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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

Just as a caveat, this post may be a little different than my previous posts. I didn’t really want to talk about fitness too much today, but hopefully you or a friend will be able to get something out of my ramblings anyway.

Many of us right now have copious amounts of time that is unprecedented and in most cases, unasked for. If you’re like me, you’re used to having a full schedule with things and people taking up your time and energy. But now that we have so much time on our hands, it may be a good time to ask ourselves some tough questions that we may usually avoid. Simple, but poignant questions like, who are we, really? What do we actually want out of our life? What actually makes us happy? These are questions that are very easy to brush off when we are going on about our daily lives because they can be deep, soul-searching questions that might lead us down roads that may be difficult or painful. Sometimes our worst fear is alone-time with ourselves. For it is in those quiet moments we see truly how filled we are with things we may not like or maybe we feel empty with just ourselves. Maybe we use our busy schedules to mask the things we are filled with. Maybe we use our busy schedules to fill the emptiness we feel inside ourselves. Regardless, sometimes being alone can shed light on the true state of being we hold closely to underneath the surface that we show the world.

But now is the perfect time to sort through all of that. Most of us have nothing but time to sort out our minds and our hearts. Imagine that everything in your life that has happened or traits of who you are, for good or bad, are playing cards in a deck. Now is the time to sort through that deck of cards to see what is serving you and what is not. Take that deck of cards out, one by one, and figure things out as they come. We have an unprecedented opportunity right now to search within ourselves to really get to know our trues selves. To heal our true selves. To forgive our true selves. And learn from our mistakes so we change and move on to a better version of our selves.

I’ve managed to accomplish a lot of self-sabotage over the years, and most everyone I really get to know has experienced similar things with themselves. I went through a period of years where I was extremely insecure and made a lot of stupid decisions that messed me up emotionally and set me up to continue the cycle over and over. Like all downward spirals, I found a rock bottom. I’ve lived in poverty, I’ve lived through abuse, and I’ve lived through a period of time where I was pretty consistently suicidal. It wasn’t easy to break out of that, so I know all too well the turmoil some of you are going through right now and my heart goes out to you.

One thing that was a turning point point for me was when I sat down in front of the mirror and apologized to myself for all the hurtful decisions that made for myself. I may never get apologies from individuals that hurt me, but I can apologize to myself for allowing myself to be in the situation where they had the power to hurt me. And I promised to never do these things again and that I would work to earn my trust back in myself.

So if you have demons, I encourage you to embrace this time as an opportunity to take out the card deck of your life and deal with each card as it is and choose to let yourself to move on. Everyone moves on differently and I am not here to tell you how to move on or when or what it should look like. Obviously a therapist is the best choice to get advice from for moving on from painful things in your past or present, but solitude and self awareness for what you’re feeling and why is a good start.

Whether it’s moving on from painful things in your past or it’s moving on towards success and happiness, I cannot stress how important self awareness is. You cannot create a happy life if you are not aware of what in life actually makes you happy. If you only chase what you are told should make you happy, you’ll waste your life chasing what the media sells you in commercials. Too many people lose themselves in what the media says they should want. Hell, even the stereotypical American dream isn’t what will make a lot of people happy. For me, personally, I don’t want a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence, fancy cars, fancy clothes, fancy toys, and a super busy social life. My dream is a minimalist shipping container home in the middle of acres of land that’s wild and wooded. A place where I can grow and hunt my own food and work from the solitude of my sanctuary. My life is nothing like that right now, but that’s what I’m working towards and I know that one day I will have.

My point is is that right now when we have this extra time on our hands, it’s the perfect time to self analyze, to heal, and think up a strategy that we can follow to live our best life. When life is normal, working 40 hours a week plus family obligation, social obligations, and pursuing hobbies has us too busy for deep, healing self-reflection and work. Because healing is hard work–don’t let anyone tell you differently. Creating new mental and emotional habits is tough work. Sometimes healing and creating new life habits is more difficult than living with pain is. Because after enough time, pain becomes normal and comfortable, doesn’t it? It becomes something to define ourselves with and a form of identity. And that may be why so many people avoid it. It takes time. It takes emotional energy. It takes mental energy. But I’m hoping that with this disruption of normal life, your are able to find the head-space necessary to put in the work on our own mind and your soul. It’s worth the effort, I promise.

