Working On It, Week Two: Dining and Dashing With Friends

Hello! Welcome to the next installment of this thing where we’re all trying to live forever. There is a very special place in my heart reserved for everyone who commented on last week’s article, thank you! I’m learning so much already from all of you and it feels nice to not be in this alone.

Did you hear that we’ve set up an Also Working On It social group on Autostraddle? It’s where we’re all gonna chat about health and fitness things and swap advice and encouragement in between posts – come join us!

So this week in my personal journey to improved health and wellness, everyone is training for a half-marathon. Half-marathons are the new brunch. My co-workers have been going for 10km practice runs on their lunch breaks like it’s no big thing. Meanwhile I’ve been focussed on resistance training, i.e. channeling every ounce of energy into ignoring the caramel-filled fudge brownie recipe I saw on the internet last week. It’s tough. There’s a tiny evil asshole camped out in my brain yelling OH MY GOD WILL YOU JUST LIVE A LITTLE. But I guess that’s how I arrived here, at the dizzying heights of Cholesterolville. I’ve lived a little a lot.

A quick update on last week: I temporarily conquered my inferiority complex by walking into a sporting goods store and buying real workout pants. If you’ve never done this before, the deal seems to be that there’s a choice of very short hot pink and purple ladies shorts, or super long, baggy dark blue and black men’s shorts. Gender neutral colours and sizes don’t exist in sportswear, I guess? I panic-grabbed the blue men’s shorts. Later, at home, I discovered that they’re capri length and feature a grey racing stripe which I’m quietly confident will make me go a LOT faster. Pretty sure. Also, quite a few of you sung the praises of DIY cut-off tees as workout gear in last week’s column and so I took the scissors to a few old tees that were headed to the trash. Good tip, thanks you guys.

Not working: Having ‘workout buddies’

I’ve been doing so much reading on how to become a fitter, healthier human and almost every article recommends recruiting ‘workout buddies’ to help make exercise more enjoyable. Which sounds super! Teamwork is dreamwork. I’d love to meet up with people to do some sort of social sporting activity, like throw or kick around a ball. It looked fun on  The Sandlot.

What these articles don’t take into consideration is that I don’t have friends? That’s my next column, Making Friends After 30. But seriously, the few buddies that I do have live in distant suburbs and already enjoy exercises that are beyond my current fitness and comfort levels, like rock climbing and chasing zombies. My best pal Owen does keep inviting me to join his indoor cricket team but only because his teammates keep breaking their fingers.

Do you have workout buddies? How/where did you meet them? If anyone knows of a group for loners in Sydney with an interest in amateur social sports, link me. I’m too scared to sign up to the group fitness classes at my gym but I’m sure that could be a really neat alternative once I locate my guts. (I’m going to discuss my fear of group fitness in future posts, it’s A Thing.)

Working: Calorie counting
I’ve never dieted before, not really. Occasionally I’ve vowed to put more healthier foods into my body, usually after smashing a whole pan of cookies, but I’ve never followed through with a strategic plan for making it happen. My marathon-running coworkers have SERIOUS plans; they do 5:2 fasting and get calorie controlled meals delivered to their homes and say ‘no’ to office birthday cake. Birthday cake! I could maybe turn down birthday cake if it was vegetable based, like carrot or zucchini, but I could never say the same for other high calorie food items, like say a burrito, for example. Burritos are fucking delicious. Just the thought of this purely hypothetical scenario is stressing me out.

If, a few years ago, you’d have told me that one day I’d start using calorie counter with passionate intensity, I’d have laughed my youthful ass off, I bet. Initially I was worried that monitoring every kilojoule would suck the joy out of food however it hasn’t, not one bit. It’s changing my eating habits for the better, first and foremost. But it’s also helping me to maintain my body shape as my metabolism slow to a crawl, which is an unpopular thing to admit. When every asshole on the planet is telling us that skinny is beautiful, actively working to prevent weight gain (or achieve weight loss) kinda feels like hurling a giant machete into the back of womankind.

I guess the thing for me is that I feel good in my current body. It’s not conventionally perfect but it’s mine. It’s familiar and all my clothes fit it and I don’t really want it to change, not if I can prevent it with a healthy balanced diet.

I’ve been using MyFitnessPal, which’s a calorie counter, fitness/diet tracker and overall pretty neat educational tool. It shows the nutritional properties of foods and highlights deficiencies in my day-to-day diet which is really rad because nutrients > calories. (And there’s a lot of new science showing that calorie counting isn’t as simple as we once thought it was.) I regularly find myself looking at the report and going, well fuck, my body has barely ingested any iron today, what can I eat tomorrow to make up for that? And oh damn, that sourdough roll had 400 calories? Next time I’ll get whole wheat! Plus it sends alerts when I approach the recommended daily sugar intake which is helpful and also frequent because there is so much sugar in EVERYTHING and I just did not know. So, diet tracking. It won’t be the best or right thing for everyone but right now it’s helping me.

Can’t wait for someone to invent high fiber M&Ms

Does anyone else use MyFitnessPal or a similar app? Do you add/follow your friends? How is that working for you? I can see how peer support might be super motivating but also being able to see your friends progress against health goals might be a little weird? Or not! I don’t know.

Sort of working: Not smoking

I finally gave up cigarettes, or at least the daily habit of smoking. It’s the first time that I’ve quit on my own, without using Champix/Chantix (and suffering the night terrors and general mindfuckery that it sometimes brings on). Kicking the daily habit has been a huge win for my health and I’m super proud of that. However! I’m still not entirely cigarette free. Sometimes my willpower disappears when I drink alcohol and I’m not super keen to also give up that drug because ending the week with a vodka or two is chill. But maybe that’s what I need to do! I’m not sure. I’d really love to hear about people’s experiences with resisting the temptation of smoking while drinking, particularly if you found a good solution.

So that’s been my week. What’s been happening in yours?

Coming up next week: I’ll probably want to tackle how to remain somewhat healthy when living with another human who isn’t on board with your #healthgoals.

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Founding member. Former writer. Still loves Autostraddle with her whole heart.

Crystal has written 320 articles for us.


  1. Crystal, this is such a great column! I used to be terrified of group fitness classes as well, but I promise that eventually the “oh my god everyone is so fit and knows exactly what they are doing and I’m neither fit nor knowing what I’m doing!!!” feeling goes away. I went to at least two classes a week for about a year regularly (only stopped because I decided running was a better fit for me), and people were generally pretty friendly and willing to help when you have questions. Especially once you’ve gone to the same class a few times, it’s easy to make small talk with the same few people and not feel like the awkward kid hiding in the corner. Good luck :)

    • Thank you for the encouraging words :) Last night at the gym I went and stood in the doorway of a group fitness class and it still looks terrifying but I guess at least standing in the doorway is a first (tiny) step to walking through the doorway.

    • This is true! The truth is, the people in that class were once exactly where you are now. In fact, several people in said class are probably still there.

      But that being said, if group fitness isn’t for you, that’s also fine. I get really anxious in a group fitness situation when I can’t do something, whether it’s lack of strength/endurance or injury or congenital weirdness (see: my stupid wrists), so I just choose not to do it. I also hate doing reps/sets for time, which seems to be a thing in most group fitness classes I see. Working out alone (even without workout buddies) can be great – in fact, it’s what I do 90% of the time, and it works really well for me.

