Be the best version of you

I think it’s a natural thing for us to compare ourselves to other people, compare the money, compare the looks, compare the relationship, compare the education, compare the body, compare the diet. But why? We are all made up of different genetic combinations, we’re not all supposed to be doing and looking the same.

I’ve told you I’m easy to influence, and that I’ve taken my precautions to avoid falling into a pattern of destructive thoughts, but I still notice how easily affected I can become by little things. In the gym, see a girl doing supersets of chin-ups (my ultimate goal in life…. almost) and pushups, get pissed because I can’t do the same, and decide to give it a try. The result? Complete failure and an arm and a wrist in pain. The same story has happened with the squat rack, the treadmill, the hip-thrusts, the shoulder-presses. I’ve hopefully learnt now.

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I’m not saying we should instantly be satisfied with the level we are at, because there is always room for improvement, but I’m saying we should get there in our own time. I’ve learnt the hard way, trying to dead-lift an obscene amount of weight by myself in the gym, instead of slowly working my way there. Up until July I’d only ever done one complete pushup in my life, now I’m able to do 12×3 sets, and it burns. When I finish those three sets, I’ve given it my all. I’m slowly decreasing the weights on the assisted chin-up machine, in other words – I’m closer to be doing one single chin-up with my own bodyweight. I will get there, I just happen to have bumped into about three hundred obstacles on my way because I’ve not listened to the advice I’ve been given by professionals, or the signals my body has been giving me.

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I like the idea of being better versions of ourselves. Not better than our best friend, not better than the chick on the cover of the magazine, not better than the bloody fit girls in the gym. We can look at them for inspiration, but we’re all different and maybe we are better at something that they completely fail at. It is also a lot more fun working out, eating clean and working towards a goal like chin-ups, a six-pack or the feeling of a healthy body, than saying “I will lose x amount of weight in 4 months”, because trust me, that’ll just make you slightly depressed.

Either way, I’m finally back at the stage where I can do hip-thrusts properly again, and I had another personal best yesterday of 75kg. I still remember looking at those girls on Instagram doing 50kg about 6 months ago, not understanding how the hell they managed moving that much weight with their legs and ass, whilst I was struggling with my 17kg, but now I’m moving my old bodyweight. A whole person!

Yesterday was also my cheat-day and I enjoyed mountains of chocolate, and woke up with a mouth as dry as a desert this morning. We were meant to go for fro-yo’s yesterday too, but some silly Norwegian was trying to make peanut butter on her own, and decided to put her finger in the blender, so we ended up hanging out at the emergency room instead. Life in Melbourne.

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Got fro-yo today instead, and guess what guys, they had three flavours sweetened with stevia instead of sugar! Now, that doesn’t mean we should be eating it everyday, but every once in a while, the treat is great (ignoring that I’m not supposed to have dairy). If you top it with berries and nuts that is, not chocolate and cookies like a certain housemate did.

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Speaking of becoming a better version of myself, I am terrible at budgeting and have been dodging my account for the past two months. Line forced me to check it yesterday, and let’s just say that.. my lunch won’t be looking like this in the future.

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My dinners still will though. It is of course fully possible to eat healthy and work out on a budget (story of my life the last three months of every damn semester), and I’ll tell you how; prioritizing what you spend your money on. Don’t buy that chocolate, don’t buy that coke, don’t buy that special offer of ‘buy 3 pay for 2’ of the chips. Buy the real food that your body is in need of. Dodge everything else.

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Power food for power people

I dislike the bike in the gym with passion. After riding half of Mallorca on a bike (almost, at least) when I was in high school, I don’t think I’ve ever even laid my eyes on a bike. That, and the friday spin-classes that my friends used to do (and I stupidly tagged along to) in middle school. Scarred for life. My ankle is slowly healing, despite being blue and slightly swollen, I almost walk normally, but I am banned from most of the cardio-equipment for another week or so.

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Every time I feel sorry for myself and my ankle, I do however, think of the poor guy who normally does my programs, who has been even more unfortunate than me, and has to undergo surgery. At least my body will heal itself within the next month.

Mondays are my interval-days, and this Monday I told myself to do intervals on the rowing-machine. Yeah, ten minutes into it and I was ready to be carried home. So I decided to give the bike a try. I don’t know what it is that makes me resent it so much, but trust me – 45 minutes is a very long time when you don’t want to do what you’re doing (flashbacks to maths-class anyone?). But I have booked in measurements for tomorrow morning and well, I feel better when I get my cardio done. So I’ve sucked it up, and will round it all off with my fourth cycling-session this week, tomorrow morning.

