Is It Time To Change Your Perspective?  

Before I got pregnant, I was deadlifting 240 lb. I was muscular, strong, and took pride in my abilities in the weight room. I had glutes that I was proud of, glutes that were strong enough for heavy squats, deadlifts, and kettlebell swings. 

Before I got pregnant, I could once do 8 unassisted chin ups. I did chin ups and pull ups nearly every day, just for fun. 

Before I got pregnant, I could run the full stadium at Harvard without breaks, and would do so at 6:30 am. 

Before I got pregnant, I could overhead press 85 lb. 

Now? I haven’t set foot in the weight room since I was about 8 months pregnant. I haven’t touched a barbell in months. I’ve been on exactly one run, and I can no longer do even one unassisted chin up. 

You might think I’m upset about this. 

And I could be, if it weren’t for one simple thing: perspective. 


Sure, I may be lifting right now with a 15 lb, a 16 kg (35 lb), and a 24 kg (53 lb) kettlebell, but here’s where perspective comes in: 

That 15 lb kettlebell felt heavy to me after my C-section and 6 week post op recovery time. I remember picking it up and being shocked and saddened at how heavy it felt. 

Now? It’s light again, and I now use it for warm up movements, like I used to. Progress. 

That 35 lb KB? That one felt like a monster after my postpartum recovery. I remember the first time I tried to do goblet squats with it, I felt like my core would never support me again. Now? They’re easy. It’s a moderate weight, and I’m using it for many movements, both single leg and double leg. I’ve moved on from using it for my KB swings, because I finally need something heavier. Progress. 

That 53 lb KB? Forget about that one after recovery– that felt like a dream and a lifetime away. Now? I’m using it for single leg RDLs, goblet squats, and KB swings. Progress. 

My push-ups have gotten stronger, my endurance better. 

My chin ups? Yes, those are coming back too, slowly but surely. 

None of these weights would have made me proud before. They would have been warm ups, helping me to prep and groove patterns for heavier weights. 

Now though? I am so proud of where I’m at and how far I’ve come so far. Considering I still haven’t stepped foot in a gym, and my workouts mostly consist of a few 20-30 min bursts throughout the week, I think I’ve done quite well. I may not be maxing out my big lifts anytime soon, but I’m seeing consistent progress, and that’s really all that matters. 

It doesn’t matter how much you could lift before X event, or how fast or long you could run, or how many muscle ups you could do. Life happens, we have ups and downs, and that’s just something we need to accept. If we’re always thinking back to our best and comparing ourselves now, that’s not fair. Your mind and your body change as you move throughout life. My body is not the same body that dead lifted 240 lb– it’s been through a whole lot since then, so how can I keep comparing my self now to myself then? In order to be fair to myself, I have to shift my perspective. I have to focus on where I’m at now, instead of where I was. 

As life changes, some obstacles get bigger, some get smaller, and some new ones crop up all together. With all of these things that change us, our bodies, our minds, it’s unfair to expect things to always go back to some ideal moment that you once had. I am far, far from that deadlift max right now. But to expect that from this body, my now body? Well that would be unfair. 

So if you’re feeling like you’re failing because you can’t do something you once could, or because you don’t look like you once did, think again. Think of what your body and mind have been through since that time, and focus on the progress you’re making now. Shift your perspective to the present, and you’ll probably find that you’re doing a lot better than you thought! 

Progress isn’t always perfect, and it’s not always linear. It’s not always even obvious. But take a moment to shift your perspective, and you might be pleasantly surprised at the amount of progress that you’ve made in this “now” version of you. 

Are You As Active As You Think You Are? 4 Ways To Move More

So you go to the gym 3 times per week, like your doctor told you to. You lift some weights and jog on the treadmill for 30 minutes, do some abs, and call it a day.

You had a good workout, so now it’s ok if you just sit at your desk for the next 8 hours, and then in front of your TV for 2 more, right?

Unfortunately, not so much.

Yes, it is important and recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine that we get a certain amount of exercise per week, but those 30 minutes per day of moderate exercise won’t create the change that many of us are looking for. Any movement is better than no movement, but it’s also important to think about the rest of your day when you’re not in the gym.

I’m certainly not saying that you’re entire day needs to be spent on your feet or at a treadmill desk, but it is important to get in regular movement throughout your day, not just a 30 minute block at the beginning or end.

The movement fallacy.

Many people believe that if they get a workout in on a given day, it gives them the freedom to move less for the rest of the day, or to eat whatever they want for the rest of that day. Unfortunately, that’s just not true. A 30 minute moderate workout may only burn about 200-300 calories — the same amount of calories in one medium sized apple. Doesn’t seem so significant when you put it like that, does it? Regular exercise is an important component of a healthy lifestyle, but what I find to be just as important is the amount of low intensity “lifestyle” movements you do throughout the day as well.  In other words, we need to be more understanding of the difference between exercise and simple activity or daily movement, and the necessity of both in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

These daily  movements come in the form of walking, standing, moving from place to place, even just standing for a periodic stretch break if you can’t actually get away from your desk at work. We’ve all been told a thousand times now that those long periods spent sitting are literally killing us, but we’re also told that 30 minutes per day of exercise will counteract that. Breaking up your sitting times at regular intervals throughout the day is a great way to ensure that you’re moving enough to make an impact on your health and your longevity.

So how can we move more throughout the day? It’s more than just picking a parking spot a little bit farther away; sometimes we need to be a little bit more deliberate than that. The following are 4 of the most consistent strategies that I use throughout my day to move a little bit more, a little bit at a time.

  • Pretend the escalators/elevators aren’t even there. Trust me, there are days when I’m exhausted and want someone to just push me home in a wheelchair. But I would say 99% of the time, if I’m coming out of the train station or going to one of my offices, I’m taking the stairs. Even when I’m tired, even when others are hopping on the elevator. Especially when the line for the escalator is long but the stairs are empty. Seriously — you’d be surprised at how often you can get somewhere quicker by using your own two legs rather than the machinery to get there.
  • Take a lap. If you are stuck in an office building all day, like many people are, hopefully you’re not actually chained to your desk (and if you are, you might want to speak to HR about that). Take a lap around the office in between phone calls, deliver a message to someone in person rather than through email, actually walk to the proverbial water cooler and have a conversation. If you are in the depths of a huge project and can’t do any of this, at the very least stand and do some light, unobtrusive stretching at least once every hour. I’m not talking about getting on the floor in butterfly stretch, but bring your arms up, twist your torso, and just move your body, even lightly, for a few moments. The extra blood flow may even give your brain a boost, giving you a bright idea for that meeting you have coming up.
  • Be Ambitious. Sometimes things like this do take some extra effort, and require a little bit of motivation. For some of  you, this may  not be an option at all, but is along the same lines of parking at a farther parking space. For those who are train commuters in a city, try getting off the train one stop sooner than you have to. I started this habit last year, mostly because I actually like that extra walking time on the way to and from work. It gives me just a few minutes to gather my thoughts, center myself, and decompress from the “go-go-go” of my work day. Yes, you do have to give yourself extra time, and this isn’t really realistic when the weather is miserable, but for me, one or 2 extra train stops meant an extra mile or more of walking per day. That adds up!
  • Make yourself a deal. Add in little bits of actual exercise, without turning them into a full on workout. For instance, there are certain times where I’ll tell myself that every time I walk past the pull up bar in my house, I have to do one pull up. One rep seems like nothing at the time, but when I pass through the same doorway 15 times in one day, that adds up to (you guessed it) 15 pull ups. Not bad for fitness “freebies”, right? You can make a similar deal with yourself whether or not you have equipment in your home. Commercial break during your favorite show? 15 squats and 15 glute bridges. Have a bench in your bedroom that’s the perfect height for incline push ups? Every time you enter that room, bang out 10 pushups. It’s easy, and it’s not something you have to do every day, but it’ll get you moving at times when otherwise you might just be sitting around.

 

Readers: How do you move more throughout the day? Is it possible for you to take a different train stop or find another way to sneak movement into your commute? 

 

 

Treat Yo’Self: A Massage Envy Giveaway

Whew. What a whirlwind of a weekend we had around these parts!

It started off on Friday when I finally took my Health Coach exam… and passed! Yes, I’m now a Certified Health Coach through the American Counsel on Exercise (ACE). I’m so excited to have finally completed this goal, as it’s something I’ve been thinking about for quite some time and have been working hard on all summer. More will be coming on this soon, but I will very soon be offering health coaching services right here, so stay tuned for more details if you’re curious what that entails!

Following the exam, I had my baby shower on Saturday, and then on Sunday it was my birthday. What a crazy weekend! The shower was amazing, and I can’t thank my friends enough for putting together such a special day. Being able to see so many people that are special to me in one place, enjoying awesome food and laughs, and celebrating Baby R, it was just the perfect day! It really is incredible to feel so much love for this baby girl already, and to have had people come from near and far to be at the shower for us, I was truly overwhelmed. One good friend even flew in to surprise us all the way from Utah, which completely blew my mind. Baby R is one lucky lady already to have so much love in her life, I can’t wait until she can meet everyone!

I don’t have pictures yet from the shower because I wanted to soak in every moment and not be a slave to my iPhone all day, so I literally got one poorly lit picture of the (delicious) cake, and that’s it!  A couple of friends were taking pictures so I know there are a lot out there, so I’ll probably share some here in the near future.

And to top off the weekend, Sunday was truly a “treat yo’self” day for my birthday, as Will and I spent it lounging on the beach and then having dinner at our favorite place for burgers in Boston. It was exactly how I wanted to spend my day and it was perfect!

Beach

Lineage .JPG

The combination of these two made for a perfect indulgent day! 

And yes, all of this does tie in to the theme of today’s post: a massage. Because that’s what you’re all here for, isn’t it?

Since most of my summer has been spent studying my health coaching materials and prepping for baby, it has left very little time for relaxation and mama pampering time. I haven’t quite taken the time to recharge like I usually do in the summers, and the stress of all of this plus an impending move has had me wound a little bit tightly. So when Massage Envy contacted me about getting a massage, and offering a free one to one of my wonderful readers, I couldn’t pass it up!

Add on pregnancy aches and pains to my daily stresses, and my body has certainly been feeling a little bit out of whack. It took some finagling to be able to schedule a pre-natal massage, but in the end the wait was worth it.

Massage Envy

I showed up on the day of my massage, so ready to be relaxed! Upon arrival, while filling out some newcomer paperwork, I was offered a warm neck wrap while I waited. It was a very hot day and I’ve been running a little warm with this pregnancy, so I declined. However, there was a woman sitting across from me with one and it looked like a glorious way to decompress before the massage even began.

When my massage therapist called me in, she was immediately a welcoming and calming presence — I’m not lying when I say that I felt better already. She explained the entire procedure to me, as a prenatal massage is slightly different than a traditional massage, in terms of positioning, pressure, etc. Once we got started, I was was in heaven. My low back and hips have been pretty achey lately, so that was where she spent most of her time, although this was a full body 60 minute massage.

And let me tell you — those 60 minutes were absolutely what the doctor ordered. I was not just relaxed, I was practically in a coma. (I kid, I kid). Although when the massage was over, I realized that while I felt like I had been awake, the second half of it seemed to fly by, which could only mean one thing. Yep, I fell asleep. I didn’t bother to ask if I talked in my sleep or anything, but who knows what embarrassing things could have been said in that room!

Anyway, asleep, awake, or somewhere in between, I left there extremely relaxed and rejuvenated to continue on with my day (and continue studying, as this was pretty close to my exam!). The entire staff was lovely to work with, extremely courteous, and I will most certainly be going back for another massage, hopefully for at least one more before this babe makes her appearance.

But the best part about this post is that you too could have a chance at total blissed out relaxation — all of you in the Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire area have a chance to win a free 60 minute massage from Massage Envy for yourself! [<<Click the link to head over to the Massage Envy site for locations and services near you]

Unfortunately, I do have to keep this to a regional giveaway, but hopefully there are plenty of you New Englanders out there who could use this little treat. And for those outside of this region, while you won’t be eligible for this giveaway, Massage Envy does have spas available nationally so please check them out in your area for your next massage!

So how do you win? All you need to do is comment below with why YOU need a massage the most. Studying too much? Recently moved? Planning a wedding? Mama to be? Any reason is a good reason for a little pampering, if you ask me! 

The winner will be selected at random at the end of the day on Friday, July 29th, and will be announced via my Facebook page and Twitter, so please make sure to follow both… you wouldn’t want to miss out on a free massage, would you? 🙂

Good luck!!

