Yoga 101: Beginner Poses

Hey everyone! I hope you are all having a wonderful day! For those of you who do not know, I have been on my fitness journey for over 5 years now, and I have been practicing yoga for 15-30 minutes every day for over a year! I truly believe in the power of moving your body and taking care of your overall wellbeing. What I love about exercise is that it is my time to simply focus on doing something for myself. It is a time for me to get focused and strong, and I always feel so empowered after a workout. Not only does my body feel strong afterward, but so does my mind. When it comes to yoga, I love the balance of challenge and relaxation. I am able to work hard (during more difficult flows) while focusing on my mind at the same time. I can let go of any stress or worry, and focus on my health, and I love the way working out makes me feel.

Due to the benefits that I have seen in my own wellbeing, I always recommend yoga to everyone! I feel that there is no excuse to not do at least 5-10 minutes of yoga every day! I understand that everyone has different lifestyles and schedules, but yoga has so many benefits, and we all deserve to feel our best. Today, I am beginning a new series on my blog: Yoga 101. I will be sharing a few different yoga poses in each one, and I will give tips, advice, and discuss how to properly do said poses. Please keep in mind that I am not an expert or a professional yogi, but after practicing daily for over a year, I feel that I have learned so much from the different instructors that I have watched (though I always appreciate feedback and advice for myself as well). I am still perfecting some yoga poses myself, so keep that in mind throughout this series.

Today we will be going over three of the classic yoga poses that every beginner should know. You may look at these and think to yourself “That’s so easy, I already know how to do that”, however there are little tips and techniques that can help you, and I would like to share those today.

Downward facing dog

This is a classic yoga pose and you may have seen other people do this frequently. This is something that I like to do during all of my practices. There is something about being in poses where my head is upside down that helps to relieve my headaches! This pose is great for stretching out the hamstrings too!

When getting into this pose, you can start off on your hands and knees. You want your hands to be out in front of you and facing slightly outward. Your feet should be hips distance apart and facing forward. Try to keep your pelvis tilted back so that your back is straight. You should keep your gaze between your thighs as well. Overall, you should like a triangle from the side. It won’t be possible to have your heels touching the mat at first; it’s going to take a lot of practice (this is something I am still working on). To help with this, you can pedal your feet by bending one knee and lengthening the other, causing a deeper hamstring stretch as your heels press toward the mat. This pose is going to feel challenging for a beginner, however over time it can become a resting pose. It is also a great pose to use during different flows!

Chair pose

This pose is admittedly one of my least favorites, however it is still important to do. By doing this posture, you are working your full body, but you will definitely feel it mostly in your legs!

For this pose, you want to start off standing with your feet a few inches apart (though you can have them right next to each other. This may make it a big more challenging). Then you will simply bend your knees and get low in the position (for any beginners out there, you don’t have to get extremely low). You will then lift your arms straight into the air. Make sure that you are putting most of the weight in your heels. You can test to see if you’re doing this right by lifting your toes off the mat, then placing them down again. Be sure to drop your shoulders rather than hunching them up to your ears. While this pose may be difficult, you want to try to stay as relaxed as you can. This position definitely takes some getting used to, so be kind to your body and modify where you need to. Like all yoga poses, you don’t want your gut to sag, so you should hold in your core while maintaining your breathing (in through the nose and out through the mouth). This took me a long time to learn, but by holding in your core, you’re going to feel your body working more. Remember this throughout your practice.

Plank position

This is a pose that many people have done before, however not everyone knows how to get into it properly. You’re going to start on your knees, placing your hands out in front of you facing forward. Your toes will be curled under and you will slowly straighten one leg, then the other. Again, you want to hold in your core and breathe. Make sure that your bottom is not too far in the air or too low to the ground; your body should be lined up with your spine. Be sure that your wrists are right under your shoulders (lining things up is very important to prevent any injuries). Keep your head down with your eyes on the mat below you.

There are modifications for this pose for those of you who find planking to be a bit too challenging. You still start off the same way, on your hands and knees, however you’re going to bring your knees back a few inches so they are not directly under your hips anymore. This is still a challenging position, but it is better for those who need to modify and take it easy. With time, patience, and practice, you will be able to do some of the more challenging poses, so keep going!

I am really excited for this new series on my blog, and I have so much more to share with you! Yoga has been a daily practice for myself as well as a couple of my family members who join me every evening. I highly encourage anyone out there to spend some time trying it out! You do not need to be athletic or flexible to do yoga; that comes with practice. You have to start in order to get to that point, and it doesn’t matter if you’re 15 or 50, anyone can do yoga. Believe in yourself and prioritize yourself. Thank you so much for reading! If there are any yoga poses that you would like me to discuss in this series, please leave me a comment below! Until next time!

(If you would like to see videos of me getting into each of these poses, you can check out my Instagram, @sacchere14.)

My 5 Year Fitness Anniversary

Today makes exactly 5 years since I first began weight training! I truly can’t believe that so much time has passed, when it feels like just yesterday my dad took me to the gym for the first time and taught me how to lift weights. I was 16 years old, and now I am 21. Last year, I titled my anniversary post, “4 Years of Weight Training”, however in my 5th year of my fitness journey, I began exploring other physical activities that have become a part of my daily/weekly routine. While my 5th year was a bit unconventional (due to the COVID-19 pandemic), I still wanted to share what changes occurred, how I felt, and any progress I noticed throughout the year. If you have read any of my fitness posts over this past year, you may already know some of the things I will be discussing today, so I’ll try to keep it (somewhat) brief.

The last time I worked out in a gym was in early March of 2020. Since then, at-home workouts became the new norm, which was difficult to adjust to at first. Once I got into a routine that worked for me, I really enjoyed my workouts. I would say that I lifted weights around 3-4 times a week and did HIIT 3 times a week. I was on top of my workouts for the most part, however, toward the middle of the year, I started to become a bit bored with my usual workout routines. This has been a common pattern for me over the past 5 years. After doing the same thing for so long, I easily get bored, thus, leading to a lack of motivation and less excitement when it comes to fitness. So, I did my best to change things up. While I never quit weight lifting, I did enjoy experimenting with new forms of exercise.

