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In Pursuit of Nutrition Balance: Why am I eating AGAIN? || In the Pursuit of Balance

With the COVID-19 outbreak, I’ve been out of work. Currently it’s been twelve days since I’ve been to work for a normal day and already I find myself eating more than normal. I’m sitting on the couch and constantly finding myself wondering what I can eat next…. Sound familiar to anyone else? Please tell me I’m not alone on this! I’m usually on the go and busy with work so now that I am at home looking for things to occupy my time with, I feel hungry all the time. Is it because my body needs more food? Hell no! I’m moving less than I normally do, so in theory I should be eating a little less as well. So that’s not it.

Sometimes we feel hunger when what we actually are is thirsty. That is a common culprit of mine… I’m not drinking as much water as I normally do while I am at work. I usually drink a gallon of water throughout the day and therefore I’m peeing every 30 min to an hour. But I don’t mind getting paid to go pee every hour. But when I’m at home, I just think less about drinking water I guess. So that could be a good reason why I feel the need to eat ALL the fricken time.

Another reason I feel like eating all the time is due, in part, to boredom. I tend to be a bored eater. It’s been almost two weeks and I’m having trouble filling the time with things I want to do. My closet is clean and organized. My laundry is done (for now). I can’t really think of any big cleaning projects that needs to be done around the house, which is usually what I fill my days off with. But now? All of it’s done. Sooooo, what’s in fridge?

Not only am I a bored eater, but I’m an emotional eater as well. When I was young, emotional eating was a coping mechanism that was easy to fall into. My mother always made sure our family was fed and that we had extra. She still is that way and that’s always a perk when I visit her—she always sends me home with food. And she’s a way better cook than I am, so it’s a treat. But that made it so I always had access to as much food as I wanted. Scientists have done studies and found that eating food releases serotonin and oxytocin. Serotonin is a hormone that your brain needs to feel good—depressed brains are deficit with those hormones, making it difficult/impossible to feel a sense of well-being without something helping your brain maintain proper levels of this hormone. Oxytocin is a hormone that your brain interprets as feeling loved. Physical touch releases oxytocin, which is perhaps why this social distancing is taking a heavy mental toll on everyone. Humans needs physical touch—from birth all the way to death—to function normally and properly. There are other things that help with oxytocin production, but eating food is one of them. In the absence of other forms of oxytocin production, a failsafe way is and will always be food. So, in times of great stress and isolation, craving food can be our bodies’ way of providing necessary hormones to keep our brains feel well and balanced.

Obviously there is a point where using food for these reasons is absolutely counterproductive. Low quality food and especially high amounts of sugar can be counterproductive in the long run for proper hormone balance. There is a time where eating too much, even if it’s relatively healthy choices, can make us feel worse in our bodies as well as our feelings towards our situation.

So what’s the solution? What do we do when we’re trapped in our homes with limited things to do and all we can think about is food? I will never pretend to have all the answers. All I can do is help shed light on what I have seen or experienced that helps.

Being aware of what is going on in your mind is the first step. Awareness is key when you want to address anything, whether it’s a bad habit, a bad mode of thinking, or a bad movement pattern with an exercise, awareness is always the first step to moving to a place where you are able to correct things if necessary. So if you find yourself in the same place as I do right now, when you feel your body start to crave food you’re not sure you actually need, stop and think about why you want it? Sometimes you’ll look a the clock and realize that it is, indeed, time for you to eat something for your body! If so, making a good choice will be a good investment in how you feel later. If it’s not time to eat, maybe take stock of what you’re craving? Are you craving comfort food? Is your body telling you that you need serotonin or oxytocin? Of course, I’m going to recommend some exercise if you need serotonin. Getting up and going for a walk or trying a home workout can really help give your brain some good serotonin these days. If you’ve already had your fill of moving today, grab some snuggles from the nearest person or fur baby! Dogs and children, and loved ones are especially good for snuggles, but if they aren’t nearby, a hot shower can also help. Or maybe none of those things will help and a hot chocolate chip cookie will be the only thing that will! Being aware and honest with yourself about how you are actually doing is important. I would just encourage you to make a habit of performing self-maintenance checks. If we feel off or if we find we’re doing things out of character, it’s important to figure out why. And right now with all the social and financial stress we are under with the covid-19 outbreak, it’s more important than ever to stay healthy mentally as well as physically to continue to thrive in this turbulence.


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In Pursuit of Yourself || In Pursuit of Balance

“I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.” -Steven Jay Gould

In Pursuit of Nutrition Balance: Why am I eating AGAIN? || In the Pursuit of Balance

I’m sitting on the couch and constantly finding myself wondering what I can eat next…. Sound familiar to anyone else? Please tell me I’m not alone on this! I’m usually on the go and busy with work so now that I am at home looking for things to occupy my time with, I feel hungry all the time. Is it because my body needs more food? Hell no!


Balancing Time: Better than Nothing

It won’t take long on social media to find taglines like, “Everyone has the same 24 hours, so you have no excuse!” or “No days off” used by people who make it look like it should be easy for everyone to have their shit together juuuust like they do! Most of them will sell you a step by step guide to their embodied perfection too… I feel like a lot of people feel like that there is something wrong with them or that they are failing at life if they’re not as perfect as what they see in social media posts or reality television. The real reality is that not everyone has the same 24 hours. Most of the people you see who have perfect bodies either have a team of people helping them live the rest of their lives, like nannies, house cleaners, cooks, trainers, and/or personal assistants, or their might be several areas of their lives that are completely failing as a result of their so-called dedication to the gym. The fact is, if you have kids, a spouse, a job, and a home, there’s a good chance that your free time or your available energy is more limited than fitspo would like to admit.

