Jiggling My Way Back to Fitness


Hello, Scale. Have you met my friend Sledgehammer?

Perhaps you’ve experienced one of these narcissistic moments sometime in your life (if not, just humor me): you’re walking past a reflective window, or leafing through some vacation photos, and you catch an unexpected glimpse of your body. Your real body — not the image you have in your mind, or the image you hope everyone sees.

You backtrack and take a closer look, just in case there was some mistake. But alas, your eyes were not playing tricks on you. And you think to yourself, THAT’S how I look?

I had one of these moments recently. It made my stomach turn.

I know, I know how frivolous and self-absorbed this sounds. For the record, I’m not overweight. My blood pressure, cholesterol, and BMI are all fine. Nevertheless, I now realize how much I’ve let myself go in the last few years.

Keeping fit in my 20s and 30s was a borderline obsession for me. Nowadays, despite maintaining a normal weight, exercise too often falls to the wayside. As a result, my body has become a shapeless, jiggling mass of cellulite. Bleh.

It’s not difficult to trace back to the origin of my slump, which started when: 1) I dove headlong into writing; and 2) I reduced my work hours to part-time.

Life was scheduled and regimented with a full-time job. I was forced to make time for everything, including exercise. It seems counter-intuitive, but having more time on my hands has made me incredibly lazy. Couple that with lots more time in front of the computer and, well, you get the idea.

Have a look at the time-lapsed evidence (click to enlarge if you’re feeling brave). Pictures never lie.

My daughter started running with me in 2009.

September 2009.


September 2013, letting it all hang out. I think my cellulite has cellulite.

So I’m back on the wagon, for real this time. And out of necessity, I set myself a goal: to run 30 minutes a day, 7 days a week, for a full year.

That’s right, 365 days in a row. Even through the holidays. Even when the wild Chicago temperatures plummet to -10 and soar to 95 (I’ve got a treadmill for the really desperate days). Why? Because I’ve learned I’m an all-or-nothing kind of girl. An inch of leeway quickly snowballs into excuses and apathy.

Thirty minutes a day is reasonable and manageable. That’s 3.5 hours a week, less time than the average American spends parked in front of the TV per day.

I started on this mission a month ago, and I already feel better. I plan blog about it now and then, to hold me accountable and keep readers abreast of my progress. Hopefully I won’t lose too many subscribers along the way ;)

Of course vanity is among my reasons for committing to this goal. But I’m also doing it to improve my overall health, to give my self esteem a boost, and to set a good example for my kids. I also just want to prove to myself that I can do it.

How will my appearance change? How will I feel a year from now? I’m looking forward to finding out.

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51 responses to “Jiggling My Way Back to Fitness

  1. I had that same experience right after my divorce, and then I kept going back to look at pictures of my ex and I together. In that progression of photos, I watched the weight creep on. I think I cried at one point, and then I got busy and lost 70 pounds over a 2 year period. Still have a ways to go, but it’s a start!

    Good luck with your fitness goals, and thank you for sharing with such honesty and grace. :)

    • Wow, 70 pounds is impressive! Keep up the good work. I tried to make it clear that I don’t have anything to lose except excess “jiggle.” There comes a point when we just can’t stand the way we look and feel anymore, and I reached that threshold this fall. Thank you for your kind words and for the follow.

  2. Good luck with your 30 minute a day thing. I run every day. Maybe not the greatest idea but I still do it. I never have to ask myself if I will run today because I know everyday is a running day.

  3. I too believe the more time we have, the less we accomplish. I work best under a tight and strict schedule. Running 30 minutes a day, every day is a reasonable goal, for anyone. It’s all about priorities and what’s important to you. After a period of time, you’ll feel guilty if you don’t and guilt is a big motivator, at least for me. I do an hour on my treadmill, every day, no matter what…unless I’m sick. I’ve had two back surgeries and I have no intentions of going for a third, so that’s my motivating factor. You can do it, Gwen! I love the 2009 picture with your daughter!

    • Guilt is also motivating me. I used to be proud of the way I looked, and I’d like to get that feeling back. How do you kill an hour on the treadmill? That’s the hardest part for me when I need to run indoors (like today – pavement is coated with an icy slush). The biggest challenge is keeping the boredom at bay.

      • Due to my back injury, I can’t run on my treadmill, but I do walk at a brisk pace. Usually I set the speed at 4.5 mph with an 11 % incline. I read my Kindle and the time flies. Sometimes I’ll watch the evening news until I can’t hear about one more murder or assault.

      • I hear you, Jill. Although reading is difficult while running, I do pop in my earbuds and listen to music. I also turn on the TV so I have something to stare at. I guess I’m used to the constantly changing scenery of being outdoors, so the treadmill by comparison is such a drag. I admire your regimen. That’s a great workout – I’m sure you sop up a beach towel of sweat.

