Common-sense disclaimer: These are the exercise elements that worked for me. You and your health professional are responsible for choosing a safe and effective exercise program for yourself. I am not being paid by the companies mentioned. I am simply telling my story and hoping I can inspire you to have a strong body.
When I started my workouts, I only knew two things:
1. I had to be able to do them at home or close to home, because of time constraints and childcare issues.
2. They couldn't be hard on my body. I've had issues with my knees for years, and I didn't want to cause more damage.
I'm also a girl who loves quality products for bargain prices, so I was on the hunt for effective workouts that weren't going to break the bank. Here's what I did.
No Excuses Workouts
I started with Jonathan Roche, because his information was free, made sense, and he was so encouraging. His mission is to get average people to make fitness part of every day. It seems like his audience is mostly non-athlete moms who have 40-100 pounds to lose, and while that wasn't my case, I loved how he understood that moms don't have loads of time to exercise, yet the whole family depends on their health.
Take-home info: Interval training helps peel off fat, small workouts are better than none, and a combo of cardio and strength workouts is dynamite.
Review: Start with his free material and decide if it's a fit for you. I bought the No Excuses Workout System, and didn't really use the DVDs and CDs. I'm a rebel that way. I love getting his emails, but I found his web-based exercise log to be lacking, mainly because it's not user friendly. I use dailymile to log my workouts instead, but you can only get a customized workout plan by buying his system, which is pretty affordable. He seems to be a genuine guy.
Walking, then running
Jonathan Roche is fantastic about giving people kudos for any workout, no matter how small, while still inspiring them to do great things. When you read a testimonial about a woman with Parkinson's who's lost 30 pounds just doing interval workouts in her driveway, it's hard to make excuses.
So I started power walking in my neighborhood (in February, in Montana--no excuses!), and quickly progressed to jogging . . . slowly. By walking and jogging the same loop within sight of my house, I was able to pop a video in for my kids and exercise outside (ahhh!) for 30 minutes, maximum. My kids are old enough to be safe in this situation, but if yours are younger, you might be able to have an exercise playdate with another mom. One mom watches the kids, the other exercises, then you switch.
Moving my body outside a few times a week made a huge difference in my mental well-being. Adding sunshine and fresh air to exercise endorphins still keeps me hunting for ways to stay out of the gym and get outside!
I read about Callanetics when I was in high school, believe it or not, and remembered that founder Callan Pinckney developed these exercises as a way to gain muscle tone even though she was injured. I wanted my strength training to be low- to no-impact, and I didn't want to have P.E. class flashbacks. You know what I mean. This fit the bill perfectly. I was able to squeeze in the 20-minute workouts before the kids woke up or after they went to bed, I got results fairly quickly, and the workouts didn't leave me exhausted.
I got a used VHS tape for less than $5, but amazon.com now offers a DVD. Not dirt cheap, but a far cry from a gym membership.
Take-home info: You don't need weights or a home gym to tone your muscles. You can trim your body even if you have physical challenges or injuries.
Review: This program was taped during the mid-90s, and the fashion is not inspiring. The exercises are effective, however, and it's pretty easy to get past the visual. I skipped the exercises that were too hard and focused on the ones I needed for belly, butt and thighs.
After a while of working out with Callenetics, I felt like I was strong enough to try a longer, more involved strength workout that still avoided the gym class feeling. After reading many, many reviews on amazon.com, I chose Ellen Barrett's Crunch--Super SlimDown DVD. Yes, Ellen is tiny and there are women with fake boobs on the set, but she seemed professional and genuine. I previewed the 45-minute workout through Netflix's "Watch Instantly" feature before I bought the DVD. I have passed this DVD on to Elle for now, but will definitely come back to it.
Take-home info: You don't need 50 or 100 reps of the same damn exercise to get great results. Breathe. Keep your heart center open.
Review: For the moment, I am using Ellen Barrett's Yogini DVD (also 45 minutes) for my strength workouts. Dorky name, I know, but this and the Crunch DVD leave me feeling energized and feminine. Both DVDs target the belly, buns and thighs, but I feel that Yogini is more challenging. I really love the elegant, centered, strong workout I get with Yogini. Can't say enough positive things about it. I wanna try her Fat Burning Fusion DVD next.
Elle on the left, me on the right, with our brand-spankin' new road bikes!
The buddy system
Elle and I had been in the same situation for several years, which meant we were devoting almost all of our time to our child(ren), leaving almost no time for us. Comfort eating and the winter blues had really started to stack up, leaving us heavier than we'd ever been, aside from our pregnancies.
We decided to get in shape around February of 2009, completely independent of each other. While we're too Midwestern and cheap to actually join a gym and meet for scheduled BFF workouts, our discussions about how much exercise we'd gotten and how much weight we'd lost helped keep the other inspired. She's also my biking partner in crime. Heh-heh.
In the end, I lost almost 20 pounds and she lost 30. I am so proud of her and I'm very grateful that I had her steady, low-key presence to keep me going. Thanks, Elle!
What's worked best for you? What are your challenges to becoming healthier and stronger?