Healthy Living: Change Your Mindset, Change your Life.

image“To Change your Life, you have to Change Yourself.  To Change Yourself, you have to Change your Mindset.”

Above all, I am aiming to live my life in a healthy and balanced way. For me that has meant creating healthy eating, exercise and everyday habits, and saying goodbye to the things that brought me down. It has also meant surrounding myself with like minded and supportive people. And learning to think about things in a different way. But it is all a constant learning experience and each day I learn something new about what it means for me to Live a Balanced Lifestyle.

Starting around the age of 14, I began drinking alcohol and formed some very unhealthy relationships with my body and food. I was young and impressionable, and wanted so badly to fit in. I had no idea that amount of damage I was doing to my body, or that this beginning would lead to almost 10 years of continued unhealthy habits, and in some ways get much worse. Until the age of 24 I suffered on and off from a variety of eating disorders or at least disordered thinking, that caused me to sometimes skip meals, or binge and purge. I also went though a long stage of partying and drinking excessively. All of which were so harmful to my body and I am so happy and grateful to have moved on and away from these habits.

It took me a long time to realize that I not only had to change my Habits, but I had to change my Mindset as well. I had to stop thinking about myself in a negative way, and start loving  and taking care of my body. I had to stop viewing food as a comforter and start viewing it as Fuel. I had to stop viewing Alcohol as a means to escape life’s problems, and a confidence booster blanket when socializing and learn to deal with my problems in a different way, I had to learn to be confident in myself, by myself, without the aid of a substance. And once I finally changed my mindset and the way I thought about things, it changed everything. I was able to move forward with my life, and start working towards a healthier and happier version of myself.

I understand it can be hard to change. For years, I always had an excuse in my mind why it was okay to keep living this way,  ‘I’m young, I deserve to live wild and free, my body will recover later.” But there came a point where Enough was Enough. The damage I was doing to my Body was catching up with me, and I could not only feel it physically but mentally as well. I was putting my Body and Mental Well Being in Danger and putting my Family and Loved ones through more than they deserved.image

Until I decided I HAD TO make a Change. It wasn’t a complete 180* in the beginning, but with time I have given up the extreme unhealthy and bad habits. Over the past one and a half years I have worked so hard to get to where I am and I have changed so much, not only physically, but mentally as well. With time, I have given up old unhealthy eating and drinking habits, and learned to find a balance with food and alcohol and taking care of my body and mind. I am in a much better place and more optimistic about the future. But I still have hard days sometimes, days where I am unmotivated, scared about the future and filled with unexplainable sadness. But I now know I can get past those days, and I do not need to turn to food and alcohol for comfort. And nowadays, the good and happy days far outweigh the bad and that is also a huge form of progress for me towards a healthy and balanced life.

While Fitness and proper nutrition have helped me in many ways, changing my outlook on life has truly played a huge part in my healthy journey. I try to start the day with a positive thought, and reflect on the previous day. I try to forgive myself for my mistakes, and set intentions to do better. And when I am feeling down I try to remind myself how truly lucky I am to be alive, with a roof over my head, food to eat and people that love and support me. It puts my “problems” into perspective.

Here is a list of things I try to do each morning before getting out of bed:

  • Express Gratitude.
  • Set my Intentions for the day.
  • Take 5 long deep breaths in and out.
  • Smile for no reason just to flex the muscles.
  • Forgive myself for yesterdays mistakes.

Living this healthy lifestyle and changing my outlook of life and my mindset has helped me in so many ways. I am excited to keep learning and expanding my health and fitness knowledge, helping as many as I can along the way. I am more optimistic about the future, and my place in this world. I am motivated to keep moving forward, progressing towards a better version of myself one day at a time.

To SEE and FEEL Progress, You must be willing to Change something. Your Lifestyle, Your Mindset, Whatever it is that is holding you back, because progress is Impossible without Change. But never give up, because Change is Possible! ❤ Alena

 

The Importance of Stretching

imageFlexibility. Stretching. Movement. Balance.

Stretching is such a vital part of fitness and is not only important and beneficial for the body, but also for the mind.

