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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

How not to make Exercise into a 4-letter Word--Work!

When you are as overweight as I am, you can't just solve the problem of losing weight and living healthier by merely reducing calories and eating better. Nope, you gotta move. And when you do any quick google search on the value of exercise you find it is not only fantastic for your physical health ( & exercise ) but also for your mental health (! It improves everything from your cardiovascular health and bone density to your mood, quality of sleep and your mental acuity. As you get older it is key to focus on the quality of life. Exercise seems to be a cornerstone to ensuring that quality of life.

For me there is no one easy answer. I am definitely a product of this modern age. I get bored quickly doing the same thing over and over again. I have to spice things up, change things around and keep trying new things. Changing routines and types of exercise makes it more fun for me. It also, therefore, keeps me doing it.

First you have to figure out how much exercise you need to fit your life style and goals. There is so much advice out there and national standards to go by. The current standard provided by the US Department of Health and Human Services (US Dept. of Health-fitness guidelines) states that you should exercise at least 30 minutes 5 times a week; 2 of those days should include weight bearing activities. 

So how to figure out when to exercise, what kind of exercise and how to make sure I am exercising enough each week? First, for Christmas my husband gave me 6 sessions with a trainer at the YMCA. I have always dreamed of having a trainer. We have been members at our local "Y" for a number of years and I would observe others working with a trainer. I final had the nerve to ask about it and found out how reasonable it was and how you could pick and choose the number of sessions you want. I have a female trainer- Kris. She is wonderful. She is encouraging, finds something positive to say about your state of fitness, regardless of how pathetic your current condition might be, and she is also challenging in making you do more than you would have done on your own. She immediately took me to the Free Weights room. I have never done free weights and was always intimidated by all those jocks working out in that room. Face it, I am the overweight, middle-aged mom who does not like looking in mirrors and there are mirrors EVERYWHERE in that room!

It took a lot of courage but I found out I love free weights and that most of those jocks are nice and helpful folks! The trainer helped create a couple of different routines for me. I do my free weight routine 3 times a week for 60 minutes. I have been doing this since January and have managed to keep up the routine. Since Kris, the trainer, is there too, it boosts my desire...she has also encouraged me to boost the pounds I lift so I continue to increase my capacity. Friends have begun to notice the difference!

Technically, those work outs exceed the 2.5 hours recommended for healthy living. Any one really into fitness, like my trainer, doesn't think it is enough. Kris believes everyone should incorporate some type of fitness activity everyday for at least 20 - 30 minutes. I am fortunate that I am at a point in my life where it is more about making this a priority and doing it rather than trying to figure out how to fit it in between responsibilities of parenting, career, household or civic duties. I can make it my top consideration...especially when you realize we are only talking about an hour a day, max.

My other activities include walking our dogs for 30 minutes 2 or 3 times a week; going to yoga one evening a week with my husband for 1 1/2 hours, also at the Y (it doesn't cost any extra!). On the weekends I try to fit in an outdoor activity like cycling with my husband. Weekends in the winter have been hard for me to do more but now that it is springtime I don't think it will be as hard.

Having a goal (knowing what the ideal is), setting expectations (having a routine created for me by a professional), making it a priority (putting it on my calendar first so other appointments have to be worked around it), and varying my activities throughout the week (free weights, yoga, qigong, walking the dogs and/or cycling) has really been important to my success.  The other important part is including my family in what I do. My husband will often be at the Y working out too. He also goes with me to Yoga. My daughter regularly goes on walks with me and the dogs. She also gave me a great gift for Mother's Day-- she committed to go with me to work out 2 times a week at the Y for 2 months! It is keeping me going!

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