Wellness: One Easy Question That Will Turn Your Day Around

Working with athletes is an incredible thing. The determination and motivation that I see on a daily basis is enough to keep anyone inspired, and it’s all just in a day’s work. Most of the athletes that I work with don’t even know that they’re inspiring though. To them, they are just doing what they do — playing the sport they love, one that they’ve been playing for their whole lives. To them, each day is sometimes just another day.

One athlete in particular that I work with has impacted me beyond just the daily ups and downs of college athletics. This particular individual often comes to see me at the most exhausting points of my day, at times when I feel like I can’t even think for one more second. But no matter what my mood or the circumstances, she always manages to get me with one simple question:

“Steph, what was the best part of your day?”

And in that moment, I stop and I think about my day. Truly reflect on the good things that have happened in the last several hours for just a moment. Sometimes, the best part of my day is something as benign as a cookie I picked up from a local bakery. Sometimes it’s something more, such as a great conversation with someone or a random act of kindness. Whatever it is, I find that that moment spent searching for the best part of my day can turn my mood around instantly.

I go from just going through the motions, to really reflecting on the last several hours and all the good things that may have happened, something that I might not do otherwise.

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This guy knows what’s up, and he’s embracing the good in his day! 

Sometimes, she also asks the flip side of the question: “What was the worst part of your day?” and this gets me thinking too. Usually, I realize that I can’t pin point any “bad” things that have happened to me, or I realize that the worst part of my day has been something silly like a longer commute time, a shortened workout, or forgetting my lunch. All things that can seem “bad” in the moment, but in the grand scheme of things, tell me that I pretty  much lead a wonderful life. If the worst part of any given day is that I forget my lunch, then there’s really not that much to complain about, is there?

And on the rare occasion that there is something truly bad that has affected my day, it still helps to have this reflection. Because if I can stop focusing on the negative and realize all of the positivity in my day, all of a sudden that “bad” thing is just a little bit better. And sometimes, just that little bit of positivity is all you need to move on.

Both sides of this question can help to turn around my day. In fact, I’ve told this athlete this — there have been times that she has come to see me in my grumpiest moments when I don’t want to talk to anyone, and with these one or two questions, my mood can turn around instantly. All it takes is a little reflection for me to realize that my bad mood is unfounded, and it’s up to me and my pretty-awesome-day to turn it around.

In fact, I find it pretty amazing that I’m usually choosing between several things to tell her the best part of my day, and there have been several times when I couldn’t come up with any type of answer for the worst part of my day. Not even one. Not even the most benign “bad” thing ever. How great is that? Even if the “best” parts are silly and possibly meaningless, the fact that they strongly (and almost always) outweigh the worst parts of my day is a wonderful thing.

But honestly, sometimes I can’t see through my own moods to realize how great everything around me is. No, every day of my life isn’t sunshine and roses, but to stop and think about the bits of sunshine that we get along the way — and realizing that those bits of sunshine are far more significant than the negative is an important thing.

Next time you’re in a mood, think about these two questions. Maybe something bad did put you in a reasonably bad mood, but possibly by thinking about the best part of your day, you can improve upon that even just a little bit.

I can tell you right now that for yesterday, the best part of my day was visiting with my mom, who I haven’t seen in a while. And the worst part? Probably waiting an hour for brunch, which turned out to be one of the best brunches I’ve ever had. So hey — I’d say that pretty much cancels out that bad part, huh?

And with that, I ask you: What’s the best part of your day? And honestly, what’s the worst part of your day?

33 Tips to a Happier and Healthier Life

33? Why 33? Well.. because…

It’s my birthday!

I’m not really sure what that means anymore, to be totally honest. I’ve gone from someone who was always obsessed with my own birthday, to someone who feels kind of indifferent about it. Maybe it’s my age (eek! When did that happen?), or maybe it’s just life, but I guess I couldn’t go on being a birthday princess forever, right?

Well, maybe I can. I’ll reevaluate and let you guys know if at 33 years old, it’s still acceptable to be a birthday princess.

Anyway, since it’s my Larry Bird year, I’ve decided to give you guys a list of the 33 Tips to a Happier and Healthier Life.

Stay with me, this isn’t all about vegetables and grass fed meat (although those are pretty top-notch things to include in your healthy life, if you ask me).

1. Eat your veggies. WHAT? I said this isn’t ALL about veggies and grass fed meet. Sheesh.

2. Eat a VARIETY of veggies. Our bodies need many many different things to run well, and many of those things include several different vitamins and minerals. Yes, veggies have a lot of the nutrients that we need, but the kicker is that they all have different ones. So if you stick with just peas and carrots (who likes peas, anyway?), you’ll be missing out on a whole slew of vitamins and minerals that your body needs. Variety is the spice of life, especially when it comes to nutrition!

3. Invest in a Kettlebell. Yep, Kettlebells are expensive. They’re also one of the most versatile fitness tools you can own, so with just a couple of these in your home, you can get in a full body workout pretty much any time you want. Efficiency is king!

4. Train to do pull ups. Yes, even if you’re a female. Especially if you’re a female! Being able to do full, body-weight pull ups is one of the most bad-ass, empowering things you can do. And yes, you CAN do it, trust me. It just takes some work, dedication, and the right training plan!

5. Master your body weight first. When many people first start out on a new fitness regimen, they often want to jump in head first with the most exciting, sexy, challenging workouts they can find. The trouble with that is that it often leads to injury due to poor form, because the movement patterns are just not there. Master the major movements with your body weight first, then progress from there.

6. Smile at strangers. I live in one of the coldest places in the US, and I’m not talking about the weather. Bostonians are hard, cold, and generally unfriendly — many people that I meet are really put off by this when first moving here. One thing that makes a huge difference? Something that takes a fraction of a second, but can brighten someone else’s day — a smile. Please don’t be creepy about it, though.

7. Eat ice cream. Life is short.

8. Try a new workout. At least a couple of times per year, try something wildly new. Take a spin class, go zip lining, run on the beach, whatever. Move your body in a way that you don’t usually — it will thank you in the long run.

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9. Do mobility drills daily. Foam roll, dynamic stretching, whatever floats your boat. Move those hips, baby!

10. Stretch your adductors. The muscles of the inner thigh are highly ignored during workouts. They become tight and fibrous, affecting your movement patterns more than you can even imagine. Stretch those babies every day for happy, mobile hips!

11. Don’t cleanse. Ever. Cleanses are made by the devil, for the devil. Your body knows how to cleanse itself, if you just give it the right resources (and that doesn’t include living off of juice for 7 days straight).

12. Stand at work. If you can get a standing desk, great. If not, make a point to stand every 30 minutes, even if it’s just for a few seconds. Sitting for hours on end is actually killing you, scouts honor. Stand for life!

13. Give hugs. Don’t hug people that it’s inappropriate to hug, but overall, hug more. WAY more. Hugs = happiness.

14. Learn the difference between soreness and pain. There’s a big difference between the two, especially when it comes to training/not training. Training through an injury? Not smart. Training around an injury? Smart.

15. Swim. Let your hips, knees, ankles and feet be virtually weightless for a short time every once in a while. There really isn’t any other workout out there where you can get a full body killer workout in with little to no impact.

16. Learn to be ok with a little bit of hunger. I know this sounds a little weird, and it kind of needs it’s own blog post. I think many of us feel like we need to eat something the very second we feel an ounce of hunger, but that’s not always what you really need. Learning about your body and your own hunger cues can make a huge difference in weight loss and fat loss, if those are goals of yours.

17. Eat grass fed beef, organic poultry, free range eggs, wild caught fish etc. 

18. BUT DON’T STRESS about eating grass fed beef, organic poultry, free range eggs and wild caught fish if you can’t afford it. Unfortunately, these things are luxuries, and you can still lead a perfectly healthy life without them!

19. Go on a walk. In fact, go on lots of walks. This goes along with #12, and is really just part of the bigger picture. We could ALL stand to move a little bit more, so taking a quick walk instead of 30 minutes of TV following dinner could mean the difference between healthy and not healthy at some point down the road. (No pun intended, seriously).

20. Don’t take yourself so seriously. It is so, so important to be able to laugh at yourself. We all make mistakes, we all do silly things, so being able to find the humor in these things is sometimes the only way to keep your head above water.

