Reader Questions :: Exercise and Doing It All

A topic that came up several times in the my Reader Survey is my running and exercise routine.

I’d like to know how you got into running. Did you try other exercises first and they just didn’t appeal to you? I’ve been trying to get into an exercise routine, but I just can’t find one to keep my interest.

And . . .

I’m interested in how you balance everything you do. I can’t seem to find the time some days to even put dishes in the dishwasher AND exercise. It’s one or the other. Your busyness and organization amaze me. 🙂

Okay, so these are really two different topics, but I can address them together. I’ve written before about not doing it all. NO ONE DOES. We all make choices, and while it may SEEM like I do a lot, there are plenty of things I don’t do that you may do. We all have 24 hours in a day, and we can’t beat ourselves up for not doing more than time allows.

I have struggled my whole life with finding the time and motivation to exercise.

When I casually mention running and working out, please don’t think that it’s second-nature to me. I love this image I found on Pinterest.

I love it BECAUSE it is such an awesome reminder that we all make time for what is important to us. And we will always let slide the stuff we don’t really care for. This is why my house is rarely perfectly neat and clean (except on Thursdays for about an hour after the cleaning lady leaves.) This also why I don’t do crafts or scrapbook or watch much TV or hang out at the mall anymore.

And of course, at different times in our lives, we make time for different things. I used to take a lot of time and pride in decorating my home, but nowadays it is an afterthought at best. I used to be an avid scrapbooker, but that went quickly by the wayside when I discovered blogging.

Ironically, I’m busier now that I’ve ever been, but exercise is a regular part of my life because I have made a conscious effort to fit it into my schedule even though there are always a dozen other things I feel like I could/should be doing instead. Exercising keeps me off of depression medication and keeps my digestive system working. {Dead serious.} If I go too long without running, I start to feel like my digestive system is backing up. And a few years ago, it was running that got rid of my seasonal affective disorder and allowed me to stay off meds that I was considering. Ever since, I have referred to running as my mental health insurance.

I’ve never been athletic and I never really enjoyed exercise. It was always a means to an end, or something I felt like I should be doing. I have tried everything from The 30-Day Shred to power walking to Jane Fonda’s aerobic workout videos to weight lifting to running to Pilates . . . I think the only things I’ve never tried are swimming and yoga. (And yoga’s on my list!)

At several times throughout my life, starting in high school, I tried running and could never stick with it. But I always wanted to like it. I wish I could tell you how and why it finally clicked, but I honestly do not know.

It was a few years ago when I was doing the 30-Day Shred and had worked up to the third level when I injured myself. I pulled an abdominal muscle and couldn’t do the workout for a few days. I didn’t want to lose my momentum so I decided to go take a walk. It was a pretty spring day, and I was enjoying the fresh air and the sunshine, but I soon got antsy and wanted a harder workout so I started to run. I just ran a little ways, until I felt winded, and then I went back to walking. After walking for a while, I got bored again and started to run. I probably ran/walked a couple of miles that day.

Fueled with a sense of accomplishment and also with the freedom of allowing myself to walk or run, whichever felt good, I went back out again. I started working up to running more and walking less, but I always allowed myself to walk when I wanted to. I bought myself an iPod Shuffle and put some fun music on it and started to really enjoy the time to myself. Before I knew it, I had tired of the Shred but I was running/walking fairly regularly.

Running used to bore me, but these days, running is my escape from work and kids and house. And having a killer playlist helps immensely! Even when I don’t feel like running, all I have to do is turn on my music, and I’m raring to go.

I have been exercising with some regularity for several years now, which is a HUGE record for me. When I went through Dinneen’s counseling program, she made a point about exercise that has stuck with me ever since, and I credit her with my ability to keep it up for this long.

You see, in my mind, I was always exercising or I was not. There was never an in-between. I would do whatever I was doing at the time 2 or 3 days a week, for several weeks or months, but once I went away for a vacation or got sick, and missed a week, that was it. I wouldn’t do anything strenuous for months or years at a time until the next exercise fad.

Dinneen pointed out that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. She encouraged me to look at exercise as a regular part of my life, and not to get bogged down in how long it had been since my last workout or how much strength or endurance I might have lost. I was allowing the failures of the past to inhibit me from getting out there again. I felt like there was no point in “starting up again” if I was going to quit.

In fact, it was the simple fact that I viewed all those other times as failures that was my stumbling block. Dinneen freed me to see all those past exercise attempts in one big picture, not a bunch of separate illustrations. There is no such thing as an exercise failure — every single time you get your butt out there and move, it is a success story. In reality, I have been exercising my entire adult life. At least, that is the way I look at it now.

And it is taking that perspective towards exercise that has enabled me to keep going for so long this time. See that? I still fall into that habit. I don’t run as often as I’d like, but nowadays, even when I’ve missed a week, I get back out there. I don’t let how long it’s been affect my psyche anymore.

Last fall I started going to the gym again (see that? again . . . old habits die hard) and working out with weights. I am also taking a TRX class. I always loved how I felt when I was working out with weights, and the older I get, the more I feel the need for strength training.

My mom likes to say, “You do aerobic exercise to extend your life, and you do strength exercise to improve your quality of life.”

Because I have paid for classes, I am committed to going. Truly, that is the ONLY thing that gets me to the gym most days. I go twice a week, and it pretty much kills the entire morning. I hate losing the time from work or home commitments, but I am determined to fit it in because I know it makes the rest of my life that much more enjoyable.

I think everyone has to find what works for them, the type of exercise they enjoy, the time of day that they can fit it in, and most of all — a reason to keep going. For me, it’s not so much about weight loss or even body toning, but it’s about my mental health and my quality of life. I love feeling strong and energetic. When I let a few days go by without doing any physical activity, I don’t like how I feel, and that motivates me to get back out there.

How about you? What exercises do you enjoy? What motivates you to get out there?

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37 Responses

  1. I sign up for road races to stay motivated to exercise. If I don’t have anything to train for then I can find all sorts of excuses to not work out. Last year I ran my first half marathon. I trained all year for the race that was in Oct. I finished the race within my goal time and 5 weeks later, I ran my fastest 5 k ever. All the training paid off and I had a blast. I am now setting up my races for 2012.

  2. Love what your mom says!

    For awhile I had a walking partner to get me going in the morning. Before that I would run or walk by myself, though often bringing a kid along. These days I’m back to solo which is fine for me as I get myself ready for a 5k in April which I’m running with my sil.

    My sil is actually my exercise partner though we live 40 minutes apart. We email daily about our nutrition and exercise. We both started doing the 30 day shred though I think we have 2 different versions.

    I’ve always exercised since high school. I started running in high school, and in college, I lost a lot of weight while running and cycling. I have to move daily. I feel more limber, and it definitely keeps me healthier. I also want to set an example for my kids.

    1. I love the part about setting the example for the kids. And also, I had a walking partner once. It was very fun. We walked verrry early in the a.m. for about a year until she had to quit. That was great accountability though!!

  3. I love my running….my stress reliever!!!!! I have run 2 half marathons in the last 2 years and just love the sense of accomplishment that it brings. That at 40 I can do something that I was so bad at in high school. Can completely relate to your whole article…..and I just recently started a gym again also. Specifically to do Body Pump classes (weights). The combo of muscles and running seems to be a good one for my mind!!!!=)

  4. This is a great post. I try to keep the same frame of mind regarding breaks and getting back to it. I’ve been a member at the gym for almost four years now, and other than pregnancy, I’ve gone at least once a week consistently the whole time. Sometimes I just walk on the treadmill (kids in childcare, outside not an option) or ride the bike, but it is still better than nothing. I definitely feel better when I make time to exercise. It is hard on the days when I have a lot going on and could really use that time for other things, but I never regret it. I always say you’ll regret not working out, but it is very unlikely you will regret exercising.

    1. I am always impressed when I think of the AMOUNT of children you have and that you exercise regularly. 🙂 Also, just the fact of getting pregnant and recovering and losing the exercise momentum and getting back to it when you would be so very tired and sleep deprived seems daunting. Exercise is always something I can only seem to manage when I’m not pregnant or nursing. But I wonder, now that I have this newfound appreciation for it, if I would have a different experience were I to get pregnant again. (Which is SO NOT happening, lol.)

