Becoming a Runner

By: Ashley Whisonant

Exercising was something that never came easy to me. I hated going to the gym. This dates back as far as high school gym. We had the choice to walk 7 laps or run 3…guess which I would ALWAYS choose? You got it. Seven laps here I come.

Hitting my thirties was a wakeup call to me. I wanted to exercise to be around for my boys. Having two active boys under 5 made our Saturdays full of soccer, bike riding, and outdoor fun. Momma needed to keep up!

After joining FiA, Females in Action, I felt more energized and overall happier. The early morning boot camps started my days with laughs and fellowship.

I was ready for a new challenge: running! I began training with a good friend to prepare for our first 5K. We were both non-runners working towards the same goal of completing the 3.1 miles. We pushed each other in the cold, rain, early morning, and nights. We sacrificed sleep and time with our babies, but we did it to prove something to ourselves. Pushing ourselves to reach a goal was healthy. It was healthy for us to have time away getting better – better together.

We successfully finished the Hot Flash 5K in Timmerman Trail. Did we come in first place? Not even close. But we did reach our goal and pushed ourselves further than we ever imagined.

Five Tips to Get You Back on Track If You’ve Gained Weight

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

I recently looked back at my weight over the past two years. Except for the initial weight gain when I returned from Shepherd Center, I’ve generally I’ve stayed about the same. I felt a little crazy. Despite all of food tracking and measuring, exercising and gym visits, obsessing over ever calorie and measuring food, I was about the same weight. Whaaat?

Around that time, I saw a book called Body Kindness in one of my social feeds. The book promised to “show you how to create a healthier and happier life by treating yourself with compassion rather than shame.” Life is too short to be at war with my body, I thought as I ordered it. If I’m not going to benefit from “dieting” and assigning myself a goal weight, I may as well enjoy food and quit worrying so much.

The part of the book that resonated with me was “firing the food police” and seeing food as neutral, declassifying foods as “good” or “bad.”  I gave up recording in My Fitness Pal (MFP), bought foods I haven’t eaten in years and had a lot of ice cream. But food freedom didn’t automatically transfer into more mindful eating, an indifference to “problem foods” or weight loss. When I finally weighed myself after a few weeks, I was up a couple of pounds. That isn’t the end of the world, I know, but if you’re short and already have a few extra lbs., it’s a good warning sign.

Despite my tendency to overeat using the Body Kindness concept, I did love the “Body Kindness” tips. I loved striking morning power poses in the mirror; getting more sleep and practicing more positive body self-talk. I loved feeling less conscious and more empowered. It didn’t lead to weight loss or even maintenance, but it felt good.

I’ve decided that for me, meal planning and food journaling worked; it’s empowering and energizing. I’ve returned to food journaling and my goal to eat healthier. But I also decided to continue incorporating those body kindness tips as I worked toward getting closer to my goal weight.

Until then, I was stuck with a few extra pounds on top of what I wanted to lose before. For inspiration, I visited MFP’s website, where I found these tips to get back on track from MyFitnessPal’s blog.

According to MFP, these five tips will help you get back on track:

  1. START NOW AND START SMALL

Stop saying “I’ll start over tomorrow.” Instead of me focusing on the 22 total pounds I want to lose, I’m going to start with the five pounds I can realistically lose in one month. And I’m not going to obsess over working out for an hour every day of the week, when a nice walk outside for 20-30 minutes will be a good start.

  1. LOSE THE GUILT

It’s easy to feel ashamed, guilty and embarrassed when you gain or regain weight. Weight gain happens, so I’m going to shift my focus from the past and set my sights on concrete actions I can take to move forward. I’m going to set attainable goals and celebrate when I hit them – striving for progress, not perfection.

  1. CONSIDER HELP FROM THE PROS

Whether it’s a personal trainer, nutritionist, medical doctor or therapist, it can help to have someone holding you accountable. I love my trainer, and he keeps me honest. My body is still recovering from the time I spent in bed during my rehabilitation, and my frozen vocal cord prevents me from doing too strenuous a workout. Cash helps me determine what exercises are off limits for the moment and ways I can modify others for the long term. He also knows me well enough to know when to push me a little, too.

  1. MAKE A MEAL PLAN

It’s always helpful to plan out your meals to prevent you from falling back into old bad habits like eating ice cream every day. I started by jumping forward one day in My Fitness Pal and plugging foods into each meal ahead of time. Taking the time to think it out helps, and once I’ve journaled it, the “getting ahead” is more likely to keep me honest than fleeting good intentions in my head.

