Winter Blues Getting You Down? Here’s How to Cope

Photo by my talented love: @notapatchontom on Instagram!

Hey everyone! Today wanted to chat about a topic that I think many people can relate to right now. I am sure that I am not alone in saying this, but sometimes the weather really does have an effect on my mood. I feel like I thrive when it’s sunny and warm, but when it’s dark, cold, rainy, or all three, I tend to struggle just a bit more. There are certain things that I enjoy during each season, and I find them all beautiful, however winter would probably be my least favorite. Luckily for me, where I live it doesn’t get too cold. Still, I have noticed that the cold weather can sometimes bring me down, so I wanted to share this post in the hopes of tackling the winter blues together!

This topic is actually something that has been studied over time, and there is actually a disorder attached to it called “Seasonal Affective Disorder” (or SAD). Now, I do want to say that just because you may not feel as happy or as motivated during a certain season or time of year, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have this disorder. I just wanted to mention it because it is actually something that people can have. I recommend looking into it further or speaking to a healthcare professional if you truly believe that you have this. Read more about SAD here and here.

Part of what has been helping me is the fact that it is a new year! I’ve slowly been getting my motivation back, and I’ve been completing daily tasks, which feels great! While my mood has been pretty good overall, and I have been feeling more motivated, this is not the case every single day. The changing of seasons can affect us all differently, and it is very common for people to oversleep, have low energy, a lack of motivation, and feelings of depression or loneliness once fall and winter come around. It can be hard to get out of bed or feel productive on these days, but there are ways to combat these feelings!

First things first: it is completely ok to have a day (or a few days) when you simply allow yourself to relax and take a breather. Remember that rest is productive, and you deserve to take some time for yourself, whether that means taking an hour at the end of every day to unwind, or even taking a full day to do whatever you want. Balance is important though, so just make sure that you don’t spend day after day sitting around because this can very quickly turn into a habit, making work, school, or other important tasks much more difficult.

I wanted to share a few tips with you all on how to stop the winter blues in its tracks!

  • Wake up with the sun

Since it gets dark early these days, it can make the days feel shorter, and you may feel like you don’t have a lot of time to get things done. While we can’t control this, we can control our mindsets and our actions. It is important to have a sleeping schedule that allows you to feel refreshed and alive in the mornings! It is not at all fun to wake up and feel like a zombie for half of the day. I know it can be challenging, but if possible, you should try to get about 8 hours of sleep. I’ve noticed that when I sleep too little or I sleep too much, I never feel very great. It is an amazing feeling to wake up and feel ready to take on the day, so if you can, create a schedule for yourself and stick to it. It may take time, as it does to form any habit, but this is so beneficial for so many reasons! This is something I am still working on myself!

  • Get outside

I know what some of you may be thinking: why on earth would I go outside when it’s freezing?! Trust me, I understand!  I don’t always love to be outside when it’s dark or rainy, and especially not if it’s super cold! However, I think it is still very important. We need our vitamin D and it’s always good to get some exercise too! If it’s not extremely cold where you are, I think it would be great to bundle up and get outdoors. Whether you go for a walk or run, or play some kind of sport, this can be a really great way to get over the winter blues!

  • Exercise

I know I just mentioned this, but exercise can make such a difference in your mood! Even if you aren’t a fan of working out, you can’t deny the amazing feeling after a great sweat sesh! If it’s just too cold, or you can’t really do your workout outdoors, you can roll out a yoga mat or grab some dumbbells and get your fitness on inside! This will not only wake up the body and keep you strong and healthy, but it will also warm you up on a cold winter day! It doesn’t matter if you do a 10 minute yoga session, a 30 minute cardio burn, or an hour long weight training session! As long as you get up and get moving, you’ll be sure to feel the benefits!

