Fitness Update

Fitness and healthy eating has remained a huge part of my daily life, but I haven’t posted about it recently. Over the last six years I’ve worked hard to reach numerous fitness goals, have challenged myself with various changes in my diet, taken supplements, taken classes, worked closely with a personal trainer, and finally I’ve ended up here. Happy. And at a mentally stable place with my eating and exercise habits. So that’s why I haven’t been writing about it. I just feel good and normal, with nothing to report.

Then I saw that picture. The one posted up there at the header. My personal trainer snapped it of me a couple weeks ago and posted it to social media. I literally clicked on the tagged post and for a few seconds didn’t understand why she tagged me. Sure, I have a mask and hat on. But that’s no excuse to not recognize yourself. Once I realized it was me I still had a hard time believing that was my actual body. In my own mind, the only way I could convince myself was by verifying my outfit. Adidas NMDs, check. Engagement ring, check.

Seriously. In my mind, I’m still in the “before” picture body.

Most of us spend a fair amount of time taking pictures of ourselves. Those of us on a “fitness journey” may take more than most. I used to take pictures all the time. Usually ones I would never share. In a bikini, same light, same posture, hopefully thinner here. Thicker there. But living in your own body on a daily basis distorts your view. And some things you see, but I’m convinced that most details are lost. Until you literally do not recognize yourself. For better or for worse.

I’m sharing this with you because my goals have evolved from weight loss, to toning, to endurance, and landed solidly about five years ago at muscle building and strength. I’ve been putting in the daily work for YEARS, yet I was still unwilling to give myself and my body any recognition for it. Whether consciously or unconsciously, I just couldn’t see the changes. Like, really see them. I stopped craving the physical validation, but in doing so I forgot to see my progress. I stopped beating myself up (yay!) but forgot to give myself the gold stars I earned.

What’s funny about that is I’m not unhappy about it. I am actually the happiest I’ve ever been. I’m 32 years old and finally comfortable in my body. I’m strong, capable, my hip dips only go away when I drop to an unhealthy weight I will not sustain, and I’ve accepted that as okay. Do I love them and call them beautiful on a daily basis? Nope. But do I actively curse them every time I get dressed in the morning? Not anymore. I happily wear leggings to work when I’m bloated, and if something is too tight I don’t take it personally. I don’t count calories or macros. I don’t own a scale and haven’t weighed myself in years. I don’t feel guilt associated with food, and most of the time I happily enjoy working out. The only time I get angry with clothes is when the arms are too short. And that, while annoying, is not something I take personal responsibility for. It seems silly to me now, that I used to make things like my feet being a size 9 (“too big”) and the unflattering nature of low rise jeans on my body MY problem. As if societal standards of beauty are my body’s responsibility to uphold and low rise jeans are a reason to beat myself up. Yet we all let ourselves take those things personally. Fuck that.

It’s taken me a long time to get here. I’m not perfect and things will still bother me from time to time, but I practice active resistance. It’s the bra’s problem, not my breasts’ problem. You know what I mean? I think that’s the key to finding your strength. Recognizing that those norms are all made up. Probably by some guy in a board room filled with mostly a bunch of other guys. And then let it go because it’s not our responsibility to fit our boob into the cup they gave us. (I’m being funny, but seriously.) I’m making my own cup. And filling it however I see fit.

I’m lifting more weight every week. I’ve officially gone up an entire jean size in the last six months, and that photo made me realize I’m doing it. I’m getting stronger every day. I just didn’t realize how much.

BEFORE I started strength training / living an entirely plant-based lifestyle.
Almost 5 years of strength training and living an entirely plant-based lifestyle.

So, now for the details.

Out of respect for my amazing trainer and nutrition coach Katie, owner of Rebel Strength & Wellness (who I’ve been working with this entire time), I will not post exact workouts. But here is the routine I’m currently on:

Workout 5 Days / Week

Day 1: Personal Training: Heavy Lower Body Hack Squat / Leg Press, 50 Min

Day 2: At Home: Heavy Upper Body Bench / Misc, 1 Hour

Day 3: At Home: Heavy Lower Body Deadlift / Misc, 1 Hour

Day 4: At Home: HIIT Style Booty / Legs with body weight and resistance bands, 1 Hour

Day 5: At Home: Heavy Lower Body Squat / RDL, 1 Hour

The other two days of the week I give myself the option to rest, or do something easy and relaxing, like going on a walk. Because of the pandemic I have not been going to Pilates or Yoga, but hope to add those back in as soon as possible. They help with flexibility, core strength, and form.

The other important piece of my current fitness routine is my nutrition. As I said earlier, I intuitively eat all vegan / plant-based foods. To supplement that, I take a multivitamin, vegan BCAA, B12, B6, Magnesium, Zinc, Cranberry, and CBD. I no longer use protein powder or other supplements. Also, the fact that I quit drinking alcohol and eating refined sugars about two and a half years ago cannot be left out. Those have been game changers.

Stay tuned for a detailed “What I Eat in a Week” post. Coming soon.

