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Fitness is a Journey not a Destination
Fitness, an evil little word, every new-years-resolutionist worst nightmare, followed by diet. These words carry with them such a horrible reputation but I challenge you to approach this subject with an open mind and a new perspective.
I grew up in a home where we had set meal plans, but no focus on healthy eating, what was in the food we were consuming, or encouragement for physical fitness. So there I was, out in the world eating like I still had a childís metabolism, but of course everything slows down. The body is no longer growing but youíre still eating like you did at age 17. This is an epidemic in America, known as S.A.D; Standard American Diet. Which consists of take-out food, frozen food, easy quick prep meals and little to no exercise. Couple that with endless channels and Netflix and you have the perfect recipe for heart disease, diabetes, low energy, obesity and overall feeling of low self-worth.
How did we get here!? After years of researching, health education, nutrition, and trying fitness program after fitness program I found what works. We all know there is no magic pill, and achieving your fitness goals is a different journey for everyone, but anyone can achieve an overall healthy body.
Everyone knows the math to lose weight: Burning off more calories than you consume. Simple right? How much exercise does a person have to do before they start seeing results? Nothing worth doing is easy, so letís get that out of the way, however it is always rewarding.
When starting on the fitness journey itís important to start from the inside out for a complete healthy mind, body and soul. Physical fitness is not just appearance, itís being healthy from the inside out. What you eat literally determines your internal body composition. Letís start with your digestive tract we have good bacteria in our digestive tract when we are young. As we age, if we have poor diets the good bacteria gets replaced with bad bacteria. This comes out in the symptoms of mental issues, lethargy, digestive issues, autoimmune disease, and most common skin issues.
Overhauling your diet is not as daunting as it sounds, letís take a mental picture of your cabinets and fridge? Are there tons of frozen ready to eat meals loaded with sodium? Are there countless sugary, salty snacks that make their debut after 8pm? You know yourself, you know the things you eat that are bad for you. Do you eat cake every time someone at the office has a birthday? How many cases of pop do you bring home a week? Now letís tally up the toxins you are putting into your body. Never fear! A healthy new you is only a few weeks away.
Little changes make a big difference, my family and extended family have become accustomed to my lifestyle and know I do not eat out, maybe 1-2 times a year. Now if that throws your whole life out of whack, consider this; how often after you eat out at your favorite Italian restaurant or catch a quick lunch through the drive through do you feel stomach pain in some manner afterwards? Or sluggish? Most Americans go through this so frequently, they believe itís the human condition to have digestive issues constantly. I hear it from people I know all the time, ďOh my stomach hurts!Ē Your poor body is trying to tell you ďStop eating that terrible food!Ē
On the occasion that my dear husband gets our daughter Mc. Dís fries when I am not around, like clockworks, within 30 minutes she has a stomach ache. Why? Because her digestive tract is accustomed to home cooked meals and real food. When she eats Mc. Dsí her body is freaking out at the flash frozen reheated potatoes and all the saturated frying oil she just ingested. Years ago my family had a favorite Mongolian BBQ buffet restaurant we loved, but every time weíd go, would follow with Tums, and naps. Why do we do this to ourselves!!!? We made a family executive decision that no more, so when that urge comes we buy similar ingredients at home for one third the cost of the restaurant and prepare it at home, because we learned that our bodies appreciate that much more, and our wallet. If this seems it would never fit into your lifestyle, remember that this is a journey, everyone can find time to prepare their own healthy meals, you have to make a healthy lifestyle a priority.
Itís going to be extra work, but analyze this after the kids are in bed, you have 2 choices; crash on the couch and binge your current show, or instead you could turn the t.v. or phone on in your kitchen and prepare meals for the next day. Also cooking and preparing food burns 120 calories an hour. This isnít a perfect recipe, there are days that I or my husband donít prepare meals for him for work, and he ends up grabbing the most convenient thing at his office. Though overall my family eats home cooked meals at least 340 days of the year.
You can change your pallet to appreciate healthier flavors. When we eat Ďfillerí foods, chips, cookies, ice cream, etc, our stomachs do not get full, and continues to send the message to our brain ďMOREĒ so we binge eat until the bag or package is empty. When we eat fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and healthy grains as nature intended our stomach actually gets fuller faster because itís getting the nutrients it needs and sends signals to our brain ďSTOP.Ē Fruits and vegetable are natures beautiful intricately packed foods that fill our system with vitamins, fiber, antioxidants and promote good cholesterol.
