Your workout may be easier with a friend

Your workout may be easier with a friend to cheer you on.
Working out with a friend makes it easier.

Your workout may be easier with a friend. After all, you’ll be sharing the misery. What’s that old saying – “Misery loves company?” Is that because if it’s shared it doesn’t feel like torture? Or because you can laugh at each other’s funny faces as you grimace through the hard parts? 

You’re doing the work

Exercise, unless you’re doing specific pairs exercises, though, is a solitary endeavor. When you run, it’s your legs doing the work. Not someone else’s. It’s you who is lifting that heavy weight. You’re the one who is struggling to stay on her feet as you near the finish line. And you are the only one responsible for your success – or your failure.

A friend’s motivation can help

But a friend can really keep you motivated on your fitness journey. It’s not easy at the best of times to stay on the straight and narrow path of an exercise program. Someone to talk to, to commiserate with, can help you stick with your plan. You may hate the same exercises, and dread when a certain yoga pose is coming up in the flow. And you can agree that the best part of a workout is the final stretch and cool-down.

You don’t even have to be together

But in these days of pandemic separation, how do you exercise with a friend? Many gyms have closed. You’re nervous about being out of breath with a mask on. You don’t even want to be close to other people. 

To get the support of a friend, though, you don’t actually have to exercise together or even do the same workout. You can both exercise and then arrange to get on a Zoom or Facetime call at a specific time to talk about your respective workouts. That might even be more fun than exercising together – because it’s really hard to talk if your workout is effective! You’ll have the accountability we all need to stick to an exercise program. And it’s fun to complain with someone who knows exactly what you’re experiencing.

Important for support and accountability

I wrote about the importance of having your friends and family support your healthy lifestyle plan a while ago. It’s still important to have that support and accountability. Your friends and family are your support system, which we all need to be happy and resilient these days. Yes, it’s possible to go it alone. You can stick to any plan you design. But it’s easier with others.

Self-care is more than a tag line

“Fitness” is not just exercise

What comes to mind when you think “fitness?” I’ll bet one thing you don’t think of is self-care. But self-care is more than a tag line and it’s crucial for our fitness. I don’t mean dental floss or moisturizer, although they’re certainly important for our health and well-being.

The self-care I’m referring to is taking care of our mental health. Taking time to care for ourselves when the world is crazy around us is essential for keeping our equilibrium. 

Self-care can be as simple as closing your eyes

If you're feeling anxious and stressed, meditation could help. Meditation can be an integral part of your self-care.

Self-care can be as simple as just taking a few minutes away from others, screens, phones and other intrusions. Or just closing your eyes and breathing for a few seconds between phone calls or meetings can help to clear your mind.

A brief meditation session can also calm you. If you don’t usually practice meditation, then a guided meditation is helpful. You can download my complementary “Garden Walk” meditation now. Opening your eyes after meditating is like waking up from a restful snooze.

Reset your thoughts to focus

This brief interlude can reset your thoughts, making it easier for you to focus on the next task. Or it can help you to distance yourself a little from troublesome news and the ever-present clatter of today’s world.

And if you’ve had a really long awful, troublesome day filled with terrible news and cranky people, take a little longer to center yourself. Tell the family, “I need a while. I’ll be back in a half hour.” They should be able to respect your needs to give you the time you need, just as you would give them time.


“Self-care” is more than a fad. It’s an essential part of fitness.

This all qualifies as “self-care.” It’s more than a fad. Self-care is more than a tag line or slogan. It’s essential for staying sane in these crazy times.

Too often we’re met with people in bad moods these days. It’s important that we not follow their lead and let them turn our mood downward, easy as it is to do. I wrote of this before, and it’s still appropriate.) When we follow the harder path, of optimism and growth, by caring for ourselves a little more, we grow our optimism and our resilience.

