BURN your fat! Join a fitness boot camp! Get ripped! Get shredded. Do insanity workouts. BANISH your fat!
Our culture tends to approach anything that’s perceived as a problem with harsh militarism. If there’s a tumor, cut it out and blast it with radiation. Infection? Get rid of it with anti-biotics. While these can be appropriate responses, the attitude is often one of destruction and elimination, rather than construction or prevention. The same attitude can be seen in general fitness and the “fight against obesity.” Everything’s mentioned in terms of a struggle.
While a militaristic view towards health might be effective in the short trem, it’s not sustainable in the long run. If we’re only thinking about what needs to be destroyed, for example excess fat, we’ll miss the larger picture of what’s needed for optimum health. Besides, a destructive mindset is negative and stressful. We face enough stressors from the day to day already — there’s no need to create more reasons to be negative. Further, it’s not productive or mentally healthy to constantly focus on what’s trying to be avoided. For example, if you’re driving down the road in your car and you come across a cyclist on the side of the road, you’re not supposed to focus on the cyclist that you don’t want to hit but on the road ahead of you. As goal oriented beings, we tend to move towards whatever we are focused on. Mentally focusing on health problems can actually create stress, doubt, and depression that exacerbate, rather than improve, a condition.
What’s needed is a constructive view towards health and fitness. If a developer is planning to build a beautiful and lasting building on a property where there’s currently a dilapidated building, demolishing the old building will definitely be part of the plans, but it will be a very small part. What’s essential is the new building: how is going to be constructed? What materials are going to be used? What’s the timeline for construction? In the pursuit of better health, the plan should be similar. Sure, we might need to lose excess fat, but that’s really only on the way towards building a more balanced and holistic lifestyle. There has to be a positive goal beyond the burning and banishment. Can you envision yourself eating healthy foods, being active and getting sunshine, being free from depression and stress, and sleeping better at night? If you can envision what you type of life you want to construct, then you can construct it.
The pursuit of health and fitness is enjoying tremendous popularity these days, which makes sense since so many people in our society are extremely unhealthy. At a second glance, however, it becomes apparent that “health” is only part of the reason so many of us are trying to eat healthier and get more exercise. One of the main driving forces of the current health movement is image. We want to look good and feel better about ourselves, and having better health promises to help us accomplish that.
At surface level, improving one’s self-image through better health is innocent and easy enough, but there are several underlying factors that make this a dangerous pursuit. For one there are two highly effective mass media campaigns that take advantage of our basic human desires but pull us in two opposite directions. On the one hand, the multi-billion dollar food industry spends millions of dollars every year on marketing campaigns and making foods that are optimal designed for human palatability (but not for health). We are hard-wired to love the taste of sweets and fats, because in creation these nutrients are almost always found in healthy forms. Corporate food companies understand the fundamentals of human taste, but take advantage of it in the cheapest and most effective ways possible; the result is cheap, attractive, and DELICIOUS food that we can’t get enough of but ends up clogging our arteries and fattening us up.
On the other hand, almost every form of media we look at uses sexual images or plays on human covetousness to sell consumer goods. We are simultaneously targeted by marketing campaigns that tell us to eat foods that satisfy our cravings (that are ultimately making us fat) and that successful women should look like Barbie and successful men like Fabio. An internal battle ensues, a war between the desires of human nature! We order our fast food, but we drink diet soda. We binge on ice cream, but we make up for it by spending three hours at the gym the next day. We submit ourselves to vicious cycles of high and lows, New Year’s resolutions and feelings of failure, bingeing and “fasting.”
In order to arrive at a balanced perspective of health, the first thing we have to do is throw off the lies of our culture and the constant temptations to compare ourselves to others. The truth is, even people who represent the “perfect” image of fitness often still struggle with self-esteem and positive self-image. Why? Because when we compare ourselves to others or the ideals of our culture we are never good enough. We are always left seeking to be like someone else, to out-do someone else, to be the most original, the most fit, etc. If a person who struggles with obesity looses excess weight, he may or may not feel better about himself when he compares himself to others.
