Learn to receive

I went on a podcast subscribing spree over the weekend. Lately my podcast habits have heavily skewed toward political content, but the closer we get to the elections, the less I want to listen to media interpretations of the absolute shitstorm that is the country right now. (For the record, I’m With Her.) (If you needed me to tell you that, you haven’t been paying attention.)

I poked around a bit trying to find some podcasts on health and wellness, skewing more toward mental health and wellbeing. I haven’t had much time to settle in with the stack of books sitting on my nightstand, so in the meantime, podcasts on my commute will have to be enough to help me along.

I stumbled across one this morning that felt like it was targeted right at me. The podcast is titled Women Wanting More, and I admittedly haven’t listened to enough to judge whether it will be a permanent addition to my list, but today’s felt perfect. Episode #183 is titled “I Receive This (and Why YOU Should, Too)” and it’s all about how many women struggle to accept, to receive.

When others pay us compliments, we brush them off or respond with a self-deprecating comment. When colleagues ask us if we need help at work, we decline – we’ve got this, even in reality we’re drowning. Friends tell us to reach out if we need anything and we nod, knowing that things would have to be dire indeed before we take them up on the offer, because we will have things under control even if it kills us.

In the podcast, the host, Karen Osburn, encourages us to learn to receive. Have you ever tried to just receive when others want to give? Whether it’s a compliment, an offer of help, a kind word, a gift – what if you just received it and allowed yourself time to enjoy how it feels not to be the one giving?

I’m working on it, and this podcast was a good reminder to be more intentional in how I react when I’m given the opportunity to receive. Give it a listen.

Conquering my GHD panic

One of the tools I’ve been using to stay positive over the past few weeks has been celebrating every improvement I can mark in my workouts. Whenever I feel like quitting or giving up during an especially intense session, I force those weaker voices to shut up, and instead I repeat to myself, “You couldn’t do this a year ago. You are getting stronger every day. You are improving and changing and that is awesome. Keep moving forward.”

It’s working. I haven’t quit on a workout. I’ve pushed myself and I’ve tried things. It’s pretty awesome. And in light of that, I’m going to try to be better about documenting these successes in blog format.

That brings me to today’s post. Meet the GHD:

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This piece of equipment, the Glute & Ham Developer (hence, GHD) was my nemesis. We use it for two things at Crossfit: sit ups and back extensions. The GHD sit up is pretty straightforward. You face the ceiling, with your feet in the foot rests, and your hips on the larger pads, and you extend as far back as you can. People with better core strength and back flexibility than I possess are able to extend all the way back and touch the floor before hinging up into a sit up. Right now, I’m just past parallel, but hoping to get better. The sit ups aren’t bad – they’re actually kind of fun once you get used to them! – and they really do get at your abs. We did 5 sets of 15 in Thursday’s WOD, and between that and Friday morning’s Soul Cycle class, it still hurts to laugh today.

Back extensions, however, are a WHOLE other story.

To do a back extension, you flip over. Feet are still in the grips, hips are still on the pads, but you’re facing the floor. You actually want your hip joins to be just past the pads, so that you can freely hinge down until your body is perpendicular to the GHD, and then you use your back muscles to pull yourself back up to parallel.

It. Is. Terrifying.

The first time we had GHD back extensions in a WOD, about 2 months ago, I had a full blown panic attack. I got onto the equipment, I looked down at the floor, and I literally felt all of the air leave my chest. I refused to let go of the handles and got off the machine as quickly as I could, while trying to hold back the tears that were threatening. I didn’t trust the equipment to hold me; over and over in my head I saw a loop of my face hitting the floor in some spectacular collapse. Logically I knew that wouldn’t happen, but I couldn’t get past that irrational fear. I begged the coach for a modification and I avoided looking directly at the equipment for weeks afterwards.

Saturday, after practicing snatches for the majority of the beginners’ olympic lifting course – a mandatory element to the beginners’ Crossfit program at my box, and one that I really appreciate, as it teaches form and ensures we don’t hurt ourselves in the WODs – there was one line of instructions on the board:

“Back extension, 3×10”

“Maybe there’s some other way of doing back extensions,” I thought. “It doesn’t say GHD… it must mean something else.” I ignored it as long as possible, but come the last 10 minutes of class, I had to face my fears. It was time. I needed to get on that equipment and force myself through those sets.

