Custom Fit: Getting Fit

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Autostraddle o.b. tampon article series
Inspired by how happy you are that ob® tampons expand all around to custom-fit your body, Autostraddle’s “a custom fit” article series will tackle how to make all the other parts of your life expand/adjust all around to custom-fit your life/self. Today Riese is gonna teach you how to fit exercise into your life!
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Welcome to a very special episode of Custom Fit in which the wisdom of “Custom Fit” hooks up with the popular AS column “Get Fit” and transforms into a beautiful article about how to fit “getting fit” into your oh-so-complicated and ultra-unique special-snowflake life. I started working out regularly when I was 17, and now I’m 30 and I’m still at it, which means I’ve had to maintain this routine throughout many different life stages, jobs, schools, homes and states of mind. It’s kinda exciting, actually!

For me, the kind of life I’m living has a bigger impact on my exercise/fitness routines than any specific physical goals or needs. I just know I need to stay active to stay healthy. For example, since moving to California sans vehicle, biking has become a big part of my exercise situation but prior to this, I hadn’t owned a bike in six years.

So let’s look at ways to start custom-fitting your workout to your life — first, some pro tips on stuff, and then a look at different lives and how to live them.

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5 Things That Will Help You Custom-Fit Getting Fit Into Your Life

1) Ankle Weights

They’re cheap, they fit into shallow drawers, and enable quick 10-minute workout breaks whenever you feel the urge. You can do leg lifts while washing dishes, or hamstring curls while watching television, or take a break from g-chatting to do the frog butt exercise. I’m working out my outer thighs as I type this, no lie.

2) Locker

Excuse-proof your workout and expedite your post-gym routine by splurging for a locker at your gym. This is especially important in urban auto-free environments where the idea of schlepping shoes around all day can deter your desire to workout and you’re often going out straight after the gym without a trip home. In this locker you will keep: a hairbrush, shampoo/conditioner, cetaphil (doubles as face wash & hypo-allergenic body wash), disposable razors (leave the nice ones at home), makeup (if you want it), a shower cap, two pairs of underpants, two pairs of socks, gym shoes, flip-flops (for the shower), gym shorts (rotate out and wash regularly), sports bra (ditto), magazines, and an ultra-compact bag #2, which’s where you put your cell-phone, wallet, ipod and reading materials while moving throughout the gym. Bag #2 shouldn’t cost more than $15. Everyone needs a Bag #2.

3) The Stamina 55-1610 InMotion E1000 Elliptical

This weird machine is under $100 and you can basically hang out on it all day. Basically, it’s an elliptical trainer without the poles. This frees up your arms to hold reading materials, lift ankle weights and even — even! — type. I know! I’ve started using my girlfriend’s music stand to read things on my kindle while using it.

4) Yoga Mat

The only thing standing between you and becoming a total Yogi is a Yoga Mat and the Yogamazing video podcasts, which you can download for free. “Yoga for Toning” is my favorite.

5) Gym Membership (maybe!)

Now — not everybody needs a gym membership, ’cause perhaps you’re a runner, involved in team sports, or have a gym in your house or building. Also, Sarah Croce is gonna discuss the importance of proper-gym selection and gym etiquette in an upcoming post, so I’m just briefly gonna go over some basics about picking a gym that fits into your life (she’ll handle picking out a gym that fits your body) — the primary thing after cost is probably location, as it should be close to your home or work, whichever you’re going to post-workout. It’s difficult to generalize about national chains, but generally, the YMCA is always a good place to start. It’s not fancy, but it’s clean and committed to your health in a refreshingly honest way.

They often offer financial assistance to those who can’t afford it, and many YMCAs are starting to offer lady-only facilities, which is a thing you won’t even know you’ve always wanted until you get it, and then you’ll feel so much more comfortable, like I do at my YMCA in Berkeley. (Sidenote: The Ys in Manhattan aren’t like the ones outside of Manhattan! In NYC, the Y was more expensive than New York Sports Club, but that’s unusual.) While living out east, the New York Sports Clubs were nice because of their multiple locations — I moved jobs/lives at least 14 times, and never needed to join a new gym!

