5 Things I’d Wish I’d Known at the Beginning of My Fitness Journey

1. It Can’t All Be Cardio

For the first five years of actively pursing a healthier, more attractive body through exercise, all I did was run. I ran for over an hour every day. Around 8 miles EVERY DAY. It seemed simple enough. Exert THAT much energy and effort, and you’re bound to have a perfect, slim figure, right? Well apparently not. I did lose about 40-50lbs. in the first year or two. But then I quickly hit a plateau. What was I gonna do, run MORE?! Honestly impossible. I was going through running shoes every single month and my shins were splintering into nothing. I had constant blisters on my feet and marks where my tank tops rubbed against my upper arms. Near the end I did switch to the elliptical instead of the treadmill, but not much changed in my body.

2. Don’t Be Afraid of Strength/Weight Training

I only began to make progress again about six years ago when I started doing HIIT workouts. Even though these are still primarily cardio, they also incorporate a lot of weighted, complex movements. I was engaging muscles I never knew I had, instead of just pounding my legs relentlessly. Gaining muscle wasn’t the scary, bulky nightmare I had imagined it to be. Unless you’re lifting ridiculous amounts of weight, you’re likely only going to be gaining lean muscle which will give your body a tight, well-formed shape. Before I just looked like a slimmer, although still soft and pudgy, version of myself. Not only that, the more muscle mass you have, the more calories you are going to burn even while resting.

3. You Can’t Beat Diet with Exercise

I really believed in the beginning, that if I just worked out an insane amount, I’d be able to eat as much as I wanted. I fell even more into this trap when I became vegan. You can’t gain weight with vegan food! I stupidly thought. Maybe if you have a naturally fast metabolism, this could work out for you, but if your metabolism is a snail like mine by default, you’re going to have to pay attention to what/how much you’re eating if you want to see lasting results.

4. Good Form Over Ungodly Fast and a Gazillion Reps

After years of just trying to breathe as I ran for miles and threw myself through unfamiliar HIIT exercises, I’m still struggling to undo the poor form I’ve adopted in a lot of my movements. In my eagerness to go as fast as possible to burn as many calories as I could in a short amount of time, I ended up wasting time. The more you focus, slow-down, and engage the right muscles in an exercise, the more beneficial it is going to be in the long run. If you let yourself have poor form, you are not only going to burn less calories, but you’re going to hurt your body and develop bad habits that are hard to break.

5. Listen to YOUR Body to Find the Right Alignment

“Don’t round your back! Don’t round your back! Keep your back straight!” I would always hear instructors repeating this like a mantra whether it be in a workout or a yoga class. I guess for most people, this might be important to hear. If your natural tendency is to round your low back, you’re going to pull a muscle or hurt something. HOWEVER, I’ve only recently come to realize that I personally have an anterior pelvic tilt. This means that my pelvis tilts forward causing my low back to arch. For me “flat back” was an arched back. I couldn’t understand why doing the “correct” form always left me with pain and/or discomfort in my low back. Finally understanding my natural alignment has given me the ability to do what feels like rounding my low back to me, but in reality is just bringing it back to neutral. It has been a total revelation to my workouts. I’m able to engage my core far more and prevent my back from aching after doing certain exercises. Another one I’m beginning to work on is the cue “don’t let your knees cave in.” I have naturally exteriorly rotated thighs. This instruction has caused me to put WAY too much of my weight into my outer feet and lead to a weakness in my inner thighs/an inability to keep my weight evenly spread through all four corners of my feet in my workouts.

Regardless of what an instructor in a video might say (I imagine an in-person trainer may have realized these things before me and altered their instruction) listen to what your body is telling you. It is going to save you a lot of grief and possibly spare you serious injury down the line.

Curating Good Vibes

I tested out a little journaling exercise the other day that I really enjoyed, so I thought I’d share it with all of you. As you may have picked up on from my poems yesterday, I went to a wedding this Saturday. Even though I was really excited, there was still a lot of anxiety surrounding that day. I’ve only been to one other wedding in my entire life. It was also going to fully take up one of my only days off for the week, which for me is a huge trigger for my anxiety. The night before I decided to lie in bed and journal for a bit before going to sleep. But instead of just letting my thoughts flow freely onto the page, I decided to try doing it a bit differently.

Normally I would have started writing about how anxious I was and how irritated I am at myself for being so stressed out about something so silly. I didn’t really feel in the mood to ruminate on the negative feelings I was already experiencing though. Instead, I started to write from the perspective of how I wanted to feel. There was a part of me that was excited and happy and looking forward to the next day. So I let that side of me take the reigns and remind me why I had nothing to fear. It felt like the way I used to write when I was a kid excited for a field trip or something.

I wrote about what a beautiful day it was going to be, how I was going to feel spending time with people I love, and all the little details about what the day would consist of that I was going to enjoy. I felt much better after I was finished. I really believe how well the wedding ended up going was directly effected by my positive focus the night before. It was one of the best days I’ve had in a long time. I definitely want to start doing more journaling like this in the future.

I hope you give it a try and it is helpful to you. Let me know if you’ve done this before or if you have any other journaling tips/tricks to put you in a better headspace. I’d love to hear how you like to journal or what you’ve discovered or created that you find useful.

Helpful Vegan Handout

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If you are vegan, then I am sure you are tired of the idiotic questions we are asked on a daily basis by family, friends, and even strangers. Granted, some are questions that I had myself before reading more about the lifestyle and experiencing it for myself. Nonetheless, they are extremely annoying and tiresome to have to go over countless times with people who seem to think their “clever” questions will show you that you need meat or other animal products in your diet. It is quite frustrating, so I wanted this post to be  a quick Q&A sheet that you may hand out to the non-vegans in your life so you will no longer have to deal with that hum of irritating questions. Here we go.

1. Q: Where do you get your protein? 

A: As the chart below shows, vegans and vegetarians have no problem with protein. In fact you may want to worry a little bit more about if you are getting enough protein. Oh, and also did you know that cooking meat cuts the amount of protein your body can use from it in half? Yeah. Seems like vegans are getting more protein now, doesn’t it?

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2. Q: Where do you get your calcium?

A: There are plenty of vegan calcium options. The foods listed in the image below along with many other sources provide more calcium for far less calories. And once again, if you are worried about the strength of our bones, maybe you should be more concerned about your own. Dairy products aren’t natural, so our bodies struggle to digest them, hence why there are so many people who are lactose intolerant. In order for our bodies to break these things down they must use the calcium we already have in our bodies. In the end, we have less calcium then before we drank that milk. I guess vegans get more calcium than meat-eaters too.

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3.  Q: Humans are omnivores though, right?

A: In fact, no. No, we are not. The oh, so common childish excuse that we have canine teeth isn’t going to cut it anymore. Despite the fact that this doesn’t matter because even if we were it wouldn’t justify us massacring and torturing others species with no physical need, are canines are actually meant for protection. They are far different than the canines of carnivores and omnivores. If you tried to bite into the hide of a cow, (surprise, surprise) you would not be able to. Not only that, other parts of our bodies say otherwise as well. The structure of our jaws, facial muscles, and intestines do not match those of omnivores either.  We are classified as frugivores. This means we are meant to eat fruits, vegetables, and nuts as the chart below demonstrates. Try arguing with those facts. (I’m sure you will.)

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4. Q: Why not just be vegetarian?

A: Well, apart from all of the other evidence that we are not intended to eat any type of animal product and they are detrimental to our health, vegetarianism just doesn’t cut it. It is nice to think you are saving animals by not devouring their flesh, but contributing to the dairy industry is just as cruel. Cows and chickens experience unimaginable suffering for their milk and eggs. In order to acquire a cows milk, a farm must get rid of its intended recipient, the baby cow. This is a horribly painful experience for the new mother and her child and happens countless times within the cows lifespan before she too is killed for her meat. As for chickens, they are packed into tiny cages sometimes with multiple chickens in one cage. They have their claws and beaks clipped off so that they cannot peck one another to death in response to such close conditions. Even in “free-range” farms, chickens are only given up to three feet of space each. And once again, once a chicken can no longer lay eggs, it will be killed. We must protect animals from not only their demise, but their torture and abuse as well.

5. Q: How do you go out to restaurants?

A: It’s easy. If you are lucky, there may be vegan restaurant options in the area. If not, there is always something on the menu that is vegan or can be made vegan, even if it has to be a salad. If eating a fancy, high-calorie meal that will last 20min. is more important to you than the entire life of another being, then you may have some issues. Self-control is an important part of life, get used to it.

6. Q: How are you helping the environment?

A: The meat and dairy industry is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions. Livestock are also responsible for 64% of anthropogenic ammonia emissions, which contribute significantly to acid rain and the acidification of ecosystems. Factory farming also is responsible for the largest sectoral source of water pollution, contributing to eutrophication, “dead” zones in coastal areas, the degradation of coral reefs, human health problems, the emergence of antibiotic resistance and many others. Also, the need for pasture and feed-crop land is resulting in more and more deforestation. 70% of previously forested land in the Amazon is now occupied by pastures. This is an unreasonable amount of harm being caused to our environment by something that is so unnecessary for our health or survival and is even detrimental to both. Veganism could also aid in ending world hunger as less farm animals would allow large amounts of grain to be used to feed the starving people of the world.

 “[T]hose who claim to care about the well-being of human beings and the preservation of our environment should become vegetarians for that reason alone. They would thereby increase the amount of grain available to feed people elsewhere, reduce pollution, save water and energy, and cease contributing to the clearing of forests.…[W]hen non-vegetarians say that ‘human problems come first’ I cannot help wondering what exactly it is that they are doing for human beings that compels them to continue to support the wasteful, ruthless exploitation of farm animals.” — Peter Singer, Animal Liberation, 1990

7. Q: What if you are an athlete?

A: Veganism does not hinder your physical abilities in any way. In fact, veganism has helped improve the performance of many professional athletes and bodybuilders. The man in the photo below is vegan. He won the German log lift title for the fourth time in a row in 2012, and set a keg lift world record (115kg). He took the European Powerlifting title in Finland, and set a world record for fronthold by holding a 20kg weight for 86 seconds. A vegan diet has also helped ultramarathon runner Scott Jurek do better than he ever had previously in his 100-mile races, soaring above and beyond his competitors. If you are an athlete, maybe you should do yourself a favor.

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8. Q: But what about bacon?

A: Such an infuriating question. What about it? There are endless vegan versions of bacon that are just as delicious. You can buy them or you can even make them yourself. Also, bacon is horrible for you. I recommend developing some sense of self-control instead of killing pigs so that you can kill yourself for one moment of flavor.

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9. Q: Isn’t being vegan expensive?

A: It certainly doesn’t have to be. There are many pricey vegan alternative food options on the market, but they are not a staple for most vegans. All you need to do is buy fruits, vegetables, pastas, tofu, and grains. Once you figure our some recipes and what you need to have around the house, it can be even more affordable than a non-vegan diet. Milk and “fresh” meats are raising in price. Save yourself some money. Go vegan!

10. Q: Isn’t being vegan inconvenient? 

A: It can seem that way at first if you are in an area without many vegan outlets. However, once you get used to it, not at all. Knowing what you can and can’t eat becomes second-nature. You become exposed to the many others options there are around you besides meat and dairy, and trust me, there are a lot.

 

Well, I hope this will help all of you out there to better understand veganism and why it is the right choice for the animals, the planet, and your body. I also hope it can aid my fellow vegans in answering these mind-numbing questions again and again. So read up and pass it on! And don’t froget to stay peaceful. ❤