Revisiting body image and my current fitness “routine”

My creativity juices for a fun intro are not flowing, so let’s just get right into it!

Without a doubt, starting my physical therapy career in a full-time outpatient orthopedic setting has thrown my schedule for a loop (as if my schedule has been consistent in the past 24 years of my life anyway). I am extremely grateful to have a job that sustains me at this time and for it to be something that allows me to help and interact with others through movement.

I’ve been tired though. That’s largely my fault because I am still working on sleep discipline, but it is safe to say that my mental output these days is higher than it’s ever been, which in turn affects my physical output. My physical output is nowhere near 18,000 steps per day and working out at a high intensity in Boston most days, but I am moving all day and my sympathetic nervous system is ON more often than not.

I have gained a few pounds since moving home to New York. I say that with as much objectivity and neutrality as possible; it’s just a fact. This is due to my overall lower physical energy expenditure and likely a few nights of stress eating if I’m being entirely honest. I would genuinely believe that there is some muscle mass gain in there too, but I can’t say for sure.

However, since moving to New York, and since quarantine started in March 2020, I have also become physically stronger and more capable in many ways that I have never been before. To name a few… With the introduction of Kettlebellarmine (aka my 35# KB) + Sunday swings, I have learned movement patterns that I have not before. I have identified weaknesses to address that make me stronger, safer, and more stable. I can sustain a higher energy output in my workouts for a longer period of time. I can do pull-ups for reps (albeit no more than 6-7 on a good day) at my heaviest bodyweight ever.

The KEY to the progress I’ve made in certain areas of my fitness is to do HIGH QUALITY movements with HIGH ENERGY output, whether it’s explosive tuck jumps or a standard plank. Natacha Océane talks a lot about the difference between rate of perceived exertion (i.e., how hard a workout FEELS to you) vs. measurable exertion (i.e., how hard you are ACTUALLY working), and I’ve been focusing more on exerting as much measurable exertion as possible by giving myself plenty of rest days between intense workouts, adequate rest between sets, and plenty. of. food.

My workouts program consists of: “whatever feels like the just-right challenge today.” Just-right challenge = hard enough that I have to involve my brain in the quality of my movements, but not so hard that I am stopping frequently for breaks / feeling like I’m compensating a lot.

Some days the just-right challenge is a high intensity workout with burpees, KB swings, snatches, sandbag squats. Some days the just-right challenge is holding a couple planks and hollow holds. All is beneficial for my fitness overall, and I have come to love and look forward to every single day of training because of how flexible I have been with myself. My workouts are anywhere from 15-90 minutes long, but usually around 30-45 minutes is the sweet spot, not including the warmup.

To be fair, several things have fallen to the wayside because of my training style these days. Endurance? What is that? HEAVY lifting? Can’t do it right now without a gym. And not willing to spend an arm and two of my legs for more home exercise equipment right now.

My fitness goals?

I do have a goal to increase my single arm hanging grip strength. I am a dense person for my size, so holding myself with one arm for any length of time is hard for me.

I also have a goal to actually train core more specifically and more often. I kind of stopped doing ab workouts because…I don’t really know. I felt that I was getting enough through functional training, but now I would like to build up true endurance and strength of those muscles again.

My right glute medius and my left rotator cuff need some HELP, bro. Weak weak weak. And my body is feeling the negative effects of that weakness. Good thing I train my patients to strengthen / heal these areas every day, because now it’s tiiiiime to take some of my own medicine.

Lastly, and most importantly, my goal is to promote longevity of fitness in my life. Especially as I work as a physical therapist now, it is more evident than ever that nothing is a given, and some things in fitness are just not worth it. I want to be able to use my limbs and core functionally for the rest of my life with as few repercussions as possible, which does start with training the body well, but not necessarily training harder.

