Two things I want to discuss today.
First, a recommendation. May I recommend, if you have not watched the movie Forks Over Knives, you should/must(!) do this. I finally watched it today (while frantically trying to finish the binding on three jeans quilts I made for my kids for Christmas). It’s on Netflix and you can watch it instantly. If you don’t have a membership, you can get a trail membership for 30 days for FREE and watch it that way. This movie ties up all the basic info on why a plant-based diet is on your side, in one 96 minute documentary. Watch it and then spread the love to family and friends.
Second, as part of my strategy for maintaining sanity and my weight during this holiday season, I’m eating a ton of veggies (lots of raw salads, steamed greens, homemade vegetable soups), limiting refined foods (I don’t completely avoid it, I just make sure I’m doing the aforementioned item and then I don’t have much room for the later), and exercising less.
You heard me right. I said exercise less. Let me explain.
During the fall and winter semesters (I’m adjunct faculty at a state university), I teach a combined weekly total of 15 classes a week. That’s a lot of exercise. I by no means, recommend this amount of exercise to anybody. It’s completely unnecessary. I’m not complaining here (I mean, I get PAID, to exercise!), but I’m really enjoying a lighter exercise load during the winter break. I still teach, but it looks more like a “normal” person’s workout schedule. And when I exercise less, I eat less. I have a more “normal,” reasonable appetite. I don’t crave the high-calorie junk that I do when I’m doing high levels of exercise each day. It’s also much to easy to give myself license to eat seconds on dessert when I’ve exercised so much.
Which brings me to my thoughts on exercise. I have lots of them, but here are just some. Over the years I’ve developed some well-defined opinions, based on trial and error and a lot of practical, hands-on personal experience regarding exercise.
Here they are:
1. I don’t want to sound like Denise Austin here, but move it or lose it. People, we’ve got to move our tushies if we don’t want them to turn into a complete blubbery mess. I’m not talking hours a day, or even, an hour a day of straight cardio. Just assess your life and think of ways to incorporate more unstructured (like housework, walking to the library instead of driving, mowing your lawn, ect.) AND structured (group fitness classes, workout videos, lacing up the shoes and going for a jog) exercise.
2. I hate running. Okay, that’s not entirely true. Sometimes I like it. Like when I’m done with it. That’s when I like having done it. I sometimes like to do it when I’m really stressed out or just need some fresh air. But every day? Or a few times a week. Boring and too repetitive for my taste. Some people were born runners. These people LOVE running. They subscribe to Runners World, train for 5K’s and marathons, they even “talk” running with their buddies. I have quite a few of these types in my family. I’m happy for them. Running does it for them. It doesn’t for me, and I’m okay with that. I’m of the mindset, life’s too short to spend it on things you hate doing. So I do exercise that I love, which is exercise that is never boring. Is always a challenge, has a lot of variety, and gives me results that I can see and feel. Here’s the short list (I happen to teach these all, lucky me): YOGA! (it makes me feel amazing!), Pilates (my legs and abs have been transformed), high intensity interval training (get me in, get me out, and work me hard! we all have days where we want this), water aerobics (mostly when I’m pregnant, it makes me feel weightless and it can be an incredibly high intensity workout, if you do it right), step aerobics (I know it’s a little old school, but I like learning/teaching combos, it keeps my brain humming AND it can be an excellent cardio workout, toning/body sculpting/weights (my arms never looked so good once I added a bit of weights and gave my upper body the attention it deserved), kickboxing (jabs, punches, and a roundhouse kick? what fun.).
3. Be smart about your exercise. Don’t waste your time doing worthless exercises that aren’t getting you the results you want. Think F.I.T. (frequency, time, intensity). You want to make each one of these elements is addressed and given proper respect and attention.
4. Do a mix of cardio/strength/flexibility training a few times a week. You can combine them in one workout session (Jilllian Micheal’s style, which I love, btw) or separate them. But 30 minutes of the the first two, three times a week is sufficient for maintenance (you may want to up the cardio if you want to lose weight, but it’s just as easy to up the cardio and overcompensate on calories later because you’re so darn hungry!) and stretching/flexibility for an hour or so a week (or more, especially if you’re into yoga). So it adds up to about 3 hours of exercise a week. Not much, when you think about it, but it the benefits are so much greater than the small sacrifice in time.
5. Just as it is much easier to spend less than to earn more, the same is true in world of weight maintenance. It’s so much easier to eat less than to exercise more. Don’t waste your precious time overkilling it on the cardio. It’s not worth it. And chances are, if you’re like me, too much cardio will just send your appetite into overdrive and you’ll want to eat everything in sight (especially all the high-calorie, refined stuff). Much has been written and researched regarding the benefits of exercise, but one thing we don’t talk about often enough, is that just because something is a good thing, doesn’t always mean more is better, and this goes for exercise. You wouldn’t run your car at full-speed, all day, every day, would you? Forget about The Biggest Loser. Nobody needs to exercise for hours a day.
6. Learn to love your weights. Buy some dumbbells if you don’t have any (a good 5 lb., 8 lb., and 10 lb. set is good). Females, unless you’re lifting every day for over an hour AND going on a special calorie-restricted, body building diet, you are NOT going to look too bulky! Instead, muscular resistance exercise will give you a leaner, more sculpted look. You’ll fit better into your jeans. You’ll feel stronger. Your bone density will increase (this is a good thing). You will combat that weight gain that comes with age as increasing and maintaining muscle mass will help keep your BMR (basal metabolic rate, important part of metabolism) at levels you had when you were younger.
7. Work out to some good music. Good music changes everything. Powermusic is one company that specializes in music especially for exercise. There are many other good companys out there. Just listen to something that motivates you to move and makes you feel good!