Posts tagged yoga
Posts tagged yoga
For some reason my red lulu leggings make me feel invincible – like a shank-style super girl. I’m not really sure why… but they exude some air of confidence, an unexplainable energy. Wearing them for the past two days worth of workouts (yes, two days)… seems to have offered some sort of clarity among my moments of crazy.
It’s been a rough few weeks. Loads of life updates: I’ve moved. I’ve started graduate school. I’m trying to buy a house. And… all the while, I’m still attempting to balance work and workouts. As 32 draws closer, I find myself questioning where I am in life, reviewing and re-evaluating. DC is expensive. Time is a hot commodity. How do you balance everything and still remember to breath?
Going back to school has been stressful. I feel like a ticking time bomb. Fear can be consuming. Turning in my first assignment earlier this week was much harder than walking into any gym, running Murph alone, or battling through a Cold War. The sense of self-doubt was draining, suffocating, stifling… then it erupted into everything other aspect of my world. Making me question my choices… life path… is this a good idea? what will it get me? will I succeed? Change is uncomfortable and daunting and awkward. It’s hard and scary. It pushes you into new places; but it also makes you want to retreat.
Carrying around bricks has proven to be much easier than books. I’d rather have sore abs or quads! The gym is my comfort zone. I’ve come to grips with my only hour-long sweat sessions, but I feel lonely on the path less traveled – reading, writing, scratching my brain. I miss my 6:30 “happy hour.” But between battling Annie yesterday (with my best time yet) and standing in a deep warrior two this afternoon, something clicked. I am strong.
What I work through now, will ultimately lead to something bigger and better and brighter. Self-construction is positive, be it in the classroom or in a gym. Life works out as planned. It pieces itself together. Instead of staring down the next three years, I have to take a step back, breathe, and then fight through one day at a time. Like pushing through a plateau – the mindset is the same – it’s about self-awareness and mental fortitude. Turn of the brain. Believe in yourself. Trust. Do. I’m tougher than I think I am and I have to recognize that.
As I kicked up into my first hand-stand during a lunch time power-hour with the yoga mat, the instructor taped me on the back and whispered, “nice work.” Perhaps it was the validation I needed to regain my super-hero strength.
Or maybe it was the fact that today is my Friday.
Or maybe it’s last night’s liquid sangria courage still talking.
Or maybe, it really does have something to do with the red pants.
I’m coming up on two years of crossfit… between all the time and money invested, I think that on the whole, my moments of mayhem in the gym, on the race course and twisting in a room without mirrors has made me a better athlete and a better person. I’ve sort of grown into myself. If I were to look in the mirror, I’d see that behind the crazy hair and melty mascara, there is a more self-aware reflection… the mirrored image likely wouldn’t do the transformation justice. In all honesty, I’d never really dreamed of achieving even some of my successes or thought that in the process of finding strength, I’d also figure out food. I never anticipated that soul searching with the stars would teach me to quell fear or that I’d find inspiration in the folks that surround me daily at a gym. Over the last few years, I slowly figured myself out, trusted my gut and relied on my own intuition… life, in turn, pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle.
Along the road, I’ve found that life is often fueled by change. Scary but true. As I look ahead toward new adventures, I’m excited at the world of possibilities… the promise of lots of laughs… the excitement of new experiences. But change isn’t always comfortable in the moment that it happens. It’s hard – perhaps that’s what makes it good. I believe that the quotes in the frames that are now boxed up on my living room floor talk about how things always happen for a reason and to just start somewhere. As life shifts, I’m closing the current chapter, taking a leap, and jumping into something new… starting somewhere.
