With the world seemingly whizzing towards its much-anticipated end, many of us are feeling the very real imminence of tribulation and suffering. But even if you’re not an end-times believer, regular exercise and activity is something that literally all well-fed Westerners need.
Today I am going to be discussing some very basic, practical ways to get going with an exercise routine. I will be addressing diet and the spiritual side of fitness in later posts. You can read the first installment of the ‘Sweating for the End’ series here. I believe passionately that we end times mamas should be prepping our minds, homes-and bodies-for trials and tribulation to come. And even if the Lord tarries, getting and staying fit has a multitude of practical and spiritual benefits.
So here are a few tips I have for getting over that sedentary slump and getting active:
Learn Proper Form
When I was younger, I took dance classes and walked everywhere, but I didn’t actually know much about how to correctly use my body or what a regular workout routine should look like. I just happened to marry a man who was a serious MMA fighter as a young man and later joined the Marines, so I learned a lot from him. It’s like having my own personal personal trainer! I definitely realize I really lucked out there. He coached me on how to start running and simple calisthenics which was really what set me off with serious fitness. And most importantly, he always makes sure I’m using proper form.
But of course, not everyone is married to a fitness expert. There’s still plenty you can do to get started. I would suggest meeting with an actual personal trainer, even once or twice, just to get personalized instruction on what you should be doing. Some gyms offer a free session with a personal trainer when you sign up, so take advantage. They can tailor a workout for you based on your skills and abilities, take into account any injuries or physical challenges you may have, and teach proper form and alignment. Physical therapists and body workers can be great for this too. Alternately, you could take a formal dance, sport or workout class to get knowledgeable instruction on proper form for your preferred activity-or learn a new one!
Pick Some Varied Activities
Picking exactly what activity to do can be a big challenge, especially if you’re not used to exercise. But you’re only going to enjoy exercise if you enjoy the activity that you’re doing. As I mentioned above, why not find a class for something you love or have always wanted to learn?
YouTube is a fantastic resource (although once again its best to have an idea of proper form first). Here is a playlist I’ve put together of workout videos I use and like. Quick tip on YouTube: sometimes you have to sort through some videos before finding one that’s at your level. I highly recommend browsing and skipping around some videos before you work out, so that you know what you’re in for once you begin. I’ve gotten stuck searching through YouTube halfway through a workout before and you don’t want to cool off once you’ve warmed up and lose precious time!
Think of the physical activities you actually like doing, walking, running, playing sports, whatever; I guarantee you there’s a YouTube video on training and conditioning for that sport. For moms at home, there’s a lot of options here. If you don’t want to do Yoga (I don’t recommend it, I should have a post on that, this is the best I’ve got) Pilates or ballet are great alternatives. I just started doing some YouTube ballet classes that have done wonders for my alignment, posture and muscle tone, and as a dancer its really enjoyable and translates easily to the skills I developed as a child, with extra challenges, so it works nicely.
Something I suggest everyone do in addition to any other physical activity is simple calisthenics and basic weights. Find some dumbbells that work for you, 5 or 10 lb weights can do a lot for a woman. Resistance bands are also awesome and probably more affordable; I just bought myself a Thera-Band and I have been amazed at the variety of exercises I can do with it. Again, after you’ve learned proper form, find a few exercises that you like and try to fit them in when you can. I’m talking things like squats, lunges, push-ups, etc. There are tons of classes on YouTube to give you ideas of what to do.
Also, get used to abs. Abs can be done almost anywhere, almost any time, and nearly every day. And we all generally want flatter tummies anyway. Find a handful of core routines you really enjoy, again, making sure you are using the right parts of your body, and just do as much as you can as often as you can. This is something you will be sure to see results from pretty quickly if you’re doing it right.
In conclusion, finding a good collection of simple routines you like is better than training hard at one activity all the time. You can fit them in to a busy life easier, and cross-training, or doing a variety of different workouts rather than just one, is really good for you; its actually the idea behind the Cross Fit fad and the reason it is so effective.
Motivate and Set Goals
OK so this is a bit cheesy but it really can work. Find something to motivate you to work out. Whether it be pinning a Bible verse up on the wall, choosing a dress you’d like to fit into or a pair of shorts you’d like to look good in again, choosing a (realistic) goal weight or a physical activity you’d like to master, getting it in your head that you’re working towards something specific is a lot more motivating that just telling yourself you need to exercise.
For instance, I am currently working towards losing 10 lbs and to be able to do an unassisted pull-up and the splits (not at the same time-ha!). Also, when I am getting fatigued during a set, I actually just try to imagine I need to save my kid’s life. Weird and morbid maybe, but the stronger I am the better chance I have of saving their lives if I need to pull one of them out of a burning car one day or something. This is just the way end times mamas think I suppose-but it really works! (Also the very realistic need to chase them down when they take off in public places keeps me motivated enough already) Some people like to imagine they are running from zombies during a jog-there’s even an app for that!
Dress for Success
OK so this is another one that may seem very silly but it’s something that’s helped me quite a bit: if you’re a stay-at-home/work-at-home-mom like me, putting your workout clothes on first thing in the morning can do a lot to motivate you. I have got to say, having a few pairs of really amazing stretchy workout pants (OK, yoga pants, but we don’t need to call them that) and some nice sports bras that I feel good in really just make me want to work out, and can be very helpful especially for more, uh, bouncy exercise. If I put them on in the morning, I’m usually itching to go.
There’s another good reason to be dressed for exercise at all times too. I workout throughout the day:
Grab Every Opportunity
With little kids, it can be impossible to ever get through a real workout. Trying to plan for exercise never worked for me, it’d always get interrupted by who knows what. There’s always something.
So my husband suggested just doing whatever I can when I can, grabbing 15, 20, 30 minutes throughout the day to do a quick set, video or routine. (OK, so he actually told me that guys in prison get really buff because they just work out all the time, because otherwise they’ll get shanked, and that they workout when the guys that want to shank them are watching them, so I should just workout like someone that wants to shank me is watching me at all times. Apparently this is how men think-but weirdly it worked to motivate me-ha!)
We are blessed with a decent amount of outdoor space, but even when it’s raining and I’m stuck indoors this works for me. So here is an example of a typical day for me, (of course subject daily to change based on diaper situations, toddler escapes, or baby dog piles while I do floor work):
- Wake up, put on my workout clothes, stretch and warm up while getting breakfast ready
- Once hubs is out the door, I get the kids busy with something and do as much of a ballet video or a calisthenics routine (this website is amazing and has a ton of ideas) as I am able before I get interrupted
- I set about work, chores, etc.
- When my kids want to go outside, I’ll run around a bit, do sprints, or stretch more, depending on what I feel like. Maybe even bring my dumbbells outside and do some weights. I might also take my kids to the playground and workout on the play equipment
- When we’re inside again, I might work on my negative resistance pull ups (working up to a real pull-up) or a few sets of push-ups
- Later on, I’ll do my favorite stretch routine for dancers
- Other things I’ll fit in here and there: squats, lunges and push-ups, 3 sets of 3; Thera-Band exercises; pull-ups with hubby’s assistance; jogging around outside the house with my 3 year old; burpees; other calisthenics; abs, abs, abs. Again, anytime, anywhere, abs are always easy and great to do.
Now, this isn’t a perfect workout plan, and you should have some idea of what you are doing with each of these exercises. It’s ideal to do a full workout, of course. I try to make my morning workout at least 30 min if I can. Then, whatever else I do during the day is just adding to that. I also try to take my dog running when my husband can watch the kids, or do a dance video, or just run around like an idiot with my kids for cardio as much as possible.
But, whatever you’re doing, taking care of your body is the most important:
Warm-up and Stretch Are Half the Battle
I have recently learned that no matter how hard I have been training over the last few years of running, weights and calisthenics, that they weren’t doing anywhere near as much for my body as I thought. And this is for one simple reason: I was not taking care of my body.
So this is really important: treat your warm-up, cool-down and stretching as seriously as you do the actual work. Some days half of what I do is stretching, but I feel stronger and more toned the next day than if I were to run three miles and not stretch at all. Your muscles are instruments that need care and conditioning.
This is why Yoga is so popular and physically effective, but its not at all the only option for isometric, focused stretches and conditioning. As I mentioned, Pilates and ballet stretches and toning are great non-spiritual-door-opening alternatives, and as a former dancer I have been loving both. Learn your body, where your muscles are, how to stretch, when to stretch, etc. Again, this is something a few sessions with a professional or at a formal class will do wonders for, or, if you’re like me and you already have an idea of proper form and when and how to stretch, again, YouTube is a goldmine for different activities and instruction from real professionals. These types of videos are actually much more likely to have seasoned professionals who know about safe and effective stretching really break down what to do so you don’t hurt yourself.
Also, if you can’t workout on a given day, always make time to stretch. It’s better that you keep your muscles properly cared for than to just wail on them without treating them right.
Stretching is also a wonderful time to calm yourself down, breathe, and, this may sound a bit cheesy but its true for me, marvel at the amazing creation that is your body. Especially as you get more fit and limber, stretching is really when you will notice the changes in your body. Whether its weight loss, muscle gain, more tone or flexibility, becoming intimately familiar with your body, monitoring its changes and focusing on this incredible instrument the Lord blessed you with is a great way to begin-and end-a workout. Don’t ever forget the things your body was designed to be able to do!
Please comment below if there’s anything I left out, or if there are workout tricks and tips you have! Happy sweating ladies!