3 REASONS YOUR WORKOUTS MAY NOT BE WORKING

 

 

I’ve spent the last 9 years either pregnant and gaining weight or working to lose that weight. I’ve realized a few things watching 45-50 pounds come and go so many times: it’s easier to gain than to lose, breastfeeding is my weight loss secret weapon, and without breastfeeding losing weight is a TON harder. No amount of studying for my degree in health or studying to become a personal trainer could compare to the “hands on” learning that postpartum put me in!

One of the biggest frustrations I think most of us have with our weight is when we’re actively trying to lose weight but our hard work seems to not be doing its job. There’s nothing worse than forcing yourself to the gym and grueling through uncomfortable workouts just to see the scale stay the same, or worse go up. It’s enough to make me want to just quit sometimes; if working so hard isn’t doing anything for me, why continue pushing myself? However, before we quit, there are a few things to remember– important things that explain why those workouts may not be doing what we’re hoping they will do, and a few things we can change to actually see results. 

 

First, our bodies want to stay the same, so working out makes us hungry and subconsciously causes us to eat just enough extra food to stay at the same weight. It’s called homeostasis, and it’s the body’s way of staying balanced. It’s hard to break this balance, but it’s not as difficult as we make it. We complicate it with talk of slowing metabolisms, special diets, etc. but it really boils down to this simple formula: calories burned must be greater than calories eaten. The hard part is keeping the calories eaten less than the calories burned long enough to actually burn fat because one cheat day can make up for an entire week of working hard, and your body will happily remain balanced and at the same weight.

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Next, it’s painful for most of us to admit, but we often aren’t working out as hard as we think we are. Most of us don’t have to move very much during the day. We’ve been privileged/cursed to be able to live completely sedentary lives and still survive just fine. I’ve been keeping track of my steps this pregnancy with this Garmin watch Pete purchased me a couple years ago, and I’ve been attempting to make the step count as close to 10,000 each day as possible. It’s been motivating, and more than anything, I’ve learned how few steps I actually take in a normal day if I don’t try to be active. Even with kids, I can go an entire day with fewer than 3,000 steps (or traveling less than 2 miles.) This means if I want to get 10,000 steps (about 4.5 miles for me), I need to spend more than 30 minutes walking. Whoever created the step counter was a genius, and basically helped all of us realize how little (some of us) move in our daily lives. I’ve used this and this and even one of these to track my steps, and they all work great. 45 minutes or more feels productive enough to make us think we can skip a day here and there, but if we’re hoping 2-3 days a week for 45 minutes will give us results, we’re going to be disappointed. If you are spending those same 45 minutes doing an intense workout, you will not need to workout intensely every day, but you will still need to walk at least 30 minutes on the off days. Especially if we spend our entire day sitting still, it takes a lot of intentional walking/movement to expend the energy we need to to lose weight. I like to attempt the “magical” 10,000 steps each day and then do about 3 intense workouts throughout the week, often involving weights or strength training. Realistically my daily steps are closer to 8,000 and many weeks I do 1 intense workout instead of 3, but setting high goals that I know will give me results helps me see where I’m slacking, so at least I’m not surprised when I gain a couple pounds or fail to lose weight when I’m trying to.

Finally, the part that ruins it for most of us: we don’t need to eat as many calories as we think. Along with our privilege/curse of a sedentary life, we have also been “gifted” with extremely delicious and available food. In reality, we can easily eat all the calories in one meal that we need for an entire day. There are so many helpful apps and websites where you can type in the foods you eat each day to see how many calories you are eating, and it’s extremely helpful to use one of these when you feel like you’ve gotten off track. I like to use one for about a week or so, just to remind myself what foods or what time of days I am overeating. We often eat because we’re bored, because food tastes good, and sometimes because we’ve trained ourselves to avoid the feeling of hunger. It’s also very easy to eat too much when we are hungry because we eat too quickly. Eating slowly and intentionally can help your body realize when it feels full enough without overeating. A good rule is to stop eating before you’re full and give your body 15-20 minutes to decide if you actually need to eat more or if you just want more because it tastes good.

Counting steps and calories are both extremely helpful skills that can be learned and done more organically once you’ve gotten used to knowing how many steps are “enough” each day and when you’ve eaten enough. Keeping a regular tally of calories in and steps taken sounds like a chore, but once you’ve done it for a week or two it becomes second nature to go out for an evening walk for extra steps at the end of the day and to stop eating before you’ve eaten too much.

The most important thing I’ve realized when it comes to weight loss is to be consistent, and stop worrying so much about the small mistakes and the last 5-10 pounds. I’m not sure if it’s being in my 30’s, but stressing out about a perfectly flat stomach just feels unimportant now (even when I’m not pregnant!) Being overly concerned with appearance isn’t what drives my desire for working out and staying fit as much as it did once upon a time. Feeling good, being in control of my body (not letting hunger or food control me), feeling strong, and having clarity in my mind are my motivators now. What about you? What motivates you to workout? Do you struggle with any of these points? 

