Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Fitness Goals for 2011!!

I've been here before... face to face with the obvious ultimate New Years Resolution  + lingering holiday gluttony guilt = a renewal in my pledge to get fit and trim! Last year I got pretty close to my "aha moment". I knew that this goal could not involve a quick fix, an overzealous diet, or purely superficial short-term goal (i.e. birthday, vacation, bikini by the summer time). If I wanted to lose the excess weight and be in top physical condition, I had to be in it for the long haul! Around this time last year, my husband and I began running ON THE LAKE FRONT...IN THE DEAD OF CHICAGO WINTER.
Chicago's Lake front in the Winter...yeah
Photo courtesy of: http://glacierbliss.com
Granted it wasn't as harsh as the one we are seeing out of our windows right now. Still, we must have been pretty serious about this!! And we were. We consistently ran for months and then switched to tennis in the summer (though we hardly knew what we were doing, it made for a fun workout). And then... the thing that always happens happened. One day we just stopped. I believe it was a week when both of our children were out of school. But nothing could excuse our failure to pick the ball back up after we so carelessly dropped it. I didn't think that my results were all that great. That was until my body started rapidly changing for the worse.

Me, after the holidays
Ok, it wasn't that bad but you get the idea. Several months have passed and I'm no longer beating myself up over past failed attempts. I consider them lessons learned and now I'm more serious than ever! I began slowly preparing my mind for what I was about to do. I really put a lot of thought into what my goals were this time. To look good in my clothes and not have to try on 50 outfits before I find one that sufficiently covers my flaws (somewhat)...sure. But even beyond all that, I want to be in the best shape of my life. I want to have an outlet that allows me to release old stress and have the energy to minimize new stress. I want to be able to run and play with my kids without having to find a seat after 10 minutes. Heck, I want to be able to run for my life if ever I needed. And surely if I meet these goals, the smoking hot body will be the icing on the cake.

I was READY!!
Major props to my husband who did not sit around waiting for me to procrastinate on making a financial decision. He just picked up the phone, got his debit card out, and hooked up 2 memberships to Bally's for him and I, starting THE NEXT MORNING. LOL! No turning back...

I have been very reflective this time. Below are some of the things that I'm focusing on changing this go around including some things that will help me stick to my fitness goals FOR LIFE!! 

#1 - Posture
I have always had a lazy posture. I remember my dad constantly correcting it, pulling me up straight, asking if I wanted to grow up to be a circle. Gotta love that corny dad humor :-)
Photo courtesy of: healthsignal.net

It may be because I carry a pretty generous load in the front, causing me to eventually hunch over in my seat. I never even think about it. But now I make a conscious effort to maintain a straight posture. Simply maintaining good posture engages your core, strengthening the ab and back muscles. You automatically look leaner and taller. At first, it takes concentration and focus to keep your shoulders back, chest out, and stomach taut. It actually feels pretty awkward to position yourself like this. But eventually it becomes pretty natural. I remember my future husband coming home from the National Guard several years ago. His posture was so stern, he couldn't even force himself to hunch. For him, it felt awkward.

Posture is extremely important when working out for obvious reasons. Doing an exercise with incorrect posture can definitely cause more harm than good.
Photo courtesy of:  http://djdeedle.libsyn.com   

#2 - Stretching
I am truly learning the impact of a good stretch these days. No matter what type of fitness regimen you keep or even if it's none at all, stretching is of major importance. According to the Mayo Clinic:

  • Stretching increases flexibility. Flexible muscles can improve your daily performance. Tasks such as lifting packages, bending to tie your shoes or hurrying to catch a bus become easier and less tiring.
  • Stretching improves range of motion of your joints. Good range of motion keeps you in better balance, which will help keep you mobile and less prone to falls — and the related injuries — especially as you age.
  • Stretching improves circulation. Stretching increases blood flow to your muscles. Improved circulation can speed recovery after muscle injuries.
  • Stretching can relieve stress. Stretching relaxes the tense muscles that often accompany stress.
With this new gym membership and a 3 to 4 day a week schedule (for now) of running/walking and weights, failure to stretch properly can mean unnecessary soreness and injury AND me never wanting to go back!! Not gonna happen!

I've always been pretty flexible. Not quite double jointed but I could always maneuver into some pretty strange contortions as a child and into my teenage years and beyond. I was constantly stretching!! But overlooking several years worth of daily stretching, age, and a pretty brag-worthy sized gut after two kids has really put a hamper on that. Gone are the days when I could fall back into a back-bend (I actually did one of these the other day by pulling myself up from the floor, don't ask me how I got down, it took a while), put my legs behind my head (mind out the gutter people), and do a split that almost touches the floor. But I know I can get back to that point!! Don't underestimate the power of a good stretch!

