Whenever I read about anyone else's fitness journey, I'm always grateful for a bit of context. This book was my introduction to Tone it Up, and I can honestly say that it revolutionized how I approach my health and fitness. Still, that isn't very helpful unless you have an idea of why my approach needed revolutionizing in the first place! Which brings us back to October 2013, when I fave birth to my son. While it was an amazing, joyous, miraculous event, it was also the culmination of a series of extremely physically taxing events for me.
I had a lifelong yoga practice, having started at around age three on my Mom's 1970s yoga mat (it's two inches thick and made from brown faux leather - as it you would expect anything less for that era!) In high school and early college, I maintained my fitness through yoga, competitive cheer, and weight lifting. One of my earliest jobs was at the front counter of a local fitness center, where I was first acquainted with the dark side of the fitness industry: bodybuilders who would shoot up insulin in preparation for shows; shelves stocked with vitamins and supplements of questionable merit, and people who would drink protein shakes in place of real food. This experience, paired with my background in science and the time I spent focusing on FDA regulation of nutritional supplements in law school, makes me a solid skeptic of most health, fitness and nutrition programs.
In my twenties I adopted a plant based diet (vegetarian) and a relatively benign workout routine centered on long walks by the lake every weekend and an hour of yoga every night. Because of my devotion to a fairly strict yoga practice, I eschewed alcohol (no big loss, I never liked it anyway), cigarettes, and most other vices. Sugar/Carb sensitivity runs in my family, and I started to have symptoms of hypoglycemia in high school, so I also cut out soda and pop. The weight on my five foot tall frame generally hovered somewhere between 95 lb and 105 lb, inching up to about 110 lb to 115 lb as I matured and started working. The extra weight didn't bother me in the least and I still had a healthy BMI. It would take me a long time to realize that making it into my thirties without "body issues," "disordered eating," "food addiction," or even just the ever-present desire to "lose that last 10 pounds" was nothing short of a societal coup.
When I turned thirty, my health took a wildly unexpected turn. I was in a series of car accidents that left me without the ability to feel my lower legs and feet for more than six months. This was followed by three subsequent surgeries. Through this time, I worked with several excellent doctors to manage pain. Under their guidance, however, I went through no less than thirteen prescriptions for pain management, which resulted in a parade of terrifying side effects, allergic reactions and trips to the emergency room. After long term use of ibuprofen landed me in the hospital with internal bleeding, I was finished. I doubled down on accupuncture, heating pads, cold packs, physical therapy, yin yoga, visualization exercises, and healing meditations. By the time I became pregnant with my son at thirty-five, I had gained back the weight lost to this period of difficulty and had a robust yin yoga practice. I had even started to do aerial acrobatics with the Detroit Flyhouse after my doctor warned me away from "high impact" activities.
Still, despite being in relatively good shape, after nineteen hours of difficult labor and delivery, I was completely spent and felt like I had the hips of a nineteen year old German Shepherd. I didn't even think about working out for an entire year after my son was born. I just focused on breast feeding, and eating healthy. A year later, I was still holding 142 lb on my tiny frame. Something wasn't working.
My introduction to Tone it Up
I had just made a commitment to tackle the extra baby weight the nigh before. The next day, I went to the library by myself and perused the new non-fiction. There, I saw the Tone it Up: 28 Days To Fit, Fierce and Fabulous book. I had never heard of Tone it Up, even though it was 2014. I thought Instagram was only for professional photographers. I ignored YouTube completely. It is hard to imagine anyone more uneducated about Tone it Up!
I wasn't a complete fitness rookie, so I immediately skimmed the book, looking for the tell-tale signs of gimmicks or unhealthy suggestions. The first thing that I read was something to this effect: "So, you want to know how long it will take before you see results? The answer is Day One." They went on to explain that you would see results on Day One, because taking care of your health, making yourself a priority, eating healthfully, getting good sleep and working out bear immediate benefits other than weight loss.
This sentence is one of the reasons that I've continued to faithfully follow Tone it Up since 2014. After all that my body had been through, it was so important for me to feel that I was being nurturing and kind to myself, as opposed to strict and punishing. I've consumed countless hours of Tone it Up content since the moment I checked out this book, and I can honestly say, I have never heard Karena Dawn or Katrina Scott change from this core approach toward fitness.
My experience with Tone it Up: 28 Days to Fit, Fierce and Fabulous
I recommend this book to anyone who is just getting started with either a general fitness program or the Tone it Up lifestyle. The book is separated into sections addressing Karena and Katrina's own fitness journeys (which were surprisingly poignant and relatable), the basic dietary approach of the Tone it Up nutrition plan, a twenty-eight day "day by day" program, and multiple (beautifully photographed) workouts. Something that I have seen criticized (but personally loved) is the inclusion of daily mental wellness challenges, such as waking up five minutes early to meditate, wearing an unexpected color, or doing an activity to awaken your latent creativity. While they can seem a bit trite, I can honestly say that when done in earnest (or at least as much earnestness as you can muster!) they have genuine value. Having been through so much physical difficulty, I hadn't realized how much my MIND had become the source of my challenges. Somewhere in the midst of all of my physical challenges, I had completely lost the ability to view myself as physically strong, capable - even, an athlete. My mind had substituted fears of injury and acceptance of weakness where my competitive spirit and zest for physical expression had once been.
I also immediately realized that these fears had kept me from picking up a pair of weights in years! I couldn't even finish the "easy" workouts without setting down two pound weights. No wonder I was so exhausted carrying around a baby and car seat carrier! By the end of the program, I was able to finish all of the workouts with two pound weights. I repeated the program from start to finish the following month, working to incorporate five pound weights. At the end of sixty days, I had done two extraordinary things: (1) learned to incorporate fitness into twenty minutes of my day (often in the early morning, around 5:00 AM; and (2) reduced my weight by ten pounds.
My fitness lifestyle before Tone it Up did not include weights (although yoga could be a bit weight-bearing) and often required hours of investment. Sure, taking two hour walks around the lake every Saturday and Sunday could keep my weight under control, but it also took up precious time. As a new mother, working part time, I struggled to find fifteen minutes to SHOWER. I had no framework for how to fit consistent exercise into my new "busy-mom" schedule before I read this book.
I found this book immensely valuable and continue to keep it on my nightstand to reference whenever I need a fitness or nutrition "reset." I appreciated that I found this book long before signing on to the Tone it Up Nutrition Plan, because I find that many Tone it Up "newbies" get so focused on when-to-eat-what that they miss out on the joy of experimenting with healthy foods.
Before this book, I had been using Hello Fresh but still struggling a LOT with how to feed a family. This book taught me to prepare a few super-quick, easy dishes, which paved the way for more sophisticated meal planning down the road. I think that experienced Tone it Up girls may find the book a little "lite" on substantive content, particularly if they are already following the Tone it Up Nutrition Plan. For those ladies who need a supportive, nurturing, reasonable introduction (or re-introduction) to a healthier lifestyle, this book is hard to beat.
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