No Excuse, No Abs, No Problem

Everybody loves a milf hot mom, right?

A bit more than a year ago, a woman named Maria Kang posted a photo of herself, her three sons, and her abs.  It went viral – not because she had a six pack or her kids were supernaturally cute, but because of the question she posed with it:

maria kang what's your excuse

When Kang came out with this photo and its provocative question, it drew polarized responses.  Critics came clamoring with accusations of shame-mongering, while supporters said it was inspiring and that sometimes the truth hurts.  Eventually Kang made a public “apology,” in which she said she was sorry that anyone would interpret her photo in a negative way, but that she still stood by the original photo/question.  She also mentioned outright that “it’s time we stop tip-toeing around people’s feelings” (a sentiment with which I wholeheartedly agree, but that’s a topic for another time).

Apparently another “hot mom” is making waves now with a similar photo.  Abby Pell is a fitness competitor from the UK, and her recent photo echoes Kang’s sentiment.

abby pell no excuse

Pell’s photo is more troubling to me than the one shared by Kang. While I could go on about the fact that her head is cut out of the photo (symbolically shifting the focus of her identity to her body) or the disturbing message/standard being presented to her daughter, the bigger problem is the mindset that both Pell’s and Kang’s photos represent.  This problematic mindset is twofold:

1.  There is a narrow aesthetic presentation that defines one’s level of fitness.

2. Fitness should take whatever priority necessary to achieve the aforementioned presentation.

These two women are not extremists – the majority of the fitness industry is infected with the same mindset.  While some may have good intentions (and the rest I would regard with hearty skepticism), they are propagating a destructive mentality…and, too often, equally destructive training and nutrition habits.

Thankfully, there are some professionals out there who promote healthier mindsets and practices.  Jen Sinkler, for example, wrote a wonderful piece on these photos and the ensuing controversy: What Effect are “No Excuses” Photo Captions Having on Young Women? A week ago, I discovered Noelle of Coconuts & Kettlebells when I stumbled across her fantastic article: Why I Don’t Want Six-Pack Abs.  This great bit from Lift Big Eat Big remains one of my all-time favorite pieces on body image: The Overrated Image of 6-Pack Abs.

The bottom line is not that having a six-pack is bad in and of itself, but that it’s been made into ridiculous “holy grail” of fitness, and these kinds of photos/captions promote the pursuit of that ideal above all else.  Health is important, and we are called to be stewards of these physical vessels.  But while stewarding our health is our responsibility, and enjoying our physical abilities is a blessing, having a six-pack is not a duty to which we are indebted. Neither is it an aesthetic feature we should feel shame for not attaining or not pursuing.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Frankly, I’m amazed at some of the women who find time to work out at all in addition to the time spent being wives, mothers, caretakers, business owners, executives, and God knows how much more. Given my current season of life, I should have just as much ability as anyone else to “be shredded” or have a six pack.  Of course, there’s the issue of genetics and generally being built like a tank, but that can be combated. And while I have no husband, no kids, and “no excuse”…I also have no six pack.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 preset

And I have no problem with it.  Health is a priority for me; abs are not.  The priorities I do have?

  • Living a life that is more like Christ.
  • Being a better sister, daughter, and friend.
  • Getting into grad school.
  • Preparing for my future career.
  • Learning to play guitar.
  • Keeping my house/life organized.
  • Working on personal projects.
  • Practicing handstands.
  • Playing with my dog.

So I have no excuse, no abs, and no problem. I do have a happy heart, a healthy body, a sharp mind, and a rich life.

If you ask me, it’s more than worth the tradeoff.

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I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please chime in with a comment below!  

PS: If you found this article helpful or interesting, feel free to share on facebook, twitter, pinterest, google+, or wherever else you lurk in social media land.  I’d appreciate it more than you know!

