Weekly Update

Another Tuesday training session has come and gone... so it's time for an update! Last night was a legs/cardio workout, which was good because I had a make-up session on Saturday where we did arms and I was still sore from that! Another battle with the stairmaster, and then we did a lot of work on the treadmill. Have you ever ran at 10% incline on the treadmill? Because that is one of my trainer's go-to cardio workouts and it is hard. The good part is that when I start running the flat streets of Chicago, it'll be way easier!

We also did my weekly weigh-in, which was up, because I ate a lot over the holiday weekend... I'm not stressed about it. I know it'll balance out, and my body fat percentage stayed the same anyway so there's nothing to worry about. In addition to the weigh-in, we took my measurements. I don't have the exact numbers (I need to ask him to send them to me, or remember to take my own measurements at home), but everything went down slightly in the past month. And more than slightly, I lost 2 1/2 inches on my waist and 2 inches on my hips! So yay!

In addition to the trainer, I spent some time this past week in the pool... It felt good to get in there and do a solid 45 minutes of laps. I love swimming and I'm so glad I'm getting back to it! My pace isn't as good as it used to be, but... well, I just have to stop comparing myself to the self of three years ago! 80 seconds for a lap is my standard right now and I can work on improving that.

In addition, this weekend I will be getting a lot of pool time... because it's vacation! I'm headed up to the Wisconsin Dells for a tournament and some waterpark action. I plan on spending a lot of time in the pool (and the fitness center), so next week I'll have an update about how I hopefully stayed active during my vacation. That's my goal for the next week. What are your goals for the next week?

Weekly Update

Well, another personal training session has come and gone... well, the soreness isn't gone yet... but that's okay! It's a good soreness, right? Right! It means I'm pushing myself! After a couple weeks away due to sickness and scheduling, I knew Tuesday's workout would be rough. But I welcomed it with exuberance and tackled the challenges my trainer set for me. And what challenges they were! First, he started me out on the stair climber... oh, the one cardio machine I've never touched at the gym. I know, I know. I just have never thought I'd enjoy it, like I do everything else. And you know what? I was right. The stair climber? Not an enjoyable machine. It's hard and boring. But you know what else? I'm going to keep at it. The elliptical and the bike aren't challenges for me. I enjoy them, but it's easy to adapt to them as my fitness levels get back to where they were. But the stair climber? Well, not wanting to do something means that you probably should. So I'm going to conquer it. It might take a year before I feel comfortable on the thing. But I'll get there.

After cardio, we did weights... it was leg day! And back, I suppose, as I did squats as well. I squatted 70 pounds! That's the most I've ever done! See, my muscles are still here... somewhere... underneath all the fat.Then we did leg curls and extensions on some machines, a pyramid workout that was really hard, and my trainer was excited to finally get some extreme facial expressions out of me (usually I have a stone cold game face when I'm doing a difficult workout). Then I had to walk downstairs and my knees wobbled on the way down, haha, that was fun. And it's two days later and going up/down stairs is still a source of soreness! So it was a really great workout!

I've got a make-up session on Saturday, so that's twice this week, woo! Can't wait to see what torture he puts me through for an arms workout.

To finish off this post, I got a new bathing suit! And I look pretty decent in it!
quick snapshot while I gamed last night
Sure, it's not the super cute swimsuit I had a few years back for aqua aerobics, but it fits, it's functional, and it looks nice. What more could I ask for? So, I won't be able to make it to aqua aerobics this Saturday (because I have personal training at the same time), but I'm going swimming tonight and I'm excited to get back into the pool!

How's your week been going? Anything exciting planned for the holiday weekend?

Just Did It: A Follow-Up

Despite yesterday's post saying I was going to go to the gym and get my workout done even though I didn't feel like it, I still spent most of yesterday trying to convince myself to go. In fact, I was in the locker room and still like, "I could just go home..." Terrible, right? The motivation just wasn't there yesterday.

But I did it. And you know what? I'm glad I did. It was the first workout since being back that I felt like my old self. Not that I'm back at that fitness level yet, but that I could do my current level of workout without feeling like I won't make it. I felt good. I even increased the levels on the elliptical and bike by a significant amount and still felt good. I was sweating, but I wasn't losing my breath. My lungs have adapted, and that's great. That's probably the biggest hurdle I had.

