Before I get into the last day of this series, I feel like it’s important to note that I didn’t do all these changes, all these things I’ve been writing about, at once. We joined our local YMCA in November of 2011 and I worked out on-and-off, losing about ten pounds, before joining Weight Watchers in June of 2012. My lessons and advice are from the past two plus years of my journey. I focused on one change at a time and then when I felt confident, I kept that change going and took on a new challenge. Resolving to do too many things, all at once, is the quickest way to feel like a failure (even when you’re not) and get off track. So pick one thing to work on and then when it’s become a habit, add something new to the mix. A complete lifestyle change doesn’t happen overnight because there’s just too much to do and not enough time in the day (or, for me, willpower). Pick one thing and change that. Make your plan for success one that has multiple steps (this is a journey, after all), not all the steps at once. That’s the easiest way to fall.
Moving your body. It seems so simple, but it easily gets forgotten because of all the other things we’ve got to get done in a day. I get that, I hear ya, I’m right there with you.
But it needs to be done anyway. You’ve got to make it work. In the beginning when I’d go to the gym after work, I would spend half the time thinking about how I should be home spending time with my kids. Or I’d talk myself out of going to the gym on the way there and just turn around. But after a while, I stopped feeling guilty. I’m a better mom when I have some physical activity. I’m calmer, more patient, and kinder. I’m able to decompress from my day of needy middle schoolers before I head home to needy preschoolers. I need the gym for mental healthy just as much as physical health. In the warmer months, I can come home and take the kids on a bike ride or walk to the local school track and let them play in the field while I run laps, but in the winter I head to the gym, by myself, and it’s awesome.
If you don’t have the luxury of a gym membership, use YouTube and Instagram to come up with exercise ideas and routines. There are millions of free workout videos on the internet if you look for them. Stream them to your TV, laptop, or iPad. Get moving while the kids are running around the living room. Most likely they’ll either join in or ignore you. And neither of those are that bad. Want to hit the mother load of workout DVDs? Head to Goodwill, you can find one or two for a couple bucks.
When I’m planning my week, I figure out what days I can head straight to the gym after school. Normally it’s 2-3 days a week. I’ve signed my oldest daughter up for gymnastics, ballet, etc. class on Saturday mornings at the Y also so we have to get up and go there. And then after class, I’ll stay and work out. Saturday morning it’s hard to get going and all I want to do is be lazy so I set myself up for success by requiring us to be there. It works. And it makes my day better. Sunday is normally my rest day, I never go to the gym on Sunday, but a family walk or bike ride can happen.
Fifty pounds ago, my gym time was spent between the stationary bike and walking on the treadmill. Normally both, for 25-35 minutes each. As I lost weight and gained confidence, I started running short distances and added weights to the mix. I want to be strong, not just thinner, so weight training became the next step in my journey. At first I just did some random machines every time I was there (normally arms and legs stuff), but as I progressed, I got into a routine of legs and butt stuff one day and then arms and abs stuff the next so that I was giving my muscles a break. I believe strongly that adding muscle as you lose weight helps with skin issues (if you have a lot of weight to lose) and that inches are just as important as pounds. So do the weights. Do five pound weights while you’re watching TV. You don’t need fancy equipment, that’s just an excuse, get over it.
Nowadays, I’m warming up on the stationary bike for ten minutes, running 3-4 miles on the treadmill, and then doing weights if I have time. I wish I did them more often (like every time I’m there), but sometimes that doesn’t happen. I’m training for a half marathon in May and have noticed I run faster and better on the road than on a treadmill. So we’ll see where that leads. In the summer when I’m off, I’ll do zumba classes one night a week, but I’m not completely in love with whole-group fitness activities. I like to do my own thing. But if you like the draw of a group, find one that works with your schedule. I know my city is full of free exercise classes that meet at community centers or churches. My work even has a few that meet after school. Search out opportunities and you’ll be surprised at what’s available.
Have a friend join you if you need accountability. I have two neighbors that take off every night after their kids are in bed and walk a few miles together. I used to work with a lady that would change into her tennis shoes after school and just lap the building for 30 minutes. When I was on maternity leave with my oldest, I’d do stair for 2-3 minutes at a time, multiple times a day. Find a 30-day challenge on Pinterest to try. I’ve tried the plank one and the squat one, they’re tough! I have another friend who swears by the elliptical machine. I want to try swimming laps sometime soon too.
The point is to get moving. I don’t care what you do. You might not like everything you try, but try new things. And then if you don’t like it, try something else. I’m not sure I’m ever going to be that person that just loves going to the gym. I love the feeling after the gym, I love the results of the gym, but I don’t get excited to go to the gym. I just do it, like a routine, like brushing my teeth before bed or washing my hands after I go to the bathroom. Eventually you might be that person that loves a workout, but you’re not going to know until you try. And even if you don’t, stick with it, because you’ll love the results.