Since I've started working out, I've tried a whole range of workout plans. Every single one was different, they all helped me and showed my progress in different areas but unfortunately, I never found myself going past 8 weeks on any plans.
For the last 4 weeks I've been on a workout plan called "Strong Is The New Sexy" made by David Costa. I've been determined to finish this one, and considering I was already interested in using more weights in my workouts and also learning new ways to challenge myself, the last 6 weeks have gone by quite smoothly (with the except of the one week that I got the flu).
I'll put up two post about my experience with "Strong Is The New Sexy". The second will be uploaded at the end of the 12 weeks with my full experience and complete progress but for now, let's share my details at the start of this program and how I've felt about the first 4 weeks of the plan.
There are two versions available - a gym version and a home version. I am doing the home version since I have my own equipment (and also because gyms in Singapore are generally not affordable to me). Of course, the gym version will require you to use the machines and equipment at a gym, and the home version still requires you to have certain items such as dumbbells, benches, exercise balls etc. So it does require some investment on your part of either a gym membership or some home equipment regardless of which version of the plan you wish to purchase.
Now for the actual plan:
Strong Is The New Sexy involves about 3-4 days of strength based workouts which are all provided and one day of cardio per week where you can do whatever you prefer (I opted for HIIT workouts from the "Train With Tanya" app by Tanya Poppet a.k.a @Achieving_Balance )
The plan includes everything from workouts and recipes - which I did not use as I don't do my own cooking and I am a vegan, although many of the recipes are already vegan and the other can be swapped out easily to be made into vegan recipes.
It also included information on what bodybuilding is and what the plan has in store for you.
My favourite part of the whole guide is actually the 3 pages of fitness misconceptions. That's one part I think many people need to read, re-read and read once again before starting any plan.
Previews of the meal plan and fitness misconceptions page:
The workout section of the plan is separated into 4 parts;
Week 1 and 2 - Global Physical Conditioning
Week 3 and 4 - involves Specific Physical Conditioning
Week 5 to 8 - Specific Muscle Building
Week 9 to 12 - HIIT Et Cross Training
I'll go into more details about the actual workout and how I felt with the different sections in the next post (once I finish the plan). But now that I've done the first 4 weeks of training, what do I think?
I love it.
Considering the workouts I've been doing prior to SITNS, what I want to achieve and that I like to challenge myself, the first 4 weeks of this plan was perfect. Everything was new, it challenged me enough that I loved the doms the next day and foam rolling meant a whole new thing.
Everything was more intense, it encouraged me to do better (form over speed) and made me appreciate the new form of training. I'm so used to plans that focused on doing as many sets within a certain amount of time and that sometimes "the more sets you do the better" but that has made me sometimes worry too much about the numbers and less about whether what I'm doing was performed with the right form. SITNS is not time based at all. We get a fixed number of reps and sets and that's definitely made me feel better than trying to rush through a workout.
A lot of what I did previous was also strength mixed in with more cardio based movements so you get an "all around" workout or burned more calories than if you stuck to purely strength on a particular day. But what I realised from this plan was that it was structured better, so my form stayed consistent throughout the workout because I wasn't too tired from doing high intensity movements every second exercise in every workout, and that also cut out on the rest time I took between exercises.
One thing I really enjoy in the plan was that the exercises in the plan are explained in a section before the workout and also includes links to youtube videos to teach you what they exercises look like. How good is that?
Frankly I don't learn well from reading how a move is meant to be performed, I like being able to see it. Of course the best option would be to have someone tell me after if I'm doing it right but this is the next best thing.
So this was amazing for me rather than having to waste time looking up how to do some of the exercises myself.
I know for many of you, you might want something easier. Many people prefer workout videos over an e-book and many want exercises they already know how to perform rather than having to learn new ones.
Even if that sounds like you, take a little step outside of your comfort zone. I was used to 2kg weights and tons of cardio way back when, and I despised strength training. But look at me now, I'm the complete opposite and I love every moment of it!
If you want a little preview of this plan - you know, try before you buy!
You can get a preview on their website at http://strongisthenewsexy.es
Some may think this post is harsh. So if you're sensitive, get offended or upset easily, then it's your choice to read it. This is the whole truth based on my opinion and experiences.
