29 November 2015

Baby Steps To Improved Fitness

In early September I wrote a post about how I needed a new outlook on fitness. Then I did absolutely nothing about it for two months. Because, laziness.

But about four weeks ago I decided to actually give this whole new attitude thing a go and see what happens. Following are a few of the tiny, itty-bitty steps I took during the month of November.

Found my baseline. On day one I weighed in. And then stopped weighing in. When I stepped on the scale that day I admit I had a teensy bit of a shock. And I was tempted to keep checking. But I realized if this plan was going to “work” I had to stop looking at the numbers so frequently. So I vowed not to weigh myself again for at least four weeks. Now I intend to weigh in only once a month. Because anything more than that is probably just daily fluctuations anyway and not helpful information.

Took photos. No, you won’t see them yet, maybe at all. But they exist. I look cheerful and alert in these “before” photos because, well, I hate when people intentionally take mug shot photos at the beginning of their exercise journey and then post glamour shots at the end. I’m happy now and I’ll be happy when I’m a little less squishy. So, yes, even extra-fifteen-pounds me gets to brush her hair and wear lipstick.

Let go of unrealistic options. Normally I don’t like to start with the negatives, but in this case I had to honestly evaluate what would not work. Could I leave the house on a regular basis to work out somewhere like the YMCA? Well, technically it is feasible . . . I could either take the kids and pay to have them stay in the child care (where they would be the oldest ones there and bored out of their minds) or go when Hubby is not at work (which pretty much means going when they open at 5:00 a.m. Monday through Friday or only on weekends). Neither of those scenarios is optimal, so I considered exercise DVDs (or YouTube) in the living room. I actually tried this for a while, and Agent J kind of got a kick out of doing them with me, but ultimately I realized I just don’t like cheesy cardio videos enough for that method to be sustainable. I knew I had to come up with another idea.

Developed a new mindset. After some valiant efforts to come up with the Ideal Workout Plan, it occurred to me that maybe I didn’t need a plan after all. What I needed was a new way of looking at fitness. (In other words, to actually take my own advice from that previous post.) Exercise didn’t have to be (and shouldn’t be) something that I have to do in a certain way at a certain time to reach a certain goal. It should just be part of my everyday routine, like eating and sleeping and spending too much time on Twitter. I didn’t need to rearrange my days to "fit in" exercise; I needed to make exercise a natural part of my days.

Experimented with a three-part plan. The first part—starting each day with at least 10 minutes of stretching—I had already been doing and so this was more of a renewed commitment to not slack. The second component—strength training—was going to have to be more intentional. I don’t have any sort of equipment or weights at home, nor do I have tons of free time, so this was going to have to be a brief circuit of things like squats, lunges, push-ups (which I admittedly suck at), crunches, and the like. After some waffling, I realized the best time to do this is before dinner (sometimes while I’m in the kitchen keeping an eye on the stove while cooking said dinner). The final piece, cardio, was going to be harder. Honestly, I hate cardio. I don’t run and I already established that video workouts don’t do it for me. Getting to an outside class was probably not going to happen. So I took the simplest route I could come up with: I began walking more. I walk with the Agents around the neighborhood. I walk by myself every weekend and holiday when Hubby is home during the day. I walk when it’s windy and cold and this warm-weather-loving gal needs to break out a hat and gloves.

Made minor adjustments to my diet. I don’t do food deprivation or wacky diet plans. I like to eat. I like to indulge (within reason). Making elaborate changes to my eating habits was not going to happen. But, I knew I could make some small, painless tweaks that would have potential benefits. I made an effort to drink more water. I cut back on my afternoon coffee fix (because I can only drink coffee if it is enhanced with honey and milk and I figured I didn’t need those extra calories twice a day). I stopped putting honey in my tea (now I don’t even miss it). I tried really hard to notice when I felt full and then stop eating no matter how tasty the food in front of me. I never realized how often I ate to the point of feeling slightly uncomfortable until I made a conscious decision to pause and think about it at each meal. I started having more than coffee for breakfast, which in the long run helped me to not overdo it later in the day.

Focused on the big picture. I still eat dessert every day. (Most days it’s something small, like a mini chocolate bar.) I still eat fast food. (Although instead of every 7-10 days it’s more like once a month.) I still head for the cookie plate at church coffee hour. I still go overboard on holidays (hello, Thanksgiving, I’m talking to you). But I don’t stress about these things because they are minor details in the big scheme of things. I don’t feel the need to “cut out”  food-related activities that I enjoy. I don’t ever think, oh I ate x and now I need to do y to “make up for it.” That’s not how it works. I know that one huge meal, or even a whole weekend of huge meals, isn’t going to derail my overall objectives any more than one extensive workout is going to get me into fantastic shape. It’s a work in progress, and it’s more about balancing over time.

And that’s it, folks. Nothing dramatic, but it’s a start. I’m happy to report that with just a few weeks of these very minor adjustments my weight has gone down (not significantly) and I feel better overall (although I realize that could just be a placebo effect). The changes to my routine are becoming habits. 

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