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Depression Versus Dreams

Crush-Fitness-Ashley-Depression
“Often people with the strongest hearts carry the heaviest ones.” -Unknown

 

Depression can be the darkest corner of the earth. For some it can be the loneliest and most helpless place in the world. This is not a subject that I see come up in the fitness industry but it is a very real and powerful mental disease. As part of this population, I can say that it is not easy to cope with and manage life, not to mention trying to add fitness to it all.

 

How do I cope with this and manage to keep up with life? I can’t give anyone a perfect recipe and send them on their way, but I can share a few things that help me.

 

IDENTIFY WHEN DEPRESSION HITS

  • Often times we don’t realize that our activities are slowing down until they stop completely.
  • It can start with skipping the gym multiple days in a row because “you don’t feel like it”. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for taking a break! Sometimes we need that break to be fresh and come back strong! My suggestion is to fill that usual ‘gym time’ with something new, exciting, or different!

 

GET UP!

  • Sleeping has been one of my go-to vices. There were times that my dreams were so much better than my life that I wanted to live in them instead of making a change in my life. This one has and sometimes is the toughest to this day.
  • I have days when I feel like I don’t have the energy to even get dressed for the day. These are my messy bun days, the days when I don’t match because I grab whatever is in the closet. It is absolutely okay to have these days. My victory is getting up and out of bed.
  • The rest of the day is cake. I make my bed, throw pillows and all, so I am not tempted to lie back down.
  • Then I leave my house. Now, I’m sure you’re asking why I would leave my house looking like a hot mess. Getting away from my house is the best thing because it pushes me out of my comfort zone and into a new environment. I see people running errands, smiling and saying hi. It reminds me that other people are going through things too and they are out doing what needs to be done.
  • I don’t want to say fake it till you make it, but fake it till you BREAK it. You are stronger than your depression.

 

NOTHING VERSUS EVERYTHING

  • I’m not sure about you but I have gone through different kinds of ups and downs and anyone who has felt defeated by depression can tell you that if affects your appetite. It usually is the extreme of either end of the spectrum. There have been days and days that I have gone without eating. On the other hand, I have eaten myself out of house and home.
  • What do I do about this? I set alarms on my phone. I actually use an application called productivity that reminds me to do things and when I hit these slums I add eating at certain times to the list. This is a simple way to keep track of the last time you ate as well.

 

SUPPORT

  • Not only is there an entire community right here to support you and lift you up, but there is always someone in your life that would be there for you in a heartbeat.
  • No matter what you may think, ‘I don’t want to burden so-and-so’, or ‘I don’t want them to know I’m struggling’; it may be the one thing that pulls you out of that depression pit.
  • It is healthy to talk about why you feel the way you do. There are counselors, psychiatrists, psychologists and other resources that specialize in depression that help people just like you and me everyday.
  • Be strong enough to ask for help.

 

“The ones who are the most broken are often the only ones that can keep it together.” I said this in one of the darkest times of my life and that is when I realized that it is okay to fall apart sometimes because the greatest thing is that we don’t have to do it alone. I know what it is like to feel so broken. Make today count. Roll out of bed, eat some pancakes and go outside, because everyday you have the chance to pick up the pieces and make your life a dream.

5 Reasons To Get Up and GO! To Yoga

 

Yoga can be intimidating, especially for someone who is used to a gym setting (or for someone who has never even stepped foot inside a gym or yoga studio). When new yogis leave their first class with me, with the post-yoga blissful smile swept across their faces, I ask them why they haven't tried it before, and I usually get one of these 5 responses to why they haven't done yoga:

  1. I'm not good enough to go to a yoga class
  2. I'm not flexible enough 
  3. I'm not a 'real yogi' 
  4. I'll never be able to do that (insert fancy headstand here) 
  5. I'm not in good enough shape

If you have ever thought along these lines, I am here to encourage you to let go of your ego, let go of all expectations, and let go of your fear of yoga. Everyone is on a separate yoga journey, and I promise you – no one is looking at yours. Everyone is too focused on their own practice, and not worrying about how funny you look in your downward dog. It's okay to be inflexible, that is why you SHOULD go to yoga. Like anything else in life, yoga takes practice, patience, and a whole lot of heart. 

Hopefully these 5 reasons will nudge you out the door and into the wonders waiting on your yoga mat! 

Release the crazy. You have a million thoughts running around inside your brain, a million expectations, a million things on your to-do list. You can drive yourself crazy with the non-stop drive and push to always be moving towards a goal or pushing your limits to move past it. Yoga allows you to breathe life into the present moment, and this enables one to breathe out the 'crazy.' The crazy thoughts that come across your mind, the crazy feelings of not being enough, the crazy feeling that you should be doing better, doing more, doing something else. These feelings slowly begin to fade away when you are forced to simply breathe in, and breathe out.

To work on your 'insides'. Yoga throws you into your body and breath. It allows you to work on the insides – the guts, the secret & hidden places of tightness that you hold onto. I am always on the go, and am usually being pulled a multitude of directions in life, work, and family affairs. For me, Yoga allows personal time to be selfish, time to work on any inner shiftings and uses a combination of breath, sweat, and movement to sift out the dirt in order to dig into what hurts. When you allow yourself space to work on what's happening on the inside, it begins to make the outside a whole lot happier.

To whittle away your waist line. A complete yoga practice fuses breathing techniques, meditation, and asanas (poses). Yoga is a great way to burn calories, and can be an absolute calorie scorcher dependent on the intensity of the class. Not only is yoga a great exercise, but it also leads to decreased levels of stress which decrease your cortisol levels leading to weight loss. 

Brings more awareness into your life. The ripple effects of yoga extend far from the four corners of your mat. Getting into a regular yoga practice will open up your world by allowing you to tune in. By tuning in, you begin to cultivate awareness for your own breath, for what you put into your body, and a deeper awareness of how you are truly feeling at any given point of time. 

It will make you (and your hips) happy. In our digital world, we often spend hours hunched over a computer screen working away. Even if you're lucky enough to have a standing desk, or a job that doesn't have you typing over a computer for most of the day, odds are you have tight hips and a little bit of inner-tension built up throughout the day. 

Getting your daily dose of yoga, even if it's only a ten minute, mid-work break can help stimulate blood flow to the limbs, clear your mind, and let you get back (or start) your work day refreshed and ready to work. There are plenty of online resources, but this quick guide from Kino MacGregor is one of my favorites if you need a little yoga boost in the middle of the day.

Shine awareness, light, and a little bit of happiness into your daily routine by adding yoga into the mix. Just try one week of continuous yoga and see where it takes you. Get up and go – your mind, body, and soul will thank you later.

The Eye of The Storm

 

“Problems are not stop signs, they are guidelines.” –Robert H. Schuller

Fitness journeys can mean something different to everyone. For some it is an image and for others it may be health related. Whatever the reason, I can bet any of you have struggled with a mental block.

How do I break through that brick wall of a mental block? For me, I literally feel like I hit a brick wall. Recently, I experienced a different kind of mental block that was in no way related to fitness. At the same time it still affected my workouts. Why was this? How could something from a completely separate part of my life have this kind of impact on something I love so much?

It isn’t mental health versus fitness, it is mental health AND fitness. As much as we would like to consider them separate forces, they work together in perpetual motion. Each has to have the right amount of pull in order to create motivation.

Motivation is the eye of the storm. Getting there and staying there are not the same.

What does a mental block look like? Mental blocks can come in all forms or fashions. Work, school, and stress are the most common ones. It can be exciting things too! Extreme emotions create mental blocks because the pull is greaterin that area of your life.

How do I break through my brick wall? Here are a few steps to get you back on track!

  • Pinpoint your mental block. Being able to pinpoint your mental block isa huge first step! This allows you to back track to recognize the signs before your mind becomes blocked with nowhere to go. Sometimes mental blocks come straight out of nowhere. At least it may seem that way. Unless it is a huge event that has happened in your life and knowing where the block came from, being able to recognize red flags before getting to a point where you want to shut down and not do fitness isextremely important. I find that people pleasers have the hardest time seeing red flags because of their kind hearts.
  • Know your triggers. Knowing your triggers will allow you to prevent a mental block before it even starts! Triggers are anything that have the ability to create intense emotions, these are usually not the positive ones. Expectations, either of yourself or from someone else, are great examples of pressure that lead to mental blocks. Overloading, often a trait with those people pleasers mentioned above or a student trying to get ahead in school by taking too many hours can lead to overexertion and result in a mental block or breakdown.
  • HAVE A PLAN! This is the most important of them all. Even if you don’t know your triggers or cannot pinpoint for the life of you where this mental block is coming from, you still have the ability to control it. The way a person reacts to a situation will often determine a much sweeter outcome.
    • Divert your attention: Do something different, change your schedule, be spontaneous and it can shake your mental block.
    • Stay busy: Staying busy is incredibly important because it does not allow you to sit and dwell and possibly fall deeper into a harder place to recover from.
    • A backup for your backup: If not already part of the plan, try talking to a counselor or someone you love that understands you. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help.
  • Treat yourself! Everything starts with mental health and I encourage each of you to do one nice thing for yourself every day. That is also my ‘secret’ to staying motivated. You deserve it and it reminds you of your worth.
Mental blocks are not a fun thing to deal with but they are part of life. With mental health your body will follow; that can be applied to any part of your life. Treat mental blocks as building blocks and keep climbing toward your goals!

When To Take A Day Off From The Gym

 

It’s 6:45 AM. Your alarm is ringing next to you, your head is pounding, the sun is barely starting to peep through your windows.

Your mind is telling you: come on, get up. It’s gym time.

But, your body is telling you: come on, go back to bed. It’s snooze time.

And you start to wonder: what should I do?

Rest days. They’re just as important as all that time you’re spending in the gym. It’s crucial to give yourself a mental break from training, and time for your muscles to recuperate from all your hard work.

However, one of the trickiest things can be deciding when to take one. Sometimes we may wrongly convince ourselves that we’re just being lazy, or that taking time off is going to derail our progress. But, a lot of times, that’s anything but the case, and a rest day is actually exactly what we need.

So, here are my tips on deciding if you need one:

  1. You’re sick. The flu, a sore throat, a high fever. It happens. We may catch a seasonal bug or simply be run down from school or work. But, whatever it may be, it’s important that we give ourselves time to recover. Taking a few days off may feel mentally tough, but training while you’re too sick is only going to cause you more harm than good. So, when you’re throat is killing you or you’re too nauseous to walk around, leave your trainers in your gym bag, and rest up with some Netflix and chicken noodle soup.

  2. You’re tired. This is not to justify snoozing your alarm every morning you wake up and feel the need for some extra shuteye. But, it’s recognizing that sometimes that ‘tired’ feeling is more than just a desire to sleep. It was a long strenuous week at work, you had three finals in four days, you stayed up all night studying in the library…life gets hectic from time to time, and it’s important to recognize that sometimes letting your body relax needs to take precedence over a 40 minute cardio session in the gym.

  3. You’ve had a bad day. You came home after a long day where nothing seemed to go right. You had promised yourself that you would drag yourself to the gym for a training session, but all you really want to do is curl up on the couch with a good book and forget about everything for a little while. And that’s exactly what you should do. Yes, working out can be a nice mental break, but it can also feel like a burden when we’ve had a rough day. So, put your pajamas on, pour yourself some tea, and get your mind off things.

  4. Something comes up. Your friend who lives out of town surprises you with a visit. Your boyfriend or girlfriend drops by and asks you out to dinner. Your brother invites you over to watch a football game. Suddenly, it doesn’t seem like that evening training session you planned is going to happen. And that’s okay. Fitness shouldn’t be all encompassing. Life should be. It’s okay to take another day off to get froyo with a friend you haven’t seen in years, or to enjoy a meal out with your family. It’s the little moments that make lasting memories.

So, next time you are thinking about taking a rest day and feel guilty or don’t know if you should take one, think about these few things. One, two, three days off…at the end of the day, all your hard work will still be there; and the gym will always be waiting for you when you’re ready to go back!

Pursuit of Happiness

Pursuit-of-Happiness-Oatsnjen

Finding my purpose in life has never been easy. Even the thought of growing up was enough to make my face break out. As I grew older, the more people would ask me what I wanted to do with my life and the more I realized I had no idea. Reality started to set in. All of my years of playing house as a kid still wasn’t enough to prepare me for this. I suddenly knew that my dream at age 4 of playing with my dolls for a living wasn’t going to unfold as planned.

While my friends were away at college pursuing their dreams, I found myself at home wondering why it seemed as though I wasn’t handed the map that everyone had seemed to get to guide them through life.

Growing up, my school experience wasn’t ideal. Elementary school was fine. The innocence of being a child was great. Middle school was difficult. I changed schools twice thinking it would solve my problems, praying that high school would be different. Sadly, it wasn’t and I learnt that it definitely wasn’t like they had shown in High School Musical.  From bullying to general teenage self-esteem issues – I ended up making the decision to do high school online. Day in and day out I wondered why this was happening to me. As the days grew longer, there I was doing high school from my bedroom wondering why I wasn’t living out the lifestyle they had all too often showed in movies.

Eventually my high school years passed and there I was graduated and still searching for that map. It seemed as though the more I talked with my friends about their post-secondary plans, the more I realized how lost I really was. The feelings of defeat started to sink in and I began to get annoyed with anyone who had a plan or seemed to be going places. I hated happiness because it seemed so out of reach for me.

Truth was, happiness was never out of reach – My problem was I had been waiting. Waiting for happiness to magically appear, to knock on my door. All these years spent waiting for that map not realizing that maybe that map never even really existed?

5 years later, still no map in hand and yet I finally have no reason to keep searching for it. The thing about life is that it’s not supposed to be planned. After years of searching for who I was, I decided to become whoever I wanted to be. I’m no longer afraid of trying or messing up or taking risks. I’ve realized that nothing comes from within your comfort zone. Slowly I removed the security blanket of sadness that had been weighing me down for all to long by simply taking chances.

I promise you aren’t the only one wondering why you couldn’t find that damn map. We are all searching for that map, not realizing that WE are the map. We need to stop waiting and start making choices. No matter where we are in life, no matter what happens or happened to us – we all have a choice. You don’t need to be a prisoner to your past. Even in your darkest moments, you have to be willing to create space for the light. You cannot expect that light to magically appear, you have to create it.

The journey to finding my happiness has not been easy. Some mornings I would question if what I was doing was even worth it but I stuck there. I made that choice to continue. It has taken sacrifices, being alone with my thoughts, confronting new demons and most importantly making a choice to no longer be the victim anymore.

I stopped feeling sorry for myself and got comfortable with the uncomfortable. I let myself sit in the middle of all of those feelings of uncertainty about my life. I let myself know that I wasn’t failing just because I wasn’t where I wanted to be in life. Failing is when you give up and I wasn’t about to be a quitter. I stopped waiting for life to happen and made it happen. I stopped waiting for happiness, I created it.

What I want you to get from this is that you are never stuck. If you are reading this feeling hopeless, feeling like high school Jen – know that the only thing standing between you and your happiness is yourself. Realize that maybe life isn’t about finding that map but about creating your own path. Maybe life is about finding the small things that help ease the heaviness of it all. Realize that your happiness is not out of reach, you won’t break because all of those hardships in your life are actually gluing you together so you can make that choice to be happy. Because after all, happiness is a choice. So what are you going to choose?

Exercise Obstacles

Crush-Fitness-Exercise-Obstacles

A new gym, fitness routine, or overall change is always exciting. Your motivation is through the roof, you feel inspired…but before long, the couch and hitting up a fast food joint on your way home from work start to sound a lot easier. I believe that it is in our nature to get excited about something when it’s new and as the days goes on, work or school starts to consume most of your time and all of a sudden the excuses start to flood in. Anything from lack of time to simply lacking motivation are enough to make you feel like you can’t achieve your goals. I think it’s important to find time to balance between your everyday responsibilities and the time you spend on your fitness goals. Of course by doing so, there will obviously be obstacles that get in your way. I’ve listed the top 6 fitness obstacles (in my opinion) and I’ve include smart ways that you can overcome them to keep you on track with your goals.

I don’t have enough time. Finding time between work, school, chores, running errands or whatever comes your way can be tough. The key to making it work is be efficient and making it convenient to your schedule.
    • Wake up earlier. If you find yourself struggling to get to the gym after a long day, try working out in the morning, whether it be getting to the gym or even an at home workout.
    • Use your time wisely. If you usually drive to your friends or to get coffee after dinner, instead, try and find ways to get your exercise by walking or biking. Even finding ways to get active in your daily tasks such as parking further away at the grocery store or opting to take the stairs instead of the elevator can make a difference.
    • If you travel frequently and always feel like you fall off track, I’ve got you covered. Every hotel usually has a workout facilities and a swimming pool, they are there for you to use so take advantage of that.
    I don’t have the energy. This might seem like a paradox but a side effect of exercise is an increase in energy. So, while you may not have the energy to exercise you need to commit to regular physical activity to see an overall increase in your energy.
    • Start small. Start with even a 10 minute walk after dinner. Eventually start increasing the time, try a 20 minute walk and eventually you’ll be walking 30 or even 40 minutes no problem.
    • Bring your gym bag with you. Whether it be to work or school, try packing your gym bag to avoid an unwanted stop at home.
    • Schedule time. Put it in your phone. Set an alarm. Write it down. Schedule time out of your day weather it’s at lunch or in the morning and commit that time to your workout like you would any other appointment.
    • Overall health. Ask yourself a few questions. Are you getting enough sleep? Eating enough? Eating the right foods? Having a well-balanced diet and sleep regimen play a huge part in your energy levels.
    I’m scared to go to the gym. Gym anxiety is definitely a thing but avoiding the problem won’t make it go away. There are ways you can make your time in the gym easier on yourself and put your anxiety at ease.
    • Gym timing. I understand that not everyone has the luxury to be able to schedule there workout around their gyms peak hours but keeping this in mind can help your workouts be a little more comfortable. I like to work out in the morning instead of night because my gym doesn’t have as many people in it in the mornings. Knowing your gyms highest traffic hours can help you plan your workouts around those hours.
    • Everyone starts as a beginner. Every single person in the gym had to be a beginner and start at one point. You are allowed and welcomed to be there just as much as someone who has been working out for years. The gym is just as much your space as theirs, remember that.
    • Find a buddy. Working out with a friend can make you feel more comfortable and boost your confidence.
    Exercise is boring. Running on a treadmill for half an hour isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but guess what? It doesn’t have to be!!!
    • Explore your interests. Going to the gym isn’t the only way to exercise! Try roller blading. Jogging outdoors. Joining a CrossFit gym. Swimming. There are more ways to workout then just the gym.
    • Music is your friend. Make a playlist before heading to the gym or check out different music on Spotify. Music always motivates me to work harder.
    • Entertain yourself. If you have to get your cardio in and after 5 minutes on the elliptical you get bored, use your phone to watch Youtube videos or catch up on your favorite tv shows.
    I can’t stay motivated. When it comes down to it, motivation is one of the biggest keys to being successful. It’s not always easy to find, but if we dig deep enough and limit our excuses, we will eventually find it.
    • Know your excuses. You know yourself better than anyone else. Know your excuses and commit to working on them. Once you start to work on the obstacles that keep coming in your way, the drive to workout will become easier.
    • Tell people what your goals are. Having your friends and family support you can not only help you stay on track but they can also hold you accountable, too.
    • Lack of motivation? I’m not sure about you but a new workout outfit or a new pair of shoes is sure to make me want to head to the gym. Spark your motivation by treating yourself.
    • Set realistic expectations. If you go to the gym planning to squat 2x your body weight or hoping to lose 20 pounds in a week; you will end up feeling defeated. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment. There is no rush, so make realistic goals and when you start to accomplish them, your motivation is sure to rise.
    I can’t afford a gym membership. Well good news – YOU DON’T NEED ONE. The gym isn’t the only way to stay active. There are tons of ways to stay fit that won’t hurt your pocket.
    • Get outside.Think of activities that require little/no equipment; walking, jogging or jumping rope are all cheap ways to work out.
      Use the internet. Youtube is filled with hundreds of thousands of at home workout videos.
    • Use your community. A lot of cities will have community centers that offer student deals and overall cheaper prices than a regular gym. Most community centers also have free open houses, open gyms and public swimming.
    • Shop around. You don’t need to go to a high end gym to see results. There are a lot of gyms that have memberships for less than 10 dollars a month. To put that into perspective for you, that’s about the cost of two Starbucks drinks.

    At the end of the day there will always be obstacles that seem to get in our way of not only our fitness goals but general goals in life. Identifying those obstacles and knowing how to overcome them can really make all of the difference between if we succeed or fail. So the next time you find your motivation dissipating, remember this: If it’s important to you, you’ll find a way. If it’s not, you’ll find an excise. What are you going to choose?