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I have been slightly over food the past weeks, but I think I’m back on track now. I’ve actually tried something new every day this week. Every Australian seem to know what a zucchini slice is – I had never heard of it, so when I found a recipe on Instagram, I was stoked. Protein and vegetables in one major dish? Yes, please.

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Now, I sort of added a bit too much in terms of the veggies and did as per usual, not quite follow the recipe. I added turkey and pepperoni instead of bacon, and added mushrooms, sweet potato and normal potato as well. But it turned out delicious – and left me with lunch for two more days.

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Before heading to the gym today, I was reading recipes (yes I’m weird, I know) and decided to make something that could wait for me when I got back, drenched in sweat. Knowing that my measurements are due tomorrow morning, my body reacts by craving sweets even more than usual. So power-bars it was. Green Kitchen Stories has an amazing recipe and I sort of altered it to fit what I had in my cupboards – although next time I will be adding a tad more nuts, and possibly try to cook some of them in the oven.

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I sort of needed more after dinner today, and ended up with my incredibly sweet power-bars (even Line thought they were reaaaally sweet – imagine that, sugar free and all!), a coconut milk-strawberry-proteinshake and heaps of grapes. DELICIOUS.

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Swimming is the new yoga

As a result of my body sort of falling apart, and my desire of staying as active as possible, I have had to explore alternative ways of working out. Post surgery on my knee, I was told to swim. As treatment for my incredibly tense back, I was told to swim. When I tore my ligament in my lower back, I was told to swim. And now that I am limping around, I have been told to swim again.

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I dare say I am as hopeless at swimming as I am at body balance. I cannot swim freestyle, I do not like getting my hair wet, my eyes get red from the water. But I still gave it a shot. Yesterday was actually my third time returning to the pool. How about that for someone who is negative to anything new and scary?!

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Better Health claims that swimming is good exercise as you have to move your entire body against the resistance of the water and you are thereby provided with a full body workout. In addition to toning your muscles and building strength, swimming keeps your heart-rate up, builds endurance and cardiovascular fitness and helps in the maintaining of a healthy heart and lungs. It has also been proven to release stress and promote relaxation, whilst improving coordination, balance and posture, as well as providing good low-impact therapy for some injuries and conditions.

22 year-old Tonje Sønneland started swimming when she was 8 and has always loved spending time in water. From the age of 13 to 16, she was swimming about 18 hours a week.

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She enjoys swimming mainly because it is a great way of working out the entire body without emphasizing the use of a particular muscle group. “To become a good swimmer, you need a strong core and a flexible body in order to get your body into streamline – the body as straight as possible to go fast through the water”, Tonje explains.

She emphasizes that a strong core is important no matter what type of exercise you choose to do, and that she is continuing to include swimming in her workout routine to further strengthen a previous back injury. “I can really feel that it helps”, she says.

health_benefits_of_swimming_xenical_effective_weight_loss_lose_weight_gain_lifeI promise to attempt swimming once a week, if you promise to give it a try.

That ass

I have never been much of an “ass” girl. Not that I’ve ever had boobs either, though that’s a different story. But getting interested in working out has taught me that lifting weights (in a combo with proper nutrition of course) is the way to go to sculpt your body. Not dying on the treadmill every day. Not hating on the crosstrainer every day. But building muscle. Now, I am no bodybuilder, in fact, I barely have visible muscles. But I grow stronger, I push limits and I learn. Lifting weights = more muscle = burning more energy every day = toned body.

It has been requested that I put up my program for building, eh.. “that ass”. If I could choose, there is a plethora of other exercises I would rather include in my leg-day program, but because of knees not willing to cooperate (surgery gone wrong x 2) and a torn ligament in my lower back, I can’t. And well, this ankle injury isn’t really allowing for any leg program right now. I simply have to do the things that works for me and my body. My program is as narrowed down as it can possibly get and I am very happy I still can dedicate two full workout sessions a week to my legs.

I don’t have pictures of all the exercises that I do, but I will include them anyway.

Smith Machine Squats.

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90 degree legpress, I do one leg at the time simply because I am stronger in one leg, but doing both legs at once is fine.

Hamstring curls on a machine (-13kg old picture).

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Cable kickbacks.

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Hamstring curls on a swissball (yes, I struggle too).

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90 degree wall-sits (hate hate hate).

