The lovely Karen Holt recently wrote a great blog post on working out with a personal trainer. This post is about do-it-yourself fitness with little cash outlay.
If someone had told me almost 10 years ago that I would not only work out 6 days a week, but actually look forward to it, I would have said, “no way in hell!” But, I started and persisted and now feel better than I ever did when I was younger. Exercise helped me get through a very uneventful menopause, and keeps me feeling positive. Gotta love those endorphins!
The first thing I did was get a good pair of walking shoes, and cushioned socks. Try on lots of pairs until you find what works best for you – no need to be uncomfortable! I’ve had good luck with Nike, New Balance, and Avia (Academy stores in Texas have lots of variety and good sales prices). Walking is free, and unless the weather is horrible, you can walk just about anywhere. A good brisk 20-30 minute walk can make you feel great, and you might even be able to focus your thoughts on something that’s bugging you. I also recommend getting walking shoes to put in your office and car – you never know when you’ll get the urge to move it. You may even want to try jogging. (NOTE: check with your doctor before starting a workout regimen – there may be reasons why you shouldn’t do certain exercises. Consulting with a nutritionist might be useful, too.)
If you can’t get outside, especially in a hot and humid place like Houston, consider building a library of workout DVDs. My favorite place to get them is Collage Video. This site has hundreds of DVDs and all of them have been done by the staff at Collage. There are also reviews by customers (I have reviewed a bunch of them). My favorite instructors are Ellen Barrett (cardio Pilates, free weights), Leslie Sansone (1-5 mile walks, toning band), and Kathy Smith (cardio, weights, toning, yoga). I also have other DVDs, including several from The Firm, and a really fun new one from Jazzercise, the Burlesque DVD (sexy moves!).
Variety is good!! It’s boring to do the same routine every day, and you don’t get as much out of it if your body gets used to it. With a good blend of DVDs, you can craft a fun set of routines, interspersed with walking if you want. Most fitness experts recommend at least 30 minutes of cardio five days a week, with strength training and toning on alternate days (don’t do weights every day – your body needs time to repair and rest).
Basic fitness gear doesn’t have to cost a lot. A set of free weights – 1, 3, 5, 8, and 10lb – can get the job done (again, Academy is a good place to go, or try Amazon.com or Collage). A yoga mat is nice, too. If you work out at home on a carpeted surface, you really don’t need sneakers – I always work out in bare feet. Just make sure the carpet has good padding, especially if you are doing brisk walking or mild jogging. Working out in bare feet is also good for building bone density, something to think about as you get older. I also have resistance bands in a variety of strengths – several of the Leslie Sansone DVDs come with these. You can also get kettle bells, step workout platforms, and stability balls. They don’t cost a lot and don’t take up much space.
I don’t like working out on machines, but you may want to have an elliptical machine, incline walker or some other piece of equipment. You’ll see lots of these for really low prices, usually starting in February, when a lot of people who start an exercise program as part of their new year’s resolutions fall off the wagon (or machine). Again, I think you’ll work out more consistently if you mix working out on machines with walking or DVDs (there are DVDs specifically for machine workouts, too).
Keeping a record of your food and exercise
If you are trying to lose weight, or maintain it, many health experts recommend writing down everything you eat, all your exercise, and water intake on a daily basis. You can keep a handwritten diary, but there are some great FREE apps and websites that make it so much easier (if you are a member of Weight Watchers, they have some great tools, and an online community, but you’ll need to be a paying member). I have been using My Fitness Pal on my iPod, Droid, and computer for about two years now and I love it! (I admit I sometimes skip it if I’m on vacation or at a conference.) It really keeps me honest, and I’ve been able to keep my weight down by using it every day. You can add your own recipes, so if you like to cook, you can find out what’s in the food you’re making and adjust the portions as needed. There are also many restaurants listed, so if you went to P.F. Chang’s and pigged out, you’ll be able to see the the exact calorie and nutrition content of what you ate.
Staying with it
If you make exercise part of your life and just do it (I know Nike already owns that), it will become as natural as breathing, and breathing will be a lot easier. You don’t have to work out an hour a day, 7 days a week – do what works for you and enjoy it. As for me, if I don’t work out almost every day, I feel restless and sluggish at the same time. It doesn’t have to be to a DVD – put on fun music and dance in the house or go walking with an iPod/Nano, etc. Housework is also good exercise, and I know how much you love to vacuum and dust, right? And when it’s time to put your feet up and rest, you’ll feel so good!
I try not to be a fitness fanatic, but really, it makes such a difference when you feel healthy. Sweat is good!!! I highly recommend it.
Alex Simons is the History/Political Science/Government Information librarian at the University of Houston. She doesn’t feel as old as she is, and plans to keep it that way.