Working On It: My Fitness Quest for Immortality (Or as Close as I Can Get)

Welcome to Working On It, where you can follow along as I try to right all the wrongs of my youth and treat my body like a temple, or maybe a national monument. A revered tree? Something beautifully important. All superfood feelings welcome.


I did a super bang-up job of trashing my body in my teens and twenties and I have a sudden desire to make up for it. It’s a thing that my 30something friend group talks about a lot, how many of us are suddenly desperately attempting to reverse certain unhealthy habits of our Youth, like not wearing sunscreen or surviving on < 5 hours’ sleep or doing blow. We all have own special reasons for living how we lived. Mine’s probably that the instinct of self-preservation (or common sense) (depending who you ask) (hi mum) never seemed to kick in. I’ve been a smoker for 15 years (now former, mostly) and a big fan of hot chips and pastry since birth. I’ve battled an illness that nearly killed me and I’ve pumped a bunch of damaging substances into my body. I’ve been a mess.

It’s taken 30 years but I’m finally paying attention to my body’s increasing limitations and failures and the harsh fact that I’m a mere mortal who’s gonna die one day. So, I’ve been giving health and wellness the ol’ college try. I’m taking it day by day, one burpee and failed quinoa recipe at a time. Literally one burpee because fuck burpees, I’m not a machine. Also, quinoa? Is it meant to be a little crunchy? Mine’s always on the crunchy side and if cook it longer it turns into porridge, and somehow this is the only dumb question left in the entire universe that hasn’t yet been posted to Yahoo! Answers. Please don’t make me.

To date, my biggest obstacles have been 1) I love food, every kind, especially artery-hardening ones, and 2) I strongly dislike being uncomfortable and therefore strongly dislike exercise. I’ve started dabbling in it anyway, since conceding that it really does have a positive impact on my mental health. They tell you that, don’t they? The Fitness People. You’ve probably heard all about endorphins and science and shit, perhaps from a super buff, ultra smiley trainer on a morning television show, or Lauren Conrad, or that one friend who runs marathons for “fun.” That’s part of my struggle, I think. Being outside of your comfort zone can be terrifying, in any context, so it helps to get your info from someone you can trust or at least relate to in even the smallest way.

So, this will become a regular thing — a weekly recap of what’s working for me and what isn’t (yet, or maybe ever, tbd) on my personal quest for improved health and wellness. Come with me on this journey, if you want. There’ll be a lot of ground to cover because I have no fucking clue what I’m doing. Everything I know about health was taught to me by a giraffe that lived in a trailer. Australia!

My strategy as of right now is to randomly test out healthy habits and the occasional fad that I’ve heard or read about and see which ones stick. Maybe you’ve been here and have a suggestion or two. Maybe you’re currently here and just want to ask about superfoods in a safe space. Welcome.

Before diving in, there’s this: I’m not trying to live up to any particular conventional/social standards or expectations re: what shape my body is in and/or how I should take care of it. This is about self-love, not self-hate. Similarly, I’m sure as hell not implying that you ought to be making the same decisions as me, even though my most recent decision was rewarding myself for a 50-minute workout with a vodka diet and peanut M&Ms’ and frankly, it was bliss. This is just about me, wanting to live forever. It’s that simple.


Working: Going to the gym

WEEK-ONE-GYM

Several years ago I signed up to a $400 annual gym membership and attended maybe ~nine times, which unsurprisingly didn’t result in the unbeatable value or the “New Year, New Me” that I’d been sold on. So, several months ago when I felt the urge to re-explore my potential as a gym-goer, I was highly motivated and enthusiastic but not totally confident that I’d actually attend on a regular and on-going basis. But I have, sorta! My average right now is 2.5 visits per week. That may not seem impressive but it’s actually a 792 per cent improvement on my last gym participation rate, so.

In addition to having become slightly more disciplined in my old age, I’d say these are the main reasons why this is working out better than last time:

  1. I prioritised location above all else and chose a gym that can be walked to. That means it’s not the nicest or cheapest gym, and it’s still a 30 minute hike from home, but at least I’m not forced to hop on a crowded bus with my beet-red post-workout face. It gets SO red, you guys. Visualise the reddest face you’ve ever seen and then quadruple it and that’s how red my face is on a rest day. After the gym, it’s horrifying. Children stare. The other benefit is that it’s impossible to make good excuses to bail, knowing that I’ll be walking right past the damn door on my way home.
  2. I change into my gym gear before leaving my workplace. It’s just something ridiculously simple that makes me feel 10x more motivated to get my gym on.

This is not to say that the gym is working perfectly for me. It’s not. So many aspects currently feel a little uninviting or overwhelming (strength training! group classes! omg group classes) and I’ll process those feelings in future posts. But right now, as far as my very basic goal of showing up on a somewhat regular basis goes, I’m crushing it. *bicep emoji*


Not Working: Gym Dudes

You know what isn’t really working for me? Being sweated on by beefed up dudes who have this perpetual need to disrupt my flow every other minute by enquiring how many sets I have left. What about my needs? What about my need to finish my reps in a zone that is only achievable by listening to “Shake It Off” in full? That means UNINTERRUPTED, BRO. But also, if you see me wheezing and puffing and generally struggling to complete that 20lb lat pull down and your first assumption isn’t that I won’t be crawling away to die in just a quick moment, maybe you should be pumping up your powers of deduction instead your guns.

I don’t know what the solution is. Is this all gyms? Maybe this is a universal thing. I briefly investigated joining a female-only gym but the nearest one was basically a yoga studio with some treadmills and a few light-weight brightly coloured dumbbells for my little delicate lady hands.


Working: Breakfast

YOGURT-CRYSTAL

I grew up at the school of hard knocks, the ol’ college of real life, where breakfast was not served daily or hardly ever and so it just never became part of my adult routine. The only time I eat breakfast is at A-Camp and it’s because the cereal buffet is filled with glorious sugar crack that we don’t have back home. But now that I’m in my thirties? I’m starting to feel a little embarrassed for myself. It’s the most important meal of the day, did you know? Even five year olds seem to get that.

So, last year I began testing out some breakfast basics, like bagels with cream cheese and wheat toast with Vegemite. But they just made me super hungry immediately after and so it felt pointless. It seemed pointless to wake my stomach up early with breakfast when it only compelled me to smash every pastry in sight until lunchtime. That feels the opposite of healthy.

I didn’t give up. I researched foods that make you feel fuller for longer and the internet’s unanimous answer was “protein.” I tried the most practical approach of eating protein bars but they left me with a stomach ache and a super unpleasant synthetic taste in my mouth and also, they’re hella exy. Then I tried a low fat Greek yogurt situation and so far that’s been a winner. I enjoy it a lot more than I ever imagined possible, and somehow a tiny little tub holds me over until lunchtime. Protein! A+.