People often only focus on the strength training and cardiovascular workouts and overlook the importance of stretching. But just as we need to train our bodies to become stronger, we need to stretch our muscles to keep them healthy. Muscles, like other tissues in the body, need good circulation to be healthy, and this means movement.

Here are some of the main benefits of stretching:

  • Stretching has the ability to reduce stress,
  • Helps increase overall flexibility and lengthen muscles,
  • Increases circulation, which not only helps muscles but can help with mood,
  • Increases blood and nutrient supply to muscles, which can help in reducing muscle soreness,
  • Can lead to better posture,
  • Helps to ease lower back pain,
  • Increase range of motion in joints, therefor improving balance.

Stretching can also be a great form of mental therapy, and I believe to be truly healthy requires a balance between mental and physical well being. Stretching and yoga requires a few minutes of calm movements and slower breathing, and even a short amount of time (10-15) minutes can help to calm the mind and give yourself a mental break. A Yoga or Pilates class can also be a great way to unwind both physically and mentally. Stretching can also be a great time for self-reflection or to reflect on your day or the workout you’ve just finished.

I have always loved stretching and working on flexibility, but have only recently begun practicing yoga and am slowly teaching myself. I find it to be calming and a form of therapy for my body and mental well-being, and a challenge as well. My personal recommendation is to make basic stretching or yoga a regular part of your exercise routine, but of course each person is so different so it’s important to learn what your body needs. My current routine: Try to do some light stretching after each workout, focusing on the area of the body which I worked the most during my workout, and dedicate at least one extra full session to stretching/foam rolling.

imageThere is a constant debate as to whether stretching can actually help to prevent injuries, and the opinion will vary from one trainer or doctor to the next. But in my personal experience, I have found that when I do properly warm-up/light stretch before and then properly stretch after a workout it really helps my body and I have not experienced any injuries in the past few months. I also suffered from chronic lower back pain after injuring my lower back in two separate Snowboarding accidents in the past 10 years and stretching has helped strengthen my lower back muscles which has greatly helped to reduce and relieve a lot of this pain.

Remember our bodies are all so different and will require different amounts of rest and different recovery methods. So, I encourage you to find out what works best for you and what your body needs.

Much love, Alena

 

Focus on Progress, not Perfection.

  image   Let’s focus on Progress, not Perfection. Our Strengths, and not our Weaknesses. 
I’ve seen and heard so many people on Instagram and outside life putting themselves down or comparing their progress (in regards to both physical appearance and/or strength) to that of someone else. I’ve done the same, but am learning and trying my best not to compare! To focus on my own progress and strengths and be proud. Because We are ALL so different! Our bodies, our experiences, our genetic make-up, our past and present habits. Some people may be able to loose weight quickly, and get defined abs within weeks while some people may change their habits and find that it takes much longer. Some people may gain strength very quickly, while others may take months to build up the same. There are so many different factors as to why each of our results are so different from one another’s, but that doesn’t make our own results any less amazing! Be proud of what YOU have achieved, keep moving forward and give it Everything you’ve got!

  I made a huge lifestyle change Fall 2013, something completely different than I had every done before. I made a choice to cut out the bad things in my life and start working towards finding My healthy balance in life. I lost a lot of weight very quickly, mostly from just eating right and not drinking, and doing some cardio, then the progress became slower, but it was still progress! In the past 4-5 months, my body has significantly changed in the way it looks, but my weight has only changed by about 6lbs or so and lately it hasn’t changed at all. Most days that doesn’t bother me, because I know I am getting stronger and leaner and I know I am healthy, but there is still that voice in my head sometimes, wondering why the scale isn’t changing anymore. Lately I have been avoiding using the scale all together, as I truly believe that Not ALL Progress depends on the scale! We Are NOT Defined by a Number! We are MORE than a Number!

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October 2013~March 2014~March 2015

   This is a reason I believe it is Soo Important to take Progress Pictures. It’s a great way to track progress and help yourself stay motivated. The scale may not change by much, but side by side pictures can show you even little differences you have accomplished. These are pictures you can keep private or choose to share with the world. But it’s you versus you, when you put a new picture up next to an old. You should Only be comparing Your Progress to Your Own. Whenever I am feeling down about my Short Term Progress, I go look at pictures from last year, from 6 months ago, from 3 months ago and remind myself of how much I have already changed. I remind myself that changes take time, progress will and is happening but I must be patient for more results to happen, while also being proud of what I have already accomplished. I still have goals I am working hard to achieve, and I have dreams about how I hope my body will look one day. But I also know that it will probably never look like any other woman’s body, because it is Mine. It Is Unique. It has Experienced My mixture of Battles and Triumphs. And I can’t and shouldn’t compare it to anyone elses’.

