Confessions of a non-gym rat

“Fitness” has always been a four-letter word for me. My past “workout” routines have involved making the circuitous route from my favorite easy chair to the fridge for more spinach and artichoke dip, or the short walk from my desk to the restroom. Sometimes, if I’m feeling super adventurous, I park a little farther away from the office door . . . you know, for the extra walk. Or I get a salad instead of a mayo-drenched sandwich.

But these were all very minor, sporadic changes. Only twice have I made a concentrated effort to get in better shape, lose some weight and generally feel better about myself — and once was by accident. In college, my campus was enormous; the miles it took me to walk from my car in a distant parking lot to class were what allowed me to eat Chick-fil-A for lunch daily and still lose weight. My sophomore year at the University of Maryland, I dropped ten pounds without blinking.

And then I got spoiled.

In the post-college world, of course, I’m not walking uphill in the cold or jogging to a class across campus in five minutes or less. I’m getting up and dressed, then going to work and plunking down at my desk chair — where my behind sits for four hours or more at a stretch. I’m not moving. I’m not active. And I think the way I feel reflects that.

My dad warned me this would happen. In your first “real world” office job, it seems, you’re completely stationary — and that’s not exactly conducive to keeping your weight down. I debated doing something about it years ago but never felt motivated . . . until I broke up with a boyfriend. And needed a way to channel my aggression/boredom.

So exercise it was.

I bought a series of walking DVDs by Leslie Sansone, which I’ve written about before. They’re awesome. And for a year or so, I was very religious about doing a two- or three-mile walk nightly. But, you know . . . eventually, I became bored. Complacent. And after getting back from a trip to California, I completely lost my momentum. Then stopped.

For the past few months, Spencer and I have been sporadically going to the gym together. It’s free for him at work, so no commitment, and just $5 for me each visit. This worked off and on each week but, coupled with a 45-minute drive after work to his building, it just wasn’t practical. For us to achieve some sort of real fitness routine, it has to be convenient and sustainable. We have to be able to go several times per week.

Enter the gym.

Yes, friends, I’m now a keychain-card-carrying member of a local gym. I go in and use a locker room. I own workout pants and can use an elliptical. On Sunday, Spencer and I had our inaugural one-hour session and left feeling great. Sweaty, tired and decidedly not glamorous . . . but great.

I’m not going to put pressure on myself to have XYZ complete by a certain time . . . but I would really like to lose some weight before ordering my bridesmaid dress for Erin’s wedding in September. I just want to feel good about me. And with Spencer just as committed to regular gym time, I think we’ll really make a go of this. Our plan is to go every other day after work, and on either a Saturday or Sunday. I’ll have my iPod in hand.

And yes, sometimes I do wear my houndstooth coat to the gym. I’m still me — gym rat or no.

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Office snacking: The messy aftermath. Today at 3 p.m.

popcorn_bowlIn my daily travels around the Internet and various non-profit websites looking for cool articles for the sections I edit at the paper, I’ve come across quite a few whacky stories (see tips on how to tell if you’re husband is cheating on you at Christmas — always a delight!). Most of them aren’t quite that graphic, but many can get a little strange! Often, though, I actually learn a little something myself.

Today’s lesson? Snacking right at work. Those of us spending our days elbow to elbow with coworkers know exactly what it’s like to see that giant box of chocolate chip cookies sitting, often unattended, mere inches away from your fingers. My friend Sandy enjoys popping a nice bag of popcorn around 3 p.m. — and is always generous enough to share. But the constant offerings of candy, coffee and — gasp! — Girl Scout cookies are almost too much to take! It’s as much about boredom and stress as anything, I know, but I have to really watch myself. I mean, I’m pretending to try and lose weight here. I’ve cut out the soda, God help me. And I’m going to start walking on the treadmill. Every other day. For real this time.

So I need to get serious about the no-snacks at work business. I’m generally pretty good about it, but I do eat lunch out almost every day — and often bring a cookie or something back to my desk after my outing. I keep granola bars and the like in a drawer, too (come on, you know you have a snack drawer!), but I’m going to be limiting that as well. And drinking only water. As much as I can stand, anyway . . .

And, according to the awesome article I will be publishing in my health section soon, I will also be:

• Bringing snacks from home. This limits the amount of mooching that will be required on my part to get a little afternoon pick-me-up, plus cut down on the money I’ll spend on snacky treats in the afternoon.

• Relying on flavorful foods. Bland snacks like veggies rarely satisfy that sweet tooth hankering I’m always battling. I’ll try low-fat crackers, especially with peanut butter . . . mmm. Trying to force myself to eat foods I’m not crazy about, like carrots, won’t help me or my psychological craving for junk food. If I’m going to snack, I need to pick something with some taste and nutritional benefits.

• Talking my coworkers into cooperating. My office neighbors (hi, Brandon and Sandy!) are great and rarely contribute to my bad habits, but we have to be a united front. It’s a lot easier to fight off temptation when temptation isn’t a nice, giant and free candy bar sitting on the edge of your desk!