Not Working: Pyjamas as Workout Clothes

Until recently, my workout clothes were just last year’s winter pyjamas: baggy American Apparel tees and heavy woollen sweatpants. I was super resistant to buying proper “gym” gear because I felt like a poseur, I guess? Because I’m not a fitness guy! It felt silly to wear Nike when I can barely run for five minutes without keeling over. I know that it’s not actually silly. What’s silly is believing that I need to earn the right to wear workout attire, or that other people in the gym actually give a fuck about whatever I’m wearing or doing. Silly is sweltering in suffocating clothing when I could be feeling the cool cool breeze swishing through my thighs as I climb that incline. But even knowing all this on a rational level, I still struggle. I’m still reluctant to walk into the exercise section even though I could really use a second or third gym outfit. (Recently I broke down and bought one set of workout clothes online and they don’t fit perfectly but at least they breathe better than wooly pyjamas. So it’s a start to solving this, I guess).


Working: Podcasts

What’s your workout jam? I’ve been struggling with how boring the treadmill is, however, it’s the only exercise I feel confident about right now, so rather than give it up I want to distract myself from its mind-numbing dullness with sound. Music felt like the obvious choice but it just hasn’t been effective? I think because when the beat slows down, my feet do too. However! Podcasts are really working for me. I’ve had a ton of success with using them as bribery to get my ass to the gym, i.e. not allowing myself to listen to new episodes of a super addictive series unless it’s when I’m working out. Serial worked like a charm, I was gagging to get back on the treadmill to find out what Don’s whole deal is.

Other effective podcasts include:

  • This American Life because I never want to hop off the treadmill before the hour ends.
  • DeAnne Smith’s Questionable At Best because the conversations are so interesting and funny and the perfect length for a quicker workout.
  • Bring A Plate in which funny Australian queers, Rebecca Shaw and Peter Taggart, retro review all your fav nostalgia teen movies, like Coyote Ugly and Save The Last Dance, in a hilarious way. Among other things. The only downside is that it makes me giggle on the treadmill which is off-brand.

So, this is everything that I’ve been up to. Enough about me. What about you? Where are you at with this health and wellbeing thing? Are you curious? On a journey? Already nailing it? Do you need an outlet for your feelings about quinoa and gym clothes and workout jams? Because this this is it. Let’s talk about everything.

Coming up next week: I’ll probably talk about calorie counting but not in a way that’ll make you throw side-eye, I hope, as well as ‘social’ drinking and smoking.


Are you following us on Facebook?

Crystal is a 33-year-old Australian living in Chicago. Founding member, does HR stuff, writes now and then.

Crystal has written 329 articles for us.

130 Comments

  1. I have been cooking with quinoa and lentils for just over a year now and I found that the best way to cook with them is to use both as a substitute for ground beef; shepherds pie, tater tot pie, hamburger helper all really good with quinoa and lentils and the best part never have to worry they will be over cooked cause your are basically cooking them twice so if they are a little crunchy then it doesn’t matter.

    You need to get your self a big sweaty dude as a workout partner then you will never have to worry about another one asking you how many reps you have left. At least that worked for me.

    • Hi that is a really good idea and something I hadn’t considered, using quinoa in meals where it would get cooked twice. Thank you! I have no idea what tater tot pie is but you had better believe that I am googling it at some stage today.

  2. Questionable at Best is my go-to workout podcast, too. (Except sometimes, I have to stop running because I’m laughing too hard.)

    I’m also a big fan of Stuff Mom Never Told You and The Crimson Wave.

  3. Hey Crystal! This is great! Thanks for writing this! I actually pitched a similar idea to Autostraddle, so I’m glad this exists. I’ve been on a journey for about 4-5 months to become immortal. I changed my eating a lot (it’s still not perfect, obviously), and I joined a gym. First I’ll talk about the gym: it’s a weirdo boutique gym that’s very hard to describe. It’s all classes based on kettle bells and HIIT (high intensity interval training). The classes are intense, but the atmosphere is amazing. Lots of glitter, dildos, queers, rainbows, unicorns, etc. It is conveniently 5 blocks away from my apartment, which is a lovely thing. There’s no body shaming or fat shaming at the clubhouse (which is what it’s called). It’s the anti-gym gym, and I love it.

    Food is really hard to me because I love it. I try to eat more green things and make sure every meal has a beginning, middle, and end. I’ve had a “relapse” of sorts recently in regards to my eating, but I’m getting back on track. I had tofu stir fry for lunch. I bought a watermelon. I’m going to make eggs for dinner.

    What I’m doing must be working, as I’ve lost about 25 pounds. It’s very difficult to balance being a body positive queer lady while trying to lose weight- I think all bodies are beautiful and deserve love, and I know what I’m doing is not required or for anyone else- I’m doing this for *me*. It’s my journey and my body, and I want to love it. And I’m not loving it more because it’s getting smaller; I’m loving it more because I’m getting in touch with it and realizing all the wonderful, beautiful things my body can do. I’ve also discovered crop tops.

    I realize I’ve written a lot, but I clearly have a lot of (mostly positive) feelings about this subject. I’m so excited to go on this journey with you, Crystal. Thank you and AS for starting this feature. I really hope it continues. xoxoxoxoxo

    • Congrats on your progress! Rad effort, I’m feeling quite inspired by it. Okay so your gym sounds incredible. I haven’t been brave enough to get into group classes yet, like HIIT, which is a thing that I’ll definitely be wanting to talk about in a future post.

    • That gym sounds amazing!

      I am also body positive and intentionally losing weight, and I feel you on the difficulty there. I almost feel a bit hypocritical, but in my head I know there’s nothing wrong with changing my body, it’s mine to do what I want with. But my choice to lose weight is definitely not made in a vaccuum, and escaping the effects of fatphobia is more of a motivation than I’d care to admit. Focusing on what my body can do instead of how it looks has been awesome though, and it can do more fun fitnessy things for longer without stressing my joints if I’m lighter. Definitely an exciting journey to be on!

  4. Happy Healthy Harold!!!!
    I too credit large parts of my knowledge about health to a giraffe in a trailer. 🙂

    Morning exercise works for me. I just cant manage it after work and I find it sets me up positively for the day.

    And on an Aussie note, Michelle Bridges 12WBT was great for my wife and I. Yes it is a bit of a cult, but we got out after 2 cycles and made some really good food and exercise habits that are still with us a few years later, and we have (mostly) kept the physique we attained.