    • I feel like whenever i see someone mess up in a group class, i want to hug them and say “I MESS UP ALL THE TIME TOO” so sometimes i just tell myself that’s what they’re thinking about me

    • I’m a BIG fan of group fitness classes, though I used to be intimidated by them too. Especially the ones with the “step” thing that looks like it’s designed to trip you.

      What I’ve learned is:

      1)No one else in the class cares what you’re doing

      2)Staying at the back of the class helps if you’re still worried that other people care what you’re doing

      3)Ultra-super-fit people generally don’t take group classes – they’ve got their own elite ultra-super-fit-person workouts.

      Good luck! I hope you find a class you like!

  2. I’m a no smoking failure (I don’t want to quit and thus quitting attempts fail). BUT! My friends who have quit have in a number of cases accepted they have a long tail of ‘occasional cigarette’ (usually while drinking) and rather than stressing it (and thus wanting nicotine more) they ration it. They only allow themselves the one or two cigarettes and delay lighting it as long as they can (no immediately light up with drink, light up say 20 minutes later so its less totally linked in your brain.)

    Its worked super well for them.

    • Thanks for the suggestion! I read a book once, The Easy Way To Quit Smoking by Alan Carr, which said some effective things about how lighting up at different times (as opposed to standard ones like straight after a meal) tricks your brain into falling out of the habit. So delaying smoking while drinking might also be effective, I’ll give it a go.

  3. When I worked out on a regular basis, I picked up workout buddies at my gym. That’s basically the only time I’d see those couple folks, but we’d all agree on a general time to go work out.

  4. Is there a special phobia word describing the fear of group classes? I just don’t like the idea of being stuck in a room doing stuff for an hour without being able to quit and walk out whenever I want to.
    Fitness pal: Yes
    I actually only got it, because half of the stuff I was eating couldn’t be found on the UP app and that ties in with it and just makes my life easier, as I battle it out with my brother.You can only partner up with relatives for that, because really, having someone know when you go to bed and how many times you wake up? It’s a little private.
    In other news I started Paleo in February, and I do strongly recommend it!
    It starts off with a very strict 30 day challenge and comes with a whole, doable to do list for those thirty days.
    The main things that worked for me:
    Nothing overly processed and no additives! Which forced me to go grocery shopping and cook and feed myself.
    It also has staples such as “move” and “feel” which are not food based, and the low carb aspect really works if you’re looking at your weight.
    After the super strict thirty day challenge, which I needed in a detox, I need to turn my entire life around manner, you get to gradually loosen up and reintroduce stuff and see what works for you and what doesn’t.
    So now, I’m back to eating rice and legumes (also because I didn’t see why not?), but keep steering clear of dairy products and wheat, because, turns out, my asthma is worlds better without both!
    Having some kind of structured healthy diet that you can connect over with other people, like in groups on FB or find specific recipes for is really recommendable.
    Just going from your usual diet and NOT doing something gives you the feeling, that you’re missing out, but doing something entirely different actually opens up so many new worlds, that it’s just different, not less than. It’s like a new hobby.
    Just remember, that you still need to read up on stuff!No diary means I need to watch my calcium intake, while my newly Vegan friends actually need to take supplements.
    Eating healthy has really given me back a lot of kick and I breathe a lot easier.
    It’s not just about living,maybe forever, but about feeling better,now.
    And honestly, I’ve stopped weeping over every chocolate cookie that’s passed me by..and I have a greater Love for those things than Snoopy!

    • It’s great that you’ve found/modified a diet that’s working for you and your body/asthma. I currently don’t have enough control over my meals to enforce a diet however I’ll keep your recommendation in mind!

  5. Oh man even reading about that hypothetical situation stressed me out. BUT THE BURRITOS.

    I used to use MyFitnessPal, but then my phone decided it no longer had any desire to work ever again and I stopped for awhile. I think I’ll download it again and try it out!

  6. i used myfitnesspal but quickly got overwhelmed by how many calories are in gin and tonics, my drink of choice. eek. i think i’ll give it another go because i’ve cut down my drinking somewhat.

    i also have been trying to smoke less while drinking, as it’s my preferred time to smoke. i always told myself it was better than smoking all the time, (and great work on cutting down, crystal!) but ideally for me it’d be 0 cigarettes. anyways, i find drinking at home helpful, if i’m in a group and everyone is going outside to smoke, i’ll go with them instead of just sitting inside. my partner smokes, but i asked him to stop doing it inside, that has helped a lot. it also helps me to tell my friends i go out with that i’m not planning on smoking and i would like them to not offer me cigarettes or ask if i’m coming outside with them.

    i consider columns like this one and other fitness blogs to be sort of my workout buddies. (i love this one

    i like going to the gym with one or two friends, also, but i’ve never shared my specific fitness goals and progress with someone else.

    this week i’ve been trying to find places in my day where i can get sneaky exercise in – walking during a time i usually take the bus, seeing how many staircases i can find to use instead of elevators, doing a couple sit ups or squats before and after my shower, deep stretching while i’m talking on the phone. and i’ve been starting my day with a piece of fruit, usually an apple, just to appreciate something simple, easy, and healthy.

    • How you feel about gin + tonic + myfitnesspal is probably exactly how I feel about bread + myfitnesspal.

      That’s a really great idea about incorporating some exercises into your shower routine! I’m going to try it.

  7. I actually kind of like pink and purple work out wear, but that could because I’m trans & the patriarchy equates color to gender(& sexuality). Right now I have a few black sports bras(most for safety at the beach), but I do plan to get a few in pink and other vibrant colors, I think.

    My work out buddy was my best friend from high school, but different work schedules changed that. Right now I go alone, and kind of like it as it allows me to listen to my podcasts & what not. Not to mention it lets me work at my own pace. I’ve also back to eating/drinking (vegan)protein bars/shakes after working out(in lieu of full meal). The combo helped me lose the freshman 15 in the past.

    As for drinking, I mostly quit smoking, and right now on 0mg nicotine ecigs. They really come in all kinds of flavors(including your favorite pack). It works great, specially if you are with smokers at say an outdoor bar(specially if you get something beside those thin pencil e-cigs like blu, as those only give like a whisper of vapor out).

    • Do you use your ecig daily or only occasionally? I’m a little hesitant because I feel like I might be tempted to use it every day. I imagine it could potentially be similar to keeping a packet of cigarettes in the house- if I know they’re there then I’ll just smoke them. Have you experienced that? Like do you find the habit of using an ecig addictive?

      • Usually when I am walking to the bank, so maybe 3 time a week, plus sometimes at night if I see it. But, I do carry one tank and battery with me everyday at work, for those just in case times, like if a social situation arises(rarely happens) during work. It’s social for me, and the store I go to is like a friendly bar.

  8. 1. Try all the fitness classes. You’ll be surprised by which ones you enjoy. I have no patience, but I love yoga. I hate cardio, but I love spinning. I am a terrible skater, but I love roller derby. I have no workout buddies, but I have derby teammates and fitness classmates.

    2. I think calorie-counting is only a problem if it makes you miserable. Personally, it makes me feel good, but I know some women that start to veer into eating disorder territory with it.

    • I am definitely considering spinning! My plan is to go and lurk in the doorway of tomorrow’s spin class and check it out. Thanks for the tips.

