Friday, February 26, 2016

Presence Doesn't Equal Being Present

I'm the type of person that when I'm feeling overwhelmed with things going on, filled with anxiety or uncertainty, and discomforted then I seek solitude. It helps me to re-focus and re-center myself. One of my favorite things to do is to take Layla out to the woods and just breathe. When I say I seek solitude, my dog obviously doesn't count! We are a package deal. 

It helps to actually remove myself from the situation and get to a place where I can just think everything over. I take Layla and we just go. We roam around the woods with no real plan of action, and it's amazingly free to just simply watch Layla run around having a ball.  

She reminds me so much of just taking the time to enjoy the present and BE in the moment. I often spend so much time worrying about the future and getting myself worked up over 100 different scenarios (where 99 of them are made up in my head haha!) that I forget to appreciate the present. 

So on the days where I'm getting myself too worked up, I just walk away from it. I tell myself it's not worth worrying over so I run away with my dog and let her crazy antics give me a laugh. Side note: if you ever need an entertaining distraction then Layla's your girl! She always gives me a reason to smile and to enjoy the moment. 

In total transparency, it's been an uncomfortable past two weeks. I've had a lot of pent up anxiety over the future and what I'm going to do. A few months ago I felt a calling placed on my life and it has taken every ounce of trust I have in God to keep following. Never in my life have I followed this blindly in faith, and it is NOT easy. 

By no means do I always have a plan or try to control everything (pretty much the opposite), but when I am pushed out of my comfort zone my reaction is to always tread lightly. I am not used to charging boldly ahead but that is what God has been calling me to do. He didn't just want me to dip my toes in the pool but I dove right off into the deep end and it has been extremely unsettling. 

At the same time, though, I have experienced so many blessings in the past few months and I am so excited about what the future will bring. It's just that if you have anxiety and understand what I'm talking about, there is always that side that can get to you. I am equal parts excited and terrified about what is to come, and that's basically how I always operate!

Things are falling into place but at the same time there is always that part of my mind trying to come up with the worst-case scenarios. I have to learn to not listen to that part of myself but instead seek God and His promises. I recently read something that has really stuck with me lately when facing spiritual battles, and the thought is that the enemy's attacks become more frequent and stronger because he knows that God has great things on the horizon. So the more I struggle, the more I know I'm getting closer to where God needs me to be.

So I've been learning to take all of this pent-up anxiety and to take that energy on directing my focus to the present. Your presence does not always mean you are actually, truly present. Your body can be in one place and your mind totally somewhere else. Focusing on the present helps take my mind off the future, and let's face it we are never promised tomorrow. We're never even promised the next minute so I want to focus on the minute I am in. I focus on only what I need to do right now, and let the future fade off in the distance. 

On Monday, I took Layla to the woods again (we've been going about 2-3x a week the past two weeks if that tells you anything ha!) and after our hike there was this fallen tree on the path. I sat down and Layla was thrilled because it was right by the creek so she swam around as I took time to just be still. I didn't focus on the work I needed to do, my plans for the future, or my anxiety over the blurry picture of what is to come. No, I simply sat there in the sun, soaking up the beautiful weather, and watched Layla swim around in the creek. 

And you know what? It was the most therapeutic thing in the world. I allowed myself to settle into the present without any thought of anything else. I was present in the moment, my stress was melting away, and my heart was flowing with gratitude for the blessing of this moment. 

I slowly began to realize that whether or not things played out as I was hoping or planning, it didn't matter. What was important is that God was in control. He has the handle on the future so that I can focus on working in the present. As long as God has the next part of the script, what is the point of getting myself worked up? I honestly love surprises and can never understand how people hate them. I think it's fun not knowing what will be happening or not knowing the next part. 

So basically I'm looking at all of this like one giant surprise from God! When I think of it that way it doesn't seem so stressful or scary anymore. In fact, it makes me excited to think of what might be coming, and I will be grateful for it regardless. Even if it doesn't turn out to be what I might have in mind, it will be a blessing from God. My attitude is what will determine if I allow the situation to become a trial or a triumph. I actively chose, in the present, to have an attitude of gratitude for the future. That might seem strange to be thankful ahead of time for something that hasn't even happened but it makes all the difference. 