If you miss a day or two

You’re a few weeks into your new, “healthy you” plan and things are going fine. You have good days and days that it’s a struggle, but you’re making it through. You’ve been sweating up a storm but eating (mostly) right. But you’re starting to wonder, what happens if you miss a day or two. You may have a trip planned and you don’t know if you’ll be able to do your workouts. And if you’re on someone else’s timetable, you don’t know what the meal situation is going to be like. You’re worried that if you miss some time that your plan will be completely undone.

First, take a breath and celebrate

First, take a minute and celebrate your successes! It’s not easy sticking with a healthy plan for a few days, much less a few weeks. And you’ve done it! You’ve stuck with it! You should be incredibly proud of yourself.

But if you miss a couple of days

But that trip is coming up, and you’re concerned. Know that if you miss a day or two, it’s not the end of the road. You may eat things that aren’t on your meal plan. You may miss a few workouts. But you can’t plan your entire life around your workouts. Things happen.

It’s OK. The world will not end.

It’s OK if you miss a day or two. Or even more than that. The world will not end, and you’ll be fine.

The key is to get back on the plan as quickly as you can. And while you may not be able to completely stick with your meal plan while you’re away or your schedule is disrupted, try to eat as sensibly as you can. Don’t think to yourself, “I can’t do my plan, and I don’t want to be impolite and ask for separate food, so that’s it. I’m done.”

Eat sensibly and move!

No. Eat as sensibly as you can. Try to limit high-fat and high-sugar items. Say, “Thank you, but no” to all the sweets your host offers you. (Or just have one of your absolute favorites.) Stick as closely to your own meal plan as possible without being rude.

And get what exercise you can. Suggest walks outside. If you’re staying at a hotel, check out the fitness center. 

Back to normal

You may not want to go all out when you get back to your routine after you miss a day or two.

When you get back to your normal routine, assess where you are. Get back to your healthy eating plan as quickly as possible. You may have gained a couple of pounds, but they’ll come off when you’re back to your plan.

And you may want to ease back into your exercise program a little more slowly. If you miss a day or two, you probably won’t lose momentum. But more than that and if you go back to full exertion, you could be sore for a couple of days. So, modify the intensity a bit for the first few days. And if your muscles are sore the next day, it’s normal. Follow these suggestions to feel better – Drink more, stay active and don’t sit too long. And remember that the sooner you get back to your routine, the easier it will be.

You’ll get back to your fitness routine in no time! You’ll be improving your health and increasing your resilience. There’s no need to quit if you miss a day or two in your fitness journey – you’re just taking a little break.

Maintaining Your Motivation

You’ve been eating right and exercising for a few weeks now. Congratulations! It’s been going pretty well. You’re hanging in there. But every once in a while that muffin looks better than what you planned for breakfast. Or your co-workers are going to your favorite sandwich shop for lunch. And there’s that piece of cake left over from your significant other’s birthday. Maintaining your motivation through all the temptations is really hard.

And it doesn’t get easier.

Five Keys to Maintaining your Motivation

So, how do you maintain your motivation? How do you stick to the plan? These five methods help me maintain a healthy lifestyle every day.

1. Take Each Day as it Comes

One day at a time – Today is the only day that matters in your “healthier you” plan. Yesterday is gone. No matter how “good” you were yesterday (and congratulations for that!), it doesn’t matter today. Keep that date you set up for yourself today in your calendar. (You’re doing that, right? A few weeks ago we talked about forming healthy habits, and a key point was making that recurring appointment with yourself on every day you wanted to exercise.) Make every food decision count especially on days that eating right is a challenge. For every meal you prepare, ask yourself if it’s a good choice for you.

2. Just Get Going

The final stretch with my dog. Just do it, don't agonize over working out. That's maintaining your motivation.

Don’t think too much about your workout preparation – On days that you really don’t want to exercise, just do it. Shake yourself mentally and don’t think about the things you’d rather be doing (like watching TV, reading a book, lying on the couch). Just change into your workout gear and start to exercise. Promise yourself you’ll do 10 minutes of your workout. Before you know it, you’ll be cooling down and looking forward to that final stretch.

3. Reflection

Reflect on how far you’ve come. Just a couple of weeks ago you knew you should start an exercise program and healthy eating plan but were confused about how to start and what to do. And now you’re crushing it! A great way to keep going is to put these reflections in a journal. (Check out my Gratitude and Happiness Journal on Amazon.) Every day, think about what you’re happy you’ve accomplished and write it down. When you go back and read these reflections, you can’t help but feel motivated to carry on. (Writing these thoughts down will also give you a great sense of gratitude, and we know that happiness follows gratitude, and resilience follows happiness and optimism!)

4. Visualize

Visualize yourself maintaining your motivation. Picture yourself eating a plate of vibrant greens with your family and enjoying it! Better yet – you’re all eating that wonderful salad and loving it. Feel how you’d like to be, at the place you enjoy the most, with the people you love most. Picture yourself at a party, enjoying yourself, holding a glass (a champagne flute?) of sparkling water. I can’t tell you to picture yourself exercising and loving it, because I can’t do that myself. But I do it so that the other pictures can become realities.

5. Your “Why”

Your reason for sticking to your plan. Finally, and probably the easiest way of maintaining your motivation – remember your reason for starting in the first place. Whether your reason is for your family or for your own future, remember that. You’re eating right and exercising to lower your blood pressure, to improve your cardiac conditioning, to improve your cognition and memory. 

These five methods will keep you on the straight and narrow. Maintaining your motivation will be easy.

The other piece of the puzzle for weight loss

If you’re serious about wanting to lose weight, exercise is important. Exercise is more important for lowering blood pressure and reducing your risk of certain diseases. It’s also important for building strength and bone mass. What you eat is the more important piece of the puzzle for weight loss. 

The formula for losing weight is simple: consume fewer calories than you use. The number of calories that you use exercising can be large, but not nearly as large as it needs to be in order for you to lose pounds. Even the Mayo Clinic says that diet is more important than exercise when it comes to losing weight.

Diet is a 4-letter word

What you eat is most important in the weight loss puzzle

Yes, diet is a nasty word. But it’s also what we consume every day. Our diet is just that – what we eat. The word is neither good nor bad. It’s just a word. What can be good or bad are the foods that make up our diet. 

You’ve heard the “experts” promoting the “South Beach Diet,” the “Atkins Diet,” the “Mediterranean Diet,” “Keto,” gluten-free diet, Pescatarian diet, Intermittent Fasting – the list is endless. What works for one person may not work for you. 

What does work

Change your mindset: Stop thinking of “diet” as a bad thing. My own diet includes lots of really “healthy food,” but also ice cream, bread and donuts. None of these are bad themselves. What is “bad” is when you overload your diet with processed foods high in sugar and fat. My motto: (like Benjamin Franklin) “Everything in moderation.”

So, if you’re really serious about losing weight, do some research about food plans. What’s included, what’s not included, the long-term prospects of sticking with it. Figure out what appeals to you. Try it for a few weeks. See if it works, and if you can live with it. If you need to modify the plan – it’s your body. Do what’s right for you. Keep a food journal – write down every morsel of food that goes in your mouth. Be religious about this. You probably don’t realize everything you eat. And that can sabotage your results. 

Losing weight is hard, but the more you know about what it takes to lose weight and be healthy, the better your chances of success.

It’s easy when it becomes a habit

How do you do it? That’s the question I get. Have the mindset to work out almost every day, eat right and not just go crazy? The answer: It’s easy when it becomes a habit.

There has been lots written about habits and tracking habits lately (like James Clear’s Atomic Habits) – but none from the perspective of a 65-year-old woman with gray hair who runs her dogs in Agility. So, for all you young-at-heart old ladies out there who may or may not run their dogs in Agility, this is for you. 

3 weeks to a habit

Generally speaking, it takes about 3 weeks of doing something for it to become a habit. Like flossing your teeth. Every night. Set an alarm on your phone for five minutes before the time you usually brush your teeth at night – when you look at your phone.

Or like using a new kind of calendar or daily planner. In order for a tool like this to work for you, you have to use it regularly. Enter your appointments, meetings and reminders when you make that appointment or think of something you need to be reminded of in the future. But then you have to remember to check your calendar regularly so that you don’t miss anything. So a cheat may be necessary – like a post-it note on your monitor to check your calendar. Or an alarm on your phone set to not-quite first thing in the morning. These “cheats” make it easier to remember what you want to remember to do – before these activities become real habits.

The exercise habit was not easy

Having exercise become a habit was not easy for me. I was a fat kid. I was bullied unmercifully through junior high school. Home economics was a requirement for girls my freshman year of high school. I was so proud of my little chocolate pudding tart that I took home on the bus so my mom and sister could enjoy it with me … Until a boy teased me, saying that a “fattie like me didn’t need that pie,” and tossed the tart onto my shirt. Chocolate and whipped cream was everywhere. That was the day I vowed to lose weight. 

jumping rope helped me lose weight and start an exercise habit.

So after school all that year, I jumped rope on our patio – a concrete slab behind the house. I lost the weight and have (mostly) kept it off. I guess I should try to remember who that kid was and thank him. (Probably not going to happen…) Jumping rope was the easiest way I could think of to exercise. Cheap, and burned a lot of calories. 

That was an easy habit to keep. I was motivated. 

But now it’s easy when it becomes a habit

A habit should not be a convenience. A habit is something you do without fail. No matter what. I wrote about this a while ago – Life happens. It’s not an excuse. A habit – and if you’re consciously making a habit, then it’s important – is something you make time for.

I make time several times a week for exercise. Exercise has become a habit. So, changing clothes, shifting the dogs to their comfy downstairs beds and pushing “play” is just what I do – many days without thinking. It’s easy when it becomes a habit.

And planning the next week’s meals and shopping lists is a habit now. It’s just something that needs to get done, so I don’t whine about it. I don’t look for other things to do instead of the task. I just do it.

After a hard year we’re more resilient than ever

This flower makes me optimistic, as it opens every year and shows that we're more resilient than ever.

We’re starting to see more and more people around town, and in stores, without masks on. I have to assume that they’re fully vaccinated. And while it’s weird seeing people’s faces after more than a year, I like it! I’m glad that we’re coming out of the pandemic. Hopefully we’ve all learned something about ourselves and the world. But mostly I’m glad that we’re all optimistically embracing the future and are more resilient than ever. (http://fitness-over-50.com/2020/03/increase-optimism-grow-resilience/)

Even in the darkest months of the virus-spread, people were learning things, becoming educated and more able to cope with the changing world. It hasn’t been easy. 

Shortages

We’ve had to cope with shortages, and learn to work around them. Like soap. Toilet paper is an essential as it is – there’s nothing to substitute. You’ve either got it or you don’t. We had to scrounge for a package here, a package there. And we’ve had to learn to use a little less. That’s a hardship. But soap. Around the house we have a couple of foaming hand soap dispensers in the kitchen and bathrooms. And we use the large-scale refills rather than buying new dispensers every time. But near the beginning of the pandemic, there was not a single foaming hand soap refill to be had, there were no dispensers either. So I found out how to make foaming hand soap with regular hand soap refills. (It’s actually not hard – 1 part soap refill to 4 parts water.) It’s not something I ever thought about before, but absolutely crucial. Who knew that a soap shortage would make me more resilient than ever?

Work from home

And we’ve had to deal with more technology than we expected too. Many of us had our very first Zoom experience during the pandemic. It’s been interesting being on the other side of the screen from someone just learning. “Do I push this? Click this? How do I turn the microphone on? Can you see me now?” We all learned, and my sister and I have decided to keep doing Zoom calls as an easy way to stay in touch with friends and family who live too far away to meet with in person. 

New hobbies?

