Life Lessons and Stories

6 tips to inspire yourself to hit the gym

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Going to the gym is hard.

I find I often start off with the best of intentions, only to find myself falling into a pile of procrastination and excuses. If it’s in the morning, I groan as I put my alarm clock to snooze for the seventh time (I am not kidding, I need this to even consider waking up in the morning). Then I think to myself, I work hard at uni. I have such long days. I deserve a sleep in, yay me. Night time is quite similar—I think, well, it will probably be crowded now it’s after 5pm. Honestly, I just want to go home and make some kind of delicious elaborate food. Maybe I’ll study. Maybe I’ll even have a bubble bath. Do I do any of these things? Absolutely not. My routine normally consists of lazy (yet still somewhat healthy) vegan meals and a lot of time procrastinating either gaming, watching movies, or binge-watching TV shows and anime.

So, how do you make yourself change? I asked personal trainer Melanie Hawksley for her best tips—along with some probably embarrassing anecdotes on my part.

  • Find your motivation

What do you want out of exercise and healthy eating? Is it for the right reasons? As women, we’re so often bombarded with a relentless stream of people telling us how we should and shouldn’t look. Maybe, sometimes we just want to feel sexy and confident. I’ll admit, I often feel the need to work out because I am unhappy with my body. However, this can become a bit obsessive. Instead, I like to repeat Jennifer Lawerence’s ideas of body image.  When training for her role as Katniss in the Hunger Games, she famously argued:

“I’m never going to starve myself for a part . . . I don’t want little girls to be like, ‘Oh, I want to look like Katniss, so I’m going to skip dinner . . . I was trying to get my body to look fit and strong, not thin and underfed.”

Instead of thinking of working out as a way to get sexy, think of it as a way to nourish and strengthen your body. After all, it will carry you for life.

  • Find like-minded people

Specifically, people who will keep you motivated. People who have similar goals.

“You need to find someone (or a group of people) who will push you to the gym, and you to them, even when you may not feel interested,” Melanie Hawksley said.

This is difficult for me. I’ve recently moved to a new area, so I know pretty much no one. I briefly considered posting in random Facebook pages (but they could possibly turn out to be total psycopaths). My solution: I started a Facebook chat group with my friends who have similar goals. We motivate each other (mostly) and try to keep ourselves accountable. We even have friendly competitions to spur each other on—like who can run the most in 20 minutes, or improve the most in a week. Any and all achievements are celebrated.

  • Set specific goals

“If your goals are not important enough, then it is likely you won’t follow them through.”

Are you training for a certain marathon? Is there an occasion you’re working towards? A holiday where you want to feel confident and sexy in formalwear and swimwear?

For me, I want to be happy with my body. I want it to be strong. After all, it will support me in all of life’s ups and downs. And honestly, I really like eating food.

“So many people do [it] just to look better but it is often not a powerful enough reason to keep you going back month after month. There needs to be a very powerful driver to keep up the motivation as you go,” Mel added.

This is why a more wholesome approach to health is far better—if your goals are to be healthy and nourish your body, you’re more likely to stick to it than if it was just to look like a Victoria’s Secret model.

  • Keep a diary

I don’t mean some kind of obsessive calorie-counting record. Buy a cute diary, fill it with motivational quotes and pictures (Jennifer Lawerence for me), as well as your goals and progress. I also wrote a note to myself: never give up.  Any time I felt like giving up, I’d read this and usually get a sense of motivation enough for me to change into gym clothes.

  • Find a form of fitness you love

Try joining a local sporting team, take a yoga class, go for a walk on the beach, try pole dancing, or even random every day exercises at the home or gym. Find something you genuinely enjoy, and it won’t feel like a burden to you.

Personally, I’d love to either learn pole dancing or self-defence. But then I remember I’m poor, and stick to my cheap gym membership.

  • Don’t feel like you have to conform to societal standards of beauty

All my life, I have struggled intensively with my own body image. I remember sitting in Kindergarten, and having a fellow classmate whisper to me: “you know you’re fat, right?” to which my five-year-old self nodded. Since then, I’ve struggled with eating disorders and fad diets. Honestly? They’re not worth it. Seriously. Don’t waste your money on Isagenix or any other tea tox. Yeah, you might lose weight, but that is because you are not eating. It’s not healthy, and it’s not sustainable. But time and time again, I try these things because I felt I needed to be skinny to feel happy. Wrong.

My dear reader, if you ever feel like this, I encourage you to metaphorically (or literally) yell: “fuck that!”. Because you are beautiful. Because you are powerful. Because you are strong. Because you’ve overcome every single challenge you’ve come across. Because you know true beauty is in the person you are, and how you treat those around you. Make a change for the right reasons, not the wrong ones.

And most importantly?

Love yourself. Know that what you look like does not decide your worth as a human being. Screw society’s beauty standards.

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9 things Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck taught me

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Trainwreck is a hilarious analysis of modern relationships, and breaks down barriers of what it is to be a woman. Also, it’ll tell you how to get a condom unstuck—and other vital tips below.

  • Your sexuality doesn’t define you!

I cannot stress this enough. Ladies, say it with me: your sexuality doesn’t define you! You want to sleep with multiple partners in one night—or no one at all? Awesome! Because honestly? We’re grown-ass women. Do more—and who—of what makes you happy.

  • Know when to say “no”

Whether it be to a super bitchy boss, or a hook up with a strange 16-year-old whose safe word is pineapple: know when to say no. If something feels wrong, it probably is.

  • Beware of sexy talk

Especially if your partner really isn’t into it. Otherwise, you may get some golden responses like “I’m going to put my pecker in you” and “fill you with my protein”.

  • It’s never too late to say sorry

You really do only live once; why hold onto petty arguments? If you love someone, tell them. Bonus points if you say sorry by choreographing a cheerleader dance routine where you’re the star—extra bonus points if you can’t dance.

  • Watch your come backs

No, really. Think before you speak—if you don’t, you might reply to an insult: “you know what I do to assholes? I lick them.” Errr, okay.

  • There is a wrong time for alcohol

I’ll admit: I’m a fan of wine (and vodka). Okay, maybe too much of a fan. Amy Schumer must be my spirit animal.  But there is a point where you have to take a good look at yourself and ask: “Am I really okay?”

  • Receiving head without giving

Well, if you follow in Amy Schumer’s footsteps, close your eyes and pretend you’re asleep.

  • Full-proof writing tips

Like, say . . . don’t show up to work drunk. Also, don’t sleep with your interviewees.

  • And finally . . . how to get a condom unstuck from your cervix

Behind me, I heard: “I’ve had that happen”. Is this seriously a problem? Well, if it happens to you, simply make a hook with your finger—happy hunting.

Love all of who you are—even the sloppy parts. At the time, you were doing exactly what you needed. Bless you, Amy Schumer!

Let’s Talk About Vaginas

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No, but seriously; let’s. We really don’t talk about them enough—especially in a non-sexual context. The word feels strange to write, and even stranger to say out loud. Even my phone corrects “vagina” to “cagina”, as if an inanimate object could also feel awkward. Well, that taboo ends here! This is an important issue that could save your life—and a lot of young women really don’t have a clue about it. Now that is awkward.

Okay, brace yourselves, ladies (and any men who were unknowingly lured into reading this through the word “vagina”) here it comes: pap smears. What a terrible name. Smear. Smear. They really don’t make it sound appealing, do they? But in all honesty, It’s not that bad. The procedure takes probably less than thirty seconds in all, and it doesn’t hurt even slightly.

You can get a pap smear by booking in an appointment with your doctor, or at a women’s health clinic. Basically, they take you into a private room, just like any other doctor’s visit, and ask you to remove your underwear and lie on an examination bed. This bit is rather awkward, but remember: they are trained professionals and have probably seen thousands of vaginas in their time. They use a hard plastic tool called a speculum (not to be confused with a spatula) in order for them to see your cervix. From there, they take a quick sample of the cells and send them away for testing. And then you’re done!

