Progress, Not Perfection

Aloha, friends!

I’m back from another sweaty session at the gym and thought that it might be a good time to update you on how all my fitness & physical/mental health stuff is going!

As I mentioned about a month ago, I’m having a mid-life crisis in the midst of a sort of life overhaul. I was feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and found my self-esteem and general happiness were in a steep decline. So after whining about it and feeling sorry for myself for entirely too long, I finally determined I needed to take action and implement some positive changes in my life.

And since I’m not exactly a prudent person, I roared forth, guns-blazing, and actually initiated a WHOLE BUNCH of different lifestyle changes… basically all at once. Heh.

  

Some of them are, of course, bigger and more significant than others, but I like to think that they’re all positive changes nonetheless:

  1. I started taking vitamins
  2. I started waking up at the same time (ish) every day
  3. I started using my Panda Planner again
  4. I cleaned up my eating and started tracking in MyFitnessPal again
  5. I started working out (4 to 5 times a week)
  6. I found a therapist

Actually, I found two therapists, as I realized I wasn’t really jiving with the first one. I’m only a couple sessions in with my new one, but I love her so far! And after yesterday’s appointment, I’m also attempting to add in a seventh thing, which is to try and meditate & practice mindfulness first thing in the morning.

I downloaded the Calm app, as well as one called Insight Timer, upon her recommendation, though it’s absolutely going to take time for me to to be able to quiet my mental chatter… my brain is really used to being busy, lol. Calm’s first guided meditation lasted like 9 minutes and it was extremely difficult for me to focus. Guess that’s why they call it a practice, though!

Embracing all of these things is also helping me in working towards my goal of establishing more routine and reliability in my life. I think that the impetus for a lot of my uncertainty, anxiety, and discontentment that has surfaced over the past year has been the biggest change that has ever or likely will ever occur in my life: becoming a mother. This is not to say that I don’t absolutely, 150% LOVE being Penny’s mom, I do! Nor is it meant to be any kind of slight against her — I think you are all probably painfully aware at this point that Penny is pretty much a perfect baby. She’s awesome, we literally could not have gotten luckier.

 

But even though I have an amazing kiddo, a husband, a supportive and involved family, a great job, a comfortable living situation… I’ve still struggled. And that’s where the mental health component really comes into place, because honestly, I’m not even sure if I can identify exactly what it is that I’ve been struggling with the most — my identities as a mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, employee vs. just as a person? The general shift in dynamics that has taken place within all of those relationships? Just, like, I dunno, life?

And then you toss in this whole extra layer of guilt that comes from the thought that I don’t really have any right to complain in the first place. I mean, there are literally millions of people in this world that have it so much harder and struggle with so many real, identifiable issues that I honestly have no experience with and can’t even accurately imagine going through. Stuff like going hungry. Being in crushing debt. Being in a physically or emotionally abusive relationship. Living with a disease. Losing a parent, a sibling, a child. The list could go on and on.

And when I start thinking that way (which is admittedly pretty often because I never want to give the impression that I’m ungrateful or unaware of the privileges I have been granted), it just makes me feel worse. Like I shouldn’t even be devoting my mental energy to my own problems. I should just, you know, suck it up.

Obviously, that’s not true. It’s not a healthy way to process things — for me, at least. Because while it absolutely is important to keep perspective (being able to establish perspective can be a powerful tool), the reality is that we all have baggage. We all have stuff we’re trying to work through.

And so my therapist was quick to remind me, and I am trying to continually remind myself, that the struggles of others does not invalidate my feelings.

I’m allowed to feel what I feel.

And I’m allowed to feel them about whatever I feel them about.

Now, whatever comes after feeling those feelings, yeah, that’s a little different. Having a feeling does not necessitate acting on those feelings. That’s kind of a whole other can of worms that I’m not going to explore today though, lol.

The bottom line is, I’m absolutely still just in the beginning phases of figuring all this ish out, trying to build up my toolbox so that I can figure out how to piece together all the various bits of my life in the best possible way, to give myself the chance to be my best self. I’m making progress in a lot of ways — therapy is opening me up, working out is making me feel stronger, cleaning my diet back up is helping me feel more energized (and I’m about 17 pounds down so far), and all three are helping me feel better about myself.

