Exercise


 timefliesTime lately has been flying and I’ve been super-busy, though I know, that is no excuse. I’ve been slacking on my writing duties and even slacking on my weight-management a bit too. I had a birthday, we took a vacation, then my husband turned 40, which resulted in a party and vacation, and now, I’m ready to write and get my waistline back on track. I have put on a few pounds (13 to be exact), nothing anybody likely notices. My clothes still fit, they aren’t tight to the eye, but I know what the scale is supposed to say. I’d been neglecting my own rules as related to partying, anticipating extra food consumption and planning for my day or an event. It is amazing how quickly the body reacts to these thoughtless moments, as additional pounds come and just as easily, as I’d started implementing these in my rotation again, the pounds go. Below is a list of things that I became lax on but have reinstated: 

  • When drinking alcoholic beverages, do not just sit and drink. Stand, circulate around the room and talk to people. This burns more calories and the drink lasts longer, thus I consume fewer calories.
  • If I know about an event in which I’m going to allow myself to indulge, I need to do extra workouts a week before and possibly (depending on how much I indulged) a week after the event. For me this is typically adding a 30-minute bike ride and/or 2-mile walk to my day. Since normal workouts are in the morning, I do the extra workouts after work, which actually helps me wind down for the day.
  • Dance off extra calories when at a club or party with music, as this burns calories, keeps me from eating and is just fun!
  • Plan the day. Recently, I went to the state fair, planned what I was going to eat and actually ate less food. I did some extra workouts earlier that week to make sure I had the calories for my favorite foods. Once I got to the fair, I didn’t really want all that I’d planned. The result was a 1-pound loss for the week.
  • Even plan for snacks. I’ve gotten back in the bad habit of being at home and noshing. Now, I make sure to plan for any snacks, “extra curricula” food, or even a nightcap on those days I know I’ll have a lot of down time.
  • Write everything down. I started keeping a few things in my head and well, in my head or not, they did end up on the scale, as it is quite unforgetting. When I first started my journey, I put down 5-calorie gum and 2-calorie espresso beans. Then, I started thinking those were minimal calories so I didn’t need to do that. I started making allowances/excuses for 20-calorie items here open and paperr 30-calorie there. Over time, this really does add up. So now, back to, “if I eat it, I write it.” 

I’ve already started seeing the results of my restored roadmap for weight-loss and management. Soon, I will be back to my 172-175 pound self and this will be yet another closed chapter in this long and continued journey.

Behavior

Behavior is not really a word I’ve paid much attention to until recently. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve found myself continually pondering the question, “how do you change behavior?” Someone asked me this in reference to losing weight and honestly, I didn’t really have an answer. Oddly enough, I’ve changed many of my behaviors in life but I don’t know how I was able to do it. Maybe I was just motivated. Maybe I just had a great support team. Maybe I chanted a few good mantras along the way and decided to live by them. Maybe I just got lucky. I suppose any of these answers is true, depending on the behavior I was trying to change and that moment in my life. 

The biggest behavior that I changed that is monumental to my health is that I stopped smoking. I had a 3-4 pack a week no smokinghabit. Why did I stop? Because I knew it was a bad habit and it really made no sense that I smoked. My parents didn’t smoke, I didn’t grow-up around smokers and quite frequently, I didn’t even do it in the house because I couldn’t stand the smell. As tobacco has been proven to be an addictive substance, and I smoked for about 12 years, I would have to say I was addicted but quitting didn’t seem too hard because I had a great support system. Everyone wanted me to stop anyway. None of my friends smoked and even my father-in-law, who’d smoked for years of his life, had quit. I suppose I started smoking in college to prove I was grown. In hindsight, that seems a bit silly and I’m sure that’s another thing that helped me quit. It took me a few times to stop before it really took, but once I went a year within a cigarette, I was done and that was over 10 years ago. 

