10 Tips For Getting Motivated About Exercise

When it comes to working out, I will admit that when I get into a routine, I feel great and my body thanks me. But when I get out of said routine, it can be incredibly difficult for me to start back up.

I have never been one to run around perky thrilled about exercise; however, when I do work out, I admittedly feel great. Not to mention, my building has a gym, with a sauna and everything. You would think I would be in the gym regularly but, alas, I am currently in a funk. Today I am going to share with you my honest tips about getting back into an exercise routine.

  1. Keep your expectations low: Hear me out. I find that if I do not set any expectations (e.g., I am going to lose 10 lbs in a month). The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology has advocated for a balance in 24-hour movement stating that adults aged 18 to 64 should aim for 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity per week in bouts of 10 minutes or more (CSEP, 2019). That is 30 minutes per weekday. If you keep that as a goal and participate with an open mind, then the benefits will follow.
  2. Keep your exercise routine accessible and likable: If you like the treadmill the most, do 20 minutes on the treadmill and only 10 minutes of weights. If you like hiking, do it. If you hate lunges *me*, do more squats. You do not need to look like a “Victoria’s Secret” model! It is their job to look like that, and they devote all their time for the runway show – including 2-3 hours per day of exercise. Do what you like the most and keep moving!
  3. Find a healthy habit and use it as a reward: For me, it is yoga and sitting in the sauna. I reward myself after working out by devoting 15 mindful minutes alone in the sauna (cue my giant bottle of water! Hello Hydration!) and 15 minutes for yoga. My favourite are the videos available in the new Deliciously Ella app!
  4. Speaking of mindfulness: My gym downstairs has a weak signal, and I honestly thank God for it. Use exercise as half an hour to shut out the world. The e-mails can wait. The calls and texts can wait. Social media does not need to see your #fitspo all the time. I use exercise as an excuse for a quiet time. I play my favourite music; I ignore people, and I give it my all.
    • Side note on social media and exercise: back in the day when I was on Instagram I would spend time taking stories of me on the treadmill etc.; however, I would get lazy in between workouts because I would start scrolling. If social media posting motivates you to work out, then be my guest but do pay attention to the time you devote away from exercise to partake in it. You do not want your post slowing down your heart rate and causing you to begin again for the sake of the ‘gram!
  5. If you do not feel like going to the gym/ exercising, commit to 10 minutes full blast: Somedays I have no interest in going. I am tired; I am busy; I have things to do. During these days, I get my gym clothes on and jump on the treadmill with a 10-minute timer.
  6. Find ways to fit in exercise throughout your day: During my day job, I find ways to achieve in my daily step count. I take the stairs; when I am supervising students, I walk the entire 20 minutes trying not to stop (unless I have to), and I participate in the DPA exercises I assign to my students.
  7. Whatever you love the most, sign up for a class once a week: Ok so, exercise groups can be expensive. I get that. But I recently figured out that the community centres have a lot of programs at a highly competitive cost. Maybe I was slow to the game here. But I signed up for Yoga classes once per week, and I could not have been happier. You can cross off a bunch of minutes per week if you are held accountable. Make sure you like it though! Try spin and if you hate it, see about getting your money back and trying something else!
  8. Apps can help! In #5, I tell you to try and get 10 minutes full blast; another trick is to take advantage of Apps! My husband started with the “7MW” app which is 7 minutes of high intensity. He used this when he was neck-deep writing his dissertation. It took hardly any time out of his day, and he always got in a workout. These apps are great if you work in an office as you can hide out during your lunch.
  9. Pay attention to how you feel: This recommendation is one that is slow to achieve but when you do, you will get why I recommend it. Exercise makes you feel great. Not while you are doing it but over time you will notice some unhealthy feelings creep in when you have been irregular in your exercise routine. In contrast, when you work out regularly you will notice you feel better. Remember even if you get out of your groove, it takes one choice to get back into it.
  10. Go to bed! If you do not sleep regularly, you cannot exercise regularly because you are going to be tired. Get your 8 hours at the same time. This morning my dad walked in after midnight shift (as he has errands to run in the city and I live close to his work) and he asked me why I was up even though I am not at work today. ROUTINE! I feel better if I get up at 6 AM and in bed by 10 PM. Note, you will not feeling the effects right away but give it a month and your days will be more productive.

And there you have it! Anyway, I am off to get my 30 minutes in!

5 cost-efficient things to remember while travelling when you are allergic to everything

As I sit in a Chicago McDonalds sipping on tea waiting for Maciej to finish his panel, it dawned on me to respond to a question I often get asked. That is, how do I manage to travel frequently on a limited budget when I am allergic to everything.

A little bit of background: In 2010 I did not know what was wrong with me, but I knew something was wrong. I had a shitty doctor at this time. I usually try to be nice, but this GP was absolute trash. First, she never worked an evening and would do anything she could to get people in multiple times like not address more than one concern per visit (which is a farce as often multiple issues are connected). Also, she called and personally lost her shit on my sister during her first pregnancy when she chose to go with a midwife, mainly because this doctor was so inaccessible in comparison to the midwife clinic across the street from her with flexible hours. I digress.

Anyway, this was when the gluten-free everything movement was surging. I thought “hmm maybe I need to remove gluten?” So I did until I could finally squeeze in an appointment with this shit doctor. It turns out my iron levels were so anemic it was a joke I was even able to stand without passing out (which admittedly almost happened when I tried to climb stairs multiple times). So after supplementing my iron, I figured the gluten thing was not an issue and continued on, bagels and all – except that after said bagel, I would often have a tingling in my throat.

In 2015 during my Masters, I lost my ability to write. Seriously, my proposal was TRASH. I could not think. Something was desperately wrong. Upon further inspection, brain fog is associated with gluten-intolerance which is associated with type 1 juvenile diabetes (something I have had since 1998 but I don’t chat about much). I figured it was time to give the gluten-free lifestyle a more serious try. So May 2015, I quit. Within a couple of months, I started to be able to write again. I wrote an excellent proposal and got everything I needed to be approved that autumn. Alright, I guess gluten is out.

My idiot doctor along with other specialists I see insisted I get the blood test done; however, it costs money, and you have to eat gluten again – a feat I was not interested in disrupting given my academic stage. In September 2015, Maciej and I went out for dinner, and sure enough, I got gluten poisoned by accident. Seriously, I was sick. I thought I was going to pass out. My ears started ringing, I broke out into a cold sweat and it wrought havoc on my digestive system. So I figured I would forgo the gluten from now on because no loaf of bread is worth these physical symptoms.

Following my reaction to gluten, I did a lot of meat-forward eating. December 2015 rolls around, and after salmon and red wine, I end up on my bathroom floor in gut-wrenching pain. I remember that being the first time in my professional history I called into work sick. “What now!?” I thought. I spent the day at home drinking bone broth then went to my job ready to teach in an upright position the following few days. That Friday I was not booked for work and thanked God because again I ended up on my bathroom floor in pain at 3:00 AM. It was time to go to the hospital. One ulcer later, I went home with proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) and a bunch of other pills. After researching the effects of PPIs, I was not convinced. As a type 1 diabetic, I was not interested in yet another prescription to make pharmaceutical companies rich and bring on adverse effects within my body. I read that a plant-based diet could help. So I tried it with the understanding that if it did not work, I would return to my pills. Please be advised that I am not a doctor; I am simply telling the story of what worked for me. For a year, I was entirely plant-based. This diet helped my symptoms; however, I lacked energy and gained a bunch of weight due to a variety of stressors. After the year was over, I decided to eat vegetarian. About 85% of my diet is plant-based, but I occasionally eat cheese, yogurt and eggs for protein. Personally, I find that while coconut yogurt is a great flavour replacement, the protein punch that Greek yogurt gives me in incomparable. For me, this dietary lifestyle works. I am at the healthiest weight and highest energy I have had for years.

In terms of travelling, 2014 was the year the bug started and since then, I have been to more than 10 countries (not counting shortstops in Amsterdam, Istanbul and the works). From travelling approximately 2-3 times per year, I have learned the most cost-effective tricks to accommodate your diet, especially if, like me, you have a bunch of restrictions.

  1. Make friends with Air BnB: Hands down, Air BnB, is not only more competitively priced than a hotel but you usually can get a place with a kitchen. Having a kitchen means you can prepare most of your meals. I know some people feel “I’m on vacation, I am not cooking” but hear me out. First of all, I love shopping in local grocery stores. I have done this in Ethiopia, Kenya, Malta, Europe etc. Each place has its niche shopping environment. During our honeymoon in Malta, I would wake up each morning and walk to the shop around the corner to grab fresh local oranges. Second of all, when you eat out all the time, something has to give. I’m going to tell you what that something is: it’s your budget. You underestimate the cost of meals so that by the end, you are limited. Ultimately, most people end up sacrificing quality of food in the restaurants they are eating at three times a day.
  2. Follow the “four meal” rule: Being on vacation, I, of course, do not want to cook everything! Part of experiencing a culture is experiencing their food. Maciej and I came up with this rule to ensure we experience high-quality local cuisine: one 5-star local meal (usually dinner – we check Yelp or 4Square for recommendations), one cafe, one night cocktail (ideally with live local music) and sometimes one light fare (lunch) or snack.
  3. Research local allergy-friendly cuisine: Going for dinner at a regionally-based restaurant is usually cheaper as locally available ingredients influence the dishes (unless the place is a clear tourist destination). Besides, I find people who travel abroad so they can get food that is “familiar” to be culturally inept. Europe has done an excellent job at labelling their menus; however, make sure you do your research ahead of time for what local cuisine works for your diet. This way, when you request an item, you can be explicit about your expectations. Awareness is especially important if the country has a limited understanding of English. You will be surprised though! In Ethiopia, I lived on injera and shiro, a local teff-based bread that is naturally gluten-free with a thick stew that is naturally vegan.
  4. Experience the travel by way of a picnic: When travelling, you are expected to, well, experience a new place. As a result, it is not smart to be confined to your Air BnB. Maciej and I always look for a place around water, or a cool local park while travelling and use this space to picnic for free. While we are there, we look around and take in the people passing by. I keenly remember sitting by the Triton Fountain in Malta with fresh coconut water, an orange and a sandwich watching people as the walk busily from one place to another. Here in Chicago, I sat on the stone fence around the Art Institute of Chicago to eat lunch and watched the L between tall buildings.
  5. If all else fails, make sure you have snacks: Seriously, trail mix, fresh fruit and vegetables, diet-friendly granola bars – have them. Sometimes you go into a restaurant thinking that the item will be gluten-free only to find out that they decided to add wheat flour, for no good reason (cue the falafels I wanted in Dearborn, MI). If the local restaurant is not able to accommodate your dietary needs well – as in, you end up with a hunk of lettuce on a plate – then at least you have something in your bag to not ruin the experience for others. Bonus: if you are flying, you can bring snacks on the flight with you. Claim everything, check the rules but in my experience, most airline food does not agree with my restrictions unless I’m willing to pay $12 for a yogurt. You can always call the airline 48 hours in advanced but I literally never remember to do this nor do I have the time to be placed on hold.

And there you have it! A few tips and tricks for travelling with dietary restrictions. Have I missed anything? Do you have any other tips and tricks for travelling frugally with dietary restrictions? Comment below as I would love to hear them!

P.S. Feel free to enjoy the goofball shots we took on the Game of Thrones Iron Throne: