5 Easy Workout Ideas For When You Don’t Feel Like Exercising

5 Easy Workout Ideas - mostlyfitmom.com

This weekend, did bury yourself in a novel while parked on the couch, spending your weekend in a lethargic fog? Or perhaps you found yourself binge-watching Season 5 of The Good Wife? Just me?

I’m all for honouring your body and listening to what it’s saying, but sometimes, it’s not really a tired body you’re listening to: it’s your mind being tricksy.

Now, if you’ve been skimping on sleep because you’ve had work deadlines to meet or dance competitions to run your kids to, then the answer is likely that you’re in need of a little extra shut-eye. You deserve a good night’s rest. Tonight, treat yourself the way you would your sleep-deprived child and be firm about your bedtime. Plan for an excellent night’s sleep by powering down your electronics at least an hour before bedtime, taking time to write out everything you have on your mind so that it won’t keep you awake, making sure your bedroom is nice and cool, and listening to a sleep meditation or some relaxing music at bedtime. If you’re using your phone for meditation or music, set it to “Do Not Disturb” and make sure that you won’t be disturbed by light from the screen by flipping it upside down.

If you’ve been getting some solid zzz’s in that 7 to 9 hour range and know that your lack of energy isn’t so much due to tiredness as it is Couch Potato Syndrome, be honest with yourself about it, but be kind to yourself, too. Take some time to ask yourself why you’ve been slack about physical activity. No calling yourself names or making nasty comments about your body. Be honest with yourself, and be your own friend.

Once you’ve sorted yourself out, and maybe said a few nice things to it, like, “I feel energetic when I move my body,” “My body gets stronger when I exercise,” or “I always make time to take care of my body,” take action to overcome your inertia and get moving.

Easy Ideas for Physical Activity

1. Commit to 10 minutes of physical activity. If you want to stop after those 10 minutes, give yourself permission to stop. It’s really okay. Once you’re done your workout, whether it’s 10 minutes or more, pat yourself on the back.

2. Pick an activity you enjoy. It’s been really windy around here lately and I feel sandblasted every time I go for a walk outside, so I’ve been avoiding my walks (and choosing the couch). It’s okay to do something different and play. Dig out an exercise DVD, ride your old stationary bike, climb the stairs in your house, find some free yoga or other fitness videos online, throw on your favourite music and dance around your living room, pretend it’s the ’80s and do some Jane Fonda-style aerobics to a Songza playlist, head to the gym, lift some free weights. Whatever it is, choose something that you’ll find fun.

3. Go for a walk around the block. How much simpler can you get? Turn your face to the sun, listen to your iPod, focus on how good it feels to be outside. If your feet take you farther than a block, that’s great. If not, that’s cool, too.

4. Reward yourself for working out. Hey, I’m not above bribery. Treat yourself to something lovely after your workout. It might be a hot bath with those citrus bath salts you’ve been saving, that episode of Outlander you’ve got on your PVR, or fresh polish on your nails. Whatever floats your boat and makes seems worthwhile to you.

5. Ask for help to be accountable for your workout. Sometimes it feels really hard to get moving and you feel like you want a little extra motivation to make sure you accomplish what you say you want to do. Talk to your husband, call your sister, or e-mail your co-worker and let her know that you plan to workout today (bonus points if you’re specific about what you’re doing, for how long, and at what time). Tell her you’ll let her know once you’ve finished your workout, and then ask her to follow up with you if you haven’t contacted her by, say, 9pm. Heck, you can even leave a comment on this blog and I’ll follow up with you, if you want.

Whatever your obstacles to working out, know that you are not alone. I definitely get into slumps (like right now) where exercising feels like the last thing I want to do, even though I know that I will feel better after I do it. Our brains are funny that way.

Do you have a go-to workout for when you just don’t feel like working out?

If the Sweatpants Fit…

After rummaging my way through the pantry after supper, chowing down on some popcorn and a Coffee Crisp, and then procrastinating on my workout, I finally hopped onto the stationary bike tonight. Glad that I did, although I just couldn’t get into my workout groove tonight. A meh workout is still better than no workout.

Despite the mental obstacles my brain was throwing up, I managed to talk myself into doing some cardio. What got me onto the bike finally was this: I wore sweatpants at work yesterday. I’m a dentist, so people likely just thought that they were scrubs, but I knew. Why did I wear sweatpants and why is this a big deal? Well, I typically wear comfy clothes to and from work, and change into  dressier pants to work in. This keeps the bacteria, saliva, and blood I’m exposed to at the office, because I change back into my comfy clothes at the end of the day before I head home to my family. Yesterday, I packed a clean pair of work pants to wear, but when I got to the office, I realized that they were too small so the sweatpants I was wearing were the pants I was going to have to work in. Flash to Regina George in Mean Girls: “These sweatpants are the only thing that fits me right now.” Not a good feeling to know that I’ve grown out of my “healthy weight” pants.

Gotta take motivation where you can get it, even if it is sweatpants.

Mental Trickery: Talking Myself Onto the Treadmill

I’m still feeling overwhelmed, but I suspect that this feeling will continue until a) I write my licensing exams March 3rd and 4th, b) I have all of the credits I need to graduate completed, c) a job lined up, or d) all of the above.

On the workout and healthy living front, I got a couple of runs in on my treadmill and did yoga a couple of times this past week.  I’ve also been focusing on having healthier lunches by having sandwiches (which feature veggies, lean meats, and mustard) instead of greasier fare at the hospital cafeteria where I eat lunch most days (I’m aware that packing a lunch would be healthiest, but I’m also a realist and making myself a lunch daily is not a priority these days).

Unfortunately, I’ve also been feeling really run down lately: really tired, scratchy throat, nasal and chest congestion.  I’ve been trying to get lots of sleep and drink lots of liquids, but I think my body is just reacting to the stress I’m experiencing lately.  Guess I’ll just stick to the basics as much as possible: healthy eating, fluids, sleep, and moderate exercise.

This week coming up, I’m getting a massage and plan to run 3 times and practice yoga 3 times.  I am trying to stick to my resolution and treat myself with kindness, so I have been pointedly avoiding any negative self-talk about not working as much as I’d like.

I’ve also been talking myself onto the treadmill by promising myself I’ll just walk for 15 minutes, and if at that point I want to stop, I can stop.  So far, once I’ve hopped onto the treadmill, I’ve felt good enough to pick up the pace and get some running in. Sometimes just overcoming inertia is the most difficult part of a workout, non?  Once I get my sweat on and finish a workout, I feel great, especially when running is involved (although, not so much when running pain is involved).  And then I wonder why I can’t just save up this feeling when it’s time to start my next workout.  Anyone have an answer for that, because I really feel like I’m not alone in this.

Any tricks you have when you don’t have the energy to/don’t feel like/don’t have the motivation to workout?

Distractions, or, Why Goal-Setting is Important

If you’ve been reading lately, you’ll know that I’ve been setting daily goals, with rewards tied to them, for the past several days.  It’s helped keep me on track with my studying, which is very important when you’re writing 10 exams in a row.  It’s also helped to keep me focused, away from the internet, and fairly organized.

Last night, though, per this post, I didn’t set any goals for today.  And then I didn’t set any goals when I started out this morning, either.  What happened?  Well, it took me a little while to get going, while I putzed around getting breakfast ready, did some random surfing, and watched part of an Indiana Jones movie with my son.  Not so good.

I finally did get down to the studying and am happy to report that I had a pretty darn productive day.  I even took a break and went out for lunch with my family, and I got through the oral pathology material I wanted to.  A big pat on the back for me.

It reminded me, though, that when I’m really crunched for time, setting goals is essential for me, and tying everything to rewards is actually very motivating.  Not necessarily cheap, but it really makes a difference when I’m sitting at my computer, looking up something school-related, but I’m tempted to see what Kate Middleton…er, Princess Catherine?… is wearing to the grocery store these days.  It’s just a mouse-click away, but the thought of achieving my goal and treating myself to something I want is enough for me not to hop over to that tempting, tempting website.

So, on that note, here’s what’s on tap tomorrow:

1. Healthy breakfast – actually, scratch that, because I think my kids might be “surprising” me with breakfast in bed.:)

2. Study oral pathology.  I have 20 more pages to get through in detail before I start reviewing.

3. Visit with my mom when she comes to pick up the kids.  It is Mother’s Day,after all.  My husband has major work commitments this week and I’m overloaded with exams, so my parents are stepping up to the plate (again) and helping us out with the kids.

4. Study diagnosis for 2 hours, and then fixed prosthodontics for 2 hours.

5. Study oral pathology – review of everything.

6. Try to get to bed early, like before 11pm.

7. Email my prof back – must do this!

8. Rewards for:

– the morning: add Tina Fey’s Bossypants to my amazon.ca cart for post-finals reading

– the afternoon: spend 5 minutes foam rolling and watching TV

– the evening: take a bath (maybe right before bed?)

– the day: download The King’s Speech to watch after finals

I’ve got a little more reading to do before bed, but it’ll be a reasonable bedtime for me tonight.

Also, I just want to note that my husband brought home a gigantic sundae and offered to share it with me and after one delicious, creamy, chocolatey bite, I declined.  Another pat on the back for that, I’m telling ya.

Any suggestions for cheap or free things I can reward myself with?  Must be quick to do, i.e. should definitely take less than 10 minutes, and preferably less than 5 minutes.  

How to Catch a Fall Cold

This week was super-busy and super-stressful, and – surprise, surprise – I ended up coming down with a nasty cold.  Here’s a look at what I did to “make” myself sick, i.e., what you should avoid doing so that you stay healthy:

1.  Due to exams and a heavy workload at school, I got very little sleep for 3 nights in a row.  I averaged about 5 hours a sleep per night, which is definitely not optimal.  Click here for what WebMD has to say about how a lack of sleep may lead to catching more colds and flus.

2. I was very poorly hydrated this week.  Due to my class schedule and clinic time, I often don’t have handy access to water or simply get too busy and forget to drink.  I’m relying on my basic knowledge of physiology here, so correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that dehydration causes your mucous membranes to sort of “break up” a little, allowing more pathogens like cold viruses to enter your body.  Hence, increased exposure to disease.

3. I exposed myself – to viruses and bacteria.  (No, I wasn’t running around in a trench coat flashing people.)  Not only do I have kids who come in contact with lots of viruses at school, but my daughter was actually sick with a cold last week, so, duh, I was exposed.  In addition, as a dental student who comes in contact with surfaces touched by probably more than a hundred people in a day, despite frequent hand washing and practicing infection control with patients, I likely was exposed in day-to-day contact.  Plus, there are quite a few of my fellow students who have been sick lately, so no wonder I ended up with a cold!

4. I went to spin class Monday morning and worked really hard.  Now, while exercise is generally good for the immune system, it seems to me that I’ve read a few times that high-intensity exercise – like my spin class – can suppress your immune system for a short time.  That shouldn’t generally be a problem, but considering my lack of sleep, dehydration, etc., it probably didn’t help.

5. I was really stressed out this week, with several exams, labwork, and homework to deal with.  As you have likely heard, stress can also suppress your immune system response, which would have left me open to attack from the virus I’m dealing with right now.

Unfortunately, I had to write an exam today at 8:30am, so I went to school and did that, but then I came home and rested for the rest of the day.  I sure didn’t want to pass this on to the patient I was scheduled to see this morning and I was just feeling BAD, but like so many people, I find it hard to take the day off when I’m feeling sick because I don’t want to be perceived as a slacker. Still, I know that staying home was the right thing to do.  I’m hoping I feel well enough to go to school tomorrow, as I have two patients to see and would hate to cancel with short notice, but I guess I’ll wait and see.

So, here’s hoping you keep yourself healthy this fall!  Be sure NOT to follow my example.  Get lots of rest, stay hydrated, take it easy with your workouts if you need to, try not to be around sick people, wash your hands lots, and try to manage your stress!

Is Balance an Illusion?

It’s Sunday night, and I’m studying head and neck anatomy in preparation for sitting in on a couple of oral surgeries tomorrow.  I’m pretty nervous, as the surgeons will be asking questions and right now, I feel like there’s a whole lot of anatomy that I can’t remember.  No one wants to look like a fool, and I am very, VERY scared that I will.

