What Keeps Me Fit

How I wish I could kickbox! Must borrow Dad's Billy Blanks DVDs!

How I wish I could kickbox! Must borrow Dad’s Billy Blanks DVDs! (Photo: mynewsdeskcom)

I’ve gained and lost 30 lbs several times in my adult life. Disappointingly, the only cure has been good nutrition and lots of exercise. I often refuse to face this fact, and experience has shown I can gain weight continuously for 3 years without taking action. I have certain triggers that motivate me to lose weight. I bet everyone has their own “I’ve crossed the line” moments, such as reaching your previous highest pregnancy weight when you are not pregnant!

Mine are:

  • When none of my fitted clothes fit and I have to wear all stretchy fabrics
  • When I get short of breath climbing stairs or hills
  • When my thighs chafe
  • And when I realized for the first time that I was getting a roll of fat on my back under my bra band 😦
Oh dear (not me, but guilty as charged)

Oh dear (not me, but guilty as charged)

I know it is possible to ignore these cues and keep gaining weight, but so far those nasties have always pulled me back from the edge.

In an alternate universe, I would be on a softball team that practiced twice a week, or I would farm an acre of vegetables, or another “real” activity would keep me healthy. My life is lacking in real experiences when it comes to exercise, though, so I have to devise fake experiences!

Because I’m not attracted to team sports or group activities of any kind, I have my own method for getting fit again. I wish I hadn’t done it so many times that it’s become a Starting Over Routine! The first thing I do is cut out junk food for a few days. I don’t try to cut calories or eliminate snacks; I just stop eating candy and cookies. After just a day or two, I feel much less sluggish, and I start to believe I could actually do something active!

Next, I start going for walks. So far I’ve always been able to manage a 30 or 40 minute walk. Of course, I can cover a lot more ground when I’m fit, but that’s a gradual process.

Within a week I feel significantly better from both diet and exercise. The times I’ve fared best, I’ve walked every day, rain or shine – but then, I haven’t given myself a kick-start in icy January weather. Note to self: don’t wait until New Year’s Day for this! For general health, this is probably enough. On “normal” days, it feels easy. Eventually the everyday decisions pile up, such as:

  • It gets dark too early now to be out on the road
  • I have a cold and I don’t want to be blowing my nose 12 times during my walk
  • Everyone heckles me if I refuse birthday cake at the office
  • I’m tired of eating grapes for a snack so this banana-and-Nutella sandwich will do the trick

I find it works to choose a start-off period with no events planned, because it helps me build endurance (and a feeling of success) before I get busy or have to attend special occasions with all their temptations. This is awfully basic and not at all miraculous. It’s just a matter of slowly growing some good habits. I realize I like them and I feel better doing them than not doing them!

Skip the rest if you’re annoyed by people who work out all the time…

Now in my case, as I mentioned, I have wanted to lose 30 pounds, and that can take a long time. Some people like the social support of dieting or working out with a group. I like solo activities so I can keep my own schedule and sometimes best my own performance. Over the past 10 years, there have only been 4 workout activities, besides walking, that I’ve liked:

  • Exercise equipment – I have an elliptical, and I also like exercise bikes, rowing machines and walking on treadmills
  • Swimming – I haven’t been swimming for a few years, but I expect I will again
  • Skating – I can’t do anything fancy, but I can go forwards and backwards, turn corners, and stop!
  • In-line / roller skating – forward motion and barely able to brake, but that’s enough!

At various times I have added these things to my workout routine, until I’ve realized, “Hey, I’m one of those people who works out!”

I will do just about anything with a good playlist

I will do just about anything with a good playlist (Photo: news.stv.tv)

My current routine would seem boring to others, but it has worked for me for about 18 months without much change. On weekdays, I get up an hour earlier than I would otherwise need to, and I do my little circuit:

  • 10 minutes warm-up on mini-trampoline, some jogging and some jumping
  • 30-40 minutes on the elliptical machine
  • 5 minutes cool-down stretches
  • 5 minutes with hand weights

So that is the first hour of my day. I usually do about 4 days a week, and another day, I either go in-line skating (this summer) or out for a long walk.

For anyone who doesn’t work out, it probably sounds regimented and intense. But I find it really helps with my feeling of well-being, and I’m even kinda fit! You know my other motivation, of course, is that I can have an extra muffin or bagel every morning, and not worry about that break-room cake!

Before Pic

Before Pic

After Pic - one year later, same place

After Pic – one year later, same place

As you see, I’ve been at many points on the spectrum from sluggish to buff. I don’t expect I will ever play a sport, cycle, or run. I like what I do now, and by adding in some vacuuming, lawn mowing and snow shovelling, I don’t do too badly!

I’ve even been thinking about upping my fitness level. My new job is in a recreation centre with a swimming pool, 2 ice rinks, a gym and weight room, and a full slate of classes such as aqua fit, spinning, aerobics, core and yoga. I could either buy a membership at the employee rate, or buy individual passes. The centre is only minutes from home and I could just as easily go there as stay home, and have access to a lot more activities.

My plan is to try swimming and skating in different morning, evening and weekend time slots and see which I like. Then, if I find I can get moving and get myself to the centre regularly, I’ll get the membership (if so, before January when it will be swamped with resolution makers!)

I spent many, many years with a child in daycare and I couldn’t bring myself to leave Link at the gym’s childcare for another hour. I turned out to be the kind of parent who really didn’t like playing tag or Frisbee, either! So it is very “freeing” to be able to choose my own activity level and where to go and at what time. Due to my new lack of commute time, I will even have another hour and a half each day to myself!

After all, there are only so many books to read and movies to watch….hahahaha!


  1. My usual exercise is walking. I wear a pedometer and try to get 10,000 steps a day. We do have a treadmill in the basement when winter comes calling. If I had a lot of leisure I would go to a Zumba class every day. Love that music!

    • A walking outdoors-and-treadmill combination would be fine for me too. But anything dancey or requiring coordination is off the table for me! Maybe I’ll try some zumba music while walking, though!

  2. I identify! I gained 30+ pounds over three years after I broke my arm. I stoppes doing everything and that’s what happened.. The weight just kept adding on. Then I saw a picture of myself and said that this person couldn’t be me! But it was… so I started eating healthy and in 10 months I lost that weight and here I am 4 months later still at that new weight, I also walk every day, 5 or 6 kilos at 6 km an hour. It all works 🙂

  3. Fiona

    Dar, I’m at that “+15 pounds” point right now and badly needing a starting point. I’m going to do exactly what you suggest, starting with the candy-free week! I love long walks, swimming and hikes…but NOT elliptical machines! But I’ll find something to sub in for that part.

    • I like the elliptical because I wanted something for home on bad weather days. I listen to good music and read e-books while using it! I am not sure what else would have done the trick, besides another exercise machine. I find taking that first step to resist junk food cravings is the hardest! Let me know how you do.

  4. I’m trying to lose about 30lbs at the moment- have been carrying it for a few years, but I think I will feel physically better without it! I’ve been drinking lots of water, recording calories on a handy smartphone app (which basically has eliminated snacking and picking at food when not hungry). However, like you, I have ins that exercise is the key for me to actally lose weight- I like walking, cycling and run 5K every Saturday. Having my parent’s dog staying with my for a few days has really helped me get out of the house for walks- now I just have to carry it on when she goes home!

    • I agree – if there is something you HAVE to do, such as walking a dog or shovelling snow, it’s much easier! It’s harder to motivate yourself when you have to make up activities that aren’t really necessary. I’ve come to enjoy my routine and I miss it when it doesn’t happen for any reason. I look forward to trying out the fitness centre for a change-up.

  5. You’re doing great! I think having the fitness center so close to your work will be nice. Swimming and walking have always been favorites of mine too. Especially swimming because then I don’t notice that I’m sweating, so afterwards I feel refreshed instead of gross.

  6. Jodi

    This winter will be a challenge for me because I moved this summer and my new apartment building does not have a fitness room. Like you, I may consider joining a place when winter sets in. I love walking, but need an alternative for those icy days.

    • We have lots of snow and ice too, and some days it’s just not safe to walk. I’m not sure what I would do if I had no room for an exercise machine – maybe fitness DVDs? My previous attempts at joining a gym have been money down the drain, but now that I work in the same building as a complete recreation centre, I have no excuse!

  7. I think walking is the best exercise (I just need to get my lazy self outside to do it!). Swimming and skating are also fun. I think working in a recreation center will really inspire you to get more active since it is so convenient.

  8. Wow so many skating options – something we don’t have here in Australia! When I’m feeling ‘fat’, it’s usually stomach overflow, which we call ‘muffin top’. Such a great term. I usually start with sugar free. I find it rather easy – certainly easier as time goes on. But then again, once I start letting it in, it’s everywhere, and everything’s an excuse! Otherwise, I’m trying to run every second day (though not with this cold) and walk incidentally, where I could otherwise bus or drive. I’m loathed to buy a gym membership, cause I worry it’ll be a fad I won’t maintain. Though now that the BF goes regularly (therefore easy accessiblity to getting there with him), I have considered it more seriously, but then with water polo fees (and training and games) plus running, I can’t see me at the gym enough.

  9. I need to lose only 7lb to be my ideal weight but it might as well be 7 stones! From everything I have read it is necessary to eat a little less and reduce calorie intake as we get older. Reducing your food intake gradually is better than a sudden change. We also lose muscle as we age and muscle is more efficient at burning those calories. So just being older puts us at a disadvantage. Walking is also the most complete form of exercise and doing the 10,000 steps a day is a good measurement to go by. Weight bearing or muscle building exercises help to preserve the muscle and will help burn those calories. See I know all the theory but find it hard to put into practice and I have the added problem of being on this Thyroid medication which controls my metabolism – I can sometimes wake up and be 4lbs heavier for no apparent reason! I hope you find a form of exercise you are happy with and good luck with the weight loss. Keep us posted.

    • Thanks; I have been at my goal weight for over a year and I am just trying to maintain. I like doing the aerobic type things I mentioned, but I should do more weights. I suppose I know all the theory too and sometimes I just have to face it!

  10. You look great!
    You’re right… The only thing that works is eating right and exercise, why can’t sugar be healthy?
    I usually find every excuse known to man not to exercise, but after I exercise I always feel so good, so what’s my problem?
    I admire you for keeping your weight off and working hard to do it!

  11. I think my issues started when I gave up team sports (hockey) in my twenties – like you it didn’t seem fair to the kid/s or me to put them in childcare any more than I was doing already – but working out at home/on my own wasn’t fun for me at.all. It’s still not. but I make myself do it. It’s not a habit yet – but I’m working on making it one. My weight has yo-yoed (by 50lbs) in the last twenty years, but I’m working on finding a balance.
    Your regime sounds good and it’s obviously working – you look great!! 🙂

    • Thanks, Laura. I try not to think about whether home workouts are fun or not and “just do it.” I find when it gets to be habit, I miss it when I stop, and that in itself is motivating. I hope your new exercise regimen becomes a little addictive for you 🙂

  12. Recently I think my metabolism has started to slow down and I’ve gained around 8 kilos (16 pounds I guess?). I’ve cut out most sugar and grains, which has helped lose about 3kg, but I really need to do some more exercise – I’m just slack!

    I do a yoga class once a week (I have to go to a class because if I try to do it at home, I think of a million excuses and don’t do it!), and try to go for long walks. I used to live about an hour’s walk from uni so that was a good way to exercise (plus it saved on bus fare), but now it’s a five minute walk, which doesn’t really get my blood pumping! I also try to go swimming, but I’ve been a wuss all winter because the pool is outdoors. Now that the weather is warming up, I’ll try to swim once a week.

    • Yoga and walks is a great combination for well being! I know what you mean about building exercise into your day (walking to uni). Where I used to work, I was on my feet all day and running up and down stairs constantly, but in my new building it’s not necessary. So I will have to do something else to make up for it!

  13. I tend to go up and down by 40 lbs too. Right now I’m trying to get motivated to lose 20lbs again (or more, but lets start small-ish). I can come up with many excuses, but really, it would make me feel better in the end. Now that they heat has finally stopped, I think I can get outside to walk more often (granted, with a can these days, but it’s still exercise). I also do best with a group like Weight Watchers – we had a group at work for a while and I lost 35lbs. Peer pressure/competition works wonders. Now I just have to work on the 20lbs that has snuck back up on me the past 2 years.

    • I am a former Weight Watchers graduate too. I don’t feel so much that weight sneaks up on me – I know it does, but every couple of years I see photos of myself and I feel like it’s suddenly ambushed me! It’s like the weight fairy has suddenly bestowed me with a gift of 30 lbs!

  14. I like your routine, although it is pretty regimented for me. I am still trying to find a program that fits where I am today as I can no longer get exercise in the same ways I used to. I loved to hike and walk everywhere, I would spot an area while driving somewhere and would pull over and go for a hike. I regularly left the car at home and walked everywhere. I never played any team sport but loved playing frisbee. Now I have too much weight and haven’t found a program I can stick to that works. I miss how easily I used to lose those few extra pounds just by doing what I found fun.

    • It must be hard to adjust to a change in abilities; I hope you find something you like doing (besides gardening and furniture restoring, of course!)

      • Me too. I grew up having physical therapy 5 days a week for many years, and having to exercise at home twice a day so anything that resembles those years I find boring, although I still have to do them. Gardening and furniture restoring has kept me active, but not able to use the part of my body with the largest muscles which is in the lower body. I’m still working it out.

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