The best way we can improve our self-image is to have a firm understanding of who we really are. At this point, things can still get messy, as most people don’t have an accurate understanding of who they are; they’ve been too busy comparing themselves to others or some random ideal. Most of us tend to underestimate ourselves, and we choose to believe something about ourselves that’s often based on misconceptions. The reality is that you are an amazing human being, intricately complex, fearfully and wonderfully made with unlimited potential. You are unique and have sometime to bring to the world that nobody else has. It is belief in these truths that should form the foundation of your self-image.
While the pursuit of fitness is important for a number of obvious reasons, improving self-image isn’t one of them. A self-image rooted in the truth about who God says we are can free us from the lies and false images of our culture and set us on a path of true health, spiritually and physically.
Freedom – it’s a powerful word, implying limitless possibilities, empowerment, the wind blowing through your hair, the sun shining on your face, the ability to choose, to act, to take responsibility.
Today you are free, and freedom means you are fully responsible. In other words you have the freedom to respond to the voice of God. God’s word says that it is for freedom that He has set us free. Are you taking advantage of your freedom?
True, walking in freedom can be difficult; in our world it requires faith, but so often we build our own prisons. We create habits and believe lies that restrict our freedom. It’s not easy to say why we relinquish our freedoms. Maybe it’s because it’s easier, safer, more predictable to reside in our small confines. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “A ship in the harbor is safe, but that’s not where it’s meant to be.” WE WERE BORN TO EXPLORE THE OPEN SEA, to ride the waves, to explore broad horizons. Have you relinquished your dreams? Have you given up your freedoms?
I don’t care how old you are or where you are in life; today is a new day. As a human being you have the ability to choose how you will respond (you don’t just have to re-ACT to your surroundings). Even if you were physically bound in chains, you would still have the power to choose your attitude, whether to love or hate, to forgive or condemn.
Today I encourage to break limits, especially the ones you’ve set for yourself, but also the ones society has set for you. What areas do you need freedom in? What New Years Resolutions have you set for yourself? God has provided the means and grace to obtain it through Jesus. He said, “Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” Luke 17:33
In August 2010 I decided to change my life. Well, maybe it wasn’t that dramatic. I knew I didn’t like how I looked, how I felt or the example I was setting for my kids. I knew I wanted to lose weight, but the task seemed impossible. Starting off at 218 pounds (E gads! I’ve admitted it!) I wanted to lose 48 pounds and get down to 170 pounds (about where I was when I got married 6 years before and felt better about myself). Weight has always been something I struggled with though, so the battle ahead was daunting.
As a kid I was always chubby and considered myself fat as a teen. (Side note, looking back now I don’t consider myself fat then. Chubby yes… Boy, gaining a bunch more weight certainly gives perspective.) During my teen years I did a lot of dieting and trying to lose weight. I really had no idea what I was doing and just wanted an easy way out. I was never athletic and hated PE with a passion. Some days I’d nearly be sick over the anxiety of PE class. My motto was “I run for fear, not for fun.” I also had asthma and used that excuse to the fullest extent (I also didn’t understand that having asthma didn’t mean I couldn’t do anything.) Right after high school and into college, I hovered around 175-185 if I remember correctly. I met my husband during the summer after high school and dated for three years. We were married in 2004 and after exercising before the wedding I weighed 175.
I maintained that weight until the fall of 2006, when I started a one year Master’s program. This program really was insane. It crammed two years of classes, internship and thesis into a 9 month period. I quickly learned to eat to
survive during that time. I needed to be awake longer, survive on less sleep and eat what was easy and quick. This meant lots of sugar, soda and fast food. I only had time to peel a wrapper and eat it. The funny thing is that now if I want more energy and to think better I’d eat healthy, because eating poorly makes me feel sluggish and icky. I gained 10 pounds during those 9 months. I justified eating this way because of needing to survive the program, and I would stop eating this way when it was done. I didn’t. I kept eating this way. Easy and quick was in fact easy and quick and tasty. Even now from time to time, when I’m feeling tired and need a pick-me-up, I can catch myself thinking at first that I should get something sweet or a soda. I made myself think that I was eating differently after graduation, but my calorie counts still stayed high and the quantities were big.
