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 shoes...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?


Walking Miles In Her Shoes

Last month, 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.  And I decided to start with . . . my sister, Diane.


Di works full time in a busy office.  She is super active outside of her job with a civic organization, her church, a bell choir, her friends.  She is an avid symphony-goer, attends concerts and plays as often as possible, fits in her hobbies . . . AND . . . finds time to walk between 4-5 miles each day.

As in EVERY day.  Mostly outside.  In all seasons.  And she lives in Cheyenne, Wyoming where the weather is not always (or even usually) . . . pleasant.

And she's been walking this way . . . for DECADES.  Like. . . since the mid-1980s.  She walked through bad boyfriends.  She walked through moves and new jobs.  She walked through pregnancy.  She walked through health issues.  She walked through a significant weight loss.  She walked through happiness and frustration and heartache.  She just . . . walks every day!


Di gets up early every morning, and after a cup of coffee, she puts on her shoes (or spike-y snow boots, depending on the weather) and hits the road.  She walks about 3 miles through her neighborhood every day before work (she has 3 regular "routes" to choose from).  When the weather is bad enough, she walks inside on her treadmill (she does have her limits) (for example, she won't walk outside if the "feels like" temperature is below 10oF).  But she really prefers walking outside -- fresh air, things to look at.  (True confession:  She finds the "dreadmill" boring.)  

Then, during her work day, she takes another half-hour walk as a break, where she clocks another mile or two!

Although she occasionally listens to music, she usually just walks in silence.  In the morning, it's a great way for her to meditate and think and center herself for the day.  During the day ("second walk"), she can walk out some of the frustration of her workday -- or have some time for a bit of problem solving.  And, if she's quiet and paying attention, she often sees interesting things (yesterday it was a bunch of antelope walking down the road, and a duck herding her babies across the street).

I asked her if she gets bored . . . with the same fitness routine every day . . . for all those decades.  Nope, she said.  Sometimes she has a "here-we-go-again" moment as she steps out the door, but she's never bored once she gets started.  She also claims to never have any problem getting out the door for her walk.  (If you're familiar with Gretchen Rubin's "Four Tendencies," my sister is an Upholder.  Like . . . maybe the Poster Child of Upholders.  Doing-what-she-sets-out-to-do is never a problem for her.  Never.)  (Just sayin.)

What's Di like best about walking everyday?  For her, the exercise mixed with quiet contemplation brings peace and centering to her days.  Plus, she really likes getting up and out and finished with her walk before the day even starts!  She chooses to walk alone -- because then she can do it on her own time schedule.  (Not many people are willing to walk with her at 5:00 am.)  Plus, that quiet time on her own is something she craves.  Basically, Di likes walking because it's simple to do, doesn't require special equipment - except shoes, can be done anywhere/anytime, and you don't sweat (except on really hot days).

Her advice for others wanting to start a walking routine:

  • Figure out what works best for you.  What time of day?  Do you want to walk alone or with someone else?  What route(s) can you take easily -- right from your front door or workplace?
  • Invest in some comfortable walking shoes.
  • Be prepared to head out in a variety of weather conditions. Dress for the weather.  Carry a flashlight if it's dark; an umbrella if it looks like rain.  And your phone.  Know your route.  If you're going to walk from work, keep a spare pair of shoes and appropriate layers in your office/car so you're always ready to go (even if you forget your stuff or the weather conditions change).
  • Make a commitment to yourself -- then keep it.  Consistency brings results.  (Upholder.)  (Like I said.)
  • Have a plan for what you'll do when the weather keeps you inside.  (Di has a treadmill at home.  She also recommends the Leslie Sansone Walk-at-Home workouts for when you're stuck inside.)
  • Even a daily 15-minute walk is better than not walking at all!  Just get out there and take those steps!


What do you think?  Are you interested in starting a walking routine?  And if you already have one, what advice might you add?


Don't forget to check out this month's Stash Giveaway.  Comment by Friday at 5pm EST if you're interested!




On the Clock

So.  Let's get back to wellness.  Specifically, physical fitness.  

If you remember my last post on the topic, we were talking about what "counts" when it comes to exercise.  Because really, as it turns out, anything that gets you moving counts as exercise.  And it happens that a lot of us move . . . by gardening.

So I decided to give it my best "scientific" test.


On Saturday afternoon, I gathered my gardening tools, and set my Apple watch for a workout.  (I had to choose "Mixed Cardio" because Apple doesn't have a category for "Gardening.")  (Although they should.  As I'm about to demonstrate.)

For the next hour and (nearly) thirty-nine minutes, I gardened.  It was pretty heavy-duty gardening:  cleaning beds, digging weeds, cutting back shrubs, hauling debris -- standard early-spring garden chores. I was pretty intentional about doing as much of my work as I could on my feet (like . . . without sitting for long periods of time on my trusty little garden cart), so I was doing a lot of squatting, bending, carrying, and walking about.  

It was tiring!  But . . . how good a workout was it?


Turns out . . . it was a pretty good one!

In an hour and (just under) thirty-nine minutes, I burned 341 active calories with an average heart rate of 100 bpm.  That's MUCH more of a workout than I would have predicted.  (Thanks, Apple watch.)  In fact, I had burned nearly the same number of calories on a 5+ mile walk with JoJo and a friend earlier that morning.

Bottom line?  Not only does gardening "count" as exercise -- but it is an effective workout, to boot!  (No longer am I going to wonder why I'm so tired after a session in the garden, that's for sure.)

How about you?  Have you discovered any new ways to move?

Everything Counts

What do you think COUNTS . . . as exercise?

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  • Do you think you have to be doing something for a certain amount of time for it to "count" as exercise?
  • Do you think you have to be breathing hard and sweating and otherwise pushing yourself to the limit for it to "count" as exercise?
  • Do you think you have to be in a gym on miserable pieces of equipment for it to "count" as exercise?

Well.  If you do, you're not alone!  But I'm here to tell you that . . . what "counts" when it comes to exercise is different from what you think.  

In days gone by, there were some pretty specific recommendations for physical fitness and health that were, basically, large amounts of high intensity activity several times a week.  This was a very one-size-fits-all approach that didn't end up working for most people.  And many of us, even now, still carry this mental image of what counts as exercise in our heads.  Which is why we feel like we "fail" when we don't exercise like that.

But way back in 1996, the U.S. Surgeon General came out with a report on Physical Activity and Health that drastically changed the official notion of what "counted" as exercise.  The updated report gave us the go-ahead to:

  • Accumulate our physical activity throughout the day (it's not necessary to do all our exercise in one go)
  • Be less intense in our activity (we don't have to sweat or breathe heavily for exercise to be effective)
  • Count as exercise those activities we do naturally in daily life (walking, gardening, house cleaning, for example)

Somehow, though, we mostly choose to ignore that report, instead sticking with our old, outdated notions of what "counts."  And then . . . we continue to feel like we're "failing."

Let's work at breaking down one fitness barrier this week:  Let's reconfigure our notion of what "counts" as exercise!  (Trust me.  After working on removing the wallpaper from my guest bathroom this weekend, I can tell you it definitely "counts.")  It's a start.  Because if we can break down this mental barrier to fitness, we can move forward together from there.

So.  What do you say?
What do YOU do - on the regular - that you didn't think was exercise. . . but might actually be exercise?


Summing It Up


So, last week I wrote a blog post that asked a question:  What's stopping you from starting to focus on your fitness?

I'm just gonna admit it.  This was a scary thing for me to do.  Because what if you thought I was full of crap, talking about fitness on a (sort of) knitting kind of blog.  What if you weren't interested?  What if I was just way off base on that topic?  What if . . . no one even responded???

But.  I think I wasn't really off base.  Because you DID respond.  And I am so honored to have received your responses.  (Thank you.)


It turns out that many of us share the same barriers to working on our fitness:

  • TIME  . . . turns out to be The Biggie.  Finding it.  Having enough.  Balancing it with our other priorities.
  • What I call "The Hassle Factor" is also big.  Needing to change in and out of appropriate clothes.  Having the right gear.  The distance to a gym.  Sweat.  Dealing with our hair.  Depending on someone else's schedule (the gym's, for example).
  • Boredom.  Just not liking to exercise, generally.  And being bored while we're doing it.
  • Needing to find a partner or "accountability buddy."  Because for many of us, it's easier to exercise with a friend.
  • Health issues.  It's not as easy to move as it once was.  Injuries mean we need to change up our preferred ways of moving.  It's hard to get started again after a set-back.
  • Weather.  Too hot.  Too cold.  Too windy.  Too icy.
  • Isolation.  If we living in a rural area, it's hard to find a convenient gym.  Or a nearby exercise buddy.