Health and fitness is one of the most important things in my life. Yet, in the midst of a million exciting new changes, I find myself somehow triaging life duties… exercise being the first and biggest causality. Tending to the most needed items first – I’ve been picking sleep over strength. I’m proud of myself for managing to keep my diet in check, but not proud of the numbers on the board or my recent habit of self-judgment and comparison. It’s hard to see everyone PR and be happy for them while you struggle with the basics… while you yearn for the competition, camaraderie and available gym time that you watch them expend. As they get better, I feel more and more stalled. Stuck in a sort of in-between… unable to make workouts my world… but wanting to continue to excel. Instead, I’m caught balancing work and packing and soon school and life in general. I’m plagued by lack of sleep and super stress – each in itself is enough to destroy progress. A fact that I know well. It’s only been a week of irregularity, but I feel awkward and heavy… the loop around the building seems foreign and fierce. I’ve hit a plateau. I’m back at the beginning. The things that felt flawless a week ago now just feel broken and belabored.
In my non-gym life, I’m the luckiest girl in the world, but when it comes to my athleticism, I feel like everything is somehow cruelly unfair… and it bleeds over into the day-to-day. My confidence is faded. My realm feels rocked. I’ve come to the stark realization that I am not a super-hero; I am not genetically modified. The hour of the day that once set me free now feels suffocating; it leaves me breathless. But I know, it’s a double edged sword, a necessary evil.
So, how do I start over? Push past? Rekindle my romance with workouts? How do I remind myself that it really isn’t about how much I can deadlift or if I can touch my toes to the bar… Even if everyone else is focused on the former, how do I zero in on having it be about building a better me, one day at a time. Maybe even one step at a time.
Today, I started just somewhere. Coaxing myself into the box. Forcing myself to approach the bar. Gutting through the wod with tears in my eyes. End goal: finish. That alone is sometimes harder than ever imagined. I’m trying to erase all expectations. Wage war on my brain; quiet the voice inside my head. Stop thinking. Stop judging. I need make peace with falling and failure and unfairness. I need to remind myself of the small successes… that in the last two years I’ve gotten faster. I can do a pull-up. I can climb a rope. I bend deeper and twist further. I trust myself.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel. I just have to convince myself to keep walking forward.
I consider myself an average Jane, PR girl by day, workout warrior by night. I play rec hockey, I throw weight around in a gym, I’ve never finished a race at a record breaking pace or done something unthinkable like an iron man… Sure, I’ve run with bricks and participated in 24-hour fun runs, but let’s be honest, I am not going to be an Olympian or a professional athlete any time soon. I do this for kicks. I find power in the challenge… it gives me a sort of high.
Through CrossFit and food and yoga and racing… I’ve built from within. It isn’t always about looks or even health; I’d say that mirrored images of me in a sports bra and shorts don’t do my personal transformation justice. They don’t show how powerful I feel. Change can be scary… I know that first hand, but the rewards of testing unknown waters can be exhilarating– proving to be completely worth the bumpy ride it takes to get there. I’ve learned to sometimes throw caution to the wind and trust my gut, try new things, go against the grain. Measuring success not by how I look, but how I feel… benchmark accomplishments achieved over time.
Anyone can do a nutrition program like this, anyone. Much like how anyone can sign-up for a race or step into a yoga studio. You just have to be ready to do something different. Test your personal limits and venture out of your comfort zone. Open your mind; erase any prior conceptions about fat or calories or food in general. Flip your thinking… You have to be willing to put aside what you think you know about food and what traditional media and packaging and ‘diets’ parle as fact.
Life is a human experiment. I view it as continual home improvement – be it physical or mental. We are each striving to be better people day in and day out. The only way to achieve new levels is by trying new things. Sure it’s hard… but, quoting A League of Their Own: the hard is what makes it great. If you can get through the hard, then you’re bound to learn something new. You will be forced to grow.
Read this book. Absorb, learn new things… and then go big or go home. Don’t do it half way. You’ll miss the point. If you hate it (or find it doesn’t work) after 8 weeks, go back to the life you lived before… or find the middle ground that works for you – but not before you give this a fighting chance… push yourself through the tough parts. Don’t cheat yourself out of the opportunity to try something different by assuming the outcome before you even get started. It’s like talking yourself out of a race or any adventure before even walking to the starting line or jumping on the plane.
