I woke up this morning to a gray sky, warm and humid house and a low level of energy. As I sat with my coffee cup I urged myself gently to get going to the gym. I finally made it out of the house and to the gym and was in the water by 7:45 AM which was at least ½ hour later than my typical latest start.
The important part, I was there. Although I frequently have arguments with myself about getting in gear and going, I rarely “win” the argument to stay home. While swimming laps for 45 minutes I thought about how and why I get myself up and out at least 5 days a week and “exercise on purpose” for a minimum of 210 minutes on those 5 days. In review, my typical time spent moving on purpose is 250 minutes total on those 5 days. Saturday and Sunday are “free” days. I may walk on the beach, go for a bicycle ride, go to the gym and swim or use the elliptical, work hard at domestic goddess duties, or just hang out with friends and relatives. Whatever I do on the weekends you can bet it is more intense and lots more than I did when I was 424 pounds.
Back to how and why I get myself going 5 days a week. The how is easy when it’s put into words. It’s a little harder to make it a habit. Every evening, before I start dinner prep I get my gym clothes ready and my gym bag, water bottle and music go into my car. No excuses in the morning for me. That act alone has moved me out the door on more mornings than I can count. On my swim days my bathing suit goes on under my clothes so when I get to the gym its grab my goggles and bathing cap and towel, shove my clothes and bag in the locker and out to the pool. I never could figure out why at 6 or 7AM folks were completely undressing and changing to a bathing suit. I strive for efficiency of motion and a plan. I asked a woman once if she was coming from work at that time and she said, no, from home, but was afraid she would forget her underwear if she didn’t put it on first. I held in my laughter and thought…so keep an extra set in your gym bag or in your car or both places.
On those really tired, stressed, achy, lazy mornings I also give myself permission to do a shorter workout. When I’m not feeling it I make a pact with myself that I can stop at 15 minutes of …….(whatever it is I would be doing that day) if I am still not feeling it. Funny thing, I have NEVER stopped. I always just continue and some of those days turn into my best workouts.
Now for the why; so just why is it that exercise is a necessary component of long term success after weight loss surgery? Think about it this way. We did not put weight on by running marathons every week, now did we? More than likely, every year we put on more weight we became less and less active, turning more and more muscle into the F word…fat. For me that resulted in a huge blob at 424 pounds, barely able to get up and down from a chair herself, struggling to get through every day. You’d think that hauling all that weight around would burn lots of calories…NOPE. It was mostly fat and my metabolism was so very slow that I had no energy, no muscle and no weight loss of any significance.
How did I change that? I had surgery, reduced my caloric intake to 1200 calories a day and began moving; slowly at first, just walking more than I did before, not on purpose, just in the process of living. As the weight came off and I was moving around with a little bit of freedom (somewhere at about 325-350 pounds) I knew I needed to exercise. I had arthritis and walking hurt my knee, my back, my very being so that was not going to be my exercise of choice. I chose swimming, and in the course of the next year worked up to swimming 45-60 minutes a day without stopping.
Was I crazy? No – here’s my WHY:
- I could swim and my knee actually felt better, not worse, the pain diminished
- I felt good- all of those endorphins (the feel good hormones) were helping me keep a positive mental attitude which helped me get back to the pool the next day
- I was building muscle and muscle burns more calories than fat so my weight loss didn’t level off, it just kept right on going
- I was having fewer bouts of upper respiratory infections and my chronic bronchitis and asthma were virtually non-existent
- I was empowered by the possibilities of who I was becoming as I moved towards a normal life
- I looked better, healthier, more alert and alive because I felt that way
- I did it because I COULD
- I found myself wanting to try new things so I did that too adding weight training and the elliptical to my fitness schedule
Believe me I used to view exercise as a “four letter word” until I wrapped my head around all of the good things exercise brought into my life and let go of the resistance.
Find something you like doing and just get started. So what if you can only last 2 minutes the first time? That’s great! You did it!!! It’s like those folks say …..JUST DO IT!
Now as I sit here typing I can actually feel my muscles and I like that feeling…It’s GOOD TO BE ALIVE.