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?

The Aftermath of Inspiration

This is the diary of an extraordinarily ordinary person.

Also the diary of a person who has not worked consistently nor been in school for almost a month, so I’m just derping around, reflecting on life, wasting time, and finding things to do. Luckily, work starts on Monday.

Recently (not just during my post-school intermission, but even throughout this past semester), I’ve noticed that I have rarely felt passionate about the things in front of me, whether that’s school, relationships, activities, fitness goals, or just life in general.

Please do not take this the wrong way! It’s not that I’m not enjoying life, but I’ve been lacking some intrinsic “oomph” that drives me to set my heart on something.

The only thing that my heart is truly set on is pursuing a deeper relationship with God, which I guess is fine because that’s the foundation of everything else. But I still can’t help but feel frustrated that my disposition has been kind of bland and aimless recently.

It’s easy to be inspired to do great things (or small things with great love) through prayer, enlightening conversations, beautiful songs, thoughtful articles, and Facebook videos with heart-tugging montages (#honest). What’s not easy is facing the aftermath of inspiration. The aftermath that involves…doing normal, everyday things.

IMG_0364

The aftermath of inspiration that involves seeing and choosing to love the face in the mirror that has zits all over her forehead (including one particularly pesky and red one).

The aftermath of inspiration that involves emptying out the sink trap, my least favorite thing in the sanctuary that is the kitchen.

The aftermath of inspiration that involves re-studying notes from the past year at the dining room table.

The aftermath of inspiration that involves responding to emails.

The aftermath of inspiration that involves conversations that don’t inspire or excite you at all.

The aftermath of inspiration that involves sweeping the floors of the millions of hairs that three long-haired girls shed in their apartment (haha ew, but I know some of you can relate).

The aftermath of inspiration that involves NOT looking at inspiring things anymore and just doing what you need to do.

The aftermath of inspiration that involves dirt-ordinary things that are necessary in order to achieve greatness, to change lives, to become the men and women who we are created to be.

IMG_9811

I feel like I get on an inspiration high with so much consumption of social media. It’s obviously a great thing that there are so many uplifting, inspiring, loving people out there; I am grateful for everyone who puts out positivity in this world. There’s never enough of that. However, recently, that’s where the inspiration seems to stop for me.

I watch the inspiring videos, read the inspiring articles, and then go back to the tasks of life with very little passion. I really do believe that some people go forth with a “get after it” mindset 24/7, but I…just don’t. Like, I’m doing what I need to do and seeking opportunities to be better, but I’m not trying to “get after it.” I’m just doing what I ought to do.

Perhaps it’s because I don’t have many goals right now, and for the goals that are already set out for me (i.e. finish school with a doctorate in physical therapy), I’m kind of lackluster about them (except for the Spartan Race in August; I’m stoked for that). So I do what needs to be done, expecting it to either fulfill me in the moment or expecting myself to feel some sort of passion because, “This little task will pay off in the end when I reach my goal, right!?” … But nope. Neither of those things stirs in my heart.

5947eaa10bcef67f4070e477-o

throwback to last year’s Spartan Race lol

That’s the problem though. I always want to feel like I am fulfilling some profound inspiration that budded in my heart at one moment, but the aftermath of inspiration involves emptiness sometimes. It might involve wandering. It might involve doing things cerebrally for a while instead of doing things emotionally. It might involve doing little things with great love but not feeling love at all, because love is a choice, after all.

(I do believe that you should be at peace with what you are doing; how you feel is so important and should not be forgotten!!)

IMG_8734

if you feel like 1-year-old post-nap Alison all the time, re-evaluate what you’re doing

Speaking of inspiration, I just read this in a Sisters of Life magazine, and I think it’s relevant to my situation:

“We have tried to learn the great art of being with others… It’s a way of receiving another — looking at the person before me, not as a project or a problem to be solved, but as a gift, a unique masterpiece of God’s love. It’s developing the habit of gazing at this person with the heart…” – Sr. Maris Stella

I think this can apply not only to people, but to every task that may or may not feel like it’s lending to my ultimate fulfillment.

So I guess the aftermath of inspiration isn’t really “aftermath” at all, but rather a true gift in and of itself. The dirt-ordinary task, the people in front of you right now, the opportunities and experiences you are given today — this is the greatness, the life-changer, the essence of becoming who we are created to be. And seeing it as such is a habit that needs to be developed, so maybe that’s what God is helping me to do now.

