Archive for the ‘Pilates’ Category

Fitting a Workout into a Busy Schedule

I’ve been skimming a lot of fitness and weight loss sites out there in the world wide web, and they seem to have something in common:  they make me tired.  I see words like “pushing myself” or “addicted to running.”  I read people’s discussions about adding something new to their two-hour long routines in utter consternation.  Where do these folks find the time or energy?  What is the rest of their family doing while they’re working out?  How do they have energy left to unload the dishwasher and fold laundry before going to bed?

I can almost hear my fit friends telling me that it is a choice to achieve their level of fitness and a matter of priorities.  I agree wholeheartedly and still say, No thanks.

It’s not that I don’t think exercise and fitness are important.  It’s just that I have a lot to juggle and a 90-minute workout is not a priority for me when I have kids at home that haven’t seen their mother all day, dinner to fix, housework to do, and deadlines to meet.  For me to carve out the time and energy this kind of workout regimen demands I’d have to take it from the other things that occupy my time and energy now.  And, since I spend almost 100% of my time after work tending to the needs of my family and household, I’d have to take that time away from them.

Don’t get me wrong.  I think working out is important, and I do it.  I just don’t feel the need to do it to the level that some of my fit friends do.  I have to balance my workouts with everything else.  For me, 30 minutes a day most days of the week is all I can work in.  I don’t feel bad about this.  I don’t feel guilty.  I don’t feel the need to do more.  I can accept that I won’t see the results that my friend who alternates between P90X and Insanity every day sees.  In exchange, I’ll get a workout that I can adjust to my interest and commitment level for the rest of my life.

This is definitely not for me.

With that said, Pilates is my favorite workout.  Pilates stretches and strengthens at the same time.  After a good workout, either in a class or on dvd, I feel worked and rejuvenated.  I can do a good Pilates workout in around 30 minutes and barely break a sweat.  What’s that you say?  How good can a workout be if you don’t break a sweat?  Well, I took a 45-minute class yesterday that saw nary a glisten on my forehead, and today my obliques, thighs, and abs are sore.

Winsor Pilates is my favorite, but there are plenty of others. I like the Circle Workout.

Once I’ve worked in a few Pilates sessions (my goal is 3 a week, but usually I only get in 2), I feel really good about doing 2-3 cardio sessions (30 minutes, tops, of jogging, doing the elliptical or rowing) and calling it a week.  Pilates works my muscles.  Cardio works my heart and lungs. Done.

I realize that doesn’t seem like much.  (I watch Biggest Loser so I know what people think you have to do to lose weight.)  But, if I continue this plan for years and years, I’ll see all the results I want.  I’ll be 50 in 2023.  I want to look like someone who has exercised her whole life, not someone who worked really hard for a few months until she twisted her ankle or until her son started playing baseball or until whatever else pops up in the next few months and years that would keep me from exercising.  A manageable amount over a long period of time.  That’s my plan, and Pilates fits it perfectly.

The first workout after a bad weekend is the worst

Surely I’m not the only one that veers off the path of good sense on the weekend.  Well, this past weekend was a long one, thank you Dr. King, and I veered quite a ways off the path.  I ate pizza with cheese and biscuits slathered in butter from Hardees **gasp** and egg drop soup twice and lots of sugar and junk.  It sounds stupid when I list it all out because none of this sounds good enough to justify the grogginess and lethargy I feel today.  (Those biscuits hit the spot Monday morning though.)

It’s on weekends like these that I wish I was a true, animal-loving vegan.  If my choices were motivated by more a noble principle than weight management, I’d be better at keeping them.  But, try as I might, I just can’t convince myself that eating eggs, butter and milk is cruel to animals.  I know people disagree and I see their point, but I just can’t get on board.

Some of you may be reading and noticing that I cheated on veganism and became vegetarian.  That shouldn’t be so bad, right?  It shouldn’t, but for me it is.  Dairy products don’t like me.  My body, in retribution, doesn’t like them either.  Milk and milk products are my worst enemy, deceptively innocuous but cruel.  No matter how hard I try to pretend that milk products aren’t bad for me, my body knows that I’m not a baby cow and have no good reason to be eating like one.

My body knows best--this is not me. http://www.macrobiotic.org/msmilk.html

In the past, I would have beat myself up pretty bad for a weekend of mindless, senseless eating.  I would have reminded myself over and over of my failures and my fat and my ugliness.  But not now.  I went back to my pre-binge schedule and will give my body a few days to recover and remember.  The Pilates class today was punishment enough.  My body must have believed that if I ate 5 slices of pizza over the course of 48 hours I had no intention of ever working out again because today’s class came as a shocking surprise to half my muscles.  My instructor called out moves and my abs responded, yeah right, make me.   I was amazed that my body could forget so quickly.  Didn’t it consider that the lazy, indulgent weekend was going to end eventually like all the others?  Apparently not.  Well, my brain is going to have to take back control then because it remembers.

