Fit Pregnancy: A Call for a New Perspective

Guys. I have to tell you, I am so so very excited to share this post with you all. While many of you know that I’m on my own pregnancy journey, and some of my posts will likely reflect that once I’m back up and going, long before I knew I was pregnant, I knew what I wanted this time around: a fit pregnancy.

While my new goal is simply a healthy one, someone very close to me, my sister-in-law, got to accomplish just that. I’d done tons of research on the perks of exercising, even strenuously, during pregnancy, and had read tons of success stories. However, I hadn’t been close to anyone who’d made it happen. So, I was excited to hear her take and to encourage her through her exciting journey!

What I didn’t expect, is what she encountered during that time. I think that what she put together here is an interesting read that we should all take to heart, whether we’re going for it or not. I’m not going to divulge more…she does it perfectly…but I did want to share a picture of my new niece for everyone to enjoy before jumping in!

Read what Jen has to share, think about how you can relate – from the inside or outside – and share your thoughts!

Madeline

“You’re still teaching at the gym?! I stopped doing cardio when I found out I was pregnant because I wanted to keep my baby”.  This isn’t something I expected to hear at 20 weeks pregnant.

Let me preface this little rant by saying that I have always been athletic.  I grew up playing field hockey, basketball, and swimming.  I continued playing field hockey throughout college, and afterwards I picked up running to clear my head and keep me in shape. I have two half marathons and a full under my belt.  I’ve conquered a few “Tough Mudders”, and in the last 2 years I started teaching INSANITY at my local gyms.  The point is, I’ve never been what you would call a “couch potato” and I have been blessed with good health thus far in my life.

Before trying to get pregnant, my fitness routine mostly consisted of weight lifting 5 days a week and teaching 2-5  INSANITY classes. I have always loved fitness because it makes me happy. It clears my mind.  After my husband and I decided to try to get pregnant, we discussed that having a healthy baby was our top priority. My first stop was the OBGYN to have a check-up and ask if it was safe to continue this lifestyle while trying to conceive, and throughout pregnancy.  His answer?  “Keep doing what you’ve been doing and listen to your body”.  Awesome. A healthy baby and healthy mom were two goals that seemed to go hand-in-hand.  And so, the day I found out I was pregnant I resolved to continue to work out as best I could.   I would not push myself farther than my body wanted to go, and I would always listen to the little one growing inside of me.  I promised myself I would stop immediately if anything felt “off”. Nothing was worth sacrificing the well-being of my child.

The first time I really began to understand the dynamic of a “fit pregnancy” was at 6 weeks pregnant.  Months before this, I had signed up to complete a 3-day, 60-mile walk for the Susan G. Komen Foundation.  After months of fundraising and training, this was something I felt very strongly about completing. This was going to be an enormous challenge for me but I vowed to take it step by step, both literally and figuratively. I completed all 60 miles of the walk, and while I felt a huge sense of accomplishment physically, what I learned during those 3 days was far more important.  I began to understand that it was okay to take things slowly. I never for one second felt unwell during those 3 days (ya know, besides my knees and feet feeling like they were going to fall off but that’s pretty typical from what I’ve gathered).    Even at 6 weeks, the baby needed me to rest a little more often and to always have snacks and water on hand.  After the walk, my husband and I thought that learning to make these small changes would be one of the toughest challenges I would have to face in pregnancy.  But then I told people I was pregnant.

Sharing the best news of our lives with loved ones was full of congratulatory excitement, but it wasn’t long before the criticism began to take shape.  We announced our pregnancy at about 12 weeks.  The first comment I seemed to get after telling someone the news was disbelief that I was going to continue teaching INSANITY.  It was funny to me that people with no medical background would argue that it wasn’t safe, despite the fact that I had cleared it with my Doctor and that I myself have significant medical knowledge. As I continued to safely maintain my fitness routine throughout my pregnancy, the criticism seemed to gain momentum.

My response to all comments was simply a smile. But inside I was fuming.

As I ate my usual salad for lunch, “Salad again huh? Don’t you know you’re supposed to enjoy your pregnancy?”. Actually, I was enjoying it, until you opened your mouth.

