a simple plan

Did you know that mathematicians often refer to the best proof for a theorem as “elegant”? And, that almost without fail, an elegant proof is the one which is the simplest? I love it when life’s little problems have a simple solution, and believe that a simple solution is often the best one. (Some bigger problems — health care, immigration reform — don’t have a simple solution, but that’s a discussion for another day.)

My problem (one of my problems) for the last five or six years is that I can’t seem to find a consistent exercise routine. I stop and start, I try different things (join a gym! start running! go for lots of long walks!), but I never get to an improved fitness level, and I never stick with anything longer than a few days.

This all started with me having a fourth (then a fifth) baby. There were also a couple of moves and a couple of unsuccessful pregnancies in there, but the point is, I don’t always have the time, energy, and motivation to do what I think I should do, which is work out for an hour three or four times a week. And please, you earlybirds, don’t tell me about how you get up at 5 AM to work out for an hour before your kids get up. I’m happy for you, but the only thing that gets me up before six is a plane to catch — I can try, but I know from experience, I will fail. Lacking enough time, enough energy, and enough self discipline, I’ve been averaging one workout a week, or less. Until two weeks ago.

Are you ready to hear the simple, elegant solution?

Twenty minutes.

Every day.

I know, you could have thought of that. But hear me out. Here’s why it’s been working for two whole weeks, and why I think it will continue to work.

#1 I always have time for 20 minutes. It is easy to fit into a day, no matter how hectic.

#2 20 minutes doesn’t sound hard. You know that voice in your head that tells you to eat Doritos instead of working out? I can convince it to do this! I don’t dread it — in fact, I’m starting to look forward to it.

#3 Doing something every day makes it feel more consistent — there’s no, “I can skip today and do an extra workout on the weekend.” I just do it every day (except Sunday).

#4 I don’t feel exhausted when I’m finished. This has been a big problem for me in the past. I’m not good at pacing myself — I want to work hard if I’m going to take the time to exercise. I can work really hard for 20 minutes and still have the energy to take on the rest of the day. In the past, sometimes after an hour, I just wanted to take a nap.

#5 Because of #4, I actually work harder for those 20 minutes. I know I can push myself to my absolute limit, and it will be over soon.

#6 Believe it or not, I can see and feel the results, even with only 20 minutes. I’m starting to see my abs again (no small thing after five babies!), and I can always tell in the morning which muscles I worked the day before. I am a little sore, but not miserable. Perfect, right?

What do I do for the twenty minutes? Here’s what’s working for me:

Jillian Michaels’ 30-day shred — 3 different workouts, 20 minutes each, and she doesn’t mess around. You are working.

Cindy Crawford’s Next Challenge (this is so old I have it on VHS, but you can still get it) — it breaks up just fine into three 20 minute workouts, and works your entire body. The entire thing is pretty hard (like I couldn’t walk the next day), so it’s ideal for splitting.

Winsor Pilates (I never buy things on infomercials, but a few years ago my cousin Bridget had such success with this program that the flew her to LA to be in their next infomercial!) — it’s great for a day when you don’t feel like lacing up the shoes. No cardio, but great for strengthening your core. The one I have has a shorter 20-minute workout, and a longer harder one, which I break into two parts.

Honestly, you could just do Jillian Michaels every day (her DVDs aren’t very expensive — definitely worth trying), but I get a little bored. I don’t want to have a set program; I just do the workout that sounds good today. The key to this is do it every day and work very hard for the 20 minutes.

I hope in a few years, when my kids are all in school, I’ll have time for an hour (someday I want to do P90X — have you seen those before and after pictures?), but right now, this is working great for me. I am so excited about it, I just had to pass it on.

And you? What’s working for you?


7 thoughts on “a simple plan

  1. Sarah

    THis probably sounds horible, but the reason I go to the gym is for the hour break that I ge from my kids! It’s my litle oasis. I try to go three times a week, but I’ve been a bit of a slacker lately! I like all the variety in your videos. You should also get Julianne Hough’s Dance workout. I’m a sucker for for anything dance related!

  2. Nana

    Good going, Liz. Such a good way to be consistent! I’ve been walking the McAndrews hill a few times a week with Julie Gregg but have to get back to the gym to fix my ugly upper arms and my flabby abs. Can it be done?! I’d like to wear short sleeves again. I’d also like to keep off the 10+ pounds I lost last month, not sure I can do it with my love for junk food. It felt so good to get rid of my roll though.

    How about Sylvia and Mike’s awesome call!!

  3. LCM

    Sarah- that’s how my husband convinced me to join the Y! I exercise because when I don’t, I don’t feel well. I now lift weights in a class twice a week and then do some form of cardio the other 3-4 days. I can’t say enough about 10 minute solution DVDs. I had the first Pilates one and I gave it to my sister after she had her first baby. Any woman who has had a baby could use a good Pilates video. The ten minute sections are fabulous.
    Good for you for setting this goal. I honestly workout for my family. I wanna be a healthy grandma some day.

  4. Robin

    Good for you Liz! I’ve been trying to get up the gumption to be more regular too. I’ve been managing about one workout a week. But I’ve found a lot workouts that are broken down into ten minute sections on Netflix, and I’m going to start with trying to do them every other day (because I’m too sore to do them the next day). It’s hard to get started, and to come up with excuses. I bought those Windsor pilates videos after I had Brianna, and I remember they about killed me the first few weeks, but after a while, just doing the twenty minute workout, I totally saw results. So, I’ve just been putting off my workout today by messing around on the computer, but now you’ve guilted me into getting on with those lunges. Thanks. So Much. Really. Ok. Here we go.

  5. liz Post author

    Sarah, I used to love the gym for that same reason. I’m at a little different stage now, and getting to the gym, working out and getting home always takes me about two hours, which I just don’t have right now.

    Mom, you’ll have to try my videos when I’m home — they’re great for arms and bellies. I think you could do it!

  6. home2learn

    i love this post! i can totally relate. i blogged this summer (pre-pregnancy) about needing to find a PLAN, and sticking w/it. and like you, i tend to be black/white, all or nothing … when i workout, it has to be a “real”, hard workout. I LOVE your reframe – 20 minutes a day IS enough. and you ARE seeing results. i am so encouraged! i look forward to resuming exercise after i have the baby … no carrying baby weight for 3 years, like i did w/maddie!
    GO, you!


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