Thursday, October 1, 2009

Health: Working it out

As I mentioned last time, my journey of becoming fit began a year ago. The first real step was that we joined the Y as a family and I began going to classes. It was therapeutic for me emotionally, it was challenging for me physically, and it really was my connecting point socially since we had just moved to a new area.

I didn't follow my own advice, the advice that I would now give, and I jumped right in. I took a Zumba class on Mondays and Fridays, followed by a body sculpting class. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I took Flexx it (muscle building) and Step. Wednesdays were my "off" day, but often I would run. I would even try to get a work out in on Saturday and maybe a run on Sunday. Whew! What was I thinking? Ha!

I saw very minimal weight loss in the first month or two and was quite discouraged. I could tell my body was working hard, why was it not showing any results?

I was told that my body was building muscle and that muscle weighed more than fat and thus often the scales wouldn't reflect the changes that were occurring. Honestly, that gave me little to no comfort. And so, I faced my first decision....should I just quit exercising. My body hurt, my schedule was full, and it wasn't working.

This is where the important points from my last blog entry come in. This is where I realized that this was going to be a process of time, trial and error of what would work for me, and that I needed to be in it for the right reasons. So, I prayed.

And from that I had a renewed vision. I knew why I wanted to lose the weight. I want to be an example to my children of healthy living. I want to take care of the body the Lord gave me and treat His temple with respect. I want to remove the obstacle of low self-worth so that I am freed up to be all that He has planned for me to be. I want to be strong, fit, and healthy so that I can encourage other women who struggle with these issues. And I decided that I wanted to do it all in my Mom's honor, as she too struggled with weight. This gave me purpose, inspiration, and above all it gave me a bunch of reasons that I could NEVER quit.

So, I pressed on (literally and figuratively)! Had I just continued to exercise without making any changes to my diet, I most certainly would have see changes. It would have showed up in inches...the shape of my body changing as I built more muscle, etc. But, I did add in dietary changes, which I'll address in my next post. But for now I wanted to pass on some nuggets of insight that I gathered along the way. Some may be obvious and may be things you've all heard before, but I still think they are important enough to repeat (if not for you than for me:)). I'll also share some personal examples but feel free to skip those and just read the 3 bullets if you want. I'll also sum it all up at the end if you just want an overview.

  • You do NOT have to be at a certain level of fitness to walk into a gym or begin exercise. That's like saying you have to be clean to get a bath...ridiculous! Fitness centers and their employees are there to promote fitness at all levels, from the beginners all the way to the gym rats. So, do NOT let your current fitness level keep you away. There is something for everyone. And if you are fearful of what others might think, I hear you. But, do NOT let them stand in your way. They don't have to live in your body, and therefore should not have that much control over it.
example: When I first started working out I couldn't run for a minute. I could barely make it through a class at the lowest impact level. I was the heaviest one around and could only imagine that people were looking at me with daggers of judgment and ridicule. But, I want you to know that now....now I have people that I don't even know coming up to me saying, "You look great! You have come such a long way! How have you done it? I need help. Etc." They have watched me from a far as I have journeyed, and they are inspired. THAT is what I'm talking about! Whether they judged me or not in the beginning I'll never know. Maybe that was just my own insecurities, right? But I know now that want to come on the journey with me...how exciting!

  • Don't shy away from trying new forms of exercise. You might be surprised at what you really like and don't like. Finding something that you LOVE to do for exercise is so super important. If you don't like it, or if you don't have enough variety you WILL burn out and lose interest. It's also important to cross-train so that you gain a variety of skill and also challenge your body wholly.
example: I got into my routine and thought I was happy with doing it over and over. But, I did notice that I was losing some excitement. So, I added in a day of machines, tried pilates, spinning, yoga, went running, etc. Now I try to stay away from having too much routine because I go with what I feel like doing that day instead. If it is a beautiful day, I hit the pavement for a run. I have noticed that I LOVE doing step. So, I faithfully go to those classes because they energize me. I didn't love spinning or yoga, but I'll probably try them again soon...maybe I just wasn't in good enough shape to enjoy them. Or maybe I really won't like them and that's fine. I did like pilates when I tried it, but I was NOT in good enough shape to do it then. So, maybe I'll try it again. Find what you like, no LOVE. You'll need that on days that you just don't want to work out.

example: Also, it's important to note that even if you work out for 2 hours/day 5 days/week doing classes (like I was), you might not be able to go out and run a mile (like I wasn't). Why? Because of what is know as the S.A.I.D principle. Specfic Adaptation to Imposed Demands. That principle states that if you want to train for a marathon you are going to have to run. Swimming or biking will improve your cardio health, but it will not enable you the exact cardio tools that you will need to run. Make sense? Running was something that represented fitness to me. I don't know why, but it did. Therefore it was really important that I be able to do it. I never liked running previously, so I wasn't hopeful that anything would change. But, interestingly enough I opted to stick with it as a personal goal of mine. I can remember walking most of the 1.5 mile loop that I would follow at first. As I did lose weight and get more fit through the use of classes I was able to do a little better. I had more muscle to power with in my legs. My heart could take more cardio-wise. But, I was still struggling to run. So, I kept at it and little by little I gained ground, literally. Now, I can run 2 or 3 of those loops with no problem. I'd probably be able to do more if it weren't for an old foot injury, but that's not important. All that to say, don't be discourged if your fitness level doesn't seem to be up to par when you try new things. But try them and use them as ways to improve your over all health. My plan now is to add in swimming. I tried doing laps and was exhausted! It works something different and so it would be a good change for me occasionally. And that brings me to my next example....

example: On the flip side of that same example....Your body will adjust and adapt to what you most often do. Your muscles and cardio system have a memory. So, if you do the same thing all the time your body will get used to it and won't be challenged. So, do the treadmill instead of the eliptical every now and again. Also, don't stay at the same level on the machine...dial it down and go really fast for a minute and then dial it up and power slowly.

  • Last but not least, for now....do get yourself exercise gear. You will feel so much better about being in front of a million mirrors in a classroom if you have something on that you think is cute, fits you right, and is proper for exercise. This includes shoes, headwear, and water bottles too. Oh, and please allow me to plug the Polar heart rate monitor watches. They have a band that you put around your chest and it communicates to the watch. You'll be able to see if you are in your target heart rate range, monitor the amount of calories you burned, log your workouts for the week, and all sorts of cool stuff. I have LOVED mine. I use it to be sure I'm challenging myself during workouts, track my calories burned each day, and other cool stuff. LOVE IT!
Okay, so there you have my basics on getting started on working out. To sum it up....don't let anything stop you from starting to exercise. Start slow. Find what you love. Try new things to avoid burnout, injury, and underchallenging yourself. Don't get discouraged if you level of fitness doesn't translate to new activities, but rather work at that activity to further your level of fitness. And find the right tools/gear that make you feel good and help you succeed.

Next time I'll try to post more about food.

1 comment:

kristinwithani said...

K, loving this "series" of posts. I exercised hard and consistently for over 5 years before I saw any results. So frustrating. But my doctor was encouraged. My numbers evened out and she reminded me I was healthy on the inside. Great. But that didn't make my size any smaller!
Last year KLB encouraged me to start running/jogging as did my favorite trainer at the gym. I resisted for my bad knees. Then I took baby steps. This switch in cardio really helped. I imagine my 'numbers' are still the same but I'm finally SEEING results from all that hard work.
Keep it up girl!