Today is my day to regroup and rediscover my vegan ways.  I did one thing right already—I worked out even when I didn’t feel like it.  All it takes now is for me to take a few more steps in the right direction and I will have recovered from my cheese fest.

I’m going to reread The China Study or one of Dr. Weil’s books or Skinny Bitch.

If you haven't read this, you'd like it.

Any of those books is likely to get my head on straight again and nudge out my old ways of thinking like they have before.  Then, I’m going to cook beans.  Everything is right with the world when I’m eating beans.  I’ll be full, vegan and well-nourished.  After my bean dinner, I’m going to remember something that I like to do that doesn’t involve feeding my face, and I’m going to do it.  (I see shopping in my future.)  Later tonight, I’ll go to bed early, clean and dressed in something pretty, and let my body keep sorting through the sludge until it gets happy again.

Exercise for Lifelong Weight Control

The last of my suggested new year’s resolutions was to find an exercise you could enjoy for life.  I have a strong opinion about exercise—it mostly sucks.  I don’t like to get sweaty.  I don’t have time for an hour of anything five times a week.  I lack the attention span to stick to anything for very long.  I can think of no fewer than 1,400 reasons why I shouldn’t exercise at any given moment.  However, I can think of a couple more compelling reasons why I should.

Why I exercise (or, what’s wrong with my body)

My right thigh is larger than my left thigh.  I need to exercise to get them even.

I weighed 162 pounds on the scale at work this morning.  That number was smaller before Christmas.

My parents are fat so genetically things aren’t looking good for me.

I am getting older.  Old people who have exercised their whole lives are cooler than old people who have made excuses their whole lives.

I can gain weight much faster than I can lose it.

I have a disturbing jiggle on the top of my hips (what my sister calls “butt shoulders”).

My tight jeans might saw me in half if I wiggle too much.

What kind of exercise I do (or, how to get the most from the least) 

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not lazy or gross.  I want to exercise and be healthy and lose weight.  The truth of the matter is that I don’t want to yo-yo anymore.  I lost weight years ago by working out 2 hours a day.  Well, no duh.  Who wouldn’t? But I gained it all back, plus some.  I don’t have 2 hours to do that again and still be the mother and homemaker that I want to be.

This whole blog is about my jumping off the weight rollercoaster for good.  I don’t want to start something that I can’t continue for the rest of my life.  So, that means I had better be realistic and efficient.  Despite the previous paragraph where I listed all my physical shortcomings, I have seen progress since I’ve adopted this approach.  (Those butt shoulders use to barely fit into a size 14!)

Now, I’ve streamlined my workout to this:  30 minutes of cardio twice a week and Pilates twice a week.  I try to get some kind of activity in on the weekends, but that usually isn’t real exercise.  It’s yard work or house work or shopping or something kid-related.  I think that’s a schedule I can maintain for a long time.  It’s not too demanding of my time or energy.  If I pair that schedule with a healthy approach to healthy food, I should have the prescription for long-term weight management!

No-Dieting New Year’s Resolutions

Have you dieted for months, charted your weight loss, and counted every calorie during every January for the last decade?  I used to feel like losing weight was a mystery.  I could do everything just right and see no results at all.  Or, I could just barely slip up and watch the numbers rise on the scale.  Because it seemed like it was out of my control, I got frustrated and depressed with the whole process.  Don’t set goals that focus on the results because you can’t always control results.  Set goals that encourage healthy behaviors.  You can control your behaviors.

May I suggest a couple of New Year’s Resolutions for you?

1.  Release stress.

What do you need to do to make your life less stressful?  Can you cut down your schedule or let yourself off the hook for something?  Should you stop dwelling on a bad relationship and move on?  Is there something hanging over your head that you know you need to do, but you just don’t have the motivation?

If anything is dragging you down, get rid of it!  Stress makes you fat and ugly.  It complicates your life and steals your joy.  You will age more quickly and less gracefully.  Much of life’s stress is unavoidable so don’t harbor any that you don’t have to.

2.  Pursue simple pleasures.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but living a good life is a lot of hard work.  Luckily, there are many things that make it wonderful and worth the effort.  Make a quick list of things that you encounter on a regular basis that bring you enjoyment and resolve to savor the pleasure in them.  Life will get in the way of pleasure if you let it.  But, you may find that if you make pleasure a priority you will find it more often.  Don’t deny yourself the joy of making yourself happy.

