3 IMPORTANT Lessons I Learned About Resilience in 2019 ✨ | + Tips on Remaining Resilient During Difficult Times

My beautiful friend Olivia (check out her blog here) wrote a post about the lessons she learned in 2019. I thought I’d continue this momentum and discuss the lessons 2019 taught me about resilience.

Not going to lie, 2019 was a bad year. Like really bad…

At the beginning of 2019, I ironically chose the word “resilience” as my word for the year because resilience was something I was hoping to learn more about and incorporate into my everyday life.

Resilience (noun) re-sil-ience
“The process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress… it means bouncing back from difficult experiences”

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A year later, I didn’t realize just how much 2019 was going to teach me about being resilient… From experiencing housing issues to losing a family member, I really feel like I experienced it all 2019. Despite all of my personal challenges, I learned a lot as a result of my setbacks this year. Before I get into my blog post, I want to preface it by saying, if you are struggling with any mental health issues, it’s important to seek help and work through your struggles with a qualified professional. Given my personal experience with hardship this year, I will share the top 3 lessons 2019 taught me about resilience:


Resilience Lesson 1: It’s okay to not be okay

After feeling “not okay” at times throughout this year, I feel like I have a better understanding of why it’s okay to not be okay.

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For years I looked at this quote and never really understood it. In all honesty, I kind of thought it was a stupid quote because none of us want to feel “not okay”. Thinking of social media, we tend to post our best experiences and highlights of our lives, while down-playing the hardships we endure in silence. In feeling “not okay”, it’s easy to feel alone because nobody wants to talk about our hardships, and we fear sharing our negative experiences is almost like “airing our our dirty laundry”.

In reality, it is 100% completely normal to experience difficult times and we all go through periods where we are not okay. In fact, it’s part of the human experience. Life is full of ups and downs. Life is difficult sometimes too. Life is beautiful, yet it can be full of adversity. In feeling “not okay” it’s easy to feel like something is wrong with us, however, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

It’s okay to feel pain, it’s okay to feel discomfort, it’s okay to feel lonely, it’s okay to feel grief.

Rather than focus on ignoring these feelings and putting on a smile, sit with these feelings and work through them. Find an open ear to talk about your feelings, whether it be a counsellor or a friend. Ask for help when you need it. At the end of the day it’s about riding with the waves, showing up for yourself, feeling the pain, and loving yourself through the good and bad times. It’s about working through the difficult moments, one step at a time and learning about yourself in the process.


Resilience Lesson 2: “There is always good things in the storm”

56d85ab3a597a73eb90c293655e29c7f.jpgThis year, I counted my blessings and learned the importance of GRATITUDE! To explain this concept, I’ll start with an analogy. In March of this year, I helped clean up my university campus through participating in a garbage pick-up day. This pick-up day occurred after some campus clubs had gone around and picked up trash, so the campus did not look bad at first sight. With a trash bag in hand, I scoured the campus with some fun people and picked up any garbage in sight. As I started looking for garbage, I started to notice small pieces of wrappers lingering in the bushes, cigarette butts hiding in the cracks on the sidewalks, and beer bottles hiding in the snowbanks. For weeks after picking up garbage, I couldn’t help but notice the garbage that was all around me. Any time I went outside, I noticed small pieces of garbage everywhere. It was as if I had changed my focus and now started to recognize all of the garbage that was around me.

What’s interesting about our perceptions is we have the ability to change them. As the spring brought forward lots of plants, flowers and leaves, I started to shift my attention to notice that even with all the garbage around me, there were still beautiful things. As I shifted my focus to notice all of the flowers around me, I began to appreciate the beauty of nature.

gratitude definitionGratitude is a way of noticing the goodness in the world, without being blind of the difficult things that we all experience at times.

Gratitude allows us to continue to see the good, even throughout bad times. Gratitude is like seeing the flowers throughout all the garbage around us.

Connecting this to my own personal life, the quote “every day may not be a good day, but there is good in every day” comes to mind. Despite this horrible year, I was still able to have some pretty awesome accomplishments and good moments scattered throughout the storm. I found my community at a local spin studio and achieved my dream of becoming a spin instructor. I finally finished writing my Master’s Thesis (and will be defending it later this month and graduating in June!), I moved out of my childhood home and took “adulting” to a new level when I got offered my dream job. Even with the sad times that were highly prevalent in 2019, I still had many positive moments throughout the storm.


Resilience Lesson 3: Focus on Self-Care

To help myself get through the year, I tuned my focus inwards and prioritized my own self-care.

self care definitionSelf-Care
“Any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health”

Self-care is about identifying your needs and taking care of your own health. It’s about finding strategies (you enjoy) that help you take care of your physical, mental, and emotional health. These strategies should help to refuel your mind and body. Everyone is different and you don’t necessarily have to do it all, but finding the coping strategies that work for you are key.

Some of the self-care practices which helped me be more resilient in 2019 included:

1. COMMUNITY

This year, I was fortunate to connect with a few different communities and I focused on participating in group exercise. I tried yoga classes, spin classes, boxing classes which helped me connect with others and get myself out the house. I was able to meet some amazing people in my community through group exercise, which helped me feel more connected and less alone.

2. PHYSICAL HEALTH

As mentioned above, participating in group exercise classes helped me focus on obtaining adequate physical activity this year. Although this strategy does not work for everyone – being physically active is how I enjoy taking care of my body. For me personally, I like to think of exercise as a “mindfulness” practice because it forces me to focus on the present moment and enjoy my workout. Trying group exercise classes, becoming a spin instructor, and going to the gym were my favourite ways to care for my physical health. In addition to fitness, I focused on sleep. I ensured I was getting enough sleep each night by waking up at the same time each morning, which helped me feel more energized and ready to tackle my day.

3. NUTRITION

I’ve been pretty open about my dietary struggles with allergies and stomach issues. This year I got serious about eating foods that made me feel my best (and did not trigger reactions). Speaking with a dietitian helped me figure out the foods that worked best with my body, and I focused on incorporating foods that were rich in protein, healthy fats, and whole grain carbohydrates. It’s amazing how much better you feel when you’re not bloated or feeling sick from the foods you are eating.

4. MENTAL HEALTH

I focused on my mental health this year through attending regular counselling sessions, journaling, and “saying no” to commitments or things that did not bring me joy. I focused on treating myself like a friend, and I tried to be non-judgemental towards myself as I worked through things. Even though I still have a lot of work to do in this aspect of well-being, I definitely made some strides forward with self-love and self confidence.


Moving forward and looking at 2020, I am looking forward to a new start. My word for this year is “fierce” because I would like to live my life with transparency and I want to live unapologetically. Even though there’s plenty of things I still need to work on, I am grateful for all the lessons 2019 has taught me, and I am excited to move into 2020 with a “fierce” attitude. I am ready to tackle my goals, get things done, and do more of what I love.

Cheers to 2020!

xoxo,

Heather 💕

three important lessons i learnd about resilience in 2019

 

Target Your QUADS During SQUATS!

Hey everyone!

In my latest YouTube video, I share with you some strategies to target your quadriceps while performing squats.

1. Regular Squats

Performing regular squats is a great way to target the quadriceps, as they are responsible for performing knee extension. When performing regular squats, you typically want to stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, brace your core, and sit back into the squat until you knees are approximately 90 degrees. Slowly raise your body to a standing position and finish the movement by squeezing your glutes and your quads.

There are many variations to performing regular squats, and changing up your stance width will change the muscles that are being activated throughout the squat. This is true, however there are some misconceptions about stance width and quad activation.

MYTH: Narrow Squats will Build the Quadriceps More than Other Stances
It is true that when we take a narrow stance during squats, the most active muscle is the quadriceps muscle, however, it is no more active during a narrow squat than during a normal squat or a wide squat. The difference between these three squat stances is that a narrow stance targets less muscles, while a wider stance recruits more muscles to perform the movement. What this means is that when we take a narrow stance, the other muscles that help to perform a squat are less active than when we take a wide stance. Therefore, stance width does not make the quads “more active”, rather it influences the number of muscles that are active. Therefore, your quads produce the same amount of force regardless of the stance you take, so opt for the stance width that feels the most comfortable. Depending on your goal, if you want to target less muscles, a narrow stance is the better option, but if you want to target more muscles, a wide stance is the better option.

2. Goblet Squats

In order to load the quads during squats it is important to shift the load forward, by front-loading the body. A goblet squat is a great squat variation to shift the load to the front of the body, increasing the work performed by the quadriceps. This squat variation is very versatile, as you can us a dumbbell or even a medicine ball to front load your squat.

3. Front Loaded Barbell Squat

Another option to load your squat is to use a barbell, however to target the quads, you should perform front-loaded barbell squats. Since the barbell is placed in front of the body, it displaces the load forward, forcing the quadriceps to work harder to resist that load. The benefits of front-loading squats is that it reduces the force placed on the knees, so this is a great squat variation for those who have knee issues.

4. Elevating Heels During Squat

If you are more advanced, elevating the heels could be an option for you to target your quads during a squat. To elevate your heels, choose something stable to put your heels on, such as a plate (or two plates). Elevating the heels not only shifts the load forward, but it also changes your body mechanics of the movement, as it limits the amount of hip flexion you perform, while increasing the amount of knee flexion that you perform. Since the quad’s primary movement is knee extension, elevating your heels helps to increase the range of motion of the quadriceps muscle, helping to target the quads. As a safety precaution, this exercise should be performed by individuals who are more advanced and do NOT have knee issues.

5. Leg Press Machine

5fa8177f04157b17a633c6dfc3195f9cTo target your quads on a leg press machine, you simply lower you feet on the leg press machine. This changes your body mechanics similarly to front-loading a squat, therefore increasing the stress placed on the quads.

 

 

 

I hope this video was informative & helpful! Best of luck to you on your own health journey.

xoxo,

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How To Grow STRONG Biceps | Simple Exercises and Techniques

Hey everyone!

It’s been awhile since I have posted to my YouTube channel, so I thought as my first video back I’d talk about how I developed strong biceps. Over the past year I have learned many simple techniques to change up my regular bicep curls, help with overall growth, AND keep things interesting (and challenging 😉) in the gym.

Feel free to check it out and leave me a comment of your favourite biceps secrets!

xoxo,

Heather

FIVE Benefits of Tracking Your Fitness Progress & FREE Workout Log

Tracking my workouts is one of the BEST things I could have done when I started my fitness journey. In this post, I share with you FIVE reasons why tracking your workouts is so important for your fitness progress. Below, I have included a FREE Workout Log that you can use you track your own fitness progress at the gym. Check out my short video explaining these 5 benefits on my YouTube channel (and subscribe of course 😉).

Reason #1: It Helps Define Your Starting Point

Having a goal is a great way to motivate yourself to begin a fitness journey, however, when we don’t record our starting point, we cannot determine how far we have come, or whether we are making progress in the right direction. When I first started working out, I could barely bicep curl 5 pounds! Within a few months, I found that 5 pounds started to feel lighter and lighter. I soon found that I was able to increase the weight to 7.5 pounds, and finally 10 pounds – where I currently sit. Even though I cannot bicep curl a higher weight, understanding my starting point has allowed me to have a more realistic expectation for improvement. Further, seeing that progress has allowed me to know that I am making progress, has kept me motivated to keep going, and makes me curious how much more improvement will happen if I continue on my fitness journey.

Reason #2: It’s a Way of Tracking Progress WITHOUT using the Scale

Three months into my fitness journey, I noticed that I wasn’t losing weight, which was discouraging, because I had expected to lose at least 5 pounds. However, in my workout logs, I was seeing consistent strength gains, and my weights for my exercises continued to increase. This helped me realize that my effort was paying off in other ways, beyond the scale. It also helped me realize that muscle weighs more than fat, so even though I was not losing weight, I knew that I was building muscle and changing my body composition.

Reason #3: It Tells You Whether You Are Working Hard Enough

I generally follow the 8 – 12 rep rule, meaning that I know I am lifting the appropriate weight when I am able to complete between 8 – 12 repetitions of an exercise. If I can perform 12 repetitions with perfect form, I know that I need to increase the weight. If I cannot perform 8 repetitions of an exercises, I know that the weight is too heavy for me. If you find that you are continually lifting the same weight during an exercise, and not noticing any strength gains, perhaps you need to increase the weight, increase the frequency you exercise, or change up your training. My workout log has been an excellent tool for me to determine whether I am in a plateau or not pushing myself hard enough during each workout.

Reason #4: It Increases Efficiency & Allows You To Build Muscle

Coming prepared with your workout log will make your workouts SO MUCH faster and more efficient. Coming with a workout plan allows you to group your exercises into the most efficient way possible, and allows you to form a “routine” when you enter the gym. After you have figured out your starting weight during the first few sessions, you will know what weight to start on with each exercise, preventing lost time.

If you goal is muscle gain, it is VERY important to stay consistent with the exercises and workout plan that you do. As a rule of thumb, you should stick to the same workout plan for 3 months, or until you plateau. If your goal is muscle gain, it is much better to stick to one plan or exercise routine, than continually switch up your exercises. This is because in order to build muscle, you need “progressive overload”, meaning that you need to continually perform exercises that push your muscles beyond their capacity. Having a workout plan, will allow you to stay consistent with the exercises you perform, allowing you to build muscle.

Reason #5: It Keeps You Accountable

Your workout log can be a tool to keep you on track with your fitness journey because it serves as a “reality check”, and a motivator. For example, looking at your workout log will allow you to know how often you are going to the gym. If you are not seeing strength gains, but notice you are only going to the gym one time per week, you may realize that you are not working out as often as you should. Further, your workout log can act as a motivator because it allows you to see improvement over time. Seeing yourself continually improve, and completing your workout plan after 3 months will provide you with the motivation to keep going and challenging your body.

I hope you enjoyed this post and have a better understanding why I ALWAYS bring my workout log to the gym with me. As promised, here is a link to your new FREE Workout Log! Have you ever used a workout log or do you currently use a workout log? Let me know in the comments below!

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Click for FREE Workout Log!

Have a Fabulous Friday!

xoxo,

Heather

 

Help! Tips for When You Proscrastinate

design desk display eyewearI’ve done my fair share of procrastinating over the years, but I have learned some key strategies for coping when you leave your assignment to the last minute

Here is a quick video I made about what you can do if you have left things until the last minute.

What are your best strategies to overcome procrastination?

xoxo,

Heather

 

5 Affirmations for People with Anxiety

Anxiety can be hard to manage sometimes because it feels like your brain is running in five different directions at once. Here are five affirmations that have helped me deal with my anxiety struggles, and I hope they help you too 💕.

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I have made it through this before and I will make it through again.

Look around you and realize how far you have come in your life. You have made it to this moment, through the ups and downs, and have overcome much adversity. This moment will pass, and soon enough you will find yourself reflecting on its significance (or lack thereof).

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This is only temporary.

Everything is in constant transition and in motion. Every year the seasons change, the school year ends, and time continues. Enjoy each moment but know that these anxious thoughts are temporary.

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I trust that everything will work out.

You’re on a sacred journey through life and regardless of what will happen, everything will work out. You are well equipped to deal with any adversity that comes your way.

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Tomorrow is a new day.

The end of each night brings forth a new day, and a new beginning. Even though it may feel like the end of the world, it’s not. Just as the seasons change, tomorrow will bring about something new and brighter.

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There is no wrong decision.

No matter how many times you go back and forth, or weigh the pros and cons of your decisions, any decision will put you on the right path – the path you are meant to follow. Trust in the journey and know that you will end up where you are meant to be. To read more about decision making, check out my article ‘There is NO Wrong Decision’ here!

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Even though anxiety can be difficult to deal with, I know that it is simply another challenge that I will learn to live with in time. Trust your journey, and know that life is not meant to be easy. At the end of the day, I am happy to be here and happy to be alive 💕

If you are feeling anxious, I would recommend you check out my FREE Grounding Meditation exercise to help during times of elevated stress and anxiety. You can access it here.

Have a wonderful week!

xoxo,

Heather 💕

Five Affirmations

How I Overcame Anxiety and Started Working Out: The 5 Lessons I Learned 💕

woman looking at sunsetDealing with anxiety has been my greatest challenge in life, as it prevents me from doing many of the activities I enjoy. It’s always there, in the background, stopping me from getting out the door, trying new activities and even driving. At my lowest point, I quit my favourite sport (softball), stopped exercising because I was too nervous to go to the gym, and I didn’t leave my house for two weeks. Getting help for my anxiety was the BEST decision I could have made for myself. It took the help of a school counsellor that connected me with resources to get myself out the door and prevent anxiety from controlling my life.

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Photo credit: https://www.wlu.ca/life-at-laurier/services-for-students/wellness.html

My counsellor recommended I try a program offered through my school’s Athletics Complex called, “I Move My Mood”. Within the program, I was paired with a ‘buddy’ who would meet with me twice per week, and we would exercise together. The girl I was paired with was very nice and confident in the gym. She showed me how to do a bunch of exercises and helped to correct my form (which was one of my biggest barriers to going to the gym). It was through this program that I realized that people weren’t judging me for having the wrong form, or not knowing what I was doing.

After completing the program, I was determined to continue exercising, however I was still terrified to set foot in the gym by myself. A year of trial and error later, I now find myself a regular gym-goer and have overcome the barriers that used to prevent me from going. To overcome my anxiety and begin working out, I will share the 5 main lessons I learned, so you too can overcome anxiety and start exercising.

Lesson #1: Find a buddy or someone to keep you accountable

casual cheerful daylight friendsSocial support is no joke. As humans, there is something about the social environment that helps motivate us, keeps us accountable, and makes us feel connected. Throughout my struggles with anxiety, I often find that I socially isolate myself and feel disconnected. Finding one person to encourage and motivate me really helped to get myself out of the house – as my buddy was counting on me. Having someone to talk to also helped me feel that I was socially connected with the world, which helped reduce feelings of loneliness and depression. After the program ended, I found a new buddy to help me feel confident and maintain my accountability (you can check out her blog here).

Lesson #2: Take Baby steps

beach water steps sand

Celebrate the little accomplishments you make. Maybe getting up and out of bed is the furthest you got today – but that is still a step in the right direction! After the commencement of the program, I still wasn’t 100% confident to go to the gym alone, so I started walking with my mom. Thirty-minute walks turned into 45-minute walks, and I found that an activity as simple as walking made me feel so much better mentally. This then motivated me to start exercising at the gym with my new buddy. Then exercising with my buddy increased my confidence and I began going to the gym alone.

The first time I went to the gym alone was a huge accomplishment for me, as I actually got in the car and drove there! The pride I felt from overcoming this barrier translated to other aspects of my life – as I now don’t feel as anxious driving places. To make myself feel comfortable at the gym, I came prepared with a basic exercise plan that had exercises I was comfortable doing. As I felt more confident in the gym, I decided to try new exercises – the ones I wanted to try for curiosity and for fun! As I continued to try new things, I learned what did and did not work for me. This has lead me to today, where I find myself looking forward to my workouts because I have found exercises that make me feel strong and confident.

Lesson #3: Do the activities you actually enjoy!

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I tried synchronized swimming this year, I met a lot of great people and had so much fun!

Don’t do the exercises or the workouts you think you should do, do the activities you actually enjoy doing! If you love walking – do it! Any change you make to your current routine will make a difference. Working out and getting healthy doesn’t need to be done at the gym – you can get active playing sports, running or exercising at home. If you pick an activity you love, chances are you will not dread doing it, and you will actually be more motivated to stick with it. Do activities that excite you and fill your soul.

This past year, I decided to give synchronized swimming a try, and I joined my school’s novice synchronized swimming team. Not only did I get to participate in swimming (one of my favourite activities), I also got to meet other girls that had similar interests! I had to opportunity to travel with the team to two competitions, and we came in 4th place for our routine at one of the competitions. Not only did I get the physical benefit from swimming, I also branched out and made some awesome social connections, which improved my mood and my confidence.

Lesson #4: Set a goal and track your progress

A goal without a plan is simply a dream. To turn your physical activity goals into reality, it is important that you set goals, come up with a game-plan and track your progress. (For some tips on goal setting, check out my article on Goal Setting here). For me, my goal began small – to exercise twice per week, whether it be going for a walk, going to the gym (with my buddy), or going on a bike ride. I tracked my progress using The Calendar Method. Looking back at each month and seeing that I had exercised twice per week really encouraged me to continue. As I succeeded with my goal and became more confident in going to the gym alone, I eventually changed it to exercising at the gym twice per week, and I began a strength training program. To track my progress, I weighed myself, took progress photos and recorded my reps and sets of each exercise. Even though my body didn’t change based on my weight, I noticed that my progress photos began to look more muscular and the weight of my exercises increased. In the months where I saw very small changes, I tweaked my plan and began focusing on my nutrition to see further progress. Seeing these subtle changes motivated me to continue. (For FREE monthly calendars to track your fitness progress, you can also check them out here)!

Lesson #5: Don’t be so critical on yourself.

self-loveIt’s important to know that your while you are on your fitness journey, you are going to mess up. You will do an exercise or two with improper form, and there will be days where you feel unmotivated. Instead of being critical on yourself, think about what you would tell your best friend if they were in your situation. When you fail, rather than judge yourself, evaluate yourself. Figure out what when ‘wrong’ and come up with a new game plan. Treat yourself with kindness and support yourself as if you were your own best friend.

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Feeling gym-confident 💕

Today, I am still making changes to my exercise plan and am still coming up with new activities or exercises that I enjoy doing. Anxiety is hard to deal with, but sometimes just getting yourself out the door is the smallest, yet most life-changing step you can make. I hope these 5 lessons help to motivate you to begin your own fitness journey. I’d love to hear any additional tips you use to overcoming mental health struggles in the comments below.

I hope you have a lovely day!

xoxo,

Heather 💕

how i overcame