pumping iron

Mood Fabrics Mini Athletic Inspired Wardrobe

'Sup dudes! It's the first day of October (as I'm writing this)... how did that happen? September, where did you go?

This post is going to be a bit different for me.  I'll just be talking about sewing briefly before I begin quite the ramble... This past month I've been experimenting with making my own activewear.

I go into a good amount of detail on the construction of each of these 4 makes over on the Mood Sewing Network blog, so I thought it might be nice to change it up a little bit over here and talk about making fitness a part of my life.  Hopefully this doesn't send you all running for the proverbial hills! As I said, there's lots of sewing talk going on over on the MSN site, so no hard feelings if you click over now and skip what's to come! I promise I'll be back with more shop talk next time.

Mood Fabrics Mini Athletic Inspired WardrobeMood Fabrics Mini Athletic Inspired Wardrobe

I began working out in earnest a little over a year ago and it's become a pretty important aspect of, if not my life than certainly my daily grind! I know a lot (erm.... all) of you come here for the sewing talk, but I thought today I might talk about my fitness journey and a few of the tips I've picked up along the way, as well as my philosophy behind the whole 'fit' lifestyle. I'm always nervous to tread off the beaten path and talk about my other interests on this blog, but I've also received so much inspiration, knowledge and even comfort from reading about others fitness journeys this past year that I thought it might be nice to share my own.

Mood Fabrics Mini Athletic Inspired Wardrobe

Okay, so let's get physical! 

It was around this time last year that I decided I wanted to do more than the occasional, half-hearted attempt at yoga, and my daily bike commute in terms of activity.  This decision was brought on for a number of reasons, but mainly I just wasn't feeling great. And I also realized one day that I had sort of decided the whole 'working out' thing was not for me without ever really giving it a chance - like really really committing to it and seeing how it goes. I had been scarred by a childhood of always being picked last in PE and being the benchwarmer in every team sport I ever played.  I just thought I was un-athletic and that was that.  But with the distance of adulthood I realized that I always approached physical activity as a chore rather than a privilege, or - god forbid - something I could enjoy. And somehow this didn't seem fair. I figured if I was going to write something off as being 'not for me' I had to at least give it the good ol' college try.

Mood Fabrics Mini Athletic Inspired WardrobeMood Fabrics Mini Athletic Inspired WardrobeMood Fabrics Mini Athletic Inspired Wardrobe

So I started working out. Every single day. I started small, doing a little circuit I made up around the house that involved me running up and down the stairs and doing a series of bodyweight exercises. I vowed to work out for at least 20 minutes every day.  Slowly I upped my game to more intense workouts. I discovered Fitness Blender (I'm probably going to mention them a lot in this post - please know that I am in no way associated with them, other than the fact that they have helped me immeasurably in this past year) and began incorporating HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and weight lifting into my workouts. By Christmas I was hooked and I even asked for a set of dumbbells from Santa. Now, a little over a year later, I work out, on average,  1 hour 5 days a week with two days of 'active rest' (yoga, stretching, walking the dog, going on bike rides etc.) I now know (oh! how I know...) what a burpee is (it's not what happens after you chug a beer...) and the proper form for deadlifting, and I look forward to leg day!!!

Mood Fabrics Mini Athletic Inspired Wardrobe

I workout hard. And, at the risk of sounding evangelical, I've seen changes in my body that I didn't think were possible. But I also have to admit that I've struggled internally about feeling good about all of this. See, I'm a proud feminist, and I believe vehemently in body positivity and that size does not dictate beauty, worth, or health.  I spent many years trying to undo the damage of my teens and early 20's and the near starvation I put myself through in order to be... what? More worthy of love and respect? And I was very proud of myself that even though my weight might creep up on me, I still felt beautiful. That was a huge mental hurdle for me. So why was I now throwing myself headlong into this exercise thing? If I can be beautiful at any size, than why do I want to lose weight? I asked myself if feeling good about your body, and wanting to be more fit could coexist together?

Mood Fabrics Mini Athletic Inspired WardrobeMood Fabrics Mini Athletic Inspired Wardrobe

Prioritizing your health is always a good thing, but I wanted to be sure I was really doing this for my health and not my vanity.  The fitness world is strange. It's easy to go from affirming, body positive sentiments like "You can do this!" "You're powerful!" to body shaming stereotypes like "Bikini Body Workouts" and overly cheerful trainers yelling at you to "Banish the Jiggle!" And then, oh god, there's the diets. So. Many. Diets. How does one navigate all the bullshit without losing their sense of self - and finding yourself, mid jumping jack, thinking about how if you do this you'll be skinny and isn't that the ultimate goal?

Mood Fabrics Mini Athletic Inspired Wardrobe

I realize I'm rambling now, but these have been real concerns of mine! And I suspect I'm not alone. Here in the sewing community we're a beautiful, diverse bunch and I'm proud to think that we foster a sense of body positivity.  In fact, I know I've been part of many discussions about how sewing has been a major factor in helping women feel good about their bodies, mine included. I didn't want all the good that the last few years being a part of this wonderful and supportive community have brought me to slip away for the sake of toned arms.

Mood Fabrics Mini Athletic Inspired WardrobeMood Fabrics Mini Athletic Inspired Wardrobe

Obviously I needed to work on my own mental hangups surrounding exercise. For so long I've thought of exercise as a punishment, not a reward. Something you have to do because you ate too many oreos. Again. So when I decided to really give fitness a place in my life, in a healthy way, I had to change the way I thought about my body and movement. Over the past year I've come to see it like this - our bodies are like dogs (stay with me here).  Dogs love to have a job to do, and the more physical that job the better. We show our dogs that we love them by taking them on walks and letting them run and jump and play. The worst thing you can do to a dog is ignore it.  Bodies aren't so different. They were made to move, and by letting them move, even challenging them, you make your body happy and are showing it that you love it. Essentially, exercise is a form of self love. And I'm all about the self love. I also don't mind a good belly rub.

Mood Fabrics Mini Athletic Inspired Wardrobe

SO! Now I got all that off my chest, I thought I'd share a few of the exercise tidbits I've picked up in case anyone else is thinking of taking the plunge! Clearly I am not an expert, nor a professional, just an enthusiast who would like an outlet to talk about some of this stuff!

In no particular order, and accompanied by a few progress pics, because - what can I say? I'm proud...

9 months in
1) Exercise doesn't have to be expensive
The fitness industry is just that - an industry. If you want to spend money there are a myriad of ways to do it. Me? I'm cheap. And broke. I used to love yoga but couldn't afford to go to a studio and never felt like I pushed myself very hard on my own.  When I decided to commit to a fitness routine I needed it to be cheap. No gym membership. No personal trainer. When I first began I had an old pair of sneakers and I wore the rattiest, oldest stretch pants and t-shirts and mismatched socks. And it worked.  Eventually, once it became clear that this wasn't just a passing phase I decided to invest in a few new things. First up were 2 good sports bras. Then for Christmas I got a new pair of running shoes and a super nice set of weights. Oh and socks (because no one deserves blisters - no matter how thrifty you think you're being). Over the past year I've added a few legitimate workout clothes (besides making my own as you see here) and a pair of ankle weights. And that's it! I work out 100% at home (besides going on walks and the occasional run) with Fitness Blender. As I said, I can't recommend these guys enough.  All their videos are available for free (theres over 400), but they also have 8 week programs for an insanely reasonable $10 and 4 week programs for $6.  Once you buy a program it's yours forever and you can repeat it ad infinitum. And the programs are good. My favorites are the 8 week fitness program and the 4 week mass building program, although I haven't tried them all.

2) I don't believe in dieting
I know that diet and exercise seem to go hand in hand, but I try to avoid diets like the plague.  This is because a healthy relationship with food is something I value and I feel like diets completely undermine that relationship (for me).  And at the end of the day, weight loss isn't my goal, living a healthy life is, and food in all it's glorious forms is part of that. This doesn't mean I haven't seen changes in my body composition - I have - but those changes happened very very  slowly. So slowly that if I didn't have pictures as proof I probably wouldn't even know it. But slow and steady does win the race. 

