Now, you should know right off the bat here that I am maybe the most habitual person on earth. It works against me as much as it works for me. I promise. But one of the upsides of being the way I am is that maintaining a workout schedule isn't very hard for me. Working out every morning has become so routine that my day feels weird and incomplete if for some reason I can't. Sometimes missing a workout will literally affect my mood by the time evening rolls around, and I'm not going to lie, it can get ugly (my husband would call that a downside). I'm trying to become more flexible with the timing of my workouts, but really, it takes one hell of a day for me to eliminate it completely. Some people would consider my approach extreme and rigid, but I have a different take. It's become part of who I am. It's become a part of me that I like and feel good about. It's become a part of me that I'm not willing to sacrifice. I'm a happier person when I feel good about myself physically. I'm also happier when I'm doing things that are physically challenging. That endorphin buzz? It's the best feeling in the world for me. I bask in the high I get after a tough workout and it doesn't take long before I start to crave my next hit. But, you know, I haven't always been that way. I've had slumps and ruts that have been really REALLY hard to pull myself out of. Like after I had my first baby and had to lose fifty pounds. FIFTY! You guys, I'm 5'1"! Not the most stellar time in my life, physically speaking. My point is that just like diet, finding a good workout routine is a journey. You'll have ups and downs. You'll try lots of different things. Some of them will stick and some of them wont. You'll incorporate things that are "fad" workouts (ie Zumba), and then maybe you'll go back to some of the things that you loved 10 years ago (long distance running - for me at least) and maybe tweak them a bit (I love to do sprints now - who knew!). It's a process of finding out what works for you and what doesn't and then mixing it up when you get bored or hit a plateau. But the main goal regarding exercise should definitely be consistency. It's absolutely essential. And more often than not, it's the reason most people fail to reach their physical goals. Remember, you become very good at the things you practice.
So, what are your fitness goals? For the most part, in the past I needed goals that had an expiration date. Goals that offered a big reward. Something concrete that said YOU DID IT! I think that's why I was always so attracted to races (usually triathlons). It gave me a timeline. It put pressure on me to train every day. And really, sometimes it was fun. But after several years I started feeling like a hamster on a wheel. I'd register for a race, train like hell, finish the race, and then be so hammered, that I didn't want to swim, bike, or run for months. At which point I would panic because I had no motivation to workout. So I'd register for another race. I know, it sounds crazy. It became a vicious cycle instead of a fun, enjoyable, sustainable lifestyle. That's not to say that signing up for a race of some kind is a bad idea. It's not. They can be really fun and a great way to kick start a workout routine. I'm just saying don't put all your eggs in one basket. Don't let the pressure of finishing a race become your only motivation for working out. It's like dieting so you can look good on a trip to Hawaii. Once the trip is over, what happens? Well, if your like most people, you get home and go right back to the habits you've spent the most time perfecting. It doesn't take long to end up right back where you started. Don't do that with exercise. Find things that fit into your lifestyle. Pick things that offer enough variety that you can reach your physical goals without getting bored out of your mind. If you start to get bored, mix it up. Pronto.
Honestly, before about a year ago, I had never set a fitness goal that had much to do with my body. It was more about the actual workouts and/or being prepared for the big race. I had never had my body composition analyzed or even thought about what I would want to change had I been given the option. I just figured, this is me. There's chubby me, average me, skinny me, and all the "me's" in between. I never said, "you know, my arms might balance out my body better if they had a little more size and shape to them", or "I wonder if I could tighten up and define my core muscles in a way that would add more stability to my body." I seriously didn't. I didn't even know you could! I thought those kinds of things were catagorized as spot reducing (not a good approach to take). When I first started meeting with my fitness/nutrition guru, she asked me what I wanted to change about my body. Deer. In. Headlights. It took several sessions for her to convince me that I wasn't restricted to just the 3 versions of "me" I mentioned earlier. I started realizing that I could build some serious muscle in my shoulders and arms. A look I've always loved but thought was too far from my genetic make up to actually attain. I could rebuild my abs and get them looking more like they did before my children stretched them to space and back. I could add a little junk to my trunk instead of blaming gravity for my lack therein. Granted, genetics definitely plays a part. I had to take that into consideration. But I have to tell you, I've changed things about my body that I NEVER imagined I could. It's all about being specific about what you want. Well, kind of. I read an article recently that suggested people focus solely on losing body fat until they're under about 21%. At that point, it's reasonable to get picky about what you want. Which leads me to my next point. Numbers don't lie. If you want to change your body, you have to be ready to face the facts. Even if it's painful to hear. I'm convinced that knowing your body composition is the single most important step to take in changing your body. You also need to get it checked regularly along the way. I get it tested every 2 weeks right now. It's a long enough span of time that I can accurately gauge my progress, but it's a short enough span of time that I can easily tweak things to keep my numbers moving in the right directions. Eventually I'll probably only get it checked every couple of months. I'm still in a pretty intense building phase as of now, but when I'm to the point where I just want to maintain, knowing my exact numbers every other week won't be as crucial. But it's also just plain fun to see those numbers moving. It's like being the subject of your own science experiment or something. I have issues. I know.
I'll get more into the how's and why's of doing specific kinds of workouts in the next few posts. But I'm curious to know what people's fitness routines are like right now. Do you like strength training workouts, or are you more of a cardio junkie like me (the treadmill has alwyas been my mother ship)? Do you feel like it's hard to make yourself workout, or has it become something you actually look forward to? Here's a toughie: Why do you workout? Because you want to look better? Because you want to feel better? Because you know it's good for you? Or maybe a combination of all those things? I'm crazy curious about this stuff. Enlighten me please. Aaaaaaand GO...