Category Archives: Health & Fitness

“Tanned Skin is Damaged Skin”

Since I’ve been in an esthetics program I’ve realized just how bad certain things are for your skin, including UV light exposure. As a white girl who knows a lot of other white girls, I know how crazy people can get with their tanning beds and time out in the sun. For myself, I used to enjoy laying out in the sun in the summer. I was never into tanning beds except for one winter where I signed up for some tan time because I was desperate to cure my cold weather blues. (Those warm fuzzies you get are definitely a pick me up!) Either way, very bad for the skin. If you think you’re immune to skin cancer, you’re not, and if you’re not worried about turning into a wrinkly prune, you should be. I guarantee you if you don’t already see fine lines creeping in, they’re just under the surface along with hyperpigmentation.

The Department of Health and Human Services came out with a press release this summer which reported that rates of melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer) are increasing, and over the past 30 years, the number of people who had skin cancer was higher than the number of people who had all other types of cancer  – combined. Contributing to this is the fact that one out of three white women between 16 and 25 tans indoors every year. That’s not to say that only white women are at risk or are engaging in risky behavior with the sun, because it can happen to anyone, but it seems like people take the health of their skin for granted.

Acting Surgeon General Boris D. Lushniak, M.D., M.P.H. said that “tanned skin is damaged skin, and we need to shatter the myth that tanned skin is a sign of health.” This seems like a huge part of tanning and the disregard for the risks involved – people say things like “I’m so pale” or “I just look better when I’m tan.” Personally, I see the appeal of having bronzed skin but I also see the beauty in any other skin tone, if that’s your natural skin tone. I don’t see the appeal of looking unnaturally tan, especially if someone who lives in Chicago in December looks like they’ve been on a beach every day. You’re not fooling anyone. (Then again,  look however you want to look and do whatever makes you comfortable, but be safe and spray tan instead.)

Of course, it’s not that everyone lays in a tanning bed all the time; I would bet that the average person doesn’t wear sunscreen on a daily basis or, for women, assumes that the SPF in your foundation is good enough. In reality, you would have to use a ton of your foundation with SPF to get the protection you need.

I’ve also heard some people say that they’re not worried about wrinkles because they’ll just get Botox or some other procedure when they’re older. But why…when you could just prevent unnecessary and premature aging? You could wear sunscreen now, or wait until later and pay for Botox every six months, which won’t do anything for the sun spots or a sagging neck and loss of elasticity. Once you lose collagen, it’s gone girl (as in, it disappears and everyone blames Ben Affleck but it’s really your fault*). Can we also talk about how much faster your décolleté ages because it’s the most neglected spot? If you’re not trying to have crepe-y neck skin (let alone skin cancer), let’s just stay out of the tanning beds and remember to wear sunscreen everyday. It may not be on your mind, but it’s never too early and you’ll thank yourself later.

*I don’t actually know the plot of that book-turned-movie so I’m not sure if that analogy holds up, but it sounded clever.

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Pre-Workout Oops

When you step outside shirtless because you think you’re wearing a sports bra and then look down to see you’re wearing a regular bra…

**bows head in shame due to lack of coverage and goes inside**

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Oh hai

Okay so I put my blog on hold, but I’m back, with a temptation to just brain-dump everything I haven’t been writing down for the past few weeks. But we’ll start small, with an update to conclude my workout program updates.

I did finish the 12-week workout program, which ended up lasting a couple weeks longer. With the exception of my vacation time, I was committed to the program and stuck to what it prescribed. I guess if you’re looking for my results, I could list the heavier weights I can lift now, but that would be obnoxious. I didn’t do a before and after weigh-in or anything like that, and I’m sure my weight hasn’t changed significantly. I was focused on gaining muscle and strength, and getting to the end of this plan made me think about what I want to work towards next. I want to keep getting stronger, but having the specific workouts and schedule during this time has kept me focused on something.

I was working through an “extra 12th week” I guess you could say, when I came across a couple articles that kind of inspired me to try a new approach. It started with this one. Maybe you’ve seen this Freshly Pressed article that goes through some of the worst offenders in all those “fitspiration” photos that unfortunately get re-posted regularly on Facebook and Pinterest. It started out with a laugh at the first picture and description, but then progressed into more of an anger-out-of-agreement feeling. The frustration came from the pictures I always see directed towards women, and from thinking about the male Facebook friends who repost them like, “See, girls?” (notice I used girls and not women) “See? Guys don’t want you to be skinny, we want you to be muscular in a still-feminine-but-also-strong-but-also-have-big-boobs-and-butt kind of way! It’s fine! So just, you know, keep striving for perfection, as defined by the media, and then we’ll be attracted to you, which is all that matters!”

