Get Your Cute Butt Out the Door: A Working Girl’s Musings on Exercise

There is a question that I get asked often, and that is how I manage to motivate myself to go to the gym after a long day at work. It’s a topic that comes up frequently in the following forms:

  • Friend: I was going to go to the gym tonight, and then I decided not to… Now you’re making me feel bad.
  • Coworker: You’re so good.
  • Husband: I can’t imagine having to go to the gym after work. I don’t know how you can do that.
  • Friend: YOU’RE GOING TO THE GYM TONIGHT?!?!
  • Another friend: I’m going home to sit on my couch and watch TV. I’m exhausted, and I don’t know how you do it.

It’s true. I go to the gym a lot, and it’s often after a full(+) workday. But don’t get me wrong: this is not something that has come easy. I used to go months without working out. In fact, if you had conducted a close study of my health and self-care habits in college, you might be utterly disgusted. After class and work and meetings and rehearsal and dates and friend time and on and on and on, the last thing that I wanted to do was stand up, change and exercise. No thanks. But now that I’m older and much more educated, I just wish I hadn’t wasted so much time.

Now there are definitely some life circumstances that contribute to making it to the gym so often, but I want to make a huge disclaimer. This is not your out. Yes, I do have a husband who works most nights, leaving me at home to do as I please. Yes, I don’t have to cook a dinner for a family of four. I am able to put off chores until the weekend if I so choose. If you have those things, I genuinely congratulate you, but they are not to be used as excuses. Dictionary.com offers the definition of an excuse as “a plea offered in extenuation of a fault or forrelease from an obligation, promise, etc.”, and in this case, that obligation or promise is to take care of yourself. Excuses are for someone else. Working out is for yourself. If you are legitimately too busy, or have a family, or can’t physically get there today, fine. But take a minute to think about how taking care of yourself actually benefits your mind, your family, and your relationships, and I think you’ll realize that excuses are not accepted here. Sorry.

I used to be captive to my excuses. I would tell whoever would listen and hope that it would make me feel better, that this little feeling in my stomach that felt like I was doing something wrong would go away. Want to know how I made it go away? I started doing what I was supposed to, but all the reasons I was telling myself were bullshit. True, honest-to-God bullshit. I was the only thing holding myself back, and it turns out that the real trick to exercising on the regular was to change my MINDSET, not my circumstances, This took a lot of initiative and a swift kick in the proverbial pants to start educating myself and becoming aware of my body, my thoughts, and my self-talk. And then on top of that, I had to change it. Like I said, not an easy task.

But here I am today, hoping to make it a little easier for you to get your cute butt out the door and in shape by giving you some of the tips that have helped me get to the amazing place where I have (shockingly) found myself, Getting out the door is no longer as hard as it used to be, and the payoff is incredible. Here is what personally changed my mind, my body, and my life.

1) I’ve fallen in love with my gym.

Notice I didn’t write “I’ve fallen in love with THE gym”. That’s because I have tried a few in my area, and they never quite fit. All throughout college, I had access to a huge recreation center right on campus, and I hardly ever went (except for hip-hop class – that was great) because despite strict dress code rules of no tank tops or super short shorts, it was an absolute meat market. I went to a huge state-of the art gym in the community for two years, but I had to wait in line for cardio machines, for weight machines, for classes, for everything. I spent $50 a month to stand around. Oh, and it was a meat market. After all that, I finally settled on the one that was right for ME. I go to Equilibrium Fitness for Women, an all-women’s gym less than a mile from my house. Everyone here is supportive, welcoming, stoked on life, and okay – yes, female. I never wait in line, the girls at the front desk no my name, and I’m surrounded by badass empowered women every time I walk through the door. I found where I wanted to work out, and now it feels like my other home.

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2) I turn my excuses to skip my workouts into reasons to exercise.

