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By: | Posted: 01/23/2013
I've always been what many people refer to as a "big" girl. At 6-foot tall, it was easy to convince myself they really meant tall. Truth be told, I've battled being overweight (like many Americans) most of my life. Sure, I've had bouts of fitness (running a half-marathon at a respectable pace, for example), but I've never been accused of being thin, lithe, skinny, waif-like or any other adjective associated with athletes, supermodels, or celebrities.
If that weren't enough, entering my 30s while pursuing tenure at a research-intensive university about pushed me (and my bathroom scale) over the edge. Without changes, being overweight could have easily given way to being obese. To top it off, my fiance Kevin (who happens to be about 5 inches shorter than me) has the kind of metabolism that transforms candy bars and soda into fuel that powers sub-6-minute miles.
So, starting in 2010, I set a few fitness goals. Emphasis here was on realistic goals since I have become acutely aware that two things will never change:
-Kevin will never be taller than me, and heels for men will never be fashionable. After more than four years, I've learned to appreciate that. He was on a stool recently to get something out of a cabinet, and it just seemed wrong for him to tower over me. Yes, ladies, I've pulled my heels back out of my closet.
-I will never be described using any of those words I mentioned above (at least not by someone who can pass the vision test at the DMV). That said, I can work to flaunt the best features of my "big girl" body. I often think I missed my calling as an Olympic swimmer (hello, broad shoulders) or my opportunity to go to Harvard on a crew scholarship (36" inch inseam must be good for something).
As I start 2013 and prepare for my wedding, my goal is to live healthy—not just before my wedding day, but for as long as I can. I owe that to my partner. Sure, we all hear stories about the couple that got married and got fat together, and we swear that isn't going to happen to us. But, Kevin and I are taking steps now to form our healthy habits before the wedding chaos sets in.
In my revolutionary approach to goal-setting, I decided to stop looking at the scale. Yes, you heard me. Do I still step on every two weeks or so? Sure, but only because my fabulous personal trainer Krista Bergman makes me. Instead, Krista has taught me to connect my success to a number of factors, including how I feel and how my clothes fit (and I am rockin' the yoga pants these days).
It is somewhat ironic that I decided to write this post when I did. I'm coming off what I would call a "less successful" weekend. I ate a lot of foods that don't work with my body and didn't make it to the gym as much as normal. End result: I started the week feeling run-down, albeit re-committed to the things I know work for me: clean, healthy eating, and regular workouts.
After I stopped obsessing over how much I weighed, I needed new benchmarks to measure my success (and most ladies know that the size jeans you wear depends more on the brand and less on your actual measurements). So, for all of the Real Brides readers, I've decided to share my plan for 2013, which is largely based on Krista's wisdom and training philosophy. But, you don't have to be a bride-to-be to benefit from these fitness tips:
-Focus less on cardio workouts and more on strength training. Rest assured, ladies, you will never look like a male bodybuilder regardless of how often you pump iron (unless, of course, you supplement with large amounts of testosterone and spray tan until you are orange). If you want to look hot for your wedding and improve your overall health, dedicate three days per week to whole-body strength training and two days to cardio workouts.
-Forget about spot toning. You can work on just your triceps until you are blue in the face. The fact of the matter is, your goal should be overall fat loss or whole-body toning. This is where the strength workouts come into play. Focus on the major muscle groups to maximize calorie burn and cardiovascular fitness (think shoulders, back, chest, core, legs). Then, add in exercises that tone the accessory muscle groups (biceps/triceps, for example) as a part of multi-joint movements. One of my favorites, thanks to Krista, is the Squat-Curl-Press, which targets the upper legs, glutes, abs, biceps, and shoulders.
-Variety, variety, variety. Want to really reap the benefits of cardio? Change up your routine. If you're a treadmill junkie, try the rowing machine. If you swear by the elliptical, check out the moving staircase (it's a doozy). Presenting the body with new challenges makes it use muscles in different ways. Consider interval training by alternating speeds, inclines, or resistance levels on machines. On days when I am pressed for time, there's nothing like a 30-minute sprint workout to get my heart pounding and get me out of the gym in a hurry.
-Use your time in the gym wisely. Unless you are training for the Twin Cities Marathon (if so, you go girl), you don't need to put in more than two cardio sessions (45-60 minutes each) per week. You get plenty of calorie burn from strength training, too. Your cardio, however, doesn't include the time you are spending chatting it up with your girlfriends (unless you happen to be doing it while exercising).
[caption id="attachment_1363" align="alignright" width="225" caption="Here I am bearing all in a bikini. I'm banking on the "before photo" providing plenty of incentive for the next 90 days."][/caption]
-Figure out what foods work with your body and eat them. Nutrition plays a HUGE role in your overall health and weight loss (so much so that my next blog details my nutrition plan in all its glory). I can't stress nutrition enough. Many people are sensitive to certain foods (wheat and dairy being among the top culprits) but may not even know they are experiencing symptoms (bloating, gas, other forms of internal inflammation). Don't believe me? Cut out wheat or dairy completely (no cheating) for a week. Take your measurements at waist and hip before and after. See how you feel. It made me a believer (and one who no longer had a wheat belly).
But, the most important thing that Krista (and the entire team at Lifetime Fitness in Woodbury) has taught me is that I'm not alone in my quest to be healthy. Don't know how to use a piece of cardio equipment? Ask a personal trainer. Unsure about all the nutrition "advice" you see in the media? Consult a nutrition coach.
Better yet: take advantage of Lifetime's 90-Day Challenge, which starts in early February. For $25, you get tons of fitness and nutrition resources at your fingertips, including free classes and seminars. As a part of my commitment to building a healthy life, I'll be participating in the Total Body Transformation Challenge (hence the "before" picture to the right). With a little luck and a lot of hard work, I'm looking forward to sharing my "after" picture with the Real Brides readers. So, next time you see me at Lifetime squatting 240+ pounds, stop by to say hi. And, rest assured, I won't be donning the plaid bikini in public anytime soon.
Kara is a communications manager at U.S. Bank. See her engagement story.
Taylor is a magazine editor at MSP Communications. See her engagement story.
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