Now, I’m not talking about irresponsibility in any way.  Stupid decisions today could rob you of tomorrow’s pleasure.  I’m talking about a simple stop-and-smell-the-roses approach to life.

3.  Eat the highest quality, most natural food you can afford.

This is all about pampering your body from the inside out.  Fuel your body.  Do not use your body as a trash can or dumping ground.  If you had a very important dinner guest you would prepare a very special, fresh meal.  Well, you do have a very important dinner guest—yourself.

 4.  Embrace the best version of yourself.

How would you live if you were thin and healthy?  What would a thin, healthy you do after work or on the weekends?  How would it feel to stand up straighter and feel confident?  Imagine yourself that way and live as if it’s already happening.  The truth is this—When you live like a thin person, you will become one.  Do you know why diets never work?  Because when you’re on a diet, you eat like a fat person who is on a diet.  But people with a healthy relationship to food, don’t live like that.  They live and eat like thin people and they stay thin.  When you can live like you’re thin, you will be thin and you will stay thin.

5.  Find an exercise you can live with for the rest of your life.

You might have to experiment a little to find what you like, but resolve this year to find an exercise that you can grow old with.  May I suggest Pilates (or its Eastern friend yoga)?  Classes are readily available, videos are quite effective, and the routines are simple for all ages and fitness levels.  Combine Pilates with walking a few days a week and you’ve got yourself a formula for healthy aging.

Good luck in the coming year.  For the next few days, we’ll look at each of these recommendations one by one and see how we can use them to make ourselves better, happier people in 2012.

Easy Fitness–Pilates Breathing

Pardon me for stating the obvious, but breathing is fundamental to health.  I’m not just talking about the fact that if you cease doing it you’ll die; I mean that if you breathe healthily, you will feel healthy.  My mother was an ardent student of Lamaze when she was expecting me.  As a result, she was able to bring my 10 pound 2 ounce infant form into this world au naturale.  Yep, that’s right.  Ten pounds with no pain meds and, possibly even more impressive, no crying out.  She simply monitored her breathing and focused her mind and blocked out the pain.  And, make no mistake about it, she had pain.  In fact, her hips came out of joint and were sore for 3 months following delivery.

After her Lamaze success, my mom became convinced that controlling your breath could control your emotions and your emotional responses.  She told us to “breathe through your mouth” to handle just about everything from crying at a funeral to calming nervousness before a speech at school.  Now I realize, she was on to something.

My Pilates instructor tells me the same thing, and I’d like you to try it.  Lie on your back with your arms at your side.  Relax your butt muscles, but stay long.  Don’t let your shoulders ride up.  You should be comfortably stretched long on the floor or bed or wherever you are.  (I’m on mat on the floor at work when I do this.  If my boss ever sees me, I’m doomed never to get a promotion.) Take few breaths and let your stomach rise and fall with each.  Make sure it’s your stomach that’s moving and not your chest.  If your chest is moving, breathe deeper and place your palm on your belly to monitor its movement.

Once you’re sure your breath is traveling all the way to your stomach, tighten your stomach muscles.  Just pull them in as if you are pressing your belly button into your spine.  When you need to inhale, force your ribs out to the sides, but keep your abdominals pressed to your spine.  You may need to practice this a little before you get the hang of forcing your ribs out and holding your stomach in.

Now, we’re getting to the really good, Pilates part.  Inhale through your nose, forcing your ribs out.  Then, exhale through your mouth as if you are fogging up a window.  Open your mouth and force the air right out of the back of your throat by pushing it with your abdominals.  If you do it right, you will feel your abs working at the deepest, lowest part.  If you don’t feel it right away, try placing your palm on your abs and focusing the energy again.  Bring your muscles and your breath together by using the former to expel the latter.

Once you have the hang of it, you’ll know it.  You’ll feel muscles waking up.  I took Pilates this afternoon and I could feel the soreness when I just followed my own instructions to you.  Seriously, you can get a little ab workout just by doing some Pilates, open-mouth breathing.  Linking your abs and your breath like this is a great practice before any exercise since you should always have your abs pulled in tight to support your lower back.  Try adding Pilates breathing to your workouts intensify them the easy way!

Easy fitness–Pilates

My favorite exercise in all the world is Pilates.  I feel like my time spent practicing Pilates is an investment in my health all the way into my old age.  After all, when I jog I feel joints ache.  When I sweat it out on the elliptical, I exhaust myself.  When I lift weights, I work against my muscles and my shape.  But, when I do Pilates, I nourish my body, celebrate its strength, intensify its best features, and arm it to face my future.

