I know, I know… isn’t it just so trite to say right after the holidays? Resolution time is just around the corner, so everyone looks down & realizes they can’t see their abs…or their toes.
For me, this wake-up actually started a couple months ago, after we closed The Scoop for the season. I took a breath, stretched, and started thinking, “ow…why do I hurt? Where did all my muscle tone go? Why am I so tired?” Then I hopped on a scale & discovered I was 25 lbs heavier than I had been a year ago. I won’t lie…for a brief period of time I was hoping I had gotten pregnant & not realized it & it was allllllll just “baby weight”. Isn’t that sad?
What happened? Well…we bought a business, while still having full time jobs. Our already somewhat full schedules were now jam packed…which squeezed out a lot of the time we had for exercise…and time for cooking healthy meals at home was often replaced by needing to be at the business, so we were eating out more frequently. Oh, and let’s not forget stress-eating our own delicious product. I mean… there’s a giant freezer, RIGHT THERE, with 15 kinds of ice cream in it. Could you resist?
So, here I am, frantically chasing down the “wagon” and trying to hop back on. I’ve already lost about 5 lbs in the last month, And I’d like to share some of the tools I’m using along my journey. I’m a little bit of a tech-nut, so these are the things that help keep me motivated.
1. "Zombies...Run!" This app is available on iPhone & Android devices. It runs about $2-3 and has so far been worth every penny. It turns exercise into a game, and if you’re a fan of post-apocalyptic shows like “The Walking Dead”, it’s supremely enjoyable. The premise: you’re a “runner” for Abel Township, a small community of survivors surrounded by zombies. Each run is a 30-60 minute mission (depending on what length you choose) where you have to go pick up supplies, rescue survivors, or spy on other townships for information. The radio operator for Abel communicates with you to give your directives, and in between his communiques, your music playlist advances (which you create—see my playlist here). During the mission, you get notifications that you’ve picked up supplies (USB keys, first aid kits, bottles of water, even sports bras & baseball bats), and at the end of each mission you earn more supplies… and you can build your own “base” in the game with these supplies (very Sim City-esque).
A few screenshots…
There are currently 2 seasons on the app, so about 60 missions altogether, plus new free “radio” missions being added all the time. The app can work via GPS or accelerometer, so you can still use it at the gym if it’s too cold to run outside (though, actual running on trails or around town during missions does add a lot to the “mission” feel).
This app keeps me going back to the gym… so I can build my base, and advance the storyline.
2. FitBit. Admittedly, I just got the FitBit for Christmas, so it’s still new to me, but I’m loving having all this data at my fingertips. It tracks steps, floors climbed, calories, miles walked… you earn badges for hitting different achievements (5,000 steps in a day, 10,000 steps, etc.) and the dashboard is fantastic. You can link with friends who have FitBits & motivate each other (and challenge each other, since you can see their steps in comparison to yours), you can track food (and make a meal plan for yourself based on how much you want to lose & how fast), activities (like workouts at the gym to keep your calories burned accurate), even how well you sleep. There are communities, forums, and online challenges on the website as well.
If you can’t afford a FitBit, there are other similar systems out there for a little less, but I feel like having the more mainstream version (especially one that other friends are using & I can see their activity) will help keep me motivated…sorta like virtual gym buddies. I got a FitBit One, which is the “clip on” style rather than the bracelet style, because they’re starting to get more cost effective (about $50-60), and you can find them used on Ebay, because so many FitBit fans are upgrading to the bracelet style Flex & Force models.
You get to name your FitBit…and yes, I’m a giant nerd.
3. Virtual Treks & Challenges. In 2013, I completed the 100 Missouri Miles challenge, to spend at least 100 miles on Missouri’s trails & waterways. People who successfully completed the challenge are sent a medal from the Governor…and my office had our own internal challenge so that all employees who completed it get a $25 gift card. I am nothing if not a sucker for small rewards. :D
Now, I’m starting on the Trans-American Virtual Trek, which runs from Virginia to Oregon. You enter the number of miles you walk/run/bike/hike each day, and it shows you where you would be along the trail.
4. Get a Big Cup. If you’re like me, you’re probably not drinking enough water. In fact, stats show that 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. We drink coffee, tea, soda…just about everything BUT water. It’s one of those things that SHOULD be so easy to do, and yet we ignore it… which causes all kinds of issues, from weight gain to headaches to joint pain to fatigue. Don’t want to walk back & forth to the kitchen all day for cups of water? Then get one big cup, that holds 24-32 oz of water, and drink 2 of them over the course of the day. I use a plastic fountain drink cup from the nearby gas station (yes, I realize their name is awful…yet funny.)
Drinking through a straw gives me the illusion of drinking a fountain soda. Can’t stand plain water? Keep a stockpile of fresh limes or lemons at your work & squeeze the juice into your water. You could probably use the Vitamin C, too. If you get the FitBit & download the smartphone app, there’s a quick button for easily tracking your water intake, too.
5. Reward Yourself. Build your own reward system for meeting goals. Sure, apps can give you virtual badges & such, but more tangible rewards can help keep motivation up… even if it’s as simple as “I can’t play any Candy Crush until I hit 5,000 steps”. How about making a reward jar? Put $5 in every time you go to the gym, and at the end of the month, have a mini-shopping spree, or get a spa treatment! Try to avoid food rewards though, as this reinforces an emotional connection with indulgent foods. I’m not saying you can’t have a cupcake; just don’t make it an “I deserve this” treat. Put it in with your regular calories for the day, adjust your other meals accordingly, and do the extra work (if needed) to burn those calories off.
Or, for some people, negative reinforcement works better. No worries—there’s an app for that. Check out Gym-Pact.com. You make a monetary commitment to go to the gym a certain # of times per week, download the app (so you can “check in” while you’re at the gym), and if you meet your goal, you actually GET a little money (it’s becoming more popular, so I think these days it’s only 50 cents/workout…there’s also occasional freebies like music downloads or coupons for online shopping)….but if you don’t meet your goal, you have to PAY into the system (minimum of $5/week). Oh, and if you’re not a gym fan, you can sync other apps to GymPact (like RunKeeper, if you prefer to run outdoors), and so long as your activity is at least 30 minutes & 1 mile long, that will count as a workout.
(FYI…Zombies…Run! will sync to RunKeeper as well, if you’re already using that app…but RunKeeper doesn’t acknowledge accelerometer steps so it won’t sync properly when you run in the gym as opposed to outside with the GPS.)
6. Log Your Food. Whether you use the FitBit program, SparkPeople, What I Ate, MyFitnessPal… doesn’t matter. Use whatever works easiest for you. But DO track it. You will find that you make better choices when you have to write it down somewhere. If you cook at home a lot, you can use SparkRecipes to enter ingredients & divide by portions to determine exact nutritional info for each serving (that’s the program I use to develop my NutriFacts for recipes I post here).
If you hate typing in a database, or get frustrated by trying to figure out calories for homemade food, try this: take a photo of everything you eat during the day. And at the end of the day, make a photo collage of those items (I have a free app called “HD Photo Grid” that generates the collage for you automatically after you select the pics) and then post the collage on your Facebook/Instagram/Twitter or blog. This gives you accountability without tracking actual calories…and by making one collage, you’re less likely to annoy your friends with food pics 5x a day.
7. 30 Day Challenges. We see them every day on Pinterest… and maybe we pin them, but we don’t actually DO them. Just once…DO one. I’m currently on Day 12 of the Plank Challenge….and my husband is doing it too (he is actually in better core shape than me, so he jumped ahead & is already up to Day 21, but we won’t hold that against him :D). The idea that I will eventually be able to plank for 5 minutes? Seems a little intimidating, but you know what? 11 days ago, just doing a 20 second plank was somewhat of a challenge. Adding 15 seconds each day…it’s easier than it seems.
Print out the graphic that shows the daily breakdown, and tape it up wherever you plan on doing it (for me, it’s on my bathroom mirror). Keep a pen handy so you can cross off each day as you complete it.