I think it’s time to let life inspire me as it happens rather than feeling the need to do everything because I am inspired. Does that make sense? And if passion for something does take over my heart one of these days, I will be all the more grateful.

landscape-1436796423-giphy-1

idk this is an old gif in my media library, but Beyonce is always a good choice

Have a great Thursday! God loves you. I love you.

So tell me:

THOUGHTS!?

 

Don’t Let The Mirror Steal Your Joy

Real talk tiiiiiiime.

Last week, I completed a fun workout outside. I think it was this one:

5 rounds
  • run the cul-de-sac (~200m)
  • 60 sec squat jump with knee up twist (15#)
  • 60 sec v-ups
  • 60 sec down dog spiderman pushups
  • 60 sec reverse lunge with kick (30#)
  • 30 sec side plank right
  • 30 sec side plank left

It involved running, so you know I felt extra accomplished when I finished. I was hot and tired, but I also felt energized and strong.

IMG_1348

But then I looked in the mirror, and all of a sudden I didn’t feel as satisfied with my workout anymore. I honestly think I’d been watching too many Crossfit videos that weekend, so all I had been looking at were bodies like Stacie Tovar’s:

MG_9613-Edit-2-11

[source]

I’m obviously not as fit as a Crossfit Games athlete (or almost any Crossfitter, for that matter), but when I looked in the mirror, I subconsciously compared my body to fitter, leaner bodies.

And that stole my joy.

IMG_1314

We’ve talked about the comparison trap 1000000 times on this blog, but it never seems to fade away (for me at least). Now don’t get me wrong, I do believe that I am in a healthier place than ever, mentally. But it’s still important to realize that aspiring for thinness OR fitness can be dangerous (← great article from Spoon University).

IMG_0813

In other words, aspiring for another person’s body (seeing someone else’s body as #goals) is denying yourself the opportunity to realize the amazing things about your body and what you can do.

IMG_0138

If I let myself define my workouts by how I look afterwards, I will end up miserable, and working out will become merely a means to an “end”— to have a certain physique (which is actually not an end because physical aesthetic alone is never fulfilling IMHO).

This doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t set goals, but I think there’s a difference between setting goals to be like someone else and setting goals to be the best version of yourself at this stage in your life.

Even with that perspective though, how can you tell what “your best” is? Am I not doing “my best” right now just because I’m not pushing myself to lift the heaviest weights possible, to run more, or to eat less sugar? Maybe. But I’m going to say that I am doing my best, because I have other priorities ahead of fitness (that is, fitness that goes above and beyond basic fitness for health) towards which I devote my time and energy as well.

IMG_0970

Since I’ve been working out when I feel like it and in a way that feels right for my body on each day, I’ve truly come to love working out. When I started this blog almost three years ago, I probably said that I loved working out, but I don’t think I truly did. I was still forcing myself to work out when I didn’t want to and to do workouts that were way too intense for what I needed that day.

photo 3

throwback to when I went to New York Sports Club in high school

This also doesn’t mean that you should never work out if just because you don’t feel like it. However, if there is one Pinterest quote I am willing to share over and over again, it’s this one:

aea43091f74abdc72ca6ce8df7193943

[source]

So cheers to moving and grooving…

…whether that’s running or walking…push-ups on your knees or clapping push-ups…air squats or heavy squats.

…whether you have a cut six-pack or a “muffin top” with those spandex capris…a perky butt or a cellulite-dimpled butt…biceps or no biceps (I happen to have the latter on all three of these)…

Don’t let the mirror steal your joy. Let exercise itself be your jam, not just “the body” (whatever that is to you).

So tell me:

Have you ever let the mirror steal your joy after a workout?

Other thoughts! 

Five Minute Friday #3: Making Changes to Fulfill a Purpose

I have a new companion who comes with me to all my meals, but I’m not really sure I want him there… He kinda weighs me down sometimes, but I can’t let go of him, and I always pay attention to what he has to say.

IMG_0154 IMG_0158

See him? Mr. Exercise Physiology. I have an exam for on Tuesday, and I need all information about metabolism to saturate my brain.

