How To Make Exercise Feel Easier

Hi everyone! Before I jump into this post I would like to issue an apology for my absence – these last weeks were full of studying and I literally had no time for anything else, but now that my workload has eased I will be back to posting on a regular basis. Thank you all for sticking around and I cannot wait to be involved in the blogging world once again, and I have managed to accumulate a nice list of ideas while I was away so be expecting a lot of content in the run up to Christmas!

Okay, now let’s leap into the main topic of this post: when you’re just starting out a new exercise programme, it can understandably feel like climbing Mount Everest, in particular if you’ve never been athletic before. To some people, sport can feel natural and easy, while to others it connotes hours of difficulty and pain, and this category of people may not understand how others workout for fun rather than just for the physical benefits. Whether you’ve started a fitness journey to build muscle, lose weight or prevent one of the diseases associated with living a sedentary lifestyle, those first few weeks of jumping between exercise machines may be anything other than enjoyable and as a consequence, many people quit because ‘they don’t like exercise’.

How to enjoy working out

Tips for healthy living

I have been going to the gym for around four years at this point, and prior to joining I have been sporty for my entire life. Despite the fact that at certain points my relationship with exercise has been less than optimal, as a whole I love movement. Going to the gym is one of my favourite parts of the day. However, even as a ‘seasoned’ gym goer, I experience dips in motivation. The time I dedicate to my workout goes by much slower than usual and every exercise just fundamentally feels harder and heavier. Sometimes, I do workouts I don’t wholeheartedly adore (e.g. spinning) because I know of the health benefits they deliver and that accomplishment I experience afterwards. In both cases, I have to implement a few tricks to make the workouts feel ‘easier’ without compromising the actual difficulty of the workout. Sounds contradictory, but hopefully you all know what I mean.

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Intense, No Equipment Leg Workout

Sometimes, you cannot make it to the gym and only have thirty or so minutes to get in a good workout. At other times, you want to switch up your routine due to sagging motivation and boredom. That’s when an equipment-free, do at home or anywhere else workout comes in handy. I will always love the gym and lifting heavy but continuously doing the same thing can be detrimental to progress, hence I often mix in quicker, high-intensity workouts to ‘shock’ my muscles and build up endurance.

This workout is one of my favourites for many reasons and I wanted to share it with all of you to show that all you need to pursue fitness is yourself and a stopwatch. It is both beginner-friendly (perfect for anyone who is just starting their fitness journey and is yet to sign up for a gym membership) and can be made harder by adding a pair of dumbbells or ankle weights. I took this workout outside to embrace these last few days of bearable weather, but I am sure I would have managed in the limited space of my bedroom.

The circuits do not have to be done all together and can be mixed into a gym routine for some extra intensity. Be sure to include five or so minutes of dynamic stretching before and after the workout, modifying the exercises to suit your abilities (e.g. the plyometric exercises can be replaced with their ‘ordinary’ counterpart, such as squats instead of jumping squats) and keeping a water bottle on hand to stay hydrated. Just a quick disclaimer – I am not a personal trainer and you should consult your doctor before starting any exercise programme, so ensure you are in the correct state of health before doing this!

CIRCUIT 1: Complete each exercise for 45 seconds before resting for 15. Repeat circuit three times (12 minutes total)

Exercise 1: lunge with knee tuck.

Lunge exercise

  • Start from a standing position. Step back into a lunge as demonstrated in the above photo, ensuring your knee doesn’t go over your toe. Push off the floor and lift your leg into a knee tuck until your thigh is at least parallel with the ground. Then, bring your foot back into a lunge and ensure it does not touch the floor throughout the transition.

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Exercise Addiction: The Dark Side of Fitness

With my hands covered in blisters and talcum powder, achy joints despite being aged fifteen, and thought racing through my head, I sit and cry in the gym changing rooms. The world is ending. Despite exercising for two hours straight, I didn’t work hard enough. Not enough sweat, not enough calories burnt. Now, my mum is offering to pick me up from the gym so we can stop by Pizza Express on the way home, which implies walking 8.75km instead of the minimum daily goal of 10.9, and eating unknown calories. ‘I can’t, I have homework,’ I text back, despite knowing the evening will be spent doing jumping squats in my room, not preparing for an upcoming Physics test.

