Staying motivated to work out: 10 things you should do

For this week’s #FitnessFriday post, I am going to answer one of the most common questions that receive. “How do you stay motivated to go to the gym everyday?” The answer I always give, is learn to love it. Obviously, this is a pretty broad answer, so I thought I would break it down into the ten things I have done over the years that have taught me to love working out. Staying motivated to work out has barely anything to do with physical ability, it really is all about creating a different mindset.

1. Make a killer playlist

This is honestly probably the most important thing for me that keeps me going to the gym everyday. You know those songs that you just can’t help but dance to? Those are the songs that belong on the playlist. Music can be so motivating whether that be what the lyrics say, or if the music is upbeat and easy to workout to. There are some songs on my playlist that have a really good beat to them, but I wouldn’t dare sing the lyrics because they are not clean AT ALL. I will make a new playlist the night before a workout, and I can’t wait to wake up the next day and test it out. Adding new songs to my playlist is equivalent to getting a new outfit and being excited to wear it the next day. Working out for me is more of a jam session than a workout, which makes working out fun for me! My playlist includes songs from all genres; ones that have a good beat to run to, stretch to, lift weights to etc. You need them all! When I’ve got a good song on, it definitely is a boost of confidence, and adds some pep to my step as I walk around the gym looking like a sweaty tomato. Lastly, the best thing about your playlist, is that it is yours, and no one else knows what is on it. You can do whatever the heck you want with it in order to keep you feeling good. Think about it, there very well could be a giant bodybuilder listening to Justin Bieber because that is what motivates them to do their best. There might be a 12 year old listening to Travis Scott when you probably assume they are the ones listening to Justin Bieber. Your playlist is your own little world.

2. Have a game plan

One of the biggest reasons people stay out of the gym is because they don’t know what the heck they’re doing, and don’t know what they want to do. The night before my workouts, I will come up with a plan for what I will be doing at the gym the next day, as well as a back up plan if I wake up and am not “feeling it.” It is important to have a plan that can be changed! Usually what this looks like for me, is choosing what form of cardio I want to do, and then pairing it with either an upper body, lower body, or full body workout, always followed by my ab circuit. Sometimes, I will even turn to Pinterest and find a circuit to do, then screenshot it so I make sure I do it the next day! With this being said, make a reasonable game plan. It can be so easy to overestimate what you want to do the next day, and this is why it is important to listen to what your body is telling you. There have been several times where I plan to do 30 minutes on the stair stepper, but when I wake up, I feel like I would rather drop a dumbbell on my face than do stairs. It is not fun to wake up super sore, and be so insistent on completing a giant workout. If anything, it is decreasing your motivation to work out. For you planners out there like me, think of this as a mini “to-do” list in your head that you can check off as you complete each task!

3. Make time for it

The number one excuse: “I don’t have time.” Maybe you legitimately don’t have the time for it… during the day. But what about mornings or nights? Yeah, you may not prefer it, but that time is fair game! There have been many times where my day is packed, leaving the only time for a workout to be at 6 AM. Most people look at me like I am crazy when I tell them I sacrifice sleep for a workout, but the motivation that makes me do it, is that I know I am getting one step closer to my goals. Think about it, what is the reason we go to the gym? To reach some sort of goal whether that be changing the way you look, trying to pick up a hottie with a body, or just to maintain your health. If there were no end goal, I wouldn’t be writing this post right now about how to keep going to the gym! The first step in going to the gym, is sitting down and looking at when you can. Add it to your schedule, and by this I don’t mean just make a mental note. WRITE IT DOWN in your planner or in your phone. Psychology says that when we write something down, we are more likely to follow through. Making time for the gym essentially means make time for your goals. Let your goals motivate you enough to drag you out of bed, or pick you up off the couch after work everyday.

4. Lay out your snazzy workout gear the night before

This may not seem like it would do much, but it is actually so important. First, get some cool new workout gear that you are excited to wear. Look good, feel good! I love to show off my new tank top, fun sports bra, bright colored shoes, and lulu gear at the gym. I definitely would not have as much motivation and confidence walking around the gym if I were wearing old gym shorts and a boring white tank top. One of my favorite things to get when I shop is new workout gear, just because I know I will use it a ton! Second, set them out the night before. It is a reminder once you wake up that you are planning to go to the gym. One time I had my clothes laid out, but didn’t work out that day because I didn’t feel like it. Having to pick up those clothes and put them away actually made me feel guilty, and since that moment, I have not missed a workout. It was like letting myself down as I put my shoes back in the closet. Another reason I set them out the night before is because having to choose what to wear right away in the morning is usually one of the last things I want to do. Get up and go!

5. Do what you like

Have you noticed that when you are doing something you like, you are usually better at it and more invested in it? This goes for working out. Now, some of you may be saying you don’t like working out in general, but that is probably because you haven’t found a part of working out that you like! Would you take a math class if you hated math, and there was a whole list of classes you actually liked right in front of you? Probably not. Would you order walleye if you hated seafood when there was all your favorites on the menu? I’m going to guess no. This is the same for working out. If you hate to run, don’t run! If you hate the chest press machine, don’t lay a finger on it! The gym literally has hundreds of other things you could do. Working out is supposed to be fun, so find what things you do like! For me, I love to do HIIT classes, run to my rockin’ playlist, but also, my old gymnastics circuits that make everyone stare at me because it looks like my shoulders are out of socket (that’s part of the fun). You don’t have to choose just one thing, or feel obligated to use every machine in the gym. If you like to run, run. If you like to elliptical and watch tv, do that. If you like to do 300 flights of stairs, all power to you (seriously, you’re going to need some). If you like to walk on treadmill and scroll through your Instagram like I do for my cool down, no one is stopping you! Do what is going to keep you coming back wanting more.

6. Bring a buddy

The nice thing about the gym, is that it is not just for working out. At Lifetime, there are the “regulars” meaning, the people that are there at the same time everyday as me. Because of this, I have made new friends that I work out with. The gym is actually how I met my Little in my sorority! We were always the only ones there at 6 AM running on treadmill, so it made it inevitable that we became buddies (only took me a solid year to slide into her DMs and say hi). Even having a friend there at the same time as me to bike next to or make weird faces at (usually Wyatt), even if we don’t talk at all, makes a workout more motivating. There is no rule about having to be 100% in the zone, by yourself, going hardcore, the whole time. It is amazing how much faster the time goes when I am talking to someone while doing stairs. Every day, I always join my mom on the elliptical just because it is a good way to catch up with her, but also because it is nice to have company while “ellipticalling” as I call it. The other reason why it is nice to workout with someone, is because it creates more accountability. It is a lot harder to tell your workout buddy that you aren’t going today because you are too tired, but by yourself, you can do that and get away with it a lot easier. It is also a lot harder to stop what you are doing and go home, if your buddy is still motivated to keep going. Invite someone that makes you excited to go! It is so nice to piggy back off each other’s motivation, or even complain together about how much your legs burn. On those days where you feel like everything hurts and you’re dying, at least you have someone to be in pain with 🙂

7. Go at your ideal time of the day

Working out has the same effects at any time of the day. There are some rumors out there that working out in the morning is more effective: that just ain’t true. Just like eating a cookie at a different time of day doesn’t change how carbs affect your body (yes some people believe it is different), it goes the same for your workouts. But what CAN change how effective your workout is, is if you aren’t going at the time that feels the best for you. There are two kinds of people: those who love an empty gym, and those who love a full gym. I definitely get a better workout when there are tons of people in the gym just because it is more social facilitation, but also because I am more engaged due to people watching. On the other hand, people like an empty gym because more equipment is available, or maybe because it is less intimidating. There is also the factor of morning and night! I am a morning person, so I have more energy to kill a workout in the morning than I do when I’m basically a sloth at night. It really depends on the person, but go when you have the most energy!

8. Reward system

I used this earlier on at the beginning of my fitness journey because I wasn’t a “regular” quite yet. There is nothing wrong with a little operant conditioning, meaning receiving something for doing a certain behavior (for those who have been following me from the beginning, you’ll remember this from my “10 Things that Prove I’m a Psych Nerd” post). I advise you not to make your reward food related, as that creates bad habits. For me, I rewarded myself with new workout clothes, putting a sticker on my calendar for the days I went to the gym, a relaxing bubble bath, one more Netflix episode…really anything that motivates you! Just like a stray cat will keep coming back if you feed it, you will keep going back to the gym if you feed that behavior in a positive way! Ultimately, your biggest reward will be seeing results and feeling a lot more confident.

9. Remember the runner’s high

Nowadays, the times where I don’t feel like working out, I think back to how I feel after I get done with a workout. There has not been one time I have regretted a workout (even when I dropped a weight on my foot, or tipped over during an overhead squat), but every time I do skip a workout, I regret it because I absolutely hate feeling lazy, and like I’ve left something unfinished. That feeling of regret, is what keeps me motivated on those days where my bed is calling my name after class. Runner’s high is a real thing because physical activity releases feel good endorphins, so I guarantee you, that you will feel great after a workout since it is the body’s natural reaction. Harness that feeling sometime, remember what it feels like, and pull it out of your back pocket when you are lacking the motivation.

10. Stick with it

They say it takes 21 days to make a habit. While I don’t know if that’s true (I’ve also heard 66), I guarantee you that if you stick with it, it will become easier. Once I started to make time for it everyday, and do all the things I have mentioned, going to the gym became the new normal for me. It now has gotten to the point where I actually feel weird if I don’t go everyday. It’s also gotten to the point where my friends will text me to ask me if I am ok if they don’t see me at the gym in the morning as they walk to class. It can be hard to trust or imagine that this will become a habit, but it really does! The days where motivation is running low, but you still go, are the days where you build that habit even more and become stronger. And after a while, you will start to achieve some of your goals; you will see results, you’ll maintain your health, or you will finally talk to that hottie with a body! Because I did all of this, it is now a habit that I have created, and a habit that I absolutely love.

To sum it up, if you want to make going to the gym a habit of yours, you have to love what you are doing, and I found ways to love every aspect of it. I hope this helps those who are on the bubble about joining a gym, are losing their love for it, or it continues to fuel your fire! It is so important to be comfortable with what you are doing, but if you want to reach new goals or start something new, it requires getting out of that comfort zone first in order to get comfortable with it.

Have a fabulous fitness Friday, folks!


What’s so super about superfoods?

There are so many diets out there these days; Paleo, Whole 30, Keto, Atkins, Intermittent Fasting, Liquid (terrible idea)…the list goes on and on and on. What I don’t understand, is why people go on these diets when they don’t have to, and why people believe that a diet is the epitome of living a healthy life. The goal of a diet is to ELIMINATE, and no one enjoys that. This is why I’d like to talk about ADDING superfoods to your daily diet. To set perspective, the reason diets “work” is because it creates a calorie deficit- THAT’S IT. There is no magic! But by adding superfoods, they have the same effect because they don’t take much to leave you feeling satisfied/not starved, and they have so many essentials that your body needs to function. The only difference is that you can still eat stuff you want (in moderation of course), and that it truly is healthy. In the long run, you will be healthier due to the benefits, and not feel deprived of all the goods leading to healthy habits rather than quick fixes. Through my FND journey, I have been put on many supplements, informed about what foods do what for my body and brain, and have learned why each mineral (zinc, magnesium, etc) is important, and how they serve my body. All of these superfoods have these minerals that I am taking in capsule form! Why take a bunch of supplements everyday, or settle for feeling less than great, when you can incorporate these superfoods into your recipes and feel super all the time?

“Superfoods are the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet.  We use superfoods to fill our snacks with nutrients your body needs like vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber.”

-Health Warrior

I recently became sponsored by Health Warrior Superfoods, which means I get the privilege to promote, give away samples, and be provided with their great products that I have been using for about a year now! Their products are all made out of superfoods, which make them a great option for everyone, and are a good place to start if you are wanting to give superfoods a try. In this post, I’m going to talk about what superfoods Health Warrior use, and why you should start to incorporate the lucky 13 into your diet.

1. Chia

Nope, not chia pets. Just like other healthy trend words like vegan, Kombucha, acai bowls etc; you may have heard chia, chia seeds, or chia pudding thrown around a bit. This isn’t just because it looks good on Instagram, or makes you sound like you are a health nut. Chia seeds are so good for you! They provide more Omega-3s than salmon, more protein than an egg, more calcium than milk, and more fiber than flax. Talk about hitting two birds (or four) with one stone! Chia seeds are a great option for those who are vegan, because they still provide enough nutrients to keep them going strong. A lot of people struggle with how to incorporate them into their diet because eating them straight out of the bag doesn’t work real well. Health Warrior’s most popular (and first) product is their chia bars that come in so many different flavors. I have tried every single one of them, and I love them all (definitely a toss up between chocolate chip cookie dough and coconut). They make for a great snack, on the go breakfast, pre workout, or even dessert. The bars may be small, but that is because these chia seeds seriously fill you up, it doesn’t take much. Once the seeds get into your stomach, they expand, which creates that satisfied feeling. If you are looking to try some of these bars, Health Warrior gives you the option to select up to six of their flavors to try as a part of their sample box! (Can also be found at Target). That is how I got hooked.

2. Turmeric

I have been taking turmeric supplements for my FND, but really, turmeric should be in everyone’s diet. This yellow-orange powder is famous for its anti-inflammatory properties, has been proven to combat chronic diseases, has preventative powers, but also stains everything it comes into contact with (dorm room dresser, floor, and many shirts in my experience). I have taken it in both liquid, and capsule form, but the fact that it is included in Health Warrior products already is a huge benefit for those who don’t take additional supplements or want to stain everything you care about. You may think that you don’t need turmeric because you aren’t inflamed at all, but I bet that you are wrong. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there, and I bet you will feel so much better after adding this in your diet. I know I feel so much better after making my inflamed insides calm down.

3. Cinnamon

As good as cinnamon is for you, that doesn’t mean you can go to Cinnabon everyday (although I wish that is what it meant). Anything remotely healthy is often associated with tasting terrible, but this is here to prove that thought wrong! Cinnamon has been used in a medicinal sense around the world for hundreds of years because of its anti-inflammatory effects, and high antioxidant levels. Some common ways to add cinnamon to your diet are in teas, homemade granola, energy bites, and added to foods in small doses. My favorite is sprinkling it on my popcorn, it just intensifies my popcorn addiction. Some of you may remember videos of the “Cinnamon Challenge”….please don’t do that, as that has absolutely no benefits.

4. Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkins seeds aren’t just good at Halloween, they should be consumed at all times of the year! Why? They are the second most protein-dense plant seed on the planet, and they work to repair and build muscle (because that is what protein does). They are also so good for you because they are packed with magnesium, zinc, phosphorus and iron. To further explain, phosphorus is needed to filter out your kidneys, and to help you move your muscles…I guess that sounds important, right? Zinc on the other hand is needed for literally everything! I have noticed a huge difference in my energy levels, and even how I feel in general, by adding more zinc to my life. This is why pumpkin seeds are Health Warrior’s number one ingredient in their protein bars! I’ve seen a lot of posts on social media asking where vegetarians and vegans get their protein. THIS is where.

5. Oats

You may have heard this one before, but the more you hear something, the more it is validated. Do oats have a lot of protein? No. But what they do have is fiber. Oats are a superfood because it doesn’t take a lot of them to keep you full- that’s because they have all that fiber! Protein is so hyped up, but fiber is just as important because it is basically nutrition’s cleaning crew. (My dad can tell you that eating one too many Fiber One bars is a one way ticket to the nearest bathroom). It keeps you feeling full, gives you more energy due to the complex carbs, and also supports your immune system! For those who totally ignore oats because they don’t have much protein (just add protein powder or protein filled toppings), or “too many carbs,” fiber actually cancels out carbs. Say that a bowl of oatmeal is 20 carbs, but has six grams of fiber. Your bowl of oatmeal has 14 carbs, which is about the same as a bowl of fruit, and most don’t eliminate fruit because of “too many carbs” since fruit is considered healthy! So are oats!

6. Cacao Powder

You may be wondering why this one is on here, as it is mostly associated with being in desserts that are kind of the opposite of super. Cacao powder isn’t good just because it gives your brownies existence, it is loaded with antioxidants, magnesium, iron, and calcium. At this point, some of you may be wondering why the heck you need magnesium and iron anyways. Magnesium is important for maintaining bone health, relieves anxiety, and helps to aid in sleep. I am on a magnesium supplement powder that I take before bed, and wouldn’t be on it if it weren’t important! Iron is crucial for the blood, as it helps to make oxygen carrying red blood cells. I remember seeing cacao powder when I was little and when my mom wasn’t looking, I ate a big scoop of it out of the container, not realizing how bad of a move that was- bitter! That being said, there are a ton of healthy sweet treats out there such as protein energy bites, oat based cookies, and others that incorporate it in the recipe! Overall, I basically am telling you to eat more things that call for chocolatey goodness 🙂

7. Yellow Peas

Most of the time, people overlook peas because their backstory isn’t anything exciting like the fact that Cacao was considered a food of the Gods by the Incas. But also peas=gross to a lot of the population. Those who are vegetarian or vegan have a little bit more knowledge on the matter because pea protein is a very common source of protein in their world. Yellow peas also have vitamin K (helps anchor calcium in the bones). That’s right, these little buggers have protein, and aren’t only on your plate to annoy you. Most things that you read that say “plant based protein” mean that it is this pea protein. Health Warrior uses this kind of protein in their protein powder, as well as the protein mug muffins. I’ve been so thankful for this protein source because of all of my allergy restrictions in the past, and even though it is made from peas, that doesn’t mean it is a less effective source. So, as your parents would say, eat your peas!

8. Wildflower Honey

Hey honey! Honey is on this list because it is a great source of antioxidants, and is a immune system booster. I’ve said antioxidants a lot, for those who aren’t antioxidant experts, they are good for your heart, and prevent infections, and some forms of cancer. That isn’t the only reason honey is on this list though. Because of its natural sweetness, it can be used instead of sugar to add a little sweet to your desserts, or tea. One of the most useful things you can do for yourself is try to find healthier alternatives to ingredients used in your dishes. Honey is very versatile, and can be used in so many things, which is why it is in all of Health Warrior’s products, making their products very low in sugar, but still give them their sweet. Do you typically find that you feel better/have more energy when you eat healthier? It isn’t a coincidence. Food is fuel!

9. Dark Chocolate

Yes, chocolate is on this list. No, dark chocolate Milky Ways don’t count. Dark chocolate is made from the seeds of the cacao tree (superfood!) Normal diets will tell you that all chocolate is off limits, but I am here to tell you that you should be adding dark chocolate to your diet (in moderation of course). Did you know that chocolate has a good amount of insoluble fiber? It will leave you feeling satisfied. How about antioxidants? But wait! There is more. Dark chocolate contains more iron, magnesium, copper manganese, potassium, phosphorus and zinc, than any of the other superfood! It is actually recommended to finish your day with a small square of at least 75% cacao dark chocolate because of the magnesium it contains to help you sleep, and calm you down. Chocolate is good for the soul, but also your body.

10. Cherries

This may be the only thing on the list that you can just straight up eat. (I guess you could eat cacao powder like I did, all power to you). I was first surprised to see this one on the list, but then I made the correlation to why my mom had me drink cherry juice after gymnastics practices. Cherries are amazing anti-inflammatories because of all the Vitamin E they contain. Did you know that fruits with red skin contain more antioxidants? Well you do now! Red fruits contain more flavonoids, which contain antioxidants like lycopene, which reduces heart disease, and infections. If I don’t say so myself, cherries are pretty red, hence all the antioxidants. This also goes for apples with red skin, and grapes (the purple grapes are actually red for those who didn’t know that yet). A (red) apple a day keeps the doctor away is real, people! In addition to all the Vitamin E, they also contain melatonin, which is a natural sleep aid. This is also why cherries are on the list for before bedtime snacks. Better sleep leads to better body regeneration so you are ready to eat more superfoods the next day 🙂

11. Almonds

I learned this Thanksgiving that apparently there is more than one way to say almond, and it’s based on where you live. So all you Northern California/Montana/North Dakota/South Dakota folks out there, and my cousin Sam; it is al-mond, not am-end! Whether you say it the right or wrong way, they still have the same great health benefits. As I mentioned before, all great foods must be consumed in moderation, and while they pack so many nutrients into a small quantity, they also pack many calories into a small quantity. This is no reason to avoid them, because you need them! One serving may not seem like a lot (usually 24 nuts), and may be hard to believe that they will fill you up, but because of all they contain, they really do serve as a satiating snack. Almonds are a powerhouse in the nut family because of the healthy monounsaturated fats, fiber, protein, Vitamin E, and antioxidants. Aka, almonds help to fight aging, aid in heart health, satisfy hunger, and help to control blood sugar.

12. Coconut

I have learned that people either like coconut, or they don’t. There is no in between. For those who would rather eat a bar of soap than some coconut because they kind of taste the same, just hear me out and I may change your mind. Coconut is versatile, and all the benefits are received in whatever way you consume it (coconut water, dried coconut, at Chino Latino, raw coconut,..not sure if Almond Joys count). Like I mentioned before, one of my favorite products from Health Warrior is the Coconut Chia Bar. This is because it tastes good, but also because it energizes me before a workout due to all that coconut does for you. Here is why they are so good; they have a high amount of ascorbic acid (good for developing connective tissue), B vitamins, and proteins. I’m currently on a B vitamin supplement to help give me more energy during the day, and would gladly incorporate more coconut into my diet if it meant not having to swallow that horse pill. It also is a good source of natural energy because of the high amount of electrolytes, and hydrating properties! Maybe we should all be carrying coconuts around the gym instead of Gatorade.

13. Quinoa

You didn’t think I was going to leave out the hardest to pronounce, but most common/ trendy/ “basic white girl” superfood did you? You’ve seen it on Instagram, all the trendy restaurants, mod cookbooks, and in stores..but what actually is quinoa (keen-wah), and why is it worshipped by health gurus? This “grain” is not actually a grain. What we are eating, is the seed of the plant. It may have seemed to become popular just recently, but this crop has been cultivated by ancient Americans for hundreds of years. The reason it is so good is because compared to other grains, this “grain” has a higher amount of protein, antioxidants, and essential minerals. This is why quinoa is becoming more of a common substitute for rice in meals. Don’t let the reason that you can’t say the word at a restaurant be the reason you are missing out on these benefits! KEEN-WAH.

Use the code NEWYEAR20 to get 20% off your first order! Just a few of my favorites here.

Hopefully by reading this, you have learned several things. The first, is what superfoods actually are, and why you should consume them. Second, why vitamins and minerals such as phosphorus, Vitamin B, Vitamin K, antioxidants, zinc, iron, magnesium, calcium, fiber, fats, and protein are important for your body. We hear those words so much, but did you really know what they did for you? Third, I hope you learned about a new brand that you can try out, and while I am in no way cut out to be a salesperson, I wouldn’t promote something that I didn’t believe in! Lastly, I hope by now you know that I truly am a credible source when it comes to nutrition, and what is good for you! I’m not just a 20 year old college student telling you to eat your veggies. With all my FND experiences, allergies, and my own health journey, I have learned so much about what does what for what. As confusing as that sounds, it can be! I can tell you what foods are good/bad for what parts of your body such as that dairy is a natural inflammatory of the brain. I can tell you why you need to eat fats to lose fat. I can tell you what vitamins and foods help certain neurotransmitters, and other brain functions. I can tell you what apple has the most nutrients (Pink Lady), and lots of other weird but helpful food facts. Doing research helps, but living and experiencing it yourself teaches you so much more!

You are what you eat, so be super!


10 Most Embarrassing Moments

A while back, I shared my Terrible Tuesday experience of the custodian walking in on me in the shower right as the whole shower rod fell off the wall. I won’t go into any more detail about that, I still don’t like to think about it! I thought I’d go ahead and share the rest of my embarrassing stories because reading about people’s lowest moments in life is pretty entertaining, don’t deny it. Enjoy!

1. “Cooking”

This one took place in Kindergarten. I debated even putting this one in here because I can’t even think about it without cringing, and I don’t want my former classmates to find the evidence. I can’t remember the exact situation that led me to this embarrassment that still haunts me to this day because it is published in a cookbook. What I suspect happened, was that we were assigned to get a recipe from home, and bring it to school in order to put in a class cookbook. I’m assuming I forgot to do the assignment. My other theory is that I didn’t understand what a recipe was, or what made from scratch meant. By now, you all should know just how bad I am at cooking by how many times I have mentioned it…well this is where it all started. The day the assignment was due, we were individually pulled aside to tell our teacher our recipe. Kindergarten Lauren didn’t have anything in mind, and didn’t even know how to make the simplest things such as the recipe for cookies. I am not one that is able to think logically when I panic, and I tend to come up with the weirdest on the spot responses, even to this day. This was one of those situations. When my teacher asked what my recipe was, I searched my memory stores for any recipe I knew how to make, and came back with nothing, so I told her the first thing that came to my mind. A Pop-Tart. At first, she looked impressed because I think she thought I was going to tell her how to make one from scratch. We were told to explain the recipe step by step. So I did. 1.) Take the Pop-Tart out of the box. 2.) Take it out of the wrapper. 3.) Put it in the toaster, or don’t. 4.) Once it’s done, put it on a plate. 5.) Go watch TV and eat the Pop-Tart, edges first. Our recipes then had to have illustrations that accompanied it, so I drew a picture of me sitting in front of the TV eating a Pop-Tart, as well as a giant Spongebob edition Pop-Tart on a plate. My recipe is now published in this cookbook along with other recipes such as pan fried fish, a cake, cookies, pancakes etc. that was sent home to everyone in class, making it impossible for me to get rid of all the evidence that I actually did this.

2. Cafeteria crash

I feel like it is a rite of passage to dump food in the caf during your college years at least once, but that doesn’t make it any less embarrassing. I remember my first, and hopefully last, time doing this like the back of my hand. It was the very last day of classes of spring semester my freshman year at Gustavus. It was mandarin orange Friday in the caf, so I helped myself to a nice big bowl of them to add to my pile of spinach. I swear, Gustavus picked out the bowls that make the loudest sound when they hit the ground just to draw more attention to the person who screwed up. Louder than dropping the shampoo bottle in the shower. Those things show absolutely no mercy. I was all ready to go with my rabbit food, and went over to the silverware counter, forgetting that I set my bowl of mandarins right beside me. My elbow knocked the bowl and sent it flying, and when it hit the ground, the bowl hit just right so it kept bouncing in the puddle of oranges. With every bounce, my face turned a darker shade of red. The loud sound was basically a signal to everyone in the caf to turn around and see what person royally embarrassed themselves this time. I got a nice round of applause after that. To make things even better, the person walking behind me didn’t see the traces of the fruit puddle on the ground, and totally wiped out, dumping their tray all over the place. (Shoutout to them, the attention was now shifted from me to them). I now no longer participate in mandarin orange Friday.

3. Flipping failure

Ah yes, the high school days of trying to impress your current crush at the time. I remember some girls trying to impress their crush by acting all cute, sending notes, following them down the halls, and posting an Instagram picture and hoping they like it, but me? That’s not how I did it. I have always liked to try to impress people with my athletic abilities whether that be gymnastics, basketball, mile time, pull ups, etc. At the time, my crush was in my Individual Fitness class, our gym credit. I would always go run with the guys to be with him, usually being the only girl that could keep up with the guys. Things were going well that day, it was the first day I was not really shy around him. We never really talked to each other, we were both very shy. I asked him if he wanted to see a cool trick, and he said yes. I’ll let you in on a secret; I was never taught how to do a backflip back in my gymnastics days. You’d think a gymnast could do one any time, but that is just something I was never able to do. Apparently that day, I thought things would be different. I got all set up, went over the cues in my head; load, set, tuck. That is not what happened. I loaded, but I think I forgot the set part, as I did the slowest back tuck in history, leading me to landing square on my face. Most people would joke about something like that, and now I would be able to shake it off and make fun of myself, but at the time, both of us were too shy to say anything after that. This left us with me lying on the ground face down too scared to look and see the expression on his face, and him standing there unsure what to do but hold back a laugh. I laid there for a good while before I pulled myself up off the ground with an injured dignity and pride, then booked it inside. I avoided him for a good two weeks after that. To a high schooler, nothing is more embarrassing than doing something wrong in front of your crush.

4. Not so restful rest stop

In my recent Holiday Traditions post, I mentioned “the drive” to Kentucky that we do every year. Usually these drives are pretty uneventful; flat roads, several stops, Redbox movies, lots of sitting etc. That’s about as exciting as it got. This particular year, it was different because we decided to rent a van instead of take our own car. The Casey clan was sporting a black mini van with a bright yellow license plate from New Mexico. I was not used to riding in this van, which led to this unfortunate incident. It was at our favorite rest stop in Wisconsin, I had just come outside and was going to get back into the van. I got to the black van and pulled on the handle for the door to open. The door was starting to slowly automatically open, revealing who was inside. It was not my family. I stood there staring at a whole different family, and them staring back at me. It took me a few seconds to understand what was happening, until I heard a bunch of laughing. I looked to see where the laughing was coming from, and it was from another black van a couple spots down, containing my actual family. I turned my attention back to the people that were still staring at me standing there, and then I bolted for the correct black van. I got in and pressed the button for the door to close, wishing that those automatic doors could close faster, because the family was still staring at me.

5. Moment of un-silence

If there is one thing I can’t handle, it is an awkward silence. As bad as it sounds, I can’t stand being in church when we take moments of silence, because a memory of a funny video (usually the flying lawn mower video) immediately comes to mind, or I imagine a funny scenario such as the pastor tripping up the stairs. I also can’t help but laugh when people eat something crunchy when it is dead silent (my professor was eating carrots during a test one time and I was about to lose it). At the same time, having a giant group of people stare at me is one of my worst nightmares, and I would hate to be the person that laughs during a moment of silence, or has their phone go off in a movie theater, which is why I have managed to keep my laughter in all these years. At Gustavus, we have a Vespers student led church service that happen occasionally throughout the year. This again happened my freshman year, and was the first Vespers service of the year. All was well, until they announced that we would take a moment of silence for loved ones who had passed away, or to take a moment to reflect and let go of your struggles. No, I did not laugh, as that would make me feel like a horrible person. Instead, I started to choke on my spit because it went down the wrong way. It is incredibly hard to suppress a cough when you are choking, and I tried the best I could. My efforts caused my face to turn tomato red, but I finally couldn’t hold it in anymore. I started choking and everyone turned around to stare at me, making me an even darker shade of red. One of my worst nightmares came true. The icing on the cake was having to go in front of everyone again for communion, still as red as a firetruck.

6. We got a runner

Many years ago, my Grandma Pat had my family dog sit her puppy, Maggie. Grandma, if you are reading this, which I know you are because you always read my blogs (thank you), you have never heard this story. I was in elementary school at the time. Maggie is a Bichon/poodle, and my dog’s half sister. At the time, Maggie was still a puppy. She loved to run, get the toilet paper out of the bathroom and run around the house with it until the roll was out, but most importantly, be chased. This day, we took Maggie to Christopher’s baseball game, and I was so excited because I finally had something to entertain me. My mom let me take Maggie on a walk around the complex, but she gave me one rule: don’t let Maggie off her leash. Spoiler alert: I let Maggie off the leash. This led to Maggie taking ME on a run, instead of me taking her on a walk. Have you ever been to a baseball game when a fan jumps the wall and runs across the field? That is essentially what happened. Maggie ran and ran all over the open soccer fields, took me through the park, and lastly, my brother’s game. When I saw her heading for the field that my brother’s game was on, my heart dropped. I couldn’t let Maggie run away, my grandma would be so mad if she came back and I told her lost her, so I followed Maggie out into the outfield. I got incredibly lucky, as the game was in a current time out due to a flock of pigeons that were sitting in the infield, but still, it was terribly embarrassing to be “that person”, and I wasn’t even a drunk fan like most are! You bet I never took Maggie off leash again.

7. Staircase serenade

This one doesn’t sound terrible, it is more of a personal thing. Elementary school choir concerts, absolutely hated them. The things we had to do for that were so weird now that I think about it such as when I participated in a dance about a goat named Yesh (still remember the song). As embarrassing as that sounds in itself, it gets worse (at least in my mind). Let me remind you once again that I am an introvert, and don’t like attention being brought on myself. One day after school in fifth grade, I thought I was totally home alone, so I thought I would practice one of the songs that I was struggling to remember the lyrics to. I pretended I was a famous singer and cascaded dramatically down the stairs, singing as loudly as I could about snowflakes. I finished the last chorus, doing my best dance moves and thought I sounded amazing, only to realize that once I cascaded down to the bottom of the stairs, my family was there the whole time. Now, this might not sound like an embarrassing moment, but to my family, something like this was totally out of character for me. In my family, I have never really been one to show much emotion, sing, dance, etc. I keep to myself. They kept telling me how great it was and that I should keep going (but my brother was trying to keep from laughing). I was absolutely mortified, and hid in my room the rest of the day.

8. Talent show regrets

Speaking of out of character for me, talent shows fall under this category. My friend Morgan and I thought we had the greatest idea in fourth grade of making up a dance and performing at the talent show. My first initial thought was absolutely not, but she told me I could do some gymnastics during the dance, and I was sold. We made up a dance to Carrie Underwood’s “All American Girl”, and I will let you know, this dance did not require any talent. We would practice everyday after school on her trampoline. The matching outfits were a must back then, mine pink and hers blue. The day of the talent show, I was absolutely terrified. When it came to be our turn, we got everything set up, and started out real strong until it got to the gymnastics part. We got to the part of the synchronized handstands, and I remember seeing Morgan tip over mid handstand. Being a person who doesn’t know what to do when things go unexpectedly, the dance was totally thrown off, as we could not recover from the handstand detour. The best part of the dance for me, was when it was finally over. I still can’t listen to that song without this experience playing in my head. Best part? My mom filmed the whole thing.

9. Crotched beams, crushed dreams

This one isn’t an exact moment, because it has happened more than once. For those who don’t know what crotching the beam means, it is when your feet are supposed to land on the beam, but instead your feet straddle the beam and your crotch lands full force on it instead ( this is the reason guys don’t do beam). While this isn’t an uncommon thing to do in the gymnastics world, I can’t help but be embarrassed when it does, especially during a meet. I get embarrassed about this because it is in front of all the fans, the opposing teams, but most importantly, the judges. The first thing I want to do when it happens, is grab a microphone and announce to everyone that I promise I can execute the skill, and that I’m a better gymnast than what they just saw (it’s a pride thing). Of course, I’d get deducted so badly for doing that. Crotching the beam is also embarrassing because after I do it, it is incredibly hard to act natural and not want to start crying. I’ve done some weird things to try to “walk it off” such as walking like I just rode across the country on a horse, smiling and saying “it’s all good” while tears are welling up with a twisted smile, little hops around the mat, walking in circles while doing some heavy breathing, lots of rubbing in an awkward place, and my personal favorite; getting immediately up on the beam again, then realizing I shouldn’t have, as I proceed to do my routine, only to crotch the beam again. These attempts to look natural and that I’m not phased at all instead make me look the farthest from natural. It also doesn’t help that the whole arena goes “oohhhh” whenever someone crotches the beam.

10. Speech spooks

Public speaking was not my friend back in high school. We had our last speech of the year in ninth grade, and it was about highlights of the year. Usually when I had to give a speech, I would write a manuscript, and memorize it word for word. This time I figured I wouldn’t because it was a casual speech, and seemed easy to talk about. I should have known that I wouldn’t be able to speak casually and normally in front of 60 people. To prepare for this speech, I memorized a brief outline of speaking points, practiced a couple times, and felt that I would be just fine. Out of all my embarrassing experiences, this one has to be the worst. I learned a couple things from this speech. First, I shouldn’t have assumed that I could speak freely about something under pressure. Second, Victoria’s Secret leggings show sweat in a certain rear end area, so don’t wear those when nervous. Third, when in doubt, flip it out. I was so nervous before I had to go up there, I was getting hot thinking about everyone staring at me. I got up to the podium, and recited the introduction that I memorized. To my surprise, no one was looking at my face, but rather, kind of lower (I will let you connect the dots here, I’d rather not say what they were looking at). Once I got done with my introduction, I completely blanked. I didn’t remember any of the points I memorized. Any person could probably talk about highlights of the year easily, but me being someone who can’t logically think under pressure and when my plan goes astray, I was a deer in the headlights. Because of this, I did the only thing I knew how to do. Gymnastics. I stepped away from the podium into the open space (people still looking at my butt), and threw three back handsprings in a row down the aisle of desks. After that, everyone started clapping and told me how cool it was, making them forget about the catastrophe that just happened right before their eyes. Since then, I now memorize all my speeches again.

Well, there you have it. I know that in the future, I probably will have more moments that make me want to go crawl inside a hole. As much as I hated having to experience all these moments, they are totally worth it because they make for great stories (once several years have passed), and help me to learn to laugh at myself. You know what they say, you learn from your mistakes, and because of this, I will not be in a talent show anytime soon, will be cautious in the cafeteria, will make sure I can speak in a speech, know which car is mine, make sure the coast is clear when I put on a performance, accept that I can’t do a backflip, not take the dog off the leash, and know that putting a Pop Tart on a plate doesn’t count as cooking even if that’s the best of my abilities.

I’d love to hear some of your embarrassing stories! Shoot me an email or leave a message in the comments. Have a great week, and I hope your resolutions are going well!


New Year, Better Me: Ten resolutions

Happy 2019! Wow it feels weird saying that, I could have sworn I was just saying happy 2008. It’s that time of the year again where everyone vows they will start something new, improve an aspect of their life, or achieve a goal. In the past, I never paid attention to resolutions because I never really wanted to change anything. I always would say I want this new year to be better than the last, but I never acted on anything to make that happen. Now that I am older, and have been setting more goals than in the past, I can add myself to the list of those who say “new year, new me.” But in all honesty, I am not trying to make a new me. I like myself! The more accurate phrase would be “new year, better me.”  With that, these are the ten tasks I’d like to tackle to make my 2019 the best year yet.

1. Floss more

No, not the dance move. This resolution may seem a bit anti-climactic as I am sure you were expecting something big, but answer this question honestly: do you floss everyday? I’m going to go ahead and guess a confident no. I am guilty of being too lazy to floss everyday solely because it takes effort to weave the stupid string under my two permanent retainers, but this is something that I want to fix. I learned from an aspiring dentist friend that not flossing causes more build up in the arteries, and could lead to a heart attack. So yes, not running a piece of string between your teeth can kill you. In my mind, it seems like such an easy fix, but it is just one of those things that I easily skip, and justify skipping because it “saves me time.” My goal for 2019, is to floss everyday so I can go to the dentist and not have bleeding gums every time they floss, revealing that I don’t floss a much as I should. In order to achieve this goal, I have strongly considered going back to the Dino Flossers, because I might as well make it more fun if I’m going to follow through with this!

2. Spend less

Lately, it seems like I have had the mindset that money grows on trees. Online shopping is more dangerous than you know, especially when it comes to Poshmark, and having Apple Pay installed so I don’t have to enter in my card info anymore and just use my touch ID. I have mentioned how thankful I am for Poshmark in a past post because I can get really expensive things for a great price, but that doesn’t mean that just because it is a good price, I should buy it.  It’s like telling myself that calories don’t count if I’m stealing food off someone’s plate. I am still spending money even if things are on sale, and apparently, that notion has not sunk in yet. Buying things on sale may save money, but if that happens frequently, it really adds up fast! So for my bank account’s sake, this is a mindset that I am going to be more conscious about. As much as I hate seeing a good sale on Lulu leggings pass me by, it will help me in the long run, and as psychology says, instant gratification is not always the answer. 

3. Worry less

A couple posts back, I wrote about pieces of advice I live by, and one of those being “don’t worry about the things you can’t control.” Well, I still have not figured out a way to practice that advice. As a type A, perfectionistic person, worrying really should be my middle name instead of Michelle. Think of a random word in your mind right now. Whatever word you are thinking of, I have probably worried about it at some point in my life, or something related to it. My worrying has gone to great lengths, and has made me do some pretty weird things in order to resolve it such as waking up to myself reciting psychology terms in my sleep. (Some people sleep walk and talk, I sleep study). Sometimes, I ironically worry about how worried I get over things. Don’t get me wrong, a little bit of worrying is healthy, and productive, but usually that isn’t the case for me. I worry to the point where I cannot stress about something more, it is at the maximum level of stressing. I worry about things in the future (as in ten+ years out), I worry about next month, next week, the next hour, and I even worry about things that have already happened. Yes, that is totally illogical, I know, but that is just how I roll. So this year, I hope to make myself stop rolling like that, or at least reduce it to the point where I don’t still worry about the wrong form of “your” I used in the final paper I wrote in 8th grade stress management class. 

4. More time with friends

If I spent as much time with my friends as I do with my textbooks, this one would not be a resolution for me. I love being busy with all the organizations I’m involved in on campus, but sometimes I will go a whole week without seeing my friends despite the fact they live literally a floor above me. My social life shouldn’t have to be a mandatory scheduled sisterhood event event that is programmed in my Google calendar. College is about having those experiences that aren’t planned; such as 2 AM pancake runs to Perkins, hitching a ride with a friend to Mankato for Starbucks, unplanned girls nights, pole dancing exercise class, yoga with goats, and following Nemo the campus cat around instead of doing homework. This is not to say that I haven’t done things like this before (this stuff is too specific to make up), I just don’t do “unplanned” enough. I love all my friends, and am fortunate that they are so close, which is why I want to spend all the time I can with them before they go back to West Virginia, Arizona, off to med school, and even before I graduate. But this won’t happen without my next resolution.

5. Be more flexible

To my gymnasts out there, I do not mean this in the sense that I need to stretch more, because I still have all three of my splits down! If I were as flexible as my body is, this would not be a resolution. Unfortunately, my brain is not as flexible as my hamstrings. I don’t think I need to explain that I like things to be planned out based on my mentions of perfectionism, but it really can be counterproductive at times. As much as I’d like to just “go with the flow,” I can’t do that unless I know where the “flow” is going, how fast, where all the bends and curves are, and approximately how much time it takes to get there. I’ve had times where things have not gone according to my plan, and I haven’t been able to adapt. People always tell me they wish they were as organized, and obedient to a plan as me, but they don’t realize how that plan crumbles if it isn’t followed to a T. I want to be more flexible in the sense where I don’t have my whole day planned out hour by hour, and can change things up like going out for coffee with friends without thinking that I will fail a test if I don’t start studying that day because that’s what I planned. This quirk can definitely be attributed to gymnastics. I find it ironic that the sport that made me flexible (literally), is the reason that I am the farthest from flexible (figuratively). Having to manage my time so strictly for 16 years really trained my brain as much as my body. They say it takes 21 days to break a habit, but I don’t know if that takes into account something that has been done for years and years. I’ll give it my best shot.

6. Appreciate myself more

We are all our worst critics. And even though I am aware of this concept, I still am as hard on myself as Gordon Ramsay is on the people who ask him to rate their meals on Twitter (it’s not pretty). Living in a social media filled society where being fit, eating right all the time, and basically living the cookie cutter lifestyle where nothing goes wrong, I sometimes lose sight into all that I have achieved and all that I am. As a psych major, I am fully aware of the social comparison theory and how harmful it is, yet I still practice it as most do. Just the other day, I killed a workout and felt great. About a minute later, I looked on Instagram and saw someone else’s workout paired with their washboard abs. I told myself their workout was way more effective and intense than mine, and she looked better than I did, making me forget about all that my body just did for me, and left me feeling like I wasn’t enough. It is so easy to focus on the negatives about yourself, and all that you’re not, and I definitely fall victim to this. People are very good at playing the “I spy” game in the mirror, but life is so much more than about looks. It is hard to believe that when that’s not what the majority think, which is why I haven’t been able to adopt that thought yet. We hear it over and over again, “your worth is not defined by a number” whether that be how many reps you can do, jeans size, or on the scale, but how many people actually believe that? This year, I want to stop hearing, and start believing. God has given me one body that has allowed me to do my favorite sports, sit through great psychology lectures, spend time with my friends, and much more; it’s time I start to appreciate it!

7. Eliminate my “all or nothing” mindset

Writing this, I can’t help but laugh at myself because the way my mind works is low key ridiculous, and I am fully aware it is. All or nothing, go big or go home, black or white, on or off, just cheese or all the toppings, walk or sprint; that is my brain. I only have two settings, there is no in between. This can be very frustrating when there needs to be an in between, but there literally is not. It is very similar to the feeling of when you reach to open a door that you need to get into, but the door knob is gone. My all or nothing mindset applies to everything I do. If I don’t have the time to do my usual workout, but can at least get a 30 minute workout in, my brain tells me that I just shouldn’t go at all. If I am trying to eat healthy, but I don’t follow my original plan and eat something I didn’t intend on eating such as one cookie, I turn it into a full on cheat day. If I have a paper to write, I will write it all in one sitting, otherwise I won’t write it at all. When I run, I will only walk, or run a 5k. In these situations, I fully understand that the logical thing to do is workout for 30 minutes because it’s still better than nothing, eat the cookie and move on with my life because that’s less damage than a whole cheat meal, write half the paper rather than all of it, and maybe just run a solid two miles. That’s simply not how I am wired. I go big or go home in all aspects of my life, which is why it has often led me to taking on more than I can handle, or leaving my bored out of my mind. On the other hand, the all or nothing mindset has been helpful for me when I have needed to put in my full effort such as gymnastics meets, relationships, and studying for finals; but that is about it! This year, I want to be able to have the option for kinda, go sub par and halfway home, gray, dim the lights, jog, or two toppings max. 

8. Take better care of myself

It is always my goal to excel in all aspects of my life being; academics, fitness, my faith, being a good daughter, and friend (all or nothing!) In my mind, I imagine bar graphs for each of these things, and each one must reach 100% otherwise I feel like I’m slacking. Oddly enough, there is one aspect that I seem to forget about, which is taking care of myself. “Balance” is not a word in my vocabulary unless it means succeed at everything you do. There have been many times when I should have taken care of myself, but instead tried to put everything and everyone else first. Going to class sick as a dog because I wanted those five dinky participation points, competing with two swollen sprained ankles because I didn’t want to let my team down (or my pride), driving long distances just to make a friend feel better, going to the gym when my body was screaming it didn’t want to go like a toddler at McDonald’s play land, staying up to study when I shouldn’t have, and insisting on going to school while on very strong anti convulsants because I didn’t want to fall behind, are just a few examples. I know what’s best for me, and what I should do, but I never choose to because choosing myself feels selfish in my mind. Because of all these situations, it can be hard to be a functioning human being, and it definitely takes a toll on my mood, energy, FND, and wellbeing. For the last couple months, I’ve noticed that I have felt a little “off” and couldn’t figure out why. It has now become clear to me (because someone pointed it out) that I have been running on empty, and parallel a car trying to drive across the country with an empty gas tank. At this point, I am outside of the car and pushing it from behind because there is not one drop of gas left. Going into this new year, I want to have more balance, and be ok with not having to reach 100% in everything I do because that is absolutely exhausting.  It requires some give and take, realizing it is ok to not do it all, and not spreading myself too thin. I also want to put more effort and energy into fighting my FND by actually doing my mental exercises everyday, and really trying hard to manage it like I should be, because that is just as important as being a student, athlete, child of God, daughter, and friend. I can’t be any of those things if I don’t take care of myself first.

9. Follow through

Reading this one, you may be thinking of following through with things such as commitments, promises, and deep stuff like that. But honestly, it isn’t like that for me at all. I just want to follow through with little things such as starting and finishing a book, finishing a Netflix show, a movie, a new piece I’m writing, keeping up with my vision board, saying I’ll do my laundry every Thursday, and even following through with these resolutions I made. I don’t know if it is just me who experiences this, but I will have so much motivation to do something, but when I actually have time to do it, it is the last thing I want to do. I have been reading the same book for two years, and by read, I mean pick it up once a day, then put it back down because I want to watch the Netflix show that I ultimately will not finish. This notion of never taking initiative to start (or finish) something I want to try basically makes my Pinterest pointless, and I’ve got so many cool and Instagram worthy things to try!  So this year, I am finally going to finish that book, Netflix series, blog post in my drafts, learn to cook in order to post my Pinterest fail pictures, but I can’t make any promises about the laundry. 

10. Let go of the past

Here is the “deep” one you all have been waiting for, and I am going to be fully open and honest because it is something that needs to change. I haven’t been shy in sharing the adversity I have faced these last couple years regarding my health issues and injuries in college. I also haven’t been shy in sharing how I see it as a blessing in disguise, and how it has shaped me into who I am. What I have been shy in sharing, is that I still hold onto the negative memories, and how the fear of it all happening again prohibits me from making certain decisions, or having a more positive mindset. It is only human (as the evolutionary theory in psychology explains) to have those negative experiences in the back of your mind in order to be more cautious going forward so you don’t die. For the record, the evolutionary theory is a bit more extreme and based on survival, not just everyday living. I don’t think my brain quite realizes that distinction yet, as I get nervous about things I shouldn’t have to anymore. This is ultimately why my schedule is so rigid, because in the past if I didn’t follow a rigid schedule such as exercising only in the morning, not sitting for too long, getting to sleep before 11, and not eating past 8 PM, my FND would give me trouble. I am all about being fearless, and testing the waters, but when it comes to my FND and all I have been through, I will not even dip a toe in the water to see if I’m capable of more than I was back then. I’m still stuck in this rigid schedule because of this fear that if I change it, everything will go back to how it was in the past. Traveling is also one of those things that makes me apprehensive because in the past, traveling caused me to have many FND flare ups and hospital visits, sucking out all the joy of the experience. I will count myself out of social events just because I don’t want to make myself too tired, causing a flare up, and I fear that since it has gone that way in the past, it will reoccur. Note to self: just because something has happened in the past, doesn’t mean it will happen again. I’m such an advocate for improving myself in every way possible, which is why going into this year, I want to be able to cut ties with all the negatives that I have experienced. I’ve adopted a “glass half full” mindset because I’ve gotten my hopes up so many times in the past, just to receive more bad news. I find it ironic that I let the fear of things that have already happened, and are in the complete past, dictate choices and thoughts that I have now. While I did learn in HR class this semester that “the best predictor of future behavior, is past behavior in similar circumstances,” behavior is totally different than adversity, because I can control behavior, while adversity isn’t really one of those things people choose to have. 2019 is the year I will go against my previous experiences, and realize that I won’t die if I choose to go on a road trip with my friends or break my rigid routine, my FND won’t necessarily flare up if I stay out past 11, and I will stop thinking that looking at the glass half empty protects me. Would you keep a container of rotten eggs stinking up the house because you bought them in the past? Didn’t think so. Holding onto the past can be so toxic if it’s not something worth holding onto.  

Resolutions can be daunting. A lot of people make resolutions that are “life changing,” but resolutions don’t have to be huge changes. Maybe you want to watch one less hour of TV, eat more vegetables, or break a habit. It can be really hard to hold yourself accountable once the New Year starts (which is why the gym usually goes back to its normal amount of people a couple weeks into January). Don’t be one of those people! Write down your resolutions somewhere, post it on the fridge, tell someone, or make it public on social media like I literally am doing right now, so feel free to call me out if you see me slacking! It can also be really hard to think about things that you want to change about yourself. I know for me, it was hard to admit to myself that I needed to improve some of these things. If resolutions haven’t worked for you in the past, consider going at it a different way (I made the resolution to floss everyday last year but that didn’t happen, hence the Dino Flossers incentive). Mindset is also vital to making a change. Don’t see resolutions as something you HAVE to do, see it as something you GET to do! If you have to do it, chances are, you won’t. Making a change is challenging , but so is being unsatisfied with where you are now- choose your challenge. 

Happy New Year, everyone! New year, better you! 


Five Components of Fitness

Recently I had to write a paper for my conditioning class (ironic, like horizontal running). I actually enjoyed having to write this paper because it combines two of my favorite things: writing, and fitness. I thought this would be a great topic to share with you guys as a #FitnessFriday post. The word “fitness” has so many definitions because everyone thinks of it differently.  To some it is all aesthetic, some believe it to be strength, and some cardio. I know that my idea of fitness has changed significantly over the years. When I was younger, fitness meant going to the club and running on the treadmill. When I was a gymnast, fitness meant being active through cardio and strength. Now, I practice all five components of fitness because they are equally important in order to live a healthy life, and being able to do everything I want to do as I get older. Fitness is not just a hobby, it is a lifestyle, that is applicable to ALL ages. 

1. Cardiovascular Fitness

The first component of fitness is cardio. Big surprise there. Cardio is not all about seeing how many calories you can torch before your lungs start to burn, and trying to beat the person next to you on the treadmill…well, that last one isn’t true. It is actually a great measure of fitness because your body starts to adjust to what you demand. Most people forget the “vascular” part of cardiovascular, and that is the most important reason for doing cardio in the first place. Sure, burning calories is great, but strengthening your heart and lungs, increasing circulation, and oxygen flow, is the most important part of it all. It may not be easy to tell, but cardio improves overtime. Change in heart rate is a great way to see if your cardio has improved, as well something as simple as shaving off a couple seconds on your mile time. This is why we were required to run the mile growing up, do those annoying step tests, pacer tests, and resting heart rate tests. Back in high school, I could jog one lap around the indoor track and my heart rate would be at 204 (I’m not kidding). Now, I have to full out sprint to get it above 160! My mile time has also gone from nine minutes back in seventh grade, to around seven minutes now. The best, and easiest, forms of cardio are running, cycling, swimming, jumping rope, and walking. Anything that gets your heart rate up! It is important to change up intensity because your body will adapt to what you are doing after a while, making it not as effective. While it may feel like you are dying since cardio is hardio, it’s actually preventing you from dying 🙂 

2. Muscular Strength

Muscular strength is fancy talk for weights. I know a lot of people have the stereotypical image in their heads of a body builder walking around with their protein shake, cut off tank, and lifting 300 lbs of iron. A lot of women avoid weights just because this is what they imagine, don’t have a game plan, are intimidated, don’t know the importance of it, or don’t want to get “too big.” Building muscle is not exclusive to just throwing around some dumbbells, or lifting heavy things. Being a gymnast, I was fortunate to learn that body weight exercises are just as effective, as gravity is a great resource! Yes, muscle is built by heavy lifting, but it is also built through resistance training, body weight exercises, as well as low weight and high rep exercises (get out those soup cans!) Weight training is beneficial in order to lose fat, boost metabolism, increase bone density, but also, it is a great confidence booster as you start to see progress by being able to lift heavier, do more reps, physically see results, or hit a new PR. Not going to lie, I used to be scared of venturing into the weight room, but after retiring from gymnastics, I have started to incorporate free weights, machines, and TRX along with my body weight exercises. It doesn’t require anything extensive, as most of my circuits are found on Pinterest, or watching fitness gurus on Instagram. Deadlifts aren’t dead, y’all. 

3. Muscular endurance

This one can sometimes be confused with cardio because muscular endurance is the ability for the muscle to perform without fatigue. Yes, we get tired and feel like we can’t take another step when we run, but cardio has more to do with “sucking air.” For example, bad muscular endurance is only being able to do one push up, or doing one lat pull down on the machine. The best way to improve this component is by practicing that motion over and over. An increase from one push up to two push ups is even a gain. Just like endurance is improved when you do more of it in cardio, it goes the same for your muscles. And just like endurance can be gained, it can be lost, which is why it is important to focus on both your cardio, and your strength. I will say, my muscular endurance has decreased a bit since I had to stop gymnastics, as I can’t pump out the pull ups like I used to, simply because I don’t willingly choose to do pull ups (like any normal person). Use it or lose it!  

4. Body Composition 

The fourth component of fitness is body composition; the relative amount of muscle, fat, bone, and other vital parts of the body. This one is kind of a given, as the reason most people work out in the first place is to change, or maintain, their body composition. When I say body composition, it is not just focused on body fat percentage. A lot of us are guilty for only focusing on body fat, as humans are great at honing in on the negative aspects of ourselves, and forgetting about the positives. The reason body composition is an important part of fitness is because it an essential part to overall well-being. For the fat we do have (we all have it and need it), it is important to know if it is subcutaneous (harmless), or visceral (more dangerous as it wraps around your organs). This is why it is important to focus on body composition, not just for looks. Knowing how much muscle you have compared to fat, is important because a lot of people only focus on the numbers. When I say numbers, I’m talking about the typical bathroom scale, or BMI chart. It is so dangerous to rely on these only because they don’t show the whole picture. I look at transformation pictures on Instagram where people go from losing body fat, and gaining muscle; it looks like they’ve lost a ton of weight, but in reality, they stayed the same. BMI charts don’t factor in how much muscle someone has, so it may say someone is overweight when in reality they are made of muscle. This goes for the scale, too. Instead of stepping on the scale, it is a lot healthier to base body composition on how clothes fit, or getting a scale that shows the breakdown!

5. Flexibility

Last but not least, flexibility. This is important because flexibility prevents so many injuries at any age! I’m thankful to have been in a sport that heavily enforced this, and made a habit in me to stretch after every single workout. You can be the strongest person in the world, but it is useless if your hamstrings are so tight that you can’t bend over to lift up the barbell. That may be a bit exaggerated, but flexibility is often overlooked! Sit and reach was MY event during fitness testing, and we wouldn’t have been tested on it if it weren’t important. Just like endurance decreases when it isn’t practiced, flexibility gets so much worse as you get older unless you keep up with it. Flexibility can be compared to taking care of a kid, or a plant (but don’t compare your kid to a plant). If you water it or feed them once a week, and expect it/them to function the same by the next week, you are so wrong. This is why I made a vow when I retired to be able to do the splits and touch my toes until the day I die! I can be easily found in the gym doing the splits everyday, along with my other creepy gymnast stretches that make people stare at me like I have two heads, Lastly, without my flexibility, how else would I shave in the shower if I couldn’t put my leg up on the wall? 

As I mentioned before, fitness is a lifestyle, not a hobby that stops once you leave the gym. Why? How are you going to run after your kid’s basketball that is furiously rolling down the street, or sprint to get the last pair of Lulu leggings in your size on black Friday, if your cardio is not up to speed? How are you going to lift your screaming toddler out of a crib, or carry giant grocery bags to the house if your muscular strength is non existent? Imagine how hard it would be to quickly shovel the MN snow off the driveway if you don’t have enough muscular endurance to do the same motion over and over again (move to Florida, problem solved). Body composition helps to keep overall health intact, and helps when trying on jeans from the previous year, praying that they still fit. And lastly, flexibility allows for bending over to get the laundry out of the wash, getting the paper off the driveway, or simply showing off the splits as a cool party trick. All of these are needed to carry out everyday tasks, and to live your life!

My challenge for you this week is to focus a little bit more on one or more of these aspects that you tend to put on the back burner. Have a fantastic Friday, folks!


Holiday Happiness: Traditions never die

I don’t think I need to tell you that Christmas is in a couple weeks, as most people already have a countdown going. There are so many reasons to get excited for the holiday season; time with family, a new year to start over, fun traditions, or time off work/school (lets be honest, this is the biggest reason). I personally love the holiday season because the time off from school allows me to take part in my favorite traditions! I can guarantee, a lot of these traditions we probably share, but it’s what I like about each tradition that makes us different. As I always say, it’s the little things that bring me the most joy. Here are my top ten holiday traditions!

1. The Christmas tree

Nothing says Christmas time like a giant artificial tree. For me, this is all I’ve ever known, as my family doesn’t bother getting a real one. Just like my mom likes a dog that doesn’t shed, it goes for the Christmas tree too. While some people’s tradition is to go pick out a Christmas tree every year, my tradition is watching my dad struggle to put it together, get frustrated because the light strands don’t work from the year before, and then try to strategically place the pearls while balancing on the ladder. Of course, I don’t help with this part, because my favorite part is getting to put the ornaments on the tree. My Grandad loved to give us Hallmark ornaments every Christmas, which has resulted in two giant tubs of Hallmark ornaments that my brother and I insisted putting on every single one every year. We also had about two more tubs of homemade ornaments that we insisted had to be hung as well. By the time my brother and I were done hanging up all tubs of ornaments, there was no green that could be seen on the tree. It looked like an absolute mess, but that is how we liked it. There were so many music playing ones on there, that when we turned the tree on every morning, it sounded like a dying whale because of all the clashing sounds and songs. In all honesty, my favorite part about decorating the tree was not making a “Barbie ornaments” only section on the tree, but actually it was seeing how high I could climb up on the ladder before my parents told me to stop. 

2. Making Christmas cookies

As I’ve mentioned in past posts, I cannot make or bake anything to save my life. My definition of making Christmas cookies is waiting until Mom mixed up the dough so I could decorate them before she put them in the oven. The sugar cookie recipe we use has been in the family for years, and they are to die for (which is why I eat them even though I’m gluten free). My brother and I would always designate a night, and a lot of counter space, to put on our fancy aprons, roll out the dough with our tiny rolling pins, and pick our favorite cookie cutters and sprinkles to decorate the cookies. A majority of the time, I made mine too thin so they would end up burnt (not surprised, burning things is my specialty). When it came to sprinkles, I liked to “color outside the lines” aka dump the sprinkles on everything, usually missing the cookie itself, and use all the wrong colors. When Mom wasn’t looking, I’d eat the dough because I personally think it tastes better than the cookie itself. My brother was definitely more cautious, as he and my mom would make more realistic looking cookies such as green mistletoe rather than my yellow wreath. By the time the oven timer went off, there would be flour all over the floor, all in my hair, on my clothes, and probably in more places it shouldn’t be. But I didn’t care, as my brown and crispy angels, yellow wreaths, blue Santas, and broken in half mitten cookies made me so proud of myself. 

3. Button factory

To continue with the baking theme, my brother and I had one night a year where our parents let us be home by ourselves, and our kitchen turned into what we called “the button factory.” Being so young, I didn’t realize the sole purpose our parents allowed us to do this was so they could have a solid couple of hours to go Christmas shop for us since they never had time to. I didn’t catch onto this for a couple years, but in the mean time, I loved when my brother turned into the babysitter/chef for the night. For those of you who don’t know what our famous “buttons” are, it is a pretzel with a melted Hershey Hug, with a M&M on top. I took my job as pretzel organizer (put the pretzels on the baking sheet), and hershey hug un wrapper (the worst job of the whole process) very seriously. Christopher was the head chef; as he was the one in charge of the oven, timer, putting the M&M on the melted chocolate, and carrying the baking sheets to put them outside to harden up because I couldn’t be trusted with any of it. His only order for me was to not eat the supplies (I did when he wasn’t looking). To give perspective, I was young enough where I needed a stool to be able to reach the counter, nowadays, I’m allowed to use the oven. Looking back, I don’t know how my brother and I did this for so long, because we literally would do this for four or more hours straight. It was honestly like a Ford factory line, and I can now unwrap a Hershey Hug in record time. While our button factory has gone out of business, I still make buttons every year and give them to all my friends at college. 

4. “The Drive”

This tradition is definitely a love hate relationship. Every year, we drive to Kentucky for Christmas to visit family. This drive is about 13 hours (on a good day). It usually takes about 15 in its entirety due to someone having to use the bathroom, wanting to stop at our favorite rest stop in Wisconsin just because we can, someone needing to stretch their legs, get gas, the snow storm that never fails to start the day we leave, grab a bite to eat, traffic downtown Illinois, or because someone forgot something at home. Fun fact, we turn around at least once every year because someone thinks they forgot something such as a hair brush (it was in the bag), forgot to turn the closet light off (it was off), or forgot to close the garage door (it was closed). Having to turn around has become a tradition in itself. Usually, my family rotates who drives, and ever since I got my license, they still have never asked me if I want to take a shift (I don’t know if I should appreciate this or be offended). The reason that I have loved the drive has transformed over the years. When I was in elementary school, I loved it because I got to sit with my stuffed animals and watch my favorite movies on the portable DVD player the whole way there, as well as play road trip games with Christopher. In middle school, I loved it because I got to text my friends (and crush) on my new Pantech Impact flip phone all day long. In high school I loved it because I listened to my IPod while pretending I was in dramatic music videos while looking out the window the whole way there (I’m not the only one who went through this phase). Now, I love it because I can sleep, read anything besides a textbook, pet Gracie, and take an actual break and relax, all day long. The “hate” part of the drive is always the drive home because all the Christmas festivities are over, making the drive home seem so much longer! 

5. A Kentucky Christmas

Of course once we get to Kentucky, the traditions don’t stop. It isn’t Christmas for me unless I am at my Gram’s house in Danville, KY with my cousins Fielden and Logan. That being said, I am also used to a “green Christmas” since it is usually mid 40s that time of the year. Every year, the family gathers in a circle in the living room with all of our presents sorted out to each person. We then proceed to open presents, one at a time, going from youngest to oldest. Ever since we were little, this came with the process of looking at the tag and reading who the gift was from, asking if it was ok to open (some had to be left to open at the end), opening it, acting pleased no matter what the gift was, saying thank you, then crumbling up the paper and trying to shoot it into the trash bag. This cycle lasted for hours. Usually by the end, Fielden and I would have a new pair of matching cousin pajamas, new Hallmark ornaments from Grandad, paper everywhere because we had no aim, and we would be exhausted. No matter what the year, or how old we continue to get, it has never changed, and probably never will. 

6. Christmas Dinner

Christmas dinner at Gram’s is also a given when we are in KY. Southern cooking is on a whole different level than the rest of the country. And Gram’s cooking is on whole different level than southern cooking. To sum it up: it beats Thanksgiving by a landslide. The table is usually filled with dishes to the point where there is no room to put one more thing on it. Christmas dinner at Gram’s typically consists of turkey, country ham, mashed potatoes, homemade macaroni, dressing (stuffing to you northerners), gravy, Burke’s Bakery buttery dinner rolls, broccoli casserole (my favorite), cranberry jello, sweet potato casserole, pretzel salad: pineapple mixture+whipped cream+ crushed pretzels, banana croquettes: banana covered in mayo and rolled in peanuts (not as gross as it sounds), Chess Pie, Derby Pie, fruit cake, rum cake, cookies, etc..I could go on but that would take another paragraph. When I was little, I would always end my meal with a cup of boiled custard as pictured above. While I usually could never eat everything because there was so much, I eventually got around to having a taste of everything due to leftovers for DAYS. It is going to have to take a Christmas miracle for me to follow my gluten/dairy free diet this year!

 7. Candlelight service

Attending the Christmas candlelight church service at Gram’s church with the whole family is another tradition we take part of every year. Not going to lie, most years I am counting the minutes until it is over just because I’m not used to how traditional the service is, and the southern accent of the pastor is so soothing it is inevitable to keep my eyes open. My favorite part is getting to light our individual candles while singing silent night, and the lights are shut off. I will never forget how most times, my Grandad’s voice was the most prominent, and while he is no longer with us, I still imagine his voice every year we attend this service. I also love getting all dressed up for this service, and getting the yearly sibling picture with Christopher in front of their giant Christmas tree. Southerners, especially my Gram’s friends, give many more compliments than northerners, and I definitely have never minded the extra confidence boost from when the other church members tell me how “darling” I look. 

8. Santa

Yes I am 20, and yes, Santa still comes to visit the Casey kids every year. When I was little, seeing all the gifts in the morning was one of my favorite parts of the tradition, but not all. Every year, I tried to stay up late and would sneak out of bed to catch Santa in the act. As I have mentioned, I am not a night owl, so my efforts to catch Santa usually concluded around 11. Waking up Christmas morning and realizing that I once again failed to stay up, it led me to sneaking around to try to see what I got. At the Casey household, we weren’t (and still aren’t) allowed to go see what we got until the whole family was up, and Mom had the video camera out. I don’t know what it was about trying to sneak around, I guess I liked the adrenaline rush of trying to do something I wasn’t supposed to be. Again, I never succeeded with my mission because my dad would stop me and make me go sit in the office with my brother until he told us it was ok to come out. Over the years, I have gotten gymnastics mats, balance beams, and a whole bunch of other big things that left me baffled as to how Santa fit them on his sleigh. I also fan girled over the half eaten carrots sitting on the table for Rudolph to eat. Mom never let me keep them as an artifact. As I have gotten older, a lot of things have started to become clear to me such as why Santa looks different every year, how my parents knew so much about Santa, how my Mom knew where Santa got everything, but the one thing I still don’t know, is if my mom or dad ate the carrots every year. 

9. Casey Christmas

Having family in two states has its perks. We celebrate with my mom’s family in KY, but we also celebrate with my dad’s family every year here in MN before we make the drive. The dynamics of each celebration are polar opposites, but I love them both. My favorite part of the Casey Christmas, is our annual Yankee Swap. There is a “magic head scratcher” that makes an appearance in the swap every year, and has become an inside joke to the family. At this point, I think everyone has had the head scratcher at least once. While a lot of people’s favorite part of the swap is getting the gifts, or the game itself, my favorite part is everyone roasting and making fun of each other. Usually, I end up with the gift that our family brings because I help pick it out and don’t want anyone else to have it since I like it for myself. Usually there is a rule about picking your own gift, but everyone lets it slide since I am the youngest. While in the past there have been fights over fruit cake, electric candles, a flashlight, and some feelings were hurt along the way as no one wanted the assorted soaps, the night ends after the third round of goodbyes and everyone is happy again. 

10. New Years

When I think of New Years, I imagine sparkling grape juice, the big lit up ball, and writing down the wrong date on my homework assignments for a solid month after that night. Little Lauren didn’t really understand the concept of New Years, as I always asked my mom what date New Years was on. For years, I would be more excited to watch the Disney channel exclusive that was happening that night rather than ringing in the new year. I was mostly in it for the sparkling grape juice! Now, I spend this night watching it all happen in New York, and all my favorite artists lip syncing my favorite songs. Traditions have been spotty over the years, as most of my years this night was spent in Kentucky (I’d make the joke back to my friends back in MN that I beat them to the new year because we were an hour ahead). The last couple years, I’ve spent it in Minnesota with my best friends. Even though location hasn’t stayed the same, the sparkling grape juice, good company, and “see you next year” jokes have. 

As we begin the most wonderful time of the year, I can only hope that everyone has traditions like I do that automatically bring them back to their childhood, or bring them happiness to transition them into the clean slate of 2019. It’s the little things like climbing to the top step of the ladder, eating a burnt angel cookie, successfully shooting wrapping paper into the trash bag, roasting the uncle that got the head scratcher, seeing a half eaten carrot, getting a compliment from a church lady, getting to sit for longer than an hour, and sneaking a Hershey Hug without being caught, that have brought me so much joy over the years. 

Happy tree decorating, cookie making, and finals taking!