  • Keep a planner

This is something that I absolutely love to do! This year, I made it a resolution to write down everything I would like to do in a day or week, no matter how small. It could be working out, it could be cleaning, or it could be school/work related! I’ve been doing this a little over a week now, and I have already recognized how helpful it is! I used to only write down school related tasks in my planners, but writing down everything really helps me to manage my time better, and I feel accomplished at the end of the day when I am able to cross off each item! So, even on days when the weather isn’t ideal, I can still feel good when my head hits the pillow at night!

  • Cook some comfort food

It is so nice to sit back and enjoy your favorite warm comfort foods! It can be a hot bowl of your favorite winter soup, a traditional family recipe, or even some cake! Of course, I always recommend eating healthy foods, but it’s also important to listen to your body, and on a day when you may not be feeling your absolute best, it is ok to indulge a little bit! For me personally, a healthy diet is a balanced diet. I am doing my best to incorporate healthier foods into my meals, while also enjoying something small and sweet (pretty much daily). Don’t be too hard on yourself, and remember that you are allowed to enjoy your favorite meals. I mentioned this previously, but as long as you do not start any negative eating habits, then you’ll be alright! Try not to make any drastic changes to your diet overnight, and remember that food should be enjoyed!

  • Express gratitude daily

This is such a simple thing to do, yet so many people forget to do it. I know that right now, the days may seem so similar, and maybe the winter blues are really getting you down. I understand completely!  But even if you don’t do any of the things I listed here today, please do this. Every morning when you wake up, or every night before you go to bed (or both), try to think about or speak about the things that you are grateful for. This truly is such an amazing habit to form because once you start, you’ll notice that you will soon express your gratitude without even thinking about it! I’ve been doing this a lot more often lately, and I have to say, I have directly seen how it can change your life! I strongly believe that what you put out into the world will somehow make its way back to you. So, when you have a positive mindset and you speak, write, or think about your gratefulness, you will attract even more to be grateful for!

I really hope that you found this post helpful, and if you know someone who can benefit from reading this, please share this with them too! It is so important to take care of our mental, physical, and emotional health, and to encourage others to do the same! Know that your mind is a very powerful thing, and you do have the ability to control your thoughts and your actions. While it is easier said than done, you have to do your absolute best to get out of bed in the morning, think positive thoughts about the day ahead, and try to find that healthy balance of productivity and relaxation. It can take time, but you don’t have to let the weather affect you negatively. Try to find the beauty in it, because even if you don’t see it right away, it’s always there.

Thank you so much for reading! Until next time!

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!

The Problem with Overthinking

I always want my blog to be a safe space where I can openly share what is going on in my life. While I love sharing all of the positive moments I experience, I am human and I struggle a lot as well. I always talk about the importance and beauty of vulnerability, and today I am going to be opening up a bit more about my personal life and some struggles that I frequently face.

I have always been an overthinker; to the point where it has stopped me from doing certain things that I have really wanted to do. I wasn’t always so aware of the fact that I was an overthinker, but I would say that in the past few years, it is something I have become more aware of. It can be really difficult to control your thoughts, but eventually you may get to a point when you’ve had enough.

Most of the time, I am a very happy and positive person, however, I feel my emotions very deeply. This means that when I am happy, I am really happy. And when I’m upset, I am really upset. Many would describe me as “emotional”, but I’ve come to accept this as a strength rather than a weakness. As long as you have control over your thoughts and emotions, there is nothing wrong with allowing yourself to feel whatever it is that you’re feeling. When something is bothering me, I let myself get sad, angry, or frustrated. But I try to move on from these negative feelings sooner rather than later, because I don’t want to stay stuck in that mindset.

When it comes to overthinking, I’ve realized I do have a problem. Even when I am happy, I will sometimes start to overthink. This is when it can be most detrimental. If you are overthinking or worrying when you should be enjoying life’s highs, you could be (consciously or subconsciously) sabotaging some of the greatest things you will experience in life.

