Work It Out

I mentioned in last week’s post that I’ve really been enjoying getting back into the gym recently. Of course, it helps when your gym is brand spanking new and just about all of your local friends use the same one. We are always sharing tips and stories from our experiences there and it helps motivate me to keep going back. I’ve been making it my personal goal to exercise 4 days per week, and I’m happy to report that I have either been achieving or exceeding that goal for the last 3 weeks.

When I was still writing my old blog, some of the most common questions I received revolved around my workouts. People love food posts, and people love workout posts! I totally get it though, because if I’m reading a blog or website about someone’s food or fitness habits, I definitely want the nitty gritty details. It inspire me to hear exactly what other people are doing to better themselves and their health, which leads me to today’s topic – what I’ve been doing at the gym.

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I personally find that I am most successful when I walk into the gym with a plan. The first time that I lost weight I would frequently write detailed weekly workout schedules, repeat each week four times to five times, then write a new one to keep myself from getting bored. I decided to use the same approach this time around, and so far it is working well to keep me focused and on track.

This is the workout schedule that I am currently using:

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I start each workout with a 5 minute warm up on the elliptical, then move on to one of these four routines. I do not always work out on consecutive days, but I generally follow this order. For example, if the first day I exercise in a week is on a Monday, then I’ll do Day 1 on that day. If the next day happens to be Wednesday, then I’ll complete Day 2’s routine that day. Sometimes I will mix up the days depending on how I’m feeling, but I try to complete all four of the routines every week. If I go to the gym a fifth time in a week, it’s usually with my sister and we will just do whatever we feel like doing that day. It’s typically cardio combined with the Planet Fitness 30 Minute Workout, which I will go into more detail about shortly for those that aren’t familiar with it.

With regards to my cardio, I tend to get bored easily and don’t usually spend more than 20 minutes on a single machine. My cardio preferences are the elliptical, treadmill (walking only for now), stationary bike, and most recently the step mill. I used to use the step mill all the time back when I was in good shape, but haven’t used one in years. However, I decided to bring it back into my life since I know it is a phenomenal cardio workout. I don’t last more than 10 minutes on it right now, but that’s to be expected given the fact that I have only been exercising for three weeks. This is my current favorite step mill routine that I’ve been doing:

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It may look a little confusing and hard to remember, but I promise it’s not. It’s just the same interval sequence repeated four times. The thirty seconds at level 7 really wipes me out, and then I get a break for 2 minutes before going again. I’m sure I will be coming up with something more challenging at some point, but for now this works for me.

The PF 30 Minute Workout that you see on Day 4 of my workout schedule is something that Planet Fitness offers that I have really been loving. It’s basically a designated area in the back of the gym that contains 20 stations – 10 machines and 10 steps. Each station is numbered, and the idea is to move from station to station, alternating a machine with a step, until you’ve completed all 20. There is a light in the front of the room (it looks like a traffic light) and when it turns green it means it’s time to workout, and when it turns red it means it’s time to wipe off your machine and move on to the next station. There is also a chart on the wall with ten different step exercises that you can do when you are on one of the steps.

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These photos are not from my gym, but you get the idea. (I found this picture on a Google image search and when I tried to link the original website it warned me that it could be a phishing scam, so I’m opting not to.) What I love about the 30 Minute Workout is that it keeps my heart pumping the whole time and I am constantly moving for the entire 30 minutes without ever getting bored. I remember hearing about it a long time ago on The Biggest Loser and it’s fun to finally get to try it out.

I’m looking forward to seeing how my workouts change and progress as time goes on. It is always hard to get started and can be difficult to come up with a plan, but once I get that momentum going I am constantly thinking of new ideas and ways to challenge myself with my workouts. If you’d like me to start another Exercise Log page on my blog like I did on Healthy Berg, let me know and I’d be happy to do so.

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It Takes 21 Days to Make A Habit

That’s what they say, right?

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After many, many months of subpar eating habits, I am ready to once again try and get some of this weight off that I’ve gained back over the last three years. If you are a long time reader and are familiar with my old blog (Hi! Thanks for sticking around all these years!), then you know that I dropped a LOT of weight in college. Since then, I’ve probably tried to start over at least 20 times as the weight piled back on exponentially like it unfortuantely does for so many people. It’s amazing how your mindset can do a complete 180 in situations like this. When you’re trying to lose weight, a 1/2 pound gain can completely ruin your week. However, when life is a free-for-all and you are not in “weight loss mode,” you play mind tricks on yourself to avoid dealing with the real problem in right in front of you. You get so used to seeing your weight go up by 5 or 10 pounds every time you step on the scale that you start to convince yourself that it’s okay, since it’s “only  5 pounds.” Well, we all know that all those pounds add up FAST.

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In an effort to keep myself focused and try to prevent discouragement, I am concentrating on smaller, short term goals right now. When you have such a tremendous amount of weight to lose, it is so easy to get frustrated and give up. Currently, I am focusing on staying committed to calorie counting for 21 days. Supposedly, that’s how long it takes to create a habit and it should become easier to stick with a healthy eating regimen after that point. Today is day 13 and despite my frustrations with the scale this week (more on that in a minute), I have to say that I am pretty proud of my progress. I’ve tracked almost everything that I’ve eaten, and drastically cut down on junk food and sweets. I haven’t been getting sugar cravings every night like I used to (side note: I have an entire post coming on sugar addiction so stay tuned for that) and I’ve been in an overall better mood. Last week I worked 12 hours of overtime and by the end of my 8th day in a row of work I still felt like I had energy left to go out and do stuff. Normally I am totally wiped out after just 5 days.

I have also started to incorporate exercise back into my life, and that has been a wake up call in another sense. For one, none of my old workout clothes fit me. I’m a firm believer that feeling comfortable and confident in what you wear while exercising can really improve the quality of your workouts. When you feel good, you work harder. So I bought some new workout clothes (in fun, bright colors to boot) and I look forward to putting them on and heading over to the gym. Additionally, since I’ve been slowly adding back some of the exercises I used to do years ago, I’ve learned that things that used to be so easy are now quite challenging. It’s crazy  to me that I used to hop on the treadmill and run 3 miles on a regular basis, and now 5 minutes on the elliptical gets me out of breath.

Speaking of the gym, Traverse City got a brand new Planet Fitness that just opened a couple weeks ago and I am LOVING it. I’ve been to most of the gyms around here and this one puts the others to shame. There’s only a couple of gyms in Traverse that, in my opinion, could be actual competition for Planet Fitness but a PF membership is a fraction of the cost of those other places. Major win in my book. My sister and her fiancé recently moved back to the area and they also both got memberships at PF. While we have different schedules and don’t work out together every day, it’s nice having a gym buddy on the weekends.

I’ll go into more detail about what I’m eating and what I’m doing at the gym in future posts, but I want to address the comment I made earlier about the scale. So, the first week I started counting calories again I dropped weight FAST. I made major improvements with my food choices but still had a few “cheat meals” and wasn’t really exercising much, and I still lost 5 pounds like it was nothing. Naturally, this week I expected to lose at least another 3 or 4 pounds since I’m doing the same things as last week; plus I’ve started going to the gym again. However, that was not the case and I did not lose one single ounce this week. Of course this irritates me, so I’ve been doing a lot of reading on week 2 plateaus to try and ease my frustrations. From what I’ve been reading, I’ve gathered two explanations for it:

  • Water retention. When you drastically reduce your calories and change the kinds of foods you are eating, your body initially responds with a quick weight loss. However, after the initial loss, your fat cells hold onto water in an effort to retain their shape (fat cells shrink when you lose weight) and this is what causes a plateau. Soon that water will be flushed out and your weight should begin dropping again.
  • Cortisol. This is a stress hormone that is released as your body starts to adjust to exercise. Cortisol also causes water retention, which temporarily halts weight loss. Cortisol is also the reason that people tend to gain weight when they are stressed (with the exception of stress starvers).

Since I am not a nutritionist, nor do I have a background in exercise science, I do not know how valid these explanations are. However, I do have a doctor of pharmacy degree and they both make sense to me from a medical and physiological stand point. Regardless of the reason for the week 2 plateau, it just makes me feel better knowing that there are tons of other people who have experienced the same thing and I’m confident that I will get past it if I just keep working hard. I’ve also been looking at my old weigh-ins from years ago when I lost weight the first time around, and my weigh-ins have always been inconsistent from week to week. It’s not about short-term results; it’s about what happens in the long run. While my weight may have fluctuated over the weeks, I lost an average of 50 pounds a year for two years.

Here are some pictures from the last couple of weeks. I will try to update a couple times a month but let me know if there’s anything in particular  you’d like me to post about 🙂

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Thanks for reading!

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