Working On It, Week 5: Meditation and Hydration

This past week in wellness, my bread intake got out of control. I’ve been existing on Vegemite toast and deli sandwiches and very few green things in between. There are numerous reasons, ranging from a lack of time and willpower to an abundance of stress (carbs = comfort). The upside is that right now I’m feeling super motivated to find quick ‘n easy ‘no cook’ vegetable and protein-heavy lunches and snacks, which is something many of you have voiced interested in as well. I’ll talk about that next week!

Let’s talk about the 30 Day Ab Challenge. Have you been doing it? How’s it going? Tell me everything. (And if you haven’t been doing it but you want to, download the app).

It’s still kicking my ass. Although, on a positive note, at least there’s no more ab pain. It’s Day 14 which means 65 sit-ups, 85 crunches, 42 leg raises and a 55 second plank. Most of those numbers are still unachievable, so I’ve continued cheating my ass off by doing things like using a workout mat as leverage during leg raises. Except the crunches! I only struggle with crunches a little, which makes me think I’m not doing them right? But I don’t know! I’ve been watching YouTube videos and can’t tell if I’m doing something differently to the fitness pros.

For the record, I don’t feel bad about cheating / ‘adapting’. Doing this challenge, even half-assedly, has made core strength exercise part of my (almost) daily routine and my capacity for it is gradually increasing. I’m not hitting targets and sometimes my form is questionable so I’m still pretty stoked.


Here’s what’s been working and not working for me this week:

Working: Meditation

One of you cool cats mentioned an app called Stop, Breathe & Think. I wrote down the name for my gal pal, who’s been curious about meditation, and definitely not for my own use, nope. I like to deal with stressful situations and emotions by blocking out their existence completely, so any activity that has the potential to open up my brain spaces and lower my guard terrifies me. Sadly, though, my stress levels are reaching stratospheric heights and suppressing my freak out feelings just doesn’t work anymore. My sleep, job, mood and relationship are all being hit in little to big ways, so in a desperate grab for some chill, I downloaded this app and gave it a try.

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I’m loving it SO hard. There’s a list of meditation programs that you select from, based on your current mental state or the one you’d like to achieve.

Stop Beathe Think

It’s magical. I press ‘play’, shut my eyes, and then six minutes later it’s like I’m floating on a cloud and don’t have a problem in the world. I genuinely feel as though I’ve never truly relaxed before, and possibly that’s because there’s never been a woman telling me to let my tension float away in calm, soothing tones.

Do you meditate using any kind of online resource or app? I’d love to hear about it.


Working: Exercising at home

The ab challenge has inspired me to start utilising my bedroom as a workout space more often. I usually spend my entire weekend indoors writing and Skyping, so I’m hoping that video workouts might be an easy way to make those days at home far more active.

Do you do workouts at home? What video channels or websites do you use? I’ve only just started looking. So far I’m enjoying FitnessBlender.com, which was recommended by reader Stefany. It has decent library of free workout videos that you can sort through using search criteria like difficulty level, equipment needed, calorie burn, time, and so on.

The tricky part has been finding the right videos for my fitness level and space. I don’t have any equipment, plus I’m living on a fourth-floor apartment so I can’t do workouts involving too much jumping or noise-making. Sadly ‘no jumping’ isn’t a search filter and so it takes a little digging to find suitable videos.

This is the cardio workout that I’ve been doing this week. What I love is that the instructor gives lower intensity substitutes to the high impact moves, which makes me feel more capable as a beginner. It doesn’t feel like a light workout, though; I’ve been playing the video straight after my ab challenge and at the end I’m totally smashed.

What I don’t love is that I can hear my hips and knees popping and creaking whenever I do any exercise that involves lifting my knee to waist height. Is that normal? Does it happen to you? Real questions, someone please put my mind at ease. My quads have also been aching for days now. I don’t know if audible popping and muscle pain is a sign that my body needs these exercises, or a sign that I should avoid them. Thoughts?


Not working: Germ-free hydration

When I joined the gym I purchased a Camelbak Eddy water bottle. It was my first non-disposable water bottle and a total dream to drink from; I most likely doubled my average daily water intake overnight. Just. Like. That.

There was a downside, though. It was impossible to clean. I put it in the dishwasher on the reg and sanitised it in boiling water and even replaced the lid and mouth piece a couple of times. AND YET I still found nasty residue inside that I assume is bacteria and/or mould. I had to stop using it because I became too paranoid about making myself sick.

Has anyone else had this experience with Camelbak? My gal pal doesn’t wash hers even half as obsessively as I washed mine and yet hers is sparkling clean, I even made her do a Q-tip swipe test over Skype to prove it because I’m a delight to date. So, I don’t know what’s up. Maybe Sydney’s water supply?

Anyway, I set fire to my germ bottle and purchased a Brita Fill & Go sports bottle. It has a filter attached to the mouthpiece which totally satisfies my new water bottle germ phobia but requires way too much suction for me to stay adequately hydrated while exercising. In short, it’s a perfect work bottle but a terrible workout bottle.

What water bottle do you use? If you have any good recs then please let me know!


How has your past week in wellness been? Is your body feeling well nourished and temple-esq? Are there any triumphs or challenges that you want to talk about or get advice on? Let us know in the comments. Also, don’t forget that the Working On It social group exists and you can join it here.

Also, also! After our discussion about Fitbits last week, commenter Sarah set up an Autostraddle group for any Fitbit users who want to participate in group challenges. This is the direct link. You need a Fitbit account to view the group, however owning a Fitbit is not required to create one.

Coming up next week: I’m going to try and conquer my epic bread addiction and figure out some quick and healthy meals and snacks.

Crystal is a 33-year-old Australian living in Chicago. Founding member, does HR stuff, writes now and then.

Crystal has written 324 articles for us.

117 Comments

  1. “What I don’t love is that I can hear my hips and knees popping and creaking whenever I do any exercise that involves lifting my knee to waist height. Is that normal? Does it happen to you?”

    My elbows do this during push-ups and no one’s ever been able to give me a good reason why, so I just try to avoid exercises that cause it.

      • After a very severe work out many,many years ago, my knee loudly popped with every step I took on the stairs.
        It was creepy as all hell, so I even went to the doctor, but as it turns out, was entirely harmless. Something about the tendon or ligament jumping across the bone?
        It went away after a few days.

      • Hey, also my joints have popped and creaked since I was very small and so I’ve never worried about it. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. I have a feeling it’s a matter of my body is different every day, and this is just something that some people’s bodies do.

    • My body sounds like someone poured a bag of Pop Rocks into a bottle of Coke whenever I work out. It hasn’t done anything bad to me yet. My understanding is that popping/creaking is okay so long as it’s not accompanied by sharp pain.

      • I think this is right. I have had cracking accompanying pain in my knees when running regularly, but stretching my hips (especially the IT bands/psoas muscles) and strengthening my ankles (like with balance-based exercise) has made my knee pain and the cracking go away completely.

  2. Becoming fitbit friends with a work friend who is a triathlete who then challenged me to a friendly competition made me give up on my fitbit completely. And I even have a really cute floral print fitbit band. So moral of my story is try not to measure yourself against other incredibly fit people but rather measure yourself against yourself. and like don’t give up on your fitness goals just because someone else does much more than you do.

    Do as I say not as I do. I’ll look into the fitbit group after I get over my feelings about it. I am sure having more people to do challenges with is a good thing, because someone will likely be around my level.

    The ab workout challenge is great because it’s just your own self reporting so it can be tailored to what you can do. I cannot do a situp to save my life so I just do all of the situps and crunches together as crunches, because I can do those- I think..

    • Being careful not to measure yourself too closely against super fit people in these social group/competition situations is really great advice to keep in mind, so thanks! Good luck with finding people whose goals and fitness levels are more aligned with yours.

  3. big fan of these water bottles for workouts.

    there’s no straw part so it’s easy to keep clean, the mouth piece is covered in case you drop it or bring it somewhere and it comes into contact with gross stuff, and there’s a second lid at the bottom which unscrews so it’s easier to fill it up and wash. doesn’t leak either

  4. Oh man, carbs. All the carbs. I want them all. It’s 90+ degrees all week here, and all I want is ice cream/froyo. I’m trying to treat myself to a caffeine free, unsweetened iced tea instead of ice cream, but all I want is Ben & Jerry’s or 16 Handles or Mister Softee. In large quantities.

    Today, I saw a video of myself from this time last year, and I was so much heavier- it’s kind of scary to look at myself then. I get so torn in trying to be body positive. I want to be immortal, but I want to love myself as is, but I don’t want to look the way I do- it’s realllllly hard. I need to get back to eating more green things and going to the gym regularly, but I have this internal battle going on about what I want to do with my life.

    I read a memoir several months ago by/about a woman who lost over 100 pounds, and I think I should re-read it. I need motivation.

    I also find it really hard to share my immortality/weight loss quest when I’m dating. I want to act like I don’t have huge body image issues because confidence is sexy (or so I’ve heard), yet at the same time, I want to be honest, as this a big part of me. I have a lot of anxiety relating to intimacy, which generally coincides with my body. It’s so hard!

    • I feel you. I’ve personally found it helpful to voice some body issues now and then. E.g. if my body isn’t fitting so well into my fav piece of clothing and I voice that to my partner, it usually a) pushes the thought out of my brain so I don’t obsess over it, and b) gets a response of ‘I love your body always’ and it’s a nice reminder that I should love my body all the time and not just most of the time.

