No one is going to do it for you.

You have your family and a circle of friends. Your teachers and mentors are, of course, invaluable. You’ve got lots of acquaintances. And there are the influencers you follow every day on Instagram, Facebook, and any other social media platform you subscribe to. No one is going to do it for you. And you know that there are loads of reasons to exercise – including improving your memory and reverse mental decline!

None of these people are going to exercise for you.

You have only yourself to rely upon.

You read everything you can about weight loss. Intermittent fasting. Mediterranean diet. Paleo. Vegetarian. Pescatarian. Low carb. Yes, they all work. But no one is going to do it for you. You actually have to do the work yourself.

The nitty gritty

Once you really decide that it’s up to you to get off the couch and exercise, you really have to do your homework and figure out exactly what you’re going to do. As many exercise pros as there are out there – that’s how many programs there are. Chances are a lot of them are really good. But you have to figure out exactly what you’re going to commit to.

Commitment

No one is going to do it for you. Choose an exercise program you can live with and commit to.

Because it is a commitment. I can shout from the rooftops that exercise is absolutely necessary to avoid the most obvious signs of aging – weight gain, loss of muscle tone, loss of balance – you have to do the work. And no one is going to do it for you.

Yes, it’s work. I’m not going to sugar-coat it and tell you that it’s not work. Because I’d be lying. 

And you have to do it almost every day. I don’t exercise every day, so I can’t tell you to do something that I’m not willing to do. The CDC says that you need 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity plus 2 days of total body strength work. That’s 30 minutes 5 days a week of moderate aerobics plus muscle strengthening work on 2 days. I do more vigorous aerobics and combine that with weight work 5 days a week. Most days I do 30 minutes. 

If you’re new, don’t go all-out. Work up to it. You don’t want to wake up the day after you exercise and not be able to move. That completely defeats the purpose!

Choose something you can live with – for a long time

Choose a program you can live with for a long time, because you’re going to be doing it for a long time. Remember – no one is going to do it for you, so you’re going to be listening to that music and that instructor’s voice (if you’re going with a group class – either live, streaming or DVD) most days for a long time.

That’s not to say that you have to live with your first choice forever. If, after you’ve given the program a couple of weeks and find that you really can’t stand it – by all means change it.

And, it is a good idea to change up your routine every once in a while. I rotate the types of workouts I do every couple of months. Both for variety and to give my muscles a chance to experience new growth.

So – be happy with your exercise choice. Because you have to live with it and do it.

Life happens. It’s not an excuse.

Life happens. Don't let that be an excuse.

So, you’re in a rhythm. Working out four or five times a week, exactly on schedule. You’re eating right most of the time. Keeping your food journal and watching those calories. You’re getting plenty of sleep and meditating from time to time to keep the stress at bay.

And then things are scheduled three days in a row and you don’t exercise. Or the dog got sick and you had to rush him to the vet after work when you usually work out. Or you had to stop at the grocery store and the lines were a mile long.

Your living partner brings in a treat that’s too delectable to pass up. Or he / she made a dish that they were so proud of that you absolutely could not turn down.

You listened to the news or read an article that kept your brain working all night long. Two hours of sleep.

You fell off the wagon

Life happens. It’s not an excuse.

It happens to everyone. You’re not special. You’re not immune from life.

So what? You didn’t exercise for three days in a row. You ate a few extra calories. you can’t un-eat them – there’s no going back in time. Or you lost some sleep. No big deal.

Don’t make that an excuse

Life happens. Get back on the wagon. Get back to your regularly scheduled routine.

Don’t make not exercising or eating a few extra calories an excuse to stay off the wagon.

I’ve heard it too often: What’s the use? If I work out today, it won’t make up for the days I lost.

That doesn’t matter. If you wait another couple of days, you’ll be sore in the following days, your energy will be low, you’ll have trouble completing the workout.

You are an exerciser! You’ve built up that habit over months. Don’t spoil that now. Don’t change that habit. You just had an interruption. Get back on that treadmill. Or stick that DVD in the player. Change into your workout gear.

And those extra calories? They don’t matter now. Devote your energy to making healthy choices today.

Read another post about motivation.

It’s tough getting old

It's tough getting old. So many stresses.

It’s tough getting old. In getting older, we want to stay fit and healthy so that we can enjoy our “golden years.” In order to enjoy those years, we want to reduce stress and be happy.

All those things are really hard. We’ve spent lots of years exercising and eating right. When is it our turn to go crazy? Just lie on the couch and eat junk food.

