My Fitness Journey Part 3: Goals + Guilt

making nice in the midwest fitness journey

Whew! January is halfway over, and I still haven’t made any New Year’s resolutions! Have you? I tend to shy away from January resolutions because I figure if something is important enough to me, I wouldn’t have waited until the new year to make a change. But last January I was so inspired by friends’ journeys to becoming healthier (including losing weight for aesthetic purposes), that I decided to get a YMCA membership and work on my own fitness. One year later, and I’m still actually using that membership. Go me! But I have a little confession. I fell off the fitness wagon for a few months in the Summer and Fall. But I learned some things! I picked myself back up. And now I want to offer you some advice and encouragement in case you need it. (And don’t we all?)

I told myself that my fitness journey didn’t have an end date. This is a lifestyle. Blah, blah, blah… everybody says it. I shied away from setting goals and dates because I was worried I’d become so focused on the goals and dates that I would view the entire endeavor as a short-term project that should be completely full-steam ahead. I told myself it wasn’t a race, but I still burned myself out! I was working out too much and being too strict with my nutritional intentions that I made myself feel like I failure when I slipped up or took a week off. One week off turned into three, which turned into four, and then I sort of just quit working out at all, which in turn made me much less likely to make good choices at the grocery store.

From July-November I did pop into the gym once or twice a month out of guilt. But I also engaged in quite a bit of overindulging in junk food and sweets to deal with my YOLO feelings when I thought perhaps my cancer had returned with a vengeance. (I had received bad results from a follow-up scan, which ended up being nothing to worry about, but that’s a story for another day.) I became reacquainted with bad habits during this time, and in five months, I had gained back 10 of the 20 pounds I lost from January-June, and a decent amount of muscle mass. And, of course, I felt like a failure. Feeling like a failure isn’t very motivating, turns out. Feeling like a failure kept me reaching for the Double Stuffed Golden Oreos.

After a while of being disappointed in myself, and frustrated with how my clothes were fitting, I figured the best thing to do was to pick myself back up and start up again where I had left off! I actually felt weird going into the gym again, like the regulars would judge me for my time off, or like they would actually notice I had to decrease the weight I had been using before. Ha! What a thought. I had to shake off those weird insecurities and shame and get back into beast mode where I didn’t care about what anyone thought, and focus on my own goals.

Wait, goals? What goals? I thought unrealistic goals were what had knocked me down in the first place? It’s difficult to say what happened, really. Maybe it was that I had achieved success to a certain degree, found it easier to back off, and then felt like I had backed off so far, it would be too difficult to get back into it. Or maybe it was that I thought my goals were unrealistic. Feelings of self-doubt told me I’d always have a big belly, I’d never be able to run that fast, or I’d never be able to squat like that one girl… I think it was a combination of a lot of things. But it came down to just settling for who I was, instead of who I could be.

I have decided to quit focusing on what I could look like in a year, and start thinking about what I can DO in a month. I’ve decided goal setting IS for me after all, but only when it comes to what I can achieve. Achievements don’t define me, but they do empower me. The scale doesn’t empower me. Looser pants don’t empower me. Sure, those things can make me feel nice in the moment. But that doesn’t hold up over time. So for 2017, I have decided to set one goal for each month which will encourage me to challenge myself with my fitness in a way that is attainable, but also requires me to be consistent with my workouts and push myself a little (not a lot).

January’s goal is to run 80 miles. I decided this is achievable, because on good weeks, I’ve been able to run 20 miles. Multiply that by four, and I could get in 80 miles if I put in the work every week, even when I don’t feel like it. So far I have ran 56 miles and am easily on target to reach my goal by the end of the month! I’ve also decided what February’s goal will be. I’ll still be running, though not as much (and I won’t be tracking my mileage), because I’m aiming to do 2 leg days a week in addition to one day of biceps/triceps/shoulders and one day of back/chest. This is a big deal, because I work really hard on leg days in the weight room, and I usually have trouble walking and sitting down the next day. Two leg days a week would be a lot to stick to for a whole year, but I could do it for the shortest month of the year, right?!

Feeling successful by hitting smaller, achievable goals helps set me up to make good choices with my nutrition (allowing indulgences more than once a week), and in general gives me so much confidence! My body is continuing to change, which is wonderful to see, but more importantly I am proud of myself for what I can do, rather than how I look.

