Previously Published Articles
Published TaeBo articles
The following articles written by me have been published at www.fitnessheaven.com and appear below without editing:
Attitude Determines Your Altitude in Fitness
Since starting my Tae-Bo and fitness journey, I have tried many other types of video workouts including other cardio-kickboxing, but most of them just make me appreciate Tae-Bo even more. Why? Probably because of the man behind Tae-Bo who is the personification of a positive attitude: Mr. Tae-Bo, himself, Billy Blanks. Besides being very charismatic, Mr. Blanks appeals to folks yearning for a healthier lifestyle because he promotes working from the inside out, focusing on how Tae-Bo makes us feel instead of how we look. Many who do not know the man think it is all about making money, but everyone who has had the opportunity to meet Billy at his World Training Center in California or on the road has always reported finding the genuine thing in Billy. Even his daughter Shellie exudes goodness and a positive attitude. Plain and simple, Billy Blanks wants to make this world a healthier place for anyone willing to work at it, and this message comes through loud and clear on his videos and in his live classes. This attitude of changing from the inside out is contagious to everyone who gets bitten by the Tae-Bo bug or "Billy Bug." Mechanically, he has made Tae-Bo as simple, effective and safe as possible, yet has also made it mentally stimulating and fun. More than anything else, it is Billy's attitude that is responsible for the exercise sensation known as Tae-Bo. In spite of all of the folks who get his message, there are many who do not, and others who forget it along the way. Everyone knows why he or she should exercise, though some try to find more reasons not to exercise regularly. Often the excuses given for not exercising are the exact reason why exercise is needed. Some excuses or obstacles are lethargy/laziness, fear of injury/pain, no results/plateauing, undesirable results/bulking-up, lack of time/priorities out of whack, not wanting to sweat/mess your hair, and probably the toughest of all to overcome, lack of motivation because of a myriad of psychological factors causing a negative attitude. Whatever the excuses, the main deciding factor in successfully pursuing fitness is having a positive attitude. Even folks with that positive attitude, such as myself, struggle with days when working out isn't appealing. If it is because you are truly not feeling well, please do permit yourself some time off. Many times the very reason making the workout less appealing (lethargy) is the exact reason why the workout is needed (to energize). Lethargy is a negative state of mind and the best way to change your attitude into a more positive one is to get moving. Just flip that energy switch on. However, be careful not to over exercise and cause any of the adverse effects of physical fatigue, psychological burnout or injury. Fear of injury is another excuse although Tae-Bo, if done correctly, is as safe as walking. In fact, you can even do it sitting down, making it safer than walking. Exercise also helps to prevent injuries, making muscles stronger and more flexible. I used to pull a back muscle with a simple sneeze that would debilitate me for weeks. Now, I rarely suffer from such injuries and when I do, they are way more mild and shorter in duration. Sometimes when I do have an injury, it heals faster if I exercise. Although the decision to exercise is usually the healthier one, other times it is best to listen to your body and take the day(s) off to avoid further injury or burnout from over-training. What keeps me going through those off days is the attitude that once my body is rested or healed, I will have a great workout the next day or another day. Another huge obstacle to a positive attitude about exercise for me has been my infamous plateau. Although I lost weight quickly when first starting Tae-Bo, I haven't budged in over a year. What gets me over that obstacle is remembering where I was emotionally and physically before Tae-Bo and never wanting to go back there again. I have accepted that genetically, I was never meant to be thin but am still seeing and feeling changes indicating that this journey is far from over. The most significant ongoing change has been a constant improvement in my knee pain early in the morning as Tae-Bo strengthens the surrounding muscles. Worse than giving up future changes and slowly losing more recent changes by quitting is the thought of where I would be now if I had never tried Tae-Bo at all and had continued to deteriorate physically. Perhaps a wheelchair? I remember becoming a recluse because walking and standing for just a few minutes became such a painful ordeal because of my weak lower back. I visit a board for folks over 50 who are trying to lose weight. Most who post there are only interested in the current most touted "fad" diet and turn a deaf ear to the need for exercise to lose or maintain weight as well as to the other benefits of exercise for folks over 50 (primarily stress and pain relief). As a person ages he or she becomes less active and muscles atrophy, which in turn slows the metabolism down, burning less calories. Obesity increases because of the combined slowed metabolism and the decreased activity, bringing all sorts of additional health risks such as diabetes, high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis, etc. Our