How To: Get Fit

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.

treadmill funny

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:

Food Blogger loses 50 pounds

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!

Make the time

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.

Make Time

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.

Now is the Right Time-2

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!

100 lb weight loss on Our Best Bites

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.

Now is the Right Time

ON Pink topSimple 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!

power in numbers

S and TWhile 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 😉

Join a gym

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.


Sara and her TrainerThis 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.

Less Cardio

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.)

Fitness Tips from Our Best Bites

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.

Results of 3 months of weight training at Our Best Bites

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.

Active Habits

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.

Sara Our Best Bites Snowshoeing

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.

no excuses

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.

Our Best Bites Home Workout

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.

Interval App from Our Best Bites

Don't be Annoying

I can’t write this post without also including this one last very important section.

workout funny

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!


Sara Wells
Meet The Author

Sara Wells

Sara Wells co-founded Our Best Bites in 2008. She is the author of three Bestselling Cook Books, Best Bites: 150 Family Favorite RecipesSavoring the Seasons with Our Best Bites, and 400 Calories or Less from Our Best Bites. Sara’s work has been featured in many local and national news outlets and publications such as Parenting MagazineBetter Homes & GardensFine CookingThe Rachel Ray Show and the New York Times.

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Questions & Reviews

  1. You are a cool gal. So refreshing to have health and fitness promoted in the way it should be– and from one who has influence over thousands of readers. Thank you for encouraging hard work, good choices, and common sense.

  2. Great article! very inspiring. I have stumbled on your site today and I am motivated to keep going – have done various things over the years – even currently have a trainer – only about 10 – 15 more pounds to go. Hope will works.:)

  3. I started a Pinterest board dedicated to ‘Healthy Fit Me’. Your article (your BEFORE/AFTER photo) inspired me greatly, so I saved it to my board. Last week I joined a FREE gym at work. Now I spend 30 minutes working out BEFORE my commute home. My husband is my lifestyle change buddy. We’ve completely changed our diet (mostly plant-based) and we’re loving the change. We also sold a vehicle and bought bikes. On weekends we cycle everywhere (going green and getting fit). Thanks for being a part of my new healthy lifestyle.

  4. I actually read the whole article and t is deferentially one of my favorite!!! Thank you so much for sharing,and I’m deffentally gonna try your advice!!! I have the excuse of no time or just being lazy. But now I’m going to set it a priority and my hobby and try not to give myself excuses!thank you do much,this was I needed to read today!!!

  5. You rock and thank you so much. I found this post on the morning i start with my trainer! I have been working out on my own and have lost 50 lbs in the last year but have recently hit a wall. Your tips are fantastic and I am feeling super motivated. thank you !!!

    1. You are awesome! Congrats on the success and good luck with keepin’ at it!

  6. Thank you for reminding me how easy it is. I had lost almost 100 pounds when I got married four years ago and gained it back slowly because of self doubt, the birth of our son and nursing. I’m now back more than a 100 pounds heavier then my wedding day and I was beginning to feel helpless, hopeless and just less. Thank you for your sharing and for your inspiration.

  7. Thanks so much for this! It’s so much more valid to read tips from someone who has gone through the process. I will refer to this often through my journey

  8. Hi! First of all, I want to say that you are such an inspiration! I have been trying out different diets and methods, but I never have the determination to stick with it. I absolutely can’t wait to start this! You have really brought to light what I need to make it through! Thank you so much for sharing!

    I do have one question:
    What has your diet been like? “Normal” healthy diets are always very different. I can never figure out what my carb, sugar, etc. intake should look like. (Or at least a general speaking, since everybody is different)

  9. just starting on my weight loss journey and came across your post very excited to here your full story. I live in the country so not close to a gym but have a treadmill only problem is I have knee problems (probably because of my weight!) anyway I’m going to take your advise and use my weights and resistance bands to try to build some muscle. Thanks again for your post I am inspired!

  10. Just a tip I like concerning restaurant meals; Doggy Bag It! Select entrees that lend themselves to adaptation like chicken breasts, pork tenderloin, steaks, etc. Eat half for your meal and take half home. Chefs know the most important ingredient in their recipes is butter so the doggy bag half can be combined with scads of vegetabes and fruits. Especially tasty is the salad use: plenty of chopped lettuce/tomatoes/scallions and then the restaurant stuff on top. Yummy and useful for those who must eat out!

  11. Four months ago I had my second son, only seventeen months apart (how far apart are your boys?) and I feel like this breastfeeding thing is keeping me fat! How do you lose weight with two babies? Do you always have to find a sitter for your boys so you can go to the gym?

  12. Thanks so much for sharing your journey. I am very inspired. I know it is a personal question, but if you don’t mind, would you give me a range of cost that I should be looking to spend when hiring a trainer? Also, did you meet with him once a week, 3x a week, 30 minutes, 1 hour, etc?

    1. It honestly varies SO much depending on where you live, who the trainer is, etc. I started training 2x a week (60 minute sessions) and then moved down to 1x per week.

  13. So I have loved reading this post and those related to it! I have read them several times over the past few days and I finally feel like losing weight and becoming a better version of me is doable in this fasion. I have always believed that the good old fashioned way of losing weight (exercise and eat right) was the best and safest method for most people. I want to know more. I know that I need some help though so I’m super curious about getting a trainer. If you have a second could you email me the details about how to go about even finding a trainer. I’m interested in what part of the country you live in, how much a trainer typically costs, how do you find one that fits your style and goals, etc. You have truly inspired me and I can’t wait to get going! Thank you!!!!

  14. Hope you do more of these posts after baby 4…. Although I myself wouldn’t like the pressure of that right after having a baby but I sure think they’d be popular, and motivating….

  15. I just want to thank you for your fitness posts. I am a mom of 4 who has struggled for years to lose the baby weight (can I really call it that when my oldest is 4?). I have run off and on in the past and tried a variety of diets, but never really had much success. Your posts inspired me to give it another try, this time incorporating weight training. To date I have lost 14 lbs. since the beginning of March and I’ve run two 10K’s in the last few weeks. I’ve gone down 4 pants sizes and I feel better than I have in years. I still have about 10 pounds to go to get to my ideal weight, but I’m already so happy with where I am. Thanks again for your inspiration! It helped me so much!