Daily Archives: January 28, 2015

Fitness: it’s now, or never!

Lydia Di Francesco is an incredible motivator…and one of the most persistent human being I know.
Sometimes, a true and tactful observation is the most helpful thing you can hear.
These are my favourite one-liners from my fitness coach Lydia Di Francesco:
“I notice you eat a lot of cheese and crackers.”
(Lydia evaluating my 14 day food diary.)
“Rita, we’re friends on Facebook and it’s not like I’m stalking you, but you do A LOT of things. A LOT. I am sure you can find 15 minutes to exercise.”
 (Lydia busts me for spending time on everything but exercise.)
Me: “The snow has melted so I can’t ski, and the pool is closed over Christmas.”
Lydia: “Well, you could always do the 15 minute exercise video I customized and posted just for you.”
(Lydia refuses to accept my namby-pamby excuses.)
When I moved to Newcastle in August, I firmly resolved that this phase of life would be “Newcastle, New Rita!” I had bold plans to exercise more, eat healthy, and take advantage of everything at my disposal to get in better shape and improve my health.
And realistically, there is no reason why I could not: I live adjacent to miles of trails for hiking in summer and skiing in winter. The Clubhouse two minutes away has a fantastic swimming pool and weight room; farmers’ markets in Durham are awash in fresh produce from May to October.
In my fit of August enthusiasm, I hired Ottawa-based coach Lydia Di Francesco as my on-line personal trainer: by email and phone, Lydia has a program to keep people motivated over long distances. The first thing she had me do was keep a food diary for 14 days to record everything I ate, and fill in a weekly exercise report. She even videotaped a great 15-minute exercise routine I could easily do in any room of my house, no special equipment needed.
But in August I was moving. Life was chaos. I was homeless for 3 days. I had no refrigerator for over a week.
In September, of course, I had to get my house and my office organized so I could work productively. That was all-consuming.
In October, my dad came and visited for 19 days. We went to Stratford, built a work bench in my garage, hosted a giant family Thanksgiving dinner, and generally celebrated life.
In November, my son visited North America from England with his fiancée…cue the giant Engagement Party in Michigan, and also the early Christmas party!
The first week of December, I had my scheduled phone conversation with Lydia. It was during this call that I had a giant epiphany: life does not get any calmer or less busy next month, no matter how many months go by.
“Lydia, in August I was sure that by September I would have my new routine in place; September and October were a blur, and November was even crazier than that! I have been telling myself for five months, “Next month, when things are less busy…
“I am only realizing RIGHT NOW, talking to you, that December is going to be just as busy as November if not busier. And January will be worse than that! If I don’t carve out time to exercise right now, this month, today, I never will!”
This may seem an elementary realization, but it was HUGE to me. I’ve never skipped exercise out of laziness; most people would not describe me as a lazy person. However, as the years creep by, I’ve been only too ready to allow working, travelling, family visits, cooking, entertaining, hobbies and – the worst! – reading online[1]to supplant running or working out in my schedule.
Lydia and I worked out a strategy to limit my online reading: I bought a $2.99 egg timer to set for one hour each morning. I augmented the egg timer with a photo of Lydia, urging me: “Stop reading online and exercise!” This works perfectly to remind me how quickly one hour passes.
I also laser-printed motivational pages and posted them all around my house: “Live in your reality, not in your fantasy. Remember you have to PLAN in your reality!”
These served as great reminders that NEXT MONTH IS NOT GOING TO BE ANY CALMER THAN THIS MONTH. Next month is going to be just as crazy as this month, if not more so. I cannot create a life-and-fitness plan based upon the theory that next month, I will have more time. This is simply not true, and it’s never going to be true. I get it, now!
I adjusted my daily “block planning” sheets to build workout time directly into my daily schedule; if I miss a workout, I have to colour in that time block with the Pink Highlighter of Shame. I hate the Pink Highlighter of Shame.
On that December call, Lydia and I agreed to a system of daily accountability: I would dedicate time to exercise, and message her to report results. It’s so much fun to send Lydia a quick message at the end of the day and get back: “Awesome! Fantastic! Keep it up, Rita! Don’t forget to eat some protein.”
I’m really pleased to report that I have skied virtually every day when there’s been snow, and been swimming about 5 times per week. Turns out, I can swim half a mile pretty easily – and there’s no reason for me NOT to. Everything is better when I work out: I sleep better, I eat better, and my work days are hugely productive. All of these are goals I set for myself last August, when I resolved to create “Newcastle, New Rita!”
Were my first, less-than-productive five months a waste of time? Not at all! That time helped me get my mind around the fact – again – of what is necessary to create a workout program; and especially, the fact that next month is never going to be less busy than this month.
Newcastle, New Rita – it’s now, or never!
Now that I have scheduled my workouts right into my daily planner, I have to
colour that block pink if I miss a workout. I hate the Pink Highlighter of Shame.

[1] Reading online is a 21st century killer!
“When I actually used to get paid to monitor the media for clients, I read four newspapers every morning and had a summary written by 7:30am. When I used to read only the Globe every morning, I had one cup of coffee, read the “A” section and I was finished,” I mentioned to my son Tom.
“Now with online news…there is no end! It is updated as I am reading. I could start reading news at 6am and still be reading at 9am, with no end in sight. Theoretically, it could go on all day!”