Because what happens when you break through? What happens if your break through the darkness of your past? What happens when you break through your fears and feelings of emptiness? The possibilities of what you are capable of are waiting. I am a firm believer that everyone has a potential and that very few people are living up to the potential that they are born with, myself included. My disappointment with myself is one of the things that I have had to come to terms with, forgive myself for, and decide that I will pursue a life that I’m not disappointed in.

Now, I will be the first to tell you that I do not have everything figured out and that I probably have more flaws than not. But now is a good time to try in different ways to figure some things out and to change and renew myself. But right now I have the time for reflection. Now I have the head-space that I didn’t always have before. So I might as well dive in. I might as well get dirty and see the things that have been lurking in my heart. What’s the worst that could happen?


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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!


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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 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!


Pursuing Conditioning: Top 5 Cardio Moves that Require no Equipment | In Pursuit of Balance

In one of my recent posts “Balancing Time: Better than Nothing”, I spoke briefly about how to set up a full body workout that you can perform at home with little to no equipment. In my post today, I want to expand on how to structure home workouts in order that to help teach you how to effectively pursue your fitness goals even if you’re not in a position to get to a gym. Machines are certainly convenient to use, but they are not necessary to get a thorough workout. When it comes to increasing strength and power, some equipment will be necessary, but for conditioning, all you need is your body and a plan!

Part of balancing your life, responsibilities and goals is being realistic about the 24 hours you have available every day and finding a way to pursue each of these practically. If you are pursuing fitness goals within the 24 hours that are available to you, that can sometime mean that you won’t be able to make it to a gym environment in which you have access to equipment. This can make it difficult sometimes to get a proper workout, but it’s not impossible! Although I am a big proponent of mental health and taking the necessary steps to rest and mentally recover from life and it’s demands, but I also firmly believe that each of us is responsible for ourselves and taking an honest account of how we are pursuing our goals for our lives. If fitness is one of your goals for your life, then you must take the initiative for yourself to take steps towards that everyday. You must be honest with yourself about the food you eat, the sleep you get, and the movement your body gets to do. If your goal is better mental health, you need to be honest about the steps you are taking towards that as well. Are you taking your meds, talking to the important people in your life, taking care of your body (seratonin and dopamine manufacture are linked to exercise and good nutrition), and sleeping enough? It applies to any goal you have for yourself. It’s important to be honest with yourself with the effort you are putting in to the steps you are taking towards your goals.

So how do you take steps towards fitness if you don’t have access to a gym? Below, I will outline my top 5 favorite conditioning movements along with their benefits and tips on proper form. At the bottom of the page, you will see a link to my Instagram page, where I have posted videos of proper form for each of these exercises. If you have questions or concerns about these exercises or need modifications for them, feel free to fill out the contact form and ask away! It may take me a day or two to get back with you, but I’m here to help!

Squat Jumps or Box Jumps

Box jumps would be a more advanced option and require something sturdy to jump onto. Something as simple as a step would suffice, though, especially if it’s your first time attempting to jump onto something that is raised. Squat jumps will be the easier of the two, although they are no less demanding. Anytime you are doing a lower body exercise, it’s important to focus on shifting your weight into your heels when you squat (or lunge) down. Doing this heel shift will help engage the proper muscles in your hips and glutes to give you the best strength and power for the movement. Very often, people tend to shift their weight into their toes, which puts extra strain on their knees and can disengage glutes completely. So, to protect your knees, back, and use the correct muscles for lower body movement, teach yourself to heel shift when doing squats and lunges.

Touchdown Squats

These can be a good beginner to intermediate exercise. They increase your heart rate, but can still be done in high volume without wearing you out quite as much as more advanced moves like burpees. You start with feet together, hop your feet out into a sumo squat, touch the ground, then hop your feet back together in the center! It sounds more complicated than it is, once you’ve got the hang of it. Touchdown squats are a great way to make regular squats more interesting!

Skaters

Skaters can be tough for people who have issues with knee pain or past knee injuries. However, if you do not suffer with knee pain, skaters done correctly can not only get your heart rate up for effective conditioning, they can also help to strengthen your knee stability and prevent future knee injuries. This can especially be helpful if you (or your kids) like to play sports that require quick directional changes, like soccer, basketball, and baseball. One thing to always be conscious with this exercise is to always focus on balance and stability every time you land. Every time you land, you should feel your foot, ankle, knee, and hip come to full stability before hopping back sideways. I recommend using targets to hop to side to side, like towels, cones, or the width of a yoga mat. Having targets helps with form as well as challenging yourself to hop the same distance every time!

