Snapshot: My Health & Fitness Journey

One piece of “sticky” advice that I remember hearing growing up and will never forget is that everyone has a story. I remember watching Oprah in high school and loving the episodes where she would randomly choose a person from the audience and then they would get to tell their life’s story on her show – the struggles, victories, and life lessons that they had learned – and it was always soo powerful to watch. Since then, I’ve always tried to carry that mindset with me wherever I go, especially when living and working in a city of millions of people, and it helps me open up and get to know people.

Today, I’ve decided to share a little snapshot of my own health and fitness story with you. I’m going to touch on a few different areas: a brief history, nutrition habits, work out routine, and motivation. Let’s do this.

My History

I don’t come from a “fit” background. I grew up in a small town in Illinois and wouldn’t touch vegetables with a 10-foot pole growing up. Even though I participated in various sports growing up (gymnastics, soccer, tennis, and cheer), I often struggled with the workouts (I also had a terrible diet), and it made me question my legitimacy as an athlete. That was hard because the Type A competitor in me always had a drive to win, but I just physically wasn’t at the top of my game, and that was beyond frustrating. In college, I became less active, drank often, and gained nearly 20 pounds.

After I graduated from undergrad and moved to Denver, I became much more interested in health and fitness. I had to learn how to cook for myself. Over time, I joined a gym, started running outside, cooked with my roommate who was a Crossfit coach/Paleo enthusiast, and began seeing the rewarding benefits of working out regularly and eating Paleo and started to “get it”. 

In 2014, I sporadically moved to New York City to be with my boyfriend. If you’re unfamiliar with New York City, life here is very different than in Colorado, and in many ways harder. Apartments are the size of a shoe box. People barely cook (they don’t have legit kitchens). The pace of life is a mile a minute. Work hours are CRAZY long making it much less convenient to work out. For the first 6 months that I was here, it felt exhausting just to exist. Not surprisingly, my health and fitness quickly reverted back to my old ways. I grew up eating a ton of carbs and hardly any vegetables. I’m also a chocoholic (chocolate IS addicting!). These kinds of foods are so readily available, and they’re also comforting to me because I’m definitely an emotional eater.

After about a year living in the city, my boyfriend, Cesar and I decided to move in together after he found a great apartment in Weehawken, New Jersey, right across the river from the city. It’s 2 bedrooms, has a YARD with a grill and laundry on-site, and a parking spot (Cesar has a company vehicle). I even have a “walk in” closet (it’s actually supposed to be a bedroom but it’s more like the size of half a bedroom). We signed the lease and have been living here since April 2015. 

While I wasn’t very excited to move to Jersey (I liked living in Manhattan), now that I’ve lived here for a while, I realize how many benefits it has – a kitchen I can literally do a cartwheel in, a grill (we cook out all the time), much more living space (I can lay down my yoga mat in my bedroom AND in my living room!), and a lot more comfort, period. Furthermore, I can FULLY open my refrigerator door without it hitting the other side of the room (that’s a real thing in NYC). Overall, my living environment drastically improved when I moved to Jersey and allowed me to make better choices for a healthy living lifestyle. 

Nutrition Habits

Cesar and I love to eat, it’s definitely one of our favorite hobbies. #foodies

In regards to nutrition, I know the power of eating whole foods and what they do for your body. We try not to buy bread from the store, which has really helped me cut down on carbs (sometimes I crave pita and hummus, and then I go get a bag of pita and hummus – I’m not crazy strict with it). I do most of the cooking and often struggle to incorporate more veggies into our meals (unless it’s a soup or scramble where you can throw everything in, and it tastes good). Cesar is so much better at preparing a balanced meal by incorporating as many veggies as possible (maybe he should cook more?!). Currently, this is my biggest hurdle in my health and fitness journey – if ya’ll have any tips or great recipes that incorporate a ton of veggies and is delicious, let me know!

Meal prepping has become a weekly routine that I do on Sundays. It helps both Cesar and I be more accountable to what we eat. I’ll meal prep our breakfasts (typically a sweet potato, hard boiled eggs, chicken sausage, and we just added broccoli to the mix this week). I’m pretty well-behaved during breakfast and dinner times, but it’s during lunchtime (when I’m out in the real world) when I’m at my weakest. Having good quality snacks (cashews/almonds, KIND bars, apples ‘n almond butter, etc.) at the office really helps me with cravings. What snacks do you eat while at work?

Back in October, I completed Round 1 of Whole30 with my sister and 2 cousins, and it was a great way to reset before the holidays (you can read my post about my experience with it here). The Whole30 is a 30-day reset and can do amazing things for you. At first, it’s a rollercoaster of detox, cravings, and mood swings, but by the end of the second week, I was starting to feel soo good. I slept harder, felt less bloated, focused better – so many great benefits of eating clean! I lost 5 pounds in 30 days. Then, the holidays rolled around, and I took one bite of fudge, and well, you know the rest…Like I mentioned before, being consistent with eating well-balanced meals with a lot of veggies and not overindulging in sweets are my 2 biggest struggles and a constant work in progress. 