It is so easy to make excuses to skip workouts, and one of the best things I’ve done is commit to getting honest with myself. For example, I HATE getting ready (i.e. showering, blow drying my hair, doing my makeup) more than once in a day OR any time other than in the morning. Lunchtime workouts just do not work for me. I can’t do it. Therefore, since I’m going to get a workout in, I know I have to plan my them as either my first or last public outing of the day. That way I can make myself presentable for the rest of the day after getting sweaty, or I can shower right before I hibernate for the night. I also hate washing my hair every day, and the truth is, I don’t need to so I tend to go the every other day route. But when I work out, I SWEAT. So how do you get to the gym a majority of your days when it would just be so easy to say, “I don’t want to have to do my hair” tomorrow? Well, I do my hardcore workouts on hair-washing days and then plan a yoga class and light cardio on the others. Easy-peasy. Maybe this sounds ridiculous to you, but we all have those excuses we are secretly ashamed of. You know, those ones we rationalize in our heads, but know that if we said out loud we’d get an eye roll to put us in our place from the nearest person, no matter stranger or closest friend. But who cares?!?! OWN YOUR EXCUSES. Once you do, you can turn them into reasons. Now I always try to workout on hair-washing days, because that to me is a reason to get a weight lifting session in, not skip it.

3) Do what you FEEL like doing.

The key here is not to ask yourself whether you feel like going to the gym. By then you’ve already given yourself “NO” as an option. But if you ask yourself instead, “What kind of workout do I feel like doing?” then you’ve eliminated the possibility before you even realize it. Too tired for cardio? Yoga or Pilates. Want to get outside? Go for a run, or if that sounds like it sucks, walk your dog. Have a bad day? Take a combat class, and get out your anger. Feeling like turning your brain off? Find a magazine and park yourself on an elliptical. Hate even the thought of working out? Go dance your ass off, for God’s sake. The truth is that ANY workout is a workout, not just the hardcore ones. If you don’t feel like leaving your house, give yourself permission to do push-ups on the stairs or pop in a Jillian Michaels DVD. It doesn’t matter how long or short your workout is. It doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing right now. Comparison will do nothing for you. Check in with your bad self and do what you feel like, because as long as you’re moving, I’ll count it. So move!

4) Find what gets you pumped.

ONE new song on my iPod = Instant change in my mood about working out. The new issue of Women’s Health magazine in my mailbox = Four to seven days of inspiration, depending on how fast I devour it. But the thing that really gets me excited? (And disclaimer, I am totally unashamed for what I am about to reveal.) NEW WORKOUT CLOTHES!!!! I love the way I feel in brand new exercise gear. And yes, I am that girl rocking neon in the worst way in the corner of the gym. I don’t care if it’s obnoxious! I LOVE it. My highlighter yellow Nikes got me through my first half marathon. I feel like a boss in the purple UnderArmor tee my sister-in-law got my for Christmas. I kick ass when I wear all black in my combat class. Once I figured this out, I started to spread out my purchases. New yoga pants here, new sports bra there. It keeps me excited, no matter how weird it sounds. My newest obsession? THESE BABIES.

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I can’t wait to put them on! So find your song, your subscription, your hot pink leopard print kicks, and rock them. Whatever gets YOU out the door.

5) Most importantly, make your working out about getting, being, and staying HEALTHY, and nothing else.

This one takes work, and the effort is two-fold. First, you have to start educating yourself on health and wellness. For instance, you know that the sticky stuff you lick on an envelope to seal it? Well, that’s called gum arabic, and they put it in M&M’s and marshmallows. Gross right? I don’t want to put stuff like that in my body, but I would have kept doing it had I not just chosen to read about it. There is so much information out there, and it’s just waiting for you. Whether you prefer blogs and websites or magazines and good old-fashioned books, it’s there, and it will change your life. The second part of this is you need to decide what being healthy means to you. To me, it’s not just a state of being, it’s a lifestyle. It means exercising and eating right, yes. But to me, it also means getting 8 hours of sleep, reducing my stress level as much as possible, having supportive relationships in my life, maintaining a healthy weight, going to all of my doctors regularly, and generally living clean. So why do we each have to define “healthy” when we could just look up the definition the easy way? Because once you take the initiative and define it yourself, you’ve just found your ultimate motivation. You will not get off the couch unless you feel compelled to, and once you attach real meaning behind your action, you will do just that. Promise.