      • I do recommend the 12WBT – although I will say that we did it in the second half of 2011, so I’m not sure how the program has evolved since then. I had an eating disorder as a teenager, so it was important to me not to get too intense about the weight loss element and focus on overall wellbeing and fitness. I felt like this was possible even though for most participants weight is a central goal and in the end we did loose around 30 kgs between us.
        Good points include
        -Emphasis on cooking with fresh ingredients and limiting processed foods, they try and steer you away from high processed ‘low fat’ artificial sugar foods and emphasise nourishing your body. And most of the recipes are really good!! Michelle Bridges taught me risotto!
        -flexibility with workouts, all the workouts have a gym option and a bodyweight option you can do in the park for free which is just as good.
        -emphasis on the mental side, forming healthy habits, building up willpower, believing in yourself and making informed, smart choices.
        -lots of images and videos of Michelle Bridges.. she”s not exactly an eyesore! 😉

  5. (Sorry, mobile)
    Regarding the bros- this is a gym etiquette thing where they don’t actually care how many sets you have left, or anything about you at all- they’re just establishing to anyone within earshot that theyre next in line. As far as I know this is an all gyms thing, and the women who spend a lot of time in the lifting section of my gym do it too. They shouldn’t be interrupting your set to do it- if they are, you have social license to glare at them and ignore them.

    (Unless you’ve been on the same piece of weight equipment for like half an hour- then it’s a passive-aggressive way of telling you to hurry up.)

    Source: longtime lifter

      • 🙂
        Broscience references it once, but I forget in which video.

        It means you don’t have to hover quite as aggressively while you’re waiting, because other people will see you’re next in line, and also the person you asked will remember if someone else tries to cut you. So you can stretch or something and be less worried.

        The other exception would be if your answer to “how many sets” were like “12” or something. Then the number itself would be relevant.

        • Yes totally fascinating. It makes sense, it being a thing. I guess I never thought of verbally claiming something as being an option? I just hover awkwardly and wait for equipment to become available. At hopefully a non-creepy distance.

  6. I AM SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS SERIES because ya breakfast is weird and I really hate eating it because no time/I hate breakfast food and also I go in these phases of going to the gym kind of frequently and then something disrupts me and I forget that the gym is a place. It’d be so cool if I liked working out and it wasn’t always an exercise in seeing how good my self control is(hint IT’S NOT).

    I’m interested in how you know how to use the machines, because that is something that scares me. Also I usually just pick up weights and pretend to be in one of those 90s workout videos, but I don’t know if what I’m doing is actually effective in any way.

    YAY PODCASTS, I discovered those in high school for working out. Itunes University is also super cool, you can learn stuff with no pressure while exercising. They can be kind of hit and miss in terms of quality, but some of them are really cool.

    • I mostly just watch how other people are using the weight machines and copy them. Usually while I’m on the treadmill because it’s (hopefully) less obvious that I’m gawking. Then I wait until late night, when the gym is more empty, to try out the machines myself because I have a fear of looking stupid.

      Also, though, youtube is pretty great for video demonstrations on how to use specific weights. Just search things like ‘how to do a seated leg press’ and ‘how to use gym equipment’ etc and you’ll get a lot of hits. Also sometimes the machines have instructions written on them! They help.

    • If you can afford it, book a personal trainer to show you the gym and how to work out. You only need one session with them and after that you’ll know what to do at the gym, how to get the most out of your workout without hurting yourself. Some gyms even offer free training sessions for new gym members. You could also ask a more experienced friend to go with you the first few times.

  7. I used to work out such a lot and eat so healthy while I was in college…
    No, really.
    But then, time was a dwindling, and without a roommate or a girlfriend anymore, what’s the point of grocery shopping and then cooking and then doing the dishes, for a meal, I’ll wolf down in ten minutes?
    And what about working out or taking the bike if it just makes me even more tired?
    I really should have known better.
    Having managed to full body slam myself into severe burn out, I put myself on a regimen of healthy food and work outs after quitting my job a few months back.
    I cannot tell you how happy it makes me to finally be able to lift weights again, or work out for more than a few minutes without getting nauseous or wondering how I’d be getting home from the gym.
    The trick for me was rest, obviously, nutrition, eating (I was kind of living off of a monochromatic diet of sugared lattes for a while there, maybe a chocolate bar if I could get my hands on it) and enough water.
    If you wish for guys to leave you alone, wear a tank top, maybe even a bandana or a basecap or a beanie, or whatever, look as gay as possible, and then cultivate “The Glare”.
    At least that’s what I wear.
    I automatically glare at people who approach me during work outs, gym is *me* time.(I do not do well in group classes for that very reason..unless I get to hit things.Hitting things is very therapeutic, albeit rather strenuous.)
    I’ve never had issues with anyone asking me about the amount of sets I was still doing.
    I’m excited to see where your journey takes you and might steal a tip or two on the way!

  8. Really great and well written article Crystal! I remember when I first started going to the gym too..about 3 years ago in October. I definitely forced myself into going and back then my body clock liked to get me up at 930am and finish the gym by like 2pm. It made me grow lazy tbh. And feeling unaccomplished because I finished so late that everything I had to do was fitted tightly into my scheduled. Eventually…I trained my body to get up at really early times like 430am or 5am and get to the gym by 6 or 630. I wake up to have an early breakfast that’s pretty digested by the time I get to the gym. I even go to the gym after work.

    DUDE BROS. They are everywhere. But as much as I hate them, there are a few couple I have come to admire. Like the guy who helped me take off the plates someone left on the bar. And the guy who spots me when I do bench press. I know it can be irritating for someone to ask you how many sets you have left but I think it’s a bit more acceptable to do it when you’re not actually doing the exercise. I know I ask people but not when they’re in the middle of squatting. I once told a guy off who took my machine that my stuff was RIGHT THERE. Notebook and towel and water bottle. He said “well I was waiting” I said “Well you know what we all wait. I had to wait for this too”

    WORKS:

    -Bodybuilding dot com is a great site for articles and recipes BTW. It’s where I learned to make protein pancakes which are great for the morning. Also they have online vids to help you with your form =)
    – Having some workout clothes that are comfy. I still use shorts that I bought a year and a half ago. I can’t let them go!
    – Eating a meal or having a protein shake an hour or an hour and a half before going to work out
    – Having about 5-6 small meals a day; it’s helped curb my cravings
    – Keeping a notebook! I can track what weights and reps and sets I’ve used in the past weeks/days so I can really try to push myself
    – Reminding myself that everyone has started somewhere small. Even Arnold didn’t just come to the gym one day and lift the 50lb weight off the rack

    NO GO:
    – Waking up late
    – Having food that have bad calories. Not only does it make me feel guilty but I find it hard to bounce back. Alas, we are only human
    – Those free classes. IDK I think I’m just weird!
    – DUDE BROS
    – Comparing myself to others; I REALLY REALLY try to remember that I’m doing this for me =)

    • Thanks for your tips! In the past I’ve found that going to the gym in the morning, at about 6am, exhausts me by about 10am and I just want to crawl under my desk and nap. Did you ever experience that? Maybe it’s a thing where I need to train my body to push through.

      • I feel that way sometimes. Sometimes I dont even make it to 10am LOL. at like 9 i feel like putting my face into the pillow to just knock out. I basically force myself to make my post workout meal, shower and move. Lol. Everything is a process though..

