Updated: Jan 26
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First of all, I would like to say thank you to the person who anonymously suggested this topic on YOLO. If you've been following me on Instagram or have been friends with me on Facebook for a while, then you have seen some parts of my fitness journey.
I can't remember exactly when my interest in fitness first started, but I've always been pretty active. In middle school, I first started playing volleyball and I think that is what first got me interested in personal fitness. Aside from practicing gameplay, we had to run drills and do exercises before every practice. This didn't really faze me because I love, love, love volleyball. It's my favorite sport.
Anyway, I started playing volleyball in 7th grade and I continued playing in high school. Things definitely got a bit harder in high school because instead of only having to practice a few days a week, we had practice every day of the week except for Fridays. We had hard drills and we had to run.
I love to sprint, don't get me wrong, but this was something different.
Around this time I also started doing at-home YouTube workouts. For a bit, I was doing pretty well, but I lost motivation. Don't remember why exactly but I was probably busy with school and extracurriculars so it just got pushed to the back burner.
I had a goal to get a 6-pack. I'm sure many of you have that goal as well. I feel that it's a pretty standard goal for a lot of people. If not a 6-pack, then at least a flat and toned tummy.
After doing these workouts pretty consistently for weeks I started to see results. My body was gaining a little bit of muscle tone and my abdominal muscles were getting stronger by the day. I loved the feeling of accomplishment that came with finishing a workout and seeing results. It motivated me to keep doing them.
Junior or senior year, can't remember which, I took a cardio class. I thought it would be fun and it would help me fit some good intense exercise into my everyday routine.
Let me tell you, I think this class changed my life when it comes to my personal fitness.
I feel blessed that I was able to go to a school that could afford some nice gym equipment. We had several leg machines, a whole rack of free weights, plates, shoulder and arm machines, abdominal machines, and more!
I felt like a kid in a candy store!
Many people in my class were not really invested in their form or actually increasing their strength and muscle tone, but I was. I quickly discovered my favorite machines (the abductor/adductor machine) and I learned how to use new several machines. During this time I definitely saw improvement in my body.
I remember one day I was in the locker room getting changed before my cardio class and I just remember looking in the mirror and not liking the way my legs looked. Since I am black, have a Jamaican heritage, and also am naturally thin my calf muscles tend to be very pronounced and I didn't like the way that looked.
Everyone else had nicely curved calves and I had skinny legs and these bulging calf muscles that looked really weird. I remember mentioning it to one of the girls and what she said to me lifted my spirits. She told me that she loved my legs, that she wished she had the calf muscles that I had, and that they were beautiful. That made my day and left a smile on my face.
This wasn't the first time that I'd felt bad about my body. For all the thinner girls out there you know what kind of comments we get.
"Oh, you're just a stick."
"I could snap you in half."
"Be careful, don't want the wind to blow you away."
"We gotta fatten you up a lil bit"
"You need to eat more food."
These kinds of comments had an effect on my self-esteem. Being thin isn't all that. I know so many people strive to be thin but it can be just as hard as being overweight.
Now, don't come for me unless you've been thin.
You just won't understand. Of course, it has its perks, definitely not arguing against that, but it isn't always the best fit for everyone. And I just wanted a more full, womanly figure. My build was very athletic so I didn't have any hips or the hourglass figure that is popular now.
The only thing I had going for me was my little tush. It was firm, perky, and lifted. Amen to that.
I don't know if any of you have been to the gym at Southern Adventist University, but if you have you know that that gym is GOLD. It's huge and had almost every machine you could think of. Since I had no personal affiliation with Southern, I had to pay $5 every time I wanted to use the gym
Needless to say, I didn't go to that gym that much. I can say that it definitely opened my eyes to different types of machines and different ways to use them.
When I started college at Oakwood University (Woot! Woot! ) I was excited because the school had a gym. Granted, it wasn't nearly as good as Southern's gym or even as good as my high school's gym, but it was something.
This first year is when I really started getting into strength training. I had done it previously in my last years of high school, but I couldn't be as consistent because we didn't have any weights at home except for little 5-pound weights and I didn't have access to a "free" gym. I say free because even though you don't have to pay at the door of Oakwood's gym, the cost to use it is included in tuition.
In my first year of college, I made a lot of gains and I increased my strength tenfold. I would usually start off with 5-10 minutes of jogging on the treadmill, depending on how I was feeling energy-wise, or I would do a HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) treadmill workout.
For this HIIT treadmill workout, I would do a minute on, and then a minute off until I hit 10 minutes. This helped me to get my heart rate up and to help me burn some extra calories.
I wasn't going to let myself gain the dreaded "freshman-15." Some of you know what I'm talking about.
You start college and now have the freedom to eat whatever you want with no restraint and you go a little crazy. Now, the food at Oakwood had a lot to be desired, but you can definitely still pick up some extra pounds without realizing it.
Thankfully, this didn't happen to me. If my focus had been to gain weight and fill out I would have happily picked up those extra pounds, but at this point in time, it wasn't. I definitely began to see some nice muscle definition in my upper body as well as my legs and thighs.
The summer after my freshman year I became a VEGAN!
I was working at Cohutta Springs Youth Camp (yeahhh!) and every summer the workers there did a "vegan for a summer" challenge. I decided to join the challenge and that is how my vegan journey started.
I have to also give credit to my roommate who had been vegan for a year or two already and slowly influenced me in the right direction. After that summer I realized that Veganism was a better diet than the one I had before (vegetarianism) and I made that change permanent.
As I said before, I love volleyball, so when I began my sophomore year of college I tried out for the volleyball team and made it. We had practice every morning at 5 am (MERCY) which started with running a mile outside and then running drills for the first hour.
It was TOUGH! This coach was NOT playing around with us. She wanted us in shape, shape!
Anyway, since the practices were so early that meant that I had to go to bed super early if I wanted to have any energy in the morning. Unfortunately, this also meant that I had to have my homework done even earlier in the day, which gave me less time to go to the gym.
Sometimes I would go after practice because when I got a good night's sleep I felt GOOODT, like I could conquer the world!
Other times, I would have class right after practice ended or I would be too tired to walk all the way to Gilgamesh (inside joke - basically means a faraway place). Even though I wasn't going to the gym as much as before volleyball kept me very active and toned.
Sometimes the volleyball girls would have extra optional practices in the evenings and I would attend those, or my roommate and I would play with other schoolmates when volleyball intramurals came around. When I had time I would still try and fit in a quick workout at the gym.
The summer after my sophomore year was the peak of my fitness journey. I was working that summer so I got a gym membership at Workout Anytime (praise the Lord). This membership changed my life for the better. This gym is the reason why I crave going to the gym all the time.
I loved having a gym membership and going to the gym EVER.SINGLE.DAY (except Saturdays of course). This gym had a nice assortment of equipment so I never felt like I was lacking anything.
I purchased (accidentally) a year membership on this app called Fitplan and I started Michie Peachie's Peachier Hourglass plan which ran through 12 weeks, 5 days a week.
Of course, I was in the gym every single day regardless, but on the Fitplan off days, I would just do a few exercises and then go home, nothing crazy. This plan really challenged my body and forced it to grow. I saw more changes in my body in terms of muscle growth, definition, strength, and just overall health in these few months than I did since I started my journey.
Of course, I was in the gym every single day, regardless, but on the Fitplan off days, I would just do a few exercises and then go home, nothing crazy. This plan really challenged my body and forced it to grow. I saw more changes in my body in terms of muscle growth, definition, strength, and just overall health in these few months than I did since I started my journey.
As a result of working out consistently, I began to eat more food. I probably wasn't eating as much as I am eating now because I still wasn't focused on weight gain, but I was definitely consuming more calories than I had been before.
The high of that summer was reaching 143.6 lbs which was a first for me. Up until that time I had been around 130-135 lbs and reaching 143.6 just showed me that I was gaining the muscle that I had been working toward.
Fast forward to the next school year. I started my junior year super excited to continue my fitness journey at Oakwood. I had completed 70% of the Peachier Hourglass plan and I didn't want to lose my gains over the semester.
Unfortunately, since Oakwood didn't have certain machines that I had become accustomed to, I felt lost, like I didn't know how to proceed without those machines. Everything went downhill from there. I didn't really enjoy working out in Oakwood's gym, especially because the weather was still super hot and the gym didn't have an AC unit inside.
I also wasn't playing volleyball anymore, so I didn't have that to keep me in shape. I did transfer my membership to the Workout Anytime in Huntsville for a little while, but then I eventually canceled it. I just wasn't motivated. I became very particular about what and how much I was eating because I had this fear that I was going to get a tummy and I desperately wanted the flat tummy that my roommate perpetually had.
My weight fluctuated a lot during this time because I liked to eat, but I wasn't really motivated to work out, but I also didn't want to eat too much, blah, blah, blah.
I didn't even realize it, but when I came back home for Christmas break after finals were finished, my mom told me that it looked like I had lost weight.
Of course, I didn't believe her at first, but when I weighed myself I realized that I had dropped to around 129 lbs, the lowest I had been in a while. This really motivated me to treat my body better and eat more food.
In January I flew off to Spain to study abroad for 6 months.
If you aren't aware, Spaniards have a different way of eating. At the school and at some other restaurants in the area, they have what you call "Primer Plato" and "Segundo Plato" which means first plate and second plate. They eat a LOT over there, but they stay trim, unlike most Americans, because they exercise and walk a lot more than we do, and they eat healthier foods than we typically do.
So, at every meal, I would have at least two plates on my tray, if not three.
Being a vegan in Spain was a little difficult because since I was still learning the language I didn't always know what things were in English and I definitely ate some non-vegan foods without realizing it.
Thankfully, there was a gym in Spain and they played volleyball there so I found myself at the gym a lot. Since I didn't have access to a car we had to walk a lot. At Oakwood, I was so lazy that I would drive my car on campus just to get to my classes, but in Spain that wasn't possible so I build up some endurance from walking up hills and touring the different cities. Even though I was eating more than I had been previously, I still wasn't gaining any weight.
That might have been partly due to the fact that there were not many vegan protein options or really many protein options overall. At the school, they mostly served fats and carbs.
When COVID-19 took over the world we had to come back to America and I was able to weigh myself for the first time in months. My weight stood at 131.8 lbs. Not what I was expecting, at all. I had planned to get "THICCC" in Spain and it just didn't happen.
Needless to say, I haven't given up. Ever since I arrived home I have had the opportunity to buy my own groceries and cook for myself and I have slowly but surely gained weight.
Right now my average weight is 136 lbs which might not seem like a big improvement to some, but for someone who has an extremely fast metabolism, is huge.
I try to eat around 2600-2900 calories every day in order to reach my goal of gaining 20 lbs in total by the end of the summer. I'm up 5 lbs up and I have 15 lbs to go! I'm working out more consistently in order to build up my strength and tone my body while at home and I feel great!
My fitness journey is nowhere near over, in fact, it's just getting started. So, to all those out there that are struggling with getting into shape, staying in shape, losing weight, or gaining weight, just know that it's not impossible.
It's hard work, but you CAN do it.
Take it day by day and reach out to people for help if you don't know what to do or you need inspiration or motivation. You can comment on this post and ask me questions or contact me privately if you want. I'm always happy to share my enthusiasm for health, wellness, and fitness!
*These photos are in no particular order
Also, I will eventually post videos and pictures from my time abroad in Spain, thanks for being patient.
Love you all and have a great day!