In terms of body image and nutrition these days, I have had some tough days recently in which I feel like a fluff ball, particularly in my lower half where my genes love to store energy. But I have noticed in this past year — a year of getting stronger and feeling better in my workouts than I ever have — that I have really let my body consume the energy that it needs. I don’t track calories but I am guessing I eat well over 2,500 calories on most days, and my body feels really great with that. I have at times tried seeing if I could do with less food (as a mental exercise rather than for physical change), and my workouts quite honestly feel worse when I do.

(You might feel GREAT with lots of energy in your workouts with way fewer calories than this! Awesome. Lots of olympians my size eat fewer calories than me it seems. This is just where my body and mind feel truly well. Also, I’m not a dietitian, so don’t take my nutrition habits as a suggestion for you 🙂 )

It’s always a journey, but I feel like I am able to function at work, at home, and in my workouts with the mental and physical output that I need with this pretty hefty amount of food that I eat on a daily basis. Consuming a good amount of carbs at pretty much every meal is also really important for me. People can tell me otherwise, but I’ve tried to eat fewer carbs at many points in my life, and I just don’t perform well in my workouts either that day or later in the week.

I’m not “tight”, my hips are wide, and FaceTime loves to highlight my double chin when I look down at my phone. But as far as I’m concerned, my body is out here thriving (though sometimes just surviving, as we all are), making progress in fitness, and working to heal others every day, so that’s a gift and a big win in my book.

So tell me: Have you noticed any changes in your fitness / body image recently? How so? Why do you think so?

Working on sleep discipline + an overdue Christmas vlog!

pray.

I have come to the acceptance that I’m naturally a night owl, but I think it’s less of some hormonal / physiological thing and more of a vice…

People have said that going to sleep is like accepting that the next day is beginning, which can be daunting or undesirable for people who are tired and want to “rest” (i.e., do things besides the thing they are required to do the next day). Which is SO ME.

I know that I stay up too late on weekend nights doing things like learning Kyle Hanagami dances, watching Youtube videos of fitness/food influencers, or talking to friends. Anything but sleep and wind down. And then I complain of not getting enough sleep, at no one’s fault except my own (usually).

I made a resolution a while ago to be silent by 10pm, but I’ve become very lax with that, partially because I became lax with the accountability of it to my friend. Will be reinstating that now. But something that I keep thinking about is taking at least 60 seconds to check in with God when I am really tempted to open up a new tab on my browser at night… to just tell Him what I’m really feeling and what it is that I really want to do with my life at that point. Because no decision is isolated, and my decisions at night definitely affect the next day, and I would prefer to have healthy, productive days.

Working on it.

eat.

My brother and his gf brought over the new Korean chicken sandwiches for us to eat from Shake Shack yesterday, which were very tasty! I air fried some frozen curly fries on the side, which hit the SPOT. Few things beat a crispy, seasoned curly fry.

Made my own special sauce in the ramekin there: light mayo, ketchup, vidalia onion dressing mixed together

I became hypertensive for a short time after this meal, I’m sure.

move.

I did a fun running circuit workout last weekend. That’s right, I said FUN. It was 3 laps of running around the neighborhood (~1/2 to 3/4 mile each), followed by this circuit:

  • 10 pushup burpees
  • 15 pushups
  • 20 v-ups

Repeat with 2 laps + circuit, then 1 lap + circuit.

Was a chilly but lovely time.

groove.

I totally forgot to share this Christmas vlog that I filmed three weeks ago now… But in case you want to join me retroactively on my Christmas day festivities, please do!

https://youtu.be/bFjdzJc-Mq8

I hope your 2021 is going well (or as well as it can be) so far 🙂

So tell me:

Do you have trouble with sleep discipline?

Curly fries, regular fries, sweet potato fries, or tater tots??

“Alison, this year will be hard.”

“Alison, this year will be hard. But I will carry so much of the burden with you if you let Me. You will grow in so many ways, in more ways than just one. You are ready for it. I am with you always. It will be very good.”

