Is going gluten-free for me?

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This month is taking me wayyyyy out of my comfort zone by going GLUTEN-FREE!

Anyone that has seen me eat knows how hard this challenge will be for me. While I tend to be conscious about what I put into my body, I do enjoy quite a few foods that contain gluten.

After chips and queso, my favorite food is pizza. I eat pasta at least once a week and will sometimes have a quick sandwich on my lunch break. So you’re probably wondering why I’m going to try the gluten-free lifestyle and are hungry after I mentioned all those foods. Continue reading

Make your planks harder…if you dare!

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If you started the 30 Day Plank Challenge with me, then you’re probably as bittersweet about the last day as I am. There were times I had to put my knees on the ground because my core didn’t get as strong as the 30 Day Challenge thought it should be at the end of the month. And if we’re going to be honest with each other, it got really boring holding a plank for more than a couple of minutes. Or maybe I have undiagnosed ADD.

During my journey of planking, I came across a lot of variations of planking that complement and increase the benefits of a regular plank. Learn about these variations at the following link for Women’s Health (a great magazine for women that either want to get in shaper or already are in shape) demonstrating a few ways to switch up your challenge.

(Sorry, but you will have to manually copy and paste this link.) http://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/plank-exercise?cm_mmc=Pinterest-_-womenshealth-_-content-fitness-_-makeplanksharder

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This photo from Women’s Health demonstrates a rotating plank. I don’t have the balance for this particular variation,but good luck to you!

If you haven’t started the challenge yet or are still working toward the end of the 30 days, I recommend incorporating some of these variations into your daily planking so that you don’t get as bored as I did. The link will show you ways to do a side plank, and if you’re feeling super athletic, you can do a plank into a push up and go back up into a plank. I tried this one for “fun” and quickly realized how much upper body strength is necessary. If you are trying to get a great upper body, try this!

As a result of the 30 Day Plank Challenge, I do feel that my core is stronger, but I didn’t notice a visible difference. We all want abs of steel, but don’t get discouraged if you haven’t noticed a visible difference either! I promise that your muscles are so much stronger than they were on Day 1 regardless of the lack of a six-pack staring back at you in the mirror. Like I said in my last post, planking works best as an addition to the workouts you’re already doing and you should feel the difference in your posture and other exercises that you do. Maybe you’re walking a little taller? I know I am!

I’m going to continue planking as a part of my workout program and hope you’ll do the same. Let me know what you thought about the 30 Day Plank Challenge or if you’re excited about starting it! I hope you’ll continue to join me as I start a new challenge to get me out of my comfort zone next month!

Why am I even planking?

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It is crucial for me to think about anything other than how much longer is left to plank when doing the 30 Day Plank Challenge. Especially now that I’m planking for 2.5 minutes. If someone wants to learn how to freeze time, all they have to do is hold a plank. Each minute feels like I have been holding myself up for hours! Molasses moves faster in the middle of winter than the seconds on my stopwatch.

So you’re probably wondering why I am doing the 30 Day Plank Challenge and why I keep telling you to do it with me. I often wonder the same thing as I’m propped up on my elbows wishing I had instead challenged myself by sitting on a porcupine or eating insects. The old adage of “no pain, no gain” comes to mind. I’m definitely feeling the pain, but what is my gain?

You can feel the burn, but not an isolated burn like when you’re working a certain muscle, i.e. stomach crunches or bicep curls. If you look at the photo below, you will see in red that planking works about half of your body! That’s not too shabby for trying to hold still for a few minutes.

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Sorry for the nakedness, but she is the best depiction of a plank that I could find on the World Wide Web (the things you find on Google…).

If you’re new to fitness or perhaps are color-blind, I will explain more about how a plank will change your body. It works your whole core! Hooray! But now you’re probably wondering what exactly constitutes your core and why in the world you should want a strong one. Am I right? Well, let me tell you….

The “core” of your body is the middle 1/3 or so. It is made up of your abs, obliques (your “side abs” or “muffin top” depending on what kind of shape you’re in), lower back (the thing I pulled a couple of months ago and the reason I’m doing the 30 Day Plank Challenge), glutes (butt cheeks), hips, and hip flexors.

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This image (courtesy of http://www.workoutz.com) shows what your core is. I had to switch it up and show a naked man this time.

A strong core is essential to your health and something that you should continue strengthening throughout your life. Mine was not very strong back in March, so I  accidentally pulled my back while working a different part of my body. Since beginning the 30 Day Plank Challenge, I can tell you that it will improve your posture and you will notice muscles that you didn’t know existed. You’ll thank me when you’re 80 and not walking around like the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Besides your core, your arms and shoulders are getting worked on. You’ll want to throw in some other exercises if you want amazingly sculpted arms, but planking is a nice addition.

You should also notice that your legs are getting a little loving by doing the plank as well. Obviously, since they are holding you up. Feel the burn!

Next time I’m propped on my elbows, I will be thinking about all of the different muscles that are getting stronger while I hold myself up for what seems like eternity.

Basically, planking is the best thing since sliced bread. You won’t get a body like Beyonce or Brad Pitt by just planking (sorry for any burst bubbles), but it is an amazing addition to your work outs! So if you haven’t started already, join me in the 30 Day Plank Challenge!

Don’t forget to breathe.

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I have successfully completed the first week of the 30 Day Plank Challenge!

It hasn’t been easy, mostly due to the fact that I keep forgetting to do my plank each day until I am cozily wrapped in my blanket with my lights off at night. Lo and behold, I have rolled out of my bed and onto the floor each time (apologies to my roommate for the thud when I hit the ground). Since today marks the start of me holding the plank for at least a minute, I want to focus on doing the plank correctly. Don’t think that you can prop yourself up on your forearms and toes and call it a plank – it’s a lot more complex than that if you want to look like you know what you’re doing.

**The following tips come from a licensed personal trainer, the one and only J.D. Porcelli at Synergy Fitness (look him up if you’re in the Charleston, SC area and need your butt kicked).**

Start on your forearms and toes with your feet hip-width apart. This provided a challenge for me because my brain kept telling me that my hips are a lot wider than they are so I had a spread eagle stance going on.

Engage your abs by imagining someone is about to punch you and straighten your back. As you will see in the photos below, just because your back is straight does not mean that you are doing a plank correctly.

Next, channel your inner plank of wood (not the exact words of J.D. Porcelli). Feel yourself turning into the plank of wood. Or just imagine that someone is holding a 2×4 next to you. Are you as straight as that 2×4? A common tendency is for people to raise their rear ends for all the world to see. If this is you, lower it. Lower that badunkadunk right now because this is not the time for downward dog. Perhaps now you have lowered your bottom too far and now resemble an old swaybacked mare. Let us find the happy medium. 

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A couple of common mistakes made while planking and what your plank should look like as illustrated by yours truly.

Now that you have that booty under control, you should resemble the pose on the bottom photograph. It may help to have a mirror or an actual person coach you until you get used to holding a plank in the correct form. 

At this time, I want you to look at your hands. Admire those awesome creations on the floor in front of you. Count your fingers. Keep counting them until you are done with your plank. As much as you want to stare at the clock on the wall and be depressed when you see you’ve only been holding your plank for 30 seconds instead of the 30 minutes that it feels like, don’t. Your neck will thank you for this. By looking at your hands, you are keeping your head in line with the rest of your body and not putting strain on your neck. However, if you refuse to follow this rule, I can recommend a great chiropractor. 

This last tip is not something that you tend to have trouble with while sitting, standing, leaning, or in any position other than the plank, but it is crucial that while you are counting your fingers and channeling your inner wooden plank that you DON’T FORGET TO BREATHE.

Planking takes practice and patience despite looking so simple. You won’t look pretty and you will feel super awkward at the beginning, but we’ll be awkward together as we push through this challenge! You can find more tips by following me on Pinterest at http://www.pinterest.com/learning2bleigh and on Instagram under learningtobeleigh.

Have you started the 30 Day Plank Challenge? If not, you have nothing to lose and a strong core to gain! Start today and keep following me as I sweat and grunt my way though the rest!

I’m bringing “Planking” back!

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Maybe next month I’ll bring sexy back. 

Back to planking….

Do you remember a few years ago when people would “plank” on anything and everything?

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Because who can resist stretching their body across two camels sitting side by side?

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This lady will be crushed when she realizes that she is not a rotisserie chicken.

Before these people made planking on any random surface a thing, it was a great exercise that people did IN THE GYM. The plank is a position that will strengthen your core when done on a regular basis. I don’t know about you, but my core could use some strengthening. After pulling my back on my birthday (happy birthday to me) a few weeks ago, I was told by my chiropractor and personal trainer that back pulling happens a lot less when you have a strong core and they both suggested planking on a daily basis in addition to the exercise I already do weekly. Today will start my first day of the 30 Day Plank Challenge. 

The 30 Day Plank Challenge is exactly what it sounds like…30 days of planking (camels optional). Today I will start out holding a plank for a mere 20 seconds and will work my way up to being able to hold a plank for FIVE MINUTES by the end of the 30 days. I’ve always tried not to cry when I’ve had to hold a plank for 60 seconds, so the end of May should be interesting. Here is what my calendar of planking will look like:

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I challenge you to try the 30 Day Plank Challenge with me and keep me posted on your progress! Or if you’ve already done the challenge, let me know how it went in a comment below! I hate to disappoint you, but I will not be planking on camels, grills, or anything other than the floor. I’ll check back in next week with how the challenge is going! Until then, you can also follow me on Pinterest at http://www.pinterest.com/learning2bleigh and on Instagram if you search for learningtobeleigh. 

 

Drum Roll, Please….

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Hello! If we haven’t met, I’ll tell you a little bit about myself. My name is Leigh, I’m 27 years old, and I’m on an adventure to find out what makes me tick – obviously, certain body organs play a role, but what really gets my blood pumping?

I was the awkwardly shy kid in elementary school who could be found in my room with a book instead of out playing and making friends. I was too shy to talk to strangers and too timid to try anything that I wouldn’t immediately excel at doing.

Now that I’m a fully-functioning adult (for the most part), it is my mission to not have to sit and ponder when people ask what my hobbies or interests are. There are so many intriguing hobbies and interests to be had! That’s why every month I’m going to leave the coziness of my comfort zone and try something NEW to challenge me physically, mentally, or spiritually (or a combination of the three), and keep track of it by using this blog.

My inspiration for this stems from a trip to Costa Rica in 2013. It was the first time I had left the country (unless you count a brief trip to Canada when I was young that I don’t remember and we can all admit that Canada is almost like staying in the United States). During the week I was in Costa Rica, I experienced a language barrier every time my friends and I ventured into town (the Spanish I took in high school only helped me order una más cervesa, por favor), rode my newfound favorite form of transportation- the ATV/4-wheeler, and defied my fear of heights by zip lining from mountain to mountain. I think being in a new atmosphere with a lot of friends also trying these things for the first time helped me tackle my fears and have the best vacation of my life. There are so many other things I’ve always wanted to do and learn like photography, yoga, sailing, and writing my own blog. If they’re anything similar to my experiences in Costa Rica, I’m going to have too many hobbies and interests to list in a couple of years!

Me zip lining hundreds of feet above the river below in Costa Rica!

Me zip lining hundreds of feet above the river below in Costa Rica!

I pulled out my inner-Kentucky and realized how awesome ATVs are - and ate a lot of dirt because I couldn't stop smiling.

I pulled out my inner-Kentucky and realized how awesome ATVs are – and ate a lot of dirt because I couldn’t stop smiling.

I’m so excited that you’re reading this and joining me on a journey that I wish I had started years ago! Hopefully “Learning to be Leigh” will help you realize that it’s never too late to find out what really makes you tick…besides your heart.

I would also love to hear what YOU have done that has pushed you outside of your comfort zone- whether for better or for worse! Please share your story in a comment below.