Thursday, June 23, 2016

The First Year

About a year-ish ago (I can't remember exactly but it was somewhere around this time last year), I made a commitment to myself, that I was going to start working toward becoming the best, healthiest, strongest, and fittest version of myself. I started slowly, with a little bit of running, and added in strength training. My eating habits are still a work in progress, but I've made some small changes and am still working on creating a healthy mindset and habits around food. Before this year, the longest I'd ever stayed with a workout program was probably around 3 months, usually much less. I'm so excited and proud to say that a year later, I'm still committed and still working just as hard, if not harder.

I knew from the get-go that this was different from every other time in the past that I had committed to a new workout program or way of eating. There are many reasons for this...

1. I was focused on habit change - one at a time, and not a complete lifestyle overhaul all at once (been there, done that, failed miserably). Habits are SO important, because what we do consistently determines who we become.
 2. I took tiny steps forward, never biting off more than I could chew, and have learned to be OK with slow, steady, gradual progress instead of rapid, unsustainable results.

3. I made consistency the goal, not weight or size or shape. It has never been about achieving a certain weight or size for me. That's not to say that I don't have esthetic goals, they're just (usually) not a top priority for me. I'm much more interested in achieving the consistency that leads to healthy habit formation for the long haul, and trusting that the physical results will eventually follow. As one of my #hhhmsisters so eloquently said, "I don't have a goal weight or size, I have a goal lifestyle." BOOM!

4. I wanted to do it, and I wanted to do it for me. I was motivated and excited to see what I was capable of. And every time I reach a goal or improve in some way, it motivates and excites me even more.

5. I've surrounded myself with support - both in real life and online. I have an incredibly supportive husband and a great group of friends who are each on their own healthy living journeys. I have a tribe of over 10,000 like-minded women in an online group I belong to. I'm extremely selective in who I follow on social media, and choose to surround myself with only inspiration and support.
And maybe most importantly, it's become an act of self-care, not a punishment or reward based on how I've behaved. I was finally able to see that I'm worth investing in, and treating my body well has become my way of showing it respect and gratitude for all the things it's done (and does) for me.

I also know that this is a forever kind of commitment. I'm committed to my health and wellness for the long run, not just for the next 21 or 30 or 90 days. This is my lifestyle. With that perspective in mind, I know that I have all the time in the world to reach my goals, and there's a degree of freedom that comes with that - I don't have to scramble to make every detail of my life, every bite of food I consume, and every workout perfect right now, and then feel like a failure when I inevitably screw up. This is just my life - it's not a competition, it's not a race, there is no wagon to fall off of, and the world will not come to a screeching halt if I miss a workout (or 3 or 4) or eat a little too much chocolate. This is just my life - day in, day out, doing the best I can to become the best, strongest, and healthiest version of myself.

Monday, May 30, 2016

#FreeTheLegs

A few weeks ago, on a really warm evening, I ran (outside) in shorts for the first time this year.
This is probably not a big deal to most people, and is no longer a big deal to me, but it sure used to be.

For years, I refused to wear anything but crops and longer shorts, even on the hottest days of summer. I felt uncomfortable revealing so much of something that I thought was so ugly. I was sure that everyone was looking at me and thinking that my legs were ugly too, and wishing that I'd please, for the love, cover them up! I think, somewhere in my subconscious, I actually probably believed that I didn't have the right to wear cute shorts because my legs aren't long and lean and toned.

I was blessed with the genetics for wide hips, big thighs, a full booty, cellulite, and spider and varicose veins. My skin is also a lovely, bright shade of white, and doesn't veer too far from that (and I prefer to keep it that way!).

I was conditioned from early in life, like all women are, to believe that these things are flaws. Not physical characteristics that I actually have very limited control over, but real problems to be fixed or simply hidden away, so as not to offend or disgust anyone. By thinking that way, we allow our bodies to be turned into decorative objects, existing only for the viewing pleasure of others, and I refuse to give that power away any longer.