Work Out Routine

One area where I feel really confident about is my fitness routine. This past July, I was laid off from my job working at an education non-profit. While I was feeling down, my neighbor invited me to a small group fitness studio that’s only a block and a half away from my apartment and invited me to try it out. A variety of group fitness classes are offered, and I decided to try a BARRE class with her. I had never taken a BARRE class before, and on the day that I went, it was the hottest day of the summer. About halfway through the hour-long class, I thought I was going to die and had to rest for like 5 minutes. Afterward, my neighbor empathized with me and said that happened to her the first time she went, too. Although it was really hard, I LOVED it. The small, intimate space, a positive instructor, great music, non-judgy girls at the class – everything resonated with me.

I bought a new member 10-pack and tried every class offered: spin, hiit, barre, POUND, and fusion (a mix of yoga and pilates). I became addicted. These group fitness classes are so challenging yet incredibly empowering to finish. I had never felt the kind of endorphins that I get from these group fitness classes during any other kind of workout before. After my 10-pack ran out, I instantly bought an unlimited monthly pass and went almost every single day while I was unemployed – it was my crutch. I’m happy and proud to say that even after starting my new job in November, I have continued to go to classes 4-5 times a week and have kept it a top priority in my life. Now it’s just a part of who I am and what I do on the regular.

Weekly Workouts

Some of you might be wondering how I work out 4-5 times a week? Great question! I think it boils down to planning your day around it as an essential activity to do, and then having the discipline to actually do it. Typically, I work until 6 pm and get home between 7 and 7:15 pm. Luckily for me, the group fitness studio that I go to has late night classes. The classes that I take either start at 8 or 8:15 pm and last 45 minutes to an hour. What that means for me is that I have to be very intentional with my time in the evenings because I don’t have a lot of it to spare. I usually go to bed between 10 and 10:30 pm and wake up between 5:15-6 am depending on what I have on my to-do list for my blog. I’m not going to lie, it’s A LOT. However, I love that I’m building discipline through my schedule because it’s an area where I’ve struggled so much in the past. Cesar and I try to enjoy each other’s company before I work out, since I get home from working out around 9 pm, usually exhausted, and have to shower after my workout. Once I’ve showered, it’s always close to my bedtime. 

Here’s what a typical week of workouts looks like for me:

  • Monday: BARRE class (1 hr)
  • Tuesday: Reggae dance class (1 hr; I used to take a POUND class but my instructor moved to California 3 weeks ago and this is the new class that is being offered)
  • Wednesday: Fusion class (1 hr)
  • Thursday: Spin class (1 hr) or off
  • Friday: off
  • Saturday: Hiit class (1 hr)
  • Sunday: Spin class (45 min)

Oftentimes, I have work-related industry events on Thursday nights, so I will take Thursday and Friday off.

In addition to my weekly workouts, I wear a Misfit step tracker around my wrist, which helps me visually see how much I’ve been moving each day. Because I commute back and forth to NYC, I typically have no problem hitting my goal of 10,000 steps a day, but it’s more helpful on the weekends when I am not commuting to and from the city. I would probably prefer the Fitbit because the face can show the time (I hate wearing the Misfit with a watch on the same wrist, so I’ve stopped wearing a watch), but I did get this FREE from Oscar insurance, my insurance that I purchased while I was unemployed. 

Mental Motivation

I’ve come to realize that what works to motivate me probably won’t work in the same way for you. Motivation is so personal and the reasoning that pushes me now may not have worked for me a year or two ago. For me, my mindset really shifted when I internalized these two ideas:

  • Work out because you love your body, not because you hate it.” We only have one life. One shot. I used to be so obsessed with being skinny and weighing a certain number. Now, I have finally realized that I’ve been blessed with a capable, strong body that can do hard things, even though it hurts like hell at times and that 1-minute plank at the end of a workout makes me want to cry. It’s not about being skinny anymore, it’s about being strong and pushing myself to grow out of my comfort zone.
  • Nothing worth having comes easy.” To me, this speaks directly to work ethic. As a hardworking student my entire life, I built a strong mental work ethic, and now I’ve started to take my academic work ethic and apply it to my physical fitness work ethic, which has been a big shift in my mindset.

Wow! I feel like I just laid down some realness with ya’ll. I think it’s so refreshing to be completely myself and share my life experiences, both good and bad, to hopefully inspire you to take a step back and reflect on your own personal health and fitness journeys. In my opinion, it’s one of the hardest journeys that we go through and having an open dialogue about it helps me see my progress, and motivates me by connecting with others.

I would love to hear from you! Where are you in your health & fitness journey? What’s been easiest/hardest for you? Share in the comments below.