After someone asked me if I was wearing maternity pants at 5 months pregnant and I said no; “You’re working out too much. That poor baby has no room to grow”.  My Doctor says I’m measuring right on track, thanks.

At 6 months pregnant a student of mine at the gym asked how far along I was.  Once I told her, she answered with a long stare and asked “Do you even eat?!”  I didn’t even have a response for that.

Sometimes the critiques were mildly veiled with concern.  “What does the Doctor say about your weight gain? Is the baby getting enough food?” Again, measuring right on track.

The comment with which I began this article was perhaps the most hurtful I heard during my pregnancy.  The implication that I cared more about fitness than the possibility of a miscarriage was beyond insulting.  I can remember staring at this person with my mouth open wide, and promptly going to the bathroom to cry.

It may be important to note that 99% of the negative comments were made by other women – many of whom were already mothers or were pregnant at the time.  I’m guessing that for most of you reading this, that doesn’t come as much of a surprise.  My experience as a pregnant fitness instructor may seem somewhat unique, but I am positive that the underlying tone of these criticisms is something that every pregnant woman experiences in one way or another.  If it’s not about being “too fit”, it’s about gaining too much weight (“are you sure it isn’t twins?!”). We critique the pregnant woman who enjoys an occasional glass of wine, or her daily cup of coffee.  There are opinions about how long we are planning to take off from work, what our “birth plan” consists of, or whether or not we were “trying” to get pregnant.

Why do women feel the need to tear each other down especially during pregnancy?  I can’t say that I have an answer to that.  Has society created a cookie-cutter image of what pregnancy should be for every woman?  That image being we should gain a lot of weight, become highly emotional/irrational, send our partners out for pickles and ice cream at 3 am, and will happily accept the fact that our bodies will never be the same.  Lost in those stereotypes is the fact that we are taking 10 months to grow a human life.   In truth, pregnancy is one of the greatest responsibilities that some women will ever take on. What’s sad is that society seems to ignore this point, and only focus on some of the superficial aspects of the process.

Every woman is very different in how they experience and handle their respective pregnancies.  Yet what is common among women is that almost all of us have difficulty with pregnancy at times, and we feel very alone in these struggles.  Society’s image of pregnancy tells us that it isn’t normal to experience this type of struggle – and this feeling of isolation can easily breed insecurity in mothers.  I think that when we see a woman whose pregnancy is/was different than ours, some of these insecurities surface as snide remarks and criticism.

I believe the key to overcoming this problem is for women to be more honest and open with each other about both the joys and insecurities of this experience.   By moving past the typical baby-bump questions (“How much weight have you gained?”, “What foods are you craving?”, “Don’t you feel like a beached whale sometimes?”), we can create a more honest and supportive community.  Women can ask each other how they are really feeling, praise them for the incredible sacrifice they’re making, and comfort them when they face difficult problems.

I know this is all easier said than done, and that change won’t come overnight.  Society will still give us its version of the rom-com pregnancy.  Princess Kate will still be paraded out in front of cameras in high heels, a face full of professional makeup, and a designer dress, just “10 short hours after giving birth”.  (Mothers, am I the only one who wondered what was happening in her underwear at that moment)?  Pregnant women will continue to ask themselves “Why is this so much harder for me?”  But over time, we can work towards an honest and transparent community where mothers can feel more secure.  My time as a pregnant woman allowed me to appreciate the experience that every mother goes through and understand the fact that each woman is unique in their own way.  When my daughter Madeline finally came after 41 long weeks, I was ecstatic to hold all nine and a half pounds of her in my arms (hey critics, guess there was enough room for her to grow)!  That moment made the past 10 months of a sometimes difficult journey completely worth it.  There’s great comfort in knowing all new moms will eventually get to that point.  It’s up to us all to make it a little bit easier for them to get there.

41WeeksPregnant

Here’s Jen looking fabulous at 41 weeks!