In April of 2020, I began doing yoga daily. A couple of my family members have been doing it with me, which makes it even more enjoyable. I made it a goal of mine to never skip a day, and I am proud to say that I’ve stuck to it. Even when I went away to the beach and to the mountains with my family, I still did yoga every evening. Even on days when I wasn’t feeling too great, or I had a lot on my plate, I still completed my practice. I like to do 10-30 minutes of yoga a day. I wasn’t sure that I would ever enjoy yoga, but honestly, it is so beneficial for so many different reasons. I wrote an entire blog post on the benefits of yoga (click here to read). Not only does it give me a chance to unwind and relax, but it is also a great way to work out and challenge myself. Despite what many people think, yoga is not always relaxing and easy. You can definitely work up a sweat and gain strength in your entire body. Yoga is not just about the core. I have noticed incredible improvements with my balance, my strength, and even my mindset. I also noticed that I was toning up a lot! I reached my goal of finding a new form of exercise, while still sticking with weight training, and I am very proud of this. I am also very interested in boxing! Although I’ve never really tried it, I think I would really enjoy it! Maybe sometime soon, when things are safer, I can try to find a place to box! I know this is something my dad would enjoy too, so maybe we can do it together!

Also, since January of 2019, I have been going on monthly hikes with my uncle (and sometimes my brother). I made it a goal of mine to go hiking at least once a month, and this is something I’ve really been enjoying! Some hikes are more moderate whereas others are more intense. It is so nice to get outside and exercise, especially since COVID hit. It is peaceful, and we are often rewarded with gorgeous views during or at the end of our hikes!

I also wanted to briefly discuss food, because this is an important part of staying healthy as well. As some of you may know, eating healthy has always been the most difficult part of living a healthy life for me, and I think many people can relate to this. In 2018, I did really well by changing up my diet and drinking more water. In 2019, I struggled with my motivation a bit more, and I wasn’t as focused on eating healthy. At this point, I am honestly still struggling with food, but I am trying to stick to healthy foods that I enjoy, while limiting some of the sweets that I tend to enjoy just a bit too often. It’s going to take some time and patience, as well as some serious dedication, but I am not someone who gives up easily on things that I want, so I am going to continue pushing myself. While I have never struggled with an eating disorder or an unhealthy relationship with food, I still think it is important to remind people that food is not the enemy. You have the control, and you can stop from giving in to temptations. Life is all about balance, and food should be enjoyed. So, it is completely ok to indulge in some of the foods that aren’t necessarily healthy once in a while. Just remember to limit the amount of these foods. While it can be very challenging to change up your diet, it is such an incredible feeling once you start to put healthy and nutritious foods into your body, and this is something I need to remind myself of more often. The way that working out and eating healthy makes me feel is the most powerful form of motivation. We all want to feel our best, and when I am taking care of my overall health, that is when I do.

My current workout split is not very strict. I’ve been listening to my body and what it needs a lot. Right now, I am weight training and doing HIIT 3 times a week, I am doing yoga daily, and some days, I will go for walks around my neighborhood. I am eager to get back in the gym, but for now, I am thankful that I have some of the equipment that I need at home. I have been looking to the internet and social media to get inspiration and motivation (which I recommend), and this has also helped me find new workouts to do to keep things exciting.

I always like to thank my dad for introducing me to the world of fitness. I was never very athletic and I felt that working out just wasn’t for me. Things changed when he taught me how to lift weights because I found not only a new hobby, but a new passion. I made goals to strive for, and I pushed myself during every single workout. Without his guidance and support, I probably would not have fallen in love with fitness, at least not at that time. I am very grateful for him and for our bond. Fitness brought us even closer, and even though I stopped going to the gym with him after my first couple years, I still think of all that he’s taught me, and how proud he is of me. I am also so glad that I recognized the importance of taking care of myself at such a young age. While there is no age limit to starting your fitness journey, it’s always amazing to get a head start.

I am very proud of how far I’ve come in these past 5 years. While I did not make a ton of progress this year, I am looking forward to working harder and disciplining myself even more for my 6th year (and hopefully getting back in the gym soon too). I wanted to remind anyone reading that your health matters. You have the power do incredible things, and taking care of your body should always be a top priority. Even when it is difficult and all motivation seems lost, keep going. Trust me, you’re going to be so glad you did! At this point, I can’t even imagine giving up, so I never will. I am going to continue on my fitness journey, and work toward reaching new goals! I always say that people should find some form of exercise that works for them; something they enjoy. For me, that happens to be weight lifting and yoga, but everyone is different. Find what works for you, and stick with it. In time, you will reap the benefits which are so incredibly rewarding! Not only will your body start to change, but your mindset will too!

Thank you so much for reading! I plan to continue sharing updates, tips, and changes throughout my 6th year, so I hope that you will follow along and join me! Check out my Instagram, @sacchere14 to see a video I put together using clips/photos from the past five years!

Until next time!

Tips for Beginner Yogis

I have been on my fitness journey for almost 5 years now, and yoga is something I began to incorporate in April of 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic was getting really bad at that point, and we were all stuck in our homes. One day, a family member introduced us to a program that had a variety of fitness videos to try, including yoga. After seeing this, I thought that maybe I could give it a try. I mentioned it to a couple of my family members, and we have been doing 20-30 minutes of yoga every day since. We have not skipped any days whatsoever, and that is something I am very proud of!

Yoga is both challenging and relaxing, and I have seen and felt the many benefits from very early on. I think it is important to let people know that you do not have to be flexible or into fitness to get started! Literally anyone can do yoga because there are ways to modify almost every pose, and this allows you to grow throughout your practice. We all start somewhere, so please don’t let the idea of being a “beginner” scare you off or make you nervous. I never thought that I would be interested in doing yoga because I have always enjoyed lifting weights, but I have come to love it! I definitely recommend experimenting with different forms of exercise until you find what works for best for you! If you want to get started with yoga, remember to start slow!

I have realized that there are certain things that yoga instructors in the program I use have been encouraging me to do, but I never really understood how. After months of practicing, I’ve noticed significant changes and improvements, which has been very exciting and motivating! I have gotten much better at balancing and activating my core, and I am starting to do a few more advanced poses!