I feel like I should have a better handle on this material, since I’m in my third year of dentistry and we’ve gone over this stuff a few times.  It makes me question whether I should have spent yesterday studying instead of participating in a college-wide golf tournament, where I actually got to hang out with my husband for 8 hours sans kids and my friends from school, all at the same time.  Then today I met a friend, whom I hadn’t seen for about 2 years, for coffee and spent about an hour and a half catching up.  Should I have been studying instead of doing that?  This morning, I got a little school-related reading in and did some meal-planning, but maybe I should have spent that time studying, too.  Or maybe I should have not golfed and hung out with my kids yesterday afternoon.   Also, I missed my workouts yesterday and today due to unexpectedly joining the golf tourney yesterday, and feeling rundown and plain not wanting to workout today.

My question is, is it actually possible to achieve a healthy balance between school, family, fitness, household chores, and leisure and not feel guilty about the choices you make?  I’m not sure that it IS possible, and I sure don’t know how to go about doing it.  It seems like no matter what choices I make these days, I feel like I’m neglecting another area in my life.  And if I were to drop all leisure activities from my life, well…all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy [or Joanne a dull, crazy girl].

So, right now, the office is in complete chaos, the laundry is piling up, I’m not prepared for tomorrow, and I’m feeling guilty for blogging instead of studying. *sigh*

Do guys worry about this stuff, or is it a woman/mom thing?  Is balance actually achievable, or is it a myth, like having an organized house or losing 7 lbs in 7 days?  What are your tips for living a (sort-of) balanced life?

My Tips for Acquiring a Fitness Habit

Getting well wishes from my kids at my first triathlon.

I’ve been working out regularly (i.e., at least 3 times per week) for 15 months now.  Oh, I’ve had periods since graduating from high school where I worked out for awhile, but I always seemed to fall off the wagon…or treadmill, maybe?  Anyway, at the end of my first year of dentistry, I decided that I needed to make some major changes in my life.  I was 33 years old, overweight (5’3″ and around 180lbs), diagnosed with PCOS, and I had gained over 15lbs my first year of dental school.  The girlfriend of one of my classmates was a personal trainer at a nearby gym, and I decided I’d work with her to kickstart my fitness regimen.

