Thursday, May 10, 2012
For the second installment of this series, I thought I'd focus on another excuse that I used to offer quite frequently for why I didn't like to work out.
EXERCISE EXCUSE #2: I can't afford a gym membership.
Nice try. This one is nothing but a pure excuse for avoidance of activity. But, man, I used it ALL THE TIME.
So, I live in Indiana...the weather here is such that I once used as space heater in my office in the morning and a fan in the afternoon. And this is typical for our fairer seasons like Spring and Fall. The extreme seasons are extreme - winter is freezing and summer is ridiculous with its heat and humidity.
My excuse train went something like this...
JAN: I can't exercise outside because it's freezing and it's icy. Don't forget ICE.
MAR: I can't exercise outside because it's so rainy.
JUL: I can't exercise oustide because it's hot. That humidity is dangerous!
JAN-DEC: Because I can't exercise outside, my only option is the gym and I CAN'T AFFORD A GYM MEMBERSHIP (and I don't have TIME - see Exercise Excuse #1).
The best/worst part about all these excuses is that you can use them all together at once and come up with what you think is a pretty convincing argument in your head against exercise.
For the past two weeks, I have not set foot in a gym and I have not once paid to exercise. But I have exercised more than I've ever exercised in my adult life. Come on, you've seen all the lists....they are plentiful here on SparkPeople. I don't need to tell you that all it takes to build fitness into your life is to MOVE YOUR BODY. But, in case you are looking for specific ideas, here are some things I've been doing:
1. SparkPeople Videos - My gosh, these are so easy to do! Not that the workout is easy...not at all. But they are only like 6-15 minutes long. It might be hard (pilates - argh!!!) but you can do ANYTHING for 10 minutes. YES YOU CAN! And, the great thing is, SparkPeople has over 40 videos! You can mix and match! Don't feel like working your legs today? No problem. There's an upper body workout...even a SEATED upper body workout. No excuses.
(OK, I lied...I did go and purchase a few items for working out at home...a resistance band, a jump rope and two 5 lb dumbbells. Total cost: $20. I hate spending money but I had to admit...$20 towards a strong, healthy, hot body...well, that could be worth it in the end! Sound invesment, friends!)
2. Going outside is nice. I like to run...which doesn't require a treadmill, by the way. You just find a place outside that is free and GO. And, as a side note, I purchased super fancy $75 Asics running shoes that SUCKED...only to buy a $9 pair of those large-soled walking shoes at Payless a few days later. These cheap shoes have been the best workout shoes I've ever used! I also ran in 90 degree heat last week...it was brutal, but I had prepared myself all day long by drinking water so that, by the time, I got out on the trail, I had about 100 oz of water in me. Despite the heat, I was glad I did the run.
And speaking of the magic of the outdoors, yesterday was a rest day from running for me, but I still went to take a 2.5 mile walk...not for exercise, but because it's beautiful and it smells nice and it makes my soul feel spectacular!
3. Jump Rope - This was a well-spent $4.88 at Target. And, my gosh, that was the TOUGHEST 10-minute workout I have done in the past 2 weeks!!! I was seriously feeling it yesterday!!!
4. And let's not forget all the things you can do...using only the weight from your own body. Listen...20 push-ups for me is pretty astounding if you think about the fact that I am pushing up a whole 200 and something something pounds! You think that's not gonna give you some sculpted arms?
There's so much more. But, the excuse that exercise needs to be done in a gym or that it needs to be expensive is DEBUNKED.
Wednesday, May 09, 2012
As I've said before, I joined Coach Nicole's Spring Into Shape Bootcamp Challenge on April 29th. I didn't think it would be a very big commitment when I joined, but have found that it really is a big deal after all. Now that we are about two weeks in and halfway done, I feel that my workout habits are beginning to change for good.
I am already shocked at the amount of exercise I've been able to do these past two weeks and, in particular, how many of my old excuses I have pretty much blown out of the water. I thought I'd share some of these with you. I decided to break it up a bit and do one a day, so you don't have to read a mile-long blog. You're welcome.
EXERCISE EXCUSE #1: I Don't Have Time
I don't think I'm the only one that has this as their #1 excuse. I think, if you were to look at the general population of America, this might be the very first reply you would hear from most people when asked whether they regularly exercise.
I get it. I work full-time. I have 3 kids, ages 4-9. I have a house to take care of and a church I'm highly involved in and a couple hobbies that take extra time outside of work and family. My kids have activities two evenings a week. Life is busy.
When I first set out to create an exercise program, I just COULD NOT FIND THE TIME...for the life of me. It appeared that the only times available were 5am and after the kids went to bed. I really felt guilty if I did anything between 5pm and 9pm, because I already got to see so little of my family (because of work).
But, then this challenge started and I have been forced to fit it in. I have found that the workout videos and my own cardio have made me feel so good, so alive, and so much more confident. I have a ton more energy and I feel better able to give in every area of my life - work, family, friends. I sleep better every night. I FEEL WONDERFUL.
Here are some things I've learned that have completely de-bunked the "I Don't Have Time" excuse:
1. Getting up a little early isn't so bad when you have slept like a baby all night long. And regular exercise is great for creating this type of wonderful sleep. So, getting up an extra half hour early to fit in my very short video with Coach Nicole is no big deal at all!
2. If you have a job with some degree of flexibility, get some of your cardio over with during the work day! Lucky for me, I am in charge of depositing checks in the bank for my company. The bank is a 7.5 minute brisk walk from my building...which gives me a really great 15-minute round trip walk (half of my minimum cardio for the day!) If you don't get out for your job...most of us get a lunch break. Even if it's only a half hour break...you could take the last 10-minutes for a fast walk. As Coach Nicole and SparkGuy say, "Just 10 minutes of fitness a day can change your life!" And, I'm here to tell you...they really can!
3. Right after work can sometime be OK. With my 8am-5pm job, in particular, I find that if I come home and go straight into my cardio (which, for me is either walking or running), it's easier than coming home, getting immersed in all the evening's activities and then trying to escape for my workout at some point (which never comes). When it comes down to it, my family knows that this is a huge priority for me and so they let me go. And a 2-mile run only has me out of the house for about 30 minutes. It's totally worth it, especially when I come home all hopped up on endorphins and feeling AMAZING. You can bet I treat my family better when my body is feeling that wonderful! Another trick I've learned is...on the nights my kids are out (because of activities or with grandparents or playing at a friend's house), I've learned to be ready to immediately seize those opportunities and quickly change into my workout clothes and head out immediately. No thinking about it or wondering...just do it...and do it NOW! For me, the chance to get a great workout in while my kids are otherwise occupied (and when I won't feel guilty about missing time with them) is like a godsend!
One last important note about this: once I committed to the plan and had finished a week of a video each day plus at least 5 days of 30 mins of cardio per week, my body began to crave the activity. I sometimes have a hard time building in a rest day because, quite honestly, the feeling I get after a workout is unmatchable. What this means is...I just want to do more. It has become almost like an addiction. And, do you know something? Somehow I have made time for more! More than just 30 minutes. More than the bare minimum. Because I want to.
It's really amazing how much time becomes available when you are looking for time to do something you LOVE. And when you do what you love, it shows...inside and out.
My family isn't sad that I'm not around as much...they are proud of me. My kids just want to copy me and do what I'm doing. It's a spark, I tell you! And it's spreading.
No time???? Not an excuse.
Monday, May 07, 2012
Today I feel broken. As most of you know, I just stood with my Aunt as she passed a few weeks ago. This was my first close family member/friend to die in my entire 33 years of life. Last night, I got an emergency call from my sister telling me that my Uncle in California committed suicide. While Lois's death was a perfect, beautiful (but still heartbreaking) end of life, this news was like a punch in the gut.
Truthfully, I haven't seen my Uncle David since I was a child. But my stepdad is beside himself and I love my stepdad more than almost anyone in this world. And my Grandma is just hysterical with grief. Her 3 sons are her absolute WORLD...you will never have a conversation with her where she doesn't brag on one or another of them or their kids/grandkids. My devastation is in knowing that there is no adequate way to respond to their pain. I cannot imagine losing my precious brother or, worse, my baby boy to something this awful.
As an emotional eater, I've been in constant inner battle this morning. My old excuse reel is playing in my brain and saying, "Just go have a bagel with tons of cream cheese. You deserve comfort food. It's just one day. Go get biscuits and gravy. You'll feel nice."
But the new me is saying, "Wait a second. Am I hungry? No. Then, I'm not going to eat. I'll take a walk instead."
This type of controlled and clear-headed response is not something that I would have had a year ago or, sadly, even two months ago. In fact, I very much surprised myself with this ability to say "no" to myself and stick to my health goals, despite having every "right" to depart from them.
As I pondered this entry, I realized...this is not the first time I have been broken.
Nearly two years ago, I was quite literally broken. I was in the best shape of my adult life, having shed 15 lbs - I had been seriously training 6 days a week to get in shape so I could try out for my sister's roller derby team. But then something happened that no one could have ever seen coming - a horrible freak accident that occurred as I attempted to work on my skating skills with my sister one night. Practicing my T-stops (at a roller rink filled with kids and without any sort of pads or protection), I somehow fell on my right side and simultaneously broke both bones in my right wrist, broke two bones in my right ankle and shattered my right elbow.
As a picture is worth a thousand words, I have some to share.
In this picture, you can see the break in both bones of my ankle.
My elbow...an overhead view. My dad was an X-Ray Tech for a VA Hospital at the time. He tells me that, when he saw this X-Ray, he was in shock because it looked EXACTLY like the soldiers that were coming back from Iraq that had IED explosions which destroyed their bones. He told me it would be a miracle if I could get even 70% range of motion back in this arm.
Side view of my elbow - you can see it all.
Just a small fraction of the $18,000 worth of hardware that was placed in my body that night. I had a second surgery on my elbow to gain more range of motion a few months after my accident and had the hardware removed because it was bothering me. Still have the hardware in my ankle and wrist, so I can still claim the title of "Bionic Mom".
The recovery process from this accident was extremely long. I took a full 3 months of unpaid FMLA from work (let me tell you, that was ROUGH!) I was the only breadwinner for our family at the time. In that last month, we sold absolutely everything we could think of that had value to cover the bills. We've literally been broken financially.
When I went back to work, I still had a handicap sticker on my car. I dealt with ankle pain every day for an entire year. I worked harder than I've ever worked to learn how to walk again and how to straighten my arm. I had to put it in a $1200 device a couple times a day and literally crank it beyond the point of pain to force it to straigthen. Today, I have 100% range of motion in my elbow. And, I can lift weights. And do push-ups. Pain free.
It took an entire year before I could walk without ankle pain. When I went back for my one-year check-up, the doctor said it was completely healed. But...it still flares up and gets swollen when I use it a lot. I still can't walk on grass or rocks or uneven surfaces. I see it like a little baby...it just needs time to get stronger. But it is easily twisted and there was a fear barrier in my mind related to my ankle. So, for a year, I didn't do anything that would possibly cause it to swell or sprain or break again.
Today, I am two weeks in to Couch 2 5K. I have literally only taken 4 real runs, but I feel like my entire body and mind has been completely transformed in this short amount of time. I feel like a completely different person.
When I look back at all of the healing I've already had to go through in the past couple of years, I feel physically strong. When I look at what I have accomplished in the past 3 months as I've been eating healthy and working out, I feel physically strong. When I realize what a gift it is to be able to hold my child and to just walk up a flight of stairs, I feel physically strong.
When I see my kids making healthy choices on their own because they have watched their mom do it, I feel emotionally strong. When I give up something I most prize (lazy time or sleeping in) to do something that I know is good for me, I feel emotionally strong. When I make good choices for my body, in the face of terrible grief and tragedy, I feel emotionally strong.
When I run/walk 2 miles in 28 minutes, I feel...invincible.
I know 100%, though, that if I had not been preparing myself these past couple of months PHYSICALLY, I wouldn't be handling these things EMOTIONALLY as well as I have been. It's just a fact. Exercise and health make you stronger, indeed. In so many more ways than you even expect going into it. It's worth the sacrifice and the pain and the fatigue. It's worth it.
Friday, May 04, 2012
So, I rather impulsively joined the Spring Into Shape Bootcamp Challenge issued by Coach Nicole. This consists of a short (usually 10-minute) strength-training video by Nicole every single day and at least 5 days of cardio - 10 minutes or more (I've been aiming for about 30 minutes, though). It sounded pretty simple and like it wouldn't take up too much time, so I figured, "I can do this!"
I really don't know how these things always happen to me! Lol. I hear about something the NIGHT BEFORE it's supposed to start (ahem, South Beach) and decide on a whim to do it. Before you know it, it's been a full week and I'm fully immersed!
I guess this entry will be more of a record of how this week went and a few thoughts on what I've learned so far.
Day 1 (Sunday): I was up at 6am because I wanted to go for a run before we left on our 6-hour car ride to Illinois (had a funeral to attend). I had decided to start over with Couch 2 5K and I'm so glad I did. Shaved 3 minutes off my mile and it was the first time I ever did all the running intervals as the program dicates without wimping out. Also did Coach Nicole's first video - it was a 10 minute cardio. Pretty simple.
Day 2 (Monday): Day of the funeral. I am having trouble remembering this day, but I know I took one of my break days from cardio and just did a video from Coach Nicole. I also added my own strength exercises - two sets of wall push-ups, closed arm wall push-ups, lying leg adduction, lying leg abduction, crunches, twist crunches and squats.
Day 3 (Tuesday): Really rainy so no way for a run. Did Coach Nicole's beginner pilates workout (HATE HATE HATE). Took a brisk 10-minute walk during the work day when I ran to the bank to make a deposit, then did a Bollywood Dance video at home for 15 mins. Finished out my half hour of cardio with good old jumping jacks.
Day 4 (Wednesday): Nice 2-mile run (Day 2 of C25K). Shaved one more minute off my mile interval time. Felt INVINCIBLE ALL DAY! Did a Coach Nicole resistance band upper body workout. Good stuff!
Day 5 (Thursday): No running today - rest day! But still wanted to get cardio in so I took an easy 3-mile walk on the trail. Beautiful day! Then, did a Coach Nicole pilates video (ugh).
Day 6 (Friday - TODAY): Got up at the break of dawn (literally - I checked to see exactly what time the sun would rise and headed out 5 minutes before). Completed Week 1, Day 3 of C25K. No decrease in mile time, but really worked on my form today and, for the first time, felt that the running intervals were EASIER than the walking ones! That's a victory for me. It means progress! Did a Coach Nicole butt workout - yikes!
Day 7 (Saturday) - Planning to do the Coach Nicole resistance band workout and take it easy the rest of the day. I'd say my body deserves some R&R!
Although this challenge didn't SEEM that involved when I READ about it...it really is a LOT of work! But...not so much that it's impossible. Coach Nicole's videos are short...but don't let that fool you...they are CHALLENGING! All I can say about the cardio is...it's making me feel more empowered and confident than I've ever felt! I feel absolutely amazing and energized all day long. Today, for the first time in a LONG time, I didn't feel the need to put a bunch of make-up on because I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, "I am radiant from that run and I look beautiful just the way I am."
I'll chalk this week up in the VICTORY column!
Thursday, May 03, 2012
I'm going to warn you up front that this entry will be a *tad* on the philosophical side. I don't usually do this type of thing. Usually, I throw down a laundry list of random thoughts on my day, current inspirational ideas or commentaries on my fitness journey and call it a blog. Sometimes I add cute pictures to keep it entertaining.
But I started paging through a book last night (which I won't name, because I ended up really disliking it) and it got some thoughts rolling through my mind and questions began to bubble to the surface.
In order to explain my confusion, you need to know up front that I call myself a Christian woman. Whether I live up to my calling as one of God's children...well, that's God's job to decide, I guess. I'm a wife and a mother of 3 young children. I work full-time in a job I love.
As I began to read this book, the central idea was this: Christians should not try to fix their eating habits out of a motivation of pure vanity (wanting to be skinnier or look better) or selfishness (wanting people to compliment them, etc). But, rather, the ONLY motivation for taking care of your body and getting healthy should be to glorify God. That sounds all well and good, right?
But as I read through the first few chapters, I asked myself, "Is that really my motivation? If I really look DEEP down and I'm 100% honest with myself...is that WHY I'm doing this?" Is that why most people that claim to have faith do it?
It led me to this question that I keep turning over in my brain: IS GETTING HEALTHY NARCISSISTIC?
Dictionary.com defines the word "narcissist" as: a person who is overly self-involved, and often vain and selfish.
