FITNESS


 Sharing tips and tricks for staying active! 


BREAKING THROUGH AN EXERCISE RUT

Article originally posted on I Eat Grass

Today, I want to dive right in and talk about overcoming the dreaded exercise rut! I myself am just coming out of one and back with a vengeance and taking names.  I decided I wanted to compete earlier this year when all the hours I was logging at the gym started taking a toll. I was getting bored and very resentful of the stairmaster, the treadmill, the elliptical, the weight rack, okay, you get the point.  I knew that if I wanted to reach my goal I would have to get over the rut and keep moving.

Below are some ways to help you bust through a fitness funk!

1) Rest! Yes, I know this may seem counterintuitive, but if you are just going through the motions of your exercise routine, you will end up doing yourself more harm than good.  I kept holding myself to the belief that I had to keep going six days a week no matter what, but I was burned out and unmotivated while doing it.  This ain’t good!  Our bodies need time to rest and recover and sometimes just one day a week isn’t enough.  I allowed myself to take a couple of weeks off (that’s right–weeks!) from my intense training schedule so that I could reboot!

Now, I still was active, just with a more moderate plan, and I reduced the number of days I was training per week.  I still got in my physical activity, but it was more moderate, like a long walk outside or some push-ups at home.  There is a fine line between resting and stopping altogether, so find that happy medium.

2) Try Something New! Of course you will get bored doing the same routine day in and day out. And not only will you get bored, but your body will get used to the movements and you will stop seeing results. All that work and no results? No thanks.  I like variety in life and especially in my workouts.  I decided to add some yoga into the mix!  Yoga is a fantastic workout and great for your overall health. Adding this into my routine helped improve my flexibility and the meditative properties definitely help me manage the demands of my daily grind.  So, I encourage you to take that new class or join the running club you’ve been contemplating for months, it may just be the key you need to unlock the plateau prison you’ve been trapped in!

3)Re-focus- Okay, so not to get all woo-woo on you, but sometimes it’s necessary to take a moment and remember why you started a fitness program in the first place.  Go back to that moment when you decided to put down the bon-bons and pick up the barbells.  Whether it was to compete or to lose some extra pounds or just feel better, there is a reason you decided to up the ante and let your inner Rock come out!

Also remember to look at how far you’ve come and don’t take any stride you make for granted.  I am so guilty of wanting things to happen overnight and it just doesn’t work like that.  I had to start being more patient with myself and my body’s progression.  I started just focusing on the work and know the results will come in due time.


 FIT TO TRAVEL

 Article originally posted on I Eat Grass


I’m just returning from a week of vacay with my family in Palm Springs!  Now, being on vacation did not mean that I did not stick to my fitness routine! When I was packing for my trip I shared on Facebook how my workout clothes took up more than half the space in my suitcase.  Good problem to have don’t ya think?  If I have to leave out a pair of my stiletto heels to make room for my workout gear, then so be it.  Well, not actually, I ended up taking two suitcases!

Anyway, it’s very important to not throw all of your hard work to the wayside just because you’re traveling.  Traveling and the holiday season are two things that can surely sabotage your fitness goals.  However, with thoughtful planning, you can kick back AND burn some calories while you’re away!

HIT THE HOTEL GYM

We stayed at a resort that had a 24 hour gym and our villa happened to be steps away from the facility. Talk about not having any excuses!  Most hotels these days have a gym, so unless you’re staying at the Bates Motel (and if that’s the case you’ve got other things to worry about) then you should have no problem getting in there and sweating it out!  If you do find yourself staying somewhere without a gym then you can always go to a nearby park, or if that’s not an option, do some bodyweight exercises in your room.

Exercises such as push-ups, squats, walking lunges and crunches require no equipment other than yourself.

