After about an hour of hiking uphill, we finally broke free from the forest and stepped above tree line. As my cousin, a brave triathlete, panted beside me, she exclaimed, “Now I know why you are so in shape!”
I truly believe that everyone needs to adopt an exercise routine or activity that challenges the body. Recently, I was inspired by a fitness website, ETBfit.com, to write about my workout routine and, ultimately, what keeps me motivated and moving during my physical activities.
As humans, we can’t just sit around and consume without regard. Our bodies are meant to move to stay healthy and happy. ETB Fit‘s name stands for ‘Eat the Bear.’ Their name is inspired by this phrase: “Some days you eat the bear, and some days the bear eats you.”
Instead of drowning and dwelling in some negative aspect of our lives, we must always rise above and ‘eat the bear’ instead of allowing the bear to eat us. In essence, you have to use what life throws at you: the good and the bad. Some days you might feel like the bear eats you but we are always in control, even when it seems like we aren’t. When a situation is completely out of our control, we have the power to govern how we react and feel towards such a negative circumstance. We have the power to push forward.
Excuses will always remain just that, excuses. From social media to my very best friends, I always hear excuses when it comes to personal health whether it be money, time, or even injury. I don’t have money to throw toward a gym or a personal trainer or even my favorite yoga class. I still approached my yoga mat, at a slower and safer pace, when my hamstring and wrist were injured. I use what I have to meet my physical and mental goals. I ‘eat the bear’ every day.
I devote myself to a self-practice of yoga five to six days a week and commit myself to a strenuous 7 to 15 mile hike every weekend. My activities are more than physical gain; they contribute to my spiritual enlightenment by keeping me aware of my emotions, my actions, and my body.
My Workouts Defined
At 25 years old, I can say that I am in the best shape of my life. I don’t run. I don’t go to the gym. I haven’t lifted a weight in a decade. There are two things that I can most graciously thank for my physical being: tapas and terrain.
Terrain is the easier of the two to define. Living in Colorado, I am lucky enough to be able to hike on mountainous terrain. The most difficult trails seem to challenge both my physical being and my mental state. From jumbled rock piles to deadly ledges to steep ascents, my hiking habit is the perfect cardio for me.
Let’s move on to tapas. And no, I’m not referring to the small Spanish dishes known as tapas. I’m referring to the Sanskrit word that is commonly used in yoga.
Tapas is most easily translated to a fiery drive. I think of tapas when I’m doing yoga or while I’m hiking or even when I’m committing myself to my work. I maintain a devotion and heated passion during my unconventional ‘workouts’. Tapas keeps me going when I have four more miles to go. Tapas brings me to my mat when I’m tired and lazy.
When it comes to any kind of workout, there are always small but effective characteristics that keep a body moving and motivated. In essence, there are true essentials that I must do before, during, and after my workouts that relate to my success.
Essentials for an Ashtanga Yogi
I practice Ashtanga yoga. This yoga is a strenuous set of poses that connect with the breath. It is based on a Hatha yoga system. I found Ashtanga after going to varies yoga classes for many years. I never recommend starting a yoga self-study as a beginner. You must be very familiar with technique and poses before doing yoga on your own.
I try to follow a traditional Ashtanga lifestyle. I truly believe my nutritional essentials have boosted my practice. My body has changed for the better due to Ashtanga. I rarely go to yoga classes or watch yoga videos now. I do the same set of poses five to six days a week. My mind might get tired of the repetition but my body has never been more flexible and strong. Tapas keeps me looking forward even when my mind is bored from the same poses day after day.
- I wake up nearly every morning, set out my mat, and do my yoga practice.
- I practice on an empty stomach due to the deep twists required for the practice. An empty stomach ensures that I will be able to safely execute twists and folds with ease.
- I do the opening chant of Ashtanga. The chant’s translation resembles a prayer. I pray to Patanjali (the “godfather” of yoga) and I pray that I will find happiness through self-realization.
- Each pose is connected with a breath. Each transition is connected with a breath. Every breath is accounted for and this keeps me on my toes and in a loving and devotional rhythm.
- My drishti or gaze changes with each posture but I’m either looking at a part of my body with content or gazing at the tip of my nose to look inward instead of at my struggling exterior.
- I do not listen to any music during my practice. Our society is constantly distracted and silence keeps me in the moment and in my head.
- Like all Ashtangis, I am a vegetarian. The vegetarian diet relieves my body of toxins and nonessential hormones. My diet has required me to count my protein intake and, due to this, I actually get more protein than I did when I was eating meat. My diet also makes me evaluate my impact on this earth. Yoga translates to ‘union’ and this union is not only a union with the divine and the self but also a union with all creatures and the earth.
- After my practice, I do try to make a protein-packed smoothie. When it comes to protein supplements, always try to buy something that is natural. Check out these protein powders that are non-GMO and naturally sweetened!
Essentials for a Seasoned Hiker
I refer to myself as a long distance hiker. It took me five and a half months to hike 2,185.9 miles of the entire Appalachian Trail. I have hiked all 112 miles of the dangerous and difficult GR 20 in Corsica, France. I continue to find difficult trails to hike here in Colorado. Hiking is more than just a physical activity for me. It truly can be a meditation in motion. Visual stimulation, from the rocks at my feet to the mountain views I always seek, truly keeps my brain active during this strenuous activity.
My hikes typically last all day and I rarely do an easy valley trail. Since I am such a seasoned hiker, the tougher the hike the more fun it is! For any beginners to hiking, I do recommend starting out small. Tough hikes require a lot of fancy foot work and can be quite technical and that can deter many beginner hikers.
- Before my hike, I make sure to get a hearty breakfast full of carbs and protein. I usually choose oatmeal, fruit, and yogurt.
- Before I set one foot on the trail, I get an early start and I make sure I have all my gear for the weather that day and for the terrain. I am never unprepared. An unprepared hike is never fun and can be quite dangerous.
- During my hike, I am fully aware of my body’s reactions. I make sure to always feed my body protein, carbs, and fat during my hikes. Peanut butter, avocado, cheese, and nuts are my true nutritional essentials during hikes. I also make sure to bring along salty foods such as crackers or olives. Protein bars are also very important since I do not eat meat. Protein bars do keep my body feeling great instead of sore the day after hikes.
- Water, water, water. It might be summer at lower elevations but once I get above the tree line (11,500 feet elevation), it can be quite cold up there in the mountains. Even when I am not sweating, I make sure to get enough water. I actually pack three liters and bring a water filter if I do end up without water in the backcountry.
- Since I am always on my feet during my hikes, I make sure to air out my feet a couple times during my hike to prevent foot fatigue and blisters.
- After my hikes, I make sure to get a hearty and healthy dinner that is filling and full of protein. I typically go toward a big bean burrito or a black bean burger, healthy yet satisfying.
The essentials above keep my body in shape while I continue to challenge it. What we do before, during, and after our workout can truly make our workout great or can ruin all the hard work we just did. Working out, no matter if you are a gym rat or an unconventional athlete like me, is a lifestyle that must be combined with proper eating and preparation. I might do the same yoga practice nearly every day and every week but my hikes differ in scenery and difficulty. A bit of a change in your activity truly keeps things fresh. I am happy to say my two activities not only give me a strong body but also a strong mind. Just like everybody, I get discouraged when progress is slow but, as my guru always said, “practice and all is coming.”
Continue to strive for not the body you want but the healthy interior you deserve.