If things don't go as planned and I fail, I choose to be grateful for the learning experience. If things continue to become even more stressful, I choose to be grateful for the fact that I can find peace and rest in God. But above all, the thing I am most grateful for is that God chose me to do this job. I have no idea yet what it will all entail (God usually doesn't post job descriptions haha!) but I know that God does not call the equipped, He equips the called. 

The important thing is God's got the future, and that means I can be present in the present. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

I spent the afternoon at my dad's house today baking cookies for a friend's wedding on Saturday. Apparently, cookie tables are a thing at Pittsburgh weddings (don't ask me I've lived right outside Pittsburgh my whole life and didn't know about this ha!) and Amanda put me on cookie duty since I had the day off. My dad has been doing renovations at his house (he's a contractor) so he's been home a lot lately and invited me up. I wasn't about to pass up the chance for two important reasons: a) I love spending time with him and b) two words-- double. ovens.

It was also extremely entertaining because he's never baked a day in his life but was excited to help me and definitely reminded me of when my little cousins want to help with stuff in the kitchen haha! He was amazed at what actually goes into cookies and is semi-convinced that I'm like a pro baker. Lololol chill, Dad, they're just cookies.

It was a simple recipe but the cookies turned out great so I'd thought I'd say! Disclaimer: these are not macro-friendly at all, which is why I didn't eat one, but my dad loved them. He was the official taste tester and couldn't have been more thrilled about it. Second disclaimer, I didn't make this recipe up but just followed it off the back of the oats container I got from Target.

For the cookies (it makes 3 1/2 dozen):

2 sticks of butter
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 cups oats
2 cups raisins
1 1/2 cups flour

Here's how to make 'em:

1. Preheat the oven to 350

2. Cream the butter together with both sugars and the vanilla. Once it's all mixed and fluffy, add the eggs.

3. Then mix in the flour, baking soda, and salt.

4. Fold in the oats and raisins.

5. Bake for about 16-18 minutes until the edges and bottoms are golden brown.

And that's all it takes! 

It was funny because at the end when all the cookies were cooling I think I said something about a stand mixer and how I want one, and my dad goes "oh wait do you mean this thing?" and pulls one out haha! We had been using the electric hand mixer which was totally fine, but it was so typical of my dad to think of something like that until we were done. It's pretty obvious where I get it from....

We also were joking around and sent this picture of him "baking" to my step-mom since she does all the baking. The joke was he actually does know but pretends not to so she'll do all the work. I believe I captioned it "trying to act casual so no one finds out he bakes" haha! And yes I talked him into wearing her apron but I also didn't mention at the time how I'd be sharing it over the internet hehe. 

All in all it was a fun afternoon and great to be able to spend time with my dad. Usually Amanda or my step-mom is there so I can't really remember when only the two of us hung out together. On Sunday we're making dinner (I started him on Pinterest and he's gone recipe crazy haha!) and Layla is invited too so if we come up with any good recipes I'll make sure to share them! 

And if you try out the cookies let me know! 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Vitamin Shoppe Haul & Product Reviews

Good morning! So I totally didn't realize that it has been about a week since I blogged #whoops but I promise I'll do my best to catch up on some posts I have planned for this week! 

This past Saturday, I was able to make a trip out to the Vitamin Shoppe because one is finally near my house!! It's not exactly near any of the places I usually go, but it's not so far out like the rest of the ones around me that it's completely out of my way. So a trip was definitely in order! And I found tons of new goodies. 

First and foremost, THESE PROTEIN BARS. You won't like these if a) you want your protein bar to basically taste like a piece of cake and b) if you're a robot. Because those are basically the only two scenarios that I can think of haha! They're amazing and totally live up to the hype. Everyone has been raving about these bars, and they deserve every single good thing said about them. Hands down my new favorite bar. 

I know it's February and people will be saying that pumpkin season is over but don't listen to the haters. I got this maple pumpkin mighty muffin and it was delicious! Super easy to make I just added 1/4 cup cold water and microwaved for about 50 seconds (the directions are all on the back) and voila! Super moist and the taste was 10/10. I topped mine off with a little bit of vanilla ice cream, almond butter, and homemade granola and my tastebuds had a party. 

I also tried out the chocolate chip cookie dough bar and it was delicious, too! I have to admit, though, that Quest still has the number 1 spot for cookie dough bars. Now that they've re-vamped their recipe, it's like eating a giant chunk of cookie dough. Oh yeah has the second spot! 

And you know it's a great day when you can fit a whole one of these babies in your macros. I have only ever had the white chocolate macadamia flavor (it's the only one at Wal-mart) but this chocolate chip blew that flavor out of the water! They were sold out of the birthday cake flavor when I went but my sweet friend Megan surprised me with a box of goodies and guess what was included :) 

So my mission the next couple days is to squeeze one of the birthday cake cookies in my macros! 

I'll definitely be making another trip back to Vitamin Shoppe soon but in the mean time what are some of your favorite products there?? I would love some recommendations! 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Back to Basics: Micros Matter Too

So I talked about before in one of my posts about the basics of macros, but I also wanted to address micros because they are also important. In fact, a lot of people overlook micros because they're too focused on loading up on carbs without realizing they might be sacrificing vital nutrients. 

What are micronutrients, though? In short, micros are vitamins and minerals, but as they don't have as drastic physical consequences as macros, they often get overlooked. For example, if your carbs are too high or too low the physical aspects of your body will reflect that. If your calcium is too low, though, you might not see any outward physical signs. 

I personally pay attention specifically to three micros: 
1) fiber
2) calcium
3) iron

I get most of my vitamins, potassium, and omegas through supplements (multi-vitamin and fish oil tablets) but the other three I get mostly through my diet. I have absolutely nothing against taking supplements like vitamins, but I do prefer to get a lot of my micros naturally via diet. I don't even take my supplements every day because more often than not, I already took care of them with planning out my macros. 

In this post, I'm just going to talk about the basic staples in my diet that help me reach my daily goals of these micros because they have a lot of impact on my body long-term. Calcium is important for bones, potassium for muscles, fiber for digestion, and iron for blood and oxygen transportation. That is extremely boiled down as the human body is so complex, but I simply wanted to give you the general picture. 

I don't really pay attention to my sodium, sugar, or cholesterol levels for two reasons: 1) I am already regulating my food intake through macros so my sugar and sodium aren't really able to get that high anyway and 2) my cholesterol levels are extremely low (my dad actually laughed at the results haha!) as well as my blood pressure, heart rate, and blood work in general so it's not a concern at all. 

HOWEVER, if you do have health issues then please pay attention accordingly to the micros you need to watch! 

So what are some good sources for each of these micros? 


The answer is simple-- eat your veggies! This is probably where I eat most of my fiber because I fit a ton of vegetables (and fruits) into my macros on a regular basis. I eat about 22-30g of fiber per day, but find my body is the happiest in the mid-20s. Some other sources of fiber I eat besides fruits and veggies are whole grain breads, oats, Flat-out wraps (with the chia seeds are my fave), bran flakes (from Trader Joe's), and brown rice. Plus, a lot of my protein bars and granola bars have a decent chunk of fiber. 


I have known for years that I need to pay attention to calcium because my orthopedic doctors have been telling me so due to my numerous stress fractures and running injuries. I never really took it seriously until I got older and more into health, but now it's something I watch because my body is in this for the long haul! 

Every single day I have almond milk, greek yogurt, and some kind of cheese so those are my main sources of calcium. Together, those 3 take up well over half of my daily calcium. Most dairy products will have a generous serving of calcium, but if you can't have dairy there are still plenty of other options. You will see a lot of fortified products too like cereals or breads that have extra calcium in them. Even some vegetables can have calcium like broccoli and kale. 


This is another one that you can get a lot from vegetables with the leafier being the better. Broccoli, spinach, chard, kale, and certain kinds of beans (chickpeas, kidney) are great sources of iron. For my two steady sources of iron, I have a giant spinach salad every day as part of my lunch plus my oats for breakfast. Together they take up over 30% of my daily iron intake, which isn't too shabby! Plus, the bran flakes I love so much from Trader Joe's are a good source of iron in addition to the fiber so it's getting two micros for one meal. The bran flakes add on about another 20% so those three things alone bring me to 50% of my daily intake. The rest I probably get from other vegetables, poultry, and eggs. White meat doesn't necessarily have a ton of iron but every little bit counts and adds up throughout the day! Red meat is obviously the better choice in terms of iron but I rarely have red meat anyway. I've also been wanting to try out cream of wheat because I hear it's a great source of iron and I'm always up for trying new foods. 

