Sunday, July 6, 2014

the perfect pushup


A recent illustration I completed focusing on the pushup - one of the most functional exercises to master correctly. I remember a time back before I joined the gym when I was unable to do a single pushup on my toes - they are now one of my favourite movements! It's amazing how a few little tweaks and adjustments to form can really make so much difference to your results when performing an exercise. 

After a challenge? Check out this blog from lululemon athletica with 82 different types of pushups to master! Which is your favourite? 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Back to Attack

The amazing housemate and I take a sleepy selfie before 6am class

This time last year I decided that Body Attack and I needed a little break from each other. The class which initially spurred my love for fitness was not making me happy anymore. I was pulling up injured, fatigued and anxious after class and that wasn't what I had fallen in love with Body Attack for. In the last month I've had a little itch to 'get back into it' and with the launch of new releases I figured now, 12 months after my break, was the perfect time to give it another go. 

It may sound irrational that getting back into Attack was exciting, but also frightening for me. I was scared I'd get injured again or that I'd spend the entire class internally beating myself up and comparing my current level of cardio fitness with what it was 2 years ago when it was at it's peak. I wanted it to be fun and I wanted to finish the class with that 'Body Attack high' feeling I used to enjoy. Setting this as my intention, I trooped along to my housemate's class at 6am. I'm a perfectionist and I'm harsh on myself, but I kept reminding myself that after 12 months break I wasn't going to be 'Attack fit' like I used to be be previously. I wasn't here to be perfect - I was here to sweat, do my best and have fun. 

Was it hard!? Hell yeah. My current level of cardio fitness sucks. But you know what? I enjoyed it, I listened to my body and I didn't pull up too sore the next day. My body remembered what to do - amazing, isn't it? Plus, my mindset was much different - allowing me to focus on proper technique, functionality and mobility. I realised that returning to Attack was more of a mental challenge than a physical one.

Have you ever taken an extended break from an exercise/activity which you love? Have you had the courage to make a come back? What were the mental/physical challenges that you faced? 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Right now...

'The Tan' - So lucky to have so many beautiful outdoor spaces to explore in Melbourne
Right now: I'm rediscovering running. A few years ago I used to LOVE going for regular runs. It was my therapy and I cherished that hour of alone time a run would give me. A chance to unwind, release some energy and turn up some of my favourite tunes. Until this week, I hadn't been for a run in over 12 months. Running and my body had needed a break from each other and so I'd left running alone. Lately, with the running season in full swing, I've been feeling the urge to get back to pounding the pavement. I've been craving that feeling of the crisp Winter air on my skin and the refreshment of exercising outdoors. On Thursday this week I went for my first run - an easy 7km. Nothing speedy or fancy about it, but it felt good! And, apart from a little tightness in my calves for the following couple of days (nothing that a brutal foam rolling session couldn't fix), my body responded well! Excited to introduce a regular run or two into my weekly workouts!

Right now: I'm embracing being productive in the mornings. My working roster changes around from week to week - however lately I've been working mostly afternoon/evening shifts. Over the last week I've really found my groove with this and have been making full use of my mornings. I'm my freshest, most alert and most motivated in the morning so I am finding that this is a great time to be productive and get those important things done! My current routine goes something like: Wake up - early 6-7am workout - home and shower - coffee/brekky and do admin/emails - work on whichever project I'm focusing on for the day - lunch - head to my day job. It's nice to have a bit of structure and routine finding it's way into my weeks.

Right now: I'm back into the swing of studying. I've got into the habit of watching a lecture or reading study notes on my lunch break at work - a great solution to fitting study into my day without impacting the rest of my lifestyle too heavily. My lunch break is usually spent on social media, wandering Chapel Street or chilling out - I don't mind having something to fill it with and I'm actually enjoying using that time with purpose instead of just filling it with things because I have to. I'm currently immersed in a subject about motor skills and learning acquisition - such an interesting area to learn more about!

That's my update for this week - what's going on in your world right now?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

movement analysis: the squat

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am enrolled to go back to study and complete my degree in Exercise Science. I am eager and excited to be learning new things and increasing my understanding and knowledge about this area which I'm so fascinated by. I thought it would be fun to share some of the things I study here on my blog (both for readers and for myself to help facilitate new material). I've decided to start a random little feature focusing on analysing a common movement or exercise. To tie my creativity into the project, I'll include an illustration with each post. 