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Calf raises either in stairs, using the smith machine w/weights or on a step.IMG_1486

And I always finish my workout with the most awkward exercise in the book; hip thrusts. Now, I know we all read fitness blogs where the girls do crazy amounts of weights with their legs, but that does not mean you have to. We all have to start somewhere and work our way up. I found this photo the other day, and see where I started with my hip thrusts. I’m pretty sure this bar weighs about 20 kg..

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And now I am (after strongly motivating myself) doing 12 x 3 of 70 kg.

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I also tend to throw in the occasional supine bridge with one leg at the time, sumo squats and squats with elastic bands if I am feeling it (and have the time).

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If I could, I would also include, deadlifts (done properly, not the way I destroyed my lower back) bulgarian split squats, normal squats with weights and lunges. Promise me that you will google the exercises (or get help) before trying them for the first time, technique is so important to avoid and prevent injuries.

When I was at my physio, we discussed the fact that so many people eliminate leg-day from their workout routine because “they already use their legs enough”. You’ve seen them. The guys at Stereosonic with chicken legs and a massive chest. We concluded that they were lazy, as working out the largest muscle group of the body can be both challenging and exhausting. Including compound movement exercises, rather than solely relying on isolation exercises (bicep curls….) will allow for building of muscle and increase in strength, whilst attacking fat and sculpting your body. Furthermore, studies show that resistance training can promote bone re-calcification, enhance tendon and ligament durability and aid in the strengthening of joints.

We should not only lift weights for the sake of our own appearance, but also to minimize the risk of injuries and to enhance performance in other sports, such as soccer, running etc.

Just my luck

So remember how I said I’m injury-prone? Yeah this girl is currently out of order with a very bruised knee and a sprained ankle struggling to co-operate when walking. So much for monday-intervals and wednesday-legday. Or cardio in general.

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I am really annoyed with myself for opening up an old injury (again), and even more annoyed for missing out on my daily workouts. Not really being able to move anywhere but between the couch and the kitchen has left me dying to exercise, but I am trying to be patient (not my strongest feature) and listen to my body.

After all my attempts to rest, ice, compress and elevate, I had to suck it up and go see my physio and instead of feeling sorry for me, he laughed and hooked me to an ice-machine of some kind. Anyway, my ankle will be fine eventually, I just have to ignore the pain and keep on going.

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An injured lower body does, however, not mean that I can’t use my upper body, so I’ve had help to reschedule my workouts and will hopefully be gaining some more muscle (aaaabs) and get one step closer to my ultimate goal; chin ups. We find a way to work around things, right?

Good thing I’ve injured myself like this numerous times and good thing my dad has taught me how to bandage the ankle enough to almost move normally. Okay, limping is probably not considered moving normally but you know, it works. This silly injury will set me back about 4-6 weeks, and I know I tell you to only do what makes you happy – but in this case being able to exercise in any kind of way will make me happy, so I will even include bicep curls in my program (my one enemy in the gym).

I am also still sick and cannot really taste any of the food I’m eating, so I’m pretty much eating soup and fruit every day. HOW EXCITING. No actually, it’s delicious, I just can’t taste the flavors.

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Come cook with me

Eating clean and natural is easy, they say. And it is. But it takes time adjusting to the habit of preparing your own food pretty much from scratch every day, and there are a few key essentials to being successful at it. I am, as previously mentioned, the worst chef. I cannot cook. I cannot follow recipes and my meals never look the way they look in the pictures. But I still prepare my own food every day, I still eat it, I make others eat it, and it DOES taste good (most of the time, that is).

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Get me? It never really looks.. appetizing. 

The important thing for me is that the recipes are easy to follow and have few ingredients, if the list is longer than my jeans I automatically skip the page and keep looking because it is too much of an effort on an every day basis. Not to mention, I rarely have the time to cook for hours. Having people over to impress or if I am in need of an excuse to procrastinate, I often attempt the complicated dishes – but because I cannot follow recipes… well, it never turns out the way it is supposed to.

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Most of the food I eat is inspired by bloggers, clean cookbooks or the occasional restaurant up the road. Fancy ingredients isn’t really to find in my kitchen, and I rarely spend more than 20-30 minutes preparing and/or cooking. I stock my fridge with fruit and vegetables after season (but always heaps of bananas, apples, sweet potato, avocado, mushrooms and capsicum), there is always eggs and oats to find and I do try to eat the occasional chicken or salmon/basa fish on the days I do double gym sessions.

