Begin Again. Cleanly.

via Daily Prompt: Clean

It seems the trend of my personal tragedies are of the relationship-sort. One heartbreak leading to another if only offering me some sporadic respite. But as soon as I get my groove back, as soon as I’m in a happy and good place in my life, content and productive, some guy comes along who’ll go to great lengths to convince me he’s worth my time.

I have major trust issues. I survived a physically abusive relationship 9 years ago that left me with a huge scar from a laceration that my knife-welding ex slivered over my arm. I took years alone and outside of a relationship after that just to heal and feel safe again. When I finally got back into a serious one, he ended up being the total opposite of his blonde, blue-eyed All American southern upbringing nature: he was a narcissistic sociopath who took pleasure at chipping away at my self confidence, esteem, and sanity. And successfully got all his family and friends to see me as a crazy woman who harassed him. When really, he lied about TOO MANY THINGS (got caught red handed too) and kept changing tiny details of his stories to me so that I would begin questioning my memory and sanity (Google “gas lighting”).

Then you come to a point years later where you think you’re supposedly wiser and MORE CAREFUL. I mean, as careful as I’ve ever been. And still, people can be absolute Jekyll & Hydes. A marraige-oriented lover who speaks of a good life for you both (and your son), a lover who has been nothing but a positive force in your life, teaching you optimism and patience in levels you haven’t operated much on before, a lover who also looked out for you career-wise, takes a week-long business trip and goes from “Love, I miss you,” to “I need space,” and you have no clue what just happened. The same lover who suddenly sounds and speaks differently, addressing you in such a formal way on emails instead of the ubiquitous “Hi honey” greetings. The same lover who used to fill you in on his entire schedule is now doing excellently at creating a great distance from you. And you don’t know why. And this is the same person who put up with hours into the early morning talking out your worries, trying to assure you he will be there for you. That all is well between you and that your bond and commitment are stronger than the troubles you face today. This lover now tells his friends he’s been avoiding you because you’ve been stalking him. Only you’re not stalking him, just been reaching out because you haven’t heard from him in a week and you’re worried for his safety. You see him actively online but he won’t send a message. Your gut starts to put up red flags. You ignore it because you want to prove to him you trust him. But it all gets too conspicuous. Ironically enough, if he hadn’t relentlessly pursued you and gone lengths to convince you he was worth your time, you wouldn’t even have given him a second thought. Because really, he wasn’t your type to begin with.

I shed no tears for that idiot. I shed a tear for myself, because I’m tired. And I’m sad. I’m sad that whatever his life experiences were, caused him to become a mentally and emotionally abusive sadist who picked out a hard-working single mother, got her to trust him, and then completely leave her out to dry. I’m sad that his mother probably doesn’t know he turned out this way. I’m sure she loves him and wants to be proud of him. I’m sure she is, but only for the things she thinks he’s become–not what he actually is. A monster. I would hate to be his mother.

Rain came down and I was drenched as I stood on the curb waiting for my Uber, contemplating how on earth I let this happen. I was so careful. I was so straightforward about my fears and dislikes. He was so persistent about how he was not my past but is my “present and future.” How foolish and gullible could I still be at 35?  This was the day I decided there would be no answers as to why it had to be me. In that moment, I took my heart out of my sleeve, and tucked it away to be hidden from manipulative, self-loathing creatures.

As heavy and tragic as my past relationships have been, I do not let them define who I am. I loved genuinely, generously, truthfully. If someone decides to take advantage of that, the loss is theirs not mine. As I let the rain come down on me, I closed my eyes and let the filth of deceit that this person has brought into my life, get washed away. I breathed a sigh, not of defeat, but of surrender to the Greater Force who has better plans for me. I’m okay. I’m whole. I’m complete. I’m clean. I’m rid of this despicable individual, and the less I speak his name or think his face in my mind, the cleaner I am and the lighter my days will be.

Some people have spent so much time in the mud that all they know is to roll in it and sling it at people. But you don’t have to take it. You can keep walking and stay clean.

6 Reasons Why You Should Exercise

If you’ve been struggling with motivation and reasons to get up and hit the gym or get active, you’re not alone. There are days when I just want to throw my phone against the wall (a melodramatic approach to a 530am alarm going off) and curl up under my sheets in the safety of my dark room. But about 100% of the time that I skip the gym, I regret it. And every single time I’ve pushed myself to actually go to the gym, 100% of the time, I’ve always been glad I did. If what you need is a gentle kick in the bum, then below are 6 reasons that will hopefully do just that.

  1. Exercise improves mood.

When you exercise, your body produces endorphins. Endorphins reduce the perception of pain and set off a positive feeling in your body (makes you feel good), kind of like morphine. The perfect answer to a bad day at work, a stressful time in traffic, or even a break up (which I can personally vouch for haha) is a good sweaty session either at the gym or out for a run.

2.  Exercise gives you an energy boost.

Blood carries oxygen to our brain and different parts of our body (which is why when you sleep late and have low blood pressure, you yawn due to the lack of oxygen in your brain). When you exercise, your blood circulates through your body smoothly, bringing oxygen to the parts that need it–getting your heart and your lungs to work more efficiently, which in turn gives you more energy. (Personally, I like to start my day with a good cardio workout because it puts a spring in my step)

3.  Exercise helps control weight.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out. A sedentary lifestyle is a recipe for health disasters. But when you stay active and exercise regularly, your body’s metabolism gets a good nudge thereby helping you burn calories more efficiently. The starchy food we eat turns into sugar, and when we don’t move around and burn excess calories, that sugar turns into fat. Fat can never truly magically melt away through pills or gadgets. There is nothing like exercise to blast fat and keep it off. It doesn’t have to be an entire hour out of your busy day. You can start with setting aside 7 minutes of exercise every morning when you wake up. You can do a few exercises that will help get your heart rate up and jumpstart your body’s calorie-burning ability. There are some fun workout apps available that you can check out like 7 Minute Workout or 8Fit. I’ve tried both during seasons where I’m too busy to hit the gym or when I’m traveling and have no access to a full gym but need to stay active. The 8Fit app also has a meal planning feature you can sign up for.

4. Exercise can help give your sex life a boost.

Regular exercise can lead to better or more enhanced arousal for women, while men who work out regularly may lower their chances of erectile dysfunction. Besides, a physically fit body is a great turn-on because it shows that you take good care of yourself. Strength, endurance, and confidence are definitely pluses in this department.

5. Exercise can help you sleep better.

Sleep is vital to muscle recovery. Establishing a regular exercise routine is good for your circadian rhythm because it helps you sleep better and deeper. I used to be such a night owl and had to get up at the crack of dawn the next day for work. I felt sluggish and less productive. When I finally established a regular workout routine and schedule, my body eventually adjusted and my bed time effortlessly came at 9pm. These days, I very rarely sleep past 10pm because between 10pm to 2am is the deepest and most regenerative sleep that your body can have. That’s when your body detoxifies, repairs, and restores itself.

6. Exercise is a fun way to a healthier you.

Pick a workout buddy to help you get started on a good exercise regimen. You can go running together whether on a treadmill at the gym, or on a trail outdoors. There are so many options for workout buddies/groups who want to have fun while getting fit and strong: dance classes, running clubs, martial arts, hiking, aerobics, or spinning classes. Whether you choose to exercise indoors or take it outside, exercise is definitely more fun when you have someone to do it with.

What are you waiting for? Make the decision today to start working on a healthier you! Feel stronger, feel more confident, feel healthier, and feel better.

If you have any questions or would like help with a starter exercise program, feel free to comment below and provide your email so I can help craft one for you.

Hey guy, check your flyes.

Today I was reminded of how important it is to maintain the proper form when executing an exercise. Today was chest and shoulders day for me and I discovered that I had a tendency to execute my dumbbell flyes poorly.  If you’re like me who’s a self-starter at the gym (one who never really worked out with a one-on-one personal trainer regularly), then you’ll want to monitor your posture and form closely the next time you work out.

Wether you choose to do dumbbell flyes on a bench, a decline, or an incline bench, you’ll want to make sure your posture is correct. You can cause injury to yourself which in the worst case, could cause a long term injury that will prevent you from performing any exercise at all.

Since you are working your chest during this particular exercise, you’ll want to make sure your elbows aren’t parallel to your shoulders. Notice in the images above that both the man and woman have their elbows lower than their shoulders. Today I realised I needed to be mindful about keeping my elbows lower like they do. Instead, I had my elbows nearly parallel to my shoulders. What happens with that is I end up activating the wrong muscles. Instead of working my chest, I was activating my shoulders.

There was a minor but immediate consequence to my poor form. When I had moved to the incline press machine later on, I felt a pain (not a piercing one) in my deltoids; I had strained my shoulder because I wasn’t executing the exercise the right way.

dumbbell flyes_2
images from


Check out the video below for the correct way of performing dumbbell flyes courtesy of Scott Herman Fitness.




Meal Planning Basics

I know my posts of late sound a little redundant about the whole Meal Planning thing. Thing is, if you’re going into bodybuilding whether for fun or competition, Meal Planning is going to be the most ubiquitous thing in your vocabulary second to “gym.” It’s so essential to take note of the calories and nutrients you take in so that your body can gain and develop muscle, lose fat, and perform optimally.

meal plan.jpg
image from the Web.

Here’s an interesting article from Muscle & Fitness that I came across yesterday. I like that it’s pretty simple to understand and even helps you go about creating your own Meal Plan. Hopefully your goal isn’t to become waif-thin or crash diet because that kind of goal is really the road to health perdition. Haha.

meal prep.jpg
image from Web.

It matters a lot what you eat before and after a workout and what you indulge yourself in on days that you don’t train, or what’s called “rest day.” There’s something that the tiny OCD part of me finds exciting about  If you plan your meals well, you can progress much more quickly and efficiently with very little risk to your health. 80% of bodybuilding is really nutrition. Like they say (and I’ve quoted this before), “Abs are made in the kitchen.”

weigh scale.jpg
image from diet

At first I was thinking, “Oh wow I have to ACTUALLY weigh my food?! How tedious!” And it is–but only in the beginning. After awhile you learn to kind of eyeball the amount of chicken breast or veggies you need for what your goal is. And cooking your meals won’t seem like a major production anymore. On the upside, cooking them ahead makes it easier, because when time comes to eat, you just grab one of your little food keepers and heat it up and voila! A (slightly) tasty meal, custom made for you. Haha!

Tough Days

Today was a really tough day for me. A real heartbreaker. I’ll spare you the details. What’s important is that I’m choosing to be bold enough to admit this to myself. And to you, reader. This is me being vulnerable and open and admitting that today was a day I felt defeated.

marina b:w

I don’t know if my diet and the physical strains of my competition prep are wearing me thin (no pun intended), but I just felt so dangerously close to my limit today. I had to handle some personal stuff which really, looking at the big picture, is not as bad as my female mind and emotions make it out to be. Aside from that, I’ve been wracking my brain trying to sort out some technical issues I’ve been having with my domain and website. 5 years and a 2-year (failed) relationship later, I didn’t realise that I should have absolutely paid attention to the details of a domain purchase. Ugh. Even email backtracking (for the past three hours) didn’t help in gathering the information I needed to sort out my website problems.

Then my precocious and curious little 4-and-a-half was constantly in my ear with a million questions about outer space, which, when answered, brings about more questions from his intrigued mind. I applaud his curiosity and desire to learn. But today, this solo mom just felt a little overwhelmed, stretched out, tapped out, and alone.

I think it’s okay to admit it, you know? That you CAN’T do it all by yourself. As strong and independent as women like to portray themselves to others, I think we all still really want to know there’s someone who can and will catch us when we can no longer hold ourselves up. Sometimes it’s a sibling, sometimes it’s a parent. Sometimes it’s a spouse or a best friend. But some days, you’ll have to catch yourself.


Mind Over Matter

I turned a year older last week! It was a more subtle birthday because I had spent it out of town and away from the familiarity of Metro Manila’s small social circles. Outside of Facebook notifications for birthday greetings, I got a handful of phone calls from different parts of the world sending love and warm thoughts over the wires (my favourite phone call coming from California). I could be glum about being 35 and feeling like I haven’t done much. Or I can stop being overly critical of myself and be thankful for everything good that I’ve experienced, gained, received, as well as the not-so-good that helped build character and strengthen me mentally.

birthday beach pose
Beautiful Montemar Beach Club, Bataan, Philippines.

After a fun four days at the beach with friends (to celebrate my two best friends getting married, and conveniently, my birthday), I’m back to regular programming. I’m definitely hustling my way back into bikini athlete form and the first step is getting my meal plan together. There was enough torture at the week-long celebration by the beach thanks to the wedding menu which included burgers, steak, and S’mores.

None of those is my hand.

Everyone who’s ever gotten into bodybuilding might tell you that the hardest part about it all is not the 5 days a week of working out at the gym. Not even having to get up at the crack of dawn to hit the iron (which is my preferred time to train). The hardest part is the diet and meal planning. Even if you aren’t into bodybuilding but are seriously into fitness–trying to get in good shape and eat right, then you’ll appreciate the value of meal preparation.

meal prep
Fish, beef, chicken, broccoli, asparagus.

Meal prep can be expensive and time-consuming but it is definitely worth all the trouble. I’ve started making my chicken stock from scratch because I get more bang for my buck (it’s better for me too since I know it’s made from fresh ingredients and I can control the sodium content). One carton of chicken stock from the supermarket is about $2.99 for a litre. But I get twice and a half that amount for less then $5.

chicken stock prep
Celery, onions, leeks, carrots for my mirepoix.

Sometimes I hit a brick wall and really struggle to get through my meals because I’m craving something savoury and decadent. But I have to keep reminding myself of my goal and that it will all be worth it. Months from now, after the first competition is over, I’m going to be so glad I powered through and didn’t give up. For now, I’m going to have to toughen up and consume my required daily protein and vegetable intake like it’s nice, silky foie gras spread on a perfectly toasted crostini.

Are you on a certain kind of diet? What do you find most exciting/most difficult about taking fitness and health seriously? I would love to know what you think and what your diet menu is like!




Flex Fourth and Carry On

I’m being cheeky with the title, read on and you’ll see how. This post is long overdue, by the way. I realise I never updated you on the results of the fitness adventure I embarked on. I flew to the United States several days after the competition for a sabbatical of sorts and the last thing on my mind was “get laptop, update blog.” At least, at the time. I’m here now, so settle down.


It was a gruelling 2 and a half weeks of contest prep which entailed intense daily gym sessions and an even more intense diet program. Why only two and a half weeks? Because I’m a sado-masochist. Haha no. It’s because I found out and decided a little late that I wanted to participate in the sports festival. I most definitely can handle the exercise program, but the dieting part is the excruciating portion of body building. I think it’s where I had to dig deep mentally because I can only take so much chicken breast and egg whites until my gag reflex kicks in and my body decides to upchuck everything else I consumed prior. What a waste of organic eggs and probiotic boiled chicken. So with my body fat down to 11% from 13% just three days before, and weighing in at 99 pounds, I was spray-tanned and ready to feel like the total rookie I was in every sense of the word.

The Top 5 (L-R: Me, Charie, Patricia, Clarissa, and Quisha)

I was the most inexperienced of all the 8 women I shared the stage with. They had been competing for years and some of them had at least six months to prepare for this particular competition. I was afraid and massively intimidated. But I wasn’t going to show it. I smiled and flexed and laughed my way through the entire program (which took the entire literal day–we were there at dawn and didn’t get to leave until about 8pm).

But as scary and nerve-wracking as the experience was, I was very pleased with myself for sticking with it and seeing this commitment through. Not to mention, it paid off! I placed 4th and could not believe it! Gemmalyn_Cros2

Safe to say I was bit by the bodybuilding bug and felt pure stoke. There was no doubt I would do it all over again someday–this time with a little more knowledge of what I’m getting myself into. I had no idea how much it would cost in terms of time, money, mental strength, and grit. I think the next time I compete, I will be better prepared in every aspect. It’s not just a matter of looking good, really, because your body isn’t meant to stay “on season” for a prolonged period. I have a lot more meat in me now and my cuts and muscle definitions are not as sharp–they’ve maybe even deserted me for now. (Disclaimer though, I have been vacationing for the past 5 months with very little gym time)

That is the face of a hungry girl.

There’s something about impulsively taking on a colossal challenge you aren’t even sure you can overcome that forces you to dig deep and find something inside you, a new kind of strength and motivation to push on until the end (or at least just to make sure you don’t embarrass yourself). You know it’s not about what others will say, but what you can tell yourself you managed to achieve because you believed you could do it. Or at least attempt to. If you fail, you still win because of the experience. If you win, then you’ve just affirmed your own gumption and moxie. Okay, I cheated. I didn’t JUST get motivated out of my own sheer will to MAYBE make a fool of myself in the body building world. I was recovering from a messy breakup that left me questioning myself and my adequacies (verbal/emotional/mental abuse comes in many forms, folks. Be informed and protect yourself). So I took this on as a sort of extreme way to push myself to new heights. I needed to do something to validate MYSELF and not seek that validation from other people or that one person to whom we choose to give so much love and power over us. And you know what? I’m absolutely glad I did it. Even if I didn’t place at all, I would have still been grateful for the experience. I met such interesting people, made new friends, gained knowledge, and have discovered a new interest that I’m now keen to explore further.

mission district b:w
late October 2015, Mission District, San Francisco, CA.

What challenge are you going to take on? What sort of limits or constraints do you need to break free from and out of? Do it! You’ll be better for it and you’ll be glad you did it.