 

 

Finding Inner Peace and Positivity

Every once in a while I have the urge for a good yoga practice, but I don’t practice regularly anymore. I keep meaning to start up again, to find a new studio, but then life gets in the way and all of a sudden it’s been months since yoga even crossed my mind. It’s  unfortunate, because each and every time I do allow myself a good yoga practice, I am reminded how much I love it and how wonderful it makes me feel, both inside and out.

Recently, although I haven’t been to a studio in quite some time, I’ve decided to treat myself to some yoga movements at home on days when I either don’t have time for the gym, or days when I simply feel that I need some healthy, flowing movement to feel my best. I sometimes just do this on my own, moving through whatever flow feels good in the moment. However, I’ve also taken to searching the corners of the internet for some guidance when my brain isn’t feeling up to the task. This has brought me to Lesley Fightmaster on Youtube, and I’ve found her videos to be just challenging enough, but also the flow and relaxation that I need sometimes.

In one of the recent videos of hers that I followed, she finished the practice with a poem by Rumi, entitled Houseguest. I just wanted to share this with all of you today, because it struck something within me that was hard to let go. I hope you enjoy as much as I did!

Houseguest 

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

-Rumi 

In that moment, this poem really resonated with me and has stuck with me ever since. I find myself thinking of it often, going back to read it over and over since that day. It’s a poem that’s been around for centuries, yet it’s one that I feel can impact each and every one of us at any time in our lives.

It just really struck me as a beautiful notion, to embrace the bad things that come into your life, instead of always trying to push them out. We expend so much energy trying to get rid of the bad in our lives in order to make room for the good, but maybe there is something to the notion that the bad things are there for a reason, and instead of always pushing, maybe sometimes we should allow these things to run their course without too much stress or negative energy expended.

Of course that’s easier said than done, but I think that we do sometimes spend too much energy worrying about the bad things, and all of that worry can cause you to miss out on something good that may come your way. We’re not all going to love all negative things that happen to us, or celebrate them by any means, but maybe trying to find some peace in them is what we’re missing. Whether or not you are a believer in “everything happens for a reason” (I am), I think that some solace can be found in the belief that even negative circumstances can bring good to some extent.

Maybe whatever we are going through makes us stronger, maybe it prepares us for a future circumstance, or maybe it just teaches us a little life lesson in humility. Whatever it is, embracing and allowing life’s changes both good and bad could lead to a little bit more inner peace, once you stop giving all of your energy to the negative things that may occur.

Let’s face it, there is no way to completely avoid all challenges or disappointments, it’s just part of life, although sometimes very difficult to understand. But maybe the key here is that we don’t always need to understand, that we can just let things be and do our best to continue on in the face of adversity. “Meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in” really resonates with me specifically. Meet things head on, take control, and do your best to turn each day into something that will make your future better.

Readers: Do you have a any specific quotes or poems that resonate with you, that you turn to at different times in your life? 

Monday Musings

I’ve decided to try something new here with these Monday Musings. Who knows how regular this will become, but I sometimes I just have a bunch of random things in my head that don’t necessarily deserve their own blog post, so I might as well just give them each a little blurb, yeah? Let’s just see how this goes.. a little stream of consciousness never killed anyone (not that I know of, anyway).

Monday

Is this winter even real? This may only pertain to you if you live in New England like me (sorry I haven’t been following the weather patterns of the rest of the world), but what the heck is going on? I have been able to get outside to run at least once almost every single week of this winter, and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change any time soon. February 1st I had a wonderful 50 degree run along the Charles River, and just yesterday I went for another glorious 50 degree run around a park near my house. I’m usually one to try to get outside and train in the cold a few times per winter, but this has just been downright glorious! Yes, I do worry about global warming, and that makes me side eye this weather a little bit. But on the flip side, I’ll keep lacing up these New Balances and hitting the road as long as the temps will let me!

NBRun

Yesterday’s run included some box jumps, push ups, and split squats at the end. Gotta love a good outdoor workout in February! 

Onward and Upward. I’ve hinted at some new things coming up for me and my blog, and I’ve finally gotten started on one of them. As of this weekend, I am officially studying for my ACE Health Coach certification, and I’m so excited about this! This is something that I’ve been talking about for a while now, and is definitely something that I want to incorporate into my future as a blogger and as a health/wellness professional. I thought I was done with exams and studying after finishing my MS and taking my CSCS exam, but nope, here we go again! Stay tuned for health coaching opportunities offered here — I’m aiming to complete my certification within 3 months.

