Ever since I was an early-teen, I was very much into physical activity. From roller-blading and long-boarding, to yoga and pilates, to biking centuries and kickboxing–my love for physical activity and sports has evolved into a deeper appreciation for fitness and pushing my body to the limits of what it can do.
For me, fitness is not just going to the gym to look a certain way, it’s about progress and productivity. Think of it this way: the time we spend at work time takes up 8 hours (at least, who are we kidding) of our day, 40 hours a week–that’s 1,680 hours a year. We have to work on projects across teams and multi-task every day, and while we experience those little victories when we finish a project, it’s rare to see your own individual accomplishment right in front of you, clear as day. Having the opportunity to visualize progress is extremely beneficial when maintaining a healthy mental state. A gym habit helps make that progress and those accomplishments obvious, which is something to celebrate.
Lifting weights is a game of progress. We all start somewhere—whether it’s with 5 lb dumbbells or 90 lbs on the quad machine–there’s always room for growth. The feeling I get when moving up in weight is one of satisfaction and pride. This shows me that I can do something I once thought was impossible. Hard work and dedication allows you to push past a previous barrier. Even if I do nothing else for the whole day but sit on my couch and watch Netflix, I’ll still feel accomplished—I overcame something difficult that day, for no-one else but myself.
Recently, I started an 8 week fitness challenge that includes tough workouts 5 days a week (mostly weight lifting with cardio twice a week), and an If It Fits Your Macros approach to meals. Macros are a new thing for me–I used to eat whatever I wanted whenever I wanted—mostly fruits, veggies, grains, and the occasional carbohydrate attack (helloooo, pasta). Now, my way of eating has changed.
After calculating my macros, I have to fill the exact number my plan allows: 179g of carbs, 44g of fat, and a whopping 120g of protein. I don’t eat meat, eggs, or dairy, so that high protein count has been a huge challenge. To overcome it, I bought a digital food scale which I use to weigh all of my meals and snacks to the gram. I track everything I eat in My Fitness Pal, which helps me make sure I hit my macros every day.
If this sounds like the most horrible, why-in-the-world-would-you-do-this-to-yourself regimen, I can assure you, it’s better than you think. The If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) style of eating is actually awesome. I can eat whatever I want—Oreos, macaroni, fruit, tacos, sushi, you name it– as long as I know exactly how many macronutrients are in my meal, and if it fits into my overall daily goal. Sure, it can be hard at times, but usually it feels like I’m eating a ton, and my energy and ability to progress at the gym has been better than ever, which means my mental clarity and focus has been better too!
There will always be days when I want to give up and say forget it, stay in bed, curl up with some mint chocolate chip ice-cream (my favorite!) and watch Clueless (also, favorite). I remind myself that I’m doing this challenge to push myself both mentally and physically, and therefore see results in all aspects of my life.
Lucky for me, this challenge comes with a Facebook group full of over one thousand women doing the same program as I am, as well as an enormous Instagram community, held together by the challenge hashtag, #khwinterchallenge16. I even made an Instagram account dedicated to my progress over the next eight weeks! This community supports each other when it gets tough by offering advice and anecdotes, helping one another calculate foods, and checking each other’s form on tricky exercises. This community of women from all around the world has been nothing short of a delight, supporting me and pushing me to be my very best self.
As this challenge continues and eventually ends, I’ll have learned so much more about fitness and nutrition, and I can’t wait to see what the next opportunity will be.