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.)

A Grand Ol’ Weekend Recap

Instead of thinking of a title for this post, I’ll just l start typing as I belt out “No One” by Alicia Keys (← quality song).

There’s so much to share today, so let’s nix a proper intro and catch up!

Thursday

On June 9th, 2015, I chopped my hair to shoulder length. On June 16th, 2016, I chopped my hair to chin length. Who knows what June 2017 will bring? #pixiecut?

IMG_1553

even the same shirt color as the emoji

My hair was shoulder length all year, but it was starting to flip outwards like Betty Rubble from the Flintstone’s, which is not the look that I’m personally going for.

images

[source]

Just like last year, I’ve gotten mixed reactions to my new ‘do, but most people have been in support of the short locks (thanks, friends)! One of my friends from work said I look 10 years old though…

IMG_1556

di85XeK8T

[source]

Ya know, I’d rather look like Dora than Betty Rubble, so I’d say it’s a step up.

After a long day of work, Pop and I came home to a KILLER dinner made my Madre. She made sushi hand rolls + delicious chicken drumsticks. *jaw drop*

DSC_2437 DSC_2438

leftover brown rice + roasted broccoli on the side (pro tip from Madre: cut the meat off the bone a little bit before cooking if you want the drumsticks to cook more quickly. it’ll still be juicy!)

Spoiled.

Friday

Banana and mango overnight oats to start the day— my forever favorite ♥︎ (p.s. post about how to make oatmeal two ways coming soon!)

DSC_2445

Dinner was simple and light because I was planning on working out soonish afterwards.

DSC_2446

sunny egg on avocado toast with sriracha + salad with homemade honey mustard dressing

But then I rebelled against my dairy cutdown and also ate cheesy jalapeño Popcorners. And then Pop came home and I decided that I really wanted Greek yogurt with dried figs.

“Sureeee. Go wild. But you might pay for it later.” – Pop

DSC_2447

I was totally fine later. Actually, my digestion this week might be the best it’s been in a while! Hmmm.

AFTER I ate dinner and dessert, I worked out at 10 pm in the basement. I needed 5 hours to decompress from work and nourish myself before working out, I guess.

A video posted by Alison (@alison_grooves) on Jun 17, 2016 at 7:52pm PDT

//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.js

Saturday

A weekend breakfast favorite:

DSC_2448

Kylie’s simple paleo pancake + peach + peanut butter + glass o’ milk

I really wanted to put Greek yogurt on this, but I think having too much dairy still wouldn’t be great for me.

Madre and I went on a couple errands including grocery shopping and clothes shopping. Productivity, I say!

IMG_1576

didn’t buy this, but LOL I am a mother from the 50s

Moves and grooves of the day: 20 minute AMRAP (as many rounds as possible)

After Mass, Madre wanted to take Pop out to pre-Fathers’ Day dinner, so we went to a place called The Iron Tomato. It’s a casual Italian marketplace, so we each ordered something at different stations and reconvened.

IMG_1575

I got chicken meatloaf + artichokes, beets, and broccoli rabe to share with mom

We digested for a couple hours before I made a beloved classic for Pop and myself:

DSC_2451

Peanut butter banana soft serve!!! For two people: 3-4 frozen overripe bananas blended with peanut butter in a food processor, topped with granola.

Sunday (Father’s Day!)

My dad just made a good point (as a good father does): I FaceTimed a lot of people from Europe yesterday.

  1. Rachel in Ireland.
  2. My brother in Spain.
  3. My uncle, who is a priest in Rome.

What a great day already!

I made breakfast for Pop (and myself) in the morn’.

DSC_2453

made him a chorizo, onion, spinach egg white omelette + banana oatmeal

DSC_2452

banana, mango, chia oatmeal for moi

He opened his gift while eating. Peep the Sephora-bag-turned-“man-bag”.

DSC_2455 DSC_2454 DSC_2456

He loves Under Armor shirts!

