FITNESS FRIDAY: 5 Health and Fitness Apps I Use and Love

In my efforts to lose weight, I found some iPhone and iPad apps to help me out.

A screenshot of C25K app's free version. The paid version doesn't show any ads like the one at the bottom of the screen.
A screenshot of C25K app’s free version. The paid version doesn’t show any ads like the one at the bottom of the screen.

C25K Free. My main companion during my runs, the C25K Free app has a timer and a voice “coach” that alerts you when it’s time to warm up, run, walk, and cool down. I appreciate that it also lets me know when I am halfway through the workout or when I have 1 minute left before cool down–these alerts motivate me to keep running even when I’m tired, because I know it will be over soon. Once the run is over, I get to share it on Twitter (you can also share it on Facebook)  and log my workout on MyFitnessPal. The problem is, for some reason, the workout is logged on the next day instead of the current day, but other than that the app works really well. C25K Free is available on iOS and Android.

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A screenshot of Interval Timer app for iOS.

Interval Timer (Free). Before I discovered that there is actually a C25K app, I used to time my runs using Interval Timer. I love how customizable each set is–I can set the timer for every high interval and low interval, and for how many sets I will do. I can also set a unique sound for each alert. Although I prefer the C25K app over this one, I recommend Interval Timer for those who do timed workouts. Interval Timer (Free) is available on iOS.

A screenshot of My Fitness Pal app's home page.
A screenshot of My Fitness Pal app’s home page.

MyFitnessPal (Free). A few years ago, I went online every day to log my calories on MyFitnessPal, but I stopped sometime after. Last year, my SO told me about the app, so I tried using it again (mainly so I can add him as a friend there). I love how easy it is to log my food, my weight, and my workouts. I also appreciate the report shown after logging everything I ate for the day and see how I would weigh in 5 weeks if I keep eating the same thing every day. It effectively puts into perspective how the amount of what I am eating affects my weight. You can use MyFitnessPal on your web browser, iOS, and Android.

A screenshot of Simply Yoga (Free). That is actually a video demonstrating the pose.
A screenshot of Simply Yoga (Free). That is actually a video demonstrating the pose.

Simply Yoga Free. Because I don’t want to go to yoga classes that are filled with strangers, I downloaded this app instead. You can choose how long you want to work out, whether it’s 20, 40, or 60 minutes. The free app gives you the first set of workout. When you buy the premium version, you will get access to the second set, the custom workouts, and no more ads. Simply Yoga Free is available on both iOS and Android.

Home page of the Daily Workouts app. You can choose what kind of exercise you want to do. the icons with a padlock on it means they haven't been purchased yet.
Home page of the Daily Workouts app. You can choose what kind of exercise you want to do. the icons with a padlock on it means they haven’t been purchased yet.

Daily Workouts ($3.99). From the same maker of Simply Yoga Free is the Daily Workouts app, which consists of a collection of workouts. Choose from exercises for abs, arms, butt, cardio, legs, full body, ball (additional $2.99), stretch (additional $2.99), pilates (additional $2.99), and kettle (additional $2.99). I downloaded this because it has complete workouts for all parts of the body. I also paid extra for the stretch workout, which has separate sets of stretching for each part of the body. Like the Simply Yoga app, it also has a video of each workout to demonstrate how it’s done, along with text instructions. I use this app for my pre-workout stretching and also for days when I only have 30 minutes at most to exercise. You can check out the app on its official website.

Do you use any health and fitness app that you’d like to recommend? Share them in the comments!

NEW FITNESS FRIDAY: What ever happened to this year’s weight loss goal?

Remember my post about some easy steps to losing weight, and how I’m trying each step one at a time? Well, even though I haven’t written about anything else related to these, I never stopped doing each step. But this weight loss “journey” warrants an update now, because every Friday I will be posting about this or something else that’s fitness related. So here’s a list of what I did following steps 1 to 5:

