The Case For Morning Exercise

For as far back as I can remember, I was NEVER a morning person. I was seriously the snooze button queen. If I could milk five more minutes out of a morning, then I could milk six. Early risers were, quite honestly, freaks to me. Evidently, robots with no souls.

Then, a year or two ago, my boyfriend at the time started rising early each morning to work out. He kept singing the praises of early morning workouts and trying to talk me into trying it. By this point, I was working out on a very consistent basis which, in and of itself, was something I never thought I could do. But it was always later in the day, after I had quite a few hours to shake off the morning fog.

Well, partly out of curiosity, and partly because he would not let it die, I finally agreed to try it one morning when I had stayed at his house. Then I didn't. I promised to do it the next time I stayed with him....and I didn't. I buried myself under the covers (and a little bit of shame) and went back to sleep. Finally, on the third morning, I knew I HAD to do it just to save face and shut him up if nothing else. That first morning, driving to the gym, I was absolutely miserable! It was soooo hard to get moving. I kept trying to think of excuses to turn around and go back to bed. Then something amazing happened. I was halfway through my workout and beginning to wake up! Before most people had even awoken, I was done with my workout! I felt so amazing for the rest of the day.

So, I went home with the resolve to get up on my own the next morning and work out.....and I didn't. I can't remember how many mornings passed before I was finally able to get myself up and down into the workout room that early, but it was quite a while. The problem is, when I would wake up and realize that, for any reason, I could go back to sleep, I would. I honestly think that is one of the BEST feelings in life. Turning back over, snuggling down and falling back asleep. But eventually, through pure will-power sprinkled with misery, I made a habit of it and discovered a feeling better than the aforementioned. Morning workouts!

Here's my list of reasons why morning workouts absolutely ROCK:
  • Before the sun rises, I have checked off one of the most important items on that day's "to-do" list.
  • So many things can happen during the day to get in the way of working out. Very few of these things happen at 4:45am.
  • More energy to put into my workout! After a long, stressful day, even if I could muster the energy and motivation to work out, I only had so much energy left to give.
  • More energy after my workout! No more morning fog! I come up from my workouts absolutely invigorated and much better prepared for the day.
  • I don't have the "good hair day dilemma". Sometimes I would seriously skip a workout that was scheduled in the early afternoon if I was having a particularly good hair day or had on a cute outfit because I didn't want it to end yet. I would never say that was why I was skipping it but it would help persuade me to find another excuse to do so. The great thing about morning workouts is that I ALWAYS look like crap!
  • It's much easier for me to make good food choices when I've already laid a foundation for a healthy day with morning exercise.
  • Because it impresses people to tell them what time I get up every morning to work out.
  • Because it impresses ME to know that I get up so early every morning to work out. I feel more in control of my life and more capable of doing anything I set my mind to.
  • I fall asleep earlier and easier at night.
So, do I miss turning over and snuggling down? Yes. Do I miss waking up regretful of how I spent that last 1/2 hour or hour sleeping? No. Do I miss dragging through a fog half the morning? Of course not. Do I miss having to get all stinky and sweaty in the middle of the evening? Well, I still do that on Zumba nights, actually.

Bottom line, getting up early sucks....for a while. But you will be absolutely amazed at what you can adjust to. And you will be even more amazed at how one change, like a morning workout, can spill over into all other areas of your life and spark change in those as well.