We all think that we have exceptions, but when you start adding them up, you’ll have a list a mile long… over the past 60 days I’ve heard them all… “I could do that, buuuuttttt I can’t live without mystery item X.” Here comes the tough love. Yes, yes you can. You can live without pizza or cheese or ice cream… you can live without beer or chocolate… or whatever it is that tops that list. Those things aren’t foods that are necessary for survival… If I was suggesting someone live without water… well, then maybe that’d be different. Sometimes in life, I find that we make things too easy. We immediately satisfy our every need. The reason why I’ve slept in a van overnight and carried bricks through the Potomac river was to do something tough… put myself through a mini-mental and physical battle to see if I could survive. This is nothing different: a test of will and accountability.
Anyone can do anything for 60 days. In the grand scheme of things, two months isn’t long. It isn’t a lifetime commitment. You aren’t signing in blood on a dotted line.
Track everything. How you feel, what you eat, when you sleep. Daily. It’s an important benchmark you can come back to and adjust time and time again.
Real food can’t hurt you – yup, the things that don’t come in boxes, or shakes, or bar format… the things without food labels – so there is no harm in trying this. You will learn how to cook. You will find time. Promise.
You may not see the benefits until week 8, but they will eventually happen. You may go through withdrawal and you may get frustrated, but if you follow through you may find that in the end, you feel more energized, stronger, less irritable… in control, powerful. You’ll be a survivor of sorts. You may conquer your addiction to hidden sugar. You may recover faster. You may start reading labels. You may jump on a soap box and start questioning what is wrong with our food system.
This isn’t a fad diet or a juice fast. It isn’t a quick fix. It isn’t easy. But getting what you want never happens overnight. There isn’t a magic pill. If there was, we’d all already have taken it. Rewards come to those who put in effort – success is the sum of small actions repeated day in and day out over time.
60 days later… You may be surprised at what you find out about yourself.
It’s been 60 days… what happens now? The questions have already begun. I’m not quite sure how to write this post or where to start…
Two months have flown by… I went into this with no expectations. A simple self-experiment in personal discipline. I view food as something loaded with emotions and memories. I wasn’t afraid of giving things up or telling people no, but I was afraid of losing balance and the thrill of living life. I came out with an expanded appreciation for clean eating… a tad fired up about the food industry… a flipped workout/life schedule… more energy, focus, and a better understanding of myself. It wasn’t as bumpy as I expected…
Honestly, I don’t plan to fall face first into pizza or ice cream on Saturday. I didn’t eat them routinely before and at this point just don’t find them as appealing anymore. I know how stepping out of bounds will make me feel, which makes a lot of foods way less attractive. Yes, I will likely throw back a few of those ‘temptation’ M&Ms or maybe a good glass of red wine as my ‘I did it’ celebration, but, while I may joke about the amazing flavor of Klondike bars while in tears on a Saturday morning, I am well aware that my tastes have changed. It wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying as it would have been to Sarah 1.0 years ago. I plan to only occasionally indulge in things I love… choosing wisely, savoring them, and rightfully suffering the consequences of my decision.
I use the word balance often, I’m realizing perhaps too much. Balance in life, food… I’ve embraced it due to my yoga practice: looking inward… physically and mentally finding a sustainable happy place. But over the past few months I’ve come to appreciate a more back to basics strict approach, tough love if you will. I can see how 80/20 quickly degrades into 70/30 and 60/40 and how at that point it doesn’t matter at all… all of the little choices add up. Which ones are worth it? An M&M here, a beer there, just one piece of pizza… I can now understand that living in the middle will never get extreme results. You can never negate weekend drinking through non-drinking weeknights and workouts. What you put in always matters. There is no short cut. It’s true that each of us has to find a maintainable place… something that works for us individually and aligns with long-term goals. So over the past few months, I’ve become a little less about balance and a little more about choices… personally accountability for my food decisions, morning routine, sleep, workouts, work.
