Natalie Whitten

For me, historically the thought of exercise has held about as much excitement as chewing on a piece of gum that lost its flavor an hour ago is tasty.  The fact that I get bored easily when I’m at the gym and that I love the Christmas fudge my family churns out every year – well, I was not the first to jump on board with the December challenge.

However, after reading a number of the intense committments others made, I thought I could probably trade in a few re-runs of The King of Queens (that Arthur just cracks me up) to get up off the couch.  That and Jennifer Hudson singing at the top of her lungs on the new Weight Watchers commercial reminding me that I could probably be doing something more productive, like learning to sing like Jennifer Hudson.    After I took a second look at the blog and seeing that others made really intense commitments like regular surfing and soccer activity (cool), running outside in sub-zero Chicago temperatures (brave), measuring your body fat (scary), detailing caloric intake (well-prepared) and even Jason had a plan to keep his bowels clean.  By God, if he can do that I can do something that will make up for a few fudge squares, right?

I am happy to report that I made it to the gym 4 days per week over the month of December after I hopped on board the challenge.  I admit that some days were more intense and productive than others, but I made it there and 99% of the time, I left feeling refreshed.  Just so it all adds up, the 1% I didn’t leave feeling refreshed I had food poisoning.  Blech!

While I was at the gym, I learned the following:

1)  (Dedication) not very many people frequent the gym in the month of December.  Around 9:00am on December 24th I was one of 4 people in the whole place and around other holidays it has been pretty busy.  Since the gym was essentially mine that morning, I took the opportunity to try out a few pieces of equipment that looked a little scary to me that I would not have tried before and let out a little stress in the boxing studio.

2)  (Education) I should read the directions before shoving my swimsuit into the swimsuit extractor machine near the pool (RIP my lovely navy suit with the sporty back straps).

3)  (Variation) I am fully in control of my routine and there are no excuses for getting bored in a place with rock climbing, ballet bootcamp, bollywood dancing, hula hooping, and kinesis in addition to the usual classes and equipment.

4)  (Focus) I actually won’t fall off the equipment as much if I’m not talking to my personal trainer about getting liposuction because it may be easier, while I’m trying to hoist myself up on the pull-up machine.

5)  (Negative Thoughts) My trainer thinks I am able to easily cross the gym floor doing some decent-looking lunges when I’m not asking him to clarify why liposuction would not be easier…and yes, he is right.  It’s much easier to do your lunges when you are not whining about doing lunges.

6) (Trust) My trainer will not let my face slam into the floor when I’m doing my pushups off the Bosu – even after the 3rd set when my arms are shaking.

7) (Persistence) My trainer was impressed I was one of his few clients that didn’t cancel multiple times right around the holidays, giving me a warm and fuzzy feeling that I am better than all those other people.  Now, I know what you are thinking – that isn’t really in the holiday spirit now is it?  No, but I did feel a little special, like if he gave me a certificate or something it would go up on my refrigerator.

8) (Sound Judgement) The soothing gentle colors of the Kinesis studio are an illusion.  That place is intense.  The little sign outside the studio states, “Kinesis is designed to improve your overall quality of life, and involves fluid, three-dimensional movements that activate a wide range of muscles, heightens awareness of movements, and helps you to achieve full harmony of body and mind.”  Do not be fooled!  When my feet and arms were connected to the straps doing rep after rep of various movements, the only thing my body and mind were in full agreement on was that this machine is killer!  That machine is out to get you and you should know that before expecting a spa-like experience based on the little note on the door.  That thing has become my nemisis.  I will master it.

9) (Negative Thoughts again) I really don’t hate running as much I thought I would.  While I told myself if the firefighters I work with went out running, I would go with them, I’m not going to lie, I was dreading every email I got from them thinking they were going running.  To my surprise even they pooped out in December!  Instead, I started a Couch to 5K regimen I downloaded online and spoke to my brother-in-law, a dietician, and a relative, a 7 time iron-man competitor, for some guidance and motivation on how to make starting out a little less frustrating.

9) (Relief and Willpower) After all that hard work I was not actually that interested in stuffing my belly with fudge squares and cookies, and those little peanut butter things with the chocolate kiss in the middle.  I just realized too that I was able to maintain a pantry free of emergency Kit Kat bars.

The result: I didn’t track my weight because my challenge was more about getting back into a routine of regular physical activity.  I used to take bellydance, pilates and spinning regularly (3 days a week each!) and really enjoyed it.  But sometimes the momentum of work creeps up on you and before you know it ….a hostile takeover of your time and energy has occured without you even realizing it.  I have continued my routine into the New Year and am feeling pretty good about it.

I didn’t track my calories because I didn’t do my research on how many I should be consuming and I was “just too busy” doing things I can’t really remember were that important after all.  I did update my Lifebook though to do this in January.

I didn’t cut out specific types of food from my diet or set limits on how much I could eat.   Then again, eating sweets didn’t produce the same refreshing “high” my workouts did.  And then there was the couple days with the food poisoning to really suppress the urge to overindulge.

I did, however, work out regularly, try to stay focused while I was there, and experienced new ways of working up a sweat and…drumroll please…

MY BLACK PANTS FIT ME!  WAHOO!  Usually I dread going back into the office after a long holiday, getting myself back into my morning routine, trying to remember the passwords to my computer programs, and realizing that the little work fairy who was supposed to show up in my absence and take care of all of work piled up on my desk must have gotten food poisoning too.  But on this day, I walked in secretly proud of me and my fabulous black pants and what does my coworker say as I walk in?  “Ooo, nice pants.  Did you get those for Christmas?”  Success.  I hope everyone who entered the December Health and Fitness challenge had that same “my pants fit me again” feeling.  Your comments and committments were truly motivating.  Happiest of Happy New Year’s and much success to all of you in 2011.

– Natalie Whitten

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