      • I’m an afternoon’er too, and can make lunchtime work if I have to but 4 pm is perfect when I can swing it. Morning is best spent on other things. Whatever schedule you’ll keep is the best one in the end. I think the studies and reports that promote mornings have a lot of people with children, perhaps, or extroverts who miss happy hour.

        • I find it to be pretty convenient when I go after work. I work 7am to 7pm so by 8 im at the gym. I figured that I sleep around 11 anyway so just use the time lounging around at the gym. Theres a lot less people at the free weights and machines because a lot of other members like to go to the Zumba class at 8pm.

          Now that I know how to swim I go and do a couple laps on non lifting days.

  9. Thanks for the article & comments. I am trying to make a re- commitment to exercise, better diet and wellness. I got a ‘better’ job a little over a year ago (requiring way too many hours overtime and resulting in chronic stress). I started smoking smoking cigs again within about a month of beginning the job, stopped working out, ate not the best food and cut out most of what I had been managing to do for wellness.
    I am looking for a new job. Meanwhile, I hope to make small manageable changes in my lifestyle, more fruit & veggies, less sugar, more water. I have not been successful in how to bribe, I mean motivate myself to being a gym rat again. Being a smoker is starting to feel like an albatross – wheezing is decidedly not cool or sex, and I watched my grandma die from emphysema.
    Like to hear more about ways folks have re entered the world of wellness through the door of self love.

    • I feel you on all these things. Next week I’ll be talking about smoking because although I quit the daily habit, I’ve been falling off the wagon in moments of high stress or high alcohol and it’s a huge set back for my health goals. E.g. I’ll smoke cigarettes for a week, then spend the next week or two skipping the gym because my lungs don’t feel capable of exercise yet. It sucks.

      Personally I find that the gym can be really great stress relief as well. It takes a bit of will power initially but there have been moments where I’ve struck a deal with myself that is: ‘go to the gym tonight and if you still feel that you need that cigarette, you can have it’. But then I leave the gym feeling pretty great and healthy and the last thing I want to do in that moment is suffocate my lungs.

  10. You know what? I can’t listen to music on the treadmill either! It is distracting or even boring. And then I started listening to Serial! Is this a thing? It was just so good, because I never once felt bored. I also use the crosstrainer instead of a “simple” treadmill and put it on “random”.

    And I agree that breakfast is hard. I often feel a bit sick from eating breakfast so I have to stick to whatever feels just right every morning. That happens to be low-sugar cereals with soy joghurt ever so often. Next week I’ll be working at a conference and stuffing my face with English breakfast, because it’s the best and god knows when I’ll get lunch.

    Also I really like this column, good luck! Can’t wait to read whatelse you have been up to.

    • Yes! Re music. I think my main issue is that most albums have low tempo tracks in the middle? So the first 10 minutes is great but then the ballads come out and it’s game over, my energy deflates. Probably my other issue is that I’m still someone who listens to whole albums.

      Have you tried the This American Life podcast as well? I find that it’s just as capable of holding my attention for a full hour, as long as the topic/theme interests me.

      • I haven’t but will! Thanks for the suggestions:)

        In the past I have also listened to a comedy audiobook (it’s about a communist kangaroo that moves in with a writer, don’t ask) and have gotten really weird looks for laughing so much on the treadmill, which just added to the fun.

        I think my gym is exactly what you didn’t want – a yoga/fitness place for women that has a kind of loungy feel. I love it though, because it is somewhat private AND relaxing.

        What I forgot in my initial comment: Gym clothes ARE important and they are perks you can give yourself for working on your fitness. That’s why I have the prettiest gym shoes ever: http://newbalance.de/produkt/new-balance-wx-811/

    • 100% with you on podcasts over music. I’ll listen to music occasionally, if I am all caught up on the podcasts I subscribe to, but tend to zone out/get bored. With podcasts, I’m either learning something, or get to feel like I’m talking to close friends (is it weird to feel like podcasters are your friends), and my workout goes by much more quickly!

  11. You know what? I like my quinoa a little bit crunchy. I purposely make it al dente so it has a not-squishy texture, because squishy grains are gross to me. If al dente quinoa is not your thing, and it’s porridge-like, try decreasing the amount of water you add.

  12. Hi, you already know how much this is my jam.

    Regarding quinoa: Here’s the secret. 1 cup quinoa. 2 cups water. That beat up rice cooker you bought at K-mart for all of 15 dollars almost a decade ago. Put the stuff in the thing. Turn it on. Wait for the lever to pop up. DONE! (Don’t try to do half a cup of quinoa and 1 cup of water, though. It doesn’t end well.)

    Regarding dudebros: THEY ARE THE WORST. I go to the gym in the evenings (because a) I don’t do mornings on a good day and b) my current medication makes waking up REALLY FREAKING HARD), and that seems to be prime sweaty dudebro time. They like to stand around, grunting and talking about going to the club and picking up chicks with every other word being a swear. It’s not a good look.

    Regarding strength training: I will proclaim from the rooftops for days and days that free weights are the answer. There is just something so satisfying about putting weights on a barbell and picking it up and putting it back down again. The Stronglifts 5×5 app has been a godsend (but just to warn you, the copy on that guy’s website proves that he is the GOD OF THE DUDEBROS). If you’re an Anytime Fitness person like I am, I would be happy to walk you through the lifts sometime!

    Regarding breakfast: That old truism about breakfast being the most important meal of the day? It’s not actually well supported by the evidence. Some of us do better with some fuel in us first thing, some of us don’t. So if you like eating breakfast, do it! If you find you have to force yourself and it doesn’t make you feel much better, don’t! It’s more about what you put in your body than when you put it in. I love eating Greek yogurt, muesli, frozen blueberries and chia seeds for breakfast. Mix ’em up the night before with the muesli/chia on the bottom – then the melty juices soften up the seedy bits and make the whole eating experience that much more enjoyable.

    Regarding treadmills: I think they’re the worst and much prefer running outside. But I’m pretty sure we’ve had this conversation already!

    Regarding motivation: I find having a race or other such event (like the hike Des and I did earlier this year) is a really strong motivator. City2Surf, here I come!

    – that one friend who will probably never do a marathon because fuck that but still loves running

    • I’m so keen to start weight training (when I go back to uni in order to get the student discount at the campus gym) and free weights seem a bit out of my comfort zone, but in a good way. Stronglifts is actually the program I want to do, too. I’ve never lifted a barbell in my life though, so do you think it’s worth paying for a personal trainer to teach me proper form or can I do that from YouTube videos?

      • Honestly, I asked a trainer to help me with form and got really bad advice because she was stuck in the GIRLS DON’T LIFT mindset. However my physio really wants me to go to a knowledgeable strength coach so… If you go that route make sure they know their shit.

    • RICE COOKER. Genius. Also, that’s really interesting about breakfast. I’m actually really enjoying this new Greek yogurt breakfast habit for now but it’s good to know that it’s probably fine to ditch it should I feel inclined later on.