TAP THE LOCALS

Seek out some fun physical activities in the area that you can check out.  I did a Google search for hiking while I was there and came across a hiking group that is open to visitors joining!  I unfortunately didn’t have the right type of gear to partake during this trip, but it was good to know about that option for the next time I’m in town.  We spent a little time at the Coachella Valley Preserve and there is a 2.4 mile trail you can do there. Unfortunately, my mom definitely prefers Saks Fifth Avenue over REI, and was NOT down for the cause. Oh well, another item on my to-do list for next year!

So, my advice here is to venture out and see what the local area has to offer in the way of physical activity, you may be surprised what you find and great people you can meet!


GRUB WITH CARE

Okay, now this is a biggie.  We all know (well, should know) that achieving physical results is 80 percent diet, so I suggest you not develop amnesia around this fact when traveling.

For starters, as a vegan, it definitely is beneficial to bring your own snacks that will keep along your travels and do some research to find some vegan eats in the area where you will be staying.
Since Palm Springs was a road trip and we were staying a week,  I brought my whole kitchen 
some food from the crib to take along with me.

I knew I would be doing some cooking and I also wanted to be sure to stick to my eating schedule as much as possible.  Now, even with that said, I still allowed myself a few indulgent treats while I was there.

French toast happens to be one of my favorite things, so when we visited The Palm Greens Café, I couldn’t pass that up and so glad I didn’t!  I also made healthful choices while dining out.  My family is not vegan so when we had lunch at the neighboring hotel, I enjoyed a Greek salad without the feta, as pictured above!  So, the main thing I want to stress here is be as mindful of your choices when traveling as you do at home, don’t use being out of town as an excuse to go completely off track.

Seriously, take a hike! Hiking happens to be one of my favorite activities when I need to switch up my exercise routine.  When I don’t feel like hitting the gym, getting outdoors in nature is the best escape for me.  According to this article from Fit Day, hiking is not only good for your body, but it also helps you get your mind right!  I am so fortunate to live in a city where there are numerous hiking spots, breathtaking views and great year-round weather because I definitely can use a mental break every now and then. Let’s not also forget to mention that it’s FREE. With hiking, nature is your gym, minus all of the pushy sales people and membership fees. Win!
Still need more convincing?  GoodHiker.com  gives you 10 good reasons why hiking is beneficial, including:
  • Improved cardio-respiratory fitness (heart, lungs, blood vessels)
  • Improved muscular fitness
  • Lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke
  • Lower risk of high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes
  • Lower risk of high cholesterol and triglycerides
Hiking also engages multiple muscle groups while burning up some serious calories!  The muscles most worked are, glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, abs, lower back, obliques, ankle and knee complex and your inner and outer thighs according to Fitness Blender. You may be sore just thinking about it, but the burn and soreness you get from a good hike is one of the best there is, in my opinion.

Hiking can also be a great social activity.  I never hike alone because I think it’s safer to go with someone.  So, I always go with at least one person and this past weekend, I hiked at one of my favorite spots here in L.A., Griffith Park and went with a group. I joined my friend Kimatni who runs Fit Fathers, and it was awesome. You can’t beat a fab workout AND great conversation (in between catching your breath while walking up those inclines).

If you’re looking for some folks to hit some trails with in your neck of the woods, I suggest checking out Meetup.com.  I always get notifications for hiking groups in my area and this a good way to find hidden hiking gems you never even knew existed close to your crib!
Hike to the Hollywood Sign

Finally, since I adore you so much, I found this link on the American Trails website that gives you trail information by state.  So you ready to get together a group of friends and get your hiking gear on now?  I thought so! Now, for real, go take a hike!



LET'S GO SPINNING! 

Article originally posted on I Eat Grass

So for part of my birthday present earlier this year, my boss gave me two classes to Soul Cycle.  Now, the average person could take this type of gift two ways. The first is, you need to get off your butt and exercise. The second is, I know you love to exercise. I was actually THRILLED because spinning happens to be my favorite form of cardio exercise!  She had already excitedly told me how much she loved Soul Cycle in particular and that it was definitely a turned up version of spin.  Think exercise meets the nightclub, if you will!

