Day 4 of the 30-Day Challenge….. It’s a Wrap!

Day 4 of the 30-Day Challenge….. It’s a Wrap!

Welcome back everyone. Have you been sweating? What have you been eating? How’s that devotional time going? Hopefully you are already starting to see some benefits of consistent exercise, eating right and having some quiet moments with God daily. We are drawing close to the end of the first week of the 30-Day Challenge and it’s been great!

Here’s a quick update for you:

  • Fitness: Today I did a very invigorating ~30 minute workout, the T-25 that focuses on cardio and stretches (thank you subsaharangirl for the recommendation). I have to say that this was a lot of fun. It was reminiscent of doing a hip-hop dance routine with old-school moves from the 90’s, all while getting your heart-rate up. Loved it! I also appreciated that there was one person in the video who did a modified version of each exercise which is great for those who cannot handle the high-impact version of the exercise. I am starting to realize that my previous attempts to really be consistent with exercise were being impeded by doing the same exercise workouts over and over. I think I was just getting plain bored! But having done a different type of workout everyday this week has left me feeling full of energy and motivated to keep going! If you’re finding yourself losing steam, perhaps try a new type of exercise or change up the scenery. It’s all about keeping things fresh!
  • Nutrition: I am definitely seeing the difference in eating the right type of food and eating every few hours throughout the day. I have much more energy! All nutrition goals for the day…..met!
  • Spiritual: I was a little bit distracted during my quiet time today partly due to some things I read on the internet that frustrated me. But I decided to just pray about it and let God help me get my attitude under control. Interestingly, I found a verse towards the end of 1 Thessalonians that was very appropriate for the situation, “Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong but always try to be kind to each other, and to everyone else“. 1 Thess 5:15. I was also reminded about the importance of “putting on faith and love as a breastplate” 1 Thess 5:8. Breastplates were designed to protect the torso. In the same way, faith and love offer protection from the negativity that can fill our minds and hearts if we lose faith in people or have resentment. It’s not easy to forgive past hurts, but it surely liberates us when we do.

Day 4 of the 30-Day Challenge… It’s a Wrap! Well done everyone for getting this far! I plan to post my next update early next week so please stay tuned. In the mean time, keep going, keep exercising, keep eating right and keep feeding your spirit and soul! Onward…..

Courtesy of Vlado from freedigitalphotos.net
Courtesy of Vlado from freedigitalphotos.net
Day 3 of the 30-Day Challenge Finished!

Day 3 of the 30-Day Challenge Finished!

Welcome to Day 3 of the 30-Day Challenge! It’s not too late to get on board for a journey into creating better habits for your mind and body. For those of you who are already on board, how is the challenge going? If you haven’t already done so, please pick a friend who can hold you accountable to the challenge. Challenges like these are always easier with a buddy to give you some support (thank you subsaharangirl for keeping me accountable)! Everyone, if you can just make it to the end of these 30 days, you are well on your way to forming great life-long habits!

Today’s update is short and simple:

  • Fitness: I made it to the pool after putting the kids to bed and swam 26 lengths in a 25 meter pool for about 30 minutes. I usually do breast-stroke but I’m hoping to branch out and do more freestyle (front-crawl) as this works different muscles and it gives me more of a cardio workout. Swimming is a great exercise that works many areas of your body and there’s just something uplifting and calming about gliding through the water. It is a great exercise for those of you who have sensitive knees that cannot handle high impact exercise. It is also relaxing if you are pregnant and don’t really want to be jumping up and down too much. If the pool area has an attached sauna, this could also be a good opportunity to get in some relaxing “you” time (not if you are pregnant though, the heat is not safe for that little bean). Swimming can also break the monotony of any other exercises you may have been doing during the course of the week. Shaking things up in the variety of exercises you do can help prevent boredom and burnout.
  • Nutrition: The past 2 days have allowed me to see what is working and what is not in MyFitnessPal and I think I have finally settled on the amount of calories I need to sustain my weight, workouts and breastfeeding. This comes to about 2800 calories daily. It seems like a lot but I do have to keep in mind that I have a fast metabolism and do not gain weight very easily. If you are using MyFitnessPal to keep track of your calorie intake, it may take a few days of tweaking the program to settle on what goals make sense for you. The calorie intake that the program initially suggests is just a ball park and you may have to adjust it depending on your circumstances (like I did). Based on my new settings in MyFitness Pal, all my nutrition goals were achieved for the day! My focus for next week will be to try some new foods as I tend to eat the same foods over and over.
  • Spiritual: During my devotional time, I decided to start reading the book of I Thessalonians since I tend to skip over it for some reason. The first two chapters were Paul talking very warmly and effusively about the church in Thessalonica and what struck me was how much camaraderie, self-sacrifice and support there was among them. Now of course most churches of that time (and today) had various issues simply because of being made up of people, but it reminded me that the concept of the ‘body of Christ’ is so important. We cannot ‘do’ our faith alone. Just as we need others to help us achieve our goals in life, we need others to help us in our faith, both when we are high on a mountain of blessings or deep in a valley of difficult circumstances.

Day 3 of the 30-Day challenge is finished! We are already half-way through the first week everyone. Great job! Keep going!

Courtesy of woravit.w at freedigitalphotos.net
Courtesy of woravit.w at freedigitalphotos.net
Day 2 of the 30-Day Challenge is Done!

Day 2 of the 30-Day Challenge is Done!

Today was another good day for the 30-Day challenge geared towards physical and spiritual wholeness. For those of you who have joined the challenge, keep up the good work and keep at it! It will be so worth it for your overall physical, mental, emotional and spiritual state of being. Here’s how today went:

  • Fitness: Today I decided to focus on my upper body since I worked out my legs and abs yesterday and I have to admit that I am feeling quite sore today! This is often the moment when you feel you should take a break from exercise for the day but I find that one thing leads to another and before you know it, 2 or 3 days go by without any exercise being done.  In addition, I almost missed my window of opportunity to exercise today as I was studying for the MCAT and didn’t notice the time go by. I was tempted to say “well, it’s getting late now, how about we pick up on the exercise tomorrow”. But I decided that was not a good enough excuse. So I decided to stick with the challenge and do upper body strength training today. I warmed up on the elliptical machine in our basement for 10 minutes. The elliptical is a great exercise machine if you have sensitive knees like mine that can’t handle a treadmill. I do find it a bit monotonous though so I multi-tasked by studying some flashcards for the MCAT at the same time. I then did some arm stretches and did the following weight exercises using 8 to 10 pound weights for 3 sets of 10 repetitions each (which lasted about 25 minutes in total): bicep curls, overhead shoulder presses, and lateral shoulder raises. I also did tricep dips using a chair and modified push-ups (knees on floor). Today, I could only manage 2 sets of 8 reps for the push-ups. I’m sure this will get better with time and consistent workouts. In between sets, I walked briskly on the spot, did knee raises or multi-tasked and folded laundry for about 60 seconds. If you are thinking of starting weight training, it has significant benefits such as improved muscle strength and reducing the risks of osteoporosis later in life. All-in-all, a good day on the exercise front!
  • Nutrition: I decided to research the impact of natural sugars in the diet (from fruits, milk etc.) and it seems that these natural sugars are not much of an issue (within reason of course). The issue is “added sugars” like white sugar. I stopped adding sugar to my tea a few years ago and although it was difficult at first, I soon got used to it and hardly miss it now. I still like to eat chocolate and cheesecake now and again which is fine so long as it does not become a daily habit! In terms of my goals for today, I went over my calorie limit by a whopping 500 calories! I’m not sure how this happened but it could be that I am more hungry with the added exercise. So, I’m going to weigh myself at some point just to make sure I’m not gaining too much although gaining some weight would be great! Sugars were a little over the limit again because of fruits and milk but I’m not too worried about that since these contain natural sugars. So I’ve decided I need to increase my calorie goals in MyFitnessPal since I seem to be needing more calories than I thought.
  • Spiritual: Enjoyed my time with God this morning and I wanted to share a song I have come to really love singing and playing on the piano. It’s called “At the Cross” by Chris Tomlin and here are some of the words that really touch me every time I sing them: “There’s a place where mercy reigns and never dies, There’s a place where streams of grace flow deep and wide, where all the love I’ve ever found, Comes like a flood, comes flowing down. At the cross, at the cross, I surrender my life, I’m in awe of You, I’m in awe of You. Where your love ran red and my sin washed white, I owe all to you, I owe all to you….Jesus”. This song constantly reminds me of God’s unfailing grace towards me. There’s nothing I could ever do that would make God love me any less. That’s unconditional love right there. I came to understand this better once I had kids of my own. Even though parenting can be difficult at times, it also brings so much joy and although the kids may drive us nuts sometimes, we can’t help loving them. It’s an in-built, unquestionable, and unshakeable love. My devotional time concluded with finishing up the book of Philippians. I came across some verses that really encouraged me, particularly as I’m preparing to sit the MCAT and apply to medical school, and there are days when the whole process can feel overwhelming. “Do not be anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:6-7.

Day 2 of the 30-Day Challenge is done!…. I’m going to try make it to the pool tomorrow for Day 3 of the challenge! For those of you who are doing the challenge with me…..keep going! You can do it!

Courtesy of arztsamui at freedigitalphotos.net
Courtesy of arztsamui at freedigitalphotos.net
Day 1 of the 30-Day Challenge Completed!

Day 1 of the 30-Day Challenge Completed!

Today was the first day of the 30-Day Challenge aimed at improving our physical and spiritual well-being and it went very well! First and foremost, thank you to all my friends and family (including my wonderful hubby) who have been enthusiastic in supporting me through this and also to those who have agreed to take on the challenge for themselves. There is strength in numbers and just knowing that someone else is working hard at this just like you can give you the motivation you need to keep going and be consistent!

Here’s how today went:

  • Fitness: I broke a serious sweat doing this cardio and abs workout for 30 minutes. This workout basically involves intervals and alternating between cardio and abs exercises. I had to do a few modifications for the sections that had high impact exercise because of my previous knee injury, however it still got my heart and breathing rate up and burned about 400 calories (I am not aiming for weight loss but I still need to keep track of calories so that I do not lose weight). I felt great afterwards! If you are just joining the challenge, you should try it!
  • Nutrition: In my preliminary use of MyFitness Pal, I calculated that I should aim for about 2200 calories of food per day to maintain my current weight (I have a hard time gaining weight). However, when I put in what I actually ate today, it came to 2600 calories! At first I thought I must have made a mistake in my calculations but now I am realizing that this is what I need if I am going to be burning 400 calories while exercising and also since I am still breastfeeding my 16 month old twice-a-day. I  decided to increase my lunch time pasta portion (since I was ravenous after the workout) and to add a snack of almonds in order to add some healthy fat. I had no idea it would end up with 400 extra calories than I originally planned but this is the reason why it’s important to track calories (at least initially) to know what’s really being ingested. I managed to steer clear of chips for the whole day. I didn’t even have the desire, probably because of the thought of being held accountable! 2600 calories seems like quite a lot, given that most nutritional labels are calculated on a 2000 calorie diet. I will monitor my weight but would not mind gaining a few pounds given that my BMI is on the lower side of normal. I also realized from monitoring my food intake in MyFitness Pal that I consume  A LOT of bread. It’s one of my favorite foods and if I had it my way, this is all I would eat in whatever shape or form. But I am realizing that variety is the spice of life and I must try to vary what I am eating a bit more. My sugar intake was over the limit today without consuming much processed food. It mostly came from fruits and milk (another favorite of mine). All other nutrients were within the ball-park of my target goals or slightly under the recommended limit so I’m happy about that!
  • Spiritual: I started off with some vibrant praise and worship at the piano followed by some prayer time. During my prayer time, I was reminded that there is nothing too small or insignificant for God. Sometimes I envision God so high on a pedestal that I wonder if I should really “bother” him with my little details. But I was reminded that he cares about us in our entirety. He is like a father who just wants to be there for us, to comfort us in everything, not just the big things. He longs to draw close to us and be intimate with us and my spirit feels rejuvenated when I feel I have made that connection with God. My devotional reading time consisted of reading from “Praise in the Presence of God” by Jack Hayford. I also love reading directly from the Bible which has so much good advice for daily living. Today I read a few chapters of Philippians and in this book, Paul’s passion for the church is so tangible. He also reminds us  to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but consider others better than yourselves” (Phil 2:3). It reminded me that even though we may have noble goals and dreams, it’s important to make time for those we cherish and to value the people we encounter along the way. Our goals are never more important than the people we love or the people we meet.

Day 1 of the 30-Day Challenge completed. On to Day 2…….

Courtesy of stockimages at freedigitalphotos.net
Courtesy of stockimages at freedigitalphotos.net
Introduction To The 30-Day Challenge

Introduction To The 30-Day Challenge

As part of the 30-day challenge that my fellow blogger has put me up to, I will be blogging about my progress here so that others can be encouraged and motivated to join us. The aim of the challenge is to improve our spiritual and physical well-being by engaging in consistent exercise and time with God over the next 30 days.  I figure that by writing about it here and having accountability partners, I will have no choice but to stick to this challenge! Here’s my current status (and therefore what needs improving!):
Physical Status:
Several years ago I decided to go on a ‘mass-gain’ diet because I was underweight for my height and I literally had to eat 2200 calories daily. Over the course of one summer, I happily managed to gain 25 pounds. I finally gained the weight I wanted to and pretty much continued with the same type of diet in order to maintain my weight. The downside to being naturally skinny is that I am not always consistent or rigorous with exercise. In addition, a knee injury a few years ago has left me unable to do any high impact exercise despite physiotherapy and visits to two orthopedic surgeons. So my exercise usually ends up being something like this:
  • 35-40 minutes 3 times a week (15 minutes elliptical at home, 15-20 minutes mix of either abs, legs, arms or yoga).
  • Some days, instead of the 35 minutes of exercise at home, I take a brisk 30-40 minute walk outside while pushing my daughter’s stroller.
  • One day a week, 30 minutes of swimming (confession: I haven’t been to the pool in the last three weeks because I wanted to use those evenings to study for the MCAT. Will have to figure this one out though since swimming is great for uncooperative knees like mine.)

