ZEN AND THE CITY

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Flab to Fab! 2-Month Cardio Challenge

When I complained about some “baby fat” on my tummy (post second kid), my husband suggested, to my great dismay, that I try cardio. Now let me explain. I have an aversion to cardio. I’ll do anything – lifting weights, stretching, yoga, interval training, acrobatics – as long as it’s not an hour of cardio, straight through, with no break. Mention cardio and I start yawning…

But because of his suggestion, I decided to bite the bullet and try cardio 5 times a week for a month. At the end of the month, I decided that I would treat myself to a horrendously expensive bag (if I made it to cardio 5 times a week as planned, no excuses)!

Here’s a picture of the bag I was “earning:”

I looked for a cardio class near me and found one that was half a block away from my apartment. It was so close that I would have no excuses. I bought a membership and started going at 9:30 every morning, after dropping off the kids at school.

At first the class was hard for me – the simple fact of doing cardio, which I despised, was a lot. But very quickly my body adjusted. I would say that one week in, it became easily doable, and by the end of one month I was breezing through the class. By then, I also knew the choreography by heart, which helped – I didn’t have to think at all, as my feet were going through the steps.

Basically: first day – hard. One week in – easily doable. Two weeks in: knew most of the choreography. Three weeks in: bought new sneakers with bouncier soles and more ankle support; invested in trendier workout wear; felt great. Four weeks in: proud that I had not missed a day and excited to buy my prized bag.

But the big question was: did my body change after a month? That was the big mystery of this experiment. You go to cardio 5 times a week, for an hour, for one month straight, without missing a single day – what happens? The answer is, if there was a physical change at the end of four weeks, it wasn’t significant. Was there any change? Maybe a slight one? Could anyone really tell… even me?

So I decided to tack on one more month to see if I would notice any real change after eight weeks instead of four. For the second month, I upped the ante. The first month, aside from the cardio, I had held all other variables steady. I didn’t change my food intake much. I was hungrier, so if anything, I ate slightly more. This time, as I promised myself another gorgeous designer bag and signed up for four more weeks, I decided that I would watch what I ate.

The food part of the equation proved harder than the cardio part. I would come home ravenous from working out, and I found that watching my caloric intake was pretty much impossible. I could make healthy choices, yes – eat baked salmon and greens instead of Nutella. But restricting the amount wasn’t on the table!

For the second month in a row, I didn’t miss a single day of cardio. I ate healthy-ish, but I felt way more guilty the second month than I did the first month… when the eating wasn’t part of the deal at all!!! When time came to purchase my second bag, I sat down and looked at the results.

My body type hadn’t changed. My post-baby tummy wasn’t rock hard. For all the hard work, a 6-pack hadn’t magically appeared. I did notice some changes: I had more endurance than before, and I didn’t get winded as easily. I was in a good mood. My joints hurt a little from all the bouncing around. I also found that a ton paperwork was piled around the house because I didn’t have time to get anything done! Because I went straight from dropping off the kids to my 9:30 workout, once I factored in time for a shower, I never started my day before 11:00am. Also, weirdly, my hair got super dry and damaged from washing it twice daily instead of once daily. But I was sweating a lot, so I couldn’t go with less than 2 showers a day!

So, after the 2-month experiment, I went back to doing what I do now, which is: a lot of different classes throughout the week, some yoga, some fitness, some cardio, some weights, some outdoor workouts by myself, and also some days when I don’t work out at all so I can get a lot of stuff done! I would say, on average, that I work out about 4 times a week. My workouts are really varied, so I never get bored, and my body doesn’t hurt from repetitive stress. The one weekday when I don’t work out gives me a chance to catch up on all the mom stuff I have to do. The paperwork, the emails, the trips, the appointments, the sports sign-ups, etc. – that all gets done on the day that I miss my workout. And then I sneak in a lunch with a friend. For a mom of two… I think it’s a really good balance!

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