I think I'm more fit than I've been in 32 years.
Which is to say more fit than I've ever been.
Exercising (consistently and effectively) for the last 4 1/2 months has changed me. I am more confident, and exercise is wonderful for my energy levels and moods.
But let's talk on a more superficial level. Exercising has changed my body. And I really am enjoying having a toned body! I didn't realize my "mommy trouble areas" (tummy and bottom!) could look like this after having two kids.
Let me be clear: I don't have a perfect body. Not at all. I'll point out to you some of the imperfections--not to whine about them, but just to assure you this blog post isn't being written by someone with a model's figure. I will always have some extra skin on my lower belly, because it's been stretched out through two pregnancies. I have memories of what it's like to have cleavage, but only because I've breastfed two kids. That cleavage wasn't here for long, and now it's gone for good! I've got discolored, blotchy skin on my upper thigh--left over from pregnancy, I think. And I'm 5'2" so even if I didn't have my "mommy body issues," you wouldn't be catching me on any runways!
But I genuinely like how my imperfect body looks these days, and part of the reason I like it is because I've worked for it! I look at my tummy and I know that it's flatter because of those miles I've run, and those sit-ups I've done. I touch my thighs, and I feel the firm muscles, and I'm proud that I've worked so hard to turn my squishy legs into toned legs.
Why in the world am I writing this blog post? Well, it's not to make any readers feel bad. It's not to say, "Look at me, I'm so cool!" I'm definitely not interested in getting involved in any blogger beauty contests!
I'm writing this because I was inspired by my blogger friend Sasha to start running. And now I've found out that I've been part of the inspiration for others (including another wonderful blogger, Liz) who are starting the same Couch-to-5K program that I did. I just absolutely love this inspirational side of online social networking and blogging.
And while I think that being healthy is an awesome, worthwhile goal, sometimes we need the simple motivation of wanting to look good. So I want to encourage those of you who are just starting to work out, or haven't even started yet: It feels great to look in the mirror and see a fit body!
And I don't mean it only feels great to see a tiny body. I mean, it feels great when your body, with its unique shape and inevitable flaws, is fit. If you are naturally curvy, think how amazing your curves will look when they are supported by strong muscles! Enjoy those curves--for those of us who don't have them! (Did you see Queen Latifah at the Oscars? She will never have an ultra-skinny body...but these days her newly-healthy figure looks awesome. There's a great article on how she's gotten healthy, here.)
And if you're telling yourself you're "just not athletic," stop. I told myself that for way too long. You know what? I'm not someone with much natural muscle tone. Coordination is definitely not my strength. But I don't have to be a fast runner to be an in-shape runner. I may look silly in an exercise class, trying to do some of the exercises with my two left feet, but the exercises still work. You don't have to be naturally athletic to get fit--trust me.
If you think you don't have time, let me tell you how I've done it.
1. Running: I run in the mornings, three times a week--two weekdays (before The Engineer goes to work) and one weekend day. I stretch after I run. As I prepare for my 10K I'm going to add one more running workout, but that's not necessary for fitness. (By the way, I've worked out in the past, but the convenience and reward of running have given me a combination of consistency and effectiveness I've never had before.)
2. I found a free weekly workout class (a "Boot Camp" that focuses on toning), offered through a church, with free childcare. Score. Monday was the last day, but we may find a way to continue it. If not, I can exercise with my Wii (EA Sports Active or Fit) once a week for toning, or I may just find exercises online. If you work, could you give up one lunch hour a week for a class near your office, or for your own exercise session in a seldom-used conference room?
3. We usually watch TV at night. These days while I watch TV, this is what I do most nights: I use my foam roller (which doesn't hurt much any more) to loosen my muscles. I do some sit-ups and a lower-ab exercise. I do some leg raises. And I get in a good stretching session. My "TV exercises" don't get my heart rate up much, and they are a relaxing way to end the day.
Does it seem overwhelming to introduce all that at once? Do what I did--start small. At first, I was only running. A little over two months ago, I started the workout class, and I've gradually built up my "TV exercise routine" since that time.
That's it. Working out has not taken over my life! I don't want it to; I have too many other hobbies! But by finding ways to fit workouts into my schedule, my life has changed. I love my new body! Wouldn't it be great to find out that you can love yours too?
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