Trina Sotto: “Whether I have 10 or 60 minutes to myself per day, I will exercise.”
This week, Lifestyle introduces Fitness Diaries, a series that features people’s secrets to trying to stay healthy.
We’re kicking things off with Trina Sotto, a 38-year-old full-time mom to two boys and a certified Vinyasa, prenatal and postpartum yoga teacher.
“Since the pandemic hit, I’ve been doing my best to keep a nurturing, loving environment for the family, and teaching yoga classes online,” she said.
Two years ago, Sotto was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition. “My weight easily fluctuates. I can lose weight easily, but I can also gain it back easily. I deal with hair loss, muscle mass loss, dry skin especially in the shins, fatigue and a heart rate that’s higher than normal, among many others.”
But that hasn’t stopped her from continuing to move. “Exercise has always been part of my life. I liked playing sports when I was younger. I enjoyed going to the gym. Yoga has been part of my life for 18 years now. I also used to run a lot before I had a knee injury in 2018, and before the symptoms of my autoimmune condition kicked in.”
My fitness regimen: Prior to the pandemic, I’d do yoga maybe five to six times a week, and spend time at the gym to do cardio and some weight training one to three times a week. I haven’t been to the gym for a year now. I no longer practice the physical aspect of yoga as frequently, because my role as a wife and mother supersedes everything else. But there’s a form of movement every day. So whether I have 10 or 60 minutes to myself per day, I will exercise. But my routine is no longer strenuous. I only do low impact exercises and prefer gentler classes. I try to work out daily but if my body tells me to rest, or begin to feel unwell, I will.
My favorite workouts and exercises: I love yoga, because I find I get a “work in” as much as a workout when I practice. My fellow yoga teachers discovered a fun cardio workout timed to party music, and I would take those classes from time to time, too. Doing it regularly isn’t sustainable, though, because my heart rate spikes too quickly. I’ve resumed jogging last month, although even at a slow pace, my heart rate reached 200-plus so I had to stop immediately. I miss my strong body and the things I used to enjoy, but a heart attack is not worth it.
There are days that are so busy that I really have no time for myself since I do all the chores at home. On those days, I either rest completely or, if I have energy, I’ll squeeze in 100 squats, sometimes while I’m in the shower. Every day is leg day!
I work out in… Our dining area-slash-yoga studio. It magically transforms into a yoga area when I teach classes.
(Laughs) My husband pushes the furniture aside so I have space to teach. If playing “Just Dance” with the kids counts as exercise, then count our living room, too.
I’ve tried jogging outdoors where we live, but I felt unsafe. I also considered returning to the gym in our building, but I’d rather play it safe.
Sotto with one of her sons
My fitness must-haves: A yoga mat, yoga blocks, straps, bolster and blanket. I have resistance bands that I like using for my leg exercises. I don’t use my fitness ball as much nowadays, so I only bring it out when I want to incorporate it in my prenatal and postpartum yoga classes. I have 3-kilogram dumbbells, but I haven’t used them in the last month. My 6-year-old foam roller has been very helpful since I haven’t gotten a massage or seen a physical therapist since the quarantine. I use a Google Home display to stream classes. I wear a heart rate monitor daily. Comfortable workout clothes that wick away sweat are very important, because I’m in them the whole day!
My workout playlist: The classes I stream usually have their own music, so I just go with the flow. When I’m working out on my own, I would either pick a random playlist on Spotify, or select one of the playlists I’d made for my Vinyasa yoga classes in the physical studios. There are times I don’t put music on.
My diet: I love eating—it’s my only hobby now! (Laughs) There were periods in the last three years when I stopped eating meat. But when I got hyperthyroidism in 2019, I had to stop eating seafood and return to eating meat until my blood work improved. I’ve lessened meat consumption in the last four years, though, preferring plant-based options and meat substitutes. And since I’m in charge of meals (or ordering them), my whole family adapts to my diet.
We don’t consume white rice on a regular basis (just this month because we got a sack as a gift, and we’ve already noticed rounder bellies). I refrain from cooking with iodized salt because of my thyroid issues. I’ve cut back on dairy consumption, too.
In a day, I usually eat… Anything and everything. I no longer deprive myself of food. I find that it’s when I go on strict diets that my health and well-being really suffer! If I overindulge, I will do some form of fasting, or go on a liquid diet.
What keeps me motivated: I work out for several reasons. It feels good; it gives me some much-needed alone time; it allows me to stay healthy, which then helps me care for the people around me—who are dependent on me—better.
In my life, I’ve been fat and thin, and everything in between, so physical appearance was never really a motivation for me to stay a certain shape. Although it helps to know that I still fit in old clothes! I enjoy the process, not necessarily the challenge or the goal. For me, it’s always about the journey, and the self-realizations that come with it, and not the destination.
How the pandemic affected my fitness routine: At the start of the pandemic, I continued to take power classes that ran for 60-90 minutes. It was not sustainable. The amount of work that needed to be done at home, plus having the family home 24/7, meant zero opportunity for breaks, or at least to do things in peace. It got exhausting.
Then I had to shift to teaching classes online, which is harder than teaching live [in-person] classes, in my opinion. You have to prepare your space, set up your gadgets, ensure connectivity, shout into the microphone so your cues come in clearly, watch people through tiny boxes, and demonstrate most of the class. It’s a lot of work.
In terms of attending classes, I could not consistently make it to live, online classes because of the family’s schedule (i.e., my older son has a test, so he needs the internet bandwidth, or the class I want to take conflicts with meal preparation time), so I have to settle for recorded classes most of the time.
Many times, I felt frustrated that my own personal practice was put on hold. But motherhood is a yoga practice in itself—a constant practice of surrender, of accepting things with grace, managing our emotions and our ego, savoring every moment, choosing to breathe, and letting go of things that do not serve us.
Tips for people who want to get healthier: Start small. Never force yourself into doing something that doesn’t feel right. Exercise can be uncomfortable, but if it brings you pain or injury, then it’s counterproductive. I no longer subscribe to the “no pain, no gain” mentality.
Find something you enjoy so exercise doesn’t feel like torture—unless you’re into that! (Laughs)There are lessons in doing less. There is value in rest.
Honor what your body can and cannot do at the moment.
Practice mindfulness—in eating, savor every bite; in exercising, do it with intention.
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