General Fitness

I threw away my scale, and I’m not replacing it.

I threw away my scale today. Not because of some profound declaration of independence from the little accessory that can cause mind games with us all, but because it was broken. A couple weeks ago my bathroom flooded for an unclear reason and the scale was a casualty. The water is gone now, flowing through the pipes correctly, but the scale is done.

If I lived near a WalMart or Target (insert moment of silence for those of us who have to live without) I’d likely just run out and grab a new one, but I don’t, so I’ve had a little time to think about this seemingly dull moment in time.

Do I really want a new scale?

Think about it with me for a bit. What purpose does a scale serve you? For some who have serious weight issues, or even just borderline serious, weight issues, I can see the purpose. You may need to diligently keep track of what it says to keep you on the path to healthy success. But for many of us, it can really be a total buzz kill. A kill joy. A slap in the face. Why do I want that in my life? Can’t the fact that my pants do or do not fit serve the same purpose, but with a little more wiggle room?

How many times have you stepped on the scale with set numbers in your head? A number to not be over, and if you are over, you feel bummed. A number to be under, and if you’re under, you feel a sense of hope and success. But if you didn’t know your number at all, if you didn’t have a chance to step on that scale, and you simply had to base your happiness with your body and your appearance based on looking in the mirror, would you be happier more and sad less? You can’t look in the mirror and truly see a two pound difference. You can step on a scale and see you’re two pounds heavier than you want to be, and how you react to that is up to you, but you’re not going to see those two pounds when you look in the mirror.

It’s all a mental game, and if it’s not a positive one, maybe I don’t need to play it.

I gave birth to my children when I was 26 and 29. When I turned 30 I decided I was a little bit wiser. Because 30 is “so old” right? Maybe not wiser, but a bit more confident. I am confident, not arrogant. There is a difference, and I certainly have more room to grow, but I’m come a long way. You should join me on that path, it’s a pretty good one. I decided in my 30’s I would do more things for me. Yes, I did plenty of things for me in my 20’s, but there was so many big ticket bucket list items during that time – college, grad school, marriage, babies – that eventually one must come out of the fog (as exciting as it is) and say, “Ok, and now who am I?” Or, “Who do I want to be?”

There’s many silly things on that 30’s list of things to do to take care of me – like actually trying out a skin care regimen because I’m not getting any younger and my laugh lines are getting more defined. Figuring out exactly who I am, what I’m good at, what I’m placed on this Earth to do is on that list. How much I weigh while discovering all that, is not.

Once upon a time I would have stepped on the scale every day. I know people who have to step on it every day. Think of some of the most incredible people you know. Think of some of the women in your life who have made your life better simply by them being a part of it. Do any of them weigh themselves and grumble about their weight? YES! I know many that do. I know women who are successful in their careers, who take care of their families in the most loving way, and they still include how much they weigh, and the size of their dresses, as a deciding factor of how much they are worth.

As someone who is hopeful that there really is a Heaven, my assumption is God will not ask me to step on the scale prior to entry.

Yes, I am all for being healthy. Yes, I myself would like to lose more weight and become stronger. But I would like to base how I change my mind and body on what I see in the mirror, and whether I need to buy a new wardrobe because my clothes are too tight or too loose, but not base my mental state on an arbitrary number that should come with an asterisk next to it. An asterisk because maybe I weigh X-amount and that sounds high but I have a lot of muscle. Or an asterisk because maybe I don’t weigh that much but I’m short and my frame is small. Or an asterisk because my number is high but I’m tall and I have fitness goals in mind that require I weigh that much. Or an asterisk because Taco Tuesday is amazing and I regret nothing.

So the scale is gone, my friends. And she’s not coming back for awhile, until SHE shows me her worth. Yes the scale is a “She” because she can be a real B-word.

Fit Mom

The Jogging Stroller: A Love/Hate Relationship

If you’re a parent who has even the slightest care towards staying active, you likely have a jogging stroller. They’re not cheap, but they do often come in handy, even when you’re not jogging. I have run many, many miles with mine, with both of my children (separately, I don’t have a double) but I have never learned how to fold it down. It’s been 5 years with that thing, why bother to learn now?

It’s a serious love/hate relationship with this stroller.

