Monday 21 November 2011

Move it, shake it (more weight loss shenanigans)

There is a whole host more to talk about with regard to food/not food, drink/not drink but let’s leave that to one side for the moment.  There was also another big factor or six that kicked my issues with food right into touch but I don’t want to scare you off too soon.  So let’s stick to the tangible stuff for now.  Baby steps, eh?

Next step (ho ho)...  Exercise.

Truly our bodies are built to move. We weren’t designed to sit at desks all day; to slump on sofas. If you want to be fit and healthy, to be strong and slim, you don’t just need to look at what you put into your body but also how you use it; at calories out as well as calories in. 

*sigh* Maybe in my next life, eh?  :)
I’ve had a love-hate relationship with exercise all my life.  When I was at school I used to dread Wednesdays with every ounce of my eleven-year old being. Wednesday meant gym and gym meant ritual humiliation in front of thirty-odd classmates. Try as I might, I couldn’t do a handstand, let alone a cartwheel (though, weird thing, I can do them perfectly in my head).  The vault could have been a skyscraper. None of it helped, of course, by having to wear thick navy cotton knickers (oh guys, come on! How could you do that to teenage girls??) 
So, despite being a pretty good squash player and quite nifty on the netball court; despite cycling up killer hills and doing extreme outdoor challenges in the mountains, I dubbed myself a failure at sport. I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one and that many of us cite school sport fear and loathing as part of the reason why we don't do any exercise at all.


Seriously.  I said I wasn’t going to lecture and that I wasn’t going to tell you what to do but honestly, if you want to look and feel great, you simply gotta get moving. One way or another. I don’t care what you do – just do something!  C’mon, you don’t need me to tell you why. Exercise keeps our hearts and lungs working as they should and helps prevent cardio-vascular disease. Stress levels plummet after a good hard workout or game of sport (stress hormone levels are allowed to return to their resting levels and feelgood hormones are boosted).  Regular exercise helps control blood pressure; boosts our immune system; keeps a whole pile of diseases at arms’ length; soothes our sleep patterns and boosts our sex lives. Weight-bearing exercise can help stave off osteoporosis and so on and so forth.

And yes, if you’re using up calories with exercise it’s far easier to lose weight. 

If you Google my husband's name, this comes up!
Honestly, there really aren’t many good reasons or excuses for not exercising. A few health conditions make it difficult (and in some cases impossible) but generally a good fitness instructor can tailor a routine for pretty much anyone.  Some systems – like chi gung for example – can even be adapted for people who can’t get out of a chair. Can’t afford the gym or fitness classes? Walking, running, dancing, swimming in the wild, playing games with your children are all free. 

But anyhow, it’s up to you. All I can say is that it works for me. What I did in this past crazy year was to try out a whole bunch of stuff, to find out, for the first time, what I really enjoyed doing.  First stop was the gym.  We have a (tiny) gym here in Dulverton, literally two minutes from the house, yet I’d never been.  Why?  I dunno.  So I started getting my cardio fitness back on the bike, on the cross-trainer, the rower, the treadmill.  Got back to lifting weights.  It was tough at first but I took it slow, had a programme I followed, and gradually it got easier.  I'm lucky in that my mate Trisha works there and she loves nothing more than challenging us to do new stuff - like the form of extreme masochism that goes under the name of TRX and the frothy joy of super sets. Can I promise you something?  Gyms aren't scary. Really - not the good ones. And, as Frankie points out, you won't go bulky by using weights - it's a fallacy.

No! It won't! - check it out
But I also love working out with other people, to music, so I added in some classes.  After a bit of trial and error (nope, I will never be a belly dancer and nope I still hate jazz so jazzercise is not an option; circuits are okay; Pilates so-so) I found the mix that worked for me. 

TRX - this is EVIL! But fun... :)
So now I do Zumba twice a week because it is, quite simply, the best fun ever. It’s a great all-body workout, sexy as hell, and it’s the one and only thing that has ever really sorted out for good and proper the back pain I used to get from spending most of  my day hunched over a desk.  Then I do Kettlercise twice a week too – usually outdoors by the river – because slinging a kettlebell is also great fun as well as a stunning workout and we have one helluva laugh.  Then, of course, I walk the SP and Exmoor isn’t exactly known for being flat so that’s a workout in itself.

Yes, I do a lot of exercise.  At least an hour a day; more if I can.  I’ll use any chance I can to get my body moving. On the rare occasions I cook or do housework, I shove on some dance music and fling myself around. On the rare occasions I watch TV I usually sit on the fitball and do a few weights while I’m there.  Or I get down on the carpet and plonk myself into Plank in front of the fire. J

Why? Because I enjoy it and I love how it makes me feel. I can get high as a kite on endorphins when I exercise. Crazy high. Better than any drink or drugs. Honesty also compels me to say I love how it makes me look.  Cutting calories in food will make you lose weight; it may make you slim. But exercise will make you toned.  And, by heck, do I love toned.  As I’ve said before, I don’t want a skinny body; I want a seriously strong, sensual body.  Working out has given me seriously toned muscles.  Go on, have a prod - my thighs are rock-hard!  Okay, so I’m not totally there yet – the washboard stomach is still more in my head than in my abs.  But one day…

What does my quasi-guru do? He's far more of a back to basics guy: he runs, swims and plays extreme Mario Kart with his son. Plus yoga (which is worth a whole post all to itself, so that is what it will get). Plus something else which we’ll talk about in more detail in a day or so... J 

btw, do read the comments - Frankie has added a lot of really useful links that you may like to follow...  Thanks, Frankie. xx


Jane in SF said...

My gym knickers were brown baggy hand-me-downs so your navy ones sound Parisian stylish by comparison. And this was in the 70s!
I'm on the strength, toning quest. I could do with losing belly fat too. I find it hard to keep to a routine which doesn't help.

F said...

I have so much to say about exercise, but first I'm gonna repost this here for all your blog readers, Jane.

I scrounged up a group invite to the Fitocracy beta for anybody that wants.

Invite link:
If it asks for a code: SMGSQ

It's sort of like an exercise focused Twitter that uses a video game style reward system with points, levels, unlocking achievements, etc. and challenges and quests to introduce you to new things. You enter the exercise you do and it awards you points.

I know it sounds kind of stupid at first, but exercise and fitness can be a slow process and it can be really hard to stay motivated when you can't see any change, so I think it's actually kind of brilliant to use the same reward response mechanism that works in video games to create an immediate sense of achievement.

So, you know, if anyone is trying to find a way to stay motivated, maybe it will work for you.

Exmoorjane said...

@Jane - trust me, mine were baggy too... :( I don't find it hard to be motivated, so I'm lucky - but I do also do some of the classes with friends, so there's a commitment there, re sharing lifts. Frankie's link below might help too...

@Frankie - star! I don't wanna be too prescriptive but LOVE your comments and know you have done a lot of recent research on this so please, PLEASE do comment as much as you like. Love to get a dialogue going and who knows exactly which comment or link will prove THE ONE that helps someone or other?
It DOES take time to see results - but not actually THAT long, really. 'They' say six weeks to form a habit...I reckon in that time you'd notice a pretty substantial difference. Someone I know in Dulverton has shed two stone since the summer and is now running pretty serious distances from barely walking.
I do think the key is finding something you like and somewhere to do it that isn't intimidating.

Exmoorjane said...

I mean Frankie's link above.... :)

Lorraine said...

Exercise really does help. I may not be doing regular classes, but since I became far more active I've lost 3/4 of a stone naturally. Hope it continues as I've quite a way to go - as you well know. Lovely to see you gorgeous girl xxx

Exmoorjane said...

@Lorraine - was fabulous to see you too... :) And good point - just being more active in everyday life can make a huge difference. Those old adages - take the stairs, get out in your lunch hour, walk the all adds up, it all counts. And the more you do, the better you feel - so it's a blissful circle (as opposed to a vicious one) :)

Rachel Selby said...

