Summer Strength Strategy

Since school ended, I have not been intentional about exercise. Being on the farm, I’m ¬†usually pretty apathetic about working out when I get back, and end up simply snacking, reading, resting, and lazing around. All of which are great things, since this is summer and I am working, and rest is very needed.

I was recently inspired by two of my favorite bloggers, both of which are named Angela! (Funny coincidence, they’re both Canadian too ūüėČ ) Angela over at Eat, Spin, Run, Repeat sets monthly goals for herself, and checks in near the end of the month to see how she’s done. She also has workout plans that she follows, something that I need to be much more intentional about. I typically just go to our Physical Activities Center and do whatever I feel like. Some days, this results in a great workout where nearly every muscle’s been used. Other days, I get there and am unsure of what to do, or what I need to rest from a previous day’s workout.

Angela from Oh She Glows¬†¬†recently posted about her yoga routine. She’s a runner, but because of an injury has been focusing more on yoga to give her body time to heal. She’s been doing a variety of yoga classes (hot yoga, yoga with weights, spin yoga) about four times a week!

In high school, I practiced yoga regularly, about 1-2x a week. I loved how flexible I was, and how strong I felt in my own body. I haven’t done yoga with any routine for about a year, but I’d like to start again.

For the summer, I’m going to outline a plan to continue improving my physical fitness: my endurance, strength, and flexibility. Last semester, I was running about 25 miles a week and I felt fantastic–strong, full of energy, and very de-stressed. When it got cold out, I cut back on running and increased my time in the weight room. I haven’t really returned to running with any regularity, and my weight routine lacks substance and measurable progress.

To improve/maintain my fitness, I’ve made a loose plan with enough structure to keep me accountable but enough flexibility ¬†for allowances.

Weekly Fitness Plan: 
Running/Cycling 15 miles
Practicing Yoga 3x a week, for at least 20 minutes each time
Lift weights 2x a week, with a record of the exercises I do to track my progress

I have two goals to be completed before school starts up again:
1) Train for and Run a Race (5K or half marathon)
2)Do a pull-up (without assistance!)

I think my fitness plan will definitely help me in completing these two goals!

Do you plan out your workouts? 

Are you planning any changes for the summer? 

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A Resolution to Vegan Doubts

Fellow travelers,

I’m sorry for the lack of posting; I was traveling due to the passing of my grandfather.

Which brings up a slightly beaten, re-occuring topic: my struggles following a vegan eating regime.¬†¬†While up north, I had plenty of time to contemplate my food choices. My dear, sweet grandmother has always loved on our family with food. The moment you finish eating one meal, she brings out another. The first morning I went to the old farmhouse, she was slicing every roll on the premises, buttering them, and placing them back in their bags. Her hands needed something to occupy her mind. The day before I’d turned in a paper entitled “Ethical Eating: Should Christians Consume Meat?”* based upon Romans 14 that made the claim Christians should abstain from [factory farmed] meat out of love. But, watching my precious Grandma, I realized that it can also be loving to eat something I wouldn’t otherwise choose, regardless of my reasons.

The extended family did not know I was a vegan until my sweet papa, trying to provide for my needs, told an uncle who was purchasing dinner to make sure there was something “Michaela could eat, because she’s vegan.” At the hotel, and at the house with my family, there wasn’t a lot I could eat, but it was ok. I’ve realized, though, that for me, being strictly vegan might not be healthy.

Physically, a vegan diet works for me. I always feel nourished, bright, clear, and energetic. But as I’ve mentioned before, health isn’t a simple equation of diet and exercise–it is comprised of many aspects, be they social, spiritual, mental, and emotional as well as the physical. The social exclusion I experienced as a vegan was not¬†healthy for me, and has led to feelings of isolation, deprivation, and discomfort when someone else was providing my food for me. I never wanted to be a burden to people, nor did I want others to feel regretful or uncomfortable because there was no vegan food present.

Here’s my plan, folks. For the most part, the food I consume. Lots of wonderful, healthy food: veggies, fruits, grains, nuts . . .everything I eat now, with very few animal products. Even though I’m going to allow flexibility in regards to some dairy or eggs, I probably still won’t eat meat.** When I can provide the food for myself, I’m going to follow what is known as a ‘vegan’ diet without worrying about labels or restricting myself to that.