The world is filled with people making excuses for themselves for anything and everything they can possibly think of. Health, money, jobs, exercise, family, time, vacations, chores, whatever. Basically people make excuses for anything they do not want to do so they can make themselves feel better about the situation.
I'm no exception to this terrible habit. For nearly 19 years of my life I made excuses for why I was overweight or bordering being overweight, why I couldn't (or wouldn't) exercise or eat better, and why I didn't prioritise my health.
There are definitely other things that I still make excuses for today - but we're talking about health.
I've reach a stage where I know what I want for myself and I am going to do all I can to make sure that no matter how old I get, I am going to try to be in the best health that I possibly can be without overdoing anything.
I'm definitely not where I should be in terms of physical and mental health, but I'm getting there. I've realised that no one is going to help me if I keep on making excuses for myself. If you don't take the first step, no one's gonna be able to help you along the way.
I know that I and all the other people who do things to benefit their health, are probably the minority when it comes to the general population.
Everyone says "I care about my health", "I take care of myself", "I'm healthy" but are you, really?
If you are not bothered with improving your health, if you can honestly say that you are completely happy with the way you are, then good for you because that's what everyone else wants to achieve.
But if you're not happy, if you say that you want to change, that you want things to improve, then are you really doing everything you can or are you making excuses for yourself?
If it is the latter, then hopefully you realise the one person who is suffering because of your shit excuses is YOU. (and yes they are always shit excuses)
Some people still believe that things like heart attacks, cancer, hypertension, diabetes, strokes, sometimes even obesity, cannot be helped. That it happens if you're unlucky. That these things creep up on you and there is "nothing much you can do to prevent it." The absolute worst excuse I've heard is that everyone has to die somehow, so why not "enjoy your life" and "do whatever you want to do" until you die.
What I've noticed (and been upset about) is that so many things that people in the first world suffer from, get sick with, die from, to some extent, could have been avoided if they chose to live a better life and care about their bodies. But hey, *insert excuse here* and let's pretend it's not a problem because we don't have it yet. Some people even make jokes about cancer or getting a stroke like that's actually something to joke about.
Sure, none of us are perfect and there are countless things that even the healthiest person can still get - after all, no one's immune. Considering the world we live in and the upbringing many of us have had, we may not be able to bring our chances of getting cancer or suffering from a heart attack down to 0. BUT if you can choose to eat better, exercise and in exchange know that you have given yourself a better chance, that maybe that chance of getting a stroke one day has reduced from 40% to 5%, wouldn't you want that?
BNow, what good do your excuses do for you?
Cause it's just easier to eat some bacon and eggs for breakfast instead of finding a tastier and healthier alternative? Cause you just can't resist refined sugar in your snacks and desserts? Cause it's "normal" to have milk and cheese and meat so it can't be that bad? And let's not forget, because "I don't have time to exercise" is a legit excuse EVERYONE uses yet many of these same people have time to binge watch their favourite tv shows. 20 minutes of a workout is really so hard when you NEED to binge watch 5 hours worth of tv isn't it?
Here's a tip: If you actually wanted to, you can watch your fave tv show AND workout at the same time - I do this literally for every workout now.
I'm not trying to be unreasonable. There is a massive difference between having a REASON that you're unable to do something and having an EXCUSE. And you need to learn the difference so that you can wake up and do something that benefits you.
Some people have to work multiple jobs with crazy hours and are exhausted when they come home- that's a reason.
Some people don't earn enough money at their jobs so buying a $2 burger for lunch looks more appealing than spending $50 worth of groceries for the week cause they still have bills to pay - that's a reason.
Some people have no help with families they need to look after, kids or parents or little siblings that they need to do heaps for - that's a reason.
If you don't have the time to workout cause you HAVE to watch tv - that's an excuse
If you don't eat better because it's "not convenient" but you're happy to take the time to deep fry some chicken - that's an excuse
If you like to get shitfaced all weekend so you "might as well eat shit the rest of the time" - that's an excuse
If you don't want to eat better because you "like cheese/bacon/sugar" too much - that's an excuse
If you say "But i've always lived this way" - that's an excuse
If you think it's too hard without even trying - that's not just an excuse, that's pathetic.
And all of these excuses are one that I have used. They came out of my mouth to try to justify my unhealthy habits. Do you think some of them sound familiar?
