For me, it began with exercise.
This week has included celebration as a bunch of a friend’s friends and I celebrated her 10-pound weight loss in the last month. That’s tremendous, because she owns the fact that all she’s done is hit the treadmill. Yet, she’s not seeing results as she’s expecting.
Thinking about Kim’s success made me think back over my health journey and what I would tell someone who’s just starting out – what’s worked, what hasn’t, what my obstacles and frustrations have been. For me, it started with a decision.
There’s what I stated publicly – very specific, measurable goals.
But then I also had some powerful internal motivations, as well. My husband has a seizure disorder, and nothing makes me feel more powerless than seeing him on the floor and not having the upper body strength to even come close to helping him up. I’m an only child of parents that are getting older. When they get older and not able to take care of themselves, I’ll need to take care of them. I also have an aunt who doesn’t have children and therefore, no one but me to take care of her when she reaches her advanced years. I’ll own that I haven’t always been in good physical shape, so I want to make sure that I’m healthy enough to ease the burden on my own family should I need them to care for me at some point. Basically, a large part of my motivation is to be in shape to care for others.
Caveat: What I’m describing is what has worked for me. Every single body is different with different needs for different daily activities. I’ll cover my dietary restrictions – or lack thereof – in a future post.
On 1 October 2016, after months of high-level stressors including the loss of a once-cherished friend, I frankly got tired of being fat and feeling unhealthy. I was tired of not looking good in my clothes, despite the slight strengthening I’d felt in my legs from months of rehab and in my arms from some light weightlifting. So, I girled up and stepped on the scales. After all, I had to learn where I was before I could determine where I needed to go.
It had begun with rehab the January before. Doing one set each of exercises in the beginning was all well and good, but as the number of sets increased, I had to have something to do in those rest periods besides twiddle my thumbs and peruse Facebook. So, I grabbed a pair of 2-pound weights and started doing arm exercises. It was good, but not enough.
One of the key factors I had to take into consideration was the strength and durability of my knees, my recovering right one, especially. I began to walk. And walk. And walk. I found I really loved walking outside and would do so every chance I had. We live in a safe neighborhood, and our town boasts a lovely, well-maintained pedestrian/bike trail that circles the historic downtown area. I’d walk throughout the neighborhood 2-3 days a week – it’s 2.6 miles twice around – then I’d walk around downtown while my teen was in her weekly dance class.
And on the other days, I did strength training – squats, lunges, bridge lifts, crunches (soooo many crunches!), bicep curls, lateral lifts, and tricep curls. I also began to keep a food journal in my phone; the Samsung Health app includes all this. I was feeling great! I was disciplined, and nothing was going to keep me from achieving my goals.
I was three months in. My clothes were getting loose, and unseasonably warm temps meant I was outside a LOT. Time to step on the scales for the first time after the holidays. I’d lost… 3 pounds. THREE. Not 13. Not 30. 3. At that point, I decided to start looking at measurements instead of weight. That was much more delightful to track, because while I was burning fat, I was also building muscle. Often, my losses and my gains canceled each other out. But imagine a pound of feathers. Pretty bulky and voluptuous, right? Now imagine a pound of brick. It still weighs the same as the feathers, but it’s compact. That’s what was going on in my body. The fat has more volume than the muscle, so it takes up more space.
I kept at it, adding biking when the weather warmed up and swimming when things got really hot. I walked still and ran up and down the field with my soccer teams. The pounds and inches kept disappearing, the clothes got baggier and baggier. Last fall, I got tired of the plateau I’d hit and kicked things up with low-impact aerobics. That lasted just a few weeks before winter break, so I found a Dance2Fit class offered for free just a couple of miles from home. That’s seriously high intensity that leaves me pouring sweat by the time I’m done. It’s great!
Throughout all these exercises, some things changed on my inside. First, if I exercise in the second half of the day, I sleep much better at night. Exercising that strenuously has also been a good way to increase my water intake. As I resumed walking last month, yet another change became apparent. The dancing and aerobics have strengthened my heart muscle (yes, the heart is technically a muscle), and what used to feel “strenuous” is now easy to me. My rate of speed has increased by a half mile per hour in the last year and I’ve even been able to jog some. Yet, my heartrate stays comfortably on target or even a little below. It looks like my challenge will be to kick things up a little bit more.
That’s the cardio side of things, but what about the strength training? I’ve gotten heavier weights that I’ve been using, and the results are becoming more and more apparent. For the first time since I was six, I’m able to wear an off-the-shoulder blouse, because I have the sexy shoulders to pull it off.
The gain has been worth the pain, that’s for sure! My core is stronger, giving me a stronger back and better posture. My arms and legs have new contours and sleeker appearances, and both are stronger, able to do more, lift more, live more.
When it comes to living the healthy coastal lifestyle, exercise will come easier to some people, while eating right will be easier for others. I liked starting with exercise, because I was adding something positive to my life. When that friendship I mentioned above blew up, suddenly I had lots more time in my days to devote to taking care of myself. Eating the right way inevitably means taking out something we like. Maybe it’s that bit of sweet after dinner or the cold PopTarts breakfast as we run out the door. Working out and beginning to feel those results – while also keeping a food journal – served as great motivation to change my eating habits, which I’ll discuss in the next post.
We’re one month into the New Year. How are those resolutions coming? Is your gym membership card or that new piece of exercise equipment starting to collect dust? Time to dust it off. Don’t let a week or two of slackness derail your goals. You’ve got this!
- What happens to your body when you start exercising regularly (businessinsider.com)
- Middle-aged couch potatoes can reverse heart damage with regular exercise, study shows (telegraph.co.uk)
- How to make a home gym fit for a 40something (telegraph.co.uk)
- Screw the Scale: Why I Think the Term “Weight Loss” Needs to Die (greatist.com)