I will never eat processed foods, but I’m sure that I will occasionally drink, fall into a sexy square of dark chocolate and re-integrate fruit and nuts, but I now have a better understanding of why I want to fall face first into something and what eating 100 percent clean real food feels like. I’ve hit an optimal operating level… a life buzz if you will… and I plan to use it as a benchmark for resetting myself if needed. It’s something I can come back to time and time again.
I’m waiting to see how I handle the ‘binge’ from (and with) some of my nutrition program companions. I feel like I might be resentful or upset…or pressured to indulge… perhaps feeling like we did all of this for nothing, wondering what we have learned, wondering what it’s worth if we all turn around and eat like crap… why did we do it to begin with? I have to remember that this program is about self-discovery and growth and personal choices. It doesn’t matter what they choose, but instead, what I do… We each have our own journey. We each learned something different about ourselves. How did I change? What is my course of action?
I honestly didn’t see many results until around weeks 8 and now 9. Proving that I did eat pretty well before… but I’m finally starting to see some abs (okay minimal abs but promise they are there), I’m doing pull-ups, I’m sleeping, I’m recovering faster, I’m seeing power and core strength in full force at yoga… By choice, I’ve completely flipped my workout routine: morning WODs, full work days, cooking dinner and sometimes adding yoga or running at night. My stress level is at an all-time low. I’m not finding myself running home through a trail of tears. I’ve met new Crossfit companions and I’m back to having fun with workouts… I’ve broken through the plateau that has plagued me for months. Not all of these changes directly correlate to the nutrition program itself, but they are all side effects of longer lasting energy and educated life decisions. It’s hard to explain, but overall, I feel more in control, motivated and empowered.
Despite my occasional (and recently increasing) cravings, I plan to stay the course, continue eating according to the meal template. For me, I think one of the biggest takeaways was my revamping of snacks. As I mentioned, I will re-introduce some fruits and nuts because if the worst thing I do is eat a peach, so be it, but plan to eat them sparingly and not alone as a meal. I have an updated understanding of sugar and how much we are addicted to it without even realizing… it’s pre-packaged into almost everything we eat. I’m not a big believer in supplements and shakes, because they almost go against everything I’ve build over the past few months, but the time is right to add in a recovery shake post-workout, just to see what happens. I plan to keep tracking and keep everyone posted about the continued self-experiment.
So on Sunday the pictures of food end. Week 9 will come to a close. I will go back to life beyond the spreadsheet. I think I can check off all the things I promised when we began:
I’m jumping in head first… without a net… it doesn’t stop here, it’s about life beyond these past two months. Week-by-week I’ve built a foundation… now it’s time to mold what I’ve built into a sustainable lifestyle.
Guilty as charged. I used to be VERY bad at this – actually, I still am BAD at it, but maybe not as bad as I used to be. My Crossfit membership only allows me three workouts at the gym each week, so I have to use those class passes wisely. The benefit of maximizing that time in the gym is that I work harder while I’m there, got to make it count, but it also encourages me to spend time (in-between squeezing in miles of pavement pounding, steamy yoga sessions and rec league hockey) to adequately rest AND recover – two words that, when applied to health, fitness and athletic conquests, have distinctly different meanings.
I’ve learned that recovery requires more discipline than training itself. The general tendency is to want to keep going… I’m drawn to the gym because lying on the floor, pouring in sweat, feels good… actually great! It feels like I did something. It releases tension. It loads my body with endorphins and makes me happy. I usually get upset or bummed out when everyone else goes and I can’t… part of the issue is that over time, we’ve all been misled by the idea that that hours on a treadmill or brutal beatings are where the most gains are made. The truth is quite the opposite.
Rest and recovery just aren’t given the respect they deserve. Countless fitness magazines would tell you that… if want to get fitter… Work harder! Rarely would they suggest spending quality time with a foam roller, getting to bed at 9 PM like a grandma, or going for a long, slow evening constitutional. The piece that almost every fitness junkie (myself included) misses, is that even while it sometimes doesn’t feel true, you don’t get fitter when you are training. Whether you CrossFit, or run trail races, or squeeze yourself into triangle… you find fit in moments ofrecovering from that training.