When you do have the time and the resources, why don't you at least try. Don't make an excuse, pick something you can manage and do it. Do it for you. Do it for your health, for your future, do it for your family - because no one wants to watch their family get sick, suffer and die prematurely.
And for those of you who might want to get mad because you think I don't understand what it's like to grow up being unhealthy:
I made excuses too. I lived my life putting disgusting foods into my body and being completely unhealthy. So I know how much of an excuse saying "I was brought up this way" is.
I loved cheese and ice cream and cakes and chicken and sugar and literally everything that was bad for me. KFC and Burger King/Hungry Jacks was my favourite for years. I love cheese fries and mountain dew and I died for those Hershey's Pies. I always said I couldn't exercise cause it was "too hard". I made excuses for P.E, I once even pretended to throw up so I could get out of a run that I NEEDED to pass my fitness test in secondary school.
When I was in school, about 2-3 times a week I would have 2 dinners, one with my friends at a fast food place and another at home about 2 hours after the first. Eventually I stopped doing it but how disgusting was I to force myself to eat that much food. If I was at a buffet or having a good meal at home I would force myself to have to have sometimes up to 5 or 6 rounds even if I got full after 2 plates. I can clearly remember being in Primary school and forcing myself to eat a ridiculous amount of chicken from a dish my grandma cooked because I loved it that much. It was probably enough for 3 meals, but I just kept going because it tasted so good.
When I did start to exercise and eat better, yeah it was hard, it was like torture some days. I wanted cheese fries and brownies all the time. But then you feel the difference, you see the changes, you realise why this helps and why people who do it keep doing it.
And then I stopped making excuses because it was easier to eat better and exercise than it was to deal with bloating and stomach aches and getting sick all the time or to deal with my body that I knew I didn't like and wishing I looked better in a dress but trying to convince myself that no matter what this is my body and I have to love it, but I still kinda didn't. (Blog post about loving my body HERE.)
What has made me so upset about all these issues with health and people making excuses for themselves, is when I look at my 80 year old granddad in a hospital bed, complaining of pain, refusing dialysis because of his fear or needles, being scared of dying every single day and always saying that he wants to go home, all because of how he chose to live his life. Every single things he has now, could have been managed and could have been prevented if he had chose to be healthy.
I know for a fact, it is easier to do this now than to end up even a little bit like him.
People say he chose to enjoy his life - and apparently it's worth it to do this. But is all that time "enjoying" yourself really worth all this? He's been sick for longer than I've been alive, and recently saw it take the worst hit. And for what? "enjoyment" they claim.
It is not worth it to not do it and claim I am "enjoying my life" when in fact I am happier today with myself, my body, how I feel and what I can do than I ever was before I started it.
So wake the fuck up, and stop making excuses for your health.
I used to believe yoga was rigid. You'd have to know a flow from start to finish and only do what the practice allowed you do. Whether you practiced ashtanga, hatha, yin, bikram, Iyengar whatever, I thought it was all one way and that was it. I believed that since i wasn't a teacher, I didn't know how you're meant to flow so I had to follow a video or go to a class if I wanted to practice - no exceptions. Even though that definitely helped me practice well right from the start, it made me dependent on it and didn't allow me to learn how to flow on my own.
I would practice individual asanas, do exercises, but now that I think about it, I would never try to actually do a flow.
Aside from when I go to a good yoga class where I learn more about my practice, my body and my breath, I've learned that I enjoy a yoga flow best when I'm at home, on my mat and have music playing - any music playing.
That's how I learned to enjoy my practice. That's how I learned to flow. Through music.
It doesn't have to be hard, intense or well thought out. Though form, pressure and alignment are all very important, once you know what each asana should feel like, look like and do for your body, you can find beauty in your practice.
This of course is not as beneficial as actually going from a class and learning from a teacher - as I still do whenever I can - but when you keep it simple and flow from the heart, it feels almost theraupeutic.
I know that many of you probably have this problem. When you're on your own you might not always know what you want to do and when you try, you get stuck. It happens to the best of us, but it doesn't have to be so tough to flow.
Think of it as dancing in your bedroom. When no one's around, you're sitting in your room, playing some music, just being you. And what happens when a song you love comes on? You dance. You don't have to look good, the moves don't have to be amazing, but you love how it makes you feel don't you?
