Life, Writing

Weekend Recap & New Writing Internship

I overslept this morning and was 15 minutes late to work. *Sigh* Mondays.  -__-

I don’t know about everyone else, but I had a pretty swell weekend that I wouldn’t mind rewinding. The highlights? For one, I was pretty proud of myself for forcing myself into 30 minutes of cardio on Friday (yes, Friday) night.

HolyGrailCardio

Also, I’m pleased to announce that listening to Continue reading

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Food, Recipes, Weightloss

A good weird

Even though I’m only five days into my summer weight loss journey, I feel like there’s so much I could talk about. So in order to keep this post focused, let’s just discuss food for today.

Cutting out junk food really feels like a cleanse. Of course I’ve been drinking more water, snacking on fruit, and eating smaller portions, but what has been so significant is making the distinction between wanting to stuff my face and actually being hungry. I had become so used to regularly allowing myself things like pizza, burgers and ice cream, so now it feels kind of weird restricting those foods again. But it’s a good weird. It feels good to make healthy choices at restaurants and pack myself a healthy lunch to take to work. And It gives me a reason to come up with and try new recipes.

Since I remembered having Continue reading

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Exercise, Weightloss

My Spin on Cycling

I’m not a pro at bicycling by any means. My boyfriend Philip will tell you that I ride like a girl. Maybe he’s right, but then again, he hasn’t seen me in spin class.

Cycling, also known as spinning, is one of those activities that is really hard if you’re not in shape. So even though I was in a hurry to get out of town yesterday, I decided to squeeze in a class before hitting the road. And as usual, I’m glad I did.

The experience of a cycling class is always fun–and also amusing. I can always count on the one or two newbies–usually a guy and a girl–that hide out in the back. Right off the bat, they’re recognizable by the way they aimlessly wander around the seat-less bikes. About 10 minutes into the ride, they look to the instructor with fear, as if pleading for a break. It’s funny to me now–watching the noobs. But I vividly remember being a clueless wreck when I entered the room of my first cycling class.

Maybe it’s the fact that I knew overweight people don’t look all that attractive on a bike. Or maybe it’s that I was conscious of the way my butt would look on that groin-smashing bicycle seat, bouncing up and down in the saddle for the person behind me to observe. Or MAYBE it’s the fact that my instructor was a very blonde, very lean woman in a hot pink tank top whose genuine hardcore-ness practically attacked me at the door. Either way, I was particularly nervous to try this thing. Her name was Jackie Brooks, and she is the most intense fitness instructor I have ever had. In fact, she was more of a coach than an instructor. When I think of her, I envision her large eyes, full of fire, drilling intensely into the back wall, (I like to think she was envisioning a race track ahead of her). She would yell things like “Don’t you quit on me! Gear-UP!” and “On a scale from 1 to 10, you better be at a sixTEEN!”

Since I took her class, no other cycling teacher has been able to come close. I’ve had enough bad cycling teachers to know how to value a good one. The worst one was an old hippie lady, very Eugene. She played awful music that seemed to make me sleepy rather than energized.  She forced us to put our cycles in a large semi-circle, so we we disabled from checking ourselves in the mirror. But worst of all, the hippie lady did not challenge us one little bit. Instead, she provided us with excuses to take it easy. “Don’t push too hard now,” she would say. Why on earth would I pay 5 dollars per workout so that I can take it easy? I’ll give you a hint: I wouldn’t.

I’ve also had a couple 20-something brunettes who put on a decent, but not spectacular, class. The first one was pretty tough, but she was also really interested in making sex noises while she egged us on. She was always moaning and saying things like “stay with me, and I’ll stay with you,” in a breathy voice. The other brunette was a peppy and talkative girl who was probably my age. She pushed us and gave good instruction, but she couldn’t compare to Jackie Brooks. She kicked my ass.

After that first day of cycling, I was hooked. I had never felt more victorious after a workout, and I couldn’t have been hungrier. I could physically feel the impact of this phenomenal activity. A massive amount of calories had been sucked from my system, and were replaced by void in my stomach. (Now I like to eat peanut butter granola bars immediately after class.)  According to Glamour Magazine’s handy health calculator, one can burn anywhere from 750-915 calories from doing 50 minutes of moderate to rigorous spinning. So it’s really no surprise that I have found cycling to be the best cardio workout I have ever had in my life. Yes, even better than running.

Similar to running, cycling is the kind of activity that you don’t want to push yourself too hard at. If you do, you could end up sitting in a pool of your own sweat while dizzily hovering over a toilet in the Student Rec Center bathroom…or something. (I think I was dehydrated). So as tempting as it is to push it to the max, it is also important to prevent yourself from hurling. Drink plenty of water throughout your day, so that when you show up to class you are ready to sweat it all off. Also, you should use proper form to protect yourself from injury, AND to get the most out of your workout.

