Recovery Days Don’t Mean Defeat

When it comes to fitness, improving our strength and losing weight, our bodies need rest. We have a culture that’s really turned us against that, though. A culture that’s normalized working out 6-7 days a week and made rest feel like a synonym for lazy, or weak, when it is neither of those things.

What if we change the vocabulary. What if our rest day or days weren’t called rest days, but instead recovery time? Recovery as a word celebrates and acknowledges the effort and work we are doing. Instead of insinuating that we are unable to go on, as rest has come to, recovery tends to weave itself in to the fitness route. While rest is seen as separate from our workout routine, a break from it, we see recovery as an integrated part of a workout schedule. Fitness influencers and trainers support this with suggesting stretches, foam rolling and specific nutrition for recovery. It’s part of taking care of your muscles, your cardiovascular system, and your mind.

Now let’s be clear – rest and recovery are the same thing. We aren’t really talking about different processes. We’re talking about two words that can be used to describe varying your schedule, relaxing, caring for your body outside of the gym. However we’ve allowed a culture that pushes us to feel we’ve never done enough to hijack one of these words – rest – and make it feel like a guilty pleasure instead of a key component in our routine.

So maybe in order to move foreword we need to change the vocabulary. We need to remind ourselves that there’s nothing guilty in listening to our bodies and claiming what we need.

A key reason I think this is so important is that when we treat rest as failure we allow it to overwhelm us. If the rest day isn’t built in to the routine – or we feel guilty about taking our rest day since most reputable programs do include at least one rest day – then instead of feeling refreshed we will feel anxious about the time we took to rest.

This is something I encountered this week. Normally Saturdays are a low intensity day for me and Sundays are a complete rest day. However with gyms re-opening and a little extra motivation I worked my ass off all weekend – literally.

Then on Monday – my normal legs and booty day – I hit a wall. Hard.

Okay, I thought, a rest day. Not a problem. I didn’t rest on the weekend so resting now is okay. Not a problem. Let’s do it. It should have been refreshing and energizing. I should have woken up on Tuesday at least sort of excited to step back in to my routine. But I didn’t. I woke up anxious that I wasn’t on my routine and that anxiety was paralyzing.

Did I want to jump in to my regular Tuesday Abs and Cardio? Did I need to double my workout and also get Mondays workout done? What was going on with the fact I really didn’t want to do any of it?

So I didn’t.

Now I went to the gym on the weekend but it wasn’t my gym. Gyms were allowed to reopen as of Friday so I visited a local one that had done so. However my gym opened on Wednesday so that was my first opportunity to get back in familiar territory.

Thankfully that was the push I needed to take a step back in to my week and not let my Monday-Tuesday off stretch towards the rest of the week. But what if it had been a normal Wednesday with no gym reopening to get me motivated?

I’ve been there before – when one day turns to two turns to three turns to a week and then six months and I am totally derailed by a day or a few days of feeling that my rest was a problem and that I’d failed and not knowing how to recover from that failure. While I’m grateful that there were outside forces – an accountability partner and a re-opened gym – to help me find my way this week – it’s really gotten me thinking.

Recovery is so key and listening to your body is a way to avoid catastrophic failure, injury, and burn out. So why don’t we normalize it? Why do we still celebrate stretching over our natural limits to such an extreme level? I know there is a tide of change working to push back but with the virus and everything going on, it can’t come soon enough.

Apple Watch versus Fitbit

I know a lot of us are spending way more time at home and fall somewhere in between eating everything in sight and frantically redeveloping our fitness routines. I thought it was about time I pull this piece out of drafts, blow off the dust and post it.

Anyone who knows me knows that saying I like Apple products is putting it mildly. I love the way my devices work together and that makes it easy to choose Apple whenever I need a new device.

So a while back I thought I’d upgrade from a Fitbit Alta and add an Apple Watch series 2 to my Apple family. For the first little while that watch and I got along wonderfully. Pairing it with my phone was easy. If you’ve ever had 2 apple products you know how well they’re designed to work together. My iPhone, iPad and MacBook have always encouraged a seamless transfer of information. It was no surprise that my watch worked with my phone exactly as advertised.

Still, I found with time I wore the watch less and less until finally I pulled my old fitbit out of the drawer and relaunched my fitbit account.