I may have taken some liberties with the message that these male Facebook members have intended when reposting such pictures. In fact I’m sure they weren’t trying to be insulting at all, but in reality, why do they have a right to tell females anything about how they should look?

And maybe I got a little rant-y, because this could be a-whole-nother (yeah I’m from the midwest U.S.) post, but it led me to a couple other articles that inspired my next workout plan. And I really tried to find those articles, but for some dumb reason I didn’t save them or remember their names. I’ll have to edit in a link if I happen to find them later.

(Edit: I found one! Read this awesome blog post.)

Getting back to my point… my new workout plan has a very different focus. I realized that ultimately, the number one reason I commit myself to working out is because it is, personally, the best way for me to get rid of stress. Something about pushing myself in a physical way and using my muscles appeals to me. Probably for the same reason that I will stretch frequently during my work day sitting at a desk, and why physical stress techniques like  progressive muscle relaxation and focused breathing appeal to me as well.

Given that information, I decided to kind of mentally focus on stress-relief more as my fitness goal, which will also give me more positive motivation to go to the gym. I say positive motivation because sometimes, what motivates me to get to the gym is thinking about how guilty I’ll feel if I don’t go. It still gets me in the gym, but on the days I don’t feel like going and I go anyway, I might feel resentful towards those damn 30-lb dumbbells I can’t press yet, or towards the damn fitspiration photos that make me feel like I’m lazy if I take a day off.

So that’s my new focus. I can go to the gym thinking about how good it will feel to deadlift away the thing that pissed me off at work, instead of thinking about how I really need to do a better leg workout this time, or whatever. I’m sticking with a similar schedule as before because it worked so well for me, so that’ll be the same. But it feels like a fresh start, and a more uplifting purpose for exercise.

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Workout Plan Update: 2 Down, 1 to Go!

Well, it’s a little delayed, but I made it to Phase 3 (week 9) of my workout plan. I was on vacation during what would have been parts of week 7 and 8, so I couldn’t stick to my schedule at the gym, but I was pretty active every day. Still, since I’m trying to stick to this lifting program to really increase my strength, I did a little re-do for those two weeks. Stepping up the weight and only doing 4-6 reps is challenging, but it’s motivating to know I’ve gotten stronger and have stayed committed to the program. I’ll just have to set new goals to work towards once I finish this plan in 4 weeks!

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Workout Plan Update: Phase 1 Done!

Sunday night update: I had a great week of workouts! This was week four of the 12 week program, so now I move on to the second phase where my reps decrease and the weights increase. This is also where I start to get a little out of my comfort zone, because I have to aim for 6-8 reps instead of 8-12. I’ve also been using their basic formula for high intensity interval training with the added low intensity cardio, but the change I’ve made is to split up the low intensity cardio so it’s part of a warm-up.

If you haven’t looked at the website, it has you start your cardio with 10-15 minutes of HIIT, followed by 15-30 minutes of low intensity cardio. I’ve been starting with 5-15 minutes of low intensity cardio, which might be 10 minutes of biking and then 5 minutes on the treadmill, before I continue 10-15 minutes of HIIT on the treadmill. I’ll follow that with a minimum of 5 more minutes of cool-down, low intensity cardio. I’m sure there’s a reason they say to save the low intensity stuff until the end, but it’s vital for me to warm up before I run so don’t have sharp, lightning pains in my lower legs and/or knees. Also my feet might go numb. It’s exciting.

Side note, any orthopedic doctors out there who know if I have serious nerve damage or if my knees are going to blow out, please let me know.

I’ve been using China Gel, (because my aunt got me some, not because I get paid to say that) in addition to making sure I warm up even if I’ve already done weight training, and it helps. It’s not a cure though, and I should actually go to an orthopedic doctor but…ain’t nobody got time for that.

Hey look, it’s dogs!

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Workout Plan Update – Week 3

Confession time.

Week 3 of my workout plan didn’t go so well. The plan is flexible, but my routine is to try to stick to the days of strength training they provide, with the cardio on two of the strength days and two of the off days, with one free day of the week. Let me explain.

Monday: I started out well and did the upper body strength routine that’s prescribed.

Tuesday: Oops. I was committed to a hair appointment after work because I had already rescheduled it twice, and planned on going to the gym after but that just didn’t happen. So I missed the lower body strength routine, and still hadn’t done any cardio.

Wednesday: It was my last week at my job so a few of my coworkers and I had an after-work date. It normally would have been just a cardio day, if everything had gone according to plan, but I should have done the lower body and the cardio to make up for Tuesday. Oops again.

Thursday: I worked out, but not according to the plan. I did a short circuit-type-of-thing with running and lunges. It was supposed to be an upper body day, but at least I did something. It was such a short workout that it still felt like it wasn’t successful, but my legs were sore the next day, so there’s that.

