Fitness

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If you have any level of specificity in your professional dealings, you’ve likely found yourself with a phrase or two that you use on an annoyingly regular basis. Or, if you’re like me, you have about eleventy-seven of them.

There’s one that I use so often that even I get annoyed with me.

“Get comfortable being uncomfortable!”

I work in the fitness industry as a personal trainer and Group X instructor. In short, I get to help people have fun while beating themselves up. But the truth is that it leads to short-term pain, which is uncomfortable. Hence the phrase.

ANYWAYS. After annoying even myself with the phrase I had to take a step back and analyze my own activity. And the truth is that I’m perfectly comfortable being in pain. It’s my normal. So it’s not uncomfortable. Which makes me a hypocrite for using the phrase so much. Right? Well shucks.

So I had to think about it. And then I had to stomp around pouting, because it dawned on me what truly makes me uncomfortable. Being still.

Have we met? Me be still?

So I dragged my hypocritical self off to a yoga class. Where I have to be calm. Where I have to be still. Where I have to be centered.

I spent the first 20 minutes fighting with myself. This is the part of the class where we awaken our muscles and get in touch with our breathing. How? BY DOING NOTHING BUT BREATHING.

“Please thank yourself for being here. Invite your mind to relax. Invite your thoughts to do nothing but focus on the inhalation and exhalation of the breath.”

Okay. Breathe. Inhale. Exhale. Thank God I brushed my teeth. Power breather to the right of me clearly didn’t. We’re almost out of toothpaste. Good thing it’s a Costco weekend. What else do we need? OMG! Come back brain! Breathe!

“That’s right. Think of the rising and falling of your chest as you breathe. Feel your body react to the gift of oxygenation. Thank yourself for taking in the oxygen.”

I took a second to peek around the room. Everyone looked so Zen with their palms up and chins lifted. I wondered if they were thanking themselves. Shoot. The teacher is looking at me with a frown. Eyes closed! Breathe! Thank yourself! Good job, Wen. Way to breathe. Way to oxygenate. Do we get extra credit for oxygenating at this altitude? Does the lack of oxygen make this, “Extreme Yoga?” I deserve a new title now that I’m a yogi. Bendy Wendy. Yeah that’s good.

And so it went. I continued to invite my thoughts to shut the hell up. They continued to cruise all over the place. In my defense, I didn’t pass out. So obviously I managed to breathe. I thanked myself for this.

Somehow I made it through the class without falling over or talking (although I still got some funny looks from the instructor).

When we finally reached the end of the interminable stillness, the teacher had us all flat on our backs relaxing each muscle one by one. And do you know how this is done? By invitation. We invite our muscles to relax.

Well okay. I’m a friendly kind of gal. I don’t mind inviting my muscles to a big ole relaxation party. But I have limits. I just do. And when the instructor calmly told us to, “invite your eyes to gently drop back into their sockets,” I simply lost it. I whipped my head up so fast that I pulled a muscle in my neck. WHO HAS THEIR EYES OUT OF THEIR SOCKETS? Who is this person?

Having confirmed that everyone had either already invited them back in or else had them trapped behind their lids to begin with I devolved into complete hysterics. I could not stop laughing. I was just done.

So while the instructor may invite us to breathe and oxygenate and socket wrench our eyes, she likely will not invite me back to class.

But hey. I got uncomfortable ;)

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Situation one…

We’ve all seen the commercials. Scantily clad women working out with smiles on their faces, makeup just so, not a hair out of place and of course, NO trace of sweat. The clip will either have a background babe with bulging biceps or an aerobics class where no one misses a step. The premise is that you, YES YOU on the couch can look this great too if you just sign up now!

How many of us have said forget it right there on the spot? We can’t possibly go to the gym until we are properly adorned, coordinated and in shape. That said, we tell ourselves that we’ll just put it off until such time as we are. We vow to change the channel the second that annoying commercial comes on.

Situation two…

You’ve done it and you’re feeling so proud of yourself! You’ve joined a gym! You are absolutely determined that you will make it 5 days a week. You’ll lift! You’ll sweat out all impurities as you cardio your way to your heart’s (literally) content! You’ve just never felt quite so good about yourself. You slam your locker shut, run your own pep talk through your brain and head for the weights. And then it happens. You find yourself in the midst of a hundred or so machines that look like prehistoric creatures and you don’t have a clue what any of them are for. How can you possibly remain in the room with all these other people that know exactly what they’re doing? As you leave the weight room (making a big show of throwing your hands up in the air as though you’ve forgotten something) you take consolation in the fact that you can tell anyone who asks that you went to the gym today.