MY THREE FAVORITE YOUTUBE WORKOUT CHANNELS

 

 

You can literally find anything on the internet, and it’s almost overwhelming to me sometimes. When I find a favorite anything (workout videos, blogs, etc.) I tend to ignore any other options and stick with my favorites, just to make my life simpler.

I’ve always enjoyed workout videos. I finally got rid of all my old VHS exercise videos during one of our minimalist sweeps of the house when I realized YouTube was an unending resource for free workouts. When I’m feeling adventurous, I just type in an amount of time (like, 30 minute workout) or sometimes a specific workout (zumba, cardio, yoga, etc.) and scroll through whatever pops up and pick a random workout to do. Sometimes this works out, and other times I realize I don’t like it 10 minutes into the workout, and I quit and search for another one. Most of the time, though, I go back to my steady favorites that I know I like and I know will give me a good workout. I definitely have a few others that I use from time to time, but these are my top go to exercise YouTube channels and a few reasons why these stand out over the thousands of option.

Leslie Sansone’s Walk at Home

I love simple workouts, and there’s nothing simpler than walking and running outdoors. Sometimes the weather makes that impossible and sometimes I just want to stay inside. When the gym isn’t an option, Leslie Sansone videos are amazing! They’re sorted by time and distance, and take zero skill and only occasional hand weights. They’re not flashy and they might not be very exciting, but all you have to do is put the time in and calories are burned. They’re so easy and take very little thought, I will play her workouts on my phone while I watch a movie or tv show on my computer, and the time flies. It’s basically like using a treadmill without having the bulky treadmill taking up space in your house.

Tone It Up

Tone It Up has tons of different workouts. Even within their channel it can be a little overwhelming to choose which video to do, but I use their videos when I want to focus on strength but I don’t feel like working out “alone” or making up my own workout. They’re peppy and professional and with the amount of options, you never get bored. They have a prenatal workout that I really enjoy and have been using a lot this pregnancy. I think I ran across one of their workout series 6 or 7 years ago, and ever since then, I go back to their videos at least 5-6 times a month.

Boho Beautiful (for yoga)

To be honest, I haven’t watch most of this couples’ videos, and they have a lot that aren’t workouts. I probably should before I recommend them…HOWEVER, I really enjoy their yoga videos. In the past I always felt like yoga was boring, but the Boho Beautiful yoga videos are simple enough to do without a lot of yoga skill yet challenging enough that I always feel a burn during and afterwards. I like doing one of their yoga videos on days when I would rather take a day off or in the evening after a walk or run. 

There are SO many other good videos, but sometimes too many options makes it hard to decide and finding and having favorites helps in the decision making process! Do you have any favorite YouTube workout videos or channels? I’d love to hear what you use on those at home and indoor days!

 

SLOW PROGRESS

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It’s a beautiful morning today! I’m not naturally a morning person, but I love being awake in the dark, quiet house and watching the sun slowly come in the windows.  I am exhausted, though.  I’ve been up late at night and early in the mornings the last few days, and my body feels drained.  It’s so easy to fall into these bad habits, so something I’ve tried to do ever since I was pregnant with my first 8 years ago is to do some form of exercise every day.  It began when I realized I was going to have to be intentional with being active because I didn’t feel like it many days in pregnancy and after the baby was born I just wasn’t able to get enough hours of sleep at night to give me any energy.  I definitely haven’t been able to keep up every single day all these years, but having that goal in mind has usually kept me from going too many days without doing something.  Some days it’s just a quick 20-30 minute walk and other days I’m able to go on a run.  Some days I can do a full body strength routine, and other days I just do a few sets of push-ups or squats; it really depends on what I feel like doing.  It might sound sporadic and I will never get a six-pack, but I feel stable, strong, and capable, and I’m not having to obsess over exercise every single day, and isn’t that the goal for most of us?  To feel strong enough to lift and carry our children, do our jobs without back or shoulder pain, and to feel capable of taking care of ourselves and the business that needs to be taken care of without struggling physically?

This morning when I felt that exhausted feeling at the beginning of the day, I knew if I didn’t do something early, I wouldn’t muster up any new energy throughout the day to make a workout any easier later on.  I used to get a nap in the middle of the day with babies, but I can’t always count on that anymore, so I squeezed in a quick lower body workout; a few sets of weighted squats and lunges in the morning sunlight, and I feel refreshed and accomplished.  I like to do anywhere from 2-8 total sets of squats while holding dumbbells, each set including at least 20 squats and then I like to vary the type of squat each set.  For instance, 20 regular squats, 20 sumo squats, 20 right lunges, 20 left lunges, repeat.  Or, like this morning, two and a half sets of 25 squats while holding 10 pounds weights, and then somebody needed me and I had to go back inside! Working out one half of the body is an easy way to stay strong without having to stress the whole body.  Sometimes I don’t mentally want to work my whole body, no matter how much I tell myself it’s good for me, and I know pushing myself too hard will make me want to quit altogether–there is merit in knowing yourself!  However, something is always better than nothing.