My suggestion for your first morning workout:
  • Have an early riser friend call or text you to make sure you're up.
  • Call or text someone when you're done to brag (and so that they can hold you accountable). Pick a friend who is supportive but not TOO supportive. Supportive enough where they will remember and question you if you don't contact them but not so supportive they will say "Awe, well that's okay" if you don't follow through.
  • Lay out all your workout clothes the night before. Better yet, go to sleep in them.
  • Plan your workout the night before. Nothing sets you up for failure like not having a plan. It can be what makes hitting the snooze button just that much easier. Likewise, in the beginning, don't make it something that you just hate doing. I would never have scheduled lower body in those early days.
  • Get to bed at a decent time the night before. And go to sleep with the vision of going through your workout and how you will feel after.
  • Have a morning routine. I get up, drink a big glass of water, have a pre-workout drink (which I do/don't recommend, it's not the healthiest thing in the world but it sure helps me face my workouts a lot better) then I sit for a few minutes to get a little awake. This may work for some and not for others. For some it may be easier to head straight into the workout but I need those few minutes to wake up, personally.
  • Don't make it all or nothing. If you fail to get up for a few mornings, don't say "oh well, I tried". Habits aren't only formed from consistency. They are formed each and every time we do a task. Even if there is "down time" in between.
  • Put a Dixie cup over your snooze button!!! I actually learned this trick years ago. If you can hit snooze in your sleep, as I could, the cup will stop you. Some suggest putting your alarm clock across the room. This might work for some but I would sleep right through my alarm.
  • As with everything else, figure out what works for YOU. What will make you want to get up and do it?

When You Fall Off the Wagon

It's Sunday morning. You've ate like total crap all weekend. You promised yourself you were NOT going to repeat the same weekend patterns this time. But here you are. Stomach bloated, guilt ridden and craving sugar/carbs/fried stuff again.

The problem with falling off the wagon is that this junk is truly addictive! On top of that, you feel tired, possibly depressed and maybe even a little sick after eating enough of it. I am all too familiar with this feeling.

Fridays are my "cheat days". I never go crazy with them because I don't want to undo 6 days of hard work and dedication but, at the same time, I want to enjoy those yummy foods I've been craving all week.

Well, this Friday I ate my normal, healthy breakfast (because there's just something about starting my day with the proper fuel that's too important to me to start eating the yummy naughties that early in the day).

However, for lunch, I had a tamale and some chips and salsa. It was soooo good.

I got in a 2nd workout (because I like to do lower body in between two cheat meals for various reasons-extra fuel from carbs, to burn up some of those calories, to not feel like crap the next day), chugged a protein shake & ate an apple, then I headed out with my girls to a local bar for some karaoke and fried pickles. Two PBRs and more fried pickles than I care to admit later, I was feeling pretty nasty. I called it a night kind of early, guzzled a bunch of water on the way home and collapsed into bed a little after midnight.

I woke up the next morning feeling pretty rough. Honestly, a little too rough for what I had done the night before (by last night I realized it was because I was coming down with a cold). When I wake up feeling that way, the last thing I want to do is eat my egg whites and fruit. It makes my barfy just thinking about it.

So, instead, I drank some water, did some light yoga and waited for my belly to feel a little better. Now, a lot of people will argue that you should eat breakfast soon after waking. I somewhat agree with this notion but not always. I think it's more important to listen to your body. So I waited until my body told me it was hungry. When it finally did tell me it was hungry, it told me it wanted Mexican food again! Well, I knew that my body was in no condition to be making the decisions so I went on autopilot.

I still didn't want my egg whites so I thought, "what is the yummiest healthy food I can think of that would make me okay with not having Mexican right now?", for my late breakfast, I had shrimp and strawberries. :)

This might seem random and pointless to share this but, trust me, little tricks like this have made all the difference in the world to me. Once you learn your own little tricks, a fall off the wagon is quick and relatively painless instead of a month-long span of struggling and weight gain before you finally, and half-heartedly, get back on the wagon.

So, here's my random list of ways I get back on the wagon:

After I've eaten too much, something I shouldn't, etc. I wait 10 minutes (so my food can begin to digest without diluting stomach acids) and I drink a butt load of water. This is not only physically cleansing but psychologically cleansing as well. It's almost like an internal baptism. It marks the end of my "mistake".

If I've eaten sugar and I'm craving it like crazy, I have just a little sugar in some kind of bulked up form. My personal favorite is low sugar oatmeal with natural peanut butter. I use one that has about 10g of sugar and  I eat half the packet. If I am not craving sugar enough to warrant this, I'll have a piece (or sometimes 2 pieces) of the sweetest fruit I can find, like a super sweet orange. These options never used to be satisfying enough for me and I started out eating a not so healthy protein bar (my faves are Cliff White Macadamia or Zone Perfect Fudge Graham). Again, these are not healthy choices (especially the Zone bars) but they at least have some protein in them which will slow the rate that the body absorbs the sugar.