(P.S. The top photo is from last Summer. I’m finally back at that weight and feeling stronger than ever!)

My Fitness Journey Part 2: Nutrition

fitness motivational chart

The last time I talked about my fitness journey with you, I mentioned that I wanted to be more balanced than I have been in the past and set routines that I could maintain and be happy living with. The biggest aspect of that has been being moderate with my eating. During past weight loss journeys, I have been very strict with hitting a target calorie count and getting specific macro nutrient goals each day, that honestly sucks the life out of me and makes me feel like chucking the whole plan into the dump. So this time I’ve been working on eating according to my goals most of the time, but treating myself a little most days, treating myself a lot on the weekends, and sometimes having really indulgent days but being okay with that and enjoying them when they happen, instead of feeling like a failure or mentally beating myself up as it’s happening. As long as I am progressing over time, as gradual as it might be, I feel good about the way things are going, in turn empowering myself to continue enthusiastically on my fitness journey.

Yummy food encompasses a lot of what makes life enjoyable, and I want to embrace that, not restrict myself to the point of unhappiness. However, I personally need to be vigilant with how much I indulge, because a cheat meal can easily overflow into a cheat week. So I try to reevaluate what I’m eating somewhat regularly, especially when I feel like I’m majorly backsliding into old habits, and make sure that I’m still sticking with my good habits as well as cutting myself slack when I need to— mentally and physically. So let’s talk about what my general plan is and how I’ve been successful with weight loss even though I haven’t been a diet maniac.

ftiness goal chart

setting fitness goalsI started out by determining what an ideal day would look like, dietarily speaking, and planning various healthy (and low calorie) meal ideas that I can shuffle around like puzzle pieces to complete an ideal day of meals. The My Fitness Pal app is very helpful with this. You can log your meals and drinks to not only see calories, but also a macro nutrient pie chart and nutritional information for each meal and each day. It makes it easy to see how much protein, carbs, and fat you’re consuming, but also checking to see if your sugar, sodium, potassium, iron (and more) is where it should be. If by looking at your daily summaries you see that the day is a bit off from what you’d like, you can pin point what meals should be adjusted, and which meals really help you hit your targets. Then plan to adjust accordingly the next day. Once I found a variety of foods that are really goal friendly and also enjoyable to eat, I pretty much stick to the same rotation (with alterations here and there) and no longer need to log my meals to know that what I’m eating is on par with the nutrients I’m aiming for.

I don’t use My Fitness Pal every day any more, but if I notice that I’ve been overeating or eating unhealthy foods (aka cheating) more and more and feel like I’m really off track, I’ll reel myself back in by being more strict with logging my meals and staying accountable to what I’m consuming. Then I’ll ease back once I’m back in a better mindset. One thing I really like about My Fitness Pal is that I can log meals the day before, which helps me plan what and when I need to eat the next day. This is helpful on busy days so I know what food I should bring with me or where I should eat out in order to stay on track with my goals. Sometimes if I’m busy I will actually not eat, and then eat the wrong foods later when I’m super hungry. So planning helps prevent that.

planning for successOne of my favorite sayings is “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” That is so true with fitness goals! Plan out what meals you’d like to eat each week before you hit up the grocery store, and exercise willpower at the store, which will make willpower at home much easier. Know your weaknesses and plan to overcome them! If you know you have trouble with things like ordering takeout because of convenience, then make sure you have your fridge stocked with healthy options that you enjoy. I like to grill chicken at the beginning of the week and reheat it later with other sides I have stocked in the fridge for easy dinners. Buying greek yogurt in serving sized packages is a favorite high protein snack of mine, but I also use containers to portion out food to take on the go if I need to fly out the door and know I’ll be tempted to hit the drive through later. If you struggle with late night snacking, substitute unhealthy snacks for healthier options you enjoy— that way you’re not depriving yourself from an experience you enjoy, but rather you’re just adjusting the habit a bit. Don’t just say “No eating after 7PM,” or something extreme like that, because cravings are about more than just food. They’re about experiences and comfort. So if you enjoy late night snacking, just incoporate it into your meal plan for the day and eat as late as you want! I used to enjoy a glass of wine almost every night. Again— I was looking for the experience of relaxing and treating myself after the kids were in bed, but now I’ll usually make myself a cup of tea with honey and sip on that. I will still have a couple of glasses of wine a week, or more depending on my social calendar, because remember— you want your nutritional goals to be easy to maintain and not restrictive.