goal as we age shouldn't be to just maintain weight but to feel better and to either reduce these complications or avoid them altogether. When I explain why folks should do a weight resistance exercise to build muscle, I usually hear the fear of bulking up. Most women will not bulk up because they do not have the male hormones and genetics that build those kind of muscles. Yes, they may hit a transition period where lingering fat is mixed with muscle, giving a bulkier image and a few, like myself, may have genetics working against ever being slim. Genetically, I'm short, large boned and mesomorphic (muscle prone) so I have the tendency to look more bulky. Physically, would I rather be huskily muscular or huskily fat? Emotionally, would I rather feel positive as a result of exercise and all of its benefits or negative as a result of feeling miserable because of food deprivation and ultimately failing at dieting? Very few people can lose weight and keep it off permanently with dieting alone because they have to eat less and less just to maintain their weight as their muscles atrophy, and even if they succeed, will dieting alone lubricate joints, maintain bone density, energize, relieve stress? The most amusing excuse to me for not exercising is the lack of time or not having your fitness quest be at the top of your list of priorities because your workout will facilitate the achievement of the rest of your priorities during your daily hectic schedule as well as help you sleep well to better prepare yourself for your following hectic day. Ironically, the people who complain about this lack of time seem to have plenty of time for sitting in front of a computer, so I have suggested not even signing on till after the workout if time is a factor. Just a 15-minute workout (either of the Tae-Bo eight-minute workouts) can energize. Also, supposedly the mind works best just after a workout so both the body and mind will be more efficient in accomplishing more in less time after a short workout. Just pick a specific time of the day that is best for you to be your workout time and do it. You'll be setting a wonderful example to your children, teaching them to respect their bodies and will be a happier and healthier person for everyone you care about and who cares about you. Tossing in the lame excuse of not wanting to sweat or mess your hair won't cut it either because the eight-minute workouts do not make you sweat (well, not enough to demand a shower or bath). Besides, don't most people in the civilized world bathe at least every other day? OK say you want a longer workout than 15 minutes and do not have enough time to shampoo and dry your sweat-soaked hair. You can try using a head sweatband because it will absorb most of the sweat, keeping your hair comparatively dry (just ask the guys who witnessed my wringing out of the headband after the QVC workout while my hair was still dry). Also if you keep your workout area coolish, you will burn more calories and sweat less. However, make sure you warm up your muscles fully and safely to avoid injury. A lack of motivation can be the result of a combination of psychological factors such as depression, fear of failure, low self-esteem and burnout/boredom just to name a few. In addition to finding a workout you enjoy and can look forward to doing, this negative attitude can be adjusted by surrounding yourself with fitness buddies like an online support group with a similar focus to yours or reading articles on sites like FitnessHeaven. Comparing notes with others will help you understand your own attitude better; analyzing what exactly is holding you back and how to alter it. These groups and sites can also be great source of tips to try to keep you moving. In fact, my online buddies are the main source of material for most of this article. Join your fitness buddies in a challenge like the one of doing tough floor work once a week for the rest of the year or doing at least a short Tae-Bo workout daily for 21 days straight to make it a habit, but just in the beginning because at least one day off a week is a healthier long-term plan. Focus on how you feel after a workout. Alter your workout so it energizes you. Try a different workout or do an old workout differently. Pump up the music and MOVE. Make it FUN. This is your time so make it enjoyable. Then treat yourself to a brisk stimulating shower or a long hot soak to soothe those muscles. People who are inactive and/or overweight have every reason to exercise and no real reason not to make exercise a permanent part of their lifestyle. Fitness will improve the quality of their life as well as perhaps lengthen the quantity of their life. Quality of life is a direct result of one's attitude. Make it a positive one. Why do those gorgeous people on the videos continue to workout after obtaining their almost perfect bodies? A Positive Attitude What keeps me working-out regularly though my weight plateaued for over a year? A Positive Attitude Why do so many people see me, a woman who is still obese according to the doctor's scale and medical charts as a source of motivation? A Positive Attitude Why Tae-Bo? Because Attitude is Everything and Billy's Attitude is contagious. Catch the "Billy Bug" and join me on the endless quest for fitness. Your body will thank you for it. And so will everyone who cares about you. What do you have to lose besides stress, pain and fat?