Is this me? I've been struggling a bit lately with my health regime, because I have noticed that I am a lot more self-focused and self-involved because, well...when you are working so hard on your body, you kind of HAVE to be. Let's face it...anyone who goes about trying to overhaul their health but doesn't really put too much focus on their food choices or their activity levels is probably not going to be very successful. I mean, isn't that why we have daily trackers for our food and exercise? And hasn't it been proven that tracking is one of the best methods to use in order to see success in this area? Still, to an outsider, tracking every bit of food that goes into my mouth and every minute of activity in my day...well, it just seems a little...obsessive.
But what about this idea of being selfish or self-involved? If I've learned anything important in the past two months (since I've caught "the Spark"), it's that nothing will ever change in my life until I decide that I'm important enough to pay attention to and fight for. No one is going to do this for me. It is great to have support and people cheering you on, but when it comes down to it...this is a personal fight that we are all fighting. And, in order to succeed, we MUST focus on ourselves. How many times have you seen "me time" on SparkPeople? It's important to have "me time" for relaxation, exercise, meditation, etc. It's essential to a healthy, balanced life.
As a Christian, I am TOTALLY for the idea that God gave us these wonderful and amazing bodies to use as a tool and that we have a responsibility to properly care for them. I also believe that our true beauty lies within...in the heart (but that's not an excuse to let our bodies go). I see the delicate balance that exists between these two ideas and I understand how churches could have so much trouble trying to determine which side of the fence to fall on - the side of mercy/grace (allowing people to be unhealthy, but loving them anyway for who they are) or the side of strict and rigid truth (making people feel like less because neglecting the upkeep of their body could be construed as a "sin").
No matter where any particular book or church falls on this spectrum, I can honestly say (with some embarrassment) that my motivation is NOT necessarily to "glorify God" with my health journey. At the same time, it is neither an attempt solely to glorify myself. Truth be told, it's in the middle somewhere. And it really is mostly about ME.
I want to be healthy for my kids - so I can be around for them for a long time and play with them and, frankly, so they won't be embarrassed by their mom. That might be a little vain, but I'm OK with that.
And I dare you to try to find ANYONE that is on this journey that can honestly say they aren't dreaming of looking different (even VASTLY different)...I would say they are not being truthful or they are in denial. It might be a little self-centered. But, I don't know...is that OK?
I have other physical reasons for wanting to lose weight. Ahem, I'm a married woman. Don't you tell me this hasn't crossed your mind as well!!!! Intimacy is an important part of relational health and, without it, there are some pretty difficult issues that arise. And, whether we want to admit it or not, physical appearance plays a very large part in this. It's just the truth.
I actually had a text chat with a SparkFriend last night (I will call this person "Sparky" to protect their identity) and it went something like this. Look, I'm just laying this all out with as much honesty as I can, so...perhaps you'll be shocked at my garish comments...but they are absolutely consistent with how I'm feeling at this point, so I won't apologize for them:
SPARKY: Don't ever forget through all of this that you are a special woman. Let yourself believe that you are a special, unique person. Not another like you. You ARE important.
ME: Thanks. I know that now. Problem was...before, I expected others to make me feel that way. But now *I* have the power.
SPARKY: I was the same way, Leah. It was crippling mentally. You look for affirmation that never comes. Find your own strength.
ME: I'm not shrinking back anymore. I always assumed that I wasn't enough...but I am.
SPARKY: Good for you, way to take it back. It took me a long time to realize that I am capable and I don't need anyone's permission or praise to realize I have what it takes. Growing up, I was never good enough. It scarred me...but no more.
As I look over these words...yes, they sound arrogant. They really do. But, I honestly don't feel I could make it on this tough of a journey without a confidence THIS strong. I see it every day...people giving up because they don't love themselves and they don't believe in themselves. It's absolutely heartbreaking.
So, maybe I am a bit narcissistic. But...if this is how it has to be, then this is how it has to be. The best I can do is try to reverse some of the self-centeredness by doing my best to help and encourage as many people as I can. By doing everything in my power to give back...to my community, to my SparkFriends, to my church, to my co-workers and family.
But anyone around me needs to know that I require some self-focus for awhile...to get to where I can best serve others. And, I believe that by being healthy and, thereby, extending my life and quality of life, there will be a "ripple effect" (as SparkGuy, Chris Downie, says) and things will really change in my world.
I'm curious to know if anyone else has struggled with this question of "self-centeredness". It would sure be helfpul to know how you have pushed through it!
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