Word to live by

My lovely friend Robynn recently posted a picture on Facebook. It was a post-workout selfie, and what she was wearing really caught my attention (and that of many of her friends).

I’ve seen a lot of inspirational sayings on T-shirts, but this one is so strong in its simplicity.

That night, I ordered one of the shirts for myself. I had to have it! Now, I just need the weather to cooperate so I can wear it. In the meantime, I’m keeping its encouraging words in mind as a mantra of sorts. Check out this terrific philosophy for yourself:

IMG_2553Robynn, the store should give you a commission. Thanks for being an inspiration! 🙂

Enough is enough

I’m pretty susceptible to advertising. Like those fast food commercials, where the Coke is so fizzy and you can almost feel how cold it is? Ahhh. Or just about any Hallmark commercial will have me reaching for the tissue box before it’s over.

I also really have a thing for clever tag lines — especially ones that employ a play on words. For example: Kudos to whoever came up with the slogan for a mattress company: “Sleepy’s, for the rest of your life.”

Anyway … I’m sure you’re wondering, how does this relate to exercise and a healthy lifestyle?

I’m not a paid (or unpaid) spokesperson, nor do I have any special affinity for the company, but I think one of the most brilliant slogans ever is Nike’s “Just do it.”

traffic-lights-208253Just do it.

Simple. Actionable. Inspiring. Even motivating. All in three words.

And right now, lately, I could use a lot of the latter. I feel a little embarrassed to say this as a fitness instructor, but I have been severely lacking in the motivation (and, for that matter, willpower) department. Summer is usually the time when I’m shot out of a cannon, getting in lots of long walks, working in my yard for half the weekend, doing lots of biking, eating piles of fresh fruit and vegetables.

But I’ve been in a slump the past month or two. I’ve had countless arguments with myself about getting out of bed and going to the gym, or resisting too many sweet treats. Bed and treats have been winning. It’s so easy to get into a vicious cycle. Not exercising leaves me more fatigued, which makes me not feel like getting out of bed in the morning, which makes me feel like a slug, which makes me want to wallow … repeat.

Enough is enough.

Alarm goes off for gym time? Just do it.

Be more active? Just do it.

Choose veggies and hummus instead of potato chips? Just do it.

Take a lap around my office instead of checking Facebook? Just do it.

Mind over matter … here I go.

What’s your excuse?

shield-417826Even though I’m a walking coach and fitness instructor, I have trouble finding motivation to exercise sometimes. February was one of those times.

Oh, wait — it’s now March and I still feel the same way…

Usually, I exercise most mornings before work, and one or both days of the weekend. Every winter, though, I reach a certain point where I seem to throw in the towel. I just don’t want to go outdoors in the cold a single extra time. (You see, I hate winter and being cold.)

To go to the gym requires 5 extra times outdoors (#1 to start my car so it warms up, #2 to depart for the gym, #3 to go from car to gym, #4 to reverse that, and #5 from car to house). It all may sound ridiculous (and very repetitive to some of my Facebook friends), but it is what it is. It’s like I develop a physiological block.

If for some reason the block lifts, other weird rationalizations crop up. Last night, I debated going to the gym this morning. But then I thought about the weather forecast for the rest of the week: cold rain on Wednesday, snow on Thursday, cold and dry on Friday. A little voice inside said, Why bother going tomorrow if you won’t go again until Friday? Another voice responded, Yeah, that seems pointless. (I’m not crazy, I promise. Don’t you have voices that talk to you sometimes?)

My saving grace (except for the three weeks when bad weather canceled it) is the circuit class I teach one night a week, and the yoga class I’m taking thanks to a Groupon deal. At least that’s meant 2 days a week of working out, if nothing more. I have also gone to the gym on the past few Saturdays to put in 60-plus minutes on a cardio machine.

I love the energy and the high I get from working out. But when winter drags on, the promise of those feelings doesn’t usually win out over succumbing to my wish to avoid the cold.

Several of my friends keep inviting me to workweek step challenges on Fitbit. I have high praise for them, as they proudly get in their mileage in 13-degree weather, in the cold, even indoors around their house. But even the challenge is not enough to stir me to activity.

At least this winter I made it through January before this phase hit me. Last year, it came much earlier, and I spent January and February mainly in sloth mode.

We all have reasons and rationalizations that may keep us from making the healthiest choice, or the choice that we know will make us feel great when all is said and done. I guess part of the battle is recognizing them and acknowledging them. The other part of the battle is overcoming them, and I confess I’ve not been so successful on that front.

But tomorrow is another day. (Well, tomorrow is rainy and the next day is snowy … so I have my fingers crossed for Friday.)

There’s an app for that

In the Fitness Gift Guide posted last week (and a much earlier post), I promised to share info about fitness apps that I’d recommend. You might wonder how you give someone an app as a gift. The easiest way is with a gift card to iTunes or their service’s app store.

iphone-410311Without further ado…

There are a multitude of apps that help you track your fitness activity, whether it’s walking, running, biking or something else. Most use GPS to track your distance and, combined with the duration of your activity, calculate your speed. You can often save your route, for reference or repeating. Many apps let you connect with friends, to compare workouts and cheer each other on. And many apps can be linked to your Facebook or Twitter account, too, or your FitBit or similar wearable tracker.

A saved RunKeeper activity shows distance, time and even calories burned (provided the user inputs his/her weight).

A saved RunKeeper activity shows distance, time and even calories burned (provided the user inputs his/her weight).

The app I use most often is RunKeeper. Don’t be fooled by its name — it tracks more than runs. I used it on many bike rides last summer but have also used it for many walks short and long. With RunKeeper, you can set goals, see your best times/results and view your activity history. Settings allow you to hear audio cues on many aspects of your activity while you’re doing it, such as distance, time, average pace, split speed and more. When you complete an activity, you can save it so you can refer back to the details (pace, time spent active, etc.).

Very similar to RunKeeper is an app called MapMyWalk. (There’s also MapMyRun, MapMyRide, MapMyFitness, MapMyHike…) It has many of the same features as RunKeeper. One difference is its Gear Tracker: You can list a pair of shoes and it will track the mileage on them and let you know when you are due for a new pair. It also has a food logging feature.

The options are pretty much limitless with Interval Timer.

The options are pretty much limitless with Interval Timer.

One app I use in my personal workouts and in my class is called Interval Timer. This app lets you set up an interval series with audio cues. Suppose you want to do a 40-minute workout focused on circuit training. You can set your warm-up time, interval length (say, 1-minute “high” sets followed by 20-second “low” sets — a quick rest or opportunity to switch to the next circuit), how many intervals, and a cool-down period. Each change can be signified by a sound of your choosing. (I like the boxing bell!)

The above apps are great if you’re motivated to work out. But what if you need a nudge?

If you’d like to feel that your walk or run serves a bigger purpose than your own fitness, consider CharityMiles. You walk or run, and the app’s sponsors pledge money for each mile to the charity you choose in the app. Charities include The Michael J. Fox Foundation, Alzheimer’s Association, Feeding America, Stand Up to Cancer, Wounded Warrior Project and many many more.

And if you really need a kick in the pants to get to the gym or to work out, consider GymPact. When you sign up for GymPact, you pledge how many days a week you’ll work out and how much you’ll pay if you don’t. Input your credit card info and be sure to engage the app when you work out (it must be a minimum of 30 minutes per session, and you can check in at your gym via the app, use its motion sensor or link it to an app like RunKeeper), and avoid getting hit with a fee. Bonus: Fulfill your weekly pact and the app pays you! Granted, it’s a negligible amount, but I racked up $135 over a year or so, which more than paid for a new pair of sneakers. (The app has a fruits and vegetables version too — pledge how many servings of produce you’ll eat a week, upload pictures of said servings for the app’s community to confirm, and pay or earn accordingly.) I can assuredly say that using this app made me drag my butt out of bed to hit the gym many times when I wouldn’t have otherwise!

And that’s the best thing about fitness apps. They inspire, they motivate and they make working out more engaging and keep you more involved. So, please share: What’s your go-to app?

It goes both ways

Today I was having quite a case of the Mondays. Didn’t sleep well at all last night, found myself easily annoyed most of the day, and had very little desire to apply myself to my to-do list at work.

And Monday evenings are when I teach an hour-long walking class. Tonight was the fifth week, and it was the first time I felt myself sort of wishing I could just go straight home from work, rather than hold class. Plus, there was a threat of thunderstorms, and although we’ve held our walking class indoors once before, I thought that might be a deterrent to attendance.

But then an awesome thing happened.

I got to the classroom, started setting up, started greeting members as they came in — and started feeling a boost in my mood. Not only was the weather not a deterrent but it was the biggest class attendance to date!

As we got underway, everyone seemed to be in a great mood and having fun. I found myself making a few light jokes and getting into the groove of teaching the class. I’d grumbled to myself earlier about how having to hold class indoors would likely cause the hour to drag by, but on the contrary it went faster than I expected.

At the end, to my surprise, there was even a smattering of “great class” applause.

I don’t say the last sentence or any of this to pat myself on the back. Instead, I relate this story as an illustration of how the class can inspire and motivate the teacher. How exercise can brighten your mood, whether you’re in the back row trying to follow along or up front leading the way.

So tonight… thanks to my class for sweeping away my case of the Mondays.

Cheer, illustrated / Photo by Chris M. Junior

Cheer, illustrated / Photo by Chris M. Junior