It’s important to set habits for yourself so it will be easy to get back into things after a bit of a break that happens on vacations, changes in your schedule, or a cheat day, if you will. If you’re just starting out, it might be a good idea to be strict during the entire week and then to have one meal and one dessert a week that is indulgent. The point is not to be restrictive, but to retrain yourself and set healthy habits into motion. Then after a month, you can start incorporating a few indulgent snacks or small treats throughout your week in a moderate way, making sure that you have a healthy mental outlook on your diet. The goal is to have balance, enjoy food, but to keep the reigns on your eating so you can meet your goals and be healthy! If your dietary goals make you stressed about going to parties, causes you to obsess over every meal, and consumes a lot of your thought life, I’d say you’re not in a healthy place. While you might be causing your body to be more healthy, the rest of your life is probably out of balance, and shouldn’t we be aiming for total body health?

staying motivatedAt first it’s easy to be motivated to make good decisions regarding fitness goals. At least, if you’re excited about your goals. But that goes away after a while. So it’s important to make this about enjoying the process, not about the end goal. Or you may feel like giving up. I reward myself for reaching benchmark goals and also keep a motivational chart that I fill with stickers for various achievements, such as clean eating (purple smiley), weight lifting (orange smiley), miles run (gold star), and increasing my weight or going on a family walk. The first image in this post shows me adding a sticker to the chart, which is pretty gratifying, oddly enough! Find what motivates you, whether it be blogging, following fitness bloggers, finding a gym body, or whatever, and stick with it!

nutrition staples

nutrition goalsBecause I am weight lifting, a big part of my personal dietary goals is to have a high protein diet. I used to aim for a macro nutrient ratio of 40/40/20 (protein, carbs, fat), but now I just try to hit 120-150 grams of protein each day and not really worry about my fat or carbs ratio so much. As far as calories go, on an ideal day I’ll consume around 1500, but I go over that most days because quite honestly, I struggle with eating according to my goals, but I also don’t want to stress myself out about it, so I just roll with it and figure, hey, this is a marathon, not a sprint! I’m not in a race to lose weight as fast as possible. I’m on a journey and it’s okay if I’m not perfect.

That being said, I’ve found the easiest ways to stick to my goals is to just let myself be a habitual eater most of the time. I eat the same things over and over again, and am happy with that, but I also enjoy breaking routine here and there and treating myself when I feel the need. Here are some of my go-to foods for each meal of the day, including snacks and treats.

greek yogurt bowl for breakfast

healthy breakfastMy favorite meal of the day! Perhaps because it’s always so carb laden? I often will eat these foods for snacks and other meals as well. When I’m on the go, I will make a smoothie because they are so easy to sip while driving. If it’s the weekend, I will load up on french toast. And if I need groceries, enter the peanut butter toast! Always I have coffee and never do I skimp on the cream.

  • greek yogurt bowl (I mix plain and vanilla nonfat yogurt with 1/4 cup of muesli and seasonal fruit.)
  • oatmeal (My favorite is cooked in 2% milk and topped with a swirl of peanut butter, sliced banana, and a sprinkling of mini chocolate chips.)
  • breakfast quinoa (cooked in coconut milk and topped with coconut cream, honey, and seasonal fruit)
  • green egg white smoothie (I blend 1/2 banana, lots of kale, another fruit of choice- kiwi or apple usually, water, then blend in ice and frozen mango, then slowly blend in 1/3 cup egg white protein powder.)
  • french toast and fruit
  • peanut butter toast topped with 1/2 sliced banana

post-workout meal omelette

post workout mealsIt should be noted that because my schedule is different from most peoples’, considering my odd work-at-home mom schedule, that I fit in a workout somewhere between breakfast and lunch on most days. So my lunch is usually lighter and very protein heavy to fuel my muscle repair after heavy weight lifting. I usually fit in a substantial snack before dinnertime, or I’ll have an early dinner and then a substantial snack before bedtime.