After some more FaceTiming and relaxing, we all got started on our late afternoon BBQ! Pop requested that he grill on his special day. Madre and I went shopping and marinaded/skewered everything, and he and Madre split the grilling job. Teamwork!

DSC_2459

Madre’s incredible ribs, smothered in Stubb’s sticky sweet BBQ sauce (thanks so much to my pal for sending us this— you know who you are 🙂 )

To think that I used to not like ribs… So naive.

DSC_2461 DSC_2462 DSC_2464

our favorite Moroccan chicken!

DSC_2470 DSC_2465

We ate everything in lettuce wraps, Asian style — with Thai basil, cilantro, fresh backyard mint, cherry tomatoes, bean sprouts, and Madre’s fantastic peanut sauce. None of us could choose a favorite meat that we cooked (maybe the ribs though).

DSC_2468

don’t ask me what I’m doing because I could not tell you

We cooked way too much food for three people, but hooray for leftovers for work lunches this week!

We ended “dinner” at 5 pm (talk to Europeans, eat like Europeans), after which we chilled out and digested. Pop and I went on a 2 mile walk around the ‘hood in the evening, and the weather was absolutely perfect. Cool and comfortable.

I got started on dessert when we got back home. We had weird peaches that were ripening but not softening. Like, we had them for a week, and they were starting to taste overripe (read: kinda alcoholic), but they were still hard. So I tried this recipe for individual peach crisps to put them to use.

DSC_2472

Pop and I had one each, topped with Talenti pistachio gelato. I ate the peach first (it was still hard and weird even after baking) and then ate the gelato. And then went back for a little more gelato.

DSC_2471 DSC_2474

I just proceeded to do the 7 minute workout with Madre shortly after finishing dessert. Ice cream and squats is not an ideal combo, but I’ll survive.

I might do some late night stretching before turning in. My legs are super tight (I was a bad girl/PT student and didn’t stretch after working out on Saturday).

Happy Fathers’ Day to all fathers out there— of children or of souls! 🙂 You are so loved and appreciated.

Hope you all have one heck of a good Monday! Strike a silly pose when no one’s looking, but someone could be looking.

So tell me:

Did you do anything notable for Fathers’ Day/the weekend?

Do you like ribs?

What is the best thing you ate this weekend?

What is the worst hairstyle you’ve ever had? Honestly, my “bangs” in middle school were pretty painful.

Screen Shot 2016-06-19 at 10.20.05 PM

seriously WTF is happening with that

Overnight Breakfast Obsession

God bless refrigerators.

Some of you might know how much I love overnight oats (<— I need to update that recipe a little!), but in the past couple years I’ve discovered some other overnight breakfasts that are making me dance before I’m fully cognizant in the morning.

Not only are these breakfasts delicious (thanks to the breakfast trifecta), but they require little to no effort in the morning when you’re running late so ready to eat breakfast. Here’s a look at some of the overnight breakfasts I’ve been loving lately.

“Banana Pudding for Breakfast” via Yeah…Imma Eat That

DSC_1745

One of the most ingenious and impressive-looking breakfasts ever. It’s basically a peanut butter oatmeal cookie – yogurt parfait. Praaaaise.

Next up is this banana bread “custard” oatmeal, inspired by The Big Man’s World.

DSC_1767

Get this: You cook oatmeal on the stovetop the night before, and you add a whole egg and some coconut flour to make it the most doughy, fluffy oatmeal ever. Then you chill it in the fridge overnight, which makes it this dense, cake-like dish.

The night before, I cooked 1/2 c. rolled oats in 1/2 c. water and 1/2 c. milk. Then I stirred in half a very ripe banana, 1 tbsp. coconut flour, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, a pinch of salt, and a drizzle of honey. Once it was thickened, I turned off the heat and whisked in a whole egg.

Optional: eat with a side of plain Greek yogurt for some more texture and creamy dreaminess.

Last one is something you’ve often seen: overnight oat smoothies, inspired by Kath Eats.

DSC_1774

This is what I ate this morning, and it was the most luscious smoothie ever. I’m sad it’s gone.

In the blender last night:

  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 1/3 c. oats
  • 1/3 c. plain greek yogurt
  • cinnamon and nutmeg
  • 1-2 tbsp. peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp. chia seeds
  • pinch of salt

Pop it in the fridge. Then in the morning, add half a frozen banana and half a frozen peach (~1.5 c. frozen fruit total). Add more milk as needed to blend your concoction into a magical cloud of peachy, peanut buttery goodness.

The chia seeds and frozen fruit MAKE this smoothie.

I’m done fan-girling over my breakfasts.

(for today.)

Now onto Weekly Moves and Grooves! I’m still keeping workouts low-key and feeling pretty awesome. I’ve loved working on mobility and skills such as handstands this summer.

weekly moves and grooves

  • Friday: handstands and mobility in the hotel
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest
  • Monday: 8 minute abs
  • Tuesday: 45 minute yoga
  • Wednesday: 1 mile walk, (probably too many) air squats and other bodyweight leg exercises, handstands
  • Thursday: Rest

Today is my last day at my physical therapy internship! It’s been an amazing learning experience, and I’m grateful for the people with whom I’ve worked.

Tomorrow starts early for Dad and I, since we’re driving up to Ontariooooo. It’s been a hot minute since we visited our relatives in Canada, so I’m stoked!

Happy Friday! Let your hair loose, let your foot loose, don’t let your dog loose.

So tell me:

Do you like overnight breakfasts? Any favorites?

How did you move this week?

What are you doing this weekend?

Weekly Moves and Grooves XXIX {Casual and Enjoyable Exercise}

Let’s talk about moves and grooves lately.

They have been happening, but as some of you may know, I have decided to decrease the intensity and amount of my exercise in order to rest my body and maybe regain my period.

It’s been difficult not doing any burpees or weighted activities or HIIT, and there are days when I feel especially bummed about that. However, most days I feel very content with just bodyweight strengthening, stretching, or walking. I have realized that decreasing exercise is only 50% about regaining my period. The other 50% is about improving my relationship with exercise, which has certainly happened as a result of stepping back. 

I exercise based on what feels good for my body that day. I worry less about doing “enough”. I have MORE energy because I’m not draining myself every day.

I mostly want to share my weekly exercise with you so that I can be transparent about how much I am doing. It’s only fair and honest that you all know this. This is also sort of “accountability” for me to make sure I am resting enough.

weekly moves and grooves

Note: In addition to the exercise listed below, I have been practicing handstands pretty much every day. I will also often do pull-ups when I pass by the door bar we have. Some days I will practice L-sits and pushups, but not very often. Some days I will do this gymnastics warmup. It’s fun to play around with these things, but I never make a workout out of them.

  • Sunday: I forget. Maybe I went on a walk?
  • Monday: 8 minute abs
  • Tuesday: 2 mile walk
  • Wednesday: dancing in the living room + yoga + leg exercises
    • bodyweight squats, band donkey kicks, bridges, pistol squats, side lying leg raises
    • I realize that this was a lot of activity in a day!
  • Thursday: yoga
  • Friday: 8 min. abs + walk
  • Saturday: Pilates? Nothing? not sure yet!

This might be more exercise than some of you were expecting, and I understand that. That’s why I wanted to share this with you. Any exercise that I’m do nowadays is done purely for sake of moving because it feels nourishing. As much as I don’t want to stress about working out, I don’t want to stress out about not exercising either. If my body is {honestly} craving movement, I’ll move!

There are no words for how much I thank you for all your support. I had to read my post about reflecting on my exercise again to remind myself why I am doing this. I am confident that your love and prayers are what are keeping me honest with myself and with you. God is keeping me humble, and I am very thankful for that.

So tell me:

How have you been moving this week? 

Weekly Moves and Grooves XXV {When School Gets Crazy}

This weather has me OFF THE WALLS right now.

