Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Physical Side of Weight Loss

Part III of III

Those of us that seek to lose weight come at it from varying perspectives. Some have struggled with weight for as long as they can remember, while others have noticed their weight creep up in their middle years, or after a major life change, or even a health emergency. We also approach a new healthy lifestyle with many different experiences in activity and exercise. This makes everyone’s starting line a little different.

Let’s pretend that each and every one of us have begun at square 1, no prior physical activity experience, and hate to sweat. This is a very real position for many! This is not a judgment, this is a recognition. But our bodies were made for activity. Centurions (those who live to 100) have been studied to find their secret, and regular activity/exercise is a common thread that ties them together. We were created with the ability to tend to crops, care for children, and draw water from the stream. Today, we get our food from the grocer (in the air condition), the kids are in school and our water is pumped into our homes. Believe me, I love technology and the modern day conveniences, however, we cannot neglect the body’s need for movement.

I have to tell you something, but you need to promise that you will not stop reading once you see it.
Are you ready? Ok, here it is.
Exercise is HARD.
Especially in the beginning.
Especially if you don’t like to sweat.
Especially if you do not have much coordination
(I fall into this category, no pun intended).

It is hard mentally. It is hard emotionally. It is hard physically. The path of least resistance is not your freeway to success. It is the off-ramp to health misfortune. You have to prepare yourself for the battle that will go on in your mind and your body once you make up your mind to get healthy and lose weight. You have to remind yourself that you are making deposits in YOUR LONGEVITY ACCOUNT! Think about a year from now, 5 years, 10 years. If the Lord tarries, what sort of milestones will you pass? Will you be married? Will you start a family? Will your children be school-age? Will your nest be empty? Do you want to be an active participant in your life, or a spectator? This thought should stay with you, always. It is worth all of the “hard” that you will face. And one day, it will not be so hard. You will be thankful that you chose to kill the hill rather than go around it!
The best way to start from scratch is to lace up your athletic shoes and head out the door before your mind can talk you out of it. Set a timer on your phone for 10 minutes and walk. Every. Single. Day. For the first week.  If you have a smart phone, download an app like MapMyFitness, create a profile and track your activity. They offer challenges with a chance to win prizes as well! Each day, look at your pace and gauge how you feel after your walk. Try to do this as early as you can in the morning. This will get your happy endorphins going for the rest of the day, and you know that you have begun the day with a purposeful decision to get healthy. Not only that, but if the rest of your day gets carried away into the unknown, you have gotten it out of the way!

This is a great time to talk about the Fitness Streak that I mentioned in part II of this series. The idea of the Fitness Streak is from the free diet tracking website I used this site to get the mojo going in my efforts to be healthier and lose weight. The basic idea of the Fitness Streak is to commit to exercise no less than 10 minutes per day, starting at day 1. Each consecutive day that you exercise at least 10 minutes counts toward your streak. If you skip a day, you start back at day 1. You would not believe the fantastic incentive it offers once you have made it past 14 days, then a month, and then a year. Currently, I am on my 3rd Fitness Streak. During the first two, I made it well past 100 days, and the current Streak I am teamed up with a great partner, my friend Angel. We are on day 726 1111 today. We do not see each other daily, as we live in different cities, however, we post our daily activities on a Facebook group that helps to keep us accountable to one another. There have been some days when life is crazy and I realize after I have snuggled into bed that I forgot to put my 10 minutes of exercise in, and I will peel my sleepy self out of bed to do a 10 minute exercise video or yoga. My flesh hates it, but the next morning I am glad that my Streak is still intact! Having a partner who is depending on you to keep your joint Streak going is a really good incentive!
After the first week, increase your time by at least 5-10 minutes, 3-5 times per week, (continuing at least 10 minutes on the remaining days) until you are able to walk comfortably for at least 30-45 minutes. Research shows that during the first 15-20 minutes of exercise, we use stored glycogen (fuel), but after that we begin to tap into our fat reserves. Something else begins to happen as this daily habit develops; your muscles begin to develop strength and your stature is a little more upright. You may begin feeling winded quite quickly, but with time you can easily manage to even have a conversation during exercise.