By the time 2009 rolled around I was 215 pounds. In April 2009 I lost 15 pounds, but after a car accident in December 2009 I gained that weight back plus three pounds. The car accident left me with back problems. I couldn’t do much of anything. No picking up the kids, bending over, moving much…sitting and standing both hurt a lot, so exercise was off the map. My life became more sedentary, but my eating habits stayed the same.
Thankfully, after a lot of prayer and physical therapy, I slowly became better, but I really wasn’t happy with the way I looked. I didn’t want this to be my example to my children, and I hated being in photos. I knew I would probably feel better if I lost weight too (and boy was that an understatement).
One year ago, in August 2010, I didn’t think I’d be able to lose so much weight. In fact I felt it was next to impossible, but I started off striving for one pound, then two, then three… and so on. Now I’m down 42.5 pounds, and weigh 175.5 pounds. The funny thing is that I now wear a size 10, and the last time I weighed this I wore a size 12. Gaining muscle & losing fat makes a difference. Five and a half pounds to go until I reach my first goal weight!
I started off using two months of Nutrisystem. I like Nutrisystem, because it uses real food, tastes good and gave me an outline for how I needed to eat. After that I mimicked the plan’s calorie count, food group balancing and other nutrients. The rest is history. I started off with 1600 calories a day and am now down to about 1500 calories a day (with doctor’s approval of course) — as I’ve lost weight I’ve needed less/day to keep up the same weight loss/week. If you have an iPhone, you have to use the LoseIt app! I wouldn’t have been able to do it with out that app!
I also started running in September 2010. I hated running. Remember, my motto for running was “I run for fear, not for fun.” But on a fateful girls’ night out my friend (who has lost a lot of weight herself) encouraged me to do a 5K and told me about Couch to 5K. I looked up the program and it seemed reasonable. It would give me a good training plan, and I’d lose weight along the way.
On October 30th I did my first 5K after only 5 weeks of training. I thought I was going to die, but I did it! On Thanksgiving, two days after my Papa died, I did my second 5K after finishing 9 weeks of training. God and running got me through my Papa’s illness and death. After finishing the 5K training program my friends encouraged me to move onto a 10K. Why not? This was getting addicting and that was only twice the 5K. Of course there was Bridge to 10K to help, and I loved it as much as the first program! Sometime after my first 5K, a friend coerced me into doing a half-marathon. On Superbowl Sunday of this year I did my first 10K, and in March I did a half-marathon. In May I ran my second 10K.
I’m currently training for my second half-marathon on October 2nd. I have gone from a person who dreads running to someone who gets restless if I go a couple days without running. In April I also had the opportunity to run a 5K with a friend who ran her first 5K. I’m still slower than I’d like to be, but I’ve come a long, long ways from the girl who couldn’t even run a minute. My first mile time was over 18 minutes and my most recent personal record was 10:10. I get so excited to see my progress and how far I’ve come.
During my journey, I’ve also grown deeper relationships with my friends. A group of us would meet every weekend to run, jog or walk at whatever pace we were at and however far we were going. We bonded so much during this time and cheered each other on. It was helpful knowing that there were people waiting to meet, so I couldn’t bail, and who understood what I was going through too. My dear friend and I ran alongside each other in the 10K and half-marathon pushing each other on when the other needed encouragement.
Running has also deepened my relationship with God. It has taught me another side of Him. It has taught me about endurance in Him, trusting Him and caring for the body He’s given me. There have been many, many runs where each step was done in prayer. He taught me that He will provide me strength and sustain me. He taught me that He knows what is ahead and has a plan for me. These lessons learned while running have overflowed into other areas of my life as well. Jeremiah 29:11 ~ “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
I had no idea how many areas of my life would change. I didn’t know I would be happier and focus better. I didn’t know my friendships would deepen. I certainly didn’t know that I would inspire others. I didn’t do this to inspire others. I started off selfishly to change myself. Thankfully God has used my selfish intentions and is using my journey to inspire others. I couldn’t have done any of this without God, my friends, my husband and my kids. I’m proud that I’m setting a good example for my children, especially my daughter. I hope and pray that my kids won’t struggle with weight and food the way I have.
At the end of last August, I started trying a yoga dvd, bought a $50 treadmill and took my first step. Then there was that fateful girls’ night out when a friend told me about Couch to 5K and said she’d run a 5K with me. And I said “Why not?” That seemed like it would be a good goal. I had no idea that moment was really the start of three 5K’s, two 10K’s, a half marathon, training for another half marathon, a blog and motivating others. I’ve lost 42.5 pounds, gained a ton of self confidence, deepened friendships and overhauled my life. Now I am the example I want to be to my kids. In fact recently my kids were talking about how they’re growing and getting bigger, when my daughter piped up, “Mommy, you’re shrinking!” Why yes I am.
If you’re like me, you probably go through periods where you lack a certain motivation needed to exercise. You might have fallen out of the habit for a few days or maybe a few months. Whatever the case, today is a new day! Don’t feel bad about it; make the decision to jump back in the game.
Here are some ways to motivate yourself to work out:
1. Grab a friend. Accountability does wonders for maintaining a regular workout routine. You might be able to let yourself down, but letting down someone you care about by not showing up to a scheduled workout is really tough to do. The added bonus is that it makes your workout more social and fun, therefore you are even more likely to do this again.
2. Design a new fitness routine. It can be fun searching the web or magazines to find new workouts. I love trying new things and this helps keep me from getting bored. It’s also beneficial for the body to change up your routine every couple of months. Variety wakes up muscles that might have been less active during your last routine.
3. Sign up for a race. Signing up for a race is always exciting for me and reliably motivating. I know that I will have to be able to run the distance safely and hopefully painlessly, so I need to train my body. I can’t train my body by sitting on the couch, so the knowledge that I have a race in the future helps get me out the door. (See 13.1 Reasons to Sign Up for a Half-Marathon)
4. Lay out clothes the night before. If you are hitting the gym or the trail early in the morning, make sure you have everything ready the night before. This way your morning workouts won’t feel stressful and you can enjoy the time. If you really feel like you won’t want to get up in the morning, try wearing your workout clothes to bed. Then all you have to do is slip your shoes on!
5. Speaking of clothes…buy some new workout pieces. I know when I buy a new pair of shoes or brightly colored shorts I can’t wait to try them out. It’s also helpful to head to a gym full of people when you feel you look your best. You don’t have to spend a whole lot of money…even fun new socks can be motivating. (See Ladies’ Guide to Warm-Weather Running Clothes)
6. Picture the end results. How do you feel after a good workout? How do your clothes fit when you are staying active and taking care of yourself? I know that I have never left a workout session thinking, “Gee, I sure regret that workout.” Regular exercise does the mind and the body good!
I have to add a disclaimer here since I know that some people don’t necessarily have a healthy relationship with exercise. When I say picture the end results, I do not mean cut out some pictures of models and post them to your fridge. This does not help since each body is different so you literally will never look like that model. Our goal should be to strive for our own personal best while cutting ourselves some slack since we are human and imperfect. Remember that God loves you just the way you are and He did not make a mistake when he formed your unique body!
What are some ways you motivate yourself to work out?
A community is basically a network of people that can form a support system that benefits the entire group. Sometimes when you are living in a way that is out of the ordinary, a community like this is just what’s needed to help make good choices that fly in face of the status quo.
Although I wish it were different, trying to live a healthy lifestyle is out of the norm. I love learning about nutrition, trying new foods that are good for me and staying active, but not everyone in my immediate family or among my friends share this same passion. When I happen to stumble upon a group that does have an excitement for healthy living, I was over-joyed. Where did I find this group? Online.
This “virtual” healthy living community I’m now part of (that I found in the blogging world) has taught me so much. For one, I’ve learned that “healthy” is a little bit different for everyone. While in the medical community, “healthy” means “not at risk for disease,” for the average individual it could just mean eating veggies and working out a few days per week. I’ve learned to be less judgmental about foods that people eat as well as to be more open to trying what I used to think of as “weird” foods. I’ve learned that no matter the size or shape, that most people have insecurities with their bodies.
I learned to love running through the online community.
I was also introduced to running through community. Yes, I had heard of running. Yes, I had trudged through the mile run we had to do in high school to assess our fitness level. But through the online healthy living community, I’ve found people who have a passion for running. These people actually like lacing up their shoes and running for miles at a time. They sign up for races, paying money to run distances I couldn’t even fathom of running.
I learned to love pulling on my Asics and pounding out frustration on the pavement. I learned that I could have some really awesome moments of worship during these runs. I learned I could spend time with my Creator and be grateful for the ability to have use of all of my limbs.
I have also had the opportunity to meet some of the people who have inspired me over the years in person, and I can hardly describe what happens when we all come together. The feelings of community and mutual understanding are overpowering. There is such peace in knowing that we are no longer the oddball but part of a group of people that shares similar beliefs and past-times.
According to the Mayo Clinic, being a part of a healthy community can reduce stress and depression. It will help you feel less alone in tough times. Being part of a community also provides opportunities for mutual learning and new ideas shared. The support and encouragement gained will motivate you to do things you would have never thought of doing. A community like this will benefit you in ways you never imagined.
The importance and value of community is also mentioned in the bible. It’s called the church. There’s a reason that we are told to be part of a church — we were made to be around people and to have the love and support from like-minded individuals. We were created for community.
So if you feel like you are the only one in your immediate group who cares about your health and well-being, seek out those with similar interests. Find a group, whether it be at a gym, a church, or online, that shares your passions in life. Believe me, you won’t regret it.
Are you a part of a healthy community?
What are benefits you find from gathering with like-minded individuals?
Are you looking for a way to get in shape or reach your running goals? Perhaps running a half-marathon or marathon has crossed your mind? Well, if you needed a few convincing reasons to sign up for that race, read on!
1. New Fitness Motivation.
Are you getting bored with your workouts? Does your fitness routine have no drive or purpose? When you are trying to build up distance and make sure you can cross that finish line, you will have so much more motivation to fit your workouts in. There are many plans you can find online, my favorites being from Hal Higdon. Following a fitness plan to achieve a goal helps you stick with it.
2. Get Fit.
If you aren’t used to logging 15+ miles a week currently, or an equal amount of workouts, you will probably notice positive changes to your body if you train properly. Hello calf muscles!
3. Runner’s High.
If you have never experienced this, get on it! The rush of endorphins after finishing a physically exhausting run is amazing. You will feel exhilarated, refreshed, happy and ready to take on the world.
4. Exercise= More Energy.
I know it seems counter-intuitive, but you really will have more energy when you exercise regularly. The release of endorphins (“runner’s high” from above), will surely boost your productivity. It will also help you sleep better at night.
5. Building Relationships.
Training for something like running 13.1 miles straight is not something everyone goes through. I got to know my last roommate better by running training miles with her. The time spent together was so special since we were running towards the same goal. I signed up for my second half this year basically for the sole purpose of getting my friends together to run. There is a unique bond between people training for half-marathons, and you can be a part of it!
6. Run to Benefit a Charity.
If you think you will need additional motivation to sign up for a run, sign up to run for a charity. In this scenario, you are charged with raising a certain amount of money for a cause you believe in. In October, I’m running for Girls on the Run, an amazing organization aimed at teaching young girls self-esteem and healthy habits. Every single time I don’t want to go out and run, I think twice. I do not want to let those girls down, plus I am working hard to raise money, so I don’t want that effort to go to waste.
Aside from running for a specific charity, almost all runs donate to one or multiple charity organizations. So you can help yourself by running and help others by racing.
7. New Shoes.
Since you will be putting lots of miles on your shoes, there is a change that you will need to buy some new ones. I keep track of my shoe miles either on DailyMile.com. After 200 miles, I start looking for new shoes. Who doesn’t like an excuse to buy new gear?
8. Gained Confidence.
I cannot tell you how awesome it felt to cross the finish line after 13.1 miles of running this past May. A million emotions flooded my brain, but one that stuck around was the confidence that if I can do that, I can do anything.
9. Test the Waters for a Full Marathon.
A half marathon is that perfect distance. Yes, it is a time commitment. Yes, it is a challenge. But a full marathon is something that requires all of your energy, motivation and time. If you want to take on a full marathon, consider a running a half-marathon first to gauge yourself physically and mentally.
10. Participation Medal.
You can acquire many cool medals at half marathons; the bigger the race, the more extravagant the medal.
11. Training is a Great Time to Jam to Worship Music.
I have had some tough runs that I am sure I wouldn’t have been able to get through without positive worship music blasting through my headphones. God is good and brings up the perfect songs just when I need them. I recall one instance specifically when the most beautiful song came on as I was running up a crazy hill, breaking a personal distance record. I reached the top of the hill and tears filled my eyes. I had made it, and it was like God was beside me the entire time. So. Amazing.
12. Running Relieves Stress.
Running has been the biggest stress reliever I’ve ever experienced. Since you can’t really do anything else besides run, you are able to relax and think about your day, dream about the future, and if you’re like me, write a blog post in your head.
13. Providing an Example.
It’s no secret that when someone gets pumped up for something, others want to join in. Aside from following Christ, what is better than inspiring people to get healthy? You never know who might be watching and gaining inspiration from your dedication to a goal.
You can do anything for 13 miles.
Okay, probably not anything, but don’t make it scarier than it is! It will take hard work for sure, but you can do all things through Him who gives you strength! (Phil 4:13)
What do you think? Are you convinced?
What else would you be interested in learning about running/racing?
When it comes to exercise, psychology is immeasurably important. Motivation is the “it” factor in physical fitness. Your level of motivation will determine if, when, how, and why you exercise. Your source of motivation will also influence how hastily you quit, how doggedly you persist, and how you generally view physical activity. Lack of motivation will drag you down, cause inconsistency, and ultimately discourage your athletic pursuits.
Intrinsic versus Extrinsic Motivation
Self-determination theory posits that motivation can be subdivided into two categories: First, there’s intrinsic motivation, the impulse arising from pure enjoyment or pleasure. Second, there’s extrinsic motivation, which is based on obtaining some specific result. A person can be influenced by both kinds of motivation simultaneously, or can be pulled more by one than the other. Those who are constantly focused on established goals such as getting a chiseled look, a smaller waist, an impressive time, and so on are more extrinsically motivated, and are thus more likely to abandon exercise when the outcome is achieved. Those who derive pleasure from physical activity itself are more intrinsically motivated, and stand a better chance at developing fitness habits that will last a lifetime.
Increasing Your Motivation
To stay motivated, do some introspection and bolster your motivation. Develop dissatisfaction with negative thinking and superficial goal setting. Brainstorm ideas that will further your commitment to and enjoyment of healthy living. Here are some ideas for strengthening your intrinsic desire to exercise!
Make Exercise Enjoyable. As was discussed above, much is made over the end result of exercise, but fitness is more than a result. It’s an experience. Exercise will ultimately bring physical change in the future, but it can also be internally therapeutic in the present. So, craft a routine around fitness activities you enjoy. If you despise a particular exercise, replace it with one you like. Don’t spend every morning on the exercise bike if you have an affinity for swimming. If you like free weights, don’t spend your gym session on machines. Overall, incorporate what you love into your daily routine.
Love Your Workout Exercise Environment. You will find exercise much more enjoyable in a pleasant environment. If you are stagnating in a dank garage or basement and the sun is shining outside, take your workout outside. If you detest a treadmill, find a local track and walk outside. If you love the indoors, don’t force yourself to stay outside. Consider joining a local gym. Ultimately, find a fresh, airy, cool place to exercise and be open to switching it up periodically.
Modify Your Routine. It’s basically axiomatic to say that “variety is the spice of life.” Applied to exercise, this adage can make your routine more interesting and beneficial. Deviate from customary routine, and try something new. If you love the outdoors, take a day hike, try trail-running, train for a 5k, or go mountain biking. If you like resistance training, experiment with supersets, burnouts, and other methods that lend variety to your routine.
The forced and regimented nature of “staying in shape” causes many of us to cringe at words like “exercise” or “working-out.” Regain the enjoyment that came from staying active when you were a kid by making exercise a form of play. If you love it, you’ll keep doing it.
Sources: Baechle, Thomas, Earle, Roger. NSCA’s Essentials of Personal Training