In the last year, I've grown so much in my ability to see past the appearance of my legs, and instead, focus on what they can DO. It makes me sad now to think about all the time and mental energy I wasted on hating them and complaining about them and attempting to "fix" them or make them look different than they were designed to look. I choose to stop wasting my life worrying about something so completely inconsequential.
I see now that these legs are built for strength and power. They can carry two 30lb children at the same time. They can get me up and down stairs multiple times a day. They can chase my daughters without getting tired. They can run and jump and squat for as long as I ask them to. In over 30 years, they have yet to fail me.

I still, of course, have days when I dislike my legs and wish they looked more toned and lean. Loving myself doesn't mean that I always love everything, all the time. But those days are becoming fewer and fewer, and when they come, I'm prepared to sit with those thoughts for a minute or two, before moving on to something worth my time and energy...like making my legs even stronger.

This summer I'm going to #freethelegs! 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Lessons Learned

I was 3 months postpartum after having my second daughter. It was January, and everyone else was starting new workout programs, talking about getting fit and healthy and in shape. I looked at myself and thought that I could stand to lose a bit more baby weight, so I decided to join in. I bought a popular home workout program that promised results in just 21 days. This program required me to workout 6 days a week, do an insane amount of crunches, and restrict my calorie intake. I thought this all sounded reasonable and doable. How wrong I was.

For starters, attempting to fit in a workout 6 days a week when you’re fairly newly postpartum, busy caring for a newborn and a toddler, more exhausted than you’ve ever been because you're up in the night feeding, postpartum emotions and hormones are still running high, and you have the stress of trying to figure out the new normal of adding a member to the family…well, it’s just insane to think that’s a feasible plan. People congratulated me on my effort though, and made sure they acknowledged the fact that my body was getting smaller. What they should have told me was to take a freaking nap!


Second, I shudder now at the thought of putting my healing core through so many crunches, but at the time, I truly didn’t know any better. I thought that’s how you toned and firmed up the mommy-tummy, so I crunched away. I'm actually still a little shocked at the lack of knowledge that I had, and I'm upset that our medical system fails so many women - not once during my 2 pregnancies did any health care professional ever mentioned to me the terms 'diastasis recti' (abdominal muscle separation), or 'pelvic floor dysfunction' - extremely common, but treatable, issues for most pregnant and postpartum women. I had no idea the damage I could have done to my body, and luckily, I didn’t do any. I do know of women, however, who have done serious damage to their bodies by exercising inappropriately in those early postpartum days (and yes, 3 months postpartum is EARLY!) and working too hard, too fast, too soon after pregnancy and childbirth. Postpartum bodies are fragile bodies - they're healing bodies that require special care and attention. We would never expect a person who had knee surgery to jump back into their previous exercise regime without proper healing and rehab - but yet postpartum women who are back in the gym right away running and jumping and lifting weights are held up as superheroes.

And finally, the fact that I thought it was OK to restrict calories at a time when I was still healing from childbirth, breastfeeding, and requiring an insane amount of energy just to make it through each day is extremely upsetting to me now. I’m lucky that I thought this one through a little more, and didn’t restrict to the extent the program wanted me too, or I may have been in serious trouble. If anything, I should have been eating MORE calories at that point. Breastfeeding women NEED calories…carbohydrates, protein, and a good amount of healthy fat are essential in order to produce enough good quality milk to sustain an infant whose sole source of nutrition is breastmilk. At only 3 months old, my daughter was nowhere near ready to wean, so unless I had chosen to switch to formula, I could have put her health at risk too.

So, I guess you could read all that and come to the conclusion that I just made a bad choice, and lucky for me, no harm came from it. I agree, but I also know that there’s so much more to it than just one woman making one bad choice. This scenario is entirely too common, and, unfortunately, not every woman escapes unharmed. Why did I even feel it was necessary to get ‘in shape’ (whatever that means) at that point and to go to such potentially unhealthy and harmful lengths to achieve it? It's likely because everywhere I look, I see the expectations and ideals and they've been so ingrained in my thoughts. I see the magazines every time I’m in the grocery store, with front page photos of women looking ‘perfect’. I see the pictures of celebrities back in their skinny jeans and bikinis within weeks of giving birth. The fitness industry is no better, with its praise of women returning to intense training and snapping back to ‘pre-baby shape’ almost immediately, without mention of any possible risk involved. This is what we’re told is ‘normal’ and ‘beautiful’ and ‘desirable’. We’re told that this is what we should want, too, no matter what it takes or what damage we may do to our bodies.

It makes me so upset and sad and angry.

I hate that we live in a world where women feel 'ugly' and 'fat' immediately after being a part of one of life's most beautiful and miraculous experiences.

It makes me angry that our stretch marks and round tummies and extra skin are seen as so hideous that fragile and vulnerable postpartum women are immediately pounced on by salespeople (usually other women) attempting to sell them products in an effort to hide all evidence that a miracle took place within those exhausted bodies.

It makes me sad that so many women - myself included - have fallen victim to this thinking and sacrificed so much of the limited time and energy we have trying to measure up to some ridiculous and impossible standard of what a woman's body has to look like, especially in those fleeting days when we should be savouring every moment with our newborns and taking plenty of time to rest and recover from childbirth.

When will it end? How do we change this conversation and make the focus in postpartum rest, recovery, return to function, and healing from the inside out, with a slow, steady, and sustainable approach?


  --------------------------------------

In case you're wondering, I finished most of my 21 days of workouts, then did nothing for about 4 months (and to this day, I still cringe a little at the thought of me at 3 months postpartum doing those workouts - and I've not done a single crunch since, nor do I plan to!!). I knew there was no way I would be able to (nor did I want to) sustain a 6-day-a-week training plan at that point in my life. Around the same time, I joined an incredible Facebook community built around healthy, simple, and sustainable habits, and my entire mindset and approach to fitness and wellness was turned on its head. I've slowly, over time, implemented some solid healthy habits that I've been able to maintain, some for almost a year now. I took what many would see as a huge step backward by scaling back my workouts for a while and started going to physiotherapy and doing an online program (at 9 months postpartum) to work towards rehabbing my core and pelvic floor - something I should have done months earlier. I started back to regular running and workouts at about 8 months postpartum, starting slowly and building gradually. I know now my body is healed and able to function fully, so I can safely do the things I want to do in the gym and in life.



These days, I'm loving my workouts - usually about 4 days a week - with as much additional intentional movement I can fit in. I mix running with weight lifting and metabolic conditioning, and I take lots of walks. I try to get to bed in time to get about 8 hours in each night, give or take. I try to eat a balanced diet based on moderation, and drink plenty of water. I make (or take) time as often as I can for self care, usually in the form of reading, writing, walking, or just getting out of the house alone for a bit. I'm making peace with my body and myself - I've written previously about self-love here and here - and, as always, it's a process, but it's getting easier all the time. I'm truly feeling healthier, fitter, stronger, and happier than I've felt in a long time.

Friday, March 18, 2016

And....I'm Back!

And hopefully, I'll stick around for a while!

This blog has obviously been very neglected over these last few months as I returned back to work from maternity leave and haven't had any time to sit down and write. Life can be crazy at times, but I've realized that it's probably not going to slow down any time soon, so instead of putting things on hold until 'a better time', I need to just make use of whatever little windows of time I can find to work on the things that I care about, including blogging.

So, since I haven't posted anything since my October goals, I guess a good place to start would be to see where I'm at with those and give a little update as to how far I've come in the last few months (if you follow me on Instagram, you've probably seen some of this already).

To recap, my October goals were as follows:

    1. 15 workouts - running at least twice a week, and one or two strength training sessions a week.
We had colds and flus and everything in between pretty much non-stop from October to January, and with the adjustment of going back to work, my workouts dropped off a bit in the fall. But with my 10K race coming up, I've been running at least 3 days a week since early January, so I've been right around 12 for the last couple months. I'd like to see this number go up a bit, but I know that right now, 12 is doable and sustainable for me, and that's more important than setting a target number of workouts each month and then stressing if I don't make it. I'm also feeling VERY ready to take a break from running so much...I'm really looking forward to getting back into more strength training as soon as the race is over.