Well, cut to a couple of weeks ago when I finally made my first reservation to attend class.  Let’s not get into why my birthday was in April and I was JUST now using my birthday gift!  In any event, after finally finding a class that wasn’t already booked (these classes fill up quickly), I was ready and fired up to go experience spin on steroids!  Okay, not the best reference in a fitness blog, but you get the idea.

Anyway, I got there and because I don’t have spin shoes of my own (my exact birth date is April 14th and my size is 8 just in case) I had to rent some, yes, just like at the bowling alley.  However, since it was my first time, the rental was complimentary instead of the usual $3.o0 fee!  I was given a tour of the studio and some tips for my ride and then taken to the lockers to store my stuff during class.  No locks were necessary since it was a digital combo that you come up with yourself to use- pretty high-tech and convenient huh?

So, when the room was ready, I walked in and got on my assigned bike.  When you reserve your class, you look at a map of the room and choose a bike.  I had chosen one in the back (same thing I used to do in math class in high school) since it was my first time and at the recommendation of my boss.  She had mentioned the more seasoned riders tend to take the front and really help carry the class.  I think this was probably the most nervous I have ever been taking a fitness class!

It was 6:00 a.m., on a Friday, so there were only about 12 or so people in the class.  The room was dark only illuminated by a candle.  The instructor came and cheerfully introduced herself to me and then introduced me to the class as a first time soul rider.  Then, it was time to get busy.  She got on her bike, cranked up that music and we got going!  Now, with Soul Cycle, not only do you ride, but during the class you are also provided with small hand weights to use as part of the ride as well.  So, about halfway through there were various arm exercises to do while pedaling.  By this point, I was already sweating up a STORM and my legs were on FIRE!

My boss was definitely right, this class was like no other!  The ride was intense, but so was the atmosphere and the music was bouncing off the walls just like at a nightclub.  The music is really integral for the class because you are really riding to the beat, so for those of you that may be rhythmically challenged and have issues with coordination, be aware, but do it anyway! :-)

It was a challenging, fun and extreme workout and my Polar monitor was on the blink so I wasn’t able to see how many calories I burned in those 45 minutes, but I’m assuming it was one million–okay, I exaggerate!  I did fell that I left my soul on that bike for sure!I got a killer workout and truly felt it for the next couple of days.

Now, if you are not in Los Angeles or New York City and don’t have a Soul Cycle to try out, don’t hang your head down low just yet!  There are spin classes in various places around the country where you can still get a wonderful workout!  I have taken spin classes in various places and have enjoyed them all!  It’s a great exercise you can do year round if you live in a place that makes bike riding outside challenging during certain times of the year.

There are also tremendous health benefits associated with spinning.  FitDay lists quite a few benefits including burning about 500 calories in a 45 minute class (not quite the million I spoke of earlier, but still), increasing muscle endurance and building muscle tone! It’s a great overall type of exercise in my opinion and all of the classes I have taken have been quite high energy with enthusiastic instructors pushing and encouraging you throughout the ride!  If you haven’t taken a class yet, I highly recommend you put it on your to-do list,  I don’t think you’ll regret it!  Hope to see you on a bike soon!



FOAM ROLLING

Article originally posted on I Eat Grass


When I first saw a foam roller, I thought it was a nice and cushy tool that was soft and soothing.  I would watch people using them at the gym all the time and would tell myself I needed to get with the stretchy, relaxy program!  Well, upon further investigation, it turns out it is NOT AT ALL what I envisioned it to be.  Talk about being fooled!
The foam roller is not bliss, it is hard and cruel in my opinion!  However, I must begrudgingly admit that it is a necessary evil if you will.  It turns out there are tons of benefits to foam rolling and I even just recently purchased a mini-sized one to use at the crib!

Foam rolling offers many of the same benefits as a sports massage, but without the dent in your wallet.  The foam roller stretches out your muscles and tendons as well as breaks down scar tissue and soft tissue adhesions. By using your own body weight on a foam roller you are performing a self-massage or myofascial release, breaking up trigger points and increasing blood flow and circulation to the soft tissues.

There are several other health benefits associated with foam rolling which include, help with the prevention of injuries, keeping your flexibility on point and relieving sore spots to name a few. I purchased mine specifically with the latter in mind.  I was able to purchase a smaller sized one from Amazon for around $10.  You can of course go to you local sporting goods store and fine one, but I like inexpensive, free delivery and I had some Amazon gift card money to use!

I knew it would be wise of me to have my own at home. I  put it to the test after I got finished with a grueling workout with my trainer.  I was already sore before the workout was complete, so I KNEW I would be feeling it for a few days and boy was I!  I needed to release the soreness I had, specifically in my legs.

So, I took the foam roller out and began doing a lot of the rolling techniques I had found on YouTube. OH.MY.GOODNESS. Talk about PAIN! I was literally in tears as I rolled my muscles out because they were so tight and sore, but after I was done, I could immediately tell the difference.  It definitely loosened up all the knots and I did feel some relief! So, again, the foam roller is what I’m currently referring to as a necessary evil! LOL!  If you haven’t started rolling, I do recommend it contrary to what my thoughts about it might suggest.  The benefits far outweigh my whining about a little discomfort.  So, let’s roll!


 NO GYM? NO PROBLEM!

Article originally posted on I Eat Grass

One of the excuses I often hear people make about not exercising is that they don’t have a gym membership. Really? C’mon now, you gotta do better than that! I don’t know where people came up with the idea that you have to spend money to be physically active! All you need is your body, some space and sometimes an imagination to break a sweat! I JUST got another gym membership this year after not having one for at least three years.

The only reason I have one now is because I get a free one from my job (great perk I know)! Anyway, over the years I’ve built up my own little arsenal of fitness toys and DVDs, but even if I didn’t have the additional equipment, I would still find a way to move this body!

There are tons of benefits associated with bodyweight exercises. Performing exercises such as push-ups, squats, lunges, jumping jacks, running in place, burpees, mountain climbers–okay, I could go on forever, but you get the point, can all be done sans any equipment at all. All of above mentioned exercises you can easily do from the comfort of your own home. Another alternative is to hit the great outdoors when the weather is permitting. Go to a public park for a run or brisk walk, which wont cost you a dime.

Even though I do now have a gym membership, I sometimes still opt to switch things up and workout outside. Luckily, living in LA makes this possible year round. I find that exercising outdoors challenges my body in a different way than when doing so indoors and apparently I’m right about that!

This morning I didn’t have to go to the gym for my workout because I was only training shoulders and the dumbbells I needed to use, I have at home!  Again, as I mentioned, even if you don’t have any exercise equipment at home (yet), you can still benefit from the bodyweight exercises tremendously.  Below is a routine that I do when I’m working out at home and a little short on time.
  • 100 jumping jacks
  • 50 mountain climbers
  • 50 push-ups
  • 4 sets of 12 alternating lunges
  • 100 crunches.
This is just an example of what you can do, but the options are endless.  Do whatever you like, just make sure you are doing SOMETHING!

I know it’s the holiday season and it’s very easy to get so caught up in festivities that you can neglect having a routine.  Just remember that your body doesn’t know what time of year it is and being active is a year-round commitment!  So, if you have been making excuses about not exercising, I challenge you to drop those today and move somethin’! Gym not required. :-)


FORGET THE NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS!