Lunges or Jumping Lunges

Although lunges are considered to be a basic strengthening exercise, if they are performed in high volume sets, they can be very effective in spiking your heart rate up high. Add in some dumbbells, and you’ll be working on strength and conditioning simultaneously! Anytime you perform exercises that target one leg at a time, you will be engaging your adductors (or inner thigh muscles) whether you feel them or not, Their main function is to stabilize the hips and knee during single leg movements. So if muscle tone is on your list of goals, lunges can be a good option to incorporate regularly to achieve well rounded muscle development.

Burpees

The first thing you need to know about burpees is that they suck. They’re tough physically and they’re tough mentally to get through them when you’re fatigued. But anything worthwhile is never easy. When you break down the movement, it’s basically a push-up that turns into a jump squat. Burpees are great full body conditioning because they incorporate so many big muscle groups in the movement. They incorporate your chest, shoulders, and triceps every time you push up from the ground. They engage your core as you push up into a plank. And, of course, they work the tar out of your legs with that ending jump squat. Put it all together, and you have an exercise that will effectively get your heart rate up high and work on muscular strength and endurance.

Structuring Your Workout

Ok, you have a few different exercises to pick from, now it’s time to set up your workout for the day! I tend to get bored with doing the same things the same way over and over, so I try to be creative with my set-ups. Sometimes I’ll stick to consistent sets and reps. Sometimes I’ll add a few reps every round to make things interesting. Regardless of what I choose, I try to pick something that will keep me mentally engaged in what I’m doing, so that I avoid becoming robotic or automated with the work. For me, personally, becoming automated is a quick way for me to get bored, and therefore make it that much more difficult to stay motivated and challenged. Trying different sets and rep schemes can be helpful in keeping things interesting for you mentally as well as physically. Think about it terms of spices in cooking. If you use the same salt and pepper for every chicken recipe, things can get bland very quickly. Trying out or researching different combinations of spices can make even the most common dishes taste different and new! The same theory applies to working out. Try new approaches when one structure becomes stale or boring. Because there is never a reason to get bored with movement and exercise! Pick one or two conditioning exercises that I listed above. Next, pick a core exercise like a plank or crunches. Then set a timer for at least 20 minutes. Now you’re ready! Do each exercise for 20-30 repetitions each and see how many rounds you can do! Or start with 5 reps of each and then add 5 reps every round you get through.

That’s it! If you incorporate these into a daily workout routine, you’ll be able to get in a great workout anytime you’re stuck inside. If you have questions regarding these exercises I’ve listed, feel free to contact me using the form below!


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

I was having a conversation the other day about people’s genetic potential and how different people are according to their genetic strengths and weaknesses. This is something I’ve thought a lot about because it’s something I’ve struggled with over the years. My genetics don’t necessarily lend itself to a body type/look that I had wished that I had, and for a long time, I struggled to attain that body type. Spoiler alert: I never attained it. And I was always disappointed with myself for not achieving it. But, as I’ve gotten older and more experienced, I’ve seen the same pattern with many people expressing that they wished that they looked like me. And some of these people saying this actually had the body type that I wished for! Weird, right? So what’s the conclusion? Why are so many people so hell bent on looking a way that is opposite of what they are? I think he answer is complicated and absolutely varies from person to person, but here are my theories. I think “the grass is always greener principle comes in to play in major way. I also think that society preys on our insecurities in order to profit from our drive to be excellent or feel wanted. We want to emulate what we admire, because we wish to be admired also. But the reality is, is that we are all so different that it would be a shame to squander what we are gifted with in search of possessing what someone else was gifted with.

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. My experience lies more with physical strengths weaknesses, so I will stay in my lane and explore what I know more about. Correct action can take you places and lead you to progress, but simply wishing things were different, especially wishing your genetic makeup was different, is a waste of your precious energy and life. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. And yes, that even includes those genetic freaks you see that are perfectly suited for their sport. I guarantee that they have weaknesses, but theirs might just not be physical. So I think it’s incredibly important to take stock of your strong suites. Now, because I’m a trainer and this is a blog about health and wellness, I’m going to focus on the physical side of these genetic strengths and weaknesses.