My go-to post workout lunches are the following (in order of frequency):

  • egg white omelette (sometimes with mix-ins I’ll find in the fridge)
  • chicken salad sandwich— chicken salad made with mashed avocado, greek yogurt, shredded chicken, diced red onion, salt, and pepper
  • lentil or black bean soup (usually not during summertime)
  • leftovers from dinner the night before (see my dinner regulars below)

light stuffed peppers

dinnerI try to be flexible with dinners, because I usually have this meal alongside others, and especially in the Summer we grill out with friends. But it’s usually pretty easy to keep it light and protein-rich, as I’m likely to have a small grilled chicken breast with loads of veggies on the side. (Albeit some of those veggies are fried in the form of potato chips! Oops!) These are my favorite go-to dinners when I’m planning my own meals to enjoy with our family here at home:

  • grilled or broiled chicken with two vegetable sides (usually one fiber heavy and one carb heavy, such as broccoli and sweet potatoes)
  • stuffed peppers made traditionally but subbing ground turkey for beef/sausage, quinoa for rice, and adding kale
  • chicken fried rice or other stir fry made with quinoa or cauliflower rice
  • ground turkey pasta sauce served over spaghetti squash with a baked potato
  • burrito bowls with seasoned grilled chicken, black beans, corn salsa, cauliflower rice, and sweet potatoes
  • chicken wraps (usually made with a thai style peanut sauce over sliced chicken and wrapped in live edge lettuce with thinly sliced peppers and carrots)

green smoothie

healthy snacksBecause my meals are on the small side and might be pretty nutritionally comparable to the snacks I eat, I actually tend to look at my daily intake more as “meal one,” “meal two,” etc. rather than breakfast, lunch,  dinner, and snacks. So here are some of my favorite snacks that I incorporate into the rotation, but I also regularly eat food from what I’ve listed under breakfast, lunch, and dinner for my snack time as well.

  • apple with peanut butter greek yogurt dip (I shared the recipe here)
  • green smoothie (recipe described in breakfasts)
  • protein smoothie made with chocolate protein powder, almond milk, and banana as shown here (great post-workout snack!)
  • vegetables with hummus (usually carrots, peppers, or broccoli)
  • rice cakes with peanut butter and banana slices
  • cooked egg whites and salsa (if I’m low on my protein goal for the day)
  • chia seed pudding (My favorite is made in a mixture of almond milk , maple syrup and cocoa powder then topped with sliced banana after thickening. I also enjoy a version made by blending together strawberries, honey, and coconut milk to add to the chia seeds.)
  • asian edamame slaw (made from this recipe)

peanut butter dip and chocolate banana shake

treat yo selfSome people go for cheesecake or pasta dishes like fettuccine alfredo, but I’m actually not the biggest fan of some basic cheat meals. (Though some of my favorites are as about basic as you can get!) I thought it would be fun to share my favorite indulgences that I’ll often choose when I’m ready to treat myself. Not all of these are necessarily bad for you, but they are more indulgent in the calorie department than I usually work into my daily diet, so I obviously don’t always eat this stuff. But I do look forward to indulging in them somewhat regularly! 

  • french toast
  • sugary cereal with milk
  • Nutella stuffed pancake balls
  • pizza
  • doughnuts
  • Mexican food
  • tortilla chips and guacamole
  • pad Thai
  • ice cream (peanut butter chocolate variations are my favorite!)
  • Oreos (double stuffed golden all the way!)
  • iced animal cookies
  • goldfish crackers
  • oatmeal cookies
  • Cheetos
  • homemade puppy chow aka muddy buddies (look it up if you don’t know! So good!)
  • cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting
  • mashed potatoes
  • cherry cobbler

Oh man, now I really want to treat myself. Maybe I’ll make french toast for dinner!

My Fitness Journey Part 1: WEIGHT LIFTING

My Fitness Journey - Weight Lifting

This past year has been a whirlwind of changes for our family, and along with that, lots of changes to my body! In 2015 I was pregnant for the second time, experienced surgery during pregnancy (appendectomy), and a painful third trimester, thanks to the stretching scar tissue from my surgery. I wasn’t complaining, because I was just happy my baby made it through the trauma, but the pain from the scar tissue left me able to do very little during most of my pregnancy, so I was eager to get back into an exercise regimen to shed some fat and start to feel more like myself postpartum. Of course, beginning with a first trimester where the only food I could keep down consisted of carbs and only carbs, I developed a lot of bad eating habits throughout my pregnancy as well. I suppose that’s pretty common with a lot of pregnant women. But at the end of it all, I was faced once again with a reshaped body and a closet full of clothes that didn’t fit me, and didn’t look like they’d fit me for a very, very long time. If ever.

