This blog was created to help others in the process of getting fit and healthy by sharing individual observations and discussing alternative methods of handling challenging situations and choices regarding our health.
By keeping a log of your workouts you can track your progress, see improvement, and determine what works for you. Most training journals include exercise, number of repetitions, number of sets, weight lifted and such. But you may want to consider these other components:
time your workout started and stopped
time spent doing physical activity unrelated to your structured exercise
average heart rate attained
energy levels before, during and after your workout
quality and quantity of sleep
emotions preceding and following your workout
Whether you use the items above is up to you; you should determine what makes sense for your goals so you can follow, change, and systematically chart your progress.
Going through the motions day in and day out of a cardio routine can be tiresome if you don't have a goal. Training for an event can help give you something concrete to shoot for and you may be able to help someone else. There are thousands of charity runs, walks, bike rides, etc., that you can participate in throughout the year and in any responsibly sized city. Not only do you help others, you meet and greet with people sharing a similar interest. If you are reluctant to attend solo, invite family, friends, or co-workers to participate with you. Regardless of what activity you chose it will help motivate you to think creatively and set goals for your cardio training day to day. Good luck and have fun!
I changed up my workout to a modified version of the Men's Health Marine workout. I love the routines they provide but because they are for designed for men in the 20s and 30s I have to modify the workouts to work of me. So, keep in mind that if you look at the link you will need to make adjustments for your level of fitness. The following are the exercises:
Dumbbell Clean and Press
Front Squat to Push Press
Again, you can download this program to your ipod for a price but I tend to get the magazine from the library and write them down--I am a frugal fitgal.
Keeping track of your training is probably the single most important action you can do to make progress. As mentioned in my weekly reviews, the way I tweak my workouts or determine if they are adequate is by going through my workout log. I purchased a small weekly planner from the local dollar store that fits in the side panel of my workout bag. Instead of putting in my activities for the day, I just put in my workouts. Since starting my 2009 goal work, I have found out a number of important items:
1) I can't do back-to-back hard strength training workouts and hard cardio interval training. 2) 2 strength-training sessions per week are adequate for me and allow me the necessary time to recover; if I move to a much lighter strength-training session I may be able to go back to 3/week. 3) I need at least 2 days of light cardio since the other 4 days are pretty tough. 4) My level of physical activity (not structured exercise) is low and needs to be increased. 5) Yoga seems to be the best option for me to incorporate balance, posture, and focused stretching to my routine. 6) If I don't get a workout in at the beginning of the day, the likelihood of getting in a workout diminishes.
Take time to log in your workouts this week and reflect on what worked and what didn't and see if you don't make better progress over the long-run.
Over the past 5 years another trend has been the use of unstable platforms (Swiss balls, BOSU balls, wobble boards, etc.) to improve fitness. This equipment was previously used for rehabilitation purposes and has now worked its way into the mainstream of fitness items. My preference is not to use this equipment because there are many other ways to challenge balance without purchasing or accumulating another item that won't be used (by most people). The fact that personal trainers have access to them and used them in the gym doesn't generalize to everyone. Personally, I have found doing certain yoga poses to be helpful in developing balance as well as incorporating some movement into my exercises through combination moves (with no or little weight). Watching folks balance on a BOSU ball while trying to curl 25 lbs with each arm (even better, doing squats) seems like an accident waiting to happen. This isn't to say they don't have a use, but most folks can do without them and still obtain the fitness results they desire.
You may not be getting the results you want from your cardio routine because you never change your choice of cardio machines. Your body quickly adapts to the demands you place on it but like a computer, you have to decide what you want it to do. By changing your cardio machine your recruiting different muscle fibers and calling on your body to do something new. Most gyms have a variety of cardio machince from which to choose so train working on any of the following: treadmill, upright bike, recumbent bike, elliptical, stairmaster, nordic track or rowing machine. That being said, if you really dislike certain machines and thus will not do the work--it is better to stay with what you like and change the workout you do on that machine.
