Part of this blog’s purpose is to keep me accountable. I know how to exercise, eat right, and take care of my health, but the maddening truth is that I have gotten l-a-z-y in my post-parenting years. The thought of 48 candles on my next birthday cake has me motivated to get back to top health. Being out of practice has left me wondering how to begin again. 10 sit ups and 10 leg lifts was all I could do, but it’s a start.
1. Just Start Somewhere
I can hear my own words ringing in my head while I remember all the times I had to encourage my kids to ‘just start’ their homework. All the moaning and groaning, complaints and whining that homework and school were just too hard was enough to make me crazy. You may have heard the same in your home if you have any parenting experience. But I knew if these kids would just start their work, they would get done and we could move on with the day. I constantly told my kids “ya gotta start somewhere”. I’d say that’s still my mantra today (if I have to have one). Whether you’re starting new habits or picking up old ones, you’ll never improve if you don’t begin the work. Think of Nike’s famous slogan “Just Do It”. It doesn’t matter if you’re terrible at the task. If you stay at it, you won’t be terrible for long. And improvement over time is inevitable.
Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.Albert Einstein
2. Add Instead of Subtracting
By no means am I professional dieter or nutritionist. In fact, I don’t think I have ever followed a diet! The thought of restricting calories and tracking all my food intake is exhausting, so I have always just leaned toward moderation and variety as “the plan”. But I just heard the most inspiring diet tip that I actually think I can follow. The suggestion was to add something healthy to your fitness plan or diet, instead of taking away something you enjoy. So say you want to cut back on processed food, but you still love pizza. First, depending on your toppings, pizza is not the worst thing you can eat, and second, instead of giving up your favorite pie, you could just add some veggies until your body starts to crave better foods (yes, your body will eventually crave fruits and vegetables if that’s what you feed it).
So instead of stressing about what I wasn’t going to eat or drink yesterday, I just added 10 sit ups and 10 leg lifts. Believe it or not, by last evening, I did not go for the usual carbs on my list. I did eat some, but not nearly what I usually do, and I went to bed feeling like I actually accomplished something to restart my fitness plan.
3. Stop With the Guilt!
Listen, we all know we are our own worst critic. Do you know all that criticism can make you fat and out-of-shape? You may not ever read this claim in a medical journal, but I’ll tell you from my own experience, the harder I am on myself, the less I create and accomplish. Our words and thoughts have power, and if I listen long enough, I won’t do a thing – AND I’ll feel guilty for not doing it. How crazy is that?!? Experience tells me this broken mindset is more common than I know. I have watched people carry unnecessary guilt for their lack of accomplishments, or failed marriages, or renegade children, and the list goes on. And you know that? Those people are paralyzed. Ever heard the phrase “Analysis is paralysis”? Think about it for a minute. We can sabotage the best of health goals and intentions just by letting that tape in our head that tells us we’re not good enough or fit enough or haven’t done enough to play. Forget it! Get over it! Let yourself off the hook already! You are an amazing human being, and I believe in you.
4. Keep Moving
Some of my least favorite memories are of family members who were morbidly obese and struggled just to get around the house – in a wheelchair. My grandfather lived to be 81, but the minute he started relying on a wheelchair to move around, I knew he wouldn’t be around much longer. Grandpa’s legs worked, but he tired easily from not using his body the way he used to, so having a chair with wheels must have seemed like a relief and a good idea. I can’t prove it, but I do believe it caused his health to decline. It still stings a bit to think of how bright and quick-witted this man was, and how he just seemed to decline in physical and mental health when he stopped relying on his body to move him around.
My dear elderly friend has issues with arthritis, aches, pains, and limited mobility. He attributes it to old age. However, his doctors disagree. We used to believe that people naturally slow down and start to hurt as we age. But with all the science and knowledge we now have, we know that aging isn’t as much the problem as is lack of use. Our bodies get used to being physically active when we’re young and raising families (if you do). So when those responsibilities begin to wane, it’s natural that our bodies move less. You may have to make the extra effort, but you can stave off a lot of those aches and pains just by continuing to exercise and move your body.
