I’ve been sitting here staring at these pictures for a few minutes now, thinking about how I really don’t feel qualified to be writing a fitness post – but let me give you a little backstory on why: because of my illness I haven’t truly worked out (aside from a little yoga here and there) in years. In high school I loved to exercise and stay fit, and would even ask my mom for yoga mats and gym socks for my birthday, but when my health went downhill, I lost all motivation to even try. It was discouraging to not have enough energy to complete a rep or to feel sick to my stomach after a few push-ups. However, I’m at a point right now where I’m trying my best to stay at least somewhat active despite my challenges. I recently got my first gym membership in years, and while I’ve only been going for a few weeks now, I’ve already seen an immense difference.
Working out doesn’t need to mean going super hard on the machines or watching your body become twice its size with added muscle. For me, working out means keeping it simple and doing a little bit, multiple times throughout the week. I had the opportunity to meet with one of the personal trainers at my fitness club, who introduced me to the wonderful world of using my own body as a machine, rather than isolating specific muscle groups with the machines provided. Some days, when I’m feeling a little more energized than others, I pull out the list of exercises we performed at our training session. I will tell you, my body hurts like it’s been put through a washing machine afterwards, but it’s so worth it for the release of tension and the wave of relief from all my stress.
I want to share my typical gym routine (including some of the moves performed during my training session – because you can do almost all of these at home).
- Glute Bridge with Hamstring Curl: lay on your back face up, squeezing the glute muscles to tilt the pelvis first then continue to extend the hips upward until you have a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. From here, place your heel on a slider (or a piece of cardboard if you’re doing this at home) with the toes up, and dig your heel into the ground while extending your knee/leg out until it’s straight. Then feel the burn in your hamstrings while you bring the heel back towards the butt.
- Deep Squat: keep your feet parallel, about shoulder width apart. Try not to let the knees collapse inward as you perform the lowering and standing phases of the squat. Keep the core engaged the entire time. You can also hold a weight in your hands while you lower yourself to increase the difficulty.
- Lunges: keep your feet in line with each knee and each hip, maintaining a normal base, instead of having both feet on the same line like trying to walk a tight rope. Front knee should not push past the toes and make sure it doesn’t collapse inward. Rather than leaning forward, go directly up and down with these lunges, staying on one side for the entirety of your rep before moving to the other leg. Make sure your core is still engaged.
- Back Extension: lay face down on the ground, while squeezing your glute muscles together. Bring your arms to your sides, bent with your hands next to your face and palms facing downwards (so you look like you’re about to do a push-up). While keeping your toes on the ground, raise your chest off the ground and bring your head up slowly. Pause for a moment and bring your head/chest back down.
- Push-Ups: (not entirely sure I need to walk through this one, but if you don’t know how to do a push-up, just watch this)
Before doing any of these exercises or moving to the machines, I always make sure to get some cardio in, whether it’s on an elliptical, the bikes, or just walking on a treadmill. Obviously, I mix up my routine as needed, so I’m not working the exact same muscle groups every time, but I do try to incorporate these five moves at least three times a week – even if it’s at home rather than the gym.
Along with the gym, I try my best to stay fit by watching what I eat and making sure to drink plenty. I’m also a huge advocate of “me days” where I just rest and recalibrate mentally and not just physically. This is hugely important. I also play close attention to how often I work out and for how long. Not only is this due to my health issues and the importance of not straining myself, but with a past that included a severe eating disorder, I want to make sure I never get to a point where I’m working out too hard or too often and actually hurting my body rather than loving it. In the end, I do this not *only* to look good, but mostly to feel great and get my body to a healthier place.
I’m still a long way from where I want to be in terms of my health and the active body I strive to have, but I’m taking it one day at a time, being kind to myself, and appreciating all that this vessel is capable of accomplishing! What is your favorite way to stay fit?
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