My main personal goal in 2016 was to consistently workout and ultimately change my body to be strong and lean instead of skinny fat. If you don’t know what skinny fat it, it’s when you are skinny, but you have no muscle, so besides bones, organs, and skin — it’s just fat. I was skinny fat.
I grew up doing cardio sports, not muscle sports, so I never really developed strong muscles that lasted with me over the years I did nothing (college through my mid-20s). Genes are a huge part of it too, but I also think that what you grew up doing can have an effect. Like if you did gymnastics or serious ballet for 15 years, you probably have some good solid leg muscles.
I was starting from scratch in adulthood. After going yoga sometimes a lot, sometimes a little, and trying tons of different workouts — from barre, to pilates, to running a half marathon — the period that I did CrossFit and yoga each 3x a week is when I felt my body change the most. That was probably 7-8 years ago before most people knew what CrossFit even was and before yoga got so popular.
When I look back at this main goal in 2016 I can definitely say I accomplished what I said I was going to do. It didn’t end up exactly as I planned which I’ll explain later, but I did do it. I am definitely much stronger than I was a year ago. When I was home I would regularly work out 4-5 times a week. I can’t say that I was very good about working out when I was on vacation or work trips however. I will have to be better at that this year.
But how I was able to accomplish this wasn’t just sheer will. If you are one of those people, I applaud you. I am not. I have to make things very easy for myself if it involves working out. So let’s get into how I was able to set myself up for success and accomplish this goal.
1 // Get specific.
First of all, my overall goal was stronger/leaner and consistent working out. But that’s too general. When I was writing out my goals for the year I wrote down specific things I would do to get there. Specifically for me that was, do CrossFit 4-5 times Monday through Friday, and do yoga and/or SolidCore on the weekends. If I had an event going on that was during my typical workout time — which was 5 pm or 6pm — then I would either go to the noon CrossFit class, or go to a day yoga or other class. Sometimes if the timing of the classes didn’t work I would take my dog on a long walk, jog on the track near my place, or even use our apartment gym.
Some days I would be too busy with work or have a photo shooot go late, or feel too sore and I would just take a day off. But I was pretty good about only when really necessary.
2 // Put it on your calendar.
Each week I would look at my night events, and then literally block off the times I planned to workout on my Google Calendar. Things that get on my calendar get done. Maybe this sounds weird to you, but it works for me. Also, if I had to get ready/drive to the class, I would block that time off as well. I do that for everything now. I was always a right on time or 5 minutes late type of person, so now I plan for everything and add getting ready and transportation time to my calendar.
3 // Say no and protect the workout.
For years I’ve been going to less and less events and things in the evening, but this year I got a lot more strict about it. I say no to almost everything and I plan things around my workout. My friends want to make dinner plans? I won’t go until 7 pm so I can go to the 5 pm class. I would do everything I could to protect that workout time. Some people just do this naturally, for me it took a mindset.
4 // Proximity.
When we moved in February of last year, we basically moved across the street from the CrossFit gym we go to. Hello to no excuses. I mean even if there’s a snowstorm I can walk 30 steps to the gym. So basically I had ZERO excuses last year for not being able to get to the gym. Also the yoga studio I go to has free parking and it’s only about a mile away. Or I can also very easily get on the Metro a few blocks from my place that drops me two blocks from the yoga studio. Not as close, but also pretty dang easy considering I can go during the day and avoid rush hour.
So I chose to belong to the places that are near where I live, or looking at it the other way, we moved next door to our gym since my husband goes there almost every day as well and coaches classes some nights. Basically we both hate commuting anywhere! So pick a place that you like that is either near your work or near your home so you have little transportation excuse not to go.
5 // Make the time.
Part of the reason (or an excuse I used to tell myself) that I didn’t workout regularly, was that up until about 6 months ago, I cooked dinner almost every single night at home. For the past 11 years. Yes. Seriously. It wasn’t always a big production from scratch, although it often was. And my husband and I aren’t huge fans of left overs or eating the same thing everyday for five days, so generally I made a different thing every night, Monday through Friday, since I graduated college in 2005.
Well, I got sick of doing that. I also realized how much time it was taking me! Researching recipes, going to the grocery store, prepping and cooking the meals, cleaning the dishes (although the Mr. would sometimes help with that). Hours and hours every week. At least an hour each night and 2-3 on the weekends with recipes and grocery shopping.
I’m not someone who loves cooking, so I got sick of it. I tried a bunch of those prepped meals like Terra’s Kitchen, and really liked them. If I had more time, or maybe a bigger family, I’d probably do that! But I just didn’t want to cook every night. That’s when we found Power Supply. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s because it’s on the smaller side and caters a little to the CrossFit community. And currently it’s only in 4 areas — the DC/VA/MD area, SF, Southern California, and Dallas/Ft. Worth.
The difference between Power Supply and the other meal deliveries is that the entire meal is already completely cooked for you. It’s not the separate ingredients. You can eat all of the meals cold right out of the fridge if you want, although most of them are better when heated. This saves me SO MUCH TIME. I get home from working out, turn on the stove, dump my meal in a skillet and heat it up! In five minutes I have a healthy dinner and only one dirty pan.
So this solved two problems for me — time and healthy food! You can choose Paleo or vegetarian, and all the meals are super healthy, so done and done. I still have to go grocery shopping a little, but not planning out meals and cooking them has been awesome and I’ve channeled that time into going to workout.
6 // Turn it into routine.
In addition to my healthy precooked delivered dinners — I simplified my lunch. Most days I would (and still do) go to the local salad place called Sweetgreen. There is one a block from my office and another a block from my apartment. That’s pure luck — I didn’t move to be near a Sweetgreen — but they are all over DC so it’s easy to be close to one.
Having this as my go-to lunch option so easily, especially because I use the app on my phone to pay and don’t even have to bring a wallet, and because I can preorder my salad on my phone and just walk in and pick it up while I’m walking my dog — all of these things make it so easy for me to eat a salad for lunch regularly.
7 // Do things that make you move.
Since we got a dog, I have to get up and walk him every few hours. So I’m basically forced to go on a walk a few times a day. When the weather isn’t terrible, I use these walks as exercise and I’ll make them really long and listen to a book or podcast on my phone. I like the forced movement. It’s also good to get out and clear your head during the workday.
Because of the dog I basically don’t sit still longer than a few hours at most. Prior to having a dog, and especially when I worked from our apartment for three years before I got the studio I would sit at my desk all day long. Maybe get up once or twice for water, the bathroom, or lunch. Not often enough!
So if you need to set a timer for every two hours to get you out of your seat, do it! Maybe pick a lunch spot that is 10 blocks away just so you have to walk that far! Walking after eating also helps with digestion.
8 // Enough clothes for a week.
Nothing like running out the door, trying to grab your workout pants to throw in your bag so you can change after work and then realizing you don’t have any clean gym clothes! I made sure I had at least enough workout clothes — including socks, headbands, and yoga towels — to last me a full week of workouts before having to do laundry.
Also, get stuff you like and that fits you well. If you hate your workout clothes you aren’t helping your situation. These are my favorite workout pants. And I just got a few of these tanks and I love them!
9 // Make it easy on yourself.
Basically do anything you can to make it easy on yourself to accomplish your goal! I don’t care if it makes you feel like you are in kindergarten setting out your clothes the night before — do whatever helps you! Make it as easy as possible to do the things that will get you to your goal.
These are all the things that I did to help me reach my goal last year. You can apply them to all different types of goals, not just working out. But I was very specific in what I did to set myself up for success. I really just don’t have that many legitimate excuses for not working out.
If you are saying to yourself, but Meg I can’t X because X, check yourself — what can you change? Maybe you don’t live near all the things you need to make it easy. Well, maybe you need to move — or consider your goals the next time you do move, or take a class online, or hire a trainer to come to your house, get meals delivered — in this day and age there are always lots of options.
While I did feel like I accomplished my goal, I also mentioned that it didn’t go quite as I thought they would. I thought in a year I’d have my ideal strong and trim body. Hahahaha, not exactly. Working out that much made me really hungry. So while I was eating salads and delivered paleo meals, I was also eating a lot of other not healthy things too. I love cookies and cheese and pizza and ice cream. I was also drinking wine. A lot of wine. I thought, I’m working out all the time, it will be fine!
Nope, not fine. The days of my 22-year-old metabolism are gone. So this year while I’m keeping up my workouts, I’m focusing a lot more on the food. Honestly, it annoys me to have to do so but hello age. And I will have to do a flexible plan where I can drink wine sometimes, and eat chocolate sometimes. Enjoy life and yummy food! I’ve got something up my sleeve, so I’m going to start doing it and will tell you how it goes later on.
Did you reach one of your goals last year? Did you do anything interesting that maybe others could learn from to help you reach it? Please share in the comments!
Photo by Laura Metzler