Let’s clear up any confusion and do a quick breakdown of the two:
Rest = The absence of exertion or work. Think taking a day off from exercise or sports, napping, chilling, i.e. not going to the gym or the yoga studio.
Recovery = The restorative process by which you get back to normal. Genuine recovery includes adequate rest, but also must include the deliberate activities to help offset the physical and sometimes psychological cost of training.
Granted, the needed amount of recovery is different for each person, but under-recovering (or over-training) can and commonly does have serious health consequences. I myself was told at one time, to “recover, or your body will force you too” – it wasn’t long after, that my body entered the land of diminishing returns. And that isn’t a happy place. I was forced to take a step back, breath, pull my mouse away from clicking the race sign-up button, and learn the beauty of recovery.
Lesson learned. Essentially, seven days in a row of Crossfit might not be the best idea, even if you really want to and everyone else is doing it. It also might mean taking a pass on a race or competition… instead, build in rest days, love on a lax ball, eat something that makes you healthy… or go ahead and schedule a massage, you deserve it.
I admit it. My name is Sarah, I’m a recovering under-recoverer. If you too are a self-proclaimed fitness junkie, read this this article (thank you Whole9) and rethink recovery… it does more for you than you think it does.
Work, travel, time, stress… did you know that PR pros currently have 7th most stressful job in America? True, for me leaving the office isn’t a life or death situation, because it’s inevitable that Big Tobacco will still be there to fight in the morning, but my afternoons are often cluttered with last minute meetings or reporters calling to make news deadlines… In general, living in DC can be tough – you can easily lose yourself in the day-to-day hustle, a sort of type-A rat race comprised of commuting and commitments.
In the past year I’ve really struggled to find and figure out my work/life balance. I felt broken and stretched for time, trapped below the florescent glow of my office lights long after everyone else was already at the gym. Amongst missed metro trains and deadlines, there were many nights of trudging home in the dark leaving a small trail of tears in my wake. My stress quota would fill and my little world would explode into a thousand pieces.
Exercise is extremely effective in helping to manage stress and cortisol, I know this – for me workouts are therapy, going to the gym is like going to church… my time to unwind and decompress… tune in, soul search. I crave it, need it, feel lost without it.
I’ve written a few times about forcing myself into the darkness and pounding out miles alone on the city streets… running away the day… having a healing session with the stars. I hated missing my afternoon workout happy hour. And the more frustrated I became, the longer the workout plateau felt. Nothing was getting better, just stagnant or slow.
I forced myself to reframe my thinking. The action of holding myself accountable was more important; I stopped worrying about times or pounds or miles. I re-built from the inside. Small wins. Day in and day out. My 366 photos helped me do it. I was forced to find a piece of fit every day, whether I wanted to or not… whether here in DC, or on the road, I was on the hook for doing something… so I made my way to yoga studios, and found Crossfit gyms in the craziest of places. I ran with friends and sometimes just walked through the woods with my family and the bulldog.
I had fun. I tried new things and learned from new people. Through my adventures I re-discovered and renewed my enthusiasm. In the end, the rumpled routine helped me approach life a little differently. Life happened and I learned how to fit it in… I implemented survival strategies, achieved better balance.
Waking up early sucks most days, but since I can’t control my afternoon mayhem, I’ve learned and adopted morning workouts. Sure, I feel weaker, and sometimes I feel left out and miss the camaraderie of my afternoon workout crew. But my changed schedule equals reduced stress and a re-set mindset - I’m not needing to quick-change on the way from commute to class. My own time table. My own course of action.
Along the bumpy road, boom! I got my groove back.
$210? $250? How much is fitness worth each month?
Let’s be honest. We aren’t Olympians or pro athletes… this isn’t our full time job… most of us are just regular joes, weekend warriors. Finding strength and power has made us addicted to the high that we get from PRing a lift or finishing with the best time on the board. What are we striving for? How good can we get? What does greatness equal or need to equal for a 30-something fitness fanatic?
