Salmon, Squat Pulses, and Self Love: The Story So Far

It is my great pleasure to introduce to you a guest blogger - Emily Wermund. I asked Emily to write a blog post for me because 1) I love her writing style and 2) she has made an amazing transformation over the past few years. She probably doesn't even realize it, but she was a HUGE inspiration for me to start my own fitness journey. It gives me goosebumps to read Emily's story: she's living proof that daily choices and consistency over time lead to huge results. I was so happy when Emily showed interest in starting a lifting program I created. She is incredible and I just love her so much. I love talking life and fitness with her, and I absolutely adore her and continue to be inspired by her. Without further delay...

I write this to you at 8 pm on a Thursday night, as I sit here on the couch with my post-workout egg whites and peppers which I just happened to have spilled on my laptop (I’m notorious for spilling). Wish I could blame my dog, but I can’t. She’s snoozing in the other chair. I’m in my natural state of disaster, so here goes.

The Background

There’s no chronological way to tell my story, but I’ll do my best to cover the past 5 or so years, since that’s really when this whole ordeal started. I was 20, a Junior in college, and frankly- fed up with myself. I was fed up with how I looked in the mirror, fed up with being the biggest girl in my group of friends, fed up with my lack of physical activity, fed up with wiggling my way into XL tops in the dressing rooms of stores that would carry them. Fed. Up. To say I was even cognizant of what I was doing (or not doing) to myself is a stretch. Simply put, I don't even think I had the education, vocabulary, or awareness to understand my lifestyle and how drastic of a shift I needed. Don’t get me wrong, I knew I was big – but after dozens of failed attempts to self-start this weight loss and saying “I’ll do better tomorrow,” I knew I needed to make a bigger, more permanent change.

Honestly, there was never any “overnight revelation” that flipped the switch. No instance of public humiliation forever burned into my memory that kick-started this whole ordeal. If you ask me, I just started to take responsibility for my own life. I made conscious choices when it came to food and intentional decisions about my health and well-being. I remember specific nights where Old Emily would straight up make a box of Rice-a-Roni for dinner (Present Emily is cringing at the lack of nutritional value and the amount of Sodium in that sentence) and countless afterbars (where I’d consume countless sugary drinks and down several beers while I was at it) where I’d swing through El Patio and grab a $5 burrito to end the night. (All y’all Blugolds know what kind of burrito I’m talking about. They don’t fool around.) Again, WHAT. THE. HELL.

The Turning Point

Present Emily would never be caught dead with a 2 a.m. burrito, but again, these changes did not happen over one (too many “post-Brat-dance-floor-chicken-mild-with-guac”) night. Gave ‘em up. I told myself I’d still live if I’d forego the midnight snacks, and started running as a means of exercise, because honestly- I really didn’t know how to exercise any other way. I had never set foot in a gym before, but I remember making it part of my routine a couple days a week to come home in the afternoons after class, and go for a run around the block. If I could make it around the block without stopping, it was a good run. (Yes, we all have to start somewhere). Eventually, this started to become a habit and a little mental test I’d give myself to keep my activity in check.

My senior year of college, I ran more frequently. I started to keep a calendar of days I'd run in order to hold myself accountable. It was a great way to track my progress and eventually I started to feel guilty if I missed a day. I remember the specific day where it felt like I had conquered the world of long-distance running when I successfully ran 2 miles without stopping. Conquered the world? Probs not. But it was a huge milestone for me. To put things in perspective, I went from unsuccessful jogs around the block to running (yes, running the whole thing) my first half marathon in May of 2015. I'm not about the "look how far I can run" speech or into the braggy/progress/transformation BS. For me, it's more personal, and I never feel compelled to boast about anything, because I'm only doing it for myself. But holy shit, that half marathon was one of the hardest things - mentally and physically - I've ever done. Taxing. Exhausting. Grueling. To go from a place where I couldn't run down the street without stopping to walk, to completing a half marathon in 2 hours and 1 minute (still salty about that extra minute over my goal time, don't bring it up), I've never felt better or more proud of myself.

  This is only about mile 4 when I saw my parents and boyfriend for the first time on the course. Smiling a tad, but still wanting to die

This is only about mile 4 when I saw my parents and boyfriend for the first time on the course. Smiling a tad, but still wanting to die

The “How”

More importantly, that little anecdote is indicative of how much of a gradual transformation the weight-loss (or as I like to call it, “lifestyle change”) process truly is. Weight loss, healthy habits, fitness goals, etc…they don’t happen overnight. Sure, it sounds cliché, but let me just log onto Facebook quick and count how many of my friends are “ON DAY 3 OF THE 21 DAY FIX AND KILLING IT!” or how many try to sell me Herbalife products. Our need for instant gratification and immediate success makes us believe that drinking some secret shake twice a day will have you dropping pounds in the fastest way possible. I’ll save my rant on how corrupt, immoral and unsafe Multi-level Marketing Companies are for later, but let me be real with you: it takes hard work, time, dedication, and sacrifice. I’m living proof. I did no earth-shattering bodybuilding program, drank no magic potion, took no special pills, and didn’t need to buy dozens of workout DVD’s or rainbow colored Tupperware to eat healthy. I trained my ass off for that half marathon – carving hours out of my day after work to run 10 miles, assigning 3 or 4 days a week to cross-train, and putting my body through hell on race day. I stuck religiously to my training schedule (mostly out of fear that if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to complete the #halfmar) and it paid off. I made deliberate but difficult choices when it came to eating out with friends, drinking on the weekends, buying groceries, sleeping in or going for a run, which for a young twenty-something is easier said than done. There’s no quick-fix (certainly not as quick as 21 days, sorry Beachbody BABES), and no shortcuts when it comes to your health. If you want it bad enough, you’ll avoid the McDonald’s drive through and Mocha Frappuccinos, you’ll swap processed foods for protein shakes, you’ll get a gym membership and GO move your body daily, and stop binge drinking every weekend just because it’s the weekend… (or at least do less of it – we’re not all perfect). If you want the change bad enough, you’ll just freakin’ do it. Make it happen, plain and simple.

The Disclaimer

I can only speak from my own experience, but once these lifestyle changes are incorporated into your regular routine and become more staple components of the bigger picture, it’s easy to get swept up in this ominous cloud that is the diet/fitness/health and wellness industry. The more research you do and the more you learn along your own journey, the more these issues are at the forefront of your brain. Instagram posts, wellness blogs (might I suggest mindbodygreen.com as a credible source), and those pesky multilevel marketers on Facebook are all spewing information, “tips,” and progress photos at you that can really get quite annoying. My only advice is to take a step back and realize you are working on becoming the best version of you. And like they say, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Personally, I feel best when I know I’m putting good, whole food into my body, moving my body in ways it can and should move (I should write a post on how yoga completely changed my life), and when I feel stronger, faster, happier, and healthier. By embodying this mindset, I find myself adapting my daily routine to meet these needs.

The Grind

Speaking of a daily routine, a typical day for me starts early. Coffee first thing in the morning, but then I’m off to the gym. Mornings are for cardio, but if there’s 1 or 2 days of the week I’m feeling particularly sluggish or short on time, I’ll allow myself a pass and be sure to modify my evening workout to include some sort of cardio. On any given weekday, I drive (half-asleep) the 4 blocks to our local Anytime Fitness and hop on the elliptical or treadmill. Cardio (especially MORNING cardio) is something I always dreaded and just wanted to crank through and get it over with. However, since joining Anytime back in October, I’ve learned to appreciate the 6 a.m. gym family, I get to watch the morning news while on the elliptical, and find myself having more energy throughout the day. Plus, guess what? That cardio shit is DONE. I’ll usually follow these early morning gym sessions up with a protein shake and then I’m off to work.

Throughout the day, I graze on any number of foods I've prepared and brought to the office. My coworkers joke I "eat like a rabbit," but hey, that's what works for me and my body, and that's honestly what I prefer because it keeps my metabolism running throughout the day (I also get to eat more frequently!). Old Emily loved those Monster Cookies from the UW - Eau Claire Fine Arts building a la carte coffee station, and would nuke a Lean Cuisine pepperoni pizza for lunch each day, but Present Emily (and I say Present Emily, because I'm not "new"; I'm still the same person, just adopted healthier habits and a better lifestyle, I'm still a work-in-progress!) brings anything from Greek yogurt, to apples and almond butter, to carrots, celery & hummus, and my personal favorite: tuna and kale salad, to the office. Over lunch, I'll run home to let my dog outside and either take her for a walk around the block or zip to the dog park and walk a few laps. Old Emily might have entertained the idea of taking a nap if she went home for lunch (hello, college), but Present Emily views it as an opportunity to get up and moving. This is a great re-charge, because Present Emily always hits an afternoon slump and it is the WORST: tired, less energy, unfocused, a little cranky, and wanting more coffee. However, the push through 4:30 p.m. gets me out of the office and back into my routine. Since starting a weightlifting regiment over 16 weeks ago (a million thanks to Rylee - you're a Queen and a Badass B and that's the truth), I find myself heading to the gym to lift somewhere around 5 or 6 p.m. Again, Old Emily would have NEVER touched a Smith machine or kettlebell, much less justified PAYING for a gym membership, but Present Emily really enjoys going and working towards something every day. I feel stronger and healthier since starting to weight-lift, and I've made it part of my daily routine - so much so that my name has been on the Anytime Menomonie leaderboard every month since I joined the gym. Take that, Old Emily.

The Balance

To be fair, I do like to mix it up with my workouts which is why I’ll always incorporate a few outside runs, yoga classes, or circuit/HIIT training with my boyfriend throughout the week. And you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll NEVER miss Sunday night or Tuesday night Spin class. On the bike is my happy time, no ifs, ands or buts about it. Yeah, it takes a couple classes to get your butt un-sore from the seat, but I have honestly gotten to the point where I’ve rearranged work meetings and shifted around plans with friends to accommodate my Spin schedule. Ugh, love it.

Weekends are a little more relaxed, as my lifting schedule is only planned for 5 days, but I’ll still try and get to the gym once or twice because I have the time. It’s like Rylee once told me, “Once this is incorporated as part of your lifestyle, you feel like something’s missing if you don’t do it. It’s like brushing your teeth: you’ll live if you skip it for a day, but you're gonna feel so much better if you do it.” Amen, sister.

The Advice

If this post even resonates with ONE person, I can die happy. I wish someone would have posted a blog like this years ago and Old Emily could have stumbled upon it and not have waited so long to get her life together. If any part of this post relates to your lifestyle, please hear this. My advice to those on their own health journey is to stick with it. You’re only going to get out of it exactly what you put into it, and you have to want it bad enough to sacrifice your old, comfortable habits. Take it from Present Emily who is now 80 pounds lighter than Old Emily was 5 years ago. It’s not easy. I’m a tough cookie, but parts of the process really can be miserable. It takes consistency, discipline, and drive. But it’s so worth it. Start with small, manageable changes to your existing routine, and continue to modify from there. Skip your peanut butter bagel and opt for protein oats in the morning, take a hike with a friend instead of watching Netflix, quit drinking wine in the middle of the week just because. I’m not saying you can’t have fun and indulge once in a while. I certainly do. But I’ll echo the 80/20 rule and remind you that these healthier habits have to be lifestyle changes, not just one-week fad diets or juice cleanses or fasted cardio sessions or what have you. It’s all about consistency and moderation. God knows I still appreciate my vodka.

The Now

So with that, I feel like I’ve significantly rambled on for quite some time about my insecurities, vulnerable transformation, and new outlook and responsibility for my health. I’m not a doctor, or a personal trainer, I’m just a chick who finally got motivated enough to make a change, found something that worked for me, and stuck with it. And now I love it. I can’t imagine my life without exercise and good food, and I don’t want to. By no means am I “done” getting stronger, losing weight, or being healthier. Truly, I don’t think the process ever stops. You keep going because you can and you love to and you should.

*Just because- I’ve never done before and after pictures, and frankly I still think they’re cheesy, but here it is. Living proof that hard work pays off.