Boxing for the Brain

I created this workout to incorporate boxing. If you don’t have gloves or a bag to hit, shadow boxing is just as effective. What I love about boxing is it’s not only great for the body but also helps heal the mind by improving concentration and focus. Let me know how this goes for you. Comment below or message me, I’m always looking for feedback. Enjoy!

Equipment needed: jump rope (optional), 2-5 lb. hand weights, sturdy surface like a bench or chair, mat, gloves & heavy bag (optional)

Time: 35-50 minutes

Difficulty level: as hard as you want it to be

1. Warm up: 3 minute round on the jump rope (if no rope, just bounce and circle hands like you’re jumping rope)

2. Stretch: pick your favorite stretches in all the major spots – neck, arms, back, legs

3. Using 2-5 lb. hand weights, complete 25 jumping jacks, 25 jabs, and 25 crosses

4. 10 burpees- add a jab cross at the start position of every burpee before your hit the ground

5. 10 tricep dips off elevated sturdy surface, 10 push-ups, 15 squat jumps

6. Set a timer for 3 minutes and shadow box using hand weights, If you’re new to boxing just focus on the jab, cross, and footwork. If you’re more experienced, add in defense, hooks, and uppercuts as well. Try to keep your hands up, stay moving, breathe when you punch, and always keep one hand protecting the chin. Last 30 seconds burn it out by going as hard and fast as you can.

7. 10 tricep dips, 10 push-ups, 15 squat jumps

8. Gloves on if you have them and set a 3 minute timer for a round on the heavy bag. If there is no bag available to you, shadow box without weights for a 3 minute round. For this round, be sure to hit at least 50 jabs and 50 crosses or if you’re more experienced, be sure to hit at least 100 of any punch you’d like to throw. If you’d like an extra challenge, try and hit this combo as many times as possible: jab, cross, slip, cross, slip, slip, jab, cross, jab, slip, jab. In numbers, that’s 12 slip 2 slip slip 121 slip 1

9. 10 tricep dips, 10 push-ups, 15 squat jumps

10. Burnout on the bag (or with hand weights): 30 seconds of nonstop jabs and crosses. Max speed and power – give it all you got here!

11. Abs: On mat, complete 15 v-ups, 15 bicycle crunches, 15 seated twists, 1 minute plank hold. Complete 3 rounds of this.

Done!

Fall in Love with Cardio

This workout is guaranteed to take your cardio routine from blah to bangin’

I have a sensitive lower back, so running is not always the best cardio option for me…I know many others feel the same way. I designed this program to get your heart rate soaring and to be different than a typical bout on a cardio machine at the gym. It won’t take you too long! Take 30 seconds – 1 minute of rest in between steps. And don’t forget that music to help power you through!

Total time: 25-40 minutes

Equipment needed: 2-5 lb. handweights, 8-20 lb. slam medicine ball

Note: Stretch out before and after to stay loose and prevent injury! See below for exercise index if unfamiliar with a term.

Cardio Killa

  1. 30 seconds of each move: high knees, butt kicks, skaters, burpees, jumping jacks, mountain climbers.
  2. 10 overhead ball slams x 15 jump squats x 10 walking lunges each leg. Complete 3 rounds.
  3. 10 side to side slams x 25 weighted jumping jacks x plank hold for 30 seconds. Complete 3 rounds.
  4. 25 front raise jumping jacks with weights x 20 seated twists with medicine ball x 20 mountain climbers with hands on medicine ball. Complete 2 rounds.
  5. Repeat step #1

Exercise index:

Burpees:

  1. Begin in a standing position.
  2. Move into a squat position with your hands on the ground either side of your feet. (count 1)
  3. Kick your feet back into a plank position, while keeping your arms extended. (count 2)
  4. Immediately return your feet into squat position. (count 3)
  5. Stand up from the squat position (count 4)

Overhead ball slams:

  1. Hold medicine ball over your head with two hands
  2. Throw medicine ball into the ground directly in front of you as hard as you can, ending in a squat posiiton
  3. Pick up medicine ball and bring overhead to return to start

Side to side ball slams:

  1. Hold medicine ball over your head with two hands
  2. Slam ball into the ground directly to the left side of you
  3. Without moving feet, pick up ball and bring it over your head in a U shape and slam into the ground directly to the right side of you.
  4. You should feel this in your core

Front raise jumping jacks:

  1. Begin with feet together and hands by your side
  2. As you jump feet out, bring arms straight out in front of you stopping around shoulder height
  3. As you jump in, hands come back down to return to start position.

