Groundwork *or* 5 Tips for Making Exercise a Habit

15 11 2010

Current Habit: Meditation/Yoga Day 1

Sophie: Well, we finally finished our three weeks of working out, and we survived!  I can tell a few differences in my body – my abs are tighter, calf muscles are a little more defined, and my endurance has definitely improved.  On the other hand, the fat is all still there.  I know, realistically, that I can’t expect to lose much weight in 3 weeks, I guess I just didn’t realize how much work I had ahead of me.  But that’s ok!  Because I am NOT on a diet, I am making healthy, permanent lifestyle changes (Deryn, this phrase is not to be turned into a new drinking game).

Despite knowing that my the 3 weeks are up, and I don’t HAVE to exercise every day, I still have the desire to do it.  I’ve come up with a few tips for this habit to stick:

1. Figure out the routine that works for you. I’m not going to expect much more than 30 minutes a day out of myself if this is going to be a permanent habit.  Because of this, I want to use those 30 minutes as wisely as possible.  There are a TON of workouts out there: I tried lifting weights and hurt myself (unfortunately in the groin, which made for a mildly entertaining “post-rough-sex”-type walk for a few days)…I don’t want to bulk up, so I decided not to try this again. I experimented with exercise videos from Verizon OnDemand/ExerciseTV – I like these, but my attention span is apparently 10 minutes, and 3 10 minute videos do not a good workout make. I did 20 minutes of various crunches one time, but my abs weren’t at all sore the next day – not effective.  I tried a kickboxing class – very effective, and everyone there was very.very.very friendly…personally, I don’t want to have to pretend to be social when I’m sweating from every pore and just trying not to vomit.  I also attempted to pass off 30 minutes of a ‘brisk walk’ with Rufus as a workout, but I couldn’t fool myself into thinking that was legitimate.  Ultimately, it came down to running.  There’s a TV in front of the treadmill, it works every muscle in my body, and I can easily measure exactly how many calories burned.  Done.

2. Nix the unrealistic expectations – It’s basic math: One pound = 3,500 calories; One pound/week loss = burning 500 calories a day.  This can be done by a combination of cutting calories in and burning calories by exercising.  I only eat between 1,500 – 2,000 calories a day, so the cut isn’t gonna be there unless you take my alcohol away….boo.  As a good rough estimate for myself – according to my treadmill – Every 1 mile I walk/jog = 100 calories, and I can do 2 -2.5 miles in 30 minutes.   So now that we have the math down, it’s ridiculous for me, personally, to think that I could lose any more than a pound a week unless I cut out the wine and run like 10 miles a day, which I will not.  So, if I’m dedicated, I might hit my goal weight in like 4-5 months.  Slow and steady wins the race, right?

Anyways, there’s no miracle cure.  If you find one, it’s probably just a laxative in disguise (been there, done that; no.thank.you.)  It took years to put the pounds on, it’s going to take time to take them off.

(My first attempt at drawing stick figures)

3.  Prepare answers to your excuses – if you don’t want to go straight to the gym after work because you’re always hungry by 5, then bring an extra snack.  If your feet hurt, get better shoes or inserts.  If you find your workout boring, bring a book.  If you don’t like working out the way you usually do, find another activity.  If you don’t have time, figure out how you can make time.  If you’re tired, realize that you’re gonna be tired whether you workout or not, so get over it.  Don’t let the excuses take over, because all you’re doing is getting in the way of your own wants and needs.

4. Tell people about what you’re doing – Yes, this it’s nuts coming from super-private-Sophie, but if I hadn’t had Deryn and Boyfriend’s support on this, it would have been a lot harder.  Boyfriend has to understand that his demands for my time need to be adjusted.  I may be OK with disappointing myself, but I certainly don’t want to fail when people are watching.  Maybe it’s superficial, but it drives me, so oh well.

5. Figure out your motivation – Mine is two fold, and (again) partly superficial –

A. I’m poor, and I have nothing to wear.  I have a closet full of clothes that don’t fit me anymore because I put on 10 lbs, but I can’t afford to buy any new clothes.  I started thinking about getting a part-time job, and then my logical side kicked in: Seriously?  A part time job is what, like 10 hours a week?  It would take half that amount of time per week to lose the weight necessary to fit into all these badass clothes I have hanging around.  Am I that lazy?  I’d like to think not….plus I’d be cuter. It’s purely logical.