Turns out it’s not all that bad – it’s actually kind of fun once you get going. I’m not going to lie, it’s still a little freaky when I first get on the stupid thing, but I’ve gotten better at telling the voices in my head to STFU while I get through my workout. I was so stinking proud of myself after banging out those three sets, with nary a tear or a panic attack in sight.

Progress takes a lot of forms. This week, my progress came in the form of conquering that stupid equipment torture device.

Now, if only I could make the jump rope my bitch…

Emotional Eating: Why Can’t I Quit You?

Emotional eating has always been my biggest nemesis in the battle to improve my diet. Food has seemingly always been tied to how I’m feeling. Birthday celebrations centered around decadent cakes covered in sugary icing from the local Italian bakery. Stressful periods meant that stopping for fast food could be excused away by my busy schedule. When someone in my family was sick, or after a death, friends and neighbors would come bearing gifts of food – bags of bagels and cream cheese, trays of lasagna, deli platters to feed an army.

Weight Watchers is capitalizing on this right now with their current ad campaign. I have tried their programs in the past and it didn’t work for me, but I know there are a lot of people who swear by the company. Sharing this video is in no way an endorsement of their methods; it is, however, a great piece of advertising and one that hits home with today’s topic.

I’ve mentioned this a few times recently, but my family’s been going through a rough patch lately. My father had surgery last week, and it’s been difficult to keep up with a sense of normalcy with everything that’s been going on. I tend to internalize things like this, which is not to say that there haven’t been incredible displays of support and friendship from the people I care about; I just tend not to talk much about things like this when they’re going on. So, instead, I go to war with the grocery store. Ice cream? Chips? Homemade chocolate chip cookies? All things that were on the patient’s wish list for recovery snacks, and I had zero mental energy to find the willpower to resist adding my own treats to the cart when shopping last week.

So here we are. It’s been a week since the surgery, and I feel gross. I haven’t been eating well, I’ve been drinking way too much wine, and my body is letting me know that it is displeased. My pants are feeling tight, I have no energy, and I can’t find the willpower to get back to my normal healthy eating and exercising routine.

This latest incidence of emotional eating has helped me to see that I need to focus more on the mental side of all of this. I know what I need to do to lose weight and get in better physical shape, and I am totally capable of doing all of those things. What I need to figure out know is how to maintain those habits and not let outside forces shake me to the core. Life happens and I need to learn that turning to comfort foods not only won’t comfort me, but it will make me feel worse in the long run.

I’m making this one of my priorities for the coming year and I’d love suggestions from others who have dealt with this in the past. Any books that particularly worked for you? Techniques to try? Should I just suck it up and try therapy? Advice is welcome, and much appreciated!

Fitnasty for Life
I’m teaming up with Carolyn over at Fitnasty for Life to get #Fit4Fifteen – check out the linkup!

Do you battle with emotional eating? What has worked for you?

Tackling tempation

I don’t know about the rest of you, but willpower and I don’t really get along all that well. More than anything, I really struggle with temptation. If there’s candy in my desk drawer, I’m going to eat it. If I open a bag of snacks, I’m not going to stop after the recommended serving size. At parties, I can’t just try a sampling of the appetizers; I park myself next to whatever is most delicious and munch away. With the holidays coming up, I know that temptation is going to be confronting me at every turn. I’ve committed to both #6W2C and #Fit4Fifteen to help myself stay on track through the end of the holiday season, but those challenges aren’t going to take me all the way on their own. I also need to employ some handy tricks to keep myself on track.

Tip #1: Pre-portion all snacks as soon as you get home from the grocery store. 

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I did my grocery shopping at the new Market Basket in my town last night, and I was super excited to find this Cedar’s Spinach Dip, made with Greek yogurt. Cedar’s is based in the Merrimack Valley, here in MA, and I’m a huge fan of their products. They’ve also been generous donors to the youth conference I volunteer with in the past, so I like to support them whenever I can. At only 50 calories per serving, this is a great thing to have on hand for an afternoon snack with pretzels or cut up vegetables. However, I know that if I were to just start dunking carrot sticks directly in that tub of dip, I’d exceed the recommended serving before I knew it. To ward off any temptation, I picked up small snack size dip containers and pre-portioned out the tub as soon as I got home. The tub contained twelve 50-calorie servings, so I portioned it into six small cups to have at work as an afternoon snack this week.