My first EVER 10K!!


    2. Maintain water intake at 1.5-2L per day.
My water intake is usually really good on days I'm at work, but for some reason, I forget to drink as much when I'm at home. I may need to go back to setting alarms through the day. I also KNOW that I need to cut back on coffee - especially since I like my coffee with LOTS of cream and sugar and flavour, and with spring and summer on the way, iced coffee is my weakness!! I'm not going to cut it out completely, but I could definitely stand to cut back!



    3. Prep healthy snacks and some meals at the beginning of the week to help ease the transition back to work and to make it easier to make healthy choices when life is crazy.
This doesn't happen every week, but it sure is nice when it does. My snacking isn't always the best, so I know that getting back on board with having healthy snacks ready to go will make choosing healthier options that much easier.



    4. Go easy on myself - have lots of patience and grace for myself and my family as life is about to get pretty busy and we're all going through a huge adjustment.


    5. Start a gratitude journal.
These two kinda go together, and I think I've done well. I never actually started a physical gratitude journal, so I still want to do that, but I've done well with cutting back on negative self-talk and seeing the positive in myself and others. My body image is still a work in progress; there are good days and bad days, which I think will probably always be the case. I've made sure that I'm surrounding myself with positivity and encouragement and support on social media, which has been huge for me.

So, that's where I'm at right now. My first 10K race is tomorrow (!!!) and while I'm pretty nervous, I know I'll be able to finish. I'm so proud of how far I've come and of all the hard work I've put in...even if I don't have a great time, I know that finishing this race will be a huge accomplishment and a pretty major milestone in my life. I know I'll always be able to look back at this race and use it as an example of how I'll always be able to do anything I put my mind to, even if it seems impossible.


I'll be back soon with some new goals for March & April, but in the meantime I'd love to hear what you're working on right now...leave a comment with your current goals!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

September Review + October Goals


dmelchordiaz / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND


Welcome October! It's my favorite month of the year...my birthday, my daughter's first birthday, fall is in full swing...it's a good month! This year is going to be a little challenging, since I'll be heading back to work from my year-long maternity leave, but I'm feeling pretty good about the change. I know there will be an adjustment period, but we'll take it a day at a time and find ways to incorporate my new healthy habits into our new normal.

I didn't get my 20 workouts in that I was hoping for - I think I was somewhere around 12, which isn't great, but not terrible either. I think with being back at work, 20 is going to be pretty unrealistic anyway, so I'm going to try for 15 in October. I've been focusing mainly on running, and have now done two 5Ks! I'm really excited about that, and definitely want to keep the momentum going.

First 5K since 2007!!
Nutrition-wise, things have been OK. I'm doing much better with water intake. I finally decided to set an alarm to go off every 2 hours, which is my cue to fill my bottle or glass, then I try to have it emptied before the next alarm goes. It's working really well, and on the days that I remember to set alarms, I'm easily getting in at least 2L of water. I've been making better choices for meals too. Most days I'm trying to have a big salad with some protein for lunch which I think is helping to curb my afternoon sweet cravings. We did seem to have a lot of dessert in our house this month however, so my evening snacking wasn't great. I know October's going to be tough too, with two birthdays and Thanksgiving coming up.

I guess all in all, September wasn't terrible, but I definitely need to keep working! So, here are October's goals:

1. 15 workouts - running at least twice a week, and one or two strength training sessions a week.

2. Maintain water intake at 1.5-2L per day.

3. Prep healthy snacks and some meals at the beginning of the week to help ease the transition back to work and to make it easier to make healthy choices when life is crazy.

4. Go easy on myself - have lots of patience and grace for myself and my family as life is about to get pretty busy and we're all going through a huge adjustment.

5. Start a gratitude journal.

What are your October goals?