The Three Most Important Changes In My Wellness Journey

akansha-agrawal-fitness-blogger

akansha-agrawal-fitness-blogger

I’ve learned a lot about myself ever since I started my health & wellness journey five years ago. Five years ago fitness, nutrition, and mental health were not top of mind. My overall well-being was not a priority.

Luckily, the tables have turned but the changes have not easy nor straightforward.

When I first started exploring the realm of fitness, I discovered influencers in bodybuilding who would lift heavy, count their macros, and “cut” for a few weeks after “bulking” for a few months. I briefly fell into that trap and was told to try competing in a bikini competition (yeah no thanks).

Another example is I when I tried to steer towards a vegan diet: I added more soy-based proteins to help supplement my diet (yikes) and never really felt satisfied. It took me a while to realize that it’s okay to eat (good quality) meat and I should eat what my body craves.

These are just a couple of examples of things that didn’t work for me in the end (but hey it may work for others!). Here are three things that do work:

Meditating: Yes again, I know. How cliche right? But guess what guys, even 5 – 10 minutes of breathing, sitting, and doing nothing has helped me so much with my stress and anxiety. Whenever I fall off from meditation I feel my anxiety creeping back again.

Working with a nutritionist: I didn’t start seeing a nutritionist for what most people would think — losing weight. I actually consulted a nutritionist when my digestive issues became too much to bear. My nutritionist Mary Vance has helped my heal my gut (almost!) and has helped me see nutrition in a different light. I promise to post on this topic soon because there is so much to be said here!

Finding fitness buddies: Having friends or people you can workout with has been life-changer! When I first started I’d almost always workout alone for two reasons: 1. I didn’t know many other people who made it a priority (clearly I wasn’t looking hard enough) and 2. I was afraid others would judge me. Once I got over that fear, my life was changed. I started training with Fleet Feet for half marathons, met girls from the Tone It Up Bay Area community and was also more willing to try different kinds of group fitness classes with friends.

So obviously, this is what works for me and those “a-ha” moments may be different for others. Regardless, I do think there are certain take-aways for all:

-Try meditating with Headspace. It’s only 10 minutes long!
-Pay attention to what you eating. Does it make you feel good? Are you eating mindfully, eating whole foods? A nutritionist can be expensive but if you want some basic guidelines on nutrition, the Tone It Up Nutrition Plan is a good start.
– Find a local running group (Lululemon has one, or check out The November Project), or try different group fitness classes with friends. It’s always easier with a buddy :).

It’s like something finally clicked in my mind when I started doing each one of the three things I mentioned above. I’d love to know what works for you in your own wellness journey.

How I am Making the Tone it Up Bikini Series My Own

 

tone-it-up-bikini-series

This year I’ve finally decided to participate in the Tone It Up Bikini Series: an 8 week fitness challenge hosted by the founders of Tone It Up, Karena & Katrina. It’s a big step for me because I’ve never successfully completed a fitness challenge before.

Some challenges had way too many rules, other’s didn’t speak to me, but other times I just I didn’t believe in myself. Not too long ago, I was still working on improving my relationship with food & exercise. Whoa, I think that’s the first time I’m ever mentioning that online. That’s a big deal for me.

I’d find myself obsessing over my food & body much more than I’d like. I’d compare myself to others far too much and spent too much time criticizing my own flaws. I was aware of my somewhat “unhealthy mindset” and I knew a fitness challenge may make me focus more on the superficial than I should.

It’s taken me a lot of trial and error to get to where I am now but I am at the point where I feel comfortable and happy with my relationship with fitness. I’m ready to give this challenge a shot.

I’m someone who marches to the beat of their own drum so I don’t think I’d be successful if I tried to follow all the rules of the challenge. For example, I’m not exactly following the TIU meals on their nutrition plan nor I am doing all of the TIU workouts. They do, however, serve as helpful guidelines.

Everyone has different goals for the Bikini Series but here are my top 3 I’d like to achieve:

My Goals:

  1. Successfully complete my first challenge. Really all I want is to keep my motivation going for 8 weeks. And I want to make sure I continuously love and accept myself the way I am the entire way through it. One week down already!
  2. Become a morning person: my goal is to wake up by 6:30 at least 4 times a week to either get in a morning workout (aka “Booty Call”) or to take time to write for my blog. Two of those four days I teach, so it’s really only 2 more days I need to get motivated for.
  3. Prep my meals. I’m lucky to be fed both breakfast and lunch at work so I really only need to prepare one healthy snack and dinner for each day. I easily get stressed/overwhelmed by cooking and I want this challenge to make my life easier! I’ll definitely be using the meal plan for inspiration.

I know I wouldn’t be sticking to this challenge without my accountability groups. I’m part of two group threads with other women who are participating in this challenge. We don’t only talk about working out, but literally everything and anything in life. Everyone is so supportive and kind. I’m a bit introverted so I was scared I’d be overwhelmed but it is quite nice I must say :).

Okay that’s all I have to say about the Bikini Series now. I feel even more accountable sharing this online.

Do you have any questions about it? Shall I do another update in a few weeks? Are you doing it as well? Let me know in the comments below!