Tip #2: Stock your kitchen with healthy, nourishing snacks. 

You know the saying, “Monkey see, monkey do”? In my kitchen, it’s “Colleen see, Colleen eat.” If you keep your biggest temptations on hand, you’re more likely to eat them. Bypass those aisles at the grocery store and resist the urge to add tempting foods to your cart. You’ll tell yourself that you’ll only have those cookies once a week as a special treat, but we know that’s a lie. That ice cream will definitely not be for PMS emergencies only, and I don’t care how much you swear that you’re only buying those chocolate chips as an addition to protein pancakes, we both know those will end up getting eaten by the handful after a bad day at work. Try instead to make sure that you always have plenty of healthy foods on hand that still feel like you’re giving yourself a treat. Avocados are one of my favorite healthy treat foods – adding them to eggs or mashing them on toast feels so indulgent, but I’m getting the healthy fats that my body needs. I also always have apples, hard boiled eggs, and preportioned baggies of turkey or beef jerkey on hand. These are all snacks that are easy to grab and go if I’m in a rush, and they fill me up and satisfy me without destroying my healthy eating plan for the day.

Tip #3: The freezer is your friend. 

I could pretend that my kitchen is a place where you will find only healthy, nutritious food items. This would be a lie. Yes, I do try to avoid keeping tempting foods around, but I’m human, and sometimes a girl needs a Snickers. I keep a bag of fun sized Snickers bars in my freezer at all times. That way, if I decide I really do want a little chocolate treat, I can go for just one bar. The bar needs to thaw a bit before it’s edible (unless I want to break a tooth!) and that time helps me to limit myself to just the single serving, and to be mindful that I’m treating myself to this snack.

Tip #4: Don’t go to holiday parties on an empty stomach.

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I always have a snack before I go to a holiday party. It’s easier to resist all the tempting appetizers if you’ve already got something healthy in your stomach. I might make a half serving size of Shakeology, or I might grab a handful of almonds and an apple. It’s also a good idea to have a full glass of water before you leave for any holiday events, and to keep drinking water throughout the night. Hydrating will help you feel fuller, and it will also keep you from overindulging in the holiday punch! I know that my already weak willpower becomes completely nonexistent after a few glasses of festive sangria.

Tip #5: Plan ahead.

When I go out to eat, I like to read the menu online ahead of time and plan out what I’m going to eat. This gives me time to think about healthy substitutions so I won’t delay my dining companions when we’re all ready to order. It also lets me preview both appetizers and desserts so I can decide where I’d rather splurge. This type of planning can be harder if you’re attending a party hosted in someone’s home, but there are ways around this! Call the host and ask if there’s anything you can contribute to the event. Maybe you can bring a healthy appetizer option, or prepare a side dish that utilizes lots of delicious vegetables without drowning them in butter or cream.

Tip #6: Don’t forget to enjoy yourself! 

At the end of the day, the holidays should be about having a good time with the people you care most about. Don’t get so caught up in trying to make healthy decisions that you forget to have a good time. It’s okay if you slip up. No one is perfect! This is all about finding balance. Set yourself up to succeed by reducing temptation wherever possible, and you’ll find that your slip ups are few far between. And if you do overindulge on pumpkin pie come Thanksgiving, well, at least it’s only one day out of the year. Get up and go for a run the next day, and remember that every day is a new chance to start over and make healthier choices.

What are some of the ways you resist temptation?
Share your favorite tips in the comments!

Fitnasty for Life
This post is my contribution to this week’s #fit4fifteen link up, hosted by Carolyn over at Fitnasty for Life. Make sure to check out some of the other awesome bloggers in the link up – they’ve all got great stories to share!

