Health

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?

Fit Tip Tuesday: Why You Should Squat

I love body weight exercises.  Not only are they easy to incorporate into a busy schedule, but they’re more challenging than you’d expect.

One of my favorite body weight exercises is squatting.  Not only because I’m proud of my booty but because of all the benefits behind the movement.

Here’s why you should add squats to your fitness routine

1. It’s Functional: squats are a functional movement.  I’m sure you’ve heard this phrase “functional” before, but may not know exactly what it means.  Squatting is functional because it’s a movement you use everyday.  Sitting down? That’s a squat.  Standing up?  That’s a squat.  So not only will squatting during your sweat sesh get your heart rate up, it’ll make daily tasks easier.

2. Core & Hip Strength: sure squats are great for your legs and bum but they’re also very beneficial for your core and hips.  As we get older, our hips start to tighten up. Ever see a baby sit in a bottom of a squat?  It’s so natural for them!  Then you take a look at an older person who may need assistance in sitting down or getting back up.  Squatting prevents this from happening.  It not only opens up your hip flexibility, but it strengthens your hips as well.  Core strength is a must, too.  Core strength (and no this does not mean you have to have a six pack…) is the foundation to doing other movements not only with ease, but with the correct form.

3. Easy to Spice Up: once you’ve mastered a body weight squat, it’s easy to spice up!  There are tons of variations of squats you can do that’ll switch up your work out routine.  Add a kettle bell to your squat.  Load a bar in the front rack or back rack position.  Do a squat on one leg. Or you can sit in the bottom of a yoga squat and meditate.  It’s your body, your practice…do as you please.

Now that you know why you should squat, here’s how to squat.

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1. Stand with your feet hip width a part

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2. Send your hips backwards

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3. Send your knees out (not forward) so your knees stay directly above your toes.

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You might not be able to get below parallel (butt below knees).  That’s okay.  Everyone’s body is different.  This picture shows a squat with your hips parallel to your knees.

Key points to remember:

1. Keep Your Chest Up: if this is something you struggle with, squat in front of a wall.  As you begin to squat down, have your hands slide down the wall.  You can also hold something in your hands and hold your arms up in front of your face.

2. Keep Your Weight In Your Heels: to protect your knees and to have proper form, you want to feel the weight in your heels.  What does this mean?  You’re literally on your heels, not your toes.  This is safer for your knees and will help you feel more balanced.

3. Keep Your Knees Back: you want your knees to be above your toes.  If you find that your knees are going forward, chances are you struggling to keep the weight back in your heels.  Again, do a squat facing a wall.  Your knees physically can’t go forward because, well, there will be a wall in the way.

4. Get low: no, you don’t have to go ass to grass.  Ideally you want to get to parallel or below.  If you’re struggling to get your hips down to knee level, stick something underneath you. Whether its a chair, ball or basket it, make it your target.  Don’t rest on it when you get there.  Instead, aim for it, graze it and stand right back up.

And, as always, listen to your body.  Some days you’ll be sore and may not be able to beast out a ton of reps.  Focus on your form and the reasons why you squat.  Squatting is the foundation for a ton of other movements.  If you want good form in those, focus on having a good squat.

Happy Squatting!