5 FREE Apps To Level-Up Your Life

Technology is wonderful and I am so glad to be living in the 21st century where we have the internet and smartphones and measles vaccinations (well, unless you’re Jenny McCarthy)…but at the same time, it’s easy to let technology drag you down the rabbit hole of Instagram/Pinterest/Snapchat/Vine/Angry Birds/insert-other-useless-app-here.  Most of us have phones that are filled with apps we don’t use with any regularity.  And if you’re anything like me, you might find yourself mindlessly wasting time on the apps that you do use (looking at you, Pinterest…) more often than you’d like to admit.

I can’t help you put your phone down and stop scrolling through Twitter – that requires exercising a little muscle called “your self control,” which is much easier said than done.  What I can do is give you 5 new apps to put on your phone.  Only instead of tempting you to waste your time, these apps help you live better, be healthier, and work more productively.  And just think…if you replace one of the aforementioned time-sucking apps with one of these, you’ll probably be able to double your productivity and be significantly happier at the end of the day.

Yes, it's pretty much just a completely unrelated filler photo.  And yes, I wore that in public last night.  #iwokeuplikethis

Yes, it’s pretty much just a completely unrelated filler photo. And yes, I wore that in public last night. #iwokeuplikethis

Plus, they’re all free.  Which is great news if you’re frugal or poor or both (right here).

I’m getting giddy at the very thought of it.

1. Tabata HIIT Timer App

I’ve mentioned this app before, and it bears mentioning again – of all the practical (i.e. not time-waster) apps on my phone, this is probably the one I use most.  If you’re a busy human, you probably want to make the most of your time spent training.  Personally, I find it is sometimes easier to push myself to work harder when I know I’m running against the clock and I can see the seconds counting down. Whether I’m doing a plyometrics circuit or a tabata workout or sprint training, this timer helps me make the most of my work intervals so that I can maximize my training in the time that I have (usually: limited). It’s customizable, easy to use, and the bottom line is: Get it. Use it.

2. Ambio – Sleep Sounds

Normally I love to have a fan on when I go to sleep, for the white noise and the breeze, but it’s way too cold for that (even in CA) lately. Add in the weird sleep schedule I sometimes have due to working part time at a coffeeshop – translation: going to bed when other folks are having dinner, and waking up 4 hours before sunrise – and it makes it hard to get some good shut-eye.  I’d say that I can sleep when I’m dead, but 1) I can’t stand feeling like a zombie, and 2) sleep is vitally important for health.  Ambio is an ambient-noise app that helps me to fall asleep easier no matter what time it is – afternoon naps shamelessly included. In addition to nine options for ambient noise (“Airplane Cabin” is my favorite), you can add your own music, mix and layer different sounds, create playlists, and even set an alarm within the app.  Enter, Ambio, stage left…cue blissful sleep…and curtain.

3. Nike+ Training

This one’s popular.  And it’s popular for a reason.  You can look up tons of free workouts – from 15 to 45+ minutes – sorted by fitness goal, workout type, body part, and other qualifiers.  The workouts include automated timers, audio cues, and video demos. While I wouldn’t recommend depending on Nike+ workouts for the bulk of your training, they’re a great resource for when you’re short on time, creativity, or equipment. (Here are some more great minimalist workouts if you’re interested!)

4. TED

Mental health is just as important as physical health, and TED talks are an exciting way to give your brain a little exercise and learn some cool new info.  If you’re unfamiliar with TED talks, they’re relatively short (5-40+ minutes) talks from experts in their respective fields, covering all manner of subject matter from science to social justice.  Listening to a TED talk while you do tasks that are typically mundane is a great way to multitask in a healthy way and engage your brain in something more challenging than singing along to Katy Perry or watching the Kardashians (guilty on both counts).  Some opportune moments for TED talks: while you’re getting ready for the day, while you food prep, while you walk the dog, while you stretch/foam roll, while you fold laundry, while you paint your toenails and are trapped in your house because you don’t want to put on shoes and smudge your new pedicure.  Here are a few good TED talks you might enjoy:

5.  Google Keep

This one’s simple – it’s a to-do list app.  So, obviously, I am infatuated.  Normally I prefer to keep a physical to-do list because the act of actually crossing off an item gives me the best kind of high, but this is handy for when I want to live in the 21st century and/or not have to carry my notebook around with me.  (The fact that there is a shopping list feature is also near and dear to my heart…)  Whether you use Keep or prefer another list-making app, I would recommend that anyone who wants to make the most of their time keep a prioritized to-do list of monthly, weekly, and daily goals.  After all, better organization allows for better time management which allows for better productivity, which means less stress, less procrastination, and less chaos.  Basically, being organized helps you maximize your productivity and quality of life.  Who doesn’t want that? 

Best to-do list I've found yet.

Best to-do list I’ve found yet.

Discuss:

What apps do you use most?

What are your favorite fitness/productivity apps?

Are you one of the rare few who does not have a smartphone? (In many ways, I envy yall!)

Bonus: The app I would not recommend?  Tinder.

How I feel about Tinder.  Also how I feel about the wifi at Peet's. It blows more than a sperm whale.  (That was a terrible way to phrase it.  But I'm committed. No going back. And now I'm cutting myself off. Ugh. #rainman)

How I feel about Tinder. Also how I feel about the wifi at Peet’s. It blows more than a sperm whale. (That was a terrible way to phrase it. But I’m committed. No going back. And now I’m cutting myself off. Ugh. #rainman)

(Long story short – it’s creepy.  Long story long (and embarrassing/amusing/traumatizing)…well, you can read it here.)

How to Make Running Not Suck So Much

You know those people who wake up in the morning looking forward to the next time they get to run?

I am not one of them.

fat runner

Who needs a shotgun when you’ve got three chins to keep the boys away?

I wake up looking forward to eating, dancing around in my underwear, and getting to crawl back into bed in 17 hours. [Not necessarily in that order.]

Seriously, though, I am not a running enthusiast.  Heading out for a jog or doing a 5k is not my idea of a great time.  When I run, I have a bad habit of shoving socks down my bra and/or getting lost and getting heatstroke.  There’s a lot of sweat and jiggling and it’s just not fun for anyone.  [Mostly me.]  But I know that running has significant health benefits, and with a family history of heart disease, keeping my cardiovascular health top notch is a big priority of mine.

So I run.  Sometimes.  More often, I do plyos, and circuits, and other fun things that make me sweaty and jiggly and dry-heave-y.  And I actually love it, aside from the running.

Lately, though, the running has started to suck a little less.

happy run December 2014

I was genuinely happy…and for once, not just because I was DONE running.

Now I wouldn’t say I’m falling in love with running. Definitely not “L”-word territory.  Not even “like.” But it’s growing on me, like Neville Longbottom grows on you during the Harry Potter series.  Running still has its man boobs – we’re not at sexy grown-ass Matthew Lewis status [yet?] – but it’s not the whiny mouthbreather that it used to be.

Moving on from the nerd analogies, here are the things I’ve found that make running slightly more enjoyable.  Or at least enjoyable-adjacent.  So if you hate running, give these tricks a shot, and you might find that running starts to suck a little less.

Stop tracking every run.

If you are someone who keeps a spreadsheet tracking the time and mileage of every run, it’s time to give yourself a break.  Unless you’re getting paid to run or your job requires you to pass a PFT, your run time doesn’t matter.  The health benefits are there at any almost any speed. But if it’s a personal goal of yours to become a faster runner, that goal will be much more achievable if you enjoy running to some degree.  Try running by feel.  Allow yourself to go at a pace that’s on the border of natural and pushing yourself.  First fall in love with the movement of running, then if it’s important to you, start working on speed.  Tracking runs can be a great tool – for instance, do a handful of benchmark runs each month that you track for pace/distance – but most of us will be fine running most of our miles by feel.

Have a kickass playlist.

Studies have shown that music can have a significant impact on running speed, quality, and perceived exertion…and for most of us, personal experience has shown that music can take a workout from stale to stellar.  So don’t get lazy with your running playlist.  Pay attention to what songs get you fired up, and use them when you run! [Maybe even have an album or a few tracks that you only listen to while running, so that you associate running with the positive reward of listening to some of your favorite music.] Fine tune your Pandora stations.  Invest in Spotify Premium.  Dig up all your old Backstreet Boys CDs and put them on your phone.  Download some podcasts, if that’s what cranks your tractor.  And also, invest in a real armband.  I spent almost a year using my jerryrigged “phone holder” on runs [aka wrapping my phone in a sock and shoving it down my bra].  I got an actual armband for Christmas, and let me tell you, it makes a huge difference having your phone on your arm instead.  Running is surprisingly more enjoyable when it doesn’t feel like there’s a dead rodent all up in your boobs.

But, you know, the music is really important, too.

Play with it.

Just because you’re running doesn’t mean you have to just run.  Changing things up can make running exciting – if your usual mileage is getting boring, throw in some sprints, hills, or speedwork.  You can set aside time for a dedicated hill/sprint/speed workout, or if you’re less neurotic more freespirited, just add intermittent sprints or hills into your normal route.  Or take your non-running workouts and add a little running.  Using a mile jog as my warmup and cooldown for my strength workouts helped me to stop looking at running like this big, scary endeavor, and I eventually found that it could be a neat time for me to get in the zone [warming up before a workout] or truly zone out [cooling down afterward].  I also have a lot of fun heading down to the local high school or middle school on the weekends to use the track and bleachers.  I like to incorporate calisthenics and plyos for a circuit-type workout that feels more like playing than running.   [Thinking about sharing one of my favorites in the next week…let me know if you’d find that helpful!]

Remember that you do not have to run.

It is a privilege to have a body that is whole enough and well enough to run, no matter how slow or clumsy or ugly it may be. When you run, you are choosing to exercise that privilege.  If you truly hate running, you don’t have to run – it’s not a prerequisite for health.   But if you choose to run, whether it’s a daily habit or something you’re “trying out” for a week, own that choice.  Revel in that blessing that is the choice to run, as well as the choice to enjoy it.  Your perspective can be your most powerful tool.

find your greatness ad

Whether you’re a non-runner [let’s start a club…] or one of the chosen ones who enjoys running and is good at it, I hope these suggestions help you find more joy when you hit the pavement.  After all, the best kind of training is the kind you love.

Let’s discuss!

How much do you love/loathe running?

What do you do to make less-fun workouts more enjoyable?

Best running/training songs?

Surprising News

Well, it’s been a minute, yall.

I’ve been on an unofficial hiatus for the past month or so, and for good reason.

Life got a little busy and a lot crazy lately.  Sure, there were some sick days involved and some unexpected detours, but on the whole I’ve spent the past month gearing up for some exciting changes.  If everything goes as it should, then by the end of summer I’ll be entering a whole new chapter in life…and I figure I may as well share the news.

Any guesses?

[Here’s a hint…it was a surprise for me, too!]

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Adele's pregnancy test

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Yep.

It’s true.

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I’ve still got my sense of humor.

Everything’s true except the implied pregnancy part. [Sidenote: If you’ve seen me in real life lately and actually believed I might be pregnant, you can go shove it.]  This past month has been crazy because I decided to get my master’s degree!  My last two years of undergrad, I swore up and down and even over my favorite pushup bra (may he rest in peace and/or the bowels of the Goodwill store) that I absolutely would not ever in a million years go to grad school.  I’d had e-n-o-u-g-h of the sitting in class and the writing the papers and the putting up with the culture of academia and the going into debt to pay for all of it.

But you know what happened?

I graduated.

And I worked some jobs that were alright and one job I loathed from the depths of my being.

I paid off a little of that debt.

And I paid a lot to fix my car.

[Damn German engineering.]

I felt stagnant and frustrated and scared out of my mind.

And I started a blog and stopped wearing leggings 24/7.

