Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Few Lessons...

It’s been a little while since my last post, so I figured it was time to start another one. I’ve actually been working on this for a while, as things come to me. Now that I have 2 hours of uninterrupted thinking every day, it’s not as hard as it used to be. J I’ve been working out regularly for nearly 3 months now. I’m down, as of yesterday morning, 35 pounds. I’m a weight I haven’t been since high school. I have half a wardrobe that I can no longer wear because things are so big on me now. I have also learned a lot of things that I thought I’d share here:

1. Even if you don’t have your iPod with you or turned on, wear your earbuds. Usually, I go to the gym between the hours of 8ish until about 11:30. This time of the day, there are LOTS of women about my age or older there. Unlike the 18-22 year old crowd, these women are super-chatty. Usually I’m super chatty too. If you have ever ended up in front of me in a grocery store or Post Office line, you are aware of this fact. But when I’m at the gym, I really would rather not hear about your job, your husband’s truck or your kids’ schooling. It is my sacred thinking-time. I talk to Peter when we’re there at the same time, but most of the time I am totally silent and in my own head. And I like it that way.

2. That being said, I can’t understate the importance of music while you’re working out. For a number of reasons. Now, I’ll admit: some people are music people and some people just aren’t. I am. The type of music is really important too. I love going to the gym really early, like at 6am when they have ‘90s music playing. Makes me feel like I’m back in high school! There are lots of songs with strong, up-tempo beats that are ideal for timing your stride or speed on a spin bike. Also, the song Baby Got Back by Sir Mix-A-Lot was made in the ‘90s. Despite the general offensiveness of the lyrics, it’s a great song for working out for a couple of reasons. The first is that the beat is the perfect tempo for running or spinning. The second is that there are few things more hilarious that watching the little white-haired ladies plodding around the walking track while “I LIKE BIG BUTTS…!” blasts over the speakers all around them. An amusing juxtaposition of sounds and sights, for sure.

3. Some days, the shower is the best part. Only the mother of small children can appreciate this, but there are some days and some workouts that are downright crummy and the shower after the workout far exceeds the workout on the ‘Things-I’m-Glad-I-Did-Today’ scale. For the mother of young kids, an uninterrupted shower is like seeing a unicorn and Bigfoot at the same time. Add in the fact that there is unlimited hot water and you can use towels that you don’t have to launder yourself, and we’re approaching straight-up nirvana.

4. Never pack your gym bag when you’re tired. This seems pretty obvious, but you’d be surprised at how little time I spend not-tired. One day this week, I packed my backpack up the night before and didn’t give it a second thought until I was standing, dripping wet, in the shower the next morning after my workout and realized I had forgotten a few things. Like underwear. And a shirt. There are few sensations as unpleasant as putting a sweat-funked, damp sports-bra and shirt on your freshly showered body. So, really, make sure you’re awake and alert when you pack that punk up.

5. Try new things, however intimidating. So for the first month or so of my daily trips to the gym, I did the same thing. I pretty much avoided the weights, and the treadmill, and the upright spin bikes. I stuck exclusively to the recumbent spin-bikes, the rowing machines and the walking track. It was fine, for a while, but I got bored. Fast. I guess I’m kind of like a little kid that way, but I really need to be… entertained? I was very intimidated by the treadmills. I had nightmares of being thrown, flailing, off the back or somehow getting a foot wedged underneath it where the belt would quickly skin the flesh off my ankle. But one day, bored to tears with the bike, I decided to give it a go. Now, 6 weeks later, it is a staple in my workout routine. I started out just walking on it, and then doing HIIT on it, now I’m doing a 30-20-10 interval and running faster and longer than I ever thought I could. Don’t get me wrong, I still HATE running while I’m doing it, but I LOVE the number of calories I burn and the stamina I build. And I finally understand the term ‘runner’s high.’

6. Do strength-training.  I started doing weight training after about a month of going to the gym. Mainly, because I really like to eat. J Everybody knows that the more muscle you have, the higher your resting metabolic rate is. So, gotta build more muscle to burn those calories. I have been using the machines, mainly because I’ve had a shoulder impingement for years that I don’t want to aggravate and using the machines it’s easier to ensure that I maintain proper form and don’t injure myself. Another thing I learned is that if you’re not breaking a sweat or getting a little winded while you lift weights, you’re not lifting enough. I completely hit a weight-loss plateau a few weeks ago where I didn’t lose any weight or inches for almost 2 weeks. It was frustrating, to say the least. I did some research, spoke to a friend who’s a personal trainer (thanks, Mary Estep!!!) and switched some things up. One of those changes was by increasing my lift to a weight that really made me work for those last 3-4 reps. It made a big difference and I overcame my slump. J

7. Don’t deprive yourself. I know this seems counter-intuitive, but really it’s not. As I stated before, I love to eat. I also love to cook, and after cooking comes eating. I could never sign up for a life in which I never had another slice of birthday cake or Snickers bar. I couldn’t and WOULDN’T do it. I love baking with my kids and our weekly nacho picnics and wasn’t willing to nix those either. I had to get creative.  Instead of making a fabulous, indulgent meal every night of the week, I stuck to once a week. Sundays are my free days. I don’t count calories, I don’t work out; I just rest and enjoy my time with my family. My kids and I usually bake something (a small amount) for a treat that night and then I cut up the rest and send it with Peter the next morning. He leaves the leftovers in the law school cafeteria for whoever wants one. Our Friday night nacho picnics are still on. I still make and eat nachos, but now they’re made with ground turkey breast and reduced-fat cheese instead of ground beef and full-fat cheese. The kids haven’t even noticed a difference and they taste fantastic. After dinner, if I’m feeling a sweet-tooth craving coming on, I’ll do something about it. Instead of having the entire chocolate bar, I’ll have one square of super-dark chocolate melted with a spoonful of peanut butter. Then I slice up a banana and dip each slice in the chocolate. It’s divine and totally satisfies my craving. So, the moral of the story is this: don’t deprive yourself! You can eat what you like, just don’t the entire freaking table!!

8. The first place I lose weight is my boobs. I don’t know why this is the case, but it’s true. If my husband loses 10 pounds, he looks like a different person. He looks like he’s lost 20! When I lose 10 lbs? I go down a full cup size. L I’m waiting for medical science to invent a way suck fat from one area on your body and put it somewhere else. Seems like a simple enough concept?

9. No amount of exercising can overcome a crappy lifestyle/diet. About mid-September, my little sister told me about a Facebook group she had joined called “Healthy Habits.” It was actually created by our sister-in-law’s sister.  The premise is simple, really. There are 7 habits ranging from ‘drink at least 64 oz. of water’ to ‘no eating after 7pm.’ You get 1 point per habit daily (if you do it) and you can earn extra points for doing extra exercise. At the beginning of a cycle, you pay in $10. At the end of the cycle, if you have accrued a set amount of points, you get your money back AND if there are people who didn’t make their points then all the people who did get to split their money. It sounds complicated but it’s really not. It’s made me very aware of all the different ways there are to nurture your body (and your brain.) I can’t stress enough the importance of a food journal. I have written down every freaking morsel of food I have put in my mouth for nearly three months now. It’s made me really think before I eat something. “Do I really want to write this down?” It’s cut back on a lot of unconscious ‘grazing.’

So, that’s all I can think of right now. I’m sure I’ve learned more than that, but really that’s all you have time for reading right now. Adios and happy exercising!


  1. I love this, Sarah! I feel like when I'm in control of my eating/exercising it carries over into other aspects of my life, i.e. scripture study.

  2. For sure, Stephanie! One other thing I have learned is that when you have completely given up soda, there's no (comfortably) going back. Peter and I used a gift card he won to go out to dinner last Friday night and I ordered a diet Coke. The first sip was wonderful! I only made it through half the glass and had an upset stomach for the next 2 days. Ugh! No more soda!