I'm choosing to start with the squat - one of the most functional and important exercises to master correctly. Here's a little more information about this powerful movement.


Why is it important to squat? 
The squat is a fundamental functional exercise. Not just a popular exercise in the gym, the squat is something that we perform numerous times a day without even realizing it. Each time you sit down/rise from a seat, bend down to pick something up, get in/out of your car or sit on the toilet you are performing a squatting movement. If you don’t squat properly there’s risk of putting repetitive strain on your knees and back multiple times a day, which can lead to health and mobility problems.

Muscles used in the squat
Squatting is a compound exercise – meaning that it uses more than one joint to complete and hits multiple muscle groups in the one movement. The primary muscles used when you squat include your core muscles, hamstrings, glutes and quadriceps. There are also several secondary muscles at work, including your adductors, abductors and numerous upper body muscles (depending on squat variation) – making the squat a powerful whole-body exercise.

How to squat properly
A squat is the ability to go from standing upright to the ground through bending your knees and hinging at the hips whilst keeping an upright torso and a flat back. It’s important to develop proper squat form over a full-range of motion – meaning, you should aim to squat all the way down.

To minimize strain on the lower back whilst performing a squat, you want to hinge your hips backwards until they are well below your knee, keeping your shoulders back and chest out to ensure proper spinal alignment. The pressure of the movement should be in your heels without your knees protruding too far over your toes. This requires flexibility in the ankle and hip joints, and balance between the back, abdominal, and leg muscles.

Common mistakes and possible causes
Lack of flexibility and structural imbalances are common limitations. Tight calves, poor ankle mobility, a lack of hip flexibility and balance can all contribute to incorrect squat form.

Variations/progressions
There are many squat variations you can explore depending on your experience, strength, goals and mobility levels. Swiss ball squats, body weight squats and box squats are a great way to explore the movement safely whilst working towards achieving full range of motion. Progressions include squatting while holding a weight at the chest, a loaded/unloaded barbell on the back, squatting with a narrow stance (focusing on the quadricep muscles), squatting with a wide stance (focusing on the hamstring and glute muscles), front squats, single leg squats etc. Examples of more complex progressions include squat rows, squat presses and plyometric squat jumps. 


Squats fascinate me for a multitude of reasons - one of which being that I've personally struggled to squat with correct form due to muscle imbalances, lack of flexibility, incorrect technique and a lack of body awareness/understanding. Squatting is something which I'm constantly working on and challenged by but with practice, patience and the elimination of ego I'm slowly seeing improvements. A year ago I could hardly squat to 90 degrees, but now I can get my hips well past knee level. The day I can do an 'ass to grass' will be a sweet day indeed! 

Do you practice your squat? What is your favourite squat variation/exercise?

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Right now...

A beautiful city sunset I captured whilst on the way home from the gym one evening this week
Right now: I'm finishing off the last few modules of my Cert 4 in Fitness. I embarked on this almost a year ago whilst deciding to take a break from studying my Uni degree but still wanting to 'learn' in my year off. I go back to Uni to complete my exercise science studies in July, so my goal is to get this completed by then so I can focus fully on completing my degree.

Right now: I'm loving my training. I've got a good combination of weight training, HIIT/cardio, stretching and recovery happening at the moment and for the first time in a long time I am feeling as though all is in balance. I look forward to my workouts - they clear my mind, release those amazing feel good endorphins and give me a sense of accomplishment. It's so rewarding to work hard and feel yourself getting stronger and moving better.

Right now: I love the team I work with each day at lululemon. These guys are awesome, full of energy and always make me laugh. I enjoy working with others who live and love the same values that I do - endless inspiration.

Right now: I've chosen to go without coffee for a couple of weeks. Every now and then I take myself off caffeine for a month or so to give my body a break. I've been feeling a little tense the last few weeks so hopefully a little less stimulation will be good for me. Three days in. On the first day I was hit with one of the worst headaches I can remember having - I don't usually have withdrawals from coffee so I wasn't impressed by this!

Right now: I'm saving to buy my own apartment. I'm still a long way away, but I've made a budget and am enthusiastic about working towards my goal. In the mean time, I've been focusing on making my current home amazing - re-arranging, picking fresh colour schemes and investing in a couple of new pieces of furniture. I'm also constantly losing myself in interior design blogs and magazines... bliss!