In a good way! I’ll gush about it more tomorrow, but today I’m coming at you with a recap of weekly moves and grooves from the past two weeks since I skipped last Sunday for Easter!

I’ve gone to the gym three times in the past two weeks just due to a hectic schedule. But I always feel better when I exercise, so I fit it in when I can!

weekly moves and grooves

Sunday

jog to the gym + leg workout

My butt and hamstrings were sore for THREE DAYS after this. Oh my word.

Monday

Rest

Tuesday

gymnastics warmup + circuit workout a la dorm

4 rounds:

  • 10 modified handstand pushups
  • 15 burpees
  • 20 modified v-ups
  • 25 plank jacks
  • 20 straight leg tricep dips
  • 15 supermans
  • 10 side crunches each side

This took about 23 minutes. I wanted to do a quick workout focused on upper body and core exercises to give my sore posterior chain some more rest. Oof.

Wednesday

sun salutations (lots of down dogs, planks, pushups) + bodyweight circuit + random burpees

4 rounds for time:

  • 10 pushup burpees
  • 16 jump lunges
  • 20 pushups
  • 30 mountain climbers
  • 40 air squats

This was another workout in the dorm. I usually go to the gym with my buddy PJ on Wednesday mornings, but I skipped it this week because I needed an extra half-hour of sleep and extra time to study.

I still enjoy working up a sweat and getting my blood flowing before sitting in class for three hours straight though, so I did another bodyweight circuit workout. The pushups are what got me on this one! I finished in 15:00 flat.

Thursday, Friday, Saturday

Active rest/bodyweight workouts

I really don’t remember what I did on these days because Holy Week festivities are dominating any other memories of those three days.

{Easter} Sunday

Tabata workout in the dorm

4 rounds of each // 20 seconds hard work: 10 seconds rest

It was a glorious Easter morning! I slept in didn’t have much time to spare before choir practice, so I got the blood flowing in the dorm.

Monday

gymnastics warmup + 100 burpee challenge

I PR’d again!

IMG_4548

Wiped.

This time I broke it up into sets of 35, 15, 20, and 30. I had to dig deep to do 30 in a row for that last set.

Tuesday

circuit workout in the dorm

3 rounds:

A great, quick workout! This took about 18 minutes.

Wednesday

jog to the gym + upper body workout + rowing thruster workout

The upper body workout consisted of assisted pull-ups, arnold presses, bent over barbell rows, decline pushups, seated rows, and lat pull downs.

The rowing thruster workout was 20-18-16-14-12-10-8-6-4-2 cals on the rower with 8 thrusters (40#) between each set.

Thursday

Rest

Friday

12 minute HIIT from Purely Twins + 8 minute ab tabata

I had approximately twenty minutes to fit in a workout [before showering] before class, so I went for it! The 8 minute ab tabata included v-ups, ankle taps, cross body mountain climbers, and spiderman planks.

20 minutes is all it takes these days!

Saturday

dynamic warmup + lower body + 8 minute ab tabata + squats and burpees

I went to the gym with my friend Christine (who has a blog too!) yesterday!

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

We started off doing our own workouts first. So I did some lower body weights:

  • 4×12 lunges each leg (50#) (two sets reverse lunges, two sets front lunges) // 30 side jump lunges between each set
  • angled leg press: 1×10 (180#), 1×8 (200#), 1×6 (210#), 1×5 (220#) // 10 pushup burpees between each set

Then we met up for an 8 minute ab tabata:

  • weighted Russian twists
  • leg lift crunches
  • mountain climbers
  • spiderman planks

And Christine requested that we do squats and burpees, so we ended with 3 rounds of 15 goblet squats + 10 burpees.

We were both sweaty beasts beauties. 😉

__________________________________________

Off to do homework and stuff. I’ve been using the nice weather as an excuse to procrastinate all day ahh!

So tell me:

What was your favorite workout/way you moved this weekend?

Have you recently had a workout that made you sore for DAYS?