Wednesday, July 11, 2012
I was never a couch potato. But the visit to the gym or a quick workout at home was always something I HAD to do not something I WANTED to do. The last time I had a gym membership was some time near my twenties! Ever since then, my exercise would be 20 or 30 minutes on the static bike or the treadmill whenever I felt like it. And of course walking – lots of it as I have no car – and swimming during the summer months.
Sparkpeople helped me “discover” exercise! No, let me rephrase that. Sparkpeople helped me discover the love for exercise I never knew I had! Through articles, coach Nicole’s videos, other members’ blogs, I began learning about new ways of exercise and their benefits to my body and my weight loss efforts. I started slowly, step by step. Tiny step by tiny step actually. At first, I was really disappointed at my fitness levels. I’ll never forget my first attempt to do jumping jacks! After about 4 or 5 of them I was lying flat on the floor thinking “this is it, I can’t catch my breath, I’m going to die right here, right now!” But I never quit. I just took one step back. Ok, I’m not ready to do jumping jacks yet but that doesn’t mean I will never be able to. I’ll do something easier and later on I’ll try again. And that’s how I learned that my body can do almost anything. The fact that we can’t do it today doesn’t mean that we never will. We’re just not ready for it yet.
I tried many things and I’m always on the lookout for more. Three years of experimenting with different types of workouts have led me to the following reviews.
WALKING WORKOUTS: The best way to begin your fitness journey. Even if you’re a couch potato or you use your car as a substitute to your legs, your body is made to walk. No matter how heavy or how old you are, if you have no other reason that limits your body movement, you can start walking now. Whether you decide to walk around the block or to the park or you purchase one of those walking DVDs which give you the chance to start slowly and at your own privacy, it’s your best choice to launch your fitness journey. You’re too slow? At least you’re not on the couch anymore!
YOGA: Mind and body experience. Too difficult at first as it requires good balance and flexibility. It teaches you the art of breathing which is really important in all kinds of exercise. If you stick with it, it does wonders to your body, to your mood and to your stress levels.
PILATES: Even though it’s not one of my favorites, I have to admit that it’s one of the greatest ways to strengthen your core. It looks easy but it isn’t. The moves use body resistance in a brilliant way which really wakes up even your most “dormant” muscles!
ZUMBA: Made for people with a dancing spirit! A great way to exercise and have fun at the same time. The moves can be a little tricky and if you’re a perfectionist like me, you might be disappointed at first or feel that you have two left feet! Great cardio exercise!
KICK-BOXING: My number one favorite! I never believed punches and kicks could bring up that heart rate so fast! It helps you throw away all your bad energy through every kick and every punch. Every second of a kickboxing workout makes you feel stronger and stronger. Ok, you got the idea. It’s my absolute favorite!
STRENGTH TRAINING: The absolute MUST! If you really want to feel and see a difference in your body start strength training now! Yesterday would be ideal! You can use whatever type of resistance suits you best. Free weights, resistance bands, gym equipment, your own body resistance, whatever you like. If you haven’t tried it before, chances are that soreness will hit you hard during the first workouts. Don’t get disappointed. Get some good rest between workouts, give your muscles time to recover and NEVER, EVER skip the stretching part.
BOOTCAMPS: Usually high-intensity programs you can find at gyms or on DVDs. They require an advanced level of fitness, unless otherwise advised by the creator. They usually incorporate different kinds of workouts – like strength training, kick boxing, some martial arts, dancing cardio – and they are programmed to last for a certain period of time. They’re usually really fun and super motivating!
CIRCUIT TRAINING AND INTERVAL TRAINING: These are also ways to put different types of workouts together. Circuit training is a combination of strength training and cardio exercise. Each circuit usually targets a certain group of muscles on the body and there are cardio intervals between circuits. Interval training on the other hand is mainly a kind of cardiovascular exercise which consists of intervals of high intensity and low intensity exercise. Both ways are used by athletes and they are said to be coaches’ favorites. They are definitely an excellent way to take your fitness to the next level but they require an already acquired level! So, don’t rush!
RUNNING: Well, this one I haven’t tried yet. I tried once but I had the same luck I had with the jumping jacks… It was probably too early. But I can tell you what I have realized from all my runners friends here on Spark. Running is not just another type of exercise. It’s a way of life. You either love it or you hate it. You either start and you don’t like it and you never want to try it again or you begin with a C25K and already dream of running a marathon one day. I really don’t know which side I’m at. But I really want to try it again. I want to feel the freedom they’re feeling. That’s how I see it. As freedom of the body and the soul. Like when a small bird manages to spread its wings and fly for the first time. Fly in the open horizon, alone with itself, feeling the endless boundaries of its own existence. Am I right runners?
After having tried all these kinds of workouts, after having gone through ups and downs during my fitness journey, I’ve come to one simple conclusion. There is one type of exercise that it’s the best for all of us.
It’s the one we like.
Because simply we will stick to it! We’ll have fun and we’ll want to do it again. It will become part of our everyday ritual and not our everyday torture.
So, try any exercise that you think you could love. But if you don’t like it, don’t push yourself into doing it just because you’ve heard it works. Try something else. You’ll find something that works for you.
Make exercise a synonym for fun. And enjoy it.
Monday, July 09, 2012
Day by day.
Step by step.
Choice by choice.
That’s how you’ll reach your fitness goals. But the first day, the first step, the first choice will be your guide to all the following days, steps and choices. You have to decide HOW you want to lose weight.
There are two ways to lose weight: the fast and the permanent. You might be thinking that the categorization I’m doing is not right as the first describes the time required and the second describes the time it will last. But believe me, thousands of stories of weight loss from people all over the world can easily prove one thing: when it comes to weight loss, fast can’t be permanent and permanent can’t be fast.
That brings you at a crossroad just at the beginning of your journey. What is more important to you? To get rid of this weight fast, as soon as possible and be able to see a certain number on the scale even for a little while? Well, you can find hundreds of crash diets and promising diet pills and supplements out there that can help you reach your goal. If, on the other hand, your main interest is losing the weight and keeping it off forever, no matter how long it will take you, then you should vote for what we call a “lifestyle change”.
I’ve previously shared with you my experience of both dieting and lifestyle change. This is the blog link in case you want to have an idea.
Choosing to change the way you live won’t be easy. It’s actually the hard way. It’s the road less traveled. And it’s a bumpy road. Quitting on the diet mentality that most of us have been used to for years can be very difficult. Getting rid of everyday habits of your life up to now, whether you’re 20 years old or at the first stages of retirement, is a big deal. And that’s where motivation comes to do the trick.
Picture it. What do you want to look like in a year from now? How do you want to feel like? Which ugly habits do you wish to have got rid of? Make a visual of yourself and keep it in the front window of your mind. Whenever things get tough – because they will – close your eyes and stop by your mind’s window. Your image is still there. And it’s up to you to make it real.
Just believe it.
Thursday, June 28, 2012
… who’s the most honest of them all?
Whether it’s your first attempt to lose weight or you’ve actually lost count of them, every time you are on square one, you are likely to feel determined and ready to shed those pounds once and for all. But if you want the outcome to be successful, you should start by facing your biggest ally and at the same time your worst enemy on this journey: yourself!
So, stand in front of your mirror, be honest to yourself and answer three simple questions.
1. “Do I really need to lose weight?”
Over the past few months that my weight loss became obvious I heard comments like “How did you do it? Why can’t I succeed?” voiced by perfectly normal-sized people and sometimes people that one could easily call skinny! There are thousands of influences out there that could cause us to have a distorted opinion of our body image. Of course the important thing for everyone is to feel good in their body. But if you don’t, think about it again. Don’t just count on weight charts and indexes. They might be indicative of our overall size but some flexibility is always accepted even by experts. Who do you usually compare your body image to? Are you really overweight or are you being a very strict judge of yourself? Give it a second thought. Then go on and set realistic goals based on a real-life, ideal body image of yourself.
2. "Who am I doing this for?”
You might be doing this for your husband because you’ve noticed the way his eyebrow raises at the sight of your skinny, fit next-door neighbor. You might be doing this for your wife because she keeps “reminding” you how handsome you looked when she first met you. You might be doing this for your best friend who’s getting married in a few months and wants you to be his best man or her maid of honor and would like you to look your best. All these may sound like great motivation – and they are, as long as they’re just a motivating occasion and not your actual reason. Otherwise, you’ll be taking orders from someone to start something you might not be ready for. And the chances of failure begin to rise.
You have to do this for you! In other words, you must want this badly! And such a strong desire can only be yours!
3. “Am I ready for the changes involved?”
Let’s face it. Any big life change requires sacrifices. When you decided to go into university, when you moved far away to another city to pursue the career of your dreams, when you took the big step of getting married, when you accepted the huge responsibility of becoming a parent, you had to leave some of your habits behind. Well, now you’re about to change yourself. You’re about to change the only thing that has been with you ever since the first second of your life and will carry you through to your last breath on this planet: your body! Does this sound like an unimportant change compared to the ones mentioned above? Then why wouldn’t it require sacrifices?
Focus on your goal and make these sacrifices worthwhile. Embrace them and they’ll lead you to a new version of yourself!
That was easy, wasn’t it? You practiced your first lesson of honesty to yourself. It might sound simple but it isn’t. If you think about it, you’ve lied to yourself many times. You’ve found ridiculous excuses for not exercising or for overeating, haven’t you?
But honesty is the foundation for any successful and productive relationship. And only if you have established such a relationship with yourself, will you reach your goal one day.
Face yourself, face your fears, face your challenges. Get ready for change!
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
In my last blog, I announced the launch of a series of blogs concerning my weight loss journey. So, what is this all about? Let me explain.