  5. I prefer running and weights (with the help of Jillian M. and Jackie Warner). I’ve never had a weight issue, but as I’ve entered my 30’s I have noticed that keeping weight OFF is becoming an issue. Forget about losing any! That’s my motivation to sweat it out 4-5 days/wk. Maintainence. Also having 2 daughters motivates me. We all live what we learn, to some degree, and I want to show them that moving our bodies is important. I block out time in the morning (yes, when they are around!!) all to myself to exercise. I want them to SEE me doing it.

    1. I agree with the kids seeing you do it. I can sense my kids’ pride in the fact that their momma goes out and runs, and they were my biggest cheerleaders when I ran the 5K.

      And the maintenance part too – that is pretty much what got me going back to the gym. I’m nearing 40 and I have gained some weight that IS NOT BUDGING so I figured if I am going to stay at this weight I might as well be toned and fit.

  6. This is an awesome post!! I love your perspective. I too talk about “getting back into it,” but I’d rather look at the bigger picture. One way I do that is by still calling myself a runner, even if I only run once every couple of weeks! I feel like I always will be a runner, but the way life works right now, it’s easier to do a workout DVD while the kids nap than it is to sneak out of the house to run several times a week. I try to stay in good enough shape so that I can run when I want to. But even if I’ve been slacking, I go out for a walk with the option of jogging… and I always end up jogging more than I expect! The freedom to walk if I want (not run the entire way “stopping is not an option” kind of mentality) is a relief and always motivates me more. Definitely want to KEEP exercise as just a way of life. If life happens (sickness, holidays, etc.) just pick it right up again. No excuses. Weight loss or not, it just makes us stronger, better people.

    1. I do the same. I know that by true running standards, I am not “a runner” but I call myself that because it keeps me motivated. And who can really say who is a runner and who is not. I run. So I am a runner. LOL.

      And I’ve done the same thing – to motivate myself to get out there, I tell myself I don’t have to run, I can just walk. But I ALWAYS end up running the majority of the time.

      I have JUST GOTTEN to the point where I run without walking. But I still don’t pressure myself to run if I don’t want to.

  7. Thank you for being so honest, Jo-Lynne. It is refreshing to read an honest account of a woman’s life who doesn’t try to hide the truth. I have always felt that we make time for those things which we deem is most important to us.

  8. This hit a number of key points for me. I have been exercising 3-5 times a week for about 5 years. I started with promising myself that I would do 20 mins of walking a day. That was it. I could do more if I wanted but if I was not in the mood, 20 mins was not a big deal. Then when I chose to lose weight, I kept the walking up but realized that to keep the weight off, I would have to make this change for the rest of my life. That long view really gave me perspective. I tend to panic a bit when missing a workout. I am afraid of breaking routine. But that perspective was that an extra day of rest was much more beneficial to the long term, than possibly injuring myself. If I go more than 2 days without a good sweat, then I have to get back to it.

    I have also added strength training. I was doing a little when I lost weight, crunches, push-ups on my knees and planks. I decided to hire a trainer. I LOVE IT! It is hard but really effective. It gets rid of all the things that I find annoying about strength training: Counting, coming up with different routines and finally teaching me proper form so that it is all more effective. My hour with my trainer is my favorite hour of the week.

    I am also a new runner (2 years in March). I have always wanted to run. After 3 years of walking 20-60 mins a day, I needed something harder. I have foot, knee and back issues so after checking with drs. I posted a link to Couch to 5K on facebook. My neighbor said she wanted to get back to it and we started together. We did the whole program and ran a 5k together. Her company got me over the hardest part, the pain and the fatigue. When she moved 3 weeks after the 5k, I was able to keep at it. Now, those 3 runs a week are my second favorite times. I still impress myself. I ran a 5 mile trail run in Oct, a 10k in Nov and just signed up for my first half. I am always in the bottom 3rd of my age group but I am running against poor biomechanics in my feet and who cares anyways. I still marvel that I am a runner!

    1. That is awesome. You are really committed. I agree on the trainer. I have hired one to help me with my weight training once a week, and I take the TRX class on the other day. It is SO HARD but having a standing appointment keeps me committed and I feel that I’m making the most of that time because she makes sure I work to my fullest potential and that I’m doing the exercises correctly. I also like that I don’t have to worry about the routine, she changes it up every time so I don’t have to figure that part out.

  9. Everything you say is so true! For me, it’s about every single (even tiny) victory! 30 seconds longer than yesterday, Easier breathing today. It’s the little things that give me motivation to continue!

    To be more practical, I have to change it up. I run on a treadmill, and I really can get bored easily. So sometimes I read on my Kindle, sometimes I listen to a sermon, and sometimes I blast the music and pray.

    Set small goals and rejoice when you reach them!

    1. You can read your Kindle?? Heck I could probably run a marathon if I could read my Kindle while I’m doing it, lol. Have you tried books on tape? I have considered that. I thought I needed the beat of the music to keep me moving, but maybe having something to distract me would help me run farther.

      1. Yep, I sure can! Not on interval-running days, but on the steady runs for endurance, it’s perfect. I just make the font size big enough. I haven’t tried books on tape yet, but I guess audio sermons would be like that. I will be trying it this week though, because I just got the audio version One Thousand Gifts from the library. So we’ll see. But yes, most definitely distraction! That’s my secret. Oh, I also cover the display. I find that if I don’t know how much I have left to run, I’ll go farther.

        1. I’d love to know more about your interval training.

          And also, I like to never run on the treadmill. I am usually outside. So obviously the kindle is out, lol. But I might consider a book on tape as I increase my distances.

          1. Well, I do interval training on the treadmill; I wouldn’t know how to do it outside! (Anyone?) Every three days I choose the interval program. (I’ve been told that you have to “trick” your muscles or they’ll stop toning.) It’s set up to have 3 smaller “highs” and two huge ones. And let me tell you, the first time I did it, I thought I was going to DIE!. No, really, I thought I might fall into the floor and never get back up again… It had me doing 7mph at an incline of 8. For a WHOLE minute!!! What?! Whose idea was THIS? haha. Anyway, I told myself I would do it and I did. And ever since then, it’s been easier. I add more time as I can. It’s tough, but it’s completely worth it. It increases endurance and curbs the boredom, too.

          2. I used to try to do it outside. I read some stuff on Mercola’s site, so I would time myself and sprint for 30 seconds and then walk for 90 and do that 5 or 6 times in a row. But it is probably more intense on a treadmill. I’ll have to try that.

  10. Ohmygoodness….all you runners are scaring me!! LOL! I am NOT a runner, by any stretch of the imagination. I have two problems with it — my knees and my brain. Neither can handle it. I really really really wish I could run because I think it would do my body good, but I can’t get past the pain in my knees or the boredom in my head.

    But I DO love DANCE! About 12 years ago, I went to a party where they were spinning Latin music and dancing salsa. Some of the partygoers took pity on this white girl and taught me some moves. I was hooked. Six months later, I was signed up for a class at a local dance studio. Now I’m 44 and I’ve performed twice (if you ask nicely, I’ll send you a video…lol…) and have tried all kinds of other dance, such as bellydance, hip hop, jazz, and more.

    Last year I discovered Zumba. If you ever liked to shake a tailfeather, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND Zumba dance fitness. Basically, it’s Latin aerobics (move over, Jane Fonda…your sexier Latina sister is here…). But it is really a heart pumper and SO much fun! I lost 17 pounds last year taking Zumba three times a week. I did not change my eating habits much, though I do feel you gravitate towards healthier eating when you are working out consistantly.

    The thing about dance/Zumba that does it for me is that when I’m listening to the music and concentrating on getting the dance moves right, I completely forget that I’m sweating my tush off. The hour goes by in a flash, sometimes too soon!! We’ll beg the instructor for just one more dance. So fun! Try it!! :-))

    1. I have a really good friend who is into Zumba. Like I said at the end, it’s all about finding the right exercise for YOU!! 🙂 I have been wanting to give it a try because it sounds like fun but I am so uncoordinated that I’m afraid I’ll feel ridiculous. But I think I’ll sign up for a class one of these days. It DOES sound like FUN!!

      And you go with the DANCE PERFORMANCES!!! That’s great. I’ve always wanted to learn to dance. I really should take a class.

      1. Just a word for anyone who wants to try Zumba and has the same “I have two left feet” fear: Take a class a la carte and give it a whirl. Go with a buddy, hang on the edge or towards the back of the class, and just remember that everyone else in the class is working so hard to keep their own feet and arms going, they are not paying attention to anything but themselves, the instructor, and how much sweat is rolling into their eyes. And other places. 🙂

        P.S. Zumba Fitness is a commercial operation, but I am not affiliated with them in any way other than as a fan of the instructors in my neighborhood.

      2. I am a big, uncoordinated mess. I look ridiculous doing Zumba. But I still love it. Like Amy says, most people are only looking at themselves and the instructor. I figure it is a good mental exercise too, as you try to keep up with the routines. And extra calorie burn laughing at yourself! It is really fun–my easy workout because I know I’ll enjoy it and work hard but not feel like I’m dying. 🙂

  11. That’s me, I want to like running. But I don’t, not yet at least. It could have something to do with the fact that I don’t actually run. We don’t live in a neighborhood that fosters just going out and running which has hindered me. I need the extra motivation (and time) to get in the car and drive to the park. I’ve done the 30 day shred in the past as well and some of Turbofire. I like both of those but haven’t stuck to it for whatever reason. I really do want to run though. My husband runs and he would love it if I liked to run. For that reason alone I really want to “be a runner”.

    1. You know, now that you mention it, that is part of it. Where I live now is much nicer to run in than where I lived before when I tried running. I also ran a bit in college, but again, it didn’t stick.

      It would be fun to share that with your husband, but it may not be your thing. (My husband detests running. He loves to be active and play sports and go on hikes and climb mountains but he will not run.) So maybe try Zumba or yoga or some of the other crazy classes they have at the gym. (lol)

      I think to keep myself exercising for life, I will have to continue to change it up now and again, to keep my interest.

  12. What a great post! I am really looking for motivation to get moving again. I had begun an exercise routine in April, 2010 then my mother fell ill and I was focused on that and then her death. I joined a Biggest Loser contest in August, 2011 and lost some weight, but have since gained it back. I NEED to find that motivation again. I am in the mindset that I am just too busy for everything, work, kids, etc. Thanks for the motivational post, I needed to hear this today as I am trying to get my mind back into the exercise game!

    1. Kori, I wish you the best of luck with this!! I can honestly say that getting out there ONE TIME is usually all I need to get back into it. It’s the first time that is the hardest!!

  13. I talked to my therapist today about how it is so hard for me to just make myself get up and walk out the door. We talked about some different techniques, but one was that I should focus on smaller time frames for my goals. Instead of saying this month, or even this week, I should say this morning I’m going X, this afternoon I’m going to Y, and tonight I’m going to Z. That way when the day is over I can look back at what I accomplished instead of pushing those things off until some later time.

    1. Honestly, it is baby steps some days for me too! I had a therapist once tell me, “Just do the next thing.” That is the ONLY thing that gets me thru some days.

      I think a HUGE part of the exercise thing is getting dressed for it. One reason I wear workout clothes more often than not these days is that I know if I am wearing the clothes, I am that much more likely to get my butt out there. So I get up and put on workout clothes. Then I do coffee and emails and things, and sometimes breakfast and work a bit. But I am dressed so that when the motivation strikes, I just have to put on my headphones and walk out the door.

      I used to tell myself, “You only have to walk.” I always ended up running, but not putting that pressure on myself helped. Now I crave the run, but some days I still tell myself, “Just do a short one.” or “Just take it easy today.” I usually end up doing 30 or more and challenging myself in some way, but again, it helps me get started when I am not overwhelmed with the commitment of a certain pace or certain length. It’s all about mind games, really. 🙂

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