Friday: Supposed to be the lower body day but my legs were sore, and I also missed abs for the second time in the week. I don’t even know what my excuse was this day but I didn’t get to the gym. Ugh.

Saturday: I finally got my shit together and did Thursday’s upper body workout, plus cardio, although the cardio wasn’t as intense as it should have been because of leg pain. Bonus: I also went swimming. Oh yeah!

Sunday: Again, motivation kicked into gear and I got myself into the gym. I did some good cardio since my strength training days are (supposed to be) Mon, Tues, Thurs, and Fri. Pre-treated my legs with some Biofreeze and warmed up on the bike before I did the intervals on the treadmill, and I was good to go. I did a ton of walking the rest of the day too since I was downtown with the boyfriend for the Taste of Chicago.

Which reminds me. I don’t think I’ve mentioned yet that I’m a midwesterner. Not a city girl, but not a country girl, I think I’m doomed to the suburban life forever. Or just until I move to an island.

Anyway, I’m also reminded that I haven’t been great with my eating the past week either. It started with the 4th of July festivities and just continued with beer and going out to eat multiple times and just…all around fails. Even today would have been fine with all of the small, shared portions I ate at the Taste, while walking for hours, but then we got back and I ate a giant ice cream cone. Guilty guilty guilty.

Before I get too negative, today is the start of a new week to do better. Plus my mouth is still watering from some of the food I ate yesterday, the food I don’t even feel a smidgeon guilty about. (I’m assuming there are other cities that have something similar to the Taste of Chicago, where a ton of restaurants in the area set up camp together so you can buy tickets and try everything. If not, that’s what it is!) But now I’m off to hopefully get a good start to week four.

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My Current Workout Plan/My Gym Rant

So I’m in week one, day four of a new workout program,* courtesy of the boyfriend, that I’m feeling pretty motivated by.

Previously, I was just in a general routine of working certain muscles on certain days and accidentally noticing I could choose heavier weights at some times I didn’t keep track of, vaguely feeling a sense of progress, maybe. NOW, (does jazz-hands), I feel like I’m working towards something.

As my boyfriend has already noticed, I’m super stubborn with the way I workout. There are a few exercises/machines that frustrate me because I either look awkward, feel awkward, or have some semi-painful sensation in some joint or limb as a result of said exercise/machine. I also don’t like being forced to do certain very specific, no-substitutions-allowed exercises on designated days. For example: my gym is small and gets crowded, often at times when I have to be there, and if the one thing I need to do the exercise is taken, I immediately want to give up on the workout. In my current routine, there could be a couple ways to complete, say, lunges, so I don’t go into rage mode when a little gaggle of pre-pubescent boys are taking up the area in front of the weight rack.

I also don’t feel motivated by lifting weights that are too heavy for me and require a spotter to do half the work for me (gives dead-eye to boyfriend, who claims he’s barely helping). Yes, I should be struggling by the last reps, but I should be able to complete them without risking head trauma. I feel good about having the proper form and not trying to be Sally Strongman. Struggling from rep two on makes me want yell “FUCK YOU” to the gym at large and walk out crying like someone just stole my Tootsie-Pop at the playground.

I ALSO don’t appreciate routines that don’t allow for creating circuits. I hate that rest period in between sets of one exercise where you have enough time to look around awkwardly for 45 seconds and nothing else. Why am I on my phone all the time? So I can avoid conversations with people and/or pretend I don’t notice old man winter eye-balling me from a dark corner. Ideally, I’d do one set of each exercise, then repeat until all my sets are completed, but the gym doesn’t usually allow for that anyway.

Getting back to the current routine. Basically, it’s a 12-week plan split up into 4 week segments to get you stronger. It’s something I can stick to because while it has a schedule and routine, it’s not so rigid that I can’t work around it and I won’t end up quitting because of my previously listed set of demand-complaints. I’ll be at the gym anyway, and none of the exercises are new to me, but it’s forcing me to pay attention more and challenge myself to get stronger. The hard part is going to be making sure I do push myself and can step up the weights at each interval in the program. Probably gonna be pissed in the last 4 weeks of 4-6 rep weights. But it’s fine. I’ll update as I progress through this monster.

*If you ignore all the pictures of roided-out people, the product ads, and the science-y babble, I’m down like a clown with this plan. Scroll maybe a quarter of the way down just to see the strength and cardio plan, and the different ways to mix up the two in a schedule. I’m loving the new cardio interval training involved, and I haven’t had any lower-leg pain while running this way.**

**Speaking of running, I’m doing my second 5k in less than 2 weeks! Nothing fancy like the Color Run or Warrior Dash, but I’m hoping to beat last year’s time for the same 5k.

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