April 6, 2016

Boldness and Newness

It is a blessed Wednesday here in sunny and hot, Phoenix. My weather app sent me a notification early this morning letting me know that today's highs were expected to be near 100. The good news is that cooler temps are on the way. LOL! I am not sure who is writing these notifications, but clearly, they do not live in Phoenix! So while I am not looking forward to hot weather today, I am thankful that I am not buried under a pile of snow. Yes, the Lord has strategically placed me in the southwestern USA for a reason. May I realize that my days are according to Him, and that I am here this good day to do His work and His will. Amen, so be it, thy will be done!

I slept fitfully (again). I am not sure why I didn't rest well, I mean, I pretty much wore myself out yesterday as I started my new "fitness" program. I've blogged about my desire to get fit now that I am in my early 50's, but my efforts have pretty much failed as I either start and don't finish or I never start at all. Yesterday marked my third attempt in not-so-many months to work out. I hate working out. I hate eating "clean," and I hate drinking a gallon of water a day. In short, I hate living healthy. I like the benefits of living healthy, but my preferred diet would be filled with pastries, donuts, and chocolate. Yes, I guess I want to eat the way I did when I was in 8th grade and oh-so-skinny. Grape Crush and Ding Dongs every day, baby!

Needless to say, my body no longer looks like it did when I was in 8th grade. As such, I have had to come to the realization that the quality of life I want for my future is predicated on the daily actions and decisions I make today. This means -- no more junk food -- and working out. So yesterday, I decided to start again. 

Fitness Plans

As I was laying on my bed in the afternoon, the thought occurred to me that I could either "nap" or I could do something practical. I was on my iPhone, googling, reading email, doing social media, etc., when I decided to check out my Pinterest feed. I don't remember what caught my attention, but it was something about "bubble butts." I know, that term just makes me laugh. I don't see what would be attractive about having a backside that looks like two basketballs, but I guess that is all the rage these days. Anyway, as I was browsing through recent pins, I saw a bunch for a website devoted to body shaping routines. I clicked through -- like an idiot -- and spent about 20 minutes looking at these incredibly fit people doing incredibly amazing things. I thought to myself, "This is never going to happen to me," but still the idea of being fit, at any level, intrigued me. I mean, could I transform my body at this age (53)? In truth, it is never too old to workout and to take control of your diet and fitness lifestyle. And, yes, it is a lifestyle. Living in such a way as to feel good, look good, and eat well is simply a matter of changing opinions and taking active steps toward doing it. I have started so many programs, all with the hopes of attaining my goal -- losing some weight -- and getting in better shape. Yet, I always fail. I always give up. I start well, but I end up letting life intervene and fitness and diet, well, they just go on the back burner.

A Case in Point

My fitness kick started in the fall when I did some research on the "best" approaches to losing weight and building strength. I needed to do both. I wanted to lose 20 pounds and I wanted to tone and trim my body. In short, I wanted to look good and to feel even better. I realized that to do that I needed to workout 5-6 days a week and follow a sensible calorie-restricted diet. I mean, it is a no-brainer really. Every fitness guru out there says the same thing -- if you want to lose 1 pound of fat -- you have to reduce your caloric intake by 500 calories per day (3500 calories less equals 1 pound of fat loss). If you want to lose two pounds per week, then you double it. The key, fitness experts say, is to realize that weight loss is comprised of 80% diet and 20% fitness. It is impossible to get fit by exercise alone just as it is impossible to get fit by diet alone. But, diet does dictate the weight loss. Change your diet, change your life. Simple logic, but oh-so-hard to follow!

I was fired up in December, so much so, that I purchased Jillian Michael's book and three of her DVDs through Amazon. I had seen her ads on the Internet, and I knew a number of people who swear by her workouts. The reviewers all say that her DVDs do both -- help you to drop the weight -- and work your backside off to get you into shape. I am not a "fan," so to speak,  of the "Tough Love Queen" because she does sort of annoy me with her looks, glances, and words. Still, there is something about her 3-2-1 approach that I liked, so I took the bait, and bought what I thought would be a realistic fitness routine to get me in shape fast. Yep, I was gung-ho, on fire, and ready for the Queen to yell at me so that I would get into shape. Before school was out, I created a fitness plan that I thought was "do able" and that would, in 12 weeks, get me over the 50-hump. 

LOL! I tried her "30 Day Shred" for one day and I about died. Yes, at Level 1 I almost puked. I guess you could say "eye opener" when it came to my fitness level. I didn't realize just how out of shape I was and how bad I really looked. You know how they say you see the truth when you stand naked (or semi-naked) in front of a three-way mirror at the department store? Well, that was the hard light shining on my sad and sagging body after one 20-minute session with the Queen. I was embarrassed, and I was distressed that I had let myself get in this shape in the first place. Moreover, I was absolutely sore and worn out. In sum, Jillian and I didn't have great start. I put her DVDs away, and pulled out my favorite snack, Veggie Straws, to soothe my aching body and bruised ego. Sigh!

Thus, my interim goal of being 10 pounds lighter and more fit by the time my exams rolled around in February came and went without any fanfare. You know, my goal was to start working out so that I could beat the stress of my exams, and so that I would look good in my suit when I showed up on campus for my oral defense. It was a good idea, really. I had such high hopes, but after settling into the routine of the holidays and trying to manage home, life, school, and studying for comprehensive exams, well, I gave up (again) and turned to my normal habit of comfort eating. Yes, I gave diet and fitness a good try, but with all the stress in my life, I ended up cramming my face with food rather than working out, and as a result, I put on an extra five pounds.

I survived my exams (PTL!) and as I turned toward my dissertation, I realized that I had to do something to correct the pattern I was in. I was overweight. I was tired. I was cranky, and with menopause in high gear, I needed to do something about my fitness level and my life. I started collecting fitness articles (again), pinning fitness posts to my Pinterest board, and generally began "thinking" about getting in shape.

In March, I was determined to start so I bought myself a Gold Gym's Mini Stair Stepper at Walmart with the hopes of using it every day. My goal was to follow Atkins again and use the Mini Stair Stepper for aerobic conditioning. Then using hand weights, I would do some weight training on alternate days. It was a good plan really, but after a couple tries, I found the whole stair stepping thing boring. Plus, I felt like it was more work to alternate weights with aerobics.  Still, the idea was to do low-impact (for my knees), and to do something that wouldn't require a gym membership.

Making the Decision -- It is Now or Never!

Zoom back to yesterday, and the picture of me laying on my bed debating whether to nap or do something practical. Yeah, I know. Napping versus practical (as in active). Finally, after getting my dose of fitness imagery, and grasping the truth that I would never get fit sitting or laying on my backside, I made the decision to get fit. Yes, I made the decision (once again) to make time for working out. I also made the decision that since I am the one who crams the food into my mouth, it is up to me to change the types of food that I consume. It is up to me, all me, to change my mind, to change my life.

So, I sketched out two fitness plans using the DVDs and weights and equipment I had here at home. I decided that there is no time like the present so I sat down at my desk and created two different plans toward my fitness goals so that I could see which one might work better for me. After detailing everything out, I decided to give Plan A (Jillian Michaels) a try rather than Plan B (Gold's Gym). I am not sure why, but I thought that Plan A would be a more intensive workout, and I tend to favor the "pull the band-aid" off approach to make decisions in life. 

Plan A consists of a four month, 16 week fitness plan, that addresses cardio, strength, and weight loss. I think the goal of losing 20 pounds in 16 weeks is reasonable. I am not going to fixate on the number right now, but my desired weight is 135, which is a good number for my height and frame. I actually look pretty thin at 135, and anything under this is nearly impossible for me to maintain unless I exercise furiously and eat nothing unclean. My realistic goal is to feel better and to see my clothing fit better. This means I want to be able to look good in my clothing and to be able to do anything I want (activity-wise) without fear of injury or insult. If I can manage both, I will be blessed. If I can simply get to the point where I feel good, look good, and my diet is healthy, then I will have done my best.
  • Month 1 (April) - Jillian Michael's "30 Day Shred" along with low-carb to boost weight loss
  • Month 2 (May) - Jillian Michael's "Killer Buns and Thighs" along with clean diet
  • Month 3 (June) - Jillian Michael's "Ripped in 30" along with clean diet
  • Month 4 (July) - Repeat "30 Day Shred" at Level 2, etc.
The plan, if this works, is to stick with this rotation of DVDs until I am sick of them. I can tell you that Level 1 of "Shred" is a lot for me. I doubt seriously that in this month, I will be able to progress to Level 2. I will try, of course, but I am okay if I just do Level 1 for the month. The same is true for "Ripped." I previewed it yesterday, and I think I could handle Level 1 after this month. I probably could push myself now, but I don't want to burn out so I am saving it for after I really build some muscle and get my cardio fitness where it should be. Level 2 is nearly impossible according to fitness people -- well -- people who are 20 years younger and really fit. So I will work toward Level 2 and 3 over time. I think the idea here is to alternate between workouts, and in 30 day increments, this will work for me. I get bored easily, so doing each level for the recommended 10 days is okay. I just don't know if I can move on that quickly. I also will be using 2-lb weights to start. I have 5-lb weights already, but I think I need to add 3-lb and 8-lb weights down the road. I also would like to purchase a kettle ball weight (10-lb) since that would cover me well. Personally, I am not trying to build mass so lifting more than 10-lbs wouldn't be in my favor. Plus, I don't want to injure my back. I am looking to get fit, not fantastic.

Once I had my plan sketched out, and I picked my fitness plan, I started. Yes, I completed day one of "Shred." I almost puked again, but I stuck with it, and I finished it. I didn't do everything exactly as the fit people did on the DVD, but I tried my best. I wasn't the sweaty mess I should have been, but then I was holding back some just because I thought I was going to puke, and rather than push that far, I thought I would simply get through it. 

This morning, my body feels tight and sore. My shoulders, thighs, and abs are stiff. I guess I did get a pretty good workout, even with my low-intensity approach. I also made sure to drink lots of water, and though I didn't stick to my diet (that starts today), I didn't go off all cocked like normal. Today, I will do better. Today, I will eat low-carb (to start my fat burning) and drink a lot of water. Hopefully, after following a low-carb plan for two weeks, I will see a drop in weight. I normally do well on low-carb plans. Both times I have followed Atkins, I have lost between 6-12 pounds. I am looking toward healthy eating, but Atkins Induction does seem to work for me in the short term. I will eat lots of protein and veggies and cut out the carbs (bad ones mostly). Then after the two weeks, I will stick to a low-carb plan that is protein, veggies, and good carbs. Clean as they say now a days. Clean simply means natural and not processed. Good food that is good for your body. Yes, may I eat good healthy food and work my backside off for the next four months. Of course, my hope is that once I do this for four months, I won't stop -- this is a lifestyle change -- and not a temporary diet/fitness program.
Be Bold. Step Out in Faith.

So fitness aside, I woke up this morning to a voice saying to me, "Be bold. Take a step of great faith today!" I thought to myself, "well, Lord, I sort of took that bold step yesterday" as in my reference to changing my lifestyle above. But, something in my said that the Lord wasn't asking me to be bold regarding fitness, no, rather He was suggesting I trust Him regarding some other important detail in my life. Yes, Lord, may it be so, may it be so!

As I think about my life, where I am today, and where the Lord is leading, I realize that being bold is a mindset, just like fitness. I mean, I choose to be fit, to eat healthy foods, to workout. I also choose to be obedient, to follow the Lord, to listen to His word and then heed His call to me. It is all a matter of listening, and then doing. Listening to the word, then obey what the word says. So often we try to overthink our situation. We try to manage it by out talking ourselves, when in truth, the solution is simply found in going, in doing, in taking action. We can sit at the end of our promise land and bemoan what we think exists across that threshold or we can go and find out. We can march on with boldness of faith, and trust that the Lord does indeed have us well covered. 

I think about this today, how we are called to take the mantle of faith and do something with it. It is not just for us to become big fat babies -- no -- we are to be disciples of Jesus Christ and in turn, disciple others. How do we do this discipling? We must first learn how to be a disciple, and that means how to follow our leader. We must learn how to be a student of the master, and in doing so, we will find the way marked out for us.

The Lord is calling me to be bold today, and while I don't know why this is so, I trust Him that He must have something good in mind for me. I want to do these things, I want to live in His way, and to follow after Him. He is good, so very good to me. He provides for my every need, and as such, He does know where He is sending me and why. He knows the timing, the way, the plans, and the outcomes. I rest, I abide, and I trust Him with every detail of my life. He alone is worthy, and I give Him all praise, all honor, and all glory this good, good day.

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