With love always,

Diana

Training for a Half Ironman; One Athlete’s Insight and Her Tips to get in the Best Shape of Your Life

Ever wonder what it’d be like to train for a half ironman? 2 years ago when I began working as a personal trainer, I met Ali Furrs and taught her how to box. Since then, she’s been training with me every week and has become a great friend to me. Ali has been working as a Doctor of Physical Therapy for 3 years now at Sinai Hospital of Baltimore. Ali is one of the most bad ass, hard-working women I know and is not only a great fitness role model but is also a truly authentic and fun-loving person. In this article, Ali goes into detail about what it’s like to prepare for a half ironman, the ups and downs of such a time-consuming training schedule and advice on how to be in your best shape ever. Read on to hear Ali’s awesome story and follow her on Instagram @alijoy_f to see more of her fitness inspo.

Ali’s Story

The sport of triathlon is not new to me. I’ve done several sprint and Olympic distant triathlons but this year I decided to take on the half ironman. Back in January, I signed up for the Eagleman 70.3 in Cambridge, MD which takes place on June 9, 2019 (this weekend!). Over the last 5-6 months, I’ve dedicated my time and energy training to complete 1.2 miles of swimming, 56 miles of biking, and 13.1 miles of running in one race.

Her Training Regimen

I followed a “simple half ironman training guide” but improvised with some of my own workouts. I organized and reorganized my training schedule depending on work or other commitments but for the most part I stuck to the plan.  Here is what a typical training week looked like for me…

Monday: REST

Tuesday: BIKE

Wednesday: SWIM & RUN

Thursday: BIKE

Friday: SWIM & RUN

Saturday: LONG BIKE

Sunday: LONG SWIM & RUN

During the days that I biked (Tues/Thurs) I also did strength training. That included upper body strengthening, lower body strengthening, stability training, and cross training (boxing & basketball). As the race approached I did some running after by bike rides as well to get used to the transition as I would on race day.

Her Favorite Workout

My favorite workouts to do, not because they’re easy and I like them but because they challenged me and made me feel like I was accomplishing something, were single leg stability strengthening (i.e. single leg deadlifts, split squats, balance on a BOSU, anti-rotation drills, etc.). Single leg strengthening workouts involve the entire leg up to the hip including the core and foot. Hip and ankle stability become essential with endurance training as fatigue sets in and can apply to all three aspects of the sport (swim, bike, run).

How Boxing Shaped Her Training

Boxing was also a fundamental part of my cross training thanks to Diana. At first I thought I’d stop boxing for a while so I could focus on my training but I found that boxing provided a great outlet for stress in addition to serving as a huge foundation builder. It requires hip and core stability to absorb force and provide a solid foundation from which to throw and dodge a punch. But it also requires shoulder stability for maintaining position and preventing injury with impact after delivering a punch. I incorporated this into my strength training days once a week (i.e bike in the morning before work, box with Diana after work). Cross training is so important to work on different muscle groups, prevent overuse injuries, and to prevent burnout.

Her Tremendous Sacrifice

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s easy to talk rainbows and butterflies about the aspects of training as I believe my training has been successful. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say it came with a cost. The time commitment necessary for training was probably the most challenging part of this mighty endeavor. I work 40 hours a week, have a dog and a home to help my husband care for, a husband to put first, and a social life that I like to be involved in. Without my husband this would have been impossible. He was a tremendous help and took on all the morning dog walks as well as some evening walks so I could get to the gym or on the road to train. He maintained the cleanliness and sanity of the house and relinquished the cooking to me. He was also supportive when I was gone most weekend mornings on long training rides or in the gym for hours (yes, hours). He truly held strong to his commitment to helping me be successful in achieving my goals.

The Ultimate Reward: Best Shape Ever

As for the most rewarding part of training, you’ll have to ask me again after the race but right now I feel like my best most bad ass self. I’m probably in the best shape of my life and feel like I can accomplish anything. Not only am I in great physical condition but I’m also more disciplined, efficient, and make the most of my time available.

Strength in Numbers and Positive Self Talk

I have an amazing team of supporters from friends to family to friends of friends and coworkers alike. You need support to be successful, to build you up, give you encouragement, and to hold you accountable. It’s easy to receive support, it feels good. What holds people back the most, especially in long endurance races, are mental blocks and lack of mental toughness. Think about it, you’re with yourself and your thoughts for several hours day in and day out; negative self talk is bound to make its way in there at some point. Mental blocks are hard, so what I do is set achievable goals even within a session. Small wins make you feel accomplished and ready to tackle the next goal. And positive self-talk and self-reflection go a long way. There is also no shame in taking a few days to a week off of training to reset and prevent burnout.

Try a Triathlon out for Yourself

Don’t let my wallowing in lack of free time get in your way from trying this out though! Triathlons are so fun and very doable with the right training! My advice to those who are interested in triathlon is to just sign up for one or start with a relay. The atmosphere of a relay race alone will get you hooked but knowing you don’t have to do the whole thing is a good way to start. The great thing about triathlons is that if you’ve never done one you HAVE to train to finish it. By signing up, you have committed yourself to training and are less likely to back out. They are usually expensive enough where you won’t consider backing out either. There are plenty of online resources for coaches, training plans, podcasts for tips and tricks etc., and there are races all over the world.

Triathlon or Not; Ali’s Advice

For those of you that I have just convinced to never do one of these but want to stay fit and active, my advice to you is the following…

  1. Find a friend to work out with
  2. Join a group
  3. Take fitness classes
  4. Hire a personal trainer
  5. Sign up for an event (race)
  6. By new workout clothes or shoes
  7. Follow fitness bloggers/influencers on social media
  8. MOST IMPORTANTLY: set achievable goals

Everyone has their own interests and own fitness journey but it has to start somewhere and that’s with YOU saying YES.

She Found a lot to Like About Herself

As I’ve said before, I’m not new to triathlon, but this experience has been completely different than any other I’ve had (including marathon training). I’ve never spent so much time in my own head and the longer I stayed there, the more I found to like about myself. I’ve learned to be humble as I’m not the fastest in any of the three sports. I’ve learned to be selfless as I reflect on the sacrifices my husband has made to help me succeed as well as the ones I have made to keep him number one. I’ve learned to set goals, stay positive and take pride in the goals I have achieved. And I learned that I am loved and people are rooting for me to succeed. Triathlon is a new happy place for me and I’m excited to see what is in store for me on June 9, 2019.

Your Booty Will Thank You

My Ultimate Booty Workout

I’d like to make a special note that this workout is not about enlarging the booty (although it may be a side effect). This is about strengthening a muscle group that far too many neglect, which results in injuries and body imbalances. I believe in the importance of glute work in correcting many bodily discomforts, including knee and back issues. Have fun with this and be sure to drink plenty of water and rest for at least 1 minute in between circuits. I’d like to make an even more special note that working out is SO important for your mental health. Do this for your body AND your mind. No matter what size/shape/type of body and booty you have, you’re beautiful in your own way and deserve to treat yourself to this!

**Note: this is not for the faint of heart. This is not a joke. And this will make your booty cry in both pain and joy**

1. Warm up: 3-6 mins.

30 seconds high knees x 30 seconds butt kicks x 15 body weight squats. *Complete 3 rounds*

2. Stretch: 3-4 mins.

Complete each move for 20-30 seconds.

a. Arm circles forward with calf raises

b. Arm circles backward with calf raises

c. Touch toes with legs together

d. Touch ground with legs wider than hips

e. Butterfly stretch on ground

f. Straddle stretch on ground

3. Circuit A: 8-12 mins. Need 1 medium-heavy and 1 heavy kettle bell

20 kettle bell swings with medium heavy bell x 15 kettle bell dead lifts with heavy bell x 10 sit squats holding medium- heavy bell. Complete 3 rounds


Start the kettle bell swings in this position to initiate the first swing. Then imagine the kettle bell is a football you must pass to someone behind you.

