Category Archives: exercise

Day 6: The importance of a work out buddy

Workout buddies – there to share the pain of your hill run, high five you after a new deadlift PB, compete with you on squat reps and most importantly…save you from your hangover.

Sometimes some tough love is needed

Sometimes some tough love is needed

Yes, the inevitable happened. After the excesses of Day 5’s night out at Zeitgeist I woke up with a hangover. I felt cheated! Surely that’s not supposed to happen when you only drink vodka soda(s x 3 large ones). As soon as I woke up and felt my head pounding I groaned into my pillow. Today was Barry’s Bootcamp day – the first one after the holidays and guaranteed to be horrendous even for normal-headed folks.

After lying there for a while, trying to assess the damage, I sent a message to Mags, my workout buddy, who had also been out with me the night before.

‘There’s a small family of leprechauns having an actual Ceili in my actual head. I don’t think I can do Barry’s today.’

Confident in the knowledge Mags would also be in the throes like me, I dragged myself down to my fave Noe Valley diner Toast for some consolatory eggs and smoked salmon. (Healthy.) Just as I was about to tuck in, a smug little smile on my face, squirming in my seat with happiness, Mags replied.

‘None of your guff, girly – I’m feeling amazing. Friends don’t let other friends skip Barry’s Bootcamp.’

(FYI – Mags is also Irish, hence the excessive Irish-ness of our conversation).

Goddammit, I thought. Fine, fine FINE! I’ll go. I’d never live it down if I skipped out. (How she managed to escape the damage of those three vodka sodas is beyond me. I’m convinced she’s a genetically superior human being).

So, we went to Barry’s, we ran, we lifted, we squatted, we crunched. I would lie if I said it was enjoyable at the time. It was disgusting. And I felt like puking. But the victory was in participating as far as I’m concerned. And as we walked out, with our skinny peanut butter protein shakes in hand, I had to admit- my workout buddy done good. Without her I would have certainly gone back to bed after Toast, followed by a day of unhealthiness and self-loathing.

Thanks Mags!

Trying to take a selfie at the Bay Bridge. 8 pictures, no bridge.

Trying to take a selfie at the Bay Bridge after the class. 8 pictures, no bridge. Well maybe a corner of a bridge

Comment on healthy living

On account of the hangover the day was probs not as healthy as it could have been. BUT I didn’t go mad. The unhealthy things were an English muffin and then sushi and more alcohol later on when I went out for Karaoke. Could have been worse though.

Food and exercise:

  • Breakfast: Lox scrambler from Toast, with an English muffin and fresh fruit
  • Exercise: 1 hour Barry’s Bootcamp
  • Snack: Skinny protein shake (unsweetened almond milk, no sugar peanut butter and vanilla protein powder)
  • Lunch: Sweet potato with a handful of pistachios (random I know)
  • Dinner: Split with Lysbet – edamame, miso soup, poki salad, 2 sushi rolls, sake
  • Drinks: 2 x glass of wine
  • Entertainment: Karaoke at Encore, a go of a friend’s massage chair and Super Mario (also random.)

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Day 3: Sweating the holidays out with Bikram Yoga in the Mission

During some kind of a jet-lagged fueled, manic episode I decided to sign up to no less than 8 exercise classes this week. One of these being Bikram Yoga. No better way to rid yourself of your holiday demons than sweating them out of you.

yoga meme

My friend Katie, suggested we check out the Bikram Yoga class at Mission Yoga in San Francisco. We managed to get an amazing deal on Groupon – 25 classes for $108. Score! (There’s also still time remaining to get the deal FYI).

This wasn’t my first time doing Bikram, thankfully. I used to do it quite regularly while living in Dublin and I loved it. I think if it had been my first time, I would have suffered even more than I did.

For those of you who refuse to call something a workout unless it involves lifting serious lbs or sprinting 5 miles – let me enlighten you. Bikram Yoga is not for wimps. It’s badass. I find that it gets my heart racing as much as a hill run or a round of wall balls . The class consists of a continuous flow of 26 postures in 40 °C (104 °F) heat with a humidity of 40% for 90 badass minutes. That’s right…badass.

More often than not it’s the heat and humidity that’s the most difficult part of the class. It gets hot! And the postures themselves can be pretty challenging. There’s contorting, squatting and oodles of balancing postures. For those of you who know me you’ll know I don’t do balancing that well. I sometimes fall down even when standing still.

This all being said, Bikram Yog is still totally do-able and accessible to everyone, regardless of fitness level. You’re encouraged to take it at your own speed and sit down whenever you want. I spent half of my first few classes sitting on the mat.

In addition to the physicality I find that there’s something that happens to you on an emotional level when you practice Bikram. Bear with me. My friend Marie used to tell me that she found it to be amazing for unlocking pent up emotions. Sure enough, at the end of the class as we were lying in the dark in the savasana pose I could feel the tears pricking my eyes for no reason at all. It wasn’t a bad thing necessarily – I felt like something had been dislodged, emotionally speaking. Strange…

Anyway, suffice to say I thought the class was great and I’ll definitely be going back again. I really want to get better at it! I want to be the teachers pet, and be the one to hear ‘You there in the back, that’s the best tree pose I’ve seen this side of India.’

Like I said – lofty goals this year.

In other yoga related news I just saw they’re running a weed-fueled yoga class in SOMA on Wednesdays. This is so San Francisco, it hurts! Something to put on the bucket list I think.

Comment on healthy living today

Today was again quite a good day for healthy living. I managed to eat healthfully and do two exercise classes. I did have a brief moment though, as I was eating my raw vegetable snack, when I thought I couldn’t stomach any more veg. But I persevered! 3 good days so far – not bad!

Food and exercise

Photo Collage Maker_jkzzSt

  • Hot water with lemon
  • Snack: Small handful walnuts
  • Breakfast: Scrambled eggs and Kale, 2 large coffees
  • Exercise: 1 hour PT
  • Lunch: Salad with veg, chicken, roasted brussel sprouts, sliced almonds, sunflower seeds, olive oil and apple cider vinegar
  • Snack: Raw veg with lemon hummus
  • Exercise: 90 (badass) mins of Bikram Yoga
  • Snack: Handful pecans
  • Dinner: White fish, green beans, half an avocado

 

Day 38: Tips from Friends – Erin

Day 38, and I bring you my second installment of ‘Tips From Friends.’ Sometimes the best, most actionable advice for healthy living comes from the people around you.

Today’s tips come from my friend Erin, a Bay Area native. It’s quite rare to meet someone who is actually from here- so many people living in San Francisco are from other places. This is something that makes San Francisco super interesting to live in, but it’s always nice hanging out with someone who has the inside scoop on the fun things to do – both in the city and the surrounding area.

Click to picture below to watch the video. We even caught some of the Blue Angels practice in the background. Really cool! The Blue Angels come to SF for Fleet Week every October – basically an air show, with lots of stunts. There are also a lot of sailors in town as part of this…it’s a fun time for everyone! 😉

Click here to watch a video of Erin's healthy tips!

Click here to watch a video of Erin’s healthy tips!

If you don’t want to watch the video, here are her tips.

1. Take advantage of the many steep staircases in the city

  • The Lyon Street Steps, in The Presidio, are Erin’s favourite and the most well-known. (Erin was the second person to mention these to me this week. My friend Isabel wants to start a regular run there)
  • You can run or walk them – it’s all good exercise
  • It’s great for people watching!

2. Eat Californinian fresh produce and take advantage of companies like The Urban Pantry

  • The fresh fruit and veg in California is second to none, so take advantage
  • Use companies like The Urban Pantry, or Plated, who will deliver you organic food, all portioned out, so it makes cooking super easy! (I am definitely doing this – it will make cooking on tired days a lot more manageable)

3. Attend sporting events for motivation to get active

  • There are so many amazing sports teams in the area (Go Giants!)
  • Whenever Erin attends a game she’s super motivated to get outside and pick up a ball or tennis racket and get active (way better than drinking beer and eat hot dogs, which would probably have been the first thing I would want to do!)

Food and Exercise

  • Breakfast: Blueberries, Chia Seed paste (delish),greek yogurt, some granola, pineapple, coffee
  • Lunch: Salad with baked salmon
  • Snack: Banana
  • Exercise: Barry’s Bootcamp. Intervals. Lots of steep intervals.
  • Dinner: Gluten free pizza and salad.
  • Comment: Good day all round – the pizza was healthified. And I went to the cinema and had no snacks, which would have been the norm!

    Chia seed paste. Fascinating. You soak chia seeds overnight in almond milk or some other liquid and it becomes gelatinous. Actually delicious!

    Chia seed paste. Fascinating. You soak chia seeds overnight in almond milk or some other liquid and it becomes gelatinous. Actually delicious!

Day 36: When the hard work pays off

I’ve been doing the 100 Healthy Day Challenge for 36 days now, more or less*. And I am delighted to say that I’ve started to really see the effects of my hard work! It’s not just imagined, I have empirical evidence(ish)!

The best kind of party. The cake kind.

The best kind of party. The cake kind.

Here is my evidence:

1. I stepped on the scale and saw that I had lost half a stone (7 lbs for my awkward American friends).

2. I’m now able to do a full push up

Some details about the above:

1. Weight loss is not necessarily the main objective of my 100 Healthy Days challenge. Fat loss yes for sure, I want a whole lot of that, but weight loss, as measured by the scales, I’m not too pushed with knowing on a regular basis.

All the experts now seem to agree that weight loss only gives you one side of the story, and is really not representative of how healthy you are. See here for some more bullet-pointed wisdom from mindbodygreen on the subject.

I’m relying mostly on my body fat % testing to get a full picture of how I’m doing and I’m going to get re-tested in a couple of weeks.

However, I think that my 7lb loss is a definite indicator that things are going well, which is why I’m so happy about it! If the scales tell me I’ve lost 7 lbs, I can only that assume my body fat % has gone down as well and it’s not just a false-positive related to water retention. Watch this space, I’ll report back as to whether my hypothesis is correct.

Have you ever had your body fat % tested by the way? They basically grab and pinch your fat in a set of calipers – in parts of your body you never even realised could get fatty! Slightly humiliating, but you have to pretend to be totes cool with it all. Oh yeah sure, grab away!

2. I’m now able to do a full push up! And I ain’t talking about no little girly push-up on my knees. I’m talking about a real-life adult push up. Full disclosure – I don’t go alll the way down but around 75% of the way. But, 75% of a real-life adult push up, is a pretty big deal in my book. Considering the fact that I couldn’t go 50% of the girly-push up when I first started working out. Definite progress.

It’s so amazing to see myself getting stronger and fitter. It’s as good a feeling as the weight/fat loss, if not more.

Next stop, a pull up!! Ha, maybe in around 2 years.

Also, I’ve been told I may be nominated for GYM MEMBER OF THE MONTH. How cool is that! I must have been boring the ear off of Jon, my personal trainer, about all my healthy activities and all the research I’ve been doing about health and well-being. If it does happen, it would go straight into my sporting achievements hall of fame. Right next to the time that I made sub for the Minor C netball team when I was in 3rd year in secondary school. That’s actually my only other sporting achievement. It’s been a slow 17 years.

So, all in all, I’ve seen some really excellent results – proof that all of my hard work is paying off. This is actually the greatest motivation I could get. When you see the results you want more and more of the same, so you’re more encouraged to do more and more exercise and healthy eating.

So, I’ve decided to change my meme.

squats

I know this looks like me, but it’s not me

*Creative license was taken with the counting of the days for the purpose of the narrative. It’s been more like 40 days but I can’t remember what happened on the days I didn’t blog. Granola, Barry’s Bootcamp,  something, something, something…it’s all a blur

Day 35: Coping with work stress – the healthy way

I am just off the back of a 12 hour work day. It’s one of those weeks. It was one of those weeks, last week. And it will probably be one of those weeks next week.

I am in the midst of a work-stress attack!

This is me. This is my granola.

This is me. This is my granola.

I’m not going to get into the nitty-gritty details, you’ll be happy to hear.

I think it’s the most boring thing on earth to listen to someone talk through the minutiae of a working day that you will never understand. Or care to understand. I have enough boring minutiae of my own to be bored by. Let’s be clear – nobody outside of your company, will ever be as incensed as you are about that pivot table that was pivot-ed incorrectly, even though you are 100% convinced that your co-worker actually did it on purpose (!), just to make you look bad, because you may or may not have accidentally undermined her in your weekly project meeting, but you only did it because she sent an email to your mutual stakeholders without CCing you, in a FLAGRANT violation of the AGREED-UPON internal process you set up SIX MONTHS AGO!

(Note, the events in this blog post are a work of fiction, and are not based on the true life of Michelle).

Suffice to say, it’s been a fast-paced and busy time, which is why I haven’t posted in a while.

The good news is, I’ve still been trying to live a healthy lifestyle throughout all of this. Not just, in spite of the stress, but to actually combat it!

A year or so ago, I learned the hard way that stress can have a huge impact on your physical well-being.