3) Make it a habit
This is that thing that everyone says and it's so much easier said than done. But it's true. When I first began working out I decided I was going to work out every day.  In the past I had tried to commit to a 3-days-a-week schedule and I always gave up after awhile. It's just too easy to put it off if you give yourself those extra days in between. Working out everyday got me in the mindset of "this is just something I do" - it was part of my day, like showering or breakfast, or feeding the cat. Once the habit was established I began working out harder and doing more intense exercises (like weight lifting) that require some recovery time. I give myself one full day off a week, and one light workout day.  And you know what - I kind of miss working out on those off days!

4) That being said... it never gets easier
Anyone who tells you differently is a crazy sadist! (Unless you're one of those people, then high five man! You go git em!) I still have to talk myself into working out everyday. My body still whines during my warmup "Why are you doing this to me?!? We were just sitting on the couch! What was so wrong with that???" If it's the weekend I'll still spend all day procrastinating on my workout.  But every. single. time. I realize that I've spent 3 hours being unproductive and avoiding my workout which would only take up 45 minutes of my day.  It's always a better use of your time to just get it done. It takes longer to come up with excuses.


5) Come up with non-appearance-related goals and focus on those
The first, oh, 3 months I was working out I saw no physical changes. As a matter of fact I even felt bigger for awhile.  It would have been so easy to get discouraged and give up. But I was determined to make working out part of my life regardless of my physical appearance. I took on a "come what may" attitude and decided to accept whatever changes, or not, that my body decided to deliver. Instead I made myself small, performance related goals to judge my success. I worked on upper body strength. I worked on cardiovascular endurance. My current goal is increasing weight for my lower body exercises. These things keep me going. And occasionally I'll poke my head up, look in the mirror and go "Hey, that muscle wasn't there 2 weeks ago... cool!" It's fine to have appearance related goals but remember...

6) If you want to work out solely to look better, stop right there
In the past I would work out to lose weight for an event, like a wedding, or because it was swimsuit season, or to make my ex regret he ever let me go. If you've ever been in a similar mindset my advice to you is to forget about working out and work on being comfortable with where you are.  Buy (or make!) a beautiful dress that fits you as you are right now. Wear your dream swimsuit, whatever it looks like, and whatever you look like, and forget about your body and have fun at the pool or the beach. And your ex is dumb. Exercise is a beautiful thing, and as I said, can be all about self love. But in order for it to be that you have to get the basics of self love down, otherwise you'll be coming at it all wrong.


7) Weight lifting is awesome
This is my final bit of advice, and it's one of the things I've really taken to heart from my Fitness Blender workouts.  When I used to go to the gym I would spend the majority of my time on the treadmill.  When I vowed to lose weight for whatever reason I would go for a run. I hate running. Hate it. For a few years there I got deep into yoga in search of that mind/body connection, but I always lost steam when I saw no physical change.  I've weighed less than I do now, but didn't look it, if that makes sense. It wasn't until I started lifting weights - like really lifting weights, not doing 50 reps of bicep curls with 2 lbs - that I began to see any change in the way my body looks. Don't get me wrong, cardio is important and yoga is wonderful, and I still incorporate both into my weekly routines, but weight lifting  is where it's really at for me.  And when it comes to building a stronger, more capable body that ages with grace, the importance of building muscle mass can't be overstated. It's also a great way to stay curvy while you lean out - should those be things you care about. This is why the only "investment" into my fitness routine has been a set of adjustable weights - so I can lift heavy.  Obviously 'lifting heavy' is relative - my heavy is not Rhonda Rousey's, is not Arnold Schwarzeneggar's! But you get the idea.

Oh! And one last thing! Don't look at the scale! In fact, stop weighing yourself altogether. It's not an accurate depiction of fitness. I only weigh myself when I go to the doctors.  Besides, we sewists know to put our trust in our measuring tape!

Okay everyone. If you've made it to the end of this ramble, thank you for sticking with me.  I hope for some of you it was interesting and not just a bunch of navel-contemplation! And if you feel like it, please leave a comment telling me about your own fitness journey - sharing is caring, afterall!