  1. REACH OUT TO FRIENDS

Tell your circle of influence that you’re working on healthy eating. They may want to join you, and everybody knows that it’s easier when you have a fitness/food buddy. They can help by keeping junk food out of sight or not tempting you with unhealthy food in the first place.

It’s only been a few days since I shifted my mindset, so I haven’t magically lost that weight I gained. I’m eventually going to weigh myself again, and I haven’t lost sight of my goal. Instead I’m going to judge my success by how I feel and how my clothes fit. Weight gain happens and weight loss is hard work, so I won’t give up or feel defeated if I struggle. I’ve got this, and I’m not alone.

Have you ever looked up and suddenly gained more weight than you anticipated? What was your wakeup call? What did you do? And what are your tips for staying on track? I’d love to hear from you.

It’s Never Too Early to Celebrate

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

lmc_race-medal

One thing I’ve learned over the past 19 months is that if you’re lucky enough to get a second chance, you shouldn’t waste it. In that spirit, I’m already thinking ahead to the two-year anniversary of my aneurysm rupture.

Y’all know that since I started working out about five years ago, I’ve been wanting to do a 5K. I was starting to train right before the rupture, then everything went south. During the first three weeks, my muscles atrophied, and I couldn’t stand up or walk. Even at Shepherd, the consensus was that I would probably end up having to use a cane. (As an aside, my doctors credited my health and fitness level as one of the reasons I survived!)

I learned how to walk again, and since I came back home in July, 2015, I’ve been working with a trainer to regain my balance and increase my strength. Sadly, due to the damage done to my vocal cords during the intubation, if I overdo it – in the gym or just walking down Main Street – I lose my breath. My voice specialist is working wonders, but for now, she says no to running and/or training to run.

Recently, I saw a blurb about the Five Points Get to the Green St. Patrick’s Day Race, on (get this) March 18, 2017. On the spot, I decided to walk it just because I can! I looked at GTTG2015_ShoeprintLogo_VectorBWthe race website, and saw that you can register a team. Since this recovery and rehab has been a team effort, I decided that a team would be quite apropos.

Fitness friends, please join me in celebrating on March 18. We can meet up before the race and perhaps toast ourselves with a beer afterwards. I’d love to have some company for the walk, but if you’re a runner, I don’t expect you to slow down for me. Registration for Get to the Green is only $30, and you save $5 if you register on a team. You’ll also get a t-shirt, medal/bottle opener and free admission into the festival. The team name is BAMFs for #MPBStrong.

I close this post with a word of thanks to my fitness friends, folks I worked out with back in the days of those 5 a.m. workouts. My gym friends have been so supportive; they visited, prayed, sent cards and lavished me with love. Even now, they continue to encourage and motivate me.

One friend, Jenny, ran the Palmetto Half in April 2015, and then came to the hospital to give me her medal. At that time, she challenged me to get better so I could do that run. I don’t know if she thought I’d ever be able to do it, but the encouragement and tangible symbol kept me going. (And that medal STILL hangs in my room.) And while I may not run, I am gonna do that 5K, two years to the day that aneurysm ruptured.

Is there something that has always been on your to-do list? What is it and what steps can you take today to move you closer to achieving it? It’s never too early to start planning!

Stepping Things Up

By: Chaunte McClure

I’m on the up side of my on-again, off-again relationship with being active. Why is it so difficult to create a good habit? I want to work out. I want to be physically fit. I want a flat stomach, toned arms and thighs and a healthy heart, but why, oh why, do I not want a beautiful physique enough to work for it? There is room for improvement and it won’t happen unless I do something about it.

I started a workout routine last week and I feel pretty good about it. I’m one week into it and hopefully this time there’s no turning back. If for some reason I fail at staying committed, I did get a good sermon illustration out of my efforts. Thanks, God.

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 2.03.05 PMThe on-again relationship started two Sundays ago when my husband and I hit the trail at Riverfront Park. I’m not sure how many miles we walked, but by Tuesday I could feel the wrath of that walk in the park. My muscles were sore! Instead of letting the soreness in my legs subside, I decided to keep working those babies. About an hour before dark, I made my way to the Statehouse to step things up a bit. I did laps around the iconic structure and jogged up and down the Statehouse steps twice. Twice? Yes, twice. I know you’re probably thinking, that’s nothing. Well, let me remind you that there are 52 steps that lead up to the door of our capitol building. At least I think it’s 52. Seems like each time I counted during my Saturday visit, I came up with a different number while making my way up or down. I guess that’s what happens when you’re tired – you can’t even think straight. And when you’re out of shape, 10 steps will have you panting.

I do feel better about myself after my moderate work outs, but is that enough to make me stop flirting with exercise and finally commit to it? It seems like there’s always something that hinders me from maintaining a routine and excuses are high on the list. Let me see how many excuses I can come up with.

  1. I don’t have time.
  2. I have too much homework to do.
  3. It’s too hot outside.
  4. By the time I get home from work, I’m too tired.
  5. I’m not a morning person, so I can’t work out before going to the office.
  6. I have too much going on right now. (However, in my last blog I told you I learned to just say no.)
  7. And any other excuse I can come up with on given day.

I need you to cheer me on and be my accountability partners. Do you have a routine that works? How do you stay committed to being physically fit? I’d love to hear from you. In the meantime, I have a work out to complete. I’ll be back here at the end of August.

Be a Strong Woman!

Disclaimer: Our bloggers are not health experts. Contact your physician if you have questions about how hormones affect muscle growth or if you are thinking about starting a new exercise program.

By: Lydia Scott

The Struggle is Real

I have a struggle. The struggle is real. The struggle is kind of a pain in the patootie. See, I’m a big supporter of strength training. I can’t recommend it enough. Strength training is fantastic! I tell everyone I know who asks what kind of exercise I do. And when I tell them lifting weightsthe different things I do, and I get to the part about “strength training” and “lifting weights,” nine out of ten of the women respond exactly the same: “What? Lift weights? No way! I don’t wanna look like a guy, ewww!”

Then you hear the loud, frustrated sigh slipping from my lips. DUDE! Why in the world do you think working to be stronger is going to turn you into a, well…a dude? Really? You think some 100-lb leg presses are going to give you Mr. Universe thighs? Some 15-lb Preacher Curls are going to send you to the guys’ clothing section for white tanks so you can “kiss those guns?” Weekly 70-lb deadlifts are going to have you in a sumo-style diaper on the Power Lifter channel?

That’s not how the female body works. Unless you have a major hormonal imbalance, or you train for years specifically to be a competitive body builder through extremely intense diet and targeted training, you will not look like a dude. Or even dude-ish. You need higher levels of testosterone to really build bulky muscles. The physiology that makes you a female also directs your muscles to keep themselves on the long, stretched out, and softly sculpted side. Whereas, the physiology that makes a guy a guy directs their muscles to grow big and bulky, fast.

Don’t take my word for it though. Let these fitness experts share their insights on women and why weight training shouldn’t scare them:

“Muscle burns fat. All you need to know!”

– J’Aimee Mechling, Personal Trainer and Wellness Director

“Strength training accentuates your natural silhouette. Once you burn the fat, you build up the muscles that were hidden and naturally create a beautiful shape. You determine how muscular you want to look, and cater your workout regimen towards that goal. Hourglass or body builder? It’s up to you!”

– Miriam Smith, Certified Nutrition and Wellness Consultant, AMPS Lifestyle Change.

Burn it!

Did you notice? Muscle burns fat. Yes. Muscle takes more calories to keep it going than fat does. If you weigh 150 pounds with a good supply of muscle, your body will automatically burn more calories just existing than if you weighed 150 pounds but have little muscle.

And me? Why do I do Preacher Curls, Romanian Deadlifts, standing kickbacks, chest presses, and an assortment of other strength-building exercises? For all the reasons J’Aimee and Miriam listed, plus I’m just sick of being weak. I mean, don’t you want to be able to toss that 20-pound bag of dog food in your grocery cart like it’s a sack of feathers? Or swing your 40-pound toddler around without getting sore or breathless? Don’t you want to be able to eat more without gaining a bunch of extra fat? Don’t you want to burn lots of calories all day and all night, instead of just the 45 minutes while you jog/row/bike/walk/dance? I do! I don’t like feeling weak when I know I don’t have to be. I love seeing my pants getting baggier, my legs and booty getting smoother and more shapely, and yet…I am not starving and I’m not slowly looking more dude-like.

Give it a try. Here’s a challenge to everyone whose doctor has approved them to engage in an exercise regimen like this: Twice a week, spend just 5 minutes lifting something. Your leg, the milk jug, the full laundry basket, a backpack. Then the next week, do it a little longer. Check back in a few weeks to let me know how it’s going!

Be a strong woman!

