Discovering the joys of morning exercise and meditation

Discovering the joys of morning exercise and meditationIt was Saturday. I was up at past four in the morning, a usual morning routine, but I was too lazy to get out from bed.  My mind was debating whether to go for my usual morning exercise or just call the day as rest day since I haven’t had any that week. I cuddled my son, pulled the comforter and started to close my eyes. I dozed off.

I woke up again at past five in the morning, still weighing whether to go or not. Considering that it is summer here, I was running out of time. If I exercise, I have to leave soon because the sun was just about to rise and I could still enjoy at least an hour of walking without being baked under the scorching summer heat. Next I envisioned which route to take, if ever I would go. And then, the vision of sitting on the bench in lotus position, hands rested on my knees and eyes closed, startled me. Ahhh, I was not willing to miss my few minutes of meditation for that day.

For almost two weeks now, I discovered the joy of simply sitting with eyes closed in one quiet spot during my morning exercise. This few minutes of tranquility, of just listening the birds chirping or experiencing the gush of wind in my skin, is precious. It’s like I’m receiving an extra dose of energy for the day.

For the last six to eight months, I generally exercised in the treadmill for an average of thirty minutes daily and around an hour on weekends. However for the last four weeks, I have been hitting the parks. With the discovery of the short meditation, I am even more driven to exercise in the park to be with nature. It also propels me to start earlier than usual.

Now my day starts at 4:30am. That’s when I start heading to the park. Then I am back at home at almost six to join my son for breakfast.

Honestly, this morning routine somehow became like an opium for me. I found it addicting to some degree. I posted this last week in my Instragram (@smilemilesy).

‘When laziness strikes you but you look forward to that morning adrenaline and a quiet meditation moment, so you shrug off your laziness and lace your shoes.

Off you go to welcome the sunrise.’

It is true. Lately this has been my motivation. I am imagining my clothes drenched in sweat; a heart that beats faster; the podcast I listen; the beautiful sunrise I see; the tranquility I experience; and most importantly, the moment that I wrap up my morning exercise with a quiet moment on the bench, listening to the sounds around me and calming my mind from juggling so many thoughts.

It feels amazing. And note, it is for free!

Though it has just been three weeks that I began meditating after or during my morning exercise, I already experience a tremendous shift.

Meditation became my moment of prayer. I consider myself as spiritual but not necessarily a religious person. The sight of nature’s panoramic beauty amazes me. I am deeply awed as I think of how great and wonderful our nature is. The sea. The sky. The stars. The sunrise. The different physical features of the people – thin, stout, tall, small, round eyes, straight hair, curly long lashes, etc. The dogs. The cats. It’s  simply amazing. It made me realized how brilliant is our Creator to come up such various masterpieces of work. Indeed I could not fathom his brilliance and generosity to share such marvelous creations.

Meditation keeps my mind calm for the rest of the day. I think this is the considerable impact that I experience so far. I am the kind of person who worries a lot specially about the future. Aside from worrier, I am also a stress sucker. Ouch, but true.

You know, when worry creeps in, your mind becomes clouded. It is like driving on a foggy weather where visibility is very bad. It makes you down and unproductive generally. That’s why I love the Buddhism’s practice called ‘mindfulness’. 

It helps me in my writing. Since high school (when the only available machine for writing was typewriter  and the classic tandem of pen and paper), I have already known that writing is my first and only love. Unfortunately, like the love that human shares with each other or to others, I took it for granted. I betrayed my love for more than two decades as I became engrossed more with other temporal love affairs. As a result of years of betrayals, I also didn’t find peace. I hopped from one job to the others motivated by better compensations.

Luckily my dying love was rekindled recently and I vowed this time to love for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.

Since I have been sweating out in the morning before sunrise, I noticed a shift. I am not sure if there’s correlation between my morning exercise and writing but it seems there’s influx of energy  in my head and it squeezes out my creativity. Now I love writing more than ever.

It helps me to meditate without dozing off.  Earlier this year I attended a five days course where it was combination of yoga and meditation. It was nice but the course’s orientation was more into meditation. Since it was just a light yoga, I usually ended up dozing off when it was meditation time.

After the completing the course, I tried it at home. It was the same thing – I dozed off – even I showered before meditation.

I have been exercising like for almost ten months already. The difference before and after our trip to Nepal last month is the venue and duration. I used to hit the gym at past five in the morning and exercise in the treadmill for half an hour or even less.  Nowadays I exercise in the morning for more than an hour  then I try to squeeze at least another half an hour in the evening just to de-stress. I have a burning desire to gain stamina and endurance, and considering my current fitness level, it will take me ages to be in the fitness level that I wish to be. Ahhh, like my idol, Bubble Paraiso.

All this hard work and sacrifice is for our Poon Hill trek this August.

Anyway, back to meditation. Last month, I started reading about descriptive writing, you know – writing using your five senses.  One day I thought of sitting in one quiet corner somewhere in the park after almost completing my exercise. I sat in lotus position, hands on my knees and closed my eyes for few minutes. The intention was not to meditate but to use my senses to observe things around me.

When I opened my eyes, it was a eureka moment! I discovered that meditation is best when you are in the park and when it is done right after your exercise. It is maybe because all of this adrenalin rush, I don’t doze off. Ahh, so nice to experience this every day in the morning. Closing my eyes is like entering in my own zone; everything shutdown – you know all the ramblings thoughts about life, future, work, and all the worldly stuff that simply burdens you. This is my zen that I look forward every day.

For this reason too, I noticed that it keeps my mind calm for the rest of the day. I am not sure though if there’s any co-relation between my new morning routine but nowadays I am less irritable and not just so stressed with the daily demanding grind at work and at home.

Less sleep is required. This is one of the best part. If I sweat out in the afternoon after work, I discover that I am up earlier the next day. It is like I don’t need to sleep for at least eight hours to recharge. Six hours is enough. Then I am good already and not feeling sleepy at all.

I think it sounds strange, right?

It allows me to alone. When you are a working mom, juggling different roles in a day, it’s inevitable to have a profound yearning to be in solitude, just a tiny chunk of your day to enjoy like a ‘me-time’ to be reunited with your own self; breathing every second thinking of nothing else but yourself only. This moment of a simple pause from the daily grind of life helps you appreciate simple things such the gift of nature. It makes me thankful too for every moment I breathe.

What about you? Have you tried exercising in the morning? 

Cheers!

 

10,000 Steps Obsession

Cheese! (1)It is just me. My nature. I am not into tracking things. Tracking every penny that goes out my pocket. Tracking my food intake. Tracking my weight. I tried tracking things but failed miserably many times. 

Oh, I just remember. I have been tracking my monthly period though for the last five months. You see, I always have been irregular period since before. Perhaps in average I get three to four times in a year only. It is the same reason why I missed my first trimester of pregnancy. Sounds dumb but I just realized I was pregnant when my belly was already 16 weeks!

So imagine when I started to have monthly period from mid last year. It was strange and amazing occurrence.

Anyhow, I gave the credit (of my monthly period) to my new lifestyle, exercising regularly.

Anyway back to my tracking matter, my sister recently gave me a gift, a smart watch (Is there really such word? Oh well,  I just search in Ecosia, try this search engine and you are helping mother earth, and yes indeed there’s such word).

Because I have a goal to trek on my birthday and see the Himalayas range, I need to boost my fitness level so I can endure hiking for 4-6 hours every day. That’s the goal. However, since I am just your normal working mom who juggles office work, motherhood and exercise, my time (apart from work) and energy is mainly spent to my son. With my new goal, I needed somehow to manage my time so I can squeeze in daily exercise hoping to develop my stamina and endurance.

And of course, I began with the exercise that I knew best. Walking.

For the first time, I am tracking religiously my daily steps. Later I realize that the best way to track my progress is to track it through the distance I cover.  So lately I added this in my records but in this graph (below) it is not showing. Perhaps next time when I have more data to share.

Steps trackers

So far, I am not losing any weight. Sometimes I find it frustrating but I remind myself that the goal is to develop stamina and endurance. The goal is to improve my fitness level, not really to lose weight. If I shed off few kilos, then that’s a big bonus. 

But for now, I have to stay focus on my goal , #Poonhilltrek!

Cheers! 

 

 

Sharing and hopefully Inspiring others

10When you experience something great, you tend to share it with your friends and love ones. When you taste a heavenly snack, you brag about it to your friends and colleagues.

I think this is human nature. We share, we talk, we preach, we advocate, we recommend, we refer, when we experience, see, taste or feel something great, something worth remembering, something extraordinary.

So imagine how I share with passion about plant based lifestyle to my family, friends and colleagues. I can talk on and on about it. I have the intense desire to share and to talk about it because I experience the difference between my old life and now.

My old life means indulging on burgers, fries, fried foods, pizza, hot dogs, daily mugs of coffee and so on. When stressed, I craved for burgers or ice creams. When tired, I relaxed by watching TV and gobbling chips and burgers. After a tiring work week, the best way to recharge was to oversleep on weekends and to eat pizza and fried chickens at nights. 

When I ditched this old life and started embracing plant based lifestyle, the result is inevitable and it doesn’t go unnoticed too. My colleagues became curious. My friends began asking questions. My family was amazed. And the best part, I started to feel good and more energetic than ever.

So when an old good friend talked to me about his cholesterol issue, I shared about my new lifestyle. He was honest enough to ask for help, for support, for encouragement, to do the overdue lifestyle change. Hey, I am not a health guru, not at all, but I share what I changed in my life and how good it feels. I sent him real life testimonies to read and documentaries to watch to help revolutionized his mind. I really hope that he reads or watch those stuff I sent to him. 

Anyway, this journey, the lifestyle change, is actually a mind game. 

I realized it has to start from the mind. You have to convince your mind. You have to feed your mind with encouragement, with hopes, with possible results, with inspirations, with health benefits, and so on. Once your mind starts to believe it, then it becomes easy.

Now when I see dairy products, I remember the Fork Over Knives and What a Health documentaries I watched. Because you learned the downside of consuming dairy products, your mind automatically refuses to entertain the idea of drinking cow’s milk or eating cheese. Your knowledge became like nagging thought, a voice within your head, that never stops until you resolve that you are not eating that yummy double cheese burger. 

Last month I received an email from my old good friend updating me about his health status. (Sorry, have to delete some of the other details to keep his identity confidential.) This was after a month of encouraging him to exercise daily and opt for healthier versions of his food. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~

From: XXX

Sent: Thursday, April 12, 2018 9:29 AM
To:
Subject: Happy

Hello, you need a big hug..  my cholesterol went down from 290 to 180, you pushed me so hard to take good regular healthy food and that’s the result,

Also regular exercise and many factors have done this good turn around. Thanks 

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Also a colleague, whom I always have lunch together, has now been cooking most of the time vegetarian dishes with almost without oil. She discovered that it made her skin clearer as her pimples became lesser.  She gave the credit to eating less meat, dairy products and fried foods. 

However, my ultimate goal is to share this healthy lifestyle to my son. This is one of the legacy I want to leave to my son. We are what our parents were, right?

I am glad though that my six year old son somehow grasps already the importance of avoiding processed food. I am one proud mama when I see him reading the ingredients written on the packet of snack which he picks from the grocery store. Then he will request me to buy it for him giving a justification that it is good because the packet is all natural, no preservatives and no added sugar.

I am not a devout person however I still believe that our health is our greatest blessing and we ought to be good steward of this blessing.

So let’s continue to live a healthy lifestyle and hopefully we encourage others to do the same!

Cheers to healthy living!

 

The fourth meal

HELLO THEREIt was around four in the afternoon. Our energy level was ebbing away. Checking emails is the most back-aching work like chopping a truckload of firewood with a maul under a scorching summer heat; it is so exhausting that your clothes are drenched with sweat.

I can point only one reason for this. Thursday, as the last working day of the week (weekend here is Friday and Saturday), is just few hours away from weekend. I guess, psychologically our mind switches to weekend mode by default on Thursday afternoons.

To survive the last two hours, we work until six in the afternoon, before weekend starts, we flock to the pantry to get some energy boost, the power of caffeine. That Thursday, few of my colleagues and I chatted for few minutes while waiting for our turn for the coffee machine.

Casually and out of curiosity, I asked my Nepali colleague about his plans for the weekend.

He replied with a face untainted with any emotions like a poker face. His round eyes expressed dullness, not even a single thread of excitement. It seemed he dreaded weekends the same way he dreaded working days.

‘Nothing special.’ He said in a calm voice. ‘I will just go for my usual daily routine.’

‘So you exercise also on weekend?’ He shared before that every day he goes for a walk for at one hour and a half.

‘Yes. Daily exercise is a must, right?’ He asked like waiting for my confirmation. ‘You know, exercise is like a meal. We don’t skip meals and so does exercise.’

Those last words struck me like thunderbolt, an electrifying statement. Wow! What a best way to create the need, the enforced necessity, to exercise.

Think about it. Generally we eat three main meals a day. That’s breakfast, lunch and dinner. Maybe we skip breakfast or lunch but we always have at least one meal in a day, right? I think this is a great way to convinced our mind, our stubborn mind, to exercise.

We never skip meals. We eat regardless if we are tired, overjoyed or depressed. We eat. We have to value exercise the way we value our daily meals.

If we have the usual three meals a day, we can add one more however instead of chewing, we let our feet stride in the treadmill or in the park or move our body through aerobic or Zumba. Like our meals, ideally we have to exercise regardless of the weather condition, of our emotional state or our whereabouts.

Meals fuel our body and so does exercise. Like a car engine, we need both to help our body function efficiently.

So, have you decided where to take your fourth meal?  I do. I will be hitting the park for a walk, a great way to destress too for the day’s work.

Cheers to healthy living!

 

Sharing healthy lifestyle means LOVE

HelloEcstatic. 

I think that’s the word I can describe best  my feeling today.

You see, my sister and I shared similar passions. 

The passion to travel and to experience new culture. 

The passion to help less fortunate students. 

The passion to treat others equally and generously.  

The passion to hang out in coffee shops to work and brainstorm ideas. 

Lately, as I try to engage in sports (and wish to pursue an active lifestyle), I am embracing her passion for active lifestyle too. And oh, because of this, I start to appreciate the guys she likes. You know, those guys who are sporty, active and easy going peeps. (peace sister! lol!)

The passion for great and yummy comfort food! 

But since a ditched my old eating habits, I have now my own definition of yummy food. I turned away from ice creams, rich-dairy pasta sauces, baked goodies, burgers, fries, pizza and fried chicken. 

Nowadays my yummy food is pasta topped with spinach sauce or flourless muffins or vegan mac and cheese. 

My sister is also on the heavier side like I used too. With all these great results that I am reaping from plant based lifestyle, I keep pitching (non-stop, lol!) this idea to her. 

Try it for a week. Or maybe just for three day. Try water frying your spices instead of using cooking oil. blah.. blah.. blah.. 

I was trying to evangelize her about the ‘awesomeness’ of this lifestyle. I wanted her to experience what I am experiencing. But I failed. 

But when we met earlier this month in Nepal, I knew she saw the difference in me even though she wouldn’t admit it. I have somehow kept off my weight for the last one year. 

I was 83 kilos (I guess more but I stopped weighing, afraid to be confronted of the real score in the weighing scale) before I started my lifestyle change journey last March 2017. Now I weigh between 66 – 67 kilos. On days I disregard healthy living I balloon to 68-69 kilos. 

But still, I am proud of what I have achieved, not only about the weight loss but importantly the fact that I manage to keep the weight, without really bouncing back to 83 kilos. 

So just imagine my intense desire to take my sister on board in this journey.

As mentioned in my previous post, Nepal has given us a ‘fitspiration’ resulting to a plan to trek Poon Hill this August 2018 to celebrate my 40th birthday. I can’t wait to see the Himalayas range! Promise, I will post an ‘instagrammable’ photo with the Himalayas backdrop. LOL!

Because of this plan (well,  the real plan really is to trek to Annapurna Base Camp some time next year), it pushes us to be physically healthy. We have to. 

So for the last few days my sister is doing her own way of transformation. And today, I was sooo happy when she messaged me that she wanted to be a vegan. Hooray!!! 

Big sister here is more than happy to support her! 

As you know, I follow a vegan diet with no cooking oil and processed food. She can’t imagine food without cooking oil. How can you possible whisk some yummy food without cooking oil (and dairy products), right?  

The supportive sister offered her help. I suggested to come up with one week plant based menu. Since she lives back home in Philippines, it means I have to consider the the local ingredients. 

And earlier today, she cooked her first vegan dish without cooking oil! bravo!! 

So let’s see where the WFPB (whole food plant based) diet will take her. 

I really hope that we will trek together more places in the future. I am optimistic that Poon Hill trek is just the beginning of so many more trekkings and hikings adventures. 

Cheers to healthy living! 

 

 

Thank you Nepal for the ‘fitspiration’

It's Take Your Dogto Work Day (1)

Paragliding in Pokhara, Nepal

While Lakila was taking her gentle stride in the midst of Chitwan National Park, my son and I, along with my sister and an elderly frail American tourist (by the way, after Nepal he is heading to Bhutan. We’re so jealous!), were sitting in each corner of the wooden square frame  which was securely fastened at the back of Lakila, the 40 year old elephant.

Behind us was another elephant, who was big as Lakila and who seemed to be hungry. Along the way, the elephant would stop and gently pull leaves from the trees then put it in her mouth through her trunk.

While we were observing closely this rare moment, my son, out of nowhere, uttered something.

‘Mommy, you should be an elephant if you turn into an animal’.

A bit insulted, I was not sure what he meant exactly. He might be referring about my weight or something else. Why elephant of all animals, right? Why this gigantic creature?

‘Hmm… why did you say that?’, I asked.

‘Because you will be happy.’ He answered smiling. ‘You can eat as many plants as you wish because elephants are vegan.’

And oh, mommy’s heart melted right away! Though weird, I found it very thoughtful coming from a six year old child. It also gives me a tinge of confirmation that the idea of veganism already sank in in his young mind. 

Food was great in Nepal. Well, at least for the places we visited like Chitwan, Kathmandu and Phokara. Vegan option is no trouble at all.

However, the best take away (aside from the tomato-peanut sauce, a condiment served with plain paratha, recipe that I tried to steal from this one restaurant in Kathmandu)  from my trip to Nepal is to kindle my interest in trekking. The aha moment was unveiled in the form of short video that was shown in the International Mountain Museum in Phokara. One part of video was about the effect of global warming in the Himalayas region especially the famous peak, Mount Everest.

Nah, I was not inspired to reach the peak of Mount Everest. That will be like death sentence to me. I will be happy and fine drinking Everest beer instead. Lol!

The inspiration, which is stirred in me, is the aspiration to trek – to trek the Annapurna Base Camp – and to see the great Himalayas range. And of course, there’s this desire too to get an ‘instagrammable’ photo with the backdrop of snowy-white mantled Himalayas range and the cotton-candy-like glaciers.

Oh, I can’t wait for this moment to come. I’m so excited!

But of course, I have to touch base with reality and here’s the fact. I am not one of those hardcore physically fit peeps! I just started my physical fitness journey, by this I mean walking in the treadmill for 30 minutes, mid last year.

And here I am, announcing my ambitious desire to conquer Annapurna Base Camp (ABC).

From where I am now, in terms of physical fitness, to where my goal is, trekking the ABC, it means that I must be silly to dream this big. Damn, I don’t have even stamina to jog for three minutes in the treadmill.

But I want to trek ABC. I really do. This implies walking continuously for nine to ten days.  That requires a lot of physical preparation from my side. I mean, tons of preparation to be physically ready for that trek.

Nepal, thank you for the  fitspiration! For sure it will require hard work and discipline but I am ready to take the challenge. I may or may not make it but I don’t want to give up without trying!

For sure, I will see you, Annapurna Base Camp! And I promised you, it will be in this lifetime!

 

One year into weight loss journey and healthy living

FinalIt has been a year now since I started my healthy living journey.

I’m proud and thankful to achieve my current weight of 67kg (sometimes 66kg) through plant based eating with no cooking oil and less processed food. Of course, it was not an easy journey. It has been a tough ride and up to now I am still navigating my way.

There’s always a learning curve. There’s always pitfalls. I stumbled, not once, but many times. I cave in sometimes to my cravings. There were days I was too lazy to lace my shoes and exercise.

But life goes on. Another day comes, another new opportunity to make again the right choice – clean eating and exercising.

Yesterday I have been browsing my photos in my phone. I was amazed of how far I have come from compared a year ago. It’s from 83kg (or even more but I stopped weighing myself ashamed to be confronted of the real number in the weighing scale) to now, 67kg.

Most of my clothes have been repaired, made it smaller to fit better. Those old clothes, which I hid because it’s too tight to wear, are now back in my closets and I have been using it regularly.  Those t-shirts that used to look like a ‘fit blouse’ to me are now back to its original purpose, a t-shirt.

I used to hate selfies too because it would take me time to find the right angle to project the slimmer version of me. But now, I began loving selfies.

Now my only concern is just to find the right angle that looks best for me.  I don’t whine anymore after the photos are taken (unlike before I used to curse why I was looking fat in the photo. I guess, I was in denial that indeed I was obese.) Now I am okay with it.

I realized also yesterday that I am okay now with my body. I am not keen of achieving anymore the 58kg, my earlier goal. I think I would look very skinny at this weight which I don’t like.

I am happy with my weight now and all I wish is to maintain it. My priority now is to tone my body and increase my level of physical activity.

I am not yet sure how. I haven’t figured out the details yet. 

All I know is that healthy living is a choice, a constant choice that I make everyday. 

Cheers to healthy living!