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Nuts, raisins/dates (great for making a sweet syrup to bake with) beans, chick peas, real parmesan cheese and unsweetened almond milk is also great to have floating around. Breakfast, lunch and dinner is always accompanied by some kind of dessert (major sweet tooth right here) and I never walk around hungry (unless I forget my food for uni at home, then I am STARVING and very upset).

I am obsessed with two food blogs, their food is healthy, vegetarian (many dishes do go great with meat/poultry/fish) and the recipes are so easy to follow. The fact that their pictures make me hungry is a major plus. Green Kitchen Stories & My New Roots – even though you are not a health freak like me, go check them out. Explore their previous recipes and please try them. The not-so-health-freaks in my house have adopted a few recipes from here too, I promise.

This weekend has been dedicated to a major study session and my vegetarian friend and I have been procrastinating in the kitchen. Herb and Pistachio Falafels and Beet Burgers have been on the menu (alongside some sushi, vietnamese rice paper rolls and the occasional – very forbidden dairy – frozen yoghurt).

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Now, I am not going to tell you how to do it because I steal my recipes from other people, so you might as well find it on your own – but I am going to tell you how easy and healthy fast food can be. Yes it is the weekend, yes we need to enjoy ourselves – but that enjoyment does not need to come from food. Food is nutrition. Food is delicious. But the comfort can come from somewhere else. Like a walk in the park or a cheesy naked Zac Efron movie.

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Had a fair few of these this weekend; fruit, nuts and a tiny piece of white sugarfree chocolate from Sweden – it was Saturday after all.

And please do try the Life Changing Loaf by My New Roots, it is.. life changing.

What’s your excuse?

How did you do it? What’s the secret? And of course you’ve given up on so much, do you even have a life?

So yes, I have lost weight. A fair amount too. Yes, I spend plenty of time in the gym, and some of my daily routines do revolve around food. But I still have a life. I study. I have friends. I go out. I treasure my candy-Saturday and if I have to, then yes, I eat what I’m served. From January and until now, I have lost 13 kg, lowered my body fat and gained muscle. Not too mention my skin has changed, I have more energy and I feel happier in general. My workout routine has not been altered much, but my lifestyle and way of eating has.

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I have torn three ligaments since I came to Melbourne (both ankles and my lower back, tip; don’t try to be cool in the gym and don’t walk down stairs when drunk), I have a 2 x operated left knee not interested in co-operating, I have hypermobile joints, and for the past 4 months I have been unfortunate enough to suffer the annoyance and pain of inflamed shoulders. Being the slightly grumpy, but oh so compelling Norwegian that I am, I have managed to build some sort of a support system and I am lucky enough to argue with both my physio, my dad and the poor poor gym instructors every time I am in pain, but refuse to not work out. So what have I learnt? Work around it. There is always a solution.

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Not only am I banned from running outside, I can’t bench press, my don’t-even-think-about-it-list of shoulder exercises is longer than the approved list, normal squats are out of the question – as are lunges and leg extensions, normal ab-crunches hurt and I am stuck with rehab exercises for an eternity. But that’s no excuse, is it? If it is important, you will find a way, and if it is not important – then, well, you will find an excuse.

If you can’t run, you can walk. If you have a nazi physio who argues with your definition of complete rest, you can still eat the right food. And pull through your elastic band rehab exercises. And yes, the humble Marita also admits that there is no use in overdoing things. Know your limits. Do it the way it works for YOU. I have been fortunate enough to get a lot of help, and I now know what I can do – and what I can’t. I don’t own a scale, I don’t do my own measurements and I don’t count calories. Having somebody being responsible for that (not the calorie part, counting calories is out of the question) has allowed me to not go crazy and not obsess too much. And they sure let you know once you’ve gone too far – I got yelled at for my bodyfat being too low, and I am trying to put on some more muscle. But remember, even though you have a PT making your gym program or a nutritionist telling you what to eat, you’re the one moving your body and you’re the one preparing your food.

IMG_1971October 2012 – May 2013

Maybe doing some kind of physical activity nine times a week sounds obsessive and crazy, maybe buying more fruit and vegetables than you can carry looks weird, maybe choosing an apple with cinnamon and peanut butter when other choose chips is found silly, but that is the way I have chosen to live my life.  A chocolate bar may only be 100 calories, but so is a banana, and I’d rather eat the calories packed with good things for my body. That one hour I spend in the gym in the morning equals 4% of my day, planning my meals is fun – and by all means, I still live a very happy and social life. And I get an excuse to buy and wear the most colorful workout clothes.

IMG_3133And finally, August 2013.