Readers request: Finding fitness

How to find an exercise/fitness routine that’s right for you?

Trial & error is the long (and unfortunately time consuming) answer.

I know lots of lifestyle factors and personal preferences come into play here, but more than anything else variety is definitely key in keeping yourself stimulated mentally and physically.  At least that’s my personal work-out philosophy.  Bodies plateau when a fitness routine becomes…well…routine.  So it’s critical to keep your muscles guessing.

Another thing to bear in mind, is that our bodies change over the course of our lives.  So what interested and worked for me in my teenage years may not do it for me now.  However, what’s not to say years down the road I pick that hobby back up again?  In other words, what you enjoy at one point in your life may be different later on, so don’t give up on an activity.  Just keep it on the sidelines until you’re ready for a change.

Things to consider:

  • Are you motivated by group exercise?  Team sports?  Or do you prefer to sweat solo?
  • How much time in the day/week do you have to devote to exercise?
  • When is your energy level at it’s peak?  AM?  PM?
  • How much are you willing to spend on workout equipment, gym memberships, etc?

Workout classes

Most gyms have a wide variety of classes for people who like group exercise.  Sure, gym memberships cost $$ but if you’re the kind of person who wants options this is a worthwhile investment.  And once you’ve joined, you don’t have to spend money on much else.  The equipment is all there for you, all you need to do it show up.

Pick a gym after a trial period…try classes, machines, personal trainers, anything and everything you’d like to take advantage of once you’ve joined.  Test various hours and make sure you have access to what you want, when you want…and then do it!

Make your membership fees worth it.  Body pump, spinning, zumba…whatever.  You can go to as many classes as you want, which means you have unlimited choices in finding a good fit.

I’m a total klutz so I steer clear of group classes, especially ones that involve choreography.  But if that’s your scene, I’ve heard it’s a lot of fun and a great workout.  The only part of not having a gym membership that I miss is spinning classes.  Fortunately, the West Coast weather allows for the real deal…which brings me to the next form of exercise.


Before I moved to NYC I did a ton of biking…to school, to work…the streets of West LA are bike-friendly if you know which ones to take.

After moving to the East Coast I was without my wheels, which was fine since the weather was rarely between 40 and 90 degree anyway.  Snow and bike don’t mix.  Neither do swampy summer days with humidity that gives you an afro.  But none of that mattered since it wasn’t deemed safe enough of a commute by Kyle.  Or my mom.  I’m getting off subject.  My point was, moving back to CA meant I got to ride my bike again.

This is one of my very favorite forms of exercise.  I ride 1-2 times a week (more if I’m commuting to work) and it always leaves me on cloud nine.

Group exercise with bikes is more difficult as it relies on your friends to own bikes too.  But if they do, it’s a great weekend activity if you’re friends are into it – combining fun hang-out time with fitness.  Two birds!

Obviously price is an issue in cycling because bikes aren’t free…and you need a helmet, a lock, and (probably) a velcro-pack to carry small items in.  So yeah, this is definitely a more pricey form of exercise.  Upkeep on a bike can cost quite a bit too.

There’s also the matter of storage space.  If you’re in a house..lucky you.  If you’re in an apartment building, make sure any public bike rack is safe and secure.  If not, you’re looking at a new balcony accessory.

Another factor in determining if biking is a good fit for you is where you live.  Like I mentioned above, some cities and some seasons aren’t ideal (even winters in LA aren’t great for biking).  But if you already have the gear and the weather on your side, pedaling into the sunset is one of the most enjoyable ways to exercise.


Ah running…my life long love.  I’ll never truly be anything but a runner because it’s something I’ve always done.  When I try to think back I can’t recall a time I didn’t run.  Then I got into racing and those became a hobby too.  My phases of competitively training and running fluctuate depending on my mood.  Currently I’m in a relaxed and leisurely relationship with the sport, and I’m ok with it.

In any event, don’t think that a lack of experience/background means you’re not cut out to be a runner.  The best thing about it is anyone CAN do it.  Speed doesn’t matter because it’s an individual activity.  The only person you’re up “against” is yourself.  Go fast, go slow, go far, go around the block.  It’s impossible to fail.

Also, it’s the cheapest activity you’ll ever try.  All you need are shoes.  And you can do it anywhere.  If you’re a solo type of person, here’s your me-time.
Getting started with running is as simple as jogging around the neighborhood.  It sounds stupid, but seriously, go as far as you can go…and then try and go further the next day.  If you tire easily, don’t be discouraged.  Endurance takes time and running will always be waiting for you.