  9. Crystal, I hate to say it: group fitness classes is how one obtains workout buddies. And even if that doesn’t work, group fitness classes provide a whole room full of workout buddies for an hour or so.

    I’ll bet you a dollar I can convince you to try one.

    • I bet you could too. It’s something I genuinely do want to try, I’m just being a big chicken. Do you have any specific fitness class recommendations for an uncoordinated amateur?

      • Just to jump in there, my recommendation, as someone who was really scared of group classes, was go to ones where it’s not overly obvious if you make a mistake. I once did a class where everyone faces a mirror, and the instructor stands at the front of the room, and the moves were in time to music, and I fucked up a lot and got really embarrassed. So then I avoided gyms for years but after that, I tried a swimming pool aerobics class which was great because people couldn’t see my body at all, and a mat-based thing where we were all sitting or lying in different directions so no-one was really looking at anyone else. Also I think having instructors who let you go at your own pace is great but that’s harder to tell from spying through the door :)

        Good luck getting up the courage!

  10. I used to use My Fitness Pal when I started my immortality journey. It wasn’t sustainable for me to track everything; it became obsessive, and all I thought about was food. I would lay in bed, not able to fall asleep, because I would think about calories. As an emotional eater, I definitely found use in a food diary of sorts, tracking what I ate when, and my triggers. In the long run, I want to make these changes for life, and I can’t see myself tracking food forever and ever. That being said, I think it’s amazing for people who *can* do it. It’s just like how some people can’t way themselves because they get obsessed with the number. I can weigh myself once a week and not freak out about the number fluctuating. It’s really a You Do You thing. I still have MFP on my phone, but I rarely use it.

    What I do love is the app Pacer, which is a pedometer. I live in New York City and walk a lot, so it’s great to know how many steps I take. Pacer gives everyone a goal of 10,000 steps a day (I don’t know if you can change that goal, but 10k works for me).

    I’ve never smoked and thankfully have not had that problem. When I drink, it definitely affects my eating. I get the drunchies, and I always want to eat high calorie “junk food” when I’m drinking. I’m not much of a drinker in the first place, but it’s a Domino effect for me. If I eat the pizza, then I’m going to think it’s okay to eat pasta, then ice cream, etc. I used to be able to have 1 cheat day a week, where I could eat whatever I wanted, but I now have trouble with getting back on track the following day. So now I leave the cheat meals for special occasions. I don’t want to deprive myself because I’m doing this long-term, but a treat is different than eating an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s every day.

    • I had the same problem with MyFitnessPal. I have obsessive tendencies to start with, so bad bad combo for me.

      What I do use is an app called mySymptoms (Android only, I’m pretty sure), which links food (and other activities) to a bunch of health outcomes. Since I have some gastrointestinal issues, mental health problems and insomnia, I’ve found it really useful for seeing if food/activities trigger that stuff. At the same time, there’s no way to track calories on that app, so I’m not tempted to even start. It’s not the most elegant app I’ve ever used, but it works for me.

    • Both Pacer and mySymptoms sounds really good, thanks for the recs.

      Rachel I’m also working towards the 10,000 steps a day goal (I read somewhere that it was a recommended amount). I’m not sure how accurate my iPhone is as a pedometer but most days it’s between 9k – 11k and similar to you, I’m finding that it’s really quite easy/comfortable when I can afford to walk places instead of taking transport. The only downside for me is that the tracking gives me serious guilt on the weekends, when I mostly just walk to 300 steps the the coffee shop and back.

  11. I often dislike group class music and the typical cheerleading or drill master persona that seems to be core to the group class thing (in fact, was told that was a key element in hiring group fitness instructors by someone at which point I thought AND YOU ARE WHY I HATE GROUP FITNESS). I have liked some group classes I’ve attended taught by older women, who often had backgrounds with somewhat severe dance training, I think. They care about form and expect you to have your own internal monologue. Yoga is often an exception to the cheerleader/drill master routine. But, the thing is, they all tell you what to do…

    Workout buddies don’t ever seem to line up for me, schedule-wise, but putting things on my calender adds accountability.

    Thoughtful grocery shopping does more than any ap for me. The weeks when I make a list versus the weeks when I don’t make a list. I’m not a fan of food & nutrition apps becasue the inaccuracies irk me, but record-keeping can be really useful when you are trying to make specific changes (i.e. eat more fruit). It’s also generally more useful to look at averages over 3-7 days to find overall patterns you might want to alter than just looking day by day for individual nutrients unless you are really data driven (perhaps?). Changing patterns makes it less work, generally, but some people enjoy the work.

    Have you heard of SMART goals?

    • I’ve definitely heard of SMART goals in a career/employment context. Have you had success setting them for health/fitness?

      • Yes, they’re very popular for counseling lifestyle-related behavior changes, and they have a solid evidence base as well as practitioner favor. I use them personally for “tune-ups”, basically, when I realize I haven’t eaten any fruit for two weeks or some other silliness like that. *cough*. I write them on my calendar or sticky notes on the fridge. The trick is to make sure they really are SMART.

  12. Ah, I know how you feel about making workout buddies. I think I’m the only person I know who never got to make friends in the gym (when I used to go), not even in group fitness classes. I guess I’m that socially awkward. Now that I took up running, I keep imagining I will come across a beautiful, fit, stranger, our eyes will meet and.. – yeah, never gonna happen.
    But I do have a friend who’s been training for years. We often talk about fitness and our progresses, and even though we don’t work out together, it does help to keep me motivated.
    As for calorie counting apps, I used S Health (Samsung’s native fitness tracking app) for a couple weeks, when I started my new diet. I basically used it until I was sure I wasn’t messing up with my health. I found out there’s lots of sodium in everything and it’s apparently bad? I kept getting alerts on my sodium intake at the end of every week. The app also let me track how much water I drank, but it kept the two things separated, which wasn’t really helpful.
    It’s great that you’re quitting smoking. Keep it up!

    • I also get sodium alerts fairly often. Mostly it’s whenever I eat anything with soy sauce or fish sauce in/on it, like sushi and Thai food.

      If you’re interested, I just finished reading this article on about a study showing that 9 out of 10 Americans eat too much sodium. I assume it’s common for people in other countries as well.

      • Yeah, almost everything I ate, even the most innocent-looking food, contained a huge amount of sodium, at least according to Samsung. I got more than 2400 mg every. Single. Day. It sounds a bit exaggerated now that I think about it, so I don’t know. All I know is my blood pressure has always been fine, sometimes even a bit low. Anyways, thanks for the article!

  13. The trick for me re: drinking/smoking is to try not to drink with people who smoke for awhile, which is sucky if your people smoke. But you just need to gradually separate the two. The other idea is to smoke like A LOT while you drink, so much so that you feel ill and voila negative associations, I guess?

    • My people don’t smoke! Thankfully. So I only have myself to blame. And you’re right, usually when I smoke too much while drinking, the ill feeling prevents me from doing it again soon after. But I always do eventually, so that strategy is only effective short term.

  14. Two and a half years ago I fulfilled a childhood dream to try a martial art. It involves cardio, strength training and meeting cool people in class. I always recommend trying a martial art to see if it fits in your ideals for fittness training. It has forever changed my life and my health.

    • Thanks for the rec! That’s so cool that you followed through on your martial arts dream and it’s paid off for you.

      I did karate for a couple of years but I could never pass the first belt exam because I always confused left and right. I failed the test four times, it was pretty embarrassing. But I recently saw that my gym offers a martial arts inspired cardio workout and so I plan to check that out soon. It’ll hopefully be less dependent on me having a sense of direction.

    • YES. I completely agree with martial arts being an awesome way to do fitness. You meet some awesome people at dojos (many of whom could then segue into “workout buddy” if you want to work out more than the once-or-twice a week you’re likely going to classes). Plus, if you’re a beginner, you’re placed with a bunch of other beginners who all have similar levels of “wow i have no idea what i’m doing and look foolish” which is helpful if you’re self-conscious.

      I just know that I benefitted a ton from the rest of martial arts because I did them as a kid and the discipline was something kid!me really needed and it’s something I miss in my life as an adult because I’m like “ehhhhhh I should do something but my [seat of choice] is so comfy and nah I’m not leaving”.

  15. First time trying to comment on my phone. Success level: minimal.

    Anyways. I cannot and will not ever count calories because I think it’s harmful and scientifically unfounded. Bodies aren’t bunsen burners. I am solely in it for the exercise and improved fitness levels, nothing to do with calories or weight. So I’ll leave that alone.

    I’m finding the C25k running app super helpful, and it functions as a kind of workout buddy for me by tellling me what I need to do. I also have a wee private blog where I post how things are going, what I’m trying, what’s difficult, what’s going better than I thought, etc. It kind of keeps me accountable to me, and I think will be a really cool record when I’m struggling further on – I can look back and see how far I’ve come :). I have this for derby and it’s really good for me to look back sometimes and see how fucking impossible I found crossovers at first and how they took me months to do without feeling like I was going to die. It reminds me that I will conquer one-footed transitions too.

    • Yeah keeping a blog/fitness diary thing is such a great idea. I’ve started using an app that tracks the number of sit ups I can do and it’s so motivating to look back now and remember how on the first day I could barely do 10.

  16. AH WORKOUT BUDDIES. Something I’ve never had and probably never will..IDK maybe I’m a loner that way. It can be hard to be without one…like who is supposed to spot you if you go heavy? I’ve randomly been selected to spot someone before. LOL.

    It’s great to have friends that actually enjoy the gym though. My friends and I have a mud run team called the Bacon Smugglers. We did a lot of 5k runs. There haven’t been too many opportunities to run this year…maybe it’s the drought in CA?? I want to be able to do a half marathon or a full one someday. I think it would be a really amazing achievement. I still make sure I run at least 2x a week to keep my cardio up. A lot of times I’ve found weight training can get easier if your cardio keeps up.

    FOOD THO. Yeah like i’ve said before I think meal prep is a lot harder than working out itself! Nowadays i bring just about all the snacks and food I can to work. I make sure I have something for the morning after getting to work, my lunch, something that will feed me at 3pm and my dinner. Then I have all my workout stuff. I have my pre workout protein, my aminos for during and my protein for post. My wife tells me I treat it like a science. LOL. there’s this calculator thing I saw that asks for your height weight etc and activity and it can sort of give you a calculation of how much carbs, protein and healthy fat you should be having in a day or per meal.

    – Little meals throughout the day. Healthy ones
    – A kitchen scale
    – A buddy who enjoys the gym and also motivates you

    NO GO
    – Smaller meals and like one big one
    – Drinking. i’m still working on this. I’ve been craving a corona forever
    – group classes. NOPE NOPE NOPE. Did it before and I was like whaaaaaat

    • I feel like asking a stranger to spot you is kinda risky? Isn’t the idea of spotting that you’re meant to be there to catch the person’s weight if they fail a lift? (I’m just guessing, I’ve only seen it done on TV). Because what if you’re super weak and can’t lift the bar? This scenario is stressing me out and I’m not even in it.

      What didn’t you enjoy about group classes? Was it the yelling?

      • Personally I’d rather ask a friend to spot, and for that reason I usually plan my workouts so that I’m not in need of a spotter (dumbbell bench instead of barbell, use the safety bars in the squat rack). But if I notice someone who has good form/knows what they’re doing/looks friendly, and I think I need a spot, I’ll ask. It’s a reciprocal kind of thing.

        Spotters catch the weight if you fail, yeah, but a really good spotter will notice when you’re starting to fail and use just a little bit of their own muscle to help you get the weight up again and finish the rep. Which feels way better than dropping the bar!

        • YES. I cant tell u how many times Ive seen guys and their buddies standing around watching their friend practically turning red in the face to re rack the weight…like why are you even standing behind your friend you know..

      • Well I guess you kinda have to ‘feel’ around for someone to spot you…i dont think i could ask someone i dont see regularly or someone who i see lifts weight that is a lot less than what I use.

        Group classes? Idk i think i was just like gym time is more like me time. I did a cycling class but I felt like I wasnt in sync with other people or the class itself and ulimately I felt like it somehow wasted my time..

  17. Re: workout buddies. I’ve never successfully made friends in a group class – at least, not the traditional kind they run at gyms. I think everyone is either there for time to not have to interact with anyone for an hour, or feeling sweaty and gross and not at all interested in making a first impression.

    Stuff where you’re forced to interact works better, like kick boxing where there’s lots of partner work. My first aerial training class I was told to wrap my arms around a total strangers thighs and give their butt a hug (it was part of a stretch), so we made friends real fast… is also good for this stuff

    • I laughed at the aerial training scenario. I imagine you would make fast friends, yes.

      I logged onto once and found quite a few groups that were blatantly biphobic!? It was so strange and off-putting. They weren’t fitness groups, though- I think I was on there looking for queer social groups. Maybe I’ll give it another shot.

  18. the smoking thing… yeah i guess the trick for me was to just not do it. I know, that sounds fucked up. A friend of mine decided to stop going out and having fun because she was afraid she would drink and then have a cigarette and then… idk i think she thought she would die or be publicly shamed? Funny thing is I basically just didn’t smoke, and took the occasional pull off somebody else’s cigarette because buying cigarettes is an expensive habit and I already spend enough on booze so… But whenever I did that she would publicly shame me and tell me that I wasn’t really quitting. The even funnier (not so fun) thing is that she is still really paranoid about becoming a smoker again and this has made her a less fun person while I’m still pretty damn happy with myself. I also really don’t smoke anymore. Basically it just takes time and eventually you will simply think cigs are gross and won’t understand how anybody can even put them close to their face. Then you might have like five glasses of malbec and sneak a cigarette and you’ll thank yourself because what’s a whole bottle of wine without a little nicotine?

    • I also think it’s important to note that prior to this I smoked like half a pack a day for approximately eight years… like just so you know I’m not being condescending or totally out of touch.

    • Ah yeah, I know the exact type of friend that you’re describing. It sucks that she feels the need to shame you.

      I know you’re spot on about it taking time. I was a half-pack per day smoker for about 10 years and it took at least 4-5 attempts over as many years to quit the daily habit for good. I am not exactly against the occasional cigarette, it feels so good, but I find that I’m a lot less likely to go to the gym the day after I’ve had one and so that’s the part that’s really motivating me to give them up completely.

  19. Can I just say, that the ‘workout buddy wanted’ poster is the best thing I’ve seen in a long time. I can relate.

    Also I have SO many of the same feels regarding the whole fitness thing. Like I wanna be healthy, and be good to my body, but at the same time I also really want a giant bowl of ice cream for breakfast (which happens way more often than I’d like to admit..).

