How Can I Improve
A lot of my internal conversations revolve around goals. I’ve blogged about my fondness of lists and my aspirations for the future and my mind that just won’t shut off. Much of this comes from a deep desire to constantly better myself, continually look for opportunities that will help me with a successful career, and a genuine passion for living a happy life.
Most recently I used this passion to go after an internship that didn’t yet exist —> “You Get What You Work For”
So there are many times I ask myself “How can I improve?” As a student, a friend, an intern, a daughter. But today I’m specifically speaking about improving fitness. Because that is what this blog is all about, isn’t it? You don’t come here to read about another 20-something’s wanderlust and “dreams.”
In order to improve…
…you need some unit of measurement. A quantitative value you can use for comparison. A gauge to tell you if you are, in fact, becoming faster/stronger/leaner/better.
I’ll give my personal goal as an example for these areas of improvement that can be applied to anyone:
Area of improvement: I WANT TO BE A FASTER RUNNER. (I think that is the goal of every runner. To be faster.)
Unit of Measurement: 3 mile time trial (weekly.) AKA Tempo Tuesdays. I’ve been running the same 3-mile course at 5am for the past 3 Tuesdays and here’s how it’s going:
Week 1: 18:39 // Week 2: 18:45 // Week 3: 18:42
I’m nothing if not consistent! Overall, I’m not unhappy with these times…but they don’t represent the downward trend I am striving for. So, cooling down from my 6:14 average pace this week, I asked myself “HOW can I improve?”
We cannot expect to see improvement in our fitness level if the effort is not put in to justify it.
If something doesn’t change in your your diet, exercise, sleep or mental health, you cannot expect to grow and become more fit.
Nutrition: I love talking about nutrition. You already know this. I do not pretend to know everything or have a perfect diet. But I do believe I make a good balance of clean whole foods, healthy nutritious meals, and splurges here and there. You can read about my typical daily diet here.
Things to consider:
- Are you eating enough before a workout to fuel yourself? Are you eating enough afterwards to recover?
- Are you eating too much, to sabotage your efforts?
- Can you cut back on soda/fried food/processed snack consumption?
- Do you eat breakfast?
- Do you keep a food journal?
- Are you getting a good balance of protein, carbs and healthy fats?
- Do you warm up before each workout? Do you include dynamic stretches before exercise and static stretches after?
- Could your routine benefit from more variety? If you are a cardio junkie (guilty!!) then try scheduling a couple strength-based training sessions into your weekly agenda. If you are camped out in the weight room, try venturing over to the pilates class. Sometimes we hit a plateau in our training and it’s important to incorporate variety into a training program.
- Are you resting enough? You might even have to CUT BACK on workouts. If you are in the gym and on the treadmill 7 days a week every week then your energy could be depleted faster than it can handle. Rest days are recharge days so schedule them wisely!
*For my goal to improve my 5k time, I am adding a weekly speed workout. 400 meter, 200 meter, and 100 meter sprints at “interval” pace. (All out.) I’m also going to be more diligent about post-workout static stretches!
This only requires one easy question: are you sleeping enough? If you constantly feel fatigued or tired, your body needs more hours of sleep before you can expect it to perform.
How is your attitude? Positive?
Do you look at fitness as a challenge or a chore?
Are you happy with your body, your energy level and your diet?
- Do you believe that your goal is attainable or does doubt cause you to get off track?
Mindset has a lot to do with results. It’s not just some cheesy cliche – the body achieves what the mind believes is as accurate as it is cutesy. Fitness and health should have a positive connotation, not viewed as a laborous chore to suffer through. In the end, it’s up to YOU and your own mind to motivate you to reach the goal.
*Achieving a mindset that is intrinsically motivated is a habit that I have formed over years of being the Straight-A Student, the Scholar Athlete, and the Over Achiever. I don’t work hard for a reward or for attention or any other tangible reason. It just makes me happy.
Assessing the different areas in your life and setting goals is part of lifelong happiness. And of course once you CONQUER a goal, the feelings of pride and accomplishment will only increase your motivation to do better. That is what lights my fire to run.