Even my 24 hours are not realistic for most people who work 9-5 jobs. I am a full time personal trainer, so I spend eight hours a day in a gym whether I want to or not. This allows me to work out without having to create free time to spend at the gym or have to arrange additional childcare for the time I spend there. So for most people, working out the way that I do is not necessarily realistic, and I understand that. Although I chose my profession intentionally, there is a trade off to working in a gym environment. Personal training in the economy in which I live is not a very financially lucrative job, but it allows me more freedom to exercise than other jobs would, even though other careers would have given me more financial success. In regards to living with depression, it’s difficult to say which would be more beneficial: more financial stability, or the ability to use exercise every day as an anti-depressant. There is no definitive answer for that for me. But all of that is simply part of my journey. My journey isn’t necessarily one you want, and for you, that’s the way it should be! Everyone has their own journey and their own path to follow. You should be passionately pursuing your own journey in life! Comparing your journey to the journey of someone else you know is not beneficial. That energy you use on comparison would better serve you if you harnessed it to pursue your own goals and ambitions.

When it comes to fitness and health, I find that people tend to be either all in, or all out. Navigating the middle ground and finding the balance between pursuing fitness and pursuing the rest o your demanding life is always difficult and there are far too few examples of how it can be done well. So having that all or nothing mentality can sometimes hold people back from pursuing half steps towards their fitness goals. Half steps still take you forward! And sometimes just not regressing can be enough. I tend to be a perfectionist or all or nothing attitude as well. I have to consciously tell myself that it’s ok to to half ass something as long as I try. It’s ok that my attempts are far from perfect, because the more I attempt to do it, the more I’ll learn how to do it better.

We all have good days and we have bad days. On my good days when I’m feeling sassy and energetic, I increase my weights in the gym and see how much I am capable of that day. I take on household projects that I’ve been too drained to tackle. I go the extra mile for a stranger at work. Because I never know when that good day will end. Hell, I never know when I’ll get another good day. So, as an act of gratitude, I go full send on those good days. At the gym, at home, at work. I use my good days to the best of my ability. Every time. It helps the bad days not feel so dark.

So when your 24 hours gets too hectic to make time for the gym, you can still do something, Still take those half step towards your goal and pursue your goal. If going for a walk or a run isn’t realistic or appealing, you can structure your own workout inside your home! Structure to a full body workout doesn’t have to complicated. For a full body workout, you only need to pick four movements! you’ll want to pick a movement for the lower body (squats, lunges, bridges, etc…), upper body (pushups, rows, shoulder press, etc…), core (crunches, planks, etc…), and cardio (burpees, jump squats, thrusters, etc..). Then, choose a repetition scheme. A really simple scheme could be twenty repetions of each. Then you can do the circuit, working at your own pace, to see how many rounds you can get in ten or fifteen minutes! Working out can be complicated at times, but it can also be very simple when you need it to be.

At the end of the day, the most important thing to help you on your fitness journey is to figure out what is realistic for you and consistently sticking with it. Consistent effort, even if it’s imperfect, will take you further than waiting for convenient or perfect circumstances. Now read that again. Imperfect effort will be more beneficial to your life and your fitness journey than waiting the rest of your life for perfect effort. Find an approach to your goals that is realistic for your 24 hours. Focus on your journey and where you want to be. It’s easy to compare journeys, but that can be toxic and may trip you up in what you could be pursuing your own journey. It’s important that you surround yourself with people who will inspire and encourage you to keep consistently working towards your goals. Some people may tend to influence you to compare yourself to them or others or straight up discourage you from making good decisions for your goals. The circle of people that you keep is very important in how your 24 hours plays out day to day. Having good people around you who are chasing their goals and dreams will naturally be encouraging to you while you pursue yours.


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In Pursuit of Potential: Finding and Growing your Strengths || In Pursuit of Balance

There are countless strengths and weaknesses in a person’s makeup. Personality traits, intellectual strengths, creativity, work ethic, drive, and coping mechanisms all significantly shape a person’s overall strengths and weaknesses. But it would be a disservice to you to compare your strengths and weaknesses with others and to expect you to reach the same goal the same way.

Balancing Time: Better than Nothing

Not everyone has the same 24 hours so it’s unrealistic to compare your journey with someone else’s. Family, mental illness, career, and access all have huge impacts on your pursuit in balancing life with fitness. Pursue new strategies to help you take steps towards your goals if balancing time or energy is an issue for you!

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Pursuing Strength: Top 5 Back Pain Prevention Techniques

Let me just start this off by saying that I am not a physical therapist, so if you have access to healthcare and need a diagnosis for your back pain, GO DO IT! Seriously. Get off your keister and do something about it instead of suffering. However, if you’re like me, health insurance and doctors can mostly be out of reach except for emergencies, so I’ve taken a lot of time to research and talk to knowledgeable people about reducing back pain and prevent injuries therein. I occasionally have pretty severe back pain and I’ve discovered through help that there’s nothing actually wrong with my spine. All of my pain is due to soft tissue tightness or imbalance. Also my sacroiliac joint slips out of place sometimes on my right side. Ouch. It’s a side effect from pregnancy and birth. Thanks kiddo! 

Couch stretch will stretch hip flexors of the back leg and the hamstrings of the front leg.

Through several debilitating flare ups with my back over the years I’ve learned what helps me prevent and/or heal flare ups with my SI joint. A lot of clients I’ve had over the years experience back pain, and almost all of them benefited from this approach and reduced their back pain. The ones that kept up with the maintenance of these prevented a good deal of pain in their futures as well. Honestly, injury prevention should be on your mind consistently throughout your workouts. There is no exercise that is worth getting injured over. Injuries require time off and time and energy to heal. Time and energy that you could otherwise be using to progress rather than repair damage. 

Deep Tissue Massage

Mobility work is first and foremost. Keeping muscles that push on your hips nice and flexible and working out adhesions is crucial. Adhesions can form in the connective tissue that surrounds muscle fibers and can cause muscle tissue to become bunched up together and tense. Foam rolling, a lacrosse ball, stick, or any other myofascial release technique you prefer is will work. The areas I recommend targeting for lower back pain are glutes, pirformis, IT band, and quads. A good rule of thumb is that if it hurts, that means you have a knot right there and you should sit on that spot for about 30 seconds before moving on. I foam roll before every CrossFit or leg day training session. Most days it can be painful, but if I don’t address the knots, the tension in those muscles can cause compensations elsewhere, which can lead to injury.

Stretching

I also stretch on workout days. For lower back pain and tightness, the muscles in your hips are actually the ones that usually need to be addressed. Stretches need to be held fro 30-60 seconds. I know that gets boring. (really boring) But there’s a reason why stretches need to be held that long. There are protective mechanisms in your muscle fibers (called Golgi tendon bodies) that keep your muscle from stretching too far too quickly. It takes about 30 seconds to override this mechanism. So even though you feel the stretch right away, it takes at least 30 seconds for the stretch to take effect on the muscle fibers when that Golgi tendon body releases. Stretching hamstrings, pirformis, adductors, hip flexors, and quads all help immensely in reducing lower back tension. My favorite stretch is the couch stretch, because it hits several muscles at once. Ideally we would all take the first 30 minutes of our day stretching and performing some core and hip activating movements, but in reality, there are some days when I’ll get to squeeze in 10 minutes right before I work out or maybe 10 minutes on a weekend. When it comes to back tension, the more often, the better, even it’s only a few minutes.

Core Work

After mobility is established, it’s important to get your core and hips stable and strong. Core work is obviously crucial for anyone trying to feel better physically. A strong core helps with posture by stabilizing the spine through every movement. I include extensive core work within all of my personal and clientele programming, whether they like it or not. Most people think about crunches and sit-ups when they think of core. However, your core is comprised of many overlapping muscles that go in different directions. Crunches and sit-ups are good at targeting the rectus abdominus (the six-pack muscle), but in terms of functionality, the other core muscles do a lot more for stabilizing your spine through your workouts and daily life. Exercises such as planks, side planks, rotations, and anti-rotation movements, can be very helpful to include in your workouts or warm-ups.

Hip Activation

Banded Squats activate hips and glutes to stabilize hips through the squat movement.

Hip activation before lower body work is very important. Glutes are considered to be part of your core, so buns of steel should be your goal! Glutes and core activation along with other hip stabilizer exercises helps me before an intense workout or running. Glute bridges and hip extensions are my go-to ways to engage and activate glutes before work. Banded squats helps engage other muscles in my hips that keep good knee tracking for me. My knees tend to cave in heavy squats, so it’s something I have to keep in my routine to help fix it.

Movement Pattern

Correct movement patterns are imperative when it comes to preventing injury for your lower back. whether you’re working out or just going through life, correct movement patterns for squatting, deadlifting, and rotating can greatly reduce the chances of harming your back. Everyone has room for improvement–there are things in every lift that I do that could be improved upon, and that’s part of the journey. Knowing the basics of needing to shift your weight into your heels and keeping your chest up in order to squat or deadlift safely can make the difference between lifting something without pain, or putting your back at risk for injury over time. Living with back pain or tightness is not fun, and it can take a little extra time to take care of in order to live life fully and while minimizing pain, but life is worth it, right?


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Pursuing Strength: Top 5 Back Pain Prevention Techniques

Let me just start this off by saying that I am not a physical therapist, so if you have access to healthcare and need a diagnosis for your back pain, GO DO IT! Seriously. Get off your keister and do something about it instead of suffering. However, if you’re like me, health insurance and doctors […]

In Pursuit of Health: Balancing Your Mindset Towards Food

This is your gentle reminder that there is no moral value attached to food! There is no food that is morally bad or morally good. There is just food that can help you and food that will hinder you from your goals that you have chosen for your health and for your life.  You didn’t […]

Pursuing Mental Health: Meditation for People Who Get Distracted Easily

There’s a cliche image in my head whenever I hear the word “meditation” : it’s a perfect looking, perfectly zen looking woman sitting with perfect posture and meditating…perfectly. You know the one I’m talking about. She has a perfect body, a really nice yoga outfit, and lush hair that’s blowing ever so slightly in the […]


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In Pursuit of Health: Balancing Your Mindset Towards Food

This is your gentle reminder that there is no moral value attached to food! There is no food that is morally bad or morally good. There is just food that can help you and food that will hinder you from your goals that you have chosen for your health and for your life.  You didn’t eat “bad” on the weekend. You simply consumed things that were counterproductive to your goals. And because there is no moral value to food, you certainly should never “punish” your body for what you ate. You simply need to get back on track and make the decision to pursue what you want in your life. Working out or eating healthy foods should never be a punishment for what you ate or how you feel about how you look. Exercise and movement should always be a celebration for what your body is capable of. Choosing to eat healthy food will simply be the most effective fuel for your body expanding it’s capabilities.

Usually when I hear people saying they “ate bad”, they’re usually referring to the weekends, and they use Monday as a fresh start to getting on track with their goals. Weekends can be a tough time to stay on track with your goals. It is for me as well! Usually people’s schedules are completely different on weekends versus weekdays, which can make it difficult to eat or move the way you want to or should. Planning ahead can help–meal prepping healthy meals to have ready and available can help create healthy convenience for busy schedules. But sometimes there is only so much you can plan for when it comes to weekends or special events. I have always believed that fitness exists to enhance people’s lives, not to control them. On everyone’s journey, there will be occasions where there will be overindulgence or counterproductive foods. We all have one life and it is meant to be lived to the fullest. So worrying about an occasional “cheat day” on your fitness journey can sometimes be more counterproductive to living your full life. Having said that, I do also believe we need to be honest with ourselves in our pursuit of our goals. Whether those goals are fitness related, mental health, career related, or with our relationships, we need to take an honest account of our efforts towards our goals and our consistency with that effort. Everything worth having requires work. All of our goals in life will take consistency and effort. But being honest with ourselves doesn’t need to result in feeling guilt if our efforts are less than perfect or just straight up bad. Feeling guilt or shame is fruitless and will get you nowhere and will benefit no one.  So go ahead and do a self check. What are your goals exactly? What specific steps are you taking today that will take you closer to that goal? If you don’t know the steps required, educating yourself on those first steps is your first step!

Ok, back to the morality of food and health…. Just like healthy food versus unhealthy food, people are not inherently better than others for being healthy either. That’s right. People who eat healthy all the time or work out all the time are not inherently more moral or valuable or better than people who don’t. Low body fat does not grant anyone moral superiority. Their physical strength does not add value to their soul. That mindset can be very profitable to certain people in power and companies trying to capitalize on everyone’s internal desire to be seen as being valuable. But this is toxic thinking. Not only is it mentally toxic to approach life and other people this way, it just isn’t true! As a society we need to move away from assigning value to people based on how they look. At the end of the day, your body isn’t actually you; it’s simply the physical house for your soul anyway.

At the end of the day, guilt and shame should never be attached to what foods you consume or did not consume. Knowledge about how what you are consuming can help you or harm you is important. Understanding and being honest with yourself about your decisions for yourself is important. Self assessment regarding your actual efforts you put towards your goals is important. Guilt and shame will get you nowhere. Knowledge and self honesty can help direct your decisions to align more with where you want to be in your life. So instead of wasting your energy feeling guilty about “eating bad” use that energy instead to do better! Turn your negative feelings into positive action with a positive mindset! 


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Pursuing Mental Health: Meditation for People Who Get Distracted Easily

There’s a cliche image in my head whenever I hear the word “meditation” : it’s a perfect looking, perfectly zen looking woman sitting with perfect posture and meditating…perfectly. You know the one I’m talking about. She has a perfect body, a really nice yoga outfit, and lush hair that’s blowing ever so slightly in the […]


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Pursuing Mental Health: Meditation for People Who Get Distracted Easily

There’s a cliche image in my head whenever I hear the word “meditation” : it’s a perfect looking, perfectly zen looking woman sitting with perfect posture and meditating…perfectly. You know the one I’m talking about. She has a perfect body, a really nice yoga outfit, and lush hair that’s blowing ever so slightly in the theoretical breeze. This is the vision of what I feel like it should be. It has made me feel defeated before even attempting it. There’s no way I can reach my own expectation of what meditation should be.

I have a bad habit of being too all or nothing with most things, and meditation was no exception for me for a long time. What I didn’t realize was that half-assing some things is worth it. Mindful meditation is on of the things that is worth it for me to pursue, even if it’s imperfect. With all the things I try to preach about how consistently trying is more important than being perfect at things, you would think I would be better at taking my own advice when it comes to learning new things. But I’m a work in progress just like everyone else. And now, I’m here to tell you, you can be bad at meditation and still get the benefits from it. You can be bad at many things and still benefit from them, but we’ll just discuss meditation today.

I’m bad at meditation, I get distracted easily and frustrated when my dog decides he wants snuggles right at that moment. I always find myself thinking in tangents of things I could be doing instead or things I need to do later. I know I’m not alone in those things, but pursuing mindfulness meditation even though I’m not that great at it has become part of the journey for me. There are different types of meditation and techniques that go along with each type. Some methods might work better for different people or the situations they’re dealing with in life. I was always under the impression that there was only one correct way to meditate and that it required people to empty their minds completely and keep that completely empty mind to get any benefit from the practice. That doesn’t work for my ADD brain very well. The type of meditation I gravitate towards is not the absolute empty mind that I always thought that was required. Trying to empty my mind completely is very frustrating and I found that it didn’t really help me feel better or more centered. I can empty my mind for a few moments at a time, but I prefer using intent and visualization in meditation. I feel more centered with visualizing energy flow, focusing on each chakra, and setting my intent for each one as I go. I understand that there more advanced techniques involving mantras for each chakra, but that will have to come in a later post, because I’m just not on that level yet.

I recently read through the book, Advice Not Given, by Mark Epstein. He is a therapist who practices and promotes the practice of mindful meditation to his patients. He addresses the fundamentals of Buddhism, applies it to mental health, and explains how certain elements improved the internal and external lives some of his patients. It was a great resource for me to learn about the fundamentals of Buddhism and how they can apply to everyday life. It also shed light on how the practices of Buddhism could help me progress through healing certain aspects of my life from mental or emotional damage of the past. Similar to working out, sometimes acceptance of discomfort is the only way forward. Fighting the discomfort or trying to eliminate the discomfort won’t get you anywhere. In my meditation journey, fighting my rambling mind only served to frustrate me and make me feel like I was wasting my time. So I found a way to pursue meditation that I could actually manage.

Physical Health

There is a technique for meditation that can very helpful if I’m feeling tense or anxious. Progressive relaxation is a technique of meditation that can help ease bodily tension and reduce pain. All meditation starts with focusing on breath. With progressive relaxation, you start at one end of your body (typically with your toes) and contract the muscles in the area and then focus on relaxing them. You continue this process travelling up your body, ending with your face, and then lastly, your mind. Focusing on relaxing the thoughts in your mind, visualizing them melting away. The handful of times I’ve done yoga, the instructor has always ended the class with this practice and let me tell you, it’s divine. I’ll admit that I’ve totally fallen asleep at the end of a yoga session during this meditation style. It can be very relaxing.

Mental Health

I live with chronic depression and practicing this 20 minutes a day can be very helpful in managing my life. I have good days where I don’t feel like I need to meditate to manage, but I try to do it anyway, even if it’s just a few minutes. Like I said before, consistent half-assed attempts will be more valuable than no attempt at all. And so far, that has proven to be true. I find that with my consistent, half-assed attempts at mindful meditation, I can be more present and relaxed at work and at home. My job as a personal trainer involves a lot of interpersonal interaction, and sometimes it can be very intense and very draining. Almost every day, I try to steal a few minutes to go hide somewhere and meditate to help prevent me from being completely drained. Sometimes finding that time can be tough on full days. I haven’t gotten to the point where I can wake up 20 min early every day to meditate, but in the back of my mind, I know that it would help if I did that. So if you’re a morning person, beginning your day with pursuing your mental health with mindfulness meditation will absolutely improve the direction and feel of the rest of your day. If you’re more of a night owl like me, perhaps taking time before you go to bed to release any tension or stress from the day so that your sleep will be peaceful and restorative can be helpful. I’ll keep you posted on my attempts at waking up earlier than absolutely necessary….if they go at all.

Tools

Sometimes we can find things that can help us out on our pursuit of mental health. Music and soundproof headphones can be very helpful if small noises derail your brain. For me, meditation with crystals helps me focus, visualize, and flow with energy during my mediation. Having something actually tangible helps my mind channel the intangible. When I’m visualizing energy sometimes I’ll get flashes of inspiration for writing, projects, or people that I’m not even thinking about. But the tangible crystals help center my focus and give my energy a channel to flow through. It’s possible that I gravitate towards this because I’m a novice. I may find that with enough practice, I will be able to achieve the same level of focus without the tangible aids. But it’s also possible that I will continue using the crystals because their healing properties work well for me. Only time and continued attempts will tell.

If you can take one thing away from this post, it would be this: attempting meditating, even if they are imperfect attempts, will help you in your pursuit of balancing the chaos in life and finding a center of peace in your life. Consistently trying is better than putting it off until you can do it perfectly. But most of all, explore the different possibilities! It’s a big world and I promise that there is a technique and tool that can help you in your pursuit of your mindful balance.


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Top 5 Leg Exercises: Pursuing Leg Strength

Training legs can be a daunting workout, but because legs are the biggest muscle group in the body, a lower body workout can very effective in developing muscle, increasing performance, or weight loss. With as many machines that exist for working out, I find that some of the best lower body exercises just require your body and a barbell or dumbbells! A good warm-up is always necessary to keep your lower back and knees healthy. This can entail glute activation exercises, core work, and/or stretching. Once you’re warmed up, I always recommend working through the big compound movements first and then progressing onto the accessory work once your legs are already fatigued.  This approach will maximize your efforts for the big, dense muscle groups and reduce the stress on your joints during isolation exercises.

Sets and Reps

After warming up, there are a few different sets and rep schemes that you can incorporate to get stronger and gain muscle. A good foundation will always be 3 to 4 sets of 12. But as you get comfortable with that, you’ll need to progress to heavier weights. Start with one set of 15 at a manageable weight, then add weight and decrease your reps every set. Your last set may be so heavy that you can only manage 3-5 reps, and that’s good! The idea is to address muscle fiber endurance (with the first two sets at 12-15 reps) and then address pure strength of the muscle fibers in the second two sets (reps ranging between 3-8). Addressing muscle endurance and muscle fiber strength in your leg workouts will be tough, but the results are worth it. Whether you’re trying to achieve your next level of performance or a certain look, introducing these strategies into your workouts will help.

Squats

With squats, you should try to get as strong as you can! Whenever you squat, you want to shift your weight into your heels and keep your chest from falling forward. The stronger you get with squats, the stronger your back and core will get as well.  There are many different ways to squat: back squats, sumo squats, front squats, single leg, sissy, or hack squats, to name a few. Your goals might determine which squats are best for you, or your injuries/limitations may determine which one is best for you. I like doing CrossFit; so for me,  back squats, front squats, and single leg squats are best for me to focus on in my workouts. So whichever type you choose, it’s good to rotate through them with your workouts to avoid over training one movement. 

Deadlifts

280 lb for 2 touch and go reps!

Again, get as strong as you can with this! Keep your back straight, chest up, and drive your heels into the ground to pull. I could write whole articles about squats and deadlifts and cues for doing them correctly, but those are the basics of deadlifting. The deadlift is considered the most taxing exercise on your nervous and muscular system because of all the muscle groups involved. That’s what makes it so important to incorporate and get strong with it! Because you should approach the deadlift with getting strong and doing heavy sets, I wouldn’t recommend doing heavy deadlifts on the same day as heavy squats at first.

Lunges

I have a bittersweet relationship with lunges. They suck. Big time. But they work! They’ll get your heart rate up and they burn a lot of calories.  Aim for 90 degree angles for your front and back leg while keeping your weight on your back leg. Keeping your weight in your back leg reduces the stress on the knee of your forward leg. Lunges are best in high volume training, so endurance is the goal. You can do lunges weighted, but I would recommend a weight that allows you to get at least 20 lunges at a time. Some people’s knees don’t tolerate lunges very well, so they may need to be modified in order to do them pain free. I’ve trained people with knee replacements and hip replacements and every injury in between. If you’re cleared to workout, there are modifications to everything, and I promise you that your body is capable of more than you probably think. 

Romanian Deadlifts

This is considered an accessory exercise. That means you should do this after your big compound movements like squats and lunges.This exercise is great for isolating the hamstrings while still incorporating the glutes and core. I like to recommend that people do this exercise one leg at a time to reduce how much weight they need to get in good work. It’s important to keep good posture and to listen to your body as to whether this is a good exercise for you.

Leg Extensions

This is also considered an accessory exercise and should be done at the end of your workout. Leg extensions require a machine that can be found in almost every traditional gym setting. It’s not necessary for sports performance per se, but it’s very helpful in developing a well rounded muscle structure for legs.

Training legs doesn’t have to complicated to be effective. It won’t be easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is. If you’re interested in a more in depth training for legs, core, or upper body, check out my online training packages! My online training clients get access to in depth instructional videos and detailed workout routines.


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Meal Prep for the Lazy Cook: Balancing a Busy Life and Nutrition

OK, so the truth is, is that I’m not lazy. I’m just tired from a busy life. Trying to balance a full time job where I’m on my feet the majority of my day followed by kids, homework, working out, etc… My body has just had it by the end of the day and I don’t want to expend more energy on cooking. I want to sit down. I want to recharge because I know that before I blink, I’m going to wake up and do it all again. Sound familiar?