Please keep in mind that I am in no way a professional or qualified to teach yoga, however I feel that due to my own experience with the practice, I can share some valuable tips with those of you who are just getting started! It took me some time to learn these things, and I am continuing to learn as I go! I am sharing this in hopes that you can start practicing these skills even sooner!

Here are my tips for beginner yogis:

  • Go into your practice with an open mind

Sometimes, when you are trying something new, you may have preconceived ideas on what you will be doing. When it comes to yoga, you may think it’s simple and easy, or that it doesn’t do anything for the body. It’s also common to simply say “I can’t do that” or “I’m not good at this” when starting out. You have to remember that in order to see progress and gain strength, you need to get started. It’s ok to lose your balance, to fall over, and to get frustrated when you can’t do a certain pose, but as long as you keep at it and practice frequently, you will get better! It’s important to have an open mind and to think positively all the time, but especially when trying something new or challenging. You are most likely starting yoga to be active, to get healthy, or to try something different, so honor that and honor yourself by getting out of your comfort zone!

  • Get centered and let negative thoughts go

When you go into your practice, you may not always feel your best. Maybe you’re stressed about work or your feeling down about a personal situation. Whatever it may be, when you get to your mat, it’s time to let it all go! It can be really difficult to let these thoughts go and to simple be, but you have to try. Some days, I am just a bit more distracted or I have a lot on my plate, and that’s ok. But you have to remember that you’re allowed to take a few moments out of your day to focus on you and your overall well-being. Working out can really give you that time, and you will also reap the benefits as time goes on! Try to think about your breathing and how you’re moving your body rather than bringing all of that negative energy to the mat. Working out has always been a time for me to focus on my mental and emotional health, it’s definitely not just about the physical.

  • Focus on the breath

This may seem like such a simple tip because of course, we’re always breathing, and you would think that you would be breathing even better during a workout. This can actually be a challenge. When I first started weight lifting, it took me a bit of time to realize that breathing will actually help you perform better, and you will be able to do more reps. The same is true for yoga. Keep in mind that whenever you are exerting the most energy, that is when you should breathe out. For example, if you are in three legged dog, and you want to bring your knee in toward your nose, you breathe in as you lift your leg up, and breathe out as you pull that leg in. Really think about your breathing when working out, and you truly will notice a big difference! Never hold your breath, even when your practice is getting difficult.

  • It’s all about lifting and lengthening

When practicing yoga, one should never focus too much on height, but rather focus on lengthening and lifting your body. For example, if you are in warrior three, you should be lifting your chest and leg, however you don’t need to be doing a standing split. The height of your leg really isn’t as important as how you’re lengthening your body. Another example would be when you are in sphinx pose or upward facing dog. It’s not about bending back as far as possible; it’s about lifting up out of your lower back and feeling a stretch across your chest. While it is impressive to see advanced yogis lifting their legs super high in the air, it isn’t necessary in order to feel the benefits and to gain strength. Length over height, always!

  • Relax the shoulders and don’t collapse

This next tip goes along with the previous one. It can be very easy to lose focus and forget the point of certain poses. There are many poses which require you to use some upper body strength. For example, when you are in a side plank, you have to remember to lift up out of that bottom shoulder. The same is true for triangle pose. It all goes back to lengthening the body! You want to rise up and reach for the sky, rather than collapsing back down into your shoulder (this could cause injuries or discomfort over time).

  • Keep a slight bend in the knees

There are going to be quite a few poses where you are meant to straighten your legs such as downward facing dog, triangle pose, and any kind of forward folds. When your instructor tells you to straighten your legs, please remember not to lock out your knees; keep a slight bend in them instead. You should do this to avoid any injuries or discomfort. It is not going to hinder your growth at all, and it’s always better to be safe and to listen to your body. During any form of exercise, if you feel any discomfort or pain, you should stop and modify or skip that pose/exercise for a little bit.

  • Square off the hips

Again, it is so easy to forget what you are doing, and your body may naturally want to move a certain way when doing some poses. For the most part, when you are in three legged dog, any of the warrior poses, or any twisting pose, it is important to square off your hips. This means that whatever way your core is facing, that’s where your hips should face too. When facing your left in warrior two, you only want your head to move and look over the hand in front of you, however your hips should stay in place, facing the left. When you are lifting a leg in downward facing dog, your hip may want to open up, but you have to do your best to keep it from doing so (there will be times when your instructor may want you to open up your hip in this pose, but unless they say so, keep the hips still). When twisting, make sure that you twist from your core; your hips shouldn’t be twisting with you.

  • Activate your core

It took me a long time to figure out exactly how to do this. This is something that you will need to practice, and it can take time, but you’ll know you’re doing it right because you’ll be able to really feel your core working. Yoga truly is a full body workout, however the core is a very important part of it. Throughout each and every practice, you should be holding in your stomach (while breathing properly). You don’t want your gut to sag as you are doing these movements and getting into different poses. If you suck in your stomach and at the same time, continue to breathe properly, you will feel your core working the entire time.

  • Challenge yourself

I understand that some days, you just aren’t going to feel very motivated, and you may want more of a relaxing practice. These days are needed, so of course, I encourage you to have a couple of these practices throughout your week. However, you shouldn’t get too comfortable relaxing, because if you want to improve and see results, you’re going to have to put in the work. You can do this by staying in poses longer than you normally would, or as you progress, you can try to do more advanced versions of different poses. For example, instead of planking on your knees, you should eventually try to lift them up, or try to get off of your tippy toes and lift up a foot or leg when balancing. You won’t get better at something by staying comfortable.

And lastly…

  • Enjoy the practice

Yoga is meant to be enjoyed. Whether your practice was all about the core or it was a relax day, by the end of your workout, you should feel strong, confident, and even relaxed in the end. Make sure to throw in some resting poses in the middle and at the end of your session such as child’s pose or savasana. This will give your body a chance to cool down, and you can take a moment to appreciate all of the work that you just did. Use this time to better yourself, and trust me, your body will thank you!

I hope that my beginner yogis out there found this blog post helpful! Like I said, I never thought I would enjoy doing yoga, but I think it was because I didn’t understand it, and I just didn’t see it as a real workout. Well, sometimes you can surprise yourself, and all it takes it one step outside of your comfort zone! Thank you so much for reading!