The 4-Part Birthday Workout!
As if he knew it was my birthday, my coach made Tuesday’s practice “on-your-own.” That translates to: SLEEP IN PAST 7am! The trails and roads are covered with a layer of ice and snow from the weekend’s storms, so my workout would be taking place in the comfort of the dry and heated gym. Because of said storm, I had already run for 60 minutes on the treadmill Saturday, and 85 minutes Sunday. So another long treadmill run didn’t interest me in the least bit.
I may have deviated from my training program for a day to mix things up a little bit and keep it interesting – girls just wanna have fun!
Our track team’s strength program has really been focusing on lower body lately, lots of overhead-weighted squats, hamstring curls and RDL’s, and hip mobility. Not to leave the upper body neglected, I decided to start out with upper body weights. I made up my workout as I went along, but it came out looking like this:
P.S. Don’t let the pink backgrounds fool you; this workout will leave you sweating and in need of some protein replenishment!
Note on the modified pull-ups: I used the machine that takes off some of your body weight so I was really lifting about 65% of my body weight. Since there are 3 sets, I did one set with parallel grip, one with chin-up grip, and one with pull-up grip.
Bursts of cardio to break a sweat! Followed by actual cardio machines, without the monotony of another treadmill day:
A workout is not complete without some CORE! These are pretty much my favorite core exercises, minus a couple. Like I said, I made it up as I went along but it looked something like:
This workout turned out WAY longer than I anticipated and I was at the gym for about 2 hours but I didn’t mind! It made a (little) dent in my birthday calories :) I definitely didn’t count calories this weekend with my parents, or on my actual birthday with some extra treats. Today it’s back on track with balanced meals and minimal desserts but it was nice to enjoy some “extras” off campus for a few days.
Apart from the exercise… I really enjoyed my birthday. I’m happy to have so many great people in my life and we had so much fun ending the birthday night getting frozen yogurt in 20 degrees. Die hard ice cream fan!
My birthday was conveniently on “Fat Tuesday.” Which epitomized my diet for the day. Red Velvet yogurt with strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries, all of which are invisible under this mound of granola & hot fudge. Going out with a bang!
Starting the day in the gym and ending it with the best group of teammates and friends. Can’t ask for much more than that!
Back in the Game!
On the 12th week of recovery from my facial surgery, I’ve been reunited with cardio workouts. Couldn’t be happier! Just last Monday I had my pity party, and it’s amazing what happens in just a week :D
Basically, after the extremely complicated surgery to remove the venous malformation in my cheek, I had a fat graft placed in the cheek to fill in the newly-empty gaps. The fat graft takes a while to be accepted by the body and soften. I’ve been waiting patiently (well…somewhat patiently) for 12 long weeks to get back to the workouts I love! Just last Friday, I received an email from my surgeon. It had one line: “It is okay for you to return to normal physical activities.”
You would have thought I won the lottery, those eleven words made me so happy. :) I grabbed my tennies and headed to the gym the first chance I got to hit the elliptical. I could finally get my heart rate above 100!
(It’s a temporary reunion, as my next surgery is in just 8 weeks. Still – I’ll take what I can get!)
*Seems like Monday’s have become my personal posts, away from recipes and workouts. You can find my more health-related posts here*
For anyone coming back from an injury or exercise hiatus, the most important thing to remember is eeeease back into it. I’m SO guilty of breaking this rule – the excitement of being back to running makes it easy for me to do too much too soon. Gotta keep it light for the first week, at least!
Beginning Elliptical Workout:
5 min on Level 1 – keep rpm’s above 60
10 min on Level 4 – keep rpm’s above 60
10 min on Level 4 – keep rpm’s above 65
5 min on Level 2 – cool down
Enough to sweat and log a couple miles on the elliptical, and feel good about a REAL workout :)
Now that cardio is fair-game, I’m excited to share more elliptical, stair master, bike and rowing workouts.