So the exercise situation is not terrible, but it could be better and I don’t feel that I exert myself enough (I definitely don’t get to the dripping in sweat stage) partly because of fear of weight-loss and partly because of trying to avoid re-injuring my knee.

To begin the 30-day challenge, I downloaded MyFitnessPal (a program that allows you to track calorie intake, exercise goals etc.) as recommended by my fellow blogger and I just put in my profile. Very revealing!! First and foremost, the program suggested a daily calorie intake of 1700 calories for me based on my height and weight but I think this is too low based on my having had to eat over 2000 calories in the past just to maintain my weight. When I input what I normally eat into MyFitnessPal, my calorie intake came to about 2150 calories. Interestingly, most of my calories seem to come from carbs and protein. I generally eat a healthy diet but have to confess my sweet-tooth and my recent partiality to chips (time to nip that in the bud!). I am a bit low on fat intake although I didn’t take into account cooking oil plus any dressings. I will have to look into some healthy fat options. Based on MyFitnessPal, it doesn’t look like I need any protein supplements. I seem to get enough protein from my diet.

Although weight-loss is not my goal, I do need to tone around the belly following my two pregnancies, and I think no matter how skinny you are, fat seems to just love collecting around the thighs. Time to get rid of that! As part of the 30-day challenge, I’ll be ramping up my exercise to more vigorous 30-minute workouts daily! If you’re looking for ideas on what type of workouts to do, check out this blog. Here’s to hoping that all this exercise will allow us to maintain healthy, happy bodies!
Spiritual Status:

I only just recently became fairly consistent with setting aside time in the morning to play piano, sing praise and worship, pray and read my bible. But this only happens Monday to Thursday. Come the weekend, things get very busy with family and social activities but I know that’s no excuse. I have to make God my first priority. I definitely see the impact on my mood and attitudes when I skip out on my devotional time. So as part of this challenge, my time with God happens daily.

Well, tomorrow is Day 1 of the challenge. Let’s keep each other accountable!
Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Nourishment

Nourishment

My son helped me to fill up the bird feeder on the deck yesterday and he was very excited to witness chickadees pecking away at the bird seed in the feeder early this morning. The image of these birds busily feeding without a care in the world made me think about the importance of nourishment physically,emotionally, mentally and spiritually. All these aspects of our life are intertwined and impact each other. I like to see people at their best and I think this happens when we find a balance in these spheres of our lives (as elusive as that can sometimes be to achieve!).

Physically, I am my best self when I exercise, eat and sleep well. I was always physically active as a child but with the demands of work and parenthood, I have had inconsistent phases in my life. I am fortunate to be naturally skinny however this has meant that I have not always seen the urgency of doing exercise. In some instances, I even viewed it as some kind of selfish, self-centered practice where I am trying to improve my physical image (it’s all about me, right?). But of course that’s not really true if one has the right motives. I now see that exercise is just as essential as food and sleep in maintaining a healthy body and mind. I now view it as something that keeps me healthy and therefore allows me to be my best self for my family, friends and others around me. So exercise is now one of my top priorities and I have adopted my brother’s “earthquake policy”. Unless there’s an earthquake, I am doing some exercise today!

Emotionally, I am am my best self when I have social interactions. This really depends on temperament of course and this is just what I have noticed encourages me. I have noticed though that the type of social interaction is vitally important. When we surround ourselves with motivated, positive people, this can make a world of difference to our overall mood. It does not have to be restricted to people with similar interests as us (although we tend to gravitate towards such people). Being with other people takes the focus off of ourselves and helps us keep our own lives in perspective.

Mentally, I am my best self when I am learning something new. This could be from any topic or field but mental stimulation is important for brain health and what you learn can be useful material for conversations with others. I aim to study or read something every day. Its priority in my life is right up there with food, sleep and exercise. It keeps my brain whirring!

Spiritually, I am best self when I take time to pray every day. It allows me to stop, think, and be grateful to the Creator for this beautiful world we live in, despite the pain and brokenness we see. It reminds me to take the focus off myself and onto the one who saved me by his grace and not by anything I could possibly do on my own. It allows me to reflect on all the good things in my life despite the challenges.

Nourishment. We all crave it. We all need it. How do you get your daily nourishment?