:] - weak smile from cowering figure in the corner.

susie @newdaynewlesson said...

Is that really the picture that comes up when you google your hubby's name? No way! LOL

Maggie Christie said...

I'm right with you on the exercise thing - you have to find your passion. Mine is running with side order of kettlebell. I do Wii Zumba when my kids need a good laugh. Everyone should try kettlebells - they make you so strong so fast.

F said...


From personal experience, I can lose two stone, and I don't see any difference when I look at myself in the mirror. (I'm working on that...) For myself, I think using the scale as the sole metric is a bad idea--partly because of normal weight fluctuation, but also because it focuses on weight as the sole indicator of fitness. I know it's really hard for me to shake the "no such thing as too thin" mantra, so I need to do something else.

For me, that's a little bit of "How do my clothes fit?" and a lot more of "How many push ups can I do?" "How long can I plank?" "How many kilos can I bench press or squat?"

I totally agree with you about finding something you love to do. I'm one of those kids ruined by school phys ed. I remember being a holy terror, biking all over when I was small. But I'm not a team player, never have been, and school is all about the team sports. Also, if some Goliath whaled a volleyball at my head, I wasn't above elevating self-preservation over team spirit. It took me a long time to realize that I *don't* hate exercise. I really do think the way phys ed is treated in schools is schools is practically designed to instill a hatred of physical activity in children, though.

F said...

And I'm totally going to post this here because we were talking about it in Twitter.

Meet Staci: Your New Powerlifting Superhero

I'm not interested in hardcore power lifting, but I think it's absolutely stone-age the way women are still handed tiny pink barbells and told they'll get "bulky" if they lift anything heavier. (And lifting heavier weights helps bone density and can decrease vulnerability to osteoporosis. So important for women.)

Oh, and since I'm linking, Stumptuous is pretty awesome too.

Before you think I'm all about the weight lifting, I love me some yoga too.

And going really fucking fast on my bicycle. Like until I cough giant wads of mucus out that must've been there since the mid nineties and then all of a sudden I can breathe the whole. fucking. world. I just walk around the rest of the day breathing, and feeling my lungs breathing, and thinking, "Yeah, now this is breathing!"

F said...

My new favorite lift is dumbbell flyes. I can barely manage 6kg but they feel so good. I pretend I'm a pterodactyl while I do them. It's awesome.

Exercise makes me love my body. :)

Exmoorjane said...

@Rachel - it's okay, you can come out of the corner. You don't have to do it all at once...honest... Just dip a toe in the water.. Hang on, wait until tomorrow, okay? :)

@Susie - sure is! Well, one of 'em... Try it. Adrian Tierney-Jones :) How we slapped our thighs in mirth!

@Mags - yup, I agree. What I also love is that they are so easily adapted to your fitness level and strength...people of all fitness levels work together in my class.

@Frankie - you're right - focusing on the scales is not great, and is not an arbitor of fitness. I confess I still do go on them occasionally (years of conditioning hard to break) but I totally agree with what you're saying.

And yeah, Staci rocks! And you're right about the weight issue - you would need to do a whole load of other stuff if you wanna end up like the woman I pictured...though again it depends a bit on your body type as to the kind of muscle you build...whether you're male or female.

Thanks for sharing the wads of mucus detail. ;)

Dumbbell flies are awesome! I love 'em too. Can do 'em with two kettlebells too.

But your last (for now) point is the most important of all... and yeah, totally. That was the bit I missed out.
Exercise DOES make you love your body.
Thank you! :)

Zoë said...

I am exhausted just reading all this *retires to the couch injured*

Ren Warom said...

I used to bodyrock and ride. Then I pulled something in my back putting my kids new metal beds up and let exercise go because it just hurt too much. The pain's gone now and my motivation's gone with it.

I need to start up again but have felt so awful and under par I can't struggle out of it (winter doesn't help). It's lame. Very lame. I am disgusted with myself and I miss the muscles (which are also almost entirely gone), god do I miss the muscles... :(

F said...