I was prayer journaling on January 3, 2020, and these are the words I had in my heart that God was responding to me after I probably word-vomited a bunch of my anxieties and fears to Him.

This journal entry was written before COVID-19 became a global pandemic, before I left Boston, before my relationship ended, before political and social battlefields blew up, before death and anxiety consumed everyone’s minds, before starting my new career, before being in solitude for 6 months. I’m no prophet, because this could apply to many different years of my life, but it was made very clear to me this year that things would be particularly difficult.

“I will carry much of the burden with you if you let Me.” There were many times I did not let God carry the burden with me this year, because I thought I didn’t have time to think about anything except all the things I just listed. Those were the times when “difficult” became “crushing,” and when I felt the ground beneath me collapse. But in all the times I allowed Him to come and be with me, “difficult” became “difficult but peaceful.”

I’m not here to say that every hardship can be turned into a happy ending now that it’s December 31st. There is a bitterness that humanity tasted this year that won’t go away by holding hands (definitely not that) and singing kumbaya. Hard days are made harder when you specifically asked God to help make the day easier and He didn’t. Death and loss are harder when you prayed that God would perform a miracle and He didn’t.

But God is not wrong. Do not be mistaken — COVID (and all the other bad things of this year) needs to die in H-E-double hockey sticks; I hate it all so much. But as Fr. Mike Schmitz says in this video: God never promised we would not suffer, but He did promise that He would always be with us. “I am with you always.” (Matthew 28:20)

My last post about solidarity is an ode to this fact. I said to God about 20 times before 8:00am this morning at work: “I can’t do this, Lord. I can’t do this.” But He made His crown of suffering readily visible in my mind. On January 3, 2020, He promised I would grow, and I would not have grown on this day, in this year, had He not let me suffer with Him, as much as I wished He didn’t let me.

“It will be very good.” Death is not good. Suffering is not good. But into whatever I allow God to enter, suffering and death included, it will be very good. Just like the day Jesus suffered and died is called Good Friday.

Some things I still feel have not shown to be very good at all — continued death, continued division, continued hopelessness. Some things I can see are indeed very good — the Zoom calls with relatives; the virtual book clubs; the new, rediscovered, and transformed relationships; the job that both drains and sustains me; the time I received to fall in love with God again.

“You are ready for it.” The times of the past are now 1000x sweeter when I think about them. Seemingly dumb and insignificant memories and experiences of friends, family, and faith have become powerful motivators for me when I’m feeling very low. I am grateful for every sweet and bitter moment that has readied me to be standing in my kitchen typing all of this half asleep right now (before 9:00pm, might I add).

God has kept all His promises this year, and at first it seems to be at my dismay. I wish it wasn’t so hard and I wish He didn’t ask us all to go through 2020. But even the “best” year is not good unless the One who is Goodness Himself is with us. He is with us, if we allow Him to be, and that is very good.

Happy 2021!

So tell me: Anything you want about how you feel about this year or the next!

Solidarity!

pray.

A big thing for which I am grateful these days is the solidarity I feel with my family, friends, patients, colleagues, role models, and strangers quite honestly during these times…and just during life in general. I am realizing more and more that one of the things that ENERGIZES me and gives me motivation is knowing that there are others who are laboring and toiling alongside me (in the theoretical sense, not the physical sense because…you know).

I have been praying a lot about the Holy Family (i.e., Jesus, Mary and Joseph) being with me in my mundanity and also in the stresses of work. I imagine their humble yet incredibly loving actions in their daily work, and that brings me a good deal of consolation.

Pin en Moyers
painting by Mike Moyers

eat.

I made these pumpkin cheesecake crumb muffins this weekend, and they are perfectly sweet and moist. A good crumb wins me over every time.

move.

