I’ve been in a exercise rut since my third child was born. When I say rut, I mean I have only exercised three times in the last two and half years. Several times a week at kindergarten drop off, I bump into my energetic, amazingly fit, (also towing three young kids) perpetually cheerful friend: the workout queen Genevieve. I think anyone who meets her immediately thinks: “Wow, how does this woman do it?” Now that my season of “sleeping in” is over, it’s time to get this (pear-shaped) rump roast in action -preferably before the crazy holiday feasting begins. But how to start? I asked Genevieve to give us tips on how to get in shape. Here’s her breakdown.
Step 1. Determine your motivation.
Do you want to lose weight so your clothes fit better? Do you want to have more energy so you can keep up with your kids? Have you been convicted of laziness in physical activity or effort in meal prepping? Do you glance at your wedding photo and hardly recognize the vibrant, young face looking back at you? Whatever your reason, write down your “WHY” somewhere you will see it every day. This way, when life gets tough and you want to give up, you will remember the reason it was time to make a change.
Step 2. Activate your life & find a friend to join you.
Start by writing down all the activities you like to do that get your heart pumping. Think about people in your life who might enjoy doing these things, too. Then get out your calendar and book appointments, just like you would set meetings for work. Walk with a friend around the soccer field while the kids are at practice. Swim laps on a Master’s swim team before the kids are up. Play tennis with your spouse and use the kids as ball boys. Maybe implement some late night bedroom cardio? Many local colleges offer affordable exercise classes in all sorts of things: ballroom dancing, swimming, ballet, salsa classes, yoga, etc. Whatever it is, make it work for your schedule, and the time of the day where you are more motivated.
If you choose activities you enjoy, you will look forward to doing them. If you enlist a friend, you are building in accountability. It is always easier to give in to that pile of laundry when no one is waiting for you; before you know it, one chore leads to the next and your workout gets skipped again. When you plan to meet someone, you are multitasking by catching up with a friend, and it might motivate you to hustle through that laundry faster so it is done before you go. Find an activity you like and a friend to join you! For some, finding a group exercise class is also more beneficial as opposed to solo workouts. Many gyms offer a variety of classes with fun music and the chance to meet new people. One final idea is to enter a 5K, 10K, or even knocking off a larger goal like a half-marathon with a friend. You will be creating memories and have a specific purpose and goal to work towards.
Step 3. Remember, abs of steel are made in the kitchen! I’ve heard that what you eat is 80% of what it takes to change your body. Start by writing down everything you eat for a week. Choose an app like “MyFitnessPal” which makes it easy to scan barcodes and enter frequently eaten meals. Make sure you log oil that you cook with, that small handful of goldfish you sneak as you are packing the kids lunches, and every other morsel that enters your mouth. Simply being aware of what goes into your body helps empower you to make better choices.
Make it your goal to limit or eliminate one of these from your diet for a week: refined sugar, alcohol, dairy, gluten, or processed foods. Notice as you attempt to eliminate one of these, how dependent your body is on it. As you begin to break its addictive power, you will start to be free of the control they have over your body and mind.
Eat small meals, 400-500 calories every 3-5 hours. Once you regulate your blood sugar, you will realize how often you used to overeat because you waited too long and your body was starving. You also realize how often you eat for comfort vs. fuel.
Food is fuel, and not every meal is a celebration. Plan meals for the week for your family. Have fresh fruits in bowls on the counter in easy reach. Keep veggies washed and cut in Tupperware in the fridge, and get the junk food OUT of the house. You should never feel hungry, but you should never be STUFFED either. You want to drink ½ your body weight in ounces of water per day.
Every time you open the pantry or start looking around for a snack, ask yourself, “Am I actually hungry right now or just bored, scared, annoyed, etc.” Then ask yourself, “Where is my water? Maybe I am actually thirsty?” Many times, what feels like a hankering for nibbling, is actually our body asking for liquids.
To women especially, food can seem like such an easy band-aid to the momentary discomfort in our day. It’s very easy to make food our comfort on a regular basis because we all have to eat, right? But the Lord wants us to go to HIM to be our portion. HE is the bread of life. HE is the drink that will never leave us thirsty again. That may be hard to grasp, but the joy and satisfaction that comes through not overeating or binge eating over time is quite attractive!
Break the cycle of “I will start tomorrow” and make intentional changes TODAY that will save you money, increase your energy, make you a better steward of your body, and help you live a more abundant and full life.
Genevieve is the Athletic Director at NorthCreek Academy, Junior High Athletic Coordinator, and founder of Active8 Group Fitness, an exercise program and support group for women and their children. She was a cheerleader for 10 years and through her experiences believes total life transformation can happen when we work on our lives from the inside out.