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 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.

View this post on Instagram

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?

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?

I love Boston.

It’s too early in the week to be this emotional!

Essential physical therapists. Last night, my latest clinical instructor sent me photos of herself and other PTs decked out in PPE (personal protective equipment) up the wazoo. She and several other PTs have been working at the Boston Hope Medical Center, a field hospital at the Boston Convention and Events Center that is running solely for the treatment of patients suffering from COVID-19. She updated me on how life has been working in a field hospital, which she says has been “amazing and interesting,” but she also hopes that it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

MDs, nurses, PTs, OTs, RNs, SLPs, military personnel, and so many other health professionals are all working together day in and day out, which we all already knew, but I feel a renewed and deepened sense of pride in the profession of physical therapy, which yes, is an essential service for people with acute respiratory illness.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Marathon Monday in solidarity. Yesterday was Patriots’ Day in Boston, which is always the day of the Boston Marathon. The marathon has been postponed to September for obvious reasons, but Boston finds a way to grow stronger through this iconic event, even during a pandemic. For one, my BU PT classmates (all scattered across the country now) posted photos and routes of their short or long runs on a shared google drive, so that we could support and inspire one another in light of the circumstances.

I am blessed to live near downtown Boston, so I ran 2.62 miles there (total coincidence that it was exactly 1/10 of a full marathon) to the finish line on Boylston Street and then back home.

Some people were at the finish line waiting for their loved ones to finish the marathon, which several people unofficially ran yesterday anyway. What spirit!

Side note: I did not love running with mask. I would take it off when there was not a person in sight, but would put it back on when I approached people. Just a little extra cardiorespiratory challenge, but I suppose I can suck it up (literally) and offer it up for those with COVID-19.

Moves.

Saturday – Yoga video and walking.

Sunday – 100 burpees throughout the day + this fun workout (that included some of said burpees) with my kettlebell:

  • Squat clean and press (both hands on the KB) (3×12)
  • 10 burpees
  • Mini modified pull ups using the footboard of my bed (3×10)*
  • 10 burpees
  • Single arm KB cleans (3×10 each arm)
  • 10 burpees
  • Double KB swings (3×10)
  • 10 burpees
  • Asymmetric squat creeps (the last exercise in this link except with only one KB) (3×14 total, switch arms halfway)
  • 10 burpees

*I made this exercise up in an effort to mimic some sort of pulling motion. I might post it on my instagram story later. It looks silly, but it worked my lats. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Monday – 5.2 mile run

Gosh, I love Boston so much. I’m not leaving until July, but my heart is already breaking a teeny tiny bit.

It’s funny. I remember a very distinct moment in high school when my parents and I were visiting my brother (who went to Northeastern University) in Boston. We were driving behind Boston University’s campus on Storrow Drive. I looked out the window and thought, “Eh, I think I could do without a city like Boston.” Literal FOOL, Alison. I love being proved wrong by God in the best way possible.

I hope you are all having an excellent week so far.

So tell me:

Do you have a city that just steals your heart for one reason or another?

Any inspiring COVID-19 stories you’d like to share?

If you’ve been exercising recently, what have you been doing?

Hi, Happy Easter and Passover!

For Passover: I’m sorry I am late in wishing this to all my Jewish friends! I hope you all had a wonderful celebration.

For Easter: I would say, “Sorry I’m a few days late,” but NAY Easter is an OCTAVE, so we are still going as if it’s Easter Sunday. He is risen! He is risen indeed!

Feasting. This past week has involved celebration in the form of FaceTime/Zoom “gatherings” with loved ones, delicious food (desserts, particularly), and solo dance parties to happy music. I kicked it off with homemade carrot cake, of which I have eaten a slice every day since I made it. Yesterday I also made these banana bread blondies with brown butter frosting, which rocked my world. I’ve been sharing, but let’s be honest, a majority of the carrot cake has entered my gullet.

Fruitful. I felt that I was really falling in love with Christ in the days leading up to Easter. His perfect Love for us is unlike anything else; it is truly everything good. I am grateful that the extra time to pray, due to current circumstances, made Holy Week especially fruitful this year. Goodness gracious, He loves you so much! YOU.

Sardines. I have been eating tinned sardines in olive oil on sourdough toast with some tomato sauce, and it is just delightful. I don’t buy fish for myself besides canned tuna, because I look at the price and think, “eh, omega-3’s can wait” (for real though, don’t neglect omega-3 fatty acids in your diet). But my mother was very kind and sent me a Costco shipment that included a large pack of tinned sardines, and I feel like I’m eating a luxurious Mediterranean meal with those little fish. Tinned fish = luxury, who would have thought?

But seriously, have you ever tried smoked trout?! 😮 Luxury.

Day in the life. Really not that exciting. Praying, walking, cooking, eating, studying, FaceTiming / Houseparty-ing people (to chat or just do work in solidarity), moving and grooving, applying for jobs. I am looking into some volunteer opportunities to start moving outwards.

Moves. I posted this on my instagram story, but today I did 100 burpees, spread throughout the day in sets of 10-20. I now have a goal of becoming more efficient with my burpees (as I once was when I was a wee lil blogger) and to build up more stamina. In order to do this, I am going to do 100 burpees every other day until May, aiming to increase speed and the number I do within each set, but always prioritizing form and listening to my body.

I have one friend who is going to take on the challenge with me (s/o to you, Victor!), some friends who will do some iteration of the challenge, and several friends who shared with me their own ways of staying active at home. I love solidarity!

Otherwise, I’ve been doing whatever I feel like doing that day. My 35-pound KB has been a great addition to my “home gym” (i.e., 5lb dumbbells and a resistance band). Running outside has also been a weekly thing. One of my professors proposed a “Marathon Monday Run” wherever we are this coming Monday in honor of the Boston Marathon that has now been postposed to September. We will just walk/run however long we want and share our pics and maps with each other. More solidarity!

Loss. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the continued suffering and pain that so many people are facing in this world. It hit a little more closely today when I learned of the passing of my mom’s cousin in France from COVID-19. He was a doctor, about the same age as my parents, and he leaves behind his wife and children, who are about my age. One of my friends’ grandmother is also suffering now from COVID-19.

May we rest in the peace of Christ and never cease hoping in Him. Thank you always to those who continue to sacrifice themselves on the frontlines and for those who continue to work in any field at this time. Praying for those who are hungry, lonely, heartbroken, ill, lost, or in danger in any way at this time.

So tell me:

Did you celebrate Passover or Easter? What did you do?

How are you keeping sane and/or staying active during quarantine?

Are you interested in joining the burpee challenge!?