Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I Should Be Committed

Thought I'd take a few minutes to answer a reader question. (I like answering questions... it's like being handed a paper topic... the hard part of writing is often what to write about... So if you ever have a question, please ask!)
"Okay... so how did you get to a place where you could earn that many activity points? A place where you could really commit to this lifestyle? I'm trying and I do well for a few days (or a day) and then let it all go at the first obstacle." Rebeca from All Vegged Out asks.
I've eKnown Rebeca for quite a while; started following her old blog quite a number of months ago back when she had (in my opinion) absolutely the Worst Job Ever! and have followed her through her journey. She takes some great pictures of food. I don't personally tend to take pictures of my food, but man, for whatever reason, I'm utterly fascinated by looking at other people's pictures of what they're eating.

Anyway, now that I'm completely off-track, allow me to make an awkward and grammatically ugly transition sentence and get back to talking about commitment.

(Keeping in mind that commitment has a lot of definitions; including referring a potential law to committee, the perpetuation of a crime, and being confined to a mental institution. Yes, I love to play with Dictionary.Com... Of course, what I'd really like is the CD version of the Oxford English Dictionary, but it's still ungodly expensive and no one likes me enough to buy that for me as a gift...)

(Again, standard disclaimer; what works for me might not work for you. You know - or you should know - yourself better than I do... )

So... I will dispense advice... now.

Start Small.

Here's where I see a LOT of people making the same mistake. Much like with their food plans, sometimes people just decide they're going to change their lives. They're going to eat next to nothing and work out 9 days a week for 27 hours a day. (I exaggerate slightly for effect. Sue me.)

Seriously. Slow the fuck down.

Rome wasn't built in a day. Noah didn't start building the ark when it was raining. Baby steps. Whatever you want to use as your mantra.

If you haven't been doing any form of exercise at all (aside from fork-lifts and fridge-runs) you will want to start very slowly. Put on your shoes and walk outside for 5 minutes, then turn around and come back. If that didn't bother you too much, walk 10 minutes out and 10 minutes back.

When I started, my husband and I walked around the block. That's a little less than a mile. It took us a little more than 20 minutes the first time. And god, I hated it. We did that a few times a week, got thrown off by a bout of food poisoning... and eventually got back to it.

Gradually we increased the length of our walks, and we've varied a lot in how dedicated we are to them. These days, we do them at least once a week, and sometimes twice. Once in a while, we'll get three in, but as both of us have moved on to other things, that's fine.

So, start small. If you have a workout video, don't decide to do the whole half hour, or sixty minutes, or decide you're going to do it EVERY DAY without FAIL for 30 days. (I get really annoyed with people and their 30-day shreds that they quit 6 days in... it's too much. SERIOUSLY. Chill. Out.) The first time I did a workout dvd, I did... 7 minutes?

Do what you can. Push yourself, but not too hard. Because otherwise all you're going to do is push yourself OVER.

You Do Have Time.
Your only real obligation is to live until you die. Everything else is optional. --Harley Hahn
You should work out.

"I don't have time."

Yes. You do.

I don't give a rat's ass care how busy you think you are. My best friend has two kids (one is a juvenile diabetic) and a full-time job and has several different doctors that she has to see on a regular basis, and even though she doesn't always get to the gym as regularly as she'd like, she does get there. And when she doesn't, she hops on the Wii Fit when the kids are in bed.

Please, trust me on this; you have time. Somewhere in your week, you have time.

Maybe you don't have time to drive all the way to the gym, do a 90 minute workout, get a massage, have a smoothie, take a shower, and drive home. I'll agree with that.

But somewhere in your day, you have time. You just need to find it.

Priorities. Priorities. Priorities. Ok, let's look at your day; Non-optional stuff: Work. School. Kids. Eating. Sleep. (Yes. Sleep is a priority. Get some!) Some fun stuff. (Yes. Relaxing is mandatory. I don't care what you do for fun, but you should do something. Watch TV. Read a book. Play a video game. Go to a baseball game. I don't care, but at least three times a week, you should do something for you that you enjoy. Otherwise, what the hell is the point to life anyway? Besides, if you never do anything fun, YOU are not a fun person and... who the heck wants to be THAT person?)

