Project Louise: When Wanting To Work Out Just Doesn't Work Out

By Louise Kennedy
Guest contributor

Welcome to February, the month when trainers and gym regulars alike note a falling-off in the crowds that appeared right after New Year’s. Resolutions are a wonderful thing, but without a sustainable plan, apparently, they don’t last much beyond Groundhog Day.

I wish I could report that I’m an exception to this rule. But somehow I went through all of last week without getting to the gym once.

It stings to write that, perhaps especially because in my very first Project Louise post I declared that my pride would keep me from reporting that “I didn’t get to the gym at all, I ate Cheez-Its and Chardonnay for dinner every night, and I feel pretty miserable about all that but I’m not about to change.”

Really, though, it’s not quite that bad. I only ate Cheez-Its once, and we were out of Chardonnay. (Besides, Cheez-Its really call for a red, don’t you think?)

More seriously, here’s what gives me a sliver of hope amid the frustration and disappointment in myself: I do feel pretty miserable about it, but I am absolutely committed to making a change. And so I am trying to use this past week the way Coach Allison has encouraged me to: as an opportunity to observe what’s working and what isn’t, rather than as yet another chance to beat myself up.

So what happened? For one thing, I chose to focus on eating more healthfully – following the DASH diet I wrote about last week – and, in my case, that meant taking back control of the family cooking. (My husband had been doing the lion’s share, which was logistically very helpful, but his repertoire focuses on spaghetti and meat loaf, and I’ve been wanting to amp up the vegetables and salads for quite a while.) Because I often work until 5:30 or later, I needed to do a lot of meal prep in the mornings – and that meant I wasn’t getting out the door in time to go to the gym.

Beyond that, though, there were a couple of days when I just couldn’t drag myself out of bed. I thought I was getting a cold; I was also babying my knee a bit – one of the earlier glitches I hadn’t mentioned here, because it’s flat-out embarrassing, is that when I was running late for my first training session, I tripped on the stairs and banged up my knee. Three weeks later, it’s still swollen and sore.

Sleep! That's the biggest problem.

The maybe-a-cold and the still-hurting knee were enough to make me go to the doctor; the nurse practitioner I saw ruled out a sinus infection and said the knee was just a bad bruise. So I’ve been icing it, and it’s getting better, but slowly. And it still hurt enough that I was anxious about aggravating it with squats and lunges – or at least that’s what I told myself when I hit the snooze button.

Sleep! That’s the biggest problem. I am a night owl, a tendency deeply reinforced by years of working evenings and nights; left to my own devices, I would go to sleep around 1 a.m. and get up at 8:30 or 9. Children make that pretty much impossible, obviously, but even so I have spent years sleeping till the last possible second – 7:43, if you must know – that will let me get my daughter to kindergarten on time. (The high school sophomore, mercifully, gets himself to the bus, except on those days when I drive him to a 5:45 workout – but I didn’t do that last week, either.) So, even though early morning seems like the only part of my day that I can reclaim, I am finding it really, really hard to make myself consistently get out of bed at 5:30 or 6.

So of course I should go to bed earlier. And I try — especially because sleep deprivation can make losing weight even harder. But my brain just does not seem to quiet down until at least 11:30, more often 12. And while I could drag myself up for the first few weeks of this new plan, I think last week I just finally hit a wall. It’s one thing to get up early as a novelty; once my id registered that this was the superego’s new plan for life, it just rebelled.

So now what? Well, on Saturday I did manage to make it to an 8:30 a.m. yoga class – but only because I knew my friend Sara would be in my driveway at 8 sharp. And I felt absolutely terrific afterward, something I will try to remind myself throughout the week when I’m tempted to roll over. It also inspired me to make an appointment with my trainer, Rick, for 7 o’clock this morning.

The combination of motives – wanting to feel great and having the obligation to another person – worked great, and I was at the gym today by 7:01. Unfortunately, however, my gym bag was not.

So, instead of working out with Rick, I talked a bit about what to do better next time. In addition to packing my bag the night before, I’m now going to go ahead and put it in the car – one less thing to think about in the morning. On the days when I’m cooking and can’t get to the gym, I’m going to walk at home; I’m also going to mail-order some 10-pound weights so I can follow his routine anywhere.

I also made an appointment with Rick for Thursday. Next week, no matter what, I will have better news to report.

And no Cheez-Its.

Readers, how are your New Year's resolutions going? Have you found ways to keep your motivation strong?

Headshot of Louise Kennedy

Louise Kennedy Contributor
Louise Kennedy previously worked with The ARTery and as editor of Edify.



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