So you want to start weightlifting?

I don’t look like the kind of girl who lifts heavy weights, in fact, I probably don’t look like the kind of girl who goes to the gym at all. But – plot twist alert – I make sure I get to the gym four or five times a week. Why? I love weightlifting.

Weight lifting is perfect for those of us who don’t enjoy cardio (so that’s pretty much all of us). I started weight training about seven months ago, and only plucked up the courage to lift heavy weights (squatting, deadlifting etc.) about two months ago. I started because although I’d lost weight through running, my body was… Not looking the way I wanted it to. I wasn’t toned, I had zero muscle, and I still felt kind of like a blob if I’weights1m honest. I followed lots of fitness accounts on Instagram, and all these girls had the bodies I wanted (check out Georgia Hickey for an Irish example, her figure is on point). What did they all have in common? They lifted weights, so I said I’d try it out too.

Although I started using machines like the leg press, I was still afraid to head over to the free weights section of the gym. A lot of the time it’s a male dominated area, and I was really intimidated by it. Even though I’d wanted to learn how to squat for months, I was afraid of trying it out and looking like an idiot. But now that I know what I’m doing on “the other side”, I’m kicking myself for not starting sooner. So for any of you girls thinking about using the free weights section, I’d say to just go for it. Here are my tips for getting started and not feeling like the most awkward person in Europe while doing so.
My first piece of advice is to research before you step foot in the gym. Take note of the exercises you want to do, find out which muscles they help to build up, and learn how to use the machines. My favourite method of research is Youtube, and my workouts come from a compilation of Jen Heward, Robin Gallant and Nikki Blakketter’s videos. I have three workouts planned for myself: legs, arms and shoulders, and back, chest and core. Write a list of the exercises you want to do for each of these groups and bring it to the gym with you; you can always tell that somebody is a beginner if they’re standing around looking confused about what to do next. Your list will keep you focused, and with all your research you’ll know exactly what you’re doing.

Don’t be afraid of what other people think of you. I know that’s easier said than done, and I still worry that I look like an idiot, but I always remind myself of this: when I’m exercising, I’m too focused on myself to notice what anyone else is doing, and this is the same with almost everyone. If someone is looking at you, chances are they’re just trying to figure out how the hweights2ell you’re using that confusing looking machine.

Everyone has to start somewhere, so don’t be embarrassed when you’re finding it difficult to squat with just the barbell at first. And if people are at the gym to stand around staring at others, they’re clearly not there for the right reasons. I’ve dropped weights on my feet and I’ve hit my head off barbells more times than I’d care to admit, but you know what? Who cares! Everyone makes mistakes, so just keep thinking to yourself, “I’m doing this for myself, and I’m going to get strong.” To hell with what other people think.

If you’re still feeling a little intimidated, I’d recommend going to the gym at a quiet time. I’m always the first person in there at ten o’clock on Sunday mornings, because I can head straight to the squat rack and there’s no waiting around. Once you get more confident, it’ll be easier to hit the gym at 4 o’clock on Mondays.

What helped me the most when it came to lifting heavy weights was going into the free weights section with someone who was familiar with it. Although I love hitting the gym by myself, I wouldn’t have had the courage to teach myself how to squat or deadlift. But what if you don’t know anyone who uses the free weights section? Well, I didn’t either. As I said, I followed lots of people on Instagram who had an interest in fitness and weight lifting, so when I noticed that one of them used the gym at UL, I asked him to help. Luckily for me, he was more than happy to show me what I wanted to know and had the patience of a saint when I could barely balance the barbell on my shoulders. It might take two or three times before you’re comfortable going it alone, so don’t be afraid to keep asking for help. weights3

And my final tip is to be consistent. Contrary to belief, weight lifting doesn’t make you bulky without years and years of work. It takes a while for muscle to build up, but it’s so rewarding when you hit new PR’s and can lift heavier weights. Also, unlike cardio, weight lifting helps to speed up your metabolism. Even when you stop exercising, you continue to burn fat all day after a workout. And the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, so it’s a win-win situation really.

If any of you have questions about weight training feel free to ask me on Twitter @micwbu. I’m no expert, but I certainly know how scary it can be when you’re a beginner.

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Mental illness is not confined to anxiety and depression

We think we’re destigmatising mental health issues by talking about anxiety and depression more, when we’re really just destigmatising anxiety and depression more, and that’s it.

I can tell you that a lot of people are going to read that sentence and think, “And?” or “What’s she talking about?” You probably thought I messed up what I was trying to say, or maybe you don’t think there’s anything wrong with that sentence. Anxiety and depression are mental health issues, right? Yes, but mental health issues are not confined to anxiety and depression.

