5 Ways to Use Instagram

When I first began working on my health and fitness, I decided to start an Instagram account to document my journey, keep track of my successes, and to interact with other people who had some of the same goals and aspirations as I did.

Never in my wildest dreams did I envision that I would learn so much from others, while gaining a respectable amount of followers on this account. I’m so happy at the opportunity that opening this account has afforded me – the opportunity to learn, to grow, to meet new people and learn about different possibilities.

As someone who was only working out in their basement, it was imperative that I find a sense of community somewhere, or else I knew that working out alone in my basement would not be sustainable.

So I created my account, @melbys_fitness, and with exactly zero followers, I began to post. At first, I was too shy to post actual photos of myself, so I stuck to memes and quotes.

This was my first post:

As I became more engaged on the site, I slowly started to experience the trickle effect of having a few followers add me. I was so thrilled! Much more thrilled than when others followed my personal account, since I knew all those people, and most of them were only following out of either A) sheer curiosity or B) because they know you and feel semi obligated to follow and like your posts.

But these strangers were people I did not know, and the fact that they felt my account was worthy of following gave me the motivation to keep going!

That was nearly three years ago.

Today, I post to my IG about once a day. Occasionally I don’t post, and sometimes if it’s important I’ll post multiple times. I have steadily seen my following increase, and I’m constantly trying to figure out Instagram’s Algorithm so that I can gain more followers. Occasionally I find myself more concerned that the number isn’t increasing as quickly as I had hoped, or I’ll wake up in the morning and be down 20 followers, but I remind myself that’s not what I’m doing this for. Instagram, and the accounts I follow, have pushed me through more difficult times along this journey than I can count, and the real followers are the ones that I’m interested in maintaining.

You should be using Instagram in your fitness journey too! And these are the top 5 reasons why.

1. Posting keeps you accountable
Whether it’s real or imagined, I feel a sense of disappointment in myself, that will carry over to my followers, if I don’t post my exercise or fitness related posts. As you get to follow people, you’ll notice a routine, that the people who have specific fitness-related Instagram accounts, will post daily, with their eating and workout routines. I always feel like others are waiting for me to post, they’re counting on me to get my workout in. And believe it or not, there have been times where this has been the only reason that I have done my workout, is so that I could post it and say it’s complete.

Talk about the ultimate version of “doing it for the ‘Gram”

But this is important. It’s not egotistical, and it’s not that I’m feeling self-important. It’s that I work out at home, and therefore since I don’t interact with anyone like I might at the gym, I hold myself accountable to my online community, and that has forced me to create a habit of documenting my days in my home workout space.

2. Find motivational quotes and posts

As I mentioned before, when I first started out, I was still overweight, not very fit, and slightly ashamed to be posting sweaty images of my body all over social media. So I dipped my feet in the Instagram world by posting quotes that I found to be motivating; that I could look back at my page and remember why that quote struck a chord with me, and how I could use it to push me further.

I still post inspirational quotes to my account, usually about once a week. Sometimes they are not even fitness related, since I’ve discovered so much personal growth in the past three years, along with my physical growth.

I love when I’m scrolling through my Instagram feed, and someone else has posted a quote that stops me right in my tracks, and instantly hits home for me. Usually, I will re-post that on my page so that I can share it with others, hoping they will feel the same message as me.

3. Follow hashtags related to your interests
Hashtags are a very important part of the Instagram platform – they make it easier to find things of interest to you, as well as to allow people to interact with your profile as well. The way Instagram uses hashtags is an algorithm that seems to be ever changing, and very difficult to figure out, but these are the two ways that you can use hashtags to help you in your fitness pursuits:

A) Follow specific hashtags. Fitness looks different to every single person, so in this context, you must narrow down your search to find content that is relevant to you. Search for hashtags that have meaning to you, and will show you posts that are similar to what you are seeking. For example, if you have just started running, you might search and follow the hashtag #learntorun. This way you can see what other users are posting to gain inspiration, search on individual profiles, and find people to follow. Once you follow a specific hashtag, Instagram will intermittently show you user photos within your feed who have posted with that hashtag. If the photo interests you, you can click through to that person’s profile and maybe give them a follow.

B) Add hashtags to your posts. In order to have more people see your posts, you should add hashtags to them relevant to what you have posted. Just as I mentioned above how you may be searching for likeminded Instagrammers, they will be looking for you! For instance, I always workout using videos from FitnessBlender.com and so in each of my posts I use the hashtag #fitnessblender as well as their catch phrase at the end of every video, #workoutcomplete. I love connecting with other FitnessBlender users because even though they have experienced significant growth, it still feels like the best kept secret on the fitness web!

Additionally, I have also hashtagged some of the companies I use for various workout products, and they have featured my post on their own page, which expands your reach once again.

4. Make Real-World connections online
One of the best benefits that I completely did not foresee when I created this account, is the genuine, authentic connections I have made in this community. Each and every day I see so many comments of people building each other up, cheering on one another’s successes, and helping them through tougher times with positive comments. I have shared so much more than I ever thought I would on this account.

In fact, I’m much more open, vulnerable and honest on this account to a group of mostly strangers, than I am on my main personal account.

Each day I look forward to the posts of those who I have followed for a long time. and I love seeing them engage on my posts as well, since I know the online love we share is mutual 🙂

5. Track your progress

The best part about keeping an online diary is the ability to track your progress, and see how far you’ve come. On the days when I feel down, or that I’m not meeting my goals as quickly as I had hoped, it’s amazing to scroll back through and look at all of the programs I’ve completed, the inches I’ve lost, and the strength I’ve gained. Often that is enough to help push me through those difficult workouts and feelings of frustration!

Do you use Instagram for fitness? Drop me a comment below with your username and I would love to follow you!

All About the Paleo Diet

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Paleo – Should I Try It?

Up until 2015, I had never heard of the Paleo diet….sorry, allow me to correct myself. It’s a lifestyle, not a diet, which is how this is marketed across many Google searches and articles.

Essentially, the Paleo Diet is a short-form name for the Paleolithic Era, referring to the food that was available to our early ancestors, who basically could only eat things that they either A) Hunted or B) Gathered. In its purest form, it is intended that we would only eat the things that were available to our ancestors millions of years ago.

This plan is essentially good because it encourages you to eliminate any products which are manufactured, and instead focus on lots of nutritious fruits, vegetables, lean meats, as well as nuts and seeds.

When I first began to research the Paleo diet, I’ll be honest – I was feeling really awful physically, as I had not been eating well, and it was taking a toll on my body. The idea of eating things that were really good for my body, and could help with the symptoms of my autoimmune disease definitely seemed appealing.

I also wanted to lose about twenty pounds before standing as Maid of Honor in my sister’s wedding later that summer

So how do you get started eating Paleo?

My best suggestion is to obtain reading material to understand the reasoning behind the Paleo diet, and incorporate with that a cookbook with easy to follow recipes, that look to be something you would enjoy. For me, there is no bigger deterrent than looking at foods you are allowed to eat that do not look appetizing in the least.

I did some searching online for the most popular recommendations, and decided on Everyday Paleo by Sarah Fragoso. Sarah is at the forefront of the Paleo movement and really knows her stuff.
The first part of the book gives you a very good in-depth review of what Paleo is, and how to make it work.
The second part of the book is a large collection of recipes that can be used to cook for one or two people, or expanded to serve an entire family. There were some delicious recipes in this book.
Finally, the end of the book contains some easy-to-follow workout routines that you can either do in the gym or at home.

It’s a very thorough book that I have recommended to several friends and family.

The results came easily by following the Paleo diet.

The first week was a little bit difficult, both with getting used to eating in an entirely different manner, as well as acclimatizing to the lack of processed sugar in my body (and the associated headaches). However, after less than a week, I couldn’t believe the difference.

The mental clarity was like a fog that had been lifted.
I no longer craved the sugary, processed foods.
I was sleeping more deeply and soundly than I ever had.
And I was losing weight, while eating enough to keep me entirely satisfied.

My husband had joined me in this endeavor and was experiencing similar results:
Dropping weight and feeling re-energized.
Completely stopped taking heartburn and indigestion tablets
And the best part of me was that his snoring stopped!

Over the course of two months, we lost a combined 50 pounds, tried a lot of different foods, and felt great.

So why didn’t we stick with it?
To be honest with you, it’s hard to put a finger on when the commitment level started to wane. Initially, we were both so committed to the process that even when we went to social events, we were Paleo compliant. But eventually, we started to consume foods not in the Paleo arena when we were with friends. This started to bleed into some meals at home, until eventually we were still eating healthy and plentiful meals, but we had reintroduced foods that were not at all considered to be part of the Paleo diet.

I think, if we were required to be 100% compliant because of a life threatening health issue, we would have had no problem staying more committed to this lifestyle. But we are lucky that we don’t, and so we both found it a lot more work to continue that way, especially since we have children that we weren’t forcing to eat the same way as us.

Would I recommend Paleo?

Absolutely. I would recommend Paleo if you are looking to make a change in the way that you eat, and feel that refined sugar and processed foods are taking up too much space in your day to day diet.
If you have a sensitive stomach, I would encourage you to follow a Paleo based diet, since there are so many benefits to eating things that are naturally available ifrom the Earth today.
And even if you want to lose weight, I would recommend Paleo. As we know, losing weight is about consuming LESS calories than you burn. So, yes, you could still lose weight on many other options, such as calorie counting, Weight Watchers, Dr. Bernstein, etc. This way however, does allow you to feel like you are eating much more than allotted on other diets, because you are filling up on such nutrient dense foods.

I don’t think that I would endeavor to follow a Paleo lifestyle again, but I am holding on to that cookbook because there were so many great recipes, and I do believe in the value of limiting the over-processed foods we allow into our diet. Check out the Pecan Crusted Chicken inside Sarah’s book – you won’t be disappointed!

Have you ever tried Paleo? Tell me what you experienced in the comments below!

My Favourite Pre and Post Workout Supplements

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Over the course of my fitness journey, I have experimented with a lot of different exercises, different gyms, different nutritional ideas.
Every day is a chance to learn, and to grow. And if you don’t try, you’ll never know!

