I believe you absolutely CAN lose weight this year, but PLEASE don’t get a gym membership or buy new shoes!
Let me back up fifteen years.
I worked my way through college as a personal trainer.
I spent a lot of time in the weight room in high school and had taken an interest in nutrition so it seemed like a natural fit (add wearing sweats to work and getting a free gym membership, it was a no-brainer!). And while I knew ALOT about the physical aspect of weight loss, looking back I realize how little my early twenty-something self knew about the emotional side of it.
It didn’t take long before I noticed the natural progression of the average member: Sign-up. Visit 3-5 times in new tennies and gym clothes. Get frustrated by not knowing how the equipment works. Feel intimidated by the gym rats. Feel insecure about every aspect of every part of going to the gym. Stop going. Feel guilty for wasting money on gym membership and new gear. Call to find out about canceling membership. Take eight months to build up the courage to go back to gym to cancel membership.
Two years later, different gym, better membership special: repeat.
The funny part? After we started having kids I joined three different gyms over five years and completed this failure cycle three times- new shoes and all!
(*Note: if you currently belong to a gym and have found a way to consistently go and enjoy it, high five to you! And this probably isn’t for you, but keep up the good work! ;)
Now back to the rest of us…
What I realized about joining a gym:
1. It’s really not fun going to a gym when you aren’t already in shape. I had loved going to the gym when I was younger and it wasn’t uncommon for me to spend two hours a day working out. BUT, after having two kids, feeling overweight and out of shape, I would look around at all of the people already in shape and think “I’ll never get there, why am I even trying?”
2. Learning new equipment is intimidating. I had a background as a personal trainer and used to teach people how to use equipment, but there I was surrounded by different brands and styles of machines and I felt silly having to stare at the diagrams and directions to figure out how they worked.
3. It takes ALOT of discipline to drive to the gym, park (often far away), check the kids in, change clothes and workout when you could just drive straight home. I was surprised at what a time commitment it was just to get a half hour work out in. Then add in the cold Minnesota winters and short days and the last thing I wanted to do after work was drag myself and the kids there.
4. I idealized the gym. I thought I needed a gym to lose weight, I thought it would give me a “break” to put the kids in the nursery while I worked out and that I’d really love group fitness classes. None of these things proved to be true. (In fact, the last gym we joined, the kids hated going there, talk about adding stress to our life!! And usually the classes I wanted to do either filled up quickly or weren’t at the right times.)
What the gym didn’t provide:
1. Emotional support. Looking back, what I really needed was accountability and emotional support. I needed a better network of real, live people to handle the stresses of life with little kids and a husband working at a distance.
2. Understanding for how weight loss actually works. Weight loss is pretty simple for most of us (barring any health conditions that complicate it). The problem generally stems from the fact that we aren’t active enough during the day to use up the energy from what we eat. Gyms like us to believe that we need fancy equipment to achieve results, but that isn’t the case! (Note: I say weight loss is simple, not easy!)
3. An easy, achievable plan. Each time I joined a gym I knew I needed to “set goals.” I would decide how many visits per week would constitute success (and justify my membership cost). But beyond that I had no plan. I knew what I had done to lose weight when I was single and had hours and hours to burn at the gym, but this was new territory and in the back of my mind I never believed I would succeed.
SO WHAT DO WE DO??
I don’t know about you, but as I get older I’m finding that most things in life can be solved fairly simply. So, what would a minimalist exercise plan look like?
Here is what has worked really well for me:
1. Download a free pedometer app on your phone. My family and I now use the Pacer app (it is free and this is NOT sponsored!). We like this because we can see each other’s progress throughout the day and hold each other accountable. If you have an activity tracker like a Fitbit, that works great, too. (It may be wise to use the free app first, and then if you use it consistently you may want to invest in a fancier device for all of the added features :)
2. Set an ACHIEVABLE step goal. When you install the app it should load some past data to see how many steps you generally get in a day. If I’m not being intentional about getting extra steps I usually average between 3,000 and 4,000 steps per day. So at first I set my goal at 6,000 steps per day and now aim for 10,000.
3. Find 1-3 people to join you. This really is more fun if you have someone to do it with and I think you’ll have better success. My sister and I started together and now Tom and my parents have joined in. What’s great is that people can be anywhere in the world and you can still “workout together” :)
4. Commit to 21 days of meeting your goal NO MATTER WHAT! When we first started my sister and I committed to 10 days straight of meeting our goal. On day five Tom and I had been driving most of the day and it was 9:00 at night and I still needed 3,400 steps. So what did I do? I walked back and forth in our house for half an hour until I reached it! And I felt GREAT afterward that I had kept the commitment to myself.
5. Don’t forget to keep your phone on you. Honestly, I wear yoga pants anytime I don’t have to be dressed up…and they don’t have pockets. So I had to train myself to keep my phone on me at all times so that my steps would be counted. Now its second nature to stick my phone in my waistband or in a shirt pocket.
The unexpected benefits of 10,000 steps per day:
Quite frankly, I began the step challenge to lose weight, but here is what I didn’t expect to find:
1. Less stress. I soon realized that in order to reach 10,000 steps a day I would need to work in about four trips up and down our driveway or a half hour walk. During that time I’d try to stay off of my phone (no phone calls, youTube videos or podcasts) and didn’t even listen to music. I just let my brain process the day’s events. I soon found that I craved this time of solitude and the stress relief that it offered. My outlook on the world always felt brighter when I got done.