Do either of these situations sound familiar to you? If so, then congratulations! You ARE normal! We all have reasons why we can’t workout today. As a personal trainer, I have heard every excuse that there is…work schedule, family commitments, PTA meetings, too tired, lack of motivation, or my personal favorite, “I try to get to the gym, but a cheese pizza and a rerun of Friends always seem to get in my way.”

While a gym or a health club is a convenient way to get in shape (and one I highly recommend), it is NOT the be-all-end-all of fitness. The first step you need to take now that you’ve decided to get into shape is to outsmart your excuses!

Welcome to the first fitness article you’ve ever read that isn’t even asking you to get up and move! I’d love to see you be successful, and I want to ensure that you have some tools to do so. So if you’re still with me (because let’s face it, most of my readers come for the funny, not for some homework), let’s start by setting up a workout plan.

You’ll find that these tips can be effective whether you head to the gym or prefer to workout in the privacy of your own home. Already ready already? Let’s start.

  1. Buy yourself a notebook and commit to NOT shoving it in a drawer.
  2. Page 1: “Why I want to get in shape.” Write down all of your reasons for starting a program.  This will be a great page to refer to on those days where your heart is just not in it.
  3. Page 2: Goals. Just about everyone who comes to me for a fitness consultation answers this question by saying they want to lose weight and tone up. I want more! Be specific. Look at yourself in the mirror and decide exactly what you’d like to change. But please – do not allow yourself to determine a goal weight. The scale cannot tell you how much of you is fat and how much of you is muscle. In fact, most people starting a workout program will notice a slight increase in their weight at first because muscle weighs more than fat, and you’re finally building some! Stay off the scale and use the mirror and the fit of your clothes as a guide.
  4. Page 3: Cardiovascular: How will you do it? People love to ask me what the best form of cardiovascular exercise is. My answer? The one that you’ll actually do! Each of us is different. Maybe running is your thing. Maybe you have more fun in Zumba. Maybe it’s biking or rowing or Insanity or whatever. It doesn’t matter! Find out which type of cardio you ENJOY. There is no need to make yourself miserable. And how are you going to be accountable? Are you going to cardio by yourself and keep track? Attend a class? Sweat it out with a friend?
  5. Page 4: Strength training: Yes, strength training. Ladies in the audience: if you’ve told yourself you’re avoiding this because you don’t want to bulk up just throw that myth out the window right now. It’s not going to happen. Seriously.  So now that you’ve agreed to add page 4: Will you use equipment at a gym? Hand held weights at home? Attend a sculpting class? Perform toning exercises using your own body weight? All of these options are good, but first you need to learn how to do them so that you do them safely. There is a variety of help out there for this ranging from workout DVDS to classes at the gym/community center to personal trainers (and also, hi! Hello! If a trainer is your choice, hire me!). Determine which method is most comfortable, convenient and affordable for you and either order, enroll or set up a session NOW!
  6. Page 5: Excuses. Now that you’ve set up a basic guide to follow you need to determine your plan of attack for sticking to it. Make a list of every single excuse that has ever gotten in your way. Even the silly ones that you’re too embarrassed to tell anyone else about. Then below each excuse write a solution that invalidates it. If you can beat your excuses, you WILL be successful. If you need help with this part just let me know. I love to slaughter excuses.

Look, I get it. Getting into a routine can be really hard. I have been in your shoes (see how I worked shoes in?). There is never an easy answer or a fast solution. But if you follow through on the 6 items above you will have formulated a plan that you can start now and stick with later. This is a plan for life, not a 5 minute per day miracle. This is a plan that can help you no matter where you are in your fitness journey and no matter what age or weight you might be. You are far from alone in your fitness frustrations. I have yet to meet a person who hasn’t had them. Stop looking for the quick fix and congratulate yourself on committing to a lasting solution.

And there you have it. You’ve started your new fitness plan and you haven’t even broken a sweat! Maybe you aren’t so unlike those people in the commercials after all…

**Wendy is certified in personal training, spinning, core stability/functional fitness and group exercise. She thinks it’s only right to confess that she began her fitness career at a club with perfect commercials. She works out to maintain her sanity and to attempt to look like she isn’t the grandma that she is. And yes, she sweats.**