It is really challenging to turn off those negative thoughts sometimes, but I am doing much better than I used to. I think that recognizing the fact that there is a problem is a really great first step. Every time I begin overthinking or worrying about something a little too much, I try my best to shut down those thoughts. I don’t necessarily feel that overthinking is always a bad thing though. I would say that it’s better to overthink things a little bit than to not think at all. Overall, you should never let negative thoughts take over your life. You will never allow yourself to be happy if you do. Whether it is a relationship, a job, or a once in a lifetime opportunity, I never want to be the person who ruins something good by worrying about it.

Sadly, there is no off switch to overthinking, but there are things you can do to stop these thoughts in their tracks. I think that many people can relate to this, but when I have a little too much time on my hands, that’s when my mind starts racing. I like to keep myself busy when these thoughts come up. For myself, I enjoy writing, dancing, working out, listening to music, spending time with loved ones, and going on walks or hikes. These are activities that I participate in pretty much daily. Not only are these things good for me, but they really do help me get my mind off of anything negative, even if it is just for a little while. School is another thing that keeps me busy. I am in my final year of college and school work does take up quite a bit of my time. You should look for the things that make you happy. Focus on your passions, your goals, and what brings you the most joy, and follow that.

Any time I struggle with these thoughts and feelings, I try to remind myself that I am still growing, and I am human. I am doing my best, and that is all that matters. I don’t believe in suppressing my emotions. Whether they are good or bad, I allow myself to feel, and I think that this is something to be proud of. If you are anything like me and you overthink and worry about even the smallest things, know that you are not alone in what you are going through, and these things do not and never will define you. Just remember that you have control over your thoughts. If you notice that your thoughts are not helping you progress, you need to learn to recognize when you need to back away and focus on the positives. It isn’t always easy, and I have my great days and my not so great days. What matters is how you bounce back and that you are actively working to become your best self. Growth in every form is so important to me, and I want to continue to flourish and become the woman I know I am capable of being. The woman I am becoming does not let negativity cloud her mind, and she does not allow anxiety to rule her life. While these things may still affect me in the future, they will never affect me to this degree ever again, and that is because I am growing and evolving every single day. And I refuse to let stress, worry, or anxiety win.

This has been on my heart for a little while now, and I am really grateful that I have this space to share my thoughts and feelings. I hope that you found this post helpful, and I hope that you will pass along this message to someone who you believe needs to hear it. Thank you so much for reading today’s blog post!

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!

How I’ve Been Staying Productive While Quarantining

COVID-19 has very quickly spread across the globe, causing many people to quarantine in their homes. I know that the world is slowly reopening, however, I felt that sharing this blog post with you all can still be helpful. Especially for those of you who plan on quarantining for a bit longer.

While many people love being at home all day, other people may be struggling with it a bit more. For me personally, my mood is different every day, though I think many people can relate to this. Some days I feel very productive and happy, and other days I break down and cry. It’s so strange to be living through a pandemic like this. I never thought that I would ever have to go through something like this, but here we are.

When we first had to start quarantining, I was finishing up my junior year of college. School work kept me busy during that time, but now I have completed the semester and I am on summer break which means I have a lot of free time. Too much free time is not necessarily a good thing, at least for me, so it is important and in some ways necessary for me to keep busy.

As I said, not every day is amazing. When I do have great days, I try to think about what it is that made it great. Today, I wanted to share some of the ways that I have been staying productive (and happy) while quarantining.

Exercising

Alright, if you know me at all, you already saw this one coming. I love working out and staying active, however gyms have closed a while ago which means people are either working out from home or skipping their workouts. When I got the email that my gym was temporarily closing, I was upset but I understood that it was the right call to make in order to keep everyone safe. So, I had to get a bit experimental. Luckily, I have quite a bit of gym equipment at my home. I have a workout bench, some weights, and resistance bands. I often feel much more motivated when I am working out at the gym, so at first it was a bit difficult to get into this new routine. I am happy to say that I am working out 5-6 days a week! It keeps me busy, and it makes me feel healthy and happy. I enjoy weight training, HIIT, yoga, walking (or hiking), and I’ve even been playing badminton! It is so important to stay active especially at a time like this. It is tempting to lie down all day and watch TV or play video games, but when I do nothing productive all day, I feel awful. When I work out, my mood can change completely. (If you can get outdoors for your daily exercise, that is even better. Fresh air is always important, but especially right now!)

