I am almost as famous for my dislike of exercise as I am for my once-legendary appetite, my adoration of leeks, and my penchant for photographing my feet. I am not sure when I started to dislike exercise so much, and really it’s rather odd given that I took up ballet at the tender age of 2½ (no I do not have any pictures of me wobbling around in my pint-sized pink leotard) and then plié-d, jeté-d, and pirouetted every week thereafter for 17 years. Perhaps I just never viewed dance as exercise. In my late teens and early twenties I spent a not-insignificant amount of time at the gym weight training – sometimes daily – which I enjoyed immensely. Or maybe it was the trainers. Who knows. The only thing that matters, when all is said and done, is getting me to exercise now. And I am deliriously happy to tell you that I have crested the I-hate-exercise hump!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have zero shame about using that many exclamation points. This is BIG, people.
My eccentric exercising and interval training went south a while back, not due as some may have supposed to dislike, but due to near-constant exhaustion and an obnoxiously busy schedule – only some of which was self-inflicted. A case of not putting the most important things first leading to not being able to put the most important things first. Not good. Not good at all. Especially when you are cheerleading the world on with their eccentrics but not getting it done yourself. Bad. Very bad. Then this happened; getting back on track became critical, so I made a commitment to myself, and exercise was part of that commitment to my overall health. It was also key to switching on my fat-burning hormones. Love that.
Once I had made headway in the sleep, supplement and *SANE eating departments I found I had the energy – and the desire – to begin doing the eccentric exercises and interval training in earnest. If you are struggling to exercise you might want to start by looking at those things and seeing if there’s anything there that needs a tweak. If you are constantly exhausted, even catching sight of an exercise bike or a dumbbell can feel like you’re standing at a Mt. Everest base camp staring up at the summit with days and days of strenuous physical activity ahead of you. And if you suffer from depression, oh my. The irony is that depression can be helped enormously by exercise. It’s a funny old world.
The first thing I did was get back on the bike for that 10 minutes of interval training. I knew it would be hard but I also knew it would be over in 10 minutes, and I could do 10 minutes. Now this next bit may all sound a bit woo-woo, but I decided a mantra would help those 10 minutes along, so every time I started to push the pedals around I said out loud, “I have a strong, lean, healthy, fat-burning body! I have a strong, lean, healthy, fat-burning body!”, until the pushing was over. And you know what? It DID help those 10 minutes along. It DID make it easier when I focused on saying those words instead of focusing on how hard those pedals were to push round. And you know what else? Saying that out loud, over and over again started to change how I viewed my body. I started to see myself as already having the strong, lean, healthy, fat-burning body that I wanted rather than the weak, exhausted, fat-storing vessel I was walking around in. This switch of focus dramatically increased my desire to do what I needed to do. Whoop whoop! With enthusiasm in place, everything becomes easier.
The second thing I did was recognize that I had not been getting enough resistance into my at-home eccentric workouts to make them effective. Consequently, when I was ready to get the eccentrics back into my routine, I bit the bullet and joined a gym where I could use machines with endless resistance opportunities. I am lucky to live in a community where there are two gyms a 3-minute drive from my house. As well as use of all the machines, the gym I chose offers a wide range of other fitness classes, one of which is Restorative Yoga. Bonus! Joining the gym got me unlimited resistance for my eccentric workouts and a yoga class – at no extra cost – to boot. Score! The drop in my grocery bills easily covered the $12-a-week gym membership.
The other thing I noted was that for me, deciding which day and time would consistently work best with my schedule to go to the gym, setting a recurring appointment in my calendar, and making a commitment that no-matter-what I would go, worked much better than seeing the weights in the corner of my bedroom at home and thinking, “Oh, yes, I’ll do that later today”, which usually lead to, “Oh I am too tired now, I’ll do it first thing in the morning”, which lead to, “Oh I have so much to do today, I’ll do it tonight”, and on and on. Needless to say, the eccentrics never got done. Getting a gym membership is putting your commitment out there, and I found that really motivated me.
Now I go to the gym first thing on a Saturday morning. I do the 4 exercises that Jonathan recommends in The Calorie Myth – shoulder press, chest press, row, and leg press. It’s 20 minutes including the drive there and the drive back. And then I’m done for the week. Magical. It’s amazing how fast you build strength when you do eccentrics on the machines – I raised my leg-press weight 40# in 3 visits, which is hugely exciting. The leg exercises are the most important ones to work because your legs and glutes are your biggest muscles, so you get maximum overall benefit from working them. I take my mantra, “I have a strong, lean, healthy, fat-burning body! I have a strong, lean, healthy, fat-burning body!” to the gym with me, except I don’t say it out loud. I may be all brave and bubbly – or obnoxious depending on how you feel about me – on our shows, but put me in a gym with a bunch of strangers and you won’t hear a peep out of me. Talking of shows, when I walked into the gym last Saturday and saw the wall of people pounding away with their headphones in I wondered if any of them were listening to Jonathan and I as they ran or cycled, and then I giggled all the way up the stairs.
The first time I went to the gym I took my copy of The Calorie Myth and worked through each exercise slowly so I was sure I had the right machine and was doing it right, but I only had to do that once. Most gyms will also offer you a free session with a personal trainer who could work through them with you so you have the confidence that you are doing them right. I find my body lets me know the next day – loudly – whether I did it right or not.
The effect of increasing resistance on my eccentrics has been dramatic. The first time I went to the gym I couldn’t even believe how sore I was
the next day for the next 3 days. Within days I began to see my clothes get looser and my body shrinking. I could feel the fat-burning switch had flipped. My appetite was cut in half and I had tons more energy. I was excited for my next trip to the gym. Wait. WHAT?!?!?!??! I know, right?!
The only other eccentric exercise I do on top of the four machines is leg lowers – where you lie on your back with your legs straight up in the air and slowly lower your legs to the ground to a count of 20, never letting them touch the floor. Then bend your knees and stretch your legs straight up again. I do this 6 times, at which point I reach eccentric failure and have to stop. Why do I do these? It makes me feel better mentally to think that I am strengthening my core.
Now I have got into my stride and set a routine I am finding getting my eccentrics and interval training in easy. They are just things I do, like doing the laundry or washing the car. Ok, no, I don’t wash the car every week, but you get my drift.
In other news, my BFF Alisen – galpal extraordinaire and Big Breakfast Adventure cohort – moved her eccentric exercises to the gym the week before I did and is experiencing similar results – moving up in resistance and down in body size. Hurrah!
I hope – if you struggle with the whole exercise part – that this will help you unlock whatever it is that has been holding you back or making it hard. While I don’t think for one minute that exercise was my cure-all for switching my fat-storing to fat-shifting, it definitely played an important part.
Not least of all it has made me feel good, and whatever makes us feel good – we should do more of that.
PS. If you are just getting started with exercising you would be wise to check-in with your Dr. before getting started. Just to be on the safe side.
PPS. If you are looking for a bike for interval training, this is the one that Jonathan and I have.