   So instead of Focusing on what Hasn’t changed, why not Focus on what Has!? Physical appearance is one thing, but what about Strength!? Are you Stronger than you were Before? What about Confidence!? Are you more Confident when you go out, go to work, school shopping? What about Health!? Are you eating better and taking care of you Body? There are so many things to be proud of, positive changes that can’t be measured by a scale!

 image Let’s Love our Bodies for what they are and give them the proper appreciation they deserve for all that they do for us. You can still work hard towards your goals, but why not applaud Yourself along the way. You can want to change but still be proud of what you have Already accomplished. I still have goals I am working towards, but I am proud of what I have achieved so far and so excited to see what the future holds!

  Remember that we are all so different! And we will all SEE and FEEL a different kind of progress. It may happen quickly, it may take much longer than most. But as long as you are doing what is right for You and Your Body, and Finding Your own Healthy Balance, Your Choices are the most Important. Do your best on your own journey, take pride in your accomplishments and let others live their own.

Let’s lift up those around us, while not forgetting to lift up ourselves as well! Be Kind to Others and Be Kind to Yourself! ❤ Alena

Finding a Balance: Tips for making Changes towards a Healthier Life.

imagePlease keep in mind these are MY thoughts and opinions. I choose to write about these topics and share my advice and opinions with you all because they mean something to me and I hope they can help someone out in the World. This is a written collection of my thoughts and experiences with the subject. Please comment below if you have any questions.

      Living a balanced and healthy life can take Time to truly achieve. It can seem so daunting, and difficult to manage. Yet, in the end it is all about making those small changes every day and making them a part of your normal routine. Make these changes into habits and a part of your lifestyle, because it is our routine and habits we create that will ultimately help us succeed. I am still learning about how to find a balance with some things, but for the most part I feel very happy and satisfied with my current routine. For me, making the change was not only about creating healthy and sustainable habits, but about cutting out the bad ones that were having a negative impact on my health and mental well-being. Not only did I change my routine by eating healthier, more nourishing foods and exercising regularly, I also stopped doing the things that were bringing me down. Partying at least 3 days a week and over drinking was a big part of my life for years, and cutting it out was one of the Best Decisions of my life. I still go out occasionally and have a drink or two, But it is Nothing compared to the old me. I am still learning so much about health, fitness and taking care of my body everyday. But I have established a routine that works for me, a balance that works for my body and each day I work hard to keep improving.image

 I found a Quote on one of my followers pages and it fit in very appropriately with my theme “You’ll Never Change Your Life Until You Change Something You Do Daily. The Secret of Your Success Is Found In Your Daily Routine”John C. Maxwell This is so very true, You must make a change to see and feel a change. You must make taking care of your body a part of your daily routine.

   You can make simple changes at first, small adjustments to what you’re used to. It could be a dietary change, like switching any heavily processed foods for fresh and natural products. For example:

  • Switching processed white sugar for raw brown sugar, stevia or another alternative natural sweetener.
  • Replacing white pasta and breads for whole grain alternatives, such as brown rice, sprouted wheat,  whole wheat or spelt.
  • Swapping sugary soft drinks and soda for regular or fruit infused water or tea.

BUT with all of these things, You MUST read the Ingredients and labels. There are many ‘Healthy” Alternatives out on the shelves these days, a gluten-free option, sugar-free, low-carb or low-fat, and while some of these are great, there are also many that contain extra preservatives or additives just to give them flavor or keep them on the shelves longer. Do a little research and Be aware of what you are buying. My goal when grocery shopping is to buy as many fresh and plain products as possible, fruits, vegetables, plain yogurt, brown rice, whole grain pasta, cage-free eggs (organic when possible) plain tomato sauce, etc. Then I add the flavoring at home, so I know exactly what I am putting on my food and into my body.