  13. I love this! Lately I’ve been on a pretty solid 3x/week gym routine and am loving it. It’s great to hear people talking about working out for health and self-love rather than trying to lose weight or fit some kind of body ideal. Exercise has had zero impact on my weight, but has been *so* good for my energy level and overall wellbeing. Kudos for getting into a good routine yourself! I hear you on the trouble with gym clothes–I find that I just don’t want to spend money on something that’s just going to get all sweaty. I like to cut the arms off old t-shirts for my workout shirts–doesn’t cost anything and looks kind of badass. And I finally bought some men’s mesh basketball shorts from old navy to work out in.

  14. I wasted so much money of gyms over the years until I gave them up. Now I bike(or cross country ski) for my legs, kayak for my arms and shoulders and accept my pudgy stomach as part of who I am. Living in a agricultural paradise helps with healthy eating.

  15. If you like podcasts while running/working out I would suggest audiobooks–I’ve been working my way through c25k and music is not enough to drown out the thoughts of how much I would like to stop running now, please. But! Audiobooks are great at this! I just finished listening to Amy Poehler’s book (as wonderful as I wanted it to be), and have started one of David Sedaris’ essay collections. I committed to an audible membership because it seemed the cheapest way to sustain this habit (and they were just having a rad sale where lots of books were $5!)

  16. Too many choices in being healthy start to stress me out. So I have the same thing everyday for breakfast and lunch. A Greek yogurt for breakfast and a trader Joe’s Greek salad for lunch. Dinner is my wildcard. Knowing what I’m going to eat for two meals a day is very helpful. It’s like my eating uniform.

    Though, I’m not a militant person. If I get a random urge for oatmeal I’m not going to force the yogurt.

    I like my water aerobics class. Because even if I felt out of shape, practicing with gray haired people makes me smile. And the low impact resistance has helped tone me. I’ve yet to encounter a dudebro in the pool.

    • “It’s like my eating uniform” – I really love that. I do the same thing with eating the same breakfast every day, it’s nice to not have to make food decisions first thing in the morning.

      I tried a water aerobics class once in high school and loved it, it really kicked my ass and didn’t require an ability to swim.

  17. i’m really excited about this column! it’s very relevant to my life, and i’m excited to read your words every week.

    as for your workout, i know that there is a lesbian climbing group at the climbing gym in st. peters in sydney. i’m not sure how you feel about the idea of climbing, and i never made it to that group, but the one in melbourne was really cool! and my queer group in new york is great. so i’m gonna go with queer climbing groups are great support systems, and no dudebros. or, fewer at least.

    i’m not sure about crunchy, but i do like the way quinoa kind of pops when you bite into it. but despite my best efforts, i eat more meals out than in, so my quinoa is basically never cooked by me.

  18. I have been listening to Questionable at Best at the gym and it’s a very good podcast for such things. But, the podcast I listen to on the weekly is the Vergecast(owned by Vox media). It’s a tech, science, and entertainment podcast. I like it as sometimes they get deep into a product, software, or science. I use to listen to pandora, but right now getting into Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s podcast as it’s very good.

    As for my work out, I will admit I go to Gold’s Gym out in Venice(their original muscle beach location, were Ferrigno & Arnold got their start). My favorite machine probably is this rope climbing machine. It’s a cardio and upper body machine in one. You either sit down(which I do) & like try to pull yourself up or stand up and just pull this rope down, at higher resistance it’s great for muscle building, and at lower it’s great for toning and cardio. I do it for 10 minutes starting at higher resistance down to lower. In that time according to the machine I am burning 200+ calories, which would take about 15-20 minutes to do on a treadmill. I do it at twice a week, and it’s just great. If your gym offers this machine or like it I say try it at least once for 2 minutes, as it’s cardio and upper body workout in one.

    This is similar to what I use at the gym. http://www.workouthealthy.com/assets/images/MarpoKinetic/MK-VLT.jpg

  19. I clicked through reflexively because of the Happy Harold reference… but fitness has also been my jam lately, and I really really hope it’s going to stay that way, so I’ve been trying to make it sustainable and enjoyable.

    I’m also not friends with the activewear section, so my workout gear is plain leggings and cotton tshirts. Still breathable and unrestrictive, but a lot cheaper.

    Podcasts I like:
    Radiolab
    Welcome to Night Vale
    Passion and Soul [NSFW]
    Radio National (Australian) especially All in the Mind, The Science Show, The Spirit of Things, The Drawing Room and Off Track.

  20. So excited about this series
    I have recently started a quest for being immortal myself but I did go out and buy gym clothes (through AS affiliate links)
    For calorie counting I am a fan of LoseIt.
    Now I just need to get to the gym, I haven’t been in a few weeks. Will try the podcast thing…

  21. ^This is definitely me as well.

    I hadn’t set foot in a gym until about 3 years ago (and it’s been a very on-off relationship since then). Prior to that I pretty much just played soccer in the winter for fun and went for the occasional run.

    I had no clue what to do and didn’t (and still don’t) have enough interest to research stuff online so the key to getting kick-started for me was going for a couple sessions with this holistic-type personal trainer guy. He was pretty chilled out and unintimidating and looked at my diet and lifestyle overall as well doing a up a program and showing me how to do all the basic weightlifting stuff.

    The glitter and unicorn gym mentioned above sounds like my dream gym but I’ll put in my two cents for Crossfit. I was super-resistant to going because of the rep but finally realised it was the place that ticked all boxes for what I was looking for – weightlifting, short workouts, dynamic stuff I’m far too lazy to do by myself and set class times so I can’t just talk myself out of going as often. The three places I’ve been have had a real mix of ages, body types and abilities.

    Overall I’ve just accepted the fact that I’m a naturally lazy person so have to overcome the inertia by signing up for stuff like classes, fun runs and sports teams (and that I’ll probably fall off the bandwagon over and over again)

    Breakfast “eating uniform” at the moment – toast with cottage cheese and salmon.

    Will def have to check out all the podcasts mentioned. Used to listen to The Economist Audio Edition when doing long runs.

    • HTML tag fail – obvs everything I write is quote-worthy

      Should have been –

      To date, my biggest obstacles have been 1) I love food, every kind, especially artery-hardening ones

      ^This is definitely me as well

  22. I think averaging 2.5 gym visits per week completely 100% rocks!! Mine is currently .75 visits per week, I think. Which has led me to cancel my gym membership (left to my own devices I clearly don’t turn up) and instead sign up for AERIAL CONDITIONING. Fuck yeah. Silks and trapeze and three days of aching afterwards. Not that I’ve *actually* been yet. Starts Monday – will keep you posted.

    Thanks for writing and sharing this column Crystal. I think loads of us have similar aims and it’s cool to have a safe space where we don’t have to A) take it too seriously or B) make out we’re not taking it seriously at all cos you know *obviously* we don’t really care. Good luck with your health goals for the rest of the week!! xxxx

  23. Fun and little known fact: in college, I used to be a group fitness instructor. Let me know if you need any group fitness motivation! It’s my favorite way to work out, in a group of humans all doing the same thing with someone yelling at them.

