Recognize Your Strength, Appreciate Your Growth

Recognize Your Strength, Appreciate Your Growth

Strength was always a personal ambition of mine though it didn’t reveal itself right away.  The idea of being “strong enough” to handle whatever situation mentally, emotionally as well as physically always felt important but I didn’t actively pursue this growth until later in life.  Like many others, while developing resilience of the self through life experiences, I discovered I wanted more.  For those of you who can relate to having been at a low point of any sort (or a series of several of them!) no matter the reason or reasons, let’s take a moment to recognize the experiences that made us who we are today and how far we’ve come since then.  And for those who find that their low point is more descriptive of their present rather than their past, hopefully this post will allow for a little bit of light that can help guide the way out of the darkness.

The Past:  I remember the terror that P.E. and gym class used to instill in me in grade school all the way up through high school.  Fitness and physical activity was such a foreign concept growing up and though I so admired those with natural ability, it took me years to realize I would never have that kind of aptitude without having to work on it.  After almost 30 years of being more sedentary than not, I reached the last low point I was willing to allow and started to make changes for myself.  With adjustments to my nutrition alone, 30-40 lbs dropped off faster than I could keep up with the clothes that didn’t fit anymore.  To keep the momentum going for the remaining pounds, however, I had to start MOVING.

Start to think about the person you were before you changed the direction of your life.  Acknowledge that you did the best you could with what you had and what you knew, but when you were ready for more you knew it was time to move forward.  Accept that person of the past with respect and gratitude so you can finally let that person go and move on once and for all.

The First Steps:  After reevaluating my personal situation, I started signing up for all sorts of classes that would 1) Fulfill an interest I’ve always been curious about trying 2) Allow me to start socializing more and meet new people and 3) Force me to get out of my tiny little apartment and really start living for me.  As I discovered more about myself, such as the fact that I have very little coordination suitable enough for, say, tennis (or any sport that requires more hands on equipment than a ball), I also discovered a love for physical activity and movement that must have always been there but hadn’t yet been explored.

Most importantly, though, it was through these classes that I met one of my closest friends to this day, Monique Johnson, who introduced me to the wonderful tradition of Yoga.  For a year and a half, Monique provided personal Yoga and Pilates instruction in my home 1-2 times a week and I was humbled by it every day.  It was tough and the idea of me holding up (let alone getting into!) any type of balance, back-bend or anything that required what little core and upper body strength I may have had was comical!  I remember laughing out loud at myself a LOT.  I never really used these muscles except to sneeze or laugh (which we use way more than I realized before experiencing the soreness of a really good class).  Thanks to Monique, I developed a love for Yoga and a passion for strength because although they were baby steps, the improvement I felt in the smallest muscles and the tiniest movement from week to week was significant.  This was when I truly became captivated with getting stronger.

V - Eka Pada Koundinyasana II

Remember what it was like the first time you introduced yourself and your body to something new…something you didn’t know you would like or appreciate but eventually did because of how you felt whenever you participated in it.  Much like my experience of gaining muscular strength with Monique, the intense cardiovascular fitness I was able to develop with Ingrid is night and day compared to my very first class with her.  Appreciate the difficulty you felt in the beginning of any activity you enjoy today and remember that with consistency you have gone above and BEYOND who you were and what you could do.  If you’re still searching for that one hobby or activity that really motivates you, be willing to try as many new things as often as possible.  You never know what does or what will get you going or who you’ll meet!  If you have been trying new things but aren’t consistent, think about how many excuses you come up with to not go back and reconsider your motivations.  You might surprise yourself!

Surprise!  You’re Awesome:  After 4-5 years of regularly practicing Yoga, taking Pilates when I could and about 1-2 years of medium to high impact cardio, my best friend suggested I try her gym for “Boot Camp” classes.  When I told her I had no interest in being yelled at, being forced to compete with others or being subjected to militant-style activities, I believe her words were Octane is different.  You won’t feel like that at all and I think you’ll have fun!  Since I respected her opinion and because I always promote trying new things I gave it a shot but I really didn’t put much stock into it.  What I discovered was that she was absolutely right and despite my expectations I became addicted to Octane’s Strength & Conditioning Classes.  I’m always inspired by the power and dedication I see in my peers and the positive and encouraging environment helps me to motivate myself to become stronger than I was the week before.  The strength I have developed over the last five years or so is far beyond any expectations I ever had about my own abilities and I have had a blast exploring them!

