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Becoming Mindfulness

Six Tips and Tricks to get started on your fitness journey

The body that moves

I started this article to write a good workout tip for a friend and not a blog post, but as the words kept coming, and I continued writing, I decided to publish it on my blog.

The idea behind this blog post started with a single tweet I wrote on 31st, of December 2020 – A tweet, which, I deleted, sadly, with the bulk of my other Twitter posts on 1st of January 2021 with tweetdelete.net.

I had shared a photo with the caption: ‘Once upon a time, I was very thick.‘ I also shared similar photographs of me, and my Twitter friends were surprised because they didn’t know a bigger Ifunanya.

November 6th, 2019

One of my friends, Biodun, asked ‘why, Nanya. What happened?’, and why again when my answer was that I started working out.

June 28th, 2020.

Why did I start working out, or why was my goal to lose weight?

Now that I think of it, I started with the intention of losing weight because I felt out of control with my body. I explained a little here in A failing well series #1: Running.

I wanted to get my body to move and to bend without friction.   

Losing weight was the intention until I started noticing other changes – My body became taut, and my face cleared, and my skin started glowing, and I started dancing easy. 

What apps and tools did I use on my weight loss/ fitness journey?

The apps and tools I use and recommend are:

  1. 8fit: (Pro helps with customized workout sessions, coaches, and meal plans. I started with the free plan and tried out the pro for free until I unsubscribed, then they provided a discount)
  2. Noom: (Noom lets you log your weight and track the meals you eat in a day. It is more than just a food tracker as it also gives behavioural insight on diet and weight loss. The pro plan provides an educational approach that helps to understand why some food is recommended more than others with the labelling from green to yellow to red).
  3. Nike Training Club: (NTC is a free app for customized workout sessions, but it can be busy, and the workout plans can get pretty intensive, which is why I paid for 8fit.)
  4. Nike Running Club: (NRC is a running app)
  5. Lose it Nigerian meal plan
  6. Bathroom weight scale: (I check my weight every morning naked before I go to the bathroom to take a leak. I think it’s best to be consistent with the way you weigh yourself. Here’s what Healthline has to say about how to measure yourself.
  7. Kitchen scale: (I’m not consistent with this, but I use it to weigh the food I prepare).

How I lost 15kg Within Two Months

First, Have a Plan – Do you want to lose weight or get fit?

The first thing is to note what you plan this journey to be. Do you want to lose weight, and or do you want to get fit? Do you also want to practice mindfulness while you’re at it?

When I started, I began with the intention of losing weight, because that was the only thing I could see – my weight getting in the way, so I started with 8fit and Noom and Naija Foodie meal plan on loseItNigerian.

It’s best to start with a less intensive plan and then build towards the more intensive ones.

If your goal is to lose weight, it would be counterproductive to keep your old eating habits. What I mean is creating a calorie deficit meal plan is best when trying to lose weight, and you can do this by either eating fewer calories or increasing your physical activity.

I didn’t continue for long with LoseitNigerian, because I have an ulcer, and, I couldn’t take some of the stuff that they recommend, like more habanero pepper (which is healthy, of course, and contains lots of vitamins and capsaicin), lemons, lime, etc.

I also figured out that their method involved eating fewer calories by tricking the body by eating more leafy vegetables, oatmeal, reducing oily, fried, and processed foods.

One of the many things I love about LoseitNigerian is that they don’t tell you to starve your body. They also don’t ask you to eat liquid meals. They encourage our Nigerian meals by recommending you follow a routine of eating less starchy meals, filling it up with greens, and taking nutritious home-made juices.

For example, if you wanted to eat Jollof rice for lunch, preparing a healthy meal plan would start with your first thought of the meal. Understanding that every ingredient you cook with adds to the collective calories of the serving of the meal you eat. After cooking, Lose it Nigerian would recommend going for one serving of the Jollof rice, a protein, and more leafy vegetables to fill you up.

Another thing I did was to cut out sugar by drinking non-calorie beverages like water. I stopped drinking tea and eating ice cream at a point, even though I indulge sometimes. But what I think is finding a routine that works for you and sticking to it.

Also, in my journey, I realized that, while fruits are very healthy, they can also have high calories. Dried fruits like dates and raisins or dried strawberries are nutritious but high in calories and sugar. Removing water from the fruits concentrates all the sugar and calories in a much smaller form. A practical way to think about this is to look at 109 grams of sliced apple which contains 57 calories and 1 cup (86g) of Dried apple that contains 209 calories.

