In January 2015, I made the decision to recommit myself to fitness and joined my neighborhood gym. At the time, I was essentially a single mom. Peter was living in Washington and I was working at least 60 hours a week. My dad was already being gracious and watching Henry in the afternoons, and I didn't want to put any more on his plate, so I started small, promising myself I would go to the gym 3 days a week for at least 30 minutes. Most days I would jog the five blocks to the facility, but sometimes I drove. I immediately noticed a difference in my energy levels which I desperately needed, and about a month later I began to notice physical changes as well.
I wanted to keep up the momentum at home, so I made it a habit to start preparing clean, whole foods and I gave up processed sugar for Lent. My father and aunt saw how motivated I was and began watching Henry a bit longer so I could squeeze in workouts 4-5 days a week. We also took turns cooking healthy dinners each night, which ended up being such a fun family activity! It was also a great way to try a variety of foods while enjoying the fellowship of a sit-down meal with my family each night.
A few months later and looking for new motivation, I signed up for a complimentary fitness consultation at my gym. It ended up being the best decision I made all year! After completing a questionnaire with a personal trainer, she walked me through a 30-minute fitness assessment. It was incredibly efficient and immediately I was able to see where my weaknesses were and the problems with my form on specific exercises. At the end of that appointment, I did something I would never typically do...I signed up for six personal training sessions on the spot. I am so glad I acted on intuition, because I may have talked myself out of it.
The timing of the training sessions could not have been better. My life was incredibly hectic as I was preparing for our move to New York in May and simultaneously going through a bathroom remodel. I am sure exercise would have gotten pushed to the back burner if I had not already paid for those sessions! But instead, I continued going to the gym and I learned how to maximize my workouts in 25-30 minutes.
By the time we moved in late May, I was in the best shape I had been in years. My lower back issues (which had plagued me post pregnancy) were minimal as my core strength was much greater. That was exciting enough, but I was also thrilled to lose 3 pants sizes.
After our move, I vowed to keep wellness a priority in my life. In some ways, it has been even easier living in our small town. We cook at home almost every meal, and our local gym offers childcare, which has been an essential with my husband's long hours and ever-changing schedule.
I'm still the same size I was in late May, but I have made other gains. I am stronger, more toned and I can run longer and much faster. I feel happy and whole and I know this is only the beginning of my fitness story.
Looking for more tips to get started with a fitness routine? These are my top 6.
1. Set reasonable goals. Don't be discouraged if your schedule or your fitness level only allows for a 20-minute workout 3 days a week. Do what you can manage and before you know it, you will be seeing progress! I now work out at least six days a week, but it took me eight months to get there.
2. Track your progress. I took photos of myself in the same spot at the gym once a week for several months. My physical changes were very gradual at first, but eventually they were remarkable! I only take photos occasionally now, but I saved them all to a secret board on Pinterest called "My Fitness Journey." It is slightly dorky, but effective. Other ways to track changes that don't involve selfies? You could invest in a Fitbit, keep a journal of your workouts or utilize fitness apps such as Map My Run or MyFitnessPal. I honestly don't do those things, but I have plans to incorporate technology into my workouts in the next few months.
3. Avoid the scale. I weigh myself once a week at most. Your weight fluctuates based on a variety of factors and at the end of the day, it is just a number. It is much better to focus on making healthful choices and being consistent.
4. Take your time. It takes at least 30 days to establish a new habit. How many old habits are you trying to change? If you are anything like me, there might be a lot. I've found that the longer it takes for me to reach a goal, the more meaningful it becomes. For instance, it took me five months to run a 10-minute mile. In the running world, that is turtle speed! Yet I was thrilled to get there because it was such a milestone for me. You are doing this for yourself and you are in it for the long-haul. It's okay.
5. Mix it up. I start most workouts with a 1 mile run and then follow up with circuit training and stretching. I try and do different exercises each day. Some days I only lift weights and some days I only do cardio. Once a week I try and take a class such as yoga, body sculpt or cycling. I walk outdoors do open-water swims and take hikes as often as posible too. This works for me because I enjoy it, but I think personal preference is huge here. If you hate running, don't force yourself to run every day. I'm not a running fan but I love the results, so I compromise with a mile because I can do it relatively fast. I like yoga, but I have never loved it, so that isn't what I do every day.
6. Eat it. There are so many diet trends and programs out there and you might feel like you need to apply principles from all of them to be the best version of yourself. I am not a nutritionist or a doctor, but I love food. And as someone who always had a love/hate relationship with food in the past, this is progress. Now days I really do eat everything: meat, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, eggs and dairy. I don't follow a 90/10 plan. I have half and half with my coffee every morning. I eat balanced meals as often as I can. I listen to my body. I have a glass of red wine most nights. I limit processed foods but occasionally indulge. That's it my friends. This is what works for me right now & I encourage you to find what works for you.
And as always... Consult a doctor before getting started! These are just ideas and my personal experience and you want to do what works best for you.