This was the reality of exercise addiction for me, a disorder which isn’t recognised by the DSM5 but impacts around 3% of those who exercise on a daily basis. Prior to acquiring a positive relationship with fitness, it overwhelmed my life and nearly ended it. I want to speak about this issue because while anorexia is frequently discussed on the internet and in the media, exercise addiction (which often, though not always, accompanies another eating disorder) is seldom mentioned. The obesity epidemic, and the tendency of the majority of the population to neglect exercise rather than overdo it, explains this yet countless anecdotes emphasise the relevance of excessive exercise in our society.

Exercise Addiction recovery
It has taken a lot of effort to find balance, but every ounce was worth it.

Honestly, I struggled with starting this blog post without tearing up. Overcoming the addiction was perhaps the hardest thing I had to do, and back then I believed it would kill me before I’d scrambled back to balance. I will attempt to keep this coherent, ensuring the post raises awareness, outlines my story, and helps anyone whose relationship with exercise is less than optimal, but I cannot promise the absence of garble due to the emotive nature of the topic involved!

So, what is exercise addiction?  Continue reading “Exercise Addiction: The Dark Side of Fitness”

Comparing Your Diet to That of Others: a Habit That Needs Breaking

They say comparison is the thief of joy, and this is particularly applicable to food. As someone who’s coming from a background of anorexia, I admit I still struggle with comparing my food intake to other people’s. Difference is, now that I am recovered, I don’t let my perception of their portion sizes influence my own as I would have in the past. However, I know plenty of people who have no experience with eating disorders, but are still wary of what they eat and experience negative emotions whenever they perceive their choice of food to be in some way inferior: they will stick to salads when eating out, refrain from going for seconds at buffets and avoid ordering desert if the people they’re with don’t do the same.

I don’t blame anyone for this, as a pressure to eat in a certain way (ie a 1200 calorie, no carbs, some spinach for breakfast sort of diet which is actually counterproductive and doesn’t deliver the weight loss it promises) is very prevalent in our society. Hence, it’s easy to feel guilty when others seem to be eating ‘healthier’, or less, than you are. YouTube is riddled with that I eat in a day videos. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy watching and making them as I’m quite curious and always on the lookout for recipe ideas, but certain ones just call for comparison (e.g. The videos conveniently named ‘what I eat in a day as a model/actress/any sort of role which insinuates success’). Some of these do a great job at reassuring me that I’m not the only girl out there with a hefty appetite, but others, even if we logically know the person is starving themselves and their behaviour is unhealthy, can make anyone feel ‘insatiable’.

Vegan buffet
I never hold back at the all-you-can-eat-buffet

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Let’s Talk Mental Health: Sleep Anxiety and Insomnia.

A truly ‘ideal’ lifestyle – the definition of which is subjective – is, I would argue, impossible to achieve. In some instances, mere time constraints may get in the way: you miss workouts because of upcoming exams, choose convenient food while travelling, sleep less than your body needs because of work. Sometimes, it’s mental health. And speaking of sleep, that’s exactly what I want to address today. I’ve had a love-hate relationship with sleep for quite some time, and a desire to de-stigmatise mental health while promoting the ‘physical’ aspects of a healthy lifestyle is one of my objectives on social media. As of recent, my ability to manage sleeping issues has improved considerably hence I decided to take my internalised debates to the blog, muse about insomnia (with sleep anxiety being a central point of discussion) and hopefully help others unlucky enough to experience these issues.

