06 April 2010

What I'm Doing - Fit by Forty: Rules

Yesterday I wrote a little about the reason I started my quest to get into better shape physically. It was my most visited post since I started this blog - clearly reclaiming your physical self post-baby resonates for a lot of us. Amber over at Strocel.com wrote a great post today about making peace with your mama body, and Gwen at Left Coast Mama wrote a heartfelt piece about having an ugly day.

Let me be clear - as I wrote yesterday in response to some great comments, this is more about improving physical fitness than losing weight. Don't get me wrong, losing the extra padding I'm carrying around feels great, and I won't pretend my vanity wasn't thrilled when my mother-in-law asked me, "Have you lost weight?" at a family dinner a couple of weeks ago. But my primary goals are to a) feel better and stronger and b) model healthy active living for the almost-two-year-old Imp. I hesitated to include numbers in my post, for fear of placing inadvertent labels on people who weigh more or less than I do, or who want to weigh more or less than I do. In the end I did include them, because numbers are simply the easiest and most tangible way I can think of to measure progress.

On to today's post:

So, I knew I wanted to lose weight. Like everyone else with these first-world problems, I resolved to get into better shape starting January 1st. Like an idiot, I went crazy and managed to injure myself, introducing my left shoulder to the fun factory of bursitis. That was an interesting visit to the doctor.

Dr: You have bursitis in your left shoulder.
Me: Wha? Isn't that something your eighty five year old grandmother has?

Apparently it's just as common in overzealous yet seriously out of shape 39 year olds too. Damn.

So I fell off the exercise wagon, and reverted to my ice cream eating, television watching ways. Again.

I knew this time I'd have to be more strategic, think things through. Have a plan. So I came up with some ground rules for my Fit by Forty efforts:

1) It has to be realistic.

Rule: No extremes, in terms of means or ends. No crash diets, no skipping meals, no denying myself everything that tastes good. No exercise until I puke. No trying to fit into a size 4 in six weeks. Nothing ridiculous. If it's not realistic, it's not realistically achievable.

Implementation: I set myself the goal of eating mindfully, making healthier choices, and adding exercise to my daily routine. You know, the stuff that actually works. In terms of those dreaded numbers, I set the weight loss goal of 1 pound per week.

2) It has to be financially viable.

Rule: There's no money for gym memberships, personal trainers, fancy pre-portioned food, or loading up on the latest equipment. These changes have to be on the cheap, using what I already have at my disposal or can buy inexpensively.

Implementation: I already own a yoga mat, some 5 lb weights, and a couple of workout DVDs. I have a bicycle, which I took in for a tune-up and bought new tires. I spent $8.99 on iTunes and downloaded some yoga workouts. And living on the 21st floor affords me ample opportunity for stair-climbing any time I can convince myself it's a good idea.

3) It has to be easy to do, time-wise.

Rule: I run my own home-based business. I parent a very busy almost 2 year old little boy. There's no time for me to go to classes on any kind of regular basis. Or maybe I should say that I'm not willing to take time away from other things in order to go out for instruction. Either way, time's at a premium. Exercise and healthy eating need to fit into my daily routine, or I know, despite the best of intentions, I won't do it.

(Aside: I used to think I wanted, on my gravestone, "She had the best of intentions." Now I've decided cremation is the way to go, so no gravestone. But maybe a nice park bench somewhere with "She always did everything the hard way.")

Implementation: I've started using the bicycle instead of the car as much as my loathing of rainy weather will let me. For short trips in the downtown core it's almost as fast as taking the car, and no looking for (or paying for) parking (or gas, come to think of it). Having 30 pounds of Imp (who loves the bicycle so much he wears his helmet at breakfast most mornings) in the child seat does wonders for increasing resistance levels too. I've also been using the bicycle to get around and take pictures for my new Vancouver Daily Photo blog, which guarantees I get out for a ride several times a week. I take the stairs up to the apartment any time I'm not dressed up, carrying a ton of stuff, or with The Imp. All 21 floors of them. I try and fit in video workouts a couple of times a week. Given that I used to exercise, uh, not at all, this is progress!

4) It has to be flexible.

Rule: We all lead busy lives. Plans change, children get sick, or climb out of their cribs and fall on their heads and then refuse to sleep in their new bed. (Imp, I'm looking at you.) I need to be able to adapt my efforts as I dodge the sucker-punches that get thrown in my general direction.

Implementation: One of the benefits of not relying on scheduled classes or appointments with a trainer is that when my plans go all askew, I can still take the stairs and get in a workout. Although I discovered that my self-care takes a nose-dive when The Imp gets sick. Gotta work on that.

5) I have to somehow be accountable.

Rule: In the past, I've let deadlines slip and not met fitness goals, and nobody knew so I could pretend it didn't matter. I need to do this in a public way.

Implementation: And here we are. I've been on twitter with #fitbyforty updates at least once a week, and this week I've put it out there in this very public space. I've meant to write about it here since the process started five weeks ago, but something always got in the way. (*cough* fear *cough*)

So here it is:

I started at 149 pounds on March 1st, 2010 and I turn 40 on August 24th. I want to lose a pound a week.

Goal, measurable: 25 weeks from A to B means a goal weight of 124 by the time I hit the big four oh.

Goal, intangible: As much as I've talked about numbers so far (it's hard not to get fixated on them) the name I've given this process is Fit by Forty. What's most important to me is fitness, which as a subjective term is much less measurable. When will I consider myself fit? When I no longer have to get off my bike and push it up the hills close to my apartment. (Downtown Vancouver has more hills than you'd think!) When I can run across the playground with my son and not feel too tired to keep chasing him. When I can see an improvement in my posture because my core is stronger. When I can go on an hour-long bike ride and not feel too sore to move for days afterward.

And most importantly, I want to model a healthy, active lifestyle for The Imp. I'm mounting a pre-emptive counter-offensive for the years of junk food advertising, and the sedentary nature of spending hours a day in front of a screen (TV, computer, video game, any kind of screen) that are sure to come.

Anyone care to join me on my quest? Any advice? What are your fitness goals, and how are you working toward them?


  1. I have NO advice, and I don't think I'm ready to join you. I am taking a yoga class, which feels big for me, so I am starting with that. I am thinking more and more seriously about a bike, too, but that would take some saving up for.

    However, I think your approach sounds fabulous. And I can see why you've set up every rule you have. I think you have a great shot at success, and I'll be here reading and cheering you on.

  2. I can't rave enough about wearing a pedometer and making sure I get in 10,000 steps a day. It's such a simple addition to my life and yet it motivates me to keep moving - I choose parking spaces further away from the store, make four trips up and down the stairs to put away laundry instead of two and leave ten minutes early to pick up my kids from school so I can get a short walk in. I love my pedometer.