My Calming Pre-Workout Morning Routine

Not a real photo of my bed. Similar color scheme though :P [photo cred:  Unsplash ]

Not a real photo of my bed. Similar color scheme though :P [photo cred: Unsplash]

Lately, I’ve noticed how my mornings have set the tone for how I tackle the rest of my day. I have two very distinct routines: one for days where my workout is the main event of the day and one where I actually have to be a responsible adult and make money to fund the expensive habit that is ‘track and field’.

I’ll go over my pre-workout morning routine since it’s longer and has very specific points that I like to hit. I’m not a morning person whatsoever, so I take a lot of comfort in sticking with this routine. It allows for less thinking, less stress, and more motivation.

Here’s a quick look at how my mornings are set up before I jump into whatever my coach has to throw at me…


2 Hours Before Practice Starts

My alarm goes off. If I’m extra tired, my second alarm will also go off 30 minutes later.

During the summer,, practice times vary depending on what we have going on, what our coach has going on, what the weather is like, etc., etc.

Generally, though, I like to wake up two hours before I have to start warming up for practice. So if practice starts at 10 AM, I wake up at 8am. I’m going to say I woke up at 8am to make the rest of the routine easier to understand.


8:05am

Bathroom time. The usual hygiene routine commences - I brush my teeth and wash my face with water. I generally don’t use face wash in the morning. If I feel like I was too lazy the night before, I’ll give my face a quick wash with my COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser.

8:15am

I do the rest of my skincare routine in my room. I share a bathroom with a roommate and I don’t like to spend too much time in there, just in case they need to use it, too.

My pre-workout skincare is short and simple: Son & Park Beauty Water as my hydrating toner, whatever hydrating serum I have lying around, Belif The True Cream Aqua Bomb moisturizer, and sunscreen. Most days I forget to  use eye cream, but every now and then I’ll remember to throw it on.

8:20am

Breakfast time! Right now my go-to breakfast is a big bowl of Cream of Wheat and a cup of tea. I mix two different teas to get the bold taste of black tea and the health benefits of green tea at the same time. Genius, right?

I prefer to eat something filling and simple on practice days. Oatmeal and Cream of Wheat give me long-lasting energy, so I like to stick to them as much as possible.

Not real photos of my breakfast. My food always looks a lot more average than this. [photo cred:  Unsplash ]

Not real photos of my breakfast. My food always looks a lot more average than this. [photo cred: Unsplash]

[photo cred:  Unsplash ]

[photo cred: Unsplash]


8:40am

I take my supplements while I’m eating. At the moment it’s a multivitamin, iron, vitamin D, and allergy meds (thanks, pollen!).

I also like to watch or listen to something while I’m eating. Usually a short Youtube video or one of the many, many podcasts I’m subscribed to.

Ever the multitasker, I might even squeeze in some Japanese studying. At the moment, I only use a popular program called WaniKani to learn kanji. I’m looking to buy a workbook for grammar soon.



9:05am

I do a tiny bit of writing. Depending on my mood that might just be writing my to-do list for the day or even scrawling a mini journal entry where I dump some random thoughts and emotions that I’m tired of thinking about.


9:15am

I lie back in bed and close my eyes for another 10 - 15 minutes. Music or a podcast plays in the background. I generally take this time to reset and just spend some time not thinking. It’s hard to explain why this calms me so much, but this is definitely some weird form of meditation for me. I just like to give myself time to slow down and relax for a second.



9:30am

I get dressed, make my protein shake for after practice, fill my water bottle, and pack my bag.


9:45am

And finally off to practice!

For me, slow mornings allow me to find joy in all the little things I do. Doing skincare, making breakfast, writing - I find myself centered and ready for the day when it all goes according to plan.


How do you wake up in the mornings? Would you say you’re more an early bird or a night owl?

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Settling In

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This past week has been...interesting.

My body usually snaps back from trips pretty quickly, but the return from Japan was different. I’ve always adjusted to different time zones pretty quickly, and even by the end of my time in Japan I had almost settled in.

Coming back, however, was a struggle. The first four or five days I couldn’t get a full night’s sleep and was dead on my feet by noon every day. Tomorrow will mark two full weeks back, and I think it’ll be safe to say I’ve finally settled into a routine. 

My go-to method for fighting jet lag is sleep. I just force myself to sleep at bedtime in the time zone I happen to be in until I adjust. This is the first time my body hasn't fallen into line, and as I lay awake these past few nights/mornings I felt betrayed and forsaken.