I love that it gives me the option to still run when I do not have childcare for my children. I love that it shows them from an early age that being active should be a regular part of life. After watching my husband and I run through the park, stopping occasionally to do push-ups, my son would ask to get out of the stroller so he could run and do push-ups, when he was just two years old. Teach them while they’re young! They are watching! I love that when I haven’t been able to convince my kids that a nap is a great idea, I’ve put them in the stroller and eventually the motion makes them fall asleep. Dual purpose – fitness and nap accomplished!

I hate how much harder it is to run when pushing a heavy human in a heavy stroller. You might as well throw time and distance goals out the window. I can’t run as fast as I normally can. Mine doesn’t have a swivel front wheel, so while it is is sturdy, it does require a smidgen of extra work when making turns. It also helps if you make sure the wheels are totally pumped up. I’m pretty sure I’ve run with half-flat wheels most of the time. I don’t recommend that. However, if I can run several miles with a stroller, how many can I do when I’m not pushing one?

Moms (and Dads – though I’m not a dude so I can’t truly speak for you), don’t let kids be an excuse for a lack of exercise. Put them in a jogging stroller and let them get some fresh air while you sweat like a pig. Don’t forget their water and snacks! Be prepared to stop frequently. Be prepared for it to not go totally as planned. Know that it’s okay to walk. You can even make it an exciting game – have your kid squeal and cheer you on when you do sprints, then walk for a bit, and repeat. Don’t go past a playground unless it’s near the end of your run. Embrace the difficulty, but know you’re doing something great for you while being a great example for your child.

Keep running, friends!

 

Dieting

How To Successfully Diet The Paleo Way

For the month of July I took on the challenge of trying out the Paleo Diet. It’s a pretty popular diet most people have heard about, but may not totally understand. Nerd Fitness says it’s pretty well, “If a caveman didn’t eat it, neither should you.” Now don’t confuse that with thinking everything must be eaten raw or cooked over a campfire. It just means stay away from processed, man-made, fake food creations. You do have culinary freedom to be creative with the caveman ingredients, and put together some fun meals that will satisfy your taste buds, and make a caveman jealous.

Once you get past the negative connotation that this diet can give off – it’s no fun, it’s not realistic, it’s too difficult – and you sit down and actually give it a try, it’s not that bad. Really. I’m being serious.

What I like about a structured diet is that it has a list of foods that are acceptable to eat, which makes grocery shopping a heck of a lot easier. Here’s the list, and thus that I is what I buy. As this diet does not require you to measure or weigh food, you can literally just throw a bunch of stuff together in a pan or pot and voila, dinner is served! If you struggle with coming up with recipes on your own, and having to switch from your typical go-to meals, simply head on over to Pinterest.

So how does one get started and actually succeed at this diet?

  1. Do a quick read online and understand what the diet entails.
  2. Go in with a positive, excited attitude. If you’re a downer and skeptic from the start, then you’re going to last about two days and likely complain a lot.
  3. Stick with the list, but be realistic. I know hardcore paleo dieters would likely give me grief about this, but if you can’t find (or afford) the organic or grass-fed version of a food item, the regular item is fine if it is still healthier than whatever other alternative you used to eat.
  4. If you don’t want to give up alcohol, switch to red wine. If you don’t like red wine, well there’s more than one type, and likely there is something out there that’ll satisfy your drinking urges.
  5. Prepare for future meals. You don’t have to do an entire meal prep, but for instance, today I will take out meat or fish from the freezer and put it in the fridge so it is ready for breakfast or lunch tomorrow. I don’t want mealtime to come and I’m left with minimal choices, or only bad choices, simply because I didn’t take 15 seconds to thaw out something the day before.

How did my challenge go? After having done the Zone Diet strictly in May, and then semi-strict in June, my body is pretty used to this type of eating now. I had lost several pounds in May and June and my body has stayed the same in July. I think it is now sitting comfortably and I need to give a swift kick to get it going again.

Note: This diet did not have a negative impact on my ability to exercise. I still have plenty of energy. I know for many active folks that is always a concern, but I did not find it to be the case for me. Now if you are completely changing your diet, it may, but in just a short period of time, your body should adjust positively.

I have decided my August challenge will be all about running. I have a half-marathon to run later in the month (that starts at 4:30 AM, ugh!) so my focus will be on discussing tips to get started on a running program, how to stick with it when it sucks, how to improve your endurance, and so on…

Stay healthy and active, friends!