*If you’d like a copy of the paper, let me know in the comments.

**Until I intern at a farm this summer, when I’m open to the possibility.

Doubting What I’ve Dubbed ‘Veganism’

This is another hard one. Being honest on here is crucial, but boy is it HARD sometimes. I’m taking encouragement from one of my favorite bloggers, Glennon, on this one. She is honest and open, and it’s wonderful and vulnerable and scary all at once. ¬†I think I’ve avoided delving in enough. Shall we?

Lately, following a vegan diet has been very, very difficult for me. Not necessarily the food, but social occasions revolving around food. Especially¬†when I don’t have control over my food, such as when I’m traveling or at other’s homes. I don’t want to be a burden to anyone, nor do I want to be defined by what I eat.

It’s interesting. Not eating animal products makes sense to me, both for the feel-good body benefits, the environmental benefits, and because I have a skin condition that seems to be exacerbated when I consume dairy. I was vegetarian for a long time before I went vegan, and choosing to eat vegan stemmed from not having as much control over the origin of my food while at college. It’s just a part of what I do, not who I am. Yet, people identify me as a vegan, as if my whole self was tied into the eating choices I make. I’ve been introduced as, “This is Michaela. She’s a vegan.” But, I am so much more than that–aren’t I?

I chose to identify myself as vegan because I figured that was easier for people to understand. Rather than be more of a conscientious omnivore/vegetarian that said “I eat some animal products when I know where they are from, but mostly I’m vegan, but even though I’m flexible I’m choosing not to eat what you’re preparing for me. . . ” seems so pretentious, unsociable, ungrateful. While I obviously would never say that to anyone, I was afraid that my choices would say that to some people. I do eat eggs when I’m at home, because we get them from a neighbor. I’ve also had a bite of fish that my uncle caught. That is the type of flexibility I desire.

Social situations are very difficult. Early on, I didn’t struggle as much with that, because I was typically eating meals in our dining hall where I had plenty of options and could share the moment with everyone. But in certain situations that food is provided, not being able to share those moments has made me feel sad, emotional, tearful, and un-included. And not because of those hosting the events–it is a self imposed exclusion, based upon what I feel is right for my body and the environment.

I suppose it is ok for that definition to change. I will be working on a farm this May with practices I can laud, and I am open to trying some of their meat. No definitive statements at this time . . . the thought of eating meat is still very weird, even though I choose to eat vegetarian for environmental reasons and this meat wouldn’t have those complications. At this point, I think I will choose vegan foods when I have control over what I am eating and when I am organizing social organizations, but be open to being flexible meals including dairy and eggs when someone else is feeding me.

Maybe this makes me a sellout to the vegan community, or means that I’m not being a good “vegan role model”¬†¬†to the meat eating community. And I think both of those things will somehow have to be ok. I think I’ll wait, though. I realize some people will be confused about the shift back, and I’m uneasy thinking that it could invalidate my eating choices now. Though basing my choices on the reactions of those around me seems superficial, it might be easier for me to stick out this school year. I don’t know.

Have you ever struggled with your food choices? 

How do you deal with social situations when you are eating differently than other people? 

Loose and Limber: Focus on Flexibility!

For my second week of Pit Stop Mondays, I’m focusing on flexibility.

 Source

Growing up, my dad would always joke that he was the most flexible member of the family…with four daughters, this was problematic. None of us were naturally limber–I distinctly remember physical fitness assessments when I was in elementary school that involved me straining (unsuccessfully) to touch my toes.

In high school, I started stretching more routinely and got interested in yoga. I’d attend classes 1-3x a week, and my flexibility drastically increased. I went from barely being able to touch my toes to being able to fold myself in half. Forget touching my toes–my head could touch my knees! I still never attained the splits (my hips struggle to open that way), but I was loose and fit.

Now, I fall somewhere in between the rigid ten year old and the elastic sixteen year old. I still enjoy stretching, but I tend to only do it after exercising. One of my goals for this semester is to be able to achieve a front split¬†, and I’m so close! (Depending on how warm my muscles are…)

Rather than only stretch when I work out, I’m going to stretch, at a minimum, twice a day: in the mornings and evenings.

Why stretch? According to the Mayo Clinic, stretching improves athletic performance and reduces the risk of injury. It increases blood flow to your muscles, and for me, it makes me feel great.

What is your favorite stretch?