You could argue that anxiety and depression are the more talked about illnesses because they’re the most common ones, but we don’t know just how true that is. More often than not, mood disorders that show any signs of depression, such as bipolar disorder, are put down to just that – depression. It can take years for doctors and even patients themselves to realise that there is something more to their problem.

As I said, patients can go undiagnosed for years, because they don’t really know that they have a problem. Personally, I know how that feels. I went until the age of fifteen before realising that there was something wrong with me, that this crippling anxiety I’d been feeling my whole life was not normal. Why didn’t I realise? Well, because nobody ever talked about it. Ten years ago, anxiety was still a taboo. People weren’t sure if it was a real thing, they looked down on people who had it, they didn’t understand it, and they were scared of it. And while I’m so glad that moves have been made to destigmatise anxiety and make my life that little bit easier, I can’t help but think about the people who still have a mental illness that nobody talks about. I can’t help but think about the forgotten side of mental health.

Unfortunately the likes of borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder still have a huge amount of stigma attached to them. People forget that they are a part of the group of mental illnesses, and they know little to nothing about them. Because they know nothing about them, the people who have to live with these illnesses every day are afraid to talk about them. And because they’re afraid to talk, nobody is learning.

When there’s so little information given to us about these illnesses, how are people supposed to recognise that they have a problem in the first place? Would you know the signs of borderline personality disorder if you had them? Most people wouldn’t. Oftentimes, patients are only diagnosed when their illness gets to an advanced stage, and this is what helps make up the negative stigma attached to the illness.

And that’s not the only thing that creates negative portrayals of mental illness. Patricia R. Owen conducted a study on the portrayals of schizophrenia by entertainment media, and in this study of more than 40 movies (released between 1990 and 2010) she discovered that over 80% of characters who were schizophrenic showed violent behaviour, and almost a third displayed suicidal behaviour. This portrayal that people with schizophrenia are dangerous is wrong, and it’s having a detrimental effect on sufferers who are afraid to speak out for fear of having this label slapped on them.

People have a fear of the unknown, but we can help them with that. By speaking out more about the less commonly known mental illnesses, we can break the stigma attached to them and help sufferers feel more at ease when talking about them. We think we’re destigmatising mental health issues by talking about depression and anxiety more, but we need to speak more about mental illness as a whole. We can’t keep leaving certain issues out because we’re afraid of the unknown.

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Opportunity is the bird that never perches

My problem in life is that I want to have it all, it always has been and probably always will be. I want to be the best, I want to work the hardest, I want to get the best results. And the problem here? The reason that I’m writing this blog post? Well I’ve strived to be the best, I’ve worked really hard and I’ve gotten some pretty good results. I had a bit of a dilemma, where all my trying had paid off BUT… I was being offered everything that I wanted, all at once.

A big part of my course is our work placement, I’ll be doing a six month stint from January to June next year to get some hands on experience in the world of Journalism. A couple of weeks ago I had an epiphany, the God’s had spoken and I’d decided what I wanted to with my life. I was adamant I’d pursue a career in broadcast journalism, be it television or even radio presenting. I contacted a local radio station and, shocker alert, they were happy to take me on for the full six months. So everything was going smoothly for me, and then there was a spanner thrown into the works…

Back in September I’d decided I wanted to try news writing. There’s just something appealing about being a news writer, you know? Those women on RTÉ really look like they have their shit together – smart, sensible, admirable. Believe it or not, I want to be sensible someday too. I talked to a newspaper back home who said they’d be happy to take me on, but as per usual I wanted that little bit more. I knew the Limerick Leader was a fantastic placement down here, it’s probably one of the best ones available. So I applied, thinking nothing of it really. I thought to myself, “Sure all I write about is boys that don’t like me, I can’t be good enough for news.”opportunity

I had that same thought the night before the interview, but a friend reassured me that if I wasn’t good enough for the job, I wouldn’t be getting interviewed in the first place. And for some reason, that really helped, because heading into that room I wasn’t one bit nervous. Yes me, the Queen of anxiety, not one bit nervous about my first ever job interview. I’m still a bit puzzled about that one. Anyways, I’m assuming my confidence that came from God-knows-where shone through, because I got offered the placement straight away. Shocked? Me too.