I first started practicing Pilates after the birth of my first child.  Using just a book that I bought through the mail, I learned the basics of mat work.  I felt changes inside my core that affected my strength and posture within just a few workouts.  I walked taller and tighter.  At my daughter’s first birthday party, my mother-in-law said that my stomach seemed flatter than before I had the baby.  She was wrong.  It wasn’t really flatter, but I had developed the strength to hold in my muscles for hours at a time without expending much effort at all.

Over the next ten years, I experimented with different videos and techniques.  I liked the pace and effort level of Windsor Pilates.  I saw especially good results with the Circle Workout.  My legs and butt toned and got lean in just few weeks.  Before that workout I never wore short shorts or skirts. After that workout, I do.

I was less happy with the Stotts Method of Pilates, but that may be because I haven’t done them in person.  The videos I used were slow.  However, I know that yoga is slow, yet I still like it.  I need to give Stotts another chance.

If you have a strong opinion about what kind of Pilates style/video/technique/class I should try, please let me know!

Easy. Vegan. Fitness

I should clarify why my website is entitled as it is and why I feel entitled to write about being a fit vegan when I am neither vegan nor fit.

Let’s start with vegan and the easy part will no doubt creep in where it wants to.  I am convinced that the vegan lifestyle is the way to go.  However, I do not want to have such a stringent diet that I have to forfeit anything I want for forever or inconvenience everyone I live and eat with to accommodate my choices.  Therefore, you will notice that I refer to myself as vegan-ish.  I try to make vegan choices as often as I can.

Two things come in to play here.  One is that I’m not a hard-core student of preparation and processing so I might not even know that something isn’t totally vegan.  For example, a true vegan avoids white sugar because some part of the whitening process is accomplished with an animal byproduct.  I don’t know all that stuff and don’t have the enthusiasm to find out.  I’m more concerned with cutting my animal protein down as much as possible.  Two is that I’m not going to eat crappy food for the rest of my life.  I don’t care if it’s vegan if it doesn’t taste good.  I’m not satisfied with a piece of fruit of breakfast and a handful of nuts and greens for lunch.  I don’t want the same foods over and over again.  I can’t eat a tossed salad with no cheese, no bacon bits, and light vinaigrette every day and be happy with that.  So, I have to balance my desire to be vegan with my desire to find pleasure in eating.  Sometimes I do that great (like the Winter Apple Salad and Riesling or Moroccan food), and sometimes I drift.  Real vegans will hate me, but the rest of you will understand.

The second part of the site is about fitness.  I haven’t written about that much yet, but I’m getting there.  I want to see muscles.  I want to turn heads.  I want to have firmness in good places and roundness in others.  I want to minimize jiggling wherever it occurs.  However, I only have about 30 minutes a day to exercise, and sometimes I don’t even have that.  So, I can’t do an hour of P90X before work or take a leisurely 5-mile jog in the evenings.  I need something that will burn calories and tone muscles quick.

Right now I’m doing 2-3 days of cardio and 1-2 days of Pilates.  I never work out for more than an hour including warming up, cooling down, and usually changing clothes.  I don’t work to exhaustion because I have too much to do to waste all my energy exercising.  I mean, who’s going to clean up the kitchen if I’m too weak to force one of my kids to do it?

I hope I don’t sound lazy.  I’m not.  I demonstrate a lot of discipline.  I’ve been keeping up with this routine for over a year.  My theory is that I may not see huge results right away, but after a while I’ll start looking like somebody who has worked out for years and years.  I’m happy to say, it’s working.  Today I bought the first pair of size 6 jeans I’ve ever bought.  Ever.  In my whole life.  The last time I wore a pair of pants that said size 6, they were 6x’s and I was 4 years old.

The down side to working out steadily is that boredom sets in.  I’m going to be trying new, easy exercises and letting you know how they work out for me.  Pilates is good and easy.  I’m going to do lots of that with different instructors to let you know what the variations are like.  Yoga seems pretty manageable so I’ll try that too when I have a chance.  Jogging isn’t fun, but it’s simple. Doing 30 minutes on an elliptical won’t kill me either if I don’t have to do it too often.

So that’s EasyVeganFitness in a nutshell.  I’m going to be doing all the research so that you can join me in my effort to buy more size 6 pants and maybe even wear them in public sometime. And remember, since I’m vegan-ish, I won’t be drinking any protein shakes or grilling 7 chicken breasts a week.  And since I’m looking for the easy ways, I won’t be keeping a food journal or counting calories either.

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