Thoughts on Exercise: What, When & Pushing Outside of the Comfort Zone

Warning: this post is long. And I ramble. A lot. :)

I’ve been known to change up my exercise routine from time to time. Bodypump and Spinning are constants in my routine, since I teach both classes (and definitely count that as either part of or as my entire workout for the day). Since moving away from Maryland, I’ve definitely cut back on how many classes I teach a week. I have two indoor cycling classes (Tuesday and Thursday mornings) and as of now, just sub Bodypump classes occasionally.

Since I love the Bodypump workouts so much (and am really sad that I don’t get to teach the class that often) I’ve been working out with some of the old releases at home. (Instructors are sent DVDs of the upcoming release each quarter to learn the choreography.) I’ve been teaching Bodypump for exactly two years now and am on my tenth release, so I have a lot of different workouts to choose from. It’s actually pretty fun going back to some of the older ones and it keeps me from getting bored (and keeps the muscles confused!). I was working out in my basement yesterday morning with the Bodypump 83 release and a quote from one of the presenters grabbed my attention:


“If it does not challenge you then it does not change you.” Very simple and very true. The presenters on the Bodypump DVDs say all kinds of cheesy inspiring quotes during the workout, but man I live for that shit. I say the same types of things when I teach because I know that it gets the majority of the participants pumped. And it gets me pumped too!

I thought about that quote a lot and how it applies to life in so many different ways- not just in regards to exercise. I have a tendency to “settle in” to whats comfortable and get a little lazy sometimes. I don’t mean lazy in a sense that I just sit around on my butt all the time- because that couldn’t be further from the truth. What I mean by lazy is that I often stay right inside my little comfort zone. Sometimes it’s just easier to stick to what is comfortable, even if it doesn’t necessarily make you happy or bring you the results that you’re looking for.

I know that I’ve pushed myself outside of my comfort zone in the past and it’s pretty much always resulted in something great. Heck, I quit a job that I was extremely comfortable in and felt like I could do in my sleep. But, I felt like a robot every day. I was unhappy, stressed and it just didn’t challenge me in a good way. Quitting a career that I was in for 8 years (which is the longest I’ve been at any job) was certainly scary- and trying to figure out what I wanted to do was even scarier- but it was the best decision ever and I’ve never looked back.

It’s time to step back outside of that comfort zone in many areas of my life. When it comes to fitness, I’ve decided that I need to get my ass back in gear with regular functional training. I noticed the biggest changes in my body back when I was doing those types of workouts (and changing them up daily). For me, functional training is hard. A lot of the exercises rely on using your own body weight. When you’re carrying around a little extra weight, exercises like push-ups and pull-ups definitely make you notice every single pound you’ve gained. Also- I hate burpees. I know that sounds super cliche, but it’s true. Burpees suck- but man, they create results.

One thing I love about functional training is that it’s so easy to create a workout. I’ll generally just jot down various exercises on a piece of paper right before I work out, trying to balance out a tougher exercise followed up by an easier one. Here’s the workout I did Sunday morning:

- 20 min rowing

- 10 sets of 10 (100) kettlebell swings

- 10 sets of 10 (50 each arm) single hand kettlebell swings

- 100 (50 each arm) lawnmower pulls

- 25 burpees (ughhhhh)

- 1oo weighted punches (5 lbs. dumbbells)

- 50 front kicks

- 50 standing pikes

- 100 mountain climbers

- 100 sumo (oblique) crunches

- 30 squat jumps

- 30 walking planks

Total time (including stretching): 1 hour. I’ll tell you what – I felt like I worked out for 5 hours when that was done! There are some days that I’ll create a similar style workout that’s only 15 or 20 minutes long (and never more than an hour). I just depends on what else I’m doing that day.

Besides changing up what I’m doing for exercise, I’ve been thinking a lot about when I exercise. For the last several years I’ve preferred to work out first thing in the morning. I have done this for many reasons:

1. Most of the classes that I’ve taught have been in the morning- anywhere from 5:30 am – 9:00 am.

2. I only have to shower once if I exercise in the morning (after my workout)

3. There’s no potential for anything to get in the way of my workout, since it’s over and done with first thing in the morning.

4. It sets the tone for the day and gives me energy (even though I usually feel like crashing by 4:00 pm on the days that I teach/work out at the crack of dawn)

The thing is- I’ve noticed that on days when I have a higher intensity workout in the morning (like teaching indoor cycling), I am super hungry all day long. I know that Paige has been discovering this too ever since she started teaching indoor cycling. I use up so much energy when I teach and am hungry again an hour or two after I eat (no matter how big the meal was!). I know that the logical person would say “well then, just eat more!” The problem is (for me) that if I eat more, it doesn’t just balance out. I’ll gain weight- big time- which is what’s happened over the last few years since I’ve increased my workouts and used up so much energy early in the day.

