Guest Post: Sierra’s Journey

“Feeling healthy and feeling good about yourself is NOT a luxury – it’s an absolute necessity.”

In honor of May being National Mental Health Awareness Month, I asked my daughter Sierra to rehash a social media post she shared late last year about her own journey into better physical and mental health.

From Sierra:

At first, I was very hesitant to share my story of how fitness has positively affected my life because I am not very good at opening up to people but I was encouraged to share my story.

My sophomore year of high school, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I had always noticed when I worked out more often, exercise helped my symptoms. During this time, I was involved in competitive cheerleading and track & field, and I always felt my best after a rigorous practice. The summer before my freshman year of college, I was working out harder than ever. I was constantly in the gym and I felt amazing.

Unfortunately, as soon as I arrived to college, my schedule and habits changed and I completely stopped working out. I continued to be somewhat sedentary and ate unhealthily through my freshman and sophomore years. After two years of not working out and eating whatever I wanted, I had gained 20 lbs. When I realized how much weight I had gained and saw how great of shape Becky was in after a year of getting back into fitness and eating healthier, I became eager to make a change in my life. I was so afraid to begin though. At first, I didn’t know if I would even remember how to workout. I had also become very intimidated by the gym and was afraid to go. I felt as though I would be judged if I went.

In May of 2016, I started running and attending the HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) classes Becky taught at HIIT Like A Girl and eating healthier. Running was the main aspect that really sparked my fire. I had been a sprinter in high school and had never run more than 2 miles at one time. I also thought long distance running looked like torture and had no interest in trying it….until last May.

In the beginning, I started out by running/walking 3 miles a few days a week. Eventually, I was able to run the whole 3 miles. Then, I ran my first 5k on July 4th (Liberty 5k). Running a race felt so incredible and I was happy to finish in under 30 minutes!

When I came back to school for the fall semester, I decided I wanted to try and go back to the gym to start lifting weights. I began going with a friend who knew more about weightlifting which made me feel more comfortable having someone to workout with.

Since last May, my life has changed greatly for the better. Fitness has brought so much more confidence, motivation and positivism into my life. Dealing with anxiety and depression has always made it so hard for me to become and remain motivated. I’ve always had to work extra hard to get myself going every day, and even though I’ve been pretty successful in my life, I had struggled tremendously with getting myself there. I used to have the most difficult time getting myself out of bed before noon. I would often miss class or show up late because I just couldn’t get the motivation to go.

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Now, I wake up much earlier (usually around 8 am) and I even have been getting up at 5:45 am for sunrise yoga on Thursday mornings at my college gym. I find when I start my day out with yoga, I feel so much more relaxed. I also run 3-4 times a week and workout to HIIT videos on YouTube. Not only have I run multiple 5ks, but I have also run an 8k and a two 10ks within a year of starting to run. I would like to run a half marathon by the end of the year, which I would have never thought was a possible goal for me before. In addition, I lost the weight I had gained since freshman year. Goodbye Freshman 15!

It’s truly an unbelievable feeling being able to conquer longer distances and achieve personal records. I also sit down and eat breakfast almost every morning before beginning my day now. I was never really a breakfast type of person before but now I always make sure I have time to eat breakfast because it helps with my energy level.

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I barely missed any class this past semester and the class that I did miss was not due to mental illness. Now, I have the motivation to get through each day with a positive mindset. I’m constantly busy due to school, work, sorority, and working out. I don’t even have much time to watch TV, but I haven’t felt stressed like I would have before. I am so much happier and have set a goal for 2017 of continuing to better myself physically, mentally and spiritually. I want to improve myself in all aspects so that I can become the best version of myself. I would not be where I am right now if I had not started running last year. I am so incredibly blessed to have the ability to be able run and workout, and I want to continue to do so as long as I can. As for the future, I plan to continue learning as much as I can about fitness and nutrition so that I can continue a healthy lifestyle and help other people.

My advice to others?

Starting to work out can be intimidating, but it can be extremely beneficial for anyone suffering from a mental illness. If you’re just starting out and nervous, even a run/walk for 30 minutes 3 days a week can be helpful. I’m not saying exercise will completely cure mental illness, but exercise is a natural form of medication I strongly believe in. I still have bad days but even on my worst days, getting a workout in or going on a run can make a big difference for me.