We’ve spent lots of years working. When do we get to just do what we want?

That’s harder than ever now.

Everything costs money. And everything is more expensive than it used to be. Our incomes are not going up, so we have to be creative. And that’s exhausting.

But, things are easier when they become a habit.

So, let’s create some habits we can live with and be happy about for many, many years to come.

Eating right

Meal planning can become a habit. And it’s easier when you plan out a week’s worth of meals. Pick one day and gather your favorite recipes. Decide on 21 nutritious but delicious meals (if you don’t plan on bringing meals in – we do carryout from our favorite restaurants a couple evenings a week), make a list of items you need from the grocery store, and plan your shopping trip. And plan your snacks, too – things you look upon as treats, but are still healthy. OK – maybe a tiny bit indulgent…

Exercise

I’ve written many a blog post about the benefits of exercise as we age. Here’s one: “Why Exercise?” For now, let’s just agree that it’s necessary. Pick a program and stick with it. You don’t have to spend hours a day exercising, but it should be fairly intense – for you – 30 minutes 4 or 5 times a week. The most important thing is to be consistent in your exercise. By all means mix up the kind of exercise that you’re doing, but do it.

Get happy

Money may be tight, but that’s no reason not to do things that make you happy. Every day. Read a book. Reread a favorite. Listen to music. Go outside and breathe some fresh air.

Hate to exercise?

Having fun during 21 Day FixDo you hate to exercise? I’m not a fan either, but I do it because I like to do other stuff, as you know. But if that isn’t enough of a motivation, and you know that you need to exercise, start small.

Just walk for 15 minutes. Or 5 minutes. If it’s a nice day, just tell yourself that you’re going outside and breathe for a few minutes. Pretty soon you’ll be taking a few steps and you’re around the block.

Starting small leads to big things! Tell yourself you’ll do 15 jumping jacks, and pretty soon it’s 30 because 15 is easy.

Tell yourself you’ll jump for 2 minutes. Just up and down – maybe not even leaving the ground. And pretty soon it’s 5 minutes. Full squats and everything.

Tell yourself you’re just taking the dog for a walk. You’re snapping on his leash and pretty soon you’re both walking for 20 minutes. It’s good for both of you! (Just don’t forget pick-up material!)

It’s finally starting to feel like spring here, and the garden needs work. Tell yourself that you’re going outside for 5 minutes to pull weeds. Pretty soon you’ll find that you’ve been outside working for a half hour. A few weeds turns into raking and cutting back, and who knows what else!

Just don’t overdo it! If you haven’t exercised in a while, and those 5 minutes of walking feels too easy, just do 6 and see how you feel the next day. The goal is consistency – if you’re too sore to get up the next day, you’re not going to exercise and then you’ll forget all about it for the future. And that’s bad.

So it’s okay to start really small and build up. 5 minutes today, 10 minutes tomorrow. Then maybe add in a little jog for a few seconds and see how you go from there. Remember, there’s no deadline!

I break my own rule – constantly

You know how I just told you to find a workout you love and you’ll be more likely to do it? Well, I don’t do that. I found results that I love and do the workout program that created them!

Reality check here – I hate working out. No, really! I’d much rather be reading a book than sweating and squatting. I’d rather be training my dogs than doing lunges. I’d rather be writing … anything … than doing bicep curls.

But I do it because I love to eat. I do it because I do love to train my dogs. I love to run agility with my dogs. I love to hike in new destinations. I love being able to run up and down the stairs five hundred times because I forgot … whatever … or I have loads of laundry to do.

And I love not having knee pain, back pain, hip pain. I stumbled in my dog agility class the other night. (I’m not the most graceful person, and some of the moves our instructor had us doing were a little complicated.) I didn’t fall, but I could feel the stress on my knees, ankles and shins. I thought to myself – well, tomorrow’s going to be an Aleve day! But it wasn’t. No pain.

Of course, I do like seeing more definition in my arms and abs. I like that my pants are feeling looser in the hips and tummy.

And it just takes 30 minutes a day in the basement for me to do an insane workout. Yup, a lot of days I don’t feel like working out, but I do it because it is just 30 minutes. I know that I’ll feel virtuous for having exercised. And that shower afterward feels SO good!

Burn more calories every day

cross_jumpHere are a couple of easy tips. First, work out in the morning. You’ll burn more calories! Why? Since you’re more rested, you’re probably working harder and you may be exercising a little longer. Fewer rest breaks, too. It’s more convenient for me to exercise in the afternoons on most days. It’s just how my day goes. I understand that I’m burning fewer calories, and I may be taking an extra rest break. But when I’m done, the stress from my day is gone and I feel so much more virtuous!

