Beginning is Easy . . .

Finishing Can be Hard

By Jim Thurston [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Jim Thurston [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Hopefully, through the months of January and February, you’ve not only started making a few life changes, but it is possible you’re starting to see some progress as well.  And, right now, you are working under the adrenaline and excitement of something new and shiny.  We all love new and shiny!

But the big question?  How do you finish?  What happens when you wake up one morning, and for the one thousandth time you tie your shoes and go for that run first thing?  You’ve seen the scenery before, you’ve done this before.  In fact, it is getting harder and harder to get out of bed.  Or, you have consistently lost about a pound a week and those pants are getting really loose.  But then you have a two week stretch where you gain weight.  Henry David Thoreau!  You stare at the scale, wondering if all the work was worth it.

How do you keep yourself going when everything in you is ready to quit?


First, I want to talk about willpower.  That part of our soul that gets us to do what we need to do, even if we don’t want to do it.  Official definition:

: the ability to control yourself : strong determination that allows you to do something difficult (such as to lose weight or quit smoking)

And no matter what you may believe about it, studies have shown that doing many tasks that require self-control will deplete your willpower.  You will become more and more likely to give into temptation.  So, with limited willpower to actually accomplish your fitness and nutrition goals, how do you actually do it?

This comes down to smart choices, in my opinion.  There has been many a time that I have given in to half a cookie at work, so that I could have the willpower to workout later that day.  Is this something I do all the time?  No.  But, I have to weigh how a decision will affect my other decisions later on.  It is also why I don’t like diets as the answer to weight loss.  Simply put, it is a plan that relies on an infinite amount of something that you have in limited supply, willpower.  There is no way you will keep it up indefinitely, which means at some point, you will fail.  Check out this awesome video from TED Talks:

Motivation vs. Inspiration
(And how to make them both work for you)

I know, I know.  That sounds like the title of a cheesy, self-help novel.  But, there is a difference between the two, even if both can help you keep going.

Motivation:  This can be anything from a picture, a song, a quote.  Anything that motivates you to keep going.  If you want to lose 50 lbs, a picture of someone 50 lbs slimmer than you might help motivate you to keep going when you hit a plateau.  Need to get out of bed every morning?  Maybe you ask a close friend that’s up then anyways to call you to make sure you’re up.  A friend of mine has to pay her buddy $1 every time she doesn’t work out.  Financial loss is always a strong motivator.

Inspiration: Usually, I find my inspiration amongst people I know or average people I read about that do amazing things.  Whether it’s a friend that has lost weight, or another that is getting in shape for the first time in their lives, it can inspire me to realize that I can do it, too.  And while it can be tempting to look up to your favorite celebs, realize that the time, money, and clout they can throw around may not be realistic for you.  If you don’t have $2000 to drop on a personal trainer to come to your house and make you exercise, reading how the Kardashian’s lost all their baby weight in 3 weeks may inspire and then defeat you when you can’t do the same.

Cut Yourself Some Slack

Finally, realize that you can’t be perfect 24/7.  In fact, that kind of expectation will set you up for failure the first time you lose willpower or skip a workout.  Stuff happens.  All.  The.  Time.

So, I think this is the last crucial bit to keep in mind as you work towards your health goals.  You have to give yourself a break.  Make sure your goal is also reasonable.  Surprise!  You cannot lose 100 lbs in 4 weeks.  And expecting that is a setup for failure.  Leave room in your plan for mistakes, because they will happen.  And when they do, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep going.

What is something that motivates you?  Who is someone that inspires you?  Leave a comment with your answers!



Time to Workout!

© Stefan Krilla

© Stefan Krilla

So. You have a plan.  A nice, step-by-step plan based on a specific and measurable goal.  With a deadline.  Great!  Now what?

I am going to post some different types of workouts or apps for workouts that can help you achieve your goal.  I hope to give plenty of variety since goals could, and should, vary depending on where you are in life.  A pregnant woman, like I currently am, should not be trying to do 1000 burpees for CrossFit.  An elderly person may need to go slow at first.  A fitness buff may be able to jump right in.

Goal: Gain Muscle

It may seem like a no-brainer.  If you want to gain weight, you go to the gym and go through every weight machine the place has.  Some workouts have it broken done to work each teeny muscle in your body, based on what day it is.  It can be confusing.  It can be frustrating.  And it can simply not work the way you think it will.

I recommend starting with Body Weight Strength Training.  No equipment, no excuses.  And no crazy or impossible plans.  I find that the more complicated you make it, the less likely you are to do it.  If you are just starting out, I strongly recommend Steve’s Basic Body Weight Workout over at NerdFitness.  I started doing this, and I did not make it to 3 sets.  I was lucky to make it to 2 and still had to take a break.  But, that is where goals can help.  If you can’t do 3 sets, that is your goal.

Want something more advanced?  Then start adding in weights.  Nothing complicated and please, for the love of cheese, don’t separate out single muscles.  You don’t use single muscles in real life, you use groups of muscles.  You can

Goal: Lose Weight

For this, I still say read the above goal and work on gaining muscle.  The reason is two-fold: you will look good when the fat comes off, and you will burn more calories than cardio exercise alone.  So, start with doing the Basic Body Weight Workout 3 times a week.  When I started this, it usually took about 20 minutes and I could only complete 2 sets.  The other days would be when you add in some cardio.  If you are anything like me, you will find that an hour on a treadmill or stationary bike at the gym would be pure torture.  I bore easily.  For some people, though, this would be a great way to get in some cardio.

