fitness

The Health and Fitness Fad

Health and fitness is a touchy topic.  Mostly because there are so many views of what determines how fit and healthy you are. However, among the various opinions and trends, there is one thing that is fairly consistent within the health and fitness fad:

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The food we eat.  The muscles we flex.  How many of us are creating an image of health and fitness without truly leading a life of balanced wellness?  At what point do our lifestyles go from balanced to obsessive?

I speak from experience.  It took me years to actually become aware of the fact that I had disordered habits.  Why? Because my actions were masked by the image of health.  I was a runner, so obviously I was thin, right?  Wrong.  I was thin because I barely consumed enough calories to keep my organs functioning.  On top of that, I excessively worked out, obsessively doing workouts throughout the day, especially after every meal.

If you looked at certain statistics, you could claim I was healthy.  I was a fast runner.  My fastest mile was 5:40. I could do movements like push ups and squats. But, I was far from healthy.  Because I was so mentally unhealthy.  

My physical activity was sparked by anxiety, stress, and the need to feel in control.  What started as a hobby became an obsession.  Fitness consumed my life.

If you were to look at my social media pages today, you would see pictures of my food, of my muscles, of my yoga poses. It’s a way to advocate for this life style change I’ve created for myself.  Health and fitness is still a major part of my life, but in a very different way.  I’m still an avid runner.  I lift weights.  I practice yoga daily.  My love of fitness has not changed.  What has changed is my perspective of it.

We assume that working out makes us stronger, faster and better.  I went from running and doing body weight movements daily with no true nutrition to working out just 4 days a week.  Yes, I hop on my mat and stretch daily, but I only do intense activity 4 days a week.  Because that’s what keeps me balanced. 

However,  it’s not all about exercise. It’s so so so much nutrition (like literally, mostly nutrition).  I don’t work out to eat…I eat to work out live.  I need proper nutrition to fuel my body.  Not just for exercise, but for life. I went from consuming barley 1000 calories a day to a minimum of 2000+ and this is the best I’ve ever looked and felt.

None of this would be possible if it weren’t for balancing my mental health.  I had to shift my perspective of my body before I could become passionate about taking care of it, respecting it.  I meditate, I become aware of the thoughts and feelings around me.  I listen to my body.  I research and educate myself.  I try new things.

So, among all the advice, the fads, discover what best fits you, mentally and physically.  You can practice yoga all day physically without ever truly finding peace within awareness. You can flex day in and day out without ever having an ounce of respect for the strength your body demonstrates on the reg. Life is a journey. Your health and fitness can either enhance your growth or hinder it. Grow in your awareness of how you treat your mind, body and spirit as well as why you treat them this way.

Because what’s the point of going through life looking good without feeling good?

National Running Day 2015

GUYS. IT’S NATIONAL RUNNING DAY!

So obviously I’m going to take the time to ramble about my relationship with running.

You see, running and me, we’ve come a     L     O    N    G    (pun intended) way.

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It didn’t always use to be this way.  In fact, it used to be the exact opposite.  I used to run because I didn’t honor my body.  I ran to escape my mind.  I ran because I felt like I had to.

I had very high expectations and very low self respect.  I ran and ran and ran to prove to myself I was something.  The (not so) funny thing about that is the more I tried to prove that something to myself, the higher my expectations were.  These expectations were unrealistic, unhealthy and unattainable.

Eventually, I shifted away from running.  I took the time to heal my body and my mind.  I needed to build mental and physical strength. I knew that eventually I would return to running, and when I did, I’d run for the right reasons.

Now, my runs are my time to be mindful, to be aware, to embrace my surroundings.  It’s the time to soak up the sights, the sounds, the scents around me and simply be. It’s my time to practice presence.

My runs remind me of my past.  My body has overcome a major struggle.  I don’t look at the past with regret.  It simply is. And because it is the way it is, I am the way I am.  My body is powerful because of it. I spent ten years being being guided by negativity and stress.  I’m dedicating the next fifty+ to being surrounded by happiness, mindfulness and presence.

I run to honor my body and free my mind.  Why do you run?

Running of the Bulls 8K: Race Recap

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Yesterday, I had the pleasure of venturing through downtown Durham.  Despite the high humidity (90% to be exact…) the race was a success!

And, although, I’m very proud of my pace, and overall placement for age group and gender..I’m measuring the success of this race in a different way.

I know what pace my body is capable of. I commit to long distance runs every Saturday morning and have easily sustained an 8 minute pace for 9 miles.  I didn’t go into this race with a pace goal.  I didn’t set myself up to meet an expectation.

Instead, I made a commitment:

to smile.

to be aware.

to breathe.

I wanted to soak up my surroundings.  My focus was to be aware of the bliss and gratitude that surrounded me when I ran.  I centered on the sights, the sounds, the scents that were present; that were a part of this journey with me.

At one point in the race, I told myself to keep my head up.  And I did just that.  I looked up, peered around at the sea of people surrounding me and soaked up the empowerment that came from recognizing I was one small part of this big community.  Pretty powerful stuff.

So rather than trying to control my pace, my body, my breath…I just let it be.  I ran. I smiled.  I enjoyed my time on the road with my fellow runners.  I truly believe this is why I had a successful run.

That and my fuel.

There are many components to living a balanced life style.  Creating a balanced mindset is probably the most necessary, and difficult to achieve.  Balanced nutrition is key, especially for athletes.

Night Before the Race

I planned my meals the day before the race to allow myself to have most of my carbs at night.  Carbohydrates provide stored energy.  So, I had strawberry banana protein pancakes followed by some oatmeal for dessert. And water. LOTS of water ALL DAY LONG.