If you live in Maine (or are visiting there)… You must find Martha Bars, and you must try one. I found these at the natural foods Co-op in Portland, ME when up for a visit a few months ago. I only grabbed a couple at the time, one of which promptly got stolen by my sneaky husband. Trust me though, he stole one from me for good reason– they are absolutely delicious! They are made locally in Freeport, and I have yet to see them anywhere outside of Maine, but hopefully they’ll hit the shelves down here in local food co-ops or Whole Foods soon. Man, they are good! Every visit since then, we’ve stocked up on these little treats, and they always seem to go way too fast.

marthabar

Cycling for a Cause. I’ll be taking part in the Cycle for Survival at Equinox here in Boston on February 27th. It’s a great organization that donates 100% of every dollar raised to rare cancer research led by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. It’s a wonderful cause and I’m excited to be a part of this! I’ll only play a small part in the day, taking about an hour long ride early in the morning, but every little bit counts. I’ll update here with donation information if you’re interested in donating.

That’s all for today! Enjoy your week everyone, Happy Monday!

 

 

Be Your “Best Right Now”

There are a few hashtags I use consistently on social media. One of them, my absolute favorite and probably most used, is #bebetter.

I truly feel that no matter where we are in life, we should be striving to be better, no matter if we’re 16, 96 or somewhere in between. But you have to understand what this means. You have to understand that just because we’re always striving to be better, that every aspect of our lives will move in a linear fashion. Your “better” at different points of your life will vary, but that doesn’t mean that progress isn’t being made. Just because you don’t get from Point A to Point B with a perfectly straight line, doesn’t mean that there isn’t value to each and every one of those ups and downs.

best right now

I think that one reason that people get so frustrated with their fitness routines and lose motivation is that they focus too much on their idea of “perfect”, and lose sight of the small things along the way that get us there (sometimes very slowly).  I wrote a post a little while ago about my ups and downs with deadlifting over the past couple of years, but that it had led to a new max lift just a short time ago. There were so many “down” times during those past two years, I think it would have been easy, and almost understandable, to just give up.

But then, a couple of weeks before my new PR, I pulled a lift that wasn’t my best by far, but was my best at that moment. And I realized just how important that moment was. If we only celebrate the times in our lives when we reach new highs, we might miss out on some important moments along the way. It is so worth it to stop and acknowledge what may have set you back, realize what you’ve done to overcome that obstacle, and celebrate that small victory, even if to everyone else you’re no better off than you were before.

Positivity feeds off of itself, and I think that so often we wait for the big changes and miss out on the small ones that are right in front of our face. And I have a hunch that this may be a big part of why so many people lose motivation to work out a couple of months into the new year. They don’t see huge results right away, the scale isn’t budging despite their best efforts, and maybe they feel like they’re doing all of that hard work for nothing. This is why it’s important to stop and recognize the small things, because most things in life are small. To see effects from training and a healthy lifestyle takes months, years of commitment to that lifestyle. If you are waiting to see grand changes and don’t take the time to spot the little ones along the way, it’s incredibly easy to just give up and say that it’s not worth it.

Maybe your running pace hasn’t improved but you might notice that when you walk up the 3 flights of stairs to your apartment, you’re breathing a little less heavy. That is an improvement worth acknowledging. Maybe you can’t give up your Oreo’s completely, but you’ve gotten pretty good at only eating a couple instead of a whole sleeve. That is an improvement worth acknowledging. The big changes and big steps don’t often come on their own and they rarely just “show up” one day out of the blue. The big changes you see in your health and fitness will be the result of many tiny building blocks, some so small you won’t even notice happening.

You used to dread going to the gym and now you are able to get out of bed early most days  without grumbling too much? Success. You used to take the escalator at every chance and now the stairs are your #1 option? Success. You used to drink 3 sodas a day and now you’re down to 1? Success.

Don’t worry about being your absolute best all the time- that’s overwhelming. Be your best right now, and acknowledge what that means to you. Make one small change today, continue on your path, and each step will lead you to your bigger goals, even when you inevitably take a few steps backward. Focus on you, focus on now, and the rest will fall into place.

Not feeling your best right now because you indulged a little last weekend? Forget it. What can you do to be your best right now, in this moment?

 

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.

happy dog

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?