As I’ve been sharing bits and pieces on this topic, I keep getting comments and emails saying, “Keep it coming, I need motivation!” So here you go. Summer is about 3 months away and that is plenty of time to make a big difference if you’re wanting to find the motivation to get healthier (see much further down this post how much I changed in just 3 months). Over the past 2 years I’ve made some big changes, and one of the things that has been instrumental is that I’ve learned to love and embrace exercise and fitness. I’m not talking about loving fitness in the way that you annoy everyone you know posting your workouts on Facebook. I’m talking about genuinely loving living an active life and pushing myself physically.
It’s become a hobby, a stress reliever, and for someone who’s life revolves around food- a necessity. I’ve found becoming healthy and strong just as much mentally and emotionally empowering as it is physically empowering. Next week I’m going to share my whole story, about where I’ve been and where I am, and everything that’s influenced me along the way (including the topic of nutrition, which is probably the thing I get the most questions about.) Well next week or the week after. The other post I have in the queue involves cheese-smothered nachos. It’s all about balance. But today I’m going to write about exercise, and all of my best tips on how to make it happen and truly assist you in getting healthier, and specifically- losing weight. Okay, now. I’m about to do something incredibly embarrassing and I’m having heart palpitations just thinking about it. But here we go. I’m posting this picture in hopes of inspiring others so at least ONE flippin’ person out there better tell me they’re inspired or I will go hide under a rock for the rest of my life. This is the difference that exercise and nutrition have made for me:
That before picture was a little less than 2 years ago, and the after was a couple of days ago. I’ve learned so much along the way. For everyone who’s asked for motivation, tips, and advice from my personal experience- here’s my best stuff. I hope this helps someone out there feel motivated enough to set a goal and make it happen. I am such a happier person today than I was 2 years ago almost 50lbs overweight, and trust me: if I, a person who’s life revolves around cooking and eating can make this happen- so can you!
One of the most common challenges people face when trying to start an exercise program is simply a lack of time. Let me tell you- I know a thing or two about lack of time. I know what it’s like to lead a busy life. Mine doesn’t slow down, ever! As my life has become increasingly busy over the years, time has become a precious commodity. Having more and more to do has actually made me be more and more productive and organized. I hate wasting time; I hate being idle. What I’ve learned is that it’s all about prioritizing. You make time for the things that are important to you.
This applies to wanting more time for your family, your hobby, and definitely for exercise. If it’s important to you, you can’t wait for “leftover” time to squeeze it in. You schedule it in. You commit. You make the time. Sometimes this requires sacrifice. I am NOT a morning person, or at least I never have been, but I found that I simply don’t have the time to work out during the day, and I hate it when I lose time with my kids, or for my job, or other things I need to be doing be having to map out out big chunk of time in the middle of the day. So I work out in the wee hours of the morning. My alarm goes off between 5:30-6 every day and over the past 2 years I re-conditioned my body and my mind, and that’s just my schedule now. Even if I don’t set an alarm, my eyes pop open by 6, it’s just what I’m used to now. Even when I want so desperately to sleep, I don’t let myself talk me out of it. It’s non-negotiable, and now it’s habit. Make time for yourself.
People (and by people I mostly mean women) are generally shocked to hear that I still want to have another baby. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve heard the sentence, “Why are you wasting your time getting fit and losing weight when you’re just going to get pregnant and ruin it all?” Most people have a tendency to look for that perfect time for everything. Fitness is no exception. I myself have often thought, “okay after my vacation next week, I’ll really focus and get started on this.” or “After I get through this stressful work project, I’ll be dedicated to my nutrition.” The perfect time is now. Today. Always. There’s never a negative of making healthy choices and if there’s one thing I can encourage you to do (if you’re reading this and are needing encouragement) it’s to stop wasting time waiting for that “right” time. Just start now! Today! A few months from now you’ll be SO happy you did.
After I lost most of my weight, my little brother moved here to Boise. After the incredibly successful experience I had working with a great trainer, I encouraged my brother to at least meet with him too. I knew my trainer, Jacob, could help my brother change his life if he could just find the motivation to make the decision to do it. My brother met with Jacob at the beginning of December, and after a long talk he knew it was great fit and something he needed, and wanted, to do. On January 1st, of course. Because that’s when you “start” things. My brother just wanted to get through the holidays, enjoy the holidays, and then focus on this giant weight loss goal. Jacob convinced them there was no point in waiting. Why wait and prolong what you’ve already decided to do?? So my brother begrudgingly did it. He started a nutrition and training plan at the beginning of the most caloric month of the year. A month where he says he traditionally gains 5-10 pounds, and instead, he lost 10 pounds. By January 1st, the time he planned to start thinking committing to a goal, he was already well on his way. That was a little over a year ago and to date, my “little” brother has shed over 100 pounds. Start now!
Okay, so let’s assume you’re ready to get fit. Ready to make some changes, train for something specific, or simply be more active. Here’s some practical tips when it comes to the How-To.
Simple thing when you look at the big scheme of things, but as I mentioned in my Fit Gear Faves post, it’s amazing how much more motivated you can be when you feel comfortable and confident and have something fun and new to wear. Don’t let weight be a deterrent; you don’t have to buy anything fancy and expensive. Grab a cute free top from Old Navy, or even Walmart has a great super cheap line. Then when you lose weight, you can reward yourself with one in a smaller size!
While dedication to fitness takes a lot of personal effort, having friends and a support network absolutely helps. This is my friend Tricia. After I had my first baby, moved to Idaho, and tried to get back into exercising, we began working out at the same gym. Tricia had recently lost a significant amount of weight and encouraged me to come to some of the group classes she attended. I was terrified since I was out of shape and had no idea what I was doing, but it wasn’t so scary going with a friend. I quickly fell in love with kickboxing and spinning, and we found we got a great workout, while chit-chatting the entire time. It was like a fun girls-night-out, but we were sweating our rears off. That hour class each night became my kid-free stress relief each week and I loved it. I never would have even tried those things if it wasn’t for the fact that I had a friend by my side those first few times. So find a friend or two with similar goals as you and encourage one another. Or try swapping kids so you can both work out. Form an exercise group yourself. Several years ago a group of my friends and I gathered at 5:30 in the morning and did P90 in my friend’s garage together. Another time we formed a little running group. I HAD to get out of bed when I knew my buddies were waiting out on the corner for me in the wee hours of the morning. Plus, there’s nothing more motivating than a little friendly competition, and when you get girls together to work out you’re bound to have a little of that 😉
There are a lot of ways to work out, including in your own home, but I love going to the gym because it helps me to focus. At home I will find a million and one distractions, but at the gym, the only thing to do there is work out, so I get my stuff done and get out. Now days, joining a gym doesn’t need to be a major financial investment. Sure there are huge, fancy facilities with state of the art equipment. You’ve got classes and swimming, and children’s programs, and more- but those things also come with a price. In most cities there are small gyms with minimal monthly fees that are totally manageable for just about any budget. The gym I go to is small. Like, really small. It’s got kind of a Cheers vibe going on where everyone knows everyone because you work out along-side the same 15 people every day. There are zero bells and whistles, and the equipment isn’t even high-end, but it’s perfect for me. I don’t need wireless internet and tv screens on every treadmill. I go to the gym to lift heavy stuff and sweat, and my little gym gets the job done. It’s open 24 hours, is located about 3 minutes from my house, and I pay less than $10 a month. I probably spend that much on gum each month so a gym is totally in the realm of possibility for anyone. Check around and I bet you can find one in your area in the $10-15 a month range.
That being said, if you don’t have a gym membership, there are SO many great (free!) resources online for home work-outs. Start googling and you’ll find more than you ever imagine existed.
This picture is from last summer when I took Kate to workout with my trainer. This is after our workout and as you can see he’s pointing to both of us, but Kate threatened to hunt me down and cut me in my sleep if I ever posted the photo to the internet. Kate, take note: you have been effectively removed. Still, I might sleep with one eye open tonight.
I used to think that trainers were for one of two types of people. Either the super-elite, training for crazy awesome athletic events (like, I don’t know- the Olympics?) or just the opposite: people who didn’t have a clue how to exercise and needed someone to hold their hand. I dismissed the idea because I didn’t fit into either category, but I was wrong on both accounts. I’ll tell you more about how I ended up with a trainer when I write my post next week with my full story, but I will tell you right now that the key to my success this time around, when I had been unsuccessful so many times before, was undoubtedly an awesome trainer, who is really good at what he does. Investing in training was honestly one of the best decisions I have ever made and I would do it again in a heartbeat. That being said, all trainers are not created equal. In fact, I’d say some would be a complete waste of time and money, and since training can be expensive, you want to make sure you’re investing in something that’s going to be very worthwhile. The absolute best way to find a good trainer is from a personal reference. Ask around; talk to friends who have worked with trainers and get a recommendation.
Maybe it’s just the area that I live in, because this is so, so prevalent in the Utah/Idaho region, but running is a really big thing. I swear every minivan in town has a bumper sticker proudly displaying their mileage (and I’m not talking about the car.)
Girls in particular tend to be obsessive about cardio. Before I started working with my trainer I was running several miles a day. I couldn’t figure out how I could be running so much and not losing weight. The single most effective thing in my personal weight-loss experience was the change from cardio to resistance training. I used to spend the majority of my exercise on cardio (running, elliptical, stair climbing, etc.) and then maybe throw in a few minutes lifting weights. My trainer completely reversed that. Cardio became my cool-down; just 15-20 minutes after an intense hour of resistance. I spend the majority of my workouts in the weight room now. The moment I started doing that the pounds literally melted off. Just to show you- here’s that same horrid before picture (which was taken right after one of my very first training sessions, and explains why I look like death), and the after is just 3 months later (I’m not a crazy person, it was Halloween.) This was simply eating a normal healthy diet, but staying within a reasonable calorie range, and weight training at the direction of my trainer.
When you lift weights, you build lean tissue. You raise your metabolism so you burn more calories doing nothing! Girls, you won’t bulk up; you’ll become lean, and toned. The thing that surprised me the most was that as my weight started coming off and the fat melted, I wasn’t just getting thinner, I was getting strong. I had muscle definition. Cardio is good, running is healthy, but don’t depend completely on it. Try getting into the weight room and you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes. Read my experience of this past December when I took an entire month off of cardio while at the same time increasing my calories each day: Here.
And so I don’t sound like a hypocrite- I do still run! I do some cardio every day and usually one day a week I take a break from weights to let my muscles rest and do a long run (anywhere from 4-6 miles) to keep up my endurance. In terms of my daily routine, I switch things up often, but generally speaking I work out 5-6 days a week. I warm up with a little cardio to get my blood moving and then do anywhere from 30-60 minutes of resistance training (weights), I alternate between days that focus on legs, shoulders and back, biceps and triceps, and core. Then I usually finish with some higher intensity cardio, like 20 minutes of faster-pace running or stairs. So I do still sweat it out on the cardio machines, I just focus more on resistance now.
Exercising doesn’t have to be about suiting up for the gym or pounding the pavement. The secret to long-term health and fitness is living an active life. Find some activities you enjoy, or start a new one. My husband and I love to be outdoors hiking and exploring so this winter we took up snowshoeing. It’s been an awesome way to be active and good workout while having fun doing something we enjoy together.
If you’re taking baby steps, try just going for a walk every night after dinner. If you’re already pretty fit and just want a new hobby, try a new sport or train for an event you’ve never done before. The best way to burn calories is to do it in a fun way where you forget you’re even exercising.
Once you make a goal and commit to something, don’t let the devil on your shoulder talk you out of it. I used to be a very all or nothing person. I was either totally zoned in and focused on something (like health and fitness) or completely out of it (“Well, since I didn’t work out today, I may as well eat cake for breakfast.) Take vacation for example. That was always clearly “time off” for me. I enjoyed not stressing about anything, eating whatever I wanted, and dealing with the consequences when I got back to real life. I live a life now that’s much more balanced. When I go out of town on business or on vacation with my family, I still enjoy myself, and still indulge in yummy food, but I also make better decisions and fit in exercise. Even for a quick overnight trip, I pack my work out clothes and running shoes. Almost all hotels have fitness facilities now, and if they don’t, I do this at-home workout from my trainer.
Last summer after a solid 6 weeks of traveling (and “time off”) I came back to reality and had gained 10 pounds. Ten! I slipped in one training session before I was leaving the very next morning on a massive road trip ending in Disneyland. After the depressing weigh-in, I promised my trainer that the moment I got home from my big trip, I’d fix the mess I’d made and be right back on track. He said no way. I was starting right then. “But I’m going on a road trip!” “And we’re eating out every single day!” “And I have no gym!” He made me commit to tracking my calories and he texted me this workout to do every day. I did it. 7 days, 40 something hours in the car, no gym, and amusement park food every day, and I came home 2 pounds lighter (and knocked off the rest of it shortly after). No excuses.
Another one of my favorite no-excuses work-outs are intervals, because you can do them anywhere. Search the iTunes store for “interval app” and you’ll find basic timers like this. I set it to 1 minute intervals and it will beep when each one is done. Then just do something different for each minute and don’t stop until the minute is over. Try jumping jacks, squats, push ups, sit-ups, lunges, high-knees, planks, tricep dips, etc. Sometimes I set 30 1 minute intervals and do it while I watch a half-hour tv show, talking some of the intervals as breaks.
I can’t write this post without also including this one last very important section.
Don’t be one of those people. You know who I’m talking about. You desperately want to hide them from your social media feeds, but then you couldn’t silently mock them so you just keep them there.
Deciding to be fit and healthy is awesome, but don’t become obsessed. Don’t let it take over your life. And don’t annoy all of your friends by talking about it ALL THE TIME. I know you all have those friends, and I’m going to stop talking about this before mine realize I’m talking about them. There’s a big difference between being dedicated, and being obsessed and addicted. Make sure you can differentiate. Making time for exercise is important, but if it gets to the point where you’re missing family events, or turning down time with friends because you’re stressed it will interfere with your fitness schedule, you might have a problem.
I sincerely hope that this helps some of you out there find that extra little push you need. Now go get after it!