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Thinking back on it, adjusting to and from Australia was nowhere near as hard. I’m not sure if it’s a time zone thing, or if it has to do with the amount of time we spent in each place, but I’m baffled by how affected I was by this trip. I guess this is something to keep in mind for the next time I make it out to Japan (#Tokyo2020).

 

It’s always nice to be home. Traveling and racing around the world can be fun and exciting, but all that comes packaged with a ton of stress and running on schedules that are not your own. I find a lot of comfort in my daily routines. In a way, they act as a reset for my general physical and mental wellness which only has positive effects on my performance on the track.

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I’m thinking of making a few posts next month on my various routines. Aside from the usual morning and night routines, I’ll probably write up a pre-track meet one as well. Let me know if there are any others you’re interested in and I’ll add it to the series.

 

This has basically been the week of rehab and recovery. I'm just glad to get back on track (*wink*wink*).

Have you ever suffered from horrible jet lag? Any tips for me and my next trip?


Visual Diary | IAAF World Relays Yokohama 2019

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5 days racing and exploring

Some background on the World Relays

The IAAF World Relays were started 5 years ago as an exciting new way to not only qualify some teams for the World Championships and Olympics, but also to further promote track and field in a more dramatic and exciting way. This was the first year the relays were held in Yokohama, Japan, as the previous three were held in the Bahamas.

Yokohama

Yokohama is Japan's second largest city, though it's often overshadowed by its even bigger neighbour, Tokyo. Considering how close they are – just 20km apart – the two cities have a markedly different vibe (at least that’s what I’ve been told). Yokohama has uncrowded, walkable streets and a friendly neighbourhood atmosphere that draws you in. I immediately felt at home in the new city, and despite the amusing reactions we got here and there, everyone was extremely warm and welcoming.

Driving through Yokohama, Japan
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I spent a total of 5 days in Japan and the majority of the time was spent preparing for the relay and qualifying for the World Championships in Doha, Qatar. I barely explored, took way less photos and video than I would have liked, and barely bought anything, but I feel like I left with an amazing feeling of hope, accomplishment, and wonder. Japan has always held a special place in my heart and my love for the country and culture has only grown more. I look forward to returning very soon.

watch my world relay vlog below:


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Progress Over Perfection

I’m well known among my friends for recording and taking photos of everything. I’m no stranger to having my phone out and taking film of random scenery and often find myself going back through tons of random photos and videos and reminiscing about that awesome plant I saw or that funny moment with friends I was lucky enough to capture on film.

I’ve always told myself I’ll use these assets for my blog and my Youtube channel. I mean, I can’t capture readers’ attention without an eye-catching photo, right? And how can I make a video worth watching if I don’t get the perfect shot?

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At least that’s what I told myself. Like many of us, I get stuck in the cycle of perfection, and despite my best efforts to work on it, I still often wind up not getting anything done and hating my lack of drive and dedication. This leads to even less work getting done, which leads to less drive, and so on and so forth. You get the idea.

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I’m sure you’ve noticed I come back to this blog in spurts, my mind flowing with renewed energy. That never lasts long. But this time I’m taking a different approach to it. Less pressure to stay on task and stick to a calendar and more freedom to just write what’s on my mind.


Instead of waiting for the perfect moment to film, or making sure my videos are edited to perfection, I’ll focus on just getting it done, and work on my skills as it goes. Things are going to be crappy in the beginning, and that’s fine. I’d like to look back here and be proud of not just the content, but also the consistency of my work, and I think this step is necessary for that to happen.


So, if I haven’t written a blog post in a while, don’t be afraid to give me a reminder that you’re desperate to hear my outpouring of random thoughts and feelings or that you’re super interested in my Olympic journey and need an update as soon as possible. And of course, I’m always open to hearing what you want to read about or see.


As a showing of good faith, here’s my latest Youtube video. Let me know what you think of it in the comments below! After all, this is all just a work in progress.


My latest Miami vlog:


Hello, Outdoor Season

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Florida Relays: The Season Opener

I opened up my outdoor season at Florida Relays this year! It’s always exciting getting on the track for your first race of the season, especially when it’s somewhere almost guaranteed to be warm, like Florida.

I originally planned to run the 200m first and the 100m the second, but I didn’t get accepted into the 100m, so I stuck with the one race to focus on for the opener. In hindsight, not running into the 100m ended up being a blessing in disguise. With only one race to focus on, I pretty much just gave it my all.

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The race went fine. I ran my second fastest 200 time ever (23.76) but obviously realized there was so much to work on. I felt strong and sure on the curve, but struggled to keep that feeling in the last 100 meters.

The subsequent week was spent getting my body back to neutral. My groin felt iffy coming off the race and in this sport, it’s easy for the little things to come back and bite you in the ass later down the line.

After getting some good, hard practices in with no issues, I felt confident enough to jump back into racing. At this point, I’m feeling pretty fit. I want to get in what I call “race shape”. Training and racing are two very different mediums, and while I could be doing amazing at practice, getting that feeling in a race is a totally different story.

 

 
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Round 2: Miami

We started our first day in Miami relaxing on the beach. Having that beach day going into the meet was unexpectedly needed. Oftentimes I find myself putting a lot of restrictions on my actions and activities leading up to a meet.

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I’ll watch what I eat very carefully, I won’t walk or wander around too much to “save my legs”, I’ll avoid a lot of new foods because I’m wary of how my body will react to them. Having a day with the team relaxing and just generally having a good time in the sun was a good reminder that sometimes the best thing to do is have fun with everything.

Too often you get caught up stressing about the perfect conditions and fighting for a time or a height or a distance. At the end of the day, it’s all about finding joy in the sport. Even with the lowest of low performances, if you can find tidbits of happiness in the process, it can make it all worth it.

And I did have fun in Miami, maybe the most fun I’ve had at a meet since the Commonwealth Games in Australia. I had an amazing time at the beach, ate some delicious food, and enjoyed the meet.

This time around I ran the 100 and 200. I ran a windy 11.37. Disappointed about the wind, but very excited for the next one. The 200 wasn’t as great. I was beat from the 100 and I’m probably still getting used to running outdoors in the blazing heat. I’m sure it’ll all come together in the coming weeks.

 

 
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What’s Next?

It’s back to the drawing board this week. Getting the kinks out and always moving forward. I’ll be back at the University of Florida next week running both races again, so we’ll see how it goes!

I’m still finalizing my schedule for the rest of the summer, but as things come in I’ll update you guys here! And if there’s anything else you’re curious about let me know! I can never really talk too much about track.

♥︎ Gemma

 

 

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Podcast On Repeat: Batch Bitch

Two years ago I wrote a review on one of my favorite podcasts, Do Go On. That was back in the day, when I listened to about 3 podcasts regularly and often cycled through old episodes as I waited for new ones to come out.

That podcast list has now expanded to around 13 or 14. Funnily enough, 10 of those are hosted by Australians. Do Go On and The Weekly Planet expanded my podcast universe to the depths of Australian comedy, and I can’t say I’m very upset about it.

Now that you have enough context, I can introduce you to one of my new favorites:

“Batch Bitch is a podcast where comedians Naomi Higgins and Danielle Walker bitch about The Bachelor AU franchise, or, in the off season, have a much more fun time talking about random shit.”

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Naomi Higgins

Naomi is a self-described “very cool girl”, which I completely agree with. She is a total social justice warrior who’s not afraid to stand up for what’s right, and her tangents on misogyny, the patriarchy, and everything else wrong with the world make my day.

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Danielle Walker

Danielle is a ”strange, if not perhaps slightly deranged girl known for her dark and twisted everyday observations and stories.” Totally true. Her stories and hypotheticals always sound so out there, but I can’t help but love it.

I came in kind of late to this podcast. Naomi has been a guest on a few of the other podcasts I listen to, but it wasn’t until she and Danielle guested on Matt Stewart’s podcast, Prime Mates, that I decided to give it a try. By then, they had finished going through both The Bachelor AU and The Bachelorette AU and were floundering for something else to talk about until Bachelor in Paradise AU.

That meant I couldn’t watch the episodes with them, but let’s face it, I was never going to do that anyway. It probably wouldn’t have been tons of work to find a way to watch the Australian shows, but I find Naomi and Danielle are so good at giving play-by-plays of the shows that I don’t even feel like I’m missing out on anything.

After two years of constant podcast-listening, I’ve found that the ones I stick to and enjoy the most are ones that feel like I’m just hanging out with friends. They make me feel that if I met any of these people in real life, that we’d be great friends. At least, that’s what I tell myself, haha!

According to iTunes, I’ve listened to all the episodes 4 times, and I’m going through number 5 right now. I will say they’re still trying to figure out a consistent posting schedule, but that’s understandable considering they’re busy women that have other important things going on in their lives...I assume.