Eating one medium banana is great, and eating a full bunch of banana is equally good if you’ll fit it into your meal plan and make sure you don’t go above your intended calorie for the day. This understanding is why taking smoothies can be counterproductive as mixing more than two fruits can have over 1000 calories, which might be more than half of your daily goal if you intend to lose weight.

While eating fewer calories might seem like a great plan and help you lose fat, it can also lead to muscle loss, and wouldn’t be such a great plan when you look at it in the long run if you don’t add HIIT (High Intensive Workout) to it. Just sticking to long-term calorie restriction can significantly reduce your metabolism, but spicing it up with workout sessions can increase your metabolism and tighten those loose skin. (An aside and a joke: This is why Lose It Nigerian spice up their meal plans with Habanero pepper as it contains capsaicin which can boost metabolism).

Incorporating Mindfulness into your Fitness Routine

Mindful practices can help us understand how to have a healthy relationship with food and to appreciate our body and love it for all that it is. It also helps us see our body as a machine that can flex and move as much as we want it to go.

At my core, I practice yoga in the morning for 10 to 15 minutes, and then I end it with a 5-minute meditation. Just closing my eyes and sitting still can set my day for me. 

Mindfulness teaches you to pay attention to your breath and body, and sometimes as an observer to see how reality is in the moment. 

Incorporating mindfulness in your fitness routine allows you to just be. 

It helps you to pay attention to the food you eat and to your body. It also gives you purpose for how you want each workout routine to go. For example, I started my fitness journey wanting to lose weight, and then I lost weight, then, I told myself I wanted to stay healthy, and then, I started working towards staying fit.

Mindfulness also helps you slow down and remind yourself why you’ve chosen to go on your fitness journey. It also helps with remembering that the journey is yours alone and that sometimes, you might not perform as much as you want, and that’s also a good thing, and to remember to turn up and end each exercise on a good note.

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Becoming Failing well

Becoming Brave – Will you bring back the child in you?

“Vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness and also the birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging, and love.” – I stumbled upon Brené Brown’s work on vulnerability the other day, and I haven’t stopped thinking about the adult who was once a brave child.

We all started somewhere – the child grows to become an adult. I remember what it feels like as a kid who was never afraid to try out new things and who never thought to engage the idea that she might not get what she wants.

I wonder, sometimes, what happened to that kid.

I think we have to agree that children are the bravest of us all, because, do children not get to do new stuff that we introduce them to every time? Of course, they throw a little tantrum, but these are things that adults would not normally do. Children say ‘yes’ even though they aren’t ready.

Children aren’t a little bit worried about people judging them. They don’t hesitate to act, which I think can be a good thing, sometimes. Because in hesitating, we remind ourselves of all the things that can go wrong without remembering that things can also go right.

As a child, I owned a little provision store, and I participated in a lot of school challenges. I was the kid who entered offices asking for an interview and when they asked if she was not too young to work, replied ‘No.’

At what point does the fearless child become scared to perform in the society? Where did it go wrong? Maybe if we can point to a particular cause, then we can find the strength to move on to become the brave person that we can be?

Sometimes, I think my fear started when I entered university. Nigerian colleges have a way of instilling fear in you and making you believe that you are undeserving of where you are and should be grateful that you even have a score in your name.

But, this is not the time to point fingers. This is where we acknowledge our calling to reclaim our true selves.

Many of us are afraid of failing, and it shows in the way we give ourselves to our cause. We are scared that we may not be successful with our mission. We are afraid of the shame that comes with trying, we are terrified of the name-calling, of the guilt, of the tongue-lashing, of the fall.

We ask ourselves questions like – What if we fail? What if it is not worth it? What if we risk it all and we lose it all?

But what if we risk it all and win some?

What if we win it all?

What if, by delaying to take action on our call, we extend our suffering by going off the wrong path?

I think we cling to certain kinds of people because we seek something outside us – something foreign, kind, and possibly dangerous.

We want what we do not have – we don’t know what this thing is, yet we are terrified to think about it.

So, we follow the train and let it lead us to anywhere.

Sometimes we may not find what we seek until we’ve allowed ourselves to be pushed to the extremes.

Then we realize that perhaps what we’ve been looking for is what we’ve always had.

We recognize that we’ve not learnt to love ourselves, and in this understanding, we begin to find ourselves.