Right now: I'm struggling to fit everything I want to do into each day. I constantly have a million projects on the go - all of which I am excited about - and wish there was an extra day in the week for me to work on all of them. I'm looking a simplifying and letting a few things go over the coming month so I can dedicate more time towards the things which mean the most to me.

That's my little update for this week... what is happening in your life right now?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Project Thankful


Yesterday was one of those days. You know, when you think it's probably best you go back to bed and start fresh the next morning. I just wasn't feelin' it and after a string of small mishaps (which I usually wouldn't let rattle me) I burst into tears in my car and admitted defeat.

I woke this morning to find that the funk was still there. I went to the gym, smashed some heavy weights and felt marginally better. Then, whilst eating breakfast and browsing Instagram, I came across the above photo taken at my day job last week. A photo of myself and a friend in front of our Project Thankful tree. I smiled authentically for the first time in over 24 hours and that little bit of joy returned. I started thinking about what I was thankful for and reflecting on the reasons why I'm lucky. I soon realised that I had little to be feeling grumpy about.

Project Thankful is a community initiative beginning in Melbourne. The concept involves displaying a beautiful tree covered in little fairy light cherry blossoms in public places. Passer-bys are encouraged to write what they are thankful for on the provided tags and hang them up on the branches of the tree. The result is absolutely stunning - you can't help being mesmerised. And, as I found out this week, life is so much better when you shift your focus to gratitude and abundance.

In celebration of Project Thankful here is a list of 6 things I am thankful for right now:
1. Melbourne. I love this city - truly! It took me a while to settle in, but now 6 years later, I couldn't imagine living anywhere else.
2. Avocados. Yes, I'm obsessed. Really.
3. My housemate and friend, Lauren. I don't think I know anyone as caring and patient as this girl. She's like the sister I never had growing up. We live so well together and I'm really thankful for our friendship.
4. My body. We've had a variety of different relationships over the years, but right now I'm so thankful and proud of all the amazing things my body can do. Through looking after and nurturing myself I'm feeling stronger and healthier every day - it's all about being holistic.
5. Coloured Pencils. And fresh paints. And blank Sketchbooks. And time to play with them.
6. Exercise. It keeps me sane. I especially love the feeling of finishing a challenging session - there's not a lot that beats that sense of accomplishment.

What about you today? What are you thankful for?
How do you express gratitude to the world?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

light yourself on fire

My latest illustrative piece inspired by dance and following your heart to live a fulfilled life.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Creating a new vision

My new vision board in progress
Last weekend a couple of my closest friends and I spent an evening together recreating our vision boards. A vision board is a collection of images, pictures, words and other collectables which represent your dreams and the things which light your heart on fire. It's an ultimate tool for manifestation and the law of attraction. The beauty about vision boards is that they place the things which motivate and drive you in your line of sight everyday. This both serves as a personal reminder to yourself about what you love and is a powerful way to speak to the Universe about your hopes and dreams.

Ever since I was little, I've kept some form of vision or inspiration board. I had pinboards in my bedroom where I would stick my favourite photos of friends, display beautiful pieces of nature I'd found and paste inspiring pictures of artwork I collected.

Over the years I've created vision boards which were both randomly spontaneous and goal-focused with intention. When I first decided to embark on a health and fitness journey, I surrounded myself with words and pictures about wellbeing, nutrition, exercise and achieving my goals. I was manifesting something very specific. In contrast, a little over a year ago when I was going through a phase of confusion as I wrote about here, I created a vision board of images and quotes which inspired me. At the time I didn't really know what my collection meant, but it gave me goosebumps and 'felt right' when I hung it up on my wall. I hung it in front of my bed and saw it every day when I woke up. 6 months after it's creation, I remember looking at the board and realising that I knew what every single thing on it meant to me. It was an exhilarating and enlightening moment. That's when I knew for sure that I'd created something powerful.

Recently I've known that I needed a refresh - new challenges, new mysteries and new goals to manifest into being. When my friend Alicia from Unleash Yourself mentioned that she wanted to create a new vision in the same week that I decided to clear out my collection of old magazines, I knew it was a sign that it was time to create. We spent hours cutting and pasting and tearing and discussing our creations - my idea of a perfect Saturday night!

I now have a new vision board full of images and ideas which make my heart flutter with excitement. I was surprised by how easily it came together and how different it is to the one which came before it. I'm looking forward to the day when I see all the pieces connect together and realise my dream has been created.

Have you ever made a vision board? What do you do to manifest and inspire yourself?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Tangled

'Tangled' the first artwork in my 'Dreamcatchers' series
A little less than a year ago I was feeling stuck. Tangled.

I was living in a nice Melbourne apartment with a great friend. I had completed my three year design degree with high distinctions. I was studying a new degree I was interested in. I had completed my cert 3 in fitness. I loved my job of teaching multiple group fitness classes a week. I had my own car - a cute little red Swift called 'Poppy'. I had partnered up to begin a design business with a friend. I was also doing work for freelance design clients of my own.

I knew I was lucky. From the outside I had it all. If anyone asked me 'how I was going' I'd enthusiastically say 'amazing!' and I'd gush about how grateful I was to be able to be doing the things I loved every day. It was true - I was living the dream. However, I had a problem. I wasn't happy.

Now, when I say that 'I wasn't happy' it wasn't that I didn't feel fulfilled or grateful or inspired by my life, I just didn't feel 'right'. I didn't feel right and I couldn't work out why. The truth was that I'd been feeling 'off' for a while. For a few months I struggled with my own internal demons trying to work out what was wrong with me. I couldn't find my sparkle - that glow. It was gone. And the more I pushed to find it, the more lost I became. I knew I had to change something. However, I was too scared to take the leap, leave my comfort zone and sort my shit out.

I believe that the universe has a way of pushing you in the right direction when you've wandered off path. In a matter of days, for multiple reasons, I suddenly found myself without a car, without a job and without study.

At the time it was the worst week of my life. I can't remember ever feeling such a sense of dread - of not knowing how I was going to stay in Melbourne without a job or study, of not knowing where to go next, what to do with my life or, to be honest, who I really was. It only took a week for the world I'd created for myself to collapse and leave me on my own. Vulnerable and raw. I'd invested so much of myself into my lifestyle that without it I was empty. Lost. A shell.

I now believe that this was the best thing which could have happened in my life at the time.

I needed that push to slow down. To stop, reflect and work out exactly who I was inside as a person - not who I was pushing myself into being through my lifestyle choices and what I perceived others expectations of me to be. Looking back now I realise that I was always 'switched on' - to the point where I was actually scared of myself. Yep, crazy right? I was terrified of being still and having to actually listen to what my body was trying to tell me - mentally, physically and emotionally. I believe that is why I was feeling so incomplete - I wasn't honouring or respecting myself. I'd lost my personal integrity. I'd forgotten how to be authentically 'me'.

It's been almost 12 months and in that time I've discovered so many new possibilities. I stepped into a new job which I love, I've made new friendships, I've tried new things and I've slowly rebuilt that connection with myself. I've learnt how to take time out and how to enjoy guilt free 'down time' when I need to - and simply when I feel like it! It's been a slow process and an interesting journey of getting to know myself again.

I now find myself at the stage where I'm ready to launch myself back into life - back working towards my goals and back determined to push myself. The coming couple of months are exciting me. I'm now strong enough to bring back some of the things which consumed my life 12 months ago. And this time I have that newfound knowledge that I can be successful whilst also staying true to myself.

I've freed myself from the tangle and I'm fresh with new energy, passion and enthusiasm. I've rediscovered my glow and I'm ready to share it with the world.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

One of my favourite things: we are Combi

Velvet Cacao Smoothie

Yesterday I met my gorgeous friend Katie from Gluten Freelance for a work meeting at the quaint little cafe, 'Combi' in Elwood. It was 2pm on a Monday afternoon and we were lucky to get a seat! This little piece of heaven offers a menu full of organic pressed juice, organic superfood smoothies, nut mylk, kombucha, healthy raw treats and glass jars filled with numerous types of goodness.

I indulged in a Velvet Cacao Smoothie - a luscious concoction of raw cacao, cacao nibs, fresh berries, coconut flesh, cinnamon, banana, protein powder and house made nut mylk. My favourite part? The coconut lip around the edge of the jar! Katie sipped on the Master Tonic juice - a feisty blend of carrot, turmeric, orange and ginger and we couldn't resist sharing a cacao and goji berry bliss ball.

Aside from the menu, the cafe itself is tropical and refreshing. Designed by the same people as hip hop yoga studio Yoga213, the interior is decorated with creative bits and pieces inspired by the ocean, road trips and adventure. I'll definitely be returning soon to sample the zucchini spaghetti and another sweat treat from the raw bar!