I wasn’t happy about how I felt or looked, and I guess the best way to describe it would be that I just didn’t feel like myself. And the weight wasn’t coming off as easily as it had the first time. Plus— I had entered my thirties, when they say your metabolism is, well, OVER IT, I guess. I knew it was going to be a challenge to get where I wanted to be, and I sort of tried a bit at first, but then came the holiday season, busyness, some family crises, and sort of an apathetic approach to my health and fitness. But January came and I became so inspired by everyone else’s goals, plus a few local friends who had transformed their bodies and were really excited about their health reports from their doctors, proving that they were doing good things for their bodies, as well as their minds.

So I set a goal for myself and armed with a lot of lessons from the past about how to set myself up for both failure and success, I went at it, and gosh darn it, guys, I’m really happy with how things have been going! I had to share it with you.

before weightloss photo

overcoming-past-failures-and-excuses 
There’s a lot to say about how to set yourself up for success when it comes to body transformations, and I’ve given up and failed in the past because of a few reasons.

my-goals-were-too-overwhelming
In the past, I had made my goals about weight loss, and the number was usually pretty intimidating. When you’re gaining muscle along the way, the scale will definitely play with your mind, because you feel like, “Man, I’m doing all this work, but the scale isn’t moving very much.” It makes you feel like progress is slower than it actually is, and it also can make you feel like giving up. I’ve learned that the goals that really inspire me when reached are about other things besides weight: taking measurements each month; taking progress photos each month; charting each weight lifting session to see my strength gains; fitting into a smaller dress size.

So what is my goal this time around? My specific goal is to be a size 8. I’ve fluctuated between a size 10/12 for the past few years, and am really excited about getting to a size 8 and staying there. It’s a reasonable, healthy goal, and I’m close to getting there! I also have some general goals, like getting stronger (there’s no limit or end goal here), and faster. I’ve gotten into road running and running hills, which had always intimidated me in the past.

process-was-too-tedious
In the past, I had great success with losing weight through watching my portions and caloric intake. I tracked my eating each day with the My Fitness Pal app, and it really helped me stay on track. When I added my exercise sessions to the app, it was very motivating to see how sweating it out greatly impacted my estimated weight loss for the month. It made me want to work out harder and as frequently as much as possible. It was really all-consuming, and I found that I would avoid certain social situations if there was food I couldn’t measure/weigh and accurately log into the app. Food was controling my life and quite frankly, wasn’t as enjoyable anymore. This is just a lot to manage, along with everything else in life, and I think it was too much, factoring into why I quit caring about my intake a couple of years ago.

This time around, I’ll occasionally log into My Fitness Pal to make sure I’m getting enough protein and meeting my macro goals (more on that later). But in general I’m a pretty habitual eater, and I have a general idea when I eat certain foods and portions that I’m on the right track. And because I’m exercising pretty hard, and increasing my metabolism with weight lifting, I have grace with myself and indulge with treats here and there, and one “cheat day” each weekend. Sometimes cheat days spill into the week, and I shrug it off, enjoy my food, and then focus in on my goals again. I feel like I have a much healthier approach to eating this time around, and certainly enjoy my food, but have good habits through the week that make eating healthy during the day a pretty easy decision.

setbacks
The last time I was making good headway towards healthier habits and a size I felt more comfortable in, I was stopped short when I threw out my back in the summer of 2014. I couldn’t exercise for a couple of months, which halted all of my progress and took away a lot of my daily motivation to make wise choices with my eating. So I fell back into old habits, and theeeeen I got pregnant again. So I figured I’d worry about it later. Here I am worrying about it!

I have been stopped because of injuries in the past, and am very, very careful now to be smart about how I exercise. I rest frequently, order my exercises around resting each muscle group, and I train for the exercises I want to do, so I’m strong enough and can avoid injury. If I feel a pain, I don’t work/run through it. I stop and see a trained professional for help. For instance, I was experiencing plantar fasciitis for the first time in my life when I started running again this past February. I completely quit running for a while and received therapy from my chiropractor, as well custom-made orthotics which have helped prevent this happening again after I returned to running. I also don’t do plyometric exercises any more, because it led to my 2014 back injury, as I found I didn’t focus on form and was working while too physically exhausted during plyometric workouts. When embarking on new exercises I’m unfamiliar with, I always take it slow and make sure I’m using the proper form and technique.

