Be Naked

We are born naked. That moment lasts a second before our tiny bodies are swaddled in blankets. As we age, we start dressing to flatter our bodies. You’re on the shorter side? Wear shorts and skirts that cut above the knee to elongate your body. You have a bit of a tummy? Wear floaty fabrics that don’t draw attention to it. We are all about covering and reshaping. But what if I challenged you to stand in front of your mirror naked? Just stand there and look. No floaty fabrics, cling in the right places, or spandex. Just you and your skin.

For a lot of people, this would make them uncomfortable. For whatever reason, their naked body makes them blush. This is a concept I never understood. I have never been able to fathom why their own nudity makes some people so uncomfortable. I must assume it is from familial or cultural traditions that I was not privy to.

Maybe my experience with nudity has been a bit different. Ever since I was little, nudity was never a big deal. I’m from one of those families that doesn’t close the door when we shower. When we were on vacation, my mom would make my sister and I strip down so she could spray every inch of us with sunscreen before we put on our swimsuits for the beach. That was just normal. I quickly realized when I would go to my friend’s houses that this behavior was not typical. My friends were horrified at the idea of seeing their family members naked or anyone seeing them naked. They made sure to close the door to the bathroom and it was completely unacceptable to walk in on anyone, for any reason (Luckily, I was an observant child and never made that mistake). But at my house, my sister and I would honestly have full on conversations while one of us was peeing. And if my mom was in the shower, I would be in the bathroom doing my makeup. My parents never made it a big deal and consequently, I never treated the naked body as anything out of the ordinary.

Then, when I joined swimming, nudity and exposure just became even more commonplace. Locker rooms twice a day, swim meets on weekends – eventually, you just lose any sense of modesty purely because it’s inconvenient. Furthermore, speedos and competition suits don’t really leave much to the imagination. I’ve been around nearly naked guys and girls since I was nine and even though we all obviously hit puberty, the nudity was already part of our lives. Swimming is just an exposed sport, and it was never a big deal.

I guess I can understand why people would be uncomfortable being naked in front of others. It’s an extremely vulnerable position to put yourself in. But sometimes nudity makes sense. We all have to change clothes, we all shower, and for the most part, we all have sex – all of which are activities that are made much easier by being nude. Yet some people will still painstakingly hide their bodies. They will only change in bathroom stalls, they will have sex under the sheets with the lights off, etc. But why are they afraid of their own bodies?

If you’re one of these people, I challenge you to stand in front of your mirror for a full minute, naked. Do it when no one is home. Lock yourself in your bathroom. I don’t care what you have to do to feel safe, but try it. Don’t focus on flaws or attributes, just take stock of what’s there and how everything fits together. I promise you don’t have anything that no one else has. This isn’t about body confidence or that whole positivity movement. This is about being aware of what your body truly looks like, and accepting that.

I’m grateful for the way I was raised and for swimming because they made me comfortable in my own naked skin. I was never made to feel that being exposed was bad, or that my nakedness was offensive. It was just there. I know from personal experience, the more comfortable you feel being naked alone, the less scary it is in front of others, and one day it might not even be a big deal to you at all.

WARNING: this confidence will throw some people off. My boyfriend is consistently afraid for my modesty when I strut around my own apartment nude. I assure him I don’t care who sees me naked. Surprisingly, that doesn’t calm him down 😉

 

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Photo Cred: Kiki Moussetis

 

 

Getting Started on Getting Fit

I’m not talking about that one time you decided to start your new workouts on a Monday and then by Wednesday you had given up and the whole cycle starts over next month. I’m talking about actually getting started on a new lifestyle so that you stick with it.

I feel like the hardest part of developing a new workout or diet routine is getting started. And not enough people talk about this part! Because once you’ve developed a lifestyle and have stuck to it for awhile, it becomes addictive, habit forming, and arguably easier to stick to.

For example, if you haven’t worked out in awhile and then decide to run five miles, you’re going to HATE it. You’re going to feel like passing out, and you’ll hate the process every step of the way. BUT if you’ve been running every day for the past three months, not only will you replace that feeling of nausea with endorphins, your day will also feel like something is missing without it. In the same vein, if you decide to cut out all junk food suddenly, you’ll feel horrible because that is the fuel your body is used to and you’ll crave it SO BAD. But if you phase out that food over time and find yourself eating salad every week, you’ll start to crave those (sounds fake, I know, but it IS possible to develop the longing for leafy greens).

In any case, because it takes a few weeks to break a habit and develop a new one, it is hard for people to get started on a new lifestyle. IT’S NO JOKE. And when you first start, your body will completely reject the idea because it’s not what it”s used to.

Something I feel like fitness personalities don’t address enough (not that I am one, I just follow a lot of them), is the mental game. Oh sure, they’ll spout all sorts of stuff about discipline, and wanting it bad enough, but they don’t focus on the fact that some people have to work at developing those mental skills just like you’d work on your biceps. Furthermore, while discipline is important, when it comes to getting started I think mental stamina needs to be addressed even more.

Here’s the thing, when you first start out, not only are you flexing your mental and PHYSICAL muscles in a new way, you’re also going to have to go through a brutal process of trial and error if you want to see success.

I imagine everyone has a goal in mind when they embark on some sort of lifestyle change. You want to lose weight, gain muscle, just feel better, whatever! BUT, in order to reach that goal, you must be able to stay consistent with something other than what your body currently does. To truly change your lifestyle you have to go through an arduous process of finding out what works FOR YOU. There are thousands of fitness programs, classes, and sites that are loaded with ideas about workouts and nutrition, but the key is that YOU have to do the ground work on this, and the only way to do it is by research and trial and error on your own body.

Additionally, you have to recognize that some of these things you’ll experiment with won’t work out. Everyone is different, which means not everything will work for everyone, and definitely not in the same ways. A lot of people hate running, hell, it’s taken me 20 years to tolerate it. So if you hate it but you start running thinking it’s going to achieve your goals, you’re going to end up miserable WHILE you’re doing it, thus more inclined to NOT do it, and then you’ll inevitably be disappointed when results don’t appear. If something doesn’t work for you, you have to have the mental resilience to bounce back and keep trying new things.

Keep a list. Let’s say running is the first thing you try. You try it for two weeks and you’re just miserable. Move to the next activity. There’s boxing, swimming, weights, HIIT, fitness guides, cycling, CROSSFIT!! The possibilities are endless, but it’s important that you don’t give up until you find something that you enjoy and that makes you FEEL GOOD. The same goes for food. Maybe salads make you gag, but you find that you like roasted sweet potato with chicken! Just keep trying recipes and dishes until you find some that FEEL GOOD.

And when I say FEEL GOOD. I mean literally — happier, more energy, no guilt, and excitement about working towards your goals and meeting them. Keep in mind, as I’ve said, this part of the process is NOT easy and the key here really is PERSEVERANCE and being able to bounce back when something doesn’t go your way immediately. Ultimately, it is easier to revert to old ways, but if you really want to change your lifestyle, you need to be prepared for the physical AND mental obstacles. If you can recognize these ahead of time, you can develop a plan to overcome them and press on!

Eat Your Heart Out

My last post was all about my current workout routine. But anybody who has spent even five seconds looking up fitness tips knows that workouts are barely half the battle. The even harder part (at least for me), is diet.

I have been seeing tons of stuff in recent years about paleo, keto, pescatarian, vegan, high carb vegan, Atkins, and literally every strict combination of food you can think of. And you know what? I say nay to all of those.

Some of you may think I can afford to say nay because I’m thin and am not trying to lose weight, or you might not believe me and think I must adhere to some kind of stringent body builder diet, but neither are true. The reason being, I have gone through a long food journey of my own and have been able to figure out what works best for my body (and for my sanity).

Back in the day, I was a competitive swimmer for almost a decade. During that time, I trained for almost five hours a day and honestly ate whatever I wanted. A whole pizza? Gimme twenty minutes. A whole bag of Reese’s peanut butter cups? One episode of Gossip Girl. I was going through a ridiculous amount of food to replenish all the calories I burned, but the majority of the food was shit. I ate my fruits and veggies, but looking back, most of my calories came from carbs like pasta and straight up sugar.

My senior year of high school, I really wanted to do the best I could for my last year of swimming so I cut out a previously elemental part of my diet: Coca Cola. Up until that point I had about roughly one Coke per day. I know some people drink far more than I do, but I was determined to focus on my hydration levels and cut out soda and fruit juices completely. It took a few days to get past the caffeine withdrawal but then I felt SO GOOD. My skin improved and I honestly did not feel as tired during a normal day and spurred my interest in looking at food as fuel, not just as tasty morsels.

I’ll spare you the details of the years in between then and now, but that occurence spurred me on to develop my nutritional knowledge and my eating habits. I strongly believe knowledge is power when it comes to what you eat, and the more you know about what you’re ingesting, the better off you’ll be.

Nowadays, I pretty much follow the 80/20 rule. I will eat well 80% of the time and about 20% of the time is a free for all. Because I typically follow a schedule, it is not difficult to follow this rule. Here is what some typical meals look like for me:

Breakfast: Two pieces avocado toast (w/ Ezekiel bread) OR a veggie omelet with fruit

Snack: Protein Bar OR a banana/apple with almond butter

Lunch: Shrimp Salad (Garlic Basil Shrimp, Romaine/Spinach, Tomato, Peppers), or leftovers from dinner the night before.

Dinner: Lean Turkey Breast with roasted sweet potatoes and asparagus OR chicken stirfry with rice OR another combo of solid protein, greens, and carbs.

Desert: Three squares of Dark Chocolate and Strawberries OR Cookies!

For beverages, I only drink water and tea, and sometimes coffee (usually in the form of a cappuccino). I don’t add any cream or sugar to my tea or coffee. I stopped drinking soda in high school, and then after I spent a year in Shanghai drinking a lot of tea and hot water, I stopped drinking milk and juice as well. This is just personal preference, I don’t have anything against milk or certain juices for nutrition’s sake.

Usually, my 20% free for all eating occurs on weekends or when I’m out with friends. Weekends are typically when I eat out and try new places, which means I don’t want to limit myself to the ‘healthy’ options on the menu. I honestly eat whatever I want during these times. I will order the full french toast breakfast, or I’ll get a burger and fries, or a pizza and ice cream! The key for me is eating well during my main work week and allowing myself to feel free to eat however I want on weekends and with friends.

You can also see that I don’t necessarily cut out carbs or sugar during the week either. I have the BIGGEST sweet tooth and there would be no way I could cut out desserts completely so I still make sure I incorporate them. The trick for me is paying attention to how certain foods make me feel. Salads make me feel full but not tired. A McDonalds Quarter Pounder makes me feel sick. And so on and so forth. By ACTIVELY paying attention to what you’re eating and what it consists of and how it affects you, you gain a lot of knowledge about what meals make you FEEL good and that is what is important for me.

This post got a little long, but I have even more tips on how I eat right for my body so let me know if you’re interested in hearing more on this topic!

 

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Acai Bowls and Cappuccinos are some of my favorite weekend breakfast elements

 

Current Fitness Routine

Lately, a lot of my friends have been asking for my fitness routine. I don’t know what spurred it but it did make me realize I’ve never shared a detailed fitness regimen on any iteration of my blog.

Before I explain how I workout, I would like to preface this with the fact that my body is a result of many years of competitive swimming with training layered on top after I stopped swimming. Additionally, I change my routine every few months, this just happens to be what I currently do. Furthermore, I am not a professional trainer or nutritionist and don’t necessarily recommend my routine for anything other than general fitness maintenance.

Also, something you will note below, is that I rarely warm up. I don’t recommend this, especially if you’re starting out. For some reason, it has worked for me so far to go into these particular workouts without a warm up, but in most cases I would recommend a quick jog or some jumping jacks/jump rope, to get the body warm.

I also only stretch after my workouts because my muscles are warmer and more forgiving to stretching. Stretching cold muscles always hurts and seems pointless to me so I never stretch before a workout either.

Alright, everyone! Here is what I do to stay in shape!

Monday: Pyramid Interval Sprints, Ab Circuit, Stretch

The first day of the week deserves some sprints. The Pyramid Sprints consist of 30 seconds sprint, 30 seconds walking, then 1-minute sprint, then a minute walk, then 1.5 minutes, and so on until 2.5 minutes. Then you come back down the pyramid.

The Ab Circuit consists of eight ab exercises (12x Burpees, 12x Exercise ball extensions, 25x full leg raises, 25x flat crunch, 25x oblique crunch right, 25x oblique crunch left, 24x full bicycle, 1 minute plank). I will repeat this circuit three times.

Especially on days when I run, I try and make sure I stretch really well afterwards, so I usually have about 10-15 minutes of basic stretching after the workout.

Tuesday: Upper body Day

Currently, I only devote one day to upper body. I know some people might scoff at this, but it’s all I need to maintain my muscle there. I make sure I cover all the major muscle areas in five supersets. However, you will notice that there is not one exercise below that specifically targets biceps and this is because biceps are worked indirectly in so many of these exercises that I don’t feel the need to isolate them. In each super set, I use weights that are moderately heavy (for me) and do every single exercise for 15 reps and 4 sets (This workout is a total of 20 sets, and takes about an hour)

Super set 1: Dumbell Shoulder Press & Lat Pull Down

Super set 2: Dumbell Chest Press & Seated Rows

Super set 3: Weighted Tricep Dips & One armed Row

Super set 4: Chest Flies & Tricep Extensions

Super set 5: Shoulder Flies & Standard Push- Ups

 

Wednesday: Long Run, Ab Circuit, Stretch

This day is pretty straightforward. If I’m able, I will take this day to have a long run outside, but usually, I will have to do it on a treadmill since I live in the city. I will run 4 or 5 miles depending on the day and I am currently holding a 9-minute mile, but always trying to improve that pace.

Afterward, I do the same ab circuit from Monday and make sure I stretch really well.

 

Thursday: Leg Day

Ah, everyone’s favorite day. I know I run a lot, but it’s not enough to build the muscle I’m looking for without some lifting. The exercises below are especially geared towards hamstring and glute building since that is what I’m after right now. Any place where Right & Left is listed in parentheses means that the exercise only uses one leg at a time and I do 15 reps for each leg for each exercise. Once again, I use weights that are moderately difficult for me. This workout consists of two circuits, with five exercises a piece. I one circuit four times, then the other circuit four times, then stretch.

Circuit 1: 30x X-Jumps, 15x Weighted Side Leg Raise (Right & Left), 15x Weighted Donkey Kicks (Right & Left), 15x Weighted One-Legged Hip Thrust (Right & Left), 15x Weighted Single Leg Deadlift (Right & Left)

Circuit 2: 15x Split Squat Jumps, 15x Single Leg Leg Press (Right & Left), 15x Weighted Hip Thrust with both legs, 15x Weighted Lunges (Right & Left), Weighted 15x Calf Raises (Right & Left)
Friday: Full Body Workout

Friday’s are different because I like to do a full body workout that doesn’t have a consistency to it. I especially like to try out new workouts on Friday’s. If I can, I’ll find a class to go to, or find a routine online that I haven’t tried and see if I like it. Two staples I use if I want to a great workout but haven’t planned for anything new: Britney Spears’ Drenched Workout (Link Here), Or Kayla Itsines’ BBG1 Week 6 or 7 full body workouts. I won’t post it because it won’t be fair to her product, but it basically consists of some burpees, some ab work, and some pushups. It’s not hard to create a circuit out of that.

Saturday: REST DAY!

Rest is super important to a fitness regimen because your body needs time to recover. Now, I’m not working hard enough where these are absolutely crucial, BUT, rest is still important. Saturdays, I usually try and spend outdoors, whether I’m at the beach, or seeing a friend, or even hiking. I will try and make sure I still get some walking in so I’m not just a loaf all day, but I don’t focus on it for exercises’ sake.

Sunday: Foam Roll/Stretch Day.

Whereas Saturday is a complete rest day if I want, I try and take a little bit of time on Sundays to have a full body stretch and workout any kinks in my body. I honestly should be foam rolling and stretching every single day, but I haven’t gotten there yet, so I use Sunday as a catch-all day. Sometimes I will do a quick yoga circuit and then spend time rolling or I will just do my normal stretches, but deeper and for longer.

And there you have it! This is what I currently do to stay in shape. I hardly every spend more than an hour in the gym on any one of these workouts which is the perfect amount of time for me to spend in the gym. Once again, I’m not a professional, but I have been focused on my own fitness for quite some time, so if you have any questions I’d love to answer them!

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How to Look Good Naked

Ok so this isn’t one of those posts where I’m gonna tell you how to work out or go on a diet, get a six pack, blah blah blah. We all know that working out and eating clean has it’s own set of benefits and results. This article’s purpose is to show everyone how to take advantage of what you look like RIGHT NOW,  to look (and more importantly, FEEL)  amazing with no clothes. While you should probably only be naked around people who don’t really care about that scar, or that fat roll, who are we kidding? EVERYONE wants to feel awesome naked regardless of the company.

Find the Light

Alright, first, take off all your clothes and go stand in front of the mirror. What? Melina, that’s weird. IS IT? How often have you really looked at and considered your own naked body? I’m betting it’s not often. I’m no expert on being naked but I was a swimmer for a long time so I spent a lot of time nearly naked or just naked (all throughout puberty too, which is the worst) and because of that, I know what parts of my body look best from what angles and in what lighting. For example, I know my jaw-line is slightly asymmetrical so my profile looks MUCH better from the right than the left, or I know that my legs look lumpy if I lock my knees. AND I know that locker room lighting looks terrible on pretty much everybody.

Not to sound too much like Tyra from AMTM, but if you’re aware of the lighting scheme and the best angles of your body, it can make a huge difference. YOU know which side of your face you like best, and where every single positive/negative attribute is, so stand in the mirror and figure it out.  I KNOW it sounds weird, but it’s in the privacy of your own bathroom/bedroom so have fun with it. Worst case scenario, you’re more comfortable being naked (or you find a bruise you don’t remember getting…so strange..)

Posture

For crying out loud, STAND UP STRAIGHT. You don’t have to look like you’ve got a stick up your ass, but holding your head high with your shoulders back automatically makes you look thinner, tighter, and more confident, all of which are key. If you have insecurities about your body, you might be tempted to try and hide or make yourself smaller. Trust me, this only draws attention to the areas you’re trying to cover, AND makes you look uncomfortable in your own skin which can make you, and whoever your with, unsure of how to act. Plus, this is a super easy action to implement. Just remind yourself to stand up straight and BOOM, INSTA- confidence. (Try it in the mirror first!)

Maintenance

So I promised this wouldn’t be a workout article and it’s not, HOWEVER, simple bodily maintenance for girls AND guys can go a long way:

-Keep fingernails and toenails trimmed and clean, no one wants dirty hands all up in their business. Seriously, just cut your nails and wash your hands.

-Exfoliate and moisturize. I don’t know what to tell you, dry skin is not all that appealing and it’s easily remedied. (This goes for face and lips too!). You can use something as simple as a heavy duty washcloth–my favorite– or a body scrub this one is pretty good all around (for guys and girls). Also, if you’re interested in a more comprehensive exfoliating option, try dry brushing. Dry brushing is a technique that exfoliates, decongests skin, and has been linked to lymphatic stimulation and cellulite reduction. After you exfoliate, slather on the lotion/body oil. It’s best to do it right after you shower to lock in as much moisture as possible.

-Hair Grooming: I’m not about to tell anyone how to keep their body hair situation, but make sure everything is CLEAN, trimmed, and generally under control. You’re allowed to have as much hair as you feel comfortable with, but keeping it trimmed/shaved/waxed, means the area is also easier to keep clean. This goes for girls AND GUYS. I know they’re socially allowed to be hairier but they sure as HELL better be keeping themselves hygienic.

Basically, feeling good naked can be achieved through practicing (and CLEANLINESS PLEASE). It’s mostly a matter of being comfortable with your body and you can only achieve that (like anything else) through some repetition, so SLEEP NAKED, DO YOUR MAKEUP NAKED, SHOWER NAKED (wait…), or even just wait a few minutes after your shower and apply lotion by the mirror. If you’re not comfortable when you’re naked, you can’t expect anyone else to be.