Before the pandemic, working out was tough.
Activity has dramatically decreased for most of us. For those of us that struggled before, things have never seemed quite as dark when it comes to getting the elusive snap back.
But, given all of this quality time at home, I finally came to the conclusion that if I truly wanted to drop some pounds, I had to not only get creative in how I went about weight loss, I had to find something that I enjoyed doing, or something that I had to do.
For inspiration and ideas, I began reflecting on previous instances on when I lost a crap load of weight.
The First Time
At age 11 I contracted pneumonia. It was one of the worst weeks of my life. I couldn’t eat, and could only bear swishing a bit of water in my mouth for hydration, not completely drinking it. After that horrifically long week, it was as if I had my stomach stapled without the surgery.
Within two years, just by eating less by default, I lost fifty pounds. Getting taller also helped, but the only real change was just eating less. I became so skinny, my family thought I was anorexic. I wasn’t, but that was the thinnest time of my life. I know I’ll never be that thin again.
The point is, cutting back on meals and cutting down on portions made weight loss a breeze with no exercise required. Of course now my metabolism is different (and by different I mean slower), being older and whatnot, but it still holds true: Eating smaller portions and having a lower caloric intake alone will help you lose weight.
The Second Time
In my early twenties, I decided to shape up for an event. I didn’t change what I ate, but instead committed to walking on the treadmill forty-minutes a day with weighted boots on. I not only lost weight, but it spiked my metabolism. I remember one day where I had eaten normally, but I was so ahead on the calorie burn, I got nervous and had to eat a slice of cake. I met my goal with flying colors, eating my cake and none of the guilt.
The Third Time
After a long hiatus of being unemployed, I got a job at Office Max in the print department. The job consisted of carrying heavy boxes of reamed paper, and running around in the space to take care of various customers. I didn’t have to run, I just wanted to have fast service, having been on the other side of the counter, waiting for what seemed an eternity for an order. The weight lifting and sprinting made the pounds fall off. I never felt so happy to wear a belt.
I’m older. I have baby weight on top of the fat that I already wanted to lose. I’m taking care of a newborn, and I’m often tired. I’ve downloaded several apps that would be dusty from lack of use if they weren’t digital. I’ve set up the treadmill, but have yet to walk on it regularly, going on month three. It was then that I realized that in order to even attempt to workout during a lockdown (weight training is out, as it’s too close quarters for my tastes at the gym), I had to figure out something that was fun for me to do. Because when an activity is fun, you don’t see it as a workout – it’s just a good time.
The first thing I landed on is swimming. Now, this is down to my personal tastes, and I recommend you find what’s fun for you. But for me? Swimming is where it’s at. Being able to go at my own pace doing laps for thirty minutes, three times a week, is not only good for burning calories, but also for mental clarity. Being in the water helps to clear and ease my mind. It’s basically physical activity with an added bonus of mental health relaxation.
Committing to my swim time every week is helping prepare me for my next step in working out. The goal? To be active at minimum five days a week.
Another activity that I miss/intend on discovering again is dance workouts. Zumba, hip hop, pole, belly dancing – I’ve had classes in them all. What is easiest though was simply using Just Dance on my Wii. My goal is to build up a rotation of these activities, including the treadmill.
My cousin created a kind accountability thread for us and a third to talk about what we did, how much water we drank, etc. Working with a team, or even just one other person, I’ve found, helps keep the motivation up. Be it encouragement or the challenge, it has certainly helped remind me of the workout goals I promised to myself.
Other helpful tips
Only weigh yourself once a week. Your weight fluctuates too often during the day or every other day to get a proper reading. Especially if you’re bloated/carrying extra water from your period. Be consistent on the day and time, but make it once a week, and mark it down on a calendar. And remember your tape measure; sometimes the scale can lie if you’ve gained muscle.
What you eat and how much also plays a role. I weighed myself a week after Thanksgiving. I utilized portion control throughout, only putting what I wanted to eat on a small plate. Between that and swimming (only twice instead of the usual three times), I was pleased to find that I hadn’t gained any weight. It was a relief, as I completely indulged in cream cheese cherry pie and a plethora of biscuits.
Speaking of food, intermittent fasting (I use the 16/8 method a few times a week) also seems to help. Basically, you’re allowed to eat what you like for an eight-hour period, then you wait sixteen hours before your next meal (only water, plain tea or plain coffee are allowed in the interim). It’s not for everyone, but it’s one of the easier things I can do for myself.
What I’ve learned over the years, there are really only two sure fire ways to make working out efficient and effective: sheer force of will, or doing something you enjoy.
In the past, sheer force of will was enough. But this time around, older and rounder than I’ve ever been, I had to start with something I love.
As I type this, it’s now 4:05PM. I’ve been meaning to walk on the treadmill literally all day (it’s on my literal list of things). I’m thinking about starting small; if I can commit to something small and not overwhelming, I can get something I don’t love done. So, I’m gonna aim for fifteen minutes. Just fifteen minutes, probably with ankle weights.
If you need more motivation, let me leave you with this:
Many moons ago I was watching a Richard Simmons tape. And by tape, yes, I do indeed mean a VHS. There was a woman who had been so overweight, she hadn’t left her couch in months. Richard worked with her. It began with just clapping to music. It was a routine, but it was just clapping on beat. It was movement; it was a beginning. It was small, but doable. Simple. That small increment of working out eventually leads to full workouts. And you better believe she was mobile and off that couch by the end of it.
So find something you love. Start small. Commit. You can do this.