That summer I lost 10lbs with the help of a few different trainers at the gym (my classmate’s girlfriend moved on to a different job) and by following Weight Watchers online.  The school year started, though, and my motivation to fit in my workouts started to fizzle.  Not wanting to lose the fitness gains I’d made over the summer, I asked a fit friend of mine, A.N., if she knew of any good personal trainers.  A.N. suggested my trainer, Lindsay, based on what she’d heard from some of her fit friends.  So, I contacted Lindsay and we started meeting weekly.  She listened to what I wanted – to increase my fitness level, lose weight, no more than 3 workouts per week – and designed a program that worked for me.
Fast forward almost a year and I still meet with my trainer weekly.  She helps keep for accountable for getting my workouts in, keeps my workouts fresh and interesting, and constantly challenges me to get fitter.  She also encouraged me to enter my first sprint triathlon (she’s an Ironman herself) and is helping me train for my first half marathon.  With her help, and that of my dietitian, I’ve lost another 20lbs.  I can do unassisted triceps dips, chin ups (though just a couple) and lots of pushups.  I recently ran 11k in a row (part of a 21k training run), and can do 7.5 mph x 1 minute running intervals on the treadmill without feeling like I’m going to hurl.  My resting heart rate is down from around 70 bpm to 52 bpm and my blood pressure has gone from 120/80 to 100/60 (yes, it’s on the low side).  I feel GOOD.
I’m not a fitness expert by any stretch – just a regular mom trying to get fitter.  Everyone is different and has her own challenges, and what works for me may not work for you, but here are some tips that I hope will help you fit exercise into your life.
  1. Set some goals.  Keep them SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely).  Set some long-term ones (do the Queen City half marathon on September 12th in less than 2:30) and short-term ones (run 11k without stopping, do weights twice this week, focus on relaxing my shoulders during this run).
  2. Make a plan.  Once you have your long- and short-term goals set, set out your workouts to achieve your goals.  I’m lucky -my trainer does this for me, but there are lots of training plans available online.  Want to run a 5k?  Sign up for a Learn to Run clinic, and follow their plan, or check out c25k.com.  Interested in strength training?  Consider checking out a program like Women’s Health Fit Coach, Shape’s Virtual Trainer, or SparkPeople (none of which I’ve used, but they look pretty good!).
  3. Schedule your workouts into your calendar.  I do this on a weekly basis and plan according to my husband’s schedule, kids’ activities, extra appointments, social events, and my schedule.  I find I’m more committed to getting my workout in, I can save time by getting my gear ready ahead of time, and I can overcome scheduling obstacles that lurk in my week.
  4. Do it in the morning. Trust me, I know: mornings suck.  But if it guarantees that you’ll get your workout in before the craziness of the day, then “Just do it” *swoosh*  I’ve also read a few different places (but haven’t found the study) that more than 90% of consistent exercisers workout in the morning.  If you can always work out later in the day, then that’s great, too (and I’m jealous).  You have to make it convenient for you.
  5. Sign up for a race.  This is a big one for me in terms of motivation.  5k, 10k, sprint tri, marathon.  Whatever floats your boat.  It’ll help you be consistent and plan ahead.  It’ll also make you focus on function over form (i.e., what your body can do instead of how it looks) and may help you want to fuel your body for performance rather than putting in less nutritious options.
  6. Get yourself an amazing trainer who is enthusiastic about fitness and healthy living.  It rubs off – trust me.  I meet with my trainer weekly, and the while cost does add up, it’s so been worth it for me.  I figure I don’t spend that much money on shopping, drinks, and eating out, so this is my indulgence.  Also, any good trainer can certainly understand your budgetary constraints and can meet with you at whatever intervals fit into your schedule and budget: bi-weekly, monthly, every couple of months, etc.
  7. Tell your friends and family what you’re up to. Once you tell everyone you’re doing a half marathon, it’s a lot harder to brush off those workouts
  8. Mix it up. There’s a reason why so many people love doing triathlons.  Beyond swimming, biking, and running, you could spin, do yoga, walk, lift weights, take a bootcamp class, sign up for a pole dancing class…you get the picture.
  9. Strength train. Once you start, you’ll want to get even stronger.  Just don’t forget to change up your workouts and increase the weight after awhile!
  10. Talk to fit friends and ask what they’re up to.  You’ll be motivated by their commitment to fitness, which can help you to stick to your workouts or even to try something new.
  11. Get some gym equipment or videos for at home. Sometimes making it to the gym is harder than doing the workout, not to mention the gym fees.  Sometimes a home workout is the only option, like when you have no child care available and your gym doesn’t offer it when you want it.  Options include things like a jump rope, resistance tubing or bands, a physio ball, a Bosu, dumbbells.  Larger pieces include a bench and cardio equipment.  For DVDs, you can check out Collage Video for an excellent assortment and reviews.
  12. Keep a fitness journal. I find this a big motivator because I can look back and see just how far I’ve come.  It can also help you track your progress and adjust your plans accordingly.  Is it time to increase the weight you’re lifting?  Are you meeting your goals for the week?  Month?  Year?  Are there workouts you’re missing because you aren’t enjoying them or because you haven’t been planning around your schedule effectively?  My journal now consists of my Garmin data, e-mails I send to my trainer and dietitian, and my blog, but I have used Fitbook in the past and really liked it.  Fitbook allows you to set your goals for 12 weeks, track your workouts, and log what you’re eating. Another good option is The Ultimate Workout Log, which is geared more for tracking just your workouts.  There are lots of online options, too, including  SparkPeople and Daily Mile.
  13. Blog! Once you post your goals, you’ll feel publicly committed to sticking to them.  This is pretty similar to keeping a fitness journal, just in electronic form.  You can even make your blog private, if you’re more comfortable with that.

What are your suggestions for sticking to your workout regime?  What hurdles do you have to overcome on a regular basis to get your workout in?  Do you hate mornings as much as I do?