Sunday, June 28, 2015

Handling Holidays

The Fourth of July

The Fourth of July is probably my favorite holiday.  (In November, I'll say it's Thanksgiving.)  I love all kinds of music too, except maybe gangsta rap and heavy metal.  Don't laugh, I even like Eminem - he's on my workout playlist.  Contemporary Christian music soothes my soul.  This week, I can't get enough of patriotic songs that remind me of our country's heritage  - anything that instills pride in the stars and stripes or makes me excited to be American.  It might be something more festive like Miley Cyrus' "Party in the USA," Katy Perry's "Firework," or something that reminds me of home like Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline."  Go Red Sox!

When you are on a journey to lose weight and be fit, how do you handle the holidays?  Family get togethers and picnics turn your nutritional plans upside down and completely interfere with your workout routine.  On Christmas Eve, I was busy all day and kept saying, "The gym closes early, you need to get there."  Yeah, that did not happen.  For the Fourth of July, we are fortunate to be able to visit my brother-in-law and sister-in-law.  I am relieved that Maria is health conscious, because I just don't eat like I used to, although I would still kill for a hot fudge sundae.  Traditional picnic foods are not really what I crave!  With the holiday weekend approaching, I am thinking about nutrition and exercise while I am away.  How do you make the best of the holidays?
For starters, since we will be there for the weekend, I am bringing dinner on Friday.  I'll pack some protein powder and bars to carry me through the weekend.  Water!  I have to consciously remind myself to drink lots of water!!!  I am so bad at that.  Thanks to Maria, I'm not too worried about what we'll eat.  No access to the gym means being creative with exercise.  Early morning walks, sets of push ups and maybe some mountain climbers.  If I'm lucky, Maria and I will do one of her boot camp routines by the beach, which will make me super happy.  If I can keep up with her, I'll be so excited.  She is such an inspiration to me.

Handling the holidays when you are trying to stay healthy and fit - whether it is the upcoming 4th of July or Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years down the road - it means you have to anticipate your circumstances.  You have to make choices, say "no" to some, say "yes" to others and figure out how to work exercise into your day.  You don't have to say, "No!" to everything.  A smart nutritional plan allows you to eat what you want in moderation.  If I make the Peanut Butter Cookie Lasagna I promised I'd bring, it's not the end of the day, as long as I don't eat five pieces of it and plan it into what I eat the rest of the day.  Summer is the best time of year for picnics because there are so many fresh, healthy options that can be turned into something patriotic.  Think of what you can do with strawberries and blueberries!

The bottom line is this:  Be smart!  Plan your weekend.  Limit your alcohol consumption.  Drink lots of water.  And MOVE your body!  Enjoy your fourth!

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Friday, June 26, 2015


No matter how you think about it, or look at it, it all boils down to commitment. Are you committed to becoming fit? Are you willing to do what it takes to make your dreams come true? The concept of commitment has probably most helped me overcome obstacles along the way.

Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.
Proverbs 16:3

Before my trainer, Mike, died, I really did not have the commitment needed to achieve my goals. I worked out at the gym pretty regularly, but I did things the way I wanted and made a lot of excuses.  When Mike died, I had an "A-Ha" moment.  His death made me realize how precious life is. Treasure the things that matter most: family, friends, health.  I had a renewed sense of commitment to meet my fitness goals.  I don't know if you want to call it determination or a desire to prove something from the tragedy.  (I write about this here:  Mike made me do it.)

Commitment is a tough word. When you commit yourself to something, or someone, it means you're "all in." But as a society, we often fear commitment.  I think it's fear of failure, a fear of success, a fear of getting hurt - maybe a combination of all three.  Looking back on the past 18 months, I can see varying levels of commitment towards my fitness journey.  What kept me moving forward was thinking to myself, "Do you have what it takes?  Do you dare to succeed?  Do you dare to try your best and possibly fail?"  I have surprised myself over and over again.  Even today, about 75 lbs. from my original weight, stronger than I have ever been, I have to ask myself, "Do you have what it takes?  Are you a quitter?"  It's commitment.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
Psalm 34:4

That said, I have not traveled this journey alone.  I have an amazing support system.

  • My best friend Stacy started her journey towards fitness this year and has lost 50 lbs!  I am so happy for her!  She inspires me to keep going and we share ideas, laugh together, cry together, and sometimes yell at each other. That's what friends do - they stick together through the good and the bad.  
  • My husband puts up with me, gives me riding tips and suggestions.  He says, "I don't want to hear it when you're sore tomorrow."  And when he's right, I say, "I don't want to hear, 'I told you so.'"  I love him!  
  • My sister-in-law Maria who cheers for me along the way, who drags me out in 15 degree weather to do "boot camp."
  • My cousin Jaime is an NPC Bikini Competitor.  Over the past two years, I have admired her journey and she has so inspired me.  If she could accomplish all she has, I know I can reach my goals. 
  • I've written previously about the girls at work and my trainer Dmitriy.  They are a constant source of support, encouragement and are truly the ones that keep me honest and keep me going.  You can read about them here:  Don't go it alone and Dmitriy made it happen.

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgement.
Proverbs 18:1

Let me ask you: Are you thinking about making changes to your life?  Is it a fitness goal?  Is it a career change?  Is it a relationship?  Are you committed to what it takes to be successful?  Are you afraid?  Maybe you'll fail.  Maybe you'll succeed - and WHAT would that mean?  Maybe  you'll get hurt.  Success.  Failure.  Pain.  What's worse?  Sitting back, doing nothing, waiting for something to change, letting life go by and your existence to continue.  OR Stepping out, taking steps to change, taking risks and seeing what happens.  Maybe you will fail, but if you are truly committed, you won't let a temporary failure set you back completely.  You'll find a way around your obstacle and you'll renew.  We learn every day, only if we allow ourselves the chance.

At the end of the day, I want to be able to say, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."  2 Timothy 4:7

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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Get Up and Move

Dmitriy (my trainer) and I had an interesting conversation about leading an active lifestyle, which inspired this blog.  

How many hours a day do you work? Do you have a physically active job? Do you spend most of your time sitting at a desk? The average person works an 8-9 hour day, add travel to/from work at an average of 1 hour +/- commute (round trip).  That's 9-10 hours/day, 5 days/week sitting, either at a desk or in your car.  Parents? Add another 2-3 hours/day "running around" (driving/sitting) your kids to/from their activities. Try fitting dinner in? Looks like McDonald's again!

Are you satisfied with this lifestyle? Do you feel like you are in control of your life or your "life" is in control of you? When my kids were younger, I drove them to two different age groups of activities: baseball, swimming, Tae Kwon Do, Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts (I was the Den Leader, of course), football, then work. These were all great activities to keep the boys busy and out of trouble. But it took a major toll on me. Looking back, I believed I was doing what was best for my kids.  I wonder if they needed so many different activities, or if they could have benefited just as much from family trips hiking, biking and to the park. I do not regret my past decisions, it's just one of those things that makes you wonder.  Looking forward, I am so glad the driving around is finally over.  

Joey's Blue & Gold Banquet at his crossing over from WEBELOS to Boy Scouts.

So, what's the point? Americans' busy lives are spent physically inactive. While we are very busy, we are not moving our bodies. Add to that, we don't have time to just be - to breathe. This puts our health at risk. High blood pressure, diabetes, stress, anxiety, depression, heart disease, the list goes on.  If this describes you, even a little, you must make some changes to regain control of your life.

Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Life opens with two amazingly perfect scriptures:

A life devoted to things is a dead life, a stump; a God-shaped life is a flourishing tree.
Proverbs 11:28

Blessed are those who trust in The Lord... They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and the go right on producing delicious fruit.
Jeremiah 17:7-8

Which tree are you?

Change is difficult. To regain control of your life, I recommend two things:

Find time to breathe. Having just finished up a six week whirlwind of homework (MA-PAL), birthday get togethers, scholarship dinners, multiple graduation related activities (prom, Class Day, graduation etc.), and other similar things, the stress was affecting me.  Sleepless nights, short fuses. Now that I'm off the roller coaster, I feel like I have to learn how to "BE" all over again.  

