First and foremost, I just want to tell you all how humbled I am about this whole experience. I would have never in a million years thought that people would want to read what I have to say. But, there are a few of you that do and have been reading along with me for the last three weeks. So, to each of you that have been reading and those of you who are just starting, thank you thank you a million times thank you.
I have had numerous people reach out to me with questions about how to actually get started with a fitness journey. Some want to lose weight and some simply want to be healthier and have a more sustainable life. As I have promised them, I want to share about what I was doing whenever I first started last year. It is very similar to what I am doing now, but at the same time there are HUGE differences. I really struggled whenever I first began because all I could see were the people who could bench press 225 and only ate chicken and broccoli for every meal. That’s just not me, I wish it was, but it’s just not. See previous posts for the love affair I have with chips.
Over the next four weeks, I am going to do a series of posts about the beginning and how I got started. The “4 F’s of Gettin’ Fit” have been four major areas that I have changed or experienced changes in during the last year. I think that anyone can assess these areas for themselves and make choices to get them wherever they want to be. Here’s what you can expect to read about in the weeks to come; Fitness, Food, Faith, & Fun.
There isn’t one singular thing that I do that has made the biggest difference. It’s a combination of things (which I will list below). Don’t be overwhelmed by the list. These are things that I have slowly added on throughout the journey. It wasn’t like on day one I just changed my entire life and never looked back.
Things I added:
- Workouts at least 3-5 times a week
- Eating healthier meals. Watching portion control.
- At least 96 ounces of water daily
- Extra sleep
- Pre-planning my week
- A support system
Things I had to let go of:
- Fast food & full-flavor soft drinks
- Fast Food (specifically eating it after 11pm…oops)
- Napping after work
- FOMO every time my friends went out
- Behaviors that encouraged a destructive lifestyle
And from the lists above, I saw the 4 F’s that have gotten me where I am today. Thus, the 4 F’s of gettin’ fit (kind of). Before we dive in, please realize that I am nowhere close to where I want to be on my fitness journey. I am very much a work in progress that I plan to work on for a long time. I would tell you about it all in one post, but it would be the length of a Harry Potter novel, and way less exciting.
Working out has hands down been the driving force of the last year and a half for me. I never thought I would say that, because ew. But, when I started working out and getting in better shape, all of the other things started to get in formation. (Okay, ladies, now let’s get…) It’s honestly a miracle that I’ve made it this far without making a Beyonce reference. Think about it though, if you worked out four times a week and had really awesome workouts, would you want to treat your body like trash the rest of the week? It basically makes everything you did at the gym a waste of time.
So… with all of that being said, you’ve got to excercise. It just so happens that the working out portion is usually the most intimidating for people. I mean there is so much going on in there. Machines everywhere. A grown man grunting to your left. A Victoria’s Secret model running two treadmills over. Where is the other 10 pound weight? Holy crap, when did 10 pounds get this heavy?
When I first started going to the gym I was the definition of intimidated. So, I picked one machine that I knew how to work and I lived there for the first month. I spent so much time on that elliptical, I’m surprised they didn’t stamp my name on the top. (Just for the record, I still get on the same one a few times a week and I get pissed if someone else is using it… It’s like the unspoken seat in class that no one else is supposed to sit in. Ya’ll know what I’m talking about.)
At the beginning, I was only doing cardio. I would do it for about 30-60 minutes whenever I went to the gym. Some days I was feeling really strong and would push myself to 60 minutes, but don’t get carried away. Most days I was just cranking out 30 minutes. Pick what works best for you. I started out doing the elliptical for about two months. I was so bored though. So, I started to get more adventurous. I would mix it up with 20 on the elliptical and 10 on the stationary bike. Or if I was really not feeling it I would do 10 on the elliptical, 10 on the treadmill, and 10 on the bike.
Cardio can get boring. So boring. It’s not even that you are that tired, or that sweaty, or that sore. You’re just bored. It’s okay to change it up or get off a machine if you’re miserable. You have to make the workout “work” for you. That way, if you actually enjoy what you’re doing you’ll be more likely to stick with it. If you hate the gym, go running outside. Or go for a walk or a hike at the park. If all of this sounds awful, take a Zumba class and shake your booty for an hour. Or a spin class. The most important, and only important thing, is that whatever you decide to do needs to get your heart rate up and you need to do it for a sustainable amount of time. If you want to skip around you neighborhood for 30 minutes, be my guest.
In case you’re curious…. The stair stepper is my favorite cardio workout. I do it for 30 minutes 4-5 times a week. It pushes my body the hardest and I feel AMAZING when I finish. I can do it for 30 now, but when I first started it took everything in me to finish 5 minutes on the machine. Give your body time to build-up endurance.
Here’s a quick comparison so that you can see the changes my typical daily cardio has experienced over the last year:
Then: 30 mins total – 15 minutes on elliptical (Level 7) and 15 minutes on treadmill (Speed 3.5)
Now: 45 mins total – 30 minutes on stair stepper (intervals) and 15 minutes on elliptical (Level 13)
That’s a HUGE change. And I’m so proud of what I can do now and how hard I can push my body. It’s okay if you’re not there yet, you’ll get there. You just have to keep going.
Weight training has been much more difficult for me, and is still a challenge. I started out learning a lot of what I know from simply watching people. I mean if you’re on the elliptical for four hours a week literally just staring into the abyss, you might as well take note of what others are doing. Some of my favorite workouts have come from watching others at the gym! And I mean this in the most non-creepy way…
The land of strength training is a tricky one and I am still just dipping my feet in the water. Don’t worry, you won’t be seeing any weight lifting videos of me on Instagram…. any time soon at least.
Like I said, I only focused on cardio for about three months. On month four, I finally decided that it was time to start lifting and doing some strength training exercises. I was terrified that if I gained muscle I would just keep gaining weight. I have since learned, that is not the case at all! The more muscle your body has, the more fat that it is able to burn (even when it’s at rest). I don’t know about you, but I would love for my body to keep on burning even when I’m watching Netflix. Strength training can also help tighten skin and target particular body parts that you want to focus on.
I do cardio 4-5 times a week paired with strength training 3 times. I focus on legs and booty, arms and chest, and abs. I plan in the coming months to increase this amount, but I just don’t feel like my body is ready for an increase at this time and I have learned to listen to what my body tells me.
I had no clue what I was doing whenever I started so I would go over to the machines and read the diagrams. No shame in my game. If it was arm day and the diagram has someone working out their arms on it, I would do it. Simple as that. I usually do three sets with 12-15 reps. I will pick anywhere from 3-5 machines that target the correct areas.
If you have decided that you want to try your hand at strength training, I recommend that you find some workouts online (or meet with a personal trainer) that give you a guideline to follow. I still do this! I will pick the body part that I want to work on and look up something on Pinterest. The internet is a great resource to use to find great workouts for free! If this is something that you’re interested in, I would be happy to send you some of the workouts that I use. Or you can go poke around on my Pinterest in my workout board.
Create an Exercise Schedule
I really can’t say this enough… Use the internet to help you. Google and read all that you can about fitness and weight lifting and all things exercise. Even though I typically workout alone, I have many resources that I use online to help me be successful. Like I always say, if a certain workout or exercise makes you miserable, don’t do it. There is always something else that you can do that will bring you joy! Life’s too short to be miserable.
Creating a workout schedule is EXTREMELY important. It’s even more important to follow the schedule that you set. You have to stop making excuses about why you’re too tired, or too busy, or too something to make it to the gym. You have to make this a priority if you’re serious about it. You’re not going to see the results that you want if you never actually work out.
Here’s what my workout schedule looks like for the week:
Monday: 45 min cardio & legs/booty strength training
Tuesday: 45 min cardio & arms strength training
Wednesday: 45 min cardio & abs strength training
Thursday: 60 min cardio
Friday: Weekly weigh-in and REST DAY
Saturday & Sunday: One workout that involves activity of choice (ex: hike or outside run) and a deep stretch session (ex: yoga)
I stick to this pretty closely throughout the week. If I decide to change it up, which is fine, I am just sure that whatever activity I do is comparable to what is on the schedule. For example, I wouldn’t trade out a cardio session with a restorative yoga stretch. But, it could easily be replaced with a spin class.
One of the most important things I can tell you is to listen to your body. There is a huge difference between pushing yourself and hurting yourself. My weekly workout schedule has taken me over a year to work up to, so please take your time and work up to where you want to be. Create a schedule that fits your needs the best. If you would like help creating a workout schedule, please reach out to me! Exercise is adaptable, so make it work for you.
I pack a bag with everything I need to go to the gym and take it to work with me. Clothes, shoes, headphones, bobby pins, hairspray (I’m from the South, its necessary…) I even bring a snack, just in case I’m starved whenever I get off work. If you have everything that you need to workout with you, it is a lot more difficult to come up with an excuse to not go. You have to be prepared.
75% of the workout battle is fighting the excuses. You’re stronger and more capable than an excuse that you let get in your head. So push that to the side, and think about your goals and what you want to achieve with the workout. If you have everything you need packed in the car and a workout schedule of what needs to be done, over half of the work is already done.
If a day comes and you are just exhausted and sore, it’s okay to change your plans and rest. Listen to your body. Don’t push to the point of breaking, push to the point of a challenge and then take a step back. If it’s something as simple as a bad day, go get in a quick workout, the endorphins will help cheer you up. The gym has turned into my favorite place to go after a bad day, but it used to be somewhere that I could eat something really fried and greasy. It’s a mindset change. It takes time, but you have to start somewhere.
If you have a bad workout, it’s better than no workout. If you slip up and go to McDonald’s instead of the gym… it’s okay. You just have to reset and remember why you started. Don’t blow the whole day out of the water and set back your progress. Be forgiving with yourself and know that you have the power to do it all.