An Experiment in Movement (or, OMG I Have Biceps!)

Preamble: Desires, motives and struggles related to physical activity and appearance are diverse and personal. I choose to share my journey here because selfishly, it helps me process it. I also share it to perhaps prompt reflection on what your own journey might look like. As always with my writings, I encourage you to consider what resonates with you and leave the rest.

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The past few years were rough when it came to movement and exercise. Dealing with anxiety, vertigo and panic attacks, it was a challenge to even walk around the block.

This year, with anxiety and vertigo finally at bay, I felt called back to adventure and the outdoors. I also felt called to pay attention to my body. It felt weak and hesitant and I wanted to change that.

I want to change that.

In September I started a journey into fitness and active living by exploring a regular practice of movement and exercise. Yesterday marked the end of Week 6. I felt it was time to take stock and share some of that journey here.

For your reading pleasure and entertainment, I explore my motives, goals, solution, successes and challenges encountered so far.

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Motive: feel solid and confident

I want to feel strong when I open a heavy door for someone instead of struggling to keep it open long enough for them to walk through. I want to walk up three flights of stairs without feeling winded. I want to feel nimble and agile instead of stiff and sluggish.

I want to feel less hesitant at trying physical activities like long hikes or bike rides, less afraid that my body won't be able to handle it.

I want to take care of my body as I grow older, set myself up for a better chance at enjoying life later.

I'm in it for strength and confidence.

This is my “why.”

Goals: a sustainable practice, strength and stamina

I have two goals:

1. Integrate movement into my life in a way that is sustainable and practical. It must nestle into my lifestyle and schedule without feeling complicated or overwhelming.

2. Build muscle strength and stamina.

These are my “whats.”

Solution: Home-based workouts, focused weight training and accountability

To meet my goals I knew that:

  • my best bet would be to find workouts that I can stream online. Having to leave the house is a MAJOR deterrent and not sustainable for me. I've tried it before, it just. doesn't. work.
  • I wanted to include workouts that offered weight training. Although walking and hiking are good exercise, I want to target muscle groups too. Strength, solid, YES.
  • I would need a bit of help through either a fitness coach or accountability group, preferably online.

The first thing I did was join an accountability group led by coach Carmen Torbus. I'd been stalking her business page on Facebook for a while and felt she could help me (she's wonderful, by the way!).

Through Carmen, I chose the Beachbody On Demand (BOD) workout streaming service. BOD is a subscription-based service, once I pay for the year I can stream any workout video they offer from the comfort of my own home. Because it's account based I can stream workouts while I'm on the road if I feel like it. They offer other fitness-related resources that I may or may not tap into later, like meal plans and workout calendars.

<begin confession>

I'll be honest, I sometimes cringe at the name "Beachbody" because it implies that only a specific type of body is fit for the beach. All bodies are fit for the beach.

I'd also be a hypocrite if I said I wasn't looking forward to sporting my bikini with defined abs and a chiseled back/shoulder combo.

One of my many inner dichotomies...

<end confession>

I'm sure there are plenty of free workout videos out there and I could have easily chosen to do them too. What led me to BOD is my joining Carmen, who just happens to be a BOD coach. BOD also happens to meet my needs right now.

I set a specific weekly goal: three BOD workouts plus one walk or hike of at least 30 minutes.

This is my "how."

What's working well (so far)

The following six things are working particularly well at keeping me on track.

1. Being part of an accountability group

Carmen and my fellow group members have been a key factor in my meeting my weekly goals. Seeing others work hard and meet their goals motivates me to do the same. Witnessing their struggles lets me know that I'm not alone in mine. As a group we create health not only for ourselves individually, but for the collective.

Me, feeling pretty satisfied after my first workout in over 10 years.

Me, feeling pretty satisfied after my first workout in over 10 years.

2. Choosing an online streaming subscription

Oh. Em. Gee. Working out at home is the best! No driving, no locker rooms, no waiting for sweaty gym equipment that hasn't been wiped off... Seriously, removing the deterrent of having to leave the house or stop somewhere at the end of a work day makes a world of difference for this introvert. All I have to do is get into my gear and cart my laptop downstairs.

3. Choosing a consistent time to work out

I work out after work, before dinner. If I wasn't working out I'd be Facebooking. It's an OK trade, I can Facebook later.

4. Treating myself to workout gear

At the risk of sounding vain, a few weeks into my experiment I bought a new pair of leggings and two crop tanks that make me feel fit and sexy. I also splurged for a three-pack of colourful workout socks. Sometimes it's the little things.

NOTE: Working out in my old active wear was in no way a showstopper, I simply felt like a little update.

5. Sticking to my original goals

Some people in my group work out every day. Some follow a nutrition plan in addition to their exercise program. Sometimes I feel like I'm not doing enough, but then I remember that before September I was hardly doing anything.

Knowing my "why" (sustainable integration of movement + increase in strength & stamina) keeps me focused and grounded. Three workouts plus one walk or hike is plenty for now.

Pushing myself to the point of feeling overwhelmed is not a good way to build a sustainable practice, there will be plenty of time to add more later if I feel compelled to do so.

6. Visually logging my workouts

My subscription to BOD comes with an app in which I log workouts, stats and interact with my fellow accountability group members. I check in on a daily basis.

I also log my workouts on good old-fashioned paper thanks to a new planner with a handy dandy habit tracking sheet at the beginning of each month. At the end of each day I've worked out I get to put a check mark in a little box. This visual and manual approach has been effective for me so far. Bonus: I can track any habit, not just my workouts.

I split the BOD workouts and hikes & walks into two separate lines, tracking them separately. In case you're curious, that top line is tracking how many times I floss my teeth - also a part of maintaining physical health!

I split the BOD workouts and hikes & walks into two separate lines, tracking them separately. In case you're curious, that top line is tracking how many times I floss my teeth - also a part of maintaining physical health!

Challenges (so far)

I've not faced too many challenges so far, but there are a few things worth mentioning.

1. Seasonal transition

We are transitioning from summer to fall here and I'm not gonna lie, it's throwing my system out of whack. I crave sleep and carbs on a regular basis, neither of which are conducive to working out or eating sensibly (bagels, ciabatta buns, baguettes, I blame YOU!). Also:

in·er·tia iˈnərSHə/ noun noun: inertia
1. a tendency to do nothing or to remain unchanged. "the bureaucratic inertia of government" synonyms: inactivity, inaction, inertness; More unchanged state, stationary condition, stasis "by the nature of its own inertia, the coal industry has remained an unshakable constant"
2. Physics a property of matter by which it continues in its existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line, unless that state is changed by an external force.

Mitigation strategy: The change of seasons is well beyond my control, but I can choose to circumvent Costco's bakery section - or at least try - and tap into the support offered through my accountability group to help me move through the inertia that creeps up as days get shorter and darker.

2. An increase in appetite

I suspect that it's natural for my body to want more "fuel" now that it's working harder so I shouldn't be surprised that I feel hungry more often than I did when movement was minimal. The challenge here isn't necessarily in the increase in appetite, but in choosing the right food to fill me up.

It's far too easy to grab a slice of bread and slather it with butter (see challenge #1) or load my plate with a second helping of pasta (again, see challenge #1) when veggies, fruit or a lean protein might be better.

Mitigation strategy: Avoid Costco's bakery section, avoid buying potato chips and load up on vegetables, fruit, lean protein and healthy fats. Pay attention to portion sizes. Be aware of what I'm eating and cut myself some slack, life's too short to cut out potato chips completely.

.:.

What spurred this experiment was a desire to feel solid physically and so far, it seems to be working. Each week I stretch - literally and metaphorically, I observe, I adapt. I set myself up for success where I can.

I do not know how it will unfold in the long run, but for today, I continue. One workout at a time.

Onward.

Your turn

When it comes to your physical health, how would you like to feel? What would that look like?

In spirit of discovery,

Stephanie

xo