Think of you flow as that moment of dancing alone in your bedroom.
Make sure you know your asanas, keep it simple, get into some comfy yoga gear and pick a playlist. Doing this showed me a whole new way to practice and I loved it. It was comfortable, happy, stress-free and it made my yoga practice way more enjoyable.
Sometimes all you need is some music to help.
You know that I wasn't always healthy and I definitely wasn't always happy or comfortable with my body. I was an overweight child (from about age 10 to 14) and I was bordering being overweight, with way more body fat than I needed, from age 14-19,
Though my experiences are not the same as many people who are overweight, and not at all similar to people who are struggling with obesity, this is the truth about what my life was like when I said that I used to “love my body”
I have always said, and believed, that for a while before I started living healthier, I had already loved my body. When I think about it now, I did not love my body before this. I said I did, but the truth is that I accepted It more than I loved it because I believed that my body would never change.
I was a regular sized child up till about 10 years old and frankly, I cannot remember what it was like to not be an regular sized child. I remember what it was like to be 5 and play or go to school and enjoy life but I never gave any thought to what my body looked like.
Eventually people would tell me I was too fat so I started realising it for myself. I cared, but not enough at that stage to do anything about it.
When I was about about 15 or 16 I came to the conclusion that I would always be this way. I never tried extreme diets (or any diet) but I was a lazy teenager that loved fatty, sugary foods and I felt like I didn’t want to give it up and I definitely did not want to try exercise.
I accepted it. I didn’t hate my body openly. And I sure stopped saying I hated my body to myself. Because I was short, I could still fit into a size Medium and Medium was normal, so it had to be okay. This acceptance led me to believe this is what loving your body was.
But it isn’t.
I would be fine, until I bought a new piece of clothing and it wouldn’t look the way it should have. Or I had rolls or my stomach poked out too much or my butt was too flat or my thighs were too fat. And in those moments, I would be upset with myself, upset with my body. I would wish it was different. There was no way that feeling was love.
I would try on something and suck my stomach in as much as I could if I wanted to take a photo, always taking it at angles, taking about 20 photos and picking the one where I looked the smallest and always pretending I was in love with the way I looked. If you smile, no one can tell right?
The fact is that I told myself I loved my body even though I still had these moments of doubt, of frustration, of sadness even. The worst part was that I never really tried to make it any better. I would let the moment happen then move on like it wasn't a problem that I was so upset with how I looked. But hey, if you're not hating your body 24/7 you must love it right? Wrong.
That is not loving your body.
I lied to myself.
Recently, I really learned what loving your body is. And I don’t mean loving yourself is exercising and eating well, though part of it is. When I say I love my body now, I truly mean it.
I still have rolls here and there, some stretch marks, my body fat percentage is probably still a bit high BUT when I try anything on, I no longer feel upset. Even if it doesn’t fit right, doesn’t look “ideal”, isn't the size it "should be", I don’t feel upset anymore. I don’t feel like I want to look like someone else, I don’t suck my stomach in and take 20 photos to pick the “best one”. Sometimes I take one photo and I feel happy with it and that feeling of not judging myself is amazing.
There are no bad marks or spots, no rolls or part of my body that isn’t good enough. Do I have a perfectly lean and toned body? Hell no. But I’m actually fine with that. I don’t feel upset and I can stand to look at myself even after a meal without thinking my stomach is poking out too much.
Loving my body feels like freedom. I can wear what I want with confidence, not because I think I look perfect, but because I don’t feel like my body type isn't made to wear something.
Loving my body feels like happiness because I don’t worry about how I sit or what someone else thinks may about my body because I’m comfortable with it.
Loving my body feels like falling in love because I want the best for myself, I don’t want to let myself get sick or hurt or to struggle with life so I do the best for my body and for me.
And loving my body feels like peace because I no longer have moments where I feel like it isn't good enough and I no longer wish it was different.
My body will definitely not always look or feel the same, and that's the wonderful thing, even though I know my body will change, whether it's in the short term (like from exercise) or in the long term (from age) I love my body completely.
I started with the most basic knowledge of what healthy meant - which is probably what most of the world still believes as well.
I believed silly things like carbs are why people get fat, if you want to lose weight you have to eat a lot less and do a lot of cardio. Weights are only for men. Skinny people are always healthy. Natural sugar was equal to processed sugar. Any weight loss is good weight loss.