Many people have begun new hobbies. I know we’ve certainly been cooking more for ourselves. We’ve tried new recipes. I even made pretzels. They were really good, even if they were more like rolls. Which makes me want to make pretzel rolls for sandwiches but without the salt! 

Learn new things

And we’ve all learned new things. About ourselves, about each other and the world. There was some bad stuff there, yes, but mostly we learned that given a chance, most people are good and want the best for others.

Letting our vulnerabilities show

And we’ve learned that we’re all vulnerable. We’ve seen it time and again through the pandemic. Everyone at least knows someone who lost a loved one to the virus. Two friends lost a parent. And letting others see our own vulnerabilities can be a good thing. We’ve all been scared. Of our own mortality, of the future’s uncertainty. We’re all in the same boat, trying to come out on the other side. And talking to each other about our fears and uncertainties only draws us closer together, and makes us more resilient than ever.

Set goals – big and little

Are you retired? Still working? Working on not working? Regardless – it’s important to set goals for yourself. The way we grow is to set goals and challenge ourselves, in whatever area we choose. And, don’t limit yourself to one area. If you’re still working, great! Set goals – big and little – for yourself professionally, but also personally. 

I work for myself in a number of enterprises. I set goals for the business and for myself. One goal is to create a course relating to self-discipline that my readers (you!) will find useful in your fitness journey. My sister tells me that I have more discipline than anyone else she knows, so hopefully that expertise will help others. I’m writing my modules and hope to have a course by the end of the summer.

Another of my personal goals is to complete 10 regular pushups (from my toes). Pushups from my knees are no problem. And incline pushups are easy as well. I’m at about 4 or 5 regular ones now, so I’ll keep working at it.

To grow means that there’s work involved. Many people think the word “work” has a negative connotation. Meaning that work is bad. I don’t see it that way. Work is serious, yes, because my goals are serious to me. It’s hard. And work is challenging. But it can be fun. And the results: downright delightful.

I have fun when I work. I try to have fun all the time. Just because I’m trying to accomplish something doesn’t mean that I can’t have fun with it. Fun makes the work easier.

Big goals

When you have a BIG GOAL, it can seem intimidating and not at all fun. The secret to achieving that BIG GOAL is to chop it into smaller, more manageable goals and incorporate some fun into it if possible. And big goals can seem crushingly hard, unless you’re committed to its success. I wrote about that just a couple of weeks ago.

For example, if, as my sister and I did, you had to move all of your grandmother’s things into your house and then, after living with the clutter for a couple of years, decide to declutter – that’s an impossible goal to manage all at once. So we thought about the best way to tackle the job and came up with the strategy of: one room at a time, in fifteen to twenty minute chunks.

We started with a corner of one room, set up our three stations: throw away (for things that we could not see anyone having a use for, ever), donate (for things that we couldn’t see ourselves using) and keep (for things we couldn’t bear to give up). We worked for fifteen minutes every day, and in a matter of months the job was complete.

A side note: don’t ever feel badly about keeping something when you’re trying to declutter. You’re entitled to your feelings. Think about the item. Will you be sorry if you never see it again? You can always get rid of something but you can’t get it back.

And the goal of losing weight. If you have more than 3 pounds to lose, that’s a BIG GOAL. It’s hard and needs to be addressed as a true achievement. Intermediate goals should be set and addressed.

Little goals

I practice my balance every day by standing on one foot for a minute while I brush my teeth. That’s a total of two minutes, which is how long we’re supposed to brush our teeth. My little goal is to not put a toe down before the time is up. My reward if I’m successful? Well, in this case, just the knowledge that I’m growing stronger and my balance is improving. I’ve been doing this long enough that the exercise is a habit.

But your little goals can range from substituting a piece of fruit for the candy you usually eat in the afternoon, to focusing on work for an extra five minutes. And then reward yourself with a big stretch or an extra round of Spider Solitaire.

My goal of 10 regular pushups is a medium-sized goal. It’s big enough that it needs to get chopped up and intermediate goals set, but not big enough that it will take months. And when I reach that goal? I’ll think of another.

You’re not alone

I have to apologize to you. For some time now, I’ve been writing about what it takes to be healthy, eat right to lose weight, exercise regularly and it may have seemed like you have to do it in a vacuum. That’s just not true!

You’re not alone

You’re not alone. You shouldn’t be alone, especially not on this journey. The more you involve other people who support you the better! If your friends and family truly want what’s best for you then they can only support your path to fitness. 

After all, we humans are social beasts. When we’re around others who have the same set of beliefs, we thrive. We have meaningful discussions and make each other think. When we’re with others who support us, we’re growing our resilience, just as we’re helping others grow theirs. 

And these days, we’re able to physically see our friends and family more than in the past year. It’s a time for togetherness, happiness and optimism.

Get together!

Your journey to fitness should be an opportunity for togetherness! 

Friends can help in your fitness journey. You are not alone.

By all means, involve your friends and family in your fitness journey. Share healthy recipes. Or go to your favorite restaurant that offers options that are appealing to you with your modified – healthy – mindset. 

Be sure that those around you really are supportive. I don’t mean to sound negative, but you definitely only want people around you who really care about your best interests.

Just like you can sabotage your own efforts, others can, too. So my suggestion is to explain exactly what you’re doing and your reasons. Offer any research that you’ve done if questions are raised. 

It’s natural to resist change. And that can be true about personal change as well. Make sure that your friends and family know that you’re still you! You still have the same interests, hobbies (with maybe a few healthier ones added to the mix), taste in clothes and books, and love for chocolate. Don’t let those who are resisting your change, change your mind! You’re on the road to health and wellness. This can only benefit everyone around you.

And when your “tribe” knows that you haven’t actually joined a cult, and you’re on the fitness path for good reasons, they may even join you!

Commitment is easy

I’ll use losing weight as an example, but the same truth holds for nearly every undertaking. They say that losing weight takes real commitment. So you hesitate because, well, commitment. But commitment is easy.

Where do you want to be?

When the path offered to you is the best way to get to where you want to be, it’s easy to stay committed to that path. When your reason for taking that path is so important to you that it keeps you up at night, has you researching solutions at all hours of the day, and distracts you so much that you find it difficult to focus on other things, commitment is easy.

If the vision you have for your life involves playing with kids, grandkids, dogs or even cats, commitment to your weight loss path is easy. If you want to work in your garden or even sit comfortably in a chair, if you have that focused picture in your brain, commitment to losing weight is easy.

Those triceps are not going to work themselves. When I realized that I really wanted my arms to be toned, commitment to that was easy.

My grandmother had triceps that I did not want. Really did not want. I realized that at an early age, when she was probably no older than I am now (65). I wanted toned arms, not wiggly jiggly arms. Commitment to that was easy. So most every workout I do now has a section that focuses on triceps (triceps kickback exercise pictured).

If your reason for undertaking that journey is so overwhelming that there is no other option than to take it, then there’s no question of your commitment.But if you think to yourself that it would just be “nice,” then you won’t be committed to that goal.

Do you have the reason to commit?

So, think about your reasons to undertake that journey. Are they all-consuming, or just “nice?” If they’re just nice, this is probably not the time for you to start. If you have questions, if you’re not certain, then certainly you’ll fail.

On the other hand, if your reason is so huge that it takes up most of your brain, it’s time to focus. Recognize that no one else will do this for you. (I wrote about this a while ago.) Time to plan. Start to think of a concrete method to get you to where you want to be. 

Once you have a reason and a plan, there’s no stopping you! It’s time to put that plan into action.

Next step: set goals. I find that it’s best to lay out my ultimate goal – what the final picture looks like. Then set intermediate goals. These goals must be challenging, but achievable. And they must be written down. If you see your goals in your own handwriting, they’re yours. You have an investment in them. 

Start brainstorming. What do you REALLY want?