Fitness Update: November 2020

This year, my fitness journey took a turn. It was an unexpected turn, to say the least. We have all had to adapt to a new way of living, and the gym was no longer an option, at least for me. I’m not going to lie, I did not make a ton of progress this year, and that was to be expected once COVID-19 became widespread. However, I did my best to maintain my physique. Today, I’ll be sharing a brief update on my fitness journey. My last update was posted back in June, so I felt that it was time to share another!

Back in March of this year, I was just returning from my trip to France. I was on a high because I had just experienced one of my biggest dreams. As soon as I got back, I realized just how serious COVID-19 was getting in the United States. Not long after that, things began shutting down, and since then, we have pretty much spent the year at home. Of course, my gym closed down, which I think was the right decision to make. A gym is probably one of the worst places to go during a global pandemic.

I really had to get used to at-home workouts, and this was a bit of a challenge for me. I find that being at home means I tend to get a bit more distracted, and I am not as motivated as I am in the gym. It took a few weeks for me to get a little routine down, but once I did, I was feeling good! I don’t exactly remember how many times a week I was weight training, but I would say maybe three. I was doing cardio around two or three times a week as well. I began to enjoy at-home workouts, though I did miss the environment of my gym.

Earlier in the year, I said that I wanted to try a new form of exercise. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but in April, a couple of my family members and I decided to try yoga. We have now been doing yoga every single day for seven months! We typically practice yoga for 10-30 minutes daily. This is something that I am really proud of. I honestly did not expect to enjoy yoga, and I originally had my doubts, but I have seen and felt the many benefits of the practice. If you would like to learn more about the benefits of yoga and mindfulness, I wrote a blog post about my experience recently (click here)!

As the year went on, I felt that I was losing my motivation to lift weights. Yoga became my daily workout, and weight training was something I did once or twice a week. I tried to keep up with cardio, but I would say that I did it once a week.  There haven’t been very many changes in my workout split since. I am doing my best to stay on track, and to not be too hard on myself. While I may not have made a ton of progress this year, I have remained active, and that is very important to me.

When it comes to healthy eating, I have to say, it was also quite difficult. For me, this has always been the hardest part of living a healthy life. I’ve noticed that when I’m weight training, doing cardio, and staying very active, my appetite is bigger. This year, I don’t think that I’ve been eating as much as I used to, or drinking enough water. My meals haven’t been very unhealthy, but they definitely could be better, so I am trying to work on this.

I recently discovered a very small issue with my health, so after speaking to my doctor, I now know what I have to do to keep myself healthy. This has actually sparked some motivation in me, and I am feeling more excited to lift weights, do cardio, and continue with yoga. I am also going to do my best with eating more and eating healthy, as well as drinking enough water.

I know that this year has been challenging for many people across the globe, and we have all been much more aware of our health now more than ever. Some people may have gained motivation and killed their at-home workouts, whereas other people may have struggled a bit more. Wherever you are on your fitness journey, take a moment to say thank you to your body. It has carried you through another year, and (hopefully) you are healthy and safe. It’s ok if working out or eating healthy was difficult this year (it was for me too). As long as you did your best this year, then that is enough. Be proud of how far you’ve come, and continue to live an active and healthy life. I know that for me personally, one of the biggest reasons I stuck with weight training is because of the way it makes me feel afterward. Even when I struggle to take out my weights and put on my workout gear, I always feel my best after a workout. Take a look back and remember why you started in the first place. This is how you will get your motivation back, and this is how you will continue on.

The holidays are right around the corner, making healthy eating and working out even more of a challenge. So please remember to do what you can to stay healthy (physically, mentally, and emotionally), but also spend time with your loved ones, and enjoy the holiday season! Take care of yourself, love yourself, and even through the challenges, continue on your fitness journey!

I hope you enjoyed reading this fitness update. I wanted to be honest and discuss the fact that I was not heavily motivated this year, however I am looking forward to my five year anniversary in February, and beginning my sixth year of weight training! Thank you for checking out today’s blog post! Until next time!

The Benefits of Yoga and Mindfulness

Hey everyone! If you have been keeping up with the “Fitness and Self-Care” section of my blog, you may remember my post about doing yoga every day for one month. Well, I have continued to incorporate yoga into each and every day since April! Earlier this year, I told myself that I would try to find a new form of exercise, and I am happy to say that I did just that!

As many of you may be aware, I have been weight training for almost five years now. That journey has taken a bit of a turn this year due to COVID-19. My gym closed down sometime in March, and it opened back up in September. I have not gone back because I do not think that I would feel safe to do so just yet. Plus, a gym is probably one of the worst places to be during a pandemic, so I have chosen to continue with my at-home workouts for now. This year, I would say that yoga has become my go-to form of exercise. Though I have continued with weight training, I have not been doing this as frequently.

Initially, I was not incredibly interested in trying out yoga. I remember doing it once quite a few years back but I never stuck with it because I felt that it was “boring”. Things have definitely changed since then. I have been using a program that includes a variety of workout videos, ranging from strength training to yoga. Although I haven’t tried any of the other workouts besides yoga, I plan to do so one day.

I originally thought that only flexible people could do yoga. I did not think that yoga would be considered a workout either. I thought it would be very relaxing 100% of the time (I was definitely wrong about that). I was also not aware of the many benefits that yoga can have on the mind, body, and soul.

I believe that when some people think of yoga, they think of a very hippie-ish way of living, and they even write it off as silly. I think that these people have most likely never tried yoga. In reality, yoga can be intense, challenging, and rewarding in more ways than one. Not only can yoga change your body and appearance, but it can change your entire mindset too.

Some of the physical benefits of yoga include: increased flexibility, weight reduction, improved respiration, and increased muscle strength. Some of the emotional/mental benefits include: an increase in body awareness, relieves stress, sharpens attention, and calms the nervous system. For me, working out has always been an escape from everyday stress. As someone who tends to be very anxious and a bit of a worrier at times, working out has always allowed me to simply focus on me and my body, and it has given me a goal to work toward. Time for yourself is so important, and if using that time involves staying healthy and active, that is even better!

