How on earth is it March 20th already? I remember thinking that it would be 6 weeks before the new years resolution crowds would disappear. That was over a month ago. I didn’t really notice when it happened but the Y is a lot less mobbed. By the way, I am loving my gym membership. And now that my husband is working out on Wednesdays while the kids take their running class it does seem worth it.
So far I’ve tried quite a few different workout classes: cycling, pilates, grit, step, body pump, body combat. The YMCA has an app and I check it a lot to help plan my workout and my day. If I don’t go to the gym, I will either do a walk/run or do a video on Popsugar fitness or a yoga series of my own creation or maybe a foam roller series.
How do I decide what to do on any given day? How do I motivate myself? Or keep from overdoing it and injuring myself? I really think the hardest thing about working out is getting started. And the thing that makes people stop is going out too hard and too fast. My motto is, “Start slow and tapper off!” Haha! The challenge is to just show up. The rule for me is, as soon as I’ve had my coffee (and usually after the kids are on the bus) I get dressed to workout.
Six Weeks of Workouts
I usually schedule my workouts. I put them in my calendar on my Macbook. I even color code them (purple). What I schedule for any given day depends on what classes are available that day, or if I have a client meeting and have to be more time efficient, and the weather. I’ll pick from options at the gym or at home, inside or outside. Sometimes I don’t get a workout in first thing and then it doesn’t happen all day. Sometimes I’ll do Just Dance with the kids or a Nerf battle—running around the house, ducking down, jumping up, and then picking up 1000 Nerf darts is a great cardio-strength workout! So, I plan out what I’m going to do on my calendar, then make any edits after the fact. That way I can see what I’ve done. It gives me a sense of accountability and accomplishment. If I can do three or four challenging days (and at least one rest day), that’s a great week. I try to have a good mix of strength training, cardio and stretching of some sort. But, I also try not to over-think it. I mean, sometimes you just have to get out of the house and move! Anything!
I used to always wear a Fitbit fitness tracker (the Zip, the Flex, the Alta, and then the Blaze) but now I wear an Apple Series 1 watch. It doesn’t sync with my Fitbit app, sadly, so sometimes I stick the Zip in my pocket. It’s fun to compete for steps with my daughter who has the new kids Fitbit, the Ace. Does the Apple Watch make me more motivated to move? I think a little bit. At first it was really novel, but over time you just sort of ignore it. Sometimes I turn on the workout mode and track my exercise but sometimes I don’t. I do love it though! I actually really want the new one, but I doubt I’ll splurge on that. I rarely ever look at or use the Apple activity app on my phone. I wish it was better! All that being said, you don’t need a fitness tracker or an app to create a fitness habit.
I weigh myself daily. For a while now I’ve had this Fitbit scale. It uses wifi to send data to the Fitbit app. Then I can see my progress, an average for the week, on the app. I can even scroll way back and see that my weight was higher this time last year and that is encouraging.
A note about weight, it’s a tricky thing. There are so many variables: food, hydration, muscle mass, even bone density. You can’t take it as the only measurement of fitness. I’ll also say that I don’t trust the smart scale’s body fat sensor at all. It seems very inaccurate, so I just sort of ignore it. The app also tells you your BMI, but I think most people will say that BMI is very misleading and not the best measurement, especially if you’re fairly athletic. Sometimes I use a tailor’s measuring tape and check my bust, waist and hip measurements (which I need to order clothes online anyway) but it’s a lot easier to step on the scale everyday. I guess it’s good to know your waist measurement as it’s a good way to know your overall health. They say your waist should be smaller than your hips and under 35 inches (for women). Of course you can always use the my-favorite-skinny-jeans-feel-so-loose measurement system!