I’m starting to think that I should change my exercise time to late afternoon. True, it’s a big pain in the butt to get all sweaty and have to shower again, but if it’s going to help me succeed with my weight loss efforts, then it’s totally worth it. Back when I initially lost a lot of weight and got to a very healthy size, I was exercising after work each day. Then I’d go home, eat a snack, eat dinner a few hours later, and go to bed. I didn’t have the chance to just graze all day long.

And that leads me to the last thought on getting outside of my comfort zone: food. I was talking with Laura and Heather about the massive amounts of planning to go into meals and snacks when you’re training for a figure competition (and don’t get any ideas- I’m not planning to do that any time soon, if ever). I said to them “I could never do that, because I feel like my entire day would just revolved around what I eat.” Both girls answered me back that it really doesn’t have to- you just have to take the time to plan out and prep your meals on Sunday and then you just don’t give it much thought after that. They also told me that it’s really easy to eat clean and get the body you desire- but you have to want to do it.

Maybe I just haven’t wanted it bad enough? I know that having a big goal would really help me stay on track (which was Heather’s main reason for signing up to do a figure competition in the first place- and I have so much respect for that). I definitely take advantage of the fact that I can eat all of my meals at home or go out and get something whenever I want. All of the years that I had to pack breakfast, lunch and snacks for work each day kind of ruined it for me. Just the thought of “prepping” ahead of time raises my blood pressure- but it might just be the key to success. And, it will probably help save my grocery bill a bit too…

If I haven’t lost you yet and you’re still reading- THANK YOU! I’d love to know your thoughts on this:

When do you prefer to work out and why? If you’re a morning exerciser, do you feel hungry all day long?

Do you prep/plan your meals at the beginning of the week? If so, how has this helped you?


  1. Healthy Strides says:

    I am definitely a morning exerciser and a planner. Both are key to me feeling on track and in control of my day. I am trying to rein things in after marathon training, and I have been inspired by Heather. I don’t think I could eat like a figure competitor but the diets are very intriguing and offer a lot of room for thought. To help lately, I’ve been making big pots of soup and freezing them in individual containers. When I go to pack lunch, I just grab whatever sounds good and go. It prevents boredom since I have three or varieties at any given time and I can control the ingredients.

  2. I work out over my lunch break at work and it really breaks up my day. I’ll also do yoga or just hip on the elliptical for a bit in the evenings when I get home!

  3. Aside from picking out a few dinners for the week, I don’t plan out my food. I feel like it’s okay not to want it enough. I feel like being in the industry that you’re in and being immersed in the healthy blogging culture, it’s very easy to see where you could make improvements (which is fine), but at the same time, it’s also very easy to overlook all that you are doing right.

    And to answer your question, I like working out at lunch (though I never have enough time) or right after work. I am not a morning worker-outer, unless I can take a nap afterward.

    • Yeah- reading blogs is like having information overload. So many different opinions – and everyone is different! It makes it more difficult to just keep things “simple.”

  4. Not every week do I prep my meals for the coming days, but when I do, I notice it is much easier to eat well because I’m eating what I PLANNED on (we always plan to eat healthy right?), not what just happens to be in front of my face! It sounds like maybe you are used to grazing, which is an easy habit to get into but not an easy one to break! Success for me has always come when I’ve stuck to the three meal a day plan. I know it doesn’t work for everyone but it certainly gave me the framework I needed because it means I wait to eat until I’m actually really hungry, not just when I feel a small nagging pang of hunger. I pretty much follow the Eat to Live plan though which means my meals are relatively large but packed with low-calorie items. And you can eat a ton of volume if you’re eating cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, onions, peppers, etc.

    Good luck with figuring out what will work for you! And I didn’t think this post was long at all…I enjoy your topics every day…you always keep it interesting, Lauren! :-)

    • You are the best, Laura. :) I planned out meals for SO long and have just totally gone in the opposite direction since quitting teaching. I definitely like the Eat to Live plan- I might need to re-read that book. :)

  5. I plan/prep about half of my weekly meals. That way I have something to fall back on, but there’s still room to shift around what I WANT to eat if I’m bored or don’t want the pre-prepped meal.

  6. I recently started prepping food more – even if it’s just cutting up veggies – and it’s helped me immensely. I was queen of getting takeout during the week, but if it’s half done, it’s easy for me to tell myself that it won’t take long to finish. Easy peasy!

    Though weekends where I’m swamped, it gets hard to plan for sure.

  7. I like to get my exercise in in the mornings, but I try to stay away from “working out” in general. Hiking is fun for me, biking is fun, but if I label those as “work outs” I don’t enjoy them as much.

    • Yeah, I never really consider hiking a “workout.” If I’m going on a super tough or long hike one day though, I usually skip the gym. But, I also hike on rest days… it all depends!

  8. Lots of great advice/thinking here. I read the whole thing and love that you’re taking a step back to see what’s worked in the past, what hasn’t and what you should do moving forward. On food prep: I started reading Lindsay’s (Lean Green Bean) food prep posts, and was so inspired. I love having things chopped and ready when I’m snacky or when I need to get out the door and to work quick. I never spend money on breakfast/lunch anymore and rarely on dinner unless it’s to get a few ingredients here and there. It takes some time on Sunday, but it’s so worth it. My advice — start small. I did just a little prep here and there, then branched out when I found what cooking/prepping style worked for me and what foods I prefer. Can’t wait to read some follow-up posts :)

  9. I work out at all different times of day because I’ll usually try to go to the gym at the same time as Kevin so it depends on his work schedule & if he’s going that day. The main thing I do is which is totally boring, but I never have “good snacks” at home during the week. No sweet potato chips or things along that line. Usually if I look in the pantry, there is really nothing to snack on so I have to be hungry enough to actually want a real meal. I try to plan dinners (except Thursdays we go out), and for lunch usually my only option is really salad, sweet potatoes, wholly guacamole, and some kind of quality meat.

    Kevin and I recently realized (again) that our food bills are insane for two people!! So that helps me not want to buy bulk bin candy and even Lara bars to save money since I know I’m committed to spending extra money to buy things like gf beef.

    That is a long functional training workout!!! Wow!! You must have some crazy endurance. I know of an extremely motivational sport that you could kick butt at. Haha.

    • I definitely try to keep snacky foods out of the house- at least those that I have a weakness for. I really need to plan more though- and we DEFINITELY spend too much money for two people!
      MAYBE one day I’ll try your “motivational sport.” Maybe. ;)

  10. I am not a morning person, so I exercise right after work and that seems to work pretty well for me. I shower right afterwards and then have dinner and wind down time before bed. Sometimes I have to get my hair wet in the morning so it isn’t a total mess, but I usually just stick to one shower per day. I don’t do any food prep for the week, but I do meal plan. That way when I go to the grocery store, I know exactly what I need to make everything for the week. It also helps that after I get home from a long day at work and then am starving after my workout, I know exactly what I am going to make for dinner and so I don’t waste 20 minutes trying to figure out what to make. It also stops my husband from asking “what’s for dinner” and driving me nuts! :) And 100 mountain climbers – you are awesome!

    • Thanks, friend!
      I go in phases w/meal planning. I’ll be great one week and then suck the next. I need to be consistent!

  11. When I was bike commuting and taking 6am spin, I ate a ton more food throughout the day because I was always starving. I realized it’s easier for me to do it after work. I snack before, eat dinner after and then don’t have a long day ahead of me to feel like I’m starving LOL!

    I don’t plan my meals per se, but I grocery shop very specifically and buy very few snacks or packaged foods which prevents the type of snacking/grazing I’d do if I had that stuff around. I can only eat so many pieces of fruit, cheese or nuts so eventually I have to actually make/cook something healthy to eat. Working in an office makes eating three meals per day the only real option and it does cut down my snacking. I do try to prep a few lunches every Sunday too – usually frozen homemade soup or grains plus salads. But I’m always interested to read about other peoples’ habits because we are all so different. Great post!

    • Taking 6 am spin definitely makes you hungry all day! And hike commuting on top of that- whoa! No wonder you were starving!
      Oh man… and I could snack on nuts all day long!

  12. I work out (crossfit) after work, but not because of the amount of food I would or wouldn’t eat after my workout. I just can’t bring myself to get up before 5 AM to make it to 6:30 WOD ;-)

    As for planning my meals, my point of view is a bit different since I have a history of disordered eating. Right now I’m at a healthy weight (although it wouldn’t hurt to lose a bit ;)) and I’m trying hard NOT to be on any kind of diet, while still eating relatively healthy. Since I do crossfit, I’m exposed to Paleo diet a lot – lots of people from my gym swear that it’s the best diet ever, but I tried and I know how it works or rather doesn’t work for me, just like any elimination diet: I follow the rules for a few days and then I binge on whatever is forbidden. It happened (more than once, talk about slow learning ;)) for Paleo, Vegan, Montignac diet and probably something else… So now I try not to keep total junk food and too much candy at home, eat more or less healthy and keep my portion size sensible and from time to time I indulge like there’s no tomorrow ;-)

    • Thanks for the great comment! I like your approach with the “elimination” diet to see what is a trigger- that’s a great idea. Best of luck to you! :)

  13. I totally agree that planning meals is super key! And having greens on hand (for me). Or else I just get supppppper lazy!

