Working on my Fitness

Whoops! Ya get a little bit busy and suddenly it’s seven eight weeks since your last blog. But that is not to say I haven’t been keeping with my mission! Things have been going great!

As I declared when I hit the one year mark, I needed to amp up my efforts for year two. So ever since then, I have been going hardcore on the fitness side of improving my health (and weight). A long time ago, I wrote about how I didn’t think my body was ready for intense exercise but that I thought walking would be a nice way to build up to something more intensive. I don’t know if it was the walking or general weight loss or just an increase in motivation but for the last two and a half months my efforts have increased tremendously.

What has really changed is that I’ve gotten really into strength training. I tagged along with a friend who had a surplus of personal training sessions, and I found that unlike my first experience with it, the trainer was extremely helpful. It was a much more focused and effective workout than I might’ve put myself through, and it gave me ideas for what I should be doing for my own workouts. Then I happened to win two private training sessions. I liked the private sessions so much I ended up buying a training package. (To be honest I kind of think the raffle was rigged because they knew this would happen…)

It’s been about a month now since I’ve been in training and I’ve been able to get into a pretty good routine. Three days a week I do strength training and two days a week I do cardio, although I do some cardio every time I workout. For the strength training part, I separate each workout into an “isolated/split routine.” The schedule looks a little like this:

  • Sunday: 5 min. warm-up (exercise bike), 35 min. Back & Biceps, 25 min. elliptical
  • Monday: Off
  • Tuesday: 5 min. warm-up, 30 min. Legs (w/ trainer), 30 min. Cross Trainer machine
  • Wednesday: 10 min. abs, 60 min. elliptical
  • Thursday: Off
  • Friday: 5. min. warm-up, 35 min. Chest, Triceps & Shoulders, 10 min. stair machine, 10 min. walk on treadmill
  • Saturday: 75 min. moderate cardio (hiking, a bike ride, etc.)

That’s an example. The days vary based on what’s going on with work and other stuff, but the distribution generally stays more or less the same. It’s been two and a half months since I started exercising like this, and one month since I started working with the trainer and focusing my routine, and I can already see results. I was really pleased when my fitness-loving brother saw me for the first time in several weeks and said he could tell I’d been working out.

This stage where I am constantly improving my fitness levels but still not actually in good shape is a really weird time. I feel simultaneously really amazing and terrible. I’m tired almost all the time, and at least one body part is usually sore. Last week I actually took two days off in a row and did the moderate long cardio on the third day because my legs just felt so heavy I didn’t even want to walk up the stairs. On the other hand, I can feel my body getting stronger all the time. It’s hard to explain but even though my body is more tired, the rest of me has tons of energy, which is super awesome.

There are two main challenges I’m facing now that my fitness routine has perked up. The first is the sustainability of my schedule. I’m at a bit of a lull with work at the moment, so focusing almost all of my energy on fitness is fine. But as work picks up again and I (hopefully) get more gigs it will be more challenging to keep up this pace.

The other serious challenge is maintaining my diet. I don’t know what it is but when I get home from a particularly grueling workout, all I want in the world is some delicious cheese. My theory is that it’s because of the combination of protein and sugar. However, if you’ll recall, cheese is a big no-no on the clean eating menu. But, what makes it even harder is that in addition to craving bad foods, I’m burning so many more calories that it is extremely hard to meet my daily caloric requirements cleanly. Salad and grilled chicken only have so many calories…and I can only stand to eat them so many times.

So that’s my current project. In addition to continuing with my fitness regimen, I am researching and experimenting ways to stick to the kinds of foods I need to be eating but eating in such ways that I still get all the caloric energy I need. I’ve been reading a lot about vegan athletes, because even though I’m not vegan I limit my animal product intake to very small quantities.

Okay! Now we’re all caught up. I’m excited in the coming weeks to share some of my new fitness knowledge as well as more of the standard hippie food posts I’m used to.

-lj

Resistance Band Workouts

Ever since my horrible experience with the personal trainer, I have been looking into different ways to work on strengthening. Even though the trainer was awful, I like circuit training with the weight machines fine. Still, I thought I would “shop around”. In the past, when I have been in really great shape, it’s been largely due to group fitness. In college, I went to yoga classes four times a week, plus three or four cardio workouts (at different times). Sometimes I would also go to Pilates class, which I really loved. At the second generation of my strong physical fitness, I went to a class that was essentially a cardio core class, that combined strength-training into an aerobic workout. That class made a lot of use of rubber resistance bands. I really loved that class as well.

This time around, when I started out three months ago I was in (probably) the worst shape of my life, as I have written about before. I had to consider realistic possibilities for working out. I practiced yoga as a spiritual exercise as much as a physical one, and while that is important, I am not really in the same place right now–not to mention I seriously doubt the lunchtime yoga class at my big chain gym focuses on cleansing the spirit. As for Pilates, quite frankly I am insecure about my size and ability still and am not sure I am ready to surround myself with 40 girls with the dancer’s physique, which is how I imagine Pilates class will look…even if I also know it isn’t.

So when I was looking for alternative strength training, I asked a friend about it who used to make her living as a personal trainer. (I would have pulled her out of retirement but 200 miles and a serious hip injury make it futile.) Anyway, I asked her what she thought I should do and she suggested resistance bands, which reminded me of the third type of fitness class I really loved. So I did some web-searching, and furniture drawer-searching, and found a pretty thorough list of both new and old exercises to do with resistance bands.

The bands are great because they allow you to use your own muscles as resistance. This obviously objective website points out that with free weights a lot of the resistance is gravity, but with the bands, things are more fluid. You can move them in more directions and do more things with them.

I’ve been using the bands for several weeks now and I still think they are great. After my walk or cardio workout at the gym, I pick several of the exercises below and do three 15 rep sets of them, using as many different poses as will fill up a 43 minute episode of Law and Order on Netflix. Or sometimes I will just do all of the exercises listed below and skip the cardio. I should probably have more of a routine but currently I do whatever fits my mood (and guilt counts as a mood).

Here are the exercises I currently do, using this band:

Go Fit Brand Resistance Band (came in a set of three)
Standing
  1. Bicep curl: stand with middle of band under feet, hold end of band in each hand, curl arms up
  2. Tricep Extensions: put one end of band under left foot, hold other end in right hand, face arm toward ceiling (inner arm next to ear) extend arm up at elbow
  3. Shoulder raise: band under left foot (with ~8 inches out to the side bc i’m short) other end’s handle in left hand, put other foot out in front of you, bend upper body at 45 degree angle, keep back straight. Raise arm straight out until arm/shoulder are in straight line and parallel with floor
  4. Shoulder drop: band under left foot (with ~8 inches out to the side bc i’m short) other end’s handle in left hand, put other foot out in front of you, bend upper body at 45 degree angle, keep back straight. Hold arm out to side, parallel to floor. Lower arm.
  5. Cross-body Twist: one end of band under left foot, other end in right hand, start in semi-crouched position (knees bent) with core facing ~10 o’clock, rise and straighten, bringing arm across the torso and ending up over head.
  6. Standing Row: stand with middle of band under left foot. step right foot back a step. Bend upper body at 45 degree angle with back straight. Hold band w one handle in each hand, pull band up and back in rowing motion, squeezing shoulder blades together
  7. Squat: Two options: 1. Middle of band under feet, handles in hands, hold so hands are near clavicles, shoulder level, with elbows out, then squat. 2. Same start, but start standing with arms at sides, then pull in bicep curl up as squatting down.
  8. Butterfly Press: Hold arms at 90 degree angles at shoulder level, parallel to floor. Hold band at the middle, wrapping excess around wrists until the band is tight, move arms in until they touch, slowly move back to starting position
  9. Front Kick: Stand with feet hip-width apart, foot band around feet; open legs to point of tension. Step on one end of handled tube with left foot; grip other end behind back with both hands, palms up, elbows forward. Bend right knee and raise leg, thigh parallel to floor. Extend right leg slowly as you press arms overhead (as shown). Return to start.
  10. Back Kick: Stand with feet staggered, left foot in front of right, foot band around feet. Place center of handled tube under left foot and grasp handle in each hand, knuckles up. Lift right foot about 6 inches off floor behind you, knee slightly bent, toes down. Lean forward as you extend right leg straight back and curl arms toward chest
  11. Side Leg Lift: Tie resistance band into a circle and place it around both of your ankles before lifting one leg at a time out as far as you can against the band. Use the wall/the back of a chair/some other furniture piece for balance if necessary. 
  12. There should be some lunges listed here but they hurt my bad foot so much I cannot include them! 

Mat

  1. Pelvic Push: Lie flat on back, with band flush against hips, hands at sides holding either end. Keeping hands/band ends pressed into mat at sides, slowly raise hips toward ceiling. Slowly come back down.
  2. Leg Lower: Start with back on mat, legs facing ceiling at 90 degrees to body. Wrap band around feet, criss-cross ends in front, hold handles one in each hand at sides (near hips), slowly lower legs to ground (not quite resting heels on floor) raise back up.
  3. Tricep Push Up: Start in modified (girl-pose) push up position. Wrap band around back, with one end under each hand. Raise body with arms (do a push up), then lower back down.
  4. Chest Press: Lie on back with band under chest, one handle with each arm. Alternating between arms, raise arm up toward ceiling.
  5. Side Leg Lift: Lie on one side, legs one on top of other. Place top foot in band handle (or tie band around foot). Either place the other handle around the bottom foot or place the band under bottom heel (if you are short like me and using the whole band is not enough resistance). Lift leg as far as possible. Lower and repeat.
As I said I really enjoy the resistance band exercises. I’m probably to a point now where I could keep up with an hour of Pilates, but for the most part I enjoy the bands and will keep going with them. In fact, although I did want to give a much needed exercise update, I mostly wrote this entry so I could have an easy to access place for my band routine.
If anyone has any other exercises they like to do with resistance bands (or any other great strength training alternatives!) I’d love to hear them!