    Another important change is to start incorporating some kind of physical exercise into your daily routine. It can be as simple as:

  • Walking to the grocery store or university, instead of driving or taking the bus.
  • Riding your bike to work or going on a bike ride for fun.
  • Taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Walking around and exploring your city or surrounding towns.

   Each of these small things will add up and they Will make a difference. When you are feeling ready to do something a little more challenging there are soo many options!

  • Join a gym or local fitness center.
  • Sign up for a fitness class or join a local sports team.
  • Join a support group on Instagram or Facebook that will help you keep accountable with exercising and eating.
  • Watch Youtube videos of exercises tutorials and workout routines.
  • Hire a Personal Trainer to get you started.
  • Purchase a structured Workout guide such as the Bikini Body Guide or Tone It Up plan.

     There are soo many options. You must make a little effort and take the time do some research or ask some friends or family for advice and get started! There will always be people to Help you, but Ultimately it is Your Life and You Must put in some Effort!
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   For me,  I cut out unhealthy foods and started at the gym almost immediately, after returning home from Spain. I knew that personally I needed a bit more of a challenge physically and was very motivated at the time, so I started going at least 4-5 days a week. At the beginning I was doing mostly cardio for about an hour at a time, followed by a few classic abdominal exercises or using a few of the weight machines for legs. Now, more than a year later, I do a mixture of resistance training using my body weight and light weights, High Intensity Interval training, heavier Weight Lifting, stretching (beginners Yoga) and some typical cardiovascular such as jogging or walking. I follow Aussie Trainer Kayla Itsines Bikini Body Guide, as well as my own extra routines. I have a very diverse and balanced routine in my opinion, and this is what has been working the best for me, but I absolutely respect those who choose to focus on just one or two of those methods.

 image    On an average week, I work out 5-6 days a week, for anywhere from 1-1.5 hours including warm-up, my routine and stretching, be that a bit of cardio, weights, or circuit training and always take at least one rest day. Currently, I eat home cooked meals 90% of the time and rarely drink. I try to have a semi-set schedule of when I wake up, eat, work, exercise and go to sleep, but my work schedule can vary greatly from one week to the next and so I have had to learn to be flexible and go with the flow.  My normal habits do not not change, but the order in which I do them and the amount of time I dedicate to each one sometimes has to be adjusted. But that is okay, because I know I have created a lifestyle and habits that are sustainable for me and I will absolutely keep it up. (will do a separate blog about my workout routine and schedule soon!)

Remember we are all capable of changing our habits and routines. Find what works for You and give it your best every single day!  ❤ Alena

ACTIVE LIVING: MY FITNESS HISTORY

This Blog post is about the importance of Physical activity as well as a bit about my personal experience with different types of exercise, including cardio, lifting weights, plyometrics and part of my experience with the ‘Bikini Body Guide’ by Kayla Itsines. 

imageThere are so many different forms of exercise and so many people with an opinion about what is best for you. Sometimes it can get a bit overwhelming. But I find that it is important to remember that We are Unique Individuals! We are people who have different Goals, different Body Types and different Genetics. There is one thing we can’t argue with though, that Regular Exercise or Physical Activity of some kind is Absolutely necessary for our well being. Luckily for us there are so many different ways to stay active! We must each find out what works best for us as individuals and works for our goals. Whether you want to lose weight, get toned, get stronger, be able to run a marathon, get bendy with yoga, etc. there are so many options! Just to name a few, there’s swimming, walking, running, cycling, gymnastics, surfing, crossfit, lifting weights, yoga, resistance training, hiit, etc. We each have the choice to decide for ourselves, learn what we like best and learn what works well for our own body. It may take time to discover what we like best, but the journey can be rewarding and such a great learning experience.

