How I Trick Myself into Having a Good Workout (When I Would Rather Not)

As a professional athlete, it goes without saying that I work out quite a bit. If you enjoy exercise, this probably sounds like a dream. However, no matter how much you enjoy training, I’ve found there are always going to be days when you struggle to motivate yourself to work up a sweat.

I usually train twice a day (sometimes less, sometimes more), and am on my feet coaching a good bit as well. My daily life basically consists of a lot of eating, training, and motivating. However, after I’ve trained in the morning, then coached clients, I occasionally hit a little slump (for me it usually occurs after lunch). I am grateful that my afternoon workout is a habit and a part of my daily routine, but I also know that simply going through the motions is not the best that I can do. Furthermore, 98% of the time I love training. So why not find a way to enjoy the process?

I love fitness, but there are some days where mentally, I am not jumping into the gym with 110% enthusiasm. Fortunately, I’ve worked out a few tricks to get myself into a good workout mood, so that I can try to make the best of my session. Whether you’re an athlete, ex-athlete, or just someone who likes (or needs) to exercise, hopefully you can put these tips to good use. We all have days where we need that extra bit of oomph, and while it’s much easier to say “no” to a workout, or to back down on that last set, you’ll always be glad you said yes!

1. Get Some Tunes

I’m convinced music is the ultimate motivator. On several occasions, I’ve switched the music in the gym to an upbeat playlist, or put on some tunes to solo hit, and it has completely changed my attitude. Same exercise/drill, new me!

If I am dreading or procrastinating a workout (and if I’m not already at the gym) I create a new playlist to get me excited to move. I’ve found this works especially well with running and indoor cycling. Plus, if you make a playlist consisting all of songs you’re really pumped about, it’ll give you that extra motivation to push hard throughout the entire workout.

2. Get Moving

A body at rest wants to stay at rest. A body in motion wants to stay in motion. For me, this statement is so true! If I am feeling mentally “blah”, I hop on a piece of cardio equipment for at least 10 minutes to get my heart rate up and sweat a bit. Unless I am truly exhausted (in which case I should just take a day off), this method works every single time. Once my blood gets flowing, my mind snaps into gear, and I am ready to start training.

I’ll usually hop on the bike for 10 minutes for a low impact cardio warm up

3. Get Some Company

Playing an individual sport like squash has its pros and cons. On the upside, you only need one other person to hit with to have a good session. The downside is that in unlike a team sport such as soccer, there is seldom a larger peer/training group to serve as a constant motivator.

When I have a tough or particularly monotonous workout planned, I coerce a friend to do it with me. (I have a handful of trusty friends who will willingly suffer with me). If possible, I schedule the session ahead of time, so that I don’t have the chance to back out last minute. Having someone else there not only gives you some accountability to start the workout on time, but also incentivizes you to stay focused through the entire workout.

Next time you’re feeling indifferent about your workout, try out one (or all) of these tips to get the most out of your training session. Good luck!

5 Healthy Holiday Habits

Hi guys! How’s the Thursday going so far?

I’m currently holed up at a local coffee shop trying to get all of the things done that I should have gotten done last night. Even though Princeton’s finals period isn’t until after winter break (I know, not ideal), we seem to somehow get dumped on with a million things regardless.

Anyway, despite all of those things, I did get a chance to write an article for our school newspaper again this week, which I thought I’d share here as well!

5 Habits for a Healthier Holiday Season

I love the holiday season. As soon as December 1st hits, I break out my festive sweaters (all two of them), blast Michael Buble’s “Christmas” album on repeat, and replace note-taking in class with intense Pinterest stalking. However, as much as I love these holiday rituals, none of them can compete with the best one of them all: food.

IMG_5593Along with festive movies and parties, winter break brings with it an endless string of food-centric events. Don’t get me wrong, as a self-proclaimed foodie I’m not complaining one bit. There’s not much I love more than baking snowman shortbread with my mom while a cheesy romcom hums in the background. However, while endless cookie dough sampling can be fun, there’s no doubt that making this behavior a habit could lead to some less than satisfactory realizations, come the New Year. So, how do you enjoy the holiday cheer without the holiday hangover? I don’t have it nailed down to an exact science, but these tips might come in handy when you find yourself surrounded by a cozy couch and scrumptious stuffing in the coming weeks!

“Limited time only” does NOT mean “must have”

  • Do you really need that Reese’s peanut butter cup just because it’s shaped like a Christmas tree? (I almost fell for this gimmick when they came out with a pumpkin version- I thought it was a pumpkin flavoured PB cup!) Are you actually a fan of candy-cane flavoured desserts, or do you just think you are?
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I clearly didn’t abide by this “rule” when Chobani came out with their “limited time only” Pumpkin flavour…
  • Tip: ask yourself if you would normally be inclined to indulge in this “special” dessert. If yes, go for it! If you’re not really as enthused about the flavor as you are about its scarcity, consider giving it a pass.

Talk and walk

  • You don’t have to sit down at Starbucks to catch up with a friend (although I know their chairs are quite comfy) so why not get your coffee to go? Tip: If it’s not a complete blizzard outside, go for a walk around a local park, or kill two birds with one stone and do your Christmas shopping! And if you’re still a 5 year old at heart like me, don’t be afraid to grab a friend or two and join the neighbourhood kids for some sledding fun! (On second thought, I might be the only kid left on my block…more snow for me!)

185840_501188146330_4067948_nBreak up the feast(s)

  • In my family, we have both a big brunch and a dinner on Christmas day. If I don’t get up and move between the hours of noon and 4, I go into a serious food coma which to be honest, kind of puts a damper on the whole day!

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  • Tip: Do a family/friend run or walk on the day(s) of your feast! Turkey trots exist for a reason, right? So why not take a Jingle-bell Jog, a Hanukah Hike, or if you’re fortunate, a Santa Ski?

Pregame, game, or postgame?

  • You could be surprised to find that this tip has nothing to do with alcohol, but instead, revolves around food. Part of the reason I come away from dinner parties as full as Santa is because it is usually about 4 hours of eating, between appetizers, dinner, and dessert. Tip: Either nix one of these 3 meals altogether, or make sure you eat less of each in order to keep yourself in balance. Trust me, if you fill your plate with dinner and dessert, you won’t find yourself missing those mini quiches that looked like heaven when you arrived famished.

Choose Your Booze Wisely

  • Between exes, old high school friends, and your strange Aunt who’s not really you’re aunt, chances of awkward conversations this holiday season are pretty high. If you’re 21, you might even find yourself reaching for a strong glass of egg nog to calm the nerves, or facilitate a laugh. However, one glass of egg nog (or your beverage of choice) usually leads to two or more, which is sure to add up (depending on the level of awkwardness).

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  • Tip: Avoid those interactions at all cost. KIDDING! If you do feel like celebrating the season with a little booze, try to steer clear from the cream and sugar-laden drinks such as Baileys and Margaritas and replace them instead with lighter options. (Click here for Shape’s list of best+worst holiday cocktails!)

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Hope you have a great holiday with friends and family! 🙂

What “Healthy” Means to Me

Let me preface this by filling you all in on how I came up with the idea for this post…

It all began Saturday morning…

I woke up earlier than expected, and therefore decided to stay in bed and do some blog reading/catch up on emails before heading to the library. Of course, within a few minutes of waking up, my first thoughts drifted to food, however my urge to stay in my jammies and comfortable bed trumped venturing outside to get real food. So, what did I do?

I ate my U-store snacks.

snackcollageBoomchickapop and dark chocolate bark thins. It’s the breakfast of champions, I tell ya.

Except for the fact that…it’s not. In my mind I knew that this was probably one of the least nutritious breakfasts I could be eating, so why was I doing it? As a self-proclaimed health nut, isn’t this kind of behaviour complete taboo?!

As I sat in my bed, popcorn crumbs (yes, popcorn crumbles- fun fact) sprinkled over my shirt, I felt, honestly, quite pathetic. Despite my pitiful state, I remained relatively immobile, using my long arms to reach over to my desk to pick up  my laptop without even getting out of bed. Now is that laziness to the extreme, or what?

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Okay, okay- this picture was actually taken at the airport when I was feelin’ just as lazy.

The Realization

However, it got me thinking: If I know what I’m doing is so “unhealthy”, why am I doing it? What have happened to the usual cues that motivate me to eat nutritiously, and frankly, not act like a lazy bum? Then it struck me: my body felt fine, and I didn’t feel disgusting. Somehow, downing an entire bag of popcorn and chocolate covered coconut didn’t leave me feeling sluggish or sloth-like. I was, however, cognizant of the fact that this was an unusual behaviour (even pizza for breakfast would have been a better choice), and knew that this was a one-off kind of thing.

Sometimes Your Body is Fine With Junk

There’s a reason why people swear by the 80/20 rule. It’s no fun to be constantly stressed about eating the recommended requirement of veggies every single day, measuring out your 1/2 cup servings of rice, or whatever it may be. Some days are just going to be filled with chocolate, cookies, and snacks on snacks. (Ahem ahem, this may have been my entire Friday). However, if you make sure at the end of the week that you roughly stuck to healthy foods 80% of the time, that 20% really shouldn’t pose too much of a problem. At least that’s my philosophy!

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I see some raisins in there! Does that count in my 80%? 😉

The More I Work Out, The Healthier I Will Be

I have a confession to make: I’m one of those annoying people who indulges less the more I work out.

I know that some people like to “reward” themselves with a treat after a hard workout or race. After several years of competing and training, I’ve realized that this “urge” doesn’t apply to me. Instead, I find that exercise makes my body crave nutrient dense foods, as though it knows it needs to prepare itself for the next training session. Hey, I’m not fighting this one, but I do have to acknowledge the fact that this tendency is not always appreciated by others, especially those who find sweets dangerously tempting.

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Pretty happy about some M&M’s and ice cream

All or Nothing Principle

So, you may be thinking, what happens when I don’t work out? Do I still eat as healthy as when I’m training?

To be honest, sometimes the answer is “yes”, but often times, no. Saturday morning’s popcorn/chocolate extravaganza is a perfect example. I woke up, and I was tired, sore, and wanted to stay in bed. The only form of physical activity I had on the agenda for the day was possibly a light bike to relieve soreness, followed by lots of dancing later that night. Therefore, why not have some “unhealthy” snacks?

True, I did indulge more at once than the average person. However, I didn’t feel too badly (physically and mentally) about this, because for the most part, I had made good, nutritious choices all week long. In other words, my entire week had been composed of ~80% healthy foods, which meant I could cram my 20% of junk food into one sitting. I don’t recommend doing this (I’m actually pretty surprised I didn’t feel like a sloth afterwards), but it didn’t pose any problems. In fact, it motivated me to get back on track.

Moral of the Story: What does “healthy” mean to me?

To me “healthy” means: feeling good, inside and out. 

It’s not about following the latest “health fad” that’s plastered all over the TV or the internet. To me, being healthy isn’t a direct function of how many vegetables you eat, how many hours a day you exercise, or how little dessert you eat. In my opinion, if you’re too worried about being perfectly “healthy”, you’ll only wind up stressing yourself out, and won’t be able to enjoy the beauty of rest days, cheesecake, and chocolate. And who wants to live without those?!

Image 25As far as I’m concerned, if I look good on the outside, and feel good on the inside, I’m doing something right.

So! Now that my long rant is over, tell me…

What does “healthy” mean to you? 

Whether you’re a blogger, or a “silent reader”, please feel free to comment, or to send me an email with your thoughts at squashonsquashblog@gmail.com! I’d love to hear your definitions of “healthy”, and what it means to you.