Category: health

         I’ve written before about my journey with fitness – finding what worked for me and made me happy, finding time to do it. I spent most of 2012 doing my own little thing: mostly resistance workouts with dumbbells and kettlebells and body-weight moves, and I was really pleased with myself. I know that I feel better when I make the time to invest in myself in this little way.
         At the start of 2013, I was still trucking right along, and in May, Chris took a HUGE step and joined the HealthPark. He signed up with a personal trainer, and today he’s about 45 pounds lighter and in much better shape! As a result, I got a HealthPark membership too (one of those, “add your spouse for only a little bit more!” deals) and started trying to go over there for cardio occasionally. But using a gym just wasn’t working for me at this life stage — there is a charge for the childcare room, and I can’t justify spending that kind of money for a half-hour on an elliptical machine! Only using the HP on days when Chris had time to keep the kids at home meant it was a rare occurence.
      And when school started in August of ’13, my workout time just fizzled and died. Keeping up with a 3rd grade schedule, a Kindergarten schedule, an inquisitive and still-nursing 2-year-old, and a household proved to be too much. By December, I was pretty unhappy with that state of affairs. It’s not that I had gained a ton of weight – I was still hovering around my ‘comfort zone’ in the 120-123 range – but I just didn’t feel as good as I knew I could. My energy level was lower and my stress level was higher. I missed that feeling of strength I’d had just a year prior.
     A friend from our homeschool group, Sarah M., started posting on Facebook about a new daily workout routine she had started. She’s a tall, thin, whole-food-eating kind of mama –so I knew that if she was doing it, it must not be crazy or based on bad nutrition. Curiosity got the best of me, and I asked what the program was.

Okay, I remember hearing about P90X a few years ago. When we lived in Elsmere, our friends Misty & Axel did that. But I had the impression that it was CRAZY and HARD and IMPOSSIBLE for a normal person to do. So I kept asking Sarah questions and reading reviews of this new version, X3. It’s similar to the original: it’s a high-intensity interval workout program. It uses “muscle confusion” by varying 16 different workouts over the course of the 90 days to keep your body guessing – cardio, weights, power, agility, and flexibility are all covered. Unlike the original, though, X3 is only 30 minutes a day.
      That sounded perfect to me! I love weights, yoga, pilates… I need some help with cardio and agility. I had a hunch that the variety would help me to “stick with it” through the stuff I dislike. And I knew that I could carve out half an hour. I’m a morning energy person, so ideally I would work out in the mornings. I decided it wouldn’t kill my children to take a break from school and entertain themselves for 30 minutes; on days when I can’t fit it in around 10:30 a.m., I use “quiet time” (around 1:00 p.m.) as my time.
     I decided to order the DVDs, and then Sarah asked me if I wanted to get Shakeology while I was at it. I had heard of that stuff, too. Another friend had posted lots of photos of shakes and recipes when she was using it a few years ago. But I didn’t think I wanted, or needed, a meal replacement shake. HOWEVER – Chris had been drinking protein shakes for breakfast or as an on-the-go meal ever since he began his fitness journey back in May. I knew that his shakes were better than nothing, and better than some of the food options he used to pick (Little Debbies and chocolate milk, not exactly a breakfast of champions!) but I didn’t love the list of ingredients – like high fructose corn syrup. So I decided I’d order a one-month supply of Shakeology and try to convince Chris to give it a try.

    As it turns out, we love this stuff! Chris prefers the chocolate, and I really like all three ‘classic’ flavors (chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry). We haven’t tasted the greenberry yet. In the beginning, I was very sporadic about drinking my shakes, but around Day 48 of my workouts, I started to use them consistently as breakfast. I know of some folks who continue to use Shakeology as a meal replacement for years; I don’t think that would be a good fit for me, but you never know. 🙂 
    So: the box of DVDs arrived, and I plunged in. Day 1 was called “Total Synergistics,” and I remember feeling supercharged. It was challenging; I could tell I had room to improve, but I was able to keep up with the pace and the moves. There are modifications shown for every move in every workout, so even if you can’t do the “advanced” move, you can keep on doing “something.” My hunch proved correct: the timing & variety is, for me, the key to sticking with it. I really hate cardio 🙂 but it’s only for 30 minutes. The countdown timer clicking along at the bottom of the screen reminds me I’m halfway done! Only eight minutes left! Last sixty seconds! Done! And even when I’ve huffed and puffed my red-faced way to the end, I know that I don’t have to do it again tomorrow. I get a few days of the stuff where I excel, yoga and strength training, before I come back to a cardio routine.
      Today is Day 60, and I still love it! It has taken me about 68 days in reality – travel and illness have made me skip workouts here and there. I have only lost about 2 pounds, but over 9.5″ overall.  See for yourself:
 

We have a week of vacation coming up, and I think I’m going to bring my DVDs with me. I may divert from the written schedule a bit (I’d like to do all no-equipment-needed routines on vacation, so I won’t have to bring bands and dumbbells along in my suitcase), and I may not do it every single day – it IS a beach vacation after all! With 30 days to go, I’m really excited to find out what my final results are going to look like. If you’re looking for a new exercise program to shake you out of your rut, or if you’ve heard about P90X3 and wondered if it was really do-able as a non-gym-rat, busy mama: I’m telling you, this is a good plan and it’s worth the effort.

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A couple of weeks ago, my friend Sarah linked to a thought-provoking fitness article. The author wrote about how sometimes women get a little too hung-up on using our bathroom scales. She claimed that we ought to only weigh ourselves once annually at a doctor’s office. (To be fair, she went on to explain that a woman’s percentage body fat was more important than an arbitrary number o the scale, and suggested that her readers should pay attention to how their clothes fit and how their bodies feel during the 364 days of the year they aren’t stepping on a scale.)

Now, I can’t get on board with once-per-year weights. In my [albeit, inexperienced] opinion, while you’re in the postpartum-weight-loss phase, it is reassuring to see that you’re making small progress from week to week. And on the other side of the coin, it’s good to keep an eye out and make sure you’re not losing weight too fast; as a breastfeeding mom, research suggests that 1 pound per week is the safest amount of weight loss.  But I’m at “the bottom of the hill” right now – I’m 3.5 pounds away from my weight when Abigail was conceieved, and that point is about 5 pounds away from what has been my default “healthy” weight over the last dozen years. So the article made me realize that I definitely don’t need to hop on my scale every single day (which I really didn’t do anyway) and I could probably stop checking every week as well (I had gotten a habit of weighing myself on Saturday mornings).

I think it was a commenter on the original article (or maybe it was a subsequent article I read later the same day – you know how internet bunny trails can be!) who suggested a compromise of weighing oneself once a month, at the end of your cycle. That sounded like a better idea to me. And Sarah, my friend who got this whole thought-ball rolling, is a courageous woman who’s been taking her own measurements and posting them on her blog!!! during her weight loss journey… which made me think about doing the same thing. Well, okay, I’m not that courageous: it made me think about taking measurements. I won’t post them on the blog!

Anyway… all of that is a lead up to another update on the workout situation. I chart my cycles, simply because I started doing it in 2004 and it’s a habit now!, so I started noting my workouts on my chart. Those pieces of information don’t HAVE to go together, but it works for me. The nice thing about keeping track that way is that I know that over the last 30 days, I did 11 workouts. 🙂 Since this is still a ‘developing’ habit and not a fully-ingrained one, I’m pretty happy with that. It also gives my type-A, over-organized little heart something to geek out about, because for this coming month I plan to also keep track of which workout I did on each day so I can make sure I’m being balanced… and of course, I get to compete with myself and try to increase my number of workouts for the month.

The last time I weighed myself was February 21, and I also took my measurements. Today I weighed myself again to kick off a new cycle, and there had been no weight loss. Hmmm. Bummer. But then I measured…. and I lost 1/2″ from my chest, 2″ from my waist, 2″ from my hips, and 1.5″ from my thigh. Holy cow! I’m no expert, but it must be a fat-versus-muscle thing — because I weigh the same but I’m taking up less space to do so. Ha! 🙂

And as a really random side-note: found this sundress at the consignment store yesterday (wish Chris had panned back a little bit so you could see my lime-green toenails to match!). I don’t know who  in town is getting rid of all her Ann Taylor 6petites, but I was happy to grab them! 

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I just found the American Council on Exercise site – it’s a great resource! Their “exercise library” (click on GetFit, then select exercise library) can be searched by target body part, experience level, or filtered by what kind of equipment you have on hand. There seem to be a lot of options for “no equipment”, too, which I particularly like.

I’m intrigued by this Core Workout plan, too… it’s got animated photo examples of each exercise, with good directions. I’ll let you know if I give it a try!

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I posted a while ago about working out at home.
” If I ever hit on a beautiful, creative, fulfilling solution to the puzzle – where I get to workout, and not feel guilty about it, and not ignore my kids in the process, and not neglect all the other things I “should” be doing too… I’ll let you know.”
Well. I don’t think what I’m doing is beautiful or creative yet, but I do love it. So here’s the update. I posted that on January 20th, and in the intervening weeks I’ve lost five more pounds. Abigail is five months old, and I am seven pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight, so I’m beyond happy with that. I need to start taking my measurements, because I think I’m getting close to the point where the weight will stabilize but as I tone up hopefully the inches will change.

The issue of timing has just sort of fallen into place. I don’t fit it in every day, even though I think I’d like to. Some weeks I’m managing four or five workouts and sometimes it’s been one, but it averages out to about three a week. The older Abigail gets, the better she’s napping in bed, so that has helped. If I don’t save it for her naptime, Susannah has also started to “exercise” alongside me sometimes, which is cute and funny and actually keeps her out of the way (but I don’t have to ignore her).

And I had an awesome victory moment tonight, when I was stretching after my workout and HELLO, KNEE, this is Forehead, remember ME? Ahhhhh. It feels so good to be getting my flexibility back!

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Sometimes living with a doctor has perks. I realized the other day that I ought to write these down, because sometimes living with a doctor sucks (ahem: two nights on call in one week, this week) and cataloging the perks might be helpful on days like that. So to start us off:

If you’re a mild hypochondriac, it’s nice to verify
(a) which side the appendix is on,
(b) that that’s just a freckle, and
(c) those aren’t symptoms of brain tumors
all at one fell swoop, without even Googling anything!

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Shocking confession time: I enjoy working out.

Oh, I know. It shocked me too, when I figured it out. I was never an active, outdoorsy kind of kid. Exhibit A: my bicycle had training wheels until I was, like, nine. I just hated riding the darn thing and it took me a l-o-n-g time to log enough hours to master the balancing. When we lived in Lawton, Oklahoma… I would have been 7 or 8… there’s this famous family story about my mom demanding that I go outside for some P.E. “Go out there and get on your bike!” she ordered. Fifteen minutes later, she came outside to check on my progress. I was sitting in the shade on my bike reading Laura Ingalls Wilder, with the kickstand down and the basket filled with books. When my flabbergasted mother asked what on earth I thought I was doing, my sassy reply was, “Well, you said I had to get ON the bike. You didn’t say I had to RIDE IT anywhere.” Okay, now you believe me about not being active, and you’re probably also wondering how I survived that day. Ha!

My first foray into anything remotely athletic was the flag corps in high school, and I loved that – but I would have chalked it up to the comraderie and the music and yada yada yada. Not the exercise (although in hindsight, I’m sure that’s from whence at least part of the ‘high’ came.)

And then, yearrrrrrs and yearrrrrs later, I joined an actual gym. We were living in Fort Lauderdale, and my best friend at work was a workout queen. Staci was a ton of fun, and she loved her gym, and when I realized I had slowly gained a few more pounds than I was comfortable with — it was only natural to join her gym and ask her for a little help. And here’s where the shock hit me. I was having fun, laughing with a friend on side-by-side ellipticals, sure. But I really loved how I felt when I was working out. We had a whole routine — well, I should say, Staci had a whole routine worked out in her head, and I followed along. I had taken yoga classes before and done videos at home alone, which was just “eh.” I tried spinning, to keep Staci company, but you know: me and bikes have never been BFF. I tolerated the cardio Staci made me do, but I really got my kicks with the strength training she taught me. I loved it. Who knew?! I lost the weight I’d gained, and started seeing muscles in the mirror. It was awesome.

And then a baby came along. And another, and another. And I wasn’t working anymore. And we moved four times. And there were a million reasons that I couldn’t join a new gym, and there were a million reasons that I couldn’t figure out how to fit in some kind of exercise on any given day.

Over those years, I forgot something: that I actually, really, truly did ENJOY working out.

And that’s the first piece of this puzzle.

***

On my 30th birthday, I had a blessingway. One very precious part of the ceremonies was the reading of a letter my mother wrote (since she couldn’t be present, as she was in the middle of chemotherapy at the time). She gave me advice and encouragement and I will always treasure that piece of her heart… and among other things, she urged me to work out. “Pick something you love to do, and do it regularly. I love to walk and I used to do five miles a day!” There was advice about marriage and parenting and memorizing Scripture, too. But this exhortation to exercise is now in my head as Something My Mom Wanted Me To Do.

So that’s the second piece of this puzzle.

***

Today, I’m a busy busy busy mother of three. I homeschool and I attempt to blog. I scrapbook (I’m a teensy bit behind… but in my heart, I’m a scrapbooker). I read my Bible every day and I waste way too much time on Facebook and I cook and I do laundry. I shuttle us to the library and speech therapy and karate class and Sunday School and pediatrician’s appointments.

But I started working out.

I’m still working on what to do. I don’t belong to a gym here, and I know videos bore me. I’m still not the outdoorsy type, so there is no danger of me suddenly becoming a marathoner or a cyclist. I’ve done a little googling for routines I can create with my little set of weights and resistance bands and good old-fashioned “just use your own body” exercises.
And you know what? Even with my current “making do” setup, I can still hit that point where you’re shaky and hurting and you push yourself to finish that set and it feels AHmazing. Yesterday afternoon, I squatted to zip Susannah’s coat for her and felt the burn from working on my quads in the morning. And this morning, I came downstairs and had to hold the handrails the whole way down because my glutes were killing me. And that feels GREAT. The baby weight is melting back off, and that feels good, too.
And that’s the third piece of the puzzle.

***

But I’m still playing around with working it in. I can’t get up and do it before the kids wake up, because hello, who wants to work out at 3 or 4 a.m.? I can’t do it after I put them to bed, because I am so NOT a night person.
At the moment, I’m grabbing any chunk of time in which the baby is asleep not-on-my-body or happily absorbed in something (like her toes) AND in which the big kids are either outside or resting for quiet time. This usually translates into taking about an hour to complete what I had in mind for the day – which should have been about 30 minutes of actual exercise – because someone wakes up or needs to go potty or needs a snack or hits his sister or or or etc.

Even then – there is a part of me that feels guilty for trying to sneak in this time at all. There are other things I could be doing when the kids are asleep, and if they are awake I feel terrible for trying to quickly handle the immediate need and get back to the sets they interrupted.

But there’s another (admittedly, smaller) part of me that wants to just join a dadgum gym and drop the whole crew off in one of those kid-rooms and wave goodbye with a smile and go focus on nothing more than my delts and triceps and biceps for half an hour. You know? I wouldn’t do it – at least not at this point, with a 4 month old – but that little part of me does fantasize about it when I fix someone a third cup of water in the twenty minutes I’ve been trying to work out.

And that’s the final piece of the puzzle. I want to do this. I like doing this. I need to do this – obviously for my physical help, but judging by that last paragraph, probably for my mental health as well. If I ever hit on a beautiful, creative, fulfilling solution to the puzzle – where I get to workout, and not feel guilty about it, and not ignore my kids in the process, and not neglect all the other things I “should” be doing too… I’ll let you know.

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Meet the author

MICHELLE NEBEL

I write uplifting women’s fiction woven with threads of faith, grace, and Southern hospitality. My blog is where I share a glimpse of my life, and I hope you’ll find the thoughts here encouraging!

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