Santa Cruz Half Marathon

Hi!

I’m back to the blog. Honestly after this race I felt like I lost my motivation and discipline and needed sometime to get back to my routine. I’ve also been traveling these past few weekends so it was hard to make time for blogging with my 9-5, teaching, and life in general!

Anyways, race recap blog posts hold a special place in my heart. I started writing these posts back in college and it’s always so fun for me to look back at them years later and relive the race experience. I feel like they are posts I write for myself more than anyone else but hopefully you still find them entertaining ☺.

I usually recap the race by breaking it down into mile chunks but honestly I didn’t feel too differently in mile 3 than I did at mile 10! So instead, I’ll focus on three key factors of the race: mind, body, and nutrition.

MIND:

I was genuinely so excited about the Santa Cruz Half Marathon. It was a great excuse for a one-day getaway to a beach town with my parents and my boyfriend and I was excited for a chance to run another race after my IT band injury last year.

I didn’t experience the normal anxiety and nerves I usually do with half marathons and I think there are a couple of reasons for that. Number one, I’ve done a few half marathons by now so I know what to expect at a race; two, I didn’t put too much pressure on myself for a finishing time. Yes I knew I wanted a sub 2 hour final time but if I didn’t achieve it I knew there would be more races.

BODY:

Training was relatively short at eight weeks but it was consistent. I ran three times a week and paired my runs with strength training and POP Pilates training. I feel like core strength and lower body strength made a huge difference in a running. Thanks to Fleet Feet SF’s training program, my runs were a mix of hill training, speed work, and challenging long runs!

NUTRITION:

This was my first half marathon after I started to work with a nutritionist and my diet change helped a lot with my energy levels. In the past I’d feel tired and uncomfortable after long runs and I think it’s because I’d refuel with food that didn’t sit well with my stomach. This time around I had more control of my energy level.

THE OUTCOME:

I PRed at a time of 1:52*!! I shaved off 10 minutes my last PR: part of the difference is due to the fact that SC is far less hilly than SF, but I also think the mind, body, and nutrition prep did wonders.

I felt like a million bucks right after the race but a couple of days later I felt like I lost all discipline. I think I need a new goal again ☺.

*1:52 is my approximated time because for some silly reason the race ended at 12.7 miles…I had so much more energy left in me I wish it kept on going! I added 5 minutes to my official time of 1:47:18 to get my PR time.

Santa-cruz-half-marathon

How to Train for a Half Marathon Like a Boss

So, you’ve signed up for a half-marathon eh? Congrats! I can only imagine the excitement and nerves. One of my happiest moments in my life was when I completed my first half marathon in Fall 2013. It was the Nike Women’s Half Marathon (sad they stopped that race) and it was a magical experience. It’s pretty crazy to think that this Sunday I’m going to run my 7th half marathon, this time in Santa Cruz!

Now I am no expert or certified coach, but I am someone who’s had a fair share of trial and error when preparing for half marathons. Here are some tips I wish I had when I first started training:

Planning

  • Select a race! This part is so exciting and what makes training so much more real! When choosing a race think about what matters to you: is it the cost, the location, the scenery, the course terrain, the date? Then use sites like Running in the USA to help you find the perfect race.
  • Find a training plan: The Nike Run Club app is a great place for a customized plan otherwise the Hal Higdon Half Marathon Training Guide is a reliable resource. Or maybe you want to do some research and join an in-person training group ( I LOVE this option).
  • Choose your long-run day: it’s important to dedicate one day out of the week for your long-run. I’ve personally prefer Saturday as mine!

Workouts

  1. Run at least 3 times a week: Personally, I usually run no more than 4 times a week because my body does get quite tight from running so I like to cross-train or strength train instead on other days.
  2. Speaking of strength training, Make sure you’re doing. I neglected strength training when I first started running half marathons and it was a big mistake that led to injury. I find it especially important to strengthen your core & glutes because we easily forget about those two when running. I highly recommend POP Pilates videos for core work!
  3. Find a buddy: Running partners are great for accountability and motivation. They are super helpful for long runs.  Ten miles by yourself may sound daunting, but with a friend or two to keep you company, those miles fly by easily.
  4. Foam rolling is your new best friend. Foam roll, stretch, or do yoga on a consistent basis to help relieve muscle tightness for ideal recovery. You should be scheduling time for foam rolling in your training regime.

^ugh I miss these necklaces…

Nutrition

  1. Training for a half marathon isn’t an excuse to eat/drink everything in sight…unfortunately. Eat wholesome, nutrient-dense meals when training for a half marathon. Don’t overdo alcohol, caffeine, and heavy foods.
  2. Be mindful of what you eat the night before and the morning of long-runs and races. For dinner I’ll have a lean protein, vegetables, and complex carbs. For breakfast, I’ll eat a smaller portion of overnight oats, a smoothie or fruit before a run. Then, I like to refuel with some protein and carbs.
  3. For long runs, make sure you are carrying water, enough calories, and possibly electrolytes. I like taking Gu chomps for runs longer than 70-80 minutes and I recently started to hydrate with Nuun after my longer runs.