Now, I would definitely recommend seeing a female doctor—at least for your first time. It’s much less awkward. My usual doctor is male, and I’m also friends with his daughter. The vagina jokes he made certainly didn’t make me feel more comfortable. The female doctor I sought out, however, was kind and made general conversation and even gave me some information for this article.

So, what the Pap smear actually does is test for any abnormalities in the cells around your cervix which can eventually lead to cervical cancer, as well as testing for the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which is present in 99.7% of cervical cancer cases. HPV, which is an infection of the skin around think, moist linings of the body (like the nose, mouth, throat and genital) results from close skin contact, isn’t something to be overly concerned about: 4 out of 5 people will have it in their lives, mostly with no symptoms. Your body will usually clear it naturally in 1-2 years, but in some cases, it can stay longer and lead to cervical cancer.

According to the Cancer Council, about 1 in 10 Pap smears reveal abnormalities, though less than 1% of these abnormalities lead to cervical cancer. Even so, all women, regardless of age, sexual orientation or number of partners, should be tested every two years from the ages of 18-70 (or younger,  depending on what age she became sexually active).

In 2017, based on recommendations from the Medical Services Advisory Committee, the Australian Government will make some changes to the Pap test. Women aged between 25 and 74 will undertake a HPV test every five years, which may also include various other tests. These changes are estimated to reduce the number of cancer cases by a further 15%. Hooray!

However, until then, Pap tests are absolutely necessary. Soldier through that awkwardness, and it could potentially save your life! Eighty per cent of women who develop cervical cancer had not had regular check-ups. Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers with a simple test—these tests have halved the mortality rate. Can you really ignore that?

Listen to your vagina, and don’t be afraid to talk about any problems you may have, no matter how seemingly miniscule. Don’t become another statistic because you were too embarrassed to ask. After all, happy vagina, happy life. Preach it, ladies!

Small Acts of Bravery, Small Acts of Kindness

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I still believe there is kindness in this world. Even though we are engulfed with war, disease, suffering, death, hate and torture, I still believe there is hope.

A few days ago, I somehow popped my tyre while driving. Don’t ask me how. I just heard a massive BANG and there it was. A flat tyre. Now, normally I would have called family friends to come and help me. The only problem was: I now lived three hours away from them.

Oh, dear! I thought. How is it possible that I can write thousands upon thousands of words and analyse philosophical ideas, but I can’t change a damn tyre?

I was freaking out—and kicking myself for not learning to change a tyre sooner. That was when a random guy asked me if I was okay—and he helped me, with no thought of himself, not even accepting my offers of money as thanks. I was bewildered—and grateful.

Similarly, a few years ago I was at a petrol station, and my cards declined—one of which was supposed to contain child support payments from my father. I tried $20 on each. Declined. $15. Declined. $10. Declined. Even $5—once again, declined. I was humiliated to the point of trying even $2, while counting up ten cent pieces from my wallet. And that was when a man stepped out from behind me and paid the rest of what I owed.

“Don’t worry about it, mate,” he said. “We’ve all been there.”

And then he left without another word.

A tyre and some money; for them, it may not have meant much. But for me, it meant the world. Could it be that there are genuinely good people out there? People who are willing to help others with no thought of themselves?

My mum once told me a story about how she saved a woman from a rather dire car crash accident. She crawled into the overturned car to pull the woman out of the wreckage. At any moment, the car could have burst into flames: but she did it anyway.

I can’t say if I’ve saved a life—I’d like to hope someone else would have intervened if I hadn’t. Two years ago I was holidaying in Vanuatu at a place known as the Blue Lagoon—essentially, a very deep, very blue swimming hole. A mother was there, waiting to catch her two girls who were jumping off the wharf into the lagoon—only, it was much deeper than she anticipated. She began to struggle. She began to call for help—scream for help. I had no idea what I was doing, I just knew I had to do something. Grabbing the girl—who couldn’t have been older than five—I slowly made my way to where I could touch the ground, banking on the idea that I could hold my breath for longer than she could. The mother cried, thanking me. Did I save her? I don’t know. But I did something, and that’s my point.

