but the abundance of sleep and diminished stress I’ve had probably has to do with that. Also, having a kettlebell at home is very helpful.

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Happy Solemnity of the Annunciation! The day when “nothing again would be casual and small.” - Rev. John Duffy ———————— I ordered a 35 lb KB (that I’m naming #Kettlebellarmine) in lieu of the gym for a month or so, and oh, how one piece of equipment can get the job done. ▫️Split squats (4x15 each leg): Keep the chest up, but lean ever so slightly forward at the hips. Keep most of your weight through the front heel. Should be very glute heavy work! ▫️Side to side pushups (4x12 total): This kettlebell falls over if you’re not putting weight through it, so that adds a little stability challenge. Hardest part of this one is keeping the hips down and not piking them. ▫️Cossack squats (3x8 each leg): Push your hips WAY back so that your weight is really through the heel. Keep it there as you push back up and maintain knee over toe. Use no weight first and then progress weight slowly from there. If it hurts your knee, recheck form, and if that doesn’t help then please don’t do it. Some stretching of the glutes, calves, and hamstrings before this one may help as well. ▫️Elevated pike pushups (3x10): Try to get hips directly over shoulders. To make easier, walk feet backwards more or start in downward dog on the ground. ▫️Finisher: 20 KB swings + 20 tuck jump burpees (that I did in sets of 5 because I was tired lol) ——————— Be safe and keep playing by the rules! There is a vast unknown every day, but hold fast to hope.

A post shared by Alison Yeung, DPT (@alison_grooves) on

Lunch lunch lunch. A midday meal to break up the day will always be exciting to me. It’s been a lot of eggs recently.

another throwback photo, but exactly the same meal as these days

The afternoon will consist of a combination of studying, chatting with friends, and maybe a walk if I didn’t go on one in the morning. On my walks, I typically pray a rosary, listen to a podcast, or more recently I’ve been going through Quizlet flashcards on my phone to study.

At 5:30, I’ll break for online Mass and evening prayer. Then I’ll likely shower and eat dinner anywhere from 6:15-7:00pm.

At night, I’ve been applying for jobs in New York, but that’s understandably been a bit of a wash. I trust that something will come eventually as the pandemic recedes.

The rest of the night is a wildcard. Tuesdays involve women’s group via Zoom. Otherwise, it’s a little Words with Friends, some scrolling (working on doing less of this right before bed), some reading, some dental hygiene, and night prayer. Or in the case of this night, blogging!

The weekends are more loosey goosey. I’ve also been participating in some online events, physical therapy and Catholic world alike. Family Zooms have also been a Sunday tradition, which has been wonderful.

Are you still with me? If you are, you deserve some of the NICE star stickers (you know how there were meh star stickers and then the NICE star stickers in elementary school??). I feel like quarantine has been a time of rest and strengthening for me, preparing me for a lot of unknown and change ahead. I am very grateful.

So tell me:

What does your quarantine day-to-day look like?

What are some things you’ve improved upon during this time?

What are some things you struggle with during this time?

38 RANDOM facts about me.

Even those who know me really well probably don’t know a couple of these!

It’s a totally self-indulgent thing to make a video like this, because who cares about 38 facts about another person? But I personally love hearing quick, random tidbits about people’s lives because most of the time, we know a person on social media for who they are NOW, but what are some of the deeper, past and future things? #JUICY

This is the video that inspired this video. Ladies (and gents), I highly recommend Emily Wilson’s content.

*Note: The first fact is a lie though, because I remembered after I made the video that I also have Scrabble Go in addition to Words with Friends on my phone. But I lump them together as essentially the same thing.

Enjoy, if you so choose to watch! This is also an opportunity to see a little bit of Boston as I film many of these facts on my walk through BU’s campus 🙂

Here is the link in case the embedded video isn’t working.

So tell me:

What is 1 (or SEVERAL) random facts about yourself?!

My fitness journey started with a little Beyonce.

Wow, it’s Thursday already. On Monday I thought to myself, “Hmmm feels like this week is going to be kinda long.” Wrong.

Moves.

Tuesday – 100 burpees throughout the day + upper body workout

*10 burpees between each exercise

Wednesday – active recovery day

  • some walking
  • Blogilates’ extreme abs 3 (done virtually with my friend Dom!)
  • stretching and foam rolling
  • some dancing
some tulips from my walk

Beyonce and the start of my fitness journey. I started gaining interest in fitness as a sophomore in high school. My cardiovascular health was never really great, so I had very humble beginnings that started with 15 minutes on our basement elliptical. Running a mile was a sTrUgGLe for me at this time as well.

As I was still just starting out my training, if I was feeling spicy, I would do a few rounds of Beyonce’s “Move Your Body” music video dance (which is really fun btw) to get my heart rate up. Yesterday I wanted to do it just for fun on my active recovery day, and I just remembered how I used to be winded at the end of it when I was in high school.

Not that I’m super fit (especially cardiovascularly, which is still a weak point for me), but this is all to say that you should never be ashamed of where you are in your fitness journey. You are not pathetic if you can’t run a mile without stopping, do a pushup, do a squat, whatever. You are not pathetic if you get winded with 15 minutes of elliptical like I did in high school. There are benefits to increasing cardiovascular endurance, but start and build up safely and consistently from where you are. That’s perfect.

Johnnyswim. Do you guys know this artist? It’s a husband and wife who make sorta folksy-pop music that is really beautiful. Their new quarantine project is called “Songs with Strangers,” where they select a person on their Instagram Live each week. In ONE DAY, they write, produce, mix and release a new song with the help of that person (usually the person just contributes their story, which becomes the basis of the song lyrics), who ends up getting half of the rights to the song. And let me tell you, these songs are wonderful. Here’s one of my favorites:

It’s also awesome that they’ve been posting the full 7-8 hour Instagram live videos of the entire process. Musicians are amazing.

So tell me:

What do you like to do on rest days / active recovery days? (Sometimes I don’t walk or really do anything. Yesterday was still pretty active!)

Do you remember some things you found difficult at the beginning of your fitness journey?

Do you like Johnnyswim? Are there any cool celebrity quarantine projects that you fancy?