The moral of this post is that a) it's important to pay attention to micros too, and b) it can be just as simple and straight forward as planning out your macros! I'll be honest and say that when I first started tracking macros almost two years ago now, I didn't really pay attention to micros. Partly because I didn't know much about them but also because I just wanted to eat all kinds of foods that I had previously been depriving myself of. Once that wore off, I learned to make smarter choices and learned more about micros, their importance, and how to track those as well.

The more I paid attention to micros, the more it showed by how I felt and how I looked. I feel 100x better now because not only am I regulating my body through macros but I am also making smart choices in terms of nutrients by paying attention to my micros. I would say the past year is when I really buckled down to pay attention to micros, and it was a much better year than the first. My body has thanked me for it, and I can definitely tell the by the way my body seems to be running so much better. Not only do I have a healthy balance of macros, but I'm also supplying my body with the other nutrients it wants, too!

In the end, macros usually get all the special attention, and yes it's probably because people would rather see a picture of a donut than a giant ball of spinach but just remember that micros matter, too. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Valentine's Day, Leg Day Workout & a Winter Hike

Happy Monday everyone! I hope you all enjoyed Valentine's Day whether it was with someone special, yourself, or friends and family. I had the best Valentine ever for the 3rd year in a row :) 

Yep you guessed it-- Layla haha! But seriously. She's the best Galentine ever even though she always forgets to buy me a card. 

I honestly have no issues being single on Valentine's Day because it truly doesn't bother me in the slightest. I know a lot of people hate it as a holiday and resent it, but I think that the message should just be about love. Whether or not you have a significant other or not, you can still spend it with people you love! 

But at the same time I'm not about to pass up a good joke and this one gets me every time I see it hahaha! 

I started off Valentine's Day just like any other day-- Jesus, oats, and coffee. I only have a week left with my Made to Crave devotion, and I'm looking for a new book to start. Any suggestions would be welcome! 

Oh, and for those of you who didn't see on Instagram-- I decided to give up peanut butter for Lent! It was nawwwt ideal but I felt a little tug on my heart that knew it meant I should make the sacrifice this year. I seriously tried talking myself out of it and was trying to offer up anything else that I could think of haha! Which only told me more it's what I needed to do. Anywayyy, so that's almond butter in my oats and honestly it's been fine the past six days without peanut butter! 

After serving at a church dinner, I ended my night with the best-- froyo bowl! With festive sprinkles of course. Layla was hard-core jealous of my glorious creation, but I wasn't gonna share even a bite! Usually she can luck out if the carton or cool whip container is empty because I let her lick it clean, but it wasn't her night. 

This morning I was up bright and early to go train quads! I've had to adjust my schedule a bit because I now meet a friend right afterwards (we go to the same gym luckily) to help her train. She wanted a workout buddy to hold her accountable plus didn't know very much so I've been happy to help out. Besides, it's fun having a test client that isn't related to me haha! 

For my workout, I did mainly deadlifts (hypertrophy focus) and front squats (also hypertrophy focus) as my main two compound lifts, and then did a lot of quad accessory work. I've been asked before what I qualify as "accessory work" and to me it's anything that really isn't the main heavy lift. For example, my main quad focus lift today were front squats and leg press, and then the accessory work was the circuit, jumping leg press, and leg extensions. For me, it's usually exercises that are not compound but rather meant to facilitate in working the muscle further after the heavy lift. 

So here was my lift from this morning: 
5x10 deadlifts (80% of my max)
5x12,10,10,8,8 front squats 
4x8 single leg extensions (each leg) SS double til failure 
4x20 jumping leg press
6x20,15,12,10,6,2 leg press
Circuit (3x): 20 box jumps, 20 goblet squats, 1 minute wall sit, 100 high knees (NO REST)

The leg circuit is a killer! I like to do burnout circuits every so often at the end of a lift to really just exhaust the muscle. Afterwards, this older gentleman came up to me laughing saying that I tired him out by just his watching me haha! 

Then, this afternoon I didn't feel like doing work or studying so I took Layla for a hike in the woods by our house. The poor thing doesn't get nearly close enough to her regular walks/runs with the combination of bad weather, unsafe sidewalks, and the salt burning her paws. I still put Musher's Secret on them like I did last year but for some reason this winter it's been harder on her paws. 

I promised her that if the freezing rain stopped in the afternoon we would go, and it did! As soon as I opened the car door she bounded out and ran around frantically in the snow. I haven't seen her so happy in several days. The best I was able to do this weekend was let her out in the yard to run off her energy and play a little bit. The problem is we don't have a fenced-in yard so I have to stand out there to watch her but it was bitterly cold! Probably the coldest weekend I can ever remember so we couldn't stay outside long. 

We had the woods to ourselves, which was great but I honestly wasn't expecting a lot of people at 2pm on a Monday in 30 degree weather. I bundled up, though, because a promise is a promise and I knew Layla desperately needed this for her mental sanity. 

She was absolutely thrilled and it was so worth taking the time off studying or doing other work just to give her the afternoon out of the house. 

At one point we did see another person and their dog off in the distance but our paths never actually intersected. Layla was a good girl though and stayed by my side when I called her over and told her to stay with me so she wouldn't go off running to try to greet them. In the past two years I've learned that other people aren't always the greatest judge of their dog's character and tend to greatly overestimate their dog's friendliness. I trust Layla implicitly with anyone or thing, but have learned not to always trust other dogs. You're technically supposed to keep your dog on a leash in these woods but shhh no one ever actually follows it...

Case in point as Layla is clearly not on a leash haha! But I had her leash in the car so that kinda counts, right? Again, though, I trust her and I know she comes when I call her so I consider myself a pretty responsible dog owner. 

And as the pictures don't really do her excitement justice, I captured a video! 

Hope you all are having a wonderful day!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A Letter to My Pre-Fitness Self

Alright, so I have been seeing a lot of these "Letters to My Pre-Fitness Self" lately based off a post from Femme Fitale and I have read a ton of truly heartwarming letters that I was inspired to write my own. I have to warn you now that yes I will ramble in true Sam fashion, but when I think back over the past six years there has been so much that has changed and so many things that I am truly grateful for and I want to try to fit it all in. Welp, here goes nothing.


Hey there, you. Yes it's me Sam, and no this isn't some prank like on the Office where Jim sends Dwight letters from his future self. Although that would be hilarious but I'm here to tell you that in the next six years you likely won't even recognize yourself. 

And I mean that in the best possible way. 

For starters, you'll actually wake up before noon every single day. Don't start crying now because you won't get to read the rest of what I have to say, and I'm not even going to bother telling you the actual hour you'll wake up every day or you might shred this letter right now. 

All jokes aside, you will fall head over heels in love with something you never thought possible-- fitness. You will find your passion, what you were created for, and feel purpose burning through your veins. You'll wake up every morning full of gratitude, surrounded by blessings, and brimming with confidence. 

Now, there will be bumps along the way. Wait, no, that was kind of sugar-coating it. Here, let me put it this way-- there will be extreme turbulence like when you flew through that lightning storm and the plane dropping gave you panic attacks. Yeah, that sounds about right. But you will work your way through that storm. It will bring you to the other side stronger, more determined, and the person you were meant to be.

You will find direction, and a confidence within yourself that you never thought possible. You will learn to listen to your instincts, cut out negativity, and remove toxic people from your life. The opinions of others will no longer rule you, and you will become your own person. Standing on your own two feet, head high, and looking challenges dead in the eye. You will become the person you have always wanted to be. 

Oh and did I mention you find Jesus? I know right now you think you believe in God, but I'm talking about having a relationship that transforms you from the inside out. You give your life up to follow something that will give you peace, strength, and resolution unlike anything you've ever experienced. It's with God's help that you will weather those storms, find the strength to keep going, and the peace and love that you will have within yourself.

I know it all sounds too good to be true because you don't feel confident now. When you look in the mirror you don't like what you see or the person you are. You don't see how you could grow into someone full of purpose, strength, and faith. And weirder still this happens all because of your love for fitness?

But it happens. I promise it does. With each small step, every heart-felt prayer, and every single time that you feel like giving up but you don't.

It happens.

Just hold on sweet girl because you're about to take the plunge into the best thing that you will ever do. Your life will be transformed in so many unimaginable ways, and I am so excited for you. You will learn more about yourself, God, and life than you ever have, and it is an amazing experience.

Six years is a long time, but looking back now I can tell you without a doubt that I wouldn't change a single thing. There will be a time where you feel as though you've hit rock bottom but that will just be the launching point of the best yet to come. That is the place where God will fish you out from the bottom, and when you will learn what you and God are both made of. You will learn that together anything is possible, and that there are things in your life worth fighting for-- health, peace, balance, gratitude and self-love.

Every struggle, every tear, every moment of doubt will be worth it. Those times will challenge you but they will change you, and in the end you will be thankful for it. That I can promise you.

I can't wait for you to get started <3


Sunday, February 7, 2016

What I've Been Eating Lately

So, I can never remember to actually document everything I eat in one day #badbloggerstatus which means we're just going to a general post of what I've been eating the past few weeks. Plus, I have some new macros finds to share! 

One of my staple snacks that you can always find me eating every day is greek yogurt with some kind of topping. My favorites are granola, cereals, fruits (pineapple in particular), and peanut butter. Often a mixture of all of those haha! 

As my carbs are getting higher I've been bringing back more cereals and breads because when I'm cutting it's usually not smart to choose those as carb sources. I like to stick with oats, fruits, and veggies because micros matter too! I am NOT saying at all that you can't have cereal, bread, pasta etc. while cutting but since I'm conscious of micros such as fiber and iron, I can't always hit those by filling up my carbs with cereal. 

THESE. I found these mini chocolate chip cookies at Trader Joe's and have them every morning with my coffee as I do my devotions. A serving size is wait for it....12 cookies....TWELVE! I love them, and fit some in every morning as part of my pre-workout. I get asked a lot what I do for pre-workout and you're looking at it in the picture haha! I prefer to train relatively fasted (coffee and a few cookies) and drink BCAAs as I work out. I can address more about that in another post, but for now training fasted is what works for me! 

Amanda picked up these babies for me the other week, andddd the package is already empty. But my mom did help me out with eating them so it wasn't all me haha! 

I haven't had a quest bar in awhile and I missed the whole new formula and people not liking it so they came out with another one and possibly another one after that? I have no idea. I totally lost track of what was going on, but I decided to pick up a couple at Trader Joe's because it had been so long since I had one. It. was. delicious! Like biting into a giant bar of cookie dough, and the s'mores one was delicious too! If this is the new and improved formula then Quest doesn't need to change a thing! 

And overnight oats were on the menu, too! 

Plus regular oats! For post-workout this is always my go-to. I like to pick a carb source (oats) as the primary macro then pair it with protein (egg whites/protein powder mixed in the oatmeal or turkey bacon on the side) as the secondary macro source. The ratio is usually 2:1 with carbs being about double what the protein is. And usually peanut butter gets thrown in, too! 

See, I still eat plenty of veggies! 

Trader Joe's has these really good flavored chicken sausages that I've been putting in everything. I got the tomato-basil ones, and have been using them in breakfast scrambles or this protein bowl here! For just one link you get 11g of protein which is pretty awesome. The fat macros are a little bit higher than turkey bacon, but well worth it. 

Rachael's Oreo protein pancakes! SO.GOOD. 

And some cinnamon-raisin bagels! I got this really good brand at Aldi's and love them so far! I usually don't eat a lot of bagels, but got a huge craving for these when I saw them at the store. 

So there you have it! Just some general staples in my diet over the past couple weeks. Maybe one of these days I'll actually manage to do a full day of eating but we'll see haha! 

Hope you all have a wonderful Sunday! 

Friday, February 5, 2016

A Bad Workout Isn't the End of the World

I thought this topic was very fitting to blog about since I legitimately just experienced this yesterday! For me, I hate bad workouts (I mean who doesn't though, right?) not because of feeling like I failed or didn't do spectacularly, but because one of my biggest pet peeves is feeling as though my time has been wasted. I'm the type of person that always needs to feel as though I'm being productive, getting things done, and always getting one step closer to my goals. True story: I live by my checklist. 

So, when I have a bad workout it just feels like a waste of time, and that really gets under my skin. Take yesterday for example. It was supposed to be leg day number 2 so hams and glutes. I was really pumped to get to the gym because leg day forever has my heart, and the fact that I get to work legs twice a week just makes me happy haha! So that was the first problem because one of my favorite lifts to do didn't go nearly as well as planned. 

I have no clue what it was but everything just felt like dead weight in my hands. It started out okay with some warm-up sets and I was able to do some isolated work on the leg press. Then, I got to deadlifts and it just nose-dived from there. For those of you who don't know, I deadlift twice per week-- once on Mondays and once on Thursdays and I have them split up differently according to my goals. Mondays I focus more on hypertrophy so I usually do about 80% of my max for most of my working sets (about 4-5) with higher reps (8-12) then crank it up for about 1-2 sets of working with 90% of my max deadlift. Thursdays are more strength focused so I work with 90-100% of my max for each working set and reps are kept way lower (1-3 per set). 

Well, yesterday was strength but I usually start up with a warm-up set of 80% of my max just to get things moving. I was working with 135lbs, which felt nice and smooth on Monday, and what was supposed to be my warm-up set suddenly felt like a working set. I couldn't get more than 5 reps when I was able to get 12 solid reps on Monday. Everything just felt off for some reason, and I wasn't feeling strong at all. I decided not to add any more weight on (good call, Sam) but continued with a second set of 135, and it was still a struggle to get out 5 reps. I was super frustrated with myself at this point because deadlifts are my all-time favorite lift. I look forward to them every single week, and have been making great progress in the past couple weeks. 

I pushed on for another couple of sets before I decided that it was a no-go for deadlifts that day. The funny thing is I was so frustrated and disappointed with how my workout was going when one of the regulars appeared at the gym. He's elderly and needs a cane most of the time for walking, but he shows up every single day. I absolutely love his positive attitude and it cracks me up because he's seriously in awe of my lifting haha! As soon as he saw me he shouts "there's my rockstar weightlifter!" and proceeds to point me out to everyone around him telling them how I'm always killing it at the gym. He's simply adorable, and always has a kind word for me. I joked around and told him I'm going to hire him as my personal cheerleader because he never fails to show up right when I need some words of sense knocked into me. It always puts my situation into perspective because here I am beating myself up for lifting 135lbs when he's not able to lift anymore because of health problems. We've talked before and he tells me how much he misses it, and it makes me incredibly grateful for the health I do have. 

I finished up another few sets of exercises but only made it about 3/4 of my workout before I decided it was time to just throw in the towel. My back was acting kind of funky, and I didn't want to risk injuring myself so I went home to drown my frustration in a giant bowl of oats. 

As I was eating, I sat myself down and gave myself some tough love. I reminded myself that it wasn't the end of the world, it wasn't a waste of time, and if I was feeling up for it I could maybe do some deadlifts on Saturday. I focused on the positives of what I was able to do that day instead of what I couldn't, and went on about the rest of my day. When Amanda got home she talked me into going for a run with her (by promising that Layla could come haha!) so even though I didn't have the best lift, I was able to end my workout on a positive note with a good run. 

Ironically, I woke up this morning and my hammies and glutes were S-O-R-E haha! Which clearly means even a crappy feeling workout did me some good. In the end, I'm glad that I didn't push myself to the extreme of finishing my workout to the point of potential injury (something I totally would have done in the past) or that I didn't sit there for awhile feeling sorry for myself. 

Not every lift is going to be glamorous where you feel on top of the world, setting PRs, or that you could take on wrestling a grizzly bear. There will be ones that aren't necessarily the best but they aren't a waste of time either. In the end, it's simply not worth sweating the small stuff like a bad workout when there are so many more important things to focus on in this life. This wasn't my first bad workout and it won't be my last, but I'm learning to be okay with that. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Reverse Dieting & Mental Games

I wanted to post about this because I notice a lot that reverse dieting gets glorified a lot on social media where people just post all about the highlights of their experience with it. Now, before you start calling me a hypocrite (because you all know I LOVE reverse dieting) let me be very clear: yes, reverse dieting is amazingly beneficial and it's great to be able to eat more food. But, there is also a darker side to reverse dieting and it is full of mental games.

I do not want to come across as a hypocrite by only highlighting the good side of my reverse diet so far which means I'm going to be brutally honest with you all today. I want to talk about some of the negative thoughts but more importantly how to deal with them. That way we can learn and grow because if we don't face those challenges head on, nothing will change. It's about shining a light into the dark places of yourself that you don't necessarily want to face. Think of it this way: if you don't shed some light into that darkness, how will you know what is really there and what needs to change? Stumbling around blind in the darkness will not get you anywhere. Find your light, and use it.

 Hands down, the biggest mental game that always challenges me during a reverse diet is the thought that I have to earn my food. 

It sounds crazy in my head but it sounds even crazier typing it out so that tons of people over the internet will be able to read my crazy thoughts. But it's true and I want to be completely transparent not just now but all the time with my readers. 