In defining vulnerability, Brené Brown said, “We cannot selectively numb some emotion. You cannot say, ‘Here’s the bad stuff, here’s vulnerability, here’s grief, here’s shame, here’s fear, here’s disappointment. I don’t want to feel these. I’m going to have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. You can’t numb those hard feelings without numbing the other affects, our emotions

And I think this is one thing that separates the child from the adult – the ability to give themselves wholly. Even though sometimes, we forget that children have feelings too, they aren’t afraid to embrace their vulnerability. Untainted, they love with all of their heart. You scold them, and after crying, they come back to you. They fight with their peers one instant and are ready to make up and play the next minute. Kids are the most vulnerable – they meet new faces every day at school, and most times adults act like they are too young to understand, therefore making them feel as though their feelings won’t matter until they get to a certain age.

Kids are braver than we think and are always acting, but how do you, as a grown adult, in a constant state of navigating through stress and depression, work yourself towards taking action on your goals?

Brené Brown answered:

“and this is what I’ve found. To let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, VULNERABLY seen. To love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee, and that’s hard. To practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we are wondering ‘Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this, this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this?’ Just to be able to stop, instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, “I’m just so grateful,” because to feel this vulnerable means I’m alive.

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Becoming Failing well Mindfulness

A failing well series #1: Running

I will start by telling the story of how I started running – a sport I detested with all my might, how I have come to see myself as an athlete, and how I have grown to enjoy and see running as a beautiful sport. I will start with a running story because Abi Booth’s running story was what inspired me to start this series.

The Fear

When it came to exercise, I was a scaredy-cat. I thought exercise was for a particular set of people – that some people came with an innate desire to want to stretch, while some were not.

I had this mindset in secondary school during Physical education (PE) classes. PE was compulsory, and it also served as a punishment for latecomers and delinquents. Instructors asked offenders to run around the school field many times — an activity that left one breathless and gasping for air. I knew many people who fainted on the playground, and I knew people who came out tops — this further implanted the idea in my mind that exercise was for a selected few. My school chose the ones who did well to represent the school, but I did not come close to coming first, and I did not even come last. I was part of those who stumbled on the way. I did not understand why they made you do PE in school. What was I going to do with it?

The beginning — A little story about my grandmother and how her death moved me to run

My grandmother’s illness started in 2015. I remember coming home from my final exams in school to meet her sick. I remember the scary feeling that things were not going to remain the same. Grandma was present, but oblivious to what was happening around her. She did not know when I came in until someone told her, ‘Look, mama, It’s Ify. She’s here.’ And she smiled. A smile she has always reserved for me, her first grandchild. I asked what was wrong, but she could not make a clear sentence. It did not make any sense to me how someone’s body could, all at once, start failing them. 

From there, it led to many trips to the hospital, to her not being able to make coherent sentences, and to us having to feed her. She stopped walking, and we got her a wheelchair.

I don’t know what happened to my grandmother, but I remember a strong woman who instilled values and discipline in her grandchildren. I remember a hardworking woman who started taking care of my siblings and me when my mother died in 2008. My grandmother resumed parenting again when she was supposed to be retiring, and this meant she started worrying over what we were going to eat, how we were going to go to school. It was hard work 201. She went from a hale and hearty person to an invalid. She could not walk to the toilet or bathe herself, and she could not feed herself. If the grandmother that I knew could see herself in that state, she would have thrown a fit.

The last time I saw my grandma was in December 2020, when I visited her in a hospital in Ogun state. She had become a complete ghost of herself. She’d developed a brain stroke two nights before, and was plugged to a support machine. She could not tell it was me. 

On March 2, on my way to the grocery store, I received an SMS from my little cousin that announced my grandmama’s death.

I had many questions – How could someone suffer this much for so long? What was the purpose of the human body? Where did things go wrong? Would I suddenly fall ill too?

How I started working out

“Our bodies were made to move.”

“Globally, around 31% of adults aged 15 and over were insufficiently active in 2008 (men 28% and women 34%). Approximately 3.2 million deaths each year are attributable to insufficient physical activity.”

WHO – Physical Inactivity: A Global Public Health Problem

I started exercising out of fear of what would happen to my body if it ever breaks down. I had a scare once when I tried reaching for something underneath a couch in my grandparents’ house, and I felt a cramp build up in my upper back. However, my grandmother’s death was what incited the fear in me and spurred me into action. 

The fact that I did not understand what happened to her made things worse. She did not live a sedentary lifestyle because she was the most hardworking person that I knew. She always had lots of stuff to do – If she was not going to the market, she was on the farm, and if you did not find her on the farm, she was attending her peer meeting. I have also wondered if she died as a result of extreme stress. Whatever it was, I decided to become more mindful of the things I did. I started meditating, and I started running.

