Let's All Exercise!

For a long time now I've been meaning to compose a blog about exercising. I had several different ideas for how to approach this blog: exercising during pregnancy; how to set up a exercise "group" with other moms; my favorite sources for free workout videos online. . .and just a general rant about how much I hate exercise.

But after a few attempts at writing on any or all of the above topics I realized the only one I had any particular expertise at was the rant, and really, who needs to read another one of those?

But while composing the rant, I realize, I exercise anyway, so my blog is about how to exercise when you really really don't want to.

A major theme in exercise circles these days seems to be that you are doing it for yourself. Get the body you want. Keep yourself healthy. You'll feel better. This doesn't work for me. The body I want is is the body I have, which is usually content in a sedentary position with a cup of tea and something to read, write, or crochet. Healthy is also not a huge motivator. I have good genes. They aren't genes that will keep me bikini ready without effort (unless pregnancy stretch marks are the new sexy, I'm never wearing a bikini, ever, anyway), but it would take a lot of effort to get me to the point of obesity and my family history is mostly clear of heart disease and diabetes. I'm small boned. When I do gain weight, I actually gain a cup size, and that's hard to give up even if it means my stomach is tighter. You can get "control top" just about anything now, after all. This isn't for me.

But my husband . . . that's another story. Now, before you go off on my husband for being a shallow pig who only cares about outward appearances, in all fairness, my husband is ridiculously fit. He's 6'5'' and when he joined the Marine Corp he was a skinny gamer geek who probably weighed about 160lbs, if that. He quickly gained a determination never to be that guy again. He eats ridiculously healthy (pretty much lives on brown rice and chicken. . .which makes it a little easier for me to eat healthy too, which is a big struggle for someone who wants to live on pasta and cheese). Works out obsessively, and he's really super hot. . .well, super hot if you go for the tall, dark, and grim type, which I do. He holds himself to a high standard and holds me to a slightly lower standard. His favorite guilt trip is that I'm going to die from not exercising and eating too much sugar and pizza and miss our daughters' high school graduations.

Matt isn't one of those husbands who lies if asked if "do you think I need to lose some weight." He is one of those husbands who will give you a list of all the things you can do (apparently the ideal workout for me is 30 minutes of cardio and 30 of weight training. . . and my problem is I'm not eating enough and if I ate healthy food then exercising making me hungry wouldn't be a problem. . .) and who generally gives constructive rather than hurtful criticism (though I would argue the thing about dying at 45 really isn't that constructive). So I'm unashamedly doing this to impress my husband and if I happen to get some "quality time" out of this, that's the motivation I need.

Anyway, so don't believe the lie that you need to use you as motivation. You may very well want to eat pizza and watch Psych re-runs. So, if you don't have a motivational husband and like me really don't care how you look in a bikini or need to work out in order to stave off debilitating diseases, you might need to look to something else. Shame works. Tell someone you run into regularly that you are going to start working out. Not necessarily someone who will try to be your personal motivator (those people are annoying to do it yourselfers like myself), but someone who you can at least imagine asking you how the workouts have been going. That way when you see them at the store you can have a choice between admitting that you aren't following through or just diving behind a display of watermelons and hoping they don't notice you. Try to make it someone you actually like talking to so this isn't just another excuse to avoid someone who already annoys you. Post it on facebook if you want a lot of people to know about it.

Another motivator is to buy something. I'm not talking $1000 equipment. I am a cheapskate and so when I spend $30 on a pair of running shoes or yoga pants or an exercise DVD, heck yeah, I better be planning to use it. I'm not spending money on something that I won't use!

A third motivator is an exercise group. An exercise group can keep you accountable for several reasons:
1. There is always one member of the group who is way too motivated and will call you out. This person should not be encouraged by any means (if given too much power these people will eventually be like, "What? Your kid has pneumonia? What kind of an excuse is that? You hop out here on that broken leg, drop down, and give me 20!" It's your own fault for letting them think that you want them to push you.) but if they aren't directly discouraged, you can usually harness their powers for good.
2. It gives you a time set aside for just that. When left to my own devices, I'll keep pushing the workout further and further back in my day until it is five minutes until bed time and I'm like, "AHH! I meant to exercise today!" I mean, some people have the will power to say, "I have to do this at 8am every morning," but honestly, if no one else is depending on me to show up and do jumping jacks with me, I just won't.
3. Depending on your group make up and the location you've chosen, this can take away the "but who will watch my kids" excuse. When I was involved with an exercise group, we just brought our kids (ranging from 1-5) to a fenced in play park and let them go at it. Occasionally one or two people would have to stop to resolve a conflict or comfort someone who tripped, but the rest of us just learned to keep going and let that person catch up. Of course, we were on a military base in Japan. I'm not sure I'd do this at a public play park, fenced in or not, because you can't really keep your eyes on your kids while doing lunges and running laps around the play equipment. However, if you have a living room big enough to fit two or three people doing stand in one place style aerobics or a back yard or any other secure location where you don't feel you need to have eyes on your kids at all times, consider starting up your own group to take advantage. Another option would be to rotate child watching responsibility so that one mom watches while the others work out and everyone takes a turn.

Another tip is not to be ashamed to work out in public. If you are standing there watching your kid clamber up and down the slide, might as well do some squats. . . or jumping jacks if you are lucky enough to have escaped stress incontinence (I'm hoping that eventually goes away).

There are also a ton of good options for free workouts online. Here are some of my favorite:

Advantages: A fun, professionally made workout video (professionally made means you can hear everything the instructor is saying which can be a problem with amateur videos)
Disadvantages: Every five minutes there is a 30 second ad spot.
Hulu has several different workouts available, ranging from 5 minute quick instructions to 50 minute full on work outs. This one is just my personal favorite because it is kind of fun and different.

There are a lot of different pilates videos. This is my favorite instructor so far. She has her own blog here. She sales these "Muffin Tops Are For Muffins Only" shirts that are really fun and I wish I could wear one without having to pretend I'm wearing it ironically.
Advantages: They are short workouts; you can chose the body part you want to work on and just focus on that; no ads and they aren't "boring."
Disadvantages: Pilates is a form of exercise you can really hurt yourself with if you progress too quickly or use improper form.

Just Google It!
If you want something new just google work out at home. Look around pinterest where people are always pinning workout plans and links to fitness blogs. Just make sure you don't use your entire workout time web surfing. Here is my personal exercise pinboard. You can make your own if you are into pinterest or just use your bookmarks feature on your web-browser (Google Chrome's seems to be the easiest to use, just giving it a plug there) to save workouts so when you have time you can just pull them up on your laptop and go for it.

I hope some of these links are handy for you.