Exercising hasn't killed me after all
No matter how many quilts I sew, DIY projects I do, books I write, or paintings I paint, the subject that seems to get the most attention is my personal journey of attempting to fit exercise and fitness into my life. I first wrote about my experience here and here. I thought it might be interesting look at where I’m at with all this over a year later.
As I admitted way back in those earlier posts, exercise is something I’ve hated and avoided my whole life. I was not active in elementary/middle/high school (well, I was on the Flag Team one year, but only because my boyfriend was a football player). As I have gotten, ahem, older, I can no longer deny that my life is very sedentary. Lots of sitting and sewing, computer work, driving my kids to various things. I found my weight creeping up and I knew that if I wanted to lose any weight and still avoid any type of exercise, I could only do it if I practically starved myself.
I started exercising over a year ago, only after thinking hard about any options for movement that I could tolerate. There weren’t many. I don’t like exercising outdoors (a drop of rain can convince me to stay in, and with all the rain in Seattle…), I detest gyms, I’m too guilty to add a personal trainer to our lean household budget (and let’s face it, I’d rather buy clothes and fabric). What was the answer?
Through trial and error, I figured out that what works really well for me was 30 minute daily chunks of face-paced, sweaty, panting interval training. I found this out mainly by doing Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred series at home. Her workouts combine weight training (very good for our bone density) with spurts of minute-long cardio (jumping lunges, burpees, jump rope, etc). In a 30 minute period, she will move you through 3-4 circuits of these combinations. By the end of 30 minutes, you are a panting, sweaty, worn-out puddle of your former self if you’ve given it your best. Sounds awful, right? It is!
It’s for only 30 minutes!
I said it in previous posts, but I realized I can do 30 minutes. And because it was only 30 minutes, I promised myself I would give it all I had. I continued with these videos and found myself getting stronger. I was feeling muscle where there had never been any. It was incredible! But I wasn’t losing weight (or not more than a few pounds) because I hadn’t added the food piece to this fitness puzzle. Which is really the key for me to lose weight, watching my calories.
Then back in April of this year, I splurged and purchased the Jillian Michaels Body Revolution series. 15 videos that progressively get tougher, along with a meal plan that carries you through 90 days. I did the kickstart program for the first week, doing two 30 minute workouts a day for 7 days. I definitely felt like I was losing weight, but I was exhausted! Once I got through that week, I continued 1 workout a day 6 days a week. I know myself well enough to know that a few days a week of workouts weren’t going to do it for me, I had to really put in 6 days a week. I had to move.
(Me, after exercising. Sweaty, no makeup, feeling really thankful that those 30 minutes are over.)
Things were happening. Slowly, but they were happening. It took me a little longer than the 90 days Jillian predicted, but I have now lost 23 pounds, and I did it the RIGHT way. By adding exercise into my life and watching what I eat. Not by skipping meals in order to avoid exercise. Every morning I pull on my workout clothes to take my kids to school. I come home, immediately work out, then shower, dress, and begin my day. I don’t have to think about exercise anymore for the whole day, and that’s the way I like it. Yes, the workouts are grueling, and yes, I often watch my family eat ice cream for dessert every night while I have none. But now I know what I can and can’t eat and do, and I act accordingly. For the calorie counting, I religiously record what I eat in the My Fitness Pal app on my phone, where I also record my workouts. Seeing straight numbers right there on my phone was a huge lightbulb moment for me. I always thought I knew what the calorie count of most of the food I ate was. Wrong!
Another lightbulb moment was when I was on a field trip with my son’s class to a local beach back in the Spring. The walk back to school included 4 of the steepest flights of stairs I’ve seen in a long time. The kids had no problem with the climb, of course, but almost all of the parents had a stop half way up to catch their breath. Before I realized it, I had breezed right past where they were all resting. I was a little winded, sure, but by that time I not only had the fitness level to keep going, I was accustomed to pushing myself further in my workouts on a daily basis. And that push has spilled over into other areas of my life as well. You can’t beat the feeling.
I still have weak moments, I always will. When I travel or go on vacation I’m not as great about exercising every day and I do enjoy a big meal on occasion. But I believe the difference is that now I know how much better I feel when I exercise and eat right, I’ve been doing it long enough to feel a big difference. If I’ve slacked off while I was away, I get myself right back on track as soon as I get home. If I have a pity party over a bowl of ice cream one night, I don’t let myself throw in the towel.
We all want to be healthy for our children and family, that goes without saying. But I finally realized that I wanted to feel healthy for myself. I like having soreness in my muscles. I like pushing myself. I like the energy I get from eating whole foods. (And, I also love a yogurt piled with chunks of cookie dough as well! I just don’t have it as much as I did.) Someone asked what motivated me. Seeing the scale go up and up and up and nothing in my life was changing in order for it to go down finally hit me and I listened. Don’t stop trying to find what works, you will be all the better for it.