I also wanted to discuss the benefits that I have noticed personally from doing yoga for six months. First, I realized that yoga was helping me to relax and de-stress. This was exactly what I needed, and still do! I tend to hold tension in my shoulders and in my jaw, but now, I can more easily recognize when I am doing this. I can relax my jaw and drop my shoulders and simply focus on my breathing. Also, I am much more aware of my posture. I feel that I’ve always had pretty good posture, but yoga has made this even better. When I am sitting down to do my schoolwork or if I find that I am tilting my neck downward a lot, I try to use books or something tall for my laptop to sit on so that it is more eye-level, and I am not hunching over.

I feel that I am a much more relaxed person. I do not get stressed as easily anymore, and I am much more aware of negative thoughts. If I notice that I am starting to worry or stress about something, I can recognize this and turn those thoughts off rather than letting them take over. I feel that I am much more aware of my thought processes, and I know what is going to help me and what is going to hurt me. I have been practicing mindfulness a lot lately, and it has changed everything. I feel that I have much more control over my mind, and I can lead a happier and more positive life because of it.

I have also noticed that my body is much more toned. Yoga is a full-body workout, and I was not really aware of this in the beginning. It is not just about working your core, it is about working your entire body. I guess I didn’t think I would see changes to my body unless I was using weights or doing cardio, but yoga has changed my appearance. When weight training was what my workouts truly consisted of, my body did look different. I had more muscle and although I did tone up from weight training (and cardio), I feel that I have noticed it a bit more with yoga. Granted, my appetite is different when I am weight training 5-6 times a week vs doing yoga every day. The human body is truly incredible, and it has the ability to change very often throughout life. The choices we make matter, and the food that we put into our bodies as well as the way that we stay active matters. All of it can affect the way that we look and feel.  Working out was never really about looking good for me (that is a bonus that comes from it). The way that it makes me feel is why I truly continue to do it.

Lastly, I feel that I have gained flexibility. I have surprised myself many times during my yoga practices. In poses such as downward dog, I can straighten my legs quite a bit, and when I do wide legged folds, or just folding in general, I can get pretty low and deep. When I first started yoga, I was not the most flexible, so it has been exciting to notice my growth! In the beginning, I struggled to keep my balance as well. Eagle pose and warrior III were especially frustrating. Now, I can stay in these poses a little bit longer without toppling over (of course, this does still happen some days). I am able to keep up with practices that are faster paced, and for the most part, I do not have to modify the poses. I never really took much time to stretch before or after workouts and even in general, so this is something I have been doing a lot more of now. Yoga has allowed me to focus on stretching, flexibility, strength, and endurance.

It is so crazy to think that I began doing yoga six months ago, and I have never skipped one day. I have always been very determined, but I honestly didn’t think that I would enjoy yoga. Once something becomes a part of your daily routine, it is so much easier to do. Even on the days when I am very busy or I simply don’t feel like doing it, I get it done because I know how it will benefit me overall.

I really hope you enjoyed today’s post! What are your thoughts on yoga or mindfulness? Have you ever tried yoga before? I would love to know! Thank you so much for reading!

Fabletics Review

Hey everyone! It’s no secret that I enjoy working out, and I love fashion. I love looking put together, even in the gym! Something about new workout gear can bring a lot of motivation, and today, I will be talking about and reviewing the brand Fabletics.

Since starting my fitness journey, I have discovered a few fitness brands that I love. Fabletics is definitely one of them, and today I will explain why. This brand was created in 2013, but I became a member in 2018. Keep in mind that I will simply share my opinion of the brand. The items that I own by this brand are not very new, but I will include a link to the Fabletics website so you can check out the site and the workout gear for yourself!

When you first sign up to become a VIP member, you will take a short quiz that asks questions such as “What’s your favorite way to get fit?” “What colors best match your style?” and “Which best mirrors your body type?” You will also be asked to put in your size preferences. By answering all of these questions, you will get more of a personalized selection!

When I subscribed to Fabletics, there was a 2 for $24 deal on leggings. This is what made me want to try the brand because fitness gear can be pretty expensive sometimes. Plus, I had heard great things about the brand. Subscribing is free, however, you can choose whether or not you want to skip the month or shop and pay $49.95 a month. (Remember, you only have until the 5th of every month to skip.) If you decide you want to shop, the charge becomes a VIP Member Credit you can redeem on purchases of $49.95 or more. You can also cancel your membership at any time.

I absolutely love the personalized and stylish gear that this brand offers, and every month, there are new items to check out! While I love all of the fun patterns and bright colors, I typically like to go for a more subtle look with my workout gear. I do own a few colorful and patterned pieces, but when it comes to my leggings, I like them to be a neutral color and I prefer a high-waisted style as well. I love that Fabletics focuses on the smaller details just as much as the larger ones. Little things like pockets and mesh detailing can make even the simplest leggings so much cuter. I have compared the prices to other fitness brands, and I would say that they fall into the average price range. Some of the items can be a bit pricey for me, but as someone who loves to shop, I have found ways to purchase clothing in more affordable ways. I always look for coupons, deals, and I shop sale items as well.

When it comes to sizing, I have struggled to find what works for me. In most leggings, I would say that I am a size small. With Fabletics, I do not believe this is the case. The three pairs of Fabletics leggings I own are all a size small, and they are just a bit too tight around my thighs. The problem is, they fit perfectly around my waist. I truly do love my legs, and they have gotten a bit bigger and stronger since I began weight training. This means that certain pairs of bottoms, whether they are jeans or leggings, can feel a bit tighter around my thighs. Their leggings do not have much give, so I am going to purchase a pair in a medium to see if this is a better fit for me. Of course, this is better than leggings that are too stretchy, because these often wouldn’t last. I’ve had the same problem with the sports bras. I ordered mediums, when I think smalls would have been just fine. I feel that the quality of Fabletics gear is pretty great, and the leggings seem to be long-lasting. Knowing your body size and taking measurements may be helpful to finding your perfect fit.

The leggings are adorable and trendy, and the ones that I own are squat proof (meaning that they are not see-through when squatting.) I have realized that my favorite pairs are seamless. I think that they are more flattering and comfortable. I am also a fan of full length or 7/8 leggings, and I would often choose these over capris or shorts.

I have styled all of my Fabletics items for you today. These are a few of my favorite looks to workout in. Again, these items are not new, but I wanted to show them anyway.

This first outfit is probably the most comfortable. I love the black seamless leggings and the simple details on the sports bra. The bright orange top is perfect for the warmer months, and I reach for tank tops the most when changing for a workout.

This next outfit is a bit more fun! I just love the floral pattern and the cutouts on this sports bra! Once again, I have a loose fitting tank that I will sometimes tie in a knot to make it more stylish. It has a very subtle pattern on it as well. These leggings are navy blue, and they are cropped. These are a bit too tight on me, but I still like to wear them on upper body days!

These are my most recent Fabletics pieces. I received this as a set for Christmas last year. I love matching sets, and these colors go together beautifully! The sports bra is bright pink with a high neckline and almost a fishnet/mesh detailing. It could even be worn as a crop top. I normally do not like long sleeved tops when I work out, but this one would be perfect for hikes in the colder months. I love the cutout detailing all over this top as well! The leggings are burgundy, and the cutouts match the top perfectly. Once again, these leggings are a bit too tight on me, but I still wear them from time to time.

Overall, I would recommenced trying out Fabletics. Their pieces are trendy and fun, yet subtly stylish at the same time. There really is something for everyone! They not only sell clothing, but shoes and accessories as well. Whether you are into weight training, yoga, or running, I feel that Fabletics is worth a try!

If you would like to see a little try on video that I created, check out my Instagram @sacchere14!

Thank you so much for reading today’s blog post! If you would like to sign up for Fabletics or check out their website, click here!

A Guide to Glute Growth

Disclaimer: I am in no way a personal trainer, nor am I an expert on this topic. I just wanted to share my experience with lifting and shaping my glutes, and talk about what has worked for me! I have been weight training for around 4 ½ years, and even though I have experience, I do not know everything. What I am sharing with you today are some things that I have learned over the years. If you want to learn more about the glute muscles, what a calorie surplus/deficit is, or what any of these exercises are, I highly recommend you research them further, and make sure the information is from a reputable source. (I am aware that many gyms are still closed due to COVID-19, including my own, but you can still work your glutes at home!)

While it can be difficult to lift and shape your glutes, you WILL get results so long as you are taking the proper steps (keep in mind the the gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in the human body). When I first started weight training, I didn’t really have a set goal in mind. I just wanted to learn how to lift weights correctly. After a couple years of learning and creating new goals for myself, I decided that I wanted to start changing things up a bit. I started going to the gym on my own and changing my exercises as well as my workout split.

I’ve found that shaping and lifting your glutes takes a lot of hard work and discipline. While I have seen great changes when it comes to my glutes, I am continuing to learn and work harder to get to where I want to be.

Here are some tips that I wanted to share with you:

  • EAT (enough)

If your goal is to grow your glutes, this tip is especially important. When I first started trying to grow my glutes, I had no idea that I would have to eat more than I already was. I was also surprised and a bit discouraged when I learned that it’s not very likely that you will grow your glutes and flatten your stomach at the same time. I have often heard that if you want to grow your glutes, you need to be in a calorie surplus. At first, I really did not know what this meant. I haven’t looked into it very much because I prefer not to track my calories. Through trial and error, I have found what works for me and what doesn’t. I allow myself to trust and listen to what my body needs, and I often go by that. Since I started working on my glutes, I have been eating a bit more than I used to, but the change was not too drastic. Decide what your goals are, and decide what you want to focus on right now, and go from there. Just make sure that if you are going to be eating more or less, to do it safely and make sure to eat healthy foods that will help you reach your goals!

  • Mind to muscle connection

My dad taught me this very early on: when performing any exercise, you need to think about the muscles you are targeting. If you are targeting your glutes, really think about your movements and think about working the right muscles. If you are simply squatting without much thought, you will most likely not get the results you are hoping for. Mind to muscle connection is a very real thing for any exercise, so make sure you are focused on what you are doing.

  • Slow down

All too often, I see people rushing through their workouts. While I understand some people want to squeeze gym sessions into very busy schedules, rushing through a workout will not lead to great results. Not only that, but you can hurt yourself in the process. If you are running low on time, try to pick a few exercises you know you want to complete that day. By doing this, you can take your time and really focus on your movements.

  • Glute activation

Glute activation is when you perform quick and repetitive movements in order to wake up your glutes. Many people do not work these muscles on a daily/weekly basis, so activating them can be difficult at first. Resistance bands have been very helpful to me for activating my glutes. Before I start any lower body day, I grab a resistance band. You want to place the resistance band right above your knees and you can warm up by doing glute kickbacks, fire hydrants, squats, etc. I use a resistance band for most of my lower body exercises. They help you target your glutes and it makes the exercises a bit more challenging. I wouldn’t recommend using these at first. Learn how to correctly perform the exercises and practice it for a while before using any resistance bands. You will still be able to activate your glutes a bit without them.

  • Hip thrusts

This exercise has absolutely changed the game for my glutes. I’m not going to lie, this exercise is going to look and feel pretty awkward and maybe even a little uncomfortable. I would recommend practicing it at home beforehand.  Make sure that your form is correct before doing this exercise in the gym (this will make you feel much more confident). I felt and sometimes still feel awkward when performing this exercise, so if you can, go to a corner of your gym and do your hip thrusts there. Make sure your movements are controlled, and that you are breathing through it properly. I would also like to say that when starting any new exercise, you should always start with lighter weight. However, you should have a goal to continue to add more weight over time. If your goal is to grow your glutes, you will need to be lifting heavier, just don’t overdo it.

  • Hip abductors

This is another exercise that will help grow your glutes. Many people do not realize that we have three muscles that make up our glutes: the gluteus maximus, the gluteus medius, and the gluteus minimus. Many people are familiar with the maximus because it is the largest muscle of the three (and in the human body in general). If you are only activating your gluteus maximus, you may not see the results you want. You want to be doing exercises that target all of these muscles. The medius and minimus make up the top and sides of your glutes. Hip abductors are just one way to target them. By using your legs to push the weight outward, you will be targeting your medius and minimus, leading to better overall growth.

  • SQUEEZE

Squats are probably one of the most popular exercises for your lower body. What some people don’t know is that squats are a compound movement, meaning that your entire body is working hard during this exercise, not just your legs/glutes. However, squatting is really great to incorporate on lower body days. When you are coming up from a squat or deadlift, squeeze your glutes together. By doing this, you are activating the muscles and engaging them. Don’t neglect them, because even though you will see that your legs are getting stronger, your glutes will not be on the same page. You want to have a balanced proportion.

  • Be patient

Ugh, I know, but hear me out. When I first started working on my glutes, I wanted to see results right away. Obviously that is not going to happen. It takes hard work and time to grow any muscles. In order to lift and shape your glutes, you need to be eating enough of the right foods, performing the correct exercises, and working hard in the gym frequently. It is going to take time, but you WILL get there. The tips mentioned above have been so extremely helpful to me over the years, and I have seen incredible results! Work hard and don’t give up.

Thank you for reading! Until next time!

Fitness Update: June 2020

Hey everyone! Today I wanted to share a fitness update with you all because it has been a while since I talked about my personal journey! I am going to be sharing my current workout split, new fitness goals, healthy eating, and how I am motivating myself to work out during a global pandemic.

I have been working out for about 4 ½ years now, which is absolutely crazy to say. Time really does fly. I feel like it was yesterday that my dad was teaching me all of the basics of weight training. In reality, I have grown so much since my first time in the gym.

The last time I spoke about my personal fitness journey (not just sharing tips and tricks) was in February for my 4 year anniversary. Well, a lot has changed since then. Very soon after I got back from my trip to France in March, COVID cases were spiking and states across the country were telling people to quarantine in their homes. This virus led to the closing of restaurants, stores, and of course, gyms.

Fitness

I was never one to enjoy at-home workouts. I always felt that I lacked the motivation to get through them. When I am at the gym I feel so much more focused. I had to learn to push myself, especially on days when I wasn’t feeling it. This was actually a somewhat difficult transition for me. It took some time, but after a few weeks I got so used to working out at home, and it just became a part of my daily routine. It’s like forming any habit; if you continue to do it daily, eventually it will become a part of your daily routine. Once I got into that routine of simply working out at home, I decided that I needed to change things up and make it a bit more exciting.

 There are many different forms of exercise. What I’ve found works for me is a combination of weight training and cardio. Since I do not have any cardio machines at home, I have been incorporating HIIT into my routine even more than I used to. Before, I would go to the gym, stretch, do cardio, and then begin weight training. Now, I’m doing something a bit different. Instead of doing HIIT before or after weight training, I’ll do it at the same time. For example: if I am working out my upper body and I finish one set of shoulder presses, I will quickly get up and start doing something like jumping jacks, or I will run in place. It is somewhat hard to explain, so I’ll leave it to Google.

According to Google, HIIT is “a cardiovascular exercise strategy alternating short periods of intense anaerobic exercise with less intense recovery periods, until too exhausted to continue.”

I hope that makes sense! But basically I alternate between a set of weight training and then I’ll complete a HIIT exercise for 30 seconds, and repeat.

My workout split

Luckily, I own a workout bench, weights, and resistance bands, so I have access to a bit of equipment which has been extremely helpful. My dad actually bought a set of weights that range from 5-25 pounds, and I’ve been using this during every session. I know that many people don’t have any gym equipment in their homes, but there are always alternatives!

Keep in mind that my schedule does not look exactly the same every week. I like to change things up, but also listen to my body and what it needs. Also, this is a schedule that works for ME. Find what works best for you, and go by that! Here is an example of what I do in a week:

Sunday: HIIT

Monday: Back + biceps (with HIIT)

Tuesday: Lower body (glutes, quads, calves + hamstrings)

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: Chest, shoulders + triceps (with HIIT)

Friday: HIIT

Saturday: Full body (with weights)

The reason you do not see abs or core anywhere in this schedule is because I have been doing yoga every day. In many of my yoga sessions, I am working on my core and my abs!

Yoga has actually been very surprising to me. In January of this year, I told myself that I would try a new form of exercise, and yoga happened to be what I chose. I started using a program that has a variety of workout guides and videos, so I have been using this to learn yoga. I watch a different video every day, and I follow along with the instructor. I have been doing yoga for 10 weeks now. I feel so much more toned, and I have been getting better at the practice! I made a post all about my experience starting yoga, so if you’re interested in that, you can click here after reading this post!

I am a very determined person and I am very easily motivated, so I am proud that I have been able to stay on track lately. Somehow, even while quarantining at home, I’ve managed to become even more physically active than I was before COVID!

Healthy eating

I’ve never had a bad relationship with food, and I’ve never had any issues relating to my weight, but to me, eating healthy is still the most challenging part of living a healthy life. I feel like I have been doing ok this year, but I could do better. Any time we make a grocery trip, I have a list of my go-to items that I eat every week including: apples, yogurt, grapes, and salmon, to name a few.

I normally do not have a problem keeping my main meals of the day healthy. For breakfast, I’ll often make eggs or oatmeal. I may also eat a banana and some multigrain toast with avocado or peanut butter (depending on what we have). My lunches are pretty random, but I’ll usually eat an apple, some turkey, and a salad. For dinner, there are some days when I will just eat whatever my mother makes, however there are quite a few days when I will make my own healthy version or a completely different meal.

 I also snack quite a bit during the day, and while I try to keep it healthy, sometimes I’ll crave some chips or even a bit of ice cream. I often allow myself to indulge in my cravings, however I try not to go overboard. My addiction to chocolate and ice cream is as strong as ever, but I am learning to limit myself and have some self control.

I never really tracked my macros or kept track of my daily food intake, partly because it stresses me out and sometimes (depending on the person), it can lead to a negative relationship with food. At this point, I feel like I know what works for me and what doesn’t. I just try to listen to my body and eat as healthy as I can while still enjoying my favorite meals/snacks at times.

On the weekends, my breakfasts and snacks stay the same, but my family likes to eat out on Saturdays and Sundays. Many restaurants are allowing people to dine in now, but we don’t feel comfortable doing so just yet. We’ve been picking up our food and eating out at different parks. I have to admit, I enjoy eating outdoors when we have nice weather.

