How I pull off working out several times per week

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If you didn’t IG your gym visit, did you really go?

I happen to post my visits to the gym on social media as a way to keep myself accountable and to motivate myself. There are many who think it’s an absolutely obnoxious habit, and that’s perfectly OK and they’re more than welcome to mute, unfollow or unfriend me. Really, I don’t take offense at those things!

It also has prompted a few friends to ask me how I do it. How do I get away from my office to fit a class in? How do I have time to shower?

I’m going to answer all of that in this blog post.

Just like keeping a food diary (which I do on Weight Watchers’ website, as it’s the best system that works for me), tracking my workouts is a must. After xx (heh!) years on this earth, I know what works for my body. Right now, I’m in a great place. I have virtually zero aches and pains, I’m sleeping well, and my energy is high.

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What Weight Watchers tracking looks like.

I achieve this through eating well (real nourishment! Lots of colorful vegetables and mostly plant based proteins) throughout most of the week with a little indulgences on weekend, be it a glass (or a few!) of wine, a second helping of dinner or a snack, or dessert.

As for working out, I treat it as a commitment. I’m paying $70 a month for my gym plus other fees here and there for different yoga studios that I use. So I refuse to let that money go to waste. We all have periods when we slack off. Well, for me, it’s never the working out.

I enjoy working out and with a history of Parkinson’s in my family, I know it’s better for my health.

The challenge for me is with the food part. I’m a stress eater. While my dad was in and out of the hospital and nursing home, I put on weight because I was eating meals at the hospital or on the go. No matter if I’m making good choices, the way it works with my body is if I’m buying close to 100 percent of my meals, I put on weight.

I’m uncomfortable when I’m carrying an extra 10-15 pounds. I literally feel bad, so I usually hit the breaks when I can and work to get back on track.

Working out

I take 45-minute classes of cardio mixed with high intensity weight and plyometric training (“Sports Circuit,” “Total Body Conditioning,” “Burn,” or “Cardio Cross Training”) about three to four times a week, and hot power yoga (the Baron Baptiste style) about four to five times per week. On weekends, I tend to hike or walk an hour with the dog.

(The class in this video is a good example of what some of the classes are like. This instructor, Simon Lawson, was one of my favorites! He recently moved on to teach at the Fhitting Room.)

So how do I do this while balancing my job as a director of communications for a mid-size university in New York City? Truthfully: it takes a lot of planning but I admit I’m very fortunate:

  • I have a great job with a great boss and a great team. Communications work (public relations, social media and content news writing) is nonstop at my job, but we’re not a news media outlet that must push out news 24/7. We’re the public relations and marketing arm of the university. I have a wonderful staff that works hard, and a vice president who cares about work/life balance. While, for some, this means coming in early and leaving early to deal with children, for me, it means I gym during my lunch hour. A healthy staff is a happy staff!

So, I dip out for an hour to take a 45-minute gym class at New York Sports Clubs with a quick shower afterwards. I’m so glad my gym offers 45-minutes classes at 12:15p each day.

  • It helps that my gym is literally half a block away from my office. Like, no kidding, I can leave the office about 5 minutes before class starts (I change in my office before ducking out so all I have to do is walk into class and, ‘Go!’)
  • I take quick showers and get dressed quickly. I’m not one to wear makeup at work, so drying my [now shorter] hair is a cinch.
  • I often work after hours. I’ll go home after yoga, cook (cooking is key to how great I feel because I’m eating lots of greens and grains), and then hop back on email and Twitter to catch up with more work!
  • Important: FOOD PREP! No, I’m not the type to prep seven days of meals on a Sunday. But I do make egg or egg whites using a muffin tin on Sundays so my breakfast is taken care of. As for lunch, I prepare a hearty and healthy lunch by cooking it while I cook dinner. I’m talking lots of vegetables, a healthy grain like couscous, quinoa or brown rice, or a low-glycemic sweet potato & about four ounces of grilled chicken, tofu, or a half cup of legumes.
  • Having lunch ready means I don’t have to take a detour after the gym to buy lunch. The break room to nuke my lunch and I’m back in the office!
  • We depend heavily on Google calendar at work, so, for the most part, meetings are planned in the mornings or late afternoon. And when they have to cut into my midday gym time, that’s ok, too! 
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Incentive for extra WW “points” = food

So … why the yoga?

The hot power yoga (which I take at this amazing studio called Lyons Den in TriBeCa) has been key to improving my flexibility and eliminating aches and pains. Before I started getting into yoga heavy, I was dealing with frequent headaches and a nagging tennis elbow situation. Ever since getting into Bikram Yoga, and now power yoga, most of those aches are gone. The heat loosens my muscles, improves my flexibility, and challenges my mental stamina, while the quick pace of power yoga works my muscles.

Since the schedule at “the den” is constant, I can go any time from right after work, to 8 p.m. at night.

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Bethany Lyons is the founder of Lyons Den. [Images via Lucky mag]

OK, but what about time for other commitments?

Alright. I’m not going to lie. My social life takes a hit when I’m this “on” with working out/eating well. I tend not to want to go out to eat or go out drinking after work. Both of those things mess with my sleep, which inevitably f*cks with my weight, so I try and avoid them depending on how things are going at work. Right now, we’re super busy, so the social activities can wait.

Truth is, I’ve always been more of a weekend warrior when it comes to going out. I need to have an alert mind at work, so going out and cutting loose is few and far between. But it’s ok.

One thing I’ve learned while battling restrictive eating and an eating disorder in my 20s was to rid myself of dichotomous thinking, meaning viewing things in black or white. So if I get invited to a string of events in the coming weeks (and it WILL happen), that’s OK if I miss some workouts. It’s all about balance, which is something many of us struggle with.

I’m grateful practicing yoga has helped me with that, too. Hopefully I’ve helped someone with this post!

Working out? Do you love it? Hate it?

Screen shot 2013-10-23 at 11.17.25 AMI grew up in the city of Paterson, NJ, and aside from riding my bike almost every day in the summer, playing in the house, and gym class during the school year, I didn’t get a ton of exercise. There weren’t any organized sports in the tiny Catholic School I attended and the city I lived in didn’t have any recreational leagues.

Not surprisingly, I gained (and lost, and sometimes gained again) the freshmen 10 in high school and the freshmen 15 in college.

I started working out (aerobics classes and the like) my senior year of college and have been pretty hooked ever since. There was a two-year period in my life where it was obsessive (two hours or more a day) and when I got help for that, I cut back. Eventually, I found a happy balance (I go anywhere from 3-5 days a week for cardio and strength training) that includes walking my dog for about 40-60 minutes per day. And I live in a place where a ton of walking is commonplace — New York City!

The reality is I’ve always had to work out and watch what I eat. Luckily, I enjoy the working out part the best. But there are some people who have never had to work out (like my brothers!) who, later in life, are finding they have to. And they don’t always like it. Here’s a piece about the fitness as an adult by my older brother, Richard Vergel, in Vida Vibrante.

A Latino Dad Reflects on Fitness

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I hate working out.  Always have.  It’s a chore. It hurts.  It’s not even free. Think about it: Gym memberships, brand name sneakers, well-built bicycles, boxing gloves, track suits, tennis racquets, etc. Whatever you’re into, money will be spent. My point is growing up, I wasn’t the most active kid in the world. But I was lucky, because I looked decent considering I didn’t work out; I wasn’t el gordito or el flaco.  I was height-weight proportionate since puberty, so I got away with not working out.

We won’t get into why I didn’t play school sports right now (I’ll save that for another article) but I wish I did. Playing sports as a kid usually leads to a healthier lifestyle, and improved social and leadership skills. Still, I shied away from physical activity. Yet, ironically, I always had friends who were into fitness, ever since high school. They always tried to get me to lift weights with them, and I would try it, see zero results, and go back to my favorite sport – couch surfing.  But that was then, this is now.

Now I’m a 42-year-old dad, who likes to eat his rice and beans and chorizo from time to time. I still look pretty good, thank you very much, but now my metabolism has slowed down and I have no choice: I’ve got to work out to stay in shape – no – to GET into shape.

Read the rest here