Other recent happenings include lots of sandwiches with guac…

IMG_0150 IMG_0157

…and Lent! It started this Wednesday, so this week’s Five Minute Friday vlog has to do with making changes in one’s life in order to fulfill a purpose (not just from a Catholic perspective).

link to the video here!

Catholics do have set rules for fasting and abstinence throughout Lent. Here are some infographics if you’re curious!

12647479_1024174374313709_5685472379376277510_n

12651321_1024175757646904_7659477832980467689_n

[source]

Ooo Valentine’s Day is this weekend, isn’t it? Flashback to when I wrote a letter to my future husband on this blog for Valentine’s Day two years ago. “Dear No One” is still my theme song.

Happy weekend!!!

So tell me:

If you participate in Lent, what are you giving up/adding? Giving up: makeup and scrolling Instagram (I can post but that’s it). Adding: Must be at least 5 minutes early to everything if I can help it and a decade of the rosary each day.

If you do not participate in Lent, do you feel called to make any specific changes in your life to meet your goals?

What are you doing for Valentine’s Day/President’s Day/the weekend?

I’ll be celebrating “Galentine’s Day” with Rachel tomorrow night! 🙂 The only way I might choose a guy over Rachel is if he comes up to me with a single rose in his mouth, Coldplay/Tori Kelly tickets, and a box of chocolates jar of peanut butter within the next twenty-four hours.

How to Be a Good Friend in College

I’m feelin’ this beautiful fall weather at the core of my soul and I LOVE IT.

IMG_8206

I just broke out the boots this morning since they were calling my name from the back of my shoe collection bottom of my shoe pile.

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset

Let’s catch up by talking about how to be a good friend in college. The edition that doesn’t have to do with carrying your friends home after a frat party (although, that’s also what good friends do).

My friends here in college are honestly some of the best people I’ve ever met, and I am constantly inspired by how much they want to be better people through education, self-sacrifice for the good of others, wholesome experiences, and nourishment of their faith.

Thanks to these wonderful people, I’ve compiled a semi-serious list of…

{how to be a good friend in college…and at any stage in life}

Forget the age/year difference. Freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors, and graduate students can all hang out and their social lives will not be tainted. In fact, they will flourish.

Processed with VSCOcam with x1 preset

freshmen, sophomores, seniors, and grad women gathering for our freshman friend’s birthday

Have an early breakfast date with a friend. (Walk to the farther dining hall just to eat good omelettes. Bonus points if you both bring your own peanut butter and then take pictures of one another.)

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

Be a good lab partner, because college labs can be deathly tedious.

Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. That’s when the deepest and best connections happen.

Sing and dance like a fool around your friends. If they tell you to stop, you can stop. But try it anyway, they might join you.

Set goals with one another. Whether that’s going to the gym five times a week with a buddy, acing a class, going to church every Sunday…or checking off food bucket list items together.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

#42: Spicy Food at Thai Dish — check!

Processed with VSCOcam with p5 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Tell your friend if he/she has something in his/her teeth. That feeling of looking into the mirror after talking with lots of friends and seeing stuff stuck in your teeth. You know.

Reserve judgement. We all do silly, stupid, sinful things.

Embrace spontaneity and don’t be afraid to ask your friends to join you. I’m always afraid to ask people to do things with me on a whim because I’m afraid of rejection, but I have learned that I love when people reach out to me to do spontaneous fun things.

IMG_8186

like a movie night and epic hair braiding feat. Lauren’s gorgeous locks and Rachel’s mad skills

Don’t pressure your friends. Peer pressure is real in every way. It’s easy to be pressured and it’s easy to fall into the trap of pressuring others. It’s not the end of the world if either one happens to you. Just be aware.

Pray for your friends. Especially when you kinda don’t want to talk to them/you’re annoyed with them.

Ask for prayers from your friends. You need ’em too.

Branch out. Having a close friend group is so important and good to have. That being said, cliques are overrated, and there are people who really want to know you but are too scared to approach you. You might even be that scared person. Launch out and just talk to people. The people worth having as friends will reciprocate.

Hope you all have a fabulous day!

I don’t know what your hair looks like today, but however it looks, ROCK IT.

e4d93ef2b1fc79addb4834c1ae50cc25

[source]

So tell me:

What is one way you can be a good friend/one way your friends have been good to you?

Do you believe “age is but a number” after a certain point in life?

What did you do this weekend?

Where should Rachel and I go next for our food bucket list!?