The Rule of Three, Part I

I like things in threes.  I find that grouping things into three is effective, cohesive, and concise (see what I did there?).  There’s a rule of three in literature, in comedy, in Wicca… and in my world, I’ve got a rule of three for my fitness.  The three pieces to my wellness puzzle are:

1. Exercise

2. Diet (not to be confused with BEING on a diet; but rather HAVING a diet)

3. Attitude

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Flexy.

Today, I’ll discuss the first — and, surprisingly, the easiest — of the three.  Exercise.  It’s kind of a no-brainer: if you want to be fit, you work out.  It’s not just that you have to work out, though; it’s how you work out.  It took me years to learn this.  Years and years of climbing that elliptical to nowhere, of plodding along mile after mile at a turtle’s pace, of doing a few rounds of sun salutations and thinking that was all I needed to know about yoga.  But, when you know better, you do better.  So I do it better now.

Most of my workouts come from DVD programs, my favorite being the Pretty Fierce series by Lindsay Brin.  As a stay-at-home mom of two, I like the flexibility that a DVD workout affords me.  I don’t have to show up for class, or wait for my favorite machine at the gym to be free, or worry about childcare.  I can work out in the morning if the rhythm of our day leans that way, or save it for when my husband gets home from work and can amuse the littles for 45 minutes while I rep it out.  

The workouts that I do have a few things in common — they use heavy weights (the only petite dumbbells you’ll find in my house are the ones my three year-old uses), they incorporate HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), they emphasize good form, they focus on core strength, and they push me well beyond my comfort zone.

This article from Women’s Running magazine explains the concept pretty well.  The theory behind interval training is that your body adjusts to your workout after a certain length of time.  So, if your heart rate remains at a steady level –rather than increasing and decreasing as you stop-and-start your activity/intensity — you’re working your aerobic capacity and increasing your cardiovascular threshold, but not maximizing your fat loss potential.

Okay, enough science-y talk.  How exactly does one STICK to an exercise regimen?  Well, back to what I was saying about how much I love DVD programs:  When you buy a program like Chalene Extreme or Pretty Fierce, they come with a handy dandy calendar that you can print out and tape to your refrigerator for visual reference.  I absolutely LOVE crossing off that day’s workout on my calendar.  It’s a satisfying way to mark my progress, and I know that my day just isn’t the same until I put that big “X” over a square.

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My current calendar, a hybrid of Lindsay Brin’s Pretty Fierce X and my marathon training plan.

I also set very specific goals for myself that aren’t directly related to size or weight.  My goals may be to run a 25:00 5K or to do a pull-up.  I find that these kinds of tangible goals are much “easier” to work towards than to simply say that I’d like to wear a certain size dress.  And by “easier,” I mean that it’s far more straightforward to develop a pull-up strength training plan and follow through with it than to just cross my fingers and hope that I get the zipper up by the end of the month.

Finally, take pictures and measurements.  Yes, the scale matters… until it doesn’t anymore.  For someone who’s obese or overweight, I’d argue that it’s semi-important to track actual weight loss in the beginning, but at a certain point, your body shape and composition may start to change even though the scale no longer does.  That’s where I’m at now, and though I’d love to see the final 10-15 lbs. drop off for good, I know that I’m still making progress because I track my waist, hip, thigh, and bicep measurements; and I take pictures.  Yes, selfies are a GOOD thing!

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And remember, what’s worked for me may not work for you.  We’re all different and we’re all motivated by different things.  The automatic monthly checking account withdrawl for that gym membership may be what motivates you to get out the door, or maybe it’s working out with a partner.  Whatever you do, don’t overthink it.  Go find something that you like and that makes you feel powerful and fulfilled and do it.  Do it over and over again.  Do it even when it’s not fun, because you’ll always feel better when it’s over.  Carpe diem, folks.   

“The chief beauty about time
is that you cannot waste it in advance.
The next year, the next day, the next hour are lying ready for you,
as perfect, as unspoiled,
as if you had never wasted or misapplied
a single moment in all your life.
You can turn over a new leaf every hour
if you choose.”
– Arnold Bennett

Because of my Family, I Lost It

Photo by Liz Hough Photography

Photo by Liz Hough Photography

I’ve been asked several times along the way of my weight loss journey to blog about it. I’ve been told that I’ve inspired people, which is humbling and weird to think about. Because I didn’t lose 72-77 pounds (depending on the day, and counting) so that I could “inspire people” or write a blog that maybe 20 people would read. Like my mind, my sanity, my patience, the ability to sneeze without peeing just a little bit, and all of the other things I’ve lost, the weight came off because of my children.

I began my first pregnancy (an unexpected one) as an overweight person. Though I ran on the weekends, I was not healthy. I ate lots of processed foods, a soy- and faux meat-heavy vegetarian diet, and drank at least a beer a night. I had a healthy pregnancy and a beautiful daughter when all was said and done, but postpartum depression packed additional pounds on top of the baby weight that I’d not yet shed. And then, oops! Our son was conceived without much (um, okay, without ANY) planning and I began his pregnancy as a categorically obese woman. When my son was born, I was up to 225 pounds. And despite the 8 lb, 15 oz weight of his body, plus the placenta, amniotic fluid, and all the other birth gunk that comes out of your body after you bring a human into the world, I managed to stay well into the 200+ pound range throughout his first year. And I began to get scared.

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I began to get scared that I would develop Type 2 Diabetes, or heart problems. I began to get scared that I was setting a bad example for my children about how to live and care for their bodies. I had food issues — serious, disordered eating issues. And I was determined to stop it all before it got even more out of control than it already had.

So one day, I was loafing on the recliner, nursing my 10 month-old son, surfing the internet on my phone. I frequently visited the website BabySteals.com, which features products for new parents each day at a significant discount. That day’s product was Lindsay Brin’s Pretty Fierce DVD set. On a whim, I ordered it. The price was just right and the reviews were outstanding. It seemed like everyone who tried this program loved it and had great results from it. Excusing the pun, what did I have to lose?

Shipping was quick and the DVDs arrived just a few days later. I was expecting some light aerobics, some crunches to tone the tummy, some light weightlifting with petite little dumbbells. You know, something for “moms.” A “mom” workout.

And that’s when I got my ass handed to me by a perky, petite Midwestern mom of three.

The Pretty Fierce Weight Loss DVD program is the first in a series of three Pretty Fierce programs by Lindsay Brin. It’s *supposed* to be the easiest of the three. But at 219 pounds, there was nothing easy about hurling my body up and down to do burpees, or balancing in a side plank, or doing plyometric lunges on my weak knees and ankles. I couldn’t do a lot of the moves and I had to pause the DVD several times to catch my breath because I simply couldn’t keep up with it. I cried after the first several workouts, it was so discouraging. I wanted to quit.

Photo by Liz Hough Photography

Photo by Liz Hough Photography

But I didn’t. And that’s where my journey started. My journey hasn’t stopped yet, and if I do it right, it will never stop. Health and fitness and overall wellness is as much a part of my life as anything else now. I work out every day, the same as I’d brush my teeth every day, or eat food every day. It’s simply part of my routine and who I am. I feel better when I work out; I feel terrible when I don’t. It’s simple. And complicated. And easy, and difficult; and fun, and torturous… all at once. Like motherhood. I’ll tell you all about it. Well, some of it, anyway. Stay tuned.