There is a quote from Dr. Wayne W. Dyer that goes as follows: “Don’t die with your music still inside you.” Well, there is a whole lot of potential living inside your kick-butt self right now, just waiting to be set free. Don’t just let it sit there! Go out there and release your energy into the world. I’ll meet you at the finish line.

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P.S. Check out my sick new Lorna Jane jacket. That puppy has already gone on a run, on a hike, AND to yoga class since I got it with my step-sister a week ago. No shame.

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It’s Wednesday and It’s 3:30 P.M.

A while ago – on a particularly rough Wednesday, mind you – I stumbled upon an article written for the Telegraph entitled:

Women Look Their Oldest at 3.30pm Every Wednesday

As you can imagine, this was by far the most encouraging thing I have heard in awhile. After reading the article, it makes sense that this would be the particular time when all of the negative factors would come crashing into each other, creating the perfect cocktail for a complete and utter train wreck on your face. Wednesday is when work stress is at it’s peak, what with all the things you need to get done by Friday afternoon facing off with that well-intentioned-but-never-ending to-do list we all made on Monday. Add to that the natural afternoon slump we all feel in the middle of the afternoon, with lunch safely and snugly in our bellies. Then factor in that the effects of booze take a few days to show up on your skin, and we may or may not have thrown a few back over the weekend. (But with the work week we all had last week, who wouldn’t?!) Top it all off with the finding that women logged the least amount of sleep on Monday, which you guessed it, can take a few days to surface, and you’ve got a lot of fabulous women transforming into the zombies from World War Z faster that it takes you to undress Brad Pitt with your eyes in the first scene of the same movie.

Pretty sweet, if you ask me.

Or not.

So dragging you down in the dirt and rubbing your face in a big pile of insecurity is not my intention. Instead, I want to give you reminder to take care of yourself at the lowest point of the week. You are incredible, and you are working hard. In the hopes that you’ll remember what makes it all worth it, here is a gift from me to you in the form of a gentle nudge to remember the reasons why we do what we do, courtesy of one of my favorite songs by Brandon & Leah.

Happy Wednesday!

P.S. I think you look beautiful.

Weekend Snapshots: Pumpkin Overload and Auntie Ash

I pretty much had the best weekend ever. Let me lay it out for you.

After work on Friday, I picked up a little lady named Tori. I have considered her family from the beginning, even though our connection to one another is a far too complicated to be fully conveyed in a single breath. Needless to say, I inherited her when I took the Halter name, and she’s pretty much, well, awesome. Not to mention that the amount of laughing we did on 6-hour late night drive to San Diego could have fueled us passed the Mexican border and back again.

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Dinner was a pit stop in Santa Barbara to avoid traffic and to not avoid heaven in a seafood burrito from Los Arroyos off of State Street.

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Is 90 miles too far to drive for burritos on a regular basis?

A ridiculous drive could only end in more ridiculousness when we end up in the Gaslamp District with Tori’s hotel in full view but utterly inaccessible due to a canal and what seemed like hundreds of blocked off streets and “No Left Turn” signs. I dropped her off with her dad and finally rolled into my amazing step-sister’s and brother-in-law’s house around midnight. Within 30 minutes, I passed out despite the unbearable anticipation and excitement of what the morning would bring.

And of course the morning brought it with the adorable noises and delighted screams of a 15-month-old nephew enjoying waffles and bananas for breakfast in his high chair.

At 5:15 a.m.

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I already knew it was love when I met him for the first time last Christmas. What I didn’t realize was just how much power such a little man could hold over me. Exhibit A is the fact that he got me making up silly games pre-hair and makeup (and oof, there’s the picture above to prove it…).

The weekend following was a whirlwind that included…

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A dangerous amount of Pinteresting dotted by fits of sister-bonding over baking…

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Pumpkin White Chocolate Chip Muffins with a recipe via Culinary Concoctions by Peabody (via Pinterest, of course)…

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I love partaking in one of my favorite festivities of the season: pumpkin carving!

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…with an obvious gap in talent and capability between myself and the surgeon. No, seriously. Doug’s a Physician’s Assistant. He operates.

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And Saturday ended with meticulous separation of pumpkin guts and seeds for the roasting of one delicious snack.

Sunday was another early morning that transformed into a run with Jess on trails around a lake near her house. There was girl talk. There was wife talk. There was I-Can’t-Breathe-But-I’m-Still-Talking talk.

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And since my mom and stepdad (or Grandma and Papa depending on your personal situation in the family hierarchy) were walking the dog and the babe behind us, and lake usually equals ducks, we obviously had to partake in some duck watching post-run.

The whole trip was downright amazing. I’m pretty much overcome by all the love and family that surrounded me, and I never even questioned driving the 6 hours each way in the span of around 48 hours. It did, however, make for a very bittersweet, sad-happy Monday of daydreaming at my desk, knowing I’m so far away from some of the most important people in my life. I’m very recently beginning to understand the feeling of family – ironically, through the addition of new members resulting from the breakup if my traditional immediate family. Despite everything, it’s so beautiful to walk into the home of someone you didn’t know six or so years ago and truly feel like you belong. Life just seems that much more wonderful with so many loved ones around, and it’s hard to be away from them most of the time. It’s a good thing that every time I see them, I take a little more of them with me when I leave. Is it possible for your heart burst right out of your chest? Because looking back at pictures from the past few days, that’s about how I’m feeling.

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Especially when I see this sweet little face. He kills me.

If At First You Kill Your Plants, Try, Try Again.

If you asked me to make a list of the “Top 10 Thoughts I Never Expected I Would Think”, it’s entirely likely it would contain the following:

“Do you know what would make this chicken better? If I just went out back to my herb garden, snipped a few sprigs, and whipped up a nice little sauce to enhance the flavors of this delightful meal!”

A few years ago, that would be the type of statement that would make me throw up a little in my mouth – not out of disgust, but out of major intimidation, slight jealousy and the ugly disappointment that comes along with the realization that I will never ever live up to the impossible standard that is the likes of the great Martha Stewarts, Giada De Laurentiis-es, and the Gwyneth Paltrows of the domestic-capabilities world.

Well, lo and behold.

I went out back to my herb garden.

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I snipped a few sprigs.

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And surprised myself greatly by (stumbling through the improvisation of a recipe I found online with vaguely the same-ish ingredients that I happened to have in my kitchen with some substitutions and) whipping up a little sauce to enhance the flavors of this delightful meal.

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I do believe in miracles.

If I can do it, goodness knows you can do it. A few tips:

  • Quit being afraid. Just stop it. Whatever it is you want to do – herb garden or otherwise –  shouldn’t cause you anxiety and shouldn’t make you feel inadequate.
  • If you’re not sure where to start, ask. How did I end up with a pot full of basil, tarragon, parsley, and rosemary? I went to Miner’s Hardware and found someone who knew what they were talking about. Then I flat out told them I had no idea what I was talking about. And then they helped me. Easy as that.
  • Furthermore, if you’re still not sure what to do, ask again. How did I know what to do once I got the little buggers planted and safely sitting in my backyard? I asked the most fabulous of my coworkers what she did with hers. She was a wealth of knowledge and inspiration, and she was happy to tell me.
  • Commit. I had a garden in the past, but I didn’t make it a priority. This time, I treat my little herbies like my (non-existent) children. Just because you didn’t succeed at something or weren’t confident in the past does not mean that this time, when you’ve given yourself the chance to grow and learn a bit, that you’re going to fail miserably and watch all your poor,  poor vegetables wither away and die like the sad, miserable guardian you’ve made yourself out to be. (Or wait, that was just me.) And guess what. If they should so happen to wither away and die, I have a nice little horticulturist at my local Miner’s who I can go to and ask what the hell I did wrong and try again. So take that and apply it to whatever it is you want to do.