#3 - No self-sabotage!! 
At least not in my own house!

It always ends the same way. I start seeing the slightest of results after I put in tons of hard work. Then I think, I can have one burger. Hmmm that was tasty. I can have one a week. Twice, errr umm yeah. Fail!! It's hard enough out here in this cruel over-indulgent world with a Wendy's on this corner, Popeyes on that corner. The last thing that a person who struggles with food boundaries needs is temptation within his or her own home. If you don't buy it, it won't be in your kitchen calling your name. Simple right? Yeah not so much. Even when I do succeed at not buying a single junky food, I curse my own name when I find myself frantically looking for a cookie to drink with my milk later!! lol! But it does leave me with no choice but to succeed!

This can be especially hard to overcome with two young kids in the house. Oh do my husband and I have a terrible weakness for the baby's graham crackers! While it isn't quite fair to deprive kids of all of their fun yummy treats, balance is attainable. Kids only learn to love what we give them and it is quite possible to add mostly healthy snacks. My kids love apple sauce, mandarin oranges, and cheese cubes etc. Both kids and adults love to see a spread of sliced fruit, veggies with low-cal dip, and 100% fruit juice Popsicles. 
Photo By Jae Yong
All of this, of course, is easier said than done. In order to give my shopping trips the most chance of being successful I try to do the following:

  • When possible, go without the kids. I try to fit in grocery shopping during my lunch hour or when someone is available to watch them. This keeps me focused on what I came for without a lot of the "Mommy can I have"'s. 
  • Eat before your trip. We all know this one. DON'T GO HUNGRY! I'm bound to rip open a pack of oreos if I come to the store ravenous. 
  • Don't go stressed! If at all possible avoid going to the grocery store when you are stressed. The worst time for me to go is after work after rushing like a mad woman through rush hour traffic to pick up my children. I'm not focused, I'm tired, my kids are restless, and I might just throw anything into the cart looking for a pick-me-up.
  • Have a list most of the time. Sometimes we're only going for 1 or 2 staples and end up leaving with a full cart. Have a list and stick to it! Know which healthy items will be on sale and plan ingredients for home cooked meals. 
  • Avoid certain aisles. Generally, the areas on the outer skirts of the store, are the healthiest with the most whole foods. i.e. Produce, meats, seafood, dairy. Most of your grocery list should come from these places. Most inner aisles of stores contain processed convenience foods. I try to completely avoid any aisle that has items that I'm likely to SMASH in a couple of sittings i.e. Raisin bread, Fudge stripes
It is this sense of being prepared that will lead to the ability to maintain a fit body with minimal interference. And speaking of preparation...

#4 - Be prepared!!
This is definitely the most crucial part of a recipe for success. This is probably the hardest part for me to overcome. I don't consider myself a bad eater. I make pretty good choices 85% of the time at the grocery store. If I bring my own lunch to work, it's probably going to be last nights balanced meal and a piece of fruit. But if I'm not prepared, the monster in my belly will creep up into my brain and tell me to eat ANYTHING that's fast. Regrets to come later. In order to get to my goal, 85% of my food choices will HAVE to be from home prepared meals and snacks. There are just not enough options out here. A person can only eat so many Subway sandwiches before they start smelling jalapeño and cheese stuffed whoppers. But I digress. 

Sometimes it feels like there is not enough time in the day to be so prepared. Sometimes your creative juices just aren't flowing with regard to healthy meal options. But you would be surprised what you're willing to do with the right...

#5 - Tools!!
Meet my new baby...Georgy

"Introducing the biggest, most versatile, removable plate grill ever! With 106 square inches of round cooking surface, the new George Foreman 360 Grill is a deep-dish pizza oven, quesadilla press, omelet maker, or pancake griddle all in one stylish package. And with our patented angled cooking surface, you can still enjoy succulent steaks, chops, seafood, and burgers while leaving the fat behind." (hee hee hee fat behind ~ spc)  

We got this from my mother-in-law for Christmas and I love this thing!!! So far we've made jerk chicken wings, grilled catfish, pancakes, omelettes, some type of pita sandwich creation, and so many other things. The possibilities are endless! I haven't even gotten to the quesadilla plates yet! It makes creating healthy dinner options fun! It's a very valuable tool in my arsenal. 

Great pots, sharp knifes, Tupperware,  food processors, juicer, blender, slap chop, whatever! Have as many tools available to you as you need to make meal prep easy and exciting! This is an investment!