Now, I still have low moments, self-deprecating thoughts, times when I’m not really sure if what I’m doing is working, or if it’ll be sustainable longterm, or even what I’m doing at all, lol. But being human is complicated, and working my way towards health (in every sense of the word) was never going to be a straight line. So I focus on the good when things are good, I work to keep my head above water when it’s less good, and I take comfort in the fact that I’m making progress at all.

 

Feeling “Off”

Man, I don’t know what it is about this week, but I have been out of it.

After having an amazingly productive first three weeks of January — setting up events for Yelp’s Fit Club, rockin’ the first phase of P90, planning a work trip to Savannah in a couple of weeks — these past couple of days have hit me hard.

On Monday, I fell asleep at 5 PM.

Like, legitimately fell asleep.

Until morning.

WTF?

Granted, I’d been up until 3 – 4 AM the few nights before that, so maybe there really is something to the idea that your body eventually needs to catch up on sleep, but… still. That’s pretty crazy, right? I slept for like… 15 hours. And when I woke up, I was still tired!

Which meant that despite my extra long Goldilocks-esque sleeping sesh, I ended up going through most of Tuesday in a bit of a haze. I spent most of the day on the phone for work and then preparing for an event that I had that night, and while the event itself was super fun, I was definitely wiped out by the end of it.

I figure that there are a few possible reasons for this week getting off to such a rocky start. Maybe I’m getting sick (likely, given my piss poor immune system, but other than being exhausted I don’t think I have any other symptoms), maybe it’s stress-related since I’ve got so many things on my plate right now, or maybe it’s the weather (though not the snow — I legitimately loooove snow and am so happy we finally got some inches! I’m sure any of you who live in Boston do NOT feel the same way though… sorry.)

As far as being impacted by the weather beyond the beautiful white fluff on the ground, it’s a definite possibility. It’s been crazy cold this week, so I’ve been spending more time indoors and I hear that sun exposure (or lack thereof) has a tendency to mess with you. I’ve never really thought of myself as someone who suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder, though.

Sure, I’ve experienced my share of the winter blues, and during my very, very brief stint with tanning, I can’t say I didn’t notice how spending a few minutes under the UV bulbs lifted my mood, but I guess I never really paid attention until recently as to whether all of it was connected. Y’know, whether my mood might have been bluer due to the weather, or just due to me being me. (It’s not like I’m known for my general mood stability, after all.)

Now, I’m not trying to self-diagnose myself with SAD or anything here. Rather, all of this conjecture is just to further illustrate the point that it’s been a bit of an off week for me so far. And unfortunately, this also means that I totally failed on the workout front on both Monday & Tuesday. So much for that flawless 90-day plan! Womp womp.

But! Snaps for me, I did get back on the wagon yesterday, so, hey, we move on. And, really, it’s not like taking two extra days off from working out is that big of a deal. I mean, let us not forget how many rest days I was taking before all of this. (Hint: all of them. It was all of them.)

Well, hopefully today will prove to be a very good day, even if it is once again jam-packed, because I’m off to see The Master. The master of hair color, that is! Yep, I’m heading back to Be Scene Studios so my main man Linh can work his hair color magic on me. The top half of the grey part of my hair has officially faded (interestingly enough, it’s faded to a blonde-ish color, which basically means my hair is like two-toned right now, aha!)

Any guesses as to what color I might come back with next? Here’s a quick reminder of what’s been done so far (in chronological order, but of course!):

Hair Collage

Aaaaanyway, I figure that gettin’ my hairs re-did is a good way to try and salvage the rest of this weird, weird week. Hope you’re all faring less strangely than I am this week!

Do any of you find the winter weather messes with you around this time of year? As with all things in my life, I do find it ever so comforting when I hear about all the various ways in which I’m not alone. 🙂

P90: 2.5 Weeks In

Wellps, I’m a little over two weeks into the P90 program and somehow, miraculously, defying all logic and precedence, I’m still going strong.


Despite the scale-related setbacks that I’ve been experiencing, I’m actually starting to feel pretty great about having set up an actual fitness routine (though, as I explained yesterday, it’s not really that routine yet… but at least I’m still fitting it into my day somewhere!) and the slow improvements I’m making with the various moves in P90 Sculpt and Sweat A.

I still find myself following the modifier for a lot of things, like the press jacks (actual jumping jacks are kinda hard on my bazoombas), pushups, walking planks, and ab stuff, though even that is an improvement on where I was when I started. I didn’t really talk about this in my initial Week 1 update, but even though P90 is the “beginner” videos, I still found myself needing to modify some of the modifier’s moves at first.

There are a lot of moves that require you to be able to hold a plank in order to complete the move (sprawls, walking planks, the half-pushups), and I wasn’t really able to do them well, even following the modifier (which mainly meant just doing the moves slower or less deep). So I’d have to do the half-pushups on my knees instead of on my feet, or just try to hold a plank through the sprawls instead of actually, y’know, sprawling.

But now I’m pretty much doing the full moves as prescribed, and even upping my game and following the non-modified folks in the video, especially with the mixed martial arts moves and cardio. Hoorah!


Just another week and a half of the “A” videos and I’ll be able to move onto Phase B. Which is good, because as I suspected might happen, I am admittedly starting to get a little bit annoyed with watching the exact same video every other day.

Mostly it’s Tony Horton’s “dad jokes” that are starting to make me a little stabby. There’s this one joke that he makes in the Sculpt A video — one of the workout guys in the video’s name is Jim. So when he’s introducing the folks, he goes something like, “Jim! Jim Beam came to work out. Jack & Jim went up the hill to fetch a pail of… liquor!” *cue forced laughter from workout folks* Then Tony continues, “No, they fetched a pail of Shakeology! That’s what they did!” and that’s when my eyes get their own little workout because they are rolling SO HARD.

I’m thinking that I might start doing the videos with the captions + put on my own music, since at this point I think I’ve done the moves enough that I don’t need to really watch the screen to remember how to do them, I just need the cues to know when to move on to the next one.

Anyway, it’s not so bad that I’m tempted to stop watching (yet), since it is somehow gratifying to go through the same cycle of moves because I get better at doing them each time. I’ve also learned a few additional things about this workout so far that I thought I might share:

  • I am finding I like using dumbbells more than the resistance bands during strength moves. The resistance band handles hurt my wrists a bit, and it’s kind of awkward to attach the band to a door hinge because it means I have to do the resistance moves at a little bit of an angle.
  • I think I need a better/thicker mat — my tailbone hurts doing some of the ab moves (especially those targeting my lower abs, which require the use of my legs). I’ve cracked my tailbone once and bruised it twice in my life (I fall down stairs a lot…) so maybe this isn’t a problem that most people have, but I’m definitely thinking I need some more cushioning. Even doubling up my mat doesn’t seem to do enough, so I definitely think I need a thicker mat. Working out on carpet might also be a solution for this, but I have hardwood floors so womp womp.
  • As I mentioned before, in addition to the Sculpt and Sweat videos, there’s also one called “Saturday Special” that you do on, well, Saturdays. Duh. It’s a lot more intense, and still requires a lot of modification for me, but I think this makes sense since it’s the same video throughout the entire 90-day program, not just Phase A.
  • I’m really pleased with how immensely doable P90 is on a daily basis. The time really flies (God bless that countdown timer!) and before you know it, you’re done and you feel nice and sweaty even though it’s only been 28 – 34 minutes. It’s such a short amount of time that I have also started adding in a little bit of additional strength work afterwards if I have some extra time.