@Jane I do get on the scale occasionally, to make sure things are the way they should be. (I really can't tell by looking at myself in a mirror.)

But I find that if I'm getting good exercise 3-5 times a week, the rest of just comes along. I think it is because exercising, using my body and being in it and feeling it, really feeling it, from the inside, it makes me love my body. And when I love my body I treat it good.

Ingrina said...

I was working on a post about running when I read this! I am in complete agreement with this post, and love that you focus on the great feelings of exercise rather than just doing it to lose weight. To me, that mentality lends to failure to maintain the healthy lifestyle after someone has reached a target weight goal. The desire to lead a healthy lifestyle, in my opinion, has been the most effective and long-lasting way to look and feel great. It took a while for me to see the full effects (about 5 years), but the slow way has worked out pretty well.

And I love Zumba! Don't do it anymore without enough space or a gym pass, but I miss it. Got me more toned than running because I fail miserably at maintaining a good routine of strength/core training. (@ Jane in SF, I'm with you on this one...and the belly fat thing, too)

I'm wondering if training for something like, say, a half marathon will make me train and tone better, though. I'll find out in a few months.

F said...

@Ingrina "To me, that mentality lends to failure to maintain the healthy lifestyle after someone has reached a target weight goal."

Yes! THAT!

It is easy to lose weight. (No, really, it is. Like Jane's first post... calories in, calories out.)

I think the hard part is changing your entire life. Like I remember my "diet" mentality. I was so hyperfocused on a number. And I guess I just sort of thought that when I hit that arbitrary number, I would be happy in my body and I would just... stay that weight?

The thing is, for me, weight is just just a symptom of self-abuse. (Not the good kind, either.) Weight loss always has been too, in the past, an exercise of mental domination over the physical.

But there always used to be, in the back of my head, "This is just temporary, once I reach [goal number] I can relax." I never really changed anything because what I was doing was always a temporary measure to reach a goal.

Somewhere, though, something shifted. Instead of a weight goal plan, I've got physical goals stretching into the years ahead. (Like do a 300K bike ride. That's a couple years out, at least. And start running--at least give Couch25K a shot--that's next summer.)

It's not about losing weight any more; it's about changing how I live, and living this way for the rest of my life. Not just until the scale hits the magic number.

Ingrina said...


I also used to be obsessed with reaching a number, and thought that once I reached a certain weight, my body would stay that way. But once I got to exercising regularly and eating right, I realised that my body was IN LOVE with it, and I got addicted. I felt so much more energy and vigour for life, and I didn't feel angry all the time anymore. Also, yes, I have to admit that I LOOKED healthy, too. It was wonderful.

To this day, I do need discipline to get up and moving, but I've always gone by the rule that I'd never regret running if I do go, and I'll always regret it if I don't, no matter how tired I feel. (Just got back from a run and loved it, even though I barely slept yesterday night)

On that note, there was a down side: I did get a bit obsessive over what I ate, and I was probably a terrible person to be around during meals. I measured everything that went into my mouth, counting calories like it was my job. Finally, I gained some common sense that just not adding fat or sugar into my diet would negate the need to count calories. As Jane had written in a previous post, listen to your body; it knows what's good. After that, a balanced diet was such a breeze, and I could still sneak in some guilty pleasures (though I've been a bit too indulgent at the office lately... what is with offices and food?)

I'm pretty confident that my lifestyle is pretty healthy. I'll never be as healthy as my marathon-running, mountain-climbing, cross-country cycling friends, of course, but I'm happy. I was actually at my fittest when I was training for a 10K. It never happened due to weather, but I got into tip top shape for it. My next goal is a half marathon to challenge myself physically and to raise money for a charity, but that's far off. I'm not about to suffer a permanent injury because I was silly and just wanted to tick an "accomplishment" off. I have friends who did this and cannot do a marathon anymore.

I'm rambling, but I guess the number one rule: listen to your body. It wants to be healthy and will tell you how. You just have to listen!

