Sometimes Monday
When Inspiration Strikes

Workin' on Her Fitness

Back in April, I started a "conversation" here about wellness -- and specifically about fitness, and especially as we age.  Based on your comments, I'd say we all pretty much fall into one of two camps:  

(1) those of us who have discovered strategies to make fitness a part of our lives, and 
(2) those of us who would like to.

I thought it might be helpful to have some of the folks in the first camp . . . share their fitness and workout strategies with those in the second camp.  A couple of weeks ago, I shared my sister Diane’s, story – about developing a walking routine for the long term.  Today I’m sharing Carolyn’s story.  Carolyn has mastered the self-directed fitness/video workout at home routine, and her enthusiasm and tips may inspire you to give it a try, too.


Some of you may already know Carolyn from her blog and business – The Handwritten Thank You Note.  Carolyn is in her mid-forties, married, with three kids (ages 15, 11, and 7) (plus 2 dogs and chickens).  She’s stayed home with her kids since they were born, working from home in the very beginning, homeschooling for a few years, and starting to freelance now that they’re all on a full-day school schedule.  Like my sister, Carolyn is an Upholder (from Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies; you can take the quiz here and see what your tendency is).

Carolyn exercises for the endorphins – and feels anything else is a bonus.  She’s been an almost-daily-exerciser since she was 14, when she worked out with her dad (she calls him her “amazing role model for daily fitness”).  For Carolyn, exercise is her "normal" – and without even a modest dose of those good hormones, she tends to be restless and (in her words) “prone to crankiness.”

What does Carolyn do to keep those endorphins up?  She relies on You Tube fitness videos! 


Yes.  Carolyn exercises to a variety of YouTube fitness videos for anywhere from 10-45 minutes each day.  (This is in addition to “simply being active” – cruising on her bike, walking the dogs, gardening, etc.)  During the school year, she starts at 6 am.  When her kids are home and their mornings aren’t on a time clock, she can be a bit more flexible.  But Carolyn always fits in her video routine before she goes anywhere or does anything for the day, and mentions that it’s always “before I get dressed in my ‘real’ clothes for the day.  Because (and I can so relate to this) . . . once she’s up and out for the day, Carolyn knows she “won’t change into exercise clothes to workout at, say 1 in the afternoon.  Or 3 or 4. Won’t happen.”

What does Carolyn’s fitness routine look like, exactly?  Here’s what she does:

Each day, she decides what she wants to do and how much time she has that day. Then she types it into her Google search bar, clicks on videos, and picks from the list it offers. (Carolyn adds that there might be a tech-savvier way to do this--but this is what works for her.) On any given day she might type in one of these:

  • 15-min upper body free-weight workout
  • 20-min total body toning no equipment
  • 10-min lower body resistance band workout
  • 10-min standing ab workout
  • 45-min fusion fitness
  • 30-min cardio & strength
  • 15-min total body stretch
  • 20-min yoga for core strength
  • 10-min cardio blast (Carolyn says, “never a favorite--BUT--I can do anything for 10 minutes!”)

Sometimes Carolyn just does one video; other times she'll put two or three together. This morning, for example, she reports that she did a 10-minute 'lower body burn' series, followed by 10 minutes of standing ab work and then picked a 10-minute stretch video. She loves that she can tailor her workout to how she feels, how much time she has, which body parts she wants to focus on, and whether she wants stretch, strength, stamina, or a combination. She switches up the workouts all the time so she doesn’t get too comfortable with any of them (and then “get lazy”).

Carolyn’s routine is easy, accessible, flexible, and portable.  It works well at home – and also while traveling.  It’s easy to use your phone for 10-minute hotel room YouTube workouts – and she always packs a resistance band (such a great idea).  In the summertime, Carolyn’s family lives at their little cottage on Lake Erie for 8 weeks – and she manages to keep up her fitness routine there.


Carolyn says, “I've tried a variety of routines over the last 30 years--(literally) hundreds of group classes...gym memberships...running (short-lived)...lap swimming...sprint triathlon training...and workout DVDs from my local library. When I settled into YouTube workouts a few years ago, I have to say I felt like I hit my-kind-of-jackpot. It's the' anywhere, anytime, any gear' of it that works for me. Often, I exercise barefoot in my jammie pants and a tank top! That makes it even harder to find an excuse!  I don't have to change my clothes...I don't have to put on my heart rate increases and my muscles work hard...?! Jackpot!”

I asked Carolyn if she ever gets bored with her workout.  Nope. She doesn’t – because she’s always switching the workout, the length of time, the teacher, the equipment (bands, free weights, no equipment). That's a huge bonus to her 'method.' Every so often, Carolyn thinks of something new to add to her search (most recently, fusion fitness), which gives her even more options. She says, “a few years ago I started doing ballet workouts on YouTube, and that was a really fun way to diversify my exercise. I was a ballet dancer throughout my early years, and practicing something that is such a part of my bones, you might say, brings me great joy. I don't even feel like I'm exercising when I'm doing a barre workout, at least not in the traditional way. I feel like I'm connecting with a part of my former self!”  

Carolyn’s advice for others looking to begin a self-directed workout they can do at home:

  • First, remember her mantra – “You can do anything for 10 minutes.” Carolyn says there are days when she’s feeling rushed or lacking oomph or just doesn’t feel like exercising.  When those times come, she repeats her mantra out loud.  And she’s right – we can always find 10 minutes in our day for a short workout!  (As Carolyn points out . . . “Barack Obama made time for basketball conditioning when he was in The White House, for crying out loud. If he can shoot hoops for a half-hour, I figure I can work in some free weights or Pilates.”)
  • Second, start with 10 minutes: it almost always leads to more minutes.  Carolyn says, “Because it feels good and makes me happy and--heck, I'm already on the mat -- why not stay there and just keep going? I benefit so much more from adding 10 minutes with my triceps than, say, scrolling Instagram...”
  • Last, don’t compare your workout to anyone else’s. Carolyn says her husband, for example, “does a really intense workout 6 mornings/week. (She says she tried it once or twice. It wasn't for her. His commitment, though, does help her stick to hers.). Other people I know will run and sweat in 85-degree heat or train for multi-day bike races...things that just don't appeal to me.  By working out within my comfort zone, setting expectations that I can realistically meet and often exceed, I feel successful--and that's really good motivation.”


What do you think?  Is a self-directed/video workout routine at home for you?  And if that's what you already do, what advice might you add?



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I have an on again-off again relationship with workout videos. Right now I’m off again. I do much better in the summer when I don’t have to be out the door before 7am. When I do videos now it is mostly yoga


This sounds so like me! I exercise at home (don't like gyms - don't like to wait for equipment and don't like the crowds.). Usually I exercise as soon as I get home from work. I change out of my work clothes and often just work out in undies and a tee shirt. I do a bunch of arm exercises (7-8 different sets of 30) holding weights (only 2 lbs I think - my arms are REALLY weak) and I do a series (4 different types) of crunches. It doesn't take long at all and I do feel so good when I'm finished. I'm going to try adding some video workouts - changing it up will be good and fun! Thanks Kym for these posts, I'm really enjoying them.


I don't know that I'm the type for a self-directed video routine, but I'm taking away some great ideas from Carolyn that will work for me - get it done at home, get it done early (I've never changed into workout clothes once I'm dressed for the day!), and now I'm thinking about ballet workouts. It won't be graceful or pretty, but I'll be doing it at home, so no one will know!


I like many of the ideas of this - I can stay home (I hate group exercise) and I don't have to put on special clothes or stick to someone else's schedule. For me the struggle with this would be space to actually work out. My old house has tiny rooms, as you know. But I will admit that I'm intrigued.


This is a genius idea. I've used workout videos in the past (remember the Tae-Bo craze?) but never stuck with them for very long. I don't know why it never occurred to me to look on YouTube. It's a great way to add some variety, and I think it would also be something fun to do with my daughter (who, given the choice, will choose to sit and watch TV or read any day over getting outside and being active).


I'm in her camp ...........we tried the gym, but I hate all the "having to get ready". I like the idea of turn on the TV and do it!


I think the ability to mix up the workout is so key! That has what has kept me at my class as we never know what the workout will be (just that it will be weights or weight/cardio combo). I love the idea of these YouTube videos! You may have provided me with weekend inspiration. And as far as the clothes go...there will never be a change into workout clothes...only out! :-) These posts are great!


Impressive! I especially like the variation within this program.


Hi, everyone! Carole, I totally get the small-room-old-house set-up. I'll send you a pic of the space I use. Most of the workouts I do require not much more space than my mat takes up (though you want enough room for your wingspan). Sarah, funny enough, my 7-yr-old and I just finished a 30-min total body free-weight workout together! She LOVES to exercise, and now she'll often do a YouTube workout for kids while I make dinner. My Dad was such a big influence on my exercise when I was a child & teen; I love that my kids see us working out at home,, too!
Thanks so much for hosting and posting, Kym!! I really love what you're doing (as always!).


I am with Carolyn - you can do anything for 10 (or 15 minutes!). I have found my niche in Pilates - and I love that each day there is a different routine. I am a member of the Balanced Life and I love "ticking off" each workout on the monthly calendar.

And, Kym - I loved this peek into Carolyn's day! Thank you!


The only thing I'd like to add to my routine is spinning (bicycling). Walking have been perfect as I can be outdoors and I LOVE being outdoors even in winter. Swimming has helped so much, too. I've tried workout videos but (there's always the but) they just didn't click in a way that made me want to commit. At the moment, I am missing my routine of daily swimming and I really miss going for walks. I keep telling myself this will only be the case for a short time, even through July seems so far away! Thanks for encouraging us, Kym (and Carolyn)!


Oh, I think you might have hit on MY jackpot!|!|! I have joined more gyms than i are to mention, signed up for classes that would keep me moving, spent money on more things to get to fit and oh boy, none of it kept me motivated! I am definitely going to try what Carolyn is suggesting...Great post and thanks for kicking me in the ar$$!!
chat soon...


I want to get back to more exercise once I can breathe better. I find that most of my exercise is walking and bicycling, but I do like having and indoor workout that interests me. I'm not sure why it never occurred to me to look on YouTube - God knows I look at enough other stuff there!

This opens up another whole world for me - thanks to you and to Carolyn!


Brilliant. But before coffee and the paper or after? That’s my dilemma. The paper tends to distract me with cross word puzzles and things I need to look up on the internet. Next thing I know it’s time to make lunch. Now that I’m retired, my lazy gene has more influence. Lately I’m getting good upper body landscaping and transplanting. Still, I like the YouTube idea for variety. Now, I need to get out there and spread mulch on my iris garden and start planting the 7 more ornamental grasses. Then it’s 8 Montauks and two lilac trees to go. That will be it for this spring. It’s already 3:30. Well I did go to my senior yoga class this morning. 2 times a week. I love it. I’m trying.


Carolyn good advice start with a short amount of time and make it your own. It’s easy to see someone else’s exercise success and try to emulate only to find it isn’t for you. But maybe a piece of it is so do that and build around it. Lately I’ve started doing 15 minute yoga before cardio. I love the way yoga centers me and stretches my body before just about anything! Still working on putting down the needles a bit earlier to workout at home.


My most successful exercise program came into being when I discovered an exercise class that met at 11 in the morning. Which suited my old stiff body and innate early morning laziness just fine. Life changes took that away from me and now I am searching for something similar. Never thought of videos! Will check this out. Thanks!


This is such an interesting series, Kym! I am now well into my third year of The Balanced Life, which offers on-line video-based pilates routines ... and a bunch of other good stuff. I LOVE not having to leave my house to get a workout in and I really enjoy the pilates (plus it works). I totally relate to the morning workout ... I make a point of only getting dressed once a day, too :-)


I'm thinking I should add that yoga is not for everyone! Or at least Do not start with one of those large general classes that lump 20-somethings in with seniors and everyone in between. I was only in my late 50's, quite active and healthy, but the strenuousness of those classes caused joint problems that are with me to this day. Yoga done wily-nilly is not a panacea for all ills. Start out gentle after 50 or even before. We are all different. Listen to your body.

Moriah Freeman


I'm a friend of Carolyn's (though we haven't seen each other for years) and came to your feature post through her blog site. I've learned a lot about her (in the present) through this post and a lot about the exercise routines, motivations and commitments of others too. I started exercising regularly at the age of 47 and have kept at it ever since. When I worked, I would come home early several nights a week and go to the gym for 45 minutes before dinner. Now that I am retired, I have the luxury of exercising most days through a senior "stay fit" program at my retirement community. During the fall, winter, and spring we enjoy the athletics facilities at a nearby college. In the last two years, I've started swimming laps again in their wonderful pool. I'm 67 and I work out five-six days a week most weeks.; varying between, walking, running, weights, swimming, dog walking, and stretching (daily). It helps tremendously with my chronic pain syndrome (those endorphins!) and I would recommend it to anyone who has chronic pain, especially the vague, undiagnosed kind. BUT, I have always found it difficult to exercise when I travel. I'm going to find a YouTube video the next time I do, and exercise along with it in my pajamas! Thanks to you both!


This is such a helpful post! While I faithfully attended exercise classes at continuing education programs for years, I now prefer to be less...scheduled. My husband used to have to leave for work at 6:30 pm and not get home until 4am. I had every minute scheduled with my job, dinner, and doing all of the after school activities with our sons. I still work outside of my home, but my children are grown and I have more free time to be with my husband, who has retired, and friends, who usually come before exercise. I prefer to exercise in the morning, but I’m too lazy to fit it in before I leave for work at 6 am. Your feature on Carolyn really hit a nerve! I’ll get going 15 minutes earlier and see what develops. Barefoot and in my jammies sounds more like my style!

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