  24. Things that work for me:
    -SparkPeople! It makes tracking nutrition really, really easy.
    -Fitocracy
    -Weight lifting. I hate cardio. Weights are awesome. Find a friend to teach you good form and you’re good to go.
    -Protein forever and ever. Carbs just make me hungry and sleepy.
    -Try everything so you can find something you actually like. If you keep doing something you hate (e.g., the treadmill), you’ll fall off the wagon pretty quickly.

    • Thank-you, not sure who you were directing this help towards but – I actually do like lifting (aerobics on stationary equipment seems to be so going nowhere – ish for me).
      Also, I was talking to a friend who was talking nutrition (she is a nurse) Anyway, second time today I am hearing skip the carbs and load the protein…
      Thanks again – I think I am gonna get little tokens or something for a reward / positive reinforcement program – I love to give/get little surprises (even if I have to give them to myself) for following through with healthier habits.

  25. i am SO excited about this column. especially because i just realized that it became july without my canceling my gym membership, so maybe i’ll just go, even though it’s kind of far away from where i live now.

    i have to say, i do really like planet fitness. it’s $10-$20/month, and even though the internet claims it’s “not a real gym,” what that actually means is that you can go there and just do an elliptical forever and a couple machines and no one will care, which to me is exactly what i want out of a gym.

    i am very dedicated to listening to the gilmore guys podcast while i work out these days. it is possibly my guiltiest pleasure. the moth is good, too.

    also: breakfast forever.

    • I’m excited that you’re excited! I’ve never heard of planet fitness but it sounds pretty great.

      If I download the ‘gilmore guys’ because it has the word ‘gilmore’ in it which reminds me of one of my all-time favourite shows, ‘the gilmore girls’, do you think i’ll be disappointed?

  26. Crystal – I thought that too when I went to the gym and guys kept asking how many reps I have left! I read far too deeply into it then told a friend who said yeah everybody seems to do that so no worries!!

    BodyPump exercise class is my fave! Bar bell weight workout!

    And Serial Podcast – the spin off from This American Life!

  27. Ok, there is one more thing that I’d find interesting and maybe it can be adressed in another context BUT do you (that means any of you) know of good suggestions or articles or blogs about people with eating disorders who are also trying to get fit and lose weight without being sucked into the hellhole that is disordered eating?

    I used to suffer from EDs for years and now people – who don’t know that, to be fair – like my doctor or trainers keep suggesting that I track what I eat or how much/ how long I work out to keep me motivated. I am struggling with weight I want to lose and I have been thinking about this long and hard and the answer is still yes, I am body positive and I love all kinds of bodies but for me personally, I’d like to weigh less.
    And I can’t track things or sign up for weight watchers or use apps because of the EDs I am recovering from. I won’t do it because it could make me relapse.

    So I’d be more than happy if someone could give me insights or tips!

    • Hmm, Maria, this sounds like you need more guidance than just a friendly tipp. Sounds like you’re tiptoeing a fine line, but learning to walk it doesn’t seem like such a bad idea at all!
      Maybe it would be a good idea, in case all you want right now is a friendly tipp,that is, to focus on the nutrient part of your meals, instead of the calories.
      Like, are you covering your protein requirements?Your elektrolytes? (I’ve been starting to cramp up like crazy these past few weeks, so I’m very into electrolytes these days. Very.)
      Your greens?
      And are you drinking enough water?
      Buy organic,whenever you can (because it’s good for you, because it’s expensive, and because portion sizes tend to be smaller, did I mention expensive?
      I’m more likely to withstand the temptation of a quick and easy Döner kebap if I have a five buck set of asparagus at home, that’s going to go bad otherwise.
      Good luck!

    • I can relate to this. Would being more muscular / toned be in line with your fitness goals? If so, resistance or weight training to gain muscle is a way to lose weight without counting calories, b/c muscle tissue take a lot of calories to maintain.

      Also, muscle is less dense than fat so even if someone weighs the same, their body will be smaller, which can help them feel less like they are overweight.
      I agree with Amidola that focusing on a bunch of other healthy habits and trusting that the weight-related goals will fall in place over time has helped me. Just focusing on using good form to avoid injury, adding a little more challenge/ variety to each workout, trying to enjoy the workout and learn more about tips and tricks, noticing energy and mood, trying new recipes, enjoying being able to lift heavy stuff more easily/ not get winded on the stairs.
      Hope this was ok to say and maybe helpful; good luck with your fitness goals.

  28. i think i’m sort of obsessed with thinking about eating well and working out but in practice, ahem, it doesn’t really happen. i’m lucky if i get to sit down once a day to any sort of meal; most days i have to eat on the go or sitting in a class. i definitely don’t have the brown bag thing down, so i end up eating out a lot. my ED also contributes to a bit of difficulty in this area because i don’t love eating around other people. and with the gym… i talk myself out of spending money on it even though i know i hate running outside. i’m pretty interested in crossfit, tbh, because it seems to combine a trainer-esque workout but it’s communal and the type of workout jives with my gymnastics past.

    anyways, super excited for this! i love the longform podcast, professor blastoff and dear sugar.

    • I’ve heard some great things about cross fit but never tried it! If you do then I hope you’ll report in on the experience.

      I know how difficult it is to eat well and feel healthy when you’re not really in a position to control your meals. This is something that I’m actively working through and so I’ll be talking about in future posts.

  29. I’m sure I’m going to love this series. I’ve started my journey to become a healthier human being in December after a couple failed attempts in the past few years. I never lasted more than 4-5 months, but my current goal is to keep it up until the end of the year. It seems like it’s working. I even learned how to do a proper push up! (my arms have always been pretty weak – I’m actually still struggling on this part, but I’m working on it).
    I don’t like going to the gym, as I feel like I’m wasting my time driving/walking there. I found a few good workout programs on the internet and I’ve learned to trust myself to work out in front of a Tv show/movie. So I don’t have to choose between the two! From tomorrow on, I’ll be introducing running in my routine, and I’d love to eventually join one of those marathons/running events in my area.
    As for the food, it took me a while to understand that I didn’t need to give up on taste to eat clean. I’ve been eating way healthier ever since. But of course I still love my pizza.

    Also, not sure if this has been posted before (sorry if it has), but a few recent researches suggest that skipping breakfast might actually not be that bad. I don’t know how many studies must confirm a theory before it is considered “truth”, but I thought you might be interested, since you mentioned not having been a huge fan of breakfast.

    • Was there a particular process you went through to do a push up? Like some exercises you did to build up your push-up muscles? I’m asking because I can’t do a push up and I’m not really sure how to fix that.

      • Try this: http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2011/02/15/proper-push-up/ (scroll down a bit to find the plan for building up to one).