Healthy eating doesn’t have to be hard, if you’re interested in more information about healthy, clean eating, check out my post, Stop Dieting, where I talk about the all the basics. 

So how do I find the balance between recharging and making the time to cook healthy meals? To be honest, sometimes I don’t! I do my best, but sometimes life has a way of kicking my ass and I find myself serving mac n cheese for dinner…again. But I still have to try, right?  The best way I have found is to try to set myself up for success. When things go according to plan, I meal prep only on select days, and on those days I try to cook enough to last until the next day I know I’ll have the energy to cook again. I pick easy things that I can set to cook, then go sit on my keister until it’s done. Crock-Pot recipes are golden! Big batches of soups (bone broth soups are soo good for you)  are great too, especially in colder weather. My personal go-to’s are typically chicken (baked or sauteed with a little coconut oil) cooked with a few bell peppers and rice. I have red meat once or twice during the week to give my body a little extra fats and a different source of protein, but I usually stick with eggs, chicken/turkey, and an occasional protein shake for most of my day to day protein. If you subscribe to my blog, you’ll receive a free guide to clean eating!

I know that with my personal schedule, I’ll have the time and energy to meal prep on Sunday and Wednesday evenings, so that’s when I cook my meals for the week. Any other day of the week, I’m too rushed to get to work or busy with family stuff to cook healthy meals for when I’m at work. I know many people who choose to cook everything for the week on Sunday. Taking on the whole week in one go ended up being to overwhelming for me, so I adapted and did something different. It may take a while to work out what days and times work best for you, so I would advise trying to find the most realistic days you will be able to stick to. 

Meal prepping doesn’t just set you up for success with pursuing health, it helps out financially as well. Instead of paying $5-10 once or twice a day eating out, I can eat 4 times a day for about $10 total. So if finances are something you are pursuing as well, meal prepping just makes sense. It takes a little more effort and energy and trial and error, but in the long run, it pays off big time. 

Meal prepping is key on those busy days when fast food would otherwise be tempting. If you have a full meal waiting for you at home or in the fridge at work, it makes it significantly easier to stick to pursuing your nutritional goals. So if you can, take the time to cook while you have energy so you can recharge later, and not have to worry about sticking to your plan!



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On Rest, Healing, and Health…


I rested a full week after having the flu–that means no crossfit, no intense cardio, just some light lifting. I barely cooked at all, much less healthy meals. Canned chicken noodle soup and Gatorade pretty much kept me alive during that week. The flu kicked my ass. For some reason, I don’t remember the flu being so bad when I was a kid. It’s one of those experiences that fades with time I guess. But I was wrecked for a solid week and I never want to be wrecked like that again. All the temperature fluctuations and body aches were crazy. My bones were achy and my muscles were exhausted from existing. I might wish it on my worst enemy, but they would really have to be on my bad side for me to wish that on them. I managed to stay hydrated for that week and recovered from the worst of it. The week afterwards, though, I was still extremely fatigued and I chose to take naps instead of going to crossfit like I normally would, for some heavy lifting and high intensity metabolic conditioning. I chose to sleep instead and I slept hard.

Rocking the Sith Lord robe…

I was surprised when I  received some criticism for not getting back into crossfit immediately. Like, as soon as I was able to stand on two feet, I was supposed to pick up where I left off as if I never stopped. I shouldn’t have been surprised though, because that’s pretty normal for today, right? After we have babies, we’re supposed to snap back into our more youthful bodies as if we didn’t just create a human from nothing with our bodies. If we are expected to pick up where we left off with fitness after having a baby, the flu should be nothing right? Nevermind that the flu, unfortunately, still actually kills some people. Nevermind the fact that a hundred years ago, this flu I had might have managed to kill me without access to modern medicine. Heaven forbid I take my time getting over being sick.

I didn’t cave into the pressure to get back into intense workouts immediately. I took my time. I listened to my body and worked on movements that felt good. And I took time in between sets. My lungs were still very congested with mucus ( it sounded like I was hacking up a lung every few minutes), and I needed time to breath. I was not worried about improving my fitness level or getting stronger right during that time. I was simply focused on muscle activation and blood circulation. I was concerned with getting my heart rate up enough to get my lungs working, but not enough to have them strain to keep up with the work. I was moving, yes, but I’m listening to my body and only working within the limitations it was adamant about. Overworking your body while it’s healing is just asking for trouble. Whether it’s in the form of an injury or, more likely, a secondary infection, over exerting your body while it’s vulnerable won’t get you far in the long run.

I’m a big proponent for listening to your body and staying in tuned to what it needs and doesn’t need. At some point I realized that there isn’t actually a rush to “get somewhere” in my fitness journey, because it’s only that–a journey. It’s easy to get caught up in the rush of things, with deadlines, shelf life, and social media. I think it’s easy to fall victim of this mentality when I was younger, but time and experience are tough teachers. So I’ve learned to take my time and to rest when I feel like my body or my mind needs it. I’ve learned that when it comes to things like health and fitness, those deadlines and pressure that you feel is all made up. It’s all literally invented to feed the machine of corporate materialism. The need to rush things leads people to buy additional supplements and workout gear to speed them towards their goals. Supplements and shortcuts may help shave off fractions of time, but trusting the process and being consistent with your effort will take you just as far without the pretend pressure. I decided a while ago that I’m not going to be a gear in that machine of materialism, nor do I want to be. Choosing not to be in this social climate is a consistent, conscious choice. Sitting out and not participating in the fray is going against the grain, and it’s sometimes lonely, but I know it’s the right choice for me and my inner peace. So instead of exhausting myself before work with crossfit, I slept on the couch after I put my son on the bus. I knew I was going to have a long and tiring day and I knew my body needed an extra boost before I got going. And I didn’t feel guilty about it.



Thus far, I’ve just been talking about physical health and the need to rest from exercise periodically. What about mental illness and rest? What about depressive episodes and anxiety attacks and rest? How often are we pressured to power through these aspects of our lives and still work, still work out, still cook, still parent, still be a good partner? This is a subject I would like to dive in a little deeper and talk about more because I think this subject deserves its own post. I think that mental health is still very much stigmatized, and the effects of depression and anxiety on people’s physical health still largely goes unaddressed. The truth is, is that depression and/or anxiety is exhausting. It takes huge amounts of energy to go about daily life while depression is weighing on your mind and your body. Going through daily life tasks while struggling to keep anxiety at bay is exhausting. The energy it takes to live with mental illness should never be underestimated. While it’s true that some days are easier than others to manage symptoms of mental illness, it doesn’t mean that it’s effortless. This is something to seriously consider when we’re talking about physical health and exercise. Because some days are almost impossible to get out of bed, let alone going to work and interacting with people. The effort it takes on those days to exist sometimes depletes us, and exercising on top of it all can be out of the question. Finding a balance between having enough energy to manage mental illness and finding the energy to workout can be difficult and for some it can be unrealistic. I was fortunate enough to develop coping mechanisms for my depression and anxiety using exercise when I was younger. Having that coping mechanism established, has really helped me through every serious depressive episode I’ve had in my life. The serotonin and dopamine that dumps into my brain after a crossfit session is unreal. I feel high; my body and mind are too tired to care about little things that can trigger my depression or anxiety.

But I realize that I’m one of the lucky ones. I realize that not everyone has the same access to the environment of working out, the knowledge of how to best go about it, or the time to spend in the gym. I realize that so many people could benefit in the same way that I do from exercise, but they face huge obstacles that could make it impossible for them. But even for people who have that access, being consistent with exercise can be difficult if mental illness starts rearing its ugly head. That’s why sleep is so important. Sleep is important for everyone who is trying to reach goals for physical health or performance. But sleep is even more important for people who deal with mental illness. Your brain and your body needs rest to heal. And dealing with depressive episodes and/or anxiety attacks is enough to need extra rest to heal from it. So, yes, exercise is important. Consistent effort in the gym is important. But if you’re dealing with symptoms of mental illness on a daily basis, sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is rest. Unapologetically rest.


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Pursuit of Motivation

Tis the season to get in shape! Usually at the beginning of every year, countless people resolve to lose weight/get healthy/ improve their body. And, unfortunately, most of those people don’t follow through with pursuing their goals. Life can get in the way or, more often than not, they just get discouraged by their slow progress, or lack thereof. 

Curiosity can be a big motivator… Aren’t you curious what your body is really capable of?

I’ve been a personal trainer for almost 15 years, and though I am by no means am expert on motivation and sports psychology, through my experience, I have seen tendencies and trends with a lot of people in the arena of health and weight loss. What I’ve seen is that most people begin their health journey out of a negative relationship to their body–they don’t like their body, they don’t like how they look, and it makes them feel negatively about themselves. So they try to lose weight to feel better. Well, this is a very negative view on fitness–it seeks to subtract from your life (deprive yourself of food, reduce your weight, shrink your body, etc…) as opposed to adding to it. People use this negative mental state as motivation to change their body. But this motivation only lasts as long as they are in that unhealthy/negative headspace. As soon as they get in a healthier mental state, that motivation to improve their physical disappears. 

Then so begins a toxic cycle of self loathing, wanting to get healthy, getting healthy, and then losing the motivation to be healthy. It can be followed by physical regression, which results in self loathing, yet again. I’ve seen the cycle repeat itself over and over again in people and it gets them nowhere. If you are interested in a video where I speak about this very topic, motivation and fitness, you can check out this YouTube channel run by my good friend Misti. If you’re looking for videos on manifestation and positivity, definitely check out her videos!!  She is an incredibly inspiring individual who helps people every day bring positive thinking into their lives. 



I often hear people referring to working out as a punishment for the unhealthy food they ate over the weekend, or for being too busy to work out the week before. That can be a very negative frame of mind with which to approach exercise. Moving and weight training should be a positive journey, whether you’re trying to make yourself stronger, faster, or for more endurance. It should be a discovery of what your body is capable of accomplishing day in, and day out. I’m not a competitive powerlifter, but I can deadlift 315 (conventional, not sumo, for those keeping track), and I’m very intentional in never training, lifting, or eating healthy as a punishment to my body. I’ve gotten very strong out of celebration of my body and out of curiosity. I celebrate when my body can do a certain amount of work, and then I get curious…let’s see what else it can do? I’ve trained many women over the years and within a month I have them pushing and pulling weights that they never thought they would do. They became more capable than they imagined they would and it made all the hard work fun! With that, losing weight and losing inches came as a bonus!

It’s very easy to get caught up in the aesthetic aspects of working out, even for veterans in the gym. I think that social media is responsible for a lot of the pressure we face in recent days to look a certain way or maintain a certain lifestyle. There’s more pressure than ever to look perfect and look like you have your life together. But that’s not reality, is it? Perfection can never be attained. Using that for motivation is futile and only leads to an unhealthy view of yourself and others. The pressure that you put on yourself to look a certain way can be very toxic. There are a myriad of different body types, which makes it impossible for some people to achieve a certain look or shape in a physically healthy way. So before you start comparing your body to those Instagram models we all see every day, think about your genetics and see their unique potential. My body type will never allow me to look like any of the Kardashians, so it’s pointless for me to waste my energy trying. My natural genetics make me tend to gain body fat on my stomach, not my butt or my legs. Think Spongebob… So to achieve the narrow, six-pack-abs waistline with a huge bubble butt, would only lead me to failure. Big failure. But…My genetics allow me to get strong, and that’s what feels best for me to pursue. My body feels it’s best when I’m challenging my strength and performance because that’s what my body type lends itself to. So take a moment to see the potential in your own genetics. I guarantee that your potential is much greater than just how you look in a pair of leggings!

Instead of relying on a negative state of mind to find and maintain your motivation, look to add positive things to your life! Add strength and endurance. Add years to your life. Make a goal to walk/run races with your kids or your friends. Join a martial arts class. Check out a dance class for adults. Try crossfit or yoga. There are countless communities to get involved in and they have the potential to be an incredibly positive force in your life and your future health! So instead of hating your body, begin doing things to add to your life, because your body isn’t actually you, right? Your body is just the physical representation of you. Who you are has always been and always be fluid. Everyone grows and changes over time, and that’s a good thing. It only makes sense that your body will be a fluid representation of you as well. So adding positive things to your life will have a healthier impact on you and your body than a negative punishment. Positivity will take you further than negativity every time.


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Stop Dieting! Have a Health Approach to Eating Habits!

There are fad diets and different eating plans and advice on nutrition everywhere you look. Especially at the beginning of the year, there are individuals and businesses trying to capitalize on people’s resolutions to get healthier. Throughout the year, they prey on people’s insecurities to convince them that buying into a diet will provide the magic cure for their body image issues. Does it work? Does any of it work? Statically, no. Obesity is at an all time high in America. An estimated 40% of American adults are battling obesity these days and it looks like those numbers are on the rise. Although I could write whole articles of the causes of obesity/ being overweight and the populations that are more at risk and why, today I’m going to write about simplifying nutrition. 

Along with a sedentary lifestyle, an over busy work schedule, and the incredible convenience of unhealthy food choices, mis-information about nutrition contributes in a big way to people being unable to stick to habits of healthy eating. So what’s the secret? Honestly, the best nutrition plan is one that you can stick to–even if it’s imperfect. It’s true! Turning your life upside down and changing everything in pursuit of a healthier body is usually unsustainable for the long-term. The most balanced solution is finding one change you can implement at a time. Take one meal in your day and change it to something healthier that you can reasonably stick to. Be consistent with that change Remember! It takes 21 days to create a habit. After you created your new habit, it’s time to take the next step! One baby step at a time can lead to huge progress over time.

Consistency will always outweigh intensity when it comes to a healthy body and a healthy mind. That goes for everything, not just nutrition. Whether it’s your eating habits, exercise, or meditation, being consistent with the steps you take will take you further than burning out with high intensity. If you’re looking for more information on exercise, check out the fitness section of my site or enroll in my online training!

An important thing to always keep in mind is how crucial it is to get “back on the wagon” when you fall off. And we all fall off sometimes. I, personally, try to eat well, eight out of ten times. And that’s good for me! Some weeks it’s more like five or six out of ten. I’m never 100% on point with my nutrition and I have no intention to ever be perfect with my it. I’m not a bodybuilder trying to get on stage . I’m not a professional athlete. I’m not a public figure with a team of people helping me live my life. I’m just a woman who has a full time job helping people. I’m a mother. I’m a wife. I’m a friend. I struggle with depression. I struggle with social anxiety. I don’t have the time or capacity to be perfect with my nutrition or my workouts and I never will. And I’m willing to bet that nine out of ten people are just like me. Which means falling off is part of the journey, right? Just like getting back on track–it’s all part of the process. 

So expect to fall off! Expect motivation to come and go like waves at a beach. Expect real life to kick your ass sometimes. It’s okay. It’s not a failure. It’s just part of the journey that we’re all on. Just don’t give up. When you can, get back on track. One step at a time. Getting back on track might look different every time, and that’s okay too! The important thing is that you show up to your own life and you try.

That being said, eating healthy does not have to be complicated. Granted, eating healthy can be repetitive, especially if you’re on a budget like I am. But, if it doesn’t work for you or your life, you don’t have to make it complicated with carbohydrate cycling, or the keto diet, or intermittent fasting, and all that stuff. All of which are viable eating approaches if they work for you! But if we’re talking about just the basics, clean eating is actually pretty simple. Your body needs protein regularly throughout the day. This is really important if you’re working towards more muscle tone and you’re lifting weights.

Clean eating doesn’t have to complicated, it just has to be consistent.

It’s good if you eat veggies every time you eat as well. I, personally, get too full/bloated if I eat veggies every time I eat, but veggies are great if you feel like you’re used to eating bigger portions and need to feel more full. For most people, it will be carbs that will make or break their ability to lean out or not. Most people need one serving of carbohydrates before they work out and one serving after they workout. Carbs are your fuel! If you’re going to be using fuel, you”ll need some! If not, you don’t really need any. Most of us don’t burn a whole lot of energy with our day to day life, so more often than not, you just need good protein and some veggies. If it’s a rest day, one serving of carbs first thing in the morning is all you really need. I you want your very own Clean Eating Guide, subscribe to my blog and I’ll send you one for free!

This cheat sheet breaks down a simple list of options and serving sizes of lean proteins, high quality veggies, and good choices for carbohydrates. Now keep in mind that every person is different. Everyone is a different size, has different genetics, different body chemistry, and different schedules. So my guide is really just meant to be used as a tool to help you set up a plan that works for you. If you feel run down and out of energy, you may need to tweak how much protein or carbs you take in, so tweak away!! 

You’ll notice, though, that most everything on the lists are whole, raw foods. That’s not by accident! If health is a pursuit of yours, trying to incorporate real foods (not just food products) is crucial to improving your health. Our bodies were not designed to process or use the preservatives and chemicals found in ready-made food products. Even if you didn’t change portions or timing of your meals, if you just changed from processed foods to real foods, your body will function more properly and you will feel better. Simply because your body won’t be slowed down by the artificial chemicals and preservatives!

The great news about my food guide is that it’s not a diet! That’s right! You’ll never have to diet again. It’s just clean eating knowledge that you follow as much as you choose. Like I mentioned earlier, a good goal for me is eating clean 8 out of 10 times. If I wanted to lean out (or make up for a week when I followed it five out of ten times) I would follow it more often. I’ve had so many clients that had great results with this approach to eating because it works! 

Nutrition doesn’t have to be complicated for it to work, and definitely doesn’t have to be expensive. Good nutrition just needs to be consistent for it to work. Choosing small steps that you can realistically make into a habit will help you out more in the long run than a short lived diet plan. Just keep taking the right steps for you!



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