How to deal with insomnia

The fact that insomnia affects up to one in three people in the UK scares me, given the indispensability of sleep in maintaining your physical and mental health. Until around March or April 2017, I took pride in being able to fall asleep within minutes: sure, sometimes I stayed awake out of choice to complete a pressing homework assignment or returned home later than usual after a gym session, but once I was in bed with my eyes closed, I’d be asleep in under fifteen minutes. I woke up no later than seven even on weekends and had a concrete sleeping schedule. But when a month remained until my exams and a mere couple of weeks before study leave, my cortisol (why can I never remember how to spell this word?!) levels skyrocketed and each night, I found it harder and harder to fall asleep. Then, one night it took me five hours to fall asleep. The struggle started with racing thoughts about the upcoming exams, their importance, the revision I could be doing instead of laying in bed, and when I spotted midnight on the clock, I imagined my alarm going off six hours later. I imagined the effects of sleep deprivation: grogginess, inability to focus, inability to comprehend information about quantum mechanics. After that, everything changed. Continue reading “Let’s Talk Mental Health: Sleep Anxiety and Insomnia.”

Ten simple hacks for a healthier lifestyle

Hi. I am back, ready to try and be helpful and informative once again (hopefully with some success). When you’re new to eating and living healthily, your first steps may be to consult Mr. Google. Before you know it, you’re completely overwhelmed by ‘tips’ similar to ‘go to the gym six times a week’, ‘start running five miles a day’, ‘start a 1200 calorie green smoothie diet’. My post ain’t about that (especially not the last example – my breakfast in itself is 1200 calories and I am proud). These are ten things everyone can incorporate into their daily routines to either kickstart a healthy lifestyle or substantiate an already Instagram worthy, vegan, HIIT-on-a-daily-basis existence. Aka, healthy living simplified. And made less intimidating . Without further rambling, I hope you find these little tips useful – and don’t feel like you have to do all of them all the time. I certainly don’t #somuchforpracticingwhatIpreach. Also a quick disclaimer: I am not a dietician, or a personal trainer, these are just things I’ve come across myself and in many instances, implemented, so do take what I say with a pinch of salt!

1. Wake up earlier

I don’t mean set your alarm for six am when your body clock is screaming 9.30, but marginal changes. Fifteen minutes is a start. Then thirty, then forty five, and before you know it, you’re making a YouTube video titled ‘my 3 a.m. morning routine’. Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, but I feel like people don’t recognise the benefits of earlier mornings until they test it for themselves. The first few tries may be painful, but I promise – adjustment is possible. I don’t know the exact science, but there’s something quite satisfying about waking up with the sun, and of course, extra time is acquired for productivity: going for a run, finally sticking to your ‘get into yoga’ New Year’s resolution, even starting a business. I’m all about ending the stigma surrounding early risers, as I’ve experienced the benefits myself!

2. Follow the right social media accounts

Okay, tapping the follow button on Instagram won’t give you your dream body or turn you into a Triathlon athlete, but it can give you that little extra subconscious push. I spend 10-15 minutes a day browsing recipe accounts on Instagram, reading fitness blogs and watching people with physiques I can only dream about lift 3x their bodyweight, and it certainly makes a difference to my motivation levels. Significantly, when you’re just getting into healthy eating and working out without knowing where to begin, Instagram is the best place to stock up on recipes and workout videos: yuminthetum, bestofvegan and gymgirlvids are some of my faves. And of course, nothing beats whatismaria (okay, that was a total shameless self promo but I love the idea of people being inspired by my account).

Learn how to eat healthy through Instagram
Instagram makes finding recipe ideas a lot easier – let’s utilise the joys of the modern world!

Continue reading “Ten simple hacks for a healthier lifestyle”

Fitness – what are my current goals?

Hi guys! I hope you’re having a great whatever time of day it happens to be in your time zone. Before we get started, I’d just like to announce that I’ve recently started a new Instagram account – @whatismaria – so if you haven’t already, please give me a follow and I will follow you back!

Anyway, I wanted to talk briefly about fitness goals. I believe setting obectives of all sorts – physical, mental, academic – is central to a fullfilling existence, and a fullfilling existence is what most of us pursue. I do, anyway. Health and fitness are hugely important to me. Working out aids my mental clarity, releases endorphins, temporarily restrains overthinking patterns of self doubt. Building a healthy lifestyle has helped me overcome many obstacles, such as my eating disorder, and after taking a couple of weeks ‘off’ prioritising fitness due to travelling, I decided to once again pursue improvement in this department.

20707288_2017182268518339_1109779767_o.jpg

Continue reading “Fitness – what are my current goals?”