Mind

  1. Stay relaxed and have fun! Along with physical fitness,  mental fitness is super important when training for a half marathon. Don’t stress if you aren’t following the plan perfectly (here are some tips if you are struggling with motivation). Listen to your body throughout the process. In the end, it’s only a race!

Feeling ready yet? Now go own this race! Please reach out if you’d like any more tips or have any other questions.

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Five Tips for Workout Motivation

five easy tips on how to find motivation for working out.

In a perfect world, working out should be as easy as other routine activities like brushing your teeth, showering, eating etc. But we all know it’s not that easy, even though physical activity is as important as clean teeth (if not more!).

You know when I find it the hardest to be motivated? When you’re coming back to working out after a while, whether it be weeks or years. You feel like your first workout back has to be the best one ever – but that’s totally not true. You just have to do something!

I struggled with workout motivation for years and still occasionally do…you know sometimes that fear sets in. But think I’ve finally found a happy balance and I definitely didn’t find that motivation alone. The tips below have helped me stay motivated and hopefully they help you too.

1. Stop being a Perfectionist

Let’s say you haven’t worked out for three months but want to get back into running as You make a plan to run 4 miles the next day but when tomorrow comes, you are afraid you won’t be able to do it so you postpone it.

Then, the next day comes around and you still don’t get to running because you don’t have the time for a full 4 miles. But why not just start with one mile? Or why don’t you even make it a point to get outside for 15-20 minutes to see what happens?

I feel like we get so caught up with the “perfect” plan that we can let it intimidate us to a point where we do nothing. 

2. Set Realistic, Achievable Goals

We all have our own reasons to why we workout: to lose weight, to feel happier, to run faster. However, sometimes when we are dragging our butts to the gym, we lose sight on why we are there in the first place.

Shannon Arens, the general manager of our health & wellness program at work wrote a great post on how to choose “S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound)” goals.

For example, I’m most motivated to workout when I’m training for a race. I feel truly committed andI also love competing against myself and aiming to beat my personal record. A great example of a SMART goal for me would be “set a PR for my half-marathons by running a sub 2:00 time at the Santa Cruz half on April 9th.”

I personally steer away from goals in physical appearance because I think it could lead to an unhealthy obsession with the scale and vanity metrics. So maybe getting ready for bikini season is a great motivation for some people, but I don’t think it’s a goal that’s leads to longer-term commitment to working out.

3. Find an accountability partner

I wish I was better at morning workouts (well I am kind of getting better now that I teach POP Pilates twice a week at 7 AM) but if I don’t have a reason to be up, I normally end up snoozing my alarm. However, if I am meeting a friend for a run in the morning or taking a class someone, I never snooze for fear of disappointing my friend! Working out with someone not only is fun, but also provides accountability.

4. Keep it Social

This point ties in well to the one above: working out shouldn’t necessarily feel like a chore. Try rock-climbing, dancing, or hiking with friends. My roommate and I sometimes go to hip-hop together at uforia studios and it’s so much fun!

With all of our busy lives, it’s hard to find time to do everything, so why not make it easier by combining social time and fitness into one?

5. Join an online community

There are many great online fitness communities where you can like-minded individuals who are trying to make health & wellness a priority. A few well-known fitness communities include POP Pilates, Tone it Up, and Kayla Itsines BBG. There are always different challenges to partake in and you’ll find plenty of other women on the way to motivate you!

I know I’ve only touched on a few ways to stay motivated to work out so I’d love to hear from you what you do to bring back that determination!

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five easy tips on how to find motivation for working out.

five easy tips on how to find motivation for working out.

A Quick POP Pilates Update

pop-pilates

Happy MLK day my friends! Hope you all enjoyed your day off.

It’s been a while since I’ve given a POP Pilates update so I thought we play a little-catch up.

pop-pilates

To rewind a bit, POP pilates is a workout inspired by traditional mat pilates but the biggest difference is that the moves are choreographed to music! The format was created by Cassey Ho, one of the top health & fitness influencers in the media (she has over 3 million followers (on YouTube). I’ve been following Cassey since 2012, around the time when I started my own health journey. Fast-forward to June 2016, I somehow mustered the courage to go through the POP Pilates teacher training. I was certified by August, I auditioned for a position at 24 Hour Fitness in September, and now, a few months later, I am officially hired!

The process was longer than expected but I was a bit relieved because I needed sometime to let it fully sink in that I was now an instructor. I taught a couple of free classes at local studios to keep my teaching chops up to speed, but I’m ready to be thrown into teaching to experience a real learning curve.

I am a still a little nervous I will admit. I had a dream a few nights ago where I was teaching my first class at 24 and it took me 20 minutes to figure out how to play the music! Let’s hope that doesn’t happen in real life. I’ll be teaching twice a week at a 24 Hour Fitness 2 block away from my full-time job. Not bad, eh? They will be 7am classes so I need to adjust my schedule so I can wake up early!

Even though I am a bit anxious, I’m going to accept I’m a beginner in this process. We all need to start somewhere. We aren’t going to be naturally amazing at everything we try from the beginning and that’s okay.

Anyways wish me luck! If any of you are fitness instructors, please share some words of advice! What should I expect for my first few days of teaching?