This past weekend was amazing. Sunday was almost a "perfect day." I did what I wanted to do all day. A morning bike ride with other SPD Ride to Remember riders, lunch, a long workout at the gym, dinner, an evening hike to see the sunset.  This was a lot in one day, but it was what I wanted to do. It gave me time to be with and enjoy my creator. 

Taken on our hike Sunday night.

All of the busy-ness is a distraction from what God designed us to be. We must create time to be with Him, to reflect on His goodness. When I do this, I am able to find peace, and in the stillness I can hear his voice. But I have to listen, to spend time with Him. For me, there is no better place to do this than in nature - whether it is when I take Koby for a walk or out on a hike.  Take time to be, to breathe. 

Get up and MOVE!  One hour at the gym is only 4% of your day. Make this a priority. Don't allow your day to get ahead of you without a trip to the gym. One or two days per week is not enough. Make your goal to workout every day. I start my day thinking, "When will I get to the gym today?" And I only miss it if I absolutely can't get there.  On a typical week, that means I am there six out of seven days per week. 

Let's be honest, if you want to see results, sitting in the car or in front of the TV will not bring them. 

Do you hate working out? Change it up. To be honest, I absolutely loathe walking on a treadmill, sitting on a stationary bike and even worse - the elliptical machine. It definitely has it's benefits...don't misunderstand. But I don't go to the gym every day to get on an elliptical machine and be bored. I am too busy and that kind of monotony does NOTHING to make me want to workout. I have a different workout for each day at the gym. One day each for legs, abs, back, and upper body. One day with my trainer, one day to mix things up.  I love working out. For me, it's the one hour each day that I get to take care of ME. The best way to care for every one else is to start with me.  Since I started riding my bike, I don't even care if I get in any cardio at the gym because I get enough riding. 

My challenge to you is this
If you are spending too much time sitting at a desk or driving in your car.  If you feel like your life is out of control, or if you are trying to lose weight and can't seem to see progress, stop and examine the changes you can you make to your routine.  Can you carve out an hour each day to workout?  Remember, that's only 4% of your day!  

It doesn't have to be at the gym, but I have found doing it on your own does not have a high enough level of accountability.  It's too easy to become passive, to sit on the couch, to play a game on the computer.  It helps many people to have a workout partner, someone to keep you accountable. I'm sure you can find someone in your circle. For me, I had to do it on my own because if my partner couldn't make it to the gym, I didn't go alone. It was one more excuse for me.  I love the gym and find the staff there to be tremendously supportive. Not just my trainer, but the fitness director, the other trainers, the membership team, and the people at the front desk. I love the team at Best Fitness. Not only are they friendly, but they provide a positive environment and encouragement on the journey.  My gym has LONG hours, so there really is no reason for me to not make it there before closing.
Remember, change takes time. It is a journey. If you are so busy that your life is revolving around things, I would predict you may feel more like the dead tree mentioned above in Proverbs.  Seek The Lord to help you find purpose, to BE who He wants you to be. Your life will never be the same.

This is me at Ponce De Leon Park in Punta Gorda, Florida.  We watched the sunset from there.  Making time to just BE.

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Monday, June 1, 2015

Content, not complacent

A woman's body image has a lot to do with her self-esteem.  Anyone who tells you otherwise is either in denial or is not a woman.  That said, I have never been very vain.  I don't wear very much makeup and I am no fashionista.  (The style police at work have to keep me in line.)  I've always contended that true happiness comes from finding peace with the Lord and fulfillment in Him.  I tend to find my self-esteem from my work, whether it was as a mother, as a guidance counselor or even as a ministry leader.  With my endeavor to become fit, I have found a new sense of joy.  This is not so much vanity, but  truly feeling comfortable in my skin.

You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.
Isaiah 26:3

There are tremendous benefits from being physically healthy.  Being a healthy weight takes years off your appearance.  You feel better, you sleep better, you are happier.  The excess fat causes hormonal imbalances that diminish with the weight loss.  You will have a new lease on life.

This was taken last week when I was on vacation visiting my family in Florida.

Furthermore, I can't begin to explain the sense of satisfaction when you overcome, or work through physical challenges.  This is something I never appreciated.  I was not athletic, I always believed I was not cut out for sports.  When I was in elementary school in gym class, when we did the President's Challenge, I always failed and was so embarrassed.  I remember that stupid rope that extended from the ceiling of the gym with big knots in it and the gym teacher wanted us to climb the rope.  I could never get high and was mortified because it seemed like the rest of the class could go all the way to the top.

Now that I can do push-ups (I can regularly do three sets of 15 push-ups, with a max of 20), I am working on pull-ups.  I really want to master these and they are HARD!  When I was 10 years old, I could not do even one pull-up.  I really want to beat this and I will let you know when I do.  This is a challenge I set for myself, which allows me to work harder.  Being content, not complacent.

Disclaimer:  This is NOT me!

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:12-13

I recently found my Weight Watchers weight record from 2012.  I noticed something about the log.  I was losing about 1 - 2 lbs. per week until August.  I hurt my knee at the end of July and could hardly walk.  I had a cortisone shot to help me deal with the pain and an MRI which showed nothing conclusive wrong (just arthritis).  From that point, I started gaining 1 - 4 lbs. per week until I quit in October.  I can see that I gave up.  I became complacent and did not work through my obstacle.  I let it beat me.

I could re-injure my knee and be laid up again.  There is always that chance.  Fortunately, my trainer has me working to strengthen the muscles in my leg, so hopefully that won't happen.  I also have a support system to help keep me going and a sense of determination which I have never felt before.  I pray that the combination of these will result in me not allowing obstacles to derail me, should I suffer another injury.

I regularly hear this from people, "You're not still losing weight, are you?"  So let me tell you...NO, I am not trying to lose weight anymore.  This is not my goal.  My goals are to beat those pull-ups, continue to reduce body fat and to accomplish longer rides on my bike with improved times.  I am content, not complacent.

For godliness with contentment is great gain.
1 Timothy 6:6

I love this song:

Sheryl Crow

I don't have digital.
I don't have diddly squat.
It's not having what you want.
It's wanting what you've got.
I'm going to soak up the sun.
I'm going to tell everyone to lighten up.
I'm going to tell 'em that 
I've got no one to blame.
For every time I feel lame, 
I'm looking up.
I'm going to soak up the sun.

This song rings the importance of being content.  It's NOT having what you want.  It's wanting what you've got.  I love the message!!!!!  Are you comfortable in your skin?  Are you happy with who you are inside and out?  The journey towards becoming fit is exactly that - a journey.  I takes the first step to get going on the journey.  Don't be hard on yourself, lighten up!  When you are feeling lame, just look up and soak up the sun.  Just keep moving forward, that's the only way you will accomplish your goals.

Sunset from Ponce De Leon Park in Punta Gorda, FL

One more thing...
As a side note, I saw this on Instagram recently, "Why would you make fun of a fat person at the gym when you have visible evidence that they are actively trying to fix the problem?"  This struck me.  I remember when I first went back to the gym in 2014.  I was making no progress, I hated working out and I felt like people were staring at me.  I was so self-conscious.  That was one of the reasons I got a trainer because I knew I would learn the right things to help me improve, which relieved so much of my feeling awkward.  My trainer will tell you that I still feel awkward because I will refuse to do certain things if I see someone I know at the gym.  He just shakes his head.  He's probably thinking, "Tracey, come on, seriously!"  So I totally get the feeling.  But I will tell you this, now that I workout just about every day.  NO ONE really notices you at the gym.  We are pretty much involved with our own workouts and thinking about our own thing that we don't pay attention to other people.  That self-conscious feeling is completely on you and my best advice is to get a gym partner to help distract you from that feeling.  So, you've got no one to blame...just get yourself to the gym!

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