So that’s what I have. If you were hoping for tips on how to plant an herb garden or how to make sauce for chicken, I don’t yet consider myself an expert in either of those areas. Maybe someday! I did learn, however, that all of that anxiety and jealousy and inadequacy that stems from seeing others do incredibly cool things is only the result of fear. You can do whatever project you want to do, really, and the best part is you don’t have to compare it to anyone else’s. So go out and do it.

Give Martha a run for her money.

Piece By Little Piece

Our living room has felt very unfinished for long time. Having lived in this house for seven years, I have had eight roommates moving in and moving out, taking things and leaving things (both their own and otherwise), and my house has hardly felt like home. On top of all that, being a live-in landlord is a tough job. Although I’m sure the roomies had no intention of doing so, all of the house maintenance and cleaning was often left to me, even if it was beyond the scope of a traditional landlord’s duties. It felt like a constant game of catch-up. When Bill moved in, two roommates had just moved out, and in order to keep the cost of living here financially feasible, we had another move in three months later. She moved out two months before the wedding, when we were in full nuptial-planning mode. Needless to say, the house was always changing, chaotic, and sufficiently lacking in design.

Since our wedding, Bill and I have been trying to keep the opportunity to live just the two of us a real possibility. With the new living situation, we have been able to put some TLC into the space. The most exciting and labor-intensive of these improvements are most prominently ripping out the old college-house carpet and replacing it with faux-hardwood laminate, as well as installing new baseboard and crown molding. These things made a huge difference, but something was still unquestionably missing.

One day a month or two ago, I stood in the middle of our small but semi-open concept living and dining area, and I decided to just take down anything and everything that I was even in the least bit unsatisfied with in terms of decor. It had taken me awhile to figure out my design style during the wedding registry era, and once I discovered Apartment Therapy’s Classic Glam style (major epiphany), I have been looking for and slowly gathering different elements to transition my house into our home.

Here is the before picture of our living room:

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Complete blank slate.

This overwhelmed me for a quite some time. I’m no interior designer, that’s for sure. But once I realized that the real fun is not in everything coming together in one impressive overhaul like in all the HGTV shows with which I am disgustingly obsessed – but rather in the element of surprise and the unexpected discovery of certain treasures piece by piece – I started to enjoy the process. First, it was new pillows I was on the hunt for. After that, coffee table lovelies. And most recently, I have been entirely consumed with finding the perfect area rug.

Well, finally… found. After scouring flash sale home sites like Joss & Main, One Kings Lane, and Gilt Home, I had almost lost hope. Then this beauty from Pottery Barn caught my eye several weeks ago, but the price tag was a little more than I had hoped. It took some self-convincing that I had, in fact, done my research, and a rug is an investment piece that should last for years if you are smart about it. Oh yeah, and it was marked down 15% for PB’s fall rug sale so… SOLD.

I’m not in the least bit sorry.

Here are the (still in progress) afters:

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As you can see, the wall behind the couch continues to be in desperate need of some art, but I’m so happy with how my little finds are coming together!

Arguably the best part? Even Indy approves.

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We Walk By Things

Sometimes we walk by things, and we keep on walking because they are things we have seen a thousand times.

Sometimes we walk by those same things, and for some reason we stop walking. Sometimes, for some reason, these same things seem a little less ordinary and a little more extraordinary, and our minds just have to soak it in and say “Whoa.”

Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, in the very heart of my beautiful little town, is one of those things.

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Whoa.

Small Things, Big Days

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Be sure to celebrate the small things…

More than a 100 views on do(hot mess)ticated today! Thank you for being here!

(And by “here” I mean in the world.)

Photo by Marlein Overakker via HonestlyWTF