I read or listen to something health related. This, without fail, gets me pumped up and back on track.

I force myself to have a good, hard, cleansing workout. When we work out, especially high intensity cardio, we stimulate our lymphatic systems which physically begins to push out all those yucky toxins we've been gorging on. Not to mention it elevates our moods and decreases our appetites.

Often, after eating junk and laying around for a while, the last thing you feel like doing is working out. Well, just as I chose shrimp and strawberries as my wagon-reboarding meal, I sometimes choose the funnest form of exercise I can to get me back on track. Whether it be Zumba, dancing around the house, a walk in the park on a beautiful day, something that doesn't make me turn my nose up at the thought of moving my butt off the couch and back into motion.
I do something that makes me feel in control. Something as simple as organizing my closet or making my meals for the week, puts me back in the driver's seat and makes me feel like I am in control of the situation.

Three Deep Breaths. This almost sounds too simple to work! But deep breathing produces feel good hormones that lowers your cortisol levels (which will, in turn, reduce belly fat storing capacity) and gives you a better sense of well-being. Smiling and laughing can also have the same effect. Fake it til you make.


Happy Music.

Protein. High enough levels of protein with your first post-binge meal, will help increase levels of satiety and regulate your blood sugar.

Bottom line, getting back on track is the hardest part. Once you do it, you create momentum and it becomes easier and easier to stick with it, especially when you really start feeling good again. And I'm happy to report that, after a day of dragging, a couple of weird meals, a super hard workout and a ton of water later, I bounced out of bed this morning re-energized and feeling great.

You really CAN do this forever! It's not as bleak and hard as it seems when you've backslid. So get on auto-pilot and back on the wagon today!

To Answer the Question "How Long Did it Take You to Lose the Weight?"

People constantly ask me questions like "when did you start losing weight?" "How long did it take you to lose it?" While I understand these questions, I can't really offer an answer that makes them happy. So here's my best try at it....

Q: When did I start losing weight?

A: When I was 8 years old. That's the first time I went on a diet and lost weight.

Q: How long did it take me to lose it?

A: Since I was 8 (now I'm 34, you do the math). And I don't consider myself done yet because, I want to get down to about 10-15% body fat. I don't know exactly where in that equation I will fall or how much I will weigh when I get there but I'll know it when I see it.

Here's the bottom line. As soon as we stop looking at this journey as a block of time in our lives and start looking at it, instead, as a permanent change in our behaviors that will impact all aspects of our health including our weight, there is an immediate shift in our attitudes.

No longer do we start our new diet on Mondays or give up when we're just too stressed out. When our new goal is to be as healthy as we can be, change and success are inevitable.

Not convincing enough? Okay, for you guys who are still in the "I need to know when and how I'm going to look good": If you lose weight in an improper way, you will be saggy and your skin will look like crap (unless if you're 18 and don't have much to lose, in which case you will probably gain it all back and then some and you'll be saggy and blotchy when you lose it again when you're older). We really ARE what we eat. Muscle really DOES make everything look better.

If you think good health just means having a strong heart and no cancer (in which case, if you haven't been diagnosed with any conditions, you believe you're healthy) you are flat out wrong! Good health also means good mental health AAAAND for those of us who just started this journey because we wanna look hot, good health also shows up on the outside in the form of skin elasticity, nice hair, a clean, glowing complexion and about anything else that you're missing right now.

So stop figuring out what day your latest weight loss regimine is going to begin and, instead, DECIDE today that your new healthy lifestyle starts NOW. Right now! Not next Monday, not tomorrow morning. If you've eaten like crap already today, all the more reason to eat healthy the rest of the day and get some exercise in because your body doesn't stop suffering from your poor choices until you decide to "get back on track".

Also, when you approach things with this new, healthy attitude, there is no going "off track". There are yummy, not-so-healthy meals that you will savor and that will add to your mental well being because of it, and there are workouts you will miss because you're sick or just need to rest, but these will just be part of your healthy lifestyle because, once you feel this good (and you can't even imagine how good this feels if you've never been there), you will automatically be on track all the time with tiny little pit stops here and there that you will just call...."life".