I stopped drinking soda in 2018, though I do drink it on special occasions. I’ll occasionally drink juice, but water is my go-to. I drink 4-5 bottles of water a day. This used to be such a challenge when I first started, but now I can get through it with no problem. Working out definitely helps me drink more water, though this also means more trips to the bathroom…

My current fitness and health goals

Since gyms will most likely be closed for a little while longer, my goals right now look a bit different. Usually one of my biggest goals is to gain muscle but right now I’m focused on maintaining the muscle that I have. I am going to continue doing 20-30 minutes of yoga everyday as well. And lastly, I am trying to eat as healthy as I can. I am not being too hard on myself and I have been listening to my body and what it needs. This is enough right now.

I am very proud of the progress I have made on my fitness journey so far. While I do feel that my progress has been slowed down a bit due to the closing of my gym, I am doing everything I can to be physically active at home, and it feels really good! I am going to continue with my routine and even if my gym opens soon, I will not be going yet (just to be safe).

I hope you enjoyed reading this fitness update! Stay safe and healthy!

I Did Yoga Everyday for 1 Month, Here is What I’ve Learned

Earlier this year, I said that I wanted to try new forms of exercise, and yoga just so happened to be my choice. Now, I never plan on giving up weight training (it is and always will be my favorite form of exercise), however I think it is good to try new things. I was not sure if I would like yoga, or even stick with it when I started it a month ago.

A family member recommended this program to me and it includes a variety of workout videos. Out of everything I saw, yoga was, for some reason, the one I chose to try. I think this is partially because my workouts are often a bit more fast paced and not really relaxing or slow, so I was looking for something different.

At first, I honestly thought that only flexible people could do yoga. I would not exactly use this word to describe myself. I don’t think that I am necessarily stiff though either. Somewhere in the middle… I guess? Anyway, I had my doubts when it came to yoga. I can honestly say that I do like it, but I’ll get to that later.

Some of the many benefits of yoga include: increased flexibility, weight reduction, improved respiration, and increased muscle strength. The benefits however, are not just physical. I feel that this could be said for many forms of exercise. When I work out, it gets me out of my head and it allows me to simply focus on me and my body, which I love. Some of the mental/emotional benefits include: an increase in body awareness, relieves stress, sharpens attention, and calms the nervous system.

A couple of my family members decided to join me for yoga every single day for the month. We would roll out our mats in the living room, and we would set up the program on the TV. The program we chose is a 3 week program; each week focusing on something a bit different. That first week, we focused on foundation. The point of this first week was simply to build a strong foundation for the weeks to come. I was introduced to a ton of yoga poses (most of which I was unfamiliar with). I found that I really liked downward dog, low crescent (and crescent twist), wide legged fold, and reverse tabletop. Some of my least favorites? Chair pose and chaturanga. I have a love/hate relationship with the warrior poses and goddess pose. I also really liked the relaxing poses such as child’s pose and shavasana.

I quickly realized that yoga is not 100% relaxing, at least not for a newbie. It really is a workout, and before I started doing it, I honestly didn’t feel that it was. I found myself out a breath at some points, and I did modify a couple poses at times. The timing of each practice varied, but most of them were around 30 minutes long. I really began to look forward to our evening yoga because it gave me some time to stretch and relax (both of which, I don’t think I do enough).

For week 2, we were focusing on expansion. Something that I learned from yoga is that expansion and length are incredibly important, not necessarily height. Obviously, slouching and hunching is not going to help you in yoga, or in the long run! In poses where we had to reach up or away from our bodies, I would lift my spine and stretch. I became much more aware of my posture and where I was holding tension in my body. I tend to clench my jaw without realizing, and it has led to soreness in my jaw and the use of a mouth guard every single night. I really tried to focus on where I was sending my energy.

It was in this week when we began incorporating some balancing poses. I found that balancing is challenging for me at times, and I’m not going to lie, I got frustrated when I would just topple over again and again. One thing that has always helped me is focusing on an inanimate object. I actually learned this when I used to take dance classes. If you are about to spin or balance, stare at something that is not moving. This tip was very helpful to me in yoga. I did realize that one leg was always easier to balance on than the other (my stronger leg seems to be my right, which makes sense since this is my dominant side).

In week 3, we focused on progression. As the weeks went on, the poses definitely got more challenging. We would hold the poses for a bit longer as well. Throughout the weeks, we would focus on something specific each day. For example, some days we would focus on core, other days we would focus on stretch, and then other days we would do a flow. I really enjoyed flow days because it was pretty much constant movement, which I prefer over sitting still for too long. It was also a bit more challenging.

Once the 3 week program was over, we decided to do it again to see if it would get any easier for us. As I am posting this on my blog, we are currently in week 2 again! I wanted to do this daily for a month before writing about the experience and sharing it with you.

One thing I noticed is that I really struggled to relax. I just recently finished up my junior year of college, so it’s not like I have a ton of work to do. Plus, we’re all quarantining at home. Normal stressors in my everyday life are not exactly present right now, so I don’t know why I found it so hard to just be. I guess what may have hindered my relaxation was the fact that the instructors would talk pretty much the whole time. I was also learning all of the poses as we went, so I had to look up at the screen multiple times. I think that once I know what I am doing, I won’t necessarily need an instructor and I won’t have the distraction.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with yoga. I didn’t really think that I would enjoy it and I even thought that the practice was silly at times. I’ve learned that it isn’t just about stretching or contorting your body in strange ways. It is about letting go of stress, relaxing, and simply focusing on your body. While I do feel a bit more flexible and more aware of my body, I think I still need more time to practice.

I plan on continuing to learn yoga, though I may not do it every single day. I am hoping to learn to relax a bit more, and gain more flexibility. I am glad that I decided to get out of my comfort zone and try something new because it has introduced me to a new form of exercise that I actually enjoy. I wouldn’t say I like it more than weight training though 😉

I always recommend trying new things, especially when it comes to exercise. Sometimes, doing the same thing over and over can get boring and repetitive. I like to change up my workouts from time to time to avoid this. I am excited to say that I can add another form of exercise to my list. I enjoy weight training, HIIT, dancing, hiking, going on walks, and now, yoga.

Go and try something new today, and as always, thank you so much for reading! (And check out my Instagram, @sacchere14 to watch me flow!)