I have to admit that 2013 was a lousy year for me healthwise. I not only had issues with several failed pregnancies, but my health was so messed up for a while that I ended up losing several months of work. Needless to say, sticking to a new workout routine wasn't a top priority for me.

Honestly, it isn't a top priority for me this year either. That's not to say I don't plan to work out more now that my underlying health issue is being addressed. I simply have other goals in mind, some bigger and some smaller. So losing X number of pounds or pushing myself back into my old aggressive 8-mile-per-day routine just aren't how I want to focus my efforts.

Instead, these are my primary health and fitness goals for 2014:

  • Carry a pregnancy to term. Now that I have a better idea of what was wrong, we're hoping we can deal with it and begin a successful pregnancy within the next several months.
  • Get a treadmill. I start work at an ungodly hour and I prefer working out first thing in the morning. That makes indoor workouts a must. And I enjoy treadmills for the most part. My hope is that it will help me ease back into a regular workout routine without doing anything too ambitious that might harm a pregnancy (as any pregnancy I have will likely be high-risk).
  • Cut soda out of my diet. I used to skip the sugary drinks altogether but this past year I've gone back to drinking them regularly. That has to stop, but I'm not going cold turkey. It's something I want to transition away from slowly so I'm less likely to go back to that bad habit.
  • Cut back on dairy consumption. I have no intention of going dairy-free, but I currently rely too heavily on it. I want to cut that back by about half, making it less of a staple around here.
  • Cut back on processed foods. We don't have many grocery options particularly close to us. Almost everything is about a 20 minute drive. That makes it difficult to get fresh ingredients all the time, so we tend to keep frozen meals around for days when we need something uncomplicated. We'll likely still do that. I just want to move towards a goal of making our own make-ahead meals for the freezer so we aren't relying on processed things with all of their extra sodium, fat, and sugar quite as often.

What are your health and fitness goals for 2014? Are you focusing on smaller changes or grander plans?

October seems really close whenever I think about the fact I am doing a 10 mile run then, which will be by far the longest distance I have ever run.  I getting to the point where I can run 2.5 miles pretty easily so I am a quarter of the way there but it has taken me over a year to get to this point.  That includes many skipped workouts though so as long as I can stay focused I should be able to make bigger improvements.

Since I got so far off track the last couple of months of the semester I went back to week 6 in my Couch to 5k plan.  It actually takes you up to running 30 minutes and at my pace that is not a 5k but I am fairly close.  I do make it that distance through the whole workout which includes five minute warm up and cool down walks.  I wanted to finish this program by June so I skipped the last couple of days and went straight to thirty minutes.

I have been running outside for nearly every workout which is the biggest difference from when I have tried to get into running in the past.  I use to always go to indoor tracks but there are many parks and trails nearby that I have begun taking advantage of.  When I did the thirty minute run it was indoors and it seemed much easier than running outside.  It is probably better exercise outside because you have to deal with things like wind and hills.

My biggest concern with outdoor running is it has begun to get really hot and I do not carry water with me.  Inside it is always close by at least.  If it continues to be hot I will probably end up inside most of the summer but I would like to do at least one run a week outdoors.  It should not be too bad if I go in the evening.  The next step in my training is completing the program that goes from 5k to 10k (or 30 to 60 minutes).  It is supposed to take 6 weeks but I am going to try to run every other day and finish it by the end of June.

My brother got married this past weekend and his wedding has been one of my main motivators for losing weight.  I thought thinking about this the last couple of months would get in me in the gym but it has not really worked out like that.  I already lost quite a bit of weight and though I am not satisfied where I am at I am happy with the progress I have made so I was not really stressing out about losing more.  Instead I was stressing about school and gained a bit.

Rather than the wedding, my main motivation lately has been the 10 mile run I am doing in October.  I think working towards things like that is generally a healthier attitude than just losing weight but really whatever works for each individual is best.  The good thing is after that I will still be able to try to improve my time and go longer distances.  Right now I am way behind in my training from where I wanted to be but I should be ready if I keep up running.  I pretty much have no room for slacking but I think that is a good thing because it will keep me exercising all summer.

Another event coming up further in the future is the wedding of another brother.  That is about a year from now and that is the time I wanted to reach my final goal weight, which I am about 50 pounds away from now.  It will be great to look back at the pictures from this wedding to that one and be able to see a difference.  I definitely do not want to be at the same weight then as I am now so I am getting serious about my diet now that this wedding is over.

Does anyone have any big events that are keeping them motivated?  What goals are you hoping to reach by then?

Last week I wrote about the indoor trampoline park near me that I was excited to try out.  This week I made it out to the class and thought it was great.

The class began with a warm up with some free bouncing (meaning you could do whatever you wanted) followed by basic jumps, including jumping jacks and jumps to seating and back up.  At this point, about 10 minutes into the class, I was already out of breath, ready for a break and beginning to get concerned about my ability to make it through the whole class.

You are allowed to take breaks at any time or skip/substitute exercises so no matter what your ability is you can partake.  After the warm up we did some cardio exercise.  This consisted of suicides (running back and forth between marks on the trampoline, each one being a longer run), bouncing back and forth across the trampoline and doing a few laps using any method we wanted.  Running on it was a lot of fun and something I don’t think I have really done before because the trampoline I had when I was younger was a bit too small for that.  This part also mixed in some strength exercises which I was not expecting but was glad for.

After a short break the group headed to the foam pit.  I have never been in one but have seen children climbing in and out and they certainly make it look easier than it was.  I think this was probably the hardest part and all we did was jump in and climb out.  I know at least one of the other instructors has the class go completely across which I’m sure is great exercise but I am real glad we did not do it today.

The final part of the class utilized medicine balls for some more strength and cardio moves.  There were more suicides and laps but this time holding a 4lb ball.  One of the things we did was throw the ball against the side trampolines and catch it which is trickier than it sounds when you are bouncing around.

Overall I thought the class was excellent and I cannot wait to go back.  Because of the price I will probably only go once or twice a week.  It would be nice if there was a monthly membership or something that would allow me to go more often but at least this way I will not get bored of it.   Of course, as with any fitness class a lot of it depends on the instructor so if I get tired of it I could try out the night classes which I am told has a bit more aerobics and dance moves included.  The only downside was I felt a bit of motion sickness at the beginning.  This went away after about 5 minutes and I have a pretty sensitive stomach so hopefully it is not a big problem for most people.

Last week was pretty terrible but I made up for it this week.  I am almost through with finals and then I will have much more time to exercise and eat right.  I actually managed to exercise every day this week and it truly does help with stress and just feeling good overall.  I ran mostly but also went swimming a couple times.  This week I will keep it up and maybe even add weight training back into my routine.  With the end of the semester on the horizon I am mostly getting excited about all the fitness stuff I have planned.

Upcoming Fitness Plans

  • Trampoline Park – I took a different route when running one day this week and discovered an indoor trampoline park.  I cannot believe I did know that there was one so close to me.  They have an aerobics class there which I am going to try out this week as an end of finals celebration.  The classes are a bit expensive (about $100 for 10) but if I enjoy it I am planning on doing it once a week during the summer.
  • Summer Fitness Classes – I did not have much luck this spring or last summer with cycling class but I think I am going to try it again.  After I hurt my knee this spring I never went back but last summer I enjoyed it, I was just too lazy to get out of bed.  I am saving up to buy a bike at some point this summer but until then spin classes will be a good way to build up conditioning for it.  I am thinking about trying out a new fitness class too but I have not decided yet.
  • Running a 5k – I have plans to run a ten mile race this fall but I have never run in any type of these things before so I am going to sign up for a 5k that is about a month from now.  When I started running this week I began with week five of my Couch to 5k program.  It is nine weeks long so a month from now I should be more than ready to go.  The ten mile run is in Disney so that is great motivation to keep me going.
  • Triathlon Training – I have always wanted to run a triathlon but pretty much completely lacked any of the three skills necessary.  Now that swimming and running are starting to come together I have been looking into it again.  There is an introduction to triathlon training class being held nearby this fall so as long as I get a bike by then I plan to join it.  It is through a triathlon club that I am thinking about joining afterwards.  They have trainings every day and I think it would be a good way to get me over some of my fears, like open-water swimming.

I am trying to come up with even more things to do this summer.  Maybe take a vacation that involves a lot of outdoor activities like rock climbing and kayaking.  Any suggestions?

I was lucky enough to only have short-term panic over unemployment, I've managed to nab a job right after graduation. This is obviously good news, and a perk I see at my new work is a gym on the bottom floor. Now, it unfortunately isn't an in-office fitness center, and I don't know how much it costs. (I'll go in on Monday to check.) Assuming it's not too expensive by DC standards, I'm hoping to make this my new gym.

As you might know, I had bad luck with my gym in the past. Both my on-campus and paid gyms were about a mile from my house, so getting up the drive to go around work was impossible. I loved the morning classes I made it to, but more mornings than not I was hitting the alarm and rolling back over. And going at night always seemed so hard after the commute home. What this meant was I was wasting money on a gym I was never using, and which I had signed up for too impulsively. I don't want to make that mistake again, so I've learned some tips for joining a new gym.

  • Get a trial package, and don't be up-sold. -- I had a 30 day trial at my new gym, but on the first day I let myself be talked into a full membership, because it would be “cheaper.” Had I stuck with the 30 day, I would have realized this gym wasn't the best for me, and saved myself tons of money in the long-haul.
  • Try it at your normal gym time. -- While I enjoyed morning spin, I know I will realistically want to go to the gym right after work. Of course, so does everyone else. So before I commit, I want to be sure I can get a machine when I want.
  • Work-friendly Gym Gear -- I'm not looking to bring my yoga mat to the office every day (especially not on the bus.) I need a gym bag that will keep my gross shoes away from my lunch, but that doesn't look too gym-class for an office.

Other things I'm hoping this new gym has are a friendly staff, fun classes, and hopefully good shower facilities if I want to happy hour/salsa after. (Luckily, this new office is only a short walk away from my favorite mojito/salsa bar.)

While it seems frivolous to spend money on a gym, as the DC humidity is already beginning, I acknowledge the only way I'll work out is indoors. And with this job being a permanent thing (I hope) no matter where I move in the city, this will still be a good gym for me. And besides, how can I justify skipping it when I have to walk past it twice a day?

This past week has been one of the worst health and fitness wise I have had this year.  Not only did I not follow through with my goals of tracking calories, drinking water, etc., but I feel like I ate a ton of junk and was constantly making bad choices.  I am blaming finals, which will be through with next week, but truthfully that should not be an excuse.

I have gotten into the habit of eating because of stress and boredom.  I find myself craving things when I know that there is no possible way I can be actually hungry.  I think eating because of stress is a fairly common problem.  While at this particular moment it is due to finals I think if I do not get it under control it will probably be a bad habit that follows me throughout life.  There are much healthier ways to deal with stress (like exercising) so everyone should find something that works for them.

I have been trying to think of things I could do to get out of this rut I have been stuck in.

Getting on Track

  • Exercise first thing – I like exercising but as the day goes on the things I have to do pile up.  If I get up and workout I think I will be encouraged to keep it up and eat healthy the rest of the day.
  • Track all my calories – I keep avoiding doing this but I really need to.  I am committed to doing it at all times for the next week and hopefully after that it will be easier to keep up.  But doing it during finals will help keep stress-eating under control.
  • Make a new music playlist – The only times I really listen to music is when I am exercising or driving.  Now that classes are pretty much done I will be driving less so if I get some new music I will be eager to run and listen to it.

These three things should not be too difficult and hopefully it will get me through finals week without any more damage to my health.  Does anyone have tips for dealing with stressful times?

This week I began tracking the calories I ate and let’s just say it is no mystery why I haven’t be losing weight at all.  I knew I have not been eating great but I was surprised by how much I went over some days and I know if I hadn’t been counting I would have eaten even more.  My weakness is eating snacks throughout the day.  It never seems like a lot at the time but the food quickly adds up.

Most weight loss is due to diet changes because it takes a lot of time to burn off calories from snacks.  Sustainable weight loss is especially dependent on long-term diet changes.  I actually love exercising but it is still among the first things to get pushed to the side when responsibilities add up. I also know in the future it will be unlikely for me to have the time to hang out at the gym for 2-3 hours a day so it is extremely important to get my diet under control.

Diet Successes

  • Drank more water – This one of the big goals of the year.  Ideally by the end of the year I would like to cut back on soda to one can a day and drink water at other times.  This week I only drank water while I was on campus but pretty much had soda otherwise, it is a start at least.
  • Tracked calories – Just tracking them changes the way I eat because shortly after lunch I usually realize I don’t have much room for dinner if I want to stay under my goal.  This is a very effective way to stop mindlessly eating snacks the rest of the day.

Diet Failures

  • Too much soda – While I did drink more water I still had mostly soda which I need to change but I have myself convinced I need it for caffeine
  • Ate too much – Tracking calories is good because it really let me see the mistakes I have been making.  A couple things I thought were not too bad are actually things I should be avoiding.
  • Not enough fruits and vegetables – I plan on stocking up tomorrow so I can replace the foods I have been eating with healthy alternatives.

I think next week I should begin having time to go to the gym again and I just bought a new bathing suit so I am excited to try it out.  Hopefully it will be the start of a summer full of fitness.

So, I got some unexpected bad news this week. The organization I work for is facing budget cuts, and Monday will be my last day. I knew this position was temporary, but my supervisors and I both believed I had another month to work there, ideally until I found another job. Luckily I have enough money in savings to cover my rent through the summer, but I’ll need to cut down significantly on my extra spending.

This actually doesn’t change my goal of overhauling my diet and eating better. Luckily, healthy food is generally less expensive than the more processed junk food that I love. It’s also hard to justify takeout when you don’t have an income. The last time I was unemployed, I was in the best shape of my life. I was eating healthy food I prepared myself, and going to the gym daily. Obviously I hope to get a job once finals are over (who doesn’t?) but these next few weeks can hopefully get me into healthier eating and spending habits.

I certainly won’t be buying $8 green juices (not that I do that now -- way too much money to pay for vegetable sugar without the fiber), or other trendy, expensive “superfoods.” What I will be doing is making more meals with beans, grains, and whatever seasonal produce is on sale. Frozen vegetables are also affordable, and a great way to keep variety in my diet.

I’ve written a basic meal plan for the week, trying to use mostly groceries I already have. The following week, I’d like to make a meal plan with a budget, to see how cheaply I can eat nutritious food -- I know I could live off of ramen, but I would actually like to consume some vitamins.

First Week of Cheap, Healthy Eats:

Breakfasts:

  • I’ll need to buy eggs, but since I’ll be home every morning this week, I think a nice veggie omelette is a great way to start my day. I also have oatmeal to mix it up for something sweeter.

Lunches:

  • Savory Sandwiches -- I ran out of peanut butter, but I have a loaf of bread, a couple kinds of cheese, and plenty of veggies to get through.

Dinners:

  • Rice and quinoa -- I have huge bulk bags of these grains, so I’ll be basing my meals from there.
  • Beans and lentils -- I have a can of every type of bean. No way I’m getting bored.
  • Frozen vegetables and fresh spinach -- This is the easiest way to mix up the flavors of a dish.

Snacks/Desserts-

  • Smoothies -- I love smoothies, and often forget that I really enjoy one of these as much as I enjoy ice cream (for an everyday cold, creamy fix -- I’m not crazy enough to say smoothies could completely replace ice cream).
  • Homemade hummus -- I already have the ingredients for this, and can customize the flavor so I don’t get bored.

It seems really simple, and honestly that’s for the best. Basic ingredients, cooked a number of ways, is going to give me a healthy, varied week of meals. I’ll spend part of my weekend doing basic food prep, so I can spend my week focusing on cover letters, papers, and finals. Healthy eating doesn’t have to be difficult, and it doesn’t have to be expensive.

It is almost summer break and I could not be more ready for it to begin.  Of course with the summer approaching I am swamped with school work and studying which is no fun and terrible for me health and fitness wise.  I am nearly done with classes though so I will be able to go to the gym some and then as soon as finals are through with I will be able to exercise a lot more.

I have come up with a few goals for the summer that will keep me motivated.  By the time summer ends the year will be more than halfway through so I tried to come with things that will put me on track for my yearly goals too.

Summer Goals

  • Run 8 miles – This seems a lot now but I have to run 10 miles at the beginning of October so the summer running is going to have to be a priority.
  • Swim 1 mile – I really love swimming but didn’t have much time to do it the last couple of months so I plan to make up for it this summer.  A swimming mile is 33 laps and at the beginning of last summer I could barely do 1 so if I accomplish this it will be a huge improvement.
  • Go rock climbing – I loved climbing stuff as a kid and as an adult have wanted to try rock climbing but I have always been too self-conscious to as an adult.  My niece wants to try it out also so it will be something fun to do together.
  • Track the calories I eat – I have proven to myself time and time again I cannot be trusted to eat right without tracking it most of the time.  With phone apps making it so easy there really is not an excuse not to.  I plan to stick to under 1500 calories at least 6 days every week.
  • Drink a lot of water – There are days now where I go without having any water at all and only drink soda.  I know this cannot be good so one of the main things over the summer is to drink at least 64 ounces (8 glasses of 8 ounces) a day.  The water bottles I go through at the gym hold 24-oz so I should be able to do this easily.