As passionate as we are about food and health, we know simply eating a whole foods diet is only one piece of the puzzle. Staying fit and leading an active lifestyle is just as important to overall wellness. Here’s the secret we’ve found to fitting in regular exercise: making it work in your lifestyle and with your personality. In this next post in our Healthy & Whole series, here’s a bit about where we’ve come, and what our fitness routine looks like now.
Like many Americans, my life is non-stop. Weekdays are packed minute-by-minute between running a business, running a blog, running to social commitments…ironically leaving little to no time for actual physical running! Until about 10 years ago, regular fitness often took a back seat in my life to professional or artistic pursuits, socializing, or, well, anything to give me a good excuse.
I must confess: I’ve never been a gym person. I don’t feel inspired around exercise equipment and mirrors and big muscles. Instead, I feel inspired when I’m in my home, walking in my neighborhood, dancing, or hiking up a mountain. After some ill-fated attempts at becoming a gym regular, I realized a gym membership was not the answer.
Instead, several years ago as an experiment, I started using some Pilates DVDs. To my surprise, within a few months I started to slim down and build muscle without even having to leave my home, which was perfect for my busy schedule. A tradition of waking up early before work to do Pilates began. While I didn’t look forward to the early mornings, I felt great and it left my evenings free. After we got married, Alex encouraged me to start some new videos, partly because I could recite Denise Austin by heart but mostly to start working some new muscle groups. We decided it was time for some cardio as well, and purchased elliptical machine for our home. I started alternating cardio (while listening to my favorite podcast) with strength training workouts on weekday mornings, but left the weekend free for “rest” from my weekday workouts. 7 days a week sounded burdensome, but 5 weekdays: that was doable.
What started as an experiment turned into a tradition of exercise that Alex has now joined me on. He’s pushed to prioritize strength training, so we’ve moved to using You Tube videos in our attic workout space. And for cardio, we’ve started jump rope (surprisingly difficult), and just purchased a stationary bike to replace our elliptical, since it’s smaller and can provide an even more targeted workout. And when he doesn’t want to get up, we carve out some time in the evening.
Overall, we’ve found that creating a fitness plan in our home has worked surprising well. We’re able to exercise doing what we want, when we want — and even better, it’s working! Our new strength training regimen has allowed us to build some serious muscle while enjoying some time together.
Below are a few tips on how to start a workout routine in your home, as well as a plan of what we do and some links to equipment we use. We’d love to hear your thoughts on exercise, how you’ve made it work for you, or where you’re looking to grow!
1. Embrace your identity. Before I became interested in cooking, I had a very strong identity about who I as not. “I’m not a cook. I’m not a crunchy granola hippie who loves health food and wears yoga pants.” In the same way, I had the same prejudices about being into fitness. “I’m not a body builder. I’m not a runner. I don’t wear spandex and sports bras.” But guess what? You don’t need to change your identity or your personality to start integrating fitness into your life. Same with cooking healthy foods. You can still be you, even if your habits might start to look different.
2. If it doesn’t work, ditch the gym. With the craziness that is my life, there’s just not enough time in the day to drive to a gym, exercise, shower, and drive home. To make working out work for me, I get up 30 minutes early before work to exercise in my home. This saves the time of taking a trip to the gym, and I have my evenings free to catch up at the office or go for a walk with a friend. I started out with just an exercise mat, and have since purchased some free weights to go along with our exercise videos.
3. Work out, then rest. Making a goal of working out 7 days per week for the indefinite future is daunting. We’ve found that aiming to work out every weekday works for us, since we’re able to be more naturally active on the weekends, especially in the summer. This also gives your muscles a break and a chance to rebuild.
4. Give yourself grace. Lots of it. Working out regularly is hard work, and it takes diligence to build up a routine and find what works for you. If you have some rough patches and stop/starts, it’s ok! Give yourself the grace to move forward, and try not to guilt-trip yourself into giving it up altogether. (We’ve been there.)
What We Do: In-Home Workouts
- Daily: Walk as much as possible during the day (I use a Fitbit to track my steps and shoot for 8,000 to 10,000)
- Weekly (~30 minutes total on weekdays):
Strength training + light cardio You Tube videos, 20-30 minutes / 4-5 times per week
Cardio on elliptical or stationary bike, ~20 minutes / 3 times per week (to keep your interest, try listening to podcasts!)
Walking dates with friends
Dancing! (I love it, he hates it)
What We Use
- You Tube channel we created for you with some of our favorite workouts
- Jump rope
- Free weights (5s and 8s for me, 10s and 20s for him)
- Stationary bike or Elliptical (note that the elliptical is a bit of an investment, but it’s paid off for us! We’ve used ours regularly for 5+ years)
- Exercise mats
About the Authors
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.