I think it’s important to be realistic with our goals and not set an image in our minds to strive towards that is only going to leave us disappointed, but instead try to find a level of fitness that is sustainable in the long run.  Quick fix workouts are helpful to jump start a fitness regime, but the level of intensity involved probably won’t be sustainable.  I like to remind myself that slow progress is better than no progress, and my worth is not based on my fitness ability or appearance.  The goal should always be to feel strong and healthy, and that can be accomplished with small daily amounts of work.  It really is a balance of remembering to work on my fitness, yet not spend all my energy and spare time working out or thinking about working out.

Do you have a favorite quick workout for those days when you don’t feel like doing anything but you know doing something would be better than nothing?  I would love to hear your ideas, let me know in the comments below!

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DUMBBELL CIRCUIT WORKOUT

Here is another basic circuit workout! Once again, if you’re interested in reading about why strength training is important, you can read about it here.  Dumbbells are an easy way to get a good workout at home: they make it easy to measure progress and you can even find them second-hand at most thrift stores.  This circuit workout is one of my favorite ones to do; it’s simple and easy to follow, and doesn’t take much thought besides counting your reps as you go.

One difficult thing about using dumbbells is figuring out what weight to use.  Too light and it will be unlikely you will see results; too heavy and you will be left with sore muscles, or worse, a pulled muscle.  The ideal weight would make you work at 60-80% of your maximum lifting ability.  However, how do you find this percentage without going to the gym and hiring a personal trainer?  The easiest way to find your ideal dumbbell starting weight is to test yourself.  Begin with the smallest weights you have (2-5 pounds) and do 10 repetitions of an overhead press.  (weights above shoulders and press overhead.  If you feel like you could easily do 10 more repetitions, try a slightly heavier weight.  At 10 reps you should be fatigued but not exhausted; able to do a few more, but only if you really challenged yourself.  For a beginner this weight will probably be between 2-10 pounds for women and 15-30 pounds for men.  Find what’s comfortable for you; a challenge that doesn’t leave you sore.

Dumbbells are my go to exercise equipment because I can use them at home and they build enough muscle to get strong without bulking up or spending time and money at the gym.  Good luck, and remember if you have any questions, let me know!

*You should understand that when participating in any exercise or exercise program, there is the possibility of physical injury. If you engage in this exercise or exercise program, you agree that you do so at your own risk, are voluntarily participating in these activities, assume all risk of injury to yourself, and agree to release Slow Wellness and it’s writers from any and all claims or causes of action, known or unknown, arising out of participation in exercise programs found on this site.

SIMPLE WORKOUTS

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Strength training is so important, but can be a little overwhelming and complicated, especially if you’ve always gone straight for cardio when you workout.  I wrote about the importance of strength training here, if you’re interested in reading more about it. These workouts are simple and basic and for anyone who doesn’t have time or doesn’t want to put a lot of thought into working out.  I have trouble making decisions when I have too many options, and that applies to all areas of life, including working out.  There have been times where I enjoyed trying new workouts and doing exercise videos, but lately I’ve been choosing simple and dependable; otherwise I get overwhelmed and find myself going days, and sometimes weeks, between working out.  Sticking with a basic routine helps me stay consistent because I don’t have to waste any extra time trying to figure out what I’m going to do or how to do a particular exercise.  Right now I just need something that just gets the job done so I can move on with my day.

I like the simplicity of working out at home right now, so I’ve put together the most basic do-at-home circuit workouts possible linked below as PDF files.  Circuit workouts include a series of exercises done in rotation, and they can be as simple or as complicated as you want them to be.  The workouts linked below are extremely simple, and either of them could be done 2-4 times each week for results.

Complete round 1 without breaking between exercises, and only take a small (less than a couple minutes) break between each round.  If a particular exercise is too difficult, modify it so that you can still complete the exercise.  For instance, modified push-ups still have proper form, but knees are on the ground; pull-ups are an extremely difficult move and can be modified by simply hanging from a pull-up bar up to 30 seconds.  Do this 3-4 times each round to slowly build strength, eventually working up to using a chair or bench to help with the pull-up.

Circuit #2 is exactly like circuit #1 with very few additions . The instructions of the push-up variations are below.

I will be adding more variations on this same workout soon, so keep watching for more simple, routine workouts!  Good Luck!

*Each variation of the push-up puts the most intense work on different muscles, but variety is not necessary to get in shape or stay in shape.

Regular Push-ups: hands line up under the shoulders.

Wide Grip Push-ups: hands placed wider than your shoulders.

Tricep Push-ups: hands placed below the chest, close together.

Disclaimer:

You should understand that when participating in any exercise or exercise program, there is the possibility of physical injury. If you engage in this exercise or exercise program, you agree that you do so at your own risk, are voluntarily participating in these activities, assume all risk of injury to yourself, and agree to release Slow Wellness and it’s writers from any and all claims or causes of action, known or unknown, arising out of participation in exercise programs found on this site.