Sometimes injuries happen regardless of how much you prepare and try to prevent them, though, and if it happens to me again, I hope I can be of the mindset to at least continue my better food choices throughout my recovery.

children-were-an-excuse-not-to-exercise
It takes a lot of planning when kids are thrown into the mix. Who’s napped when, who will watch them, do they need watched, fed, diapered…. etc. I found that working out at home just doesn’t happen very well when kids are here. And even if they’re not around, I get distracted too easily by other tasks and keep putting off exercise, which meant it rarely happened. I have to get to the gym away from the kids and the house to be focused, and as I spend time alone exercising, I’m also refreshed. (Exhausted, but refreshed!) I found a facility with very flexible childcare hours and an amazing childcare staff. For me, that was my local YMCA. At first, Juniper cried a lot, and I would have to take breaks to go sit with her. But I didn’t give up, and eventually she got used to being there. Victory!

Now the girls both love trips to the Y, and their love for being there helps motivate me to go. Besides, why wouldn’t I take advantage of time alone while someone else watches my kids and I improve my body and health? It’s a great situation, especially for someone like me who spends all day alone with the kids!

the-transforming-power-of-weights
Another change I’ve made this time around is focusing heavily (pun!) on weight lifting. Weight lifting has dramatically increased my metabolism, it’s reshaping my body, and it has helped increase my self esteem, making me feel more empowered in other areas of my life as well. I can look at photos of myself from 2014 when I was the same weight I am now, but my body is shaping up much more nicely now because of lifting heavy weights in the gym. I know some people say during a weight loss journey to focus first on losing fat, and then sculpting with weights and whatnot, but I think it’s much smarter to work on both weight loss and muscle growth/toning at the same time. Why? Well, growing muscle will increase your metabolism and help burn fat even when you aren’t at the gym. Doing cardio will help burn fat in the moment and for a while afterwards, but building muscle turns your body into a fat-burning machine. And once the fat starts going away, it’ll reveal sculpted muscle beneath. Because muscle weighs more than fat, it can be discouraging to monitor your weight as you are also building muscle. While your body is shrinking, it isn’t weighing much less because it is amassing heavy, though compact muscle. This can be a big mental battle to overcome, so I recommend not looking at the scale but once a month.

slim-down-with-heavy-weights

Another piece of advice I’ve found to be flawed is that women who wish to be slim shouldn’t lift heavy weights or they will get bulky. In the past, I would lift lighter weights with higher reps. But I’ve been extremely challenging myself in the weight room, to failure and exhaustion each time with heavy weights. I do fewer reps (8-12 reps in sets of 3), and all that’s been happening is that I’ve begun to shrink and grow stronger! If I reach three sets of twelve reps, I know it’s time to increase the weight next time and challenge myself more. The magic of staying lean and not bulking happens in the kitchen. I’ve been eating food targeted towards lean muscle growth (lean sources of protein and complex carbohydrates), focusing on staying in a certain caloric range, and really making it a goal to stick to a 40/40/20 macro ratio for fat loss. My Fitness Pal helps me track my macros, and since I’m a habitual eater, I pretty much eat the same rotation of food during the week. Read more about macro nutrients and how they impact your fitness and weight loss goals here.

There’s a lot more to say about eating when weight lifting, and I’m not qualified to give advice on the matter, but I recommend checking out BodyBuilding.com for lots of great information. That website has been a great resource for me. I’ll also share more about my eating habits and regular meals in a later post.

weight lifting routine overcoming-fear-of-the-weightroom
It can be intimidating to get into the weight room when it’s filled with cocky muscle heads and fit women who absolutely amaze and intimidate just from their physical appearance. At least, that’s how I felt. But I made a plan for myself, using BodyBuilding.com, and looked up the exercises online before (and sometimes after) I got to the gym. Sometimes I’d ask someone around me a question about machinery and whatnot, and they are always happy to help. If you want to use a machine someone else is on, and they’re hanging around on it, you can ask to work in with them, or ask how long they will be. Being flexible with your plan is key when you’re at the gym. Be bold, though, and remember, everyone is there to better themselves, so don’t feel bad that you’re not where you feel you should be, or even close to as fit as those around you. Focus on you and becoming better than you were yesterday!

