The Fuel You Need to Go After Your Goals This February

By , SparkPeople Blogger
While it might be St. Valentine who's on everyone's minds this month, I'm using February to realign myself with Team Me and you should, too. January is the month to get swept up in the excitement of change, but it's February where winners are truly made. Chances are you went into January with clear eyes, full hearts and we all know what that means. Now that it's been a month, you've probably hit some bumps along the road and some of that New Year sparkle might be starting to wear off. But this is the time to shine.

February is the month to recommit yourself to your goals, the time to look at that emergency 4:30 meeting that is definitely going to make you late for Pilates and say, "No, my goals won't be thwarted today." Forget Pilates for the day and hit up the dumbbells after your meeting instead because you're stronger than you know, more determined than ever and you're going to make your body work no matter how many work or life obstacles you come up against. It's time to look at your eating habits and say, "Sure, I'm going to eat a slice of cake on Valentine's Day, but today is Meatless Monday and there's no way I'm letting myself down today." February is your time to shine. February is your time to challenge yourself and challenge your expectations. February is Team [Insert Your Name Here]'s month and you're not backing down.

Spark: Start Sweating for You

"Today I will love myself enough to exercise." At 619 likes, one of our top Instagram posts from January hit a chord with a lot of you and for good reason. The sentiment, while simple, strikes all the right notes: It's relatable, encouraging and inspiring. 


A photo posted by SparkPeople (@sparkpeople) on

So often we think about exercise in terms of a physical end goal. Maybe it's fitting into a dress from college or rocking that swimsuit that you bought on sale at the end of the season. Perhaps you're shooting for muscle definition in your arms or you want to turn heads at your son's wedding next fall.

But what about the now? The daily mental and health benefits of a regular exercise routine are well-documented and no joke: lower levels of stress, performing errands and everyday activities with ease, a self-confidence bump, creative thinking boost, a sharp increase in productivity and more. Your exercise routine, be it 30 minutes or an hour, is your time to clear your mind and just focus on you without deadlines looming, errands to run or kids screaming your name. In the end, taking that time will not only benefit your long-term goals, but you'll also reap all those aforementioned benefits and be a better person today for it. The sentiment behind loving yourself enough to exercise is rooted in this idea that taking the time out of your probably frantic, hectic schedule to release some endorphins is a great form of self-care, one that we shouldn't cast aside so hastily.

This month, write down the saying in a calendar on days you schedule workouts as a constant reminder that your routine is all about the now and all about your current happiness—those physical benefits are just a perk down the road.

Sweat: Do These Calves Make Me Look Awesome?

My calves and I have had quite a bumpy ride to body acceptance. For years, I maligned the fact that my muscular calves never seemed to fit the trendy lower-leg fashions of the moment. Those few years in the 90s where bell bottoms were all the rage were great, but after that I found myself ignoring everything from skinny jeans and tall boots to those cute little fuzzy sock liners that pop out from under your tall boots and look simply charming. I cursed all those years of squatting in volleyball and softball for their part in creating muscles WWE wrestlers would envy. My assumption was that even if I could fit my Hulk calves into the fabric or leather or whatever material was at hand, the bulky muscles hiding below would still look out of place and probably pretty unattractive. To counteract, I consciously avoided any exercises that would target my calves—no calf raises, no calf presses on the leg press, nothing.

That all changed in recent years, though. When I lived in Birmingham, I had another gym regular stop me as I transitioned from the mat to the dumbbells to ask me if I was training for a bodybuilding competition. As a former bodybuilder, he said, defined calves on women are difficult to achieve and he wanted to know what I did. At first, I felt embarrassed, explaining genetics were to blame, which prompted him to quickly correct me with a "No, they're to thank!" A few years later, at a Kentucky Derby party, a good friend pointed in amazement how great my calves looked in heels. These innocent observations, while brief, forced me to question why I felt so ashamed. In time (and trust me, it took time), I've finally accepted and embraced that I have muscular calves. Now, I throw on a dress and calf-flattering heels any time I get the opportunity and, honestly, with the right fit, skinny jeans and tall boots can look pretty good.

This is all a roundabout way of getting to my point, which is that the plie squat to a calf raise has become one of my all-time favorite leg strengthening moves in my post-calf-acceptance life. The move is both a balance challenge and a strengthening power move. Taking your legs wide, toes pointing out at an angle that is comfortable for your current flexibility, lower your thighs until they're parallel to the floor (or as low as you can comfortably go). From this contracted position, with your glutes strong, slowly raise your heels off the floor and squeeze your calves at the top of the raise before returning your heels to the starting position. Repeat 10 to 12 reps, maintaining your balance by keeping your abs pulled in and your back flat. Trust me, you'll feel this one.   

Since trying this move in a Barre class, I've since seen variations where you include a full squat, then explode into a calf raise at the top, which required enormous balance or standing in front of a wall just in case you weeble-wobble. I've also squatted low, raised my left heel and pulsed for 30 seconds before switching to raise my right heel and pulsing another 30 seconds on the other side. Your inner thighs and calves will curse the day you ever read this blog, I promise you that. Add this killer move to your leg day routine now and get those gams in fighting form before dress season arrives.

GIF courtesy of Spotebi.

Smile: Splitsville, U.S.A.

I'd like to close with this, my most beloved GIF of the month, a five-second work of internet art proving once and for all that every body is a yoga body. Rewatch over and over again, especially in times when you think maybe you'll never be able to touch your toes:

Via Giphy

How will you reignite your commitment to self-love and your goals this February?

Every month The Go Get It Guide is your destination for motivation, musings on random goals and probably pop culture references. It's a space where we'll sort through the PR pitches and news, then share our honest thoughts on what's happening in the health and fitness world, what's on the horizon and just what we think of that video the internet obsessed over last week. Check in each month to Spark, Sweat, Smile, Savor and Shop with us!

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These are so on point with me as I am a motivator and will help me encourage others and myself. Thank you, SparkFriends. Report
I'm not a member of Instagram, so I can't see photos from there. Next time, please just put the photo, without linking to that other website. Otherwise, aren't you just promoting another website? I have no plans to use Instagram. My life is as complicated as it needs to be. Also, I'm sorry you hated your calves (which is odd), but the whole story about your calves just seems so very vain. Not only that, but it detracted from the rest of the article, which fell apart when you started talking about your calves! It completely lacks coherence. And the video is not there, either, completely missing. Report
Loved the affirmation: Today I will love myself enough to....(fill in the blank). I wrote it on my March calendar. It works for any goal and for someone who generally lacks motivation - I find it so inspiring. Thanks. Report
I so loved this article. Report
I am taking a 4 week free online heart healthy course, started yesterday. I am getting some heart health tests done in 4 weeks at a pharmacy. So should know more in 4 weeks. Report
I'm dying to get my muscular calves back! I have committed to working out 4 days/week after week...even, or especially, when I don't feel like going. I love myself enough to take better care of myself...not just for February but for the long haul! Report
When I was a teenager I did not work out at all but a friend crushed my feelings one day when she laughed and said my calves look like those of a male wrestler. When I was in my 50's I was deadlifting in the gym and a guy said in hushed tones that I have "diamonds" (I think that is some kind of bodybuilding word for the shape off the calves). I was way too old to be ashamed and anyway he said it admiringly. I do leg presses and similar routines that build those calves further but I don't care because at my age I am proud of myself for working out. Some of us have that kind of musculature. Great article about something I can relate to! Report
Ha! I played volleyball and softball too. My calves are also...well rounded. Report
Loved your blog. I too have beefy calves and learned to love them early on when I was approached in a gym and asked if I wanted to be a body builder. My brother is one and he and all his body builder friends wish they had my calves. I do wear the tall boots, but have to get them in wide calf size. Love my skinny jeans too. I am glad you have learned to love your muscular calves! Report