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?

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.

#MondayMotivation My Fave Fitness accounts on Instagram

This Monday I thought I’d share a little of my #MondayMotivation with you.  I’ve written before about how instagram specifically can play a big role in fitness and fitness motivation.  It’s a less interrupted feed than facebook, plus we “follow” more than we friend.  Above all, it’s so visual and can help us see our own goals when we see everyone else crushing theirs.  

Here’s a few of my fave accounts from my feed

@AnnaVictoria

Anna Victoria is the main personal trainer type that I follow. I prefer accounts that I guess at least seeeeeeem less like the ultimate interaction with them is for you to buy what they sell.  Obvi it would be ideal for Anna if you’d like her content so much you buy her products BUT the reason I’ve followed her for so long (and even bought some of her products) is that she is the QUEEN of #realtalk about body positivity. Her fit body is her business – her body is the ultimate ad for why you should pay to know her workouts – but she still shows us the rolls, the changes, the things that bug her.  She practices the kind of body positivity she preaches and I love it! 

@thefitwaywithashley 

If there’s an overall vibe for an insta account…thefitwaywithashley is perpetually cheerful. She always smiles and her captions are full of real talk and honesty about how this fitness journey goes.  She shares about having “good body image days” and also douting if she should post a certain photo because of that pressure we all feel to only share the things we feel amazing in and nothing where we think our imperfections show. Plus all her workout photos are a great reminder to get your butt to the gym, on to the matt, wherever it needs to be for you to get your sweat on! 

@Fatgirlfedup

There are SO many reasons to love this account and about 1 million other people agree.  This account follows Lexi’s journey and 312 pound weight loss, achieved with diet and exercise, over two years. She also gets real about the less photogenic side like loose skin and skin removal surgery.  She provides so much motivation by sharing her story and makes you feel like if she could wake up and start this journey 300 pounds ago, you can too!  

@robinmolyneaux__

I love that Robin’s account showcases a little bit of everything. She’s stylish, she’s funny, she’s real and she’s fit.  We’ve messaged back and forth in the past and she’s the sweetest, most encouraging soul.  I love that there’s so much support out there in the instagram fitness community and Robin is a real life example of how awesome that can be! 

@losinggravity

Okay at this point is it a surprise that I’m sharing another AMAZING account full of #realtalk? It shouldn’t be.

I love the story of a big girl getting it together and sharing her fitness success. Especially when the bio is clear that these results are from diet and exercise. From where I’m at (ahem, way bigger than I want to be) these are the stories I admire because these are the stories I’m trying to write for myself with each healthy meal and every work out. Plus there’s a lot more to it than “I didn’t have abs and now I do” or “this dress didn’t fit and now it does”.  Changing our bodies can have a lot of side effects and losinggravity is here with the honesty about it all.

@inked beauty.getsfit

I love this account because as of literally today hers is a body that shows progress (She posts great before and afters) but she still looks real. Gorgeous. Fit. Strong. and REAL. I get so discouraged when alllll the”fit girls” I see look the same and as amazing as they look, as happy as I am for their success, as much as they should keep chasing their goals… it makes me feel hopeless because I am SO far from being THERE with them.

This account though is so much realness and honesty it’s amazing.  Plus she is some pretty legit fashion and tattoo #goals so it’s not just the same content over and over! 

@bodyposipanda 

No list of my fave instagram accounts could ever be complete without this one.  In the midst of my insta-scrolling and fitness motivation bodyposipanda is the voice of self love and body positivity! She’s here to remind us all that we don’t have to change a thing about our bodies and we can celelbrate and love our bodies even when we know they don’t fit in a certain box (or size!) Seriously, she’ll make you smile every damn day! 

Introducing more Creativity to how I look at Fitness

This post has been updated. =) Read on for an in-depth look at the topic.

As I was planning out my week I started thinking more about how I wanted to incorporate workouts and good food.  I did really well throughout October in terms of working out often and making little changes to my eating habits.  The start of November though has seen a lot of that fall away and old habits proving their strength. As strong as those old habits are, I’m fairly certain my determination to improve is stronger.

Update: This is a continuous pattern I’m still working on – a big part of it, I’ve discovered, is teaching myself not to think of eating healthy as hard or complicated.  Eating a few clementines for breakfast is just as easy as grabbing a bowl of cereal with lots of empty carbs.  Making a smoothie or frying an egg for a simple breakfast sandwich is as easy, if not easier, than frying bacon and cooking up a pile of breakfast potatoes.  However, if we let ourselves stay in the mindset that the junk food is an “easy option” then we’ll continue to think of that instead of teaching ourselves options for every energy or effort level on the healthier side of things.

This is actually the first week I’ve truly planned out what my fitness and food looks like based on reflection for what I want.  Usually, I am working more closely with a program like the Anna Victoria Body Love app but I sort of got bored with the repetition of that program. I enjoyed it, in a lot of ways, but for a number of reasons I had trouble making it stick.

Update: I’m back with Anna Victoria since the app has been updated to include improved work outs for home (Hello, COVID), as well as adding additional programs and trainers to keep it fresh. 

I’m realizing that maybe what I’m lacking right now is creativity and taking the time to listen to what my body and mind actually want. I know I want to be healthier but I’m thinking of how that looks for everyone else. I see all the “fitness gurus” and “health experts” that post gorgeous photos of their salad and encourage you to commit to their workout program.  While that works for some people, it hasn’t been working for me.

It’s really easy to feel like a failure when what works for everyone else isn’t working for you.  If it works for all those people then maybe I’m the problem, right?

Every other aspect of my life seems to be taking off and fitting together.  So what’s missing with fitness?

Creativity.

In every other aspect of my life, I’m engaging those cliches like “follow your heart” and “be yourself”.  Creativity is the common thread guiding my work and improvement.

So this week, as I plan out my creative projects like writing, social media and content creation I’m including fitness.  I ask myself questions about my work and projects such as what I have time for, what I’m interested in, what I’m craving and feeling.  This is a big part of how I develop my writing especially, and how I determine what I want to broadcast on social media.  It’s acknowledging what is happening in my life, what is happening in the world and the direction I’m interested in developing towards..

Now, I want to apply that to my fitness strategy.  I’ve developed a plan to incorporate focusing on different parts of my body with focused workouts each day, similar to how I did with Anna Victoria but open to more creativity in the actual movements and routines.

I’ve also planned to include yoga in my day because it allows me to reconnect mind and body and celebrate a movement that feels good.

Update: I’ve continued to bring creativity in to my fitness routine.  Recently I’ve been exploring how a routine doesn’t have to limit creativity – and actually can improve it – both in my creative work and my fitness.  I always kind of felt like working out on a program limited me to just that program.  I’m seeing now the opportunities to modify the program slightly when needed – swapping out moves that don’t work for me and including moves that address the same muscle groups.  I’m also recognizing that I can actually go “above and beyond” – which maybe should have been obvious but it hasn’t always felt obvious.  For example, adding extra cardio, extra reps, extra moves that feel good.  

What popular strategies have you tried and hated in self-improvement and fitness?

For Fit Sake: Week Three

I’ve definetly hit the point where I’m battling excuses. I was so sick over the weekend and everything hurt. I felt like I belonged in a nursing home I was so stiff and off balance.  While that was a good reason to relax and heal, now that I’m feeling better I feel the excuses creeping up like maybe I’m just too busy today or maybe there’s some small reason that I’d let stand in my way and stop me from staying dedicated.

So I know this is where either this effort fails and fades, or it gets stronger and becomes a habit. I have been here and so many times I’ve failed and faded. Now I’m ready to double up my efforts and push through the excuses.  I have a relatively active weekend planned and looking ahead to my schedule next week I have lots of time to work out so I’m getting on top of and ahead of scheduling that time for myself.

That’s honestly one of the biggest game changers for me.  What made it so easy to slip into excuses this week was thinking I’ll just get my workout in at some point in the day.  Weeks one and two I really put emphasis on getting my workout in as early as possible.  Sometimes I got up early to do it before work.  If not before work it was as though the race was on to get it done ASAP and I want to get back to that. When I put that pressure on myself to get it DONE right away I worked out harder and I kept the positive effects of the workout, along with the focus on my health, all day!

When I wait all day before working out I rush through it at the end of my day and my whole day lacks any sort of focus on my health.

What I really love is when I’m able to workout at home in the morning and then squeeze in a little gym time on my evenings off.

Along with being unfocused this past week I’ve been slacking on instagram so I’m hoping to improve that accountability this week, too!
How are you doing this week? Where are you in your journey?

Carmen

Discovering Progress

I struggle to think of what I might want to write when it comes to fitness. Mostly this is because I often feel like I’m not really getting anywhere in my weight loss journey and I don’t want to repeatedly write about how it feels to fail.

But today I was working on my fitness notebook – more on that to come – when I realized I am making progress. It’s slow, and a little inconsistent from week to week, but it’s progress. That realization inspired this post with the goal of sharing two things:

First, a friendly reminder (because I needed it) that how we feel isn’t always a good reflection of reality. For example, I feel like I’m the biggest I’ve ever been, and like I haven’t made any progress. I feel like I constantly choose to eat junk food despite knowing that it isn’t conducive to my goals. I feel hopeless.

Part of this is because I track my habits on a micro level. Each meal and snack of each day, and taking my weight every morning… the day to day fluctuations are often times all I see.  This is the down fall of micro tracking.  The benefit, for me, comes in two ways. First of all knowing that each thing will be measured keeps a constant pressure to make better and better choices more often.  It also means that when I take a moment to mentally “zoom out” and see what all this daily tracking is adding up to over time, I have more information to complete that zoomed out understanding.

This is how today I was able to realize I’m down 4.2 pounds this month. It’s not the spectacular progress we all hope for in our first month. Some weeks I lost more than expected and other weeks none at all. However it averages out to about 1 pound a week and that’s better progress than I thought I’d achieved.

I got caught up thinking about all the mistakes. Every spontaneous drive through and indulgent snack… until I realized that while I should continue striving to cut unhealthy habits I do have some progress to celebrate going in to week 5 with the notebook.

Now that’s the second thing I wanted to share today – the notebook.

I’ve attached a picture of my weekly layout because we all know a picture is worth a thousand words. The cover really just reminds me to be a whole person and not let weight be my identity.

I use this place to physically track my day to day weight, food, water and movement. I use a stencil to make it cute and organized.  It’s pretty simple but the process of recording and being able to flip back and look at how things are changing week to week is helpful for me to stay focused.

I’m not following any explicit plan. I spent about a month working through the first 3rd of the Body Love app by Anna Victoria. Ultimately it wasn’t the right program for me. I really want to be the kind of person that can strictly follow a program but I’m realizing I may not be. It’s well known that following a strict workout plan exactly is impractical for many people with busy lives (hello!) but I also struggle to stay focused while being flexible. If i forgive myself for having a busy day and missing a work out the next day I am full of excuses about why I can miss another work out, and so on. If I am not following the plan perfectly I am too lenient with myself and feel like a failure. There’s no big win for me.

Maybe at another time in my life a fully developed program will make more sense.

Since I was reflecting on the last month I brainstormed some ways to get moving in the next month. More on those ideas later!

Let’s Stay Connected

100 Healthy Days

I haven’t talked about my weight loss and fitness journey a whole lot even though it’s one of the main things I planned to blog about.  The truth is that’s because I haven’t really been focused on that journey as much as I intended to be.

It happens to the best of us – we were moving, traveling, socializing etc.  Life got busy and I lost focus on my weight and fitness goals.

So I got to thinking about ways I might re-focus on these goals.  I have always enjoyed a good challenge.  It adds structure to the goals and gives me a structure for measuring progress.  Perhaps more importantly, they can take the focus away from the struggle.  If I’m focused on meeting the challenges I’m less focused on the ups and downs of working out and losing weight.

100 Healthy Days

So this is the challenge I’m planning now, starting today. 100 Healthy Days is more of an idea than a set challenge – while there are lots of challenges you can find written by trainers and other health professionals that have set rules and food plans this challenge is different.  As the name suggests, it’s time-based.  The way I am setting up and thinking of the challenge is to make good choices for these 100 days.  Rather than set or subscribe to a specific plan that would dictate these aspects of my life I’m maintaining control and decision making.

There are different mini-challenges and experiments that I will try within these 100 days.  For example, my girlfriend is challenging herself to go as carb-free as possible for three weeks and assess the presence of carbs in our diet after that,  and I’m gladly following that effort to see how it will affect me.  Plus I really am a bit of a bread-o-holic and it wouldn’t hurt to reign that addiction in a little (there’s a good chance it’ll be a good step in reigning in the waistline!)

I’m also looking to return to my yoga practice beginning with a 30-day challenge from Do You Yoga and a 30 day “Original Yoga Challenge” from Bad Yogi on Youtube.

Our treadmill is currently buried from moving but my husband has made a plan to unbury it this week.   So I should be back to my couch-to-5k training next week.  I might have started training outside this week but it would appear here in Canada April is having an identity crisis and acting like an angry November so that’s not happening.

So there will be different mini challenges and experiments for me to work through and post about throughout the larger 100 days challenge.  Stay tuned for how focusing on my health and fitness goals for 100 days impacts my life and progress!

Since fitness is a visual journey there may also be a few extra updates on Instagram so find me there @OhMyMermaid.Blog

What’s your fave way to challenge yourself?

For the Love of Fitness

Real talk: There’s a lot I love about fitness, of course. But I’ve fallen off the wagon so instead of talking about what’s happening or going well today I need to talk about what’s not happening on this journey and how I ended up where I am now.

I’ve been thinking about the factors that hinder my fitness journey.  I mean, you’d think if I really wanted it then the commitment would be easy, right? So how am  I sitting here at the heaviest I’ve ever been feeling like today I’m at the beginning, again? (or still?)

Of  course, I’d be starting today because it’s a Monday – all new journeys are best started on Mondays.

But what makes it so hard to get anywhere with this journey?

This week I realized that one of the biggest factors has been the source of my motivation.

You see, the very first time I even thought about a treadmill or “getting in shape” it was because I hated my body.

But the longer I’ve been on this fitness journey the more I’ve found it’s a journey of love, not hate.  It’s a journey that encourages us to love what we do. Be it yoga, running, lifting, swimming or a sport – we’re supposed to enjoy it. And when it comes to our bodies, we’re supposed to love them too. Love them because they carry us, support us, they are how we participate in that activities we enjoy. So we owe them some appreciation.

How can I enjoy an activity I’m only doing to change a body I refuse to love? I was trying to enjoy a lifestyle that is full of positivity but I was approaching it with all the wrong ideas about motivation and dedication.

Hate only gets you so far.

There are lots of enlightened quotes about karma and positive vibes and letting go of the negative in our lives.  We usually think of these mantras as survival tips for jobs, and friendships and family.

But they work in fitness too.

You have to let go of that negative energy and not act on it.

I get about two and half weeks of progress when I’m working with hate. I get two and a half weeks of routine treadmill time, vegetables and daily water quotas.  I get two and a half weeks of forcing myself to do all the things I’m told will help me leave behind a body I hate and build the dream bod.

And then…

I focus on things I love.

Because it’s easier. And more pleasant. And feels more natural.

However if choosing to eat right and work out were only things I did in response to negative thoughts, those objectively healthy habits get left behind when I start seeking all things positive and pleasant.

It’s like a natural process for self preservation or some other psychological babble – I can only live a daily routine based on negative thoughts for so long before I’m unconsciously procrastinating activities based on those negative thoughts and favoring anything with positive associations.

So it’s Monday and I’m trying to change how I think about this beginning.

In the past I’ve thought about how I weigh too much – I need to eat less. I am too big – I need to work out. I can’t do things I want to – I need to eat less and work out.

Today I’m remembering that working out comes with an endorphin rush, the positive effects of which cascade through everything I do.  I’m thinking about how much I value taking time for myself and working on myself in a tangible, physical way. I’m thinking about what my stronger, fitter body will be able to do and not just how it will look.

I have a fitness instagram account and that’s where I’ve discovered a community that has shown me the love that fitness can come from and inspire. Feel free to follow for more routine updates there – @fitish.kitten

Comment with your thoughts  =)

Focusing on Fitness

The truth is most of the reasonably reputable fitness programs out there do work.

Whether it’s a 7-minute workout app, one of Anna Victoria’s programs (my personal faves), the programs of her competitors… or just a regular old treadmill and schedule… most programs do work. The missing ingredient isn’t what one program has and another doesn’t, it’s participation and follow-through.

I like things to happen instantly. I guess I am used to the instant satisfaction of social media and high-speed internet, instant downloads and such.  So I acknowledge that this is true about me: when I get a few weeks into a program and don’t see crazy results I start being curious about other programs and can be seduced by their promises.

It’s easy to forget that the before and after photos for ANY program’s advertisements are going to show people who have done the WHOLE program. Not just part of it. So why am I holding it against the program that I don’t see those results when I’m only part way through?

It’s not a super logical way to go about fitness. However, since I myself am susceptible to thinking that I should just move on I’m here to remind you the key is working hard. You can choose any framework and plan to give yourself structure and timelines but no plan works unless you do.

Here are my top 5 strategies for staying focused:

Don’t Negotiate

You know you want to get fit and healthy. And you know how. You have good food and a workout plan picked out… but this is about you.
You start thinking you’re so busy, or so tired, or not wearing the right clothes… you start to negotiate with yourself about how you didn’t snack so you don’t need to do the full workout or how you could just do two workouts tomorrow instead of one today and one tomorrow…

Stop.

When you start negotiating you start slipping. Don’t let yourself do that. Hold yourself to a high standard and remind yourself that if you compromise on your workout and meals, even just here and there, you’re compromising on the big goals that inspired you to start this plan.

Schedule or Create a Daily Deadline

Okay so, of course, it seems ideal to just schedule your workout and know that at this particular time you need to be getting sweaty. But if you find that nailing down a time doesn’t really promote the commitment you need then give yourself a daily deadline. For example, I know that I get my best results (I work hardest, and I make better decisions for the rest of my day) when I work out in the morning. Doesn’t really matter if it’s at 8:30am or 11:30am… as long as it is before noon. Noon is a mental divide for me. When I workout before then it sets my mood for the rest of the day and translates to better decisions food wise and continuing to move and be active.

But if I don’t work out before noon I tend to stay lazy. I snack passively and never really get moving or active.

So even though I don’t set a specific time to work out most days, I know my daily deadline is noon and I need to plan to workout before then.

Really, it comes down to having a plan, whatever is the most effective style or format for you.

Add a little Social Support (and a little Social Pressure)

I talked in my post How a Virtual Community is Fuelling Success in Real Life about starting my fitness-focused Instagram account, @fitish.kitten .  I had that account locked down as tight as I could – new followers had to send a request and be approved, and I used a quote instead of my face for a profile picture. If it came up in my friend’s social feeds as a recommended account it wouldn’t come up as me; my name and image were invisible unless you followed me and I did not allow most people I knew to follow me.

It was as though my desire to get fit was a secret.

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My most recent progress photo (4 Weeks at the Beginning of BodyLove app)

 

I have photos of myself in typical stripped-down fitness wear for “before” photos and progress photos on this account. Originally the idea that people I knew, friends and family, would see these photos was horrifying to me. Like stop dead in my tracks and sweat a lot horrifying.

Recently I realized it shouldn’t be.  It’s no secret that I want to get fit. My body isn’t a secret, either. So I’ve got a little more curve than I want… it’s not a sin and it doesn’t need to be a secret.

There’s a lot of social support in posting online. There’s always positive role models and friends to remind you of your accomplishments and provide advice and encouragement through challenges.

Sometimes even more needed though is the social pressure. At this time I have 875 followers with @fitish.kitten. That blows my mind! I’m so honored that all those people wanted to see where I take my fitness journey… and sometimes, not wanting to let them down is the only reason I work out! (shhh!)

It’s like they say, pressure makes diamonds!

Focus on Feeling Better

It’s a body-positive world. For the most part, when you’re focused on a slimmer body and looking better you’ll find that these goals lose impact over time. One day I put on an outfit that doesn’t fit right and I hate the shape of my body so I get really motivated for working out and eating better.  But a few weeks later I buy a better-fitting outfit and I can move on.

I don’t need to lose weight to be loved. I don’t need to lose weight to be attractive. I don’t need to lose weight to be who I am and contribute to society.

So… why do I need to lose weight? Why do I need to take time out of my day to bond with the treadmill? And why do I need to put down the fries and make veggies my new BFF’s?

Because I can feel the difference. The moment I can go from my basement to the top floor of my house and not be awkwardly out of breath with a racing heart. The moment I can walk my hyperactive dog for an hour an a half without breaking a sweat. The moment I can say yes to trying new activities without doing the mental math on if I’m physically capable and how embarrassing failure might be.

These are the moments that keep me going and focused and motivated. The looks are a great benefit to having a healthy lifestyle but when changing my appearance was my only reason, I found better things to do with my time.

Pick Treats that add Value to your Lifestyle

I fully believe in cheating on your diet from time to time. I’ve come to feel there’s a difference though between just cheating because you miss junk food and cheating because it’s part of a larger lifestyle to enjoy a healthy indulgence now and then.

 

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Remember that fitness can be fun, too!

For example, there’s a difference between me crushing a bag of chips alone while binging through the latest Netflix release simply because I deserve them as a treat and like snacking while I watch tv…. and me enjoying a super greasy burger while out with friends.

 

In one scenario the junk food has no purpose and adds nothing to my life. I would have watched the show anyway and I could have snacked on veggies or fruit with the same effect. However in the other scenario, the food wasn’t really the point – the social time with friends is. It’s nice to say yes to a cheat meal when doing so frees up the mental energy of eating healthy for you to give your friends your full attention while enjoying a night out.

Besides, for me personally, when I give myself a treat meal in isolation it’s almost like nobody saw it so it didn’t happen and I can just casually have another, and another until I’m binge eating whenever I’m alone. Which is every day given that I work from home and my partners have 9-5 jobs outside the home. It’s not healthy for me to develop habits like that so now I’m focusing on cheat meals that add value beyond just being a cheat meal for the sake of it.

 

What are the go-to ways you keep yourself on track?