5. If You Stop, Start Again
This has got to be the hardest part for me. Once I’m in a routine, it’s almost a no-brainer to keep going. But mannnnn, do I have trouble getting started. This is where the guilt tape wants to play in my mind. I just have to tell that thing to shut up, already! Life happens, and I am the queen of changing plans. I’ll be the first one to throw my priorities out the window for my kids or friends. But returning to those priorities always seems harder when I’m out of the habit. I have even installed a habit tracking app on my phone so I don’t get too distracted.
10 sit ups. 10 leg lifts. Ya gotta start somewhere, even if you’re starting again. And anything you do to restart your fitness routine counts. So start again! Even the habit of restarting could eventually lead to healthy habits that aren’t easily derailed.
6. Track Your Progress
I am pretty terrible at documenting and charting progress, but I find that if I make myself record my weight and active steps in my health app, it gives me a way to see that A. I am making progress, and B. I need to keep going. Whether you want to increase water intake or be more active in a day, tracking your progress can help you to stay accountable and even accomplish milestones. With over 40 pounds to lose, I need to see the results before they show in the mirror. Keeping a health app on my phone helps me to see where I have been and how I’m making progress.
7. Join Forces
I recently moved about 30 miles away from Las Vegas. One of my favorite activities of walking with a dear friend was consumed in that move. We’re actually trying to coordinate so we can walk together again. While I enjoy my own company and don’t need to be entertained, I really do miss those walks, mainly because I was motivated that someone else was on the health journey with me.
Picking up my friend and driving to the park where we walked was always a treat. Not only could we encourage each other to keep walking (I need it more than she does), we developed a deep bond of love and friendship. We know about each other’s families and what goes on in our daily lives. We are able to inspire each other in other areas of our lives, and in all those walks, we found that we share similar experiences.
While I have no desire to join a gym ever again, I understand the value of the camaraderie that can be found in those settings. Exercising next to other like-minded people can be encouraging, and also educational. You may learn a better way to hold your form or even be inspired to try something new. If you’re having trouble sticking to exercise on your own, I highly recommend finding those like-minded folks in your life to spur you on toward the finish line.
8. Variety Encourages Results
It’s true! Ask any fitness guru out there and they’ll tell you that your exercise routine must change at times so you don’t plateau (stop progressing). Your body gets used to doing the same thing over and over again, to the point even the most rigorous exercises don’t have the same affect they once did. I’m not telling you to give up your favorite exercises, but doing them in varied rotations, or even swapping some exercises for several weeks will help your body to maximize the results. It also helps to keep you from being bored with the same routine.
9. The World is Your Gym
We see a lot of interesting things on the streets in Las Vegas. The other day I watched a man do an entire exercise routine with up and down a major street. He rode his bike like he was climbing a mountain, and when he was done, he parked it and started stretching and high-kicking over power boxes! This man worked out more in 10 minutes than I have in the past year, all without a gym membership. Why pay for one when you can just go outside?
Don’t worry, I’m not trashing gym memberships. But I can tell you from experience they’re usually a waste of money if you’re not an athlete. I used to have a gym membership for a very nice gym in town. Since I like to walk, the inside track was the draw because it meant walking in air-conditioning during the hot Vegas summers. I was so excited to get that membership. But then I drove 8 miles to the gym. And 8 miles back home. And after a few 16-mile round trips to the gym, I started questioning my own logic. Yes, it was climate-controlled, but driving that far to take a walk meant I had to add extra time for travel. A 1-hour walk turned into almost 2 hours away from home. It just wasn’t making sense for me.
The gym membership expired without any fanfare and it made me realize I can exercise pretty much any place I want. Walking at parks and through the neighborhood gives me the opportunity to meet and connect with people, which is part of my purpose anyway. Whether you love your gym time or would rather get a workout in the Great Wide Open, the key is to just start moving.
10. Don’t Give Up!
Whatever you do, no matter how hard it seems to keep going, you can do this! You already started, so why not keep moving? I am taking my own medicine as I write these words. I have sat long enough writing this post, and now it’s time to take action. If all I do today are another 10 sit ups and 10 leg lifts, it will be more than I have done in a very long time. And any exercise is better than none at all. Little by little. Day by day. That’s how the big battles are won.
It has been a privilege to write this post and share with you. I hope you are encouraged to take on your health journey and know that I support you. We’re in this together! Please share with anyone you would like to encourage toward better health.
Cheers – here’s to your health!