Link Love for Weekend Reading

afterh-the-knot-link-love

Like most journalists, I’m a news junkie. I could literally spend the entire day just reading the news or my favorite blogs or posts recommended by people I know have good taste.

Here are some of my favorite reads from the past week:

 

WUNC Public Radio: Yoga, Bikinis, Facebook And Fat: How An NC ‘Yogi’ Is Reshaping Body Image

OK, so technically this isn’t a read, it’s more of a listen. I loved his interview with Durham yogi Jessamyn Stanley because I could totally relate to it. I’m far from having a “yoga body” and when I would take classes at NC State I spent more time looking at my body in the mirror instead of listening to it. Jessamyn is a living, breathing example of how yoga is for every body  and you don’t need to be a long, slender stick for it to change your life.

He and She Eat Clean: How Getting Into Fitness Gave Me A Negative Body Image 

He and She Eat Clean is one of those blogs that I check out sporadically when something they post on Facebook catches my eye. I wouldn’t consider myself a regular reader by any means, but I really enjoyed this post. I was sitting in on a panel discussion at a food policy conference when one of the panelists began talking about how Instagram is a really great tool to get people to eat better. She said people see the awesome meals their friends are eating and it inspires them to do it too.”Because fit is the new skinny,” she said. Her comment really struck me. Fit is the new skinny. It’s not just that you have to be skinny, it’s that you have to be athletic and strong, too. You have to do Cross Fit and mountain climb and hike five miles every weekend when you aren’t running marathons or power cycling or whatever the latest thing is. Just being skinny isn’t enough anymore. You have to be fit, too. Personally, I just want to stop killing my body with food. Read this post and then go back and listen to Jessamyn. I know both helped me feel a bit better.

Same Sex Couple Threaten Not To Give A Shit If Other Couple Divorces

Guys, I’m a straight ally. I think LGBTQ people are freaking amazing and they deserve all the same rights as us straight folk because I believe we were all created equally. When I heard about that Austrailian couple that threatened to get divorced if gay couples were allowed to marry, I just rolled my eyes and laughed at the blatant hypocrisy.  Clearly, you value the sanctity of marriage so strongly that you’re willing to divorce to show how much you value your so-called holy union. Honestly, if you think that your marriage has any influence on the marriages of other people then you’re just a raging narcissist. Please, get divorced. I assure that no one will give a shit. Read this piece of satire if you’re in need of a little chuckle.

caitlindomanico.com: United we Feed * Ending the Mommy Wars, one Photo at a Time

You don’t need to actually have a kid to witness the mommy wars. You just need a Pinterest account. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll become a judgemental bitch the minute I conceive or the minute I give birth. If my only source of baby information was from social media and mommy blogs, I’d assume every woman who had a kid is a raging, know-it-all asshole. Thankfully, I have really awesome friends who are also really awesome moms so I know that’s not the case. I grew up in an Italian household where breastfeeding was normal, celebrated, supported and encouraged. But I don’t care how you feed your infant so long as you’re not feeding them booze or soda. If it’s booze or soda then I’ll judge you. Rock on, bottle moms. You’re awesome. You love your babies and that’s all that matters. All I ask in return from everyone is that breastfeeding moms who are quietly and discretely doing their thing in public not be shamed into hiding in a bathroom, their car, or forced to put a blanket over their kid’s head because it makes YOU uncomfortable. Just. Don’t. Look.  It’s that easy.

Have a great read to share? Post it in the comments!

Have a great weekend, friends!

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#FitnessFriday: Leaving the Studio and Doing Yoga at Home

So this posting once a week thing isn’t really panning out like I had hoped. I need to take a weekend and just finish all of the half-done posts that are sitting in my drafts folder. Then I can schedule them all and pretend I wrote once a week. 

Onward…

I’ve been doing yoga on and off since 2007. I went regularly to the most amazing studio on the face of the earth for about a year until I was laid off and couldn’t really afford the cost. When I finally got another job, it was located 45 miles from home and even yoga was too much after sitting in Long Island traffic for more than an hour.

(Glowing endorsement: If you live in Suffolk, please head over to Essence of Yoga Studio. It’s absolutely everything you’d ever want in a studio. You’ll never want to do yoga any place else.)

When I moved to Raleigh I got a membership at the YMCA and began doing yoga twice a week for a little less than a year. It was great to be back at it. I only stopped when we moved to the opposite side of the county and it was no longer convenient.

Source: Facebook

Source: Facebook

I finally picked it up again last October when I got a membership at the NC State gym. A perk of being the wife of an NC State employee/student (or just a roommate, because that’s all you really need to be) is getting access to this amazing facility at a really affordable price. I used my membership to take yoga once a week and hit the gym sporadically.

Taking yoga classes at State, or any gym really, is kind of the opposite of what you’d get at a studio. Yoga, for many people, including myself, is more than just a workout. In a lot of ways, it’s a meditative and spiritual practice.

For example, when I run, I don’t really think about running. I think about everything. My mind is always working and processing. I have mentally written so many things while running, unfortunately, I rarely get them on paper.

When I do yoga, however, I don’t think about anything but my breathing and what my body is feeling at that exact moment. When my mind does begin to wander, it’s very easy to bring my concentration back to my breath. For an hour or two, my mind is mostly clear of distractions.

Learn more about yoga breathing known as Ujjayi breath. 

It’s a little hard to focus on my breathing when some meathead in the fitness center upstairs keeps dropping heavy weights on the floor. Or when the dance music for the Zumba class next door starts melding with the Christian music the yoga instructor has put on. Maybe I got in a good workout, but I leave there feeling empty.

Leaving the Gym

After taking a look at our finances, I decided we needed to trim down our expenses a bit. Some of our insurance premiums increased and we are starting to save money for the portion of maternity leave that won’t be covered by my short term disability policy (NOT pregnant. Just planning ahead).

I decided to save $25 a month by not renewing my membership at NC State and crowdsourced a few yoga at home options.

One of the recommendations was an iPad/iPhone app called Yoga Studio, which I downloaded for $3.99 and finally broke my paid-app virginity as everything I’ve ever downloaded has been free.

I’ve used it a few times now and I have to say that it was $4 well spent.

This is pretty much my life now. 

It has a variety of sessions that last 15, 30 and 60 minutes focusing on strength, flexibility and relaxation. What I really like about this app is the ability to build my own class. You can start from scratch or copy and edit an existing session.

I tried this feature this week and extended an existing session by an additional 13 minutes by adding more vinyasa flows and warrior combinations. I also nixed a few poses that are just too difficult right now (screw you and your reverse plank) and replaced them with others that are more at my current level.

You can copy and customize an existing session, which is what I did here.

You can copy and customize an existing session, which is what I did here.

I created a 15-minute session to tack on to my strength training routine and I plan on making a few super-short sessions for after running. This should help keep me focused while I stretch instead of half-stretching, half-looking-at-Facebook.

Doing yoga in my living room isn’t the same as Shirley’s studio on Long Island. It’s a bit more distracting and I don’t have the guidance of an experienced instructor. But, although the sessions are short, I do yoga more often now than when I was going to the gym. At this point, it’s the only New Year’s Resolution I’m actually exceeding. I don’t get home late and I don’t end my practice feeling nearly as empty as I once did.

My heart is starting to feel full again and that’s priceless.

Namaste 

 

Obligatory New Year’s Resolutions Post

As 2014 came to a close, I’m likely one of many people that reflected on the promised improvements they made this time last year.

For me, New Year’s resolutions have always been kind of useless. I’m not sure that I’ve ever really achieved any of the goals I set for myself. I do like considering the New Year as a blank slate, though. I think dwelling on the mistakes of your past can be destructive, but setting broad goals without any sort of infrastructure to help achieve them defeats the purpose.

What good is “lose 60 pounds” if I don’t also include the steps I’ll need to actually lose that much weight? Case in point, losing 60 pounds has been my New Year’s resolution for a good two years, but not only did I not achieve that goal each year, I put on more weight.

Finally shedding 18 pounds wasn’t due to multiple resolutions; my weight loss was due to accomplishing small goals and changes throughout the year (and yes, weight loss medication my doctor prescribed).

It was setting a goal to work out four times a week and including two vegetables with dinner (something we still struggle with). It was trying desperately to avoid eating carbs for lunch and dinner. It was signing up for three 5Ks with a goal to do them without walking. It was striving to go to yoga once a week. Those little goals had more of an impact on my success than the bold statement of “lose 60 pounds.”

So, this year I’m taking a different approach to New Year’s resolutions.

In that vein, here are some small goals to get 2015 started:

Finances

Our paltry savings were wiped out when we moved to Raleigh more than four years ago. Consistent financial insecurity has caused us to put any potential savings toward chipping away at debt (medical, credit card and student loan).

someecards.com

someecards.com

While that hasn’t changed, I decided to build up our savings again by automatically drafting $20 from each paycheck. It’s not much, but it’s a start. I’m sure I’ll be tempted to transfer those accrued savings, but in my savings account is where they should stay.

Fitness

The past year, I’ve focused mainly on cardio because I only have time to do one workout each day and the dog can’t lift weights. This year, I want to do at least two days of strength training per week.

I’m not giving up running (or “running”), though. As I’ve written about before, now that I’ve reached my distance goal, I’ll be working on speed to bring down my mile time. Like last year, I’ll sign up for a few races to keep me focused and motivated.

earthporm.com

earthporm.com

I want to continue going to yoga at least once a week, kicking it up to two when it works with my weekend schedule. At the very least, I plan on incorporating yoga into my strength training routine. Sun salutations are like yoga burpees, I assure you.

(They look easy, but do 10 rounds and tell me how your arms feel the next day)

Food

We’ve been half-assing an attempt to include more produce into our diet for a while now. Most of it goes in the compost pile unused and rotten. This year, on top of wasting less, I want to start thinking about our meals a little differently.

A recent dinner of bratwurst, steamed broccoli and sautéed radishes and chickpeas / After the Knot

A recent dinner of bratwurst, steamed broccoli and sautéed radishes and chickpeas / After the Knot

We generally focus on protein and build dinner around that.

Example: We have chicken. What can we make with chicken? Chicken cutlets. OK. What else are we having with it?

Instead, I’d like to focus on a particular vegetable and build the dinner around it, even if it’s still the side dish.

Example: We have spinach. What can we make with spinach? Sautéed spinach. OK. What else are we having with it?

I have no idea if this mental change will work, but it’s worth a shot.

Dog Training

My dog is freaking awesome, but she’s far from perfect. Her recall only works in my yard and she gets so excited when she sees people or dogs that are obviously her new best friend, she lunges and barks until her harness gets twisted and people stare at me with their judgey eyes. This is Bailey’s terrifying way of saying, “I love you and I’m so happy to see you.”

Let her off leash for a picture on the Blue Ridge Parkway? Nope. I'll never see her again. / After the Knot

Let her off leash for a picture on the Blue Ridge Parkway? Nope. I’ll never see her again. / After the Knot

We’ve already started learning a new cue, “touch,” to help bring her focus back on me. We’re also working on “focus” to keep her attention there. This year we’ll continue working on these cues, along with practicing recall in the front yard, outside the boundaries of our fence.

 

And that’s it. I’m leaving it at that.

I’d like to get more organized, learn how to sew, learn a new crochet stitch, read more books, go hiking more regularly, go kayaking, and paint the hallways in my house. And if I do all that, awesome. But if I don’t, it’ll be OK.

Here’s to 2015, a blank slate.

Marital Weight Gain

As you read, I gained 10lbs since getting hitched. It was mostly acquired in the past couple of months as my work load increased and days became longer.

I’ve been struggling with my weight since college. For the most part it has been steadily increasing, with a few random years of decrease. I’m officially at my highest weight ever.

I was heavier than I wanted to be on my wedding day and while I have learned how to make myself look skinnier in posed pictures, those candid ones didn’t help my cause, Particularly anything that showed me from the side. Ya know, like all of those photos of me saying my vows.

Out of all of those photos, I found one I like. Imagine hating every photo of yourself during the most important moment of your life. It was sad, depressing and I was ashamed of myself.

I’m ashamed because I have no one to blame but myself and my lack of discipline. I know that being overweight is bad for my health but that didn’t stop me from eating pizza with extra cheese. And it didn’t get me out of bed any earlier for a workout. It most certainly didn’t get me off my ass when opted for a nap earlier today.

So, I’m joining my blogger friend, Nicole at Big Day for 10K, in a virtual weight loss partnership and my husband for a physical weight loss partnership.

It needs to be done for a million reasons, most of which relate to keeping myself healthy and not just hating how I look. I feel like my body is starting to feel that weight in my knees and ankles. And most importantly, I’m uninsured so a healthy lifestyle is what is going to keep me out of the doctor’s office.

While I have no immediate plans to put a bun in the oven, I want to be at a healthy weight for when we decide to have a baby. The healthier you are, the easier pregnancy and labor you have. And considering I want to go all natural, I’ll need the easiest labor I can get.

I’m giving myself the next year and a half to get down to a healthy weight, which for my body type is between 115 and 125lbs. Right now, I’m looking at a 60-pound loss.

This was me almost exactly five years ago. I was hovering somewhere around 130-ish pounds, which is really close to a healthy weight for my small stature and frame. I lost 30lbs in 2006 I think mostly from stopping a medication that I had been on, commuting in and out of Manhattan and teaching swimming lessons. I’m an asshole for not maintaining this weight. 

Getting Back Into It

I have already started getting back into a workout routine. I decided a couple of months ago that part of the reason why I’m not sticking with my workouts is because I hate them with the fiery passion of a thousand suns.

I hate most cardio, especially running. I have always hated to run. I have always been bad at running. I was an active, skinny child who HATED to run long distances. I was the girl who was stuck in the “non-athlete” gym class because my mile time always sucked. Instead of playing softball, I was doing non-contact sports with chicks who didn’t like to mess up their make up, just because I couldn’t run.

But, I love to swim.

Had I actually stuck with swimming, I probably could have gone to college for it. I probably could have done pretty well. I became one of those lifeguards that loved to swim but didn’t swim competitively. I maintain that lifeguards that did looked down on us, but whatever.

With some financial help from my parents, I joined the Y and shoved my fat ass into a bathing suit to start swimming again. I started out pretty strongly, going at least twice a week but have faltered a bit recently.

Swimming isn’t the type of workout where you can run in and run out. You have to change out of your clothing, do your workout, then change out of your bathing suit, then go home. All that changing adds at least 30 minutes onto your workout. 30 minutes that I might not have.

Along with swimming, I always loved to dance. I don’t do it very well and aside from a college ballet and Afro-Caribbean dance classes, I never formally trained. But, when I was 14 I would spend the bulk of my time with friends learning Backstreet Boys dance routines. I would dance to other bubble gum pop songs in my room. It probably helped me keep such a skinny figure.

I’d like to take a cardio dance class, like Zumba because that would be way more fun than getting on a treadmill.

I also don’t really care for weight lifting. I don’t hate it, so I’ll do it, but for strength training, I’d rather roll out my yoga mat and center myself with some hatha yoga.

I love yoga and used to practice in New York, but it’s been three years since I did it regularly, which means, everything I worked up to is gone. I have been taking at least one class a week at the Y. I would like to take more, but most of the other classes are in conflict with my work schedule.

When I can’t go to yoga, I’d like to try pilates, something that I’ve never done before.

In another post, I’ll talk about how Chuck have changed our diet from meat-based to vegetable based. Oh we’re not going veggie completely, but it’s been a great switch.

I’ll try to post my progress a few times a month but I encourage you to kick me in the virtual ass via Twitter.