I have always been an intermittent exerciser. I will do ok for a few days, then life gets in the way and I’ll walk once or twice every couple of weeks. I was cruising along like that until a month ago today when I decided to really commit to becoming more active. Since then I have had at least 30 minutes of intentional activity per day, and at least 10,000 steps daily. I’ve had quite a few people ask me how I stay motivated, so I’ll share some of what has worked for me.
One of the ways that I have found to stay active when that was not always my norm is to start off my morning that way. I wake up, use the bathroom brush my teeth, put my contacts in, and get started on my Bible in a year app and usually 2 other devotionals that I am doing. Then depending on if it's my hospice week or not I may need to start a little bit later (I work every other week on-call 5p-830a, so I can’t get my workout in before that), but first thing in the morning is what works best for me. It’s time to wake up, focus on me, and really get my blood pumping. I can get sweaty and gross and then come home and shower afterward. It also helps to eliminate excuses that may come up - we all get busy. I can have the best of intentions but then when it comes to actually doing it, I can think I'm going to do it later and what happens? Something comes up, something goes wrong, there ends up not being time to do it. So another benefit to morning workouts is the weather. Living in Indiana, it is hot and humid and only going to get more so for a little while, and so starting earlier in the morning before the sun is beating down makes it a little more bearable and a little more likely that I will follow through because if it's 95° in the heat of the day, I may not be feeling up to that.
Get your workout clothes ready. I wear workout capris, a sports bra, and a tank top most days, and I get those ready the night before so that I don’t have to search and think. Sometimes I even just sleep in my workout capris (the comfy cotton kind), and then it's just one less thing that I have to do. I take a small reusable water bottle that I love, I have a little sports fanny pack type thing that I can put my AirPods in, along with my phone or water bottle. I have my water bottle filled and in the fridge from the night before so I just have to grab and go. Very important - get plenty of sleep! It's hard to go on a long trip with a half-empty gas tank!
I work out with a heart rate monitor (actually 2) for a few reasons. The heart rate monitor that I use is one that I've had for several years and it has a chest strap, which I find to be more accurate than my Fitbit. I have a Fitbit Ionic as well and eventually, the two of them will read the same heart rate but my Fitbit will frequently show a lot lower than my chest strap heart rate monitor, times when I know that I am in the 150 to 160 range and my Fitbit will be saying 125 to 135 and that's a big difference if you are looking to hit a specific target heart rate/AT (anaerobic threshold). I'm not a fitness pro, but I follow a guy named Jonathan Roche, founder of EnergyUp.co (tons of info here) and that is how I gauge my workout intensity. I love the super-positive and encouraging vibe that he has. What I have found by using my heart rate as opposed to my level of perceived exertion is that I don’t have to push myself as hard. One of the things that I have always disliked about working out is that I often get headaches. I have come to realize that one of the big reasons I have gotten headaches in the past is because I have pushed myself harder than I should have.
Note - the EnergyUp.co workouts mentioned are designed primarily to do in your home with no equipment needed - no excuses to not work out! I prefer to be outside walking/running when I can, so I take the video with me and just put it in my pouch and listen for the interval cues. There are also great strength training workouts to do on alternate days, again at home with no equipment. And resources like a "Win Tomorrow Check List" - Check it out!
Now once I actually get moving, here are some of the things that I love to do to keep myself going. I like to kind of play little tricks on my mind. So I have a Fitbit, and I have the heart rate monitor that is a chest strap and a watch, and I use both of those when I am walking/running. I prefer to do intervals (either walking and running or walking at a slower pace, then a faster pace), because the science behind interval training shows that we burn up to 30% more calories than exercising at a steady pace, and our metabolism increases up to 30% and stays elevated for 12 hours - and that's pretty awesome!