I’m in the camp of saying that a nice gym is something worth the extra money if you have it, because your health is worth it!

 

Now let’s break it down.

If you’re a…

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College Student

Chances are good you’ve got free access to a kickass gym — this may never happen to you again in your life, so take advantage of it! You’re also able to make your own schedule, more or less, and don’t fear creating yours with the gym in mind. Rather than deal with evening crowds, distracting friends or the difficulty of coordinating dinner around a workout, whenever possible I stuck a two hour break into my schedule between my first and second classes for working out. It’s fully acceptable to attend an 8am class looking like death/in gym clothes and if you eat a good breakfast beforehand, you’ll be dressed, fueled and ready to squeeze in a 40-minute mid-day cardio session and subsequent shower before your next class (and unlike a morning workout, you can’t sleep through it!) You’ll arrive at this next class feeling like the fittest, cleanest, smartest person in the whole world. Got reading to do before next hour? Excellent, there’s a stairmaster for that!

Of course, it’s not always that easy. Perhaps it’s impossible to concentrate when that cute girl from English 125 is Ellipticalling next to you, or you’re too intimidated by the fraternity-laden sausagefest in the weight room to pick up lifting. Perhaps you go to the University of Michigan, like I did, and are astounded that despite its world-class athletic program, the CCRB is a total dump.

How about a class? Most universities offer them, from Cardio Kickboxing to Yoga. Sign up with friends and make a night of it. Or join an intramural sports team (rugby is a great place to also meet hot chicks). If you’re having trouble finding room for three cardio sessions a week, what about two cardio sessions and one long walk? Next time you and your friend need to process your feelings, do it on your feet.

If you’re able to get off-campus, there are usually good deals for students at local gyms. Bally’s is hit-or-miss, but so are most chains — while I was in undergrad, I went to the same gym I’d gone to as a kid, which was about a 15 minute drive from campus but it was nice to get away. I remember feeling like it was really peaceful out there.
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9-to-5-er:

Most adults have 9-to-5 jobs and 9-to-5 jobs are hands-down the most challenging schedules to work with when designing a workout regime, partially because most adults have 9-to-5 jobs. Sometimes it’s hard to motivate yourself to work out after a long day, and the crowds don’t help. Alas, you’ll have to power through that at least twice a week and be very serious about it.

Clearly, the best place to fit in a workout is before work, Oprah taught me that. A morning jog is ideal, if you’re into that kind of thing, or swing by the gym — pick a gym that’s super-close to your workplace and if you take public transit, keep a locker there (as mentioned above). If you can afford it, this is when having a workout machine at home or in your apartment complex comes in handy, as it condenses the workout/shower/dressing locations into one location and that location is your home.

Other ways to fit it in: Take a walk on your lunch break, sit on a stability ball instead of an exercise chair, take low-impact classes during lunch, play sports on the weekend, ride bikes to work, exercise on the weekends, have a lot of sex.
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Freelancer:

Working out serves many purposes for freelancers: forces you to leave the house, forces you to interact with other humans, and makes you feel good. It’s also your duty as a person to go to the gym when it’s not-crowded, because you can — and lift! And take classes! Again, because you can. Another double-bottom-line workout/life tip: join roller derby or a local rugby or softball league to meet other women in your area and break a sweat while you’re doing it.

When I worked as a copywriter, I’d print out briefs and read them on the elliptical trainer, or (I know this is bad form, please forgive me) catch up on emails on my phone, if it’s been a particularly busy day.

