Dedicating a year to spoiling my physical body
December 17, 2010 3:08 PM   Subscribe

Help me spend a year spoiling my body and becoming incredibly healthy, fit, gorgeous, and happy :)

I want to spend the next year completely spoiling myself physically. I want to learn to do new sports, spend lots of time working out and toning my body, I want to eat healthy, pick up new habits that will improve my health, blah blah blah. I feel like I finally know my job description enough so that I can focus on something else a bit, and for various reasons I feel like this is the year of my body. I posted something before about having physical goals, this is kind of in the same spirit. Some more information: I am healing nicely from a long-term sickness (think like a decade) that I didn't know I had until I was cured earlier this year :) and I have more energy than I have EVER had before and I want to do everything I never did. I want to undo my unathletic childhood and play sports, if I could I would play soccer and basketball but I think it's a bit late for that. What it's not late for is dance lessons and swimming lessons and running....I dunno, mostly individual sports

I am adding vitamins to my regime, I'm starting to wear pretty dresses a lot, I go to the gym regularly...

so what's my question? How do I make this year completely about my body? I want to improve my health and feel beautiful. I'm willing to devote like, 3 hours a day to this, and significant mental resources. I want to have fun this year, the kind that makes me healthier, and not worry about ANYTHING ELSE. I want advice along the lines of 'get weekly pedicures, put olive oil in your hair overnight, do 100 situps/day' What makes this different from a lot of other health related questions is that this is about making this a very intensive part of my year, and about having a lot of fun rather than torturing myself with something I don't want to do, and is about more than just exercise.

I have access to a really nice gym. I am not in the US currently so I don't have access to super-US-specific resources. Like to keep my life 'natural' in that I don't like doing anything too artificial. So don't recommend getting that rhinoplasty I never wanted. Thanks!
posted by saraindc to Health & Fitness (39 answers total) 242 users marked this as a favorite
so... all of the Yogis I hang out with at are just about the most fit people I know - and most of them centered, kind, and cool. Do vigorous vinyasa yoga for 4-5 times a week and try to eat a vaguely healthy diet (mostly vegetables, cook at home) and you are good to go.
posted by specialk420 at 3:16 PM on December 17, 2010 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Racquetball is a fun and physically-demanding sport you can play with just one partner. It's a bit like tennis, only in a sealed court, which makes it easier to learn because you're not forever running after the ball. Many gyms have a court you can use, and the equipment is pretty minimal (a racket, a can of balls, and a pair of goggles is all you need. Don't skimp on the goggles, though).

I would also strongly suggest weight training, but that sort of depends on whether you find it fun or not, since this is all about fun. I love it, and I know a lot of other women who enjoy it, but some aren't into it. Give it a try (preferably using compound barbell lifts) and see what you think.

I also second specialk420's advice about cooking. Cooking at home is one of the most fun and effective things you can do for yourself, assuming you enjoy being in the kitchen.

Also: orgasms. Lots of 'em. Seriously.
posted by vorfeed at 3:31 PM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Try running. Not only will it improve your health, it'll do wonders for your mood. I've found it's made me less anxious, more optimistic and feeling like I'm great.

I highly recommend the Couch to 5K program; Robert Ullrey's podcast really helped me stick with it, and he's a great partner to listen to as you get used to running.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 3:32 PM on December 17, 2010 [9 favorites]

Go to a reputable bicycle shop and get a bike that makes you grin to ride it.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 3:34 PM on December 17, 2010 [4 favorites]

For "eat healthy", I think you should first develop an idea of what it means to you. There are all sorts of definitions of what eating healthy is (vegetarian, paleolithic diets or no grains/dairy, organic, no processed foods), and some of them directly contradict others. If you are willing to devote this much time to yourself, it's possible to pick up quite a bit of knowledge if you spend maybe 30 minutes a day reading about it.