Up until one year ago, I had never tried any pre-workout or post-workout supplements. But as I started working out first thing in the morning (in a fasted state), I noticed that I was burning out halfway through my workouts, and the second half of my workout I felt let down and dejected that I couldn’t finish it with all of my effort.

I truly believe in the power of community, and so I reached out to my followers on Instagram to find out what others were using.

I experimented with a few brands, before settling on Optimum Nutrition products. Optimum Nutrition is a huge leader in the industry; their goal is to provide athletes with the highest quality sports nutrition products available. They focus on bringing consistent quality and are continually raising the standards.

For more than a year, I have been using Amino Energy by Optimum Nutrition as my pre-workout supplement. I prefer to buy from Amazon, since I know it will be delivered to my doorstep in two days using Amazon Prime! Amino Energy comes in many great tasting flavors. I haven’t tried all of them yet, but to date my favourite is the Orange Cooler – just like a popsicle!

What I love about Amino Energy is that the energy sources are green tea and green coffee extracts, so you aren’t left with a terribly jittery feeling. Just a natural caffeinated boost to help sustain you through your workout.

Following a workout, it’s important to replenish your body with protein, so that your muscles can begin the important task of repairing themselves.

Generally, I will prepare a large, excellent tasting protein smoothie, packed with nutrients to help in my recovery. In general, when searching for a good protein powder, you should be looking for ingredients that bring at least 25 grams of protein and less than 5 grams of carbs per serving. My recommendation for both nutritional content, and taste, is LeanFit 100% Whey Protein. Per scoop you get 25 grams of protein with only 2 grams of carbs, and the taste (especially the vanilla) is delicious – none of the chalky flavor that other protein powders leave behind.

But what if you’re not planning to eat right after your workout?

Sometimes, time may be of a factor and you don’t have time to prepare a proper breakfast. Alternatively, you may be following an eating schedule incorporating intermittent fasting. If that is the case, you will need to ensure you are consuming a recovery drink to help repair your muscles. This often is accomplished with the help of a BCAA, or Branched Chain Amino Acids. To save you the science behind these three acids, they help to kick start the protein-synthesis process, which helps you to build muscle and recover faster.
Optimum Nutrition has a wide variety of BCAAs available, both in pill and powder format. I prefer the powder and mix it with water in my shaker bottle to enjoy after a difficult workout.

If you use another product, let me know which ones you prefer and why!

My Fitness Journey

Hi there – and welcome to my page. However you’ve landed here, I’m glad you’ve made it. I would love to share a little bit about me.
When I was younger, sports were my everything. I played a lot of different sports, and would definitely self-describe as a tomboy! Once high school was complete, I ended up accepting a scholarship to the University of Detroit to play softball.

After leaving a successful four-year ball career behind, and graduating with my diploma, I left behind the rigorous fitness & conditioning schedule that came with the package of Division 1 athletics and moved into the working world; often working long hours, eating poorly, and neglecting my physical self.

I also got married, enjoyed living the newlywed life, and shortly after that, got pregnant with my first child.

To say that I put on some weight is an understatement. I felt sad, and disappointed in myself that I had let it get this far.
I bought a treadmill, and ran every day when my son was young. I felt cardio was the one and only way to get back to myself. I slaved on that machine. And the weight did come off, but I never saw the magic aha moment in my body.

After the birth of my second child, I joined a half marathon clinic to help lose the weight again, and get me in shape. I ignored the clinic instructors recommendations to also lift weights to aide in my running progress. It was cardio hardio, all the time.

This was the Chilly Half Marathon in March 2008. I was so proud of myself for setting this goal and reaching the finish line. After this moment, I immediately quit half marathons!

Then, a harsh dose of reality hit me.

I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, at only 30 years old. I could not wear shoes, pick up my kids, even basic functions like opening doors was a challenge.

Thankfully I was referred to a leading specialist, who has gotten me back to within so close of the life I knew, pre-diagnosis. You can read more about that here.

Flash forward to January 2016.

Like most people, I made a New Year’s Resolution to improve my Fitness, lose weight and keep myself in shape. I knew that I wasn’t interested in just a crash diet, but creating a consistent lifestyle for myself that would incorporate good eating, cardio PLUS weight lifting, and something that I could enjoy and sustain for the long term. This is my before photo that I took before my first workout in my unfinished basement that first day.

I began documenting my journey on Instagram. Posting photos and inspiring quotes, and also reaching out and following similar, like-minded people.

I wrote about how Instagram created the Fitness community I never knew I needed here.

It wasn’t always easy, but it was always worth it. I learned how to use MyFitnessPal consistently. First, by just counting calories, and later by more accurately tracking my macros which had been calculated by a coach, specifically for me.

Every day I show up in my home gym. I’ve learned how to lift properly, and increase my conditioning. Now, I use a complex variety of HIIT cardio and weight training, and incorporate running when I want to enjoy it. Each day I focus on getting stronger physically, and mentally.

So that’s my journey until now. Each day I love to learn more about health and fitness, and I do so mostly by interacting with some amazing people that I have found through social media. My journey has only just begun…

Thanks for following along. I’d love to hear more about your journey and what your goals are!