Next September I will have been a member of Sparkpeople for three years. During this time I spent lots of time reading and learning new things about nutrition, exercise and healthy habits. It took me almost two years to actually start losing weight and be successful. So, you’ll assume that’s all you need to do. Spend hours reading, learn everything you can about all these subjects, literally “soak” your brain in the sea of information and articles you can find here on SP and on the internet and you’ll be ready to reach your goals.
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple…
I’m sure most of you have seen the film “Matrix”. Do you remember the way they “downloaded” any information or knowledge they needed directly to their brains? Wouldn’t that be great? Do you need to learn how to fly a helicopter? Just “plug” yourself in and in a few seconds you’re a pilot! Do you need to be a nutritionist, a personal trainer and a fitness expert, all in one? Wait a few moments, until the “loading meter” is filled and… that’s it!
Even if we could use this fictional technology – which could prove really useful in other areas of our lives! – we wouldn’t have solved the puzzle of weight loss. The information would be really important but the secret is not in some “highly confidential” nutrition facts or some “top secret” training techniques.
The secret lies within!
It’s a process of changing your frame of mind and the way you think about food, exercise, diets, health and all the subjects concerning weight loss. It’s about you becoming a self-taught psychiatrist of yourself and only. Every day you’ll have to sit yourself on the couch and ask and answer questions. You’ll have to find what helps you in your progress and boost it or what halts your progress and fight against it. The secrets are all in your mind and you’re going to have to discover them. YOU are the only one who can do this.
So, I’m here to share my changing process. Hoping that you can find a helping hand in your own. At the same time, I’ll be standing by you, exploring new ways of staying healthy and discovering if I can really practice what I preach for the rest of my life. Remember that each and every one of us is different. But we have the same goal: a change of lifestyle that will lead to a healthy, long life.
We are in this boat together.
Let’s sail to the ocean of success!
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
This blog was supposed to have been posted yesterday but certain things came up and I only found time at about 2 am! Being too sleepy to type and upload pictures, I postponed it for today.
19th June 2011. That’s the day my serious attempt here on Sparkpeople began. I had already been a member for almost two years but with no success. The date wasn’t chosen by chance. My husband is the person who talked me into seriously trying hard to reach my goal. He is the one who made me believe that if we really want something, we can work hard and achieve it. So I chose his birthday to start my journey. And finish with this weight battle once and for all.
19th June 2012. One year later. Let’s see my progress in numbers.
Weight: From 87 kilos to 69. From 191 pounds to 152.
A total loss of 18 kilos – 39 pounds.
Waistline: From 99 centimeters to 82. From 39 inches to 32.
A total loss of 17 centimeters – 7 inches.
Resting heart rate: From 94 to 66.
Blood cholesterol: From 254 to 220. (I still have to work on that one!)
Size: From 16 (occasionally 18!) to 10. From XXL to M – and sometimes S!
But the things I’m really proud of don’t involve numbers. They are the non-scale victories, my fitness achievements, my strength and health proofs that I trade for nothing. All these things that a year ago I couldn’t imagine myself doing and I couldn’t actually do more than one or a few no matter how hard I tried. I’m talking about pushups, jumping jacks, lunges, planks, reverse planks, bicycle crunches. I’m talking about jogging all my way to my kids’ school. I’m talking about running up three floors in my apartment building. I’m talking about chasing my kids in the park. About health. About endurance. About strength. About freedom.
The benefits of exercise are the invaluable gift I got from my fitness journey. My strength is much more important than reduced sizes, clothes that fit or the number on the scale. Not that these didn’t make me happy of course! But what makes me even happier are all those everyday moves that I can do freely now. I can bend and tie up my shoe laces without feeling that the increased pressure will make something burst! I can run if I’m in a hurry – no, I couldn’t do this simple thing before! And numerous other things that I know many of you can imagine.
This is how I looked before:
And a before-and-after picture:
The picture on the left was taken on the day I joined SP in 2009.
I haven’t reached my goal yet but I really don’t mind. It just seems so difficult to lose any more weight and to break through this plateau and I’m not sure I want to go to extremes in order to see a smaller number on the scale. After all, I feel happy with the image in the mirror. And those few things that bother me can either be fixed with exercise or can never be fixed! They are just “time and experience marks” as I usually call them - just like face wrinkles. The only thing that bothers me is this cholesterol which is still a bit high and my doctor is sure that a few more pounds lost will definitely make a difference. I’ll just keep on with my healthy habits, wait and see!
What I really hope is that in 2013 on my husband’s birthday I will be able to post a blog here with the same maintained numbers and maybe some fitness accomplishments. Until then, I decided to launch a blog series about my journey. I’ll remember and share with you my thoughts, my struggles, my feelings, my success strategies. If I can help just one person to find the key to their own success, it will really be worth this journey.
I’ll just spread the Spark! That’s my new mission.
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