For anyone who may be struggling with a mental illness, I just want to say I know how it can be stressful and sometimes you feel like there’s no way out, but YOU CAN’T GIVE UP. Keep pushing yourself to find ways to put more positivity in your life; fill your life with positive people who you can lean on when times are rough.

You are stronger than you think and you will get through it.”

Thanks for sharing Sierra!

Benefits of HIIT For Runners

Stepping outside my comfort zone – chatting with you about what I feel are the benefits of HIIT for Runners!

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to speak at our local running store, Runner’s Retreat, about the benefits of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) for Runners. While I greatly enjoy instructing HIIT classes, generally speaking in front of a group of people just about scares me to death!

When I’m nervous, I tend to talk about as fast as I run, so I decided to record my presentation and share my feelings on how HIIT has helped me become a better runner. This way, if you were there and couldn’t figure out what in the world I was trying to say, or you weren’t able to attend – you can hear it all now.

Bear with me, stepping outside my comfort zone here!

In case you missed my key benefits, HIIT training can help:

  • Improve muscular strength in multiple planes
  • Increase performance potential and help prevent injuries.
  • Improve muscular stability to increase your ability to efficiently transfer energy.
  • Increase lactate threshold – work at a higher intensity longer before reaching fatigue.
  • Provide an awesome metabolic benefit – continue to burn calories and fat after your workout for an extended period of time.

And from the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health & Fitness Journal, here is an example workout for you to try!

Exercises are performed for 30 seconds, with 10 seconds of rest time between exercises. Total time for the entire workout is approximately 7 minutes.

The circuit can be repeated 2 to 3 times.

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Let me know what you think, and if you have any questions!

Until next time,

Becky

Throwback Thursday: 1 Year Anniversary

“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”

imageOne year ago today, I reached my original weight loss goal after 11 months of creating a lifestyle change.

Looking back, I wrote:

“338 days ago, the life I had been living for 15 years changed. For the better.

I can now be proud to tell you I was a competitive runner from 7th grade through college. I can tell you my career was in corporate fitness and I helped open the Valley Health Wellness & Fitness Center.

Before, I would definitely shy away from discussing my athletic accomplishments and educational background. Growing up in PA, friends in Winchester weren’t fully aware of my athletic background, and for that I was glad. I would be slightly embarrassed to tell them I once ran a 5:04 mile; that I still hold a couple district records and a state record. When the discussion would arise, I would say, “I know it’s hard to tell by the way I look now”. I was ashamed to tell people that I also had a degree in exercise science. I could just imagine them thinking, “she obviously doesn’t practice what she preaches”.

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Me, 2011

How did I go from a Division I athlete to a sedentary lifestyle? Life. A year after college graduation, I met my husband along with his two children (who lived with us) and soon after, we added a third child. My husband traveled a lot with work. My priorities shifted. I would say I didn’t have the time to exercise. With two active children and a toddler, we were always on the go and didn’t always eat the best food. The weight packed on.

During perhaps the busiest time of my life – being a wife, a mother, working full-time starting up a local business and running my own business – I am unsure of the catalyst – but I decided it was time to make a change.

I had started to eat healthier (or so I thought). I just happened to attend a business luncheon and saw Jacqueline Shoemaker, owner of Winchester Weight Loss. I shared with her that I was starting to eat healthier, but wasn’t really losing. She said three little words – drop. the. carbs. My exact words back to her were, “I can do anything but that! I love carbs!”. However, I decided I had nothing to lose (but pounds!) and I would at least try.

Concurrently, I attempted running again. It was painful and disappointing. I could barely make a half mile, let alone a mile. I would struggle, but kept putting one foot in front of another, alternating walking and running. Each day, I promised myself at least 30 minutes of time to exercise.

Here I am, nearly 1 year later. I am 60 lbs. lighter. I just finished my first half marathon. I am teaching fitness classes and leading a kids running club. I am not ashamed to talk about my past.

I tell you this not because I want to boast. I want you to hear about someone that may be just like you. I want you to know you can do this. Make yourself a priority. Invest in your health.

Know the journey may be frustrating. The numbers on the scale will go up and down; you may not be able to run a mile or finish an exercise class. Stick with it.

