A Spring Workout For Your Lower Body

A Spring Workout For Your Lower Body

Don't just do it for the beach, do it for yourself.
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As spring approaches, many of us are becoming more concerned with our so-called "beach bodies."

While being conscious of your shape and figure can be a great way to engage in a healthier lifestyle, being too aware of your physicality may become detrimental. In a world where it is easy to compare yourself to people through social media and other outlets, it is critical to remember that every body is beautiful and that a workout while targeting a certain aesthetic goal should still remain focused on overall health and wellness.

Reminder; you should always start your workout by stretching and rolling out for at least 10 minutes.

Here are my key tips and tricks to gaining lower body muscle:

1. If you want to purchase supplements, then BCAAs are the way to go to build and keep muscle.

2. Ankle weights are easy to find at Walmart or Target.

3. Resistance bands are a great tool to incorporate; I got mine from Amazon.

4. Make sure you eat a lot of protein (Greek yogurt, protein shakes, lean chicken breast, unsalted nuts, etc.) If you don’t get enough calories and protein, then you won’t be able to truly build muscle and retain it.

5. If you have a more difficult time building lower body muscle or gaining weight, then maybe consider creatine, but be aware that it is a dehydrator.

6. Limit your cardio (but do not stop altogether, it is good for your heart). If you want to build muscle and create curves, good cardio to include are the stairs (try doing two at a time if you can and try additional safe alternative moves).

7. Squeeze your booty at the top of a squat and during the hip thrusts, etc. to get most gains. It relates to the mind to muscle connection in which you think about where you want to build and the muscles being targeted during each exercise.

You should begin with glute activation exercises so your more weighted work will be effective.

The best glute activation workouts are:

1. Jumping Squats: I usually do 40 of these.

2. Hip Thrusts: I usually do these with a resistance band and do 50 without weight and then do one more set with a 25 pound dumbbell or higher.

3. Side Lying Clams: I use my resistance band for these and do 50 per side, I put the band on my upper thighs.

4. Donkey Kick Backs: I use leg weights for these. I do 50 per leg.

5. Fire Hydrants: use the ankle weights if you have them. I do four sets of 12 per leg.

6. Crab Walk: placing the band above your ankles and staying low until burn out.

7. Crossover Step-Up: I use 30 lbs. and do four sets of 12 per leg.

More exercises to do with machines or otherwise:

1. Squats: Many variations are good, but start with basics and be sure to get your FORM down before adding weight. I use dumbbells to do mine if I don’t want to do it with the barbell and if I use dumbbells, I use two 35 lbs. weights and try to do six sets of 12. You can add a pulse motion at the bottom to make it harder and gradually build from a lower weight over time.

2. Lunges: These also can be done with many variations. Jump squats are great, but I usually do a bouncing squat with 25 or 30 lbs. 30 times per leg. Then I do walking lunges with weight and this will depend on how much space you have for reps.

3. Leg press: I do high weight (full body weight or higher) leg press six sets of 8 or 12 depending on the weight and then do single leg presses at 25 lbs. Make sure you don’t completely straighten your legs when doing these because that is how you get injured.

4. Abduction Machines: You should do both variations and see what weight is most comfortable with four sets of 12.

5. Dead Lifts: Again, make sure you get form down. I do my same pattern of four sets of 12, so adjust the weight whether using dumbbells or a barbell to what feels right for you.

Finally, I burn out and try to do 10-20 minutes on the StairMaster, taking two steps at time in fat burn mode.

You can do the above workout or variations of it two to three times a week and focus on upper body and cardio on your other gym days. It is all about balance, safety and self-love no matter where you are in your fitness journey.

Cover Image Credit: Unsplash

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To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.
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Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

From an outside perspective, suicidal thoughts are rarely looked into deeper than the surface level. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is that people live in between those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble, and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead.

You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling, whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die?" or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you. You are not alone.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255


Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

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The Path To Self Love

It's a beautiful and hard journey but the reward is so worth it

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Like many of us, I tend to rely on other people and their opinions way more than my own. Stopping that? It's easier said than done but it's possible. You'll never fully be able to stop caring about what other people think but you can care a little less. How?

Building up your self-worth and confidence. That task is probably one of the hardest ones that I've ever had to tackle and am still figuring out.

Loving yourself can mean so many different things but at the end of the day it really means just being able to be your own happiness. So many people rely on others for happiness instead of themselves. That's just not it. We do this to ourselves but what happens when that person or group of people leave us? Then our happiness that was revolved around being with them is all gone. I've learned this life lesson the hard way and while it hurt like hell, I needed that. I had to learn that if I can't be happy by myself then I'll never fully be happy.

Sydney Mergler

Now, I know body positivity is becoming a thing right now but that doesn't change the fact that people still don't always feel one-hundred percent confident in their body. I personally have been struggling with my body image for years and finally have started to work on it for me. Not because I hate my body now, but because I want to get fit for me. It's been a struggle figuring this out and it's taken me years but I finally know what my end goal is and am working towards that. I know it's going to take me a while to reach it but at least I'm working towards a goal now and loving it at the same time. In fact, I feel so much more confident because of it.

Toxic friendships? Just break them. Do yourself a favor and don't dread on it, just drop them. You don't need the extra headache or drama. Life is hard enough as it is but having friends who are negative, disrespectful or just only look out for themselves makes it ten times harder. I'm not sorry for the friends I've dropped because if they really had wanted to keep the friendship, they would've treated me better.

Sydney Mergler

Over-apologizing? Just no. Let's not do that. For what? If you don't mean it, don't say it. There is no reason to apologize for something you either don't think needs to be apologized or you don't feel bad for. In the past, I used to apologize for every little thing and it drove me crazy.

On my path to self love, I've learned so much about myself already and I can't wait to learn more. I've learned I missed music, missed writing, enjoy yoga and other forms of exercise and so many other things. I've stopped holding on to things and people that aren't good for me and have started to let go of the past. Loving yourself can be a real challenge but at the end of the day it's the best thing you can do for yourself. You can't ever expect anyone to love you either in a romantic way or friend way without loving yourself. If you can't see the beauty in yourself how can you expect others to?

Sydney Mergler

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