1. How do you stay motivated to workout /what are your best motivational tips?
I've thought about this question for awhile, and I honestly think there is a large amount of "fitness motivation" built into my genes. I've always enjoyed working out and have always sought out different ways to make it a part of my everyday life and it seems to run in my family. Growing up, my dad worked out every day (if not twice a day). Now he's in his 80s and his body has forced him to slow the intensity, but he still does as much activity as he physically can. Of my three sisters, the oldest is a yoga instructor and PE teacher. The second sister is an avid tennis player and jogger. The third is a regular gym-goer and coaches the swing dance club at her local high school. We may all like different specific activities but we all enjoy fitness and have an easy time finding what we like.
The "likes to workout gene" extends to the next generation in my family in many cases as well. My niece Audrey has a blog, and she has shared nearly my exact sentiments in this post: "I have always had a strong desire to work out and (try my best to!) stay fit." She even goes on to give some credit her to dad/my brother for passing on that desire. Two of my other nieces (the daughter of a different brother) have a fitness-based Instagram account where they also share their natural affinity for exercise and staying fit.
All that is just to say that this is not an area where I really struggle. I feel badly answering this question in a way that's probably quite unhelpful and possibly discouraging to someone who does struggle here. But it's the simple truth. I have zero motivation when it comes to other things in life like decorating my house or planting a garden or styling my hair in a variety of ways. But I look forward to my workouts and I always feel better on a day when I do any form of workout than when I don't.
Occasionally I'll have a day where I don't feel especially motivated, and at those times I draw on my general life-motivation strategies to get me through:
-Accountability: Anytime I'm dreading a task that I really want to force myself to complete, I find that sharing it with someone in real life or even posting about it on the blog makes me ten times more likely (at least!) to take it to completion. I guess I don't like to look like a quitter or failure so once it's out there in the universe, I feel a greater pressure to follow through than if I keep it to myself.
-Surround myself with people on the same path: I'm lucky to have a spouse that likes to work out, so if there's a day where I'm feeling less motivated, chances are that once I see him heading off to the gym, I start asking myself "What's my excuse?" I know he'll come back feeling more fit and energized, and if I don't work out during that same time, I'll certainly feel sluggish and lazy by comparison.
-Eyes on the prize: For any given task (workout related or otherwise), there's usually some greater goal that I want to achieve. One workout isn't enough to get or keep me in the shape I want - it takes a series of consistent workouts. Any time I don't feel especially motivated, it comes down to asking myself simple questions like, "Do you want to maintain your fitness or not?" If I do, then I know I have to work out. Of course it's okay to take an occasional break or have some missteps on the path, but the vast majority of decisions have to lead toward the goal, not away from it.
2. How do you fit in your workouts every day?
Monday through Friday I get up at 5:15. By 5:30, I'm on my computer doing blog-related stuff for the next hour and letting my first cup of coffee kick in. Then I go to our game room/workout room and workout from about 6:30-7:30 or so. By then my kids are up and it's time for me to focus on helping them get ready for the day. I've had this schedule since my first child was born (almost eleven years ago), because between babies and my husband's busy work schedule, first thing in the morning was the only time I could be sure to get in a workout. Before I had kids, I worked out at a gym after work every day. It was very hard to switch from being a PM workout person to an AM workout person. It took about three months for my body to accept the new schedule, but now it's hard to imagine going back to working out in the evening!
On the weekends, unless we have conflicting morning plans, I like to get out of the house for a more social workout setting, so I take drop-in classes at local dance and martial arts studios. It's a luxury for sure (as far as time and expense) and a fun hobby for me, but if the timing doesn't work for a studio class, I just do one of my home workout DVDs instead.
3. How hard do you push yourself on a daily basis/how much do you vary your intensity from day to day?
On a scale of one to ten, I would say that on my Monday through Friday home workouts I normally push myself to a level 7/8. I interpret that as being a point where mid-workout I'm thinking, "this is not easy, but I am going to feel so proud of myself when I'm done and I'm really making the most of my workout time today!" But it's not to the point of 9-10 where I'm performing the exercises and thinking, "I can't take this anymore! I should only push myself this hard if I'm being chased in the forest by a wild animal!"
My group exercise classes on the weekend are typically not as challenging. They're designed to accommodate more fitness levels so they only push me to about a five. I do them more for fun and socializing than to push my personal fitness.
4. How heavy do you lift?
There's not a simple way answer to answer this question since I lift different weights for different body parts depending on how many reps per set or how much rest I get between sets, etc. I own dumbbells in every increment from 3 lbs to 20 lbs. Most of the weight training DVDs I use do a moderate number of reps (e.g. 10-15) per set. Here are some examples of the weights I would use for specific exercises in that rep range:
Chest (Bench Press): 20 lbs. (in each hand)
Shoulders (Overhead Press): 15 lbs (in each hand)
Shoulders (Lateral Raise) 10 lbs. (in each hand)
Biceps (Standing Curls) 20 lbs. (in each hand)
Triceps (Lying French Press) 15 lbs. (in each hand)
Squats: 20 lbs (in each hand)
Lunges: 15 lbs. (in each hand)
5. How do you avoid bulking?
Short answer: I don't avoid it. I just train at the 7/8 level I mentioned above and let my muscles respond naturally. At this point I've been doing this for so long I don't think they will grow any bigger unless I change my workout routine to lift heavier and/or change my diet entirely. I've been told that I have masculine muscles, so to some people, I'm already bulky! It's all relative!
For my body, I've learned that bulking up is not as easy as it sounds. About fifteen years ago, I went through a phase of wanting to achieve the fitness competitor look. Monica Brant was very popular in the fitness world at the time thanks to winning a number of fitness contests and appearing on the cover of a lot of fitness magazines. I admired her definition in her quads especially and since she and I are the same height with similar leg/torso proportions, it seemed possible to get a similar look. I spent two years following the workout routines she shared in magazines which involved lifting weights in a gym much heavier than what I do now. Rather than ending up with quads anywhere near hers, I ended up with chronic back pain (which has subsided since I quit lifting so heavy). I gave up that goal when I got pregnant and since having kids, my fitness goals have shifted to just staying fit at a level that allows me to protect my joints, maintain my mobility and flexibility as I age, and have a balanced, active lifestyle without involving anything too extreme in regards to exercise or diet.
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That's it for Part One today! For those of you who asked these questions I hope the answers were informative or helpful in some way! I'll start working on Part Two (which includes questions about nutrition, what I wear to workout, and how I ended up with this type of routine) and post it once it's finished, hopefully Wednesday or Thursday of this week!