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How To Create An Effective Exercise Routine For Your Lifestyle

Updated on June 18, 2018
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In her lifestyle & beauty articles, Michelle will break down the tips, trends, & methods that have proven to be the best.

Starting a fitness routine can be scary but there's no harm in trying and it doesn't have to be a huge commitment
Starting a fitness routine can be scary but there's no harm in trying and it doesn't have to be a huge commitment | Source

Fear of Failure

It's a shame that we women always seem to be at war with our bodies. I am not exempt from that ugly addiction. But I do have some experience to gift regarding how to best utilize your time to exercise, and how to discover which forms of exercise are right for you.

This will require determination and consistency.

I'm going to start out by stating the obvious. This is your life. This is the only body you're going to have, so whether you're 25 or 45 you can get control of the shape you're in.

I have struggled for years with finding the right long-term method for myself in order to maintain a shape I'm happy with. The main problem is trying to start out big and see results quickly.

I've tried very effective methods of getting into shape, such as Pilates, yoga, running, walking, strength training, dance, aerobics, and about 50 exercise DVDs with all kinds of variations on different workouts. No matter which form of exercise you choose, in the end, it's all about consistency.

There's no sense in starting an exercise routine if you just fade out of it after a month.

Your exercise routine needs to become a habit, like brushing your teeth or getting dressed. You've got to start out with a plan that's realistic and best suited to the way you go about your daily life.

"Your exercise routine needs to become a habit, like brushing your teeth or getting dressed. You've got to start out with a plan that's realistic and best suited to the way you go about your daily life."

Source

Great Expectations

One of the main mistakes we women make when we suddenly decide we're going to get into shape is having so many great expectations for ourselves that we just can't keep up. We end up feeling like a failure when we fall short of our big plans.

Reality Check: You are not going to lose 25 pounds overnight no matter what form of exercise you do, so any methods that advertise getting skinny very quickly are just trying to sell products and are not realistic.

First, you have to come to terms with the fact that this is going to be a work in progress. This is your body project, and it will take determination and time. Don't compare it to anything else any of your friends or family members are doing or not doing. They have their own bodies to take care of and they're not the same as yours.

If you are categorized as obese, then you will probably need some advice from a doctor or nutritionist before embarking on a weight loss journey, but if you're looking to shed between 5 and 25 pounds, you can start here.

"One of the main mistakes us women make when we suddenly decide we're going to get into shape is having so many great expectations for ourselves that we just can't keep up."

Let's talk about food.You may lose weight starving yourself for a week initially, but if you keep playing that game you're just going to lose and gain over and over again. You may actually end up gaining weight as your body tries to overcompensate for being deprived of calories.

There is no secret diet. You need to move your body in order to get your shape back in order. You can change your lifestyle and make exercise a priority - slowly but surely.

As far as eating goes, it's pretty obvious what foods you should avoid. Eating whole grains, low-fat milk, veggies, nuts instead of potato chips, fruits instead of candy, and not eating late at night is a spectacular way to go. Just keep those pig-outs to a minimum or only once a week. Easier said than done - but do try it.

This is what good, healthy fat looks like
This is what good, healthy fat looks like | Source

Just Do Something

So, how do you start? The way I started out was using the time that I had. Back in the day before I had children, I worked a 12 hour day quite often. I would go for walks when I got home - maybe around 8 pm.

Where I lived, the neighborhood was relatively safe. I would put on my earphones, with some motivating music - you'll know what motivates you - and I walked for 30 minutes. Then I would go home and do about 25 sit-ups, and then plank for 30 seconds.

If you put too much pressure on yourself to go all out you will get discouraged quickly and you will probably lose interest. At the time I started taking exercise seriously, I had a fantastic Kathy Smith workout DVD that I also used 3 days a week. It was called, "Build Muscle, Shrink Fat."

The cardio portion of the DVD was 30 minutes long. I would make time to do that DVD 3 times a week even at night. It was quite intense and involved squats and lunges at a fast pace. I found that the squats really worked for the back of my legs and derriere.

"If you put too much pressure on yourself to go all out you will get discouraged quickly and you will probably lose interest."

Clip From the Core Exercise Segment of Kathy Smith's "Build Muscle, Shrink Fat"

If you don't want to spend money on a DVD, then either find a free one on the internet or YouTube.

Commit to doing 25 sit-ups, 25 squats, and 30 min of cardio once a day or every other day.

This won't cost you anything but 30 minutes of walking, and then maybe 10 minutes for the additional exercises.

The plank is something I originally learned from doing Pilates. It's part of what is called resistance training that strengthens your core or tummy muscles by holding them in to stay straight.

Here's how you do the plank. You get on your elbows and toes, lift your body up into a straight position, balancing yourself. You pull your tummy muscles in and count to 30. Your body is going to shake, and it's not going to be comfortable, but let me tell you, that mere 30-second plank - done consistently - works.

If you can't make it up to 30 seconds in the beginning, then make a goal for 20 and work up from there.

The Plank
The Plank | Source
All the body areas the plank targets
All the body areas the plank targets | Source

The Class Factor

I started out thinking I couldn't get fit on my own. I thought I needed to pay someone to tell me what to do. Granted, I never got a personal trainer, but I did go to quite a few classes and I joined a gym. All of this I did when I was single and childless, so I did have more time to myself. I'm going to get to the part about managing your workout with kids very soon.

Joining a gym was okay. I went and walked on the treadmill for 30 minutes, staring out the window with my earphones in. Then I would go do the machines, feeling a little awkward and silly. Then I joined a yoga class, which was nice, and toned me up a little.

I still wasn't changing my body very much. Then I joined a Pilates class, and that's when I started losing some weight and seeing results. I would go to Pilates class a few times a week and even did a special private class where I used resistance straps and machines.

Pilates played an instrumental role in the getting me off to a terrific start in getting my shape back. I learned a lot. Unfortunately, I was unable to pay for the classes after a while. It was too much of an expense, but I had learned some key Pilates core exercises and there are plenty of Pilates DVDs out there.

By no means am I trying to undermine the value of a class such as Pilates, it's just that not every woman can afford to pay for it every month. I eventually gave up the gym as well, finding that walking or running outside felt much more invigorating.

The option to take a class or do home workouts is up to you -- and both work well depending on your motivation and comfort level
The option to take a class or do home workouts is up to you -- and both work well depending on your motivation and comfort level | Source

The Baby Body

After several months of incorporating cardio with my squats, sit-ups, and planks I had my body exactly where I wanted it to be. I was a slim, toned size 10 again - almost an 8.

Then, I got pregnant - at 34. I was so ill with morning sickness for the first 3 months that I lost about 10 pounds.

I moved into a new house in a new city when I was 5 months pregnant, where at first I didn't feel safe in walking while being pregnant. Eventually, I braved the outside world for short walks, but not often.

By the time I was 8 months pregnant, I had not been walking or exercising at all, and I was gaining weight so quickly that the doctor told me to slow it down. I was very pregnant over the holidays, and I may have actually eaten an entire box of "See's Candy" chocolates. I was almost 200 pounds and had started off at 150.

I admit, exercise went right out the window when I was pregnant, so I knew that after I gave birth I would have to work extra hard to get my tummy muscles to tighten again, plus I was in my thirties, so the body doesn't bounce back as quickly. My one advantage was that I had been in the best shape of my life right before I got pregnant, so I knew the muscles were in there, somewhere.

"You can do the toning exercises and sit-ups to get your muscles to tighten up, but you also have to do daily cardio to get the extra flab off. No one will ever see your awesome abs under the excess skin."

A pretty great and normal looking post-baby body
A pretty great and normal looking post-baby body | Source

After my baby was born, initially I lost weight very quickly. I was breastfeeding, but soon became utterly exhausted and the lack of sleep combined with poor eating habits just started to snowball and I ended up gaining weight. It was a very frustrating time.

I couldn't understand why I was gaining weight while breastfeeding when the opposite was "supposed" to be true. The only answer I can come up with is I was not eating like I should have been, stress, hormones, and lack of rest.

So, there I was again, needing to lose at least 25 pounds to get back to where I had been pre-baby. It certainly was a challenge to try and find the time to workout with a new baby and another school-age child to take care of. But I was determined not to be one of those moms who just let herself go.

My thinking was that I needed to be in shape because I was an "older" mother, and I was going to need to keep up with the kids. I wanted and still, want to be a good example to them of what being active and healthy looks like.

The challenge of not only losing the weight but training all the stomach muscles to go back to where they are supposed to be is intimidating. You can do the toning exercises and sit-ups to get your muscles to tighten up, but you also have to do daily cardio to get the extra flab off. No one will ever see your awesome abs under the excess skin. The combination of tummy exercises plus cardio is surprisingly effective in this way.

Pilates combined with yoga can really pay off if you're into it
Pilates combined with yoga can really pay off if you're into it | Source

"You have to do this not just for short-term goals like fitting into clothes, but for your overall health for the rest of your life."

If You Don't Have Time - Make Small Amounts of Time

Here's what I did to lose the baby weight in the beginning. I would go for walks with my baby in the stroller at least every other day. It got me out of the house, it got the baby out of the house, and it got my body used to moving again. If I wasn't able to go in the mornings, then I went in the evening. You've got to work with what life throws at you. It's 30 minutes.

I would take any opportunity I had during the day or evening to make sure I did some core work. I used Kathy Smith's, "Tummy Trimmers" and Tracy Anderson's, "Post Pregnancy Workout" DVDs. The Kathy Smith was great because each workout was only 10 minutes long and used some Pilates core methods for the tummy workouts.

If you are determined enough you can find 10 minutes to focus completely on doing a core workout every day. It's certainly better than nothing and it will pay off over time. If you can do 20 minutes as a busy mom, who may also be working, then that's a real victory.

The Tracy Anderson post pregnancy DVD was very long, almost an hour, so on days when I did that workout, my baby usually interrupted me and I had to stop. Tracy Anderson has some extremely challenging workouts. Sometimes I would just fast forward to the core portion and use my walks for the cardio.

Basically, when my baby went down for naps and my stepson was at school, I used that time to tone and strengthen my muscles. I made it a priority. If I still had time to relax for a minute or clean when I was done, then that was great, but my main priority was getting back into a shape I felt alive in.

Make time to exercise, whether it's a class or on your own at home with a DVD
Make time to exercise, whether it's a class or on your own at home with a DVD | Source

Exercise For Life

Now that my baby is not a baby anymore, I have adjusted my workouts. There is no nap time anymore. I have found that the only free time I have is about an hour before everyone in the house gets up to work and school, so I have taken that time and used it my advantage.

I get up early and I head out for my walk (with my mace). The walking has now evolved into running. It feels amazing. You can walk for a bit, then run, and so on. Incorporating running has boosted my weight loss over the last 6 months.

Note: Always start out running slowly, stretching before and after to avoid injury.

I usually try and find 10 to 15 minutes during the day to run upstairs and do a repeating series of core work, and my 30-second plank. Sit-ups have now been replaced by Russian Twists. Sit up and lean back slightly, holding your tummy in, lift your feet up while balancing. Then hold a lightweight - anything will do from a soup can to a ball - and twist from side to side. This move was instrumental in getting my waist back and eliminating my muffin top.

The key is I have been consistent, and it has paid off. After three years, I'm finally back in my old pre-pregnancy jeans. Some people may respond to exercise faster, some slower. The point is, you have to do this not just for short-term goals like fitting into clothes, but for your overall health for the rest of your life.

The Russian Twist
The Russian Twist | Source

"Take the first step today. It may only be around the block for now, or that tentative, awkward first try of a workout DVD, but it's a start. It's not so you can be thin and perfect, it's so that you can be fit, active and self-assured."

Running legs
Running legs | Source

Exercise is not only physical but mental. My mind feels free of clutter when I'm out of the house exercising. The endorphins are much needed in my brain before a full day of toddler tantrums, school pick-ups, shuttling around, preparing meals, cleaning, working from home, and overall kid drama.

The payoff is having something for myself - my health, my body, and my self-esteem. Those three things are vital to have as a woman, mother, and wife. I workout so I can be active for my children, confident for myself, and feel sexier for my husband.

Take the first step today. It may only be around the block for now, or that tentative, awkward first try of a workout DVD, but it's a start. It's not so you can be thin and perfect, it's so that you can be fit, active, and self-assured. You and your family will be better off for it and there's certainly no harm in trying. Your mind and body will thank you.

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© 2015 Michelle Zunter

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    • Farawaytree profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Zunter 

      2 years ago from California

      Thank you!!!!

    • Alyssa Nichol profile image

      Alyssa 

      2 years ago from Ohio

      Great article!

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