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?
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:
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?