I’ll sum up with these 10 tips:
“Start slow and taper off”
Make a workout schedule then just follow it the best you can
Vary your workouts
Get a workout buddy, make plans to meet at the gym or the rail trail
Workout first thing if you can
Drink lots of water
Find ways to sneak in exercise—park far from the store, take the stairs
Years ago I read an article about how small changes can make a big difference. I wish I could find it but I wouldn’t even know what to search for. I did find this and after reading it, I decided to insert my own ideas:
whole wheat english muffin instead of bagel
(I’d do cream cheese occasionally, but with tomato, or avocado, or hummus and tomato, or almond butter and banana)
greek yogurt instead of low fat milk with granola
(Definitely! Low fat dairy, milk or yogurt actually have a lot more sugar. And fat is not the enemy. Also, I make my own no-sugar granola.)
an orange instead of oj
(Or a grapefruit. Or a smoothie with frozen fruit, almond milk, spinach, etc.)
wrap instead of bread
(I hate wraps! Ugh. I think just very whole grain bread, maybe only half a sandwich.)
apple slices with cheese instead of crackers & cheese
(Absolutely! Apples with cheese or apples and peanut butter or almond butter. Or rice cakes with almond butter and thinly sliced apples.)
corn tortillas instead of flour
(Yes! I love corn tortillas.)
trail mix instead of mixed nuts
(They’re talking about less nuts which is good but I don’t know if popcorn and Chex are so great. I eat roasted almonds and cashews. I think a small amount, like what easily fits in your hand, is good. Not the whole container!)
dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate
(I LOVE dark chocolate. I’ve learned that 72% is my bitterness threshold. More and it’s too much. Also, I have very much gotten into the habit, when I eat sugar, to take only one serving.)
radishes instead of corn chips (on chili)
(Doesn’t anyone eat Fritos anymore?! I say easy on the tortilla chips and I’m just getting into radishes. We rarely buy sour cream. I’ve never tried greek yogurt instead. Also, easy on the cheese. Jalapeños add flavor and boost metabolism.)
iced vanilla latte instead of vanilla frappuccino
(OMG, back away from the Frappuccinos. So Much Sugar. I would probably just do iced coffee, a little cream and cinnamon.)
raisin bran instead of bran muffin
(I don’t care what a muffin has in it, a muffin is never low cal. Speaking of Raisin Bran, a bowl of Nature’s Path Flax Plus Pumpkin Raisin Crunch cereal or Flax Plus Red Berry Crunch is the best thing ever, for breakfast or late night snack instead of ice cream.)
veggie/chevre omelet instead of ham/cheddar omelet
(Spinach or arugula and goat cheese scrambles are a staple in my house. Also, wherever possible swap ketchup for salsa or hot sauce.)
homemade parfait instead of pre-made
(I have long since steered clear of any kind of store bought yogurt concoction. They are all sugar. If possible I do whole plain greek yogurt with fresh fruit and homemade granola. I also love smoothie bowls!)
raisin toast instead of a cinnamon roll
(Cinnamon rolls are a huge cheat. Usually accompanied with a black coffee and some Swedish furniture. I say just enjoy it!)
pecans and yogurt on pancakes instead of syrup
(We only buy real syrup and use it sparingly. I eat pancakes pretty rarely but like them to be whole wheat or buckwheat and have a little butter and maybe bananas or no-sugar apple butter.)
pumpernickel bread instead of bagel with your cream cheese and salmon
(I love pumpernickel bread. I indulge in real cream cheese with my lox. Add tomato, cucumber, arugula. Yes!)
apples and honey on oatmeal instead of cream, brown sugar or nuts
(We buy Nature’s Path oatmeal, the flavored, sugary kind for the kids and I cook the plain stuff with frozen peaches or blackberries, a little butter, and some homemade no-sugar granola on top.)
bacon instead of sausage patties
(What? Well, ok. I say bacon once in a while, but can we all admit that bacon is not healthy? I agree, anything with very few ingredients is better. Also, have you ever tried an open face egg sandwich with arugula and smoked salmon instead of bacon. A-mazing.)
whole grain trail mix instead of regular
(It’s fun to mix your own, once in a while. Mini marshmallows, dark chocolate chips and annie’s bunny grahams. Mini pretzels, raisins, white morsels…)
ice cream sandwich instead of ice cream
(Ice cream sandwiches are natures perfect food! lol. Seriously, I suppose they do promote portion control.)
