I became a member of Bloor Street Fitness 5 years ago this January. It was part of my New Year's resolution. I look back on the day I joined as a turning point in my life and am grateful for this opportunity to share some of my journey.
The day I joined I was 85 pounds overweight. The number 16 sticks in my head. That's as long I could hold a plank and as many push-ups as I could managed in 1 minute.
Previous attempts to find the lighter, fitter me seldom made it, and if they did, they never lasted. I didn't aim to lose weight for 6 months, or get in shape for a season, but that is about how long my success would last.
In the past, I think I had set myself up for failure. I increased exercise, imposed a diet and cut alcohol consumption all at once.
I underestimated the magnitude of the change I was trying to make on myself. Too much exercise, too fast led to burnout and injury. An overly restrictive diet led to a feeling of denial and dissatisfaction.
Heeding these lessons learned, I decided that for changes to be permanent they needed to be sustainable, and for changes to be sustainable they needed to be gradual – starting with exercise.
When I joined Bloor Street Fitness, I made an agreement with myself. This time I wanted to find a way to make permanent changes.
The part of my brain that craved results and the part of my brain that clung to my sedentary lifestyle could both agree to at least 1 hour a week of exercise.
For 1 hour a week, there were no excuses. I had 7 chances each week to succeed.
By Easter 2015, 2 hours of boxing classes a week had become the new status quo. This has steadily increased over the years, and in 2019, my average was up to 5.5 hours per week with a combination of classes, weights, running and biking.
I credit the manageable introduction of this lifestyle change with establishing a solid foundation to build upon and support further changes.
The change: I added classes from Day 1. These remain an important part of my workout routine.
Impact: Multiple. The cadence that Wanda uses in her Tabata Strength and Conditioning class pushes me to 100% effort. Jacob's Movement for Strength and Conditioning has given me numerous new tools to take care of my body long term. For an amazing all round effort full of stress relief, I still love hitting the heavy bags in Alex's and Steve's boxing classes.
The change: I started using Strava to track distance and speed on bike rides, and now use it to track all my exercise.
Impact: The personal activity feed kept me accountable to hit my targets. Seeing current month vs. previous months activity made it clear whether I was on track. Analytics from recorded activities provided valuable insight into performance, particularly for things like running speed vs. perceived exertion.
The change: I weigh myself every morning, as soon as I get out of bed.
Impact: This daily checkpoint keeps me in touch with the impact of all my other decisions and motivates me to make better decisions throughout the day. A couple of recommendations: First - If you are just getting started with exercise, forget the scale and focus on that alone until your exercise routine is well established. Second – it is normal for body weight to fluctuate (mine is about 5lbs) and it takes time to learn your own natural fluctuations – don't let these discourage you.
The change: Eat breakfast. Every day. I knew the benefit of this one, but resisted it for a long time.
Impact: The right choice in the morning led to better choices at lunch and dinnertime when I would eat smaller portions. Eating a healthy breakfast also helped to get the right mindset for the day.
The change: I received a copy of the cookbook Batch as a gift and started experimenting with fermenting - everything from pickles to carrot juice to kombucha. Today, I often have numerous jars on the go.
Impact: I was able to channel my love of cooking towards creating delicious, healthier food. Kombucha, in particular, has become a staple in my diet. It’s a low-calorie drink, loaded with probiotics and a great substitute for beer or pop. A 4L batch costs about $2 (500ml bottles sell for about $4). In the past, I tried to kick off dietary changes by removing my favorite foods, and that felt like a punishment. My daily glass of kombucha now feels like a reward.
The change: In 2019 I pressed the reset button with a dry January. It became an occasional treat for the rest of the year.
Impact: At over 200 Calories per pint just 1 beer a day equals 20lbs worth of calories over a year.
Wishing everyone an amazing 2020. I love to hear about other's success stories; if you see me around the gym, please share.