The Super Workout
Many working moms want to exercise for weight loss; few achieve their goals. I’ve heard all kinds of reasons for their inaction—from too busy to a tight budget to lack of willpower or workout buddy. The underlying message is I’ll get it done once I have everything I need.
What if you never get what you need?
The truth is, life is never perfect. As soon as we fix a problem, another one pops up. It’s the ongoing challenge that makes us stronger and wiser than before.
Remember, it’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.
Being adaptive means we take action using the limited resources we have. Instead of waiting for the elusive perfect future, think about how you can make things happen despite the challenges. There are ways to overcome the obstacles regardless of how difficult your situation may seem. Later in this chapter, I’ll show you how to tackle specific concerns.
Some of you might shake your heads, thinking, Well, I tried working out before, but it didn’t help me lose weight. So I quit. I hear you. Practicing something while getting no rewards can be demoralizing. When that happens, ask yourself these questions:
Did I have the right goal?
Did I have the right approach to reach my goal?
Did I maximize my chance of success?
Set the Right Goal
To achieve your desired outcome, you need to set the right goal. Instead of being motivated by health concerns, most women focus on weight loss only. They believe being thinner will make them happier and more attractive. While losing weight may improve your blood pressure and blood sugar, it isn’t the key to happiness. I have met many unhappy thin women in my life; so have you. Attractiveness is the product of inner health (both mental and physical), outer appearance, and social confidence. You need the whole package to boost your attractiveness.
Set the goal to achieve your optimal health, not weight loss alone. The former is a state of mind, the latter a numbers game. Pay attention to how your mind and body work together. You are likely in tune with the internal feedback and adjust your habits naturally. In Chapter 6, I recommended the practice of journaling about your emotions. The same method applies to your diet. Record what you eat, when you eat, and how various foods make you feel. This way, you’ll discover why you crave certain junk foods, and then you can experiment with healthy alternatives to achieve the same emotional comfort.
Identify Your Approach
Next, you need to understand your body type. Different body types need different workout approaches to achieve optimal results. 53 For those who have given up on fitness, pay special attention here.
Ectomorphs have the marathon runner type of body. Their long and lean form and fast metabolism make it difficult for them to build muscle and fat. To bulk up, they need to consume a diet high in complex carbohydrates and protein and practice compound movements that involve multiple big muscle groups, such as squats, lunges, and jumping ropes.
Endomorphs have the round body shape, storing most of their muscle and fat in their lower body. They have a slow metabolism, so it’s easier to pack on weight. Reducing carbohydrates intake while increasing protein and fiber consumption may help them slim down. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) can speed up their metabolism and promote fat burning for hours after they work out. This type of exercise burns calories by giving maximal effort in short, intense bursts.
Mesomorphs are the athletic type who is both lean and muscular. Because of their fast metabolism and ability to build and maintain muscles, a diet comprising 40 percent complex carbohydrates, 30 percent lean protein, and 30 percent healthy fats is the most beneficial. Similar to endomorphs, their staple workout is HIIT.
Maximize Your Chance of Success
After setting the right goal and identifying your approach, you need to maximize your chance of success by eliminating the negative factors that could sabotage your effort. Bad habits are much easier to pick up than good ones. That is because bad habits are easily obtainable and convenient with instant gratification. Good habits take willpower, and rewards are often delayed. People quit doing the right thing because of the constant temptation of bad habits and a lack of self-control.
Why don’t you turn workouts into fun activities with your family? No one says you have to exercise alone. With children spending more and more time on digital devices, the traditional sense of playing outdoors has become an unfamiliar concept. Reintroduce the idea by bringing them to a park or playing in your backyard, where you can hear the birds chirping and feel the breeze. Research in a growing scientific field called ecotherapy has shown a strong connection between time spent in nature and reduced stress, anxiety, and depression. Even listening to recorded nature sounds can have a similar effect. Researchers have found supporting evidence in brain activities shown on MRI. 54
If your kids are old enough to take part in the actual workout, have them join you and make it a game. For example, the person who can jump rope the longest is the champion. Older children might even give feedback on your form. If they are too young to join you, assign them to be your timekeeper and cheerleader. Children mightn’t be the best listeners, but they’re great imitators. Seeing you active may influence your kids to continue a healthy lifestyle when they grow up.
Have a backup plan if bad weather or other things prevent you from working out outdoors. HIIT requires no equipment except a timer. Each move takes less than a minute, followed by a short rest. You can finish the entire workout in under thirty minutes and still burn the same amount of calories as if you went jogging for an hour. The best part is you only need to do HIIT two or three times a week, and then you simply walk the other days. Combine this with a healthy diet you’ll see results in just a few weeks.
Scheduling Is Key
Set aside protected workout time. Make it a part of your daily routine. Based on a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it takes on average sixty-six days before a new behavior becomes automatic. 55 If sixty-six days seem too long for you, learn from comedian Jerry Seinfeld’s productivity tip—“Don’t Break the Chain.” Every day Seinfeld wrote a joke, he marked a big X on a wall calendar. Once he had a nice, long X chain on the calendar, all he wanted to do was not to break that chain. 56 Apply this technique to any challenge; the idea is to take it one day at a time. Stop thinking about how many more days you have to do something and focus instead on just getting the day’s task done.
Start small and practice often. This way, you can overcome the fear of failure and are likely to experience the joy of getting more done with each passing day. If physical limitations and health conditions prevent you from being fully functional, check with your doctor first before attempting any strenuous activities.
High-Intensity Interval Training
Japanese scientist Izumi Tabata first studied the HIIT method in 1996. Compared to moderate-intensity continuous training for 60 minutes, a 4-minute HIIT workout led to higher muscle power output and aerobic endurance after 6 weeks. 57 A wide variety of HIIT programs have since been developed to promote cardio fitness and body composition. You can check out the example workout routine published in Self magazine. 58
Let’s revisit the concerns you may have toward starting or maintaining a regular exercise schedule.
Lack of results: Not all workouts are created equal, so explore new exercises that can get you in shape sooner. Try new workouts using the introductory discount at e-commerce sites like Groupon or LivingSocial. Those sites run deeply discounted deals for trial membership or class cards. That was how I found my yoga studio ten years ago. Or visit a local gym and get a complimentary trial pass to see if it fits your personality and lifestyle.
Too busy and no budget: Use the low-price trial offer to get yourself familiarized with a workout routine, then practice at home with your kids.
Lack of patience: Instead of weighing yourself every day, record how you feel post-workout. After a few weeks of journaling, you’ll likely see an improvement in your mood, energy, and focus. Soon you’ll find one workout more enjoyable than others. Stick to the exercise that makes you feel better, and your body will transform over time. You’ll also be more motivated to eat healthily as you become more active.
No workout buddy: Exercise with your children. Assign them the role of your accountability partner and enjoy your quality time together.
Lack of willpower: Use a wall calendar, and never break the chain.
Boring workout: Switch up your routine and your playlist.
Have You Heard? Sitting Is the New Smoking
According to the Internal Osteoarthritis Foundation, seven out of ten women over the age of thirty-five suffer joint pains. 59 One of the most common reasons is obesity; the other is we don’t stretch enough. From home to work, we sit far too long, and our range of motions become smaller than ever. Remember the scene in the animated film WALL_E, where humans have stubby limbs and round middles that make us look more like walking eggs? If we don’t get up and move more, that funny scene may not be a distant future.
Do you feel discomfort when you bend down to pick up the pen you dropped? When our bodies are not in perfect alignment, we experience stiffness and pain. Yoga can improve your flexibility and posture. If you don’t have time or budget for a yoga studio membership, try participating in a work-trade program where you help out at a yoga studio in exchange for unlimited classes. If that doesn’t work, use a free yoga app to get yourself familiar with the poses. Healthline.com recommends Daily Yoga as the best yoga app of 2019. 60
I have been practicing Bikram yoga (hot yoga) for a decade. It helps me with sleep, anxiety, and patience. I enjoy taking a shower after a sweaty ninety-minute session and feel cleansed inside and out. My skin glows after the workout. If you can’t stand the heat, regular yoga works as well. Researchers found no difference in cardiovascular health between room temperature yoga and hot yoga. 61
Michele Vennard, winner of the Adult 50+ Women’s Division Gold Medal at the 2018 USA Yoga Nationals and the Silver Medal in the 2017 Nationals, has been teaching yoga for over twenty years, mostly out of her elegant studio in Silicon Valley. She was a marketing director for a successful Italian restaurant group prior to her yoga career. Watch the video recording of her 2018 competition. 62 At age fifty-four, her body extruded energy and grace.
“Different from other types of exercise,” she told me, “Bikram yoga is a total body workout designed to improve blood circulation, spinal traction and articulation, respiratory, digestive, and endocrine function, lymphatic drainage, and fascia (connective tissue) release among other things. These ‘invisible’ changes rejuvenate our bodies in the aging process.
“Besides the physical benefits, it’s also an open-eye meditation that gives you a sense of calmness, clarity, and confidence. It helped me cope with my mother’s death. That was when I realized I want to teach and spread this message from our founder, Bikram Choudhury, ‘Never too old, never too sick, never too late to do yoga and start from scratch … again.’”
Michele’s studio offers onsite childcare. She recommends busy moms take advantage of such services in their local communities and enjoy yoga as a mental and physical “retreat.” Moms can also look for places that offer early or late classes so they can practice either before kids wake up or after they are in bed. 63
Set the right goal, identify your approach, and incorporate exercise into your daily routine. Be the champion in your household to get active and positive. Your health will improve, and so will your figure.
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