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Shaking things up in 2020

Just because 2020 is coming to a close doesn’t mean it’s too late to shake things up in your life and try new things. Every new year, I position myself for growing and conquering new things. I’m a constant learner. 2021 will be no different despite experiencing the worldwide struggles and pain in 2020. In November, I completed a 7-Day Vegan challenge and posted about it for the full 7 days. I immediately followed with a 1-week ‘no spend challenge’. You can read about the impetus for why I chose to do that in the post No spend challenge. I will likely do another ‘no spend challenge’ in January as I build up my savings.

Also in November, I decided to challenge myself by trying new exercises. I don’t mind exercising at home as I’ve done that for years (yes, prior to COVID-19) and have had results. I own a variety of exercise DVDs plus with YouTube, there are many free options for exercise. My goals have been to increase the number of calories I burn, reduce my resting heart rate, increase flexibility, increase my daily steps, tone my muscles, and increase muscle mass.

From my DVD library circa early 2000’s

Since teleworking, I’ve really been enjoying YouTube. I subscribe to a few exercise channels that uplift me, but I still tend to gravitate toward the same types of exercises. My favorite is anything cardio, particularly dance. I also enjoy kickboxing, free weights, and step aerobics.

I exercise 6 days a week in the mornings before work and have done so for years. I’ve said to people many times that exercise functions as my coffee because I don’t drink coffee. Exercise perks me up and helps me feel accomplished. It’s not just a habit, but exercise is an essential part of my self-care practice. I’ve exercised for years without losing loads of pounds because losing weight hasn’t been my primary goal. Being and staying fit and healthy (mind, body, and spirit) is my ultimate goal. HOWEVER, if I’m being honest with myself, I do want to tip the scale in the weight loss direction, even by as few as 10-15 pounds.

There is so much information on the best approaches for weight loss and I’ve got to tell you, many of it is conflicting. For every article I’ve read or video I’ve seen about managing food (portions and types) as the most effective component to weight loss, there are articles/videos indicating exercise is the key. For every point of view that indicates eat less and move more, there are points of view that indicate it’s all rubbish. What about hormones? This is a strong consideration especially for women over 40 like me (I’m actually closer to 50).

What I find the most confusing is that ‘they’ claim science and research is behind it all. Though I spend a lot of time reading about nutrition and fitness, I’m not claiming to be a nutritionist or exercise coach, so you can take my advice with a grain of salt. What I do think is that people need to educate themselves and learn what gets them the results they are looking for. In this post, I’m sharing my approach on determining what works best for me.

Kukuwa Fitness on YouTube from my living room

Earlier in 2020, I found Kukuwa Fitness on Youtube and I instantly fell in love. Every time I did their African dance routines, I was smiling and motivated. It also provided me with a lot of steps which helps me reach my daily step goal. My challenge in November excluded doing my normal routines whether from my video library (except for those I hadn’t done in at least a year), Zumba Fitness, or YouTube. This meant I had to put Kukuwa Fitness on hold because it became part of my routine though I only started with them in early 2020.

Barre on Pop Sugar Fitness YouTube

For this challenge, I wanted to try exercises I had never done before mixed in with different versions of weight training and cardio. So for two weeks I tried new fitness routines.

Barre on Pop Sugar Fitness YouTube

I’ve never been flexible, but I notice I’m even less flexible as I’ve gotten older. Part of a healthy fitness regimen is to stretch the muscles and allow time for recovery. I used to incorporate Yoga into my weekly routines, but I’ve relaxed that over the years because I’ve gotten addicted to high intensity dance and cardio. I appreciated the lengthening moves in Barre. My body needed that. YouTube was my first introduction to Barre.

Strength Training on Pop Sugar Fitness YouTube

I enjoy strength training with free weights. I even dance with very light dumbbells at least once a week. The routine in the picture worked muscles from different angles which I appreciated. What I noticed with weight training is that I don’t get many steps. I think this is another reason why I favor certain routines – I can clock in more steps with dancing or fast walking rather than being mostly stationary with heavier weights. My Fitbit has been successful at ingraining in me the need to get my daily step goal. I need to figure out a balance because weight training requires proper form and technique. It’s not about getting the steps in. Perhaps on weight training days, I will also walk to get the steps.

Cardio Latin Dance on Pop Sugar Fitness YouTube

Dance is my all time FAVORITE exercise and even with the variety of dance I do, there is the risk of repeatedly doing the same moves. Different moves challenge muscles in different ways. Though I’m very familiar with Latin dance as a previous Zumba Fitness instructor, every instructor has their own style and flavor. This routine was fun and effective in keeping my heart rate high and providing ample steps. Did I mention how much I love Pop Sugar Fitness on YouTube? They have a library of many types of exercises and variations.