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Sometimes you have to just let you freak flag fly. Fly it high, baby! 

21. Repeat names. When you meet someone new, make it a habit to repeat their name so that you can commit it to memory. This is something that I have been working on, and something that I have slowly been improving. Remembering someone’s name and using it often makes people feel better, and also saves you from those awkward “Hey.. You!” encounters that we’ve all had before.

22. Forget what the internet has to say about health and fitness. I know, I know, I am the internet. Well, I’m a tiny tiny sliver of the internet. But the truth is, there’s no cut and dry plan that works for every single person, so you’ve got to pick and choose until you find what works right for you and your special snowflake DNA.

23. Wear a hat. Ladies, listen up. Wear a hat on the beach. Protect your face — it’s the only one you’ve got. I’m pretty sure none of us want to look like old Leatherface in the next 10-20 years, so we’ve got to get on that now. I’m pretty sure my face is consistently at least 3 shades paler than the rest of my body, but that just means my face will look 3 shades younger than the rest of me when I’m older, right?

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[Photo by Rachel Darley Photography] There was just so much sun shinin’ on that dance floor 

24. Say goodbye. There are some things and some people that don’t belong in your life anymore, even if they used to. Let them go and move on, it’s ok to not hang on forever, just for the sake of hanging on.

25. Do hill sprints. They’re good for the booty. And the soul.

26. Stop worrying about getting bulky. Lean muscle mass will do more than just make you look good, it will also protect your bones. Want a much lower chance of developing osteoporosis in the next 30 years? Lift weights.

27. Stop comparing. As much as I love Facebook and Instagram, they tend to let us do what is probably the worst thing for our psyche: compare. Stop comparing yourself to the fitness models on Instagram, and stop comparing your life to your “friends” on Facebook. They are not you, they are not perfect, they have real life problems too, just like you. And sometimes they are photoshopped.

28. Get excited about 30. I dreaded turning 30. But you know what? I really, truly, love my 30s. If you’re not quite there yet, stop mourning the loss of your 20s and accept the fact that you too will grow older. And probably wiser.

29. Stop doing mountain climbers. I seriously, seriously hate them. They are one of the least effective exercises in my opinion. With so many better options out there, don’t waste your time on an exercise that provides little to no benefit, and that most people have horrible form with in just a few reps.

30. Don’t flake on yourself. We’ve all heard to “schedule your workouts like appointments”, but it’s true. Value your health and your body, and make the time for your workouts. Again, your body is the only one you have, and YOU, my dear, are worth it.

31. Don’t always “Go Hard or Go Home”. There is a lot of value in light to moderate workouts that are timed well. Recovery is essential for you to make any sort of progress in your training, so if you don’t allow yourself that recovery, you’re basically shooting yourself in the foot. Rested muscles = happy muscles.

32. Work out and eat well because you love your body, not because you hate it. 

33. Eat your veggies. I mean seriously. It’s really important.

I Like Myself and That’s Okay

I get the feeling that as a woman, I’m not supposed to like myself.

As a female, I am bombarded with images on a daily basis that show me how I can be better/skinner/prettier/insert-feminine-adjective-here. Every time I turn on the TV, scroll through Facebook, or even while doing some much needed internet shopping, I see countless images of products that are supposed to make me appear slimmer, younger, less wrinkly. (God forbid, I have crows feet at 32 years old).

Every spring, images are thrust into my face describing how I too can get my “bikini body” back after the winter months, or that so-and-so has the perfect plan for a “summer slim down”.

Every time I cruise around on the internet, my page clicks are chased by ads promising the newest weight loss supplement or workout class that will give me “long and lean” muscles, just the way I’m supposed to want my body to look. Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook are filled with images of sexed up women with rock hard abs, glistening with oil (I mean, really, oil up before your next workout and tell me how good your grip is), telling me that I just need to work harder, have no excuses, and I too will look like them.

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But the thing is, I don’t want to look like them. I actually like myself, believe it or not. I don’t need a special diet plan, a miracle supplement, or even Photoshop to appreciate my body.  I don’t need a “fitspo” image to tell me that I don’t work hard enough. I don’t need some marketing guru to tell me what I need to become their ideal of a perfect female.

