Where I decide to lift things up and put them down

In July 2012, I bought a book on a topic that I’d been curious about but had been incredibly intimidated by for a long time: The New Rules of Lifting for Women: Lift Like a Man, Look Like a Goddess, by Lou Schuler with workouts by Alwyn Cosgrove and nutrition information by Cassandra Forsythe. Cheesy subtitle aside, I was drawn to this book because it speaks frankly about women’s abilities in the weight room. Schuler understands that women can work out just as hard as men and, with the help of his co-authors, provides a six-month training program for women to follow.

For three years, though, this book sat unread on my shelves. Then, two weeks ago, I decided that I wanted to make some changes and fitness was one aspect of my life that always felt out of control. Sure, I biked to work on a regular basis and bragged about how I didn’t need to pay for a gym membership. I was still weak and flabby, though, and I was keenly aware of that. Then, in September, I moved in with my parents and lost my bike commute, putting an end to the only form of regular exercise I had. I began to spend at least two hours a day on a bus—in addition to the 8 hours I sit at my desk—four to five days a week. I also have a weekend gig where I assist at a library reference desk so that’s another 8 hours of sitting and 1-2 hours driving to & from work every week. That left me with one free day a week that I usually spent curled up with a book or Netflix, being too tired to do anything else.

Finally, enough was enough. I couldn’t continue living this sedentary lifestyle anymore so I joined a big box gym. Luckily, my sister is already comfortable in the weight room (with the help of personal trainers and time spent in a boxing gym) so she helped me work out that first day. (We had limited time so we only did squats and calf raises.) Then, later in the week, I took advantage of a LivingSocial coupon offered by a local yoga studio and took my first ever yoga class. I went to a basic yoga session with my sister (who had been to yoga classes at her gym before) and a couple of things happened:

  1. I managed to keep up with the class, surprising myself, my sister, and the instructor (and gaining the respect of my classmates).
  2. I found my sister’s strength and flexibility awe-inspiring, instilling in me a more profound respect for her while motivating me to be more like her.
  3. I cried during savasana (corpse pose), releasing some emotional baggage I’d been carrying around with me since July.

The experience was invigorating and solidified my plans to work out on a regular basis. This is when I pulled out my copy of NROLFW, downloaded & printed the workout logs, pulled out some old workout apparel (that needs to be updated, stat!), and hit the gym one more time with my sister to learn how to properly execute the ten exercises I’ll be doing during the first stage of the NROLFW plan (which lasts 6 weeks out of the plan’s total 6-month regime). I then added each workout to my calendar, ensuring that I would be held accountable for my actions and have no excuse for slacking off.

Everyone, even my sister, thinks I’m insane, though: I’ve scheduled my workouts for 4 in the morning, three times a week. This is so I can catch the same bus to work and be in the office at my regular 7:30 AM start time. (This is so I avoid traffic on my bus commute, something I’d never had to worry about before.) I’m usually home by 5 PM, which gives me plenty of time to make & eat dinner, pack lunch, watch TV or read a magazine/book, spend some time with my cats, and prepare for the next day before heading to bed. On the two “rest” weekdays each week, I plan on taking a spin class at the gym as well as continuing a weekly yoga session at the studio. My energy levels skyrocket after physical activity so I expect to be tired but, really, I’ll be invigorated-tired, not lazy-tired.

This has been my first week following this schedule and I’m loving it so far! I’ve always been one of those people who feels better in the mornings (and succumbs easily to sleep in the evenings) so this is sort of my ideal schedule. The gym is super quiet at 4 AM, allowing me to focus solely on myself and feel less self-conscious of my weak muscles. I already feel stronger, which is a great motivator to keep going.

Onward and upward!

Lips stained red from a bottle of wine

Breville BJE200XL 700-Watt Compact Juice FountainI have to admit that I’ve fallen prey to the most recent health craze: juicing. After watching Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead on Netflix, I was intrigued. I strive to include as many fruits and vegetables into my diet as I can but this movie made me realize how much more I could be doing. (Cooked fruits and veggies lose most of their nutritional value in the cooking process. Juicing raw produce allows me to get the most out of my fruits and vegetables, ensuring that there is little nutrient loss.) And, yes, the weight loss aspect of it is also very appealing to me.

At 5’4″ and 150lbs, I consider myself to be overweight. I don’t necessarily look overweight or even feel it but it’s a constant burden on my psyche, knowing that I weigh about 20lbs more than I did this time last year. I moved out on my own last September and I assume my weight gain is related to that fact. This was also when I started my first full-time job with a long commute so I was eating poorly, getting little (if any) exercise, and feeling stressed pretty much all the time. I’ve decided to finally do something about it.

That full-time job has turned into two part-time jobs, which drastically reduced the commute time and has erased almost all job-related stress. One of the libraries at which I work is within biking distance so I commute by bike at least twice a week, spending about 2 hours on my bike every week. I’ve also incorporated yoga into my routine. (Overall, I do about 1 hour of yoga per week with my DVD.) With more free time, I’m allowed to be more active than I’ve been in over a year. It feels pretty amazing.

Further, I’m also now trying to control my portions. I’ve always been a big eater. (Ask my parents: they love regaling others with anecdotes from my childhood, when I would practically dance at the sight of a pot of porridge.) But I’m trying to teach myself that I don’t need a lot to feel full. This will take time as I retrain myself to chew thoroughly, eat slowly, and stop shoveling food in my face when I begin to feel full. My old mantra was similar to comedian Louis C.K.‘s statement: “The meal is not over when I’m full. The meal is over when I hate myself.” No más!

I’ve only been doing this for a few weeks but I already feel better. My weight is down to 144lbs, I feel more alert and less lethargic, and I am just generally happier. This all totally feels doable, too, so I fully expect to keep this routine going and continue to feel its benefits.