Not eating out for every meal and going to fast food restaurants is another behavior I changed, as this was crucial to losing weight. I was able to alter this behavior because there are various great tasting foods out there that are low in calorie and good for me. Moreover, I do know how to cook. Bottom line, I like flavorful food regardless of whether it is healthy, good for me, or is food categorized as a heart attack waiting to happen, and it doesn’t matter from where the food comes. Once I figured out a schedule on when to prepare home meals and found terrific tasting recipes, cooking more of my meals at home and eating that wonderful food became the new behavior. If I drilldown and examine behavior and habit, maybe they haven’t changed that much. I still eat food that tastes great; I just get the food from a different source. Additionally, I know I’m still a few pounds overweight and could stand to eat less, so overeating is still a behavior I’ve yet to conquer. 

Adding exercise to my daily routine might be the one area in which I can say I’m lucky. I just happen to enjoy working sunriseout. It doesn’t hurt that I’m a morning person and so getting up in the morning is generally not a problem for me. I see exercise like work, so this is where having a couple of life mantras come in handy too. It doesn’t matter if I want to get up and do it or not. I have to get up, it has to be done and if I like my current lifestyle, I had better get to it. For me, there is no better motivator than the truth. 

My best answer to the question of how to change behavior is to keep trying. If at first you don’t succeed… As I said, it took me a few times to stop smoking but I kept trying and finally did. Staying motivated and being true to self are helpful. One of the things I do every morning is say to myself, “Today I’m going to be a better person than I was yesterday.” In my head sometimes I think “be a better person every day, all day long.” I try to make sure my actions speak to being a better person. Sure, sometimes I fail but other times, I soar. The fact that I even try is what brings about my success and changes in my behavior.

ninja

Last Friday I surprised myself. I woke up per usual to do my 2-hour workout, which included 30 minutes on my exercise bike, 1 hour of Kenpo X (P90X’s version of kickboxing) and another 30 minutes on my exercise bike. Everything was going just fine until about 4:20, when I’m about 10-15 minutes into Kenpo X, the electricity shuts off. I looked outside and it was pitch black. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention this was in the morning. All the lights were out in the neighborhood. At first, I was a bit frustrated, as I love my kick boxing workouts. Then I came to a realization – I had this video memorized. I know exactly what all the kick and punch sequences are and the count of most of them. I know Tony has us do 25 for some and 30 for others, so if I just do 30 for everything, I’d get it right. If I decided to do this from memory, the only missing element from the video would be the count for the cool-down sequence. He does running in place for about 30 seconds, jump rope for 30 seconds, jumping jacks for 30 seconds and then finishes with X-jumps (yes, this really is the recovery section of the workout). How was I going to know when to change-up every 30 seconds? It dawned on me that I could get the flashlight, shine it on the kitchen timer and use that as my clock. 

At 4:27am, with nothing but the moon lighting my living room, there I was kicking, punching, sweating and panting , dark nightlike a ninja in the darkness, doing my workout. I’m not sure if it was my stubbornness, my competitive nature or just plain will that made me go up against Mother Nature but it’s a fight I won. I didn’t need lights, the television, or Tony Horton’s voice to do my exercise. When I got to what would be the last segment of the routine, the electricity came back on and I couldn’t help but laugh. I went through the video to make sure I’d done everything, and I had. I’d even done more because many of the things I did 30 reps to should only have been 25. Oh well, more cardio for me. I finished up with the video and a huge smile on my face. Then I went upstairs, completed my 30 minutes on the exercise bike and felt quite accomplished with the day’s workout. 

If you’d have ever told me I’d be so defiant one day and so committed to my health efforts that I would complete my daily workout in utter darkness, I think I would have laughed. However, in the end, I ended up laughing, as my rebellion seemed to take me to a higher level of fitness and well-being. I realize that I never have an excuse. I can always exercise kickboxingand choose to be this better version of myself. While it was a bit scary, there in the dark, by myself, kicking and punching the air, it was also liberating. I felt alive and renewed in my conviction to health and wellness. Now, each morning, I dare the electricity to shut off; I already have a plan of action in my head if it’s a cardio day or weight-lifting day, I know how to proceed. Surprisingly, or happily, my journey moves forward, as I yet again learn something new about myself as I continue striving to be a healthier me.