Appreciate who YOU are and what you do today.  Forget about judging the past or even the day before.  Every day you have a chance to surprise yourself.  Every day you have a chance to grow, improve and better your life a little bit more than you ever expected, too.  Being awesome is just about always doing your best in everything you do and feeling that peace, satisfaction and pure joy as much as possible.

Growth comes in so many ways and reveals itself in many forms.  The lifestyle we choose to live can be part of a journey that has no final destination…just more growth, more strength and more self-discovery.  Personally for me, that is my bliss.  Do what you can to discover yours and follow it.  As you do, recognize all that you have done to invest in yourself and never take it for granted.



Beware…the YO-YO

Beware…the YO-YO

Some very dear friends of mine presented me with a topic to address several weeks ago that certainly hits close to home for many who struggle with their weight.  Dropping pounds then gaining them back, over and over again is not a cycle in which anyone wants to find themselves.  It’s a challenging (not to mention potentially dangerous!) phenomenon and I think it’s about time to present some tips to help us stabilize the results of all our hard work and AVOID the YO-YO once and for all.  Try to stick to the tips below as honestly as possible and begin to steer clear of this hazardous trend.

No more gimmicks!  Don’t waste your time with them.  Fad diets, trendy fitness tools or anything out there that doesn’t come naturally and promises XX results in XX amount of time more often than not sets you up for something completely unsustainable.  In most cases, even if you did reach or get close to your goals with these methods, as soon as you return to your regular habits, so do the pounds.  There are always exceptions to every rule, of course, but the majority will need to find health and wellness strategies they can actually maintain long-term.  Your best bet is investing your time and energy in something that influences your lifestyle in a positive and moderately impactful way rather than something aggressive or extreme that you will never want to try again.

Pace yourself.  In my opinion, yo-yo dieting is a result of choices that encourage losing weight way too quickly.  When this happens, your body has little time to adapt to the physical changes and you don’t really get a chance to establish any modifications to your overall habits.  Don’t put that kind of pressure on yourself!  There’s no reason to approach weight loss as a race for some miraculous end result.  Instead, embrace the idea of making small healthy choices every day that help you feel better but also seem minimal at first.  These adjustments to your daily routine may be subtle but as you accumulate them over time you’ll soon be looking at some significant results AND at a pace that is safe enough for you to reach and maintain them.

Pay attention to your clothing.  The other side to dropping weight too quickly is the gradual increase of pounds and inches that we ignore which ultimately results in that yo-yo effect.  Let’s be honest—our clothes talk to us much more quickly and much more effectively than anything else.  For anyone who has swung on the pendulum of weight loss, you can probably recall a moment where (at your healthiest weight) your favorite jeans, dress or outfit suddenly felt a little snug.  What I imagine happened after that, was a moment of discouragement or frustration that made you not want to try that article of clothing on again and suddenly, you’re headed down that slippery slope of denial.  From now on, as you begin to drop the inches, commit to the loss and appreciate your accomplishments.  With that pride, tell yourself “Never again!” (as I had declared) and get rid of every piece of clothing that no longer fits well.  When your clothes that do fit feel a little tighter, let that be the bell that goes off to tell you to step back, adjust and reevaluate your habits again before it gets worse.  Healthy living and losing weight is not a linear process.  Allow yourself to rework your habits, adjust and slip now and again so you can learn your body and do what’s necessary as it—slowly—adapts to the new, healthier you.

Above all, I feel that it is important to note that yo-yo dieting can only exist if we remain in the dark and deny ourselves the truth about what’s happening to us and our bodies.  Honesty and appreciation are essential when it comes to following advice and reaching goals.  Even if you kept all of these tips in mind every single day, if you’re not seeing yourself clearly and not okay with the person you are, you won’t be able to distinguish what it is that you need to change.  My husband has been my first main influence when it comes to this mindset which I continue to work on daily.  I have always been overly concerned and overly sensitive to outside factors where he has a very direct and honest approach to life.  He was the first to help me really be truthful with myself and appreciate my body for what it is because it’s mine and no one else’s.  Commit to seeing things clearly and know how amazing your body is in what it does for you.  Honesty will keep you true to yourself and appreciating your body will help you to always do right by it.