Xtreme Hip Hop YouTube

I first came across Xtreme Hip Hop on my Facebook page. Back when step aerobics was popular (maybe late 1990s and early 2000s), I loved it. I was excited to see someone bringing back step aerobics with a new flavor. For Christmas 2019, my husband, Bryan, bought me a new step bench because I had gotten rid of mine years ago. I had talked about wanting to get into step aerobics again. Despite watching for months, November 2020 was my 1st time trying Phil’s routine on YouTube. It was fun and effective at keeping my heart rate high and providing lots of steps.

Rick. B. on YouTube

Walking is a great exercise for getting in steps. I also find walking is great as a recovery exercise. From the spring through early fall here in Austin, Texas, Bryan and I enjoy long walks and hikes on different trails several times a week. Once the weather hits below 70 degrees, such as now, I don’t like to walk outside because I’m sensitive to cold air.

Bryan and I on one of our walks

I recently found a new walking platform on YouTube which helps me complete my daily step goals. I’ve added these walking routines at the end of the day. Even though I exercise in the morning, I’m still not able to get all my steps in by the evening, especially when I’m in meetings all day. A 15-20 minute walking routine in my living room led by Rick helps me accomplish my step goal.

What I’ve presented in this post are just a few of the new routines I tried. I learned the body gets very comfortable with the same old routines. It’s up to me and you to shake things up to get the most benefit from exercise, to increase fitness, and challenge the body. I have many other goals with fitness besides just losing weight.

I found that this challenge inspired me to continue to try new exercises although there are definitely some I don’t like or prefer. It’s about balance and doing routines that will keep you motivated and delivering the results you’re looking for. I hope this post inspired you to be more thoughtful about exercise and try new routines. Keep moving!

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Do what works for you but do it

For the past few months, I’ve made several adjustments to my exercise routine to determine what works best for this 45 year old body. You probably can’t tell from this particular picture, but exercise for me is like breathing… there is no question I’m going to do some form of exercise. I’m addicted to how strong and alive I feel post a good workout. Today, I will have exercised 7 days this week, which I haven’t done in a while.

Zumba fitness has worked for me for many years, but as much as I love it, it has also taken a toll on my body to the point I only do it once or twice a week. My ankles ache most of the time. Plus, I’ve been getting bored with Zumba fitness. I accomplished my goal of becoming a licensed Zumba fitness instructor when I turned 40…5 years ago. Although I have not taught a class for two years now, I’ve been wrestling with canceling my Zumba Instructor Network (ZIN) membership. Canceling would essentially cancel my ability to teach if I ever decided to do it again. If I change my mind, I don’t want to have to go through the process of getting licensed again. I think other reasons why it’s difficult for me to cancel has to do with working so hard to accomplish my goal. I also have many fond memories of events I’ve danced in and of teaching students.

Whatever the case, what I’ve done lately is utilize my old DVDs from my vast exercise video library collection. These are DVDs I collected in the early 2000s when I exercised mostly at home instead of a gym, for convenience, post giving birth to my two babies. I’ve also been walking more. My work hours have increased substantially due to my responsibilities, so exercising at home is convenient. I’ve found I’m tired when I get home. I’ve been assessing if my tiredness is a result of getting older. I haven’t totally embraced that possibility, yet I can’t deny I get tired. As I’ve noted in several posts, I’ve been working on getting more sleep too, which has been helping.

While most people drink coffee, I don’t, but exercise wakes my body right up. I prefer to do it every day before work. I also incorporate more walking into my work day by purposely taking the stairs several times a day and going on short walking spurts in between meetings. This routine has been working so I’ll continue for while.

My light lesson for you is find what works for you and then do it. If you need to change it up, by all means do so. As we get older, shoulder more responsibility, experience life changing events, etc., we may need to adjust. So adjust, but keep going.

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My fit life

My coworker recently joined the YMCA and we’ve been sharing our experiences with certain group exercise classes. Turns out, I’ve participated in several that she’s recently tried, so I’ve been giving my point of view. Yesterday, she blurted out in excitement, “Lucrece, have you tried STRONG?” I replied excitedly, “Yes…Zumba Strong? Strong by Zumba? My friend is licensed in Zumba Strong and I love it.” Her response, “No, Lucrece. Just STRONG. Everything isn’t about Zumba you know!” I picked up on the sarcasm. In my mind, “Says who?”

I’ve been a licensed Zumba instructor for 4 years now and it’s been a fabulous ride. I remember watching Zumba fitness infomercials about 6 years ago and knowing that I would love that class if I could just find out where to attend locally. My husband signed us up for the YMCA out of the blue one day in 2011, I took a Zumba class, and the rest is history. I have a confession. While in treatment and recovery for breast cancer, I lost my Zumba mojo. I didn’t desire to teach it anymore and was getting bored with it, but that was short-lived. I’ve been attending my friends classes regularly a couple of days of week since January 2017 and my Zumba fire has been ignited. I’ve enjoyed being the student and not the teacher, so that may have a lot to do with it. I haven’t been back to teaching Zumba at work since I was on medical leave. I’ve been thinking about resuming my class, but we’ll see.