Over the years, I have tried a variety of different types of exercise. However, it has been over the past year that I have really discovered the most about fitness and the healthy eating habits that work best for My Body.  {{ Check out my ‘About Me‘ for more information about my lifestyle change and fitness journey! }}  When I returned home from living abroad for the 2nd time(in Sept.2013), I was doing mostly cardio, 45 minutes to 1 hour+ on the elliptical, followed by some Abdominal exercises or a little work with the machines. This lasted for a couple of months and while it definitely helped me lose some initial weight, in addition to completely changing my eating habits, I still felt weak and was having so much trouble toning up. So I started doing more and more research online about different types of exercises and payed close attention to other people at the gym. I also started using social media sites such as Instagram and discovered so many amazing Health and Fitness accounts, and I will forever be grateful for those discoveries. I found fitness and food tips, daily workouts, insightful and educational posts about different types of exercises and more. This really sparked my motivation to try new things and step out of my comfort zone in the gym!

image One of my first big changes, during Spring of 2014, was to start lifting light weights and using more of the machines. I was nervous to pick up the free weights or get on a weight machine and look like an ass in front of the more experienced lifters, but thanks to seeing other women around the World doing the same, and the support of my sister (who is very knowledgeable when it comes to fitness) I quickly got over myself and went for it! Everyone starts somewhere after all. I started with super simple routines with free weights, but was still mostly relying on the machines.

      One of my Biggest discoveries on Instagram was Australian Personal Trainer, Kayla Itsines. She is the creator of the Bikini Body Guide, a 12-Week training program that uses variety of different training techniques. I discovered her Instagram and Website last February (almost a year ago!) but didn’t buy the guide right away. I was still learning, wanted to go at my own pace and didn’t feel I was ready. But I saw all these amazing women changing their lives and saw Kayla, a relatively small girl completely Destroying Stereotypes about smaller women. She was So Strong and Fit and her Strength and  Workout Videos truly Inspired me.. So I started slowly but surely started incorporating some of her recommended exercises, such as Box Jumps, Tricep Dips, Lunges and Step-Ups! Some of my Absolute Favorite Exercises Now. I followed her tips and also started using some weights when doing Squats, Lunges and Started using a variety of new machines and free weighted exercises.

Slowly but surely I was getting
stronger! Finally this Summer I decided to buy her training guide, but just as I was really ready to buy it, she came out with a 2.0 version. A continuation of her 1st guide. By this point I felt that my fitness level had greatly improved (it had been about 5 months) and I was much more into lifting weights than anything else, and knew the 2.0 exercises required the use of more weights. So, I purchased the 2nd Guide beginning of September and finished it 1st week of January 2015. Towards the middle/end of the 2.0 Guide I realized how much better it would have been to have done the 1st guide from the beginning! and so I decided after I finished the 2.0 guide (with some modifications) I would go back and Start fresh from the Beginning. So, I am on Week 6 from the 1st guide and I’m Loving it!! And I discovered that the 1.0 guide does actually incorporate some weights.

>>I HIGHLY Recommend starting with the 1.0 Bikini Body Guide! If I could go back in time I would start with this one, but instead I’m doing it now, alongside thousands of other women around the World with #thekaylamovement, which started January 5th, 2015 and is still going strong! I’m currently on my 4th round and just hit the 1 year mark!!<<

I really love the fast paced, timed workouts from the guide, but I do still like to go at my own pace and do some extra weighted workouts sometimes, although much less than before (will do a separate post about that Very Soon!). With the BBG, each session, (which are a variety of Legs & Cardio, Arms & Abs, and Full Body workout) has two different circuits, each of which you repeat twice. The goal is to repeat the 4 exercises and the listed repetitions as many times as you can can in a 7 minute period. Then you rest for a short period (30-90 seconds), and go on to do the 2nd circuit in the same way, and then repeat the 1st and 2nd again. It takes a total of roughly 30 minutes or so. It has been such a great experience having this guide and challenging myself to do all these exercises.

image Every week my fitness knowledge grows, thanks to easily accessible knowledge sharing through sites like Instagram, certain blogs and the internet in general. Each and every day I learn something new about about how to take care of my body, how to sculpt it, nurture it and heal it. My fitness journey has been such a learning experience, and I am grateful to have found my own healthy balance with exercise and eating. I am so excited to see what the future brings and what I can accomplish.

I encourage you All
 to do some of you own Research, ask friends with Fitness experience for help and find a supportive community of like-minded people with similar goals, whether it be on Instagram, Facebook or in the “Real” World.

Keep Believing in Yourself and Never Give Up!

Will share my Weekly Schedule, including my BBG Routine and extra Workouts very soon!
Love, Alena