Finding the why

As I mentioned last week, I’m doing another Six Weeks to Chic challenge at Studio Poise. I’ve done this challenge twice before, once in Summer 2013 and again in spring of 2014, and I’ve been really happy with the results both times. I’m very excited to be kicking off another challenge and looking forward to holding myself to a higher standard for the coming weeks, in the hopes of resetting my habits on the healthier track.

As I embark on this challenge, I thought about sharing another #MotivationMonday post jammed with Pinterest-worthy quotes and sources of inspiration, but then I realized that I would benefit more from deeper reflection about why I decided to tackle another challenge. For each of the previous sessions, I had a clear goal in mind.

The Summer 2013 session coincided with two weddings. I was motivated to look my best for those events, and participating in the challenge kept me on target while traveling. I even managed to convince some of my friends to rent bikes to ride around Sonoma wine country during one of those wedding trips! We got to see more of the beautiful vineyards this way, and the ride also offset the calories consumed at the vineyards we visited (because you can bet that I wasn’t spitting out those wine tastings!) If you’re ever in Sonoma, I highly recommend this plan – we rented from Sonoma Country Cyclery and had a great time. vineyard bikes

For Spring 2014, the challenge’s conclusion coincided with my 29th birthday. I had planned a big birthday event at Cadillac Ranch and had about 20 friends coming together, so I was super motivated to look and feel my best. I wanted to be in great shape heading into the summer, and that was enough to keep me on target. I loved how I felt after that challenge, and I actually did a pretty good job of continuing to follow the meal plan through most of the summer.

Kindly disregard the wolf wall behind me. My birthday party was at Cadillac Ranch, and this is their standard decor...

Kindly disregard the wolf wall behind me. My birthday party was at Cadillac Ranch, and this is their standard decor…

However, as I head into this challenge, I’m in a very different place. As I’ve previously acknowledged, this fall has been really rocky for me. I’m not maintaining good habits in my diet, I’m not making it to as many classes, and I generally feel like I’ve let my health become less of a priority. I signed up for the challenge to get back on track, but if I’m really going to stick with it, I need to spend some time considering – why do I want to get back on track? 

We all need to find our own why. In the past, I’ll admit, my motivation largely had to do with my physical appearance. I wasn’t happy with how I looked. As I’ve progressed, though, I’ve realized that this is about so much more than the size of my jeans. I’m gaining real benefits from living a healthier lifestyle, and I need to remind myself of those gains so that I can push myself through the times when it’s all to tempting to give up.

So, what’s my why? Good question.

I feel more energized when I’m eating well and exercising regularly. Anyone who knows me will agree that I tend to commit to too many things. I have a demanding full time job, I serve on the board of directors for a youth leadership organization, and I like to fill my free time with adventures, whether that means visiting friends in New York City or trying new fitness classes. It might seem counterintuitive – time spent exercising is time that I can’t devote to these other commitments! – but skipping my healthy habits actually made it harder to keep up with a demanding schedule. I need to take care of my body if I’m going to put such crazy demands on it!

I sleep better when I’m following a healthy living routine. I have had problems with insomnia my entire life. I took ambien for a while, and even did a sleep study a few years back to try to ascertain why I felt tired all the time. When I am exercising regularly and eating healthy meals, I found that my sleep problems basically disappeared. I was falling asleep more easily, I wasn’t waking up multiple times throughout the night, and I felt well rested when my alarm went off in the morning. All that has flown out the window over the past few months. I lay awake for an hour or more trying to fall asleep every night, and I hit the snooze button multiple times every morning because I don’t want to get out of bed. I’m hoping that restoring my wellness habits will also lead to better sleep.

My mental health benefits when I’m taking care of my physical health. The hour a day that I spend working out is one of the very few opportunities I have to unplug and turn off my brain. When I’m on the mat, or riding a spin bike, or shimmying in a Zumba class, I’m not worrying about my clients or thinking about my to do list. I turn everything off and just let myself enjoy the moment. When I don’t work out, I lose that opportunity to tune everything else out, and it has a noticeably negative impact on my overall mental health. Stressful situations impact me to a greater degree, and I had a more negative outlook on life in general. When I’m making healthy choices, though, it has a trickle down effect and dramatically improves my ability to maintain a positive mentality and attitude.