As discussed in my last post, proper form or technique is essential when weight training. My routine has progressed to the point where I can no longer maintain proper form if I chose to move up the weight. When this happens for me, I usually do 2 things. First, I take a week off from heavy training and second, I rework my routine with some different exercises and a new emphasis and get back to using more appropriate weights with proper breathing. I started with working on building strength and now I am going to move to an endurance type of strength workout. I mentioned in my weekly review that I couldn't maintain my energy with a 3/week strength workout and do the 2/week interval training. So, I have decided to do 2/week strength workout allowing me 2 days to recover. In my next post, I will further review my technique for my cardio and core workouts.
Whether you are doing a cardio activity, strength training, or core work you need to be aware of posture. Poor technique not only increases your chance of injury but also affects your posture and maintains muscle imbalances. Most men tend to work hard on "mirror muscles" and the result is rounded shoulders; women tend to have poor muscle tone through the mid-section resulting in slouching and a visible "tummy". So, I make an effort to reset my posture each time I do a repetition and have someone review any new exercise and give me feedback about technique. I do this with the cardio machines as well--staying erect on the stairmaster, using good running/walking technique on the treadmill, and setting up the stationary bicycle correctly. It doesn't make much sense to spend time getting fit if it doesn't also improve your posture.
If you are still listening to the same play list from months ago, it may be time to change it up. Additionally, you may need music that has different beats per minute. If you are finding it hard to find new music or it is too costly to download new play lists, check out Motion Trax. You can download a free (that's right!) 60 minute podcast that plays in a continual loop (somewhere between 140 to 180 beats per minute) and are refreshed every two weeks. You can subscribe and download a new play just about the time you are getting bored -- what a great idea. The beats per minute are for fairly high intensity workouts so you may have to resort to other means of getting lower bpm music--good luck!
I did my new core workout today and it "seemed" easy. I started off with beginner exercises working different parts of my core. The superman works the deep abs and the lower back; the bridge works the glutes and hamstrings; metronome the obliques (sides); plank works the deep abs and lower back; and finally, the side plank works the obliques, deep abs, lower back, and glutes. Since this routine doesn't include crunches, I am going to add some crunches into my strength training workout. I have made some adjustments to my schedule as I add on pieces--you'll get an update at the end of the week.
As stated in my previous post, measuring core strength isn't easy. So to set goals is difficult but I will make an effort. First, my long-term goal I will maintain my percentile standings with the half-sit-up test (60 seconds). For my long-term goal, I will work on maintaining plank positions for up to 60 seconds and do 3-5 sets worth; the same goal for bridges. My immediate goal will be to perform 2 core workouts per week; my short-term goal will be to develop a number of core routines that will hit all areas and can be easily rotated into my workouts. Finally, my back-up goal to will be to complete 90 full core workouts for the year (average 2/wk with time off). I will start my core routine with a quick workout I found in Runner's World using the following exercises:
I typically do strength training on M-W-F and then do my core work on T-Th. Core exercises are quite different than just doing abdominal exercises. Abdominal muscles are just one set of muscles within the core; the others are the lower back, hips and glutes. They work together to provide the stability, power, and endurance necessary for physical activity. Fortunately, a quality core workout doesn't require a lot of time or equipment--just a few moves you do in correct form and consistently. So I can get a good core workout for about 15 minutes on those 2 days. Although my baseline measurements are in the 95 percentile for my age, the assessment only evaluates my abdominal muscles. In order for me to set goals, I will need to find additional ways to measure progress in the other areas--lower back, hips, and glutes--and what exercises I need to be doing to improve these. For now, I will be using a medicine ball core workout circuit developed for the UNC and then do more research.
Since I did pushing and pulling movements on Monday and Wednesday so I finish the week with combination moves. Because these moves use both upper and lower body, I tend to use light weights (dumbbells) and slightly higher repetitions. Here are the exercises which I do in a circuit doing 1 set of 20 repetitions.
Pull-Up with Leg Raises
Romanian Dead Lift/Row/Triceps Kickback
Front Wood Chopper (incorporates squat and pullover)/Triceps Extensions
Reverse Lunge/Shoulder Press
The exercises above hit all the major muscles and use combination moves for more efficiency. Again, I will use volume to measure progress (which may mean adding another round of the circuit). You have probably noticed that I don't do much specific abdominal work in any of these workouts. Since these moves tend to need stabilization to perform, I am getting a good amount of abdominal work but to makes sure I work more of my core, I will move these exercises to my "interval" days on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Make sure you choose an activity you enjoy when picking a cardio exercise. I like the stairmaster, so I use this most of the time and enjoy it. I enjoy using the treadmill for both walking and running but I use it sparingly because of my knees. I tolerate the stationary bike so it is only a once a week choice for me. I really dislike swimming, so it isn't on my list at all. Making sure you have a "go to" activity that you always enjoy and will keep you motivated to do your cardio work at least 3-5 days a week. If you choose something you dread, why would you bother?
Well, you made it through the first couple of months of a new exercise/fitness program. Time to review some immediate and/or short-term goals as well as evaluate your progress toward your long-term goal. Regardless of whether you have reached the point your expected, give yourself a reward for moving in the right direction. Any change takes time and some changes evolve over time, not overnight. So get that tech toy you wanted or the spa treatment you have been dreaming about and start the process over again. Each time you will learn a little more to help in the next phase of your training and your mistakes will become fewer and your successes more frequent. Good Luck!
My strength training program will consist of a 3 day cycle. Mondays will be pulling movements, Wednesdays will be pushing movements, and Fridays will be combination movements. Although I have specified M-W-F, it can be any days of the week as long as I get 3 days in with 1 day off in between for recovery. I like exercises that imitate movements I would normally do, so I usually work with free weights or my own body weight but many of these can be done on machines. For Mondays, I am doing pulling movements (both upper and lower body) and I like to work different plans (vertical and horizontal). Since I work arms with both pushes and pulls I only add one arm exercise to the group for biceps. Here are the exercises I plan to do:
Upper body vertical pull: Pull-ups
Upper body horizontal pull: Bent Rows
Stabilizing upper body pull: Back Extensions
Lower body pull: Romanian Dead Lift
Lower body pull: Dead Lift
Stabilizing lower body pull: Bridge
Arm pull: Preacher Curls (I prefer these because of my shoulders)
Because I have different strengths for each of these areas (my lower body is much stronger), I do different sets and/or repetitions. Since I am building for strength and endurance initially and working out weight loss later, I am going to try and do up to 12 repetitions for 3 sets with the goal of making the last set hard to finish (not to failure). This may change from workout to workout but the objective is to make improvement each week. In later posts, I will discuss how to measure improvement from session to session but I use volume (sets x repetitions x weight) so we will use this to monitor progress in future posts.
My baseline measures for strength put me at the top of my age group so my back up goal is easier to develop first--I will stay at the 95 percentile for my age group in strength. For a long-term goal I will pick some specific items as my overall condition is high. So, my long-term goal for strength training in 2009 will be the following: To do 3 sets of 10 pull-ups with no assistance; to squat 150% of my body weight (165 lbs). Since I have some shoulder issues, I need to modify my goal for push-ups and dips (if I can do 1 set of 10 marine-style push-ups/dips I will be satisfied). My short-term goal will be to improve my current number of pull-ups by 1 each month (I am doing 3 sets of 5 right now) with some recovery time built in and/or exercises to shore up weaknesses (grip strength, forearm strength); increase my squat weight by 5-10% each week, and to do rehab exercises for my shoulders. My immediate goal is to find rehab exercises for my shoulders and build those into my workout routine on off days. Since I tend to get bored with strength routines quickly, I will adopt an undulating type of workout rotating easy, moderate and difficult training sessions. This may sound difficult but it only means I switch type and number of exercises, number of sets and repetition in a systematic way. I will evaluate my strength training plan in 3 months and see if I am on target for reaching my goals.
Dealing with snow days can be a hassle - you can't get to the gym and it's too dangerous to run outside. So, you do what you can do--I went out and shoveled snow, took a walk and did some yoga. Additionally, I watched what I ate more carefully (cabin fever can lead to some serious overeating). Tomorrow I will resume my normal activities and start developing my goals for my resistance training.