#GetFitChallenge: Reflections

Three months ago, I signed up for a challenge. Specifically an in-person fitness challenge.

My track record of challenges is dismal. I’ve signed up for NUMEROUS challenges online… have I ever completed them? No. Hell, I don’t even think I read the daily emails.

In addition to my challenge record… my fitness level is a joke. I love sports but despise exercising… even though I feel good afterward, I dread dragging myself to the gym – which, I only started about three years ago.

So I’m not 100% sure why I did sign up for the Core-Barre GetFitChallenge, but I did. The challenge provided a diet plan (which I did not follow, mostly for my own reasons – written about here) and at least four classes – either Barre or Pilates –  a week.

A bit of history 

Growing up, I was a tomboy – give me sports, things to take apart and experiment with, Lego to build, trees to climb and bodies of water to swim in. Ballet, modern dance, traditional Indian dancing were NOT for me (and trust me, my mom tried). My little sister is a dancer (modern, traditional Indian dance) and was into all the reality-TV dance shows since their inception. She purchased the Zumba set too – I sat laughing at the videos…

Fast forward 20-something years: A bout of insomnia late last year lead me to stream season 23 of Dancing With the Stars. The show introduced me to dance as a form of exercise (it also introduced me to how gorgeous those professional male (straight!) dancers are!). I was hooked and kept watching, as well as having in depth post-mortems with my “work-mom” (who is obsessed with dance and a latin dancer herself).

Doing something remotely close to “dance” for me is huge. Yet, something clicked in me: I desperately wanted to dance (Argentine Tango is still on the bucket list), be graceful and “elongated”. Knowing I have two left feet, ungracefulness, funky body shape and serious balance issues; I have to take baby steps.

I noticed Instagram posts for Core-Barre and decided I wanted to try at least three Barre classes (which I wrote about here, prior to even thinking about the challenge), improve my balance/ flexibility and definitely be bikini-body ready for summer.

So, I signed up.

The Challenge

At the introductory evening a few days prior to the challenge I was TERRIFIED. Everyone looked amazing already… what did I get myself into to? After measurements, weighing in and “before” photos *cringe* I felt, well crap, but motivated… I was doing something for me. I did not even care about the winning… all I wanted was to prove to myself that I can do something “good” for myself.

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2017 has been THE cherry on top of a craptastic (yes, I love making up my own words) 4 year long “bad patch”. By actually committing to the challenge for myself and knowing it was time to take care of “me”. Taking care of myself has never been high on my priority list – I am the picture perfect people-pleaser and give way too much off myself (to my own detriment). I’ve never had much self-worth and the past four years led me down a spiral of unhealthy coping mechanisms… Things get tough? It’s fine, I’ll fix it all for you and numb myself to deal with my own emotions around the matter.

So it was scary to decide to do this for me. I’m in my thirties and I do not want to live a live of “what if’s” but rather a life of “oh well”. I do not want to die with regrets – I already have so many and the list does not need to be longer! To hold myself “accountable” (and none of my friends were around to do the challenge with me) I started documenting my weekly progress.

Barre and Pilates 

Overall I managed at least four classes a week (sometimes I’d do six). Both barre and pilates were new to me. Yes, classes are intense but SO MUCH FUN! My favourite part of the classes… the stretching at the end (and I managed to get VERY close to the splits!).

For some reason I was the only one sweating in barre class – flip, the concentration and muscle groups you work are damn hard. In addition to my sweating, I am ungraceful, my body can be hyper-mobile so I look weird and very uncoordinated… however this all lead to lots of laughs and deliriously happy moments. I have never in my 30-odd years remember being happy while laughing at myself and my “weirdness”. It was a new feeling and I kinda liked it.

Diet 

Yeah, did not follow the diet. But I did cut out sweets, milk chocolate, take-aways and my latest addiction “Hazelnut Latte Hug-In-A_Mug”. I also stopped my tendency to pop a pill to make myself feel better – no more sleeping pills, antidepressants, painkillers. I went cold turkey… The insomnia was a bitch but I had to go through it.

However, my addiction to peanut butter grew stronger (there is nothing better than eating it straight out the bottle (the Black Cat Sugar and Salt free crunchy one)).

Emotions 

Felt all the feelings. For. Real.

I went through every possible emotion throughout the challenge. From crippling insecurity, feeling sorry for myself, not sure how to deal with stress to actually having happy moments.

It did not help that I experienced some of the roughest weeks of my life during the challenge: intense work schedules, lots of travel, (multiple) cancer diagnoses in my immediate family, being with my family through surgery/ appointments/ treatment, tough medical decisions to be made for myself, doing a prayer for my gran who passed away six months ago, my self-imposed drug free period, friends who needed me and my support during their own struggles, finally letting go of a no-good relationship.

My double and triple sessions during the challenge was my escape. The one place I could go to where for an hour, or two.. or three I could have fun and just be me… like a relaxed kid again. Every single time I left class I was happy (so much so that a friend thought I was drunk while voice-noting her on the way back home from class)! And the sessions did help exhaust my body so sleeping became easier.

The finale

Very unexpectedly I did win the challenge. I couldn’t believe the change in my body. Without taking photos I would not have seen the change… I stayed the same weight for the longest time. While I did not lose much weight, I lost centimeters and the shape of my body changed… I actually have muscles now!!! (Like my legs are toned… not skinny Indian legs!).

Here are my pics:

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Lost: 2.9kg; 8.4cm waist; 4cm hips

Most of all….

Core-Barre introduced me to an incredible group women who I am proud to call friends, allowed me to tone my body, made me prioritize myself and my health, stop the numbing mechanisms and after classes I am genuinely happy (endorphins for the win!). The challenge allowed me to be more me and allow me to experience moments of self-worth. The INCREDIBLE and INSPIRING women I met during the classes have given me strength and support. In comparison to my teens and 20s, I am and feel so much stronger (physically and emotionally), pill-free, less sad/ anxious, more authentically me, a touch more confident and HAPPIER in my 30s! 

Thank you, Robs and team!!!

Looking forward

There is another challenge at the studio “Abs Sculpt”. And yes, I’m doing it!!!

k x

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#GetFitChallenge – Recap of Week 8: I MADE IT!

Eight weeks of committing to a challenge… for myself.

Eight weeks of making sure I showed up… for myself.

Eight weeks of creating a healthy lifestyle… for myself.

Eight weeks of being disciplined… for myself.

Eight weeks of just doing it even when I didn’t want to… for myself.

Eight weeks of being motivated to be better… for myself.

Eight weeks of achieving things I thought I was incapable of… for myself. 

Eight weeks of prioritising… myself, my health, my life.

Stats

I did measure myself and I’m hovering around my Week 4 weight! Even with all my travelling etc. And I am down two more centimetres in my waist… but up one on my hips (though I did measure over my gym pants… wishful thinking? Perhaps!).

The official weigh-in (and photos, I guess) is on the 6th of September so I will keep you posted then!

Training

The last Saturday of week 8 was a struggle. It was the first time in my eight weeks where my body could not handle a double class. And I’m pretty used to doing triples, by this stage. Half way through the first class I knew I could not cope with a second barre class.

I think my current bout of insomnia, incredibly high stress levels (personal and work) and hormones cumulatively played a role in my body slowly shutting down.

Overall I only completed four hours of barre, one hour of pilates and one hour of training with P this week. No hot yoga…

I did however attend a stretch workshop on Saturday by one of our barre instructors Taz! It was awesome – my body has seriously never stretched in some of those ways before and I am pretty close to the splits… something that has been on my “try to do” lists for 2017! WIN!

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Almost there!!! 

Diet 

Diet… Sigh, the diet. LOL 😀

The diet has been the part of the challenge where I have failed. I did not follow the recommended plan but rather tried to modify my diet into a lifestyle change. While I could have been more strict with my diet, I did manage to stay away from junk food and confectionary (except dark chocolate)!

Emotions and Achievements 

Eight weeks ago I started the challenge with a bit of reservation – I had not signed up and completed a challenge before and I was nervous. To be honest, I’m not 100% sure WHY I signed up – but I knew I had to (weird, I know).

Barre is something I have been wanting to try for a while – and what better way than to dive into a challenge. Growing up I was the typical tomboy – dance lessons were not something I was interested in; give me sports and climbing trees instead! Since being introduced and slightly addicted to “Dancing With The Stars” last year (Season 23 was my introduction), it is as if my body craved moving that way, improving my posture, pushing my uncoordinated and ungraceful self to be better. I also knew I needed to be more comfortable in my skin and start figuring out who I am.

Fast forward to today –

I’m truly not the same person who went into the challenge. Mid-way, I dealt with serious family health issues, my own emotions and work schedules. It sucked. Yet, the challenge kept me focussed and the classes took my mind off the rest of my life. For at least one hour (or two or three) I could just focus on moving my body and having a good laugh… it is definitely what got me through “life” during the stuff being thrown my way,

I hope to write a longer post about what I gained from the challenge a little later but here is a summary of what I achieved…

  • Meeting INCREDIBLE people!
  • At least two barre sessions a week
  • At least one pilates session a week
  • No sweets!
  • No take-aways
  • No ready-made meals
  • No “hug-in-a-mug”
  • Four kilo’s down!
  • Centimetres of my waist and hips!
  • I’m NEARLY close to the splits!!!

Things I am still working on

  • Learning to love myself… just the way I am and not be too self critical.

Will I keep on with barre? Will I do more Core-Barre challenges?

HELL YES!!!

 

And on that note, let me get ready for class!

All my love,

k x

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#GetFitChallenge – Walking into a Barre

Saturday, July 1st 2017: My first ever Barre class, for the 8 week #GetFitChallenge. I’ve written about Core-Barre and their 8 week GetFitChallenge with Freddy SA here. I signed up, and was ready to get that booty fatter and the tummy flatter.

Barre… stability, strength, flexibility, balance and a dash of ballet

I was apprehensive (to say the least). I have NEVER taken a group ballet/dance class, ever. Even as a little girl, I never wanted to be a ballerina or princess. All I wanted was time to play with my Lego or go exploring and experiment. Yes, my mom tried to take me to dance classes when I was about 5, but I refused – I just sat there…not even interested in the dancing…. and we never went back.

Don’t get me wrong: I love to dance – but the kind where I’m in my home, singing along and dancing around… or in the car singing and dancing while driving (yes, I’m THAT person). I find it more freeing to move…by myself and it shows how self-conscious I am. One of my biggest fears is failure and looking like an idiot. But, I need to get over it.

As I’ve grown up and intentionally trying to be more “me”, I am more open to trying different things. In fact, I crave trying new stuff. I’m pretty sure my current Dancing with the Stars and World of Dance OBSESSION has given me new appreciation for dance. I’ve seen dance be “emotion-and-poetry-in-motion”. I’ve shed actual tears watching some of the dances on these hit shows. I never thought I would. And I want to try and express myself that way. Which is one if the reasons I wanted to try out Barre – to see if I can move that way, before I plunge headfirst into something I am USELESS at.

In my previous #GetFitChallenge post, one of the personal goals is to be more comfortable in myself. And love myself. Be confident. So, I went along to my 1st class.

1st Class Ever

7:30 on a Saturday morning is pretty early. However, I had to go into work post-class so I booked into the first class of the day. Due to the limited number of spaces per class, we all need to schedule our classes beforehand. Core-Barre uses an awesome online system of booking, a locally designed program called BookaMat. My only “critique” is that it would really cool to have an app for my phone so if I find some time free on a day, I can log on and see if there are any spots available for a class.

Tyla, a professional dancer, gave us our first class. Koketso – a fellow 8 week #GetFitChallenge victim –  and myself had never done any kind of barre workout before.

Pre-class
Koketso, Tyla and myself before our first class!

We started with a bit of cardio, weights, then to the Barre and concluding with some mat work and stretching. I have very little balance and stability, but I never realised it was THAT bad. No, I did not fall flat on my face (yet) but I did come close! It actually take so much concentration (which I could manage, even with my ADD).

I also need to relax my shoulders…. I keep the majority of stress in my neck and shoulders, with my shoulders most often crunched up to my ears unconsciously. Doing Barre and ballet movements I really needed to concentrate. The movements are very strange to my body… doing a plie, with one arm extended GRACEFULLY with a slight curve is HARD for me. So damn hard. If you know me… I am not the most graceful person in the world!

To be honest, most of the class is still blur. It went by SO quickly! I wanted more (even though my legs thought otherwise). We did a lot of different things in sets of two or three.   Most surprising for me, is that I worked up a sweat. It takes a lot to get me to have that lady-like glow while working out (just ask P) – except in hot yoga when I’m dripping in sweat (not a pretty sight). As with any exercise, I felt great and survived!

On the plus side, for surviving we were graciously rewarded with smoothies when we left! 😛

Post-class
Koketso and I “glowing” with our smoothies after surviving our first class!

After-effects

My body is, um, weird! In a cool way (and I never thought I would say that).

My arms are pretty long and weirdly shaped…I can hyper-extend – which I knew beforehand, but it was never really an issue with traditional training and hot yoga… I need to practice concentration, keeping my shoulders down and being graceful (cue the laughter from from nearest and dearest).

I certainly FELT the effects of the Barre workout on Sunday! Strange muscles in me were “tender”, which is pretty cool. My default setting causes me not to get “stiff/sore” when working out. During training I 100% feel “the burn” in my legs/arms/butt/shoulders yet I’m fine the next day… I may be a but fatigued but I don’t get the “stiff” feeling… even when I skip my protein shake. Regardless, post any workout/training/class I do drink a protein shake with a little L-glutamine (to aid in muscle recovery).

On Sunday morning I managed to make my 90 minute Hot yoga class which did help alleviate the muscle tenderness feeling… I think the heat helped. On Monday I also did a light 30 minute stint on the elliptical. So I’m working my body, and improving my mood 😀

I have not worked out in two days and I’m FEELING it. I need to move. I’m irritable, sad, grumpy…. definitely need to zen out a bit by expending my energy in gym and class. I’m schedule for the 17:30 class at Core-Barre today…. It should be interesting as I am seeing P for 30 minutes an hour and a half before the class. I’m also scheduled for a DOUBLE on Saturday… Barre with Tyla then Pilates!

Let’s see if I survive….

k x

Survival Of The Fittest

I’m a geneticist. A human geneticist. I love biology and pathways and everything that makes sense. I love that there is so much more to learn about the way genes are expressed,  modified and how they fit into the grand scheme of things. Genetics is an abstract term and a subject where I have noticed – people “get” or “don’t get”. I’m lucky I get it. I love that I can take a few known facts and come up with a hypothesis that seems logical (well, in my mind). It keeps my brain stimulated – constantly questioning and learning which is a personal value. I need to always be learning.

Genetic variation has allowed species to adapt to environments; allowing evolution of species by natural selection – survival of the fittest, so to speak. As Homo sapiens we have seemed to have “lost” the basic natural selection thanks to medical technology. But, we are still evolving – perhaps not in great physical strides, but in other ways. I’m going to go a little far out but bear with me…

Why am I going on about genetics, genetic variation and adaption? Well, its not as obvious as you may think. Our brains are amazing – the plasticity of the mind astounds me. We can change the way we think, (Disclaimer: I am NOT a neurobiologist). I’ve learnt that as humans we go through a metamorphosis – in the traditional sense, as well as on the emotional/intellectual level. Hear me out, and you’ll understand why.

I’ve been in a weird place for the past few years. And I’ve been beginning to question everything I know about the world – who am I? What am I here for? You can call it an existential crisis – which started since I was about 25. I’ve been trying new things, reading more laterally and opening my mind to understanding myself better.

For me, 2016 started with me attending regular therapy session with a psychologist. I went at least once a week and we embarked on Cognitive behavioural therapy. This way of thinking is weird for me (I’m a pessimist) YET there was nothing my logical brain could dispute. Example: If I say I just can’t take something anymore – well, I am “just taking it” because it hasn’t killed me yet. True? Yup, true. We – I – put connotations on things, and they are usually negative so I’ve in essence trained my brain to focus on the negative and it keeps me from trying new things, keeps me away from rejection.

After about 10 months of therapy, I felt I needed something a little different. Which is when I met Eliza at a hot yoga class. Apart from being a kick-ass hot yoga instructor Eliza runs an awesome company, Yoga Plus. One of the services she offers are facilitation classes – almost like life coaching.

Eliza does private facilitation sessions using the Demartini method. Now, I’m definitely not an authority figure on the subject and these are completely my views so there is a very good chance I’m horribly wrong. In a nutshell the Demartini method involves the facilitator asking lots of questions – focusing on a certain “block” you are currently experiencing – and you digging deep into yourself trying to answer. The questions may seem simple enough but when you try answering you really need to concentrate and remember… A lot of the process requires you to identify people in your life who have seen you/ witnessed you encompassing certain qualities/traits (and you need to talk about these situations) that you don’t like which is causing you stress.

Ultimately, the process shows you both sides of the coin – so to speak. It reframes the block (connotation: bad thing, bad relationship) so you can see the good and bad… Good as in how the block is “helping” you at this current moment and bad as in how the block is keeping you away from your ultimate goal. The bad is easy to figure out… The good – well, it makes you think a bit.

For example, I am struggling to complete a project, which I need to complete ASAP… It seems as if at every damn stage of the project I was hurled another obstacle – either professionally or personally which required my attention, instead of the project.  The two sides are:

  • Bad: It is keeping me from succeeding professionally, making me feel like a failure.
  • Good: I was made aware of things (e.g. starting my first job and first serious relationship (and the struggles that went along with it), researching alternate therapies for cognitive disorders, reading more about the mind/body connection) that allowed me to grow, research, learn – as a person…not just a scientist.

This did not even hit me before my session with Eliza but before my project I was a judgemental, snobby, know-it-all bitch. For real. It was either my way or no way at all. Everything in my mind was either black or white. If you had a differing opinion to me, you were an idiot. Reflecting on my journey and to the person I am now, I am a lot less judgemental and I acknowledge that there are shades of grey. Every obstacle I faced during the course of the journey allowed me to stop and grow as a person – subconsciously.

It is freaking mind blowing. The last session I had was few weeks ago and I’m still kinda freaked out (in a good way) about it. Everything was so clear… and it still is.

Eliza and the Demartini method has made me realise that all the obstacles in my path during the journey of my project was beneficial to me on an intellectual level – if not a proactive one to complete my project. Had I not experienced any adversity during my project – I would still be the same judgmental snobby bitch, probably very depressed and longing-for-more. Now, I’ve evolved and adapted intellectually to understand that there are other opinions and reasonings apart from my own and while I may still long-for-more I do know and acknowledge that every single person can teach me something…

We need to be intellectually and emotionally adaptable to live – to thrive (ok, I’m FAR from thriving) – in the world. We need to be open to all possibilities, to understand  opposing viewpoints and not get too frustrated by them.. If we do not, we will be desperately unfulfilled and unsatisfied with life – perhaps at the extreme suicidal (and I do go to the extreme).

Ultimately, my passion for genetics – with the help of Eliza (Yoga Plus) – taught me the most valuable lesson of all. Only the fittest “survive”. Talk about a light bulb moment…

Now…to kick my ass into gear and get writing!  Please check out Yoga Plus for an incredible facilitator and amazing hot yoga instructor!