      Good luck with finding the motivation you’re looking for!

  5. I am all for working out at home. It’s so nice because I don’t have to get ready to go to the gym which was always my main excuse for not going…(Put on workout clothes? Drive there? Put shit in a locker? UGH NO I’ll just watch netflix with my gf instead.) I also love being able to workout in total privacy. No need for embarrassment if I can’t do something and no need to feel competitive with the people next to me. I am a big fan of Blogilates which is a free youtube channel and app by trainer Cassey Ho. Her workouts are incredible if you like body weight training/pilates/yoga. She’s very perky and positive which motivates me a lot more than the drill sargeant-Jillian Michaels type of trainer.

    • I’m totally seconding @tippibird‘s recommendation for Blogilates because Cassey Ho is amazing! When I was more dedicated to working out and lived in a first-floor apartment, I would workout to her videos all the time. She really is so positive and motivating that I would actually follow through with them. She also has free workout calendars with a list of her videos to do that day and even has really great recipes for affordable, clean eating. Some of her workout videos are intense but she does give lots of modifications for people at different levels which was super important for me.

    • Thanks for the recommendations y’all, I can’t wait to try it! Anything that can be done at home and comes with modifications for various fitness levels is my jam right now. And I could really use those clean, affordable recipes.

  6. My friend gave me the advice of “find a sport you love and do the hell out of it!” So I bought a new board and started skating again for the first time in 8 years… I’m VERY rusty, but my goal is to learn to ride a bowl by 2016. Any other skaters out there?

    • @bluebluebaby HEY I know this is late but I am also a skater…! Well, sorta. I am actually pretty terrible at it, but I would love to know how your skating goes! It’s tons of fun and hey. Maybe you can give me some tips haha. I can cruise but that’s about it.

      • It’s never too late for skate! Where are you out of? There’s an indoor and outdoor park both within half an hour of me so I’m trying to focus on skating transition and bowls; I can Ollie but I’m way too chickenshit to throw myself down stairs :)

  7. Honestly, I’m beginning to seriously hate on that ab challenge thing.
    It increases repetitions and levels way, waaay too quickly and that only makes for bad form.
    You’re at beginner’s level and are magically supposed to be doing all of that out of the blue,in like, what, 14 days?
    On a plus side,however, it really gets me to hunker down and work out at random times throughout the day with varied exercises.
    I’ve taken to split the amount of whatever I’m supposed to be doing into manageable chunks, so I’m doing 3 sets of 20 leg raises when it says 60, or 4 sets of 15 when I feel myself getting sloppy.
    So,I’ll put the laundry into the washing machine and do a set, and do a set as dinner cooks, before going to the grocery store..it’s all about forming a habit in 30 days, isn’t it?
    On another note, well not altogether different:
    I started watching Arrow the other day and I’m afraid that instead of drooling over the guy, I now am of the firm conviction that I need to try one of those superhero workout (apps).
    Does anybody have any experience with those?
    Would anyone be game for trying one? Maybe after the app from hell is through in two weeks?
    Are there other ways to geek out while working out?
    And has anybody tried that Bar Brothers thing?

    • Yeah, I can’t help feeling that most beginners will the ab challenge to be quite unrealistic in terms of the targets and how quickly it escalates. Splitting the exercises up into manageable sets over the course of the day is a great approach. I’ve been doing them all in one sitting, but I’ll do things like check emails on my phone after every 20 sit ups etc to give my body a short break so that I eventually hit the daily targets.

      I’m not familiar with superhero workout apps but they sound interesting. If you end up trying one then please report back!

      • Oh, I’ll gladly be the resident guinea pig for any and all superhero workout stuff!
        I’m actually curious to see how much being a female (and being in my mid-thirties) will limit things on that front.

    • I have the superhero workout app by the same guys who did Zombie Run! and I love it. I kind of thought it would be a bit silly but by the end of the first mission thingy I was sweating and sore. I’d be up for a superhero challenge once the ab thing is (mercifully) over.

    • NerdFitness.com! You guys, it’s nerdy and full of really good information. Lots of free content on body-weight workouts (that can be done anywhere! and modified for current ability! and scaled up as you improve!), motivation/support, and nutrition. Almost everything is themed in some nerdy way – superheroes, video games, comics, etc.

      They also have a membership option which opens up lots of additional content, and a RPG-style system of ‘leveling up’ as you improve in different areas on your health-quest. I haven’t taken the plunge to paid membership yet, but they’re adding yoga soon (filmed on a Super Mario Bros. set) so I might have to do it.

      • Seconding the nerdfitness.com recommendation. I like their style- it’s so upbeat, and it’s so manageable for any life situation. It’s really cool to me how the creator of the site gamifies the whole of fitness, from exercise to diet and even to productivity and stress management, and it so clearly works for a lot of people. He really figured out something that would appeal to and work for a huge demographic, and that’s awesome. There is so much free content too that it’s worth checking out without committing to spending anything.