2. My legs were more toned. I used to believe that you had to do squats and lunges to see any kind of difference in leg tone (in fact, as a trainer I was known for making my clients do lunges around the track while carrying a 25 pound weight ;) But after a few weeks of walking consistently I saw a noticeable difference in my legs, I was really surprised that just walking could achieve this!
3. Lessened PMS symptoms. I feel fortunate that I’ve never suffered from bad PMS symptoms, but I’ve noticed that as I’ve gotten older I’ve had more bloating (gross, who needs that?) and would often feel depressed for 2-3 days. Now that I’ve been walking consistently these symptoms have almost completely diminished.
4. I wanted to eat healthier. As I was more active I noticed that my body began to crave healthier foods like fruit and veggies. This was a great benefit and as long as we keep junk food out of the house it is much easier to eat healthier!
5. More energy, better sleep. This probably doesn’t surprise you, I think it is a fairly well known side effect of consistent exercise, but again, I think I was surprised that I was able to achieve it “just” by walking. In the past I never would have considered walking a “work out” but it turns out that exercise doesn’t have to be overly strenuous to be effective…isn’t that great news??? :)
Tips for Success:
Like I mentioned before, this is a simple approach to weight loss and a healthier lifestyle, but that doesn’t always mean that its easy. Here are a few helpful things that I’ve found:
1. Every step counts, get creative! This is my favorite part of using an activity tracker–every step counts! So now it doesn’t bother me if there aren’t any close parking spots or if I forget something at the back of the store because hey, at least I’m getting steps in! And now I look for opportunities to get extra steps in throughout the day. Whether I’m brushing my teeth or waiting in the pediatrician’s office, you’ll usually find me pacing or stepping back and forth. The kids also LOVE to have dance parties (Taylor Swift, Shake it off is their most popular request right now :) so I use this as an opportunity to be silly with them and get steps in. The app will count just about any movement as a step, so go ahead and shake it ;)
2. Battling cold weather. Winters in Minnesota are a big bummer. As I write this it is two degrees BELOW zero. If you live in a climate that experiences extreme temps you’ll probably have to be a little creative, too. We have a treadmill, which works fine and I use occasionally, but my preference is to walk laps in our house, including going up and down the stairs for extra intensity or, if we go to a store I’ll try and do a couple of laps around it. I literally put 4 miles on yesterday walking around our house and dancing…it sounds crazy, but I met my goal! And as soon as it warms up a little (mid-teens will do!) I’ll be back outside, so I know that it is a fairly short window of time that I need to improvise.
3. Being true to yourself. Chances are that you have failed at numerous attempts to exercise, lose weight or be “more healthy.” Which also means that it is probably rolling around the back of your mind that this likely won’t work either. But know this: we’ve all been there (did you see my note above about joining and quitting THREE gyms in five years above???), you’re not alone and YOU ARE ABLE TO DO THIS! Decide right now that if you make a new commitment that you’re going to be true to yourself. You’re going to stick to what you decide to do because you’re able to. You already know that there will be times when you won’t “feel like it” or there will be time constraints or unexpected things pop up, but you expect this and at those times you will imagine how good it’ll feel to persevere through (even if it means walking 3,400 steps around your kitchen island!) and you’ll do it! This is a new season, the past is irrelevant, this is a practical goal and YOU CAN DO it!! :)
Frequently Asked Questions
As I’ve shared my success with others, these are the common questions that come up:
1. Is it accurate? Can a free app on your phone really be right? At one point I had three pedometer apps on my phone and also compared to my Jawbone Up! (cheap version of a Fitbit) that I wore on my wrist and they were all always within 100 steps of each other-which I thought was pretty impressive! ( And I liked having the activity tracker on my wrist, but then the batteries went out and it fell off a couple of times without me knowing it. That’s when I found the phone apps and haven’t gone back.)
And YES, it will count steps while you’re talking on the phone or using it for other things. It is pretty automatic for me to start walking anytime someone calls now…you’ll seriously be amazed how quickly you’re mind will adapt to moving more and you won’t even have to think about it!
2. How many steps do I need per day to lose weight? To really see results you’ll likely want to work up to 10,000 steps per day. But, if you’re currently averaging under 5,000 steps per day aim for around 6-7,000 steps a day and then increase your goal. Of course, this also assumes that you’ll maintain your current calorie intake. You may feel hungrier at first when you start moving more, try to reach for healthy snacks and you’ll be well on your way to success :)
3. Don’t I need weight training or running, too? I kid you not, I 100% believe you can achieve your weight loss and health goals with walking. Now that I’ve been doing this for over a year I started using another app called 8fit (I just use the free version) that has body weight workouts you can do at home. I like that they don’t require any equipment, and I generally do 2-3 of the ten minute workouts per week, but it isn’t necessary!
And please remember, I’m not a doctor and this is not intended to be medical advice. Always check with them before starting anything new!
Oh, and back to the gym membership thing: I’m definitely not against gyms (I actually miss it once in awhile myself), I just know that they can be hard to stick to, but if you’re in a season of life where its practical, that’s great!
I wish you all the best with your goals and would love to know if you’ve used an app like this before? Or how you fit exercise into your day? And of course, if you have any questions, please leave them below!
Here’s to an active New Year (no matter what time of year it is)!
Let’s keep in touch!
And it you’re on Pinterest (and thought this was at all worth sharing ;) here is a picture for that: