Tag Archives: health

Exploring Minimalism

closet

During my little blogging hiatus over the summer, I got really into the idea of minimalism. I was riding the train home from work, scrolling through my Instagram feed, when I saw someone posted about a “capsule wardrobe” inspired by the blog Unfancy. Something about this struck a chord, so I went over to Unfancy and then down a rabbit hole of all things minimalist.

I’m not afraid to admit that I’ve been a pretty materialistic person my whole life. I blame my early obsession with Mary-Kate & Ashley and my efforts to emulate their pre-teen style via the Limited Too. Fast forward a decade, and this desire to look good, dress well, live well only heightened in New York City. Most days I loved walking around the city, being inspired by style, design, and beautiful things (i.e. the beautiful people at SoulCycle). But some days I would just feel depressed that I couldn’t afford those beautiful things and everything that I did have wasn’t good enough.

So when I started to read into minimalism, I really liked the idea of de-cluttering my life of the things that didn’t bring me joy and savoring the things that do. I was getting tired of feeling depressed about all the things I didn’t have. And this idea doesn’t just apply to stuff, it relates to relationships, careers, commitments: simplify/minimize/say no to the things that don’t make you happy, and say yes to the things that do. Sounds so simple, but for a life-long people-pleaser, can’t-say-no-er, want-to-impress-everyone, this is a challenge.

One thing that has helped me de-clutter those thoughts has been immersing myself in blogs, books, podcasts, and social media by other people who follow a minimalist lifestyle. Here are a few of my favorites that I recommend if you’re interested in this whole minimalism thing, or just looking for some new perspective on all things fashion, health, and business.

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. The principles he discusses in this book can relate to anything from exercise and the way you eat to starting a new business.

Unfancy. Blogger Caroline creates a capsule wardrobe of 37 pieces in four 3-month increments throughout the year. Her style is on point and very inspiring to see!

Well-Aware Podcast. Host Lindsey interviews leaders in the wellness space with a focus on health, sustainability, and kindness.

Better Than Before (book) and Happier (podcast) by Gretchen Rubin. I was already a fan of The Happiness Project, but I enjoyed Better Than Before even more. Not necessarily about minimalism, but her strategies for habits success are all about knowing thyself better.

The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. Again, not directly related to minimalism and I’m not a fan of the religious references, but his principles related to money are simple, back to basics, and have definitely helped me & Kevin as we’ve combined finances.

Find Your Soul

souldcycle-find-your-soul

As a former Sociology major and someone who tends to over-analyze things, I’ve always been interested in trends, social expectations, and why people do the things they do. Living in New York City you see some pretty weird things that are subject to question (i.e. public defecation or waiting in line at Shake Shack for 2 hours). One such “New York” thing is SoulCycle (though it’s not just in NYC anymore).¬†Why is SoulCycle so popular? Why are people willing to pay so much for it? Why did it take off exponentially? So I took to Facebook to enlist people to answer a brief survey in search of these answers.

What I found is probably not surprising on the surface. The number 1 reason people said they go to SoulCycle is that it’s a good workout (I can attest to that) and the number 1 reason people said they don’t go to SoulCycle is that it’s too expensive (I can definitely attest to that). What was interesting though were the contradictions in people’s depictions of the brand. Many people said they love SoulCycle because of the feeling of community, yet they also described it as elitist. Lots of people said it’s trendy, but then said it’s #basic – wouldn’t that make it not trendy anymore? Others called it spiritual or “zen”, but then called out the loud music and sweaty room – not your typical idea of zen. And finally, many people associated SoulCycle with celebs or rich New Yorkers, but yet (to my knowledge) none of the survey takers were celebrities or of Gossip Girl wealth and they still pay the hefty fee for the class. I did have a fair share of celeb sightings back in the day, but on the outside, most people were seemingly normal like me, barely making enough money to pay for a 250-square foot studio let alone fund their daily SoulCycle habit.

So what’s up with all the contradictions? My guess is that SoulCycle is at this tension point where it’s no longer for the elite or just a trend, it’s part of today’s zeitgeist. It’s helped to form this new “health as wealth” culture. As much as SoulCyle seems like it’s for the rich and famous, more and more “regular” people are buying into it – despite the steep price – along with other boutique cycling chains or Barry’s Bootcamp and crossfit. Now, saying you do crossfit or carrying a SoulCycle bag is as much of a statement as carrying a Birkin Bag. These fitness crazes have become more than a trend, they are brands; they are a symbol of status. By carrying that SoulCycle bag you’re making a statement to the world that says, “I workout. I take care of myself. I’m healthy.”

But what does “healthy” even mean anymore. Pretty much every workout, recipe, beauty product has been tied to the word “healthy” or promises to make us “healthier” that the word is rendered meaningless. What we’re really talking about when we say we want to be healthy is that we’re aspiring to be better than we are now. To be thinner, faster, cleaner, more environmentally conscious. Not that those are bad things, but healthy is no longer just about a good BMI or cholesterol, it’s about an entire aspirational lifestyle. And that’s why we’re shelling out $35 a class for SoulCycle even though we can’t afford it or think it’s for the elite: because we too want to be better, thinner, faster, cleaner.

Social media – Pinterest and Instagram in particular – are also part of this “health as wealth” culture. How many pictures of green juices and avocado toast do you see in your feed every day? But how many people actually post a picture of the bag of Doritos or Coke they ate later because let’s be honest, no one gets full from a green juice. These channels are all about sharing your best moments, creating an aspirational brand of yourself on your best days, not your worst, or even mediocre moments.

I think us Milliennials are especially susceptible to this aspirational culture. We were raised being told you can be anything you want to be, you can be the best at anything if you just try hard enough. We’ve also grown up with social media and constantly hear about the seemingly overnight success stories of start-ups and bloggers. Millennials are constantly seeking this better, more successful life/career/clothes/body/etc., but if we’re constantly striving and seeking, how do we know when we’re there?

This aspirational culture that the whole boutique health and fitness movement is part of definitely has its benefits. By constantly pushing ourselves to better ourselves, we in turn better the world and people around us. More and more great ideas and businesses are starting up everywhere. And I don’t think there’s a negative side to people exercising more, regardless if they paid $35 for it or not.

But I think what we need to be aware of – or at least I do – is are we running ourselves into the ground trying to be perfect and be the best at everything? We think being fit and having the perfectly decorated living room will make us happy, but in an aspirational culture like ours, once you have those things, there will always be something new to want. In a generation and culture that’s so ingrained in social media and success, we need to learn to take a step back, live in the moment, cut out the noise, do what works for YOU, be honest with yourself. After all, isn’t that what SoulCycle so famously preaches? Find Your Soul.

image via healthybex.com

My Go-To Gym Machines

If you had asked me in high school, I never would have thought I would have willingly set foot in a gym outside of P.E. When we had to go to the school fitness center in gym class, I would strategically go to the bathroom and hang out in the locker room for 10 minutes or do “sit-ups” – a.k.a. lie on the mats until a teacher came around and then fake a sweat. I was never a physically active kid and I especially hated gyms: sweaty people cramped into one room grunting, flexing, and watching you try (and fail) to do one pull-up. Well in college, something changed. I think I realized that I couldn’t continue to eat Ellio’s pizza and corndogs (a frequent after school snack of mine) and not blow up like a balloon eventually. Also, the NYU gym was one of less intimidating places to work out – it was either empty or I was bigger and stronger than half of the guys there. Since then, I’ve tried all sorts of different fitness classes, paid for personal trainers, and now with Kevin by my side I have a life-long workout partner, so I no longer feel the need to fake my sit-ups. Still though, navigating a busy gym floor can be intimidating and overwhelming. But when armed with the know-how of a few essentials, you can go in there looking like a pro. Here are my 5 go-to gym machines that are effective, efficient, and can get you out of the gym in about 30 minutes if you blast through them!

leg pressIncline Leg Press: This machine ups the intensity from the standard leg press. Start with no weight on the machine just to get the feel for it. Keep your feet about hip-width apart, toes slightly pointed outward. Press up through your heels and hamstrings (the back of your thighs) and use the handles on the sides to unlock the press. Now continue the same motion you would on a regular leg press, continuing to engage your hamstrings and glutes. When you’re ready to add weight, I use 45 lbs on each side and do 3 sets of 12.

pull downLat Pull-Down: This machine replicates the motion of doing a pull-up, but obviously is less intense. Adjust the seat as needed, sit up straight, and pull straight down using your core and back to help you. This will work your biceps and triceps, but your back and core are what really power this movement. For more of a challenge, try the assisted pull-up machine (or go for full-on pull-ups) – our Planet Fitness just doesn’t have one. For weight, I usually do 50-65 lbs, 3 sets of 12.

squat

Smith Machine Squat: Start out with no weight to get the feel for this machine because it can feel a little awkward at first. Set the bar to a height where you can comfortably rest it across the back of your shoulders without having to get on your tip-toes. Keep legs hip-widith apart, toes pointing slightly outward. Unhook the bar and start to squat – you’ll feel the bar is assisted so its full weight is not resting on you. Be sure to keep your butt back and use your glutes to power you back up to standing position. Make sure your knees don’t cave in either – I struggle with this when my legs are tired. When you’re ready for weight, I add 25 lbs on each side, 3 sets of 12.

deadliftSmith Machine Deadlift: Again start without any weight. Keep your legs hip-width apart, toes slightly pointing outwards. Come towards the bar so that it’s almost touching your shins. Bend down, keeping your back straight and sticking your butt out (your thighs should be parallel to the ground) and grip the bar just wider than shoulder-width. Use your glutes, hamstrings, and core to stand up straight still holding the bar. It may feel like a small movement, but trust me, your hamstrings WILL be sore the next day. When ready to add weight, I do 25-35 lbs on each side, 3 sets of 12.

chest press

Smith Machine Chest Press: Place a bench under the bar. Lower the bar so you can comfortably unlock it without having to reach. You want to position yourself so the bar is directly over your chest. With hands wider than your shoulders, push up to unhook the bar and slowly lower until it’s just a few inches above your chest. Your arms should be on the same plane as your torso, not lower than the rest of your body. Use your chest, biceps, and core to push up the bar to starting position. For weight, I use 10-15 lbs on each side, 3 sets of 12.