End position of the kettle bell swing. This is not about using arms, this is about thrusting hips forward to gain momentum in your swing.
4. Circuit B: 8-12 mins. Need small loop band- place band around ankles for banded exercises or right below knees for a less intense modification.

15 jump squats x banded wide leg steps (15 to the right, 15 to the left) x standing banded side leg raises – you can place one hand on wall for stability (15 each side). Complete 2 rounds

For squat jumps drive through your heels from this position and jump as high as you can. Land softly.
5. Circuit C: 6-10 mins. Need a 10-30 pound weight.

Weighted side lunges (alternate & do 12 each side) x 30 second jump switch lunges x 30 second wall sit. Complete 3 rounds.

6. Mat work: 4-8 mins.

20 hip bridges (on back) x 15 single leg hip bridges (on back) x 15 fire hydrants (in quadruped position). Complete 2 rounds

7. Cool down: 3-5 mins.

Complete stretches c. – f. from above and any other stretches you feel necessary for your body.

My recommendation is to complete this workout 1-2 times per week for max benefits. #hardworkworkhard

With love,

Diana

4 Easy Ways to Keep Active While Traveling

I, like many others, love to travel. But what’s hard about traveling is staying consistently active because we travel to spend time doing things other than working out. This weekend I went home to visit family in Chicago and wanted to keep up with my workouts. For me, it is vital for my mental health to stay consistent. Unfortunately, I don’t have a membership at a gym here. To be honest I could have done a day pass at our local Lifetime but I didn’t want to spend too much time working out when my main focus is seeing family and friends in my short visit here. So instead, I did all of the activities listed below to stay moving and although they may not be as intense as a gym workout, I always say – some movement is better than no movement! If time is of the essence for you while you are out and about, try these 4 simple techniques to incorporate more movement into your travel days.

1. Go for a walk outside

Such an easy way to not only see the city you’re in but also maybe spend some quality time with yourself or loved ones.

2. Push-ups x Jump Squats x Tricep Dips

I did this every morning when I woke up. 3 sets of 10 push-ups, 3 sets of 20 squat jumps, and 3 sets of 10 tricep dips off a kitchen chair. It got me energized for my day and kept my muscles toned and primed to jump back into my workouts when I return to Baltimore. You can always add more movements to this if time allows, but to keep it simple these two moves usually get my heart pumping.

3. YouTube Yoga

My mom and I did a 30 minute yoga video the other day and it was a nice way to work on my core strength as well as do something fun with my momma. Yoga with Adrienne (link below) is amazing and I’d recommend her videos to anybody and everybody. The great thing about YouTube is you can search videos that are 10 minutes if you’re in a time crunch or 45 minutes if you have more time. And the nice thing about yoga is I don’t get super sweaty so if I have to go somewhere right after I don’t feel gross and sticky.

https://www.youtube.com/user/yogawithadriene

4. Take the stairs…more than once

You can find stairs pretty much anywhere you go while traveling, so do yourself a favor and take those stairs! And if you have the opportunity take them up and down and up again. Stairs are great cardio and great for those legs!

Safe travels and may these simple techniques assist you in staying active while you are away from home! It’s important to stay active not only to maintain your physical, but also to sharpen your mental.

With love,

Diana

The Full Body Workout for When You’re Easing Back in

It incorporates the row machine – my favorite piece of cardio equipment for it’s low impact and full body movement

Whether you’re just getting back to the gym after an injury, an episode of mental illness, or you haven’t been to the gym in a long while, this workout is for you. I designed it to be simple, hit your whole body, and take anywhere between 30-45 minutes. If you need modifications, you can adjust the weight, reps, or sets. You can also comment below if you have an injury that prevents you from doing one of the exercises listed or if you have a question about how to complete it. Have fun with it!

Let’s get down to it
  1. Warm up: row machine 3 minutes
  2. Stretch for 3 minutes
  3. 15 body weight squats, 15 standing glute raises (face wall, hands on wall and using control with straightened leg kick behind you, 10 body weight lunges each leg. Repeat 2x
  4. 10 bicep curls using 5-10 lb dumbbells, 10 shoulder presses using 5-10 lb dumbbells, 10 bent over tricep extensions using a 5-12 lb weight. Repeat 2x
  5. Ab work on mat: 10 double leg raises, 15 seated twists, 15 bicycle crunches, 30 second plank hold.
  6. Burnout: on row machine 15 pulls as hard as you can, 10 pulls at a moderate pace, then 15 more pulls as hard as you can.

Pictured is the start position of the tricep extension in circuit #4. To complete move, use control to swing hand back and up until arm is straightened and then squeeze. Lower hand back to start position.

Notes:
  • on the row machine be sure to keep good posture and every time you row try to squeeze a penny between your shoulder blades
  • when lunging, keep each leg bent at a 90 degree angle
  • really push yourself on the burnout, it’s the last segment of your workout and then you’ll be done!
  • get some good music and take it one step at a time!

With love,

Diana

My Top 5 Tips for Getting Yourself in Shape

Mentally, physically, let’s do this thing.

1. Pick a fun fitness goal

Last month I made it my goal to nail down a series of jump rope tricks without messing up. See video clip here for proof https://www.instagram.com/p/BtwcwJ8BWk3/. What was fun about this goal was jump rope is something I sincerely enjoy learning and growing in, and what was beneficial about that passion for it was the progress I made and the results I got. My love and want for this goal to happen made me work 10x harder than I normally would on the rope had I just decided to freestyle for 10 minutes with no goal in mind. I’d find myself tired, sweaty, and sore all over after sessions dedicated just to working on my rope skills.

So here is what I’m trying to tell you: pick a goal that will be fun for you and you are so much more likely to succeed in getting in shape. For example, if you used to do gymnastics but haven’t attempted not even a cartwheel in years, make a hand stand your goal. And do whatever it takes to get there –more shoulder work, more stretching, more core work, etc. If you’d like to throw 60 clean jabs in a minute, start working that jab arm in more ways than one. If you enjoy dancing, make learning a break dance move your goal. Anything that jives with your interests will be worth your while and will keep you coming back to your space of fitness.

2. Make yourself a kick ass playlist

Music can seriously set the tone for my workouts. But not just my workouts… if I’m not feeling quite up to going to work, I blast hip hop music while I get ready and in the car ride on the way there. If I’m feeling down, certain music can help lift me up and out of my mood (and off my couch). If I’m feeling like I can’t finish my last 3 minute round of shadow boxing, I blast 2pac and keep it moving.

Notice how I said music helps me when I “feel” a certain way. What I’m getting at is music truly can play on our emotions, so when it comes to getting in shape – use that knowledge to your advantage. I definitely allow music to overcome my senses while I listen to it, especially during a workout. I immerse myself in it and let my body move to the beat, and it powers me when I feel I can’t go on any longer and I have witnessed it motivate countless others. To help you get started on making your pump up playlist, I’ve created a list for you of my current top 10 pump up songs to listen to during a workout. It’s mostly hip hop so if that’s not your jam, skip over and read on.

  1. Through The Wire – Kanye West
  2. Drip – Cardi B, Migos
  3. American Dream –Jeezy, J.Cole, Kendrick Lamar
  4. Everyday – Logic
  5. Definition –Mos Def  & Talib Kweli
  6. Pick it Up – Famous Dex, ASAP Rocky
  7. APESHIT – The Carters
  8. I Get the Bag – Gucci Mane, Migos
  9. Notorious Thugs – The Notorious B.I.G.
  10. Pain -2pac, Styles P, Butch Cassidy
3. Meditate

Guys, this is a big one. And I mean it. I know you’ve likely heard it before in a thousand different ways but let me keep it real simple for you: if you want a killer body, you have to start with your head. It’s the damn truth. And I’m not saying that people who are not in shape are not mentally healthy. What I’m saying is that as my mental health and self-esteem improved, my body changed with me for the better. And I don’t mean just the amount of fat on my body, I’m talking I had less stomach aches, my lower back was no longer in pain, my skin cleared up, etc. Things changed because I was listening to my body better. Things changed because I no longer feed my emotions with alcohol, sweets, chips, smoking, overspending, gossiping, etc. Meditation is my new release. It’s a way for me to free my mind, improve my self-esteem, and listen to my own self first and foremost. I highly recommend the app Calm. Although it costs to get full access, this one has helped me the most and it’s a small price to pay for the benefits you can reap. Aura and Headspace are ones that friends and family have told me are great and are free. Treat yourself and spend 10 minutes per day just for you in silence and I think in due time you’ll notice the physical benefits that come with it.

4. Talk about it
One of my most trusted confidants – my sister

Don’t be shy about what you’d like to achieve in your life! Tell those you trust most what your goal is and why it’s important to you. Telling others helps us to become more accountable. When I decided I wasn’t going to drink or smoke weed for 30 days, I told two people I could trust. I asked these people to check in on me every other day. Their presence was so encouraging during the first few weeks when it was the most difficult – they helped me stay on track. When I felt like lighting up a blunt, I’d reach out and they supported me and reminded me of why I started this in the first place. I firmly believe we are not meant to do things alone. Life is too hard and gets in the way too often. Those who love us want to see us succeed and remind us of how awesome we are especially when we feel like failing. Don’t keep your awesome goals to yourself, share it however you’d like – with one or two people, with Instagram, in a book, whatever will motivate you to succeed. If you’re fearful that you will fail and be embarrassed, remember this is about you and not anyone else. Share in a way that makes sense to you and know the right people will not make you feel bad if you don’t meet your goal.

5. Start with small, healthy habits

Research shows it takes at least 21 days to form a habit. If you want to see a positive change in your health, set yourself up for success by creating a schedule for yourself. Start with your sleep schedule – for example, make a pact with yourself that you’ll wake up between 6:30 and 7:30 am every day and go to bed between 10 and 11 pm every day. This is just a small adjustment that will help keep your body more in tune. After you feel you have that down, you could make a goal to do 20 push-ups every day at 10am. Set an alarm for yourself so you know you’ll do it. Start with small, healthy habits and they will help you achieve the bigger picture goal. If you start big with just the goal to “lose 30 lbs!”, you will likely become overwhelmed on how to get there unless you have a plan of small, achievable habits. The key to creating these habits is making a promise with yourself and for yourself. Don’t do this for anyone else but you.

With love,

Diana

How Mental Health Affects Fitness

The reality behind moods and fitness

I have always been on the move. I started walking at 9 ½ months of age. Up until almost age 10, my parents would call me the Energizer Bunny because I would do flips and run around the house with so much vigor before bed until I crashed. I was heavily involved in dance, gymnastics, softball, and cheerleading all throughout my school-age years. On top of the sports, I began doing at-home workouts most days throughout high school. I went for jogs outside, did Jillian Michaels tapes, cut workouts out of Shape Magazine, did Pilates videos, and not to mention followed the old-school STEP workouts…yes all of the aforementioned were on VHS. Outside of the videos, I would do abs while watching TV at night, standing leg lifts while working my part-time job at Nordstrom’s, and squats while holding my 15 lb. Boston terrier for added resistance. Needless to say, I loved the endorphin rush of exercise.

Mental fitness paid off

I believe my love for exercise came in part from my father. He was always lifting weights in our garage – I was reminded of this daily because of the noise they’d make when he dropped them (sorry, Dad). He was also jogging every morning, so I would go with him most days. This was a way for us to bond and I began to realize how much sharper I felt mentally after a run. In my younger years, I realized I was hypersensitive and emotional but noticed the exercise helped me feel less of that. I stayed with my workouts all throughout high school and the mental sharpness I felt paid off – I graduated in the top 25 of my class and received a generous scholarship to the University of Iowa.

I lived a fairytale in Cuba
Veradero Beach, 2013

College rolled around and my workouts were still a part of my life, but I started to experience increasing anxiety about making friends, making grades, and meeting boys. I stayed with my workouts, sometimes putting them first before school work. After my sophomore year, I studied abroad in Costa Rica and Cuba for the summer. In Cuba, things were magical. My family is originally from Cuba on my father’s side so I felt a deep sense of heritage and belonging while there. I was so enamored by the experience that I stopped working out for fear I’d miss an opportunity (I did try going for a run once, almost died from the heat, fell on broken concrete, and was chased by little boys). What I noticed was I started to lose weight because I was losing muscle mass and eating less and less. Despite this, I was on a higher level high. I was salsa dancing, drinking Havana Club, smoking cigars, running in the rain, falling in love…I know it sounds like something out of a movie but that is honest to God how it felt. This was my first taste of hypomania.