Here is a reading list to get you started:
What to Eat - Marion Nestle. Good for basics.
Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy - Walter Willett (answer to the new food pyramid guidelines and also good for basics)
Good Calories, Bad Calories - Gary Taubes (low carb argument)
Paleolithic Solution - Robb Wolf (there are a few others in this vein)
Nourishing Traditions - An "old school" approach to eating, talks about fermentation
Any of the Michael Pollan books (omnivore's dilemma, food rules, in defense of food - more for developing an eating philosophy than anything else)
The End of Overeating - David Kessler (not a nutrition book, but addresses processed foods and emotional eating)
(Sorry - I don't have any books about vegetarian/vegan diets that really resonated with me, but I've read the China Study, Eat to Live, and Thrive by triathlete Brendan Brazier... but there are probably better ones out there and maybe someone can chime in on those)

For the fitness side of things, here are two books for you that are great resources:
Women's Health Big Book of Exercises. Great pictures, good descriptions, and some workout programs
New Rules of Lifting for Women - a five month program for exercise & nutrition. LOVE - and lifting (real) weights makes me feel great in a way that nothing else does, so give it a try if you aren't already.
posted by smalls at 3:37 PM on December 17, 2010 [21 favorites]

Realize that if you're properly hydrated, eating well, and you don't have underlying medical issues, your skin and hair will be better off with minimal fussing.

You could make a project out of learning how to read cosmetics ingredient labels, but a simple rule of thumb to start with is that fewer ingredients is good, and cheap does not mean worse quality (case in point is Cetaphil cleaner; availble for cheap everywhere, been recommended by dermatologists and beauty editors forever). Shell out a little to get stuff that is plant based rather than petroleum based when possible, not because 'oooh, petroleum will give you cancer, oh noes!!1!' but because they feel nicer as moisturizers and cleansers. Beyond that, don't be a sucker for fancy skin stuff and don't buy into anti-aging hype. Laser treatments actually work for certain skin concerns, so if you want to spend serious money on your appearance, investigate that route.

The number one thing to spend your time money on is sunscreen. Reviews of sunscreens found here. Buy a bottle for each purse, one for the office, one for the bathroom, etc. Get into the habit of applying daily and applying liberally, since SPF drops off exponentially with insufficient application.
posted by slow graffiti at 3:40 PM on December 17, 2010 [7 favorites]

You have to find something you enjoy, and that will take experimentation.

Every badass hardcore Im doing this every day fitness regime is doomed to failure if you do not enjoy most of what you are engaging in.
posted by fire&wings at 3:41 PM on December 17, 2010 [3 favorites]

Bellydance. Great for toning and general fitness, it's fun and it's addictive. Historically it's about women using their bodies to prepare for childbirth and to celebrate being built like a woman. And the costumes are gorgeous, they don't need to look stripper-ish at all.

Trying to forget that our class has our second public performance in 7.5 hours. I love bellydancing, I love how my body has changed since I started going to classes, but I hate being nervous about doing it in public.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 3:52 PM on December 17, 2010 [7 favorites]

I don't know. Couldn't tell you what you need to know.

Your goal is pretty ephemeral. You want to do more stuff. Well, go do it.

If you want to be fit, the question is a lot more complex. Where are you now? What do you want to be? What do you enjoy? What are your weaknesses? What is your diet like?

But, perhaps the most important question, you asked a similar question ten months ago. What have you done with all that information?
posted by munchingzombie at 3:57 PM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If I were you, I'd plan to try a new fitness activity (sport, class, whatever) every month. But that's because I love variety and learning new things.

What about also buying yourself a bunch of books about fun and interesting healthy stuff, like cooking, sports, etc?

And if you are doing a heap more exercise than usual, you might find getting a regular massage really rewarding.
posted by lollusc at 3:58 PM on December 17, 2010

Give yourself tennis ball massages. It'll feel especially relaxing and pampering after all that exercise you're planning on!
posted by martianna at 4:01 PM on December 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

Corepower Yoga is giving away a free week of yoga on their website. I did this and they emailed me a few weeks later to give me a second free week. I bought a yoga mat and now I'm trying to replicate what I learned there at home (since it's kinda expensive to actually join CorePower.) And I realized there's a channel on digital cable that also has yoga workouts so I've been DVR-ing them. (You didn't say if you were broke, but this is my broke version of good happy workouts.) That and long walks with my dog. And I agree with Emperor SnooKloze, about buying a shiny new bike from a reputable shop. I bought my first-bike-since-childhood recently, and it's so awesome. I also don't have a place to store it, it just sits on the side of my dining room. So always walking by and seeing in all its shiny gloriousness makes me excited and I want to go for a bike ride. (Damn ice and snow right now!)

