Deb Sarah needs help…

Okay, you guys came through for me once before: Remember when I put out the call for help in stopping my ugly habit of biting my nails? The responses were terrific – and gross (I still shudder at the “buttworm” comment) – and now, three months out, I can proudly say I no longer hide my hands. My nails won’t ever threaten the talons of, say, Barbra Streisand, but they’re no longer pathetic bitten nubs.

So, onto my next problem (go ahead, start billing me by the hour if you must). I’m not the slightest bit disciplined when it comes to exercise. It’s funny, because when I hear people say they don’t have enough time to write a book, I’m always surprised. If it comes to taking a shower or writing, I’ll pick writing every time. I choose writing over TV, shopping, cooking, and cleaning (okay, so those last two aren’t exactly sacrifices).

But exercise…sigh. I used to work out to try to look good in a bikini. But these days, my priorities are shifting. I want to exercise to feel good. I want to play soccer with my kids – and eventually their kids – without feeling winded after ten minutes. I want that wonderful, relaxed yet energized glow you can only earn after a good workout. And fine, I want to be able to eat chocolate and shimmy back into my skinny jeans!

Here’s where you come in: Can you help me find the discipline necessary to exercise regularly? I don’t have any equipment or the space for anything other than a few hand weights, but I belong to a gym. (Note: I said “belong,” not “regularly visit.”) Β I can’t sneak out early in the morning because I need to get the kids ready for school. And I can’t do anything that’s going to take a lot of time, because I only have a sitter for a limited number of hours every week and I need to work while she’s here. See, I’m already making excuses!

Leave a suggestion below, and I’ll pick the one I think will work for me – and I’ll pre-order a copy of Jennifer Weiner‘s upcoming book, Fly Away Home, to be sent to the winner.


Yours in Chocolate,


32 Replies to “Deb Sarah needs help…”

  1. Sarah, I’m with you–I find it really hard to stick with an exercise routine. The only one I’ve been able to stick to with any regularity is Jennifer Kries’ DVD “Precision Pilates,” mostly because the sessions are only twenty minutes. Even so, I definitely feel better after I’ve done one. My favorite is the Upper Body sculpting, which does require you to buy small hand weights. But it’s kind of fun and not too strenuous, and while she’s working out your arms and shoulders, she also has you squeezing your glutes the entire time. Always helpful. Good luck!

  2. Sarah,
    I know exactly how you feel. Start with 30 mins a day. Put it in your schedule just like any other appt. Start with a walk–even if it is inside. Just get up and move. Before you know it, you will be addicted. Make small changes in your diet each day. You will feel so much better.
    Good luck!!

  3. I broke down and hired a trainer, and it was the best gift I ever gave myself. I used to put so much more time into exercising without seeing as much of a result. My trainer taught me what I should be doing and for how long and when I’m done, I’m done. I don’t feel like I should be working out more, because I’ve worked out effectively. I went twice a week for awhile, and did cardio on my off days. Now I just check in once every few weeks so he can check my form and so I have someone to answer to. But that jumpstart was amazing and I wish I’d done it a long time ago. I would have saved so much money on DVDs and exercise equipment that doesn’t work.

  4. Hey Sarah,
    I bought Jillian Michaels 20 minute DVD that says lose 20 lbs in 4 weeks!
    It’s so good…..I’ve lost 30 in 2 months and it costs 8.99 at Sam’s!
    All you have to have is small handweights.
    A little funny tidbit….every time I’m going to eat something bad, I have my son sing me a song my dad sang all the time when we were kids.
    Here goes;
    well….it must be jelly
    cause…jam don’t shake that way!
    That’s how I resist temptation and work out more!
    Hope you have a lovely day and good luck!
    Thanks so much for your wonderful writing’

  5. Accountability is key. I rejoined a gym in March and I am finally losing the weight. My steps…1. I started eating healthier. Yes, I fall off the wagon, but I only let it affect that moment. It is no longer an excuse to keep falling. This silly thing works for me too. When I want to eat something horrible I do one of two things. I either say is this donut more important than my kids (always a no) or I say Alison, you have been a single parent, put yourself through college, etc are you going to let a cookie kick your ass? NO! 2. I joined a group that holds me accountable. If I don’t show up on time – pushups. If I don’t show up at all – no weight loss and I am paying to sleep at home. I don’t have the finances to continue with a paid group so several of us are going to meet 3 mornings a week after the group ends so we can continue with accountability.
    A big change for me this time is allowing for failure at times and not trying to be at the gym every free moment. I didn’t put those 2 things in the equation before and if I only made it twice in a week or at at McDonald’s I just gave up. Not this time!
    I have lost almost 20 lbs, I play with the kids more, I occasionally allow myself a treat, and I feel better than I have in years!