I had always dismissed stress as a real health threat. There were plenty of other things that would ‘get you’ before stress would – smoking, drinking, bad diet – we all know these things bring doom and gloom, cancer and heart disease, weight gain and bad skin.

Little did I realise that stress does the exact same thing! There are countless articles on this, but this is a nice easily digestible one from mindbodygreen.com.

So, one day, about a year ago, I was sitting in work, just out of a particularly difficult meeting, when suddenly my left arm started to go numb, my heart started racing, there was pressure on my chest, I couldn’t breathe and I started to over-heat…all of the symptoms of a heart attack! So, of course, I instantly got on Google Chat to my friend Marie (most logical thing to do in an emergency) to tell her I was having a heart attack, and to maybe call an ambulance.

Thankfully, she calmly pointed out that I probably wouldn’t be able to chat with her if I was really having a heart attack, and that I was probably having a panic attack. She was right. After a few minutes of breathing deeply with my head between my legs I started to feel normal again. (MORTO, by the way. Sitting at your desk, with your head between your legs, heavy breathing, is not a professional look.)

Funnily enough, that hugely scary situation was not enough to wake me up to the reality of the stress I was under.

It was only after I started balling my eyes out crying, in a pub, on a Sunday, surrounded by happy people, in the middle of eating a huge plateful of French Toast, just before going back to the office for more work, that I realised something needed to change. It was only then that I took an objective look at myself and really saw what the stress had done to me – in addition to heart attack symptoms, crying in public, eating French Toast and working on a Sunday, I had definitely gained weight, my skin was gray and spotty, I was short-tempered and absent-minded, I couldn’t concentrate on conversations with family and friends…and the list of terrible things goes on.

After this shocking realisation, I made the decision that I needed to pro-actively dig myself out of the stress hole I had dug and buried myself in.

So, I did a number of things – attended some good classes, had conversations with some experts and got some good advice that really helped me.

The following is a list of the best pieces of advice I got, that I’ve adapted for myself.

  • The corporate world is not the world. What happens in the office cannot make or break you, as you’re a lot more than an employee. You’re a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, a friend. Keep perspective on this!
  • Take time to breathe during the day. When you’re stressed you don’t breathe properly. Every time you get up from your desk take a huge breath in and breathe the stress out.
  • Take time to drink water – you can be guaranteed you’re dehydrated when you’re stressed. Taking the 2 minutes to re-fill your water bottle will pay dividends.
  • Schedule some ‘you’ time at some point during the day and do not, under any circumstances re-schedule.
  • Think about making the ‘you’ time exercise time. As soon as I hit the gym I forget about my problems for a little bit.
  • Eat healthfully where you can. There will be times when all you want is bad stuff. But when you have the option choose vegetables.

This time around, whilst I’m still doing 12 hour days, which should be a big no-no, I’m not nearly as bad as I was before. Kicking back with a scented candle, some wine and some blog-therapy also helps!

IMG_20141007_202551

Stress therapy. Scented candles are my crack cocaine.

FYI – I’m just going to skip over the other days in the challenge, and pretend we’re now on Day 35. Cheating, perhaps, but it’s the best way for me to get back on track.

Day 34: Finding my swagga’ at HipHop

As mentioned I’ve been trying lots of exercises classes recently. One of my favourites is (Beginners) Hip Hop at the Dance Mission Theatre, on 24th and Mission in San Francisco. I go every Tuesday night with Lysbet.

hip hop

Whilst technically not an exercise class, it’s an hour and a half of body rockin’, booty shakin’, b-girlin’, kriss-krossin’, breakin’ it down and poppin’ it like it’s hot. In other words getting your body moving and your sweat on. And for good measure, the instructor throws in some sit ups, so we can legitimately call it a work-out.

This class is so much fun!

Every two weeks we learn a new routine to a new song, so we get two classes to practice the moves. The instructor, David, is amazing – he’s a talented dancer, number one,  he’s patient and pauses for questions, and encourages us to let loose and find our inner swagga’.

Cos it’s alllll about the swagga’ and attitude.

I need to work on the swagger a bit, being honest. Starting with the threads. I turn up in my pink runners, with matching pink t-shirt, and pink socks and all these Urban funksters in their slouchy pants and boot-runners stare me out of it. No hip-hop pro is going to be taken seriously wearing pink. Especially matching pink.

I also need to work on the moves. They come fast and furious and they need to be precise to look good. You really do need the two weeks to be able to get them right. But it’s like playing the piano, or anything else that requires coordination – when you get it, it’s the most AMAZING feeling.

I’m not quite ready to break it down in da cluuub just yet, but it’s coming. I may look like Carlton at the moment, but I can feel my inner Beyonce bubbling to the surface.

On a side note, I really, really want to learn a routine for the Big Butts song. I have a bit of an obsession. I know all the words to the intro! I also love Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda, and this 11 year old girl is my new idol. Killin’ it!

 

From a 100 Healthy Days perspective, my hip hop class serves two purposes:

  1. Getting my body moving after a day of sitting at my desk
  2. Making me happy by doing something fun and challenging. Health and happiness go hand in hand.

It doesn’t always have to be about weights and interval training!

Food and exercise

  • Breakfast: Scrambled eggs and steamed kale. The usual!
  • Exercise: 1 hour PT
  • Lunch: Chicken salad with loads of veg and quinoa
  • Snack: Banana and greek yogurt
  • Exercise: 1.5 hours hip-hoppin
  • Dinner: Greek yogurt, peach and pecans
  • Comment: Way too much greek yogurt and fruit today. I didn’t get it together in time to grab a salad in work before hip hop. My bad!

Photo Collage Maker_zdm1SD

 

Day 32: Time for some tough love

I’ve been doing the 100 Healthy Day Challenge for a full month now. 31 days of making a ‘concerted, dedicated and publicly documented effort to be healthy.’

However, taking an honest look back at my posts, I’ve decided that rather than applaud, high five and/or fist bump myself, I actually need some tough lovin’. I’mma open up a can of whoop-ass on myself.

I'mma open up a can of whoop-ass...on myself

Opening a can of whoop-ass was my favourite saying when I was kid! I was opening up cans all over the place.

There have been some highs, that’s for sure. My zucchini noodles for a start – I was immensely proud of those. Saying no to cupcakes in work, was a huge win, (especially because they were from Kara’s Cupcakes in Palo Alto, and they had a banana cream one. I love banana stuff). And I love all the exercise classes I’ve been trying.

But for the most part, it’s been a catalogue of challenges and failures and small, daily slip ups. Hangover-gate, burrito-gate and of course that week of utter granola carnage.

It’s just dawned on me that, whilst I’ve been making an effort to make the healthy choice where possible, I haven’t been putting any concerted effort into it. I’ve been exercising my will power when I’ve needed to, but I haven’t been going out of my way to make sure I’m leading as healthy a lifestyle as possible.

Let me give you some examples.

Exercising will power:

  • Choosing the healthy option when out for dinner
  • Saying no to bread with brunch
  • Saying no to ice cream, dessert or sweet things when on offer
  • Only having one glass of wine at dinner, rather than sharing a bottle

Where I could have made a concerted effort:

  • Going shopping for the picnic in Dolores Park to ensure I had healthy options
  • Making time for dinner before a date
  • Food prepping in advance to account for those times when I’m too exhausted to cook
  • Buying healthy snacks for those late night munchies after a night out
  • Having healthy snacks at my desk to ward off granola cravings

A dedicated healthy lifestyle takes a lot of work – prepping and planning, shopping and scheduling. You can’t be half-ass about it. (Soz, I think I’ve over-used the word ass in this post.)

I can see now why so many people fall into living such un-healthy lifestyles. None of us have time for it! We’re all too busy! Have you ever found yourself answering the question ‘How are you doing?’ with ‘Ohhh, you know, busy!!’ Shocking.

But, are we ever not busy? What the hell are we busy doing? Why do we prioritise all other things over a healthy body?

So, going into my second month, I’ve decided to get my lazy ass (one more ass for good measure) into gear and make time for my healthy lifestyle.

This will include:

  • Doing a weekly food shop so I have healthy food in the fridge
  • Buying snacks for those late night post-drink munchies
  • Making a big dish of something healthy (eg curry, soup) and freezing it
  • Bringing healthy snacks with me wherever I go
  • Booking my exercise classes in advance

A little more effort will mean a lot more gainz!

Any other tips out there?

Food and exercise

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  • Breakfast: Greek yogurt, apple and pear
  • Lunch: Omlette with tomoatoes
  • Snack: half an apple and 8 almonds
  • Dinner: Spaghetting squash with puttanesca sauce and chickpeas, glass of win
  • Exercise: None – it’s the day of rest after all! I got into my work out clothes though, Nearly there!