Here is my spreadsheet that I use when I got to the gym. Lately I’ve been going 6 days a week, but I plan to slow down after I’ve reached my size 8 goal. I use a three-day-split, which means I work three different body parts on three different days, instead of doing a full body workout each day. This allows my body to rest and my muscles to regenerate (GROW!) while that part of my body rests. I do 25 minutes on the elliptical to warm up my body before hitting the weight room, and then I spent about 30 minutes on my weight lifting plan. Leg days take a bit longer. I don’t always stick to the order and exercises shown in my chart, as it’s great to mix things up and keep your body guessing and developing differently. I’ll change grip, stances, or even orders to switch things up, or I’ll incorporate exercises I’ve seen other people doing that intrigue me. I usually do supersets for most exercises shown in my chart, and if you’re not sure what that is, check out this post on supersets to see what they’re all about.

Diet is so important when weight lifting. The goal is to have protein several times a day, so your muscles constantly have a stream of fuel for their regrowth, but not too much at once or your body won’t be able to utilize it and it will instead be stored as fat. I have up to 25 grams of protein about 6 times a day with meals and snacks. It’s also said to be important to have protein within 30 minutes of a weight lifting session, so I bring my protein drink with me to the gym to have immediately after lifting weights and before doing any additional cardio work, because I don’t want my body to draw from my muscle growth for energy during any additional exercises. I mix a vegan protein powder with almond milk and mix it together in a blender bottle to take to the gym. It’s easier on my system than whey protein, and I love the creaminess that the almond milk adds for very few calories.

My Fitness Journey - Weight Lifting

MY-WEIGHT-LIFTING-MUST-HAVES
Here are some of my basics that I have come to rely on for weight lifting, and a bit about why I love each item!

  1. Pea Protein Powder– My stomach as trouble digesting whey protein, and after a vigorous workout, I’ve been known to actually throw it up! Yikes! This is a delicious, low-carb vegan protein powder that I use every day after my workouts to fuel my muscles for repairing and growing.
  2. Blender Bottle– This is the perfect size for my protein drinks. I use the protein powder above mixed with 12 ounces of almond milk, which is easily measured using the lines on the cup. The ball whisk inside makes the powder blend easily with liquid so there are no chunks or clumps.
  3. Binder with spreadsheet- I always chart my weight, reps, and sets during every workout. Click here to download it for your personal use. This chart helps me see progress, but also it’s easy to forget what weight to use for each exercise. If I can get in 3 sets of 12 reps for an exercise, I’ll make a note to increase the weight next time, which will usually put me at 8 reps, instead of 12. Then when I get strong enough to do 12 reps of the higher weight, I increase it again. It’s great to look back on my old charts and see how much stronger I’ve become!
  4. Wireless Headphones– First of all— listening to a great music mix will help you bust out that last rep, and stay focused when in the weight room. But whether you’re wearing an armband or not, when you’re lifting weights and moving your arms around a lot, it can be SO hard when a wire is involved. I’ve ripped my earbuds out of my ears so many times, which is very annoying. These pink Sudio wireless earbuds are not only cute, they’re a sanity saver in the weight room.
  5. Racerback Singlet– When I’m moving around a lot, I want something without sleeves that will keep me cool and let my arms move about freely. I also want something somewhat fitted, so it doesn’t shift around or pull up if I’m in an inverted position. This is my favorite lightweight exercise top— I bought a bunch of them and wear them pretty much during every workout!
  6. Backpack– I carry everything I need to the gym in a backpack that fits my binder, a jacket, a water bottle, blender bottle, and little extras (like bandaids for blisters). I don’t need a large duffle bag, so this size is perfect and I appreciate being able to wear it on my back while managing two kiddos in the parking lot.
  7. Converse– On leg days especially, it’s good to not have cushion under your feet, or anything shifting your weight to your toes or heels. You want to control that yourself. So I wear the flattest shoes I have— these converse sneakers. I got them in leather so they’ll hold up well over time.
  8. Yoga Pants or Bike Shorts- This is my personal preference, but I prefer lifting in fitted clothes that are comfortable, easy to move in, and don’t shift up or down.
  9. High Neck Sports Bra– I like to keep the girls safe, secure, and out of sight. This sports bra fits the bill! I bought three of them.

I hope this post was helpful! I feel like there’s a lot more I could’ve said, but then this post would’ve been too long. If you have questions or want to talk about weight lifting or body transformation, I’d love to chat in the comments below!

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