There’s more to all of this than the size of my clothes. I’m going to be constantly warring with myself over this. I can’t deny that it feels good to reach for smaller sizes when I’m shopping, and I do appreciate receiving compliments on how I look, but that can’t be my primary motivation for pursuing fitness and wellness. I honestly don’t consider myself a vain person, and I would like to think that I’m not someone who is overly concerned with appearances, but I can’t deny that my own appearance has been a driving force in fitness endeavors for my entire life. This is the area I really want to personally focus on during this challenge – concentrating on my whys and the benefits of wellness and celebrating those, instead of glorifying the size of my jeans. 

To further help with my accountability through the holidays, I’m joining a linkup hosted by Fitnasty For Life, joining with other bloggers as we work to get #Fit4Fifteen. I’ll update this post with the link up when it’s available at the end of this week!

 

So tell me in the comments… What’s your why?

Time to Focus

Okay, time for me to come clean: October was a really difficult month for me. I had my first serious backslide, and I ended up gaining about 5 pounds over the course of the month. I can blame a lot of things – I was giving in to stress-eating cravings, I skipped workouts, and family issues took center stage. I could beat myself up over this, but I’m being honest and trying to keep a positive perspective. My efforts at fitness and weight loss aren’t a temporary change; they’re habits that I’m building for a healthier life in the long term. Realistically, things aren’t going to be smooth sailing for the rest of my life, and learning to recover from difficult periods is an important part of this journey.

I’m embracing a few strategies to help me regain my footing. I know that as we head into the holidays, this isn’t something I can do alone. So, I’ve created a group on Facebook where friends can turn to each other for inspiration and support. This isn’t a challenge group; there aren’t any points and the only prize at the end will be how we feel about ourselves. I really just wanted someplace where I could honestly say, “I’m struggling today and I’m really craving a bag of Doritos,” and there would be support to help me through it. If you’re interested in joining, leave a comment below and I’ll happily add you to the group!

I’m also excited to participate in another Six Weeks to Chic program at Studio Poise. I’ve done #6W2C twice before and have had really fantastic results both times. It helps to remind me about ideal habits and get back into a routine, and I think doing this over the holidays will help me to avoid the normal holiday weight creep. Best of all, this time around there’s a challenge built in – and you know how I love me some healthy competition!

I’m really excited about the ladies on my team – they’re great friends and will be excellent motivation to help keep me on track. Being able to text them when I’m struggling or schedule classes with them for extra accountability will definitely help me past this bumpy point!

Finally, I’m trying to mix it up more. I love my at-home workouts (shout out to Body Pump, which I am LOVING!) and I am still loyal to my Poise classes, but I think I need to have greater variety to help jump start my weight loss again. I’m trying a new spin class this weekend at Sweat Cycling Studio in Wakefield, MA, and if I like it, I’ll probably buy a class pack to make spinning a regular part of my fitness routine again. I’ve also started scheduling lunch workout dates with coworkers. We have a great new gym that’s free for employees, but I never take advantage of it. Having someone else committed with me will make sure I leave my desk and get in an extra workout! Today we’re trying this resistance band workout from Lean it UP. I’ve got this pinned on my Pinterest page, and I’ll report back on how it goes!

 

What’s on your bucket list?

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about my fitness bucket list. When I first started on my journey toward improved physical fitness and overall wellness, I had a long list of things that I never thought I’d be able to do. I had let my history of injuries and my lack of fitness dominate my mind, and I believed the voice inside my head that whispered, “You can’t do that. There’s no way. Don’t even think about trying that.”

I felt that way about a lot of things. I’d watch the Zumba classes at Studio Poise and think, “Well, that looks like fun, but I could never make it through an hour class… I’d be winded after two songs.” I would listen to my cousin talk about her running group and would long to join her for a race, but a history of knee problems kept me from lacing up my sneakers and giving it a shot.