Frequently I am asked, “How do you stay motivated to workout?” I don’t necessarily dislike working out, but in order for me to wake up every morning and exercise, I have to be excited about the workout ahead. Therefore, I try to keep it interesting by ensuring my workout videos are only done once a month. This creates a lot of variety, allows me to Biggest Loser Videos“miss” some of my trainers or videos, and keeps my body guessing as to what is in store next. I also think this allows me the highest potential for toning and fitness, as the various trainers work on different areas or levels of fitness. Shaun T works on endurance, while Jillian is huge on the core, Bob Harper is serious when it comes to total body strength training, Leslie Sansone is wonderful when I want my heart rate in that aerobic zone (as opposed to fat burning zone), Jari Love really helps tone my arms, and Tony Horton has a great legs workout. Then, there are all the Exercise TV videos and fitness trainers that keep me jumping, pumping, and fit. I suppose the competitor in me keeps me motivated to try harder and be better than the last time. 

Another motivating factor is my exercise bike. That’s my lazy piece of equipment. I ride it for an hour on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. I workout for two hours on those days, thus bookend my workouts with a 30 minute bike ride. Since I go to bed early evenings, I don’t watch much television. Riding my bike allows me to watch programs on demand while I ride. Truly, this is likely more about catching up on my programs than my workout, but at least I’m burning some calories in the process. Each 30-minute ride is 8.7 miles or more. The first half is a great warm-up to whatever 60-minute cardio or weight-training workout I have planned, while the last half is a wonderful cool down. All while watching some of my favorite television shows (i.e., Biggest Loser, Survivor, Top Chef, Worst Cooks, and yes, even Dallas). I honestly can’t tell you how “easy” this always feels to me (I almost feel guilty enjoying it so much… ALMOST). What can I say, as part of this pop-culture generation, it is motivating to watch television. 

Oddly enough, I also find doing P90X encouraging. While it does have a bit of duplication (3 weeks of the same workout, recovery week, 3 weeks of another same workout, again recovery week, etc.), the challenge it brings is quite enticing. Each week, I try to beat my numbers from the week before. I try to do one more push-up or when ready, increase my weights. Additionally, it creates discipline and helps me work on form. Once I’m done with my 91 days, I’m eager to go back to my other trainers. The first time I finished P90X, I thought, “oh, these other videos are going to be cake now.” Well, the joke was on me. Truth is, working out is hard to do and while I might have increased my endurance, am able to lift more weights, and do more repetitions, every trainer brings something that will test me and push me further. I like the everyday challenge that brings. Did I mention I’m a bit on the competitive side? 

p90xRight now, I’m about to start my 3rd week of P90X for my third go-around of this workout package. The first time I did this routine it was around this same time of year and it got my body fit for the summer of my 40th Birthday, which was the fittest I’d ever been in my life. Since I’m actually planning to be seen in a swimsuit (in public) this year, I figure no time like the present to do this again. Don’t worry, I’m not crazy; it’ll be a one-piece swimsuit with appropriate cover-ups and all, but it’s still a good idea to make sure I’m as toned as possible, right? I suppose right now my motivating factor is working out and toning up to be comfortable in my swimsuit(s). 

My motivators change over time, even day-to-day. It depends on the workout, the challenges, and sometimes, the schedule I have ahead. When I need to work off some stress, that’s my motivation (peace of mind and calm) because there is nothing like kickboxing or sweating out aggression, anger, or whatever negative feelings ail me. When I need to solve a difficult problem, resolution is my motivation as working out helps clear my mind and enhances my thinking. Ultimately, the motivator I always come back to is my life. I’ve worked quite hard to be who I am and where I am today and while I still have plenty of development and growth to go, I know that exercise is good for my health and without that, I can’t move forward.