Sometimes workout classes are the best ’cause they give you some structure, and over time you start to recognize familiar faces, and that can be comforting.
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Unemployed/Underemployed:

Like freelancers, If you can afford a gym membership you are the luckiest exerciser in the world, ’cause you’ve got the place to yourself and can fit a workout in pretty much whenever you want. The morning is always best, ’cause all day you’ll feel smarter & better than everybody else, even if you’re unemployed. Yoga can help clear your mind.

Being broke can be a great workout because it often involves a lot of biking and walking. If you can’t afford to join a gym, you can either do one-week trial memberships at every gym in your area ’til you run out, or you can hit up the YMCA. Most have financial assistance programs you can apply for.

But the best workout of all is, quite truly, waiting tables. Working a busy restaurant counts as your workout for that day, and nice quads can make you feel better about not using your college degree.

If you’ve got tips for how to fit “getting fit” into various lives we lead, share them in the comments!

Riese is the 37-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key Jewish power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2753 articles for us.

50 Comments

  1. Oh my goodness, I’ve been using o.b. tampons since I first got my period and I love them, and now they are supporting autostraddle in this huge/awesome/perfect way. I’m 17 so I’ve got lots of periods ahead of me, shouldn’t I just buy 100 boxes now so autostraddle gets some extra money?

    • No joke, if I am in some situation where my divacup is not (which is the worst thing, or when it flushed itself while I was at work and I almost cried) I use OB tampons. They are the best tampons.

  2. Extra tip to go along with 4)! If you’re a yogi and enjoy pilates, and happen to be broke like moi, blogilates is fantastic! It’s free, and it kicks your butt! Also, as much as I used to love o.b. tampons I much prefer my Ladycup :) We have a very good relationship.

  3. I’ve never bought tampons online before, but I’m going right now to do so! Guess I’ll have to switch to using o.b. now! I’m not mad about it, I’ve heard great things. :)

  4. my yoga mat is my favorite ever! if you’re a broke college student like me or even just want to save some cash, it’s great to invest in something like a pilates dvd – or even better find some workouts on youtube! – and for a one-time cost, you can get infinite exercise.

    (i’m also totally not ashamed to admit i own a shake weight. not at all.)

  5. If you’re in a larger city, odds are there’s several intramural sports organizations that let you sign up for everything from soccer to touch football to dodgeball. In Boston there’s Boston Ski and Sports Club, Social Boston Sports, and probably some others. They let you search for teams that fit your level of play and schedule and you can sign up for as many as you want. So you can play kickball with a bunch of adults on Thursdays and then full-field 11 v. 11 soccer on Sundays, etc. It can get pricey, though, with signup fees ranging from about $90-$160.

  6. I’m kind of a fitness geek so I’m super excited every time there’s stuff about it on AS. Working out is so so important!

    Random list of advice :

    -Whether you’re trying to build muscles, get stronger or lose weight, 15-30mn of high-intensity workouts (strength training or weight training) 2 or 3 times a week (4 if you’re used to it/really committed) are *much* more efficient than endless hours of cardio. Unless you can literally do cardio all day everyday ofc, but who can/want that? Cardio is still the best for building stamina though (I’ve heard a lot of good things on interval training too but haven’t tried yet).

    -You absolutely don’t need a gym membership or any kind of fancy expensive props, you can become a kickass ninja purely through doing bodyweight exercises in your tiny room! Plus you develop flexibility and dexterity through them, and it’s way less awkward/anxiety-inducing than going at the gym.

    -Training machines like the kind in gyms are the worst. They’re designed for the “average body” but very few people actually have the average body, plus they only train a few specific muscles each (which is not how we function in real life), so using them is just setting yourself up for injuries.

    I also strongly recommend the websites NerdFitness and stumptuous for everything fitness related, they’re both funny and very informative.
    NF is, well, fitness with a nerd twist (and lots of good advice), and stumptuous is made specifically for and by (cis) women – given that most health & fitness serious resources out there are made by and for men, and that most “health & fitness” stuff aimed at women is full of crap and lies and way too focused on weight loss, that website is a must.

    • One thousand times YES to checking out Nerdfitness! I’ve been doing the Beginner Bodyweight Circuits on the nights I’m not running and I have never felt better. The community there is to my physical fitness as this community is to my mental health/gayness.

      As for running, I know in the UK you can download free Couch to 5k podcasts from itunes or the NHS website, maybe you can in the UK? A woman called Laura with a nice accent talks you through the whole thing. 7 weeks ago I was puffing and panting after 30 second runs, now I’m running 25 minutes without stopping. What I’m saying is that it’s free and it’s worth checking out if running is something you want to do/is in your price range i.e fairly free.

      • Thanks for that Beginner Bodyweight recommendation! I have a nice long bike commute to work and that’s usually about the amount of exercise my body needs to feel ok, but lately I’ve definitely been feeling like I’d like to have some upper-body strength too. Considering that going to a gym sounds like hell, this seems perfect.

        (Also I went on a 30-minute run two nights ago, which I never do, and now, two days later, my leg muscles are Still Sore. Ugh! how can it be.)

        • Yeah, the Bodyweight exercises are great because you really don’t need any equipment apart from something kind of heavy to lift. Doing it in tandem with my running is making me kind of sore, but if you leave at least one full rest day you’re golden. What I like best about NF is that it encourages fitness, strength etc. but at your own pace and setting it by listening to your body. I went out for 25 minutes last night (third time) and am FEELING it today.

  7. oh what a timing.I’ve been sitting in my room wearing workout clothes for about an our now but just couldn’t get my lazy ass out the door for a run. but now I guess I have to.

    o.b. ftw! also did you know o.b. is short for ‘ohne Binde’ which is german and pretty much means ‘without pad’.
    this so reminds me of the time I sold my ipad because money ,you know.
    and now I’m ‘o.b.’ not just 5 days a month.

  8. anyone feeling a little crazy? you should try “insanity”!

    it is less than an hour a day and it REALLY works! but read the safety instructions and research it a little. it may not be right for you. dont want you to get hurt! any fellow insaniacs here?

  9. I love the scene in Unveiled where the protagonist plays “submarines” in the sink with her love interest’s small son and a package of (probably o.b. since they’re in Germany) tampons. Great sort-of-product-placement.

    That said, all tampons are just bleached cotton or polyester shoved up your vadge. Some are lucky enough to be able to afford the kinds without applicators or chlorine-bleaching.

  10. I love the multiple rugby mentions! I joined the women’s rugby team here in St. Louis, and it’s been one of the best and hardest things ever. I love it, and am super excited for fall practices to start up again.

    Had to share the team sport love.

  11. Working out in the morning is the best! It took me a while to come around to the idea of ewaking up at 6am, but it’s worth it.
    I’ve also recently started Muay Thai which is changing my life for the better, I fall asleep dreaming about right roundhouses and push-ups.

  12. I work out on my lunch break most days because I have a 9 to 5 and hate the gym rush. I think having a constrained time helps me maximize my intensity for the 45 min I have in the gym. Interval training is the way to go- it is great for endurance and cardio. Your body will try and find homeostasis if you keep your pace the same. Find a good jog pace for yourself and then find a sprint pace. The way i try and think about what is a good jog pace is if could have you have a conversation while jogging then that is good. If you are just beginning walking is fine as your ‘resting’ pace. Figuring our the sprint part is a little harder. You want to be pushing yourself but not feeling like you are going to fall off the treadmill. I really enjoy weight training. I feel like the most important thing to remember is if you can’t do the exercise with good form you are using too much weight. I really like the book “The Four Hour Body” by tim ferris. It is an interesting read. I’ve started to incorporate some of the things into my life and I feel a lot better. The meals he suggests are easy to make and pretty cheap.
    Finally, I would suggest working out for a purpose and be intentional. I want to run a 5k, join a team and train for it ect.

    Working out releases endorphins and generally makes you a happier person. Woo!

    P.S. If you live in New York and want to join a sport Brooklyn Women’s Rugby is recruiting for their Fall season. (shameless plug, sorry couldn’t help it)

    P.P.s Sarah Croce used to play with BWR so you know.

  13. Since I started working as a bike mechanic I’ve gained some ridiculous biceps, and as a side effect of being around bikes all day, I bike a lot. A LOT. Also sometimes I get paid to go be a mechanic on the bike club rides, which means I ride a heavy mountain bike while carrying a backpack full of metal and spare tubes. Best workout ever.

    Go kart and sports car wrenching is a similar workout, because driving a performance-tuned open wheel car well requires huge mental effort and also some pretty sick abs. Plus, you lift (with help) a 200-300 lbs chunk of metal on and off a 4 foot stand every hour or so.

    Be a gearhead, is what I’m saying.

  14. If I might make one suggestion: do something you love. Even if what you love isn’t the most efficient work out you could possibly be doing (for example, walking rather than running), in my experience, if you enjoy something you are more likely to stick with it and improve.

    For seven years I dutifully went to the gym and ran fairly often. Whilst I enjoyed being able to run up stairs without collapsing and fitting into my jeans, I never really enjoyed exercising. Four months ago I injured my knee and it was the last straw. I quit doing traditional gym work outs and started taking yoga and rock climbing pretty seriously. I’m now fitter and stronger than when I went to the gym, I spend more time exercising, I really look forward to both activities and I push myself because I want to progress and be able to do more postures/harder climbs etc.

    So if you love the gym, that’s awesome. But if you don’t, I’d suggest finding something that you love. Exercise, as Grace_B has also pointed out, can come in a lot of different forms. If you do something fulfilling it can have a lot of secondary benefits as well- like happiness, getting to meet people, relaxation, and other good stuff :)

    • Agree big time. Sports that you love are the best thing for fitness. I HATED fitness and exercise with a burning passion until I discovered martial arts – now I’m a black belt, doing twelve and a half hours of training a week, most of my friends and social life revolve around it cos they do it too, and I’m so much happier with my body. It works for me because I can’t exercise on my own, I need other people to push me, and I found such a great community that I got addicted. :D

  15. On vacation with my sis and she brought (dragged) me to SoulCycle in East Hampton. Um…even after 2 knee surgeries, I kept up and LOVED it. Going to my second one tomorrow morning and want to sign up for when I get back to NYC. I’m not a fan of other exercise classes and just to the gym or track on my own, but this is more than a class. It feels like a team and you all struggle to reach the end. The high is amazing. I’m addicted.

  16. CIRCUS CLASSES!!! fun, creative, a workout that doesn’t really feel like one. If you join a women’s circus there’s often a lot of queermos there too.

    Burlesque classes were a surprisingly intense workout too.

    • TOTALLY THIS. I found muscles I never knew existed after 30 minutes on a trapeze and it was the most fun I’ve ever had excercising (well, intentionally exercising)

  17. Some gyms and YMCAs offer free or inexpensive tutorials on how to use weight machines or freeweights for their members. do this, or watch a lot of very detailed videos about how to do exercises. Injuries will probs result in you sitting on the couch eating ice cream for hours while telling yourself that since you have an exercise-induced injury you’re still ‘being healthy’. yup.

  18. Walk everywhere! It’s free, it’s low impact and it’s really good for you. Obviously it’s not always possible, but it’s easy to fit a bit more walking into your life somewhere – even if it’s just getting off the bus a few stops early. I’ll walk anywhere if it’s under half an hour away and I’m not in a rush. I enjoy having the time to think or listen to music. It’s also much less stressful than driving or busing. Going for a walk is also a nice way to catch up with friends, deal with writers block or take study breaks.
    Also, hiking is amazing. If you have nature near you, you should do it.

  19. I worked out every day before I started my senior year of fashion school, and now I go to school from 8am – 12am and come home and eat cookies in bed.