It also turns out that many of us are motivated by the same things when we do focus on our fitness:

  • Wanting to feel better.  Lose some weight.  Be healthier.
  • Being part of a "community" of exercise friends and "accountability buddies."
  • Our dogs!
  • Wearing our fitness trackers or watches.
  • Finding good instructors or trainers.
  • Our grandchildren.
  • Endorphins.

We're very willing to share our advice and tips for what does work for us:

  • Figure out what you like to do, then do that.
  • Find the time of day that works best for you.
  • Mix things up to avoid boredom.
  • Schedule your fitness first, and then work your schedule around that.
  • There's a lot of value in a 10-minute workout.

Best of all . . . You shared your mantras!

  • "Get outside and GO." (Margene)
  • "I can do anything for 10 minutes." (Carolyn)
  • "I'm training for my next decade." (Yvonne)

Now what?

Oh, stay tuned!
(Because now I'm really motivated!)


Don't forget to check out this month's Stash Giveaway.  Comment by Friday at 5pm EST if you're interested!


Let's Start With What's Stopping You

I've been doing a lot of reading and thinking lately . . . about physical wellness . . . and, specifically, about exercise.  Or working out.  Or fitness.  Or whatever we choose to call it.

And why it's so very hard for most people to DO.

(Because it is.)


I decided I don't need to write a blog post about WHY we should focus more on our fitness.  Because we already know that.  

I decided I needed to write a blog post about . . . what's stopping us from doing it.  What is it, exactly, that's keeping YOU from a fitter YOU?  Could it be . . . 

  • that you just really don't like exercising?
  • that you hate to sweat?
  • that you don't know where to start?
  • or that you've "failed" so many times before you just can't bear to try again?
  • or maybe because you're just too busy?
  • don't have time?
  • don't have energy?
  • that you don't have a gym nearby?
  • or that you hate gyms?
  • that you'll do it some other time . . . later . . . ?
  • that you don't think you can do it on your own?

There are so many reasons for not doing it; so many reasons for not moving.  
What . . . do you think . . . is the nugget of something that keeps you from moving?

I think that's the place we should start!


Let's discuss this!  Leave a comment and let me know what's stopping you from starting . . . working on your fitness.  And - if you have started (yay!), please share your tips.  Because we can all learn from each other.  

I'll put together a little summary for next week -- and share some things I've been reading lately that may help us all get moving.

If It's Tuesday It Must Be Time to Talk About Wellness

Two weeks ago, I (rather boldly) declared that I was going to explore various dimensions of wellness on Tuesdays this year here on the blog.  (As you may remember, I had an epiphany last month that in order for me to "live my best life," I needed to focus on wellness - in an holistic sense.)


It's Tuesday.

And I'm here to begin my deeper-dive into one of the six dimensions of wellness as described by the National Wellness Institute.

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(This photo has absolutely nothing to do with this blog post, but I decided to include it because it was such a lovely surprise to see this swan on my walk with the dogs yesterday.)  (And, yes.  Spring in Michigan is very brown.)  (But at least it's not snowy.)

I've decided to begin my exploration into wellness with . . . the physical dimension.


Well.  Because that's the dimension I think I'm doing best in (of the six) -- although there is always much to learn.  And, hearing from you, it's a dimension of wellness that many of you struggle with.  So I thought it would be a good place to begin.

According to the descriptions from the National Wellness Institute, the Physical dimension of wellness includes the following elements:

  • regular physical exercise
  • proper diet and nutrition
  • discouraging tobacco and drug use, and avoiding excessive alcohol consumption
  • following safety precautions, practicing medical self-care, and using medical systems appropriately

Further, they provide two basic tenets of physical wellness:

  1. It's better to consume foods and beverages that enhance good health rather than impair it.
  2. It's better to be physically fit than out of shape.

