Archive | October 2013

Awaken Your Inner Tiger

When we all have to balance work, family, errands, laundry, and trying to have some sort of social life, it can be challenging to get yourself to the gym. And it can be especially difficult to stay motivated if you’ve been logging in the hours but not seeing progress as quickly as you had hoped.

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On days like this you’ve got to dig deep and awaken your inner tiger, so to speak.

Motivational quotes always do it for me (those who know me know I always recite them, haha). So I’m going to share a few of my favorites to help keep you going through the mid-week hurdle…And if you haven’t gotten going yet this week, hopefully these light a fire under your tushy!

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I love this one (I touched on this topic in last week’s post).  On days where I’m just not feeling up to working out, I think about people who have loftier fitness goals…who maybe are just getting started and haven’t yet hit a stride…who are recovering from an injury…or who are struggling with depression or anxiety, making it hard for them to get out of bed.  Some days, when I do my workout, it’s for those people who may need an extra boost to get going.

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Another fantastic one.  So many times we sabotage ourselves by saying things like, “well, since I can’t do an 60 or 90 minute workout, it’s just not worth it.”  Or “I have so far to go…what’s the point?”  The point is, every little bit you do adds up. Success is a journey, not a destination (see, another quote…I just can’t help myself! haha). A friend of mine who was recently struggling with getting back on track finally had an Ahah! moment and she said to me just yesterday, “Taking it one day at a time.. My goal is to merely feel good; I am not focusing on the distance.” I was beaming because I know this is the mindset that will turn things around for her 🙂

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I am reminded of this quote almost every time I step in the gym.  Yes, there are people there who are real powerhouses…strong as an ox.  It’s impressive of course, but just as much as they inspire me, so do the people who I see consistently…week after week.  It doesn’t matter where they are on their journey or how far they have to go…what matters is their will and commitment to getting there, and THAT is inspiring.

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YES, YES, YESSSSS!  This is the difference between looking in the mirror and seeing a kitten…or a tiger!  If you think negatively or lack belief in yourself, it will hold you back…in life, and with your fitness goals.  But if you believe that deep inside you is a strong, fit, capable person, then that my friend is what you will become!

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Is your goal to lose 50 pounds? 20 pounds? 5 pounds?  Do you want to gain 20 pounds of muscle? 10 pounds?  Training for a marathon?  No matter where you’re going, or how long it will take you to get there, it starts with lacing up those sneakers and taking the first step. If you’re just starting out or just getting back into it, you may have to start slow.  Do what you can, and remind yourself that this is just a jumping off point, and you’ll get better and better every day.

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And finally, once you get started, don’t quit.  Remember why you started in the first place. It’s about feeling good, being healthier, and living better. Motivation is what gets you started, but habit is what keeps you going. (Yep just packed in a few more quotes for you!)

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I hope this gets you going or keeps you going this week! xox

Ciao for now!

-E

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Paying It Forward

Recently, a dear friend of mine (who I didn’t even realize was reading my blogs) reached out to me and candidly and bravely confessed that she had been feeling at rock bottom. Down and out, stressed, not taking care of her health (physical and mental), and just not feeling her usually cheerful and awesome self. It broke my heart but also really inspired me because so many of us can be prideful when we are feeling down…we think no one will understand, we don’t want to burden others with our problems…What we often forget is that almost everyone feels this way at one point or another. And I think that it’s our duty as human beings to lift others up when we are feeling strong and positive, because we never know when WE might need some lifting up.

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Take yesterday for example. I took Sunday off from the gym (which I rarely do…I prefer taking rest days during the week) and woke up Monday on the wrong side of the bed. I didn’t go for my usual morning workout, just felt “off” all day, and kind of in a funk.  My friends who follow astrology were posing on Facebook about Mercury being in retrograde, and apparently that can lead to this type of stuff…who knows, haha, but it sounds good.

Anyway, amidst my funky mood, I received the most awesome message from that same friend of mine I mentioned above…She was proudly reporting that she’s been hitting the gym, found a workout buddy, and has been practicing some really great self-care. I mean, wow, if that’s not inspiring I don’t know what is. It takes guts to 1. ask for help/encouragement and 2. actually take the steps to pull yourself out of a rut.

What this friend of mine didn’t know is that SHE was my source of inspiration yesterday. After a long day of work and feeling really blah, I didn’t really feel like working out. I was kind of in the mood to do some self-loathing (lame, but it happens to the best of us, haha), but then I thought of my friend, and how proud of her I was that she dug deep for the motivation to get herself back on track…and I dragged my grouchy butt to the gym!

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While I marched on the StairMaster and slung some weights around, I thought of her and how she feels on days where she doesn’t feel up to working out, but she does it anyway. And when I got up this morning and resumed my morning workout, I looked around at all of the other people who got themselves out of bed to do something positive for their health, and I was so inspired.

On days where we’re feeling upbeat, strong, and capable, we have the opportunity to lift someone else up who might be feeling down that day. And in turn, we may inspire them to do the same when they get back on track.

“There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.” ― John Holmes

Ciao for now!

-E

Hittin’ Records Baby, Yeah!

As I write this I’m on a massive adrenaline rush from 1. Not enough sleep 2. The Grande Starbucks coffee I had before the gym and 3. Hitting some sweet personal records at the gym today.

I took a rest day yesterday and ended up staying up way too late talking and texting some friends while drinking some red wine (some well-deserved red wine I might add), so when my alarm went off at 5:15 this morning, I wanted to cry. I must confess that I shut my alarm off and set a new one for 7:15 when I’d have to start getting ready for work…and then I laid in bed. At this point I began a mental battle with myself that went something like this:

Emily, you didn’t go to the gym yesterday, so get your butt in gear. But maybe I could squeeze in a gym sesh after work and before my 7:30 meeting tonight with a client. Yeah right, you’re not going to have time, plus by then you’re not gonna feel like going, so get your booty out of this bed right now missy! Uhhh but I don’t waaaannnnna…my bed is warm and I’m tiiiiirrrreeeedddd. Oh stop it you little nancy…you can go to bed early tonight, and you know you’ll feel better after you go. You have a point there…but I’m still tireddddd. If you get up right this minute you can stop at Starbucks on the way and grab a coffee. Okay, deal. I’m getting up!

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Haha this little convo lasted about 15 minutes, so I was out the door at 5:40 and at the gym by 5:50, coffee in hand. When I saw all the other diehards that got their butts out of bed early too, I was glad I’d done the same.

After 30 minutes on the elliptical (incline 9/ resistance 9), I went over do a circuit of seated leg extensions and curls. I alternate sets on the two machines, going back and forth on them until I do 3 or 4 sets of each. It’s kind of being a machine hog, but at 6:30am I can get away with it.

In the past, the most I’d ever attempted was 70 lbs on both, so today, my sets went:

15 reps @ 55 lbs
15 reps @ 70 lbs
15 reps @ 80 lbs
5 reps @ 90 lbs

Awesomeness!

From there I went over to the standing glute kickback machine. On Saturday I was able to do clear 2 reps on each leg at 120 lbs, so today I was aiming for a little more. I alternate legs so each set includes x number of reps on the right leg followed by the same number of reps on the left leg. My sets went:

15 reps @ 75 lbs
15 reps @ 90 lbs
10 reps @ 115 lbs
5 reps @ 130 lbs

Wheeeeee!

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Next, I marched upstairs to do some deadlifts (which sometimes I do with back, but sometimes with legs, depending on how I feel). In the past, I’d always done them with dumbbells and the most weight I’ve ever used is 50 lbs, but I wanted to graduate to using a bar. Since I was on a friggin’ endorphin and caffeine rush at this point, I decided to start with a weight that would be challenging but realistic (I didn’t want to start lifting like a nut and hurt myself of course)…so here’s how the sets went:

15 reps @ 70 lbs
15 reps @ 80 lbs
15 reps @ 90 lbs

At this point I was coming out of my skin with excitement because I found these challenging, but not as much as I thought. There were a couple of guys doing biceps and shoulders near me and as I was basking in my glory one of them says to me: “Wow, you’re pretty strong! Not like ‘for a girl’ either…like just STRONG!” That felt awesome to hear! And I told them both that before today, I’d only used 50 lb dumbbells and wanted to see what I could lift if I actually pushed myself. I told them I just wanted to see if I could do at least 1 rep at 100 lbs (cuz at this point I was feeling a little fatigued and didn’t want to overdo it) and they were cheering me on like “Yeah, you can do it!!” So I picked up the 100 lb bar and to my surprise, I knocked out:

5 reps @ 100 lbs!

This isn’t actually THAT much, in terms of weight lifting strength standards (according to ExRx.net, an untrained woman of my weight should be able to do 70 lbs, a novice – 130 lbs, and intermediate – 150 lbs)…And by definition: Untrained = An individual who has not trained on the exercises before but can perform them correctly.  Novice= An individual who has trained regularly for up to several monthsIntermediate = An individual who has trained regularly for up to a couple years.  But considering that I’m relatively new to strength training (about a month), I’m happy to be halfway to novice…plus now I have some higher goals for the next month!

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I  practically skipped over to the mat to finish up with some kettlebell swings (which I’ve only recently started doing, but love them for the combo cardio/strength training they provide):

15 reps @ 20 lbs
15 reps @ 20 lbs
15 reps @ 25 lbs

At this point I was both high on endorphins and fatigued like I’d just been in a competition (which I was, with myself! And I think I won! Haha). Before I left the gym I scribbled down my numbers on the back of a class schedule sheet because I knew I wanted to write a post about it and share it with you all!

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I’m amazed at how much more I can do and how much better I feel when I focus on strength and setting goals around health and getting stronger rather than on losing or maintaining weight. And if these posts and inspire even a single one of you to push yourself just a little harder, get out of bed a little earlier to make your health a priority, or to just set some new goals for yourself (in or out of the gym), then that makes me feel awesome 🙂

Time for a second cup of coffee 😉

When I need to push myself, I think of all those nicely polished trophies waiting to be lifted up by the winner – and how that winner might be me. -Maria Sharapova

Ciao for now!

-E

Squat Rack City, Chick

Ok, yes, this title is a play on the Tyga song “Rack City,” but I thought it was clever and I’m going with it.  As you may have read in my birthday workout post, I have recently graduated from doing squats with the Smith Machine (which is nothing to scoff at, but in the workout world I hear they aren’t considered the “real deal”) and put my big girl pants on to mosey over to the power rack (which is like, legit squatting).

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So Monday (my birthday) I did a few sets of squats at the power rack, using (2)10lb plates on each side…so altogether, about 80lbs with the bar. I was mainly trying to focus on good form since, without the gliding track that the Smith Machine provides, you can really hurt yourself if you don’t have everything in the right place.

Tuesday I did back and biceps, and Wednesday I did triceps, cardio and abs, so when I woke up this morning I was itching to do some more leg workouts (I love working legs, in case you can’t tell). I woke up nice and early this morning, stopped by Starbucks for a grande blonde roast with cream and sugar (no fake stuff for me…if I’m gonna drink coffee, I want the real deal), and I headed to the gym.

I like to start with cardio (today I did 30 mins on the elliptical at a 10 incline with a level 8 resistance). I know some people say you should do cardio after weights, but I’ve tried it and it doesn’t really do it for me. Something about starting with a burst of cardio gets my blood pumping and puts me in “gym mode.”

Alright so now for the highlight of the gym session…

After cardio I was itching to get back to the power rack. I marched upstairs and went straight to setting up the bar with the same weight I squatted Monday. Then I stretched my chest a bit and I did a few squats sans bar/weight just to get my muscles fired up and make sure my form felt good. At this point I noticed a few of the guys upstairs watching (probably to see what I was going to do next), and then I did something a bit out of character…

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Before starting my first set, I walked over to one of the guys that was watching me set up. I’d seen him squatting in the gym before and noticed he had good form. And I told him that I recently “graduated” from the Smith Machine and am focusing on getting my form right on the power rack before increasing weight and wondered if he would mind coming over for my first set to give me feedback on my form.

Of course, he said yes, and he came over and watched me do my first set of 10 reps. His only critique was that I could lift my head up just a tad to keep it in line with my spine. I was being extra cautious not to hyper-extend my neck, as I’ve read that’s a big no-no, so I think I was overestimating how much to keep my head down for it to be in neutral position.  For positive feedback, he said he was very impressed that I kept didn’t let my knees bow in, that I didn’t let my knees go past my toes, and that I was able to get great squat depth. He also commended the nice shelf I created for the bar with my traps and that I didn’t use the sissy pad (woo-hoo Tara would be proud ;)).

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After I finished the rest of my workout, I stopped back over to my “squat supervisor” and thanked him for taking time to come make sure I was doing things right. He said that he was impressed to see a girl using the power rack, and even more impressed that I could put my ego aside and actually request criticism. He told me that while I was doing some ab work in the back of the room, another guy who had been watching me ask for feedback came over to him and asked him to give him feedback too. It was great to see even the manliest men put aside their egos and make sure their form is proper. It makes all the difference in being able to gain strength without injuring yourself, and if I was able to inspire someone to ask for help, then that’s great!

Needless to say, I felt awesome. It was one of the best workouts I had in a while, and really boosted my confidence about trying new workouts. And to top it all off, I felt like I earned some gym cred with the boys 😉  Next leg day I plan on bumping up the weight…Stay tuned 🙂

“The strong individual is the one who asks for help when [s]he needs it.” – Rona Barrett, columnist and businesswoman.

Ciao for now!

-E

My Birthday – Older, Wiser, and Stronger!

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Me recreating the iconic “The Son Of Man” painting by Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte

Well, yesterday was my birthday. Yayyyyy for being another year older, wiser, and stronger. If you read last week’s post, you know I was feeling a bit stressed out (which actually happens just about every birthday because I get overly pensive and reflective about things I wish I would have accomplished). And thankfully my head cold was practically gone on Sunday. I spent the weekend with friends and went apple picking upstate, which was super fun and actually a pretty physical activity as we had to hike through the hills to pick the apples!  It was like a full-body workout, we got to be outdoors, and it was fun to boot!

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So yesterday, I kicked off my birthday with an early morning workout. It felt great to be back in the gym!  I started with some cardio on the elliptical and then was feeling so good that I did squats at the power rack (instead of using the Smith machine) for the first time ever!  To my pleasant surprise, I was able to do about the same weight as with the machine, even after taking a week off from the gym!  I really focused on my form, squeezed my traps together to give the bar a nice shelf, and let my legs and glutes be the power source. It was awesome! And it reassured me that I’d done the right thing by giving my body a rest last week when I was feeling run down.

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These were delivered to me at work! How cute!!

The rest of my birthday was better than I could have imagined.  Between phone calls, texts, facebook posts, private messages, and in-person interactions, I think I received somewhere around 300 well wishes for a happy birthday. I mean, wow. On top of that, I got flowers, a cake and singing at work, several over-the-phone serenades, and scheduled dinner and drink plans for the next 2 weeks to celebrate my born day.  The outpouring of love was surprising, overwhelming, and incredibly humbling. What touched me most of all were the countless messages that express how much I’ve touched someone else’s life by being a source of encouragement, motivation, or support. That, to me, is about the best compliment a person could receive. ❤

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Grateful for another year…Happy Birthday to Me!

On my birthday this year, I’m reminded that it’s not about being the best…it’s about being YOUR best, and evolving every year.  It’s about becoming wiser, stronger, and healthier.  It’s about leading by example and inspiring others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more.  Erma Bombeck said it best:

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say, I used everything you gave me.

Ciao for now!
-E

Sometimes Stress Comes Around and it Knocks You Down…

Do you ever feel like so many little things are stressing you out that it just snowballs into one giant stress cloud that you can’t seem to get away from? Well that’s been me this past week. Some career choices on the horizon, working too much, an upcoming birthday (and with that, feelings of “I thought my life would be different/better at this age), and a few other things going on…it just sort of hit me all at once.overwhelm1Source

Normally I would workout rigorously to relieve the stress, but this week my body has rebelled and all I’ve wanted to do is sleep. I tried muscling through (literally) and going hard at the gym, but then when I woke up yesterday with a sore throat, I realized that my body was telling me to sloooowwww downnnn and rest.

So last night, I was in bed by 9pm and slept in until 7:30  this morning (rather than getting up at 5:15 to get ready for a pre-work day gym session). When I got up, I initially felt guilty for skipping the gym (especially because I had taken off the day before), but I also know better than to over-do it when my body is telling me it needs rest. I’d rather take two days off and have a great workout when I go back than push myself and have a bunch of sub-par workouts and still feel lousy.rest-daySource

It’s taken me years to figure out this balance and practice good self-care. We are all susceptible to stress and things we cannot control, so it’s important to figure out what works for YOU to feel better and manage that stress. Sometimes knocking out a gym session will do the trick, but sometimes you just need 2 or 3 days (or maybe even longer) to let your body unwind, recuperate, and feel   stronger.

As I sip my coffee and write this, I’m already starting to feel the itch for a workout, which makes me grateful that I took a couple days off. Tomorrow is going to be a killer gym sesh…I can feel it already 🙂

Ciao for now!
-E