Anyway, even with Tony’s annoying dad jokes starting to get on my nerves, I’m still pretty happy with having started the program (as a reminder, I’m just following the fitness plan, not the nutrition plan — I’m not using Shakeology or anything), and while I’m definitely not in fighting shape by any means yet (dude, it’s only been two and a half weeks, haha) I am already seeing differences in my physical capabilities. Which, frankly, is surprising to me because I didn’t actually think progress would be noticeable after only two weeks. But I guess that’s because I’ve never paid attention before! Or, maybe it’s because I’ve never actually worked out this much before. Your guess is as good as mine. 😉

Timing is Everything

Hey friends. Thanks for letting me rant yesterday — not gonna lie, I feel better already just knowing that I’m not alone in being frustrated with the scale not budging. Misery does love itself some company, heh.

Anyway, I’m trying not to stay too long at my own pity party. Onward, right? My super big and impressive plan at this point is… to just keep on doing what I’ve been doing, as many of you have recommended. Like I said yesterday, I do know that I’ve got a lot of good things going on here. So I’m just going to try to stay off the scale for now, and instead concentrate on how I’m feeling. You know, focus on improving my form when I work out, getting stronger, and we’ll see how things look in another week or so.

Oh, and for those who were asking, yep, I did take measurements when I started P90. The program recommends re-checking your measurements and weight every 30 days, so we’ll see if I can hold out that long, or if I crack and measure myself earlier, haha.

So, speaking of P90, as you know, working out more than, like, once a week, is kind of a big deal for me. And incorporating a daily workout into my schedule has definitely been a learning experience. I am super lucky in that my (awesome) job with Yelp is a work-from-home position, which means I’ve got a much more flexible schedule than most folks who work a standard 9-5. So the great thing is that I have pretty much the entire day to workout. Of course, the not so great thing is… that I have the entire day to work out.

See, without the schedule regularity that comes with having to report to an office, my night owl tendencies take over. I think my internal clock is just permanently set to West Coast time.(For example, I’m writing this post at 1:30 AM.)  So I tend to stay up late working on stuff, and then sleep in until I either wake up naturally, unless I have a specific reason to get up.

Usually this is a call or a meeting that I have set up for the following morning, in which case I’ll set my alarm for juuuuust early enough to be able to get ready. So if I have a 9:00 AM call, for example, I probably am not getting out of bed before 8:30. If I have a 10:00 AM meeting, I’m probably peeling myself out from under the covers around 9:00, and then it’s just a wild flurry of showering and schnauzer feeding and applying makeup and donning mismatched clothing as I race out the door by 9:30. What can I say, I like to live on the edge?

Anyway, all of that is meant to illustrate the fact that I very rarely exercise the discipline to wake up early enough to accomplish anything other than the basic stuff I need to do to get ready before beginning my workday. So, as you can imagine, operating on a schedule like that means that working out tends to get pushed into the late afternoon or evening, when I have time again. Or, like in yesterday’s case, when my entire day suddenly found itself filled by an accidentally super-long nap (I was apparently one of the few non-government-employed folks who had MLK Day off from work), I didn’t work out until like 10 PM. Whoops.

And hey, that’s one great thing about choosing to do a home workout program — it is just there waiting for me at all times, ready to go whenever I get around to pressing play. I can literally work out whenever. Of course, they do say that working out later at night isn’t great because it ramps your body up too much before sleeping, but since I usually don’t fall asleep until the wee hours of the morning anyway, I’m not that concerned about it, haha.

I know there are tons of people who hit the gym after work, or get their workout in over their lunch break, so it’s not like I’m doing anything groundbreaking by not always working out first thing in the morning. But the thing is, I’m finding that on the days when I do manage to get my sweat on in the AM, I honestly feel like I have “better” days overall. Exercising first thing makes me feel so accomplished heading into the rest of my day. And I’d like to think that it helps inform my food choices as well, leading me to make healthier choices throughout the day because I’ve already been in a nice, sweaty mindset from the beginning.

Anyway, I guess I should just revel in the continued shock that comes with the fact that I’ve even made it through 16 days of active fitness and working out, regardless of the time at which I manage to do so. I mean, I used to spend more time actively talking myself out of going to the gym than I ever did actually working out. It would go something like this:

“Okay, you need to go to the gym. Just workout for half an hour, and you’ll be done. Or, well, I mean, sure, it’s only 30 minutes of actually working out, but once your factor in getting dressed, getting into the car, driving to the gym, finding a parking spot, walking inside, coming home, taking a shower, and getting dressed again for the day, it’s way more time than that. Maybe I should just skip it…”

Yeah, pretty pathetic, I know. But, hey, I am really, really good at talking myself out of working out. Which is, again, why I am so magical and amazing for having stuck it out with P90 even just this far, hahaha. As long as I’m doing it at some point every day — be it 10 AM or 10 PM — I still consider it a win.

It was actually being down in Macon and spending time with my sister that really helped put things into perspective for me when it comes to being able to fit working out into my daily schedule. My sister Jenny manages to do so much with her day, always including working out (she teaches fitness classes) and handling my niece Mia. She makes it seem so reasonable to hit the gym for an hour, especially when you do it first thing in the morning, because you still have your entire day ahead of you once you’re done! Meanwhile, I’ve spent the majority of my life totally clueless as to how to make the most of my day. (“Aw man, I only have time to watch five more episodes of Gilmore Girls in a row today, where did the day go?!)

Anyway, all of this rambling is meant to say that I am going to try and start making more of an effort to organize my mornings so that I can take care of my workout in the AM. Because it does feel pretty good starting my day off that way, and I’m all about doing things that make me feel good about the fact that I’m willingly sweating on a daily basis. I’m even setting an alarm for the mornings again! (You guys probably hate me so much after reading this post, hahahaha.)

When do you tend to work out? Is it by choice or by necessity?

Every Day I’m Struggling

I know that this is like, the ultimate white girl problem, but I really struggle with working out.

I’ve just… never really liked it. I didn’t grow up in a super active family, I was never very athletic and don’t have great physical coordination. I don’t love getting sweaty, and I hate being obligated to shower (especially with my various hair colors, where it’s important not to wash my hair too frequently.) Working out is not something I’ve ever been able to easily work into my routine (primarily because I never tried that hard to work it into my routine, but I digress), and it’s not something I’m used to doing on a daily basis.

The P90 schedule 

But, as you are aware, I’m trying to turn over a new leaf and really shift my health and weight loss efforts to have a major emphasis on fitness.

Which, you know, means I actually have to work out.

And, amazingly enough, I am! Frankly, I’m pretty impressed with myself for simply being able to say that I’m two weeks in to this daily working out thing and I haven’t missed one yet! Given that I’m pretty sure I could win the Guinness World Record for World’s Laziest Woman, that’s a pretty big milestone for me.

But before I give myself too many self-congratulatory pats on the back, I gotta be honest. Because while I did work out yesterday, it was the first day where I almost didn’t. I almost skipped my workout, and I almost broke my streak.

Sure, I’m sure I could’ve mentally justified it if I had gone ahead and skipped out on my gettin’ sweaty time. I was tired — I didn’t fall asleep until 3 AM the night before.  I had a lot of work stuff on my plate. It was cold and I feel like I’m getting sick and I wanted to take a nap and blah blah blah. Miraculously, I managed to hold steady against all of these built-in excuses and peel myself off the couch long enough to work out… at about 9 PM.

Now, I know, I know, the important thing is that I didn’t skip it, that I did do it, even if it was late in the day, even if it was as a last-resort, and I should feel good about that. Except, I didn’t really feel good about how the workout went either.

My muscles were heavy, my body was aching, and everything seemed like it took three times as much effort. So I only really made it about halfway through the workout before essentially giving up and just half-assing the rest of the moves.

And I didn’t feel so great about that. Which is also kind of a new feeling for me, because who would’ve known? Who really cares if I don’t give my 100% during a workout? It’s not like Tony Horton is going to crawl through my TV set to give me what-for. But, as it turns out, I care! Who knew?!

And after giving it a little bit of thought, I think that I came to some important realizations that will probably be good to note as I continue through this journey:

1. Taking a rest day is important.

I didn’t take my rest day on Sunday like I was supposed to. I did an extra day of cardio because I had started P90 mid-week, and I wanted to make sure my first week started strong. And as someone who has always had a disproportionate number of rest days over workout days (you know, like, 10:1, ahahaha), I didn’t really realize that giving your body a day to recover — even if it doesn’t feel like you need to recover — is an important thing.