    Basically, Crystal, if you could just move to Melbourne, we could be anti-social sometimes-work-out buddies.. who then ruin their hard work by going out for drinks afterwards.

    • You sure can say that. Intern Nikki has been doing the graphics for these posts, such a talented human.

      I usually like to ruin my hard work with gyoza and peanut M&Ms but I’ll probably start exploring other possibilities soon.

      • Intern Nikki deserves one hell of a high five.

        I had to google what gyoza was. I’m a picky eater but that is definitely a food I’d be down with.

        True fact: I just went food shopping and I came back with *only* healthy stuff. This is a rare occasion. I’m so proud of myself.

      • I definitely read that as “gyoza-and-peanut-M&MS” which sounds like it could be the most disgusting chocolate flavour ever??

  20. Re workout clothes: I usually have a much better time finding colors and patterns I like at Forever 21 (upside: cheap! Downside: cheap!) or the Internet. Ymmv.

    I use myfitnesspal. I don’t have any “friends” on it because that makes me nervous, but I do have lots of friends on habitRPG and I use that to track all my other trackers (among other things).

  21. Our puppy will chase a soccer ball if you kick it… so that could be a thing. Katie and I usually get after work coffee and then stroll to the dog park and play a bit and then stroll back. Also available as an ‘everyone brings their own music and ignores each other’ activity. So yeah, you could be part of that. Also though, there are all women boxing classes near us… I mostly intend to go intermittently to objectify butches, but hey.

    • I also promise not to try and feed you… this promise does not extend to all my other humans whom I shall continue to obsessively offer copious quantities of home cooking.

    • I just realised that I replied to this in my head and not in the comments! I want to chase soccer balls with the dog, that sounds perfect. I’ll take you up on that when the weather warms up a little!

  22. I used to use Fitocracy as a form of social networking workout buddies. I ended up having to abandon it for a number of reasons:

    – that obsessive tendencies thing I mentioned above (if I don’t track a workout, does it exist?)
    – the overall culture on that website is freaking TOXIC as all shit
    – I was getting a really twisted view of what certain workouts were “worth” because Fitocracy highly weights some things (especially weight training) and under-weights others (like running).

    That said, it was really helpful for me when I first started working out because the quests/acheivements encouraged me to try new things, and I learned a lot from the community (esp. Lady Lifters and the swimming groups). So if it seems like something you might like, it’s worth a try.

    Also: I think you greatly overestimate some of our fitness abilities ;)

  23. Oh, and regarding healthy food: I’ve been using OOOOBY for the last couple months and I really like it. I’m a lot more likely to eat vegetables when I know they’re going to go to waste in my fridge if they don’t. Also the produce is really fresh and delicious. I suspect that’s not going to be an option right now because of your current living situation, but it’s an idea for the future!

  24. I’m so glad you’re writing about and sharing your workout journey with us! I’ve never been interested in reading about fitness or sharing my own experiences but your articles have changed that. I think it’s a combination of your humor, the candor of your setbacks and the way you invite everyone to share their tips. So thank you :)

    There are many social sporting options in Chicago. Maybe it’s similar in other cities? There’s an organization here called Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association (CMSA) that many of my Straddler friends have joined. Unfortunately the membership dues can be a bit expensive but they offer a wide variety of sports for all skill levels. Some sports are co-ed while others are not. So joining a similar organization would be a great way to make friends! And those new friends might also want to attend a group fitness class with you.

    Speaking of group fitness classes, I really can’t wait for your future posts on that. I have so many positive feelings that I didn’t even know existed until recently! I still can’t believe I’m someone who regularly attends a bootcamp-style workout class and actually enjoys it. I definitely suggest trying a variety of classes until you find one that clicks.

    Regarding a calorie counter, I’ve never used one before and I have some apprehension. Were you nervous to see your results that first day? I have no idea how many calories I currently consume so the task of healthy eating seems daunting. Also, if the app is most effective when used daily, tracking every meal and workout also seems daunting! I’d love to hear any tips you might have.

    I’m so proud of you for quitting smoking and for trying to find more ways to cut back!

    • CSMA sounds pretty amazing, you can bet I’m going to join the softball league.

      If you’re feeling good about your diet and you think you’re getting all the right nutrients then I’m not sure tracking calories would be something to bother with. One of the main reasons I tried it was because I suspected that I was ingesting too much sugar and probably not enough fibre or diary (all true) and wanted to learn about healthier substitutes I could make.

  25. I’ve been telling myself for the past few weeks that I’ll start using my gym membership again. I feel so good when I do but it’s easy to forget that when the couch is there.

    I like to use the couch to 5k app. It plays my music and tells me when to walk and when to run and I can take it at my own pace and do some weeks over if I’m not ready to move onto the next week.

    • I’ve heard good things about that app! It’s definitely been helpful in motivating some of my friends.

      I really feel you re: forgetting how good the gym feels. My trick (for lack of a better word) is to visit as frequently as possible so that I don’t have a chance to forget. I find that if I put more than 3-4 days in between gym visits then starting up a regular routine again just seems like the hardest thing. Good luck with it! I hope you get there.

      • Thank you! I think you are right on track with the “don’t take too long of a break” idea, because it’s also true that the first few times I go back I am so much sorer than when I have a more regular practice going on. Thanks for the encouragement and for bringing us all along with you on your journey. I really appreciate the working/not working parts of your posts, because there is so much advice out there i/r/t how to do fitness correctly and it’s really about what works or doesn’t work for each individual.

  26. Hi Crystal,

    I don’t really have any useful pointers on the exercise or improved eating habits aspects of your article, as I’m struggling with those myself. I periodically use the HabitBull app, which just lets me tick off days that I’ve accomplished steps towards a new habit. It doesn’t judge me on how intense a workout was (or whether it was just taking the dog for a walk). It’s just a yes/no accomplishment calendar.

    Regarding the whole making-activity-specific-friends-after-30 issue, I have heard of a website that helps people with similar interests get together in the real world and pursue those interests. It’s . There are all sorts of really cool groups on there in cities all over the world. Sports groups, language groups, professional groups – you name it, it’s there. And if it’s not, you can start one yourself.
    It may help you find your perfect, antisocial workout buddy :-)

    • In my experience, the people in Meetup groups can be REALLY. INTENSE. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s something to keep in mind!

    • I posted a little further up the page about a not-so-great first impression with but I’ve never tried to use it for fitness activities. Maybe I’ll look into it again when I move cities later this year.

      I’m really curious about that habit app, I’ll have to check it out. Thanks for the tip!

  27. I’d read the hell out of a “Making Friends After 30” column. Just sayin.

    I’ve started working out, skating by the beach for, going on 2 months now. I do between 3-5 miles a day. I’ve been doing it every day after work and I guess my motivation now is to not come home and sit in front of the computer since that’s what I do all day at work. It feels pretty damn great. I’m exhausted right now but the high you get after an awesome work out, I guess that is motivation enough for me. This also makes me feel not so bad about not having a workout buddy.

    Also, seeing other people give you a smile as you zoom past them is kinda nice as well.

    Not helping though: treating myself to 1 beer during dinner because I “deserve” it. Gotta work on that.