We have all heard the saying “the grass is always greener on the other side”, right? I think that this is a common reason that people are not happy with the genetics that they have been gifted with. It’s that same principle that even leaves us wishing we had the same material possessions or relationships that the person next to us has. It’s easy to idealize something we don’t have because we don’t know all the pros and cons associated with with that thing we are idolizing. It’s easy to look at things we don’t have through rose colored glasses and ignore all the complications and challenges that come packaged with it. And that can apply to more than just body type or genetics. That can apply to relationships, careers, children, material items, etc… It’s easy to wish for it because we don’t fully understand the challenges and downsides to having what they have. In my personal experience, I have had women tell me that they wish that they had my legs. It takes effort for me to not tell them that the only reason that I have the body that I do is because I live with some nasty depression and one of my primary ways to manage it is to train hard to manufacture serotonin and dopamine for my brain to stay somewhat stable. They see the end result of that training, but they don’t see or feel the mental/emotional work I have to put in to stay sane for my family and job. So hey, you can take my legs, but you”ll have to take my depression along with them in order to maintain them! But that same thing can apply to any athlete we admire, can’t it? It’s difficult to see the process through which they have attained the skill or strength or body that they have. Some people work and struggle and sacrifice for years to be able to look or perform at a certain level. When we see a great athlete smiling on a podium, all we see is the end result. We see the fruits of their labor, not their years of labor that lead them to that destination.

I believe that part of this wishing that we do is because we look up to our role models. We find people we admire because it helps us define or goals and gives a direction to our motivation. We want to emulate what we admire because we also want to be admired. Now, using people and defining goals is absolutely helpful. Without being specific about our goals and what we want in life, we would wander aimlessly and it would be next to impossible to accomplish the things we want. But there is a thin line between using an athlete or some other figure as a tool to define your own goals, and idolizing them to the point where you neglect to see your own magic. Because everyone has their own magic. I’ve seen some people run so effortlessly and easily that it makes me feel like a hippo racing gazelles. I’ve seen some people flow like water through yoga poses that would make me collapse like a crushed pretzel. And don’t even get me started on dancers. I’ve worked in gyms for fifteen years and not once have I ever done a zumba class. No way. Give me a barbell and I’ll be fine. But there are so many people who breeze through those things because they found their magic. They found their strengths and their happy place, and they pursue it! Their strengths look completely different than mine, and that’s beautiful. Now, that’s not say that I shouldn’t ever work on my weaknesses or never try new things. I may discover that I have more magic in me than I thought! So exploring everything is important!

With the revolution of social media and constant connectivity, I think a lot of people fall victim to that “wishing” because of targeted marketing. It’s not secret that facebook and google sell every bit of your data to companies worldwide that use it to tailor advertisements and recommendations to you personally. If you put on your facebook that you are engaged, advertisements for wedding dresses and venues will absolutely start popping up all over your phone. Even if you talk about certain topics with your phone nearby, google and youtube will listen in and use that information to tailor advertisements for you. If you don’t believe that, I encourage you to experiment with it. You’ll notice it immediately. If these companies do that with just mundane information, you can bet they do it with your health and body image as well. On TV, in social media, and every advertisement, we see images of beautiful people who have nice bodies. We are conditioned from childhood to see that as being normal even though most of it is altered and photo-shopped. And when we see that we don’t live up to their so-called normal standards we are inundated with, we are given advertisements for products and services that will fix us. We live in a society of corporations that manipulate us into having insecurities and then sell us cures for the disease that they created in your mind. It’s a huge business and unplugging from it completely is as difficult as living without internet these days. Being aware of what the media is doing and how it is trying to manipulate you into being a consumer for these things is the first step. Limiting your exposure really helps. But I understand all too well that avoiding all exposure is impossible if you plan on functioning in society with other people. I don’t plan on being a hermit in the near future, so all I can do is take everything I am fed through social media and other forms of media with a grain of salt. I ask myself this question, “Who benefits from me believing this or thinking this way?” If the answer to that question is anyone besides me and the people I care about, it usually means that a corporation will benefit from it.

I understand that this all may seem a little paranoid or you may think that I go around wearing a tin foil hat. But I challenge you to start challenging the ideas that you are exposed to on a daily basis. Is it actually healthy to give 100% of your energy to a workout every day? Is it really a good idea to chase your fitness goals at all costs, even if that cost includes your loved ones? Is it really beneficial to your life to beat yourself up for missing the gym because you were recovering from a panic attack? There is a balance between chasing your goals and what you have determined you want for your body and living your best life. You have different strengths than the person standing next to you. It would be a disservice to you both to compare your strengths and weaknesses and to each of you to reach the same goal the same way. So we must approach it with a balance. We must pursue our strengths with gratitude and be mindful of our weaknesses.


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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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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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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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