Cleaning + organizing

I am not the biggest fan of cleaning, but of course, it has to be done. I have been trying to keep my home clean and organized. I have been getting rid of things I don’t want or use, and I enjoy organizing. It keeps me busy, and it has allowed me to go through things that I would have most likely left alone for a long time. While cleaning isn’t my favorite thing to do, there are times when I get a random urge to just clean everything. It is always important to keep your home clean, after all, that is your space that you come back to day after day. Plus, at least for me, having a clean and organized space relaxes me (and it’s aesthetically pleasing)!

Pampering myself

I try to prioritize taking care of my physical, mental, and emotional well-being. I have so much time to do whatever right now, so I have really been taking care of myself even more lately. I like to keep up with my outer appearance because it makes me feel more confident. I’ll do my own brows, I’ll use hair and face masks, and I will do my skincare routine. For my mental and emotional health, I like to do the things that make me happy. Whether that is working out or writing, I try to make time for the things I love. I also feel like talking (or in my case ranting) about how I feel always helps me. If I have a bad day or I’m just not feeling like myself, I will spend some time with my family and talk to my friends. This relaxes me, and sometimes you just need to have a good cry (I know I’ve had a few while being stuck at home)! Allow yourself to feel whatever it is that you’re feeling, just don’t dwell on these feelings. Have a bad day, and try to do better tomorrow.

Blogging + writing

Writing is one of my biggest passions, and luckily, I can do this from the comfort of my own home. I love planning out and writing my upcoming blog posts. Nothing beats the feeling of being inspired, and somehow, even while stuck at home, I’ve managed to stay inspired. I like to plan out my blog posts at least a month ahead, and I try to stay on track with my posting schedule. I really enjoy writing and blogging, but if this isn’t your thing, try to dive into your hobbies or explore new ones. Learn more about what it is you want to do, and do it!

These next 2 are not necessarily productive, but they make me happy, and I think they are needed and important to mention!

Talking to friends and family

Luckily, I am quarantining with my family, and they are my best friends. I am happy to have them by my side. While I like my alone time, I still love hanging out with and talking to my family every day. My family even did a zoom reunion so we could see the family we haven’t seen in a while! I have really been missing my friends lately, so I try to text them often. I even have a couple facetime dates planned out with my friends. I hate that we can’t see each other but once this is all over and done I am going to give them the biggest hugs. I understand that not everyone is quarantining with their family or friends, and you may be by yourself right now. I am sure that this is very difficult, so this tip is especially important for those of you who are alone. Reach out and talk to your loved ones as often as you can. This is going to pass eventually!

Relaxing

I know that this post is about staying productive, but honestly, many of us have some time to relax, so we should enjoy it! When I am not doing any of the things I mentioned above, I like to relax. For me, relaxing looks like lying on my bed watching Netflix or YouTube, scrolling through social media, or reading. I’ve been thinking of starting some new TV shows and watching some of my favorite movies as well.

While it is great to be productive, it is ok if you’ve been relaxing a little too much lately (we may never get this much time to relax again)! Please, don’t be too hard on yourself. Like I said, this is a really strange time we are living in right now. If you have been spending your days lying down and you don’t feel very productive, that’s ok. If you’ve been moving nonstop and staying busy, that is ok too! What I will say is that you should take note of the things that are making you feel great and recognize the things that are making you feel bad. Based on what I’ve been seeing in the news, things do seem to be looking up (at least in some parts of the world). Don’t lose hope. I think we are all going to come out of this so much more grateful to be able to simply live our everyday lives. To interact with other people less than 6 feet apart. To workout at the gym. To go to the grocery store without a face mask on. And to hug the people we love extra tight.

Thank you so much for reading! Until next time!

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!)