First of all, I love Mexican food. I eat pizza and cheese burgers and sometimes, after my kids go to bed, I enjoy a bowl of ice cream and have a glass of wine.
Ha! How’s that for an article on fitness?!
You were probably thinking I was going to tell you swear off junk food for ever and ever, Amen. Well… think again!
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely think a huge part of being healthy and fit is eating nutritious, natural foods that haven’t been glued together in a factory. Personally, my daily goal is to aim for the 75/25 target. Meaning, I try to consume 75% healthy foods and allow myself a 25% margin of grace and guacamole.
But eating well is a topic for another post. Today I want to focus on the exercise side of the fitness coin.
Before I start rattling off fitness tips, it would help if I gave you a little bit of my background.
When I was 16 years old and a sophomore in high school, I weighed 30 pounds more than I do now as a 34-year-old mother of 3. I was overweight for most of my childhood and I was very, very aware of it. I always felt self-conscious and never really happy with the way I looked and especially not happy with the way I felt; constantly fatigued and out of breath.
Dozens of times I had tried to start exercising regularly or eating better but would get discouraged quickly when I didn’t see fast results or was overcome by a craving for salt and vinegar chips. Even my best of intentions never lasted long.
And then, one day, a flip was switched.
I was eating lunch at Chili’s with a friend and her Dad. I don’t remember the topic of conversation but it definitely was not centered on health or exercise or me being a little hefty. I just remember chowing down on a platter of chicken tenders when, suddenly, I looked down and all I could see was glistening grease dripping from and pooling around my food. For whatever reason, I was unexpectedly disgusted with what I was eating. At that moment, all I could imagine was that grease sitting in my stomach and sludging through my arteries. No wonder I couldn’t run ¼ of a mile without feeling like I was going to keel over.
P.S. I still love and eat fried chicken to this day. So there.
Anyway, I remember thinking, Alright, Katie, enough is enough, tomorrow we will start exercising and eating better.
And I did. For some reason that I really can’t explain, this time was different. I finally kept that promise I made to myself, followed through, joined a gym and cut back on the crud I was eating. Within 6 months I had lost around 30-35 pounds and felt better and more accomplished than I ever had before.
And then I lived happily ever after and never had any problems or anxieties ever again in my life. The End.
That’s not what happened.
The fact that I was a 16-year-old girl who was suddenly thin and gaining the attention and compliments of new friends and boys brought with it a whole host of control issues and self-worth dilemmas but, again, that’s another topic for another day.
I did, however, now understand that carrying around all that extra weight was not fun or comfortable and I was bound and determined to keep it off for the rest of my life.
Also, important to note is that I have been a licensed and practicing Physical Therapist for nearly 10 years now. It is literally my job to convince people that exercise and movement can facilitate healing both physically and mentally. Not only is it my occupation, but it is something I am passionate about and wholeheartedly believe to be true. I know. I’ve lived it.
The title of this post, Fight for your Fitness, does not mean Fight for your 6 Pack Abs or Fight for your Size 2 Jeans. No. I want you to rid your mind of all images involving skinny, slender people with thigh gaps. I am not advocating for thin here but rather mobility, strength and renewed energy. Fight for your Fitness means Fight for your Ability to Keep Moving until you are 6 Feet Under the Ground and can’t Anymore.
You guys, we get one life. We get one body. We get one chance to age gracefully with little to no back pain, neck pain, knee pain, balance issues, cardiac conditions or pulmonary complications. We were not made to sit around. And the older we get the harder it is to fight off years of being sedentary. So, regardless of your age, it starts now. Take control of your health and take back your quality of life.
If you struggle with making up excuses and giving up on fitness before you barely even start, then please know you are not alone. It is not easy but you owe it to yourself to hang on to your independence as long as you possibly can through freedom of mobility.
Here are the 5 most common excuses I hear (and that I have used myself) as to why people cannot fit exercise into their life. I have added some thoughts on what has helped me and how to tear down these excuses so you can start moving today.
Excuse #1: I’m too tired
Oh, my goodness, friend. If ever there was an excuse that I could empathize with, this is the one. I get it. I have a marriage to nurture, a job to juggle, friendships to keep afloat, responsibilities at my church, a house to keep clean, mountains of laundry to fold and put away, groceries to shop for, meals to prep and 3 kids to keep alive, healthy and cared for. So often, trying to juggle all of these things while doing at least a half-way decent job at them leaves me exhausted.
What helps me:
When I have the opportunity to exercise but am feeling worn out and weary, I remind myself that exercise begets energy. I make myself think of how awesome and accomplished and energized I will feel when I am done and how I know I will regret it later in the day if I don’t get up and get moving.
Plus, multiple studies have shown that those who exercise regularly (3 to 5 days a week for at least 30 minutes) feel less stressed and anxious, allowing them to sleep more soundly. And it only makes sense that if you are sleeping more soundly you are feeling less tired.
Sitting on the couch and watching TV will only make you feel more lethargic. Mindlessly scrolling through social media for 30 minutes will make you feel like your brain has been steeped in a thick fog. Sure, rest is important and wonderful and necessary but too much sitting around will not take away your feeling of fatigue. In fact, it will only make you feel more sluggish.
Feel like you have nothing left to give?
Make yourself do 5 minutes. Five minutes is better than nothing and, more often than not, that 5 minutes will turn into 10 and then 15. Once you get started your heart rate will rise, boosting your blood flow and pumping fresh oxygen to your muscles and brain (and every other cell in your body). Even more than that extra cup of coffee, this movement will wake you up, clear your mind and make you feel more alert.
Excuse #2: I don’t have time
We are all so busy. Please see the above section for a list of my responsibilities. Your list is most likely very similar or just as long and you are most likely thinking, there is just no way I can fit in one more thing.
What helps me:
Honestly, this is a tough one but the answer is pretty straightforward. You just have to make the time. Look at your schedule and decide what works best for you.
Are you a new mom?
Throw that baby in a stroller and go for a brisk walk around the neighborhood. Do an at-home workout while they nap or stare at you from a bouncy seat. Or, better yet, sign up for a gym with childcare you can trust. Most gyms with childcare take babies as young as 6 weeks. The YMCA was a lifesaver when my babies were tiny. Mamas and Daddies, you should not be made to feel guilty about taking some time for yourself.
Do you work full time?
Go for a walk or a jog at lunch. Get a group of friendly coworkers together who are committed to 30 minutes of fitness right after work. Use your employer’s on-site workout facility if they have one. Swing by the gym on the way home or do an at-home workout after the kids have gone to bed.
Can’t fit in a full 30 minutes or an hour all at once?
Break it up! Do 10 minutes, 3 times a day or 15 minutes twice a day. Find a workout that you like and fit it in when you can.
For me, personally, I have found it is best for me to work out in the mornings before my kids are awake. Obviously, that means that I have to wake up early. Real early.
I know, I know. For some of you the thought of getting up early makes you want to shrivel up in a corner and cry. I totally understand that not all of us are morning people. But, for me, waking up early to workout leaves me feeling more energized and more capable of tackling my day. When I have started the day with a brisk walk or weight lifting session at the gym, I feel more focused, more easy-going and a lot more patient. This allows me to better parent my children and handle my busy schedule.
Obviously, exercise doesn’t eliminate my long list of responsibilities but it clears my mind and calms me down, making that long list seem more manageable and less daunting.
Whether you are working out in the morning or late at night, one seemingly silly thing that saves on time and makes a world of difference in my level of motivation is having my workout clothes laid out or my gym bag packed and ready the night before. When I plan and prepare for success there is a MUCH higher chance that I will actually succeed.
Excuse #3: I’m clueless
This was so me when I started out on my fitness journey. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. The machines were intimidating and the classes terrifying. I was also so out of shape that it seemed overwhelming and pointless to even start in the first place.
What helped/helps me:
Set attainable goals and start small.
The very first week of my new life as a “girl who worked out” I told myself, Five minutes. My goal was to get through only five minutes on the elliptical trainer and then add five more minutes the next week. I did this 5 days each week for 12 weeks until I could do an entire hour without stopping. After that, I branched out to new, different and more dynamic activities like classes, free weights and using the machines. With each passing week I grew more confident and more willing to try new things.
Also, ask for help. If you have no idea how a machine works or how a workout class is run… then just ask. It’s that simple. Every gym I have ever been in has more than enough personal trainers standing around twiddling their thumbs hoping and praying someone will ask them a question. Or, go with an experienced friend who is willing to show you the ropes and give you some tips.
Excuse #4: I’m too sore
Please note that there is a difference between being sore and being in pain. Being sore is typically an achy sensation and might make getting up and down from the toilet more cumbersome. Being in pain, on the other hand, takes your breath away and can bring tears to your eyes. If you are experiencing the latter, I recommend seeing a doctor or physical therapist.
I am speaking of soreness here and being sore is actually a good thing. It means that you are using your muscles and that they are being broken down and rebuilt to make you stronger. It also may mean you did too much too soon if you are a workout newbie. See above and remember… start small with attainable goals.
Unfortunately, however, that discomfort often leaves people feeling discouraged which can lead to defeat.
Don’t let that happen! Fight that!
What helps me:
If you are feeling super sore, getting up and moving will actually help to reduce that discomfort. I promise it will not go away any faster by sitting on the couch or lying in bed. That will only make it linger longer. Granted, I don’t recommend going full-bore on a sore day but gentle walking, jogging, swimming or biking will help to flush out the chemicals and inflammation that are a byproduct of muscle breakdown.
Excuse #5: Gym memberships are too expensive
Some of them are, yes. But many of them are not.
What has helped/helps me:
I can think of two good gyms in my city that have memberships at or under $15 a month. They are in your city too, you just have to find them. Do what we do to find everything else in life and Google it.
If being a gym rat is not your thing, exercise at home. Beachbody on Demand is an awesome streaming network that you can access from a smart TV, tablet, computer or even your phone. It is $100 a year or around $8.50 per month. You can even use this one if you are traveling! And, if you were wondering, no, I am not a Beachbody coach. But my good friend Diane Jett is and she is super awesome and encouraging if you need someone to walk you through it.
Still can’t afford that but have a pair of tennis shoes? Then walk or jog.
Does your apartment complex have a pool or a workout facility you can use for free? Do that!
Have small kids but can’t afford the childcare that your gym offers? Then get with another parent friend or your spouse and trade off. You watch the kids while they sweat and then switch.
You guys, the excuses are endless but the benefits you will gain by making exercise a part of your life are too:
Less stress, fatigue, anxiety and pain.
More energy, strength, endurance, joy, patience and independence.
Better mobility, sleep, self-esteem and quality of life.
That list sounds pretty amazing, right?
You can do it, I know you can!
What are some other roadblocks that keep you from exercising? Maybe I can help you tear down those as well.