        I’m kind of surprised no one has mentioned nerdfitness, actually. They offer super basic, totally outlined plans that anyone can follow in a non-scary tone. I’m using their plan for achieving a pull-up, and I’ve done some of their body weight plans, too.

        Another site I really like is https://www.stumptuous.com — mostly weight-lifting and nutrition advice written for women by a rad feminist woman who is an ex-body builder, ex-gender studies prof (iirc). Her “rants” are pretty great and inspiring too, though over the years she’s definitely evolved from being rather narrow-minded about definitions of fitness and health, to being much more holistic (and realistic).

      • Despite having learned the proper form, I just kept crashing on the ground wherever I tried – my muscles were just too weak to support my weight. My fitness program included a lot of different push ups, and I could barely do knee push ups when I started, so I focused on mastering those first, adding a few more dumbbell exercises for my arms and back. I kept trying “real” push ups from time to time, and five months in, it just happened: I successfully completed one without crashing.
        My advice is to keep trying, your brain will create a pattern for that and eventually you’ll succeed. If your muscles are as weak as mine, you’ll also need to build strength on your arms, back and shoulders. I’d say any workout focused on those muscles is good, but I’m no expert. I personally love darebee.com, they have good programs and tips.

  30. Long time ago, I thought about suggesting this kind of topic.
    I started wondering how is the healthy/fitness journey for queer women?
    If you thought for a second, many of us don’t live by the traditional 90-60-90 princess code (amen for that) We are just too cool to fall for it.
    Sometimes too much freedom could be overwhelming, and suddenly we don’t know what to do anymore.

    I’ve always struggled with overweight, the story of my life, but I did never care a lot. I could do almost anything physically (average person), and my appearance was just a little piece of me, by the way not the most important.

    This year I finally decided, the time has come for a change. My wife and I started an intense workout program (hell it is!!) at home since January. It comes with its own diet program (42 pages).
    There has been weeks and even months we didn’t workout at all, but we’ve tried our best to keep on dieting. We’ve had many ups and downs and some joint issues (knees and wrists)… age problems ha ha

    The results are really stunning, more than amazing. I feel a little bit lighter, (regardless how corny it sounds) my body has more energy and my mind is clearer. I’ve lost 30 pounds.
    Through this past six months I realized and learned a bunch of stuff. As Crystal said, maybe a giraffe could have taught us better how to eat. Everyone tells you what to eat but apparently nobody knows what nutrition is all about.

    I think the key point here is your mind, your feelings. How is it your relationship with food? How your body reacts to certain food and how it works? For example some people doesn’t like to workout in early morning other does, some people get headache with coffee others doesn’t.
    If you’re going to do something that looks like a huge sacrifice almost impossible, at least try to enjoy it in your own way.

    I’m a firm believer that our mind control us, the answer and the power is always within you. We need some motivation, goals to achieve, share what we are going through, support group-style.

    Don’t give up.

  31. I’ve been trying to be a healthier human. By taking the tiniest baby steps ever. I have one of those activity tracker situations which helps motivate me to send my printing to the printer furtherest away from me or to take the stairs. I’ve also been trying to do some stretches so I can maybe be more flexible and less sore from sitting at a desk all day.

  32. Breakfast:
    Try some sort of “grown up” dry cereal with fiber that tastes gud in your yogurt with a mild fruit, game changer.

    1 single egg cooked with olive oil or some method that needs no coating maybe twice a week. Incorporate some fresh spinach into it if you can and garlic because garlic.

    If you’re working a 9 to 5 type schedule have a mid morning snack like a protein bar, hummus with crackers or a veggie.

    Protein bars- go for something not marketed to Fitness People or “dieters”, go for something that has nuts. Like some actual nuts not fortfied hardened nut paste shit

    Oh and snack bars, almost forgot about snack bars.
    A checklist of what to look for:
    At least 3 grams per serving of fiber from a natural fiber source
    About 7 grams per serving of protein
    Sugar from a natural source like dried fruit and try to aim for 12 grams or less

    Working Out:

    Don’t knock yoga and light-weight dumbbells diversifying your work out helps prevent repetitive motion injuries and stress on your body. High impact work outs can take a toll on the body especially the back and knees. Train your body don’t punish it.

    Also yoga is awesome you’re strengthening your body using your body and you don’t need much to practice it.

    I have no idea what normal people do with light weight dumbbells, but I dance with them. Annnd sometimes I kind of twirl them in my hands which that is a risky thing I do not advise unless you’re in steel toe boots or are a lazy daredevil such as myself.

    Dancing with them is a lot of punchy motions or following the sway of my hips when I “salsa” to classic rock.

    I’m hypermobile, a born dancer, former classical ballerina, theater kid and athlete. Also a haver of one really dense collar bone and one normal collar bone.
    I can’t with regular gyms their machines and normal people so I have to forge my own path too, but I have the benefit of some training and close connection to my body.

    Any music that gets thhe heart moving, that pulse rate up is good work out music for me. But I strongly believe for boxing AC/DC is the best.

    Work Out Clothes:

    Unless you’re doing stuff that makes loose clothes a hazard, or has a big chafing risk during your work out some basketball shorts, cotton knickers, sports bra and a cotton shirt should be fine. Really don’t need fancy ass wicking new age fabric stuff provided you’re not like a high performance athlete sweating profusely in the hot sun and chugging gatorade for dear life.

    My work out right now is pretty low impact because I can’t consume all the calories I need to take things further or into more vigorous territory and I’m trying to come back from a long period of time where I completely stopped anything resembling working out and not eating enough when working on projects. Things that were my normal I just do not have the body to support anymore and building back to some of it possibly not possible.

    So it’s basically;
    -one set of reg push ups and a set of one legged push ups for each leg every day
    -standing upside down on each leg using a support of either my hands on the ground or a steady object, it’s a good stretch and strengthening tactic that I try to do every day
    -gentle squats with free weights in hand that I try to alternate with during the week
    -once a week I try do a thing I don’t know what to call but it’s a part of strength training for pommel horse, vault and the rings. I try do it for about 60 seconds
    – light dancing, which basically means anything but jumps or forceful kicks in my spins

    Crunches and sit up really seem to piss my lower back off and I know the dif between muscles sore because of work and WRONGNESS, but it’s no prob because push ups do like all of the things for those tummy muscles and some back.

    *PSA TIME*
    Anytime I get a chance to I wanna warn people about hypermobility and the heightened risk for injuries with high impact/stress activities.
    You may be hypermobile and not know it till you get injured and sometimes not even then putting yourself at risk for even worse injury.

    This link has the Beighton Score and the Brighton Criteria with pictures of real people which is way more helpful than drawings
    http://www.edhs.info/#!about3/c1a5c

    This comment rivals some of my ramble-iest long ass FOT comments, and if all dis is way tl;dr please oh please at least read asterixed PSA thing. It could help prevent nasty nasty (and expensive to repair) injuries for you or someone you know.
    Gumby Person over and out.

  33. This series came just in time! I just graduated from undergrad, and I suddenly feel like I have a lot of free time on my hands, so I have plans to try and get into a shape that’s similar to my high school track team champion-level buff (my arms looked as this as my neck in some pictures??? I don’t know how, but I want them back!). I want to be the kind of strong that my family and friends tell me I shouldn’t be, because big muscles on women “aren’t attractive”.

    Side note: Have you heard of Amazon Strength? I just saw it on Tumblr and it looks super cool! Women who strength train talk about women and strength training!

  34. This is great! Still trying to figure out better eating habits that are sustainable and emotionally/psychologically healthy.

    On the exercise front, though, I completely tricked myself into liking running by using the Zombies, Run! app (first the 5k training, and now just the regular app). Like, I thought running was the woooorst, and I’m still not great at it, but now I do it and I actually want to do it. Recommended!

    • seconding this! Zombies Run made running actually kind of fun, and I’m much more motivated to go for a run in the first place knowing I’ll get the next part of the story. AND the voice acting and writing is excellent and diverse—there’s a fair amount of queer and POC characters.

  35. Super late to the party, but this is so relevant to my interests. I was a super fit gymnast until I finished uni, then I mostly stopped working out and developed an autoimmune disease that made me feel run down and exhausted and put on quite a bit of weight, despite still having a mostly healthy diet (It went undiagnosed for a long time so I just thought I was stressed and overworked at a desk job). I got out of the habit of exercising and I was really unwilling to get back into it because I felt like crap and also I really didn’t want to be reminded of how unfit I’d really become.

    Being diagnosed really gave me a kick in the ass though. Two years ago I started once a week in an activity I’d always wanted to try (circus training ftw), now I’m training four times a week and loving it. My stress levels and anxiety are so much better, I’m managing my health without medication, my body is just so fucking FUNCTIONAL, you know? I have visible muscles that work really well and I’m still sore all of the time, but I’m at the point that I can see myself getting stronger and being able to achieve things I’ve struggled with previously. I’ve also found that I just naturally want to eat better, because it feels counter productive to leave training and eat rubbish.

    My treadmill jam is Netflix. I stick my iPad over the panel that tells me how much torture I have left (fuck I hate running) and put on a show that is the length I want to work out for, and then I don’t stop until its done. Failing that, I have an absolutely tragic playlist that is a mash up of past Eurovision finalists, Taylor Swift and most of the volumes of Smash Hits from the early 90s. Internal dance party distracts me from the boredom of running

  36. Awesome article!
    I’ve been on a similar path of reversing years of bad bad choices within just a few months and I wish someone had taught me this stuff in high school – eat well, lift heavy, sleep a lot, yadda yadda. The result for me this year was sure, a ton of weight off, but the biggest thing for me was a mental transformation into an athlete. I get to do things that most people consider superhuman – triathlons, half marathons, 6-7 minute miles, killing what people consider brutal workouts with ease, etc. I realized I wasn’t a low energy person, quite the opposite, and it actually helped work, habits and everything else.

    Here’s my personal list of working/non working stuff:
    1) Tracking. I don’t do it anymore because I understand nutrition a lot better and I can do the math in my head, but having a calorie and macro budget in the beginning was eye-opening. It made me understand what exactly made me unhealthy and naturally made my habits better. I got a heart rate monitor, logged my food and kept a consistent 750 kcal deficit and lost 1.5 lbs a week(note: I don’t recommend this, it’s too fast). If i wanted to eat something, I had to budget for it. Simple, but really worked for me.
    2) Lifting. it’s voodoo magic, seriously. Especially during weight loss. It’s kinda kick ass to drop 30 pounds in 4 months and still have a working metabolism and the muscles of someone who had to carry those extra 30 for years. Plus, newbie gains.
    3) High Intensity Interval Training. Love it. Find the hardest Tabata class near you, you won’t regret it
    4) Running. If injury prevention wasn’t an issue, I would do it all the time.
    5) Waking up early. i just set a recurring alarm for 5am every day and it worked magic. I have sworn for over 20 years that I am NOT a morning person. Turns out it was a lame excuse. Waking up early gives you time to work out, have a healthy breakfast and be the first in the office. And it cuts off useless TV time in the evening.
    6) Eat More Exercise More. I tried the low calorie nonsense. It was stupid. Upped my exercise and got to enjoy more food and it worked.
    7) Yoga. I resisted it at first. If it were up to me I would be running and lifting all day. 3 injuries later I came to my senses.
    8) a gym that’s convenient and that you enjoy going to. I switched gym memberships and it worked. I love my gym therefore I go there. And I am yet to encounter bros.
    9) Personal Training – worth every penny.
    10) Reading up on metabolism and how your body actually works.

    Not working:
    1) Juicing, hunger and other metabolism killing nonsense. At least it didn’t work for me – it made me binge after to a reverse effect. Granted it could help other people with insulin sensitivity etc., just never worked for me and I find it amusing when people just say: “I need to start juicing” or ‘i need to go paleo” etc.
    2) Unfortunately I couldn’t do the same process being a vegetarian for many years. I know a lot of people do it, I could’t. I started eating chicken and fish and it helped meeting my protein macros within a restricted calorie budget.
    3) Undereating. At the beginning it was great see the scale going down like crazy, but I did do some metabolism damage I wish I hadn’t done. It makes the plateaus hard to break.
    4) Overtraining. I trained for a half marathon by doubling my mileage one week. I bust my knee and had to stop running for weeks and missed the race.
    5) cheat meals. Sure, I indulge every now and then but I try not to be stupid. Eating junk food makes you wanna eat more junk food – especially true for sugar. I just make the right substitutions. I practically don’t notice the candy in the office because I have my own stash of peanut butter, fruit, oatmeal and nuts and I don’t let myself get hungry. You just don’t crave the stuff. You start craving other stuff(Damn you, peanut butter).

    • Peanut butter is amazing. I’m going to be talking about diet tracking next week. I’ve just started doing it and I’m finding it so helpful in making better food choices and learning about nutrition in general.

  37. I find that signing up for a class or team sport really helps me, because I’ve shelled out the money and/or have a team relying on me to show up, so I’m much more likely to do it. I’ve taken ballet classes through my school’s athletic centre and Toronto has a delightful queer women’s soccer league 😀 Since I’m away all summer I didn’t join the league, nor am I a member of a gym at the moment, so I’ve been running outdoors and doing yoga/body strength workouts by following YouTube videos. I’ve mostly just been walking a ton, which is better than nothing!

  38. I first started running (trying to run) on treadmills at the local community center gym. This was excellent because the community center gym was pretty much only frequented by geriatrics and a few dudebros who only really used the free weights.

    Even though I could hardly run 1 minute without thinking I would die at a pace my mother can do walking, I always had an encouraging grandpa or grandma next to me to say “oh my, you young kids go so fast”.

Contribute to the conversation...

You must be logged in to post a comment.