    That is an interesting thought about the morning exercise thing—I don’t necessarily feel that way per say, but I get what you’re saying. And maybe you could experiment and try it out? I actually feel like I eat more dinner on the days I don’t work out….whatever that means. Hah! And I def don’t crave sweets as much on days I do work out. But then again, I could eat chocolate almost any time–it runs in my blood!

    I love the bP workouts too–and that quote is totally one I use :) hehe

  14. I would love to work out in the mornings, but I WILL NOT wake up at 5 am to workout before work. :) I work out right after work , and it works for me. I refuel with dinner and I don’t find myself too ravenous later. Right now, my workouts are very low impact, but even before that it worked well for me.
    I try to meal plan my dinners each week since I work then workout. This keeps me from eating at 10pm! lol.. other than that, I don’t plan much else out. I do keep quinoa, rice, and other veggies and protein cooked up so that I can just grab and go.

    Keep me posted on what you figure out works for you! xoxo

  15. I’m a night exerciser for sure. I’ve always been a night owl and working out is no different. I just feel more energetic and sleep so much better too.

    I do meal prep and I think the planning has been a major factor in my weight loss. Its a pain, but it gets the job done!

    • I’m a total morning person- but definitely might have to switch up the exercise thing. I think it would be easier to do that if I had a 9-5 job! I always feel compelled to just go first thing in the morning for some reason.
      And I will definitely take any meal prep advice from you- you have ROCKED your weight loss!

  16. I switch up my workouts depending on what I am doing. I always spin in the evenings. Most of my running in the mornings. I get the “hungry” feeling you mention when working out in the mornings!! I try to do meal prep on Sundays, but I am never one to go overboard. I like leftovers!!!

  17. I do everything at my best in the morning, exercise included! The *thought* of trying to muster the energy to work out in the evening after a long day at work slays me. And actually, so does the thought of trying to cook an elaborate dinner. We do plan out dinners for the week beofre hitting up the grocery and it is usually a one pot, throw-every-thing-in kind of affair. Lots of stews, curries, soups and stir-fries…and if it can go in a crock pot, all the better!
    The only difference I notice that makes a difference in how hungry I am is whether I work from my office or from home. If Im at work with my packed meals, I have the balanced and portioned food I am “supposed to” have, and that’s it. And sometimes I get a little hungry…but oh well. At home, when I get hungry…I eat. Whatever I want is always a bit too available, and it’s easy to overdo it in the snack department…

    • I have to say- it was MUCH easier to pack like that when I was a teacher. I packed food the night before and wasn’t hungry when I packed- so it WAS what I was “supposed” to have. And I totally agree with you 100% about being at home and having snacks too readily available. Sometimes I think we share a brain, Gil!

  18. How did you decide what you wanted to do after 8 years? I’ve been in my current job (and only job ever) for 11 years and I don’t think it’s working for me anymore. I am so scared to leave because I have no idea where to begin! Your advice is appreciated!

  19. I’m a morning workout person… I love getting my run out of the way early on. But I typically am hungry all day everyday… maybe that’s why? I need to tell myself it’s okay to be hungry, I’m not going to die, but it’s SO HARD.

  20. Wow, that looks like a killer workout!!!!!

  21. I workout FIRST thing in the morning, before breakfast. I have to be at school at 730. So I get up at 445, workout for an hour, and am dressed and out of the house by 650. Sometimes it makes me hungry all day, but it depends. I usually am not up for large meals until dinner time. On a regular school day, my breakfast is small-medium, my lunch is small, my dinner is medium-large, and then i have a small-medium snack. I just try to practice mindful eating… really listening to my body and stomach. Its hard but worth it. I also recommend drinking some tea, water, almond milk or even warm broth ext before and after each meal. Helps a ton!


  1. […] read: Thoughts on Exercise via Me & The […]

  2. […] week actually started out kind of rough- literally. I’m trying to get back to throwing some good, hardcore functional training into my routine and definitely overdid it at the gym on Sunday. I was NOT smart about my workout […]

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