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Article updated: 3/11/2013 10:36 AM

Changing approach to workouts, nutrition takes practice

By Melynda Findlay

I know I'm supposed to be updating you on my Fittest Loser journey, and I will. But first, indulge me for a minute, OK?

I'm going to tell you a quick story about something else that's a big part of my life: graphic design. I've always been a doodler, but I never did much with it until about five years ago. I signed up for graphic design classes so I could apply my mad art skills to the job, a big part of which is page layout.

I loved the classes, until we started learning Adobe Illustrator -- specifically its pen tool. It's tricky, but you have to master the pen tool if you're going to use Illustrator.

I just couldn't get the hang of it. So you know what I did? I got obsessed. I practiced and practiced and practiced. I swore at my computer a lot and lost quite a bit of sleep, but I finally got the best of that pen tool.

That's always my solution when I have trouble doing or learning something. I read, I take notes, I make flash cards and I study. I keep at it until I have a handle on whatever it is I'm doing. And I like to get to that point as quickly as possible.

I started this whole thing really out of shape, but memorizing flash cards won't make me able to do push-ups, studying isn't going to make my core stronger and taking copious notes won't equal weight loss.

I have to keep reminding myself it's a process. I'm generally a pretty upbeat person, but I'll admit it: The workouts can sometimes be frustrating, because I feel like I should be able to go home, practice push-ups (or whatever else I can't seem to get), and magically be able to do them by the next workout.

Sorry, Mel. That's not how fitness works.

Hey, as it turns out, neither does weight loss. When I stepped on the scale this week, it was exactly the same as the week before. I lost nothing. Which only was surprising for about two seconds -- until I remembered my obsession with homemade refried beans that week (super delicious, but super starchy). And the day without any vegetables. And that day there may or may not have been a couple of Oreos. Depends on who's asking ...

But like I said, I'm kind of an optimist.

So instead of dwelling on the exercises I can't do yet, I started thinking of workouts as practice for what I'll eventually be able to do.

As for the nutrition part, that also takes practice. Especially avoiding Oreos.

I'm not lifting the heaviest weights or doing the most reps or even graceful when I do any of my workouts. And I'm occasionally going to eat things I shouldn't.

But that's OK. I'm practicing. I'm definitely getting stronger, and even though I didn't lose any weight this week, I'm down 12 pounds.

Practice helped me conquer the Illustrator pen tool. So look out, push-ups and Oreo cravings. You're next.

Ÿ Melynda Findlay is a member of the night copy desk at the Daily Herald, where she's worked for 14 years. She lives in Arlington Heights and really loves grilled cheese sandwiches.

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