    • What kind of skating? Roller skating? It’s so great that you’ve found something you love!

      A post-workout beverage can be pretty great, huh.

      • Rollerblading, yeah :). Or as I jokingly call it, “rollerblading like it’s 1994”

        Overheard while I was skating past this really cute lady today:
        “People who rollerblade have a great ass! See! I told you!”

        This is my gym:

        Oh man, a post-workout beverage can be so satisfying. *sigh*

  28. The problem I’ve always had with workout buddies is that my time is so tightly scheduled that having to wait on somebody else to be ready or correspond our times with each other ends up taking more time than i have to work out, really. I sort of have come to think of the gym as my private time. As opposed to um, the rest of my life which is SUPER SOCIAL. hm.

    • Let’s start a social sporting team when we both move. I’ll be unemployed so I’ll show up on time.

  29. It bums me out to see diet talk on this website, especially without any mention of the way that fitness & health = calorie counting contributes hugely to the alienation and discrimination of all fat people. Like what the hell, even when the author was talking about their discomfort with calorie counting they somehow did so without outwardly saying that this is hard for them because it contributes to fat shaming–instead they just mentioned that skinny is beautiful! what?!

    • I’m going to requote what Crystal said, emphasis mine:

      When every asshole on the planet is telling us that skinny is beautiful, actively working to prevent weight gain (or achieve weight loss) kinda feels like hurling a giant machete into the back of womankind.”

      That seems like the opposite of saying skinny is (necessarily) beautiful… in fact, it heavily implies the opposite. I’ve dealt with feelings like this too.

      Like, I’m a HAES person myself, but I also recognize that other people’s journeys are different than mine. Wanting to maintain a certain weight isn’t, on its face, a bad thing.

    • There’s another side to calorie counting in fitness & health, making sure you’re consuming enough to support your activity and nourish your body.
      Which is where my trouble is at because I’ve made it this far without crossing into ED territory but I’m afraid I’m not consuming enough for my body.

      Do I take up a habit that I watched other people hurt themselves with or do have the question of am I hurting my body hang over me until it gets answered down the road by damages?

      My backround is in dance and I went to an all AFAB school in my adolescent so that is what I mean I’ve made this far with developing an eating disorder and what I mean when I say I’ve watched people use calorie counting to hurt themselves.

      There’s gotta be non-toxic way of calorie consideration out there but I’ve never encountered it. The best I know and have encountered is consideration of what’s heart healthy, what’s really gunna fill you up right without a crash later, basic nutritional shit.

      • YES SAME. Especially when my mental health is awful, I just stop eating. When I get stressed, I stop eating. Those high-calorie drinks from Starbucks? I got those on purpose because they had the calories and so by drinking them I was getting some sort of fuel into my body, which was better than nothing.

        It’s gotten to the point where I’ve debated starting counting calories to make sure I’m getting sufficient caloric content, not to mention looking at whether I’m getting enough vitamins and minerals into my diet.

        • Lately when my mental health is awful I get nausea, it use to be I’d just eat what ever was quick or minimal effort (often not something good or enough) and chew gum like crazy. But now I get nausea and will survive on crackers, a specific chip from a specific company, ginger ale and what ever soup broth I get my hands on which mean my sodium intake gets high making my joints achier and the lack of fiber is no picnic on the body either.
          Which all combine to make me angry and no one likes me when I’m angry, especially me.

          Have you considered coming up with nice calorie sufficient meals you can freeze and save for bad days or a cache of beef jerky or something you can make yourself/thoughtlessly eat without much effort? Would that work for you?

          • I also get anxiety-provoked nausea. I’m actually going to try Aussielent for my bad days… I’ll report back and let you know how it goes! (If you’re in the US, you could try OG Soylent.)

  30. Hm, I wonder what the athletic demographic the sporting goods you went to services because where I live there’s plenty of options for ladies and mens shorts and a lotta of sports played by high schoolers.

    Girls: Basketball, volleyball, cheer, softball, track
    Boys: Football(the one with helmets, baseball, basketball, track

    The younger the demographic here the shorter and more “colourful” the girls shorts seem to be and my hypothesis is because they’re all in cheer before “aging out” of it or getting into another sport. Women’s basketball shorts are a sane length and sturdy, but volleyball shorts are short and getting shorter.

    And being that our most favoured state college’s colours are Purple and Old Gold you can always find find purple in the mens and boys athletic gear. Not to mention the trendiness of UnderArmor brand and all the colours they have because more options mean more sales.

    Also camo, always with the fucking camo with orange for everybody and on everything. It’s like the kinder not fucked up cousin of the Stars ‘n’ Bars.

    But I’m curious what are the most commonly partaken sports and athletic activities in your area Crystal?
    Maybe you could find an informal organised team sport group for adults rather than workout buddies?

    • Having been in sporting goods stores in Australia, I can confirm that our choices are RATHER LIMITED

      • Like how limited?
        Like the gym is a place to pick up dates and/or show off but no homo bro limited?
        Because that is the worst thing I can thing of.

        And athletic wear is possibly the last thing you’d want to buy without being able to try on. Ouch.

        • Well, I was just talking about shops where you buy fitness stuff. Because we’re a tiny little market, our choices are… Limited, to say the least.

          My gym kinda has the pick-up vibe but I only pay for the equipment, not the ambience.

          • I guess it is a bit unclear that in my follow up comment I was still talking about shops.
            My mind was stuck in what demographics are those shops stocking for as such I started trying to describe my least favourite athletic wear demographic.
            Does that make sense?

            Where I live there is a diverse market and the gym pick-up people make a small part of it in sports stores, but in outlet malls with say an UnderArmor outlet store they are the target market because they are buying a brand name. They are buying fashion rather than utility.

            So y’all have a tiny market and it’s possibly more geared to the gym pick up market? My sympathies, you have them.

          • Ahh, I see what you’re saying. Yeah, there are specialist sports shops around, but they’re hard to find (like I discovered a running/triathlon store by wandering into it on accident). Mostly it’s just dominated by Rebel… and you can see from their webpage what kind of a place THAT is. I miss stores like Big 5 from when I lived in the States!

    • I’ve noticed that America really does love camo. I went to a sports store in South Dakota once and it was wall-to-wall. It was fascinating.

      I would be super into an informal organised team sport situation – I used to play team sports in high school and loved it, and have considered taking up soccer again because that’s quite popular in Sydney – however I have to hold off on exploring that right now because I’m moving to Chicago in three months. I don’t really want to join a sports team and then bail on them.

      • Rural-ish America and the South really loves camo. Classy people from classy places abhor it, mock it, or ironicallly and kinda condescendingly like it.

        Oh there’s this fantastic giant red barn in Georgia or was Arkansas that had every thing from lovely LL Bean stuff, nice purses and scarves, largest collection of Croc products I’d ever seen to frickin assault rifles, animal traps and gilly suits.
        It was like a mall and sports store had beautiful genteel mountain man baby.

        But you ain’t see nothing till you’ve seen a camo and hunter orange string bikini with coordinating beads. Which is why part of me wants to have hope that camo could replace the Confederate flag as an ingrained symbol of rural and or Southern pride, because that would be 1000x better.

        Fascinatingly tacky beats flag of an oppressive racist oligarchy any day of the week in mt book.