Depression sunk in

When I got back to the States, my mood dropped like it was hot. I was crying daily, broke up with my boyfriend, secluded myself in my new apartment at school, and continued my trend of not working out because why would I spend the time doing it if I was staying thin while sedentary? I stopped remembering the mental benefit of it. Junior year was a year of many ups and downs, but when I was feeling up, I would start working out – my energy felt really high. This would help with short term symptoms of depression, but did not help the mood issue. Senior year I started gaining the weight I had lost as my body adapted to not working out and I only sporadically went to the gym. I would practice dance in the gym’s studio from time to time and that was the only time I felt normal. I finally sought out a therapist, which only sort of helped because there was a bigger issue needing addressing that only a doctor could diagnose.

Exercise was not on my mind

When I moved to Baltimore after college, I would work out maybe once per week. I felt my schedule was too busy for exercise and I didn’t really feel like working out. I was also dealing with major depression and anxiety which left me feeling glued to my bed or couch after work. Finally, I had enough and saw another therapist who helped me overcome some of my life stressors, but my underlying issues of extreme mood swings were neglected.

And then my workouts increased rapidly

My workouts were slim to none until I joined the gym where I met my boxing coach. Once I found boxing, my moods briefly turned around. It was such a positive release of my anxiety and depression and a place I could channel my high energy into. It felt good to feel good. And then I started feeling over the top good. My underlying, undiagnosed condition was back with a vengeance, and I started becoming reckless. Reckless with my health too – I didn’t care about working out I was too high in the sky for it. Even boxing became difficult to show up for. Everything was difficult to show up for at the time. And then I had a manic episode. Fitness was nowhere near my mind during this time. My boyfriend brought me to the hospital when I started getting out of control. I’m so grateful he did.

Boxing in the hospital brought me peace

My second day in the hospital, my boyfriend showed up to my room with his boxing mitts and my gloves. I sulked down the hallway to the recreation room, not wanting to box, let alone do anything, feeling the slow depressive state kicking in post-high. Yet something in me told me this would be good. He told me to get in my guard. He called the combinations I knew and I’d hit. Jab, cross. Jab, cross, slip, cross. My mind was so focused on boxing that I pushed everything else to the wayside and when we were done, I started sobbing. I was so thankful for this man and this sport that yet again came to me when I needed it most. I realized then more than ever before how much fitness has been a support for me – time and time again it has gotten my mind into a safer place. Boxing, to me, is a meditation because you will screw up no doubt if you do not pay complete attention to what’s in front of you. No room to think of woes or worries.

Positives and negatives bipolar has on my fitness

Boxing saved me and now I get to teach others the wonder of it. My bipolar symptoms have both negatively and positively impacted my journey with fitness. It halted me at times, but it also propelled me at others. The biggest negative influence it has had is that it has made me inconsistent; I’d work out depending on my mood. I now make it a daily habit even if it’ stretching and light movement for 10 minutes. The biggest positive impact it has had is that it has kept my mind lighter and more in tune with the present moment.

Your fitness jouney is not for anyone else but you

I know many others whose mental health parallels their fitness. If you’d like to improve or maintain your mental and physical health, I would highly suggest making working out one of your daily habits. Set an alarm for yourself at the same time every day and even if you get in a few push-ups and a few squats, you’re reinforcing this good habit which will make it easier to do on the really hard days…when you need it most. For those of you who are just starting your fitness journey, I encourage you to stay patient with yourself and do it for the reason that you will be healthier and worry less about the aesthetics – I see many people fail when they harness their energy into looking a certain way because if you do not meet your high standards in the time you’d like to meet them, the disappointment will take your energy away and a cycle begins that gets you nowhere but back to where you started. Fitness should be a personal journey that looks different for everybody, because everybody is different. Take care of YOU for the sole fact that it will make you well. I encourage you to feel proud to have a body and proud just for the fact that you got out of bed today and perhaps did a few pushups or a few squats. Your workouts will steadily improve your mental and physical fitness and making it a part of your everyday life will undoubtedly feed your soul.

With love,
Diana