I’ve always loved the family vibes at the YMCA and had been a member in Chicago in my early twenties. After I  had my son in 2001, I stopped going to gyms because I didn’t trust the child care. I don’t know why we didn’t join the YMCA in Austin. I began working out at home and gradually developed a library of exercise tapes/DVD’s. I would get up 5:00 am and do an hour of one of my DVD’s before work. One of my favorites was The FIRM because they combined cardio and free weights. I shredded some serious pounds (the same 15-20 have come and gone…I think I’ve finally permanently gotten rid of them).  I still have my vast collection and exercise at home a few days a week. Every now and then in amazement, my husband will comment, “You still have those DVD’s…? How old is that one?”

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In addition to Zumba and my DVD exercise collection, I love to exercise outdoors. For the almost 20 years of living in Austin, I’ve loved the long hot summers. But it’s become more apparent to me this year that spring is actually my favorite season. Temps in the lower 70’s to mid 80’s make me want to be outside all day.  I love soaking up the warm sunshine rays. Over the last few years, my health has made it more difficult to enjoy the hot heat because it tends to exacerbate symptoms related to my autoimmune disorders. The conditions are mild, but I still need to be careful. Whatever the case, that doesn’t stop me from getting outside.

Me at Townlake March 2017

Me at Town lake March 2017

Being outside in nature is relaxing and rejuvenating. When I can, I love to go for a hike along the Lady Bird Johnson Hike and Bike Trail. For the past few weeks, I’ve gotten my husband to take walks with me in the short trail near our house so that I can get my Fitbit steps in. Now that he has a Fitbit, he’s more interested in getting his steps also, so I take advantage of that. I’ve enjoyed bonding with him during this time. On Friday nights, my daughter has her gymnastics class at the YMCA, so my husband and I will spend that time walking the track and catching up.

This habit of exercise I started in my early twenties has enriched my life in so many ways. Exercise is like breathing to me – it’s essential for my survival. It helps me cope, relax, de-stress, unwind, and focus. It’s an anti-anxiety and anti-depression remedy that keeps on giving. You can see that I’m not skinny and that doesn’t bother me. My body wasn’t designed to be skinny and that is not my purpose in exercise. I love how strong and fit my body has become. I believe I’m more productive because I exercise regularly. This fit life of mine has paid me back thousands in dividends. My goal  has been to have my kids adopt this healthy habit into their lifestyles.

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Family time at the Veloway…2014

One of the best things you can do is find an exercise(s) that you enjoy. Then do it all the time.

Commit to be fit

I’ve committed to be fit!

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Strength

My mind is strong. My body is strong. I am strong. I’ve spent years doing cardio and lifting free weights to increase my fitness level. I’m one of those rare people who actually enjoys exercising. I tried running for a year and I loved it until I found Zumba fitness.  I even became a licensed Zumba instructor to ensure that I have access to new routines and formats. What I enjoy about exercising is the challenge, the feeling of accomplishment when I am done, the release of good endorphins, and the increase in stamina and endurance. Exercise has been a part of my daily routine and an ingrained habit.  Going for more than a day or two without exercising causes me to feel out of balance.  I am not looking forward to the halt in exercise over the next couple of months as I recover from 2 surgeries.  My last workout session was on 11/3/16 and I miss it already. (Note: A few weeks ago,I broke my favorite yellow exercise band in the picture while training. That really bummed me out. I replaced the band exercises with 5 lb weights. I use 10 lbs for the others.)

Admittedly, in the last couple of years, I noticed that my stamina has decreased and that I was more tired in general.  I attributed it partially to my overactive immune system.  I continued to exercise despite being tired.  I have been seeing an endocrinologist and a neurologist for years.  Now, that I have a definite breast cancer diagnosis, it makes sense that I have been tired.

Yes, my strong body will serve me well in treatment, but not without my strong mind.  I’ve been through a lot in my life, so I’m confident that I can withstand this experience. Like life, exercise has challenged me to push past my comfort zone despite pain. Having completed 1 surgery already, I can attest to times where I will be tired, sore, in pain, and anxious, but I can still be positive while experiencing these things.  I was tired, sore and in pain over the weekend, but I had such an overwhelmingly feeling of contentment, love and gratitude for the support that I’ve received through this process so far that I didn’t focus on it.

That worn out space in my garage has been my oasis. Sometimes, I even like to work out in the dark. I look forward to getting back to it and becoming even stronger.

Here are some garage selfies: