Fighting to be zen

As a Taekwondo practitioner, I can tell you from personal experience that it is great for both your body and mind. Especially when I was younger, I felt my self-confidence grow a little bit after every training. I can’t really explain why, it’s not as if you feel better because you can strategically place your foot in someone’s face, but more that you feel your strength grow and your skill improve. And that makes you feel really f-ing good.

The way of the hand and foot

Taekwondo literally means ‘the way of the hand and foot’ in Korean and is categorized as a Korean martial art. It teaches you techniques of self-defence and combat, but also discipline, self-control and courtesy. Not only does it strengthen your body, but it strengthens your mind as well. The emphasis is on perserverance and self-control. A typical training consists of getting your body fit, practicing your kicking techniques, getting skilled in defence techniques and combining all of the above in a free fight with a partner. This partner is not your personal punchbag, but allows you to practice everything you have learned in a controlled and courteous way.

About every year you have to pass an exam in order to get a higher belt. I recently passed my exam for the black belt, and you can’t imagine what a kick that gives you! I still get it everytime I put it on for training. It is amazing for your body as it is an intense sport and will keep you in good shape, but besides that, it helps me to clear my mind as well. When I’m feeling stressed out, an hour of Taekwondo can clear my mind and muscles from all the tension I felt before. Who would have thought you can be in a zen-state of mind while kicking and punching?

Full body workout

Taekwondo trains almost every muscle in your body by providing a varying workout. You work on your abs, back muscles, biceps, shoulders, thighs, butt, and so on – basically everything. That’s because it trains you to get fitter, stronger and faster so you can become better at the techniques. So you train your body ánd learn how to use this newfound strength for a useful purpose. I’d say you should really try it if you’re looking for something fun and new to do and don’t be scared of the idea you might have of it!

Getting lean with protein

Getting lean is not that easy for most of us, we all know that. There are, however, some easy measures that will help you on your way to getting lean. Such as drinking protein shakes. No, protein shakes aren’t only for bodybuilders or guys aspiring to resemble them, if you were thinking that (I was). After looking into it, I discovered that protein is actually very helpful if you’re trying to get fit, lose weight or be sexy as hell.

Protein handles all sorts of processes in your body – for example, it repares your muscles after a work out. And it is everywhere: in bread, nuts, meat, fish, dairy, and so on. However, the amount of protein in food is really small. Allow me to me illustrate: an egg contains 10 gram of protein and 100 gram of meat contains a mere 20-30 gram. If you are working out and on your way to getting lean, it’s recommended to take in about 1,5 gram protein per kilo bodyweight per day. That means that if you weigh 70 kilos, you would need 105 gram protein per day. It is quite the time consuming task to take this in solely through food, and you probably don’t have the time to stand in the kitchen all day. So you see, it can be pretty hard to ‘eat’ that 105 gram of protein!

A good complement is protein shakes. They come in many flavors: vanilla, banana, strawberry, even cookies & cream and red berries – and this is not even the entire assortment. There are plenty of flavors to choose from so you won’t get bored. You’d do good to drink them after your work out so it instantly starts repairing your muscles (and thereby strengthening them), but you can also drink them right before you go to sleep, or in the morning, like me. I drink a small banana protein shake (50g) at breakfast and I’m loving it! Together with a bowl of oatmeal, I’m starting the day super healthy and energized.

Attacking the fat

Besides, drinking a protein shake before or after your work out ensures that your muscles are being protected. Your body usually breaks down your muscles during your work out, instead of attacking the fat. Protein will protect your muscles from this and will cause your body to start burning fat instead. Sounds pretty good, right?

What do you think about protein shakes? Are there other benefits that you know of?

30 Days Squat Challenge

A friend of mine sent me a screenshot showing her progress in the app ’30 days squat challenge’. I immediately got curious: squat challenge? I like a challenge! One that makes me do squats, which I always intend to do more but never actually do, is one I especially like. At least, that’s what I thought.

Yeah, it all sounds fun and games in theory. What woman doesn’t want breath-taking legs and an awesome butt? Now 4 days into the squat challenge, I can barely walk anymore. The muscles in my leg are aching intensely and everytime I get out of my chair they are begging me not to. I just tried walking to the bathroom and I went through a real-life nightmare for those 15 meters. Fires of the deepest and darkest corners of hell started burning in my legs and I could swear Satan himself was standing there laughing at his genius work.

Ok, I might be somewhat exaggerating, but seriously, this challenge is a heavy one. You start your first day with 25 squats, which makes you think “Ah, that wasn’t so bad!”. The second day the amount has doubled. 50 squats for you, my friend. When you drag yourself out of bed on the third day, you notice that those squats are taking quite the toll on your muscles and you are hoping that today is a rest day (which of course, the third day is not). The 30 days squat challenge is merciless: 75 squats today. I almost cried doing those while being hungover from a party the night before and with legs that couldn’t even bear to climb stairs. I would have done a victory lap when I painstakingly finished the 75th squat, but I think you can imagine by now that that was not even close to possible. At some point this has to get easier, right?

I’m challenging you to join me!

Although it really is a challenge, I’d recommend it to many people. You can download it for free on the iPhone and iPad (I don’t know about Android) and see for yourself. I’ll definitely complete it; I am too curious whether this will actually work, whether you will see some results after 30 days. Maybe the size and shape of your legs and butt won’t change in a mere 30 days, but at least you will have to notice that the squats are getting way easier to do. I’ll let you know how it works out! In the meantime, I am challenging you to join me. Don’t let me suffer all alone! Let’s get that perfectly shaped booty and those nice slim legs together.

And then tell me, how are you getting through the 30 days squat challenge?

Say goodbye to sugar cravings

When 2014 had begun, the familiar question emerged like it does every year. “Do you have any New Year’s resolutions?”, my friends, family and colleagues asked. Normally I am not one to adopt New Year’s resolutions as I do not believe in them; why start new habits or break through old ones from the 1st of January on? Why not in May, or in October? If you really want to change something, it shouldn’t matter what date it is. Start now! Anyways, I did start a new habit, and it happened to be the 3rd of January when I did so. Some might say that it is my New Year’s resolution; I prefer to think of it as a healthy new habit instead.

I have been looking for easy ways to live healthier, but I really couldn’t (and still can’t) easily choose an apple over a cupcake. And to be honest, I don’t really want to. I am not trying to lose weight, I simply want to live a bit healthier. So I started studying my habits to see what was relatively easy to change. Turns out it was staring me right in the face all the time: water! At breakfast, lunch, dinner, and countless times in between, I was drinking juice. Orange juice, apple juice, pear juice, pineapple juice, pomegrenate juice; name it and I’ve drunk it. It’s safe to say that I am a sugar addict. Or well, I was one.

Recently I saw an experiment on TV, arguing that our cravings for sugar are merely an illusion. People could smell and look at candy or chocolate, but they were not allowed to actually eat it (sounded like torture to me).  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not sniffing at a glass of juice now every day, but it did get me thinking: do I really need all this sugar? There were moments in which I was absolutely convinced that I needed to eat a chocolate bar, a piece of candy, or just generally something that contained sugar, because I felt that my “bloodsugar was low”. Yeah, right, nicely fooled yourself there girl!

Sooo?

You’re probably wondering about results. Well, ever since I started drinking water instead of juice, the cravings have dropped immensely. Since sugar makes you crave more sugar, it’s no wonder that I have less cravings – one glass contains about five sugar cubes (Sugarstacks.com). Imagine that: I was eating at least 20 sugar cubes a day. Now, several weeks later, I feel healthier and the immense cravings for sugar have dropped to a new low, although I have always been and will always be a sweet tooth. But the purpose was not to deny myself some of those (guilty) pleasures, it was to lower the amount of sugar I take in through juices. A nice side effect is that I don’t crave sugar that much anymore. So all in all, I would say: mission accomplished! Sugar cravings, fuck off!

Did you have any New Year’s resolutions, or healthy new habits for 2014?