Also, going vegetarian felt pretty good to me, but it's not for everyone.
posted by GastrocNemesis at 4:02 PM on December 17, 2010

Best answer: Learn how to apply makeup properly so it flatters you in different lighting and situations. Forget the ladies at the mall, find a good makeup artist and have some looks for you. Or spend a bunch of time practicing with input from a trusted friend.

I can cover up anything with makeup and make just about anyone look good in photos. Without caking it on. It's a super handy skill.
posted by fshgrl at 4:05 PM on December 17, 2010

Seconding bellydance! It's not a hard workout and won't get you in shape on its own, but it does increase flexibility, coordination, grace, and self confidence. It's also great for your abs, butt and quads. And it's a ton of fun! At least I think so.
posted by Safiya at 4:23 PM on December 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I strongly second the advice to spend a lot of time initially educating yourself about fitness and nutrition before you decide which path to take. This is a highly personal thing, so I can only tell you what I would do if I were in your position (and I am jealous!), maybe you'll find some inspiration here:

Eat an extremely strict paleolithic diet; spend liberally on high quality ingredients, preferably getting to know the farmers who provide them; cook most of my meals; explore new foods and methods of preparation. Supplement carefully with high quality fish oil and vitamin D (or sun lamp time).

- Crossfit met-cons on a three days on, one day off schedule
- Twelve cycles of a serious strength program like Wendler 5-3-1 (for you I would say Starting Strength, but again, this is just an example of what I would do)
- Hatha yoga with a focus on alignment once a week
- Try new activities and sports consistently. Maybe set aside a day every two weeks to try something new.

Nine hours every night in a cool, pitch black room. Wake each morning naturally without an alarm.

I love your idea and I often wish that "spoiling my body" were my full time job so that I could do all of the above. One thing to remember is that a lot of these things, by their nature, must NOT feel like spoiling, in order to be effective. Exercise has a lot of amazing benefits and I feel so much better afterward, but "spoiling myself" is not the word I would use for what's going on while I do it (more like "punishing"). The body adapts to meet the demands that we put upon it when we train. If the demands aren't difficult, much less adaptation is required. Keep that in mind, and good luck.
posted by telegraph at 4:57 PM on December 17, 2010 [7 favorites]

Doh! martianna reminded me of what I forgot. Mobility and recovery. I'd stretch and work on my body with a foam roller, lacrosse ball, resistance bands, etc for at least 30 minutes everyday (Mobility WOD has some great things to say about this as well). I would also get a weekly massage from an awesome masseuse -- start the year trying a new one every week until you find the right person, then stick with him or her.
posted by telegraph at 5:03 PM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'll tell you the strange thing I do that makes me feel luxurious and pampered and physically awesome. I do it every January. It's a simple, 4 step process.

1) Go to the drawer(s) where you keep your underwear and socks
2) Pull out any items you absolutely love that are perfect for you.
3) Throw everything else away.
4) Buy all new underwear and socks you really look forward to wearing. Don't cheap out. Buy stuff you really like.

I'm telling you, having underwear you really feel great in (for some people, that's La Perla; for other people, it's Egyptian cotton. You have to get what's going to make you feel good) is amazing, no matter what else is going on in your life. And having brand new socks and stockings that you know match each other and don't have holes in them and go with your clothes? Fabulous. Every morning is a little burst of joy, and it makes you feel lovely in your own skin.
posted by decathecting at 5:04 PM on December 17, 2010 [31 favorites]

Best answer: The Couch to 5K advice is spot on - start slow and after 2 months you will be totally hooked. I found it gentle enough that I have no injuries or pain, but so rewarding because you're amazed by how quickly you improve, because you have clear goals to shoot for. Besides the fact that my arse has been steadily migrating north since i started (yay!) I've also found it does wonders for my mood. Start the day off with a run and it boosts your creativity and sets you up nicely for the day - I find I am happier and far more relaxed at work. Run, run, run.
The other thing I'd suggest is thrift stores/op shops if you find dressing up fun. You can be playful with what you chose because generally you're not spending a lot of money, and because you'll usually find something a little bizarre and surprising. As your body changes you might find yourself wearing things you weren't comfortable in before, which can be lovely and exciting. Good luck!
posted by sleep_walker at 5:08 PM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Lift weights. Seriously, this is the most effective exercise for improving your body composition and overall health. If you don't want to do that, do some form of interval training - it is far more effective than traditional aerobics and takes a lot less time. Supplement with light, fun exercise as you feel like it - walking, Wii Fit, etc. There's no benefit to spending hours a day on exercise! A decent weight training program can be as little as half an hour a week, or as much as 1.5 hours three times a week. More than that is overtraining and will slow your progress.

Seconding all the paleolithic recommendations. I have to plug my favorite health site on the internet, Whole Health Source.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 5:18 PM on December 17, 2010 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Oh, and for weight lifting, the Practical Programming routine is the way to go. You'll want to obtain a copy of the book "Starting Strength" for proper instruction on how to perform all the movements properly.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 5:19 PM on December 17, 2010

Don't discount soccer and other team sports, if it's something you're really interested in. Depending on where you live, there may be casual community or competetive adult leagues in your area. I don't play but I have friends who do and love it.
posted by equivocator at 5:22 PM on December 17, 2010

Best answer: Dance classes, period! Hip hop, swing, tap, whatever floats your boat. It will give you a great endorphin boost and you will feel awesome afterwards.
posted by joeyjoejoejr at 6:53 PM on December 17, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I devote a night every week to personal care - I clip my nails, give myself a facial, pluck eyebrows, etc. I usually light some scented candles, listen to good music and end with a bubble bath. It makes me feel beautiful and also relaxes me.
posted by elerina at 7:04 PM on December 17, 2010 [10 favorites]

Seconding the massage-as-treat. Perhaps shout yourself your favourite style of massage at either the end of every month or when you've achieved X-goal.

Agreeing with those who said new sport per month and will second those who suggested dance. No other sport has me walking away at the end with such a huge grin on my face. Learning choreography challenges your brain too.

Other suggestions: rock climbing, either indoor or outdoor.

Are you planning to blog this? Because, as a person recovering on the couch from knee surgery, I'd love to live vicariously through your boundless energy!
posted by chronic sublime at 7:41 PM on December 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

Write down three things you are grateful for everyday. Then, look back at how great your life is.
Do you have pets? Walking the dog makes me feel great. It's a treat after a long day.
Seconding wearing awesome undies.
Do some volunteer work. With all your newfound energy, it feels great to help someone else.
Ps: it took me a while to find a good place to volunteer. Don't give up if the first two or ten places aren't for you.
posted by saragoodman3 at 7:50 PM on December 17, 2010

Please BLOG this. Something to consider, at 49, I trained for a year to become a powerlifter. It was all about me, becoming the hottest 50 year old ever. I hired a tough taskmaster of a trainer, worked out 6 days a week and was able to lift 305lbs. When I would go to the leg press and the guy had 8 plates on it, I told him to leave it and added another two. It made me feel like the top of the world, the men asked my trainer if they would make their wives look like me. When 50 came around, I entered a contest and won. I could outlift everyone. In retrospect, it was the feeling of accomplishment, and self-confidence that was so deliciously gratifying. It also forces you to eat well and rest. Cross-training with yoga, pilates and boxing (yes! the real thing!!) will cut your bod like nothing else. What a great attitude you have, I admire your tenacity.
posted by ~Sushma~ at 8:25 PM on December 17, 2010 [15 favorites]

How about hooping? It's fun and it's a good workout.
posted by mogget at 10:22 PM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding the advice to get a bike and use it. You can't help but to get in shape if you're using it every day to get from point A to point B.

I'm fitter than I've ever been and yup, it's mostly due to buying a second-hand bike this summer. It's a vintage 1960s cruiser style bike which is super practical with mudguards, chain guard, and basket. The combination of it being functional and fashionable makes it a joy to ride, and I cycle every day that the weather isn't horrid. Bonus: I like dressing to match my bike, 'cause it's the ultimate form of public transportation.

The second thing that got me fit this year was my job. I currently work in a trendy shoe store, where all week I run up and down stairs to the stockroom, hauling boxes. I actually have muscles in my arms for the first time in my life. Consider taking up a job that requires manual labour where you'll be making a living and doing something good for your body at the same time. Bonus: working retail means I need look presentable so keeping myself fashionable and well-groomed is a job requirement. I have no choice - it's just how it is.

The key is to find exercise that is functionally part of your life. So that way, you're never forcing yourself to do it. It's simply a portion of your day to day living that you need to do to get by. No motivation required.
posted by exquisite_deluxe at 10:42 PM on December 17, 2010

I really love the way you phrased this.

Variety! I would try different things, from white-water rafting, to gymnastics (or tumbling) to rock climbing to swimming to parkour bellydancing. And massage, and meditation, and yoga. And makeup, clothes, high heels, oil cleansing method. Don't forget little tricks - how to juggle or play hackysack, or how to do a handstand or a backbend.

I'm a very visual person, and so the ultimate luxury for me is being able to relax and close my eyes and indulge other senses - swimming at midnight, doing yoga without constantly looking at the video/person next to me/mirror to see if I'm doing it right. Try eating in the dark, or with no silverware.
posted by ke rose ne at 10:44 PM on December 17, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: For fitness:
Dance classes for the endorphins and fun, pilates for the "truly learning about my body's core", and yoga for flexibility. Bikram, if you can handle it, and you'll feel so cleansed and fortified after. Walking - truly observing everything around you whilst you smell the fresh air and celebrate life. If you can - have a stretch and flexibility session with a dance focussed trainer - nothing makes me feel more like I'm truly stretching my body than this. Gym and weights for strength training. Every so often, work out until sweat is running down your face, your chin, your legs. Then take a luxurious shower and scrub yourself down. BLISS.

For girliness:
Go watch the thousands of youtube tutorials on hair and makeup, and even scarf tying - and practice! Have fun with it. I recently have spent 5 months rehabbing from an awful back injury, and decided to spend my down time remembering all the fabulous things about pampering myself, and this is what I did. Bonus points for inviting friends over and practicing braids and makeup with a glass of wine and giggles. Makes you feel 9 years old all over again, AND you learn new skills for prettiness. Get monthly pedicures and/or massages. Moisturise your body daily post-shower (buy a range of body butters/oils to mix it up). Use handcream and rejoice in how soft your hands become with daily use. Use a body brush to dry brush your body before a shower weekly. Do a hair mask (olive oil, or buy one) whenever you want.

For tactile uplifting:
In my rehab, I was stuck at home for months. In anticipation of going OUT again (ZOMG!), I re-thought my wardrobe. Replaced all my scungy tank tops with gorgeous 100% cotton, OR silk camisoles. Silk pants for lounging around the house instead of tracksuits. Satin pyjamas. Underwear that truly fits. Threw out all my uncomfortable shoes. ALL. Threw out anything tight that left elastic marks in my skin. Buy a perfume you LOVE and makes you want to sing. Speaking of singing...

For personal pleasure:
Singing lessons. Deportment class (for how to really strut in heels). If fine dining is your thing, take a lesson in how to navigate all your cutlery. Make a list of 50 restaurants you want to try and do a new one each week. Try to cook/sample a new ingredient/recipe/cuisine each week. Find your perfect sipping drink and have a small glass each night to wind down (mine is port). Make your home smell incredible.

For health:
Eat lots of fruit and vegetables. Get your 2 litres of water a day and watch your skin and body respond. Eat lots of fish and get your omega 3's.

Have a wonderful year - I completely understand what you're doing and I'm sure it'll be a magical journey!
posted by shazzam! at 11:41 PM on December 17, 2010 [22 favorites]

I also love your question!

I have a similar desire-- becoming fit, healthy, happier. You seem to have great drive and energy, so I think you will be successful at this venture (or at least have fun exploring what is out there and what makes you feel good).

For me, the little things are important: having clean teeth (I just got a Sonicare toothbrush, and omg; I also floss every night which makes me feel good), having clear skin (the oil cleansing method works well for me), having shaved legs (this makes me feel more confident but of course ymmv), wearing a pretty ring or necklace, and so on. I think the little things add up to make you feel even more capable of meeting the bigger goals.

I also recommend eating lots and lots of vegetables (roast them in the oven, eat some creative salads, try new veggies-- for me this was brussels sprouts and it turns out I love them!)

As for exercise, I have had success with dancing. Not at all formal dancing, or even lessons, but dancing at a monthly soul night. I'm telling you, three hours of shaking your ass makes you feel GOOD (physically exhausted and also sexy). Now I dance to soul music alone in my room. Not the same, but I pretend I have an audience. As others have said, do something that you actually enjoy.

And make sure to get enough sleep!

(Oh, and I agree with the person who mentioned overhauling your sock and underwear drawers. Having pretty underthings really does make a difference!)
posted by sucre at 4:03 AM on December 18, 2010

Ooh, and what about planning a fun outdoors vacation? Like a rafting trip, or canoeing, or hiking and camping? Or a cycle tour? If it's something that will be a bit of a stretch from your current fitness level, it will be a great goal to train towards too.
posted by lollusc at 4:15 AM on December 18, 2010

Best answer: I found that my eating patterns got healthier after I joined a CSA - I'm not sure how locally available those are for you, but you could replicate the experience with a weekly shopping trip to the local farmer's market and a commitment to spend X dollars and by at least one fruit or vegetable you've never used before. It's like Iron Chef every week!
posted by fermezporte at 6:13 AM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Pick a set of goals; run a 5k after a month, maybe run a half marathon mid-year.

Team sports are a bit more interactive/fun for me... but definitely not as body-intensive. The happy medium is finding a training partner - or set of training partners - to run/lift weights/swim with.
posted by talldean at 7:36 AM on December 18, 2010

I've always wanted to be able to do splits. It just seems cool- and in all of this it's important to remember flexibility is important. Good luck!
posted by raccoon409 at 10:16 AM on December 18, 2010

Obligatory crossfit suggestion.
posted by aesacus at 6:09 PM on December 19, 2010

Best answer: Massage!! This is not just an "as a treat" sort of thing. It answers your question better than a pedicure, because you are actually helping your body by getting regular massage. Get a massage once a month (or more!) and you will notice improvements in your flexibility, circulation, energy levels, skin health, etc. etc. etc.

Pedicures are great, though. :)
posted by purpletangerine at 8:03 PM on December 19, 2010

Best answer: If you choose the running or cycling route, even for a little while, I really recommend signing up for a race. It is a great motivator and it is so much fun to participate in something with so many other people.

Marathoning for Mortals is a great resource for this if you plan to do some running - it even has training plans for various ways to train for half or full marathons, and it is a really fun read.
posted by bigd at 5:23 PM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Adding to bigd's suggestion -- if a race seems a little intimidating at first, maybe something that's more...process-oriented, as it were? Twice now I've taken part in group-biking events here in New York -- the "Tour de Brooklyn", namely. It's definitely not a race as such -- but it is a long-ass bike ride. It's more about "wooo, I just rode 17 miles on my bike! Maybe it took me a while, but I did it!" than it is "this how FAST I rode 17 miles on my bike".

I also got way into kayaking with an all-volunteer free group in Brooklyn, which was good practice, and after enough of that I started signing up for the bigger group trips they had planned. This also wasn't a "race" kind of thing, it was more about "let's all get in our kayaks and go somewhere".

If competitive events aren't your thing, there are non-competitive ones, is my point.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:56 PM on January 7, 2011

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