For me, I use the Run, Zombies! app to encourage me to walk.  Getting some form of reward, even an imaginary one, has a tendency to motivate me.  Another great option is Couch to 5K, because you can be a complete sedentary person with this program.  By the end, it will have you moving and you will feel fantastic!  No matter how you slice it, add in 2-3 days of cardio if you can.  I emphasize “if you can”.  The idea of working out 6 days a week can be overwhelming and daunting, especially if you’re starting out.  Maybe that should be a goal.  Start off with something and work your way up!


I know there are more than two goals out there, but those are usually the two biggest.  Some of your specific goals may fall under those two above.  If not, leave what you are working on in the comments and I’ll be happy to help you find the resources you need to get started!

Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day

By Detroit Publishing Co., under license from Photoglob Zürich [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Detroit Publishing Co., under license from Photoglob Zürich [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

We’ve heard this phrase before.  If you think about the enormity of the Roman Empire, it truly wasn’t built in a day, or a year, or even a decade.  In fact, the Roman Empire existed for just over 500 years.  In comparison, the United States has only been around for around 240 years.  So, why am I giving this information to you?  And what does it have to do with exercise?

We use this phrase to emphasize that anything great takes time.  And as Steve Kamb states over at NerdFitness,

A robot doesn’t become a truck in one step.  You won’t lose 100 pounds overnight.  Slowly transform your diet, make changes that you can live with, and the new YOU will have a much better chance of fighting off the Decepticons and obesity.

So, let’s get started.

By Stefan Kahlhammer [GFDL ( or CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Stefan Kahlhammer [GFDL ( or CC-BY-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

The Biggest Thing You Can Do is Have A Goal!!!

And I don’t mean, “I want to lose a lot of weight.”  Or “I want to be ripped like Aa-nald.” (BTW, that kind of ripped doesn’t happen naturally.  It requires . . . “assistance”.)  While these are great as inspiration,  you need to get specific if you want to see results.  As in, you need a clearly defined plan.  Let me give you a couple of examples:

  1. I am just entering my third trimester of pregnancy.  For about a year before I found out I was pregnant, I had a very clear goal: I want to do a pull-up by December.  Then I broke it down.  I knew that I needed a lot more upper body muscle to pull this off (no pun intended).  So, I enlisted the help of a friend to personalize a training plan for one night a week.  It involved a lot of push-ups, a lot of burpees, and a lot of pain and sweat.  I also went with my husband to our local martial arts school to participate in their workout and kung fu lessons once a week.  This was clear, straightforward, and most importantly, something I could actually test.  Could I do a pull-up yet?  Were my muscles getting harder and more toned?  Was I increasing the difficulty of my workouts steadily?
  2. Let me mention a hero to me.  The person that convinced me that weight lifting doesn’t make you bulky.  And someone that inspired me.  Staci, at NerdFitness, started out weighing 170 lbs.  And she tried the “normal” way to lose weight.  She didn’t have a plan but just cut out fat (and food she needed) and ran a lot.  Until it almost made her sick.  She went down to 117 lbs, obsessed over every ounce, and felt physically and mentally miserable.  Until someone told her she was approaching it wrong.  She started researching nutrition and strength training.  And where is she today?  Though she has gained back weight, it is all muscle.  And she can now deadlift . . . 315 lbs.  Head on over to read the full testimony on her transformation, but it was incredibly inspiring to me.  Because I was heading down the same path when I read it.

So, in the first example, it was a clearly defined goal with a step by step plan that helped.  The second example brings me to another part of getting started.

Get educated

Don’t just believe that because someone said something about diet, nutrition, or exercise, that it is true.  Don’t believe me!  Do the research.  Look at the studies and read up on things like how your body processes nutrients or how your body responds to different types of exercises.  Use this information to help you make your plan.  Example: If my goal was a pull-up, cardio would not help me.  I needed to build muscle.  So, I shaped my plan around a lot more muscle building activities.  Do you want to run a 5k?  Then you need more cardio.

So, you have a clear goal, you’ve educated yourself and used that information to form a plan.  Now what?


One of the biggest reasons to quit is because you are trying to do it alone.  We all need a support group in our lives to help us through the challenging times.  It can be a group of online friends in a forum or a group of real-life friends.  It doesn’t matter who it is as long as they are their to support you.  Let me make it clear now, the friend that has something negative to say all the time about everything is not who you want.  You want positive support.  The day you don’t feel like getting up and working out?  You want someone who will keep cheering you on.  I recommend having at least one person in your life who will support you in this.  Maybe have them call you on the days you have a workout.  Or, even better, tell them you will pay them a set amount of money if you don’t workout.


Let me also add that all of this will not do any good if you don’t actually get started.  I have gotten stuck myself in the plan and research stage without ever moving forward.  It is a double-edged sword.  Without all of the above, it is easy to lose direction and focus, fizzling out like a wet firework.  (Think of the Ex-Wife from Iron Man 2).  But it is easy to feel like the planning is enough.  (“I planned every detail out and now I’m exhausted.  Time to watch some T.V.!!)  Try to find that balance between the two.

So, in the spirit of community, leave a comment with:

  1. Your specific goal
  2. A basic plan to reach that goal
  3. Who will your support as you follow the plan