Further, I would argue that physical wellness is even more important as we age!  If you've spent any amount of time caring for an aging parent or relative, you're already aware of how quickly our physical bodies degrade with age.  It's a fight against gravity from here on out, folks!  My thoughts?  We should do whatever we can to stay as active and independent as we can for as long as we can.  And physical wellness plays a huge role in doing just that!

I totally get that it's hard to focus on fitness . . . when you've never really focused on fitness.  We're fighting all kinds of barriers when it comes to physical fitness:  Discomfort.  Boredom.  Inertia.  Time.  Money.  Procrastination.  

It's just . . . so hard . . . to make fitness a priority.  (The New York Times reported recently that 1 in 4 adults over age 50 are essentially sedentary -- meaning they only move for "essential daily activities.")  (That's not good.)

I'm here to encourage you to make a change.  To make physical wellness a priority.  (For Future-You if for no other reason.)

It's never too late to begin working on our fitness.  In fact, becoming more physically fit in our 50s/60s/70s will help us stave off chronic illness and overcome injuries quicker in our later years.  Improving our core strength, balance, and flexibility NOW will help us prevent falls, pick ourselves up if we do fall, and keep us moving long into our older years.

I'll admit it.  I'm sort of a fitness zealot to begin with.  (I think Future-Kym will appreciate all the time I spend at the gym.)  But that's what zealots do -- they spread the gospel.  So over the next few weeks, I'm going to try to make a case for upping your physical wellness game along with me.  

Don't worry.  I won't try to convince you to join a gym or start jogging or anything.  But I will share information and tips with you.  I'll describe what I'm doing to continue to challenge myself with fitness goals as I age.  And I'll be your biggest cheerleader if you decide to become more fitness-minded.

Let's all start living our best lives . . . by feeling good!

(Stay tuned.)



Tuesdays Are For Wellness

Last week, I wrote about recent my eureka-moment . . . that to live my best life, I need to focus on wellness.  Since then, I've been doing some researching and some reading, and y'know . . . there's a lot of information out there!  And a lot of it is worth sharing. (Especially because, based on your comments, I think a lot of you are interested in wellness, too.)


Tuesdays around here . . . are for wellness.
(At least, for the time being.)


There are many books and articles and websites based on wellness and self-care (because "self-care" is really having a moment these days).  There is lots of information -- and much of it is focused on the self-care-as-pampering concept.  Now I do think that a bit of pampering does the body/heart/soul good, but I think there's more to self-care and wellness than pampering!  I'm looking for a more holistic approach to wellness.

I discovered an organization called the National Wellness Institute, and they define wellness as follows:  Wellness is an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence.  

Now THAT's what I'm looking for!

Further, the National Wellness Institute describes wellness as having six interconnected dimensions:

  • Physical - Maintaining a sound body through regular exercise, proper nutrition, sleeping well, monitoring personal health, and avoiding harmful habits
  • Social - Connecting and contributing to our environment and community, and understanding our personal impact on both environment and society
  • Intellectual - Engaging with creative and stimulating mental activities
  • Spiritual - Searching for meaning and purpose in human existence, and aligning our actions with what's truly important to us
  • Emotional - Becoming aware of, accepting, and expressing our feelings, and understanding how they impact our daily lives
  • Occupational - Contributing our unique skills, gifts, and talents to work that is personally meaningful and rewarding

I really like this dimensional concept when it comes to wellness.  It makes sense to me, and helps me understand the various moving parts that contribute to . . . living my best life.  Over the next couple of months, I plan to do a kind of "deep dive" into each dimension to examine how my own activities, habits, etc. measure up.  I want to figure out which dimensions are working well for me -- and which could use a bit more attention.

How about YOU?  When you look at the six dimensions, where do you think you're doing the best?  And - just off the top of your head - where do you think you might need to pay more attention in your own life?

[The National Wellness Institute states that "wellness is a conscious, self-directed, and evolving process of achieving full potential."  Hmmmmm . . . sounds kind of intentional now, doesn't it?]


Don't forget to check out this month's Stash Giveaway.  Comment by Friday if you're interested!