Exercise Motivation

How To Stay Motivated When It’s Flipping Hot Outside

Today the heat index is 104* F/40* C. It’s a scorcher! As life would have it, mid-afternoon was the only time I could go for a run today, so I embraced the heat. I don’t recommend this for new runners, or anyone not used to this type of climate. I was equipped with my running belt, sunglasses, heatgear shirt, and GU pack. It is possible to go for a decent run in less-than-ideal conditions, but one must be smart about it. I made it 5.15 miles before calling it quits.

So how does one stay motivated to not only sustain a run, but actually go outside and get started on a run when it feels like you’re entering the gates of Hell?

  1. Prep beforehand. Don’t drink a bunch of coffee that elevates your body temperature and heart rate, and then go out into the heat. You will sweat your tail off. The same goes for beer, or even the morning after a booze binge. Drink water, water, and more water.
  2. Don’t leave home without the key survival essentials. Because I live in an area that is always hot, I rarely run without my water belt. I just absolutely need it, or I start daydreaming about water and lose all motivation, plus I could put myself at harm. If you don’t want to wear a water belt, put a water bottle inside your mailbox and take laps back to your house for quick water breaks.
  3. Dress smart. This is pretty obvious, but just in case… You do not need to wear extra layers to sweat more and lose more. Please don’t do that in hot conditions. Wear something that is breathable and comfortable to wear when wet.
  4. Think shade. An open road or path might be great for solidarity and lack of noise, but it also sucks for keeping you shaded. Find trees, tall buildings, wherever you can to keep you out of the sun as much as a possible.

Ok, so these items will help give you a successful run, but maybe they won’t be all you need to motivate yourself to run. When the weather app says “it feels like death” outside, how do you get yourself to say, “screw it, I got this”? A sense of pride and accomplishment always help me. Anyone (healthy) can run in 75* F weather, but who can run in 100*+ weather? Only the truly motivated and tough, right? Be that tough person. Be that person that says, “No excuses.” Know that if you can run in hot, sunny, or humid conditions, how much better will your run be on that cool, breezy day? You’ll appreciate that cooler climate, that’s for darn sure. Your body will be stronger. Your body will be tougher. Your mind and heart will be more dedicated.

Stay healthy, friends, and remember to drink your water!

Dieting

Diet Realities

How do you lose weight? We all know the answer to that – diet and exercise. There’s no secret, no magic pill, no cure for being overweight. Change your diet, change the amount you exercise, and voila! Hello weight-loss. But in reality, it’s not quite that simple.

So much of life is mentality. That damn brain calls all the shots. It decides if you’re happy, scared, motivated, and decides if you have the will power to choose cucumbers over crackers.

Somewhere along in life our perception towards food got complicated. Once upon a time there weren’t so many choices. We had to hunt, gather, and go out fishing for our food. (I wonder if the toddlers of those people ever said, “that’s yucky, I don’t want it” to parents of that time?) I don’t know for certain, but do you think back hundreds of years ago, people were concerned about eating too much bread and overloading on carbohydrates? “If you keep all that bread, you’ll be too fat to walk to the water well!”

Diets, though often laid out well for people to follow, can get complicated. Why on one diet is beans okay, and on another they are shunned? Why is corn healthy, but it’ll cause you to bloat? Why are some anti red meat, while others think of it as a good source of protein? All that information coming at you from different sources, all with different opinions, can leave you standing in front of the refrigerator door thinking, “Ahhhh! I don’t know!” I get it. It can be serious mental overload when you’re just trying to make the right decision but you’re not sure what actually is right.

Here’s my advice for any of you who are looking to change your dietary ways:

  • Be realistic. If you eat heavy carbs almost daily, dessert on a regular basis, love sodas and processed snacks, then take your time easing into a new diet. If you decide “Come Monday, I’m not eating pasta, cookies, snacks, or drinking soda again” do you really think you’ll stick to it? Going “cold turkey” on so many items at one time is not going to go well. You’ll be angry. Frustrated. You’ll give up. Take it slow – cut out the soda one week. Then the next week, cut out pasta, or cut out carbs from lunch every day, and eat them during dinner. Or vise versa. (Note: I’m not anti carbs, you need carbs in your life, but the healthy kind that come from fruits and vegetables.)
  • Be honest with yourself. We all think we eat healthy. No one wants to admit they’re putting a bunch of crap into their bodies every single day. Take a good look at your diet. At the end of the day, write down everything you ate. You don’t have to share it with anyone and fear being embarrassed. Be truthful with yourself – did you eat more than you needed? Are the amounts of fruits and veggies too low?
  • Don’t make excuses, just find the source of the problem. Are you overfilling your plate at dinner and just finishing those last few bites you don’t really need because it’s easier than throwing it away, or saving it? Are you filling your plate as much as your husband’s, but he’s 50 lbs heavier than you, so really you shouldn’t be having equal shares? Are you afraid of saying no when people ask you to go out to eat with them? So then you go out, and because you don’t want to get into a long, inwardly frustrating discussion about trying to eat healthier, you order the burger instead of the fish? Find the source of the problem – why can’t you stick to a diet? Why can’t you change your habits. Then fix it.
  • Eating anything better than what you currently do, is “right”. After you’ve figured out the source of your problem, were honest with yourself, and have made the decision to be realistic with changing your dietary habits, you are now faced with the “Okay, so what do I eat”. If you didn’t have enough vegetables in your life before, start there. Even if the corn or the beans make you a little bloated or gassy, it’s still better than munching on a bag of chips. Increase the veggies and fruit, decrease the amount of boxed stuff, and you will see progress.

For the month of July I am trying out the Paleo Diet. It is popular amongst many Crossfit athletes (I don’t do crossfit), and is thought of as the “Cave Man” diet. Basically, if you can’t hunt or gather it, it’s not to be eaten. There’s a lot of common household foods that are on the do-not-eat list, but truthfully it’s pretty simple to follow, just not all that culinarily exciting. Because I previously did the Zone Diet for a month, my will power is quite strong right now. My mentality towards certain foods – pasta, rice, boxed snacks, sugar – has changed. I don’t crave those items. My body has done well without them, thus my brain has rewired itself to not want to gravitate towards those items at all.

Time and patience is critical. I did the Zone Diet for a month. We can do ANYTHING for one month. No seriously, you can. It’s 30 days, not 30 years. That is all the time you need to rewire your brain, change your mentality, and gain the will power to make dietary changes.

And remember, that bad food had to get into your kitchen somehow. If you don’t buy it, you can’t eat it.

Good luck in the kitchen my friends, you can do this!

Exercise Motivation

Why We Should Support Our Fitness Friends

I believe one of the absolute best foundations a person can live by is to be a supporter, not a competitor. I’m not saying participating in competitions is bad – that’s not what I’m referring to. I’m a huge believer in participating in races, going for your dreams, trying to the best you, you can be. What I’m talking about is more comparing yourself to others in a competitive manner.

So you exercised five days a week, gave up pantry snacks, and your friend lost weight but you didn’t. That’s frustrating, I know. It doesn’t feel fair, does it? But what’s the alternative – she gain weight? She become sad? Is that what you actually want for your friend, for the sake of keeping things “fair”? No! For your own sanity, your friendship, and for you to be the person that shines a positive light on others, congratulate her. Tell her your proud of her, and keep doing you, boo.

Since becoming a mother, I have noticed how excited a child is when they see him/herself in the mirror. You ever notice that? A toddler is all smiles and excitement! Simply pure joy to see their face, their outfit, their crazy post-nap hair. If we all looked out ourselves in the mirror with the same excitement of a child, we’d be a much happier world. But so many people will look in the mirror and start pointing out the negatives. They start comparing their hair/face/make-up/body/attire to someone else, or to some standard. Again – comparing and competing only does harm to ourselves.

A gym should be an encouraging, happy place. Personally I never pay attention to other people at a gym – It’s “me” time – and I firmly believe the perception that people are being judged while there is just something people have made up in their heads from being self-conscious and uncomfortable in that setting. Yes, I am certain judgments have happened, but screw those people. They are likely few and far. If you’re severely overweight, don’t think someone at the gym is judging you negatively for being there. You’re there! You’re trying! If you’re walking on the treadmill and the person next to you is running and slinging sweat everywhere (I hate when that happens) it’s okay. You don’t have to run. Tell them they’ve done a good job – even the pros need an encouraging, positive word now and then.

Don’t compare. Be supportive. And if you want to wear a princess dress while doing TRX, put on that tiara and do your thing girl.

