Jaime Karpovich is personal friend and a fellow vegan lifestyle coach and educator. She’s a culinary whiz and the brains behind, and the personality in front of, the television show Save the Kales. I am thrilled to share her vegan quick tips to embrace exercise. She and I have a very similar philosophy when it comes to body image, body loving, and veganism. I don’t personally think any vegan is responsible for looking a certain way on behalf of veganism but I do believe we’ll all live a longer, healthier life – more years to do good for animals! – if we take care of ourselves. I think you’ll appreciate Jaime’s honest and solid tips on how to get moving.
Two years ago I had an experience that made me feel like a bad vegan, or perhaps a phony vegan. I had spent a week in the company of other vegans as part of a workshop, and over the course of the week as folks were waking up extra early to attend yoga classes or skip out on group dinners to go for a run, I realized I was the only person in the group without a regular exercise routine. No one made me feel shameful, and yet I did, along with a hefty dose of embarrassment and a burst of hypocrisy. For me, being vegan is first and foremost about animals, but I know it can be exuberantly healthy, and one of the greatest ways to get people on board with veganism is to show how happy, vibrant, and healthful it can be.
I lived a sedentary lifestyle for years after a fateful event in which I fell and pulled tendons in my knee. Since then fear, lack of motivation, and a bad financial situation prevented me from joining a gym or taking a fitness class. But on my way home from that week of being with healthy, active vegans, I realized the only way to become one of them was…to become one of them.
Like most things, my resistance to working out was based in fear. Once I pushed past the fear and a lot of crazy ideas I created in my head, I found workouts to be a deeply personal way for me to spend time alone, focused, enjoying nature like on a run; or supported by others also pushing themselves, laughing in between push-ups, like in a group bootcamp class.
It’s been a year and a half since exercise became a part of my life several times week, and the best outcomes have been: more energy, better sleep after years of insomnia, making friends in classes and pushing past personal goals which builds confidence overall, and better mental health – the most welcome benefit for someone powering through anxiety and depression.
I want to share my 5 Tips to Get Past Fear and Embrace Exercise, particularly if fitness hasn’t been part of your life.
Vegan Quick tips from Jaime Karpovich: 5 Tips to Get Past Fear and Embrace Exercise
1. If You Have Time to Feel Bad About Not Exercising, You Have Time to Exercise
This little revelation hit me one day like a roundhouse kick to the gut. For years, I’d listen to people talk about their workouts with a sense of jealousy, as though they had something I didn’t and couldn’t have. I’d feel lazy and sorry for myself and think about I really should go for a run, then tell myself I was no good at running and recall so many tragic middle-school gym classes and decide it was better to stay in my apartment where no one could see me make a fool of myself.
In the course of an average day, I’d spend well over a collective hour comparing my body to others’, feeling bad about myself, wishing I could just learn to enjoy working out like “other people”. But if I could spend even half that time going for a walk, then I had done something. Poof! No more self-loathing. I wouldn’t be perfect, but I could be active. If I had time to hate myself, I had time to go for a walk. And let the record show, it’s hard to hate yourself for being lazy when you are off the couchnot being lazy. Taking a slow walk through your neighborhood is still a walk.
2. You Don’t Need to Spend A Lot of Money, Just Move
Year-contract gym memberships. Designer yoga pants. Fitbits.
Fitness is a multi-million dollar industry and affects everything from technology to the most fashion-forward, moisture-wicking clothes. (Did you catch the Project Runway challenge in which designers created looks for Heidi Klum’s line of workout clothes for New Balance? Yeah, that happened.)
Don’t let this overwhelm you. You don’t NEED any of this stuff to work out. A favorite old t-shirt from a Vegfest and that hand-me-down stability ball will serve you just fine. Running and walking? Get yourself a good pair of shoes (see below) and the rest is free. You can find yoga classes and workouts free online, or rent DVDs from your local library. Offer to walk a neighbors dog and maybe you can make money going for a walk.
3. … But, Like Cooking, Having A Few Good Tools Makes It Easier and More Enjoyable
*Running appealed to me because, as a lady on a budget, I knew the only money I really should have invested was in one good pair of running shoes, and then I could exercise at my leisure, whatever time of day suited me, and all I had to do was get out the front door. No membership fee required. I went to a local running store (Google one in your hometown) and talked to trained staff about my needs. They let me try on three pairs of sneakers and run up and down Main Street (seriously!) to see which I liked best. If you have a limited budget, spend it on good shoes. They will affect your body more than anything else, and the right shoes help prevent injury.
I gave myself another $30 to pick up a sports bra and some running tights. I’m not, shall we say, endowed enough to need any kind of special sports bra, just something secure and comfortable. And the running tights I picked up were comfy, form-fitting cotton pants that have become my go-to as pajama pants. I found both items on sale for about 70% off their tag prices at stores like Marshalls and TJMaxx. I can attest that when I’m wearing workout clothes that look good, I feel more motivated to work out and, like any clothes that look nice, they make me feel better and more confident.
I used my iPhone to download the RunKeeper app (free!) to track my time and distance, and downloaded some of my favorite podcasts (free!) to enjoy while running. It’s motivating to want to get to the end of a podcast, even if the last ten minutes are spent walking slowly and enjoying your surroundings.
4. No One Is Judging You or Your Body
This was a big obstacle for me. I always felt like you had to havealready been going to the gym to be able to go to the gym. Ads for workout gear and fitness centers show beautiful, thin and sculpted, non-sweaty people looking chic and attractive, probably completing their fourth yoga class of the day while training for a half-marathon. So what happens if you are an out-of-shape girl with a frizzy ponytail and faded gym pants?
You work out anyway. Because no one cares.
Long before I started working out, I’d see people jogging on the sidewalk at their own comfortable pace, and think “Wow, good for them.” I never once thought, “They look too old/fat/lazy/lumpy/jiggly/unhealthy to be jogging on that sidewalk.” And that’s only if I noticed them at all. Running on a path in the woods or at a park means you’ll likely be alone, and joining a fitness class means everyone else in the class will be a sweaty, sloppy mess right along with you. It was very freeing more me to be around people without a stitch of makeup on, and became a personal lesson in vanity (“You are not your eyeliner”).
5. You Don’t Have to Blast Your Results on Social Media, It Can Be Just For You
Working out feels good, and it’s natural to feel proud of yourself and want to tell your friends. If this works for you, you’re in good company. Workout apps make it easy to post results on Facebook and you can let the comments and “likes” roll in. You may even find support from a friend on their own journey, and it’s a fun way to hold each other accountable and share progress. Studies have shown that social media can even guilt people into working out when they don’t want to, just to keep up with their friends.
For me, I found that reading others’ results and sharing my own made me feel competitive. If someone wrote that she could hold a plank longer than me, I felt weak and bad about my own progress in fitness. If I found out I could run a 5K four minutes faster than someone else, I felt like I “beat” her (even if we didn’t compete). In short, how I felt about my own fitness began to hinge on how better or worse I thought I was compared to someone else.
That was unhealthy, and completely missed the point.
Now I’ll occasionally post about feeling strong after doing so many lunges, or I’ll mention that I ran extra-fast that day, but I don’t post specifics. They likely wouldn’t matter to anyone else, and my fitness is about me taking care of myself and feeling good about that, no matter what anyone else is doing.
Once I got over my fears of working out and the positive mental shifts set in, I found that I became healthier in other aspects of my life because I felt better about myself as a whole person. Working out wasn’t about losing weight, or being faster than someone else. It morphed into simply just wanting to feel good about myself. And confidence is true strength.
Vegan Quick Tips on JLgoesVegan.com