Isobel Morrell said...

Agree about the Zumba - it's super, isn't it. Doubtless you do Zumba for Fitness? Whereas I follow the more sedate routine of Zumba Gold (hey at 71, why not?) It's certainly sorting out the back and has even awakened a trapped nerve in my left shoulder blade. Hasn't untrapped it yet, but it's getting there. Gym got boring, so I quit. When not samba-ing etc. with Zumba, I walk from one end of our village to the other, three times a week (and try to do it in 25 mins.) Ever resembled a turkey? That's me at the end of one of those sessions!

F said...


Yes. Listen to your body! I think that is so important in both diet and exercise.

I think the best exercise advice I've found anywhere was in one of Pavel Tsatsouline's books. (I have a little exercise crush on him btw.) He said: "No pain, no pain."

Jane & I were talking and she was expressing concern over beginning weight lifting without a trainer--I've always had an independent streak and with all the videos and internet resources, you can get a pretty good handle on basic form. (And maybe better than if you got a bad trainer; I've heard some horror stories about those too.) So that's my mantra with everything--"No pain, no pain." If something hurts, I stop doing it.

And "Don't be afraid to ask." I know with Fitocracy and some other online fitness communities, you can upload video of yourself and ask for a form check and people will help you if you're doing something wrong.

F said...

@Ingrina -- Omg. Yes. The calorie counting. Did you write it all down, too?

I admit, I still sometimes go back to measuring, especially if I feel like my portion sizes have gotten out of control and I need to remind myself what they look like. (There is some interesting reading out there on portion control and plate size, and how humans react to it.)

That is another awesome thing about exercise. I used to do these whack starvation diets and count every one of the 1200 calories I allowed myself.

Given my current activity levels, I need to eat about 2500 calories a day just to maintain. (More in the summer when I'm biking hard, and hopefully after we get snow & we start skiing.)

At this level, if I want to lose a pound a week, I can drop 500 calories a day and still be eating 2000 calories. That is a huge amount of food if you're eating a lot of non-calorie dense foods. (I love my fruit and veg.)

If anyone's interested in how I worked out my calories, this site has a calculator:

Muscle and Strength BMR calculator

YMMV but it's a good place to start.

F said...

It's weird. If you'd told me six months ago that I'd be totally excited about exercise, that I'd actually go out and buy free weights for my house and use them all the time and that I'd actually want to join a gym (for the winter & to do some swimming), I'd have thought you were nuts.

For me, it's about reclaiming the joy I had as a kid in running and jumping and playing, before a whole society-load of judgment fell on me and influenced my relationship with my body, and not about an authoritarian regime at all.

There's a world of difference for me between "Hey body, lets go play! I got us a jump rope! And then we can find some heavy things and pick them up and put them down!" and "Must work out for 30 minutes 4 times a week and meet these metrics while doing it."

Rob-bear said...

I used to "walk a block a day." Now I'm up to about ten. And losing weight in the process.

What's wrong with me?

Ingrina said...

@ Frankie

I logged it all online...including how many glasses of WATER I drank. Oh boy.

My brother laughs at me when I tell him about my running adventures. A few years ago, I laughed at him when he recommended that I try training for even a 5K. Now that's a short run for me. You should try it! I don't think it's for everyone, but it's convenient and really helps your fitness level.

If only we could trade fitness lives for a couple days a week. For some reason, I find aerobic exercises so much easier to do than anaerobic ones. Weight lifting, pushups, situps are all lost causes on me. If I don't maintain a routine (which I usually don't), it all turns into sad rolls of flab. This is an area where a fitness buddy would help - that is, a knowledgeable. As you pointed out, I'm scared to injure myself with weights.

I agree with you, again, on the attitude of exercise point. But it might be that we have to find out what works for us. Sometimes when I'm running, I want to give up, but I visualise the foods burning off and disappearing with every exhaled breath. It feels weirdly great! I use this as a means to get to the point where I am able to enjoy the active playing again.