I have been working out 3-4 times per week for several months and have had some surprising results from it. I have attempted this in the past and failed miserably, but this time it is sticking and I like it. I have a couple of markers for this success that I will share with you at the end of this article, but let’s get to the nitty gritty for now.
Result #1 – My diet changed with very little effort from me
I really like lifting weights. It’s a lot of fun to feel my muscles get leaner and stronger. I found that when I ate a crappy diet on a day when I was going to the gym to lift that I couldn’t lift as much or as smoothly. I also noticed that when I grudgingly did my 20 minutes of cardio it was a whole lot harder. Simple carbohydrates like white flour based foods – pasta, bread, breading, Krispy Kremes, etc. – resulted in what I calculated with my bad math skills to be about a 20% decrease in strength and energy. Seriously people – don’t take that number as hard science! I noticed that when I ate cleanly (veggies, lean proteins, complex carbs like whole grains) I could lift 50 lbs doing lat pulldowns, but when I ate junky I could only pull 40 lbs.
That gets frustrating really quickly and I was seeing the correlation between diet and energy in ways I couldn’t deny. Soon I found I was making better food choices. Eating well and cooking for myself instead of going out to eat, eating more vegetables and fruits than simple carbohydrates. I started avoiding white foods like white rice, white breads, and potatoes. Now I am lifting even more and doing it with better form.
This translates to life outside of the gym too. I have more energy, my thought processes are more efficient, and concentration and memory are better too. There is a bit of a downside that I must admit too. I do love sugary treats. When I indulge in an occasional treat I feel pretty gross. My heart races, my anxiety level increases, my thoughts get scattered, and I feel overwhelmed by life. These are all things I used to feel on a daily basis but they became normal to me. Now the normalcy of this sick process is gone and I see the mental chaos for what it is. Blinders off! I can’t unsee it now.
A friend of mine recently said you can’t exercise away a bad diet. She is right in a way – you eat like garbage and exercise but it won’t cancel it out. But she is also wrong in a way – I think I am exercising away a bad diet!
Result #2 – Frozen shoulder gone!
I have had adhesive capulitis (commonly called frozen shoulder) in my left shoulder for years. It hurt to move it toward my body, over my head, or behind my back. It got severe enough that I couldn’t put my clothes on without some seriously contortionist moves. I had tried everything I could think of to resolve the problem: acupuncture, Reiki, massage, etc.
Once I started lifting weights I began to do lateral raises, front raises and reverse flyes for my shoulders. I know that’s gym-speak, but what you need to know is that those exercises work the different parts of the deltoid muscles, those big muscles that attach your arms to your shoulders. I started with very light weights – 3 lbs. About 3 weeks after starting at the gym I realized I was able to put my clothes on and take them off like a normal person! The first time I whipped a shirt off and lifted both arms over my head I danced around the house in excitement!
With just a little bit of exercise my frozen shoulder began to thaw. It wasn’t passive therapy I needed, but active therapy. I soon noticed that with other exercises my creaky knees were getting less creaky. I was able to go up and down the stairs more easily, my back hurt less.
Cat’s Ten Tips for Gym Success
I know everyone is different about motivation. I am a long-term couch potato who hates to move and am a creature of convenience. I have friends who thrive on movement and actually run marathons for fun. (Fun?!) I have a long history of joining gyms and failing miserably, guiltily paying the gym membership without going for months on end. Here’s why I believe it is working this time.
- I have a partner in crime.
She motivates me, I motivate her. Sometimes it’s motivation by way of not wanting to let each other down. Last night after my workout I felt great. In my fit of endorphins (and yes, there really is an exercise high) I confessed that I hadn’t wanted to go but did because I told her I’d be there. She grinned said the same thing happened with her. Whatever gets you there, eh?
- I can see the gym from the road on my daily route home.
I pull up to the last major intersection before my house and there it is on my right waving and looking at me, daring me to pass by. I rarely ignore the dare. I pull in and work out. But if I had to go out of my way to get there, as I did with the last gym, it would never happen. Bonus: since it is literally 5 minutes from my house I don’t have to shower there. Always hated that.
- I keep my workout clothes in the car.
I got myself a gym bag I like and I keep it packed and ready to go – shorts, top, sports bra, shoes, socks, headphones, lock, water bottle, etc. I keep a sweatshirt hoodie in there too. If I’m sweaty and it’s cold out this keeps me from getting sick.
- Real people work out there.
It’s an all women’s gym and people there look like me in varying stages of getting fit. The staff is awesome too. Very friendly and helpful. No judgy-ness.
- I found an activity I love.
I am fond of saying I like to lift heavy things. Actually, that’s an understatement. I love to lift weights. I don’t know why. I did that for the first few weeks and then a friend who is a trainer clucked at me until I started doing some cardio. Nothing mammoth – just 20-30 minutes on a treadmill. I hated it at first, then realized I could do it and it was kind of fun.
- I track my progress.
That tells me that I’m actually making progress. That motivates me to keep going. “Look! I went from 50lb on the lat pulldown to 75! Awesome!” (And yes, I really have progressed that far in the last 3 months and I’ve done it safely.)
- My secret to cardio: watch an ampy TV show or movie.
I take my iPad, get on the treadmill, and link up to Hulu. (I’m not up to the elliptical trainers yet….someday.) I watch Bones, Castle, or (my favorite) Grimm. The Olympics have been working pretty well this week too. One day I forgot my iPad. I had to settle for music on my phone. I chose classic rock, so I sweated to the oldies: Rolling Stones, The Who, Three Dog Night. Almost as good as Grimm. Some days I choose music over video, listening to Nirvana, Guns and Roses, Janis Joplin, or whatever else iTunes radio throws at me.
- I check in with a personal trainer from time to time
I can’t afford it all the time, but every month or so I work with a trainer about my progress, safe workouts, etc. We talk about new routines, what’s working and what’s not. I find it very helpful.
- I know my limits.
I can’t get work done at home. Just can’t do it. I can’t write, study, and I certainly am not going to exercise when I have such a lovely comfortable couch and a cat who likes laps. I have to be out and about to get anything done. Exercise is no exception. If I had a Nautilus, a treadmill, or a stationary bike it would be a clothes catcher.
- I have a goal.
OK, no I don’t. I just wanted to put in 10 tips. It’s such a nice round number! But I know a lot of people who have a reason they want to go – like they want to run a marathon, hike in the Himalayas, etc. I just want to remain active as long as possible and I was feeling my body get less and less able to do really simple things like go up the stairs in the morning or sit in a chair without my back aching. I’m too young to be old.
So that’s it. Surprising results for really very little work! See you at the gym?