  4. Gwen – that’s a great challenge to set yourself – I wish you lots of luck with it. And no, in no way does it make you sound self absorbed – it has been proved that regular exercise keeps us living longer and more healthily. Who wouldn’t want that! I think you were brave to put those pictures up, but even this year’s one isn’t THAT bad!! Looking forward to updates – you might even shame me into getting back into my tennis shoes :)

  5. That sounds like a great challenge. With that extra push who knows where you’ll be in a year. Keep it up!

  6. Hi Gwen,
    I admire your commitment. I went from running every other day to running once a week. Now that I am going to visit my mom for three weeks, I have given up on exercising all together. What’s the point if I am going to gain weight, thanks to her cooking?
    I will resume running after I get back.
    Good luck with your mission.

    • Ugh – I know what you mean, Rajni. I watched my routine slowly decline. But at least you have a good excuse! Mom’s cooking will give you incentive to get back on the wagon in January.

  7. I had a similar scare myself lately – even though I’m only a 21 year old guy! Swimming daily is slowly letting the air out of that spare tyre around my stomach! Good luck with your exercise!

  8. I have been exercising seriously for almost forty years. (I know yawn..right?) Believe me; it really counts when you become older. Less health problems and a better outlook. Good for you on resuming.

  9. Running is excellent for your body. You should get your desired results.

  10. Awesome goal, Gwen. My exercise regimen has been spotty lately as well. I lost 15 pounds between January and May which may not seem like much in that time frame, but I managed to keep most of my lean muscle. Unfortunately, I’ve fallen off the wagon a little, but I’m thankful that I do get in to the gym at least twice a week. I also really watch what I eat six out of the seven days of the week (love our Vitamix).

    • I watch what I eat most of the time too, Phillip. I don’t believe in deprivation because it only leads to cheating and disappointment. I’ve been down that road before and it’s not worth it. So exercise every day makes me feel like I can take a few diet liberties now and then. Like last night, for example, I took the kids to the movies and we each had some candy. I don’t feel guilty when I know I do it right most of the time.

  11. katiewritesagain

    Congratulations, Gwen, for making the commitment. And congratulations on not falling into the “I’m just getting old” camp. As some others have pointed out, daily exercise is key to a healthy life at any age. Also, as you age, you will avoid so many “age related” problems. I see it all the time; people who are sedentary, with so many problems that are proven to be caused by just that.
    I walk every day and hike as often as I can. On my working week, a good walk is as much as I can manage. I’m also limited to computer time, which I am grateful for! I write and walk every day. It keeps me sane.
    I also agree that the more time we have the more of it we waste!
    I’m glad you’re tackling this with your usual enthusiasm. Know that all your friends here are supporting you, eager to hear about your progress during the year. You will experience changes intellectually and emotionally as well-which you already know.
    Good luck in the coming year and thanks for the continued inspiration!

    • You’re so kind, Katie, and I’m always tickled when I see you here in the comments. For a while I actually started down the “I’m just getting old” path. I had a chronic case of patellar tendonitis, which I finally determined was exacerbated with a more sedentary lifestyle! Now that I’m back on the wagon every day (a necessary part of the equation), that nuisance has disappeared. You’re right, too many older adults are far too sedentary. I don’t plan to become one of them.

  12. I love this post because:
    1. I love that you’ve made the commitment to get back to where you were.
    2. I love your honesty and that you posted photos of yourself.
    3. I love that you and I both used the word ‘alas’ in our posts today. Despite what my sons would say, I think that makes us cool. :)

    Good luck to you!

    • Haha! Thanks Carrie! I did notice your “alas” in your post and had to smile as I read. I debated sharing the fat photo, but in the end I thought complete honesty was best. Thanks for the support.

  13. Good luck with it! The exercise will make you feel so much better. And it doesn’t look like you have too much to do to get back to where you were.

  14. There is so many things in this post that can be considered wisdom. I am someone who only realized recently that I need structure in my life. I work forty hours a week and get more accomplished when I am working than when I am not. Last summer I took a week off. I was going to get a lot of writing done. But, lo and behold, I wasted beaucoup amount of time. (Hey, aren’t you proud of me getting “lo and behold” and beaucoup in the same sentence.) There’s something about human beings that says we need structure.

    Alas I have been thinking about the same thing and just haven’t got my act together. So thank you for reminding me. Maybe tomorrow but definitely first thing in the New Year.

    The other thing that this calls to mind is our addiction to sugar. If it is not sugar, it’s corn syrup we find in our food. I came to a realization some time ago that fat was not bad for me. Food needs flavor and fat is there for the flavor. If you take away the fat, you have to replace it with something. So our weapon of choice is sugar or its substitute, corn syrup. Pretty soon we’re all going to be growing ears of corn out of our ears.

    Also I have to applaud your bravery for the putting the photo. I have to tell you that you are such an inspiration to all of us. Keep up the good work.

    And yes, I think it would be awesome plus if your Cubbies won the World Series.

    • Thanks again Don, both for being here and for your kind words. Our addiction to sugar is certainly a contributing factor in the sky rocketing obesity rate in this country. And isn’t it interesting that these numbers really started taking off in the 90s – the same decade in which Americans embraced the fat free craze?

