Finding Balance: How I Created My Ideal Exercise Routine
Plus 3 tips for creating your own
My exercise routine, just like my diet, has changed a lot over the years. It took a while for me to find what worked best for me, and that is often the case. Many of us stay physically active through high school with sports, but after that, it seems like our options aren't as fun. Here's how I found what was best for me.
Throughout my school years, I was involved with a variety of sports, from my kindergarten coed soccer team to cheerleading and track in high school. I enjoyed soccer through middle school, until I would have had to join the girls only high school team in the next town over (our K-12 school of 500 students was too small to have its own). I also played volleyball and ran track in middle school. I continued volleyball and track in high school, and also began cheerleading (which meant practice twice a day when the seasons overlapped). Since I enjoyed staying busy, I didn't mind the full schedule.
Challenge 1: Bone infection = no more sports.
Unfortunately, just before my sophomore year of high school, I got a bone infection in my jaw from having my wisdom teeth removed. That meant 24 hour antibiotics for 3 months, delivered via PICC line (an IV for long term use). Because of the PICC line, the doctor at the Center for Infectious Disease informed me that I would not be able to participate in sports. I broke down and cried. Although I had already been through two surgeries to remove the infection, I did not realize the severity of my condition until then. If the infection hadn't been treated aggressively right then, it could have been deadly.
Luckily, with the heavy duty antibiotics, the infection was resolved, and I was able to resume sports the following season. Instead of going back to volleyball the next year, my friends convinced me to try out cross country. I found a new appreciation for running, and continued it for the rest of high school. Cheerleading and track were constants for me as well. That is, until the final State Track Meet my senior year, after which, I didn't know how I wanted to stay active. Running alone didn't sound fun, I had no performances or competitions to practice for, and I had little resources to create a sustainable exercise routine for myself.
Challenge 2: The adult exercise learning curve. (Why didn’t they teach us this stuff in high school??)
I exercised sporadically over the summer, and even less after I started my first year of college and new job at Starbucks. Unknowingly, I was consuming up to 600 extra calories a day thanks to the free-coffee-while-you-work perk and burning significantly less as well. After 6 months, I had gained nearly 15 pounds! My eyes were opened during an Anatomy and Physiology class dedicated to diet and health. I decided to make big changes to my diet and exercise routine to get back on track.
I tried a variety of exercise options, from bootcamp videos online to yoga classes. I finally found something that worked for me: Blogilates. The Blogilates videos incorporated cardio and strength workouts with Pilates inspired movements. I found the videos challenging and fun! Cassie, the creator of Blogilates, was upbeat and positive, something I appreciated much more than some of the loud, body shaming trainers I had seen on the internet. I started doing the workout videos 5-6 days a week in between class and work. I squeezed them in whenever I could and pushed myself to get the most out of each one. Within a few months, I was back to a healthy weight, and I was feeling much stronger too!
Challenge 3: 21 credit semester/living with mother in law/2 hour commute
Of course, life happens, and I am not immune to the many challenges to leading a healthy lifestyle. Another major challenge was a semester in school that I was taking 21 credits worth of classes. We moved in with my now mother in law for a semester to save money and focus on school. With a much longer commute and more time being spent on classes, I wasn’t able to exercise as much. I still tried to fit in exercise whenever I could, and we made sure to be active on the weekends. Over the years, many more challenges have interrupted my exercise routine- ever changing school and work schedules, a 50 hour/week internship (plus homework), and moving halfway across the country to name a few!
When a challenge arises, I always make it a priority to find a new normal in terms of exercise.
The next type of exercise I fell in love with was HIIT. High Intensity Interval Training. Led by Kelly and Michael, fitnessblender.com became my new favorite for a busy times. High intensity bursts of exercise meant getting a better workout in a shorter period of time. I was all for it! These workouts also had other benefits: strength exercises and cardio were worked into one routine, and the afterburn effect created an increased calorie burn throughout the rest of the day. (Excited to talk more about the benefits of HIIT with you all in the future!) The last thing I’ll say about Fitness Blender is that I love their little to no equipment approach, so the workouts can easily be done at home. Bodyweight exercises can be extremely effective- no one really needs a gym membership to get healthy!
While a gym membership certainly isn’t needed to get a good workout in, it can certainly be an enjoyable option for many people! I recently tried a cycling class at a local gym and fell in love with it! Cycling is an especially good option for those with arthritis, knee, or hip pain, because it is lower impact. Swimming is another excellent low impact option. So how do you pick an ideal exercise routine?
The most important thing is to CHOOSE EXERCISE YOU ENJOY!
Exercise that you enjoy won’t feel like a chore, so you will be more likely to stick to it! Hate running? Don’t run. Love riding your bike? Do that! Prefer exercising with others? Try an exercise class or recruiting friends or family members to get active with you!
2. CONSISTENCY IS KEY
The second most important thing is to be active regularly. You don’t have to start out exercising for an hour 7 days a week. Start with something you can maintain- maybe 20 minutes 3 times a week at first, and work up from there. Staying consistent is more beneficial for health, and you want to avoid burning yourself out or getting an injury due to jumping in too quickly.
So what, do you ask, is my ideal exercise routine? In truth, it varies every single week. I typically aim for at least 4-5 days of activity a week. Since I have been enjoying the cycling class, I usually do that twice a week. If I am starting work late, I’ll do a HIIT or strength workout- or maybe a combination. I walk for about 30 minutes during the second half of my lunch any day that I can, and I take my dog on longer walks on my days off. Kevin and I also enjoy hiking in the summer and skiing/snowboarding in the winter, so we are usually fairly active at least one of the days on the weekend. It’s important to make your exercise routine work for you.
3. WORK EXERCISE INTO YOUR DAILY ROUTINE
Do you have a dog? Incorporate several longer walks a week. Your pup and your health will both benefit! Kids? Plan a family walk after dinner each day. It can be a great way to catch up and have quality family time- plus tire the kids out before bed! Busy work schedule? Set up walking meetings whenever possible. Take breaks from sitting to make a few laps around the office (bonus- hit the stairs!). There are countless ways to add activity to your lifestyle. Find activities you enjoy, set up structures to aid consistency (walking buddies, calendar reminders, etc.), and slowly change your habits to incorporate activity seamlessly into your life.
Like these tips? What are your favorite ways to stay active? Share your thoughts in the comments below!