Another one of my most important tools...my music!!
Music is a huge motivator for me. When I'm pushing myself to the limit in a workout, I find that the right song with the right beat can add another several minutes to my run/walk. I listen to an extremely wide variety of music from hood hop to indie pop to euro trash dance. When I workout I mostly love the annoying dancy stuff that I probably wouldn't bump in my car lol. 

For now this is my good friend...

The Sansa Fuze
But I'm looking to upgrade because this sucker is not very workout friendly. I like to be able to feel the dials I'm pressing without taking the mp3 player out of my pocket. The dial is too sensitive on this one and the locking mechanism is for the birds. But it will do for now.

Now these...
Hype™ Adjustable Stereo Headphones - Pink
These are my boo! Those earbud type of headphones just don't work for me. Sure they are convenient because they aren't bulky and very easy to transport. But they don't stay in my ear and I constantly have to reposition them. Total zone interruption! One day I was in Bally's working that treadmill. I'm in the middle of a running interval and my workout jam comes on (Black Eyed Peas "Pump it", this song gets me sooo ummm...PUMPED). I'm pushing for that next minute. Pushing, pushing, pushing and... my earbud slips out. Ughhhh! Focus shattered. That will NOT happen again. I found these great sounding, cool-looking, old school sturdy pink darlings at Marshalls for $9.99 but according to Bed Bath & Beyonds website, they have them on clearance for $4.99. 

I put a lot of work into my workout playlists. I have to make sure they flow from one level to another and will get my feet moving to the beat. And I change them frequently to make sure I don't get bored. Here's this weeks playlist seperated into 4 levels: 

Warm-up/Cool down- stretching, yoga, treadmill under 2.5, slow-paced walk, etc.
Low/Moderate-intensity - treadmill 2.5 - 3.5, moderate to power walk, weights, etc.
High-intensity - treadmill 3.5 and higher, jog/run, jump-rope, etc.

Kanye West -- "Good Morning"  - listen
Adele -- "Rolling in the Deep" - listen
Wiz Khalifa -- "Black & Yellow" - listen
Lykke Li -- "Let it Fall" - listen
Twista -- "I Do" - listen
Lil Kim -- "Queen B" - listen
La Roux -- "Bulletproof" - listen
Mavado -- "Weh Dem A Do" - listen
Black Eyed Peas featuring Kid Cudi -- "Boom Boom Pow Remix" - listen
Thunderheist -- "Jerk It" - listen
Dirty Money -- "Azz on the Floor" - listen 
Kid Sister -- "Switchboard" - listen
N.E.R.D. -- "God Bless Us All" - listen
Nina Sky -- "Only You" - listen
Miguel -- "Hard Way" - listen
Rihanna -- "Skin" - listen

Next week I'll start all over again!!

The last tool that I've been using heavily is right in front of you...the internet
Obviously there are endless amounts of wacky websites telling you all sorts of conflicting information about how to achieve and maintain a fit body. It's scary out there! But there are definitely more than a few that offer valuable information as well as offering a support system. Here are a few I enjoy:

a black girl's guide to weightloss
This girl talks the talk and walks the walk.
On what makes her qualified to write a fitness blog...

"Oh… I took some time to myself, and worked my tail off. I’ve done (and still do) the reading. I’ve 

done the studying. I’ve done the living. Sure enough, I lost 110 lbs in one year. That a good enough 

answer? :)"

Excerpted from Welcome to A Black Girl’s Guide To Weight Loss! | A Black Girl's Guide To Weight Loss 

And she's done it by eating clean and staying committed to a fitness regimen. No tricks, no short cuts. Not only did she build her own site but she frequently posts extremely helpful, interesting, and entertaining reads from her own cultural perspective. I'm addicted!

Fit and Fabulous Divas
This is a new blog formed by two real life, real sized girls who are taking a journey together with the end goal being a healthy body and healthy lifestyle. I can definitely relate to that and enjoy reading as they track their progress and offer helpful advice. I can totally understand Tiana's plight about not preparing for lunch in this post

This website is host to over 9 million members, including myself. This is hands-down one of the best fitness communities online. The site offers:

  • Personalized diet & fitness plans
  • Calorie counter, workout tracker, exercise demos & videos (Swirls Pearls & Curls personally cringes at calorie counting but... the crap works)
  • Answers from our dietitians & trainers on message boards
  • Connect with others like you in our support teams

Have you made a commitment to fitness for 2011 (and beyond)? 

What major, but doable, sacrifices have you made? 
Please share your tips!


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