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?

“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?

Calling out the negative coping mechanisms for my stress without judgement.

pray.

…I would say that I should probably do more of this. Or at least do more silent, intentional prayer. I am definitely praying all throughout the day for my patients and for continual strength from God to do what I need to do, but to be with the Beloved in a quiet space is a rare occasion these days, and I know that it is in my control to change that.

What I think I really need to clean up is my night routine. The hardest thing these days is coming home exhausted and wanting to “turn my brain off,” so I turn to social media or talking to friends or watching an assortment of Youtube videos (other people eating or working out or talking about God usually). I KNOW THIS IS NOT THE ANSWER. But I’ve been doing it anyway in an attempt to fill myself.

Guess what. It’s not working super well.

My face is broken out in acne; my cortisol levels shoot me up at around 7am even if I want to sleep in; my workouts feel really difficult; I sometimes find myself stress eating. None of this is first-time experience, and I know that the sources are a) stress from work; b) lack of quality time with God. One of these can be changed, for sure, if I really want it. And I do.

I am grateful that, at this point in my life, I can call out these negative coping mechanisms of mine without being hard on myself. I am also grateful for these seasons of stress and adjustment that remind me of my weakness and the need to rely on God c o m p l e t e l y.

Something that helps me with bouncing back from negative coping mechanisms is to “just say yes to the next good thing.” Whether that’s putting down the phone at 9:00pm, taking out the trash the night before instead of almost forgetting in the morning, turning off the TV Youtube while I’m eating dinner, etc. Say yes to ONE next good thing. Just one.

eat.

The best thing I ate last week was chicken saag with garlic naan and basmati rice from a local Indian restaurant. My brother picked it up for us + his girlfriend on Thursday night, and we had a lovely socially distanced dinner in the backyard. It made for two delicious meals, which is the best 🙂

move.

I’ve still been loving the outdoor KB workouts on Sundays hosted by @kettlebellgains_apparel. I didn’t go this weekend because I needed a bit of rest (aka napped too long and was a sort of too late lol) and wanted to catch up with family over video chat, but most Sundays I try to make it down there for awesome community and HEAVY kettlebell work!

Otherwise, my workouts have been mostly strength/mobility-based and pretty low key. I’ve been telling my patients, “I work out so I can do this [physical therapy]!” And I mean it.

groove.

On Friday night, I got home late so I ran up and down the stairs blasting uplifting praise and worship to sing, dance, and work up a sweat ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ whatever works.

On Saturday, I met up with my apartment-mate from last year, Yuka! She loooooves NYC, so I gave her a little tour of some of my favorite spots, some new-to-me spots, and some of her requested spots. It was a day of 29K+ steps, lots of carbs, and good friend time! Masked and outdoors only, of course.

It was fun writing a good old blog post again. This always helps to ground me. Thank you, as always, for reading along on this 7+ year journey.

So tell me:

Do you find yourself using “negative” coping mechanisms at times? How do you try to bring yourself out of those?

What are some things that ground you during stressful/challenging times?

Do you like Indian food? Fave dish? What is the best thing you did this weekend?

Competence and Confidence

pray.

WOWEEEEEEE. What a week it has been! I finished my first three days of work as a physical therapist last week, and it was a TRIP.

I’m working at approximately 50% of a full caseload since they’re easing me into it, but the combination of new setting + learning the electronic medical record + remembering everything from my last three years of education + communicating with patients as they need… all after just putzing around for nearly 6 months of quarantine season… *internally combusts*

It has been a challenge to say the least. It’s objectively not anything crazy, but subjectively, I whispered under my breath every hour on my first day of work: “I’m dying.”

It’s really f i n e. Of course there is a learning curve, so I am trying to be gentle with myself. I was (and am) stressed though, and I acknowledge that. But this phase, too, shall pass.

Needless to say, a lot of my prayer has been focusing on the grace to do the very best for my patients and to sharpen my competence for them. However, I have also been praying for the ability to truly separate my anxieties and insecurities at work from a) my identity; b) my internal peace.

Let me know if there is any way I can pray for you as well! It is consoling to offer up the stresses of the day for others.

eat.

I made these apple muffins Saturday night, and they are excellent smothered in peanut butter + a glass o’ milk. But I’m sure you knew I was going to say that 🙂

my friend: “it looks like the golgi apparatus”

It doesn’t look pretty, but it’s tasty! I made homemade applesauce just for it (also because I bought apples in bulk and overestimated my ability to eat them all in a timely manner).

move.

I joined one of the COOLEST outdoor workout groups ever yesterday. It’s essentially a group of kettlebell lovers/beasts/experts led by Alex @kettlebellgains for a warmup, workout, and some straight up PR-hitting. I am NOT a kettlebell expert by any means, but after 6 months with just Ketllbellarmine (what I call my 35# KB) as my heaviest weight, I’ve become fond of utilizing it in different ways to build strength, endurance, balance, and coordination.

I found a few awesome people on Instagram who all went to this “Sunday Swings” session, so I asked if someone unexperienced like me could come, and they welcomed me with open arms! I felt so out of my league showing up there (after stalking some of the people who show up to this thing #musclesonmusclesonmuscles), but they were so supportive and fun, and I felt stronger and more confident than ever in that space.

Something in me knew that going to this workout group and doing my very best, despite feeling out of my league, would help with my confidence. And it did! I deadlifted a 220# KB for 4-5 reps x3, which I did not think I would be able to do. I also snatched 44# for a few reps, which was exciting.

I have NOT been feeling confident starting work as a physical therapist, and those feelings of insufficiency are affecting my performance for sure. So this KB class gave me a confidence boost that I want to bring into my professional work this week and going forward!

look at that KB!! they name it Wakanda

groove.

Today is my mom’s birthday! I cannot say enough about how incredibly generous and loving that woman is. I love you and appreciate you more than you know, Madre. ♥︎

MONDAY LET’S GOOOOOO!

So tell me:

How did you feel when you started working your first “real” job?

What kinds of things give you confidence?

Do you like working out with kettlebells?

What have you been cooking / baking recently?

Don’t lose yourself.

pray.

Gosh I hate how cliche that title sounds, but it’s the topic of this post and the thing on my heart as of late.

First of all, I’ve been praying for a lot of grace and gusto going from six months of having virtually no hard schedule to a full-time work schedule soon. Even just training this week tuckered me out, but that was also due to the stress of wondering, “HOW WILL I REMEMBER EVERYTHING AND ALSO BE THE PT THESE PATIENTS WANT ME TO BE?!” I’m filling the position of another PT who is moving to another position within the same company, and her patients love her (for good reason; she’s awesome at what she does and super kind to boot), so I’m definitely feeling the pressure of filling big shoes.

As I said in my latest day in the life vlog, prayer is major key for everything in my life. So I have been telling God about the pressure I am feeling to be exactly like this amazing PT who is leaving, as well as the fear of losing my mind a bit due to having much less time to pray during the day (and mostly just my mind being filled with thoughts about my job).

There are productivity numbers to hit, patients to care for, nuances to remember, hours to work. No one by any means is putting any undue pressure on me, to be clear. But the internal pressure to rise to the occasion makes me panic and want to just do anything I can to conform and please. But I have to remember what I believe as a physical therapist, given the education I have received. And from a personal standpoint, I have to make time around my schedule for the things that build up my relationship with the One I love and to be intentional about sanctifying my work as one biiiig prayer to God.

I am 1000% having newbie professional stress that I know will subside with time. I am very open to new ideas and experiences, but in all of it, I do not want to lose myself.

eat.

On Sunday I made baked cinnamon sugar donut holes (mini muffins) using this recipe, since I don’t have a donut mold. They were everything I wanted in a homemade donut.

For work I’ve decided I will he making ham, cheese and lettuce sandwiches with mayo and mustard. Let me tell you, I LOVE this classic brown bag type of sandwich. Untoasted. It’s nostalgic somehow, even though I barely ate ham and cheese as a child?

move.

I’ve still been posting my workouts on my instagram stories (which are saved on my highlights!), but here was one of my favorites from the past week:

  • 100 American KB swings (broken up any way you’d like)
  • 100 goblet squats (I broke up into sets of 25)
  • 50 pushups (I did sets of 5-10 at a time for form)
  • 50 burpees (i did in sets of 10 any style you’d like)

This was a simple and quick workout that focused on form over anything! I’ve been really honing in on perfecting my form as much as possible with every rep to increase the effectiveness of the exercise and make my workouts more efficient.

groove.

On Sunday night I learned the dance moves to the bridge of the song “Amigas Cheetahs’ by the Cheetah Girls (go to 3:15 to see the part I learned). I have always loved that part of the song and also the dance moves but it only took me ten years since first seeing the movie to learn it. #disneydreamsdocometrue

I do the dance like twice a day at least now.

I typed this whole post on my phone because my laptop has decided to do magic tricks and make my whole operating system completely disappear??? Getting that checked out this weekend.

Hope you all have a great weekend!

So tell me:

Have you ever felt like the hustle of life / work made you “lose yourself” to any degree?

Have you ever made homemade donuts?

What is a silly childhood dream of yours? Has it ever come true??