Now, thanks to my parents and Christmas I’ve even upgraded from that old Fitbit Alta that I bought in University to a Fitbit Charge 3. I love it so much.

Here’s a few points of comparison that are key for me. Read it all or skim through and find the points of comparison that matter to you.

Wearability

If you’re comparing the Apple Watches currently available to the Fitbit’s currently available one thing is clear from the very start: Fitbit offers a lot more choice.

Apple Watch is Apple Watch – that’s pretty much it. You might be able to pick up a model from another year with slightly different materials (aluminum versus stainless steel), and if you go back to series 2 you can maybe find a 38mm watch versus a 42mm watch. But realistically there’s only one style of Apple Watch with minor differences to warrant different price points.

Fitbit on the other hand offers slim and simplistic trackers that are a little more “dainty” alongside the larger screened model intended to compete with Apple Watch.

When I purchased my Apple Watch, series 2 was the current lineup. I chose a 38mm black stainless steel model. I loved the dark, shiny metallic look for this watch but damn was it heavy. It doesn’t help that it really does look best paired with a black stainless classic link band (a knock off of Apple’s $600 band that I picked up for $50 online). If I wore it with a sport band it would be way lighter but it would lack a certain shiny style pairing that stainless steal watch with a rubber band.

I denied it for as long as I could but honestly the thing was just too big for my wrist. It took up like my whole arm, it seemed. Visually it seemed even heavier because of it’s dark colour. The actual heaviness of it could be dealt with for daytime wear but I noticed that if I wore it continuously while sleeping (since sleep tracking is an advertised capability) my wrist would start to ache after only 2 or 3 days.

Fitbit on the other hand is much lighter – I haven’t experienced all fitbit models, of course. The fitbit alta and the fitbit charge 3 both are very light, and I honestly forget it’s there. It’s so light it never causes any aches or issues.

Plus the smaller profile on my wrist fits in to my style a lot better. I can add a bracelet or decorative hair tie and accessorize. With Apple Watch adding any bracelets or anything just made my wrist look even more cluttered. I was drawn back to fitbit in part for the ability to accessorize.

Information on your Wrist

One of the big draws for the Apple Watch is the claim that it can put basically all your information and notifications on your wrist.

It does deliver a lot of information. There’s no denying that.

But then again, so does Fitbit. Even though the Alta wasn’t the most up to date model of Fitbit it still picked up and displayed my text messages. Later models of Fitbit even allow you to reply while Alta only allows reading. Fitbit Charge 3 also allows reading only although the format is much better than Alta’s. The smartwatch version would allow some reply capability. Phone call notifications are delivered as well with a display of the caller ID and vibrations to alert me on both Alta and Charge 3.

The issue with Apple Watch here isn’t that it doesn’t deliver. It delivers the information but it’s not as useful as you might think. While yes, technically, there’s a lot of built in capability to do tasks such as replying to messages, viewing photos, or adding notes to your reminders app etc, in reality why would you do that on a 38mm-42mm screen when you could pull your phone out and use that screen?

By the time you put in the effort to navigate the tasks on your wrist, holding the watch at an odd angle and probably hitting the wrong tiny button once or twice, you might as well just get your phone out.

Battery Life

Well it is true that the Apple Watch delivers a little more information and has more customizable watch faces this takes a toll on its battery life. If I really used the capabilities of the watch – reading notifications, occasionally completing tasks, and relying on it day in and day out as advertised I’ll also be charging it day in and day out. Or at least every 2-3 days.

Meanwhile I have to ask myself when I last charged my fitbit because it lasts like a week at a time. Charging is a rare need, which is a surprise given that I do maximize my use of it by actively tracking my heart rate through workouts, checking the time and date a dozen times a day and tracking walking and running work outs.

Social Connection

I love that with both devices you can challenge friends to see who can get the most steps or crush their goals. The thing is… in both cases you can only really compete with someone who has the same device as you – or at least one in the same family. Let me tell you, there’s a lot more fitbit users out there. It’s a lot easier to find friends to compete with on fitbit.

It doesn’t hurt that one of those other fitbit users is my boyfriend so we can cheer each other on. Nothing gets me moving like the pride of reminding him over dinner that I kicked his butt in our step goals and move goals.