 

 

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Way Beyond Me

I’m back!! As many of you have taken notice to (thank you for the messages!), I’ve been a bit…absent…for the past month. That’s because – for those who follow me on Facebook – I had some news that was taking up a whole lot of my thoughts and time that would otherwise be devoted to trying to find new ways to be fit and that was hard to keep under wraps. But, now that it’s gone public, I can get back to doing what I love and sharing some of that with you!

For those that missed it, John and I shared some exciting news yesterday:

announcement

To make it just a little bit clearer:

twin_ultrasound

We are doubling our family by adding a set of twins to the mix! This is exciting and we feel beyond blessed by all of the support we have received from those close to us and those who we haven’t had a chance to be with for a long time.

But, before the excitement, and under a lot of it, we’ve had our own process that has had ups, downs, moments of shock, fear and excitement all thrown in together. I want to share with you how we got to yesterday’s big announcement, and what’s helped us focus on the (very exciting!) big picture.

Rewind a bit. Many of you know that in general, I’m not great at being pregnant. My first two pregnancies were challenges that never went quite according to plan until the moments that our two little guys made their perfect appearances. For awhile, we decided we were happy with our two, blessed that everything turned out and ready to move on.

But, the desire to have more never quite went away. I truly believe that God puts specific desires on our hearts for a reason; mine has always been to have a family full of children. After my second pregnancy, I focused on myself for awhile, put effort into fitness and getting into shape and leaving our plans in the hands of the one that knows and guides our steps before we take them.

A whole lot of life changes happened all at once: health struggles that resulted in surgery last October, a move across country to North Carolina, away from everyone that we know and love, a new job for John, a new life as a stay at home Mom for me and a lot of other things that we never could have dreamed up on our own. It was a crazy year!

In the end of March and beginning of February, I started feeling off. Eventually, I broke down and took a pregnancy test. To our surprise, it was positive. We were apprehensive because of the journey of the past year, but excited! I had an early ultrasound around 5 weeks to date the pregnancy and we saw a single microscopic little one in there.

The strangest part about all of this, is that during this time, I started having dreams about twins. This is something I only shared with John. We thought it was strange because we’d clearly seen one baby, but in my heart it just felt like something else was going on. We had the ultrasound…there was one! I felt silly that I couldn’t shake the feeling. Certain blood levels were a little high, but we saw one. I let it go.

A few weeks later I went back in for another appointment. As the doctor did the ultrasound, the words “yep, there’s two,” came out of his mouth…”two…babies?” I asked? “Yep, look…one…two,” he said matter-of-factly (he’s a play it straight sort of guy hah). Even with the dreams I had, I was completely shocked.

Stepping back from that moment, I wonder if I should have been less shocked. How many times has something been made clear to us, something that we chalk up to impossible? During these times, at least for me, I tend to cling to the rational knowledge that “I” have on my own, ignoring something that maybe I’m supposed to listen to and trust. This has happened many times in my life: the day I felt led to search for my own name online, leading to finding my birth family, the day it was clear that moving to Asheville, something I saw as completely beyond me, was the right thing for our family and so on.

After that big “surprise” we started to tell those closest to us, with apprehension. Twin pregnancies are inherently high risk…from vanishing twin syndrome (yea, I never should have looked this up) in the early weeks to complications later on like pre-term delivery, growth restriction and risks to the mom, we were filled with excitement, but also with the feeling that this is something much bigger than us. We are here on our own. We are still figuring out how to live as a family of four on our own. We have the gear and energy for one baby…but two?

Doubts have run rampant. But, through it all, there’s been this still, calm voice saying “trust me.” We don’t know what the future has in store…we don’t know how we’re going to do this on our own, but those fears and doubts are being answered with truth and realistic applications. We’ve grown closer to new friends in our new home. We’ve found a medical practice that understands my situation and is ready to meet each surprise with experience. The trials of my last pregnancy have not been as severe this time around. Each need has been met and we are going to trust that it will continue.

This past weekend, we were given the opportunity to travel to Nashville for the Country Music and St. Jude Half Marathon and Full Marathon as part of Team Toby Mac and Run for Hope, thanks to SO many of you for your amazing generosity. While I was unable to complete the half marathon, I jogged and walked the 5k. I did it for the kids at New Hope Academy and for those supported by the efforts of St. Jude.

But, I also was able to take something away for myself. You see, two Toby Mac songs have really spoken to us over the past few months. The first is “Beyond Me.”

“It’s way beyond
Anything that I got the strength to do
In over my head keeps me countin’ on You
I’m leaving the sweet spot, sure shot
Tradin’ it all for the plans You got
Is it so crazy to believe

That You gave me the stars, put them out of my reach
Called me to waters a little too deep
Oh, I’ve never been so aware of my need
Yeah, you keep on making me see
It’s way beyond me
Yeah, it’s out of my league
It’s way beyond me

You take me to the place where I know I need You
Straight to the depths that I can’t handle on my own
And Lord I know, I know I need You
So take me to Your great
Take me to Your great unknown.”

Right now, we are in our own great unknown. We are optimistic and excited for what’s ahead, but once again we’ve found ourselves in that place that what we thought, dreamed and planned has become something much bigger than we could have come up with or devised on our own…something beyond us. But, as we found with our move…it’s a pretty amazing place to be.

The second is “Steal My Show.”

“If You wanna steal my show, I’ll sit back and watch You go
If You got somethin’ to say, go on and take it away
Need You to steal my show, can’t wait to watch You go
So take it away”

Sometimes we have great plans. We know what we want for tomorrow, the next day, next year and beyond. But, sometimes, we’ve gotta sit back, let go and watch what happens.

We got to see Toby perform both of these songs and I was filled with this amazing calm…”see, I’ve got you covered. You may not have this on your own, but you’re not on your own,” is what I felt. How amazing is it when we think we’re doing something for others, that it turns out to be just as big for us?

Thank you all for following along during all this, I’m sure I will have excitement to share as this journey progresses! Thank you for your kind thoughts, prayers and just for surrounding us with love during everything. We’ve never really felt so blessed and are excited about what’s to come!

10 weeks

The Importance of Form

form plank

After a few experiences this weekend, I wanted to step back from the standard workout posts and to make a brief note about form.

Here’s the thing: the Internet is FILLED with great workout ideas. Especially with the rise of social sharing, Pinterest especially. On any given day, it’s easy to log onto a computer and to find something to do to stay active. This goes for anyone. Past this point though, there should be a few differences.

Squat challenges, 6-pack workouts, plank challenges, 5k workouts and more have become super popular lately. It makes sense; it’s a great feeling to push your body to your limits and to see the results that come with that pushing. But, I think sometimes we become a little too ambitious.

Here’s the thing to remember: Just because a workout is posted online that’s meant for “everyone” doesn’t mean it’s meant for you.

If you are coming from a sedentary lifestyle, running treadmill intervals at 10mph probably won’t lead anywhere good. Likewise, doing 50 reps of anything might be a little bit – or a lot of bit – of a stretch. We’re all different. Each fitness journey has a different desired outcome and a different purpose. We’re all in it for our own reasons.

Let me step back: I’m not bashing online workouts. I love them. I post them from time to time and I love to go out and find things that would mix up my routine a bit. However, they aren’t the be all end all, and they probably shouldn’t be your starting point.

If you’re truly interested in getting in shape this year and seeing real results, there are a couple steps you should take.

First – Check with a doctor, especially if you haven’t been there for awhile. Be honest about where you’re starting from and what you’re hoping to accomplish…get the sign off before you lift your first weight or jump into a plank challenge.

Second- Find a reasonable starting point. Look for beginner workouts, ask someone who’s a professional in the industry. Find out exactly where you at and where you should be starting.

Then- Find a pro. Whether you belong to or are looking at joining a gym, or have a personal trainer or friend who has experience as a trainer, you need a resource. Ask questions about the workouts you’re looking at. Ask if you can demonstrate the moves you’ve found and make sure your form is solid. When your form is off, you could end up doing more harm than good or causing a permanent injury, this is the worst setback possible; avoid it at all costs.