  6. Since October, I have made the decision to exercise every day for at least 30 minutes. It is amazing what it has done!! My cholesterol has dropped a huge amount, I’ve lost weight..I FEEL better! For the most part, we have no excuse not to exercise for 30 minutes each day..there are fun ways to meet this goal (Wii Fit, outdoor activities) and your reward will be how you feel! πŸ™‚ SO worth it!!
    If you don’t have a Wii…it is worth the investment. It keeps track of your progress, weight changes..everything! Makes it a challenge, but fun.
    Sometimes I will exercise every day just so that silly machine won’t fuss at me!! Good luck!

  7. In February I got ‘serious’ about exercise…I, too, had been through phases where I was a “member” of a gym, but didn’t visit. I can also relate to the ‘excuses’…I cannot workout early in the A.M. because that time is already spent getting me and the kids ready and out the door for work/school. I only have limited childcare as well.

    Here are some suggestions (things that have made life/exercise easier for me):

    1. Couch to 5k program (you can find them on Facebook:!/C25Kplan?ref=ts and online: This program has made a HUGE difference in my consistency, weight loss, and motivation. Very supportive group on FB to go to for motivation, support, advice, etc.

    2. Get a partner – even if it is online or remote in another way. I hooked up with 2 girls from work and while we don’t workout/run together we keep each other updated via phone, email, FB and verbal conversations. Without them I wouldn’t have stuck with it. They’ve talked me out of the low points and celebrated the high points with me!

    3. Mix it up…I get bored easy and don’t like doing the same thing over and over. I’ll pick up different DVDs from the library so that I can not only workout at home (helps with the childcare thing), but I can also do lots of different stuff!

    4. Set a goal (non-weight related) and shoot for it – our little group signed up for a 5k that we ran 3 months after we started exercising. It gave us something to shoot for, look forward to, and complete.

    5. HAVE FUN!!!! If it becomes another ‘chore’ or item on the to-do list, you’ll find it much easier to skip or quit all together!!

  8. Screw it. Eat lots of chocolate, pasta, ice cream, cookies, cakes, pies and pastries.

    You’ll feel better and have more time to write. Your husband and the boys will love having all that delicious food around. You’ll be the most popular mom in DC.



  9. Okay, seriously, this is how you do it: you buy a great audiobook and you only get to listen when you exercise. I love to walk but man on those days where I just don’t feel like I have the time, if there’s a story I’m dying to get back to, I grab my iPod and go. Right now I’m listening to Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah and it’s so good I’ve exercised everyday for the last seven days πŸ™‚

  10. Sarah,

    The most sensible thing is for you to find something to do that you can stick with, and the most important thing is to be consistent. Walking is one of the best ways to start an exercise program. 20 minutes twice a day right after you eat helps boost your metabolism. If you don’t have time just to take a walk outside, work it into your daily activities…..when you do laundry, instead of taking all the towels to put into the bathroom at the same time, walk one at a time to put them up….yep, takes longer to get that laundry put up, but think of how many steps you will have taken (and if you have stairs, it’s even more of a challenge)! Get a pedometer and wear it daily, and vow to walk 10 more steps each day – it adds up, and you feel better without having to make a major life change! Also, play soccer, jump rope, jump on the trampoline, etc with your kids – it’s fun for all of you, and you get your exercise to boot. It doesn’t have to be boring and a drag!

    As for motivation? You said it used to be that you wanted to look good in the bikini and your priorities have changed, and that’s a major thing! You KNOW your priorities are different. You want to play with your kids and grandkids. You want to be around for a long time. Starting things now to help ensure that is great! Good luck – I’m rooting for you!

  11. I feel ya! I hate exercising and have been trying a lot of things to get me to do it. I ended up quiting my gym because I never went there and in this economy, you have to save wherever you can.

    Check your cable provider. I found out a few months ago my cable provider(TWC) had exercise channels on demand. The channels offer 10-25min exercise routines that you can do whenever you have time to do them at the comfort of you own home. They also have a variety of routines, with either cardio, yoga, using core ball, etc. so you never get bored. Also, in my case, my cable box remembers what I’ve already watched so that next time I turn to that channel, I know which ones I’ve already completed.

    Hopes this helps!

  12. Similarly, I would choose anything over going to the gym as well… Heck, my gym has babysitting and I still don’t go — choosing staying home with my unruly children over exercising.

    The only time I ever like the gym, is when I have something to look forward too. I love to read on the stairmaster and/or bike, so when I have a good book in tow, I love to go to the gym. Get yourself a subscription to people or another weekly magazine(s) and bring it with you.
    Jen Weiner’s new book would be the best thing to get my butt to the gym…

  13. I was never into exercise at all. In school, I was always the slowest kid in PE. I hated running. Now, I am a dedicated runner. My secret – Jeff Galloway. He has developed this run/walk program that has made me, the slowest kid in school, into a marathoner! Now, I know you may not want to spend that much time training, but even getting out for a few minutes a day would work. With his program, you can run injury free. Check out his website at You may even find a running program in your area. I am a member of my local program. It is not only a great way to exercise, but I have made some amazing friends. I actually enjoy getting up in the mornings for a run. It is a great way to clear your head and prepare for the day ahead. I hope you find the program that is right for you. Best of luck!

  14. Hello

    Please don’t associate words like accountability, responsiblity, excuses or any other like term with this process. That only makes us feel bad right? If you wrote a story that turned out not so great would you never write again? Of course not!

    It does not matter to me if I change what DVDs I’m doing every six week. If I fall off the wagon for a couple of months I just start back up again. With this attitude, for the first time in six years I started the New Year 20 pounds lighter than the year before. The other five years I would start it heavier regardless of what weight loss success I might have had during the year.

    Leslie Sansome has some great in-home walking Dvds. They are highly effective but don’t require equipment beyond small hand weights and that is only if you want to, Leslie’s workouts work regardless. Also, you don’t have to spend a ton of time learning tricky dance moves there are four basic moves that are incorporated into all her workouts so anytime you re-start yourself you are right back on track – no worries. The space you need is limited and without tons of jumping and weights you won’t worry about toddlers or pets underfoot.

    You mention healthy fun another indoor option would be that Wii workout. Bowling, tennis, yoga all sorts of things for the whole family from what I hear.

    Good luck!

  15. I think you should try this:

    1. Sit down (by yourself or with a personal trainer) and come up with a weekly routine. The routine has to: a) help you achieve the goal you stated in your post, and b) be realistic but flexible. You’re obviously no exercise novice. My guess is your routine will be a mix of cardio and weights with a little stretching thrown in. Maybe you go three times a week for an hour or so.

    2. Get a workout buddy. I know I’m not the first to suggest this, but I want to add a modification: a workout buddy is someone you go to the gym with, but once you’re there you don’t have to spend any time together. For example, my wife is my workout buddy. We do not work out together, but we go together. It’s about that extra motivation someone else can provide.

    3. Write down everything you do. How many reps of each exercise at what weight. How many minutes/calories of cardio. This helps make your progress tangible in a way that should complement your moving towards your goal of feeling better.

    I hope this helps.

  16. First of all, you’re not allowed to use your kids’ schedule as an excuse. πŸ™‚ I have 2 little kids who still need help getting ready for school. I’m up way ahead of them to get in some exercise time. (I have a home treadmill, but still…) Get up extra early and take a walk around the neighborhood. It’s beautiful weather out in the DC area. πŸ™‚ Especially in the morning, before it gets too hot!
    Other option….have your husband watch the kids at night and work out then. My friend does that and works out around 8:00 or so. Most gyms are open pretty late. If you’re able to get away to the gym, you could even read on the exercise bike (or the treadmill, if you’re crazy like me)!
    Even just thinking to yourself while exercising is a great way to plan your writing schedule or to think about what comes next in your story, or even brainstorm for other stories. So really, you’re multi-tasking!
    The invitation is open if you ever want to come by on a Sunday morning or a Saturday afternoon/evening (I can’t drive on Saturdays, but I could still go out walking around the neighborhood) and have a walking buddy. πŸ™‚
    If you’re motivated enough to write an amazing novel, you can be motivated enough to treat your body well! πŸ™‚ Then you can enjoy all that chocolate guilt-free!

  17. Zumba is the way to go. I know that exercising is a pain in the a**, but with zumba it’s fun. It is more like dancing with a group of girl friends then it is exercise.

    You can get a group together and use a tape or take a class. It’s really easy and fun!

  18. No solutions…but if you figure it out…let me know..still got about 15 pounds of baby weight left and William is one. Can’t keep saying “I just had a baby” when he’s walking around! lol

  19. Here’s an incentive to go to the gym. Imagine opening the paper to see a review of your new book and you see a small blurb about your story and then a comment like “Have you seen her ass? It’s HUGE!” We don’t want that to happen, do we?

  20. Treadmill desk.
    You knew I was going to say that, didn’t you?

    When I lived in the city, and also here on the island, I got a P.O. Box about a mile from my house for all my business mail. Even in the day of email, I can’t stand to think there might be mail in my box, so I walk to it every day to check it.

    I didn’t read all the comments because there are so many! However, one thing you seemed to worry about, that the ones I scanned didn’t seem to fix, was giving up writing time, but having trouble getting exercise in when your kids are around. Here’s the deal, I think you should get them involved. Play soccer with them NOW, not when you’re in great shape. It will get you in great shape. Get them to go on walks and bike rides with you. Leave the car at home for errands if you can, and take family walks after supper. While all that upper body strength training is super important, the single best thing you can do (according to the experts) is walk. It will be more fun if the whole family’s involved.

  21. Sarah –

    Some suggestions (any one of these could work, no??) :

    [1] What you need is a no nonsense work out buddy to pull you away from your house
    [2] Include a x-minute walk into your work schedule = before you start writing (that has to be part of your schedule, otherwise, it won’t happen)
    [3] Get a good jogging stroller (Wiggle Room has some nice deals) and use it and the trail after drop off.

    or go to Paris or Italy where one is supposed to eat, drink and walk off everything. Will let you know if this one works.

  22. I’ve invested in a Wii as well as the Wii Fit Plus with balance board because I’m not able to join a gym, and this was a one time investment for me. I find that it keeps me accountable- I DO NOT want my talking balance board to tell me that I am obese ONE MORE TIME!!!! The Wii tracks my progress, or lack of, so I can see when I need to lay off the ice cream, even though it looks so darn good!!! Although I find that the included exercises for cardio aren’t very challenging, I do enjoy the yoga sections, and I like that I can track any exercise that I’ve been doing, not just the Wii Fit exercises. It’s what I’ve been looking for- someone (something) to keep me accountable, and to keep my butt in gear!

    Plus, if you gain a lot of weight or don’t visit for a couple of days, you have your Wii to answer to πŸ™‚

  23. Jumping in late here, but I’m a big fan of tricking myself into exercise. I may be too lazy to spend a couple hours pumping iron, but I can convince myself that a five-mile hike with the dogs is just a casual stroll — NOT exercise, and therefore not something to be dreaded. A bike ride is just a way to get groceries without wasting gas in the car, and an hour spent in yoga class is just a chance to lie down on the floor and stretch a little.

    Dunno, maybe you aren’t so easily fooled, but it works for me! πŸ™‚


  24. You guys are amazing! I’ve been reading and re-reading all of these responses, and am so impressed with your success stories (and I’ve been cracking up, as usual, at Cindy & Greg). It was so hard to pick a winner – but Melissa’s entry spoke to me because I realized thinking about my book while exercising will trick me into thinking I’m working and I can’t make the excuse that I’m too busy with my book to exercise. Wow, did that even make sense? Anyway, I love the idea of early-morning walks and using that time to plot out my next scene. Everyone else – thank you, thank you and I promise to weigh (hee) back in and tell you how it’s going!

  25. First of all, it was so wonderful to meet you! After reading this, I’m bummed that I didn’t think to look at your nails! LOL

    My suggestion is to get one of those jogging strollers and strap the baby in and go for a walk/run. That way, you’re not using your valuable babysitter time!

    Don’t enter me in the giveaway – I already have the book. πŸ™‚

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