After the half marathon, I told my husband this race was most likely the one I was most proud of finishing. When I was young, it was easy to run; easy to find the time and I didn’t have “adult” stress. Sunday, I didn’t win the race or even my age group. BUT – this medal represented a year long journey of finding me again.”

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After my 1st Half Marathon – 4/2016

Over the last year, I have lost an additional 10 lbs and am hoping to maintain my current weight. Once again, I can say I am a competitive runner (and am LOVING it!). Training with friends, racing and setting new personal records has reignited my passion for running. Helping friends and family reach their goals has made my heart feel full. I am happy.

I feel like ME. 

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Left: Before 2011/2012 Right: 2017

Every now and then, it’s nice to look back and see how far you’ve come.

If you haven’t read my journey, visit my earlier posts Runaissance, Making A Change, and Into a Holding Pattern to get more insight on how I made a lifestyle change.

Do you want to make a change? Have a question on how to get started? If so, always feel free to message me!

Until next time,

Becky

 

The Science Behind HIIT

What’s the biggest bang for your buck?

Today’s blog is a guest blog by Zara Ryan of HIIT Like a Girl:

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What happens to your body when you do a HIIT workout?

Have you ever read the Heart Rate chart on a cardio machine at a gym? Or chosen a cardio machine program that says “fat burning?” It sounds like just what we’re all looking for, right? I mean, we all want to lose a little fat. So why choose a tough HIIT workout, when you can do a lower intensity cardio routine that specifically burns fat?

The real truth lies in the details. Here’s what’s really happening in your body during and even more importantly, after, 3 different types of 30 minute workouts for a 35 year old woman of average weight.

Workout #1- “Fat Burning” Zone

This represents a typical low to moderate intensity, steady state cardio workout, like walking on the treadmill at 3.5 mph for 30 minutes:

Total calories burned during workout= 126

% of calories from fat = 84%

Total calories burned 24 hours after workout = 0

 

Workout #2- “Cardio Training” Zone

Moderate intensity, steady state cardio workout, like running at 5 mph for 30 minutes.

Total calories burned during workout= 228

% calories  from fat= 66%

Total calories burned 24 hours after workout= 0

 

Workout #3- High Intensity Intervals (HIIT)

Varying intensity workout, in this example running at 5 mph for 40 sec. (low) and 9 mph for 20 sec. for a total of 30 min.

Total calories burned during workout= 298

% calories from fat= 35 %

Total calories burned 24 hours after workout= 200

Total calories burned = 498

 

So what’s the reason for the additional calorie burn after you’ve finished the HIIT workout?  It’s called EPOC, which stands for Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption.  In simple terms, it’s the additional energy your body uses to return to equilibrium or homeostasis.  This process includes replacing muscle glycogen (stored energy within the muscles), repairing muscle fibers, returning the body temperature to normal and restoring oxygen levels in the blood and other body systems – the higher the intensity of a workout, the great the EPOC effect.  HIIT workouts provide your body with multiple opportunities for your body to work anaerobically, increasing the body’s need to replace energy stores and increasing the EPOC required to bring the body back to it’s normal resting state.

So what’s the bottom line?

HIIT workouts are great for burning lots of calories in a short amount of time, as well as improving cardiovascular and muscular endurance and strength.  HIIT workouts are effective cross training for runners and other endurance athletes, due to the focus on anaerobic work, which increases the body’s lactate threshold and allows your body to work at a higher intensity for longer before reaching fatigue.  HIIT workouts focused on strength training are especially important for endurance athletes looking to increase their speed and their performance on hills (whether running or cycling).

It’s important to start each workout with a proper warm up to prepare your body to work at a high intensity.  To get optimal results, HIIT workouts should be performed no more than 3-4 days per week to allow for recovery time in between.  It is beneficial to perform low to moderate intensity workouts on the days in between HIIT workouts.  The bottom line is that if you’re going to spend any amount of time working out, you might as well get the biggest bang for your buck and do HIIT!

Thanks Zara!

For more information on local HIIT classes, be sure to check out www.hiitlag.com. I teach 3 days per week – Mondays at 11, Wednesday & Friday at 6 a.m.

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