Moving forward- Once you’ve become more comfortable with different exercises, keep learning. The Internet is full of videos that have tutorials on how to do certain exercises. Pay attention to them. Do workouts in front of mirrors until you’re comfortable with new moves to be sure you’re doing the right thing. When you have questions, ask someone.

Form matters, it’s what separates individuals who see results from fitness from those that don’t. It’s a critical part of keeping your fitness journey moving forward in a safe and healthy matter. By all means, go out there and find some great online workouts, but, make sure that the workout is right for you and that your form is proper. This is absolutely critical.

 

 

Just a reminder to all of my readers! I’m currently in the process of trying to raise money for New Hope Academy for Team Toby Mac and the Nashville Half Marathon…if you feel compelled to contribute, please visit my fundraising page!

Kids Can be a Part of Fitness Fun Too!

FighterMoms are busy people. From making sure their jobs are done if they work outside of the home to ensuring the house is running smoothly, the family is happy, healthy and fed and spending time with everyone, it’s easy to get overwhelmed or to feel like you’re just not sure of how to fit anything else in. Usually fitness comes in somewhere at the bottom of this list.

I get it. Prior to our move, my kids were in daycare part time and near family the rest of the time. When I needed a workout, I scheduled it around the times that someone else could watch them. The thought of integrating it all together? Nope, I didn’t think it was possible.

Then we moved. We decided to keep the kids at home for a little while with no family nearby. We had no idea what would happen. This is when I started to look for other options. We invested in gym equipment for the home – which was a great start and can be done on a relatively low budget with monthly payment plans, providing your commitment to using that equipment is strong.

I also discovered the world of at-home workouts on networks like Amazon Prime and Netflix and even better, on Pinterest. There are so many ways to stay fit without the equipment, fitness instructors and memberships. I also met women who are trying to figure it all out too. Something we’ve learned? The kids don’t have to be an obstacle to fitness. With the tools that are available, working out doesn’t even have to be a “naptime” activity. It can all be integrated…here’s how.

1. Let your excitement show.

If your kids see that you’re excited to workout, they’ll pick up on it and likely want to know more, watch or even participate! Talk about what you’re going to be doing and tell them why – as much as you can for their age level. The important thing is that they’ll learn that fitness is part of what should happen on a regular basis, that it’s fun and that you do it to stay healthy. Simple and fun.

2. Get them in on the Process.

Your toddlers may not have burpee potential or the ability to crank out pushups, but they can still play a role! Let them count what you’re doing, watch the clock for you and shout encouragement. Chances are you’ll be distracted enough to enjoy your workout a little more and the kids will feel like they’re helping you.

3. Give them a Distraction.

If you have a 30 or 60 minute workout plan, you can’t expect the counting and encouraging to last throughout the entire process. Give them a distraction. Set up a healthy snack station, bring in a few toys that they haven’t seen in awhile or allow them to work on a craft within eyesight.

4. Take it Outside.

We all need a little Vitamin D. If you’ve got a yard that’s suitable or a nearby playground, bring the kids with you. Do your workout while they play. They’ll love to have some fun and will expend some energy while you do your thing.

5. Find a Group.

You’re not the only mom looking for a way to stay fit. Find a group of women or a friend or two. Make a commitment to workout at a certain time on set days and stick to it. Having a work out buddy keeps you accountable, gives your kids some extra playmates and provides an extra incentive to get out there!

Working out can be fun and encouraging for the whole family. Follow the tips above to get started!

 

Hitting the Pavement…Rebuilding

Today was the day. As many of you know, the past year has been a time of learning a whole lot, reassessing, setting new goals and finding a new way to do things. Today I hit the pavement…outside!

Let’s rewind. I got into running to get back into shape…you can read my whole story here, but, the bottom line is that in the beginning, the motivation was solid. I needed a way to find myself again, running gave it to me.

Soon, it became more than it should have. Instead of being proud of milestones, I set out to set new ones at every corner and to keep besting myself over and over again. I wasn’t in it just for the joy of running and enjoying activity, I was in it to win…all the time. Anyone who knows anything about athletes knows that that motivation leads to nothing good, and instead straight to a brick wall. I found mine last March. Then, forced to the sidelines, I had to step back.

