We humans are creatures of habit. Once we find something we like or we become accustomed to a pattern, we like to stick with it. That which is new or different, or which diverges from our accepted routine can be upsetting. For example, every workday I stop at the general store in my village to buy a cup of black coffee and a newspaper. Yesterday I had to hit the road before the store opened, so I had to get my coffee elsewhere, even worse from a stranger. I didn’t bother with the newspaper since I would have no chance to read it. I found myself to be mildly annoyed and resentful about this, silly as that may sound. (I did get over it.)
A couple of days ago I began Phase 3 of P90X2, which I’ve been doing for about a month and a half. In the two prior phases, I had gotten used to the sequences of core this day, arms this day, yoga that day, recovery another day, and so on. I admit that I was a wee bit complacent. Don’t misunderstand me-these exercises were as challenging as ever. It was just that I had fallen into an established routine. So, I began substituting compatible workouts like Kenpo X from the classic P90X series just to mix things up. Then Phase 3 comes along with all new (to me) exercises and routines, some of which are challenging in the extreme! It is this newness and the goal of mastering the new moves that blew away any hint of boredom I had.
Nothing can sabotage your efforts as quickly as boredom! Any of us can find ourselves in a rut when it comes to our workouts whether you use a gym or work out at home like I do. When you find yourself getting bored and lacking motivation, evaluate your current routine to figure out what about it bores you. A new variation on your favorite activity, like doing dance based cardio instead of step aerobics, or using free weights instead of working on machines may be enough to reinvigorate you. If you’ve always worked out indoors on a treadmill, stair-climber or stationary bike, move your workout outdoors for a change of scenery (and some fresh air). Run, hike or bike on trails instead of a track or a road; swim in a lake or ocean instead of a pool. It’s entirely your choice to be bored or not!
A variety of exercises will spice up your workouts.
Probably the most common question in the realm of health and fitness is “Where do I begin?” That’s a very simple question, but the answer is not quite so straightforward. Where you begin depends largely upon where you want to go. (Sounds pretty Zen, doesn’t it?) The truth is that each of us have unique needs and desires, and those influence the fitness path we take. I suggest that you consider the following if you are just starting out in a health and fitness program.
What is your goal? First and foremost, you need to be honest with yourself about your “why”. Some folks may want to drop 20 pounds for the upcoming swimsuit season. Others may want to lose weight long term so they can have a more active life with their children or partners. Yet others may want to reduce or eliminate their need for certain medications. There are nearly as many goals as there are people to set them. You must decide what your goal is up front. If not, how will you know when you have reached it?
What will your method be? You could start out easy by walking a mile or two several days per week. Conversely you could jump into the deep end of the pool with a “boot camp” program like P90X or Insanity. Somewhere between the two extremes you could do cross training or use dance based programs like Turbo Fire or Rockin’ Body. With your goal as a beginning point, your method will be the map you use to determine your path and progress. As with any other map, it is only as effective as the user’s adherence to it.
Will you commit to success? Your decision to start a fitness journey is the foundation upon which you will build a better you. Your willingness to commit to seeing the process through to its culmination is structure built upon that foundation. If you start out with a half-hearted effort and quit after a few weeks because you didn’t get spectacular results immediately, the structure you build will be a cardboard shanty. If you keep pushing even when it hurts or you don’t feel like it, and you bring an honest effort to each workout and a thoughtful plan to each meal, the structure you build will be a magnificent mansion! Commitment doesn’t mean isolation. Enlist the emotional and moral support of others if you need to-I certainly have over the past few years.
An exercise class is a great way to begin, and has built in support.
The days have grown short and the nights have (finally) grown colder. The temptation to sleep through the winter is strong. Some days, all I want to do is burrow under a pile of blankets and hibernate until the robins return from their southern homes. I’m certainly not a scientist but I suspect that all mammals share this response to winter. When it begins to get cold outside, we tend to eat more and move less, putting on fat to get us through the tough months to come. That would be great except for one thing: humans don’t hibernate the way bears and groundhogs do.
When an animal like a bear hibernates, it no longer takes in food. The only source of energy it has while dormant is its fat. We humans, on the other hand, just keep piling on the calories in the form of stored fat, because we are not burning them faster than we’re taking them in. Being sedentary is not remotely like hibernating, although we often use the word “hibernate” conversationally when we should say “be inactive”. Just because it’s cold outside, though, you don’t need to sit around waiting for the return of warm weather.
If you like the cold, there is skiing-alpine and Nordic-and snowboarding, snow shoeing, and so on. Most of the traditional cold weather sports help you burn calories two ways: by moving around, and by burning more calories just to maintain your body warmth. So any outdoor activity is good! If you prefer to stay inside and warm, be resourceful. If you enjoy running but not in snow and ice, use a treadmill, elliptical machine, or stair climber. Swim laps at an indoor pool facility. Buy fitness DVDs or borrow some from the library or friends. Set up training workouts at home, alternating cardio and strength exercises using dumbbells, bands, or body weight and a jump rope, stairs, or even running in place. Do what ever it takes to stay active and engaged throughout the winter. You’ll be glad you did when spring rolls around and you’re in great shape!
“I’m back! I’m back in the saddle again!” sang Steven Tyler. Well, here I am, back in the saddle again myself. As I have written previously, I was on vacation and then got laid up for a few weeks with a severe respiratory illness. During my vacation, I didn’t get much in the way of heavy exercise. Certainly, I got none while I was sick and recuperating.
The upshot of all this is that I put back on nine pounds in three and a half weeks. I could actually see the beginnings of a belly again! Once my health stabilized, I began doing some light cardio workouts with Body Gospel. Slowly, I built up my strength and lung capacity.
Last night, I started doing a more ambitious exercise regime with Rev Abs. Rev Abs is a bit more strenuous than Body Gospel, so I approached it with a little trepidation, given that I’m not back to full lung capacity yet. One of my friends correctly advised me to take it easy, listen to my body, and take breaks if needed. She also told me to avoid thinking along the lines of “well, I used to be able to do such and such”, and to concentrate instead on the here an now.
So I used lighter weights, stuck to the lower impact versions of the individual exercises, and I took a short break at the midpoint. I managed to get in two out of the three rounds in this “Total Strength” workout. I feel a little like a newbie, but it’s great to be moving again! This morning I weighed in at 180 pounds, for a loss of two pounds. I suppose the take away from this is that it doesn’t take much to upset your status quo, and it doesn’t take a lot to get back on track, either.
I discovered this morning that I have put back on nine pounds over the past couple of weeks, as I recovered from pneumonia. That kind of stinks! I’m back to 181 pounds, and I can see the beginnings of a gut coming back. I understand intellectually that there’s not really much I could have done which I didn’t, while I’ve been recuperating. Emotionally, well, that’s an entirely different matter. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I worked darned hard to drop that weight, and I admit to being a bit discouraged by this setback.
On the other hand, it is just a setback. It’s not the end of the world. It’s certainly not the end of my fitness journey either. Last night I started working out again, with Body Gospel Live, a 30 minute light cardio workout. I took it easy, paid attention to my body, and even took a break for a few minutes about halfway through. It wasn’t the hardest effort I’ve ever put in, but I’ll tell you the simple truth: it felt GREAT to be moving again!
There is a school of thought which maintains that how we deal with adversity is at least as important as how we deal with the good things in our lives. I think that there is merit in this perspective. It’s easy to be happy and optimistic when everything is working to our advantage. It is much more challenging to maintain a positive attitude when obstacles and setbacks lie in our paths, to see the good in the adversity. The big challenge in such cases is to channel the negative emotions we feel into something better, to use them as fuel for change or even just perseverance. I choose to view my situation as a challenge to be overcome, not as a reason to throw in the towel. Stay tuned!