Morning of the Race

Coffee.  And more water.  Followed by Shakeology with half a serving of whey added to it.  I’m the odd one out who has to eat right before a work out.  Shakeology before my runs has proven to work for my body.  It provides me with TONS vitamins and minerals. It leaves me feeling energized and ready to go!

Post Race

2 Chia Bars (1 acai berry, 1 chocolate peanut butter), 1 banana, 1 sesame seed bagel with 2 egg whites, 1 cup of greek yogurt with a scoop of strawberry whey protein and 1 cup of protein fiber almond flax granola from Whole Foods.  I. Could. Not. Get. Full. When your body burns calories, it’s VITAL to restore those calories.  I may not have gotten full…but I also never got that post race crash…because I fueled my body properly! Restored my body with carbohydrates and rebuilt muscle with protein!

Here’s some ramblings of me talking about the race.  Other topics coming soon:

the value of quality race gear

and

why I’ve stopped blasting music during my workouts

Fit Without Numbers

Yesterday, I ran.  Just ran.

No phone. No GPS.  No clue how far or for how long.  Pood and I just ran. And it was fabulous. 

I started this whole fit without numbers a few months ago.  I mostly used it in my CrossFit workouts.  I just did work.  I didn’t keep track of how many rounds or how long a WOD took me.  I wasn’t in it for the PR, or for the fastest time or to RX.  I was in it to feel good.

And I’ve learned this is what’s best, what’s healthiest for me.  Everyone’s fitness journey is different.  The path you choose and the goals you set are unique to you.  For some, it’s necessary to have numbers, to keep track of progress, to set those PRs.  That was my journey at one point.  But life changes.  And instead of fighting change, sometimes it’s best to adapt and embrace it.

In the past, my fitness was my stress reliever.   I’d let all my built up stress be released at the gym.  Now that I’m finding myself with a blissful mindset more often, I don’t see fitness in the same way.  I’m not running to release anything.  I’m not lifting to let anything go.  There’s no competition with others.  More importantly, there’s no competition with myself.  I’m just doing and enjoying the movement.

And I’m enjoying it all a lot more without numbers.  Cheers to running, bending, and lifting with presence.

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Why I Stopped Following Instagram Fitness Models

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Social Media is fascinating.  What intrigues me the most is its ability to make you famous.

The Health and Wellness industry’s popularity has skyrocketed over the past couple of years.  I without a doubt think that social media played a major role in this.  People are taking pride in their sport.   More importantly, people are taking pride in their bodies.

While I without a doubt love this for many reasons (positive body image, healthier lifestyles, new role models), I’m finding some serious faults.

The biggest flaw? Vanity.

definition: excessive pride in or admiration of one’s own appearance or achievements.

People are literally becoming famous via social media because of the selfies they take of their flexed bodies.  And quite frankly, I’m over it.

I started following some people whose followers were increasing by the hundreds every day.  I see their (five) daily flexing posts, mostly all of their abs.

I get it. You have abs.  And while that’s great, I have one major announcement to make about it:

Abs do not define how healthy you are. I repeat: Abs do not define how healthy you are.  

Again, this is vanity.  I’ve had  six pack before.  I was also less than 100 pounds.  When you’re obsessing over your six pack, you’re not mentally  healthy.  And let’s be real: at <100 pounds, I wasn’t physically healthy, either.

So, I slowly but surely began to unfollow them all.

While I’m so happy for them to have the capability to transform their bodies, I’m not happy with their means of “inspiring” others.

What do I find inspiring?

-People’s PRs

-Yoga poses I hope to one day be flexible and strong enough for

-Motivational Quotes that remind me we all go through similar ups and downs

If you’re traveling through your fitness journey, I suggest not focusing on the vanity.  While of course a healthier physique is a goal (I mean, I do love my muscles), find inspiration in mental health, in new challenges, new friendships, in yourself. I promise you can be healthy without rocking a six pack. I’m healthier without mine.

Why You Don’t “Have To” Work Out

 

Disclaimer: I am in no shape or form saying that you should not work out.  I (obviously) am passionate about leading a healthy lifestyle and understand the full benefits of getting your sweat on.

That being said, you don’t have to work out.

I have always loved to sweat.  From softball to basketball to volleyball to track, being an athlete is a part of who I am. I’ll be the first to admit that I can get carried away and obsessive about sweating.  I’m a passionate person and when I dedicate myself to something, I give it my all.  This isn’t exactly healthy, though.

My biggest lesson in the past year is if your place/form of sweat is causing you stress, you’re doing it wrong.  Your workouts should be stress relievers, not stress endusers.

Like I said earlier, I’m a passionate person.  My sweat life has a history of getting the best of me and taking over.  First it was running, and then it was CrossFit.  You refuse to miss workouts.  You assume you’ll be weaker by taking another rest day.  You must push through the pain. It’s easy to think you’re being healthy, because, hello, you’re working out.  Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

I’ve been there.  You give your workouts your all because they make you feel good.  They help you escape.  They help you feel good.  But how good do you really feel if your workouts are controlling you and not the other way around?

I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to work out.  Still sore even after a day of rest? Focus on stretching. (Yoga is just as important as lifting!)  You didn’t PR today?  That does not mean you’re weak.  Not every day is going to be PR day.  In my post Why You Should Step Outside Your Fitness Zone, I talked about the value of switching up your sweat routine.  Well, I’ve taken my advice and have been spreading the love.  And you know what?  I feel healthier than ever.  I may not be making the same gains I was in CrossFit, but I’m not beating myself up over it.

If you ask me, that’s what working out is all about.  Getting your sweat on. Having fun. Feeling good.