Exodus: Five Tips to Start Your Fitness Journey

Have you ever just felt terrible in your own skin? If you’re a woman, I’m going to guess the answer is yes, at least some of the time (thx hormones).

No matter how hard we try to fill our lives (and our stomachs) with “healthy habits,” there are still some days when we wake up just feeling blah. And some days, that’s okay. But when you think about how little it takes to get yourself from feeling like a C- to feeling like an A+: nutrition, activity, and hydration, it appears that success is much closer than originally thought. It’s really an underlying lack of commitment and lack of conviction that gets us feeling down and sluggish, leading to more body problems as we age.

Typically, I’m my own biggest bullshitter. Guilty. I tell myself that I can have those four crunchy creamy Tagalong Girl Scout cookies after a huge dinner, even though I barely moved that day. I repeatedly tell myself that “cheesiness is close to godliness,” though I know it’s one of the top things keeping me from reaching all of my health goals. I tell myself I’m too tired to workout or don’t have enough time today. I certainly don’t need Tagalongs or cheese to survive, and nearly every single day I am bullshitting myself out of a hot, healthy body in exchange for just a few fleeting moments of laziness and flavor satisfaction.

For this reason, I’m making 2015 the Year of No Bullshit.

With the ability to accurately track my exercise and nutrition (I’ve been using a Misfit Shine wearable fitness tracker since March of 2013), there really isn’t an excuse for the weight loss stagnation I’ve experienced for the past few years. Even after training for a half marathon last year, I’ve been struggling to stay slim, and it bothers me – not because of the way I look, but because of how slow and tired I feel when running around with my dog at the beach, or when I’m trying to bust an exhausted dance move on the final night of a weekend-long music festival.

I’m comfortable sharing my journey here because A) I want to hold myself accountable to my little “program” throughout the year, and B) probably nobody reads this blog anyway. If you do read, say hey. Hopefully I can help at least one other person get started on an improved lifestyle this year.

Before I get into the nasty details of my program goals, here are five basic tips/guidelines for how to get started on a healthy lifestyle.

  1. Track everythingEveryone (hopefully) knows about MyFitnessPal by now for tracking your meals throughout the day, but tracking calories burned each day is still kind of a mystery. I used to manually track my workouts on MFP, but after awhile I just did not find their burn amounts to be accurate at all, so I fell off my program completely. Now I have my Shine tracker and it does a great job of accurately tracking all my movement throughout the day while syncing with the MFP app to adjust my calorie levels for the day. I know wearables are expensive, but they do help with measurement if you’re in the dark about your daily metabolic rate. I would suggest the Misfit Flash (only $50); it’s waterproof for swimming workouts and also tracks running, walking, cycling, soccer and basketball, on Android or iOS, with MyFitnessPal syncing. Otherwise you’re going to have to start studying up on how to calculate your calorie burn manually, and that could take a while.
  2. Don’t deprive yourself. Health isn’t fun when you hate yourself. Take it from me. Some people are great about eating right – they actually enjoy wholesome “treats” like granola and banana chips, and think that quinoa is an acceptable substitute for rice. I, on the other hand, subsist almost solely on Mexican food, cheese, bread, cookies and ice cream. For me, giving all of that up cold turkey would just be devastating. It gives me a bad attitude when I can’t have my favorite foods. It’s hard to stay the course when you aren’t feeling it, so try to set reasonable goals for your guilty pleasures instead of looking at them with longing and fear. Make smaller serving size goals for bread, cheese and dairy, and limit yourself to treats like donuts and cookies just once or twice a week. Tough love.
  3. Reevaluate your relationship with alcohol. Alcohol, believe it or not, is like poison for your body. In some ways, beer and wine have purported health benefits, but health-wise, you pretty much want to stay away from drinking during the week, especially if you use it as therapy. If you must have a beer or glass of wine during or after dinner, finish it before 9pm or you’ll still be feeling the diuretic and depressive effects when you wake up in the morning. If you drink heavily on the weekends, you probably already know what this feels like! Think about it: do you really want to chalk up your entire weekend as a “rest day” because you went too hard in the paint on Friday night?
  4. Hustle. If you ever played a sport, you probably remember being yelled at by the coach to “hustle” just about everywhere you went! Even when practice is almost over and the team is tired, it’s important to keep moving quickly. It helps with calorie burn and muscle build, while keeping players disciplined to move quickly all the time. I’ve recently been applying this old principle to my everyday life and actually have been seeing higher calorie burns. I run back from taking out the trash or checking the mail, and run from the parking lot to the gym and back out again. Where walking is more appropriate, I walk briskly to work up a little sweat. People might look at you strange when you hustle, but you’ll be getting places quickly and burning calories while doing it. 
  5. Hydrate! Every time I see someone drinking out of a plastic bottled water, I die a little inside. Haven’t you people ever heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?! In any case, it’s pretty dumb to purchase and consume your H2O a mere 17oz at a time, especially since you need at least 4 or 5 of those per day to stay healthy (on a non-workout day). Invest in a larger reusable bottle or canteen to save money and make hydration a set part of your daily routine. I use a smaller Nalgene bottle (about 20oz) that seals tight and fits inside my purse. It comes everywhere with me, and most places let me fill it up for free. You can go a little larger to ensure you always have a drink on the go, or “bro out” with one of those huge gallon containers so everyone knows you’re a bro, bro.

Anyways, those are my tips and my starting points for positive change in 2015. Last week I started tracking my consumed calories and macros on a spreadsheet, which I will share in the next post along with best practices for tracking these things! Followed by my cardio and strength goals, and more.

PS – a quick disclaimer…I do have a lot of help with my diet and fitness routine. I live with my boyfriend who is a NASM certified personal trainer and health coach. While he does teach me a lot of this stuff and give me a lot of encouragement, I am extremely stubborn and like to do things by myself and in my own way. So this program is being developed 100% by me, and any other fun facts or tidbits I can share about nutrition or muscles are probably from him. He is a treasure trove of information though; if you’d like to stay in touch with him and hear about cool fitness stuff you can follow him on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/burncam.

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