  1. I stopped drinking cucumber lemon water. Instead I focused on drinking at least 8 glasses of water a day. Although I loved cucumber lemon water, I didn’t have time to slice a few bits every night. Of course, that was when I had a job, so I figured I should start again today. Maybe it will help with my hydration especially after my workouts.
  2. I have a difficulty eating fruits every day for two reasons: one, we don’t always have fruits at home; and two, most of the fruits stocked in our home are hard to open (e.g. pomelo or avocado). Now that I’m writing about it, though, I shamefully admit that I am just making excuses, so I am going to try harder now.
  3. To cut down on portion size, I decided to measure and track what I have been eating. While the advice from the “7 steps” post said to eat until you stop feeling hungry instead of eating until you feel full, I thought it may be wasteful sometimes. I mean, what if I stop feeling hungry but there’s still some food on my plate? So I did a harder method instead, where on the first week I ate as much as I usually do, measured them, and tracked them on My Fitness Pal. By doing so I learned the harsh truth when I saw how many calories I was eating, and how many calories each food contains. With this knowledge, I became more careful with what I eat. There  were times when I would still feel hungry, but I learned to combat this by drinking water first, and if I am still hungry I’ll grab a light snack that’s only around 100 calories.
  4. Does using an electric panini maker count as cooking? After my afternoon run, I chose to not eat rice during dinner (I’m a rice addict, that’s how Asian I am) and just make a caprese panini using whole wheat bread. You might be like my SO and say something like, “But bread is also full of carbs like rice,” which is true, but the difference for me is I can control my bread consumption more than I do with rice. Also, I still live with my parents and there’s usually a meal already prepared for the family, so I just make enough food for myself, and a panini is easy to make for just one person. I’m going to check with my mom if I could make some healthy food for the family (I can already hear my brothers’ gasps of horror at this proposal) or I’ll just research healthy recipes for one serving.
  5. I’m not good at avoiding desserts, but it’s okay. Even though I love chocolate, we don’t always have one in stock. And when we do have some at home, I don’t devour them all in one sitting. I’m proud to say that I can control this urge (much more than controlling my urge to eat more rice), and I am satisfied with one square of a chocolate bar or one piece of individually wrapped chocolate candy after a meal.
  6. I also work out, and I am now on Week 3 of the Couch-to-5K programI have been doing it for 5 weeks now, but there was one week when I only ran once, and currently I am having difficulty with the 3rd week exercise, so I’m trying to get used to it before I move on to Week 4. If you’d like to do this program as well, here’s a great visual guide:
Taken from the C25k subreddit.

Unfortunately, I haven’t lost much weight since I started, but I’m not letting it stop me from eating healthy and being more active. Instead of weight loss, however, I am experiencing surprisingly different results. I don’t dread my workout sessions anymore. I am also developing some healthy habits. Most significant and surprising of all is, I am starting to feel good about myself. While I still hope to lose 52 lbs. this year, I am happy with where I am heading.

If you resolved to lose weight this year, how are you doing so far?

NEW Motivation Monday: Challenge your doubting self–and win

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Photo taken from Unsplash.

My dad smokes one pack of cigarettes a day and drinks at least 3 bottles of beer every night, sometimes an additional glass or two of scotch during the weekend. Given his job and status among his peers, he attends a lot of social functions (hello food and alcohol) and receives a lot of gifts (which most of the time are food, cigars, and alcohol) from his boss, colleagues and friends, and people who want to gain his favor. Just knowing these facts about my dad, what is your impression of him? Unhealthy? Sickly? Neglectful of his body?

While I do agree that he has to quit his vices, I do admire how he tries to make up for it. You see, my dad maintains his weight–and he does it well. When he notices that he is a little overweight, he will immediately cut his food portions and he will put on his running shoes in the morning to jog several kilometers. Sometimes, he will even go back home, get on his bicycle and go around several more kilometers–all these in one morning before he heads to work. Then one week later, poof! He’s back to his ideal weight. My dad doesn’t just do this when he puts on a few pounds. He also gets back on track (literally) when he feels weak or easily tired.

But what sticks to me about my dad’s fitness non-routine is what he says–mostly to me, his lazy-ass daughter–when he gets home after his morning workout.

I beat myself. When I woke up this morning I thought I can’t run [or bike], but I just did and I proved to myself I can do it.

Wonderful, isn’t it? Somebody said that we are our own worst critic. For most of us, we are our own worst heckler, too. But what should you do if a part of you is saying you can’t do something–whether it’s to lose weight, or craft something, or lead your own team? Should you listen to him/her, or should you prove them wrong?

I hope you choose the latter option.

The Sins I Have and Haven’t Committed

"Sometimes the sins you haven't committed are all you have left to hold onto." - David SedarisI just had a bad week. I fell short on my two main commitments: blogging and weight loss. Not only did I only work out twice this week instead of my minimum target of 3, I also over-ate for a few days. And then, AND THEN, I was not able to finish what I was originally publishing for today, which was the second part to last week’s post. I have tried to write it since last Monday, but I don’t know…I think I’m losing my drive again. And I’m so scared of this because if I fall I don’t know how long before I get the courage to get back up. I don’t want to fall. I don’t want to have to start over and over and over.

I’m not entirely sure how the image above (with a quote I received from Goodreads‘ newsletter) relates to what I’m writing now, because I definitely have committed a lot of “sins” this week. This picture was also supposed to be in the post I was planning to publish today because (Spoiler alert!) it ties together what I have wanted to say for weeks now.