Article originally posted on I Eat Grass

Yup! I said it. Ditch those resolutions!  How many times have you said that come January 1st, you are going to eat healthy and exercise regularly only to find yourself back in your not-so-great habits as early as February?  No judgement, it happens and most of us have been there.  This year, I challenge you to not make some grand statement about getting in gear with your physical goals, and just do the work.  I encourage you to cease giving yourself license to go crazy with the eating on special occasions and especially on the holidays because you are “going to get on track” when the new year comes.  Your body doesn’t know when it’s the holidays, so being good to your body is a 365-days-a-year, lifetime commitment.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I do believe it’s beneficial to set measurable goals.  For example, the stairs you see pictured are at a park near where I live in Los Angeles. Talk about a workout! Making it to the top just one time is a huge feat, but once I conquered that, I had to push myself to do more each time, eventually making it to six times!  I continued to push myself a little more each time I went.  I believe that’s how life should be, a daily resolve to do better than the day before.  Striving to live a healthy and vibrant life on a daily basis will diminish the need to make new year’s resolutions because you will already be so on point throughout the year.

Concentrate on setting goals to keep up and improve upon the awesome health habits you exhibit daily and when the new year rolls around, you will just be gearing up to take things to the next level, whatever that may be for you. I intend to keep pushing to transform my body even further in order to realize my end goal of competing next year.

Make 2014 the year of making a daily commitment to stay consistently active.  You got this, so let’s do it!


FINDING MY INNER YOGI 

Article originally posted on I Eat Grass

For this week’s fit journey, we have a very special featured guest!  The one and only Ayinde, head muncher here at IEG!  I reached out to Ayinde to ask if he would do me the favor of a private yoga session.  I know he has been practicing for years and I thought it would be a great experience for me to get individual instruction.  He agreed, we set a date and I asked him to go easy on me, to which he replied, “I can’t make any promises.” #blankface.

So, when our meeting date rolled around, I gathered up a yoga mat and some nerve and headed over for our session.  Now, originally I told him I would be good with about a 30 minute session.  He took no regard to my suggestion. Class lasted for at least an hour and a half.  Don’t quote me on this and DON’T ask Ayinde!  All  know is that I was trembling and sweating bullets on the mat and it felt like we were practicing for hours!

I know you’re probably thinking, “what’s the big deal? You’re in shape right, you workout regularly!”  Yes, I do, however, yoga definitely challenges your body in an entirely different way than traditional weight training in my opinion.  I believe it requires a different sort of concentration and focus and this session pushed me beyond my limits.  Ayinde would not let me give up on myself or dare say “I can’t”! I rolled my eyes at him on several occasions, which he caught by the way! Ha!


I have taken many yoga classes before and none have challenged me like this session. When it’s just you and the instructor there is no room for shortcuts.  Yoga is something I intend to incorporate more into my exercise regimen.  I think it will help tremendously with breathing, flexibility and core strength.  It also provides the meditative quality that is extremely beneficial.  Ayinde gave me some suggestions and poses he would recommend I incorporate on a regular basis.




My body was screaming all sorts of curses at Ayinde for days after our session.  However, even with all of the challenges and soreness, it was hands down the best yoga instruction I’ve ever had.  It will prove difficult to go back to group classes now.  Thanks a lot Ayinde (insert sarcasm). Okay, no really, thank you for pushing me outside my comfort zone for a wonderful practice.  If you’ve never tried yoga, I highly recommend you give it a shot.  Your body, mind and spirit will truly appreciate it.  Namaste!


 

THE BENEFITS OF MASSAGE

Article originally posted on I Eat Grass


Image from Runners World.com
 One of the greatest decisions I made last year was to treat myself to a Massage Envy membership in order to build getting massages on a regular basis into my life.  I knew it would also probably be a good idea since I was going to be amping up my workout routine as I set forth on this fitness competition journey.  I’ve known for years how beneficial massages are, but never viewed it as a necessity until I started getting them on a regular basis!

I really enjoy my membership because what I pay monthly allows me to get massages at an affordable rate and when I go for additional massages throughout the month, I’m able to get an even greater discount.  They have over 800 locations, so if you’re looking to build massage into your lifestyle, I highly recommend it!

Now, let’s get into the “why” of it all!  Massage boasts huge health benefits.  It’s not just all massage oil, candles and light music!  Although of course that helps, but according to this article from the Mayo Clinic, studies show that is an effective treatment for reducing stress, pain and muscle tension.  The article also states that massage therapy can help with:
I bet you just thought you were just getting a full body rub down with no strings attached- well I guess depending on your situation and who’s giving you the massage! In any event, getting massages has done wonders for my body and my mind!  When I’m able to just go and allow myself to fully relax and get someone to work the tension, soreness and stress out of my body, I leave feeling like a brand new person!

Now, if you’re not able to shell out the dough right now to pay for regular massages, do not fret!  This article from prevention.com gives you tips on how you can give yourself a massage!  Also, with Valentine’s Day upon us, if you have a special person in your life, why not give them the gift of some massage therapy, here are some techniques to help you appear to be a pro!

It doesn’t matter if you purchase massage therapy sessions or decide to DIY at home, I highly encourage you to build it into your life.  You are worth it and you will be doing your body a huge favor!


So what was the prep like?

Those final weeks leading up to the show, I was still working out the same, but without my precious complex carbs, i.e. oats and yams.  I also had to cut out my beloved avocado as well.

So what did I eat you ask? Tofu, veggies and a few pieces of fruit.  Yup, that’s all she wrote!  I think I did okay with it considering it was the first time I had put my body through something like this, but for the most part it wasn’t a walk on the beach!  Also, on the day before the show and on show day, my water was cut as well. So, I was only allotted eight ounces to SIP on throughout the day and no, that isn’t a typo – EIGHT OUNCES!  I do believe above all else, that was the MOST difficult part of the process.  By the end of the day Friday, my energy was completely gone (my last workout was that Thursday morning prior to the show on Saturday).  Thank goodness my mom was in town to see the show.  She traveled all the way from Northern, VA to cheer me on and she was a huge help to me on Friday.

I’m also glad that I took off from my job for two days before and two days after as well.  I really needed the time to recuperate and of course also kick it with my mom!  Those last couple of days before the show were filled with all of my primping appointments, mani and pedi, eyebrow and bikini waxing and tanning. The day of the show, my trainer Tina met me while I was getting my makeup done and then we headed to the venue to wait and wait some more!

So what was the show like? 

There were about 400 competitors in this show so it was a looonngg day!  The competition is divided into two parts.  Pre-judging (I’m still confused as to why they call this “pre-judging” because it’s when they decide for the most part who placed and will be getting a trophy at the night show), anyway, this lasted from 10:00 a.m. and didn’t finish up until about 4:00 or so.  Then, we had to be back to wait around some more for the night show that started at 6:00 p.m.  The bikini division was last to be seen in the day show and then we were somewhere in the middle during the night show.  It was still so long.  The good thing is that although my water was cut, I was able to snack on almonds and peanut butter cups to give me some energy and then between the two shows, Tina brought a salad for me to have.   The night did not end until close to 11:00 p.m. and boy was I ready to crawl into bed! I had been up since 5:00 a.m.!
Stage shots!

Unfortunately, I did not place in the top five of my category.  I was disappointed of course, but bounced back fairly quickly from it and was still so proud of myself for seeing this through and getting up on that stage.  I smiled the entire time and I’m happy with what I delivered. I do know the areas I would like to improve upon before I do my next show (yes, there will be another in the near future) but it was all a great learning experience.  I am very proud to say that I did this as a vegan and naturally.  No, fat burners, body wraps or strange supplements along the way.  I just focused on training hard and sticking to my meal plan.  Next time I would like to find a way to do the prep without the dramatic cutting of carbs but we shall see.  I’m still learning.  I also met some wonderful ladies.  I was so glad to see what a supportive environment it was amongst competitors.

Post competition, I am still training and working on improving and getting stronger.  I am also still sticking to my clean eating with an occasional treat or two. :-)

I learned so much about myself and feel stonger as a person inside and out!  I look forward to the next chapter in my fitness journey!