Reality Check

By: Shannon Shull

Lately I have been experiencing some major reality checks. My life stays so busy, and I am so stressed and overwhelmed that even when I sleep at night, I wake up exhausted from my crazy dreams. I have experienced major professional growth since I started teaching full time in the public school system. I wouldn’t take back any of the knowledge, experience and joy I have gained from my time teaching thus far, because I am a better person and certainly a better teacher for experiencing it. BUT – and here’s the big “but” – I’ve also gained about 10 pounds, sprouted way too many grey hairs, and feel like I’ve aged 10 years! I’ve only been teaching full time for a year and a half now! Folks, that’s sad! No lie, I have been more exhausted and overwhelmed than words can express.

time management

I know I am not the first person to declare that teachers are incredibly overworked and underpaid. I envy those that can go to work and leave it there – their work doesn’t follow them home, keeping them up during early mornings and late nights in an attempt to stay on top of everything. Those that think teachers have it made (thinking we get off work at 2 or 3:30 p.m. and get summers off) are clueless as to what the life of a teacher is really like. We don’t just show up, teach a few classes, and leave; it is way more involved than that! The required trainings, meetings, evaluations, and duties alone sometimes feel like a full time job.

shannon shull

What’s been so tough for me is that I was in the best shape of my life. I was teaching Zumba and Aqua Zumba classes throughout the week and getting tons of exercise, which resulted in me sleeping well, feeling good, and coping with incredible stress in my life without meds. Once I started teaching middle school full time, the health focus fell by the wayside something fierce. I had to stop teaching my regular Zumba and Aqua Zumba classes because I just flat-out did not have the time nor energy after teaching a full day. I have become a perfect example of not practicing what I preach! I know that if I could figure out how to squeeze in exercise, I would feel so much better on so many levels. Yet after an incredibly long day of being up since 5 a.m., teaching 170 middle school students within one day, making the long drive home, and then working to prepare lessons, the thought of having to add something else into my already-packed schedule seems to put my sanity levels at risk!

Obviously, my biggest challenge is time management. And I have absolutely got to figure out a way to make things work, because the utter truth is that I will feel better, sleep better and look better if I just make the exercise happen. So I’m asking you to hold me accountable! Email me, text me, Facebook me, ask me in person – “Shannon, did you squeeze in some exercise this week???!!!” If you have any tricks and tips on how you manage a busy career without losing focus on your health, please do share!

A Sea Change to My Exercise Routine

By: Mary Pat Baldauf 

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.

– Alan Watts

early workoutEarly morning exercise: I’ve blogged about it, praised it and lived it. But after three and half years of working out three to five days a week at 5:00 in the morning, my body has had enough. A few weeks ago, I switched my morning workouts to the afternoon to accommodate an early morning FEMA training workshop, and I haven’t looked back. I’ve been going to the gym after work ever since.

Morning exercise has lots of benefits, and the first few days, I actually felt a little guilty for missing it, even though I was getting it in after work. So before I permanently switched off my 4:17 a.m. alarm, I did a little research about morning exercise vs. evening exercise.

  Pros Cons
Morning
  • Increases daily calorie burn
  • Produces endorphins that starts the day on a positive note
  • Creates time for exercise with few to no conflicts
  • Increases daily energy levels
  • Improves your mental sharpness
  • Less than optimal energy levels
  • Cold, stiff muscles are more prone to injury
  • Hard to do for non-morning people
  • Early bedtimes and/or reduced amounts of sleep

 

Evening
  • Lower perceived exertion
  • Can help regulate evening eating
  • Can promote better sleep
  • Body temperature is ideal and muscles are at peak strength
  • Relieve the stress that has accumulated during the day
  • Evening conflicts
  • Limited access to equipment (after work is the busiest time for most gyms)
  • Can make it more difficult to fall asleep
  • Can increase evening hunger

The bottom line? The best time to work out depends on the best time for you.

“The best time of the day is when you will do it most consistently, because the benefits of physical activity are tightly linked to the amount you do on a consistent basis,” says Russell Pate, M.D., professor of exercise science in the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina.

When I first started working out, I deliberately chose early mornings. I knew that incorporating exercise into my day would be a big enough challenge without having to juggle workouts with after-work meetings and social activities. There are no conflicts at 5 o’clock in the morning. I gave up some evening activities so I could get to bed earlier, and I often got less sleep, but establishing the habit of working out was most important to me. I also really enjoyed the energy surge and extra time I had after my early morning workout.

Now that I have established the habit of working out and have improved my health significantly, I find that I need more than six hours of sleep. I also feel like I’m missing out when I go to bed at 8:30 p.m. Now I can do some things around the house, enjoy evening activities and spend more time with my family and friends. Working with a new trainer provides me with a challenge, and I’ve enjoyed seeing some new and different faces at the gym.

I’m not sure how long this new phase will last; it could go away as quickly as it came. But for now, I’m not questioning it. Instead, like Watts said, I’m plunging into and moving with it.

And, just in the nick of time, I loved this post from Women’s Health: 10 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Hit the Gym After Work.

Do you have a preferred time to exercise? If so, why does that time of the day work best for you?