Over the past few months, I’ve found myself on a new journey. As many of you know, I set out to get back into activity again and to find a way to love it. I signed up to run/jog/walk for Team Toby Mac and the New Hope Academy for the Nashville Half Marathon in April. With the okay from the doctors, lots of promises to listen to my body and a new mindset, I started back at it. But, I still wasn’t sure what that would look like or if I could really stay true to myself. However, with multiple checks in place, I got started.

For just over the past month, I’ve been hitting the treadmill. Walking, then jogging. No specific thoughts about times, splits or programs, just learning to find my rhythm again. Today, I had the opportunity to take it outside! The feeling I had today was something I’ve missed for a long time, and something that I started to forget when working out became all about schedules and goal times.

Outside

The sun was shining and there were new trails around our new house that needed to be explored. It wasn’t bitterly cold. Everything seemed to be a go. The best part though? I just wanted to get out there. I didn’t have a schedule to stick to. I didn’t have a goal time in mind. I didn’t even plan how far I’d go…I put on my shoes and went out.

After a little over 2 miles, I felt tired. Instead of pushing through…I walked. Sounds obvious right? To a previously compulsive runner, it’s not that obvious and it was a joy just to be able to do it…to slow down and to take in the sights all around me. Guys…I even got to smell the pine trees. It doesn’t get better than that. Toward the end, I picked it up and jogged back to the house. Coming in, I didn’t feel like I’d out done myself and I didn’t feel as though I’d gone too far. I just felt satisfied to have spent some time outside, alone with nature and with my thoughts. That’s a gift that I’d honestly forgotten about.

Sometimes life is about rebuilding toward something new and about finding what really matters and living for that. About living in the moment. About appreciating every step. I’m there…where are you?

 

Just a reminder to all of my readers! I’m currently in the process of trying to raise money for New Hope Academy for Team Toby Mac and the Nashville Half Marathon…if you feel compelled to contribute, please visit my fundraising page!

Settling In and Counting Blessings

mountainsIt’s been awhile friends! Most of you know the reasoning…that we’ve moved out of Pennsylvania and into a new home and life in North Carolina. Many of you also know that this move was full of questions for me. I had no idea what the future would look like and what we’d find here. Let me be clear up front in saying that while those fears were not unfounded…they may have been unnecessary.

We have been blessed with much as we settle in. Many of you have asked for updates…let me share a few of the highlights:

  • The weather has been fantastically mild. In fact, the past two days we reached the 60’s. We couldn’t ask for anything more.
  • We were welcomed into our new church home Sunday and it felt like coming home. It’s a great feeling and we look forward to growing with Summit Church and doing life with some great people.
  • Our home has come together well. We are mostly unpacked. While we are still waiting on a few pieces of furniture, things are shaping up well.
  • We will be starting our Friday Night dinners this week, inviting whoever wants to come! So far it’s mostly established friends, but we are anxious to see what these grow into, and to get to know those we’ve already met better!
  • The boys have found a few friends. Let’s rephrase that – many potential friends. Our neighborhood is FILLED with children their ages and we’ve spent the past 2 days outside playing with those children. I’ve also started to get to know their parents. Coming from a place where few of our friends had kids and a neighborhood without children, this is an amazing blessing. We’ve been told that in the summer, everyone spends pretty much all day outside!
  • We’re starting to adjust to a more laid back lifestyle. Things really do move at a slower pace here and we absolutely love it. The rush and stress that we didn’t even realize we were living in has been reduced.
  • John’s work is going well. He is getting to know his team and is working hard to keep things moving forward smoothly.
  • We’ve started to identify local stores, have started local accounts and have found great medical teams…this is big.

Asheville – so far – seems like an amazing place with so much potential. We love the outdoor lifestyle and are excited to jump in. It’s only been a week, but it’s been a great one. We appreciate all the positive thoughts and prayers that were coming our way during this transition. I’m sure it won’t always seem so smooth, but for right now, we are simply overwhelmed with thankfulness!

 

Just a reminder to all of my readers! I’m currently in the process of trying to raise money for New Hope Academy for Team Toby Mac and the Nashville Half Marathon…if you feel compelled to contribute, please visit my fundraising page!

 

Ways to Overcome the “New Girl at the Gym” Blues

I can’t say I remember the very first time I walked into a gym. I say that because my relationship with the gym began as a complicated series of ups and downs that began in high school. I’d go for a little while. Use the elliptical in the dark theater room where no one could see me, then hurry away. Due to a lack of results (due to a lack of structure and effort in general), an abundance of intimidation and an overwhelming sense of frustration, I’d stay away for months. Then, I’d get motivated, jump back in, only to have the same result. I didn’t go anywhere and as a result, my overall fitness and well-being suffered.

I understand the roller coaster ride that a gym membership can feel like, I’ve been there. But, I’ve also overcome it…below are a few tips if you’re in the same place!

Stop Worrying About What Everyone Else Thinks

other people at gym

I spent so much time worrying what I looked like while exercising. I thought I looked silly, someone bigger trying to do activities that I perceived as being meant for a smaller, more in shape population. I felt like the regulars probably thought I was a joke. Here’s the thing: I was wrong.

You see, people at the gym  – for the most part – are there for their own results. They’re so focused on what they’re doing and how they look while doing it that they don’t have time to pay attention to the form or heavy breathing of the people around them. Most importantly, they haven’t always been gym junkies, they had to get their start somewhere as well! If they actually had the time to focus on what you were doing, they’d probably commend you for it and want to be a support; I know I feel that way. Stop worrying about the people around you and focus on yourself.

Eliminate the Intimidation Factor

gym equipment

Gyms and the equipment inside them are only intimidating when they are not understood. Remember my years-long relationship with the elliptical? It existed because I was scared to try out the machines. I wasn’t sure how they were supposed to work, I didn’t want to do them wrong and therefore I was intimidated. It made my gym experience stressful and inadequate.

If you’re new to a gym, or want to add a little variety to your workout experience, ask for help! Whether you approach someone using a machine – who, in most cases will be happy to answer any questions, ask an employee for help or sign up for a new member orientation – even if you’re not new at all. Take the time to learn about the machines and weights and to do a little research at home about why they’d work for you. When in doubt, ask a trainer or consider signing up for individual instruction to maximize your workout potential.

Find What You Love and Commit 

bike

You’ve probably heard it before, but that’s because it’s true. If you don’t find an activity that you love, that you see or feel results from, you won’t stick to it. Find what you love, rowing, biking, running, lifting, yoga…anything. Make it a staple of your routine. Make a commitment to stick to the activity of your choice or sign up for something in the future that leaves you no option but to stay on track – a 5k, a walk-a-thon, anything…your choice. Visualize the benefits of your chosen activity and don’t loose sight of the reason you’ve started your new routine.

Mix it Up

Rock wall

This might seem like it’s in conflict with finding what you love and committing to it, but it’s not. Doing the same thing day after day without a break in the routine leads to a lack of results and the feeling of being dragged down; it works against what the idea of total fitness really is. One or two days a week, find a way to mix up your routine. If you’ve taken the time to familiarize yourself with different machines and options, this should be no problem. Incorporate some lifting or core work, get outside for a family walk or jog, try out that rock wall or rowing machine and set a distance goal. Whatever you do, add some variety to your routine. Your muscles and mind will thank you and you’ll have the stamina to continue for the long run.

Fitness is a journey that starts with that first – or many first – steps. It’s something that has ups and downs and something that’s so different for everyone. The one common factor? We all had to start somewhere. That’s where my fitness journey is the same as yours and everyone else’s, at the beginning. Get out there, forget about negative experiences in the past and think about what drives you. Are you hoping to accomplish a specific fitness goal? Want to look better for swimsuit season? Hoping to be able to keep pace with your kids or grandkids? Want to live a healthier, fuller, longer life? Don’t let factors that can be easily overcome hold you back. You deserve the best, you deserve to find yourself and to live an active lifestyle. Think about the tips above and get started today. Most importantly, keep going; you’ve got this.