Choose Your Own Adventure

Onwards and Upwards!

In pursuit of a workout regimen that works for me, I’ve had to apply my stubborn side. I’ve been playing Fitness Goldilocks.

For too long, I lumped all physical exertion into one category. I called that category ‘Yuck. No Thank You.’

I used to think that all exercise was equal, so I feared and avoided it all equally.

I never tried any of it.

Stepping up to the fitness buffet felt very intimidating. When looking to get your sweat on, the array of options can be dizzying, and many won’t feel right for you. Some will be too hot, some too cold, and some just right – or at least, just tolerable enough. The trick is finding the right fit.

I’ve been sampling many different flavors. Because, (at least in my world) they do NOT all fit. Not by a long shot.

Some of the things I tried made me want to pull back, or worse – give up. It’s dangerous when I can’t find a way to look forward to my workout. When I dread it, I start to make excuses for why I can’t do it, why I should abbreviate it, why it’s not worth my time.

I had to really persist to find the workouts that suit me. I couldn’t give up on Healthy & Strong just because the first (or second, or third) thing I tried felt like crap.

When I was training for my 5k, I discovered that a little tweak can do the trick.

Running on a school-style 1/4 mile track?

Pass. The boredom sets in fast.

Running on a treadmill?

Pass. For. Sure. Treadmills bring out the homicidal maniac in me.

Running on a mile track through a park on a beautiful spring day?

Holy crap! I found the sweet spot! I can actually enjoy a run! Who knew??

I don’t think I’ll ever really be a runner. The endurance side of it just isn’t my cup of tea. But, a nice run on a beautiful day is something I can actually look forward to. This realization felt so positive, I decided to sit down and consider what makes me enjoy (vs. dread) working out.

1 – I don’t like group classes that require rapid coordination. I would love to be the girl who can rock at Zumba, but I’m just not. I can’t get past my 2 left feet. I gave it a shot, and wound up spending half the class wishing the floor would open up and swallow me to hide me from my embarrassment. Motivational, huh? Yeah. Pass.

2 – I need to feel like I’m getting a good workout. If my heart isn’t pounding and I’m not sweating, I don’t feel like I’m using my time effectively. I tried a barre class, and I have no doubt that it’s a truly strengthening regimen. I definitely felt the burn, but there was no cardio involved. It felt like less than I like to push. So, pass again.

3 – Cardio machines sap me of my will to live. Especially if they have screens with lots of bells and whistles. I spend my time fixating on “WHY WON’T THOSE CALORIES BURN FASTER?!” It’s not great for my mental state. However, when I have to be at the gym for one of my kids’ sports or lessons, I’ll jump on a machine for a little while. Not a full pass, just not my workout of choice.

4 – I love me some interval training. Push me to my outer limits, but give me a second to catch my breath before I have to be pushed again. I think it’s why I loved Insanity so much. Yes, you have to do power jumps until you want to pass out, but the 30 seconds of breath that follow will revive you enough to do it again.

5 – Finally, I love deadlines. I really, really do. It was another part of Insanity that I appreciated. It gave me a schedule to follow, and an end date to work towards. It’s what got me through 5k training, too. Give me something to work towards, and I’ll push as hard as I can to tear it up at the finish line. Thus – my new adventure: The Tracy Anderson Method. I started today and will be pushing through it for the next 90 days. I’m sure I’ll be blogging about it in the months to come.

To make things happen, you need to find the workout routine that will make you feel awesome about yourself.

So, if you’ve tried running and it hurts your joints, or you’ve tried group exercise but you felt uncomfortable, those porridges are just too hot or too cold for you. Keep sampling. There’s a method out there that will make you feel like a super hero. You just have to find it.

Accomplishing Goals While She’s Watching

I did it! I ran an official 5k race! I didn’t even have a stroke or anything!

See? That’s me beside an honest-to-goodness finish line!


Why is this a picture of me coming around a finish line, rather than racing gloriously through it? That’s because I missed my goal by FOUR. EFFING. SECONDS. So, the look on my face was less Happy Exhaustion, more Homicidal Maniac. Not so blog-worthy. I prefer to share this “Phew! I finished alive!” face.

Proving to myself that I could accomplish another fitness goal was fantastic. But the best part of my entire day was when this happened:


Standing beside the finish line, holding a sign and cheering me on stood my husband, my son, and my daughter. Accomplishing my fitness goals with my family watching is worth every less-than-fun hour spent struggling through endurance training.

One day about a decade ago, when my husband and I were still dating, we had to run to catch a bus. In the years that followed, he would joke – frequently – about the ONE time he had ever seen me run. Over the weekend, he cheered me on and snapped pictures, encouraging the kids to hold the sign up nice and high as I crossed an honest-to-goodness finish line. I loved that.

I loved having my little boy there, too. But he’s a bit too little to understand much more than that he was having a fun day.

The real highlight of the day was the presence of my daughter. She was so proud of me. In kindergarten the next day, she made this:


“On Sunday I got to see my mommy run in a real race and I helped my daddy make a sign to hold up and we cheered while we held the sign up. It was the best race ever. I loved watching my mommy.”

That – in an adorable little nutshell – is what this journey of mine is all about.

It’s not about skinny, it’s about fit. It’s not about a bikini body, it’s about a body that can keep up with her and the children she’ll have one day.

My daughter no longer sees a mommy on the couch. She has a mommy who runs in a real race.

I’ll drink (er, sweat) to that.

Debunktion Junction. Lesson 2: The Fiction of “Spot Training”

“I like my legs exactly the size and shape they are, I just want to tone up my arms.”

“I only need to lose weight in my belly. How many crunches should I do for that?”

Guys… I’m really sorry, but… you’re hoping for things that aren’t technically possible.

After watching untold hours of workout commercials and infomercials, I was pretty well convinced that spot-training oneself was an actual physical possibility.

“Want to get rid of that stubborn belly fat? Buy now!”

“Tone your legs like the stars!”

Please don’t hate me, but I need you to know: Your body is not capable of losing fat in only one spot. It’s just not.

I spent decades 100% convinced that ‘feeling the burn’ in my core meant that calories were being torched from that precise spot.  It took some serious Come To Jesus talks with the resident trainer before I could wrap my head around that not actually being the case.

We have been told (over & over & over & OVER again) that our bodies can work like magic. Want to have the arms of Halle Berry, the butt of JLo & the abs of Cameron Diaz? No problem! Pay here.

But our bodies are not magic. If they were, plastic surgeons would all be out of a job.

Want abs that show AND want to keep your nice, juicy, Beyoncé bootie? I hope you have Beyoncé’s parents, too!

Tragically, it’s all about genetics.

If you have a layer of fat over your belly, doing crunches isn’t going to specifically eliminate your belly fat. It’s going to help eliminate over-all body fat, and it’s going to build your abdominal muscles, but it’s not going to target the fat that’s right on top of the abs.

Calorie burn happens on a systemic level. Losing weight happens to your body as a whole.

I don’t mean to imply that you can’t get the visible abs that we all crave. You can! But, if you think you can keep the boobs and the butt as juicy as ever and just crunch your way to a zero-percent-body-fat core… um… it’s probably not going to happen. Unless you’re genetically blessed, in which case I’m jealous like WHOA.

(Ducking to dodge the things you all want to throw at my head right now.)

Gyms are full of clients who have certain ideals in mind – curvy or straight, muscle-bound or sleek. Go for it! Do your best! Just don’t be too angry at your trainer when they’re unable to rewrite your DNA.

If you have a belly pooch, you’re going to have to lose weight all over if you want to banish the pooch. Crunches won’t do it.

If you want slimmer thighs, you’re going to have to lose weight all over to slim them down. Squats will give you great muscles when you dig them out, but they’re not going to specifically burn the fat that’s right on top of them.

Rude, huh? I know. I’m as pissed about it as you are.

If this is news to you, I feel your pain.

Think I freely sacrificed my boobs? Because I didn’t choose to spot-train my thighs, belly, and arms? I can assure you, I did nothing of the sort. My DNA mandates that if I want to keep my size 4 jeans, I need to make my peace with the death of the DD’s.

We all have our own cross to bear.


Moving The Goalpost

Ladies and gentlemen – I just registered for my very first 5k!! Woohoo!! Hooray! Nothing has ever been so exciting! Best! Day! Ever!

Not convinced?

Bear with me. I’m doing my best to convince myself that training to run a 5k is something that I am in any way excited about.

I’m not the girl who loves to run, or the girl who craves competition. Who I am is the girl who needs goals. Badly.

Whenever I had a particularly rough day chasing THE BIG GOAL to lose 100 lbs, I would imagine the Before & After pictures. I could force myself to work out even on the laziest day by imagining a sports-bra-in-front-of-people After Picture.

I’m not gonna lie, putting together Before & After images is great fun.

What’s that? You want to see another one? Well… if you insist:

smiling banda

Yup. That’s fun.

But now I need something new to force a workout on a lazy day. I need a goal with a deadline.

One thing I’ve long known about myself is this: If I don’t have a deadline to meet, I will do precisely nothing.

I respond well to deadlines. Deadlines and goals help me to frame my life.

I spent so long in pursuit of my 100 pound weight loss. Now that that goal has been met I scarcely know what to do with myself.

Enter: 5k. Craziness.

It had to be done. I had to move the goalpost on myself.

While running a 5k may not be as exciting as a Before & After picture, failing to set new goals could mean falling into the ‘diet’ trap. When I’ve yo-yoed in the past, it was because I reached a goal and called it a day.

Unfortunately, when you choose a fit lifestyle, you’re not allowed to call it a day. You have to keep going forever.


If you’re the kind of person who can go to the gym every day without any specific goals in mind, you’ve got your ish together better than I do.

As for me, I need to be consistently mindful of future goals. Up next: Sprint Triathlon? Maybe.

Who knows how far those goalposts can go! I hope to live an Eleanor Roosevelt kind of life.

“ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

Stress Monster

I believe in fitness. I advocate fitness. I encourage everyone to sweat themselves healthy.

Also, I still kinda hate to work out.

Don’t get me wrong – I love the results. I looooove the feeling of successfully completing a hard workout. I know how vital it is to my health. But, it still doesn’t come naturally. My dear husband still has to listen to me whine and complain when it’s time to get my sweat on.

It’s why I write so much about finding motivation. I know that if you’re anything like me, you’ll need something with super strength to push you into the discomfort of effective exercise.

I know there are people out there who crave their workouts. I have -on occasion- expressed concern for their mental health.

Then, a couple weeks ago, it was late in the afternoon and I hadn’t worked out yet. It was looking like I might not have time to work out that day. I had the following thought: “Damn. I REALLY need to work out.”

Then, I almost drove off the road.

No, I wasn’t having a stroke. But the organic compulsion to work out was so new and so foreign, it felt a bit like I had been momentarily subjected to alien possession.

After righting myself and my vehicle, I took a minute to think. Where on earth had such a thought come from? I’m the girl who works out because of strong cerebral motivation, not because it’s something I enjoy. So how did the addiction-style thought appear?

Well, on the day in question, I was feeling particularly stressed out. There was nothing especially traumatic going on, but I’m not exactly what you’d call a low-stress individual. One or two screaming 3-year-old supermarket temper tantrums and my blood pressure will be on the rise for sure.

It reminded me of the compulsion I used to have for a cigarette. (Filthy, dirty habit. I dropped it the instant I learned I was pregnant the first time around. Never looked back. But I digress.) Smoking used to calm me down, give me a minute to regroup. It was rarely a conscious “I should smoke to calm myself down” train of thought. Instead, it came to me in the form of “Argh! I’m freaking stressed out of my head! I need a cig!”

On the day I was feeling stressed out, I had the exact same sensation. Stress! Must work out!

Hmmm…. Well, that’s new.

I was very excited. Scarcely a workout has gone by that I didn’t think to myself “Oh, how I wish I was the kind of person who did this for pleasure!”

I’d kill for a full-blown fitness addiction.

Of course, the next day, I tweaked my knee doing a Jillian Michaels kick boxing video. I talked to the resident fitness trainer about it, and he noted that my description of where it hurt sounded a lot like the pain he had when he tore his meniscus. His injury required knee surgery and months without leg exercises.

I pulled back on the reins HARD. I want this fitness thing to be long-term. I’m not about to mess around and injure myself in a way that could take me out of the game.

So, I took about 10 days off from my workouts to nurse my knee.

Yesterday was the last of those 10 days. And, as we were going to bed my husband said “I hope you have a nice, low-stress day tomorrow. Maybe go and get a massage or something?”

I am married to a very attentive and loving man. But, for him to suggest a MASSAGE? On a Thursday? And it’s not our anniversary or anything? My nerves were clearly showing in a big way.

Without the workouts that I seem to have developed into my go-to stress relief, I’ve been slowly becoming one seriously stressed out mama.

At least 4 nights in the last week, I closed the door after putting the kids to bed and went straight to pour myself a glass of wine. I don’t usually drink while minding my fitness. But I was bumping up against the red zone.

If you have kids, you can probably relate to the parental red zone. The one where you’re tempted to lock them in a tower and throw away the key if they whine at you One. More. Time.?

I don’t like the version of myself that doesn’t work out, stresses her face off, and uses alcohol to unwind.

So, today I did a knee-gentle workout. I modified things along the way, but I got my heart rate up. I got sweaty. I physically felt stress leaving the body.

And, when my son threw a screaming fit because I used the wrong flavor of jelly on his PB&J?

I laughed!

Cardio. It’s the new nicotine.

Happy Exhaustion Considers Running

In high school, my least favorite day of any year was the day my gym class administered the National Fitness Test.

My least favorite part of my least favorite day was Running The Mile.

Every year, I came in dead last (or tied for dead last, if someone else in class was similarly athletically challenged) with a rockin’ time of around 16 minutes.

I never ran.

I never even jogged.

If my gym teacher was extra lucky, I might consider a power walk.

I acted like I was walking because I thought I was too damn cool to play your stupid gym class game. Who’s got my smokes?

Really, it was the most publicly humiliating day of my year.

I knew if I tried, I’d fail. I decided it was better to never try in the first place.

I’ve avoided running ever since.

Until now.

After two rounds of Insanity, I’m looking for new ways to get a good full-body workout.

(I tried P90X and took a pass. More on that another day.)

Luckily, I live close to a park with a mile track.

I used to walk this track with my mom when I first decided to get healthy. I got winded just walking a mile back then.

That was almost a year ago.

Since then, I’ve gained confidence in my own strength. So, I decided to go back and see. Am I capable of running?

Like… at all?

I girded my loins, charged up my iPod, and headed to the park.

When I hit the track, I began to run.

I didn’t so much as slow down for the whole first mile!

Once again, I got to experience my new favorite feeling: Accomplishing something I’ve spent a lifetime thinking I’d never be able to do!

Since then, I’ve gone for a few 4 mile runs.

Well… ‘runs’ may be a little generous.

I run the first mile, jog the second and third, and alternate walking, slow jogging, and cursing for the fourth.

I wouldn’t blame REAL runners if they laugh on the inside when they see me. There’s a good chance that I flail like I’m having a seizure.

But, for me, running is an excellent exercise in getting over silly vanity.

This is what I look like after a run (or any good workout):

Vanity Schmanity

See how my face turns an astonishing shade of fuchsia? See how my face matches my fluorescent pink camera and bra? That’s a lifelong thing. It’s in my genetic code. There’s nothing I can do about it.

My self-consciousness over that rockin’ red face is an excuse I’ve used to avoid working out in public in the past. Luckily, my compulsion to be healthy has finally kicked the ass of such silliness.

While grappling with my painfully negative self-image at 243 lbs, I even felt self-conscious about people seeing me out walking.

I imagined everyone looking at my plus-sized frame and judging me as a slob.

What I only realized after putting in all the hard work is this: The fit runners I thought were judging me? They’re only fit because they’re there doing the hard work.

I always assumed it came naturally to everyone but me. But maybe… just maybe… they’re fighting for their own health as hard as I am.

People lapping me at the track may be thinking the same thing I (now) think when I see a particularly heavy woman at the track:

YOU GO, GIRL!!!!!!!!!! DO IT UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!

There is no more difficult stage in the journey towards fitness than the beginning.

If you’re terribly out of shape and at the track, I know I’m witnessing someone deciding to make an awesome change.

You’re just starting out. You’ve decided to do the hard work.

I want to bust out some pompoms and cheer you on!

I want to pull out my before & after pictures and tell you I KNOW you can do it, too.

Of course, I don’t do any of these things. I don’t want to be committed.

But, it’s a good life lesson: The person you assume is judging you just might be silently cheering you on.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go find my gym teacher’s email address.