I think that my body feeling sluggish and my legs feeling heavy and all that stuff is, at least in part, due to me not giving myself enough time to really recover. Not that I’m here running marathons or anything, and hey, maybe when I’m a little bit more fit, I won’t really need a full rest day, because my body will be much more used to pushing itself. But at least for now, while things are still new, my body’s still adjusting, and my muscles are still being woken up from their long, long slumber, I should keep a closer eye on things and let myself rest if need be.

2. Turns out, fueling your body right matters.

I’ve never been a huge fan of health lingo. I’d kind of roll my eyes or find my mouth forming a smug little smirk anytime I read references to “fueling the machine” or “feeding the temple.” I mean, it’s just EATING, right?! Well, maybe it’s not, exactly.

Turns out that if you are trying to lead a more active lifestyle, these terms start to take on a little more meaning. The timing of when you eat really does impact how energized you feel — i.e. “You gotta fill the tank before going for a drive!” (LOL eyeroll.) I used to go most of the day without eating, and would only finally eat my first meal of the day in the mid-to-late afternoon. But now? If I expect myself to workout in the morning, I need to make sure I’ve eaten something beforehand. Only, not right beforehand, because my acid reflux is bad enough without sprawls and burpees contributing to the issue, haha.

Yesterday, my eating schedule got a little messed up due to a series of appointments & meetings that I had mid-morning. So I didn’t really end up eating anything of significance until around 2 PM, and I do think that contributed heavily to my lack of motivation to workout.

Furthermore, due to my slightly hectic schedule, for the first time in the past two weeks, I totally picked convenience over nutrition. Which actually brings me to my final point…

3. Not all calories are created equal.

I like to think that I’m pretty knowledgable about calories at this point. I’ve been counting ’em for a long time. I can tell you off the top of my head how many calories are in an egg (70) or a banana (90) or a cup of romaine (8). And while I was losing weight the first time around, I took a lot of pride in being creative with my daily calorie counts.

I felt (and I do still feel) that it’s totally possible for you to continue going out to eat and ordering in, and still lose weight. Because a calorie is a calorie, right? Even if you eat out a lot, you can still make food choices that keep your calories a little lower. And if you were to spend two-thirds of your daily caloric allotment on fast food, but still stay under your overall intake goal, it’s not that big a deal. Because as long as your total number of calories in is lower than your total number of calories out, you’ll eventually lose weight.

Weeeell, I still believe that’s true. Kind of. However, when you add physical exertion into the equation, the type of food you’re ingesting becomes a lot more important. Suddenly, your body is actively utilizing the calories you ingest for energy. To make it so you are physically able to do the sprints and the press jacks and the side lunges and the tricep dips. And the kind of energy your body extracts from a McDouble (390) is definitely different than what it might take from, say, a salad with grilled chicken, tomatoes, bell peppers, red onion, and avocado (which could land you around 390).

Given my poor performance yesterday, I feel pretty confident that the kinds of calories I need to consume matter a little more than they used to. I had a lazy, convenience-driven day yesterday, and I really felt it in my muscles when I worked out. I felt sluggish and heavy and just general not-great. So while a calorie may just be a calorie when it comes to weight loss, a calorie is NOT just a calorie when it comes to fitness.

So, yeah. Consider these my beginner’s lessons learned thus far. Granted, it may be a little bit silly for me to be trying to spout these wisdoms now, with my active lifestyle still in its relative infancy. But, hey, a learning is a learning, right?

I mean, all that said, I am still proud of myself for rallying and working out yesterday. In spite of the many factors I had working against me, at least I can say that I tried! And some activity is always better than no activity, there’s no doubt about that.

Besides, today is a brand new day, so hopefully with some better fuel in my system (oatmeal for breakfast!) a full-night’s sleep (in bed by 1 AM!) and a more normalized eating schedule (awake in the single digits!), I’ll be back to sweating it out and feeling good about it in no time!