It's showing in other ways, too. I stepped on the scale this morning and I'm down another two pounds, which makes 10 total (!). Official weigh-in isn't until tonight at the personal trainer, and it might be up more from eating all day, but still. It was good to see that number on the scale. In addition to that, I went clothes shopping this weekend and fit into (and bought) a skirt that was a size down.

I've still got a ways to go, but I'm on my journey, and that's exciting. I haven't lost enough for anyone else to notice, but I know, and it's encouraging. And this weekend, I'm going to go out and buy a mirror so I can start doing progress pictures, since those are my favorite way to look back on my progress.

Personal trainer tonight, and I can't wait! The motivation is back!
I'll admit it. After being sick last week, I'm still off my game. I had to force myself to complete my workouts this weekend to finish my Gym Pact (or else pay ten bucks... no thanks), and I didn't track my food at all. Two things I normally have no problems with. My habits are off track.

So this morning I woke up, looked at my gym bag, and said "I can not pack it today". I'm tired, I'm in no mood to drag myself to the gym after work, it's fine if I just skip a Monday. Right?

Wrong, of course. So wrong.

I have a gym schedule. It's flexible, but Monday nights are not. For those curious, my schedule is this: Monday, Tuesday (personal training), Thursday or Friday, Saturday or Sunday. This way, I'm going to the gym four times a week and getting my money's worth. I'm also doing things outside of the gym, usually a half hour walk on my lunch break Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; and a walk/bike ride the other weekend day that I don't go to the gym. So, while it's flexible, Mondays are not. I need that Monday workout to get the week off to the right start.

It would've been so easy to just pack my other bag this morning (in fact, it was already most packed, so it would've been much easier) and skip the gym tonight in favor of playing Splatoon (such a good rotation tonight!). It was tempting. I was almost out the door as such. But I knew I'd ultimately be disappointed in myself. So I packed my gym bag and will be going to the gym after work. Even though I don't want to.

So how does one find the motivation to go when you just don't feel like it? I'll be honest: sometimes the motivation just isn't there. And I say this as someone who loves working out. Sometimes you want to skip a day. But there's a difference between wanting to skip a day and needing to. If you need to, that's fine, it happens. But if you just want to... tell yourself that you're going to go anyway. Just get out there and do it. And if you're prone to wanting to skip, make it easier beforehand: pack your gym bag the night before, write some post-its to view along your morning routine, get a friend to yell at you tell you to go anyway. You don't always need to have motivation, you just need to go through the steps and get it done anyway. In the end, it doesn't matter if you felt like working out; it matters if you did it or not.

Apropos of nothing, I dyed my hair this weekend. It's dark.
Have a great Monday and get out there even if you don't feel like it!

Minor Setbacks

Things have been quiet around here since Monday. I know, surprising, since I managed to write a blog post almost every day last week. But I've been dealing with a minor setback, not a lack of words. It seems, every time I start on a journey of health and actually get the ball rolling... a few weeks down the line, when I've finally gotten into the habits I need to be successful, something comes up. That something, the last two times, has been spraining my ankle. Once I persevered despite it, once I didn't. But it was still a setback.

This week wasn't anything so major as even a sprained ankle. I was sick. Just a little cold/fever/sore throat that incapacitated me for a few days. I went to the gym Monday evening feeling great. I was kept up all night with a sore throat that came out of nowhere. And I spent the next two days in bed with a sore throat and fever, eating nothing but ice cream and soup (the only two things that felt good on my throat).

A minor setback, I'll agree, but a setback all the same. I haven't been to the gym since Monday. I had to cancel personal training on Tuesday. I spent two days in bed, barely moving at all, and a third still too tired to go to the gym after returning to work. This disrupted my workout routine, my healthy eating plan, and all the progress I've made on my back. Whereas I was finally living without, or with very little, back pain again, I was once again waking up in the middle of the night crying from pain. It hasn't been a fun week.

But, it was a minor setback. I'm over the brief cold, and plan to return to the gym in the morning. I've been doing my stretches, and had no back pain at all this morning. And although my diet wasn't the best for a couple of days, I'm back on track. I didn't let a few days derail me.

I didn't officially weigh in this week, since I missed personal training on Tuesday, and my weight has been a couple pounds up and down due to being sick. But it seems to have stabilized at 8 pounds down, three down from last week. Yay!

On the other hand, I just ordered a new bathing suit so I'll finally get to go to aqua aerobics again!

That's all for now, but I'll be back next week with more topics! How did your week go?
Sometimes we need an extra burst of inspiration, especially on Mondays. That's when I turn to a specific playlist on my phone full of "can do" attitude. These songs all say to go after my goals, screw the anxiety, and others' thoughts of me be damned. It also helps that they're all perfect tempos for working out, and make frequent appearances on my general workout playlists.

1. Plain White T's - "What If"
I'm gonna keep trying, getting denied just makes me want it more
Keep trying and each time, push harder than before
This has been on my running playlist since the day I discovered it. I think it was actually a big motivation in starting running in the first place. As I've mentioned, few things motivate me more than being told I can't do something. This song echoes that, and reaffirms that I can do the thing.

  2. Frank Turner - "If Ever I Stray"
Come on and join me in the water
Swim for hope
Sometimes it's hard to remember
I couldn't do this on my own
Sometimes we fall off the path, whatever that may be. Sometimes we need our friends to help us find our way back.This song reminds me that I do have the support of my friends, and it's okay to ask for help once in a while.

3. Sara Bareilles - "Brave"
Honestly, I wanna see you be brave
This song is all about positivity and not caring what others think. For many people, taking the first step to a healthier lifestyle takes a lot of bravery-- stepping in a gym for the first time, disrupting your comfort zone, telling your family or job that you need some time to focus on yourself. If you have anxiety, as I do, you're probably constantly thinking someone's judging you for being overweight at the gym or counting every calorie you put in your mouth (we're allowed to indulge once in a while!). Just be brave and do it anyway. (Side note-- this isn't the case most of the time. Usually people are cheering you on, if they notice at all.)
 (As an aside, watch the video. If that doesn't inspire you to hit the gym despite your current level of fitness, I just don't know!)

4. I Fight Dragons - "My Way"
I'm not perfect I'm just who I am
Is that ok?
Perfect's overdone and overplanned
In the modern age
I'm going to do things my way, forget the current fad diet or what other people say is the "right" way to get healthy. I know what works for me, I know what my goals are, and I'm going to listen to my body. I may fail once in a while, but this song reminds me that that's okay as well. I'm not perfect.

 5. Jimmy Eat World - "The Middle"
Just do your best
Do everything you can
And don't you worry what their bitter hearts
Are gonna say
 Time and time again, I come back to this song. It's a cure for my anxious thoughts and feelings that "it" is taking too long-- weight loss, getting fit, putting my life together. It just takes some time, don't worry about what others think.

What songs get you motivated to work out?

On Starting Over (Again)

...yeah, I've been here before. Yeah, it kind of sucks. Last time I was here, five years ago, I even wrote a blog post describing exactly how I once again feel. I told myself, I have it in writing, that I'd never come back here. And yet, here I am. I'll be honest. It's frustrating. It sucks. I hate it.

I can dwell on that, and say it's pointless, and I should just give up entirely. Or I can use that to look at my mistakes: what did I do wrong, what was out of my control, what can I prevent from happening again? There are a lot of factors that add up to me being back at my starting point. Moving, money, depression, injuries. They're all excuses I leaned on, saying it was fine that I was backsliding because these things were out of my control. But you know what? I'll be honest: they were just excuses. I've lost weight while navigating most of those hurdles. Hell, losing weight and working out has helped a couple of those things. But, let's go down the list and see if I could've done things differently/will do things differently if they happen again.
  • Moving: This was a big one, and the reason I initially let myself "take a break". I said it would be for the winter while I got settled back into Chicago (I moved the end of November 2014, and Chicago is notoriously holed-up and immobile during the winters). This is the one hurdle I haven't been able to navigate while losing/maintaining weight. Moving is stressful, especially when you don't already have a job or apartment lined up (and I didn't have the latter for a gooood long while), and often involves a lot of take-out and delivery meals. But honestly, the problem with this one was that I gave myself an allotted amount of time off, and went beyond that. Way beyond that.
  • Money: Hey, if I could get fit while being unemployed for over a year, money should be no object, right? But I kept using it as an excuse. "I can't afford a gym membership" was something I often said with genuine sadness (you all know I love the gym!). But there's a ton of other stuff I can do without a gym, and I know it! Granted, some of that required having workout space in my living area (which I didn't, I tried, but I didn't) but running outside is an option and a lot of parks here have workout areas to do strength training as well. And I've still got my bikes! So, lack of money was just an excuse.
  • Depression: Okay, it's hard to get motivated when you're depressed. But I also know that working out helps my depression a ton. Want to feel better? Work out! It's that simple, self.
  • Injuries: I lost 20 pounds with a sprained ankle five years ago. But last year when I sprained my other ankle (yeah, yeah, I know, so many sprains), I used that as an excuse to sit around and do nothing. I didn't focus on upper body or core or yoga or anything. I just... stopped doing everything. There are things I could've done still. I could've focused on eating healthy, at the very least. But instead, I let my inactivity snowball for another year. But I know from experience that an injury does not have to mean the end of exercise.

So I can look back, and say "What's the point?" or I can look back and say "I've done it before, I can learn from my mistakes and do it again". It's all about perspective. I've been here before. I know I can do this again. How about you?

10 Reasons

We all need a little motivation, right? Here are my top ten reasons why I'm working out and getting fit. Some of them may look familiar if you've been around me for a while. But repeating these reasons doesn't hurt!

  1. Back pain. I have been living the past month with varying degrees of back pain, from being stiff in the morning to not being able to move all day without crying. It's not fun, and I know it's directly related to my weight gain and lack of movement. I know for a fact that regular exercise, especially regular yoga, will keep me from experiencing back pain for years, possibly for the rest of my life if I keep up with it.
  2. Cancer risk. This is a big one. I have an extremely high chance of getting breast cancer, and one of the things I can do to lower that risk is losing weight and exercising.
  3. I want to look good. I'll admit it. Looks aren't everything or even most things, and I do like how I look, but I want to love how I look. That extra boost of confidence from knowing I've worked hard at my body is amazing.
    I want to look like this again.
  4. More importantly, I want to feel good. I want to have more energy, I want to be clear-headed and alert. The more I exercise, the more I feel this.
  5. I don't want to be depressed or manic. I have bipolar disorder and regular exercise helps regulate and stabilize my moods. It's not a cure (I'm still on meds) and it's not effective for everyone, but it helps me a ton.
  6. I like to challenge myself. Getting and staying fit are huge challenges. Especially the staying part. I've gotten fit before, but I've never been able to maintain it due to many factors in my life. I want to achieve that this time, and stay fit for the rest of my life. Now that's a challenge!
  7. I want to complete a triathlon. I love all three aspects of triathlons, so this is only logical. This is a goal I've had for a while, and came close to being ready, but never actually accomplished. But I will!
  8. Flexibility. It's really frustrating not being able to get into a pose that I used to be able to do a couple years ago. My body's only going to get stiffer with age if I don't work on this.
  9.  I'm stubborn. I don't like being told what I can and can't do. And that includes from my body. "You can't run five minutes without feeling like you're going to die" say my lungs. "You can't do a split" says my flexibility. "You can't lift 100 pounds" say my arms. Well, screw that! I want to prove them all wrong. And there's nobody I want to prove wrong more than the voice in my head that says I can't do it.
    "You can't run," I was told, and I proved them wrong.
  10. I love exercise. That's the plain truth. I love working out, getting those endorphins, beating a personal record, feeling accomplished. I love the soreness a day after a really hard personal trainer session, and I love wearing a cute swimsuit to aqua aerobics. I love the bonds I make at the gym and with other people on similar journeys. I absolutely love every part of working out, and you should do what you love, right?
Some of these you may identify with, some you may not. What's on your list of motivations?

Week 2 Weigh-In

Well, I had another personal training session last night, which means my weekly weigh-in and body fat percentage measurement. After two weeks of work, I'm down five pounds and 2% body fat! It's just a start, but that's a pretty good start! I'm happy with that, especially since I'm on medicine that makes it really easy to gain weight and difficult to lose. But see? If I keep at it, I can counter those side effects.

Personal training last night ended up being a free session, because he had to end early. Not usual, and we're actually moving up my training time to prevent that from happening again, but we still got in 45 minutes of elliptical and glute work. Not bad for a free session! So I'll take it. It's not like I'm on a strict timeline to get super fit for anything. I will take a free session even if it's shorter.

Speaking of money, I added a PayPal donation link to the sidebar. It's completely optional, but I'd beyond appreciate it if a few bucks were thrown my way. I don't make a lot of money and personal training and eating healthy isn't cheap. If you like what you see here, please consider donating! I'll keep blogging and working out anyway, but some extra money would reduce the stress!

Go out and do good today!

Let's talk about apps!

Using my phone to help with fitness is a tool I can't imagine going without these days. Sure, I did it once upon a time... but now it's just so much more convenient and helpful to have everything at my fingertips. Want to know if an unplanned meal out will put me over my calories? Curious as to how much I walked throughout the day? Want to run away from zombie hordes? Yep, there's an app for that! Let's go over my top five fitness apps, because I've used a lot throughout the years.

-SparkPeople. If you've been around for a while, you know I love SparkPeople. If you haven't... well, now you will. SparkPeople is a free site and app where you can track your food, fitness, weight, and all that other fun stuff. But that's not all it is! There are thousands of articles tackling fitness, diet, motivation, misconceptions, and every other subject under the health sun. It has a strong community section, where you can join groups and teams based on your location, challenges, goals, or hobbies. There are hundreds of free workout videos, across all three focuses (cardio, strength training, and flexibility). And millions of recipes to help you find a healthy alternative to your usual fare. There are plenty of apps and sites to track your food and fitness, but rarely have I seen any that even attempt this much additional content. I've been using SparkPeople for ten years now and I love it. And did I mention it's all free? (There's a paid option to support the site, but you can access all of the above for free!) Get it here.

-Zombies, Run! This is my favorite fitness app. It's a running/walking app that tracks your speed, distance, etc. but it's also a podcast-like story. There are now six seasons (sixth just launched!) and it's one of my favorite zombie stories ever. You are the main character, a runner for a refugee camp. As Runner 5, you go out to gather supplies and information, while you're also trying to figure out how the zombie apocalypse started and who's loyal to the camp and not. Oh yeah, and the zombies actually chase you during missions and can catch you! And the supplies you gather? You use those to build up and fortify your base in the app, which can get attacked between missions. That's right, it's a fitness app, story, and a game, all in one! Highly recommended for us nerds trying to get fit. The only downside is that it's not cheap (like... at all, for an app) but it's well worth it, IMO. (Interested but the price holding you back? They frequently have sales!) Oh, and they also have a 5K training app that acts as a prequel to the story, which is perfect for beginners! Get it here.

-RunKeeper. A fitness app that tracks your runs, walks, and bike rides. I use it in conjunction with Zombies, Run! because it gives me more information, and has more varied training plans. MapMyFitness (/Walk/Ride/etc.) is basically the same, and it comes down to preferences, but I've always preferred the easy to read stats that RunKeeper gives me. Get it here.

-Moves. I think this is Android only, but I'm sure there's an equivalent for iPhones. It's a basic pedometer app that tracks steps and distances for walking, running, and biking. Anyone else remember the days we hooked a little plastic step calculator to our hips? This is a better version of that. It runs in the background all day and doesn't drain your battery or anything. Get it here.

-Pact (GymPact). This is last, because I don't recommend it for people just starting out, but rather those who have already gotten into a routine. Basically, you set a pact that you will work out so many days a week (3 minimum), either by going to a gym/yoga studio/fitness center or using one of their approved fitness apps (hint: RunKeeper and Moves are both there). You put $5 or $10 on the line for every day you say you're going to work out. If you work out all those days, great! You get paid from the people who didn't. If you didn't, you pay. That's why I only recommend it for people who have already gotten in the habit, but I've made over $100 from it before. Hey, not bad to get a bit back from my gym memership! (Dietbet is along the same lines, except you commit to losing so much weight in so much time. I've personally never done that one. I'd rather focus on workouts, that I know are in my control, than weight lost, that can sometimes be fickle despite doing everything right.) Get it here.

Have you tried any of these apps and loved or hated them? Anything you'd like to add to this list?