My favorite example, though, is overcoming my fear of the ski slopes. After college, my group of friends would get together once a year for a ski trip. The first time, they congregated at Lake Placid for a long weekend. I had never skied in my life, and I still remembered the words of my orthopedic surgeon following my knee reconstruction, five years earlier: “You’ll eventually be able to resume most activities, but you should probably avoid things like skiing.” My friends managed to convince me to make the journey out to their cabin, and while I loved reuniting with them and had a great time laughing over beers every night, I hated every second of sitting around during the day while they hit the slopes. There are only so many ways to entertain yourself in a ski lodge, and trust me, it gets old fast. When we decided on Denver for the following year’s trip, I vowed that I would learn to ski before the trip, and I never turned back.

skiing collage

It hasn’t always been a smooth ride. It took me three seasons before I really felt like I had control when I was on the slopes. It was only last year that I was able to ski from the very top of the mountain to the bottom, and even then I stuck to mostly green trails, with only a few blues thrown in when absolutely necessary. I still have moments of panic on trickier sections of the mountain, and without fail, I feel like I might throw up my first time on a chair lift every season. Despite all that, I’ve found a sport that I absolutely adore. I love the feeling of whooshing down a mountain. There’s nothing better than ditching work for a day in the middle of the week and catching a quiet day, so you can find yourself alone on the trails and enjoy the peace and the solitude. Skiing – that sport that so terrified me, that I was convinced would never be an activity I could pursue – has become a highlight of every winter for me, and I’m so glad I didn’t listen to that annoying little voice in my head telling me not to try.

Skiing became the gateway drug to my fitness bucket list. It was the Goliath to my David, and I conquered it – and so why shouldn’t I try any of the other things that once seemed like they would never be possible for unfit, clumsy me? As I progressed in my fitness journey, I became increasingly confident in my body’s ability to handle the challenges I threw at it.

Here’s what my fitness bucket list currently looks like, though it’s constantly evolving:

Run a 10K in 2014. I ran my first 5K in 2013, and I’ve participated in four additional 5K races since then. I want to push myself further, which is why I signed up for the Firefighters’ Memorial 10K on October 19, 2014. I’m also a sucker for a good charity and couldn’t say no to this fundraising opportunity.

Run a half marathon in 2015. This goal feels a little bit insane right now, but if I put it in writing, I’ll have to hold myself accountable. I really want to be able to say I finished a half marathon, and I turn 30 in 2015 – it feels like the right time. I am definitely planning on the RunDisney Wine & Dine half marathon in November of 2015, accompanied by my favorite “What in the hell were we thinking?!” sidekick, Miss Dheerja. However, I recently discovered that the Providence Marathon is the day after my 30th birthday, and it offers a half marathon course as well. What better way to kick off my 30s than by accomplishing something that once seemed impossible? I’m waiting until after the October 10K to register, because if the 10K is an unmitigated disaster I should probably work on more training before trying a half, but this feels like a good fit for me.

Run the Boston Marathon in 2017 as a charity runner. I’m a Boston native. Patriots Day, Marathon Monday, is my favorite day of the year – there’s an atmosphere in my city that is truly special and unique. I started seriously thinking about running the marathon this past spring, while tracking some friends on the app. Watching them progress and celebrating with them at the finish made me realize that I wanted to run this marathon at some point in my life. I don’t see myself ever qualifying – understatement of the year – but I would love to run for charity. I plan to raise money for the Cotting School, and I’m aiming for 2017 as I plan to run in memory of the 15th anniversary of my brother’s death. This gives me plenty of time to train, and also to come up with a fundraising plan to tackle the hefty commitment that Boston entails!

Participate in a triathlon. I certainly don’t plan to go out and run an ironman anytime soon, but I would love to complete a triathlon. I’ve always been a strong swimmer, and cycling has long been a favorite way to stay fit. As I build more confidence in my running abilities and feel more secure in my all-around fitness, I’d love to find a triathlon that appeals to me and train for it. I might start as part of a relay team to get a feel for the whole tri experience, but I really want to achieve this in the next decade.

Get certified to teach a fitness class. This one is still a ways off, I suspect, but I’d love to eventually be able to teach a fitness class. I have always loved teaching, and I so value the relationships I have with the instructors who have made a difference in my wellness journey. I would love to be able to inspire others in the same way. I’m not yet at a point in my journey where I would feel comfortable in front of a class, but this is something I’m always thinking about for some point in the future.

What’s on your personal bucket list?
How do you stay accountable and continue progressing toward your goals?