One of the most helpful things I learned on my fitness journey, your body is full, when you are in the middle of eating in you take in one large breath. This seems insignificant, but the more you pay attention to your body the better. Recall the last time you were in a restaurant with friends and everyone is eating merrily and there comes a point when people start to recline in their chairs forcing themselves to take just one more bite. This is because their body is sending signals that itís time to stop, listen to these signals, your body knows what it needs.
Everything in moderation, I truly believe in this. If you canít live without it, you can have chips, pop cake whatever you like, as long as 80% of the time you are eating a well-balanced diet. Then the 20% of the time you cheat, stick to the serving size, if the label says 16 chips is the serving size, take that amount and put the bag away! This doesnít mean you have to survive on inedible diet food consisting of cardboard and food like particles. ; 1:vegetables and fruits, 2: lean meats and nuts for protein, 3: balance of whole grains and carbohydrates, and very little oils, butter and condiments. This can be a challenge my middle child believes all his meals need to be smothered in either catsup or ranch!
Twenty One days to change a bad habit, or begin a beneficial one I challenge you; you know the unhealthiest thing you eat on a regular basis, remove it from your diet and replace with either a fruit or a vegetable, do this for a week. Week 2 same thing except now remove 2 unhealthy items, and work your way down your list. Document your progress, I am a little old fashion using a journal, however I also take advantage of technology. There are plenty of apps for your phone to log in calories and exercise. My personal favorite is ďMy plateĒ, this app lets you enter in foods, remembers your eating patterns, physical activity, scans barcodes, and much more. This isnít necessary, but I believe in working smarter not harder and with a lot of these free health apps out there, makes it much easier.
Visualization is key. Studies have shown that when we are goal setting we need to visualize our goal every possible opportunity, it needs to be forefront in your mind all the time. You need to decide where you want your health and fitness goal to be, is it I want to run a 5 K, is it I want to be healthy from the inside out, is it I want to see myself in a swimsuit and not cry? Is it those jeans that you just canít get rid of that you tell yourself ďsomeday Iíll get back into themĒ? Is it inches that you want to see gone, or the scale to be more kind to you?
Write down your goals, write them out for 3 months, healthy weight lose is 8 to 10 lbs a month, now if you have a lot of weight to lose, you might lose more. One pound of body fat is equivalent to 3,500 calories. With a balanced workout program you should also be gaining muscle as well, so you might not see your results on the scale for at least a month. To start put the scale away, the scale doesnít determine your overall health.
Exercise is ingrained in my life, 5-6 days a week for years now, this was not always the case. My husband came from a fitness background of track and working out through college he had a basis of reference to rebound from, myself, I started from square one at age 24 after just having a baby. So many nights crying trying to follow workout videos; tabata, plyometrics, Zumba, palates, etc. The problem wasnít the instructional discs, the problem was my dedication to my personal fitness, and the food I was putting into my body.
Next step get yourself into a simple workout routine. Most people fail in the first few weeks of starting a workout regimen for multiple reasons. Often people delve into a program their bodies are just not ready for and get frustrated, or commit to a gym membership that is inconvenient, workout programs do not have to be difficult.
Remember the visualization, in addition if possible find a buddy to help keep you accountable, a friend, a sibling, a spouse. Some people are self-motivated, but for a lot of us, some constant subtle encouragement goes a long way.
Now I love running my dog, but with 3 kids itís not always conducive to leave my house for 30 minutes at a time. We have acquired over the years a variety of cheap workout equipment at home; free weights, improvised TRX cables, a pull up bar mounted in a doorway (mostly for my husband), workout mats, these tools, plus a self-motivation have enabled me to be in the best shape of my life. I am in better shape at 32 and weigh as much as I did in the 9th grade. Yes itís possible with dedication. Set a general time in your schedule, and realize that life goes on around you, and yes a load of laundry might go unattended, but your personal health is at stake, and the big picture is far more important. I recently heard someone say, I was planning to start a workout program once I retire! What! Physical fitness and overall healthiness isnít a future hobby it should be part of everyoneís life.
Getting off the Couch
People, women especially start their workout programs with running, a very excellent approach. Though for overall health a doing a combination of cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and body weight exercises is key, and always to be followed up with stretching. Donít let these long terms deter you. If you have a lot of weight to loose, start with simple body weight exercises and easy cardio like running in place. Next incorporate strength training. Why weights? There is a misconception with weight training especially with women, but the fact is that people who use weights, have a higher bone density which helps with joint issues and prevents numerous body aliments later in life. The other misconception is that if a women uses weights, she will get a muscular structure similar to a man, this is just simply not true. Begin with light weights, curls, press, chest flys, tricep kick-backs, dead lifts.
