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