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.)

Four Things I Pray For Every Work Day

Moves. The gift of movement is something for which I feel more grateful with each passing day. From the times when I don’t have the opportunity to work out to seeing the ways in which my patients struggle with movement, I see each step and workout as a blessed thing. Since it has been quite a few days since my last post, I will highlight only a few of my favorite workouts from this past week.

Last Thursday: Yoga online

Last Friday: Outdoor play time + rock climbing with Janice and a couple more friends!

Saturday: Lower body

  • Squats (warmup ➔ 1×8 at 135# ➔ 1×5 at 155# ➔ 3×3 at 165# ➔ 4×4 at 155#)
  • 3 rounds: 12 KBS + concentric to eccentric deadlift to squat jump x10

Monday: HIIT workout (30 sec work/30 sec rest x 4 rounds)

  • Dumbbell burpee to push press
  • Bent over dumbbell rows
  • Bear crawl plank to kick through
  • Wall balls
  • Plank jack climbers / crossing mountain climbers

Yesterday: Upper body

  • Pull-up practice with and without band // 15 second flexed arm hangs
  • 8 devil presses + 10-12 dumbbell chest press on ball
  • Wall walks focusing on weight shifting in handstand position
  • 10 TRX rows + 6-8 dips
  • 12 scorpion ball planks / 8 ball pike to pushup + 40 double unders

10 hours. That’s how much sleep I got last night because I have been terrible at getting at least 7 hours of sleep for the past couple weeks months. I went to sleep at 8pm like a baby, and oh how I wish I could do that every night.

Chipotle rice. Last Saturday a few friends and I helped out another friend with her high school retreat at the church where she is a youth minister. Most importantly, the theme was forgiveness, and it was beautiful to see so many high schoolers respond to God’s Mercy that night. Second most importantly, I discovered how much I really love Chipotle’s lime cilantro rice. I know it’s old news at this point, but DANG that is some buttery flavorful goodness. I took home some leftovers and enjoyed every last bite of it this week.

Brunch and generosity. Also last weekend, I grabbed brunch at Cafe Landwer with my friend Sabrina, and it was just lovely. I had shakshuka with halloumi cheese and the best bread. She had a breakfast platter that included tastes of lots of little dishes. We both didn’t know each other very well before the brunch, but we ended hoping to catch up again soon.

What struck me was her generosity in treating me to brunch (and an Uber from one crowded brunch place to another). She is a young, relatively new grad who could probably be frugal like the rest of us, but she realized her position of having a job and my position of still being a student with zero income, and she without a question treated me to brunch. It’s small and logical, but I felt that the gesture was filled with so much love and consideration. Thank you, Sabrina!

Four things. It’s been a busy but good week at clinical, but the current and impending challenges of becoming the best new grad PT I can be is a little daunting. Since my first clinical in summer of 2018, I have prayed for two things: honesty and humility. I wanted to be very honest in what I knew and did not know, in what I needed from my clinical instructor, and in who I was as a clinician and a person. All while being humble in accepting criticism and in failing at times.

Since the start of this third clinical, I have prayed for an additional two graces: clarity and competence. As I am approaching my doctorate, it’s not just about passing to the next step of my education; it’s about exceeding expectations to give my patients the very best care possible. I know I need to be clear and intentional about what I do for treatment and why, and it needs to be backed by solid evidence and clinical reasoning.

Honesty, humility, clarity, and competence. My H’s and C’s. It all seems obvious, but they don’t come easily all the time, so I pray for them.

So tell me:

What was your favorite workout this past week?

Do you like Chipotle rice?

What is a kind gesture that stood out to you this week?

Do you have a daily prayer / mantra to get you through the work week?

Day in the Life Vlog: My 6th Year in Boston!

Also known as my 11th (and hopefully final) semester of classes at Boston University!

I feel like it was just yesterday that I filmed my St. Louis day in the life vlog, but this seems to be the most efficient way for me to share my life with you these days.

That being said, I filmed this vlog a month ago and am now just getting it to you. Whoops. This video still shows a pretty typical day though!

Here is the link if that embedded video isn’t showing up.

I still love reading / watching day in the life posts, so I’m hoping you do too 🙂 Enjoy and have a great Columbus day if you have a day off here in America!

So tell me:

What have your days looked like recently?

Have you ever injured yourself before a big race / sporting event?

Do you ever eat hodgepodge meals?

Life Back in Boston + 6 Years of Blogging

One of my very favorite places to do life!

Since we last chatted (about the great and small things I learned in STL), I have visited family at home, gone camping, gone back home, moved apartments, and started my third and LAST year of PT school!

I feel like I’ve been in school forever, but here I am in my last semester of school forever (please, Lord).

In all honesty, I have felt very few emotions about a lot of things. Maybe it’s because I’ve run this gamut a few times already.

School? Grateful and happy to be back. Excited or nervous? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Eh. It’s a light semester of classes with a crap ton of self-directed research/work time in between, which is nice but also dangerously deceiving and deceptively difficult. “Oh, so you mean I need to motivate MYSELF for the WHOLE 12 hours that I’m not in class today?…….God help me.”

The future/my career? I have not a darn clue in the world what will be happening in these next 12 months of my life. I know that I will be in Boston for my next two clinicals (woohoo!), but otherwise, that’s about it. The rest, we throw to the wind of the Holy Spirit. I am neither worried nor sad nor stoked about anything. I’m at peace with the unknown though. Just trying to trust the process and go through the motions with an open heart.

The changes in my friends’ lives? Well, two of my best friends got married, and for that I was overwhelmingly excited and joyful The sacrament, the celebration, the reunion with so many beautiful people — such a blessing. I must say, there is no party like a party with people who know Love and Joy Himself. Congratulations, Ben and Casey!

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Friends are also having babies now, and that’s when I’m like, “I need a second.” *breathes heavily*

But I love Boston, and I am incredibly grateful to be back for at least another year. The Lord is kind and merciful.


I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge my 6 year blogging anniversary! The exact date of which I am not entirely sure… early August. Maybe it was the 3rd.

In honor of 6 years of blogging, for my entertainment and potentially yours, here is a blast from the past — a random blog post from each year that I’ve blogged.

2013: “I Like Burpees (You know it.)

2014: “Boston University is Making Things Complicated” (This was when I visited BU for open house and fell in love with it. UGH what a little human I was.)

2015: “I Should Be Embarrassed About These Things…” (OMG UNDERGRAD LIFE *CRIES*)

2016: “48 Hours Unplugged” (An incredible two days in the middle-of-nowhere-NY with Fiona and Rachel that we will never ever forget.)

2017: “Greater Love” (BU Catholic Center retreats are a highlight of my life.)

2018: “October” (Despite, or perhaps lending to, the simple name, this was a time of deep emotion for me.)

2019: “Never A Dull Moment” (And I think this blog testifies to that.)

As I look through all of these blog posts, I notice:

  • Alison went from squirrelly young lass to emotionless city girl (lol jk…kinda).
  • I went from blogging ~almost~ every day to blogging ~almost~ monthly.
  • I have grown physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually in ways that I could not have tried to do myself.
  • Selfies never seem to go out of style for me.
  • The list of things that truly matter never changes.
  • God’s hand has been in all of it, without a doubt.

Thank you, as always, to every single one of you who takes time out of your busy days to read my words, laugh/cry with me, and reflect on the goodness/hardness/”what!?”-ness of life with me. I very am grateful for you and for the ways this blog has brought me closer to people.

So tell me:

What’s on deck for you for the rest of 2019? School? New job? Same job? New life events?

Share your current emotions! If ya want…That’s kinda personal though, so up to you.

VLOG: A Day Off in St. Louis

Greetings!

Long time, no vlog. Not gonna lie, I filmed this vlog almost a month ago, and somehow I had not gotten around to editing and publishing it until today. However, a day off still looks quite like this one anyway.

Enjoy!

So tell me:

Do you like runny egg yolks?

What is your favorite meat marinade?

What are you grateful for today?