They recently chose a new Australian show to focus on, Married At First Sight, and so far, it’s proving to be a drama-filled show that will definitely give tons funny moments for the podcast and, of course, lead to many hilarious and thought-provoking rants from the duo.

And did I mention that they sing the intro music to for every episode to random background music?! I know that sounds weird, but really it’s hilarious and I love hearing them just have so much fun with it all.

If you’re looking for a podcast hosted by 2 kick-ass friends who thrive on drama and aren’t afraid to say what’s on their minds, then this is the podcast to listen to!

If you’ve listened to this podcast already, let’s talk about it! I’m desperate to gain more friends who are into podcasts as much as I am. Also, let me know what kind of podcasts you’re into. Motivational? Educational? True Crime? I’m always interested in learning what’s out there.

♥︎ Gemma


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Turning 26

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I’m officially one year older! Another year closer to 30, which will be the start of the best years of my life according to everyone on the internet.

I had a pretty laid-back birthday. It was a snow day so I had a forced day off work. Snow days are always nice because I don’t have to work and I don’t have to feel bad about not working. It’s a win-win (not counting the fact I’m not making any money).

I hadn’t made any plans because I just wasn’t in the mood to do anything crazy. I spent the day relaxing and basking in the joy of messages and phone calls from friends and family.

My friends, Ramon and Flings, surprised me with a few birthday gifts, one of which was a stuffed bunny that looks so realistic that it sometimes scares me when I see it out of the corner of my eye.

Yesterday, I ate pizza and drank as much juice as I wanted, and I loved it. It’s just been nice taking things slow this week.

I don’t have much else to say. I thought about making some long, introspective post about my growth in the past year, or how I’ve changed and where I’m at in life, but I just couldn’t find the words. And at this point, I’m not going to force myself to stress about it. So instead, bring in another year of life with me by enjoying these photos my friend took of me.

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Gemma Acheampong smiling in road

Photos all courtesy of Chevis Armstead II.


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Back in Action / Harvard and BU 2019

Gemma Acheampong post-race in Boston
Gemma Acheampong post-race in Boston

I raced last weekend. You heard that right. A race. Me. Running. In a competition. I feel like it’s been ages since I last competed. I barely had an outdoor season (I ran maybe 4 or 5 races total), I took an actual vacation with my family this summer, and I started pre-season training a lot later than usual. Thinking about it now this has probably been my longest stretch between races since college.

I opened my season in Boston, or what I like to refer to as “my almost-hometown”. I’ve run at the Harvard Crimson Elite Meet for the past 7 years, and it’s always been a great place to compete. I don’t always perform well, but the people are nice, they stick to the schedule as closely as possible, and the straightaway never disappoints. I was happy to find this year that they even resurfaced their facilities and the feel of it underfoot did not disappoint.

My preliminary race went fine. It’s always feel so shaky in the first race of the season and this was no different. It was a slow start out of the blocks because of this as I basically just did my best to stay centered and not false start. I ended up pushing through the bad start and finishing with a decent time - 7.41. (For reference my PR is 7.35). The good thing about having qualifying rounds to run is that you have another chance to work on things and run well. I was fortunate enough to have some great women in the finals with me, which resulted in an exciting final. With the cobwebs dusted off in the prelims, I was able to execute the push I needed to finish with a time I could be happy with. I ended the night .02 away from my PR, sore shins, and excitement for my upcoming 200.

Image by  Kevin Morris

Image by Kevin Morris

The next day I ran another almost-PR in the 200 at the BU Bruce Lehane Scarlet and White Invitational. It’s always so nostalgic to return to my alma mater and run on the track that I matured so much on. It’s always a good day when you don’t run shitty and you can see friends that are still in the area. I ran a solid 24.16, which is .01 off my indoor 200 PR.

My takeaways from both races: I’ve got the pushing and accelerating part of the race down. So far this year I’ve been focusing on my starts and being aggressive. When watching the races, I can see the improvements I’ve made in those departments, but now I know I need to shift some of my focus on transitioning. I need to learn to stop pushing the whole way and actually run the rest of my races.

I’m not sure if I’ll compete again this indoor season (the chances are super slim at the moment), but I’m not too stressed about it. I’m happy I was able to get a good gauge of how my training is progressing and I’m looking forward to working on things and attacking outdoor with all I’ve got.

I’m excited for what’s to come this year!


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