General Fitness

The Strength of Life

I’m supposed to be writing about strength training this month, as that’s what I promised to whoever follows me on Facebook and Instagram, but I have something on my heart so I’m going to stray off topic. But it’s just a smidge off, I promise. Hopefully it’s worth it to someone other than me.

We take care of our bodies. We wreck our bodies. We carefully prepare each meal, or we eat whatever want. In the end – and I mean the real end – it only partially matters.

Yes, eating healthy and exercising gives us the energy to grab life by the balls and live it fully. Yes, it will keep us from getting certain diseases and impairments. But when our last day comes, there is only so much we can could have done to prevent it. I would like to think that most of us don’t say, “Well my life was great – I traveled, I loved, but… I never fit into that smaller size I always wanted to be.”

My races and physical challenges that I have embraced have made me proud, and I’m not afraid to be proud. I think somewhere in childhood we learn to be scared to be proud of ourselves in fear of coming across as arrogant. There’s a difference and it should be easy to spot. If you gave yourself a challenge, or were confronted with some tough obstacles, and overcame them, then yes be proud of yourself. Tell us on Facebook. That’s not bragging. If we’re really your friends, we’ll be proud of you too.

But with an effort towards leading a decently healthy lifestyle, I still don’t know when my final day will come, as you likely don’t either. Most don’t. I will still eat my vegetables. I will still exercise, because I firmly believe that most people who exercise are generally happy people. There are still those bad eggs in the bunch, but typically we’re happy, encouraging folks.

Live the life you want to live. Eat ice cream. Go for runs. Feel the pain in your limbs when you’re climbing obstacles. Find the vegetables you actually enjoy, and say “F That” to the ones you don’t. Life is too short to eat horrible food, but too long to not give a damn.

And because I did promise to talk about strength training… How can one fully get the benefits of life if they don’t feed their muscles? I have young children who still want to be held at times, and if I didn’t work on my arms and back, I’d wreak havoc on my body. I can’t lose that precious, fleeting time with them, so if it means spending time with weights and a bar, I’ll do it. They want to run around the yard, ride bikes, jump on the trampoline. Mommy couldn’t do that if she didn’t strengthen her legs. I’m not a “sit on the sidelines” kind of person. I hope you don’t want to be either.

So keep living, y’all. Lift a few weights. Go a run or walk and feel the fresh air all around.

Until next time…

Exercise Motivation

Why do you want to exercise?

Welcome to my blog. It’s nice to have you here.

So why do you want to exercise? Or diet? And how can my page help you on your journey?

I’m Jen, and I’m “normal”. I don’t stray too far on either side of the fitness or healthy eating spectrum. I believe exercise is a vital part of life. I prefer to do some level of activity everyday, but dedicate 30-90 minutes of structural exercise 3-6 days a week. I know and appreciate the value of fruits, vegetables, lean meats and fish, and minimal fats in my diet. But, I also understand when you’re in a new country or on vacation, that carpe diem should be applied to one’s diet.

So yes, I’m normal. But I also consider myself a motivated person, and I have had a few people tell me I’ve motivated them on their fitness journeys, even when I hadn’t intentionally tried to.

Why do you want to exercise? Is it is for your own mental and physical well-being? Is it because a medical professional told you you have to? Is it because you feel the social pressure to do so? Before one can succeed at reaching any sort of exercise goal, this question must be answered. You must also figure out if it’s a strong enough reason to keep you motivated. I exercise because I like it. I like watching myself overcome a fitness feat I had doubt I could reach. Mentally speaking, if I don’t exercise for a few days, I get really grumpy. Physically I feel a little gross. But that’s me. Those are my reasons. That is part of my exercise journey. What are your reasons? What keeps you motivated?

Why do you want to diet? I know you’ve heard this before, but doing a diet without any plan to change how you eat for the rest of your life is doomed to fail. If you stick to a diet for 2 months, good for you. But if you return to a previous, unhealthy way of eating immediately afterwards, well then what was the point?

How can my page help you? If you hadn’t already read on my Facebook page, or from following me on Instagram, I am on a mission to try out different exercise and diet plans over several months. I will give honest feedback on how the plans are going, and whether they live up to the claims we all hear about. For the month of May, I checked out the Zone Diet, which is very popular among crossfitters (I am not one). During June I will continue the Zone Diet, but without it being the main topic of focus, as I will be dedicating this month to Strength Training. I hope you join me!