Ultimately, the end game is health… living longer, being stronger, building better and more efficient versions of ourselves. I’m sure I’ll still be running races and throwing around kettlebells when I’m 40, 50… the intensity may differ, but I won’t be content settling for anything less. I know that the benefits of Crossfit and yoga are endless - I’m an example of them. Between the exhilaration of team competitions to finding inner strength… pushing myself to unimaginable places or testing new limits… I’ve found community and like-minded friendships… companionship in combat.
I pay a lot of money to have those things… in fact, to some it’s lunacy. It’s likely that the long term benefits outweigh the current costs, but the hard truth is that access is limited based on bank accounts. Crossfit, yoga, even gym membership fees have skyrocketed. It’s the essence of capitalism. Fitness has become a booming business and in some ways, that makes me sad. Sure, it’s brought attention to the issue of finding fit, but it’s also created a sort of digital divide within the health world. The more money you have means the better access you will get. What’s the limit? When do I have to say when…
I’ve been struggling with this concept. It rolls over and over again in my mind. Gym or Debt? Gym or Rent? Gym or Food? What do I loose (or trade) for the expense of being a member?
It doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone really when I say that I’m addicted to WODs and races… I enjoy standing in a steamy room and finding focus… both give me a strange sense of sweaty inner peace.
I’m always asked: How good do you want to get? What are you racing for? Lifting for? How long until you hit some sort of endless plateau? The truth is that I really don’t know. But I do know that going to the gym [insert yoga studio or CrossFit class etc.] has a direct impact on my level of happiness. I love the competitive atmosphere… falling breathlessly to the floor or being embraced by a room of ohms. It’s a temple of sorts, a sweaty judgment-free zone where showing up is worth something. In the moments of tough, strength, confidence and power grows… you learn to trust yourself.
Regardless of my end-point, how much I crave daily sweat sessions, or enjoy involving myself in some Cold War… I’m limited by finance because in addition to equating happiness with workouts, I also know that being broke has a direct impact on my level of stress, which in turn, also directly impacts happiness. When I total my fitness costs, it’s dizzying and overwhelming. But I’ve bought in… I find myself envying people who can have unlimited memberships and access to classes. There is no question of wanting it, trust me, I’ve had enough Kool-aid… But, is it financially feasible? What happens when you hit a ceiling and just can’t afford it?
Then… snap back to a broader reality.
I work in an industry where poverty and socio-economic status are common words. We talk about survival and food deserts, not workouts. Crossfit costs and yoga studio memberships are #richpeopleproblems. The rich get fitter and the poor get fatter? Why isn’t this accessible to youth? Obesity is rampant. How does fitness become available to people who need it most?
So my random ramblings bring me to the conclusion that I have two unanswerable struggles:
1. Selfishly, what happens when I get priced out of something I’ve come to love?
2. philosophically, is fitness fair?
I know that my life would be different if I’d never walked into that box or had the opportunity to sit in childs pose. I understand that I’m operating in idealism, but, like with the food industry, I hate that this has become such a costly and sometimes exclusionary business. We’ve filled fitness with the ‘haves’ and ‘have not’s’ and created a sort of tiered system of availability…a class structure of fitness elites who pay a lot of money to do what could be considered the most primal of workout-styles. Fresh food. Fitness. Community. They are each powerful things. Perhaps things should be universally available.
It’s hard to explain, but a side effect of my fit finding, is that I’ve become better equipped to question the status quo… better equipped to live life. Imagine what could be achieved if everyone had access to that.
So, who gets access? how much is fitness worth? personally, when do I have to say when?
Thought provoking questions… since I have no answers, I decided it was at least time to start the conversation.
Pre-yoga mint tea. It’s cold outside but I’m determined to use my lunch hour wisely and get this body heated up.
Day 322: Appreciate silence. Exist in the moment.