This all may sound basic and elementary, but it is so important to speak right at the intimidation that we encounter when we begin this new active lifestyle. There may be times that you experience discomfort in limbs or areas of your body due to the new movement. Listen carefully to your body to determine if it is discomfort or pain. One may be from uncharacteristic use and the other may indicate an injury.

You may always enjoy walking, and that may be your primary form of exercise; keep in mind that strength training will help to maintain bone density and build muscle to support your frame. As you become stronger, consider using small weights for arm exercises, or use your own body weight as resistance as you do wall-pushes.
If you are anything like me, you may look for exercises that will have the largest amount of impact on your weight loss for the shortest amount of time invested. This, in fact, was the reason that I started running. Before you tune me out, listen; I, Tasha Brickhouse, was the girl in school who, when asked to complete the physical fitness test and run the mile quickly became ill and asked to go to the nurse. Every. Single. Time. Running ranked right up there with dissecting frogs in Biology. They both left me breathless and ready to hurl. For some reason, while I was on the website reading all of these middle-aged people beginning a Couch-2-5k program, I was like, “Game ON!” I had already been walking up to 3 miles regularly, so I didn’t exactly start on the couch, but, I had zero previous running experience. Somewhere in my determination to get healthy, I made up my mind that I would conquer this fear of running head on! And I did!

The first step was to download the Ease into 5K app. It started with a walking warm up, then a cycle of short run then walk intervals. The first day, I was exhilarated and exasperated. It was hard to breath, and I prayed for the prompt to walk at the end of every interval. The day that I ran 3 minutes straight, you would have thought that I completed the Boston Marathon, because to me, I was crashing down walls with every step. The app really made the transition to running my first 5K in November 2011 possible. I was not speedy, but I ran the entire race and it was such a personal milestone!

Running became an opportunity to learn more about endurance. It taught me how to breathe deeply and slowly through the tough spots (in life, as in running).  It has taught me that discipline trumps desire. It has shown me that I can be tougher than I thought I am, especially when I am strengthened with prayer. The repetitive motion of running brought order to my thoughts, established a designated quiet time when the Lord could help me work out a difficult situation. I listened to Podcasts, encouraging music, or sometimes just the breeze in the trees. I’ve seen more sunrises, watched the fog lift and seen the dew glisten on the trees. These simple things are missed so easily.
There are many other forms of exercise that are worth a try. One of my favorite is Barre. It is a combination of yoga, Pilates and ballet. The techniques are great for increasing balance, poise, and muscle tone.

I began using this YouTube video, and you can also go to the Barre3 website to sign up for an online membership that gives you access to a library of videos. Barre studios are cropping up all over the place, and some may enjoy a class setting. For my on-the-go schedule, it works better for me to do them at home.
We have a weight machine and resistance bands that I use for cross-training days. I mentioned yoga earlier, and I believe the techniques used in yoga exercise are very beneficial for the body. Personally, I do not participate in the spiritual aspects of some yoga practices, however, the act of breath control in exercise can eliminate toxins from the body, and offer needed relaxation and strengthening to our physique. Look on Google or Pinterest under Fitness Challenge to find many month long challenges.
Additionally, I ride my bike several times per month, between 10-15 miles each ride. This activity compliments running very well because it uses slightly different muscle groups that support the running activity. I highly recommend using a bicycle as a supplementary activity. In the beginning, it may be harder than you remembered as a kid! We don’t forget how to ride, but suddenly it isn’t as easy as it once was! Start small, and build up! You can track your ride on MapMyFitness as well.
Pick your pleasure. There is a great big world out there of options to begin your active lifestyle. The health benefits are vast, beginning with strengthening your heart, removing toxins from your body, improving digestion, increasing circulation to all of the limbs, and elevating mood by way of endorphins. All of these are in addition to building muscle and strengthening your bones.

Lots of love and sweat to you! xoxo
Tasha Brickhouse

*Disclaimer: Please consult your physician before beginning any exercise regimen. This information is offered as suggestions and encouragement.

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