Motivation

That social competition feeds in to this piece too. Both companies advertise their devices as a tool to add motivation and push you to be your best self. They both do a good job with reminder notifications prompting you to move, drink water, etc. Realistically though that better version of yourself happens with or without the device. It’s all about you taking the actions and making the choices that need to happen.

Conclusion

So – all this to provide some thoughts on Apple Watches versus Fitbits for those of us wanting a piece of every day smart wearable technology that helps us out with fitness and then some.

Do you wear a smart watch or activity tracker? What do you use, what do you love and why?

Celebrating Ten Pounds Lost!

*I wrote this a little while ago and got shy about publishing it. Expect another update soon!

I’ve written again and again about the struggle of weight loss. I always feel like I’m starting over. I am still feeling like every week I must be starting over. Like every time I eat something that’s a little less than healthy alarm bells go off and I feel like I have to start over on being healthy. It’s ridiculous and I know that I have to work through that. I haven’t ended my fitness journey every time I have a cheat meal or get busy and miss the gym.

So – finally I get to post a celebration post! I’m officially down 10 pounds! Many of us might be familiar with the cycle of trying to lose weight – losing some – losing motivation – gaining weight back. The most I’ve ever lose has been 10 pounds. Well this time the motivation isn’t going anywhere!

That picture was taken at the CN tower and was probably around the time I was approaching the most I ever weighed. I can’t remember exactly but I know there were more confident times in my life. I have very clear memories of putting that outfit together simply to hide the rolls and using the scarf to feel like maybe I could hide the chubbiness in my face and neck. I was just so pleased the scarf and sweater were cute together and the necklace helped to make the whole thing look intentional. But it wasn’t.

It’s taken about 2 months to get from the heaviest I’ve ever been to where I am today. Even if that progress isn’t the fastest a lot of work has happened. In those two months I’ve seriously cut back my calories. It’s funny because I’ve counted calories in the past. Realistically I never stopped knowing what a portion size looked and felt like. I just stopped paying attention and let my portions get a little out of control. Now that I’m refocused on making sure that I account for what I eat it’s amazing how much better I feel and how much I was able to cut out.

I’ve also done better at getting to the gym regularly. The last week and a half has been a little wonky and busy – we’ve been on the road a lot and it’s been tough to get to the gym. Over all though I’m doing well with the 3x a week every week and sometimes 4x or 5x a week gym routine. I know I’ll get back on track in the coming week and keep that statement true.

People are truly always looking for the secret or the magic trick. I’m included in that. I would love a magic trick so I could stop asking “How many calories is that? How much can I have?” Nonetheless, it’s actually as simple as nutritionists have been telling us all along.

Eat well. Keep moving.

How your pre-summer fitness journeys going? =) If you use My Fitness Pal we can be friends – find me by username ohmymermaidblog =)

Fitness & Comparison: Motivating or Manipulative?

When we talk about comparison in the fitness world we usually think about comparing ourselves to others. There’s lots of reassurances out there like “You are your only competition” and “Just be better than you were yesterday” to help us take a step back from it.

But I don’t just mean that we’re glancing at the numbers on the treadmill beside us and secretly trying to beat them. I mean the practice of before and after pictures as well as the ever-growing fitness community on Instagram.

See, it strikes me that even if we preach not comparing ourselves and posting our fitness journeys for our own sake there’s still something bigger going on.

Do we really think that comparison isn’t like, %70 of what’s going on outside the fitness sphere on Instagram? As a regular practice, we follow brands, influences and celebrities who we admire. We covet their clothes, cars, homes – their whole lifestyle.

So when the account we’re following is a fitness-specific influencer or celebrity can we truly pretend we aren’t comparing and coveting their fitness based on their body in posed pics and workout videos?

Now, I will acknowledge here that fitness influencers are probably doing the most out of any influences to help their fans achieve what they have. You admire my abs? Here’s an ab workout I like. You want my perfect booty? Here’s my booty routine.

Sure, they make money off their fans desire to be like them but at least they seem more likely to share the how-to than other influencers.

You don’t see a lot of other influencers breaking it down for you how they got what they have and how you can too. They just profit off your admirations as the likes and comments roll in.

Even with the before and after photos I mentioned earlier we’re encouraged to engage in a detailed comparison of ourselves to ourselves. While that’s a little healthier than only lusting after the results of others, it still feeds into a comparison mindset when considering our current fitness and future goals. I think it’s an awesome practice that we reflect on our own progress and success. We still have to talk about it, though, when we talk about comparison.

The biggest problem, for me, is that a lot of the influencers who encourage comparison either with before and after photos or just putting themselves out there in a way that forces you to compare where you are compared to their fitness journey, do so to sell products.

The fitness fam on insta is overflowing with “positive vibes” and “support” but a lot of companies are successfully harnessing the community for comparison, admiration and sales.

It definitely makes me a bit bitter to see “fitness influencers” or “fitness models” selling detox teas, certain supplements and diet programs. Like, this is why we can’t have nice things, ya’ll. Too many people harness the power of community for marketing and misdirect our well meaning support.

I wouldn’t call for the end of the fitness community on insta because so much good does come from it – I think we, as fitness focused accounts – might just have some work to do to reclaim our community.

Who needs a “summer bod” – I need a “summer brain”

Well it’s January and everywhere gyms are advertising solutions for your resolutions and playing off our programmed desire to be in shape and looking a certain way for winter getaways and the coming summer months.

If only they could advertise a solution for the winter blues, instead.

I mean, it’s true that exercise is a known mood-lifter and promoter of balance for related endorphins. So I suppose in an unintended way they are advertising a way to beat the blues.

Except that it’s really just a side affect of working on your body goals, as far as the ads are concerned.

Don’t get me wrong – I’d love a hot summer bod that matches all those ads but what I need more right now is a happy summer brain.

As many of you will know seasonal affective disorder or S.A.D (perhaps the most appropriately named mental health affliction) comes with depression symptoms throughout these cold months. This happens as a result of short days and less access to sunlight along with a greater tendency to stay indoors due to cold temperatures. Our bodies and brains, accustomed to sunny summer days outdoors, really feel the lack of sunlight, fresh air and movement.

In that spirit, here’s a list of ways you can look after yourself and feel a little less blue:

  • Walk outside (when the temperature is bearable)
  • Go to the Gym (for the happiness, not for unhealthy body goals)
  • Make plans with a friend
  • Volunteer somewhere
  • Try something new (like a yoga class, or any kind of class)
  • Go somewhere you’ve never been (even if it’s not far)
  • Watch a new tv show
  • Create something – anything
  • Rewatch a favourite show or movie
  • Read a book

What’s your fave way to boost your mood when you’re feeling down?

Let’s Talk About “The Weight Loss Resolution”

It’s that time of year again! Just days ago untold numbers of us pledged to ourselves – and perhaps our families, friends & followers – that we would change our habits with the intention of losing weight.

I kinda get it. I mean, for years and years I pledged along with the rest of them. I always used January 1st as the beginning of an imagined weight loss journey. Doing so came with a lot of negative side effects, like writing off the progress of the previous year and chastising myself for every goal I’d missed.

I can only speak for myself here, but these resolutions never really stuck. Or rather, the weight always stuck far better than the resolution.

So what’s with the mass desire to loose weight and why do so many of us keep failing?

I think the key is that most of the time these resolutions are reflecting the marketing of gyms, health food companies and sports clothing brands. We’re focused on looking a certain way and being able to make trendy statements about our lifestyle. We want to be in the club of super food eating, 0 calorie snack carrying, on-brand fitness gurus.

It’s not really about eating healthy for the actual health benefits, it’s not about how we’ll feel or the energy we’ll have. It all comes from superficial status symbols instead of a genuine care for our bodies.

I think that’s a big part of what has always been missing for me in my weight loss journey. I got the message to go to the gym and to eat a certain way but it always came from outside. It came from marketing, blog posts, health magazines and the like.

What if instead of simply saying we have a resolution to lose weight we had a resolution to nourish our bodies and paid attention to what our bodies actually wanted?

Not simply eating this “superfood” or that “negative calorie snack” because we were told that’s what we should do but instead exploring and experimenting to find what really feels good and gives us energy, strength and health?

I imagine this kind of mental shift is where the real change happens. Not in what we’re told to do but in what we feel good doing.

What about you? What are your resolutions and how are you planning to turn resolutions in to reality?