B. My Grandmother and Mother both failed to stay active throughout their lives, and lost their marbles around the age of 60.  Grandma’s completely nuts at 83, but my mother is still a fairly normal woman.  I feel like she can still turn this process around (and has a long list of excuses why she doesn’t) but at 63, she struggles to remember words and finish her sentences in a normal conversation.  I can tell that her mind is going due to lack of upkeep, and I don’t want to end up like that.  I want to be one of those 90 year-olds that can still debate the crap out of you, and exercise is what makes the difference.  (I could go off on another Brain Rules sales pitch here – as the book expands on this subject, but I’ll spare you 🙂 )

One random tip we picked up along the way: people who smell peppermint every two hours eat an average of 2,700 calories less per week.  We haven’t tried it yet, but it’s worth checking out (since we have already been experimenting with Aromatherapy).  Merry Christmas.

So there you have it, Sophie’s Guide to Starting an Exercise Program.  You’re welcome.  On to meditation…

Readers: What has worked for you that you think could be added to this list?





Revival *or* And for you, Tin Man, a heart!

9 11 2010

Current Habit: Exercising, Day 15

Deryn: This weekend I slept at least 36 hours between Friday night and Monday morning, and I haven’t shown much life in the last week.  Even after a dye job went a bit awry, my reaction was a mere “Eh.  I’ll figure it out later.”  (I did.  I no longer have girl-who-listens-to-too-much-Seattle-rock-in-1994 hair).  To sum it up, I was apathetic.  As has been mentioned before, my tendency is to be dead inside, and that’s something this blog is helping (and hoping) to change.

Tonight, I mentioned to Sophie that I was tired of all the upkeep necessary in life.  I have a job so I have a place to live, I work out because I want to stay alive and healthy, I bathe regularly for basic hygiene and employment purposes.  And don’t even get me started on having to eat and drink water…It’s a vicious cycle.  Sophie being Sophie – always wanting to fix the problems of others if they are dumb enough to whine about them to her – smacked me in the face with a tough question: What do you want out of life?

Think about it for a second in your life.  What do you want out of your life?

No answer came to mind for me.  The only thing I could think of was coming home and watching TV.  Acknowledging that is a pathetic way to live, I started giving it some serious thought.

What do I want out of my life?  It’s a choice, after all.  For me, the answer is a resounding “Travel!”

Then all the reasons that travel isn’t possible for me came spilling out.  I don’t have the time or the money.  I have a work culture that doesn’t allow for vacation.  It’s probably human nature to talk ourselves out of our dreams.  Shooting an idea down is easier than it is to come up with solutions.  As my dad used to say, “If you come to me with a problem and no solution, then you’re just whining.  I don’t tolerate whining.”

As the conversation continued, Sophie brought up the fact that I really enjoyed making our Halloween costumes (shown in these two pictures).  For the past few weeks I’ve been especially preoccupied with sewing Halloween costumes for Sophie and myself.  She was right.  I love sewing.  It is a positive and productive outlet for my obsessive compulsive personality, plus at the end you get something pretty!  I have a bunch of patterns and material all ready to be sewn in to some adorable outfits just sitting in my closet that I’ve been collecting for the last few years.  Sophie suggested I start sewing again and actually make some of those things.  It was brilliant!  Within about 5 minutes, I went from being apathetic to getting really excited about all the new projects in store!  We went through my sewing drawer and found that I have a skirt, a pair of pants, two shirts and three pillows just waiting to be sewn.  I have all the material, patterns and time, only needing to purchase a few zippers and some thread.  All my excuses have been effectively tossed out the window.  Now I can’t wait to come home tomorrow night and start my new projects.  That’s probably a much better thing to do than hurrying home to get in my pajamas and watch Parenthood.  That’s what a DVR is for!

More than anything, I think I’m learning that it’s going to take more than just creating some new habits to get away from my old apathetic ways.  I can make myself happy and not let the excuses prevail.  Self-reflection is an important part of the journey for me.  To really change who I am is also going to involve regularly taking stock of my emotional state and coming up with new habits so the old ones don’t resurface.  To start with, do I have an emotional state?  Maybe I’m starting from the remedial class on how to feel like other humans feel, but with regular self-reflection I may just graduate and become a full fledged human, heart and all!





Frustration *or* Did My Boss Really Just Yell at Me for Peeing?

26 10 2010

Current Habit: Exercising, Day 1

Deryn: Today is the first day of a brand new habit: Working out for 30 minutes every day.  It could not have come at a better time.

The past few days at work have been particularly frustrating.  So frustrating, in fact, that the 2 days of being away from work still weren’t enough for me to become un-frustrated.  That’s especially amazing considering I can cure just about any bad mood by playing no more than three Bon Jovi songs.  Livin’ on a Prayer, Baby!  Then this afternoon I was reprimanded for going to the restroom.  No, really.  That’s what happened.

One of my responsibilities is to answer the phone.  That, in itself, is frustrating enough, considering I don’t do anything with customers except answer the phone and forward the call to the person they actually need to talk to.  There are only 2 people that anyone ever calls to speak with, and I am not one of them.  Why don’t they answer the phone?  I just don’t know.  So when it was 2:45, I’d already been working for 7 hours,  and I had still not gotten a chance to eat my lunch (which is almost always done at my desk because heaven forbid I take an actual lunch break), I figured it was a prudent time to use the restroom.  I just really had to pee, man!  It’s not that the day was particularly hectic, I was just trying to focus on finishing a project.  When I got back to my desk – literally one minute later – my boss was in a tizzy.  “What if the phone had rung? … Why didn’t you bring the phone with you to the restroom?”  No, my boss apparently could not have answered the phone.  No, we don’t have voice mail.  And no, our customers are apparently too stupid to call back a little later if nobody answers.

After that whole extravaganza had calmed down, it occurred to me that tonight is the first day of a whole new work out routine!  What a great day to get rid of some stress!  Rather than using beer to make me feel better, I’ll take some endogenous opioid peptides, otherwise known as endorphins.

I’m really excited about this one for a few reasons:

1) When I have been in shape in the past, I never really appreciated it.  I was so focused on looking like someone else that I didn’t fully appreciate what it looked like to just be a good-looking version of myself.

2) I’d like to be able to do things when I’m older.  Being out of shape or unhealthy just doesn’t seem like a fun way to go about life.

3) Gotta love the endorphins!

The real test for me is going to be how I feel once I get home.  I’ve never worked out every day for 21 days in a row.  Usually I’ll get on a work out kick and do well for about a week or two, but then the determination fades.  Once my pans are starting to fit a little tightly again, the work out routine comes back in to play.  21 days is a great because it seems possible without being daunting.  Luckily, I’ll probably have the same job for the next three weeks and that’s proven to be a consistent source of stress and anger.  At least I won’t run out of motivation.

How’s that for optimism?





Positive Changes *or* Sophie Gets Deep

10 10 2010

Current Habit: Waking Up Early, Day 7

Sophie: So this whole habit-creating idea is having a ton of positive effects on my life and relationship that I did not expect, and it’s kind of awesome.  Apparently, if you take a little time to figure out what you want out of life, then map out a game plan to accomplish that, it makes you happier!  I know, right?  It’s like some crazy novel idea…or not.  But I, and apparently a ton of other people, have forgotten this simple concept.  I think this happens easily with the instant-gratification mindset of a lot of Americans today…along with busier lifestyles, demanding jobs, families, etc.  Or maybe people just aren’t teaching their kids the value of a little focus and determination anymore.  But to be honest, it didn’t take a whole lot of effort to make some changes.  It was thinking about making the changes that was so overwhelming.  Really, I just sat down one day and thought “Who do I wish I could be?” wrote it down, wrote down some things I needed to do to become that ideal person, and jumped right in!

Focusing on this blog is the first concerted effort I have made to really improve my life since graduating college 5 years ago.  My career hasn’t really gone anywhere, I haven’t returned to grad school, and I’ve been with the same boyfriend in a static relationship the whole time.  Quite frankly, I’ve been pretty unhappy and lost without school in my life – some sort of goal to always be working towards.  I’ve been aware of this void, but haven’t been able to figure out how to repair it.  When I set out to start this year long quest and associated blog, I didn’t think it was going to be the solution; it was just something to do.  Now that I’m 3.5 weeks in, I think this is the best thing that could have happened to me.  Well, it didn’t really happen TO me, I just took the initiative to start something.  Nevertheless, it’s had some fantastic effects, and I thought I would share.