Everything else you do is optional. Helping out your aging, cranky, disagreeable aunt? YOU decided you would do it. Volunteering at the homeless shelter? Again, you. Getting together for a stitch-and-bitch with that woman from church that you really, really don't like. Guess who made that an obligation. YOU did.

(This blog entry is getting long enough as it is without my going into detail about learning to say NO to people and reorganizing your life. I may get back to those topics later.)

There's a standard visual aid for time management; Rocks, gravel, sand, water. You can read this and then come back here, since it's well-written in many other places, so why reinvent the wheel?
At any age, it's important to know what your "big rocks" are. Then, you can start to have the balance you want in your life/career and the satisfaction of knowing you chose your goals.
If a healthy lifestyle, complete with exercise is a priority for you, then you have to make it a priority.

There are all sorts of ways to find extra time. If you watch a lot of TV, maybe you could cut out a show. Or TiVo it to watch later. Or get up during commercials and do jumping jacks (or tricep stretches, or bicep curls, or whatever.) Wake up a little early and go for a walk (or run) before you even shower. Go for a walk at lunch. Hire a babysitter once or twice a week so you can get to the gym. (Many gyms have programs for kids, or at least daycare, so check out that option.) Make exercise a family priority and have a work-out day where you all do something active (play volleyball, badminton, softball, tag, go swimming...) at the same time. Take your kids to the park and let them run around. While they're doing that, you can get a pretty good workout with standard playground equipment.

Find Something You Like.

Or at least, something you don't actively loathe.

This may take quite a while. You may have to try a lot of different things to find something that you actually enjoy. Lucky you, there's a lot of different things to try!

Walking, running, weights, workout dvds, biking, elliptical, jumping rope, playing tennis, swimming and yoga. These are the things I have tried. There are other things that I'd like to try that involve a little more money on my part (dancing, rock climbing, fencing...)

Be flexible. How do you know you don't like doing push ups? Have you tried recently? Well, just do a few. (Yes, if I sound like your mother pointing at your plate of green beans, that was deliberate.)

Keep trying. I didn't like the elliptical the first time I tried it. It was weird and wobbly and scary.

I didn't like it the second time I tried it either. I felt awkward and weird and ridiculous and I got off in less than six minutes.

Then, during my few sessions with a personal trainer, she made me get on it again as part of my warm up routine. I'd said I didn't like it, and she decided to "take me out of my comfort zone." I did 10 minutes that third time, and by about 5 minutes in, finally figured out the damned rhythm. She advised me to use the elliptical for 10-15 minutes as cardio at least once a week, before heading back to more familiar territory with the treadmill or the bike. The fourth try at the elliptical, I ended up staying on it for thirty minutes.

And now, I freaking love it.

Mix It Up

Now that you've found something you like to do (or at least, don't hate it more than anything else in your life) and you've got time to do it... well, shit darn. Now you're bored.

If you get bored easily, you may have to mix your routine up frequently. This isn't a bad thing. Trying new things regularly can help keep your body guessing, keep you from falling into a rut, or a plateau. Even if you find your one thing (or three things) and can keep doing them constantly, you may want to vary your times or intensity, just to keep it fresh.

Set Specific Goals.

I find it a lot easier to work out if my work out goals are very specific.

If you've been trying to get fit/lose weight/eat better for any length of time, you'll know as well as I do; the scale is fickle. My mantra for this is "Biology is not chemistry." Changes to our bodies take place on a cellular level. And between the mouth and the scale, there are so many things that can happen, it's a miracle that anything does happen. Sodium, time of day, time of the month, time of the universe. Water weight, over-exertion. The list is endless, and much like the weather, there is absolutely no way to predict it with any certainty whatsoever.

Setting specific weight goals, particularly if you set them with a time-line attached to it... you're setting yourself up. You'll either meet the goal easily, get overconfident and fall flat on your face later, or you won't accomplish it, and you'll be angry and frustrated. (Not that anger, frustration and exasperation aren't all part of the grand scheme... get used to it. It will happen. And you're not a freak for feeling bad about these things. You don't need to always slap on the Lee Press On smile... this is hard work, and you are entitled to your feelings.)

