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?





Introduction *or* A Journey of a Thousand Miles and All That Stuff

13 09 2010

SOPHIE: I was lying in bed one night thinking about the changes I would like to make in my life.  I’ve been in a relationship for a REALLY long time (4 ½ years) and, through no fault of my boyfriend, have become bored and unhappy.  I realize that this has nothing to do with us, and more to do with my own satisfaction with who I am at this point in my life.  I’ve always wished I were ‘fit’, ‘classy’, or just really talented at something.

Somewhere in this thought process I was reminded of something I once heard – It takes 2 weeks to establish a habit.  I did a little research and found that it’s actually 3 weeks, and it’s not just a saying – it’s actually supported by a theory called Psycho-Cybernetics.  If it really takes 3 weeks to create a habit, then in one year I could create 17 habits!  I could really be whoever I choose with 17 changes.  I thought to myself “How awesome would it be to really go through with that; to take one year, figure out everything I want to be, and just do what it takes to get there?”

And so begun the list of characteristics I wanted to embody.

I’m a very private person (apparently to a comical extent) so I kept this to myself for a little while before running the idea by the one person I tell all my ridiculous inner-dialogue to – my roommate, Deryn.

DERYN: When Sophie first came to me with the idea for Habitual Me, I was enthralled.  We have had so many conversations about how people in our lives “surrender” to life rather than embracing it.  Some of our friends are getting married, having children and/or starting careers, but many seem to be resigned to a life that was assigned to them.  Countless times, Sophie and I had come to the conclusion that we would never become “Empty Shell People” – an idea from “Under the Tuscan Sun” that we had discussed when we were first getting to know each other.  An Empty Shell Person is someone who floats through life with no passion or excitement.  Empty Shell People do what they think is expected of them and resign themselves to whatever life just happens to plop in their laps.

Habitual Me, more than anything, is about taking control over my life during a time when it feels like I have very little power.  I recently realized that if I don’t make a change soon, then I’d be in danger of becoming a dreaded Empty Shell Person.  I go to my job because I can’t find one that pays any better.  I live a very specific (i.e., limited) lifestyle because my budget can’t handle anything else.  My student loans and current salary determine how often I buy new clothes, if I can go to my friend’s birthday party at that restaurant, if I can drive to the far side of town to run a particular errand.

The idea of Habitual Me is so appealing because it gives me the power back.  I now get to choose who I am as a person in a way that will (hopefully) stick.  In one year, I get to be the person I choose.  There are many things that I don’t know about myself: What my career path will be, What I’m looking for (if anything at all) in a long-term relationship, What my 5 year plan is, What my life has in store for me in the next year, etc.  I do know the type of person I want to be, the kind of coworker and employee I’d like to be seen as, the kind of daughter and sister I want to be, and how I want my nieces to think of me.

BOTH: So here we go!

Habitual Me is based on the theory that it takes 21 days to create a new habit (or break an old one).  21 days is a conceivable amount of time to commit to one thing, rather than just arbitrarily deciding “I’m going to be a different person in a year!” with no real plan mapped out.  We thought the best way for us to do this was to work backwards.

With these thoughts in mind, we (Sophie and Deryn) are beginning a one-year quest to become the people we’ve always wanted to be.  We started by brainstorming personality characteristics we admire in other people such as ‘classy’, ‘musical’, ‘generous’, ‘well-read’ etc.  Then, we came up with “habits” that correspond with these characteristics.  For example, a ‘fit’ woman – to us – exercises, meditates and eats healthy.  Now that we have a complete list of the 17 habits we will incorporate into our daily lives over the next year (21 days at a time) we can start our journey!  Ideally, we will continue with each habit after the designated 21 days end, because – after all – that’s the point!

For our complete list, see the “About Habitual Me” page.

So it’s officially day 1, and our FIRST HABIT is reading at least 30 minutes a day during week one, and at least an hour a day during weeks 2-3 in order to become well-read.  And we are both already wanting to watch T.V. instead :).  Time to suck it up and get things off on the right foot.

Right now Sophie is reading Brain Rules by John Medina

and

Deryn is reading Quarterlife Crisis by Alexandra Robbins and Abby Wilner








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