If you need help staying motivated, create a reward system for yourself, set goals, and recruit others to hold you accountable.


  • Buy yourself a new sports bra if you run x times this week/month
  • Make gym dates with a trainer
  • Make a chart and cross off mileage as you do it
  • Log times/distances/activities on the computer or journal to see your progress
  • Arrange to meet a friend at group classes
  • Schedule classes into your day ahead of time
  • Enter races in the future
  • Meet friends for lunch at a place you can bike to
  • Set out your shoes/clothes/gear in the PM so it’s ready when you wake up


I’m less of an expert in this category so I’d like to invite all you yogis to leave comments chiming in with your knowledge on ways to get into yoga and stay inspired.

I’m still in the beginner stages of practicing yoga, but what I have come to realize is how much it spills over into all aspects of your life.  Having good posture and holding your core together are just the physical effects (and they’re no small feat either).  The calm and inner peace that I feel each time I leave the studio are some of the other invaluable benefits.

The kinds of yoga vary greatly, from Ashtanga and Power yoga, to Iyengar, to Vinyasa, to Bikram, and everything in between.  I still have so many to try myself!

To the other beginners out there, let me reassure you…people have always been so inviting and supportive.  Nobody is perfect.  Everyone has some part of their practice to work on – great or small – so you’re never alone in your quest to get better.  Similar to running, you just focus on you.  Nobody else cares because each person is too busy focusing on him/herself.

Like strength training, yoga gets you strong.  Your muscles may not feel worked in the moment, but you’ll notice them eventually.  Hell, it may even add peace to your life due to the introspective nature of it.  Physical, mental, and spiritual exercise all in one.  Now that’s a good workout!

Strength Training

I’ve posted about my love for Jillian Michaels before.  I never believed in anything but cardio before I discovered her DVDs.  Now I think twice before knocking a 20 minute workout.  You can see my thoughts on those workouts here.

As far as strength training goes, I pretty much stick to Jillian’s videos (1-2 times a week).  Occasionally I’ll do Jackie Warner’s arm and abs routines if they are available on demand.  But I still haven’t found anything else that comes close in comparison to Jillian’s workouts.  I sweat and feel sore the next day, which makes me know it’s working.

As for equipment, my home set-up is as follows: 5 lb weights x2, 10 lb weights x2 (mostly for Kyle), yoga mat, balance board, resistance bands x2, large inflatable ball, wii (kidding).

I don’t always use everything listed, but I only mentioned what I personally like.


Don’t forget about checking your area for community sports leagues…like soccer, kickball, and/or dodgeball.  I know Santa Monica even has lawn bowling!  Are there places to go on hikes in your area?  Is there a swimming pool nearby?  Go for it!  Or for the cooler climate crowds, maybe look into ice skating or skiiing?

You won’t know if an exercise is a good fit for you until you try it.  And be sure to give each activity a few tries before you dismiss it.  Like a toddler trying new foods, sometimes it doesn’t connect until the 10th time!

Have an exercise to add?  Leave a comment below sharing how to get started and stay motivated.

I tried Krav Maga and if I had the $ to go regularly I would do it in a heartbeat.  It’s one of the most grueling and intense exercise sessions I’ve ever had to date.

Hope this helps!

52 - Elise LMYA Soccer Fall 1989

[The start of a lifetime of sports and fitness]

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Comments (21)

  1. Pure2raw Twins

    Great post on sharing all the different kinds of workouts. There are so many out there and finding that one that works for you is best feeling. It took us awhile to find a form of exercise that we truly LOVE and get excited about doing. HIIT and yoga have been it for us lately and we are loving mentally and physically which helps keeps going!

  2. Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga

    Here’s a novel one…walking!

    I used to pooh-pooh walking, thinking running was better. And some days, yes, it is. But other days, or other months/years, walking is the best. Try being pregnant and running, or a new mom and everything is very sore and bouncy…yeah, don’t run. Walk 🙂 Push a jogging stroller that weighs 30 lbs with a 10 to 40 lb kid in it, up hills, against the wind, and that’s all the workout I need 🙂

    Pilates, moves on my exercise ball, of course yoga..I mix it up. Have posted before on my own fitness evolution over the past 10-15 yrs and all Ive tried.

    I always come back to running/walking + yoga.

  3. Laura Agar Wilson (@keephealthstyle)

    I’ve just done a post on my blog about the difficulty of fitting in lots of different exercise approaches and techniques! I tend to go for a mix of cardio intervals, steady state cardio, yoga and body pump. My running gets lumped in with the cardio! So glad you mentioned about the importance of changing it up often as I’ve just realised I’ve been doing the same workouts for way too long! I think July will be a month for a change 🙂

  4. Andrea @ Onion in My Hair

    Great post!

    I loved the portion about running – you really make it accessible, especially with the very simple advice to just go a little farther each day.

    PS – Wii Tennis is a serious core workout! 🙂

  5. Yolie @ Practising Wellness

    Wow, this was such a great post on finding your exercise groove 🙂 It was so well written and thorough, thank you! I absolutely loved it…and you’ve inspired me to bring out the bike again now summer is here!
    I completely agree with you about the effects of yoga spilling out into your daily life…in fact I just wrote about this today! That and the fact that is SUCH a fantastic physical workout as well 🙂
    For yoga beginners I would definitely recommend attending a class, or even getting some private sessions, with an instructor they like and vibe with – this way you can learn alignment techniques and practice safely.
    It’s important to remember that yoga is a bit like wine – there are so many different “flavours” (ie: types and teachers) out there that you may have to “shop around” and “taste test” before you find a style and teacher that you enjoy and love.
    But once you do, it is well worth it <3
    Other than yoga and gym-ing it up, I totally LOVE hiking – so that would be my miscellaneous choice 🙂 xyx

  6. Elena @MTJW

    Great post! It’s never too late to try something new! A few years ago I would go to the gym occasionally but I never really saw results so I wasn’t motivated. It wasn’t until after University when I joined the Y with a friend that I really got into fitness. The fitness classes were my weapon of choice. When my friend and I started we were totally uncoordinated and could barely do a few reps of each excersize – after a few weeks though we were experts!

    My advice: make an excersize pact with a friend to go to the gym at least 4x a week and don’t give up on the classes if you feel like an idiot at first! Choose a gym that offers a class for a different set of muscles each day (don’t try to do a total body workout every day!). It might take about 7 weeks to see results so stick with it! It’s worth it!

  7. holly

    just caught up on all your posts, and all i want to do now is (a) travel, (b) jump on a plane and eat at either blue plate or the misfit with you in CA, (c) eat coconut peanut butter even though i don’t like it and (d) be a lot more prepared about bringing food to work.

    love you lady – miss you, hope you are well and hope to catch up with you soon! xx


  8. Elise (Post author)

    true! walking is a very underrated, but wonderful way to exercise. in europe we took to the streets and were exhausted by the end of each and every day.

  9. Elise (Post author)

    especially when you add in all my victory dances 😉

  10. Ethel

    discovered over the weekend that there are volleyball courts on the beach close by. let’s do it!

  11. megan @ the oatmeal diaries

    Awesome post! I agree that switching it up is key. Right now I’m lovinggg yoga and the occasional jog outdoors… I’m such a morning person so it’s really nice to run outside when it’s cool and hardly anyone is around! Love it 🙂

  12. Adam Deane

    BTW, I love your new header! And I loved this post… It is always cool to hear how another busy individual like yourself views fitness and health 🙂 You seem like you have your head on pretty darn straight… Thanks dude!

  13. lindsey

    these are all so great 🙂 and im loving the vegan recipes. all of them 🙂 love your blog! keep it up

  14. hippierunner

    Cutest pic ever!!

    A great way to excercise is to play with kids. Borrow some kids and play- they never run out of energy! My 8yr old brother currently has me breaking a sweat every evening by playing badminton with him. We don’t play by rules so the game lasts foreeeeeeever!

  15. jan @ body wrench

    I really love running in the morning. This is my typical activity.

  16. Elise (Post author)

    hahaha…oh no prob, ill just go “borrow” some kids 😉

  17. Serena

    I love yoga. You put it so well – it really does ‘spill’ into all aspects of your life. Or maybe ‘trickle’ would be the right word, because it’s sneaky…and then it’s just everywhere, and everything really is more peaceful.

  18. Jeff (dad)

    Don’t forget swimming!

  19. Trish

    Don’t knock the wii! LOL For those of us who aren’t in your kind of shape (yet 🙂 ) the wii can be a gateway to finally moving. I’ve lost 45 pounds since February and half of that was just doing wii fit as my only exercise. At first I could only do 10 minutes and I worked my way up till 3 hours wasn’t enough of a challenge so I moved on to aerobics videos.

    Great post!

  20. Elise (Post author)

    hey trish! i want to send a HUGE congrats your way! keep up the good work.

  21. shea

    tracy anderson workouts are amazing. she targets the smaller accessory muscles for that tiny pulled in dancers body. you change work outs every 10 days. and the cardio is awesome. 🙂

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