Workouts continue to be planned approximately 5 minutes before I do them depending on how I am feeling and how much time I have. Last night I had 40 minutes from start to finish, so after a warmup, I did 5 rounds of 10 KB snatches on each arm (35#) followed by a 15 minute HIIT:

3 rounds (30 sec hard work // 30 sec rest):

groove.

I put up some Christmas lights this past weekend inside and outside the house, and it’s really quite pitiful humble, and I call the decor setup my “frat house festivity,” but seeing even just a glimmer of cheer makes me happier than Christmas decorations ever have.

Also, I tried to learn this Kyle Hanagami choreo to the song “Monster” by Shawn Mendes and Justin Bieber, and I’ll say it was moderately successful, though I don’t look as good as these dancers, and there are a couple links in the choreo that I have not gotten down. But learning choreo again made the dancer in me very happy!

This was a quick post, but I have been wanting to pop in for a while now! Hope you guys are having a marvelous week so far 🙂

So tell me:

What is something that FIRES YOU UP to keep going when things feel like a drag?

Are you decorating your house for any of the upcoming holidays?

Crumb topping – yay or nay?

Do you ever watch videos a million time to learn the dance (“yes,” say all the Tik Tok fans of the world)

“I need You desperately.”

These titles are sounding more dramatic with each blog post, good grief.

pray.

One of the things that I have been praying under my breath (and mask) during the work day — when I feel like my sympathetic nervous system is at level 10,000 as I run around to different patients, manage customer service, perform interventions properly, and document all the things — is:

“Lord, I need You DESPERATELY.”

A lot of my prayer, any time of day, has involved some sort of plead for help from God, because hot dang, the days can be long and hard. I cannot do it alone.

But I am hangin’ in there!! My colleagues, family, and friends have been incredibly supportive and loving, and the Lord is for SURE sustaining me.

eat.

Thanksgiving is coming up, holy tamales. My brother’s girlfriend ordered the Blue Apron Thanksgiving dinner for us, which involves a cheesy cornbread and an apple peanut PERSIMMON crumble (!!???). How cool!? I love love love cooking Thanksgiving foods my own way, but it’ll be fun to do something new this year. #2020 mix it up ya know?

In terms of things I already have eaten, last weekend for my brother’s birthday, I made wagyu beef burgers (from frozen; I ain’t that skilled) from a Costco kit that included brioche buns, bacon, and truffle butter *drool face.* Also these peanut butter s’mores bars, which were killerrrrr. He let me keep half, so I had a tasty dessert the whole week.

I had so much fiber last week, my poor organs. But my happy cardiovascular system.

move.

Moves just happen when they happen, but quite honestly I feel as powerful and strong as ever! Every repetition is focused on high quality contraction and motor control in order to maximize the efficiency. It’s still just me and Kettlebellarmine (my 35# KB) and my pull-up bar.

I definitely need more sleep too, which will help my workouts to feel a little better. But here’s a recent leg workout I did that got me sore:

  • 3×10 Bulgarian split squats with pulse at bottom (each leg)
  • 3×8 squat with tapbacks // 3×12 KB swing to reverse swing
  • 3×8 lateral step downs each leg

That’s the extent of my workout volume these days. Work tuckers me out enough, and I’m still going on walks. Like I said, life is about just moving when I can and quality>quantity!

grooves.

I have been obsessed with watching Cimorelli videos in my free time. They’re a band of sisters who are incredibly girly and screamy but also so loving and supportive of one another and others; they’re just wonderful. They have beautiful voices, beautiful faces, and beautiful souls, and they make me feel like I’m part of their family, which sounds cheesy as FLIP, but ya girl can use as much ~community~ as I can at this time of COVID. I’m sure you feel.

I hope my American friends have a fantastic Thanksgiving, even if it’s low key, even if you’re alone, and even if you’re working. I am thankful for you reading this ♥︎

So tell me:

Is there something you say under your breath to keep you going on the stressful days?

Any plans for Thanksgiving?

What are some ways you like to exercise when you’re tight on time?