I think I’m fortunate though, that I don’t need those things. A lot of women, when slapped across the face with these images, believe that they need these things to become the best version of themselves. Women aren’t supposed to like themselves, because if we all did, there would be a lot of people out there who stopped making money. The more you hate yourself and every part of your body, the more money these people make under the guise of helping you “improve”. Really, they’re just feeding on your negative feelings about yourself, and providing you with reasons to keep having these negative feelings.

For instance, just the other day I was scrolling through my Groupon email, I came across this image of an “Arm slimming compression garment”. Essentially, these are Spanx for your arms.

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SPANX FOR YOUR ARMS.

I’m just going to let that sink in a little bit before I move on.

At first I laughed, because the picture is downright ridiculous. Then I let the thought settle into my brain, and realized it’s much more sad than it is funny. As women, we’re constantly provided ways that we can make ourselves “better”, although better to whom, is the question. Would it make me feel better about myself to wear compression sleeves to make my arms appear slimmer? First of all, I question their effectiveness, but more importantly, the answer is no. And I’m pretty sure the discomfort that I would feel from my brachial artery being compressed would far outweigh any “slimming” effect from the garment.

This is marketed to tell me that my arms aren’t good enough, that I shouldn’t like them, but that I could like them if only I bought something to make them appear slimmer. The whole concept is just ridiculous when you spell it out like that, doesn’t it?

Yes, I do wear make up and do my hair (occasionally), and generally try to look presentable when out in public. I’m not saying that all women should be unshaved, un-groomed and makeup free, but there is a line there. I do not wear a mask of makeup to make myself appear to be what society wants me to be, I wear a little bit of makeup because I think it plays up my eyes a little bit. And you know what? I like my eyes. And it’s okay to say that.

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I am not saying that I’m anywhere near ideal or perfect, but since when in life are we all supposed to be striving for perfection? As women, I think we’re expected to constantly put ourselves down, to agree that we hate our thighs when one of our fellow femmes complains about hers. But you know what? I like my thighs too.

Imagine that — a woman who likes her thighs. Yes, I have cellulite, no I don’t have a thigh gap, but I still like my thighs. They are mine, and they are powerful, and I appreciate them. So ladies, it’s okay to like yourself, believe it or not. It’s okay to talk about yourself in a positive light, and it’s okay to not give in to the latest marketing scheme that’s trying to tell you that this is NOT okay.

And you know what? It’s also okay if you aren’t quite there today–  it takes time to truly like yourself, especially if you’ve spent years doing just the opposite. As long as you are committed to treating your body with positivity and compassion, in time you will come around to appreciate all that your body does, even though it’s not perfect. In time, you too will come to like yourself. At some point, when another female who isn’t quite there yet will complain to you about X body part of hers. And you will smile warmly, and say “You know what? I actually like my “X”. It may not be perfect, but it’s mine”.

And maybe in that moment, you’ll inspire another woman to like herself too.

Because liking yourself is okay. It doesn’t mean that you’re self-centered or narcissistic  and it doesn’t mean that you think you’re better than those around you.

Liking yourself simply means that you accept your body and your self for what you are. Even during those times that you’re working to improve or change yourself, you’re doing it out of love and acceptance for your body, rather than hate.

I’m not perfect — I am currently working at getting stronger and faster. But I like myself, and that’s okay. That doesn’t mean that I’m complacent, or lazy, or not working towards goals. It just means that the change that I’m working towards comes from a place of positivity.

I don’t work to better myself because I hate myself, I work to better myself because I like myself, and I know that I deserve to be the best version of me that I can be.  And that is more than okay, that is the best of both worlds. Progress plus positivity? It’s a powerful combination.

Readers: Tell me something that you like about yourself in the comments — and get more comfortable telling others too. The more that women start to like ourselves, the less silly things like “compression arm sleeves” will be made and marketed at us! 

Big BIG News!

YOU GUYS! 

I know I haven’t even been around for a week… I was too busy galavanting around Las Vegas to even pop in and say hello..

Sorry!

