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Exercise for the Rest of Us

Before I set out on my weight loss adventure, I had absolutely no interest in working out, sports, or athletics.  I paid no attention to exercise science or news.  I had never given a second thought to figure competitors or fitness models.  I had never picked up a copy of Oxygen or any of the “Women’s fitness” magazines.  That really wasn’t my thing.

It’s still not my thing, to be honest, although exercise is now a part of my life and I do enjoy it.  I know a lot more about those things now than I did before.  Naturally, I am a very inquisitive person and my introduction to exercise led me down a path of searching for new ways to challenge myself, which included a lot of reading and learning online.  Many people on this journey do end up learning a lot about the subject of fitness, and some take it even further and find a new passion in these subjects, becoming a personal trainer or other fitness professional.  Some formerly obese people even go on to compete in figure or bodybuilding competitions.  Still others become marathon runners or power-lifters.  You can take it as far as you wish to.

For me, exercise started out as a means to an end.  Joining a gym was the first thing I did when I decided it was time to get focused on weight loss.  I dutifully went to the gym a minimum of 4 times per week to start out, and have continued to do that plus more for the last 3.5 years.  I didn’t like it at first, but it wasn’t so bad.  I saw results in weight loss which kept me going until nearly a year after starting, I finally admitted to myself I had learned to love working out.  It’s stress relief for me.  I look forward to my workout all day long while I sit at my desk in my office.

I enjoy cardio most of all.  I can zone out on the elliptical for an hour or more without becoming bored.  Music makes it fun, but simple.  Running is thrilling to me, as it’s something I could never do before and never thought I would be able to do.  High intensity cardio classes are fun and motivating.  And of course I love hiking- who doesn’t like to be out in nature enjoying some fresh air?  I’m a sucker for plants and nature.

Initially, I found weight lifting quite boring.  I felt uncomfortable venturing into the free weights area of the gym.  I felt like a lost puppy over there, where it was up to me to know what to do with the heavy things.  With the machines, there’s  a cheat sheet, a nice little diagram to study.  I like diagrams and instructions.  It took me a long time, and a lot of videos watched online, to finally suck it up and start lifting free weights.

Body Pump, a weight lifting class offered at many gyms, turned out to be the most fun workout for me and my favorite for a very long time.  It combines weight lifting with what I love about cardio classes- a fun, choreographed, fast-paced full-body workout that is both challenging and passes by quickly.  I never have to look at the clock and wonder “Is it over yet?” during a Body Pump class.  Unfortunately, my current gym does not offer it.  Or maybe that’s fortunate turn of events, as it forced me to change up my routine and that’s always a good thing.

Currently, my gym routine is a basic bodybuilding work out, 4 days a week, split up by body part.  I also do about 30 minutes of cardio each of the 4 days.  That’s it.  It comes out to approximately 6 hours per week.  So a typical workout schedule for me at this time looks like this:

  • Monday: Chest and Triceps, 30 min interval incline running on the treadmill
  • Tuesday: Back and Biceps, 30 min stairmaster
  • Thursday: Legs and Butt, 30 min elliptical
  • Friday: Shoulders, 1 hour cardio (usually mix)

Some people think that sounds like a lot, others think it sounds minimal.  It depends on your point of view.  For me, it seems like the “right amount.”  Since I moved, I cut back on working out, which I was doing at least 6 days a week.  I feel my new routine is more balanced.  I’d like to add a few more things back in at some point: possibly a yoga class, or jogging in the morning one day a week.  It’s been about 8 months since I moved, so I’m slowly starting to feel like I’m settling in here in California.  Cross state moves take a lot of adjustment and I know better than to over-stress myself.

I have no interest in making fitness my career.  I’m an artist, first and foremost, and my greatest interests are intellectual and creative.  I still don’t read fitness magazines, since I do not relate to the people in them.  I still don’t follow sports.  The Olympics are about to start and I’m mildly interested in a few events, but I don’t have a favorite athlete or an event I simply must watch.  Sport just really isn’t my thing.  Nor am I interested in spending a lot of time working on my outward appearance.  I’m far more interested in working on my mind.  That has always been my priority, and I’m sure it’s one reason I did become heavy in the first place.  Reading books, which has always been one of my favorite activities, is admirable but sedentary.  Yes, I needed a little more balance between exercising my body and exercising my mind, but I still give preference to my mind.  It’s the more interesting part of me, in my opinion.  I spend more time at the farmers market and cooking food than I do exercising because it appeals to my sense of creativity and love of nature.

I’m writing this blog post for “the rest of us”.  The fitness industry is full of people who are really passionate about sports or outward appearances, and that’s great that they have found that inner fire and desire for those things.  However, it put me off for a long time, as a person who is not particularly interested in those subjects.  I think many of us have other things in our lives that will always be the priority, whether that’s our career or our family or any other passion.  My healthy lifestyle needs to support my passions, not displace them, or I won’t do it.

I am an example of someone who would still rather watch a great movie with my boyfriend, read a book by the pool, or work on a painting than go to the gym.  Yet, I go to the gym anyway and I am happy to do it.  Exercise is a great benefit to my health, my weight regulation, my mental state, and my ability to deal with stress.  It helps me sleep better, have less mood swings, and I believe it even helps me be more creative.  That zoned out time on the elliptical is a great time to allow my mind to wander.  I wanted to take this opportunity to point out that I have a life outside of diet and exercise, and that life is my main priority.  This stuff doesn’t have to take over your entire universe, unless you want it to.

I will always, first and foremost, be an Artist.  Now, I am an artist who takes care of my health by exercising and eating well, but I don’t need to take it any further than that, and neither do you.  So don’t fear that living a healthy lifestyle has to become your main identity.  A lot of the fitness industry makes it seem that way, but it can also just be a small part, not the entire focus, of life.  The benefits come whether you do a lot or a little.  Find the amount that’s just right for you, and don’t worry too much about what others do or feel pressured to give up other parts of your life that are important to you.  There’s more to life than eating and working out.

5 thoughts on “Exercise for the Rest of Us

  1. I think you’re the first person I’ve ever “known” to relate to my basic feelings about fitness. Over the years I’ve grown to enjoy working out more and I do want to learn more and more about it but I don’t want to kill myself trying to be a fitness model. I just want to be healthy, fit, and look fairly decent. I want to have what some call “cheat” foods and not feel guilty about it. I eat somewhat healthy – yea, it could be a lot better, but for now, I’m ok with it. I’ve come a long way and I still have a way to go. I don’t mind that it may take me awhile to get there. It took me 10 years or longer to get fat and out of shape and I plan on taking the rest of my life to improve my health and get in better shape.

    Thank you for being you! You are quite an encouragement!

  2. Well said!! I think a lot of people judge people like you and me, that have grown to like exercising. Sometimes I feel like they think I’m crazy for wanting to go run. I even got the question once asked right at me, “What do you run for?” “So you run around in circles and that’s it?” Of course it’s more than that. I have a life outside working out, but I don’t think people will want to know about that. 😛

  3. Once again your truth is so approachable and from the heart, it is a powerful message, adn fe choose to speak so HONESTLY – Many blessings_SoulfulSeed.com

  4. I agree that there are some aspects of exercise that have taken me a long time to grow to love. As far as the free weights, I completely understand how they can be intimidating because they don’t have any instructions with them. That’s where the BodyPump class came in handy for me. I was able to take a lot of what I learned and utilize it in my individual workouts with free weights.
    Very inspiring and informative post!

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