Something is all it takes, no matter how small, to change someone’s world. Small acts of kindness, small acts of bravery—that’s all it takes to change the world. So, what will you do? All it takes is one tiny step. Will you take it?

Confessions of an Eight-Year-Old

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It’s been ten years, and I really need to get something off my chest.

I did not, I repeat, did not call Claire “stinky”.

In year two, my class had decided to do dancing instead of normal sport. Everyone was sweating, and sweat obviously smells. My naive eight-year-old self had commented on this: “something stinks”. Maybe Claire was coming up with a conspiracy theory, or maybe she’d simply misheard me. Either way, I know I was wronged. Of course, no one believes an eight-year-old, so I experienced my first lunch-time detention. I was miserable and had spent the whole time freezing in the icy shade of the school buildings, thinking how I’d been wronged.

I want to go back to my primary school. I don’t even know if Mrs White works there anymore—there’s a possibility she may not even be alive. But I have a point to prove; I did not lie. This has been bugging me for ten years—I think I’m really overdue for an apology.

Don’t Worry About it Mate

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I remember once when I’d just turned eighteen and was struggling for money. You needed a car to where I lived; the distance from A to B was far too great to walk—believe me, I tried. It takes three hours—so a car was necessary. Petrol was therefore a huge strain on my dwindling cash stash. One day I was shocked to find I didn’t have enough money to pay for petrol on either of my cards (one of which was supposed to have my child support money from my father in). I tried again and again to access the money I’d thought I had, but was declined even $5 on either card. I could see the impatience on the teller’s face as I tried to wrangle up some of the money in small change, but I didn’t have enough. I was at the point of trying to get even $2 from either card. I was desperate – this whole fiasco had taken around fifteen minutes. I could hear people tapping their feet in line behind me. I was distraught; It was the first time I couldn’t fend for myself. I felt like everything I’d worked so hard for was worth nothing. I felt like I was nothing. I was angry at my father for once again abandoning me. I was helpless. Tears threatened to choke my eyes; it was real, and it was really happening to me.

It was at this point that a stranger had stepped in. He paid the rest of what I owed and said: “Don’t worry about it, mate. I’ve been in your position.”

I could barely speak to thank him. I rushed to my car and began to bawl my eyes out. I cried for my embarrassment, I cried for my anger and I cried for my sadness. But most of all, I cried for his kindness.

I don’t even remember what he looks like, but I will never forget that day, and I will never forget him. He was there for me just when I’d given up hope. That day, I promised to educate myself and never be unable to pay for myself again. I promised that I would always be a kind and good person; a person who helps others simply because others need to be helped.

It was the day that my faith in humanity was restored. And I could never thank that man enough.

What does the squirrel say?

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I have come to decide I was a squirrel in a past life. Now before you judge me and think “wow, what a weirdo! Why am I reading this?” bare with me. I have a point to this, I promise.

I have Jewish heritage, and while I don’t celebrate it, I think it still affects me. I hoard money. I find spending money excruciatingly hard.  Until I splurge, anyway.

Yesterday I accidently bought $123 worth of alcohol. This is not because I have a drinking problem. The vodka was on special. And it was good vodka. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s cheap alcohol; I won’t drink it. It’s disgusting, and I’m way too classy for that. So when I saw that Smirnoff Vodka was on special, it was an opportunity I just had to take. The only problem was I bought more than one. And then some. Whoops.

And it’s not like I didn’t already have alcohol at home; I pretty much have an entire bar. So why did I spend so much? I hoard. It was on special. I saw the savings and couldn’t resist.

ALCOHOL IMAGE

This is what leads me to believe I was a squirrel in a past life—a Jewish squirrel with an eye for bargains. I stock my liquor cabinet as if I were preparing for hibernation.

On the bright side, I don’t need to buy more alcohol for at least another six months.