      A good rule I try to live by is everything in moderation. Daily exercise, but don’t go nuts because you won’t stick to it. Never eliminate anything from your diet, because that’s exactly what you’ll crave. Instead, try to eat healthfully most of the time and treat yourself now and then. I don’t buy much junk food, because if it’s in the house, we’ll eat it. But then last night I took the kids to the movies and we each bought a box of candy.

      And you’re right: human beings need structure. It’s a lesson I learned in my first year as a classroom teacher, and it’s never been proven wrong.

  15. I’m impressed, Gwen–you put it all out there, and you did so knowing that would make you accountable. You WILL do this!

    I walk every day (whether I want to or not), which not only burns a few calories but also helps clear my mind in the middle of a work day. And I’m like you–if I don’t buy it, I don’t eat it . . . except this time of year. Temptation is everywhere! But I’m strong . . . and too busy with work to bake Christmas cookies, which is a good thing because I can’t resist them!

    • Thanks for your encouragement, Candace. I thought about doing this post for a while, before I committed to it. I appreciate your confidence in me!

      I work in a school, so this time of year I avoid the staff lounge like nobody’s business. Chocolate, cookies, candies…an endless stream of sweets on display and being shared by staff members and parents of students. The best solution for me is to pretend it’s not there. Here at my house I let my kids bake, but I’m able to avoid it all because I eat gluten free.

  16. I seem to have lost the comment I first typed up – apologies if you receive two!! Great goal to set yourself. My dad is 74 and still breaks up his writing with a quick jog around the block. I went for a jog in the rain the other day – I’ve always laughed at people who did that, thinking they’re barking – but it was invigorating. I was able to run much further in fact. Good luck with your running and I look forward to following your progress x

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  18. Thanks for the encouragement, Gemma. Running in rain or any kind of weather can be invigorating. Maybe it’s because it discourages so many people from going out. I hope when I’m 74 I can have the same dedication as your dad. That’s great.

  19. I’d probably go crazy if I didn’t exercise most mornings. Even though I’m not losing the few extra pounds I would like, I know I’m healthier overall than I would be if I stopped! The undeniable truth is that the older we get, the more we have to exercise to avoid gaining weight—even if we haven’t changed our diet. I think my knees and feet would give out on me if I took up running, and I get bored if I do the same thing every day. So I mix up a lot of walking, using a stepper, and doing core work and weights. And I just bought a jump rope. Holy cow, how did I do that so easily as a kid?! :)

    Kudos to you for setting a goal and sticking with it. Your body will thank you for it!

    • Thanks, JM for your encouragement and support. I hear you about changing it up to stave off the boredom. Once in a while I hit the elliptical just for something different. I also do some weights a few times a week, but running is the only aerobic exercise that has worked for me consistently over the years. I can’t match the endorphin high or the feeling of accomplishment with anything else. We all have to do what works for us. And you’re right – the older we get, the harder we have to work to maintain!

  20. Wow, that is an amazing goal. And now that you’ve informed the world, it will help you to stay committed. I think that’s one of the surefire ways to improve the success rate of anything – tell everyone your plan. I’m so impressed. I am at the same crossroads with my changing body and promise myself every night to do something about it tomorrow. And yes, you’d be right if you’re assuming I’ve done nothing about it! But you’ve really inspired me. So to that end, I’m going to do something about it tomorrow. Just kidding, I’ll start today! (After breakfast.)

  21. I LOVE this post, Gwen. Writing only keeps your typing fingers and your imagination in shape. This is such a good reminder–and inspiration–thank you!

  22. Great goal Gwen! I can’t wait to hear how you look and feel in a year. :) I’ve realized I was in better shape when I worked full time and wrote part time. But back then I lived in a city and walked everywhere. I had 1-2 hours of walking and stairs in my daily life and then I worked out daily on top of that. I’m going to put aside time each day to work out too! Thanks for inspiring me!

    • We bought a car and moved to suburbia 8 years ago, Kourtney. And wouldn’t you know it, within weeks I’d gained 7 pounds. It really does attest to the importance of moving every day, a feat that seems far easier with city living. Now I try to live by the 10,000 steps a day rule (bought a pedometer so I could see what I average on different types of days). I’ve found my daily jog makes it so much easier to achieve. Thanks – I’m glad to have inspired. :)

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  25. visit, read the article and thanks for posting your article is quite good and we hope that all our friends all success and thank you all, greetings. (This is a good thing) :)

  26. I know exactly what you mean regarding the fact that writing is not the healthiest of pursuits. I get all sorts of aches and pains now from sitting too long at the computer. I need to set an alarm to remind me to get up at least once an hour to rouse me out of one of my manic writing sessions … like that has happened in a while! On that note, maybe I will get up and walk to an appointment that is only a 5 minute walk away rather than drive. Thanks for the inspiration, Gwen! Lol

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