I made new friends and drank too much coffee.

And I went on bad dates and should have drank more whiskey.

I applied for some really great positions and got rejected.

And I was offered some really great positions and said “thank you, but no.”

I thought about who I am and what I do well  and what I want out of life.

And I realized that the whole life thing wasn’t exactly unfolding like I’d planned.

I woke up and found myself simultaneously grateful and wanting more.

[“But who cares? No big deal. I want mooooore…” Leave it to the Little Mermaid to put my feelings into words song and have a fish-ass that puts my human one to shame.]

And I decided to stop waiting and start chasing the life I want.

invictus quote

And the life I want requires a master’s degree…which, oddly enough, suddenly doesn’t seem like an unbearable undertaking.  I might even say it’s got me twitterpated because I know what those years of grad school are leading up to, the same way sitting through a wedding gets you twitterpated because you know what the wedding ceremony is leading up to. [I’m talking about the wedding cake, ya filthy animals.]  With that big decision came some other really well-thought-out decisions, like taking the GRE with 5 days notice and about 30 minutes [that’s a generous estimate] of studying [halfhearted at best], while I was sick with the flu [they really loved me for that].  There were a few frantic phone calls, a couple workouts skipped in favor of filling out applications, and all manner of general panic and anxiety.  Normally I’m a fairly neurotic, anxious, obsessive-compulsive person (I actually have OCD), but I mean a lot more than usual.

[I also took a Jungian personality test during one of these moments of panic and got INTJ.  Basically it means I’m Rain Man.  So I retook the test – twice. And got INTJ – twice.  So I’m Rain Man – really truly.]

On the down side, all that Rain Man-style panicking and preparing meant that I didn’t have much time to blog.  On the bright side, it meant I was able to submit my application to my top-priority program on time.  Being adult and having priorities makes you do weird things, no?

All in all, though, I’m absolutely thrilled with where I’m headed.  Nervous, yeah, that too.  But mostly thrilled.  The career path I’m pursuing will allow me to combine my passion for holistic wellness with my love for all things nerdy, all while assisting and empowering people as they improve their quality of life.  And I won’t hate the whole financial stability/work-life balance, either.

[Being the nomad-in-leggings-and-fake-Ugg-boots-who-lives-from-one-tank-of-gas-to-the-next lost its charm back in 2012.  Plus, I have no idea how the hell to get – let alone use – food stamps, so my best option is to just get a better job.]

That is my long-winded and oversharing-filled lead up to letting you know that I now have a little more time, and I’m fixing to get back to blogging. I may not be blogging every day of the week, but on the 2 or 3 days a week that I do post, it will be the same good old stuff as before – fitness, nutrition, and mental health…but better. [You’ll see what I mean.]

If you have suggestions, let me have ’em.

And yes, I’ve already been told multiple times that I should blog about the latest season of The Bachelor.  After all, those are my roots, and in many ways, my sweet spot.*  So that’s going to have it’s own page on the blog for those of you who like to partake in social commentary or just spectate on the sordid spectacle that is reality TV.

If you’re still reading this, bless your heart. Thanks for sticking around.  I’ll catch yall on Thursday with something of actual substance to read.

Ciao!

farmer chris bachelor

*Let’s be real, it doesn’t take much cajoling to get me to agree to study Farmer Chris for a few hours.  Oh my stars, that is a good looking farm-owner.  I would pull a Ruth and glean his fields all the live-long day, even during those doggone Indian summers in Iowa.  Heck, I’d throw in some foot-uncovering action – we’re all adults, right?  [And in case you are wondering, yes, the best part of attending a Bible college was getting to make jokes like this and have people A) get them, and B) laugh.  Well, maybe not the best part…but it was at least tied with watching the homeschoolers try to flirt with each other.  You never saw so many turtleneck sweaters or so little eye contact.]

 

PS: I found my spirit animal – Fat Schmidt.

fat schmidt spirit animal

It’s uncanny.