Proper form is key to maximum benefit and preventing injury, go to YouTube for instructional videos. When I am training someone on weights or body weight exercise there is a learning curve for proper form, it takes a while to become comfortable using free weights or handling new equipment. If you start at a gym, please seek out advice. Too many first time gym members wander around gym equipment and think they can deduce how to use gym equipment properly and overdo certain muscle groups, or use machines incorrectly. Remember everyone starts somewhere, donít be afraid to ask for advice or help. Start with whichever weights are at your level and in coming weeks work yourself up.
I highly suggest if you want to workout at home and have zero workout equipment, to get an exercise ball, a yoga mat, and free weights 5lb and 10lb. Start with body weight exercises; jumping jacks, squats, lunges, running in place ect. When surfing the internet for workouts, new workouts, the workout jargon might seem like a foreign language so here is a little help
Reps (repetition is one complete motion of an exercise) Sets (group of consecutive repetitions) Circuit Training (series of short workouts using different equipment that aims to keep the heart rate high.) Interval Training (exercise that alternates between high and low intensity boost cardio endurance and burn calories) Cardio (any form of aerobic exercise)
Now muscle groups can be extensive, however when training your body you should include all muscle groups. Understanding how your body functions is important for overall health. See some links below for detailed lists; LINK
This should get you started. For more workout types Pinterest is a great tool, just type in what muscle group you would like to work on, or simply ďworkoutsĒ for endless instructions. Also again, please seek out instructional videos, for form and to prevent injury.
When planning your fitness program, it should have a combination of cardiovascular exercise, and strength training. Your sets should consist of at least 10 reps, of one exercise, and rotate your muscle groups. So if you work on upper body one day, the next day work on your legs, abs the next day and so on the order is not important as long as you are not neglecting any muscle groups. Example (3sets of 10 reps sit-ups) So your first three weeks might look like this:
Monday: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps, Tuesday: off, Wednesday: Legs & Abs, Thursday: off, Friday: Back & Biceps, Saturday and Sunday: off.
Calorie burning doesnít start till you are at least 20 minutes into a workout meeting your minimum target heart rate. There are phone apps, fit-bits, and a multitude of these types of devices to help. If you donít want to spend the money to do that, a very simple way to find out it to take your pulse for 15 seconds after youíve workout out and multiply that by 4, this will give you your heart rate. Here is just one resource that can help you determine your heart rates for your weight and height where you should be whether you are just starting or jumping back in the game: LINK
Starting your fitness journey I would encourage you to make a commitment to yourself to try to do 30 minutes 3 times a week. Work your way up to 4 days than 5 days. Always donít get discouraged if life gets in the way, just pick it right back up and keep your goals in mind. After 3 weeks you should feel stronger, less out of breath, and more confident. Move your time up to 40 minutes, I usually do 45 minutes of cardio and strength training at least 5 days a week. Try to work yourself up to this, if your schedule doesnít allow, than make sure to maximize your workouts you do have time for and stick to your meal plan.
Make sure to update your goals, our body is smart once youíve mastered certain exercises, your muscles can actually plateau, and you will not see any more change because they have gotten accustomed to the movements, and you will need to sneak in new routines to keep your body guessing. I always rotate my workouts every few weeks, so this doesnít happen.
Now for those of you starting that might have complications, an old injury or difficulty performing certain things, there are always modified versions of every exercise. Donít let complicated movements hinder your motivation. Instead of pushups, do wall pushups, instead of jumping jacks, you can emulate slower side to side jumping jacks. If you have trouble getting on the ground for workouts use your stability ball, or stand to do abdominal work. You can still get stronger doing modified workouts.
I recently worked with someone with a torn meniscus, which is a ligament in the knee, a very common injury among athletes. My friend had been told that surgery might or might not work, though the recovery would be about 6 weeks. However if she was to do stretching and modified strength training, it would heal on its own, but the process would be longer though it would be stronger if it healed on its own, recovery about 6 months. Slowly we built up her strength with modified cardio exercise and strength training, and she never went under the knife. Your body can do amazing things when you have the right tools, and provide it proper nutrition.
There is hope for all stages in life, for all fitness levels. You can be a better version of yourself. Never stop challenging yourself. I started at square one, eating frozen pizzas most nights, 3 times the proportions of food I should have in taking and no exercise. I started out with Pilates 14 years ago and have worked myself up to H.I.I.T High Intense Interval Training. You can be a stronger healthier you, find your motivation and change your life.