First, and I may be completely off base here, but I’m pretty sure I’ve gotten smarter since we started this… maybe not Stephen Hawking smart, but I’m definitely a little more articulate, slightly more quick-witted, have a better memory, and am able to focus more easily.  This might be a result of the specific habits I chose (so far: reading, and waking up early), or it could just be a benefit of being happier in general.  Taking time out of every day to focus on myself, being able to tell Boyfriend that his ‘needs’ have to wait until I’m done with mine, and having a brighter, constantly improving future to look forward to is a natural mood booster, and it’s reinforced every day.  Being in a better mood just has a domino effect on every other aspect of life – I’m more fun to be around, nicer to Boyfriend, motivated to do things (like clean the apartment – which has bonus benefits),  and I’m a hell of a lot more social than I was before.

On top of all that, there are aspects of my relationship that have improved drastically (*wink*wink*….just kidding…kind of).  For example, Boyfriend said to me the other day that he really respects and admires my motivation to improve myself, and it makes him want to strive to be a better person too.  This is INCREDIBLE coming from him, as I’ve never known him to think about self-improvement, or even the future beyond the upcoming weekend for that matter.  This, in turn, has given us more topics of conversation – a huge plus, because after 4.5 years with someone, you pretty much run out of stuff to talk about.  Also, as I mentioned before, he wakes up at the ass crack of dawn.  He’s done this since he was a kid and can’t sleep in even when he tries.  This results in about a 4 hour gap between when he gets up and when I get up, which in turn results in him getting bored and resorting to “natural remedies” to entertain himself, which pisses me off, and gets the whole day off to a bad start.  It’s an endless cycle, that was only broken when I started waking up at 6.  Now, instead of what has been happening, we have the early morning time to cuddle, drink coffee, talk (with all our new conversation material!) and just spend some quality time together that we have never had before.  I never would have imagined that all the time we spent talking about what we can do to fix our relationship could have been spared if I had just made myself a priority for a minute.  I highly recommend trying it





Positive Decisions *or* The Pile of Books I was Destined to Find

3 10 2010

Current Habit: Reading, Day 21/9

Deryn: Thursday after work my mood was, in a word, crabby.   True or not, I felt like the only places I went were home and work.  Leave home, go to work, go home, go back to work, go back home… The routine was getting to me.  When Sophie came home, I suggested maybe going to the bar that is two blocks from home where a beer costs $1.75.  Sophie shut that idea down for its obvious lack of nutrition.  I then suggested we go to Half Price Books, or as some people who live in this apartment call it, Heaven.   I had a list of books that I was excited to read and had conveniently just gotten paid.  Off we went!

Sophie has mentioned previously that she has a book addiction.  She buys 5-10 at a time on most trips to Half Price Books.  I’m more of a 1-2 book at a time kind of gal.  Too many books purchased at the same time means that I have to spend a good 20 minutes making a pro and con list for what order I will be reading each of the new books.  This particular trip didn’t start out well for me.  None of the books on my list were on the shelves and nothing else was really grabbing me.  Sophie, however, had 4 books in her arms within 15 minutes of getting there.  I was bummed.  Happy for her, but bummed for me.  It is rare that I actually have any room in my budget for the luxury of buying myself a book (even at half price).  The idea that I was in the store with money in my account and no books was maddening.  I scoured the shelves and picked up books that I really felt no interest in.  Then I’d  put them back, all the while feeling a little guilty for having lead them on in the first place.  I knew that book and I would never be going home together.  This just made my mood even worse.  I’m not typically a grumpy, negative or angry person, but I was all of those things in that moment.

And then it happened.  Sophie was ready to check out so we had come back to the front of the store.  I had one book.  It looked promising, but I wasn’t super excited about it.  With a sigh, I wandered over to a cart with a few piles of books.  There was a woman already going through them who looked uncannily like my mom.  In the pile closest to me were a few books I recognized: Love in the Time of Cholera (one of my favorites), The Great Gatsby (a favorite of mine), Pride and Prejudice (a book I try to read once a year because I love it so much), A Confederacy of Dunces (yes, another favorite).  If I were a cartoon character, a light bulb would have appeared above my head with a little chiming sound.  I would pick a book from this pile.  I started to pick the books up one by one until my arms were loaded down.  I started to add books to Sophie’s already precarious pile of books.  I could barely contain my excitement.   There were so many books in that pile that I had either heard of and been interested in or had thought about getting before but had forgotten about.  It was all just so thrilling!  We replaced the books to the pile after a very stressed, but polite, employee informed us that he had organized the books in to piles already and was worried about them getting messed up.  I cheerfully replied that we had kept the books true to their piles and gleefully skipped to an empty aisle to make my final decisions.

The moral of the story is that  I could have gone to the bar, drank some beer, ate some fattening food and gone home.  Instead, reading every day meant that I needed some new books, sending me to Half Price Books which then completely turned my mood around for the rest of the night.  Success!

These are the books that I adopted that fateful evening:

There’s a (Slight) Chance I Might Be Going to Hell: A Novel of Sewer Pipes, Pageant Queens, and Big Trouble by Laurie Notaro

East of the Sun by Julia Gregson

Sunday Jews by Hortense Calisher





Self-Realization *or* What Do You Mean It’s Not Normal To Be Dead Inside?

28 09 2010

Current Habit: Reading, Day 16/5

Deryn: I’ve always been an observant person.  For as long as I can remember, I would watch people and then use their experiences to make decisions about my life and how I wanted to lead it.  The best example I can think of is watching my two older sisters go through high school.  I saw how both of them acted towards their friends and our parents and thinking, “Wow.  That is definitely not the best way to go about things at all.”  I realized that if I got good grades and was up front with my parents about my plans, they generally had no issue letting me stay out past curfew.  I’d been using this Observe and Decide method for about 25 years and it had gotten me through some rough times.  I decided long ago – so long ago that I don’t actually remember when – that I would not close myself off to love.  I would probably get my heart-broken and would probably be hurt plenty of times, but that wouldn’t stop me from keeping an open mind and heart when it came to someone new in my life.  After all, that’s what starts people on the path to becoming an Empty Shell Person.   So, in efforts to stay true to the point of Habitual Me and become the person I want to be, it is time to decide to be open again.

In “Friends” there is an episode where Monica reveals to her husband that she has been keeping stuff locked in a messy closet for years and nobody ever knew about it.  My emotions and feelings definitely live in a locked up messy closet.

In college I had a boyfriend, my own Mr. Big (up to the last season of the tv show, before he was capable of commitment).  I loved him.  We went through a lot of drama to be together and he was a great boyfriend.  Sweet, fun, caring, intelligent and funny.  We both said that we had neither felt anything like it before.  Then he dumped me.  He was wanting to focus on his career and couldn’t commit to our relationship and his career at the same time.  We tried to stay friends, but that was one of the most painful things I’ve ever done.  He didn’t love me, but I loved him.  He didn’t want to be my boyfriend, but didn’t want to date anyone else.  He still came over, kissed me, made me dinner, but wasn’t interested in being anything but friends.  It was all so confusing and so painful that I forced myself to stop feeling.  I rationalized that I would rather be friends with him than nothing.  It was better to have him in my life in some way than not at all.  For the next 2 years it was a roller coaster of us being friends or being a couple, all the while I got better and better at locking my emotions in the closet.  Eventually, I realized that he would never be able to treat me the way I felt like I deserved to be treated in a relationship.  This was especially hard because I never thought Mr. Big would be interested in me in the first place.  It’s contradiction in the purest form: Mr. Big is everything I thought I didn’t deserve because I’m not good enough for him, but when I realized he was treating me like I wasn’t good enough for him then he wasn’t good enough for me, even though I desperately still wanted to be with him.  It was just too much.  My already fragile self-esteem just couldn’t take anymore so I broke things off very abruptly and stopped talking to him.  He didn’t seem to care.

A few weeks later, I started talking to Joe*, a friend of a friend from high school who lived in Dallas.  I had decided that I wanted to be in Dallas,  and Bob was trying to help me get an interview with his company.  Bob had a crush on me all through high school.  He had me on a pedestal, he thought I was the most amazing girl ever and didn’t understand how everyone couldn’t see that.  He was the opposite of Mr. Big in so many ways and we started talking more and more.  I felt so much better about myself as a person again.  It grew in to more than friendship and by the time I moved to Dallas, we were a full on couple.  That lasted 3 months.  A guy who had a crush on me for 12 years got over it in 3 months of actually being with me.  There is obviously more to it than that.  He wasn’t my ideal either.  We fought a lot and we both know that we weren’t right for each other.  Still, it’s hard to not think that I did something wrong.

To comfort me during that break up was this amazing guy, Christian*.  He was beautiful, smart, funny, and made me feel beautiful.  He was also my boss.  Christian and I started to spend a lot of time together for about 3 weeks.  Then, he just stopped talking to me.  I, to this day, don’t know what happened.  He stopped calling, stopped texting, and even avoided talking to me at work.  Logically, I know that I didn’t do anything wrong except trust him too soon and allowed the relationship (in the physical sense) to move faster than was a good idea.  A few weeks later, I was fired for not hitting my sales goals.

Too much of my self-esteem has been wrapped up in guys and by doing Habitual Me, my goal is to be happy with myself for who I am and for who I have let myself become.  I joke with my friends that I’m “dead inside” because I don’t feel things anymore.  Last week, I was driving with a friend and an 18 wheeler was merging into the lane.  It was coming too fast and it was going to hit us.  My friend, the Marine who has been on three tours over seas and shot at numerous times, was screaming obscenities in fear for his life.  I was calm and thought to myself, “So, I guess this is how I’m going to die.”  I was able to swerve the car and get out of the truck’s way so we were fine, but I had an epiphany.  I don’t want to be dead inside.  I decided a long time ago that I wasn’t going to let this happen to myself, and I failed.  It’s time to do something about it.  I’ve observed myself and have decided I need to feel things.  If I’m going to become the person I want to be, that means letting someone in to my life who may hurt me.  Now I just have to find the key to that pesky closet…

* Gotta love the anonymity of pseudonyms.





Rediscovery *or* Yeah, I’m A Nerd

26 09 2010

Current Habit: Reading, day 14

Sophie:

On the surface, reading is not the most exciting activity, but I LOVE it.  To an avid reader, books really become a part of your life; you feel connected to the characters, and never stop learning new things.  When I was a little girl, I would lay on the floor in front of our bookshelves and read everything I could for hours on end.  It mostly consisted of Beatrix Potter, Puzzlemania and Goosebumps, but it was so fun!  As I got older, I would spend my summers reading from the moment I woke up until the moment I fell asleep.  This generally meant I would finish one novel a day, then walk to wal-mart and buy another one.  At some point my parents didn’t want to pay for this “habit” of mine, and got me a library card….a.k.a. a reading addict’s crack.  I would come home with stacks of books I couldn’t wait to read. It was wonderful.

Then I got to high school and met Shakespeare and William Faulkner.  And so ended my love affair with books.

I would still read on occasion – maybe one book every few months – but it was never the same.  Being forced to read something utterly dreadful and then extract some sort of convoluted meaning from it made me hate writers, books, reading, all of it.  Signs of my addiction still lingered – a bookshelf is always a permanent fixture in any home of mine, and if I leave a bookstore with less than 5 books, I’m showing some serious self-restraint.  This has resulted in an awesome, tall bookshelf completely filled with interesting books I have never read.  The upside of establishing this first habit of reading every day is that I am finally getting through all of these books that I have bought over the years.  I organized my bookshelf and, quite frankly, I have a ton of books I’m really excited about getting to – which I suppose is why I bought them all in the first place.

It’s only been two weeks, and I’m already thinking that I can’t believe reading was not a part of my daily life for so long.  It’s really a perfect example of why we started this whole blog in the first place – being complacent and lazy about my life has not only prevented me from changing into the person I want to be, it has caused me to let go of things I do love for no good reason.  I was so unsatisfied with my life for such a long time, and all of a sudden I can see a light at the end of the tunnel.  I’m already happier just changing this one little thing, and I can’t wait to see where the rest of this adventure is going to take me.








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