I also use an app called Map My Run. I like to use it because it shows the path that you have taken, which is very handy if you are in a place that is somewhat unfamiliar, or if you are hiking. Then you can see where you are in relationship to maybe where you are parked or where you started. It also breaks it down by speed - your current speed and then your speed for your current mile and your overall average speed. I usually end up going about 2 to 2 ½, sometimes a little more, miles at a time, and my fastest mile is generally my second one, because my first one is including my warm-up, and if I go a third, it usually includes my cool down. I personally do not compete against anyone but myself, but I do kind of like to hear where I am on that 2nd mile. All of that info that stays on the app, so you can reference it or record that somewhere if you choose to.
Perhaps most important is my mindset. I don't look at this as something that I HAVE to do, nor do I think of it as a way to earn something. Instead, I view it as something that I am fortunate to be healthy enough to do, especially with some of the things I have put my body through over the years. I smile when I workout. Not the whole time, but often. And when I am pushing myself, I say out loud, over and over, "use your gift" (thanks, Jonathan)! Today also happens to be the anniversary of my mom's death, which I believe could have been delayed had she been in better health. I'm not getting any younger. I want to have health and vitality for many, many years to come. And I truly believe my best years are yet to come!
So there are times when I will look at one of my devices and I will see that for example I've gone 4520 steps and I think, well, I'll go ahead and go 5000. Then maybe I’ll look and see that I'm at a certain time mark, for example, I’ve gone for 27 minutes and I’ll think I'll go ahead and go 30 minutes. The trackers also show an estimated number of calories burned, so I will sometimes think well I'm at 360 calories, so I'm gonna go to 400. Or maybe I'm at a particular spot in the neighborhood and I decide that I'm going to go around the longer way.
When I am first getting started, I make sure that I am going away from my house or away from where I'm parked if I happen to be working out at a park or something. I keep going further away because there are definitely days that if I were to think, “OK, I'm just going to go out here for five minutes” and once I get going it feels great and I want to keep going. But then there are other times I'm like, “OK yeah, I'm done because I'm not really feeling it.” So as long as I am going further and further away from home then I know that when I decide that I'm done then I'm still going to come all the way back home, so that's a way to push myself a little bit further.
The point is to feel better and improve your health, not to win any kind of race. My personal goals for working out regularly are:
I also want to lose some weight. When I was younger that was my primary motivation, but it’s not just about weight for me anymore. It’s not about punishment or earning food or anything like that - it's something that I am coming to enjoy. You need to determine what is motivating you, and you may need to revisit it often, especially in the beginning.
So I have made it my personal goal to work out for at least 30 minutes a day and to have some sort of intentional and right now the way that I prefer to do that on most days is to get up and alternate walking and running. Now there are some that say you shouldn't do that every day. I'm kind of listening to my body and basing my intensity level on how I am feeling. Today, for instance, I only ran once, for about 2 minutes. For the most part, I walked and I did not do a super-fast walk – it was like a 17-minute, just at a decent pace and my plan was to do at least 30 minutes. I think I ended up closer to 45. And it doesn’t have to be walking or running - it could be playing tennis or playing tag with kids or swimming…. or you could go for a walk with some friends at work or at lunchtime or after work. You could even have a little dance party in your house. I do that from time to time if I'm feeling stressed. If I don't want to be self-conscious or have my teenage boys making fun of me, I go in my bedroom, close my blinds, lock my door and I have a little dance party - and I end up feeling great! Something else to keep in mind is that it does not have to be 30 minutes all at once. I prefer to do that when I can, doing all 30 first thing in the morning and then maybe try and get some other activity in during the rest of the day but even if you’re not able to do that, it could be broken up into 3 x 10-minute chunks.
I'm a month in. I have more energy, more focus, and a better overall sense of well-being. I'm down about 6 more pounds. I feel stronger. I've cut over a minute off of my fastest mile time. I make healthier food choices (most of the time). I sleep better. I am more goal-oriented. And I'm proud of myself.
Next week, I am on vacation. And as part of relaxing and enjoying my vacation, I am going to continue to treat my body well by incorporating at least 30 minutes of intentional movement, and at least 10,000 steps, into each day.