    Also, my fancy little applied arts school doesn’t have anything resembling a gym.

    Whine whine whine I’m a big unhealthy pants.

    • Your pattern weights make great things to hold while doing lunges or bicep curls. I know it’s hard to fit in a workout since I also went to Fashion school and spent around %134 of my life there, but it CAN be done!
      There’s lots of things you could do in your bedroom with a cheap pair of 8lbs weights.

      • Lol I’m too ghetto for pattern weights.

        BUT I’m sure you can attest to the fact that one of the primary lessons you learn in fashion school is how to carry a lot of shit at once. Up stairs. Sooo that’s something.

  20. Have any of y’all checked out the mobile app Zombies Run? It’s a fitness game/story/experience set in the post-zombie apocalypse. You’re Runner 5, and you have to run around “collecting” supplies for the base and stuff, while the story plays out between the songs on your running playlist. The app taps into your phone’s GPS and every now and then you get chased by hordes of zombies (the app will tell you “Warning, zombies 100 meters!” “Warning, zombies 66 meters!”) and if you don’t run fast enough the zombies will catch you. ALSO ALSO ALSO there’s a queergirl main character (Dr. Maxine Meyers *swoon*)

    The app is like $7 bucks but it’s the best fitness purchase I’ve ever made – I absolutely HATE running, and I’m totally addicted – been out running multiple times a week. Check it out: https://www.zombiesrungame.com/

    • Hello, fellow Runner Five! I would like to second this post as I fell into a bit of a running slump when my go-to exercise buddy moved two hours downstate, but “Zombies Run!” helped me find motivation. I am actually EXCITED about going running because it means, “Yay, story time!”

  21. Heartily seconding ‘find something you love’ if you possibly can. No matter what it is. It makes all the difference.

    I never saw the point of fitness before, really. Then I joined derby and realised that to play this incredible amazing magical sport with possibly the best group of women you will ever see assembled in one place I was going to need to be a lot fitter than I was (i.e. not at all). I did the first voluntary situps of my life. Started skating for 11 hours a week. Sprinted up stairs instead of taking the lift. Discovered twohundredsitups.com, onehundredpushups.com and twohundredsquats.com and start following their programmes (free & I can’t recommend enough!! Only just found them but I couldn’t do one push up a week ago and now I can do like 12 over 4 sets)

    Now being fit is a way of levelling up so I can skate harder and faster and do more cool things and be around these WOMEN. I will do pretty much anything to get to do that.

  22. I really appreciate that you acknowledge how gross the CCRB. Also, I can’t wait for more articles! I recently bought a membership to the local YMCA, so this is coming at a good time!

  23. I am lucky enough that the school I attend- Reed College- offers free gym use to anyone affiliated with the college, including alumni, so I basically have a free gym as long as I live in Portland. For anyone who lives in Portland, there are a million fairly inexpensive active things to do! My favourites are acrobatics and aerial silks. Both can be scary- standing on someone else’s shoulders particularly- but they are phenomenal workouts. There’s nothing quite like finally being able to flip yourself upside-down on the silks to make you feel like a real badass. Dance classes are also a great way to get a workout if you’re musically-inclined at all.

  24. Even more reasons to keep using O.B. ! :)
    There one of the most common brands here in The Netherlands and I find them hard to find (at least in all the sizes) near my college in the States.
    Also, definitely plan on taking advantage of our very new gym at college.

  25. I will definitely use this to buy tampons! They’re the only kind I will use, and stores near me have stopped carrying the much-needed ultra absorbency.

  26. I hate exercise. Except for cute work out clothes. Result? I have so many sets of workout clothes that have only been worn like twice.
    I can’t join a gym, because I am so ridiculously self conscious about my lack of coordination. I only run, and only under cover of darkness. I’m pathetic :P
    I need to get fit for summer though. Never gonna catch me a wifey looking like this ;)

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