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See Jane Run

Like all great ideas, it started out as an innocuous little seed.  I was reading a book by Wayne Dyer and came across a portion where he said he has run 8 miles each day for decades, never missing a single day. My inner OCD over-goaler was impressed. I imagined the commitment of engaging in that. But make no mistake, I wasn’t considering running myself; I have always loathed and detested running for exercise.

The next seed actually came with a little fertilizer and watering as well. A young lady in my Speech class at college gave her speech on why it was better to run for exercise outside, rather than indoors on a treadmill. Again – doesn’t apply, I never run for exercise and don’t have a treadmill or a gym membership. Still, she said a few things that intrigued me.

To begin with, running outside burns more calories than running on a treadmill, she argued. You have many terrain changes and atmospheric conditions to adapt to, and that burns more calories than just running along on a smooth treadmill. Hmm. Good point.

She also mentioned that running outside is more intellectually interesting than running inside on a treadmill. You run a treadmill looking at TV or maybe reading a book, but in any case, you aren’t focused on your exercise, you’re really just trying to get it over with.

She did have a few other very good points, but those were the two that really gave me food for thought.  While I don’t have a treadmill and never run for exercise, I do have a recumbent bike that I ride for aerobic exercise. By the end of her speech – assisted, no doubt, by the fact that we were then enjoying beautiful, pristine spring weather – I had begun to consider that maybe, perhaps, on an occasional perfectly clement day in the near future, I would exchange riding my bike in the bedroom for running outside on our bike track.

That is precisely what I did. And then I almost tossed my cookies from exhaustion.

I was amazed that someone who has factored exercise in for decades (me) could be so incredibly unequal to the task of real-life exertion. I could not believe how physically un-fit I actually was (am).  Discovering I had such a glaring inadequacy of health was all it took for me to instantly decide that I must run every day. I was hooked.

So, now I run. Every day but Sunday and not if it’s pouring down rain (I lucked out this morning, though, because the rain held off until I was finished).  I can’t really say I love it, but I like what it represents by committing to it. And now I can at least get around the track without feeling like I’ve gone a few rounds trapped in the washing machine. I’m a long way from 8 miles, though.


Sweatin’ it

 With all we 25H/Ms have to take care of, you very well know what often falls to the bottom of the priority list: exercise. At the risk of urging some of you to cram yet one more thing into your schedule, I’m going to preach about working out.

I’m sure you know whether or not you should be exercising and I’m sure if you need to increase your fitness level, you already know it. So, let’s just side-step that whole hairy argument, shall we?

Debates rage on as to whether you need to reduce or eliminate carbs, reduce or eliminate fat, reduce or eliminate sugar and exactly what role calories play in the big picture. So let me just stick with what I know from personal experience. When I have had too many calories coming in and not enough calories going out, I have tended to get a bit fluffier. If I took on an exercise program, the situation was instantly improved.  If I also gave focused attention to the caloric value of every single, solitary thing that crossed my lips (yes, the latte counts and probably more than you ever imagined!), all excess fluff just melted away.

Sidebar: A year or so ago, I also learned that I am Lactose Intolerant. Cutting out dairy also made it amazingly easy to keep a handle on my jeans-fitting-potential. This is surely not an issue for everyone, but it’s worth exploring foods if you’re having a lot of digestive problems.

As far as exercise is concerned, I believe that most women who are past age 23 who find it hard to make their weight stay put are ignoring the most body-altering, relatively easy exercise they could be doing: weight lifting.  I’m not sure whether they’ve seen too many pictures of boob-less she-males tied up in triangle bikinis with a maze of strings, or if they just mentally dismiss weight-lifting as a male activity, but weight lifting is absolute salvation for drastically improving your body shape with a fairly small commitment of time and money.

One reason why weight training is so effective for the time invested is that increasing muscle raises your resting metabolism. This means that even when you are sleeping, your body is burning more calories than it is if you are very soft.

Muscles are what gives a beautiful shape to the body. Just being thin alone does not do this. There are people who look “skinny-fat.” They are thin, but flabby.

Also, can’t all busy mothers use more strength?  Don’t we have to haul the biggest pumpkins (one for each kid) onto the hay wagon? Don’t we have to carry baby seats and gargantuan diaper bags all over God’s green earth? How about Christmas shopping? Stacking firewood? Walking the German Shepherd?

I first started working out with weights when I was 18 years old and, though I have taken breaks over the years to have babies or to eat too many ice cream sundaes (before the dairy free thing, which I promise you I do miss), I have never stopped looking to weight training as the perfect way to get or stay in shape.  Currently, in my time-pressed state, I am doing 2 or 3 sessions per week that last about 45 minutes, at home in my bedroom, while watching “19 Kids and Counting” or “Undercover Boss” or some other brain candy. This is not as much as I think is optimal, but it is way better than doing nothing.

I am not a member of a gym and I don’t have a ton of equipment. I am currently using only dumbbells, ranging from 3-12lbs each. My workout is shaped mainly from the book Strength Training for Women by Joan Pagano, along with a few other exercises I’ve come to like over the years. When I was actively trying to lose weight, I used the free calorie-tracking program at SparkPeople.

If you have never lifted weights before and want to start, keep the weight very, very light at first. Embarrassingly light. (There’s another perk to working out at your own house.) When I first started lifting, I benched nothing but the barbell – and it was hard.  My strength was also quite unbalanced; my left side could lift practically nothing at all.  There just isn’t any reason to try to blast muscles that have not experienced that work before. It will hurt and discourage you, making you further from your goals than if you had not started at all.  Starting dumbbell weights may be as light as 1.5 lbs. You may start with only one set of each exercise. No matter how light and easy you start, doing something is better than doing nothing.

Being in the shape you want to be is incredibly freeing. If you are not currently exercising, but have been considering it, give a long look at female strength training. If you only have modest fitness goals, start soon. If you have a long way to go, start soon. The only way to arrive anywhere is to begin and then keep moving forward.