Trainer / Nutrition Coach: https://instagram.com/rebel_strengthandwellness?igshid=eyp25nciwhom

My Morning and Evening Routine

I struggle with anything outside of my routine. And that’s exactly why I have one.

I originally developed several routine habits as a way to save myself time, be more efficient, accomplish more tasks, and try to etch some space out for myself amidst the chaotic life of a new small business owner. Practical. I think that we are all continuously overloaded with information and tasks, and these routines helped organize my life to make it slightly more liveable. However, after four years of implementing these strategies I’ve discovered the real benefit of having these routines: grounding.

Much less practical. Way more “woo woo.”

When you are grounded you feel calm, centered, balanced and strong. You’re less stressed and tense and more capable of introspection while simultaneously feeling like you’re part of something larger. For me, that “something larger” is nature, the universe, and other living beings. It’s difficult to stay grounded with constant demands and distractions on our time, things pulling us in a million directions at once, but I think there are many ways you can reconnect with your “something larger” in order to become more solid. The more balanced I am, the more capable and calm I feel when change and chaos come my way. And they inevitably always do.

I come back to my routine and feel safe. Your version of grounding can include any practice that is consistent and helps you feel connected to your version of “something larger.” Which, in turn, helps you to learn more about who you are. And you don’t need to be some meditation master. All you need is some commitment to put yourself first and an understanding that it won’t always be perfect, and that’s okay.

Here is my detailed AM / PM ritual! I hope it will help some of you with ideas on how to begin implementing time for grounding in your own life. I also want to mention that establishing this WAS NOT easy. It took at least a year of waking up early before I started to actually enjoy it, working out used to be a chore, and I got A LOT of pushback from my husband. He didn’t understand why I was forcing myself to do (what appeared to him as) even more things. He still thinks I do too much, but now I know that prioritizing me was the best choice I could make. It helps me to be more balanced and calm, and instead of feeling like I never get time for myself, I now usually feel fairly satisfied in that department. What may look like more work to other people can look like accomplishment, time for yourself, and peace of mind to you. Trust yourself.

AM:

-Wake up at 5am. Or whatever time necessary to have at least 3.5 hours of time before I have to begin my day or head to work.

-Set my phone to “do not disturb,” set it aside and put my Apple Watch on. I do not mirror my phone on my watch and only have workout apps, podcasts, music, and audiobooks. It’s also set to DND and is on silent.

-Put cozy pajamas on, pour myself some coffee with dairy free creamer (no sugar) and set a timer on my watch for 30 minutes.

-Read a book for 30 minutes. A physical book, simply for enjoyment. I like to do this in a cozy chair in the living room. Sometimes I light candles, sometimes I turn on the fireplace. Make it cozy! It’s early, so hopefully you can find somewhere quiet.

-Once that timer goes off I put my book away and set another timer for 15 minutes.

-I sit quietly for these 15 minutes with no distractions. Sometimes I practice breathing exercises, sometimes I mentally recite my meditation mantras, and sometimes I’m so scatterbrained that I just sit there and try to relax. The main thing is that I spend 15 minutes alone with myself. Sometimes I do this in the cozy chair, sometimes on a yoga mat, and sometimes in my mediation corner in my office. Again, I think it’s important to carve out some physical space for yourself.

-Once that timer goes off, I get up, grab my headphones and either put on a podcast or audiobook while I clean one part of the house. I generally do not spend more than 30 minutes per day cleaning, but this way I free up Saturdays and Sundays with no big chores. Ie: bathroom Wednesday, kitchen Thursday, dusting Friday. Make sure to assign chores to specific days ahead of time to reduce decision fatigue and time wasted.

-After doing my daily chore, I pull up my daily workout. I am fortunate enough to have a personal trainer who logs all of my workouts into a convenient app so I know what to do each day. I think it’s INCREDIBLY useful to plan out your week in advance as well, so you can eliminate daily decision fatigue. That topic is another blog altogether, but keep in mind you are much more likely to stick with your routine the fewer decisions you have to make in the moment. Set yourself up ahead of time. You don’t need a personal trainer to pre-plan your workouts for that week.) I workout for 45 minutes to one hour maximum. I also listen to music, or a podcast or audiobook during this time.

-After my workout, I get ready. I do not spend more than 45 mins to one hour showering and doing hair and makeup. I’ve decided at this point in my life, other things are more important to me. I listen to a podcast or audiobook while I get ready.

-Before I leave the house I feed the pets while making my morning breakfast smoothie (ingredients prepped and ready to go), and packing my lunch and snacks for the day (also prepped and ready to go). Then I’m out the door for about the next 10-11 hours.

PM:

My evening routine is much shorter, and fairly new. After a long work day I do not want to do anything except eat and sleep. But I knew that establishing something to let the chaos of the day go, so I can move more seamlessly into a relaxing evening is important. So at the beginning of this year (yep just a month ago) I finally committed to an evening routine. The key: make it short and simple.

-As soon as I walk through the door after work I put my work laundry in the washing machine and start it.

-I then make myself a cup of tea while washing my lunch and breakfast dishes.

-I give my husband a kiss, turn my phone on DND and silent and leave it in my work bag, then take my tea to enjoy while I change into pajamas, wash my face, and complete my skincare routine. This probably takes around five minutes.

-After my skin is taken care of, I go into my office, close the door and finish my tea while I write down three things I am grateful for and three good things that happened to me that day. This takes another five minutes.

-After that, I feel much more ready to cook dinner (which I hopefully prepped) and spend time with my husband until bed time.

-Depending on the day, I will usually check my phone for a minute or two right before I go to sleep in case someone texted me, but aside from that I try to keep my phone in another room and/or on DND and silent so I am separated from its distractions.

Photo: Amanda Lankila Photography https://instagram.com/amandalankilaphotography?igshid=calt99ozzq5s

Answering My Own Women in Business Questions: Part 3

The Things I Ask Everyone:

1) What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?

I already mentioned “you teach people how to treat you” in last week’s interview. So, I’ll share another incredibly influential piece of advice.

“Give yourself the emotional permission to create more time.”

Rory Vaden

For the first time in my life, someone had addressed the real issue with “time management.” As a new small business owner, soon-to-be wife, and someone who has varying personal interests, I had become tired of reading the same self-help, time management advice which essentially consists of: make lists, multi task, wake up earlier, and create a schedule. I was doing all those things and still felt like I could never find a free moment for myself, despite my efforts and discipline to make it work.

Am I the only woman who feels this way? Umm, no. These time management styles work for those of us without complex societal pressures to do everything, for everyone. And they absolutely do not address how to cope with the resulting guilt we feel when we can’t do everything, or simply don’t want to, and the pit of despair we tend to fall into once we beat ourselves up for “failing” at everything and letting everyone down, including ourselves.

Those books don’t even try to teach us how to deal with the constant exhaustion and (let’s face it) straight up fury we feel when we try to explain these concepts and are gaslit at every turn by those around us and society at large. “It’s 2021, sexism isn’t a thing anymore. Everyone is equal so you choose this for yourself. Other women have it way worse than you anyway. You’re overreacting. Stop being so emotional. Why is everything about being a woman? Why can’t you just be happy? Be grateful. If you don’t want to do all that stuff, just don’t do it. Or just stop complaining.” And the list goes on, and on, and on…our experiences invalidated, our frustration bottled back up at our own expense.

The problem is that lurking below the impossible weight of our never-ending to do lists is guilt and a sense of emotional obligation to do everything. Someone had finally named it. And once I wrapped my head around this concept and started detaching myself from that guilt, things slowly began improving. The solution to breaking this cycle is to recognize that the game is rigged, flip it two big middle fingers, and start working on your damn self.

However, I do want to mention that Vaden’s argument omits any type of gender theory (and all other identity politics for that matter) making his solutions overly simplistic at times. I plan to write an entire blog post on this topic, but until women can identify that we are conditioned by society to be what Emily and Amelia Nagoski in their book Burnout call “Human Givers” rather than human beings, we cannot even begin to unlearn this conditioning in order to change our behaviors.

The bottom line: Human Givers are taught (from the moment society genders us) to believe everyone else is entitled to our time and if we don’t give it, we’re bad people. Unpleasant, ungrateful, rude, selfish, lazy people. While human beings are taught (from the moment society genders them) to go out and conquer the world! No guilt necessary.

Give yourself the emotional permission to create more time. No one else will give it to you.

Vaden’s TED Talk: https://youtu.be/y2X7c9TUQJ8

2) What’s the biggest challenge and biggest reward of owning your own business?

The biggest challenge for me has been scaling my business to meet demand every time I outgrow my current model.

It’s easy to get comfortable and want things to stay the same once I find a rhythm, but that’s not how businesses grow. The universe has a way of forcing me to level up if I’m open to seeing opportunities and willing to put in the work to make them real. But every time I’ve had to do this I fall into what I call the “work hole” where I live and breathe my projects until they’re done, at the expense of everything else in my life. I’m working on that.

The biggest reward is participating in a community of women who believe that if we help each other, we will all succeed. That’s powerful.

3) What is one book that changed your life? Why?

Find A Way by Diana Nyad.

Nyad became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the assistance of a shark cage. She failed four other attempts, and succeeded on her fifth, when she was 64 years old. It took her 53 hours.

Basically she is one of the biggest badasses ever, and her ability to develop mental toughness and persistence in the face of so much adversity is amazing to read about. The logistics behind her story are fascinating, but her memoir changed my life because she’s an amazing writer (journalist by trade) and many of the principles she eloquently writes about apply to all aspects of life.

My favorite quote from Find A Way that has helped me through so many impossibly difficult times:

Take every minute, one at a time. Don’t be fooled by a perfect sea at any given moment. Accept and rise to whatever circumstance presents itself. Be in it full tilt, your best self. Summon your courage, your true grit. When the body fades, don’t let negative edges of despair creep in. Allowing negativity leads to a Pandora’s box syndrome. You can’t stop the doubts once you consent to let them seep into your tired, weakened brain. You must set your will. Set it now. Let nothing penetrate or cripple it.”