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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Julianne MacLean on Staying Fit

Hi ladies! Thanks so much for having me as your guest this month. I’ve been reading some of the other blogs here about health issues, and you all have so many helpful tips, and bring up interesting, important issues.

Health is a subject dear to my heart, as I have had to struggle with a number of issues throughout my life (oh, how I love junk food), but struggle I do! I’ve managed to stay slim and I am now more fit at 42 than I was at 30. But it’s never been an effortless affair. I’ve always had to work for it.

I come from a creative, artistic family, and that often seems to translate into a sedentary lifestyle, especially when you’re an introvert, which is very common for writers. I suppose when so much activity is going on inside your head, it’s enough to keep you stimulated and entertained. You can sit and stare at the wall for hours and not get bored.

Unfortunately these days, like Trish said, the computer has brought this sedentary state-of- being to the general population, by keeping people in their chairs, even for “playtime.” And with technology, everything is more efficient – even food preparation. Processed convenience foods are so much quicker. (Which is actually a total lie in my opinion, because you still have to stand at the stove and cook Hamburger Helper; I can stir fry fresh veggies and cook a piece of haddock in the same amount of time).

So many elements of our unhealthy lifestyles are simply habits, which we can change. One change I made – something I never thought I could ever do - was take up running, which I started in my early thirties. Seriously, no one in my creative family was ever into sports. Are you kidding me?? Going for a walk was all we ever did, and only on a nice day to admire the color of the sky. (Down below I’ll outline how I got started with running. You can, too!)

I’m very grateful that I married an athletic man, because I unwittingly became a member of a very active family. My in-laws (now seventy) ski in the winter, swim in the summer, and WALK to their gym year round to work out with weights and take fitness classes. They’ll even tramp through a foot of snow to get there. It was an eye opener for me to see everyone in that household embrace regular physical activity in that way.

I now run five days a week. I can take a day off, but my rule is to never go two days in a row without it, unless I’m at a conference or something. It has become a regular part of my day. I usually run on a treadmill as opposed to going outside because it’s easier on my joints and muscles, and weather is never a factor to give me an excuse not to do it.

I run for 30 minutes, then walk for ten more. I listen to my favorite music on my headphones, which inspires me, and watch Home and Garden Television on mute. I do my best plotting when the endorphins kick in after 25 minutes. Seriously. All plot holes get filled, and any stuck wheels get unstuck.

And if you think you don’t have time to exercise, YOU DO. I used to think I had to prioritize when I was on a deadline, and naturally the writing came first. What I’ve discovered is that when I give up the exercise to produce more pages, I am not more productive. Last year I made a decision to skip my regular run for a whole week to “up” my page count, but my page count stayed exactly the same as when I stole that hour-per-day to exercise. I didn’t accomplish anything extra, and I gained a pound!

Oh, there’s so much more to say about staying healthy, so many tips and recipes, and I didn’t even mention metabolism. Okay, I’ll just say this: people think skinny people are skinny because they were born with a fast metabolism. There may be some truth to that, but YOU CAN – AND SHOULD – BE IN CONTROL OF YOUR METABOLISM.

Think of it this way - your metabolism is like a roaring campfire, and you want it to burn hot and fast. You must FEED it fuel so it doesn’t go out. Skipping meals to lose weight is the WORST thing you can do. You need to eat a healthy breakfast first thing in the morning, and NEVER skip a meal. Have a healthy snack between meals, whether you’re hungry or not. Don’t let the fire go out!

Here’s how it should be:

It ain’t rocket science, baby! Just make sure your snacks are healthy, not junky. Good choices are:
Plain non-fat yogurt with a handful of blueberries and a sprinkling of sliced almonds
An apple, sliced, with all natural peanut butter spread on the slices
Any piece of fruit or berries
Raw veggies and low fat dip (I use Kraft Light Cucumber Dressing)
A handful of natural almonds, without salt

It takes about three weeks to get your metabolism where it should be if you do this. Add the exercise on top of that, and pounds will burn.

Finally, I promised above to tell you how you can get started running, even if you are a couch potato who gets winded climbing a flight of stairs. That was me once, but not anymore! Anyone can do it this way. (Though if you have specific health issues, talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program).

Here’s how I did it:

I started by walking 2 minutes, running for 30 seconds, walking 2 min, running 30 sec, for 20 minutes total. I won’t lie, it was tough. I did that 3 times in a week.

The second week I increased it to walk for 2 minutes, run for one minute, walk for 2, run for one - for 20 minutes total.

The third week I walked for one minute, ran for one minute (again, very tough each time you increase, but worth it). Do this for 20 minutes total.

The fourth week I walked for one minute, ran for two minutes…. Get it? Keep increasing your running time by one minute per week.

Your goal is to run for 10 minutes straight, walk for one minute, then run 10 minutes again. If you get there - Congratulations - you’re a real runner!

Following that, you can increase your time by 10% each week, but no more than that. Now I’m up to 30 minutes (I still walk for one minute after every ten), then I walk the final 10. I’ll never go over that because I don’t ever want to risk an injury. This is quite easy for me now, and I like it that way.

I’d love to hear other stories about how you started an exercise program if you weren’t active before. Making the change is the toughest part, but once it becomes a habit, you feel great.


At 10:12 AM, Blogger Norah Wilson said...

Great post, Julianne. I'm going to try your learn-to-run program. Will let you know in a few weeks if I'm turning into a runner. :-)

Loved the campfire analogy. And it helps you approach food in a healthier way when you think about feeding your metabolism with small, nutritious meals/snacks, rather than thinking in terms of deprivation. Throw in all the great brain food Colleen shared with us, and I feel great about what I eat! Well, most of the time. Yesterday, I ate a big doughy Great Canadian maple bagel with not a smidgen of protein in sight. :-O

At 10:16 AM, Blogger Norah Wilson said...

Oh, I forgot something -- if you haven't seen Julianne's booktrailers, you really should scoot over to her site. They are a treat! If I'm not mistaken, one of them was mentioned in an RWR article on book trailers a while back. You'll see why. ,-)

Cut and paste this into your browswer and enjoy:

At 10:36 AM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Julianne, love this post! thanks so much for coming today.

I started running last week! On the road so my calves are really hurting and I am very winded even though I ride my bike at least 20 miles every week and I work out at the gym a couple of times a week and I walk, but running is hard! At least for me. And it will be raining soon so...

My question is...what kind of treadmill do you suggest? I want something that will last. Any other running tips...special shoes?


At 11:13 AM, Blogger janegeorge said...

Your post is really inspiring!

I'm 46 and dealing with chronic trochanteric bursitis because I was an enthusiastic runner through teens and twenties. I miss it terribly. Thanks for mentioning a treadmill. I haven't tried it because I love the outdoors, but your walk/run treadmill program might just work!

PS Five years ago I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and have found good ways of dealing with it if anyone wants to contact me off-blog.

At 11:29 AM, Anonymous Nicole said...

Thanks for the great post Julianne! And kudos for staying fit and healthy as a writer. It is definitely the best thing that you can do for yourself and those who love you, because it keeps you feeling great.

I was always a "big-boned" girl, as my mom liked to say, and after college and my first baby, I hit my largest size of 14. I decided to start running on my birthday, as a gift to myself, and basically followed the same running plan that you listed. I got down to a size 10, then got pregnant again! Everyone was a little disappointed because I had finally lost some weight, but after my son was born, I went on the south beach diet, started my running again as soon as possible, and went down to a size 6. I have remained this size for 5 years, simply by being sure to exercise AT LEAST 3 times per week, reading ingredient labels, and cutting out the high fructose corn syrup and trans fats found in prepared foods. It is hard, but so worth it in the end... especially when you see your children choosing good, healthy foods and know that you are giving them a lifetime of healthy habits.

Wow, this got long, but my main point can do it if you make it a priority. I homeschool and write and still fit in exercise...because it's important to me. Good luck!

At 11:57 AM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Wow, Nicole, that is inspiring! You homeschool and keep fit and write! Impressive!

What kind of snacks do you eat? What's your biggest splurge?

I hope you don't mind my asking...curious minds want to know.

At 12:08 PM, Blogger Patricia W. said...

At 5'2", size 16 but leaning toward 18, topping out at 200+ lbs, and threatened with diabetes after two bouts of the gestational kind, I knew something had to change.

The change has been a hard fought battle. It still is, daily.

But I began getting up earlier in the AM, the only time I really control, to exercise to DVDs in my home. Don't have to go anywhere. Can start breakfast for the kids while I'm exercising and run up the stairs if I hear crying.

I gave myself a goal and permission to get there gradually. 5 days a week, minimum of 30 min. If I missed a day, no biggie. Every day was a new start.

Took me two years to get here, with long periods of nearly no activity, but I'm finally here, in part because Hubby now helps out with the AM routine for our three sons.

New goal is to increase to 45-60 min because I've really got to fight this diabetes thing and exercise is one of the best ways.

One piece of advice I would give. No matter how healthy you might think you are, see your doctor. Have a full blood work up done. Part of the reason I struggled with getting up and exercising was that I was tired all the time. So no surprise when doctor found an iron deficiency. Started taking supplements and immediately felt better and was able to get more consistent.

But I was very surprised when doctor found a B12 deficiency too. B12 controls the metabolism. No wonder, even with 5 days a week and watching what I was eating, not much was happening other than me trying to fight the feeling that I would never lose this weight. This is something I would have never known without seeing my doctor.

Now, after a couple of weeks with B12 supplements too, I feel like a walking furnace, my metabolism is revving so high. My digestive system seems to be working more efficiently. And it looks like the weight is finally starting to come off. I've dropped three lbs this week.

I'm hopeful for getting to my weight goal. I'll have to let you know for sure in a few months.

At 1:45 PM, Blogger Mo H said...

All these great stories of success by Julianne, Nicole and Patricia. I do the walking thing. I started last spring. I do between 2 and 4 miles 5 days a week. The days I do 2 I do weights. I lost about 35 lbs and seem to have kept most of it off. But I'm wondering about the B12. Thanks for mentioning that Patricia!

At 3:41 PM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

Julianne, that's a tremendous accomplishment! Thanks so much for the specific how-to on running. I have a treadmill, but just walk on it. Maybe I'll try to up my quotient. I'm sure it would be good for my bones.

Jane: You are not 46! I can't believe that! I've met Jane in person, and I would have said she was ten years younger than that. Dude.

Patricia: Another inspiring story! I'm so proud of all you gals who have made such improvements. That's takes such strength.

At 3:51 PM, Blogger janegeorge said...

Wow, all these healthy inspiring stories. And I vow to take my vitties more regularly!

The local Y has a freebie week next week and I'm going to give the treadmill a try.

Esri, did you happen to catch sight of my ears? Pointed. Hahahahahahaha.

Thanks for the compliment!

At 6:41 PM, Anonymous Nicole said...

Theresa, I am really not a snacker. If I need to eat, I eat, usually fruit, carrots, nuts. My biggest weakness is baked goods. I only buy 100% stone ground whole wheat bread when I don't make it is so much work and it disappears so fast! My splurge is brownies...I half the butter and use applesauce, use whole wheat flour and cut the sugar by 1/2 to 2/3. I might add dark chocolate chips to the batter, too. You can find my brownie recipe at my I also LOOOVEEE Asics running shoes - I swear by them!

At 7:14 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Nicole, thanks for the scoop. And you bake your own bread,

Patricia, good for you! Three pounds this week!!! You're on your way. And that is interesting about hte B-12. Thanks!

At 7:42 PM, Anonymous Julianne MacLean said...

Hi Teresa - you asked about my treadmill. I got it at Sears, and it's been working without a hitch for about 7 years. It has a digital timer, so you know exactly how many minutes you've been running, and I can speed it up or slow it down, which I do a lot. I like to run in time with the music if possible, so I increase or decrease the speed for that reason, and of course decrease it to walk for my little one minute breaks.

For shoes, definitely get proper running shoes for your feet. Go to a good store that specializes, and has a clerk who can look at your instep and fit you right.

Finally - I started running in a "Learn to Run" program with the Running Room, which was very helpful to get me over all the bumps and answer questions along the way. If there's anything like that in your area, it's also great for moral support from the other couch potatoes who are finding it hard, too :)

And thanks for plugging my videos, Norah! We have fun with those.

At 7:44 PM, Blogger Amanda Burke said...

I never thought of my metabolism as a campfire, but you're right. Eating healthy is not a problem for me, I actually enjoy eating healthy. It's the exercise thing. I just started school so I still have time to exercise at the gym, but I'm worried when the projects will start to pile up and I'm sacrificing gym time for school work (which is more of a priority for me). I guess I can always cut down gym time by 30 minutes or park farther from class to get some extra walking done.

Btw, have you ever taken pills or supplements to help you lose weight? I've always been skeptical about them until I started working for a company that makes them. One of the products we make is called Appuloss Diet and they are a herbal supplement that helps in weight loss and appetite control. These supplements contain white tea, green tea, kuding tea, as well as other ingredients that help in at oxidation, stimulates thermogenesis, and influences body weight and composition.

I hope you don't mind that I told you about Appuloss Diet. If you have any questions, feel free to email me.

If you want more info on these supplements, you can check them out here:

Have a great day!

Amanda Burke
Stacker 2 Ambassador

At 10:18 PM, Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

Great post, Julianne, and some needed inspiration for this couch potato! I know I need to exercise, but I never seem to be able to find the time. I know I need to make it a priority. My job is so stressful I really need something to help me unwind!

Now the snack / meal program I think I could follow. I am going to try and purge my house of the dreaded junk food and bring in some healthy snacks. I have nine rescued dogs and if I took each one out for a walk three times a week I would get in a lot of walking!!

By the way, Julianne, I LOVE your books!! Love 'em! And the videos are gorgeous! Okay, off to look at my schedule and figure out which dog can take me for a drag in the AM!

At 11:53 PM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Hi, Julianne! It is so nice to have you here. I'm a Curves gal but I've slacked off lately.
Word of caution. Never stray from whatever exercise program you use, because it is so hard to get back in the routine.


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