Thursday, June 21, 2012

Fitness for the Lazy?

I've been really nervous about writing this post for a while. I'm not too sure how it will go over!
A few weeks ago one of my awesome readers, Allie, wrote asking me to make a post about how I stay in shape. (blush). I promised her I would, but then hesitated because I know there are zillions of women out there who put me to fitness shame. I can already see all of the mean, trolling comments about how I'm a total chubber* who needs to shove another twinkie in her mouth and stop doling out advice on how to be thin.
My word is my bond, yo', so I'm writing the post today.
The truth is, I don't do anything drastic. I basically (subconsciously) follow several easy rules drilled into my brain by my *extremely* healthy family.
Let's talk about my fam for a sec, ok? My parents who are in their 50's have worked out 6 days per week for as long as I can remember. They hit the gym in their basement every morning (except Sundays) for about an hour and a half. Even if it's Christmas day.
No joke.
My dad is just a health guru. For some people, I think understanding health is just innate, and that seems to really be the case for him. He knew that artificial sweeteners were dangerous way before anyone else acknowledged it. He taught me a lot of truths about keeping our bodies in shape without even trying.
I used to work out every day, like them, but it just isn't a possibility at this season or even something I enjoy. So instead, I have an active lifestyle. I *used to* do a lot of fun workout DVDs that revolve around dance (see below), too.
Bollywood Dance Workout: this bad boy will get you sweating and tone you up. It's really fun and super whimsical, but it isn't much of a workout. The dances are broken down into 5-10 minute segments, I recommend doing multiple so that you can get a sweat going. You won't see dramatic results, but it's fun and it WILL tone your bod.

Ballet Conditioning: Not for the faint of heart. This is intense and a bit lengthy. I remember loaning this to my friend Nikki (who is NOT afraid to work it hard!). She commented that she reviewed it while eating subway and decided there was no way she was putting herself through that! Haha! Elise Gulan is one of my favorite workout instructors. This is less fun than my other faves, but the most challenging.

Ballet Body: Not as challenging as the above video, but still challenging. This one is fun. I tend to skip segments to keep it short, but you'll learn some ballet moves and tone your body up.
Shape 20 Minute Makeover: Elise Gulan from Ballet Conditioning runs this vid. She does a great job merging ballet with aerobics + strengthening exercises. This video is much less fun and much more workout-ish, but I really enjoy it still. It's 20 minutes, so it isn't long enough to make me feel like I'm working too hard ;) It also comes with bonus 10 minute segments to target toning in certain areas. I love them. All of them. The ab section will kick your butt though, so be warned.

Beginners Bellydance: Not sure about the workout value of this one, but it does get you moving and it's certainly fun! I really like all of the dance videos out there. 

I didn't picture them, but Madonna Grimes does a ton of dance series (hip hop, Latin, African) that are really, really fun. You learn a little routine that will make you work up a sweat, but still have fun. Again- this is more for moving around and toning up than losing weight.

I also take ballet classes, and those are legit. Holy toning. Your legs will be SCREAMING. 
John and I take a walk almost every night, it's a habit I picked up from my former Euro-life. I always walked to the store there because I didn't have a car. Everyone walked. I learned to love that. In a book I reference below about French culture, the author (Mireille Guiliano) writes that no French woman would ever go to the gym and the only acceptable exercise is taking a walk around the block. Holla.
We ride our bikes, we run around playing frisbee, and sometimes I just randomly do 100 jumping jacks if I feel like I've been sitting too long. You don't necessarily need to hard core work out (and PS- that is no fun at all), you just need to be active for 30 minutes per day. Find something you love and do it!
Besides- it's much easier to control your weight by watching what you eat. It takes a *much* longer time to burn off 100 calories than it does to eat them. My grandma always said, "in your mouth for a minute, on your bum for a year!" and it's true. I don't really advocate for diets because they never last, instead just do everything in moderation. If I go all nuts and sugar free for a month (which I often do after Christmas), I tend to really want to binge. If I allow myself one sweet in moderation each day, it's much easier to get through life. Michael Pollan, food genius, says we can eat as many sweets as we want- as long as we prepare them ourselves! It takes more work to make it than to buy it. Plus, when you make it, you can control how healthy it is. Try subbing in applesauce or yogurt in place of butter and oil in baked goods. I can't remember the last time I used butter or oil and I can't taste the difference. You can often cut the amount of sugar that goes into your treats as well without seeing a difference in the taste. Our stuff is way too sugary in America and sugar is POISON. Plus it makes you gain a lot of weight, people. Read THIS POST. Don't just make your own desserts- make your own food, too. Prepared food is usually full of all the stuff you don't want in your body. Restaurant food is almost never safe. Save your waistline AND your wallet by eating in. 
Things to auto-skip? Processed food + fast food. Don't eat them. They aren't good for you. Have you seen the 2/4/6 year old Happy Meal? No? Then google it. My brother did the same thing several years ago when we was teaching at U of M. Left it out for 3 months. Ran it under the microscopes (chemist) ... it hadn't rotted. Nasty. Processed food is the same, it's full of junk you don't want in your bod. 
Another word about calories- eat your calories, don't drink them. I only drink water- except for a once per week coffee date with my boy. I really recommend that you drink water if you want to get in shape. Did you know that often when we reach for food, thinking we're hungry, it's actually that we are thirsty? Try drinking a glass of water and waiting 20 minutes before reaching for a snack next time you think you need one. You'd be shocked how many calories (and grams of sugar!) are packed into a can/glass of soda. You will actually lose weight simply from cutting pop + other calorie laden drinks from you diet. And hey- juice isn't super healthy either. Eat a piece of fruit and skip the juice.
If you need help transitioning into a water-only lifestyle, check out THIS POST about flavored water. It's really helpful for my pop-addicted hubs.
You *must* read French Women Don't Get Fat which is one of the greatest health books of all time, due to it's simplicity. It's worthy every penny, I promise. There's something to be said for lifestyle, we don't necessarily need all of these intense diet and workout programs, we just need to return to simplicity. Reduced portion sizes, learning to say 'no' to the massive (or second) piece of cake. Movement. Self-prepared food. These results aren't overnight, but they're long term and lifetime lasting.
More great books? In Defense of Food from Michael Pollan (or the easier version: Food Rules). I also love Body Shape Solution  and Eat Right 4 Your Type. The latter two are diet books that revolve around eating for your body chemistry. They're good for weight loss, but I only use elements of each as staying on anything even close to a regimented diet is impossible for me.
The bottom line for me is "all things in moderation" and constant movement. Hopefully this helps you- I'm sure I'll add more parts to the post as they come to me. Remember that health and not "skinny" should be your goal. Everyone is built with a different structure, love and accept yours.
Blaine Fischer- Pinterest
One of my favorite pinterest finds was this little guy right here. It really sums up how I feel about bodies. Get healthy, love what you have and work it! Maybe I'll do a "dressing for your body" post soon. Do you have any tips for staying healthy and keeping your bod in shape? Weigh in (no pun intended ;) below!)
Have a lovely day, and as always, thanks for reading! 
* I do not think I'm chubby. I just know that trolls say really mean things and wouldn't be surprised if someone challenged my cred for writing about fitness :)
** Top photo credit to Michael Shuster of


  1. Another excellent post! We do have SUCH similar thoughts on so many things. I was actually going to ask you the other day if you had any suggestions for ballet-type workout videos - I'm a ballerina wanna-be (just like I'm a princess wanna-be, it sounds fun and I want to wear pink, though I have no training/coordination)and I wouldn't mind pretending during my morning workouts :) So, perfect timing for your post! I'll have to check them out.

    1. Good grief- I'm starting to wonder if we were separated at birth! I have extra info about Ballet DVDs that I'll send you, mmk?? :)

  2. One thing on this topic i like to preach in addition to the good points you've made is to not think of weight as an indicator of health or fitness. I've made health/fitness more of a goal since getting out of college and have gone from a can't-run-very-far 150 lbs to a sprint-distance-triathalon-running 150 lbs. Same weight, whole new set of capabilities.
    There's a fitness instructor I like to follow who addressed this in a blog post. She'd been getting questions about dropping that demonized "last 5 lbs" and her response was- maybe you've already dropped it. Step back off the scale and asses how you feel and where your body is really at- and maybe you are at your fitness goal already. In which case- be happy for yourself!
    Kinda overly wordy, but it's an attitude I think is important to reconsider.

    1. I agree 2000%. That's what I was kind of shooting at toward the end. The author of French Women Don't Get Fat talks about how scales have no baring (after a certain point) on health. Zippers and buttons are a much better gauge. I didn't mention it, but muscle weighs MUCH more than fat, so often we convert fat to muscle, become more lean and don't realize how much healthier we are! I vote for health vs. skinny 9 times a day. Many skinny people aren't fit or healthy at all.

  3. Word. Active living's always the goal in a lifestyle centered around a seated career. I saw this: last week and although it's not a wildly transformative thing, it does amuse me to do leg lifts while I brush my teeth. Also makes me brush my teeth for longer, haha.

    1. Hmm... more leg lifts + longer brushing of teeth? nothing wrong with that! It's like a double whammy of goodness :)


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