  8. My elbow pops whenev I try to do push-ups (only the left elbow).

    I think it’s because my muscles aren’t strong enough so the joint is taking the load instead, which makes it pop (crack).

    I’ve never had an elbow injury so the following only applies to injury-free, pain-free ppl.

    The solution I found is to reduce weight, go much slower, and prioritize correct form and control over amt of weight/reps/speed.

    This means using an empty bar bench press, or very small hand weights (no pushups yet). Also means moving very slowly, three seconds up and three seconds down (not like, onetwothree but really one one-thousand, two one thousand, … to raise the weight and repeat to lower the weight).

    Watch your form in a mirror when you go slow. If you’re me you’ll see your popping elbow go wobblewobblewobble b/c even with reduced weight, it’s still not strong enough to totally control the weight and maintain correct form through the complete arm motion.

    Find the amount of weight (could even be no weight, just raising your arms overhead holding a broomstick or smthg) where you can go slow and still maintain form (and no popping). Only add weight if you still have good form, move slow, no popping.

    Good luck to us both. It’s annoying and takes a long time but god I hate the popping even more than the tedium of slow weight training, so it’s worth it.

    • so like, if it’s your hips and knees popping instead of your elbow, try body-weight squats (i.e. do squats without barbells) and use good form / go slow. If you’re still popping with body weight squats, modify so you’re lying on your back and just raising knees up to chest slowly.

      If you do the on-your-back version we will be twins b/c I am currently training my hip flexors for better running:

      http://www.physioadvisor.com.au/14543950/hip-flexor-exercises-hip-flexor-strengthening-ex.htm

      Actually with all your abs training, your other core muscles might be lagging behind; might try balancing with back strengthening stuff.

      • Thanks for the advice! What you’re saying about the joint taking the weight instead of muscle makes sense. I’ll definitely try to include more lower body exercises like squats into my workout and see if that helps. The hip and knee noise seems to only happen then I raise my knee up to my waist / chest – it’s silent when I do the reverse, like squats.

        • Huh! Well squats tend to work the glutes/quads whereas leg lifts work the hip flexors so, maybe hip flexor exercises? But best to ask a physio person; I’m not v knowledgeable about this stuff. I hope you find solutions and let us know; thanks for your column!

          p.s. swimming? :^D

          • OH my hip flexors are TOTAL BITCHES so I might be able to help.

            Stretching after a workout is really, realllllllly important. Here are some. My physio taught me a great modification of the lunge where you prop your front foot up on something around hip height (like a desk or table) that also stretches into the glutes/piriformis really well.

            Speaking of the piriformis – it’s this tiny muscle in your butt, and if your hip flexor is tight, so is your piriformis, most likely. It’s all about the pigeon pose for that one. (Figure 20 here).

          • Thanks @dina ! It’s not so much the tightness as the muscles are under-developed (for me) wrt hip flexors, so I’m looking for strengthening exercises. For sure yes stretching is v v important; thanks for the links and info! Will look up the piriformis; good to know.

  9. I haven’t commented on any of these yet because not much of it really applies to me – I’ve got chronic pain that I’m doing physio for as my exercisey type thing but that Stop Breathe & Think thing looks super helpful and I’m definitely going to check that out.

    I’m considering the ab challenge thing but it sounds super scary! Are there any other challenges on the same vein? Like idk, squat challenges or something?

    • I also have chronic pain and was hesitant to try the ab challenge. Last time I did something similar I ended up in a lot of back/shoulder/everything pain(I feel the need to point out that strong core muscles are supposed to help prevent that kind of pain and also I was doing exercises given to me by a therapist for my back so fuck you too body). Anyway — I found modified version of the exercises that I knew would be too painful: modified crunches instead of sit ups, pelvic tilts instead of crunches. So far it’s working out! (Although today my shoulder keeps subluxing so I might need to re-think planks).

      Also I think when I downloaded the ab challenge there were challenges of other sorts too?

      • Yes! There’s a 30 Day Push Up Challenges and 30 Day Squat Challenge available via the Apple app store (and I assume Android). But I’ve also seen non-app versions on the internet and Facebook – just search ’30 day challenges’ and you should find some.

        Also quite a few readers, like Erica below, have mentioned the 30 Day Yoga Challenge on YouTube. I’ve tried it out and it seems pretty great! (I’ll commit to doing it properly once this ab challenge is over).

  10. I use the “Yoga with Adrienne” Youtube channel to do yoga in my apartment. It’s working really well for me since adjusting the movements to your proficiency level is encouraged. It also helps that Adrienne is hella cute.

  11. Maybe it’s because I am brazen, but I just use the water fountain at the gym, and one in a while purchase a vegan friendly protein drink to keep my hydrated, along with the benefits 10g+ of protein gives. I don’t take a water bottle because I’d probably be the person who left theirs behind when leaving a machine.

  12. Regarding germ-free hydration: I am all about this bottle.
    https://www.ttustore.com/product/68-ounce-tritan-cold-drink-hydration-bottle-reusable-ice-cubes-rove-2/
    My old bottle broke one day as I was walking in to work (yeahh I dropped it) and I decided to purchase this one because it was the biggest we had in the store and it was a water emergency. But wow I love it. I find the measured mL/oz on the side to be motivating. The entire bottle is just under the “8 glasses a day” water recommendation, so I use it to push myself to drink more water every day.
    Also cool: big drinking opening for guzzling during thirsty workout, and even bigger bottle opening when you remove the whole lid, so it cleans easy!

  13. The BEST!BEST!BEST! water bottles to use are the Blender brand water bottles. They are big enough that I can fit my giant hands inside to clean them out and the lids only have one tight crease to wash.
    Buy the bottle and get rid of the ball that sell you with it. It is by far the best brand I have ever used.
    Additionally, they are recyclable, BP? free, and dishwasher safe.

  14. Oh my gosh you guys, that meditation app is actually the best. I’ve tried a few over the years, but this one is the BEST. The woman who guides the meditations is very soothing and comforting and it’s not weird to listen to like many of the others I’ve used. The app will seriously help you become more mindful about the world around you and I just love it. 10/10 would recommend

  15. “I like to deal with stressful situations and emotions by blocking out their existence completely.” <-TOO REAL.

    Also, I want to try that ab challenge, but I actually have really terrible just abysmal ab muscles? Like I think I was actually born this way. They made me take extra gym classes instead of recess in elementary school because I couldn't ever pass the sit-up test. So either this is perfect for me, or I will just never ever be able to keep up and it will destroy me completely.

    • I recommend trying it! If you can get through the first week then you might surprise yourself with how strong your abs can grow. On my first day I really struggled to do the 15 sit ups, I had to take a half-hour break just to finish. But now two weeks later I can do 75! It’s been surprising.

  16. A great site for working out at home is darebee.com. If you seen those superhero workout plans going around, they are from this site. They have a large number of female action figures workouts (Buffy, Xena, and many others) which I love. They have sorting options for workout types, and equipment, and several 30 day challenges (without a handy app, unfortunately.)

    The only problem is that even Level 1 can be pretty intense, and some of then can be not apt friendly (a lot of jumping/moving). They do, however have blog posts and instructions to guide you in the exercises, also with a couple of easier options.

    I made a plan using their instructions earlier this year and it was fairly fun, and it generally took about 15 minutes a day. Since they have so many workouts (360+) you can have a different one each day, which made me look forward to trying different exercises.

    I would like to direct everyone’s attention to the best workout in the world: http://darebee.com/workouts/paws-workout.html, a workout plan with your cat. It includes squatting and petting as a valid exercise, so it’s already the best.

  17. Let’s talk about the 30 Day Ab Challenge. Have you been doing it? How’s it going? Tell me everything. (And if you haven’t been doing it but you want to, download the app).

    PERFECT! I have definitely not been doing it, but I decided just before looking at this article that I should give it a go. thanks for linking to the app again.

  18. I have hypermobility syndrome and recently went on a pain management course. When we talked about the various noises our bodies make as we move, the basic message seems to be “if it doesn’t hurt, don’t worry about it”. Theory is it’s air moving around in the joint cavities.

  19. I totally agree with the ab workout numbers increasing far too fast. I break it down into smaller reps as well. I’m not sure I’m doing any of the exercises 100% to form but I can feel my abs while I’m doing them so I’ll stick with it. I have noticed that once the leg raises got over 20 reps or so my form got sloppy. So, I put my hands under my ass (instead of at my sides) and just used the weight of myself to be able to do the same exercise. I’m not sure if this constitutes cheating or not?! BUT I can go slower and I can feel my abs working harder on the way down. I also noticed that it’s a bit better workout if I don’t put my legs down completely to the floor and hold a second there before lifting back up.

    On the sit-ups, I do the “cheating method” by crossing my arms in front because otherwise I tend to lift with my head and neck more than with my abs. I also put my feet under my couch to keep my legs in a better position. Works like a charm.

    Planks have gotten far easier, which makes me think I’m not straight enough? (ha). I’m doing these at home and don’t have a mirror so I’ll have to keep adjusting until I can feel it.

    On meditation: I use a timer app called Meditation Timer. It’s that simple. I set a beginning sound and ending sound for however long I want to sit (15-20 minutes is great in the mornings for me). You can set an interval timer to check back in with yourself, if you’d like. The key thing when starting out is not to be to harsh on yourself. Start with 5 minutes and work your way up. Group meditations can also be really great when trying to establish a routine. I prefer the zen type of meditation where I follow my breath over someone talking me through it. So that might be helpful to someone else?

    Someone last week posted a thing about a push-up challenge and my elbows have always creaked like I’m the Tin Man needing to oil my joints when I do them. I think these are going to be added to the routine and we’ll see how it goes. Maybe some dance videos for cardio?

    Thanks so much for these articles! They are just the motivation I needed this summer to get a routine started!

    • Yeah I feel like you’re not supposed to use your hands as leverage during leg raises but I do the same thing and it’s still really damn difficult and still engaging our abs so I think it’s totally harmless cheating! Actually, let’s call it a modification instead of a cheat. Modifications are great.

      Thanks for letting us know about Meditation Timer! I’m looking forward to checking it out.

  20. I’m unashamedly cheating my way through the rest of the ab challenge. My regular training involves a whole lot of core, there’s no way I’ll be able to do that, the 750 crunches I assume it’ll be asking me to do with the rate the reps are increasing, and still be able function by the end of the month. Pretty sure I’m just going to call whatever I do outside training a win and tick the days off ;)

    All of my joints crack, I’m naturally pretty flexible so they move around a lot. Gas builds up inside the joints as they work and when it releases it makes a popping sound. Its not a drama unless it hurts – that can be ligament damage or your bones rubbing, if that happens, stop and see a physio.

    • I’m super interested in finding out how high the numbers do go on the intermediate level, please keep me posted. I laughed at the 750 number but it was kind of like a nervous, awkward laugh because I suspect you might be right and that’s so intense.

  21. Ok so here’s my question: if I’m doing the ab challenge with shitty form, am I gonna fuck up my back even more? I try to keep my abs engaged while I do it, but I’m not spreading them out through the day like a lot of people are talking about here.

    • Does your poor form causing back/neck pain? If so, I’d say take a break when it starts hurting. I’m no body doctor but powering through any pain that isn’t directly related to stretching your ab muscles seems kinda risky.

      I also have poor form and so I’ve modified the exercises a little to reduce the strain on my body, e.g. using my hands as leverage during leg raises and folding my arms across my chest during sit ups.

  22. Ooohh carbs were my enemy too!! People at work used to bring in french loaves all the time. I still have a slice or two from time to time but I really dont know how I got over it.

    Popping sounds are normal. Well i think they are. They usually happen when Im warming my joints up. I think its the lack of synovial fluid?? I get it in my elbows a lot. Theyre usually gone post warm up…maybe u need to warm up??

    Quads are sore? Maybe its DOMS? Delayed onset muscle soreness? Legs are a really hard part to train and it demands a lot of oxygen too.. and I feel like if you know the pain is from the leg muscle itself vs your joint you should be okay.

    • Yeah I’ve done some research on DOMS and I think you’re right. I’ll try to do lower-body exercises more regularly in hope that the situation will improve, ’cause such sharp pain just makes me want to avoid it entirely

  23. Stop, Breathe and Think is THE BEST APP THAT HAS EVER BEEN CREATED. I highly recommend paying for the k.d. lang pack too – her voice is soooooooo soothing and I like the messages of her meditations more than the default ones (the “imagine serving yourself before others” thing can really trip off my martyr complex).

    Another great app for stress/anxiety/depression/all host of other mental issues is Pacifica. It’s mostly aimed at those of us with anxiety, and based on the gold standard treatment for it (cognitive-behavioral therapy, aka CBT). You can set health goals and behavioral experiments, and you can also record your thoughts about difficult moments during the day and listen to them back to identify problematic thought patterns. (Note that you do have to talk out loud when you do that, so be prepared to pretend you’re talking on the phone if you’re out in public, NOT THAT I’VE DONE THAT OR ANYTHING)

    And yes, I have yet to see a Camelbak that DIDN’T get disgusting. (My coworker’s one has some black moldy horribleness growing in it and I can’t even look at his water bottle without wanting to gag). I have a great one that I bought at Costco, but hell if I can remember the brand… it has a button you push that opens up a spout so that you can drink. It doesn’t leak and it stays clean!

  24. I realized I didn’t say anything about the water bottle bit! Haha. Yes the icky water and shaker bottles are such a thing. I bought this bottle brush with really stiff bristles and the handle was also not plastic…About every week I really give my bottles a good hard scrub down. It took me some time to realize icky things had been going on and washing it really really good solved the weird taste when I put water in it.

    I read somewhere that freezing it helps to take out the mold.

    I have a Polar bottle that’s my everyday water bottle and during the gym bottle. It has a sort of built in ice pack that freezes if I put it in the freezer and it keeps my drink really cold for at least 5 hours. I have a shaker bottle for my shakes simply because it really mixes my protein shake. Some people i know have a Klean Kanteen and they say it works really well with not getting mold.

  25. Also re: ab work. While I have none, (HAHAHA) a good rule of thumb I like to keep in mind especially when it comes to sit ups and crunches is if my fist can fit between my chin and chest without it being squeezed then I have what I believe and have learned to be good form. That’s just ab work though. Also I’ve found that if you use a weight to keep your feet on the ground, the lower back is under some undue stress. I try to keep my hands near my ears with the elbows pointing to the side vs the front because I feel like if I point the elbows forward my abs get less work and I use my shoulders and arms as leverage to get me up. And I also find that breathing helps. Inhale when my back is touching the pad or floor and exhale when I do the actual crunch/sit up.

    Also re: working at home. YOU GUYS I’M SO DISORGANIZED IM JUST GONNA PUT MY THOUGHTS IN ALL THE COMMENTS. HAHA. So I used to actually work out at home in the bedroom too. I did those Insanity work out vids. Which worked for like a month at most. Then I started kind of hating/dreading it and doing it earlier just to get over it. I used to do it religiously at like 430pm then I wanted to do it at like 2pm JUST TO BE DONE WITH. I think in the end, it was what pushed me to actually get a gym membership. I really shouldn’t be surprised though because I’m the kind of person who would choose to be in an actual classroom vs online classes at my own pace. I think it ultimately made me lazier in a sense and I felt like I ate worse during that time. But hey, you do you. I’ve met a ton of people over the years that tell me they work out just fine at home or in their apartment that they share with 3 other people.

    A lot of people have told me you don’t all this gym equipment to have results to get fit. Sometimes it’s just a little innovation that you need. I know my mom uses the detergent bottle as a weight to do arm curls. NO LIE. I’ve found that kettlebells are pretty versatile and I’m sure the internet has a lot of workouts that can show you how to use it for the legs, back and arms. And never underestimate the power of body weight exercises like push ups/pull ups. There are machines that can mimic those movements but being able to actually do them is different.

  26. Honestly, I don’t clean my camelback very often at all, which I’ll admit is pretty gross, (I mean, I rinse it with hot water every night before I refill it and stuff it in the fridge but the only thing I actually clean on a really regular basis is the mouth piece) but I’ve never found any residue or grossness happening in it, so I really don’t know. Mostly just dropping a comment to let you know I really enjoy reading these, and I’m learning a lot and really glad for the resources you provide! Good luck!

  27. Thanks for sharing the meditation app. I’ve never successfully meditated before and have been looking for something simple to guide me, to help me do just a few minutes before work or when I feel overwhelmed. Just tried stop, breathe and think and I think it’s just right for me.

    On another note I re-joined the gym last weekend after a particularly bad bout of PMT made me feel horrible about myself and I just wanted to *move*. I never stop being surprised about just how fucking brilliant you feel after doing 45 mins (or whatever) of proper exercise.

    I don’t have any particular fitness goals (well okay, I wouldn’t say no to buff arms/shoulders – I had them once, felt like the most attractive person in the world) – just feeling like I actually use my body and strength rather than solidifying into a human potato is kinda the aim.

  28. P.S.Re:Water Bottles:
    What’s wrong with using regular, disposable water bottles? Just buy some that fit your needs, reuse them until they get yucky (with thorough rinsing with hot and cold water and allowing them to dry over night) and then recycle the old bottle and switch to a new one.
    I can’t remember anyone in Germany ever using a store bought extra water bottle.
    When you catch a nice one, you might even want to take extra care of it to last longer.

  29. hello I am here to comment on the sore muscles thing. if you have been using muscles that you haven’t previously then I like to think of them as growing pains. usually they last a couple days. for me the best way to speed up recovery/getting over the painful period is either to stretch those muscles at the end of the workout while they’re still warm, or to self massage possibly with a foam roller or massage balls. painful but enjoyable.
    according to my physiotherapist stretching or foam rolling should be a daily routine which means I do it probably once a fortnight when I feel stiff which is too late.

    here is where I spout forth on the amazingness of the Rumble Roller. it’s a foam roller but with thumb sized projections that dig deep to stretch out clicky knots and bunched tight muscles. it’s basically an intense massage using your own body weight.

  30. i love glass water bottles! i’ve never used any sort of filtered water system because the tap water here is really safe/clean/tasty (this map says it’s “excellent” – http://www.nrdc.org/water/drinking/uscities/map.asp) i like glass because it doesn’t seem to absorb smells (if i haven’t washed it in a few days), very easy to clean, typically made with a lot less parts, and it’s a very sustainable material.

    30 days ab challenge is… going? i enjoy doing it but i do forget or run out of time some days. i feel like if anyone thinks it increases too quickly, then take a day off in between every challenge. i still feel sore and like it’s toning at least a little.

    does anyone with anxiety find meditation + breathing exercises actually make it worse? being aware and mindful of my breath makes me feel like i can’t breathe (my main anxiety side affect).

  31. I have always found reusable bottles with a straw part to end up really gross no matter what? I usually bring at least a litre of assorted liquids in various vessels to work to help me stay hydrated and not bored. I also keep some hydralyte and berocca in my desk just in case (it’s never for a hangover, I swear).

    I’ve been mediating using the “Smiling Mind” app which has short and long sessions, and also sessions for kids which I’ve never checked out. I tried meditating every morning to help manage stress during the day but I only managed to stick to it for about a week so I don’t know how that went. I should definitely try to get into that again and also download the app you mentioned!

  32. I’m really mildly terrified to do any kind of yoga/meditation….but that app looks soooooo neat. Yes I’m terrified of a mild activity, but I never find it relaxing, I get stressed then people judge me for being crazy

    • Meditation can be really stressful for me sometimes, too. For me, the issue is that I have a perfectionist streak a mile wide, and if I get distracted at all I have a tendency to come down REALLY HARD on myself. But I’ve been (slowly) learning to be more self-compassionate as I redirect my thoughts to the breath/my body/the meditation/etc.

      tl;dr you are DEFINITELY NOT CRAZY for finding meditation difficult and stressful!

  33. Oh my god, I gave my water bottle a mega clean after reading this – I’ve got a Sistema one which is pretty good (it has a twist sports top thing which is great for the gym and it doesn’t leak) but the sides of the actual bottle are all ridged and I have visions of slimy residue building up in the grooves and I won’t know/be able to clean it properly, agh.

    It’s great hearing how everyone is doing on the ab challenge – I’m also doing a slightly modified version, there’s no way I can do 50 sit-ups in one go!

    Looking forward to trying out the meditation app too. I tried one briefly last year when I was starting a new work thing and it was SO helpful but I’d like to try something new too.

  34. I’m glad the meditation app has been working for you. I don’t always think to use it when I’m really stressed so maybe I should make it a part of my daily routine for better recall. Also, I still need to try the 30 day ab challenge one of these days. Your 55 second plank is impressive!

    • For me, tying meditation to a certain time of day/daily event reallllllllly helps! I’m to the point now that when I pass a certain building on my bus ride, I reflexively start up the meditation app because I know I have about 10 minutes until I get to work. (Now to find a cue for the weekends…)

  35. Thanks for recommending Stop, Breathe & Think! I’ve had a lot of hectic work weeks lately, and it’s taking it’s toll on my mind and body. This app is definitely what I’ve been looking for! I also love how the app has three gender options: male, female, and the infinity symbol!

  36. What’s working for me this week: low carb salmon patties (http://www.lifeaftercarbs.com/2011/06/111/) as part of my dinner, and blackberry coconut “fat bombs” with a little bit of trader joes peanut butter for when i’m craving fake as hell sugar shit (http://lowcarbyum.com/blackberry-coconut-fat-bombs-paleo/). Along with working out, I’ve been eating low carb for a few months on and off, but was really struggling with craving foods with a lot of saturated and trans fats. I learned that you shouldn’t cut fat out, but should focus on monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Avocados, dark chocolate, eggs, olive oil, nuts. If losing fat is one of your goals, you have to eat fat to burn fat. This, I did not know.

    If you need help with lowering your carb intake, these are two websites I love:
    http://www.ibreatheimhungry.com/
    http://peaceloveandlowcarb.com/

    Not working for me:
    Telling myself that instead of making time to do cardio before my night shifts, I’ll do it when I get home from work at 12:30am-1:30am. Don’t know why I lie to myself, I know I’ll be too tired, but I do it EVERY DAMN TIME.

  37. I have a Klean Kanteen water bottle (link below) and I consider it one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. It’s stainless steel but has a squirt type top so it’s easy to drink out of while working out. The water flows directly through one hole, so it doesn’t get gross. I can’t remember the last time I cleaned it, so I just stuck a q-tip in to test and it came out clean.

  38. re fitnessblender: there IS a ‘no jumping’ filter!
    under training type check the low impact option. there are a bunch of these that are designed for apartment-dwellers or people with joint problems, but I just use these when I’m sick or unusually exhausted and star jumps seem like an impossible feat.

  39. Meditation is super awesome! I got really into it and used to meditate at work using the headspace app. I’d just wander off to a quiet place, pop on the audio, and chill out. I’ve been super stressed lately and probably should meditate again.

    I’ve also been doing Jillian Michaels 30-day shred vides online. 30 minutes, my ass is kicked, and I overall just feel better physically and mentally when I do it.

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