But anyway, I hope that you have had no regrets this week–that you have no “sins” that you wish you committed. But if you have any regrets, learn to forgive yourself. That’s what I’m doing. Tomorrow, Sunday, is a new day and the start of a new week. Tomorrow I will continue what I started–Week 1, Day 3 of my C25K challenge, my diet, and keeping this blog active–and at the same time starting over with a new determination. I hope you will do the same.

An Obligatory New Year’s Post

It’s time once again (though I’m a bit late already) to reevaluate what I have done in 2014 and plan what I want to accomplish this year.

To be honest, I cannot remember my resolution last year. I think it was “to make 2014 my best year ever,” because that didn’t really happen. I’m sorry, guys, but last year was a bust for me.

For the first time in a long time I welcomed 2014 with so much optimism and hopes for a great year. Of course, I even did my best to make it work. Unfortunately,  these things happened:

  1. This person whom I thought was one of my two best friends ruined my trust (and stole almost all of my life savings!);
  2. I did not get to see my SO, not because he doesn’t want to but because of outside forces (my parents, the person I’m referring to in #1, my SO’s school, to mention a few); and,
  3. When I changed jobs, I (in hindsight) seem to have jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire. Oh well, #noregrets.

(Hm…I thought I have more things to complain about, but it looks like these three cost me so much stress and anxiety I felt the world’s weight on my shoulders.)

I know this is not an ideal new year’s post. I know we’re supposed to write about something nice, something filled with hopes and dreams, something made of unicorns and rainbows, but I have to be honest with everyone and with myself. If I denied what happened, I wouldn’t have learned a couple of lessons, like–

If I want to get something done, I have to do it myself. Too many people have disappointed me by promising me things they cannot give, so I must rely on myself more;

and,

I must remember the Serenity Prayer by heart. This may be a little religious, but I believe that the message this short prayer brings applies to everyone.

As for 2015, I plan to go through it still with a little optimism, but I also want to be more cautious. Last year my belief that I was so lucky (I was trying to practice what I read from “The Secret”) led me to making reckless decisions and mistakes that I could have easily avoided. So no more of that in 2015. Aside from that, I have also made the following goals:

  1. Learn to be more passive. I have a strong personality, which got me in trouble at work a few times. While I can already control this part, I am still too transparent that everyone can see if I’m happy or upset about something. According to my co-worker, one way to be more passive is to “smile like an idiot” no matter what. She also advised me to write down stuff I want to say while I am emotional, and then either trash it or edit it so that I can communicate what I want to say in a calm and rational manner.
  2. Spend less on what I want and more on what I need. Even though this is obvious, last year I spent more on gadgets that I don’t really need instead of things that are important. Last month alone, I bought this pair of headphones (only because it’s pink) that costs around $100 when I could have used that same amount of money to buy new clothes or shoes for work. This year, I will change this so that I would look more professional at work or, as my dad says, “presentable” when I go out.
  3. Lose 52 lbs. this year, or 1 lb. each week. I have been trying to lose weight for several years now, but I kept failing because I aimed too high and then quit when I got discouraged from trying and failing. Just like when learning a new habit, I believe that losing weight (and maintaining it) needs to be done slowly, deliberately, and consistently. This way, it will be easier for me to accomplish my goal, and if ever I fall off track it will also be easy for me to get back up. With this in mind, I will also continue going through the “7 Baby Steps To Losing Weight” I posted a while back. Right now I am in step 3, controlling my portions, which happens to be one of my biggest obstacles to consistently lose weight.
  4. Keep A Mozzarella Orange active. You may have noticed that I didn’t post here regularly last year. To be honest, I lost the will to write. The stress I got from work every day and my perfectionism hindered me from thinking of something–not even something good. I came home every day too tired to come up with anything. To be honest, I still experience it too. However,  I need to develop self-discipline, and I believe that blogging will help me in this department. I’ll just publish one post a week, a quick win like this, and I know I can do anything I set my mind to.

If you set resolutions for yourself as well, good luck, and I hope to see what you come up with (or run into) in the days ahead!

7 Things I Learned While Abstaining From Juice Drinks

It has been a week since I started taking baby steps to lose weight starting with avoiding juice drinks, and while it has been a rough start I still managed to learn a few things

7 things I learned while abstaining from juice drinks

  1. I cannot give up juice, not when I just discovered cucumber lemonade.
  2. Cucumber lemonade tastes like heaven, while cucumber water does not.
  3. Cucumber water is an acquired taste, which I did not like until after drinking around 2 liters of it.
  4. Cucumber water seems to be more refreshing than ice-cold water.
  5. Since I started bringing a 1-liter tumbler of cucumber water around with me, I managed to drink 3 to 4 liters a day.
  6. Cucumber water seems to be more rehydrating than normal water; I recommend this as a post-workout drink.
  7. I am now obsessed with cucumber water. I wonder how it will taste when I add lemon slices to it tomorrow.

The obvious conclusion here is I have grown to love the taste of cucumber, whether it’s in my salad, in my lemonade, or in my water. If you haven’t tried drinking cucumber water (or, if you’re not on a diet like me, cucumber lemonade) I suggest doing it now.

What healthy food or drink did you not expect to like until you actually tried it?

7 Baby Steps to Losing Weight

Several months ago, I stumbled upon this comment on reddit:

One of the most helpful things I read in my own person weight loss journey was something like “it took you ___ years to reach your current weight, it’s okay if it takes you a long time to take it back off.” Rather than try and overhaul your entire diet in one fell swoop, take small steps and be proud of yourself for achieving them. You have a lot of habits to unlearn, be patient with yourself! Below are some steps you might take, choose any order, just remember anything you do is a positive change.

/u/mysecondaccount02

S/he then listed seven of these easy steps, which can be better seen as an infographic below:

“Seven steps to losing weight.” Infographic by onegodoneloveoneway from imgur.

While this inspired me the first time I saw it, unfortunately it did not motivate me enough to take action. But last Monday, while I was looking through my old drafts to find something to write about, I stumbled upon this comment again. In order to feel inspired once more, I decided to visit the same page and reread through everything. This time, however, what inspired me to take action was not just the comment itself but the actual post that the said comment was made for.

The post was titled, “How do I power through the pain while morbidly obese?” in which the OP (short for original poster) asked how s/he can stay motivated to lose weight while being morbidly obese and having arthritis. I may not have arthritis, but I am considered (according to my body mass index) morbidly obese, and one of the major reasons I tend to give up after every attempt to lose weight is because I still feel miserable about myself even after putting a lot of effort.

Losing weight may be easy, but motivating yourself every day can be really difficult, and this is quite hard to explain to people who have never been obese, but I will still try to.

The “Fat” Life

While I may not have a painful condition such as arthritis, I do feel the effects of being morbidly obese and they are uncomfortable. Even though these discomforts are small things and seem insignificant, they still cause a harmful effect on my quality of life.

One of them is difficulty in breathing. I think I have almost gotten used to it that I barely notice how hard it is for me to breathe. However, there are times when I heave a deep sigh. This does not always mean I feel depressed or whatever, but because when I inhale normally my chest and tummy feel tight and air doesn’t seem to get to my lungs.

Second is the bloated feeling especially after breakfast. I feel heavy and all my clothes feel tight when I put them on, but as the day goes by I feel comfortable in my clothes.

The third is, of course, my looks, or better yet, how I look in pictures. What I see in the mirror looks fine, but when in pictures I have this whole other shape that I do not recognize at all. Is there such a medical condition to explain this? Because my friends love to take pictures and I take selfies to send to Jacob every day, I learned how to pose in such a way that I won’t look as fat. However, that is not enough.

I want to look and feel pretty. I want to be more comfortable when I sit or when I walk long distances. I want to stop being a target of my coworkers’ fat jokes. I have been wanting all of these for so long, but what’s stopping me?

Fear, probably, of failing again, and not being able to get back up; of other people noticing and what their reactions would be; of working hard and not being satisfied with the results that I’ll give up again.

However, my want is a little greater than my fear, and I think that following these seven baby steps will help me get what I want without making a change radical enough for anyone else to notice. With other programs I did before, I lost 2 to 5 lbs. a week, which can be obvious to many. But with these small, but habit-building actions, I could achieve my goal of losing weight and feeling and looking better slowly but surely.

What’s next after publishing this post?

Step one, of course. I have been off soda for a long time now (okay, I drink one occasionally, but still) and I put less sugar in my coffee,  and request for non-fat milk, no whipped cream in my occasional Starbucks order. My real challenge for this is to quit juice and just switch to water. I will also aim for drinking at least 8 cups of water a day since I noticed I drink less now. To possibly curb my cravings for juice drinks, I will add lemon and cucumber slices to my water, but I have never done it before so we will see how it works.

Aside from taking small steps to eating healthier, I have also started working out again. Today, I walked 3.5 kilometers, which is a lot for me since I haven’t done that in so long. I will try to do this when I don’t have work, and on the days that I do work I will make do with spending at least 15 minutes on the stationary bike. Wish me luck!

Have you tried quitting soda or fruit juice, and were you successful? If yes, how did you manage to do it? If not, where do you think did you fail?