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.
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?
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.
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??
In a time requiring a lot of patience and wishing I could just be out there saving the world in whatever way God wants me to do so, I have been praying about feeling good enough/not good enough for… whatever it is that I am hoping for right now — a job, a vocation, some cool opportunity to end all the evils in the world, I dunno.
Obviously I’m not the only one waiting for opportunities, and I am in no way complaining about my situation. But whether stuck in circumstances out of my control or just feeling “not good enough” for _____, something that I find myself thinking is: “When that thing starts, I’ll be who I’m supposed to be.”
But my new priest friend, Fr. Denis, said in his first homily ever that our first vocation is to holiness. It does not matter where we are in our state of life; our primary vocation is to holiness, and that in and of itself is very good. Holiness (i.e., love for God, love for neighbor, and finding ways to do both no matter what the circumstances are) gives purpose to the mundane, the interim, and the seemingly pointless and hopeless situations of life.
No title (doctor, PT, nun, wife, mother, etc.) can fully define who I am created to be, nor does it define who you are created to be. Today is a day to become the man or woman you are created to be, just by the way you live your life as it is in this moment.
I’ve been eating plums as my fruit of the week, and I’m rather enjoying the humble stone fruit. I don’t like them as much as peaches, but the plums I got from Trader Joe’s are still juicy and sweet.
I did some fun BURPEES yesterday! It is so freeing to just move in whatever way I want to move each day, not following any strict training schedule. This is what has made fitness truly fun for me, allowing me to be consistent.
I did 10+ of each of the following types of burpees:
jumping lunge burpees
spiderman pushup burpees
neutral grip pull-up burpees
KB hopover burpees
For demos, check out my Instagram stories or the end of my “moves part 3” highlight if it has disappeared by the time you read this!
Check out this sweet and special gift that my brother and his girlfriend gave to me!
Peep the blog motto on there! I am so grateful. Thanks, Elaine and Ben! ♥︎
Also, my friends and are continuing virtual book club with The Devil’s Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea, which is a book about the devastation caused by U.S. border policy. Excited to learn more and delve into those challenging conversations.
So tell me:
Have you been struggling at all with feelings of not being good enough?
Which fruits are you loving currently?
What is the most fun form of fitness for you right now?
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.
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.)
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!
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.
But I lounged around yesterday for about an hour just scrolling through blogs that I follow on my Feedly like I used to during my high school leisure days… ahhhh. It was lovely, and I remembered that I like to blog too HAHA.
I’ve given a glimpse of how this summer has been in STL. Now that I am back home in New York / Boston, the reflective mindset has started to settle a bit. Ergo, it is time for another edition of “Great and Small Things I Learned.”
How to even begin summarizing the oodles of things I learned in the hospital!?
I worked with a physical therapist on the medicine floor of Barnes Jewish Hospital. This means we saw patients who have pretty much any and every comorbidity under the sun and who were admitted for a reason that is not primarily neurological, cardiopulmonary, or orthopedic. For example, I saw a lot of patients admitted for falls, sepsis, altered mental status, acute kidney injuries, hypoglycemia, hypertensive emergencies, acute onset of weakness from metabolic causes… etc… I guess.
50% of patients wanted nothing to do with physical therapy. De-escalating situations with patients who had altered mental status or who were agitated at the time was a big skill to learn, but by the end of the clinical, almost no amount of sass or yelling could faze me.
Empathy and Listening
Requirements in the healthcare field. In the first few weeks of clinical, it was easy to be stressed and preoccupied over my performance as a student PT, so I had to remind myself that this job is about the patient in front of me, and the patient is hurting, often in more ways than one. Listening and motivational interviewing are always helpful.
Integrity, Honesty and Moving Forward
I made plenty of mistakes during clinical, but some were bigger than others. Thankfully, none of the mistakes resulted in anyone’s injury, but I learned some valuable lessons the hard way, that’s for sure. I had to practice integrity and timely honesty about my mistakes, and furthermore, I had to move forward and continue in confidence after all was said and done. My clinical instructor (who was amazing!) counseled me that letting my mistakes get to my head does not serve anyone well.
The trendy/granola term for this is “mind-muscle connection,” I think. THINKING about what I want my muscles to do and how fast I want them to it during a workout has helped with increasing strength. There’s literature about it out there… I’m not going to go find it right now. But intentionality in life is important, and working out ain’t an exception! As Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson would say, “FOCUS!!!”
To “Just Be”
Moving onto matters outside of the hospital, I am grateful to say that I made several great friends through the young adult group at the St. Louis Cathedral Basilica. So many people took me (and Janice) under their wings and welcomed us into their community with love and generosity that were just astounding. People cooked for us, drove us around, invited us to watch the sunrise with them on a hill in the park, took us grocery/thrift store shopping, helped me babysit my cousins, toured us through the art museum, swing danced with us, prayed with and for us…
In so many of these great times, my friend Maria would call it “just being” — putting the phone down (even though I’d still snap a photo or two for posterity/the blog, ya know) and soaking in the moment, whatever it is, however mundane it may be. To “just be” with pals in fellowship and faith through the everyday and not-so-everyday things, and to do it all joyfully.
My heart misses all of our friends back there. They were so f r e e. Free and secure in their love for Christ which showed so evidently and made me want to love God more.
They made St. Louis home away from home. So did Janice, my roomie! She’d tuck me in almost every night (upon her offer) LOL. We shared a lot of ups and downs together this summer, and I am grateful for her being a dear friend through it all.
Don’t Give Up on Prayer
It can be hard to maintain a consistent prayer life with a 9-5 (or in my case, a 7-4:30) job, not so much because I don’t have time, but because brain energy is limitedddd at the end of the day. Prayer takes mental energy and attention that admittedly I don’t want to give when I get home from a long day of work + going to the gym. And I failed many days and did not prioritize prayer, but I learned to fight the good fight and never give up on it. Start anew the next day. Whether you meditate, pray, do some reading for personal development, do it, man. Probably in the morning before you’re wiped out from the day. Which means you (I) have to sleep early, which is difficult at times… But God is worthy of our love, the best we can give.
I could go on for ages and pages about my time in STL, but these are enough words for now. Thank you for reading along if you’ve made it this far.
At home now, I am doing at least 20x less work/activity and I am at least 20x MORE tired. I love being with the fam though ♥︎