nutella on graham crackers instead of chocolate covered almonds
(Good idea. But remember, Nutella is not health food. It’s sugar and chocolate. and hazelnuts. Lots of parents give it to their kids on bread for breakfast. There’s the theory that sugar in the morning is better than before bed.)
lemonade and seltzer instead of lemon/lime soda
(I agree, start with seltzer — get a soda stream and make your own — then add just enough juice or lemonade to make it tasty.)
ricotta cheese and honey on flatbread (wasa?) instead of cheddar crackers
(Sounds good. I think I’ll try that. We switched from Cheesits to Annie’s cheddar squares. I don’t think they’re healthy, but it’s one of my favorite indulgences.)
edamame instead of peanuts
(No peanuts in our house because my daughter is allergic, but I think I will get back to having Edamame on hand!)
Exactly four years ago, I started the very popular “Let’s Get Fit” series of posts about getting in shape. I remember it was March 10th, I was way heavier than I wanted, there was snow on the ground and something in me just “snapped.” In a good way. I decided I was going to get in shape no matter what. And I did. By Memorial Day (the unofficial get-in-shape-for-summer deadline here in the US) I was down to my goal weight and felt amazing! I did it by working out regularly, cross training, eating as healthy as I could and it really paid off.
Doing regular posts about fitness really helped to motivate me and I’m looking forward to sharing ideas and motivation with you. This time around I don’t think I want to focus on losing weight. My goal weight used to be 130 lbs, which became an unhealthy obsession over time. Last year I changed it to a range: 130-135 lbs with the expectation that winter would put me a little over 135. For reference I’m 5’5″ and a healthy weight for me is 114-144 lbs. I’ll still weigh myself but I’m going to focus on muscle tone, energy level, and mood as measurements of fitness.
If you’re looking for a little inspiration this time of year, I hope you’ll follow my posts. I’m going to compile all the things I do that work for me: cardio-vascular conditioning, weight training, drinking enough water, getting a workout buddy, eating real food, not eating when you’re not hungry, reducing sugar, stretching, taking vitamins, promoting good gut bacteria, reducing stress, getting enough sleep, adding “hidden exercise”, setting accomplishable goals, getting outside (even in bad weather) and lots more so by the time the pool is open we’ll be feeling great!
Check out the original Let’s Get Fit posts if you’re curious:
I have been exercising more. And I have been observing myself. I always find my self oddly amusing. Before I start, let me say for the record, I have made a lifelong habit of exercise. I won’t pat myself on the back too much for this since it was sort of an accident and mostly due to vanity. So, I’m not one of those “resolution-ists” that are crowding up the gym this time of year. But there I am, having just joined a gym and recommitted myself to fitness. And it sucks. Here are some things I’m learning.
Getting back into fitness is so much harder than never stopping
Back in July, I wrote about how I stopped exercising (which meant I wasn’t forcing myself to to do regular official workouts and instead just did the everything else including renovating half our house) and I actually lost weight and really felt better all the way around. Mind you, it was summer. Well, now I’m feeling the effects of losing a lot of muscle and a lot of the ability to do any workout I try and it’s very discouraging. So, please, for your sake and those around you, don’t stop. Ever. Just do something. Easy or hard. Just do a little (or a lot) consistently and keep up muscle tone, flexibility and cardio vascular conditioning.
January is the best (and worst) time to start
So, back to the newly-committed-overly-crowded gym of January. Last year we joined the local YMCA as a family. I had been considering it for a while and they were running a promotion in December: one free month and no join fee. Here was a place, 17 minutes from our house, where I could do group fitness, hubby could work out with weights and weight machines and the kids could sign up for gymnastics, dodgeball, swim, etc. And it would be so much less expensive than the combination of all the many places we were going previously. It wasn’t easy though, actually is was a bit heartbreaking, to say goodbye to my favorite classes at Jazzercise, the Yoga Loft, and CSS group fitness. I can’t say for sure I’m gone for good. But I decided to try something new. I just have to make it through the first few weeks of it being mobbed with people.
I feel super old
For the first time in my life I’m feeling like the “old person” in class. Everyone seems to be in their 20s and 30s and I’d like to say it doesn’t bother me, I would be a liar. I think one of the biggest obstacles to working out — in public at least — is comparing yourself to others. All these complete strangers are all younger, cuter, fitter, and more stylish. And they seem to know what they’re doing. I’m that complete dork who’s watching others get set up: weights, um, mat, more weights, barbell (???!!!), step, risers, paper plates (?) and copying them. But acting super cool like I’m not. Asking questions is not an option. And then I have to pretend I can do everything, and that I’m not dying. “I’m cool. I got this. Am I the only one wanting to barf?” All the while trying to be careful to not throw out my back. Why, oh why, did I allow myself to lose all my core strength? Why Leigh? Saddest part: lots of women much older than me seem to be fine.
I haven’t died yet
So far so good, you know? I’ve been taking it slow and trying to be patient with myself. I’ve done a few different classes. So far I’ve done: Group Cycling, Pilates, “Grit” and “Body Pump”. Grit is like all the worst of 7th grade gym: high knees, burpees (what we used to call “squat thrusts” back in the day), suicide sprints, until you, like, puke. Note to self: stand in the back next time. And Body Pump is where you burn most of your calories dragging every single piece of equipment out of a closet (in competition with 30 other people) like barbells and those circular weights that go on them and the little clippy things that hold them on and try to guess which amount of weight you’re going to need and lift all those things a whole bunch then put it all away afterwards. FYI, Grit and Body Pump are taught by a woman who literally has an Ironman tattoo on her arm.
Working out is better with a friend
One of the things that made me want to joint the Y was that a couple other mom friends are members. I will go with or meet one of them there and it is more fun. I don’t feel so insecure and I think it’s motivating. I did not come up with this idea. It’s, apparently, a thing. Try it!
January will end
I’m looking forward to the gym getting less crowded. Not that I want everyone to stop exercising! But it will be nice. I am one of the lucky ones. I created an exercise habit in my early 20s. I schedule my workouts. I try new things to keep it interesting. I do it when I don’t want to. I do it all year ’round. You might say I just care what I look like. And you’d be right. But my vanity might keep me healthy on the inside just a few extra years. And don’t forget, exercise is good for your mood. And that’s something I can’t get enough of.
I never planned to stop exercising, it just kind of happened.
First, the kids got out of school which made it hard to workout every day. Then we renovated our kitchen and seemingly did nothing else all summer. I broke a toe. And we went on vacation. Through all that I actually lost weight and I became really okay with not working out. I had been between 135 and 140 pounds. By July, I was below 134 and have stayed there ever since. That might not seem like a lot but it made me feel like a whole new person.
I have always exercised obsessively (and kept a record) as seen below. I would do something almost every day. I’d run or do some sort of video at home. I’d go to yoga, spin and Jazzercise.
I was surprised (but not surprised) when I lost weight in July. I wasn’t “working out” but I was doing demolition and a lot of heavy lifting. Ever removed a hardwood floor and sub floor? Torn out cabinets? Installed a new hardwood floor? Combine that with very little eating because you have no kitchen.
We did most of the renovation in flip flops and joked that we should have a show on HGTV called “Flip Flop Flippers”. Construction sites are not the place for flip flops but that is not how I broke my left number 2 toe. I broke it by slipping on the wet garage floor. If you’ve never broken a toe, and I have, twice, the correct way to rehab it is to ‘buddy tape’ it and not exercise for six weeks. Six weeks??!! (Apparently, I don’t consider riding a bike to be bad for a broken toe.)
When my toe seemed to be completely healed I celebrated by doing all the planks and downward dogs. But, as you can see, not much else. My first day back to Jazzercise, I thought I felt it re-break a little bit, but I think it will always be a little tender.
So, this is where I am now. I don’t need to exercise anymore.
I might do it once in a while, when I feel like it. I do feel a lot better, especially mentally, when I workout. Having broken a bone tells me that I should exercise more, particularly with weights. Feeling really fit while doing the kitchen made me realize I should be doing much more muscle strengthening. As we head into the colder months, I know it will really help to get outside and move. A little walking, a little running. I will probably still go to spin class and Jazzercise, because it’s fun. Oh, and yoga because it makes everything better.