Now, let's be very clear again. Yes, I have that thought sometimes but it DOES NOT mean I have an unhealthy relationship with food, my body, or anything else. What does matter is how I react to that thought when it comes into my head. 

My main reaction when it happens is: say what?! And I'm like genuinely surprised at myself because then I'm like "Sam, YOU KNOW BETTER THAN THAT!" 

It usually happens after a workout that maybe wasn't my best or felt off for some reason, and that little voice will say things like "you're not putting the extra carbs to good use. your muscles aren't gonna grow. you don't deserve the increase. or you didn't earn your food today"

And I'll catch myself just having these thoughts, and realize just how crazy they sound! 

The mindset of thinking you have to earn your food is exactly what got me into dangerously unhealthy habits a few years back. That is always the mental game I struggle most with in any situation whether it be reverse dieting, cutting, or maintaining.  If I don't feel like I straight up killed a lift or workout, then my body doesn't need the food. 

Like what the heck?! 

I know it sounds crazy and I know that I know that, which is good. I know that my body does in fact require food (whether or not I worked out), and that this reverse is bringing me out of the deficit I was in from my cut. I know that I need to get back up to maintenance, and I need the fuel to keep my lifts going.

I mean I deadlifted 165-175lbs yesterday so of course my body needs carbs!

Those thoughts only have power if you give it to them so how you deal with the thoughts is what makes all the difference. When I catch those thoughts popping up, I remind myself of all those facts I just listed, and push those thoughts out of my mind. I go home, eat my carbs, drink tons of water, and read some Bible verses and pray. I continue on with my day just like any other day.

I don't let those thoughts get to me, define me, or put lies in my head. I know exactly who I am, what I do, and who I do it for. When those lies are whispered in my ear, I turn my attention to God because His word and truths are what bring me back and re-focus. It's amazing to me to think of the difference now even versus a year ago because those thoughts can no longer shake me like they once did. I built my foundation on God and my identity in Him so those thoughts can't control me like they once did.

It's a wonderful sense of freedom to have a negative thought like "you didn't earn your food today" and then to just push it away with a simple truth. I remind myself that God made me for so much more than a vicious cycle of unhealthy eating habits, and with Him I can do all things. I don't have to worry about those thoughts coming up (even though they still do every so often) because with God's truths and promises as my shield, those words just bounce right off. They don't settle down and set up home in my mind like they once did because I fill myself up on positive and meaningful words. God's word is my light in the darkness, and helps me to work through the mind games.

My all-time favorite Bible verse is Psalm 46:5 and one that I have memorized and call to mind on a daily basis.

"God is within her, she will not fall; 
God will help her at break of day."

It speaks to me in such a way, and never fails to give me fresh heart for whatever I might be going through. If I feel like I'm on shaky ground, in the midst of a storm, or difficult situation I know that I can't fall because God is always there to help me. There are times where I feel so out of my comfort zone that I basically jumped off a cliff, but I know that God doesn't give me anything I can't handle. It might seem like a giant hot mess at the time, but I do my best to give it over to Him, rely on His strength, and simply watch in wonder as He turns it into something wonderful.

I'll talk about this at a later time but I made a commitment to dedicate this reverse to God. Before that sounds too strange let me explain. At the start of it I literally said to God "teach me what needs to be learned", and He has shown me such peace and comfort with my body and food. I wanted to get it right, and I knew I was finally at a place where the mind games couldn't reach me. I have never felt so sure and strong in my faith, and I told Jesus that I was ready to learn because I knew there was something God has been trying to teach me the past several months. The blessings that have accompanied this obedience have been beyond words.

In the end, my advice is to find the light in your life. If it's turning to God then use it. If it's meditation, journaling, poetry, etc. then use it. Whatever you need to help get re-focused and find balance and peace to keep the mind games away. I have a jar of motivational quotes by my bed that I pull one out almost every morning because seeing those words on paper does a lot for my mindset. I keep sticky notes of very convicting or encouraging messages from my two daily devotionals up on the wall by my desk so it's what I read every morning. I have note cards taped all around my room with my favorite Bible verses on them. Starting my day surrounded with positive, strong words sets the stage for the rest of my day. Having those words in mind allow me to take them to heart, and use them. God's word is the best weapon I can use in any battle, and it has saved me time and time again from falling back into old habits.

Above all, just remember-- the negative thoughts can't win the game if you refuse to play.