Workout Slump Solutions

Click here to read the original question: “Dear Laur, Help! I’m in a workout slump!”

Dear Meg,

With the amount of money I’ve spent on unused gym memberships, I could probably solve our national debt crisis. So believe me, I understand the ins and outs of the workout slump. Fortunately, that also means I’ve spent a LOT of time getting around the slump – and so I’ve got some ideas that might help you too.

First off – yes, hitting the gym after work is not as fun as the fitness elite make it sound. No, it’s not really a “great way to relieve stress after a busy day.” Really, it’s just a barrier between me and the demand-free nirvana of just being “done.” A really great way to relieve stress after a busy day is sitting on the couch not moving a muscle until Netflix asks me if I’m still watching.

The way I solved this was by getting the bulk of my workouts in over my lunch break, but this is not feasible for most people – especially if you don’t work near a gym, can’t eat at your desk, and have to look somewhat presentable and not smell bad for the rest of the day.

When I do try to fit my fitness in after work, it’s usually through a more routine activity – in my case, dance. I have a 90 minute tap/jazz/ballet class on Monday night and a two hour tap/jazz class on Thursday night. Working towards getting better at our routines is a goal that keeps me motivated. Plus, I look forward to seeing the girls each week. It’s like book club, but a lot sweatier. Having a smaller tight-knit group helps you avoid the meh feeling of just being an anonymous body in a gym crowd, where no one would really miss you if you weren’t there.

So in your case, rather than bouncing from gym to gym through Class Pass, you might want to find one place to call home. More importantly, you might want to make that place on the way home, so you don’t end up wasting time in transit. You’ll be home sooner, which means more time to unwind from the day.

Another consideration is the kind of fitness activity you do. Variety is important, but if motivation is your issue, consistency is key. I like to feel like I’m working towards something specific, rather than just passing the time or getting through my daily gym duty. When I’m at dance, the goal is obvious. So for the rest of the week, I keep dance in mind. Cardio is going to improve my stamina so I can keep my energy up through the whole routine. Strengthening is going to give me more sculpted lines and postures, higher grand battements, deeper plies. I have no delusions of joining the Royal Ballet, but it still feels really good to see myself making progress as I do the same activity over time.

 

You’re an athlete. You know the feeling. Think of how crowded your life was back in college, with a full day of classes and then another several hours of practice. Back then you got through it because you weren’t just running in circles (unless track was your thing). You were trying to impress a coach, land a better position, become a better athlete. All you have to do now is tap back into your competitive edge and find an activity that allows you to challenge your inner beast. Even if there’s no team to join, use your imagination if you have to. The most important thing is that you feel empowered rather than enslaved by your workout.

Now – I will say that despite your best efforts, there will be days when your gym commitment is underwhelming or nonexistent. I have those days too. They are often the fallout of work and life colliding like an interminable jackhammer. On those days, once dinner is done, the dishes are put away, the counter is clean and the cat has been fed, I allow my guilt to push me towards one last day-ending strive for body justice. The at-home workout.

I used to do the workout DVDs… you know, Billy Blanks, P90x. That was only when I was on the ground floor apartment. Doing jumping jacks and burpees are bad enough without thinking about how your downstairs neighbors are hearing every elephantine footfall.

Now, I seek the privacy of my stairwell. I put on my Pandora “Dance 2016” Station (club music… gotta love it) and then get in about 20 minutes of jogging up and down the stairs. In between sets, I have a little fun on the landings by crunking and twerking and nae nae’ing and just generally making a fool of myself. (I just pray my building doesn’t have cameras in the stairwell.) The workout isn’t long enough to get me too revved up before bed, nor too intense that I end up losing the dinner I just consumed. However, it’s enough to feel that sweat-soaked sense of accomplishment that keeps me on the bandwagon. If you’re really lucky, you might get your bf to join you. Challenge him to races, or make up some wild routines.

Stairs not your thing? Pick up some cheap boxing gloves and challenge your bf to a sparring match in the living room. You can work out any interpersonal tension and challenge your stamina by keeping the motion going – bobbing, weaving, dodging and throwing blows.

Bf not home (or nonexistent, as in my case)? Well, I’ll have you know, sometimes I chase my cat around the apartment. You’d be surprised how much of a workout you can get in trying to corner and catch a cat that thinks you’re trying to give it a bath.

I’ll also keep a set of weights under my couch to use when I’m watching TV. I can run through some reps of bicep and tricep curls, shoulder lifts and chest presses without even taking my eyes off of the screen. Sometimes I’ll balance the weight on my toes and do leg or knee lifts to target my quads. During commercials, if I’m feeling particularly motivated, I’ll haul myself off of the couch do some planks, pushups or squats. I know this hardly counts as a workout, but it does help to keep your mentality in training mode. Plus, science would tell you that getting more small bursts of activity throughout the day is healthier than one stressful burst of activity for an isolated interval.

I hope some of these ideas help you get the motivation back to get over your slump! Just remember, the hardest part of your workout is over once you actually set foot in the gym. If you can get that far, you’re unstoppable.

Yours Truly,

Laurie

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Dear Laur: Help, I’m in a Workout Slump!

Dear Laur,

It’s that time of year, when the workout resolutions I set in January are starting to feel pretty unattainable. Work has been busier than ever and I’ve been travelling a lot. I barely have time to see my boyfriend, and we live together! How am I supposed to find time to squeeze in a workout?

And even if I do have the time, I’ve gotten into the habit of cancelling classes simply because I’m exhausted. The weather certainly doesn’t help. After a long day at work, who feels like heading out into the dark, cold night to workout?

And the worst part is, the more I don’t go, the less motivated I feel. I’m ashamed to show my face in some of my favorite classes for fear that the instructors will ask what good reason I had for falling off the face of the earth for the past two months. I’m worried that if I take a challenging class, I will embarrass myself. Even when I do manage to drag myself to a class, I station myself in the back corner and feel like I’m just going through the motions and watching the clock for the hour to end.

I know these are all just excuses, and I also know that everyone goes through these slumps at some point or another. But what can I do to get myself to feel motivated again and get my butt back to the gym? Help!

xx Meg

Our Relationship With Food: It’s Complicated

Food is a ridiculous sounding word if you say it enough times in a row. Try it. Food. Food. Fooooood. (Note the close resemblance to Moooo … but I’m not gonna go there).

Let me tell you about my relationship with Food.

Not to pin the blame on my parents, but as a family, we enjoyed eating out a lot. I grew to love Food as a sensation. Taste, smell, visual presentation. It also became an Event. Imagine all the fuss that goes into dining out. You dress up, you drive, you wait to be seated, you wait to be waited on, you wait to be served one course – and then the next. It’s quite a process, but it’s a welcome break from the stresses of the day that happens to include a delightful mouth orgy.

As I got older, I started to lean very heavily on Food as Therapy. In fact, after a particularly emotional transition in my life, I literally gained 40 pounds in one year. Mealtime was a light at the end of a tunnel – a Jimmy Johns sub on a stick dangling before me as I toiled away – or, often the easiest answer I could find to those depressing “What am I doing with my life??” questions. Answer: Ordering Pizza?

With this came a plethora of problems. Dieting was excessively punishing. The hole left in my soul by French Fries and Chicken Tenders was filled with self-loathing and frustration. What’s worse, most of the time – scaling back on what I ate didn’t really seem to impact my weight. How could I convince myself to forgo the simple and immediate pleasures in life for the highly uncertain promise of results somewhere long down the road?

The Turning Point

One evening, I chowed down on some Jimmy Johns prior to Choir Rehearsal. As was typical, I was immediately hit with what my family calls ‘The Jimmy Shits’. For months, I’d been dealing with increasingly more abrupt stomach issues after eating, so this was nothing new. Unfortunately, in this moment, I had 90 minutes of a rehearsal to sit through before I could make a break for the toilet. As the burn and ache built in my gut, I began to put pieces together for the first time in my life.

First off, as a kid, I’d been through the wringer of GI issues. I’d gone through every medical test in the book – living with a ph probe down my nose, eating radioactive Dinty Moore chili prior to X-Rays, and trying a long series of ineffective medications. In fact, my toddler sister once got into my chocolate-flavored laxatives and produced more feces within her footy pajamas than could have come from a grown man ten times her size.

They diagnosed me with Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome and prescribed a pill that controlled the monthly cycles of horrible pain and vomiting. Still, I had a very sensitive stomach and despite the fact that I felt sick after every meal, I kept eating the same way. After all, what’s the notion of horrible stomach cramps when you’re looking at a cheese pizza or a dish of ice cream? Maybe that’s a price I was willing to pay.

On that night, as I bore the brunt of my price, my bowel finally shouted ENOUGH – loud enough for me to hear. It seemed pretty obvious that as much as I loved my various glutens, milks, cheese and fats, my particular bowel was probably unable to process them. I’d never thought of myself as an allergic person, but it kind of made sense given my history. Not to mention, two years ago I’d developed a mild form of asthma that came and went, hooting like an itinerant bassoon player in lungs. Didn’t that kind of fit into the same category of oversensitivity to the things I love? (i.e. Potatoes, Cheese, Air).

I also did some research and found out that all the dieting attempts I made in the past would have been useless if I was still consuming the food my body reacted badly too. So, finally – something new to try!

Transformation

Suddenly, this was no longer a mission of “dieting” but “healing.” Now, it wasn’t about finding a meal that I could tolerate mentally, but one that my body could tolerate physically. Game on!

Since the moment I made that decision (exactly 16 days ago), my body has let go of 9 pounds of fat and water bloat. I’ve stopped falling victim to that 2pm stupor that had me falling asleep at my desk. Better yet, I haven’t had a single stomach ache.

I’ve begun to see each meal as a Science. Now, instead of looking forward to a meal as an opportunity to self-medicate my psyche, I’m solely looking at the nutrients. There are days when I’ll stand in my kitchen just grabbing things out of the fridge and eating them like a scientist mixing chemicals in a reaction. Add a big hunk of deli roasted chicken breast. Some red bell peppers. A handful of kale. What am I missing? Fruit carbs? Grab an apple. Done.

I eat more often and only when I’m hungry. I only drink water and I’m sure to always have a glass on hand throughout the day.  When I have more time to cook, I’ll try to prepare something more interesting, but for the most part, I can be satiated simply by balancing the books when it comes to vitamins, nutrients, fats, carbs and proteins.

No more wondering “What do I feel like tonight? Italian? Mexican? Burgers?” I don’t “feel” food that way anymore. The spell has been broken, and it doesn’t even cross my mind. Now I have other things to look forward to in the day. Like working out at Barre Code, going to my dance rehearsals twice a week, or kicking back and enjoying a well-earned Netflix binge while munching down on My New Crack – frozen bananas.

Restore to Factory Default

Bottom line – my body was not meant to be bloated and fat. Yours wasn’t either. So what do you do when something isn’t working the way it’s supposed to? Well, if it’s anything like your Internet router, you hit reset. Once it boots up again, the problem is usually solved. Whatever it ‘thought’ it was supposed to be doing has now been overridden by the original rules and settings.

Now your story may be different than mine, which is why I encourage everyone to try a variety of nutrient balances until they find what works. When your body starts to behave the way it was designed, you’ll know you’re onto something. You’ll drop excess weight, gain energy, and flip the internal switch that puts you into ‘hunt and fight’ mode (vs. ‘rest and digest mode’). Moreover, your brain will reward this satisfactory behavior by flooding your psyche with the chemicals related to pleasure and fulfillment.

Hey Jimmy, can your sandwich do that?

 

 

 

Finding Your One True Gym

Finding a good gym is kind of like getting into a relationship. Facts and figures aside, you need to find a match for your personality. Note: your actual personality. NOT the person you imagine you’ll be once you’re in shape. Chances are, if you and Gym aren’t getting along off the bat, you’ll break up LONG before you reach that stage.

So what are the signs that a Gym is right for you?

First off, don’t go into this expecting that just because you’re a Gym Virgin, you’re walking into some 50 Shades of Grey sadomasochistic nightmare. People don’t stick with Gym because Gym handcuffed them to the treadmill. People walk freely back into Gym because they either love it, or at the very least, it allows them to be successful without having to become something they’re not. (Be yourself!)

Here’s 10 Personality Factors to keep in mind when browsing for your Gym Match.

Continue reading “Finding Your One True Gym”