Written by: Lauren Frederick
A glimpse of fall in the inaka.
Hiya, folks! The winter months back home tend to yield a few extra pounds. Living abroad only increases this chance, as the extra walking and biking gives you a false sense of security. “I walk to work every day. This extra bowl of rice or extra scoop of ice cream is worth it!” Sound familiar? Of course it does! I know I`m guilty of cheating!
Well, thankfully, there are some ways to combat this phenomenon of tighter pants and bloated bellies! I`m more than happy to pass my tips along.
First, I`m sure some of you are wondering who this newbie is trying to teach us about fitness. Good question! About a year ago, after moderate exercise for a few years, I had a shocking revelation on the doctor’s scale. There was no way I weighed that much! After calming down, I realized that I needed to be more dedicated if I wanted to make a healthy change in my life. After cutting out tons of unhealthy food (mainly alcohol) and working out 5-6 times a week for at least an hour, I am happily 30 pounds lighter, more toned, alert, and overall a better person. I still have a ways to go, and I am far from being an expert on fitness, but if anything that I`ve learned this past year is useful to just one other person, I will be very happy!
So, here are some ways you can stay fit during the kotatsu-worshipping months.
- Keep a food diary: Even if you don`t have a caloric goal, recording everything you put in your body will be a good way of monitoring where your calories (and weight) are coming from. Those office cookies add up! If you`re not a pen-and-paper kind of person (is anyone nowadays?) there are tons of fitness apps for calorie counting. My personal favorite is MyFitnessPal, a free app available for Android and Apple. You can even plug in weight loss goals (if you have them), your lifestyle, and the amount of exercise you want to do each week, and the app will give you nutritional and fitness goals for each day!
- Eat substantial food: This one is probably a no-brainer, but it took me ages to figure out that what I ate was way more important than the amount of food I consumed. Two bowls of cereal in the morning will leave me ravenous by 9:30 AM, whereas two eggs keep me full until lunch. Conbini onigiri only leads to sugar cravings, as opposed to a salad which keeps me awake and satisfied. Get to know what your body needs. If you are active, eat a little something before and after working out. If you tend to get really hungry between meals, pack healthy snacks to have during your off periods.
- Work out: You should sweat at least once a day (besides dying in your office with no A/C). There is an exercise routine that will work for you! Here are several ideas to try:
If you live near a gym, go try some of the machines out! Strength training is a great way to burn fat and boost your metabolism. Bro, do you even lift? Not yet? Try the weight machines for starters to work out your legs, chest, back, tri’s, bi’s, abs, and shoulders. The diagrams on the machines will show you the way and usually highlight which muscle group they work. Add as much weight as you can physically lift without hurting yourself and do 4 sets of 5-8 reps for each machine. You can rest in between sets and even alternate machines. It should take you about 45 minutes to get a great strength training workout in.
Low on time? HIIT (high intensity interval training) is a great way to burn fat in an insanely short amount of time. Here’s a quick HIIT exercise you can do on a treadmill:
2 minute brisk walk on a 3.5 incline
2 minute jog on a 1.5 incline
1 minute run on a 1.5 incline
2 minute brisk walk on a 3.5 incline
2 minute jog on a 3.5 incline
1 minute uphill sprint on a 3.5 incline
You can repeat up to 3 times for a really great workout. Just be sure to rest in between sets for at least 1 minute. Starting off with one is just as admirable!
You can also check out any group fitness classes the gym has to offer. Group fitness changed my life back home. There`s something about being in a group of high-energy people who all want to change for the better. It might also be a great opportunity to brush up on your Japanese!
Fall is a great time for outdoor workouts! Sometimes, running can get a bit boring (and your body will quickly adapt to it, possibly causing a plateau) so here`s a quick HIIT workout to try during these pleasant months:
1 minute jog, 30 second sprint.
(on a park bench) 20 single leg step ups
20 squat jumps
(park bench again) 20 tricep dips
Rest for 1 minute
1 minute jog, 30 second sprint
(on a railing) 20 incline pushups
30 plié squat jumps
(on a railing) 10 incline lever pull ups
Don`t have access to a gym and outdoor workouts aren’t your thing, especially when it’s freezing cold? No worries! I got you covered! Here`s a HIIT exercise to do at home!
10 lunge jumps
20 push ups
40 chair dips
50 mountain climbers
Beginners can stick with one, but move up to as many repetitions as you can until you reach 30-45 minutes, resting for a minute in between each set. (Bonus: this one warms you up so much that you don`t even need to turn the heater on!)
There are also tons of online fitness videos! Fancy some yoga or pilates? Jillian Michaels has most of her classes online. Want to do some MMA-inspired cardio? Check out Les Mills Body Combat. You can order the DVDs (or watch some sketchy YouTube videos of classes) and you burn 735 calories in 60 minutes on average! Also, check out Daily Burn for a variety of exercises to keep you entertained. (This one costs a little money, but it`s still cheaper than a gym membership.)
Now you have no excuse! Don`t let winter make you fat and lazy. Kick it in the butt and come out lean and mean for swimsuit season!