Then the doubt started to kick in. What if I’m not good enough for news? But SHIT I’ve already decided I want to do radio? What am I going to DO? So I stopped and thought about it. Fuck it, I’m going to do both.

opp2You have to seize all the opportunities that come your way, because some of them won’t come around twice. Yes, broadcast media is where I can see myself in the future, but why limit myself to entertainment? Why not get a good foundation in news writing, and give myself the option to work in radio news? The Limerick Leader is a placement that I just can’t pass up on, after hearing all the previous students who’ve worked there ranting and raving about it. But I’m not giving up on radio either. I’m hoping and praying that I can switch my placement to summer time (Yes, I want to give up even more of my time to work for free) so that I can leave college with the skills I need to get into broadcast journalism.

Of course I’m still worried about news writing, it’s me, and it’d be odd if I wasn’t worried. But it’s a challenge for me, and it’s something I’ve never really touched on bar a few assignments here and there. I’m excited to push myself, to write about new things and to learn the tricks of the trade. I know that I can be whoever I want to be, I can do whatever I want to with this career. I want to give myself the best opportunity to get a good job when I leave college, and I’m picking up as many skills as possible to ensure that happens.

My problem in life is that I want to have it all. But, why let that be a problem? Be the best, work the hardest, and get the best results. You can do it all if you really want to.

“Opportunities will come and go, but if you do nothing about them, so will you.”     — Richie Norton

 

When now is just a bad time

The rain is pelting down against your bedroom window and you’re lying in bed, watching the last of the romantic comedies you’re yet to see on Netflix. It’s -10 degrees in your badly insulated, slightly damp student house but you don’t care. Why? Because you’re cuddled up with your latest beau, the one you’re hoping is your knight in shining armour. Unrealistic? Probably, but a girl can dream.badtiming3

It’s been a while now since you started seeing each other, and you’re starting to wonder where you stand. Is he seeing other girls? Does he like me as much as I like him? Does he want me to be his girlfriend? Well, the best way to get answers to your questions is to start by asking them. But sometimes these answers can leave more questions to be answered.

Some awkward, beating around the bush type questions are asked. What you’re really trying to say is, “Are you looking for a relationship?” Cue plenty of long pauses, awkward silences and there’s definitely a disappointed look on someone’s face. Eventually there’s an explanation as to why you’re not getting the response you’d expected, “Now is just a bad time.” Great, thanks for that one. But is there ever a good time?

badtiming2I feel like any time I’ve been in a relationship, it’s ended because of bad timing. Any time I’d consider getting serious with someone it’s always the same, the whole “Now is just a bad time” excuse yet again. When I was 15, it was bad timing because I was too young for something serious. When I was 17, it was bad timing because I had more important things to concentrate on, like my leaving cert. When I was 18, I was going into my first year of college and everyone told me it was silly to be tied down. And now? I’ll hopefully be heading to Manchester on Erasmus in September. And after that, well I’m God only knows where in the country for my work placement. After college I’ll want to travel or do something a little exciting with my life, and who’d want to be tied down for that? Am I ever going to have “time” for a relationship? How do people make time for these things? Teach me your ways, please.

When is the right time for a relationship? Because I’m pretty sure when you’re 26 or 27 and you’ve done majority of those fun things you’d always wanted to do, it’s a little late to start searching for your soulmate. Our parents and grandparents met each other at our age, yet now all we want to do in our late teens and early twenties is be single. Life is changing and there’s more and more emphasis being put on being a tough, independent and strong-minded person; there’s this perception that a relationship will eliminate that from your life. We’re being encouraged that while you’re young, you’re better off being alone.badtiming

But what if we keep turning people down because we’re too busy to commit? Mr or Mrs Right could be standing there on your doorstep and you’re like sorry kid, I want to visit Japan and there’s no room for you to come with me. My fear right now is that I’ll end up 35 years old, still single, and thinking about the one that got away when I was 21. The life of an overthinker, eh?

Anyways, the moral of the story is that I’m going to stop using “Now is just a bad time” as an excuse to end, or even just fail to continue something. Because I’m a big paranoid overthinker and I don’t want to miss out on something just because I was “busy”. Yep, I’ve certainly changed my tune compared to this time last year. But I guess if you like somebody enough, then timing shouldn’t be an issue anyways. Lets just hope that the man of my dreams isn’t too busy for me, wherever the hell he is.

The February Blues

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I knew February would be a rocky month for me, it has been for the last couple of years. February doesn’t like me, and I despise it just as much, but as low as I feel I’m not letting it get the better of me. I started to notice the changes in myself a few weeks ago. I didn’t feel like going out, I just wanted to sleep all the time, I wasn’t eating properly and I just didn’t feel happy. And that’s scary for me, because I knew just how bad my mental health was capable of getting again. But this time I’m taking control of my own happiness, I’m not letting my mental health deteriorate.

The problem with taking control of your mental health is that a lot of the time, we leave it too late. We fail to recognise the signs that we’re falling down a slippery slope and by the time we realise, it’s too hard to get back up. We feel like we’re stuck in a bottomless hole, and it’s impossible to get out. So many people don’t seek medical help until they’re really bad, which is why it’s so important to help yourself from the get go. This time, I’ve been trying really hard to make myself feel better.

I’ve been leaving the house, even when I really don’t want to. I’m still going to all my lectures, because I know that skipping class makes me anxious and that’s what I want to avoid. When I skip a class, I don’t know what’s going on in the next class, which makes me anxious to go to that one too. It’s easier to just get up off my ass and prevent that happening in the first place. I’m making sure I see my friends, and I’m trying to go out and have as much fun as I normally would. The latter isn’t working out too well at the moment, but hey, I’m working on it, there’s always room for improvement.

I’ve been keeping myself really, really busy. I have a tendency to spend my spare time lying in bed, overthinking, but I’m not letting myself do that this time. I have a to-do list on my phone of all the things I should have done over the last week, but let go over my head. I’m currently ticking away at those and the shorter the list gets, the better I feel knowing I’m getting things done. Plus, it gets me out of bed and into the library, doing something productive with my life.

If I could, I’d be working my ass off in the gym at the moment. After walking 22 kilometres in the pouring rain in Amsterdam, I have a chest infection that’s caused me to very nearly cough up a lung about five times now. So yeah, I’m taking a break from the gym until I get better, which isn’t doing much for my mental health at the moment. But next week I’m going to get back into it, because I know it’s the one thing that always makes me feel better.

As with all illnesses, prevention rather than cure is key when it comes to mental health. I know that my anxiety is going to get bad again if I let it, but I’m taking small steps to ensure that doesn’t happen. Just because you’re starting to feel down again, doesn’t mean you’ll spiral into a deep depression once more. Just because you’re feeling anxious, doesn’t mean you’ll be too scared to leave your house in two weeks time. Life is full of ups and downs for everyone, and it’s all about doing the best you can to make yourself feel okay again. Remember that no matter how bad things are, they always get better.

Ghosting – When He Falls Off The Face of The Earth

You’ll never appreciate an ending until you don’t get one. I used to be one of those girls who got upset if the guy I liked, told me he didn’t like me. “It’s not that I don’t like you, I just don’t want to complicate things” and “Well, I don’t want a relationship if that’s what you mean” are two of those instances that instantly come to mind. But now I’d almost leap with joy at the fact that I’d received a little bit of honesty, and could move on with my life. Because anything’s better than being ghosted. ghosting1

Ghosting is when a guy falls off the face of the earth. Everything seems to be going well, heading towards a relationship even, and then BAM, three strikes and you’re out. He opens your snapchats and doesn’t reply. He ignores your texts. He goes out of his way to avoid you. Heuston, we have a problem here. Where did I go wrong?

First comes the “making up excuses” stage, where you’re still defending him a little. You reassure yourself that maybe he’s just busy with college work, or maybe his phone is broken. But that doesn’t last very long, and soon you start to blame yourself. When you’re given no reason, your imagination is free to make one up itself. Is it because I’m fat? Did I come off as too keen? Does he like somebody else?

ghosting2Although you don’t hear from them again, the door is never fully closed, and that’s the annoying part. The disregard is insulting. The lack of closure is maddening. You move on, but not before your self-esteem takes an almighty hit. You spend ages moping around the house, constantly checking your phone in the hope that maybe they’ll make contact again. But no, unfortunately nothing, nada, zilch.

So why do guys do this? Well, after a horrible ghosting experience a couple of months ago, I decided to ask one of the guys. And his answer, the response we’ve all been waiting to hear? It’s because they’re scared, simple as. When a guy has seen a girl more than a handful of times, they know that there’s the possibility of it getting serious and progressing into something more. And that of course, can bring complications. Cue the fear of being tied down and losing their independence, and we have a ghost on our hands. Sometimes you get so worried about not getting your own heart broken, that you don’t really care whose you break along the wayghosting4.

Also, ending things can be kind of awkward. I mean, what do you even say? It’s hard to just be honest, we’re a generation that find it hard to express our feelings after all. Sometimes it’s easier to just ignore and hope they get the hint, even if it is kind of mean.

So what should you do if you’re being ghosted? Well, when somebody sees your messages and isn’t responding you should probably take the hint. But if you’re feeling ballsy, just ask them about it. It always helps to be honest (that’s the motto of this blog post, kids) and you never know, it might just fix things when you know where the other person stands. Has done for me once or twice.

ghosting3But if things don’t work out the way you want them to, there’s no point in getting hung up about it. Look at it this way, you’re just making room for the right person. Things can’t work out with everyone, after all. If you want to know something, just be upfront about it. It’s always better to know the truth.

 

Michaela Meets: Walking On Cars

It’s been a long wait for the fans, but Walking On Cars debut album “Everything This Way” is finally being released on January 29th. In Universal’s Dublin office, I got the chance to speak to Paul Flannery (bass guitarist) and Dan Devane (guitarist) about Walking On Cars’ last few hectic months. WOC_Packshot

The new album gives us plenty of new songs to listen to, but after signing with Virgin, were the band convinced to change their sound? Dan says no, not really, and that there’s always a misconception that a record label will come in and tear a band apart. The lads seem pretty damn appreciate of Virgin in fact, because they’re all too aware of how expensive a career in music can be; making an EP, buying a van, paying for diesel and hotels. They’re happy to be getting a wage at the end of the day now, and Dan jokes, “They [Virgin] have better resources than we have to help us achieve our goals, which is of course, taking over the world.”

While the financial side of things is improving for the band, there’s still the challenges that come with touring. Both of the lads agreed that it can be very hard for their lead singer, Pa, who has a baby. But how does touring effect their love lives? “We all have girlfriends and boyfriends, but I’d say they’re more than happy to have us out of the house for a week or two” Paul laughed. Dan added that no matter how difficult the challenges are, you always get past them, “We just did a sold out show over in London to 1000 people and we were just blown away by the reaction. All the challenges disappear then, and you think ‘Wow, that was amazing’. It’s worth it.”

Walking on cars_Press Photo_PORTRAIT FINALAnyone who listens to Walking On Cars knows that their music can deal with a lot of personal issues; broken hearts, angst, sorrow. But is it hard to always come up with these type of lyrics? Paul says that because everyone always has their problems, even when things appear to be running smoothly, it’s easy to put the songs together. He added “It’s a lot harder to write a convincing happy song than it is to write a convincing sad song. If we wrote a song about all our happy times, I think people would be pretty sickened with it!” The band try not to let things get too dreary though, and Dan explained that even though the themes are dark they like to keep the sounds upbeat.

Walking On Cars have been announcing that a debut album would be coming up for what seems like forever, and the lads are really happy that the time is finally here. They recognised that fans were getting frustrated, and when they got a solid release date Paul said his initial response was, “Yes! Tell the people!”

Judging by the band’s Youtube views, the fans are really liking the new music. Their single “Speeding Car” racked up more views in the first two weeks than any of their other videos had in the first two months. Paul says that the comments on the videos can put you in a really good mood too, especially when hungover. He said, “You read a few comments and you’re like, yeah, I can get out of bed now.”Photo01_19flat_f1lowres

Walking On Cars are used to performing live now, but that doesn’t mean that the nerves go away. Paul says that nerves can hit at the weirdest of times, like when you’re playing a small gig in Nottingham in front of 26 people. Another time you’d be playing in a bigger venue like the Olympia, and you’d be absolutely fine. Dan says that nerves are unavoidable, but that they’re not always a bad thing, “It takes a few songs to get settled as well, to get the adrenaline up. Then you see one of your friends in the row and you’re like, ‘Stop looking at me!’ You learn to use that though. It’s where the energy comes from.”

Photo01 (2)Like any band, when they first started out music was just a hobby, but now it’s a full-time career. Do the lads still enjoy writing and playing music as much as they used to? “Definitely” they said. When music is your main focus and you don’t have to work in another job full-time, it’s a lot easier. The lads were full of stories of tougher times, but they appreciate the memories all the same, “We used to drive to Belfast in our really shite van, it was terrible. Sometimes it didn’t even work. One time we had to drive home in it and it kept overheating. It was a bank holiday Sunday, driving home from Derry, and every ten miles we’d have to stop and refill the water thing. We had to stop in the shop and be like ‘Can I have twenty litres of water?’ Fill it up, drive ten miles, stop, let it cool down, repeat. Things like that don’t happen anymore. But that was all great craic, it’s part of it.”

And their hopes and expectations for the album? Well they want megabucks, yachts and trips to the Carribean. No really, they genuinely just hope that people will like it. They want to pick up some new fans from around the world, and maybe get some good festival slots this summer too. Paul told me, “We really can’t wait for it to come out, then we can start working on the second album.” Get cracking lads!