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:
Let’s get fit
Let’s Get Fit: Arms, Abs & A**
Let’s Get Fit: Start Slow and Taper Off
Let’s Get Fit: BODY, MIND, SPIRIT
Let’s Get Fit: Spin to Win
Let’s Get Fit: The Treadmill: A Necessary Evil
Let’s Get Fit: Why Should Women Lift Weights?
Let’s Get Fit: How to Avoid Injury
Let’s Get Fit: Jazzercise! Seriously, Jazzercise.
Let’s Get Fit: How to Break through a Weight-Loss Plateau
Let’s Get Fit: How to make the number on the scale go down
What to do when you have an injury
Let’s Get Fit: The Final Reveal
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.