"I want to lose 20 pounds by summer."

Good for you. I want a pony and a glittery bridle. Let me know how that works out for you.

You can't always control your weight. Not down to the pounds and pence of it.

But you can control your exercise.

One of my eFriends says that a good goal is something you can barely accomplish. I'm not always sure I agree with him, but whatever works for you... I like goals. I like ticking something off a checklist.

If you're currently walking for ten minutes, you might set a reasonable goal as, "I'd like to be able to walk for two miles." And then add in little increments of time or distance...

For me, the 100 push up, 200 squats, 200 sit ups challenges have been a great inspiration. I may not be able to control the scale, but doing the challenges was a way to see some improvement. I have completed two of the three and am currently working on the sit up challenge. I do plan, when I finish the sit ups, to go back to the push ups. (I do push ups in my circuit training, but usually only 10-15 at a time, so I am pretty sure that while I did do 100 push ups in a row a few months back, I cannot do that now. So, I can start over. Cool, huh?)

If you're not into challenges, you might do something like my husband's done. He couldn't seem to dedicate himself to exercise (well, not unless I was dragging his butt out to go walking) until his friend signed him up to run a 5K. With a specific deadline, he's thrown himself into training for it. The money is paid, his friend is counting on him. So, he's getting it done. And, as he said to me yesterday, "I'm not hating it as much as I was afraid I would." (This from the man who used to say that he only ran when chased.)

Walking a Mile Does Not Justify an Ice Cream Sundae

One problem I see a lot is people who overestimate how many calories they burn. Weight Watchers gets around this a little bit by doing a 2:1 return. A food point is 50-70 calories, but an Activity Point is 100 calories. There are lots of sites out there to gauge your caloric output (here let me google that for you.) so find one and use it.

I know it can be confusing and annoying, but really, the average calorie count for an Ice Cream Sundae is not 20 minutes of low-intensity workout. (For example: I burn about 300 - 350 calories on the elliptical going over 5mph for 45 minutes. That's maintaining a heart rate of 145 - 160...)

Get Over Yourself.
Don't let perfect be the enemy of good. - Voltaire.
My husband - before starting the training for his 5K - never wanted to work out unless he could dedicate an hour to it. And he could never find the hour. He liked his sleep a lot more than he liked getting up an hour early to go to the gym.

I know people who won't touch the weight machine (or the elliptical or any other piece of exercise equipment) because they don't know how to use it. Get someone to teach you. You didn't know how to read and write before someone taught you.

So you can't lift as much weight as Mike Manly Muscle-bound. So what? Get a stepladder and get over yourself. You have to start somewhere.

Anyone else who cares how much weight you're lifting (or not lifting) has too much free time and too little self-confidence. (And yes, actually, that means that if you're eyeballing Sally Slender or Mike Manly, you have too much free time and why aren't you using it to work out?? I know it's hard sometimes to not peek at someone else's workout summary, but you don't really need that information. I promise.)

You don't have to do something well in order to do it. And you will get better with practice.

You are the only competitor who matters. Let your competition be with yourself. You may never be better than Mike Manly. But you can be better than YOU are today.

And if this is your first night at Rock Band.... you have to sing.
-- Matt Brooks.
Don't throw yourself down the stairs.

The second part of Rebeca's question (remember Alice? This is a song about Alice...) was about snags.

Snags happen.

Life happens.

When you stumble on the stairs, is your immediate response to throw yourself to the bottom of the flight, just because you missed a step?

When you scratch the paint on your car, is your first impulse to go out and ram your car into a dump truck? Because, really, if you've scratched the paint, you may as well wreck the car!!

Do you chip a plate and then throw the plate at your entire cabinet of dishes?

(If you do, please seek help now, because I'm not qualified to deal with your issues!)

Accept these facts now.

You will miss workouts.

You will have shitty weigh ins.

You will gain weight unexpectedly.

You will have bad days at the gym where you can't lift, run, or otherwise get anything done.
Life sucks. Get a helmet.
- Denis Leary
So you hit a snag? So what? Did you think you were never going to fail? Wow. You must be God!


I know, it's easier said than done. But in the end, if you let one snag throw you off track completely, that's the failure. Having a bad day? Normal. Natural. Ordinary. And frankly? Boring.

You had a bad day. You didn't feel well and you didn't work out. Ok. Bitch for 10 minutes and then move along. Nothing to see here.

People tell me I'm an inspiration. People tell me how much they admire me and are impressed with my weight loss and my dedication. They want the "secret."

Honey, there is no secret.

You just have to do it.

What I did? That's in everyone. Anyone can do it. I just did it. One day at a time. One meal at a time. One workout session at a time. One complete screw up at a time. (I am not a complete screw up; some parts are missing!)

Do I skip gym trips? Hell, yes. Do I miss walks? Sometimes. Do I fall off the fucking elliptical? With alarming frequency.

It's not what you do one day that makes the difference.

It's what you do most days.


KCLAnderson (Karen) said...

You freaking ROCK! Awesome post.

KCLAnderson (Karen) said...

By the way, I started off exercising by marching in place for 10 minutes. Then I increased it. Then I went for a walk. Then I ran a little. Then I started strength traing. Kayaking. Running more. Kickboxing. It didn't happen over COULDN'T happen over night. But as I made progress and got stronger, I WANTED to keep going and try new things...

Hanlie said...

Hallelujah, sister! I love the straight talk and I agree with you 100%. This is one of the best weight loss posts I have ever read! You rock!

Liz Brooks said...

*applause* You tell 'em!

As the aforementioned friend with the schedule and the kids and the doctors, I want to go on record, here: Lynn makes it sound impressive. It's not, really. Not from where I'm sitting. I just reached a point where I needed to have more exercise in order to get where I want to go.

Which probably summarizes my own bit of advice on the whole thing: If you feel like it's a huge inconvenience and more trouble than it's worth... then it probably is. Do something smaller. Something less troublesome. Just don't do NOTHING.

Megilon said...

Thank you for this post. I needed it! You are so frank and have good advice.

Sheryl said...

I love the straight talk, we just need to quit making excuses and do it. I'm great at making excuses but that gets me no thinner. And baby steps is the key word here, slow and steady wins the race.

Have a great day.

Cammy@TippyToeDiet said...

A big Amen from the Tippy Toe corner! I started out walking on the treadmill at 1.8 mph. and moved on from there. This morning I was sprinting on the elliptical at 12 mph (for VERY brief intervals, I might add). It took two years to get from there to here, and I'm eager to see where I'll be in two years. That's the game--constant, consistent building. It's actually fun!

SeaShore said...

Excellent post! Thanks for telling it like it is :)

Rebeca said...

1. Thank you for the compliment!

2. Thank you for this post... I always need some tough talk to actually listen. I just copied your bold words and made them my display image! Thanks girl!

Mary :: A Merry Life said...

This post is sooo freakin fantastic. I'm so grateful to Hanlie for pointing it out.

SL said...

Great post! And ... I'm going to keep trying the eliptical. I hate it too so it's good for me to hear that you did too ... at least initially.

South Beach Steve said...

There is a lot of good information here. I think you are so right about not trying to do it all at once. If someone hasn't been leading a healthy life, what makes them think they can go from 0-100 in 1 second? It is all about habit changes and prioritization.

Miz said...

fanTIZtastic post.
for me the biggest UH NO. I WONT TAKE THAT AS AN ANSWER is the time piece.
I love you say you DO have time.
makes me crazy when people insist they do not as ALL OF US have time for 2 ten minute workouts a day to start.

all of us.

The Merry said...

Great post, and I say that with five-part harmony and full orchestration (as Arlo would say :)

The Merry said...

P.S. As the other Merry said, thanks to Hanlie for sending me here!

Mary said...

I love your car and plate analogies, they are SOOO painfully + ironically true, yet it is what I do to myself too much of the time.

Like you said,
It's what we do most of the days that count. And we have to take it step by step, little by little. AND anticipate the failures (not just the successes).

butcher winnipeg said...

If you want success then you'll do the work. If your not willing to do the work then you wont' have success. Simple as that.