Using Baby Steps to Achieve Fitness
If an eating plan or exercise is not enjoyable, it will not become a permanent part of one's lifestyle, so by taking baby steps, a person can better find what works and doesn't work for a personal fitness plan. I have been changing my lifestyle slowly since discovering Tae-Bo almost two years ago and have found that slow changes are the key to permanent changes in exercise and/or eating patterns, and variety can keep those changes more stimulating to the mind and body. Whenever I have forced a change that did not feel right for me, I have seen a definite negative change in my attitude. An emotional feeling of well-being is as important as being physically fit, so any change needs to be one that a person can appreciate both on an emotional and physical level. Baby steps or small changes, along with patience, can enable one to achieve realistic fitness goals. Those goals can keep evolving with additional small changes and variety without the pitfalls of yo-yo dieting from extreme attempts to change one's eating pattern or injury to extreme attempts to become more active. Eating should not leave someone feeling emotionally deprived or physically lacking balanced nutrition. Exercise should not leave a person feeling exhausted or too sore. When I have attempted a sudden extreme change, I have found myself feeling as much out of control as when I was either overeating or being too sedentary. Also, becoming too obsessed about what one is eating or doing as a workout and attempting to achieve unrealistic goals may make a person feel more stressed instead of less stressed, especially if the results are not immediately seen or felt. It is one thing to be enthusiastic about one's food plan or workout schedule because of positive feedback but another to feel overwhelmed by negative feedback. A good way to keep track of how one's eating or working out is affecting this feeling of well-being is to keep a daily journal. If a person feels unenthusiastic about a particular meal or workout, the meal or workout needs to be analyzed and modified. There are some days a workout just may not click or larger portions of less healthy food may be consumed, but that is to be expected. The goal should be to stick to one's personal fitness plan most of the time and allow for some days of rest from exercise to avoid over-training and indulging in larger portions of less nutritious food to avoid feeling deprived. A day or two a week will not affect the lifetime effects as long as one has realistic goals and a doable plan. Obsessively avoiding certain foods can be just as physically and emotionally harmful as overindulging. Obsessively exercising can be just as harmful as to the mind and body as being a couch potato. Taking baby steps toward healthier, yet still enjoyable, eating and exercising will guarantee a better quality of life
Be Your Own Personal Tae-Bo Trainer
The first time I tried the original Tae-Bo Instructional workout (also known as the "Studio" Instructional not to confuse it with the one from the new LIVE 4 pack), it was like playing a very bad game of "Twister." You know that game where everyone puts a hand or foot on a chosen color spot and sees who is the fastest and most flexible or the most in need of a chiropractor? Anyway, just the stretches on the Instructional were so challenging to me that I was ready to quit before I even gave the original "Studio" Basic workout a fair shot. I'm very lucky I learned early on how to modify and make the workout my own because further down the road when I read Billy Blanks' book The Tae-Bo Way, I found out becoming your own coach was the Tae-Bo Way according to the Man himself. I'm hoping that my attempt to suggest some modifications and tips here will make others new to Tae-Bo more comfortable with permitting themselves to modify their workouts so that they will enjoy instead of dread their workouts, experience a sense of success rather than one of failure, and most importantly, play safely instead of risk injury. Bottomline, the goal of the workout should be to have fun and avoid injury. Before you get started, make sure you have water and the remote for pausing handy, you have enough clear space and whether barefoot or wearing foot support, that the balls of your feet twist easily on your workout surface
Cross Training, Weight Training, Mind/Body Training
After several unenthusiastic attempts at various exercises, I discovered Tae-Bo and made regular exercise a permanent part of my life style. Tae-Bo is enjoyable and effective mentally as well as physically. As much variety and weight bearing as Tae-Bo offers, there are many reasons to try other forms of weight training and cardio activities or cross training. Psychologically, the other workout formats make me appreciate Tae-Bo even more and anticipate a Tae-Bo "Day" with more enthusiasm. Physically and mentally, the other workout styles challenge different muscles differently, keeping my body and mind more stimulated. Weight Training From everything I have read and experienced, weight training is a necessary activity for women, especially for, less activity and diet depleted muscle strength and mass women. The benefits of incorporating this type of muscle challenging exercise include protecting bones from osteoporosis, protecting joints by strengthening their supporting muscles and managing weight by keeping the metabolism churning. The more muscle mass a person has and the more the muscle mass is used, the more calories that are burned, even after the activity has stopped and the body is resting. Managing weight will also relieve additional strain on joints as well as give some protection from other threatening physical conditions that can be associated with obesity such as diabetes, high blood pressure and arteriosclerosis. It is recommended to include two to three weight training workouts a week, but to avoid working the same muscle groups on two consecutive days. Give the muscles a chance to recover. Weight training can be done at a gym with a trainer helping to learn proper technique or at home with videos or written resources using free weights, body weight (push-ups, triceps dips), machines and/or other gadgets like toning bands. I, personally, try to rotate the weight training style as often as possible to keep it mentally interesting and physically effective. Other Cardio and Cross Training Suggestions As with weight training, variety is the spice of life so try differ activities as often as you can from dance videos and other types of cardio videos, even other kickboxing videos, to non-video activities such as biking, walking, swimming or water walking. The list goes on endlessly. I try to alternate a Tae-Bo Day with a non Tae-Bo cardio and weight training day. You can vary the exercise by varying intensity and can even combine the weight training and cardio by doing intervals of one then the other. This type of interval training can wake-up a sluggish mind or body. One activity I plan to try down the fitness trail is water aerobics and resistance, which uses water resistance as a weight training segment. No matter what activity you choose to do, always warm-up then stretch the muscles before the more intense part of the workout and always cool down and stretch afterwards. You can also add variety to your stretching routine from videos and written fitness resources. I try to rotate different stretching styles on my Tae-Bo day such as Tai Chi, Yoga or Pilates inspired videos. Mind/Body Training The largest deterrent to doing regular exercise is boredom because boredom will cause lethargy, both mentally and physically, so make your workout time as stimulating as well as much fun as you can for both your mind and your body. If you are not anticipating your workout with enthusiasm, try another activity or try to modify and vary the current activity. Your mind should be as involved in your work-out as your body to guarantee maximum enjoyment and results
Tae-Bo and Doing What’s Right For You
Everyone is different, so each person should realize the options of modifying a workout to make the workout more enjoyable, safer or more effective for that individual on any given day. A particular workout can have a different effect on the same person at a different time because physical energy levels and emotional moods are constantly changing. I strongly urge viewing a workout before actually doing it. Even though one lesson I have learned is that a workout cannot be judged by just watching and must actually be done by each person while keeping in mind the many options available to that person to modify the workout for their individual preferences and needs. These differences between people and actual workout periods can also make recommending a particular workout to someone else even more confusing. I have different favorites on different days depending on what modifications I choose to use, so I find myself cautious about recommending any specific workout video to others. I believe there is no bad Tae-Bo workout as long as one approaches the workout with the right attitude and mental flexibility. The modifications I am going to suggest here, though specific to Tae-Bo and favor lessening the intensity or risks, can be applied to other exercise workouts as well. The most important focus you can have when doing a workout is to listen to your body. If something hurts, stop and modify! Most workouts aren't intended to be done 100 percent. Just look at the body language or expressions of some of the regular workout crew during or at the end of a workout and be forewarned if a professional looks exhausted. Make sure your muscles are warmed up before doing any stretching or fast, powerful moves. Conversely, make sure you bring down your heart rate safely then stretch after the workout. An obvious modification is speed. You can slow it down if too intense (or speed it up if not intense enough). I, personally, prefer to slow Tae-Bo down to keep a safer form to avoid injury and to get the full range of motion working my muscles more powerfully. Double-times usually make my heart rate go way too high, and if I work too long at too high a heart rate, I feel exhausted instead of energized by the workout. If you want more repetitions while slowing it down, you can pause or rewind the tape or continue the move while Billy walks it out. Another modification is to do less repetitions. Doing too many repetitions or doing them too intensely or too fast can compromise a joint, ligament or muscle even if you are properly warmed up and your form is good. Too many repetitions puts too much of a strain on some body parts. You can either walk it out, alternate the sides that the move is using, do a different move or, my favorite, stretch the muscles that felt overworked in the previous repetitions. If you want to catch your breath or finish stretching without missing the next new set of combinations, you can always pause the tape or rewind. Another modification is to do the move in a way more comfortable to you. If a move is uncomfortable, do it leaning on a chair or even sitting on a chair. You can also modify all higher-impact jumping moves like jumping jacks by not allowing both feet to leave the ground and just stepping to the side instead. The important thing is to keep moving. A workout journal can be a great tool to keep track of your modifications and workouts. Try to register in the journal how you are feeling before, during and after a workout to see if you need more or less modifying next time. You can enter specific modifications that you have found useful into your exercise journal so you will remember them the next time you attempt the workout. Remember how you want the workout to affect you. I prefer to feel good about what I can do well and safely than badly about something I cannot or should not attempt because of my age, flexibility, or fitness level. To me, a successful workout should energize, not fatigue. Also muscles should feel challenged but not strained. Modifying can also make a workout more fun, adding more variety. Most folks are exercising to improve their fitness level, and Tae-Bo can only be done 100 percent by the very fittest. I believe it is better to pace and modify and complete the workout than risk injury or exhaustion. Be encouraged by what you can do, not discouraged by what you cannot or, perhaps, should not do.
Tae-Bo: The Ideal Full-Body Exercise
Even if you enjoy a particular workout, there are several reasons not to do the same workout the same way every day to ensure that regular exercise remains a permanent part of your lifestyle. First of all, any exercise that uses muscles is more effective as far as building lean muscle if done every other day, to give the muscles the necessary 48-hour recovery period to rebuild. Second of all, doing any one exercise daily could lead to psychological burnout or boredom where you are not looking forward to the workout and just going through the motions. Thirdly, it may actually cause a physical plateau or stall effects as your body adjusts to the exercise and is not challenged by it anymore. Lastly, it may even cause an injury by putting too much strain on tired muscles, ligaments or joints, especially if the mind is zoning out and not focusing on form. It is, therefore, more effective as well as more fun, to vary the daily exercise or cross train to make and keep regular exercise a permanent part of your lifestyle. My main exercise of choice is Tae-Bo, which is in itself an overall body workout, both aerobic (cardiovascular) and anaerobic (muscle building). I can do Tae-Bo every other day and alternate it with another cardio like walking to burn fat and keep the cardiovascular system more fit, or weight training to build even more lean muscle. However, what I love most about Tae-Bo is that it can be used to do it all, because the same Tae-Bo workout can be done four different ways to obtain a cross-training effect:
For maximum cardiovascular effects and to burn fat I can try to do the speed and all of the reps, or as many reps as I can perform.
For maximum weight resistance to build muscle I can do it slower, focusing on powerful muscle contractions and retractions during all kicks and punches with full range of motion.
For an ultimate overall workout I can alternate the two approaches above within one workout for an interval or circuit workout, varying my intensity (breathing and heart rate and form), having realized at my age that I cannot do both simultaneously without making my heart rate soar too high.
For stretching and active recovery, I can really slow it down to make it gentle like Tai Chi. Involving your mind more into a workout instead of just mindlessly going through the motions brings exercise to a much higher level for a complete mind-body workout. You will become more aware of how your body is feeling and performing when controlling your workout by engaging your mind to do the same workout different ways while listening to your body. Using your mind will help to know how to modify the workout to make it safer, more enjoyable and more effective. What is really wonderful about Tae-Bo is that besides having so many different workouts available (just check the store at www.taebo.com), each workout can be done many different ways with the approaches suggested above as well as making other modifications, like substituting a favorite move for a less favorite move. When I want to add even more intensity to a workout, I can use some of the "toys" I have acquired, two of which are the standing bag and resistance belt. The standing bag will become more popular once the Tae-Bo Impact workouts are released. Having a target for kicks and punches really helps to improve form and release stress. The HITS resistance belt is a belt with flexible bands attached for both arms and legs. It makes every move more of a weight-resistance move with the feeling of increasing the gravitational pull. The neatest part is how light one feels upon its removal. Yes, I still do other forms of exercise for variety, but Tae-Bo is still my most enjoyable form of choice providing endless hours of variety and fun.
Sometimes Less Is Better: Vary Your Workout to Increase Weightloss
Do you think you may be overdoing it with your new workout schedule? Varying your workout intensity and routine will help you maintain a positive attitude. Nobody would disagree that even a small amount of physical activity is better than none at all, but perhaps less exercising and exercising at a lower intensity may be better than you think. "Don't burn out like a meteorite but shine like a star," advised an online exercise buddy to others who expressed the "all or nothing" attitude. This all or nothing attitude and the 'more is better' attitude can work against real progress in health and fitness besides working against weight loss and weight management. In fact, it can prevent progress. Emotionally, it can cause burnout or even cause completely giving up. Physically, it can cause fatigue or injury. Folks who are overweight and/or out of shape often feel like they have lost control of their bodies and try to gain back some control with dieting and exercise, but maybe, this hopeless feeling of being out of control is inevitable because of having unrealistic expectations when pursuing fitness. People who exercise should control the workout and not let the workout (or the scale) control them. Permanent fat loss or weight management is a very slow process and a lifelong one and must include regular physical activity to retain and build muscle and to burn calories. To make regular exercise a permanent part of this process, it must have a positive influence on our lives. It should be enjoyable, energizing and a mood elevator. Working out should not be uncomfortable, draining or depressing. If it is having any of these negative effects, the available options for a workout plan or the chosen activity must be re-evaluated and modified before the attempt to exercise regularly will cease completely. Working out longer or harder at a higher intensity doesn't promise quicker and better results either. Even professional athletes do not workout at full intensity every