        That is understandable not wanting to bail on people like that. You could start researching the informal organised team sport scene in Chicago, but eh somethings still are more boots on the ground word of mouth rather than digital.
        You can try looking into it at least.

        Team sports are the best social work out to me.

      • I think you should still go for creating the team. Even if you bail after 3 months, you could still have created a lasting habit and fun activity for others that might carry on after you have left. Then they will all be grateful that you brought that to their lives y’know?

  31. Also the workout clothes…this is so true. I always want to know why the women’s section only carries things that are bright pink or purple?? And the shorts are all SHORT SHORT. And they guys section are all blue and green and the sizes are all wrong. I think I’ve had the same workout clothes for the past 2 years. They are comfy.

    • I think I’ve got a new tourism angle for Louisiana; Come for our sensible many coloured women’s athletic wear options.
      And camo everything.

      • I would love to work out in camo!! I think sometimes the key to a really great workout is looking good in a great outfit. Confidence booster

        • Oh man I have I seen some awful camo for kids in neon colours, but I have seen some tasteful red white and blue for adults.
          But what’s the most popular lately here is hunter camo which is like trees and leaves and I have seen some wetlands and hardwood swamp versions.

          My work out clothes are kinda in my confidence colours now that I think about it, but it could also be the influence of strict classical ballet.
          Which means black leotards for girls, white shirt and black tights for boys and no patterns for anyone.

          Annnd my “leggings” or what ever people are calling them these days are actually men’s ballet tights which are of course black.
          They are super durable and last a long time as they are designed in mine for people that practice for hours every day doing things with the body nature did not intend.

  32. ROLLER DERBY. Please all of you. It doesnt matter if you can’t skate- you’ll learn while participating in the best possible “group fitness class”. Everyone is welcoming and queer and kinda awkward but ridiculously cool. You’ll meet so much more than just a workout buddy, but you will absolutely find that too. Teammates love to crosstrain together!

    (My first comment on a making friends after 30 collumn would also be ROLLER DERBY, with equal enthusiasm.)

    • Roller derby! I love roller derby. Watching it, at least. This is a really cool suggestion, thank you.

    • Roller derby is indeed the home and national sport of socially awkward queers.

    • I was also going to suggest roller derby, because derby is awesome and everyone starts out not knowing what the f they’re doing so it levels the “oh god I’m so terrible at this I should quit” playing field a bit. No one is born with wheels on their feet, so everyone starts off struggling!! (P.S. Both Windy City Roller Derby and The Outfit Roller Derby in Chicago have pretty great fresh meat skating classes, or recreational skating classes!)

      But also if it’s not your cup of tea, I’ve really found any sort of recreational adult team sport to be really good for making me exercise. You’re adults, so you get to decide how often you want to do it/if you can make practice/if you’re enjoying it, which takes some of the gym class-ness out of it. And it’s also kind of an awesome way of making friends. It definitely helped me make friends when I moved to a new place!

    • Man, I have tried to join a rollerderby team but my work schedule conflicts with my local teams schedule! I was thinking about asking to leave work earlier on those days but this was before my rollerblades of 15 years broke on me mid skate and I have since replaced them with very expensive ones. Can’t afford to buy another of the old school pair.

      I’m dying to go to a bout though!

  33. Just wanted to say that my routine is working out in my room, watching FitnessBlender videos on mute and blasting whatever the hell music I want to, and I realize that not everyone can do that but it has kind of given me the confidence to start maybe going to an actual gym soon. I want to start lifting heavier weights and would really prefer if an actual human was there to help me not hurt myself. I’m still probably gonna go back to working out at home once I learn, though. Though I definitely understand that not everyone has the space for that, and that some people are more motivated by actually going to a place.

    And I want to say, if you do ever go to a workout class and you just want to kind of stay in the back, that is totally fine. And if you get 20 minutes in and realize ‘oh shit nope gonna puke’ then GO. You totally do not have to stay. No one should be paying attention to anything but themselves and the instructor, and if anyone looks at you funny, puke at them.

    • I’ve also started exercising at home! Only for about a week but I’m digging it so far. What kind of exercises do you mostly do? I’m only doing ab workouts at the moment because it doesn’t require any equipment and doesn’t make noise, but I want to expand into other exercises soon. I’ll check out FitnessBlender, I just had a quick glance at the site and it looks like it’ll be really useful, thanks.

  34. Crap, posted without including my MAIN POINT which was my only workout buddies that I’ve ever had were from karate, back when I did that. So if you can find a non-bro martial arts group that you’re okay with I totally recommend that. The group I was in was super gender mixed and not all dudebros who just wanted to hit really hard.

  35. Ahh I have the exact same problems. If you’re in Sydney try finding a casual netball team! the NWC is next month so they’ll probably be running a load of ‘get into netball’-type events where you can meet people in the same situation, and I’ve always found team sports more chill than fitness classes. I keep wanting to get more into basketball to meet other queer girls #sterotyping but all the teams near me are a bit too competitive for my skill level…

    • Oh wow, netball. I think I blocked out the sport’s existence after being forced to play for years in high school. It would probably be a lot more enjoyable now as an adult, not a disgruntled teen.

      I hope you can find a not-so-serious basketball team soon!

  36. I am a loner also. I hate basically everyone, on principle. Yet, I have several workout buddies! This is how I did that: joined a meetup group for running while still really out of shape. Struggled through it and eventually the slow or injured people started chatting with me as we were running far behind everyone else. Now I have what I call ‘turtle runs’ a couple days a week with some of them.
    Best part was I didn’t have to engage with anyone, I’d just go there and run until I couldn’t run any longer and my perseverance and positive messaging (people like it if you’re like ‘you can do it!’ or whatever) drew people to want to work out with me, I guess? So try that maybe?

  37. I feel like I’m lucky that I do a sport that people are really open and welcoming, despite the large dudebro demographic, so I don’t know if I can help with the “finding workout buddies” thing because the way I found my main crew of boaters was to literally show up, figure out who boated, and then ask to go along. That’s all I know how to do re: finding someone, and I’m not sure how open gym-type people would be to that interaction (though I know of multiple couples who met at the gym so maybe people are way more friendlier than my experiences with the gym have led me to believe?).

    I know someone said roller derby, but I’ll throw in my own plug for whitewater kayaking because it’s a great core and upper body workout. It’s also a great mental workout too at times, because you’re learning body control that’s not super intuitive, and there’s a certain level of “we’re doing WHAT?!” that helps control anxiety and fear and facing that shit. So if there’s a local whitewater club you can find and go in, people will teach you, there will be gear for you to use, and boaters are generally some of the most open and awesome people (like I am someone who generally panicks if I have to go to an event alone, but if that event is a whitewater festival I’m aokay going alone because I know I can find people to a.) paddle with b.) who will give me a lift back to my car/festival site/where i said i would meet the friend with the car c.) who will probably offer me a beer at takeout at least because boaters have priorities), even the dudebros.

  38. Crystal, I still have my softball glove if you ever want to play catch when you move to Chicago :)

  39. I totally use myfitnesspal when I’m trying to be healthy. For me, it mostly works to avoid excessive grazing. It’s not worth eating that spoon of frosting when I then have to figure out how to enter it.

  40. OK, first of all, indoor rock climbing in a supportive gym is AWESOME. Very safe, goal-oriented (beyond just ‘get fit’), super addictive, and if you take an intro class, you’ll meet a bunch of belay buddies. I no longer live in a town with a rock gym and I am a SAD. PANDA.

    Everyone feels different about calorie counting. For me, it takes me right back to a place where I was obsessive about my diet and mostly just drank Red Bull — it’s triggering. Instead, now when I am trying to get healthy, I focus on avoiding foods with refined carbs or added sugars — the stuff that wakes up the Cookie Monster in my tummy, a big blue guy who just wants to eat and eat and eat — and about a week after I do that, my body actually starts to regulate (i.e. I only want to eat when I am actually hungry).

  41. MyFitnessPal is the best! I’ve used a lot of calorie trackers in my on-off attempts to lose weight, but MFP is the easiest and most helpful. I really like that it yells at you if you don’t consume at least 1000 calories, because I go to extremes and either eat ALL the things or NONE of the things. which is not helpful.

    • YES I love that, the big warnings when you’re not consuming enough. Sometimes when work gets busy I’ll miss lunch and so the app is a great reminder to try and make up for that by the day’s end.

  42. Whoa that sounds like a perfect app actually…thanks so much! Now let’s just pray my old phone has enough data to download it, haha. What appeals me the most is the nutrition portion about it. I’m more obsessed about meeting my nutrient needs than not exceeding my calorie needs. I would take vitamins (especially cuz I loooove the gummy ones. I know.) but I heard that it’s much healthier to get necessary nutrients from foods. Which makes sense.

  43. I figured you’d be super fit after running from all those dropbears.

    ps I love this column, looked forward to it this week already!

  44. I’ve tried using MyFitnessPal but I’m not committed enough to remember to do it all the time. I guess like you said it makes you aware of certain trends and habits you have. It really has just cemented that my diet is 75% carbohydrates. Most of which is potato. It also reminds me that I don’t have enough calcium and should probably do something about this lest I develop osteoporosis.

  45. omg. I *so* hear you on the shorts thing. I go to rebel sport, and between the last time I bought shorts and the current time, shorts have shrunk several centimetres and then suddenly all turned into knee length tights! All in the pink and the purple. I’ve found if I go to a bigger store, and find the running section there’s usually some navy cotton shorts, I usually go with adidas or reebok? Otherwise, I think Target to school gym shorts which also work.

    I agree with a whole bunch of the other people who commented about getting super-obsessive about the calorie counting thing. I had an UP24, and used the calorie counter to get an overall idea of how much I was eating against my daily activity, but I found that I started creeping towards obsession-levels and so stopped logging my food. It was definitely super-useful thought to do for a bit to get an idea of how much I should be eating and how many calories are in things.

    Anywho, I also just wanted to say thanks, I’m really enjoying this column, and really glad that I’m not the only person that feels a bit out of place and like a n00b when I go to the gym. Onward!

    • Thanks for the feedback! I’m glad you’re enjoying this. Rebel is where I went to buy my gym shorts. I hadn’t considered Target, thanks for the suggestion!

  46. I have zero concept of how people turn down office birthday cake or more importantly, burritos. I really truly do not have this kind of self control. I am always in a bit of awe at people who have this kind of skill.

    One sort of fitnessy tip I like is: Stretching in bed. Before I even get out of bed I go through a whole routine. I stick my feet in the air and touch my toes, Knees to chest, Side bends etc. Then I get to check one thing off the list before I even get out of bed.

    Obviously this technique does not cover all the important pre workout stretches. but it is a good start to my day.

    • This is such a good idea; stretching is something I want to get in the habit of. Plus I’m a big fan of exercise that can be done in bed.

    • I also have no self control for readily available and offered treats. THE STRUGGLE IS REAL

  47. I identify with this post on so many levels. I am also trying to get into the mindset/habit of being fit and healthy without necessarily losing weight.
    I LOVE MyFitnessPal. I used it a few years ago to great success (I lost almost 30 lbs and like 3 clothing sizes). Not that is necessarily the goal.
    The whole *this food is high in iron* and *this food has lots of fiber* thing the app does is really encouraging.

    My only struggle is portion control and time. Does anyone have advice for how to make healthy, easily-trackable food while working 40+ hours per week?

    Good luck!!

    • I am a lazy cook and I like that MFP lets you save meals and recipes as commonly eaten things, and copy/paste from one day to the next. I often eat the same thing for lunch for days in a row (what can I say, I love sandwiches) and that definitely makes it easier for me to keep up with the tracking. Some days I’m pretty good about it, some days it’s definitely a chore.
      I’ve also tried the import from website function with some success, though I usually have to verify every ingredient anyway. But it can be slightly faster.
      For easy and often healthy recipes I like this column:
      The recipes there tend to combine small numbers of whole ingredients with minimal prep/skill, definitely my kind of cooking.

    • I’m thinking of dedicating an upcoming article to healthy quick foods, especially easily packed ones, because a few commenters now have mentioned this being a problem for them. It is for me too.

  48. I am so into this column.

    I love positive stuff like this that isn’t aimed exclusively at die-hard athletic types who already know how to do All the Fitness Things, and whose habits are already so entrenched that they don’t even have to think about them.

    Yay for dialogue amongst those of us that *do* have to learn and think about what we’re doing! Especially since I still have to deal with the faint residual feeling from my childhood that it’s embarrassing to not know things, or to find exercise challenging.

    I’m all about tracking food, when I can keep the habit up. I’m less concerned about calories than I used to be–though it was *super* enlightening the first time around.
    Now I just find that mentioning what I eat to my phone helps me to remember that I don’t *really* want to eat a bag of Swedish Berries…I use the Livestrong/MyPlate app–it feels familiar and easy.

    I’ve also downloaded an app–Productive–that’s like a checklist for the core things I want to include in my day. So, I check off things like “exercise,” “reach out to a friend,” “track food,” and “go to bed by 11.”

    It’s just a little reminder/accountability/support for the habits that make the rest of my life better and easier–and I’m really appreciating it so far!

    • What platform is that app on? I’ve been looking for something like that, and searching “productive app” doesn’t come with very helpful Google results ;)

    • Yeah that productive app sounds like a neat idea. I’m easily distracted and don’t have a great memory when it comes to doing little things that are good for me, like drinking water / taking an iron tablet / socialising / chilling etc.

  49. Late to the party on this but I downloaded MyFitnessPal after hearing about it here and I love it so far!

  50. I’ve recently been going (semi-regularly) to this thing called ‘The Gym’.
    They’re currently mid renovation, which has induced this violent sneezing and hive-like reaction that has persisted (due to ‘disturbed fungus spores’)… Despite the war I have waged with antihistamines on a strict 6-hourly basis.

    This exercise thing isn’t going well.

  51. FYI – your link to Part One is broken. I loved this so much that I got all super-motivated and figured out the right link myself to get to the first installment so I could start from the beginning, but you might want to tweak it for future readers.

    I don’t have or understand workout buddies you actually do stuff with together. But I do find some benefit in having my far-flung internet friends be my Fitbit friends. Sometimes seeing my place in the rankings of step counts is motivating (I don’t need to be first but being below fifth really bugs me), and some of them invite me to the daily or weekly step count challenges and that’s motivating for me. Except I never start them myself because WHAT IF I THREW A CHALLENGE AND NO ONE JOINED OH GOD I WOULD HAVE TO HIDE FOREVER.

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