And you know this list goes on and on. I believe some of this until I was about 18! What's scary is that these were not ideas that I came up with on my own. It's what adults taught me, it's what the media and the world taught me and it's what some of them keep reinforcing literally until today.
Raise your hand if you've heard that "1200 calories" are ideal for a woman.
As you all know, I decided to change and besides the usual better eating and exercise, there are other things that can change to make you live better. It might not be the same for everyone and you need to figure yours out for yourself, but since it's been requested, here's the changes that affected my life the most:
1. Early To Bed and Early To Rise
Basically we all know we should go to bed earlier and we should wake up earlier but not everyone does it. I love being a night person. And I also love getting up at 7am. It's a tough choice, but I gave up my late nights of staying up basically wasting time. Now I try to get into bed about 30-45 minutes before I should be asleep. And that helps me get up earlier and feel better about it- which I enjoy much more than staying up till 2am then struggling to get up on time in the morning.
2. Make The Most Out Of My Morning
I get up, have a glass of water, put my runners on and go for a walk or a run. Sometimes with my little man! (perfect if you have dog!) And if the weather is bad, I stay home and do some yoga.
Then I get ready for work and have an amazing, healthy breakfast. Oats, nana ice cream, acai bowls, Smashed Avocado & Vegemite on toast. This works so much better than sleeping in till I absolutely have to get up, have a crappy breakfast like cookies or cake (like i used to) and still feel lazy all morning. A good morning can change your mood for the whole day.
3. Take Advantage of The Sun
I work from home - which seems amazing. But that made me really lazy to get outside. I would literally spend days just in my house without ever leaving because I didn't need to. That really does affect a person, so when I decided to go on morning walks, it realised within a week how it changed my mood, how much energy I had and how much more satisfied I felt with my day. You don't all have to take walk in the morning, but find some time to get outside. Have lunch in the sun, take a break and just enjoy the breeze, whatever it is, find at least 15 minutes in your day to get outside and do nothing but enjoy it.
Everyone knows they need to drink more water. And I hated it but since I started working out, I noticed the differences. It helps clear my skin, I don't look or feel as sleepy or dehydrated. I don't feel hungry as often and generally don't get as bloated as I used to when I swapped water with sugary or dairy filled drinks. With the exception of tea (no sugar and no milk) or the occasional vegan coffee, all I have is water. It might seem like common sense, but all those drinks people replace water with just aren't worth it. You will feel better if you make sure you're having enough water throughout the day.
Now, I have an app, Plant Nanny, to help me remember to drink water, it was actually very helpful when I first got it, and now I keep it because I like growing plants on the app!
Download Plant Nanny
5. Got Rid of Toxic People (and found new friends)
Everyone says to do this, but not many actually take that step. Some people are ignorant, old-fashioned or rude and others get mad at any kind of progress you make. You do not need these people in your life.
It's not great doing this alone, but it sucks when people around you try to discourage you and bring you down.
Whether it's friends or even family, toxic people are no good and the best thing to do is to kick them out of your life.
I did, not immediately but eventually I got rid of them and replaced them with people who actually knew what this lifestyle is about. I found friends who loved the same things I did, they supported me, understood what I did and we had shared experiences.
That made me feel so happier, better about myself and it made this whole journey so much more enjoyable.
7. Stopped With The Self Hate
This is definitely the biggest one. Though I've mentioned it countless times, I have to keep saying it. When I looked in the mirror and forced myself to see things I loved instead of judging my own body, I felt better. I loved myself more, I was more confident, I wasn't so harsh on myself. You should be able to look at yourself, smile and mean it.
The worst habit you could possibly have is hating your own body. Learn to love the body you're in, and show it just how much you love it.
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I made these changes for me, and they have effected my life dramatically. I feel better, I look better, I'm confident and happy and I love my life and my body so much more than I ever used to.
If it wasn't for my own interest in health and my body, all the research I did and all the effort that I put into educating myself on what health really meant, I would probably be the same overweight, unhealthy, unhappy and clueless person I once was.
I never want to go back to being that person and I can never see myself giving up the wonderful changes I've already started. If anything, I hope that this would work to encourage some of you to make some positive changes of your own,
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