I can’t stress enough just how important it is to bring a water bottle and sweat towel to class. After each drill, whether it be a seated hill or a standing run, you will be panting heavily and desperate for agua. (Luckily, your instructor will be blasting the music loudly, and masking everyone’s heinous breathing sounds.) I usually go through a whole bottle of water in one class, and there is frequently a decent amount of sweat on the floor when I’m done.

My recommendations are:

1. Take a cycling class.

2. Really listen to what your instructor says about proper bike set-up, and proper cycling form.

3. Push yourself hard, but not too hard.

4. Drink lots of water before and during your class.

5. Use a sweat towel.

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Food, Weightloss

Gloriously addicted

Praise Eywa! I have seen the light once again!

It’s been a sickeningly long time since I have felt such a strong sense of myself. My legs are strong, my mind is engaged, and I can once again tell the difference between hunger and sheer boredom.

Feeling connected to my body once again, I am now comfortable, content, and positively jazzed at the thought of eating healthy and exercising. I don’t really know exactly how long it has been, but for quite a while I was carrying on with my exercise out of reluctant obligation rather than religious devotion. A healthy lifestyle can be so gloriously addicting!

When you make a strong effort toward achieving a healthy body, your life sort of falls into place and you feel like you’ve got (or are at least getting) your shit together. A typical day for me looks like this: walk half a mile to class, participate in the learning process, have a light lunch, more learning, walk home, relax, go for a run, make a healthy dinner at a decent hour, socialize with friends. My life feels complete. It feels well-rounded, productive, structured, and fruitful.

As much as I’d LOVE to bash my head into a giant cake, eating healthy is now more satisfying than eating pizza, cake, and candy. It’s so empowering to know I’m disciplined enough to resist this junk.

However, it’s not all brute strength of the mind. I’m a sucker for cake and ice cream. A lot of the time it takes some premeditation and trickery. Meaning, I have to make plans to trick my brain into eating healthy. Because I am well aware of what I will be craving around 1 am (ice cream), I can manipulate myself into choosing healthier options like a Skinny Cow (which only has 1.5g of fat per sandwich!) by making sure that the fridge is always stocked with low-fat treats. (Oh, and on a side note, I just found out that you can get little tubs of Skinny Cow ice cream…Ben and Jerry’s Style! You know, when you have your individual bucket of ice cream that no one else is allowed to eat. And it’s low-fat!)

If I think I want to eat, but am not sure if I’m actually hungry, I usually try drinking water, or eating a small but filling snack to tide me over until dinner time.

My new favorite thing is almond butter. Between meals and before my workout, I usually need a little extra energy. So I toast half of a whole wheat english muffin and put about a table-spoon of all natural almond butter on it. Although it’s a small snack, it still fills me up so that I won’t binge, and it gives me enough energy for my workout. It’s also quite scrumptious.

Reassigning the meaning of the word “treat” to mean anything ‘good tasting’ can make you feel like you had a treat when, in fact, you ate something worthwhile. I now consider raspberries a treat and shamelessly eat a container(s) every day. And yes, I’m addicted to those too.

The difficulties of cutting out sweets, fat, and complex carbohydrates can be painful. But once you get over the hump and get all those unfortunate instances of weakness out of the way, you can get into a nice little rhythm. It’s kind of like when you get up to running two miles, and then if you keep going you just get in a nice little groove and it’s as if you could sustain it forever.

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Exercise, Weightloss

Strength schpeel

As I’m sure many of you already know, strength work is very important for getting in shape, losing weight, toning-up–whatever it is you’re trying to improve about your body. Particularly for women, strength workouts are conducive to preventing the onset of osteoporosis later in life. Being super thin should not be the goal here. Becoming fit, however, is a healthier goal since “fit” implies that you are strong-bodied.

Photos by Ryan Mowery

It really is saddening when women have goals to just be really thin because it’s kind of indicative of women’s tendency to keep themselves figuratively and literally very small. But that’s a topic for another time. What’s important is that strength training is most effective for burning fat and keeping it off, building positive body image, and protecting your body from injuries and joint damage. Here are a few reasons to incorporate some serious strength training into your workout regimen, and also some pointers for getting the most out of your strength workout.

The She-Hulk Complex

A lot of women think that if they start lifting weights and doing resistance training, they’re going to bulk up and look like a dude. That is just simply not true. First of all, women don’t have very much testosterone, so it is pretty difficult to put on a lot of muscle mass. If a woman wanted to beef-up she would need to be eating a very strict diet containing 40% protein, 40% carbs, and 20% good fats. On top of that, she would most likely need to be taking some sort of testosterone and protein supplements. And on top of THAT, the amount of weight she would need to be lifting is far greater than 5-8 pound hand weights.

In order for a gal to gain muscle mass, she would want to be maxing out on how much weight she can lift (push, pull, whatever). Meaning, she would lift as much weight as she could, doing very few reps. To break it down even further, I could lift 5-pound hand weights all day long and still not look like a muscle man.

Not bigger, just better.

Would lifting 5-8 pound weights change the way my muscles look? Sure would. Would it change the appearance of my body to be more toned and tight? Hell yes, it would.

Last year, I took a body sculpting class all year and saw so many changes in the way body looked. I now look at pictures of myself last year and think of how much more tight and toned I was. It’s irritating actually. My body didn’t change much in size, but my abdominals, though still covered in a stubborn layer of fat, appeared higher and tighter. It’s kind of like when you do 400 crunches and then you look in the mirror and they look tighter. According to this article from Women’s Health Magazine, it’s not just our imagination!

Burn calories after you workout

Besides the great results you get just from working out your muscles, your body will also burn calories for up to an hour after  your workout because of the energy your body uses to recover. According to the Women’s Health Magazine article, when you burn 200 calories lifting weights, you really burn 250.  If you’re incorporating strength training into your workout regimen, you will burn more calories just by going about your post-workout day.

Some Pointers

Now I know I’m no professional or anything, but I’ve taken a lot of exercise classes and I take them very seriously. I’m not just there to just lollygag and slack off through them with a half-ass attitude like some people. (I’ll let you know when I get my Group Fitness Instructor Certificate so you can know for sure that I’m not just talking out of my ass). Here are some pointers that I thrust upon myself and others who have asked for my advice.

1. Correct form is CRUCIAL. Practicing incorrect form can obviously lead to injuries, but what’s most infuriating is when it takes away from the effectiveness of the exercise you’re doing.

  • For instance, when doing crunches, you should have your elbows wide with your finger tips placed lightly behind your head. Press your lower back into the floor. When you come up, do not just lift your head. Think of lifting upward rather than curling inward. Your neck, shoulder blades and upper back should be in a straight line as you lift up towards the ceiling.

When doing a workout video or participating in group exercise, really pay attention to what the instructor is saying about body positioning as you try to match what they’re body looks like.

2. Strength training exercises should be done S L O W L Y. Doing strength work at a rapid pace increases your chance of getting injured. By doing the movements slowly and thoroughly, your muscles get a full range in motion and you get a more effective workout.

  • Take bicep curls for example: Your elbows should be locked to your sides; do not allow movement from your elbows. After doing your reps at a moderate pace, add another set of 8 VERY SLOW curls. Starting at the top of the crunch, count up to 8 as you lower your forearms in to the extension. Do those slow curls 7 more times, and then another set at the moderate pace.

3. No Moore girl push-ups! I’m insulted that these poor excuses for an exercise are called girl push-ups. The only reason why women “can’t” do real push-ups is because they have been using the excuse of being a girl since grade school. It’s time to give up the girl push-ups. I don’t care if you can only do one, but real push-ups should be the standard when getting in shape. When I was a sophomore in high school I didn’t think I could do push-ups because I was fat, I was a girl, and I was never forced to push myself.

But my club volleyball coach, Leilani Kamahoahoa, who is perhaps the most hardcore coach/trainer I’ve ever known, pushed me to find my real fitness potential. She lined all of us girls up and made us do consecutive timed sprints until we just about threw up. In between sprints she’d make us do push-ups and wallsits. The first time we were forced, most of us could barely do one. We whined, cried and tried to wimp out, but she scolded us for saying “can’t” by making us do more sprints followed by more wall-sits…followed by more push-ups. By the end of the season, we were all pumping out push-ups in sets of 15.

So the moral of the story is, one real push up is better than any number of “girl push-ups.” Start with as many as you can do, and keep at it until you can do more. Believe me, the pros of push-ups are well worth the pain.

4. Go all out! The moral of the push-up story applies to all strength exercises. You should to the exercise in its full range of motion. When doing a lunge, lower your knee all the way down to the floor. When doing a wall sit, your legs should be in a 90 degree angle. If you’re not going to do the exercise fully, what’s the point of doing it at all? Also, if you are doing a half-assed wall-sit, how will you know how much you’ve improved later on? Always do the exercise all out. There’s no point in doing it if you’re not going to do it right.

5. Be conscious of your breathing. First of all, it’s not good to hold your breath because that tightens the muscle you want to be loose. Second of all, you want to get air to the muscles you’re working on. Third of all, it distracts you from the toughness of the exercise, and makes it feel a little better. You should exhale on the contraction, and inhale on the extension.

After reading that article and writing this out, I think I’m gonna take a break from cardio today and do some strength training instead!

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