I wasn’t able to write or post a blog last Friday, but I do have a good reason. I was just getting back from New Orleans for ABP at Mardi Gras, 2013Mardi Gras. We had a wonderful time there. I’m not sure I’ve ever in life, ate, drank or walked so much for so many days. My body ached for all of these reasons, but in a good way. I was smart enough to ensure I had 5 days to recuperate from our trip before going back to work and I really needed it. I can say, for the first time in my working history that I can remember, I was ready to go back to work once the vacation was over. I felt like someone hit the reset button and that everything was functioning again, even better than before I left. 

I’d always wondered how many days of vacation I would have to take to be ready to go back to work. I’ve had up to 2 ½ weeks off before and still wasn’t ready to go back. The night before returning to work I would normally say, “I wish I had just a couple more days.” This time, one day before going back, I looked at my husband and said, “I’m actually ready to go back and we still have one more day.” He concurred. Seems this trip and time-off did marvels for us both. We were off for 12 days. This made me realize, it might not be the number of days that is the factor, but what I do while off. 

As I said, we ate, drank, and were quite merry. When we got to Nawlins, we hit the ground running (and keep in mind, I got up at 2:30am to workout before we left). We worked out on this vacation and still walked miles and miles a day. We’d laugh about how tired we were or how much our body hurt from walking the French Market or strolling on Bourbon Street or the hours spent watching the parades go by but we didn’t care. We didn’t want to miss any of it so we pushed through any pain, tiredness, or common sense. 

fish bowl drinkFor me, I think it was good to eat and drink what we wanted. I had beignets, praline cookies, alligator bites, and so many rich indulgences. I drank bourbon I’d never heard of, along with some ridiculously caloric offerings like a fish bowl filled with 64 ounces of hurricane, a Voodoo punch and a hand grenade. I never ate anything I could have gotten here. I only ate Creole, Cajun, French or other cuisine authentic to Crescent City. Therefore, I had no guilt on what I ate or drank. 

When we got back, we were extremely sore. I can’t even explain what body parts hurt. We got a hot stone massage, which helped, but what really helped, was doing just about nothing for the next 4-5 days. I worked out for two hours on two of those days and then my body told me to stop, so I did. I felt a bit bad about not working out, but I realized I really needed to heal, as my body had truly taken a beating from our 6 days spent in the Big Easy. 

BP at Mardi Gras, 2013Honestly, I think I really needed everything. My husband agrees that this gave us both the stress relief desired from any vacation. I needed to eat without counting calories. I needed to drink new and fascinating flavor combinations. I had to run my body ragged so I would not be tempted to workout, thus allowing myself to spring back into shape. Here we are about one week back from New Orleans, and I’ve already lost half the weight gained during this intoxicating pleasure. To me, this shows that my body and metabolism are not holding a grudge. I even feel my workouts, if possible, are more productive than they used to be. Going back to my normal eating and working out patterns were easy, I feel recharged and have new energy. Saturday I’m starting P90X again for the third round and have given up alcohol for Lent, two things I ‘m not sure I’d be eager to do without this total mind and body vacation. What turned out making me healthier, making me feel better, making me appreciate exercise, making me eat good-for-me food, and putting some bounce back in my step was going outside my norm for a few days, pushing myself as hard as I could in the opposite direction and then reeling myself back in. Not saying it would work for everyone, but it did work for me. I feel like a new person, with more oomph and drive. Ready, Reset, and now I’m good to Go!

basictraining

Recently I’ve found myself slipping back into some old habits and picked up a new bad habit. Luckily, I weigh myself daily and thus, the weight on the scale added was negligible and is now virtually gone, but it has caused me to keep a few key points in mind: 

1. If it goes in my mouth, it goes in the calorie count for the day. I used to be meticulous about this, including 5 paper and pencalorie Extra, sugar free, gum. At times I’ve been eating a couple of Pringles (really, just 2-4 but still 20-30 calories), a Mejool date (66 calories each), a few plantain chips (maybe 40-50 calories worth), etc. Even just one of these per day without writing it down can mean increased pounds in the weeks to come but if you do a couple per day, they add up quickly to disaster.

2. Be proactive rather than reactive. I used to do extra workouts in advance of those days I knew I would overeat due to some special event (i.e., New Year’s Eve). Doing so actually resulted in the scale going down temporarily and then balancing out just after the event. Additionally, when I ate, I would ask myself, “is this item worth that extra bike ride you did?” If not, I put it back. Lately, I’ve done those workouts after the event, which makes me feel worse because that higher number on the scale adds too much pressure to get that number back down and it’s also somewhat depressing at times too.

3. Eat because I want to and not because I can. Sometimes I’ll look at my calorie count for the day and say, “oh, I’ve got 200 calories left. Let’s see what I can eat.” This is the new bad habit. Truthfully, it was likely actions and mentality like this that got me where I used to be in the first place. Just because I have the calories, doesn’t make it right or mean full steam ahead. I should only eat it because I desire it. This will help keep me in check at other times. 

balanceI’ve always known I, as a person, am a work in progress and now, so is my weight management. I’m sure there will be some things I do perfect, quite consistently. I’m also sure I will continue to have learning experiences along the way, picking up bad habits and striving not to “backslide.” However, without a doubt in my head, I do know one thing… As long as I always go back to the basics of counting the calories of everything I eat, without going over my calorie count for the day and exercise daily, I’ll balance out just fine, as it is all about balance. For me, this is the best thing I’ve learned along the way and is a HUJ piece of knowledge in my weight maintenance journey.

As a new year has once again started, I hear people talking about what diet they will start and when in order to lose their unwanted pounds. I have only one sage piece of advice in regards to dieting… DON’T. A diet is generally a temporary status and not a longtime goal or change. Sure, counting calories, cutting out carbs, sweets, drinks, or eating salads daily over a few months will lead to a lower number on the scale but once “normal eating” returns, so will those pounds. If someone stops biting their nails, surely those nails will grow but once they begin that old habit again, those nails return to their “no manicure needed” state. Dieting, quite similarly, will generally not lead to permanent weight loss. For most people, only a few lifestyle changes are needed for long-term weight loss and those changes should be explored as opposed to the newest fad diet or what can be done over the next 6 months to be ready for the beach at summer. Of the various magazines I’ve read, some of the lifestyle changes easiest to make include:

  1. Don’t be a member of the clean plate club. Always leave something behind.
  2. For restaurant eating, omit something from your usual order. If you usually have an appetizer, entrée and dessert, skip the app (or even better, skip the entrée or dessert).
  3. Count how many meals per week you eat your own food as opposed to eat out (i.e., pack lunch, fix dinner, etc.) and add 2 more home prepared meals.
  4. Swap junk food for a fruit or vegetable. Instead of potato chips with your sandwich, have an apple or celery sticks.
  5. Use butter substitutes or less butter and oil than usual.
  6. Instead of sauces or dressings try spices.
  7. If going down one floor, take the stairs.
  8. Always skip the first parking space you come to in the lot and park further away.
  9. Add 30 minutes of exercise to your week, even if it’s just 10 minutes, 3 days per week.

In order to ensure success, don’t make too many changes at once. Pick one or two and get used to those. As those changes become part of who you are, add a couple more and so on. I have a Dove Dark Promise that says, “Keep the Promises You Make to Yourself.” Starting with a few changes and promising to stick with those has helped me immensely. For example, instead of saying, I’m going to lose 40 pounds and never eat a cookie again, I promise to share my desserts when I go out to eat or guarantee that I leave half of it on the plate. Start gradually with promises and alterations you can keep, and eventually you’ll realize you’re a new person or at least a person with a healthier lifestyle based on HUJ changes.

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