An attempt at running: The first try, my next run, and the lessons

I did not make it up to 3 yards on my first run before I started panting.

There were days when I would get tired and could not make it to the distance that I wanted, and there were days when I would end up in my running gear without going for a run. I’d love to get to a point where I can comfortably run three times a week. The last time I ran was yesterday, and before that, was my run on Friday. However, I believe I am making good progress.

I love going on the guided runs on Nike Run Club (NRC) with Coach Bennett.

One thing I have learnt from running with Coach Bennett is understanding that it is okay to run at a feel-good pace. He says, ‘Every run has a purpose.’ It is better to run for a shorter distance than aim for a higher one and end up feeling disappointed. ‘End the run wanting to run more,’ he says. The first run is all about wanting to do the next run.’ It does not matter how many times you go on the first run or the next run as long as you run at a comfortable pace.

Another thing I have learnt from Coach B is that it is crucial to always listen to our body. Our bodies are always telling us something, and we have to pay attention to be able to hear it. Running is fun as long as we make it fun. If your body wants a 1-minute run, take it for a minute run. If it wants to rest, let it rest. I always run solo because it helps me focus on my training and what I want out of the run. I am not sure I can run with other people, but I am willing to give it a try. 

The road to orange level

As a new runner, I would recommend Nike Run Club, as it is what has helped to build my confidence and get comfortable running. I am not sure I would be writing this if I had not given NRC a try. 

When I run, I feel the need to move. Sometimes, I don’t understand if I am running from something or towards something, but I feel my adrenaline pumping and pushing my body forward, and this beautiful feeling is what inspires me to keep running – understanding that I can get my body to move. 

Every time I go for a run, I keep learning new things about this sport, and I am always amazed at the things my body can do. There is so much to learn about my body, and I am here for all of it. I am glad I took the initiative to start running, and I am also happy that I overcame my fear.

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Becoming Failing well Mindfulness

A failing well series: Intro.

The best of us is not trying to be perfect but to know that it is okay to accept the lessons as they come to us, especially when they do not come on our terms.

Alexei Orlov on Failing Well

I am joining Abi Booth in his ‘failing well’ series, a series he started, to expose himself to what it means to fail. I will be sharing stories of how I intentionally participated in stuff that I wasn’t good at, my experiences, and my lessons from failing. This exercise would help me get to know me better, and also help me understand my reactions to ‘failing.’

What does failing well mean?

Failing well means intentionally using every stumble you encounter on your path as a component towards learning. In failing well, you celebrate your mistakes, and you look into your struggles, pick up understanding and knowledge, and you come out a better person. 

I remember how I had cried my eyes out when things had not gone according to plan at work. This experience, among many others, has taught me how very intense and passionate I can be with what I do, and how having anything less than perfection had seemed like failing to me. 

I keep teaching myself that I don’t have to be perfect here, hence, with this exercise, I want to mindfully throw myself into the deep end and explore things that I am not comfortable with doing. I will go to places that I haven’t let myself go to, and I will learn how well I can handle mistakes and how I’d react to letdowns and stumbles down the road. This will be very intentional as I am going to be writing all about my experiences doing these things in my part of the ‘failing well’ series. You can join in and tag me when you do!

Here’s to having fears and conquering them. Here’s to failing well. 🍷

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Becoming

Welcome to the winged time traveller blog!

“For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end”

Michelle Obama

Hey bosses, welcome to my blog.

My name is Ifunanya, but for the sake of this blog, I’ve chosen the name, ‘the winged time traveller.’ It’s a name I got from Tumblr, and I’ve loved it ever since.

I have worked as a legal assistant, an administrator, a teacher, an SDE Intern, a frontend developer, a content creator, and a social media manager/ digital marketer. I intend to share my journey with you on the places I’ve been to, and the things that I’ve learnt. The basis of my writing will be on work, mindfulness, finance, marketing, entrepreneurship, and perhaps a little bit of philosophy.

There’s a quote from R.M Drake that has always resonated with me. ‘In the end, she became more than what she expected. She became the journey, and like all journeys, she did not end, she simply changed directions and kept going.”

This blog is for people who have been on many journeys of their own, and for those who are still finding their feet. It is for sharing my experiences, learning together and hoping that I inspire you with these stories that have become a part of me.

Psst, check out my ‘now‘ page to see what I’m doing now.

Enjoy the ride with me.

Nanya.