And I PROMISE I will be back with regular posts later on this week, but not today!

Because today there is some much bigger news that needs to be shared.

On Saturday, I was asked the best question of my life…

Will asked me to marry him!

And of course I said YES!

I’m not going to give you the whole story, because I think that’s kind of personal and that’s not what this blog is all about. If you’re my friend, you’ve probably already heard the story, and if you don’t know me, but still want to hear all the details… sorry! There are just some things that are not meant to be blasted all over the blogosphere.

I will say that it was an incredible, amazing, exciting, whirlwind of a weekend, and I have never felt so loved and so special. 

There was lots of food, lots of champagne, and lots of good times with each other and with some very dear friends. It is truly a weekend that I will remember for the rest of my life 🙂

So I’m engaged! Woo! 

No, this will not turn into a wedding-planning blog, I promise. Yes, I will continue with my regular posts ASAP, this was just too big to not share with all of you, because frankly it’s all I can think about right now!

YAY!

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A Change In Perspective

I’ve noticed something lately.

I see so many people on Facebook complaining about having to drag themselves to the gym, having tricks to force themselves to “just make it there”, and commenting on how little motivation they have to get up and do anything. It seems strange to me, because I truly, honestly look forward to my gym time.

I’m not pretending that I’ve never lost motivation, or that I’ve never complained about going to work out, because I have. But not for a long, long time.

Not since I started working out in a way that I really love.

Back in the day, when I used to go to the gym, hop on the treadmill and run 3 miles, and then maybe go do some sort of nonsensical “ab routine”, I hated it. I would complain all the time. The treadmill? Absolute torture. And then I started running outside, and guess what? I kept on complaining. I hated every second of it.

Once I started lifting though, everything changed. And then a few years ago, when I started lifting heavy things, everything changed all over again. I was no longer going to the gym to drone on the elliptical or stare at a TV screen while pounding the belt on the treadmill. I was going to the gym with a purpose, with goals, with a routine that was making me happy and giving me results.

And I’m not saying that heavy lifting is the answer for all of those people out there who have little motivation to work out (although I wish that were the case). I’m just saying that at some point I had a shift in perspective, and started treating my workouts as stepping stones to bigger goals, instead of just ways to burn off that bread bowl from the day before. And maybe that is the answer.

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When I used to ride along on the elliptical or treadmill, there were no real goals and there was never really a sense of accomplishment, besides the one (yes, one) time I ran 7 miles. The most exciting thing for me would be watching the number on the calorie tracker go up as I went along. Never mind that those calorie trackers on the machines are far from accurate anyway. If your biggest concern while working out is how many calories you’ve burned while watching The View, what are the chances you’re actually making any progress?

So back to this change in perspective. When I first started lifting, I finally realized that there was a form of working out that I enjoyed and that could make me feel good. Running felt like torture. Lifting, although difficult, felt amazing. And by amazing, I mean equal parts challenging and agonizing — but in a way that feels like I’m accomplshing something great. While I realize, unfortunately, that lifting does not feel so amazing to everyone, doing something to get that feeling is what it’s all about, No?

And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that most people that share those types of complaints are those who are spending countless hours on cardio machines. Maybe it’s unrelated, but of all of the lifters I know, they’re generally NOT complaining about having to work out.

It’s usually more of an “F Yeah! It’s Deadlift Day!” type of mentality.

Maybe everyone doesn’t need to dive head first into the weight room and set up camp in a squat rack, but there is something to be said about finding something that gives you that “F YEAH!!” feeling.

If you’ve been parking your ass on an elliptical for the past 2 years, have seen little progress, and have hated every second of it, what makes you think your perspective is going to change and that you’re all of a sudden going to love it? (Or that you’ll magically start to make any progress, but that’s a different story).

Of course you don’t have to change what you’re doing in the gym, but if your first thought of every day is something along the lines of “Ugh, I Have to go to the gym today. Gloomy mopey mopey dread“, than it seems silly not to. I swear there’s a saying about that sort of thing…

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Find something that you love. Something that makes you feel empowered, strong, capable, and purposeful. Find something that you can put your heart into, strive for goals, and be proud of your progress. It doesn’t have to be heavy lifting of course, although if improving your strength and physique are among your goals, that seems like kind of a no brainer to me.  It could be yoga, it could be training for a half (or full) marathon, it could be martial arts, or something else entirely. I guess my (rather long winded) point is this:

Stop complaining. If you hate working out, you’re not doing it right. Find something that makes your life better, through both happiness and health. Find something that can help you shift your perspective from “Ugh, I have to go do this today” to “I can’t wait to see what kind of progress I can make today!”

Is there a type of workout that makes you feel amazing? Do you usually complain about working out or do you look forward to it? 

Checking In

Hello World!

I just want to start off by saying thank you to everyone for the kind words and wishes after my accident last week! All of your comments, emails and tweets were wonderful, and I can’t thank you enough. I am still nursing a bum ankle, but that’s about it besides some nasty lingering bruises. So all in all, I’m healthy, I’ve been working out again (although no heavy lifting for the legs just yet), and word from the bike shop is that I should have my bike back on Friday. Woo hoo! I’m ready to get back to my bike commute, although I realize I might be a little apprehensive for my first few rides.

What else have I been up to? Well, quite a bit actually! In a nutshell, I’m a busy busy bee this week, with hardly a second to think, let alone blog.  I will update you all on everything in the near future, but for now I just wanted to stop in to say that everything going on this week is forcing me to take a mini blogging hiatus. I’ll be back for sure with a real blog post for you on Monday, but for today, I’ll just leave you with something that sums up exactly how I feel right now:

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And another random quote that I found, that I thought was worth sharing:

Thoughts on Growing Older

When did I get so old?

I’m seriously having a bit of a crisis here.

When I was fresh out of college, my best friend Lori and I took an amazing trip to Europe that I still remember clear as day. We met some amazing friends on that trip, friends who were in the same boat as us: fresh out of college, excited to explore, and not quite sure what life had in store for us.

Fast forward about a bajillion years to today, and I just found out one of those friends just got married. I don’t know why this hit me so hard, because he’s not the first out of that group to get married. And it’s not even the fact that he got married that bothers me (If you’re reading this Jessie, Congrats friend!!), it’s the fact that it makes me feel really, really old.

Stalking him on facebook Looking at the pictures, it suddenly hit me that that trip was not just yesterday. It was a long freaking time ago. I look like a baby in our pictures from that trip, and although I don’t feel that much older, pictures of me now tell a much different story (Hello, wrinkle face!).

Ok ok. I know I’m not that wrinkly. But it’s like I just woke up one day and had crow’s feet.. and WTF is that all about.

And the thing is, everyone lately is getting married (or divorced) or having babies. I really sometimes feel like I’m the last person on this earth who isn’t married or with child (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) But it’s everywhere I turn: facebook, twitter, bumping into old friends on the street.  And the strangest part about it is that it’s not weird. I’m now at the age where it’s normal to be surrounded by all that. I’m just wondering when that happened?

I don’t feel that much older than I was when I graduated from college. Although my random aches and pains may tell you otherwise, it doesn’t seem possible that we’re closing in on a decade since I was showing up to NU hockey games in body paint with a flask in my purse (Sorry, Mom!) Sure, I guess I’m a little bit wiser, and I know I’ve been successful, but I really still feel like a young kid who just happens to have a pretty cool job.

Side note: I was at a friends house recently, and we were talking about Eye Creams.  EYE CREAMS. She even showed me hers. Seriously? When did I get so old.

I don’t even really know what my point is in writing this. I guess I’m just wondering if others out there feel the same way? Just like some people are “old souls”, I think I’m a “young soul”. I’m pretty sure my grandmother still feels like she’s 25 deep down inside, so maybe it’s in my genes. All I know is, acting your age is totally overrated. The other day, one of my athletes told me that I was what would happen if a 13 year old graduated from an athletic training program. Now, we all know how I feel about 13 year olds (ick), but I’ll take it. If I’m 13 now, does that mean I’ll still pretty much be in my 20s when I’m close to retirement age? Sounds good to me!

Do you feel older or younger than your biological age? Have you ever been told you’re an “old soul”? If you could stay one age forever, what would it be?