Increase your speed and you’ll burn more calories! If you’re walking or running, add in a sprinting interval and up the speed. You can do this even if you’re doing a video. Double time it! And make sure you’re swinging your arms – you’ll up the calorie burn by as much as 15%!

See a flat surface? Do some counter push-ups! When you’re picking up a few things at the grocery store, use a basket rather than a cart and you’ll be working your arm muscles (biceps and triceps). Adding strength moves is a good idea since more muscle mass increases the calorie burn. Also, take the stairs when you can. Work your abs by sitting on an exercise ball rather than a traditional chair!

Find a workout you love, and you’ll do it!

sword_pullDo you hate to work out? The thought of exercise sends you running to the store until it’s too late to work out? You  know that exercise is good for you … and you really, really meant to go for a run this morning, but the kids were naughty, the dog threw up …

Yes, exercise is good for you. It’s good for your heart, it helps bring down your stress level, you’ve even heard that it’s good for your brain (that part is true, too, by the way!). But you hate running and jumping.

That’s OK. The key is to find an exercise program that you enjoy. Do you like music? Do you love to dance? Terrific! There are loads of dance-based workouts available. You like music but still don’t like jumping around? There are even ballet-based workouts.

Do the martial arts intrigue you, but you don’t want to fight anyone? Me neither. There are some great martial arts-based exercise programs. Chances are if you check out a local Krav Maga studio, they’ll have a fitness-type class in their schedule. A serious workout with martial arts flair.

Do you like the idea of yoga, but not all the touchy-feely stuff? Call a few local yoga studios and chances are you’ll find the perfect class for you.

The point is, whatever your interests are, you’ll find a workout that you’ll love. Need suggestions? Contact me!

Suit your workout to your mood

Side kick in a Turbo Jam workoutOrdinarily, I advocate following an exercise program for the duration. If it’s a 21 Day program, do it for those 21 days, no excuses! 30 days – ditto! But some days you’re angry at the world and need an outlet before you punch your kids, spouse, dog, mailman… A good kickboxing workout is perfect for those days. If you’re feeling lethargic and almost under the weather, then maybe a yoga practice or Pilates session is the best bet. One day a while ago I felt what seemed like a cold coming on and I did an intense yoga practice. I forgot about how my nose and throat felt and focused on my brain! I felt totally fine at the end of the final pose, Shavasana.  Some days I feel flighty and want a super-intense workout to bring me down to earth.

Today I was in a bad mood, so I popped in one of my favorites, Turbo Jam’s Kickin’ Core. There was kicking, punching, work on the stability ball – it had everything I needed! Even some Capoeira for an intense push. All that in 45 minutes! Needless to say, my mood turned around and I was able to face the rest of the day with equanimity. After my shower…

Why Exercise?

tango_triple_sd
Tango jumping

The Mayo Clinic will tell you all about the clinical benefits of exercise:
No. 1: Exercise controls weight – no secret there. The basic rule of weight loss is that if you use more calories than you take in, you’ll lose weight. Exercise boosts calorie usage. The harder you exercise, the more calories you burn. I like to eat, so I exercise!
No. 2: Exercise combats certain health conditions and diseases – Exercise can help lower your blood pressure and boosts good cholesterol (HDL). Blood flows more smoothly, decreasing the risk of heart disease. And regular physical activity can help prevent or manage many health concerns, like stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, certain cancers, arthritis and can help prevent falls, which is a great concern to those of us over a certain age. (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2/5/14)
No. 3: Exercise boosts your mood – After a hard workout, I just feel better. I’m nicer to my family and coworkers, and I feel better knowing that I did something good for my body.
No. 4: Exercise boosts energy – Exercise increases endurance and muscle strength. So walking up a flight of stairs or vacuuming the den won’t make you winded.
No. 5: Exercise promotes better sleep – Regular exercise can help you fall asleep faster and deepen your sleep. But, make sure you get your workout in well before bedtime, otherwise you’ll be too energized to fall asleep.
No. 6: Exercise can be fun – Any continuing exercise is good for you. Just make sure that you enjoy your workout, otherwise you won’t stick with the program.

But I exercise because it helps me do what I want to. I’m able to wake up in the morning and run with my dogs, practice agility and obedience with them. When I exercise there’s less pain. And that’s a good thing!