day. A marathon runner does not run a marathon every day or even every week. Being an overachiever has made me sometimes attempt to workout more than I should or harder than I should, especially following my decades of inactivity. Soon after starting Tae-Bo and seeing immediate results, I started counting calories for the first time in my life as well as doubling my workout effort; becoming very motivated by the sudden weight loss and loss of inches. The combination of increasing my workout time and intensity as well as decreasing food intake caused my weight loss to stop abruptly. This could have also stopped my motivation if I didn't focus on how exercise made me feel instead of how I looked. Tae-Bo is a demanding exercise, and cutting down on calories slowed down my metabolism. Also Tae-Bo is very effective in muscle toning and muscles need recovery time to build. Realizing that I have probably been over-training and actually preventing physical progress, I have been working on a new workout schedule for myself, consciously trying to vary my workout's frequency, intensity and duration. Working out relieves my chronic pain, so I have found for myself working out daily is better than every other day so I try to have active recovery workout days at a low intensity instead of "off" days. Muscles still need that recovery time so I have been aiming at increasing the frequency of active recovery workout days. A good option for an active recovery day is to do a light aerobic activity that includes a lot of stretching. I enjoy doing Tae-Bo in slow motion like Tai Chi, going for the full range of motion and stretch. Walking, stationary biking and other videos like Tai Chi and walk aerobics are alternatives on my lighter intensity active recovery days. Now my weekly workout plan includes the following sort of rotation: Saturday is a day of 60 minutes of intermediate intensity Tae-Bo using an advanced workout while pacing myself and keeping my heart rate closer to 70 percent of its maximum heart rate. Sunday is a day of mostly upper-body weight training in intervals with moderate aerobic activity using various video workouts and the ab wheel. Monday is just very light aerobic activity and stretching or an active recovery day. Tuesday is an intense 30 minutes of Tae-Bo using a basic workout and a standing bag trying to keep my heart rate at 80-85 percent of my maximum heart rate for most of the workout. Wednesday combines light intensity aerobic Tae-Bo and lower body floor work. Thursday is high intensity upper body weight training using our weight machine as well as the ab wheel, free weights and toning bands. Friday is another active recovery day with light aerobic activity and stretching. I do a warm up before each workout as well as a stretch and cool down after each workout every day and may vary my intensity goals depending on how I am feeling during any given workout, using my workout schedule as a guide that can be adjusted depending on my daily energy level or mood. I chose Saturday and Sunday to have the longer duration workouts because I do not have to juggle them around getting our son off to school and can do them early in the morning and on an empty stomach except for water. The ab wheel is a nice little gadget (just a wheel with handles), much cheaper than the similar fancier advertised devices but just as effective for the abs and upper body. It has really toned my middle and upper back. The standing bag is a fun way of adding intensity to a kickboxing workout, giving a target for punches and kicks. It really helps to relieve stress too because the bag can become a target for whatever is causing frustration and stress. It has also helped me to improve the form of my roundhouse kick having a target to kick. My workout area in our basement over time has become quite an impressive home gym with a lot of video tapes and gadgets, including a pulley weight machine with a butterfly, bench press, hamstring curl and lat bar, which we carried home from a neighbor's garage sale. Variety is a definite key to keeping me motivated. My enthusiasm has infected our 15-year-old son who is developing a really nice physique by weight training every other day. Exercising regularly started out as an attempt to lose weight and feel better, but now it is also a way of spending quality time with myself and sometimes with our son. Previously, I was doing Tae-Bo at high intensity most days and three days of upper body weight training a week and randomly but rarely taking one day off. Though I was still enjoying the workouts, not seeing any physical results on the scale or tape measurer compared to those I saw during my earlier Tae-Bo months when I had much more recovery time made me rethink my workout schedule. So I tried to find more balance in my aerobic and anaerobic intensity, frequency and duration, but without sacrificing the lubrication of my joints or elevation of my moods with daily motion. I have also been eating more and feeling a lot more hunger as my metabolism is hopefully speeding up, although I still try to choose nutritious food at least 80 percent of the time. The good news is that after months and months of no recordable changes, I have lost another inch off my waist, so my new workout plan seems to be more effective besides a lot easier to maintain. I believe many folks jump into a workout plan too quickly, expecting quick changes and give up without trying to modify their exercise schedule or their chosen exercise activity to make it more doable and enjoyable and possibly more effective. If I tried to do Tae-Bo exactly how the instructors and Billy Blanks do it on the videos, I doubt I would have continued doing Tae-Bo for as long as I have been and therefore, would have stopped exercising altogether since Tae-Bo has been the only exercise that has kept me motivated because it is fun and easily modified. Tae-Bo as it is done on the videos and in the live classes at Tae-Bo centers may be too challenging for most of its target audience, folks who are out of shape or overweight such as myself. Luckily, I have been able to modify the workouts to make them enjoyable and safer for me by doing them slower with full range of motion. In fact, the more intense level on the videos and the reputed terrifying pace at the classes has made me rethink my plans of attending classes which will be discussed in another article. Recently, I have become aware that I will have to live with muscular aches and pains the rest of my life though before Tae-Bo, it was more like intense muscular spasms. Between this physical reality and still being overweight and the stresses of life, I have to battle almost daily to keep a positive attitude. The three constants that have supported me in this daily battle have been my real life family, my online family and exercise, especially Tae-Bo. Exercise should be used to improve the quality of life, not to make life even harder. It should be a positive influence and if it is making someone feel worse physically or emotionally, the workout plan or the type of exercise, itself, must be modified to turn it into a more positive experience. I have found if I were to err, it is better to err on cutting back rather than pushing too hard when working out, not just because of my age or physical condition, but because I risk a lot more than I can gain by pushing too hard. On the other hand, there is the risk of zoning out psychologically and/or making too little effort physically, which would sacrifice the reasons for doing the exercise in the first place, so I try to keep my mind and body involved even at the lower intensities. The key for me is to work at an intensity level that energizes and makes me feel good, which may even vary day to day. Bottom-line, become your own personal trainer and do what feels right for you, listening to your body and pacing yourself to make your workout an enjoyable and therefore, permanent part of your lifestyle
It’s Never Too Late to Start Kicking
When I was asked during a recent testimonial for Tae-Bo on QVC: 'How has it (Tae-Bo) changed your life?' I responded, 'It saved my life.' Actually, I had agreed to appear on QVC that day in spite of being an extremely camera-shy person because I wanted to share my story with others who could identify with it. The interviewer seemed mostly interested in discussing weight loss because that is what sells exercise videos on QVC, but I wanted to deliver the message that Billy Blanks' Tae-Bo was for everyone, no matter what their age or fitness level. I practically yanked the microphone out of his hand to get that message across to the audience, which was also out of character for me. What can I say ... Tae-Bo has an empowering influence. Okay, so here is my story and the beginning of my love affair with Tae-Bo and the first step of my journey towards fitness: Before trying Tae-Bo, I was a real physical and emotional wreck. Physically, I had just turned 50 and was totally unfit after two decades of inactivity and obesity (hate that word). Every joint ached and my lower back wouldn't enable me to stand for more than five minutes without spasms. Menopause wasn't helping my feeling of well-being either adding to what could only be described as a midlife crisis. Emotionally, I was suffering from a bout of depression on the morning of Mother's Day 1999 when I first caught a glimpse of the Tae-Bo infomercial. Having adolescents on Mother's Day can do that to a mom even when not in the throes of a midlife crisis, sort of a, what came first the chicken or the egg kind of thing. Was I depressed because my best years seemed behind me or because dealing with self-centered teens was so stressful, especially around Mother's Day? I emerged out of my self-imposed reclusion and spoke to my husband about the infomercial, so he bought me a belated Mother's Day present, the starter set of Tae-Bo videos. Ironically, my husband bought the set from our son who worked part-time in a local video store. Before trying Tae-Bo, I never realized how the right exercise could help relieve stress and combat depression, energize, lubricate joints and alleviate back pain because every type of exercise I tried previously wasn't enjoyable and just added to the pain, even walking. Tae-Bo wasn't just enjoyable but was also fun! I really believe if I can do it then anyone can do it by applying modifications to make it safer and more enjoyable for different fitness levels because the key to making exercise a permanent part of life is enjoying the activity. I will share these modifications and tips with readers in future articles. Through the power of Tae-Bo, I have found out my best years are now and not behind me. It has returned to me a feeling of self that disappeared with the birth of our first son. Mothers often do that; ignore their own health and fitness, placing their families first.
Getting Through Plateaus
Nothing can derail a workout routine more than a weight and size plateau when one has been mistakenly making the quest to look more fit, instead the quest to become more fit, a prime focus in one's life.
How often have we heard someone say something like the following:
"I have been working out and dieting everyday and feel better but am ready to give up because I am not losing weight"?
Shouldn't how one *feels* be the main motivation to keep going?
The proven benefits of regular exercise and healthy eating should be what we are striving for on this quest such as stronger bones, muscles, and joints, flexibility, a feeling of wellbeing, more efficient immune system and cardiovascular system, energy, stress relief, improved sleeping patterns, etc.
What made my attitude different from this type of attitude needing immediate and constant physical evidence of weight loss is that I always concentrated on how I felt instead of how I looked or hoped to look although improved looks were a welcomed bonus. Another important key to making a quest for fitness a permanent part of my life style was making the workout enjoyable and the healthy food choices satisfying enough so I could live with these choices for the rest of my life. If one tries too hard and is not seeing immediate changes or rewards, motivation usually goes out the window when actually slower and more subtle changes are more likely to be permanent changes as well as healthier changes and should ironically be the focus.
After busting a plateau that lasted over a year while exercising and eating healthier regularly, I have been trying to analyze what was going on to help others get through similar scenarios. Most professionals preferred to make me feel like the stagnation was my fault and that I needed to try harder to exercise more and/or eat less but I kept trying different things and nothing seemed to work. In fact, sometimes the harder I tried, the worse I felt! So I would re-evaluate and actually cutback on my efforts to keep the quest for fitness going. A much wiser choice than giving up altogether.
Weight loss is not the simplistic formula of burning more calories than one eats.
Genetics including frame size and the aging process are factors as well. Although I am short and large boned, I am probably more fit at 52 than many way thinner looking women at 35.
When I first started Tae-Bo 2 years ago at the age of 50, I had previously added on a lot more weight within a relatively short period of time after being at a weight gain plateau or set point for years. This set point was where I always hit resistance when either gaining or losing weight since I was a teenager. When I first started on this fitness journey, I lost those quickly gained pounds within the first few months like I had gained them and an inch off the waist each month for the first year. When these changes seemed to come to an abrupt halt as I was exercising more and eating even healthier during the second year, I became very confused. I was obviously still heavier and carrying a lot more fat than what was healthy according to most medical charts in spite of feeling much stronger. Luckily, I kept on kicking because I was feeling so much better and knew I looked better than when I had started, accepting the fact that I may never see the physical changes I had originally hoped to see. Either way, I definitely was not willing to go back to where I had started, knowing I was in a much better place physically and emotionally. I realize now that my lack of progress in losing weight or girth did not mean changes were not still happening. During that plateau, I was still replacing fat with muscle which is a very slow subtle process and even slower one with age because of all of the years of losing muscle from decreasing activity and having fat replace that muscle's space. Muscle is what makes the difference between a sluggish metabolism and a fat burning one to get rid of that deeply stored fat that our body assumes it needs in case of a famine.
So to sum it all up, here is what I have learned over the past 2 years and hope to share with others needing some sort of reassurance.
Try to find enjoyable workouts offering variety and be flexible about making modifications so you will welcome your workout session instead of dreading it. You should feel energized and psyched after a workout, not drained or bored. It should bring pleasure, not pain. It should produce a feeling of success, not failure. It should be fun, not work. Something you want to do instead of got to do. What you need may vary from day to day. If not looking forward to your workout session or feeling better when done, try it at a different intensity or try something completely different till it feels right. Even after 2 years, I always keep my eyes open for a new stimulating workout routine although Tae-Bo has always been a part of the journey and always will be. Lately, I have been really enjoying NIA (http://www.nia-nia.com) and stability ball workouts. My next new workout joy may be belly dancing although I’ll probably skip the navel ring.
Try not to compare yourself to others because we each have our own genetics and conditions.
Nothing can make one lose motivation quicker than seeing others doing allegedly better.
You'll get to where you want to be eventually and better yet, you'll stay there or even go beyond what your original goals were, especially if those goals were realistic ones. You do not need the approval of others to take care of yourself. Try to choose positive and supportive workout buddies in real life or online and avoid negative influences, especially negative people. March and workout to your own drum. Just keep moving.
Try to look where you had been before starting to workout regularly instead of where you expected to be after any subsequent point in time or deadline. Fitness is not a race but a life style. An exercise journal may help to record not just your physical changes but emotional ones as well. The emotional changes will motivate you more than the physical ones to keep working out long after your realistic goal on a scale or dress size has been obtained.
Try to think of this as a never-ending process. If we were to reach our goals too quickly and easily, we could quit prematurely and find ourselves in an even worse position as inactivity, dieting, and aging deplete the amazing fat burning muscles we should be preserving and restoring. Having room for improvement should be motivating us to keep on going instead of causing enough frustration to consider giving up. Do you want to be able to wear a smaller size for a few months or the rest of your life? Do you want to be able to get up and move without discomfort when you are 60, 70, 80? Make this quest for fitness safe and enjoyable and you will enjoy a longer and more active life.
Fitness is not about looking good today but feeling good tomorrow. It is also about having a tomorrow.