Exercise: The Not-So-Scary Daily Commitment

21 02 2011

You already know by now that I workout everyday. There are exceptions of course — if I get really sick, my day is so jammed there’s zero time, if I’m injured, etc. But for the most part, my daily workout is something I strictly adhere to.

People are always amazed at the huge time commitment I devote to exercise. They ask me how I do it, how I motivate myself, how I find the time. And to be honest, I never really think about it. It’s just something I do. Every single day. It’s part of my life and my day-to-day bustle.

What I recommend is to think of your workout as a true commitment. No different than a meeting, or class, or that important phone call you have to make. When you think of exercising as a natural part of daily life, you’ll stop ditching workouts. You wouldn’t cancel your important meeting with your boss, right? So why would you skip the thing that’s most vital to your well being?

When I tell people that I “have” to workout, they always give me a hard time. My friends say it’s not something I “have” to do. While this is true, it is a conscious decision of mine to workout daily, it doesn’t make it any less of a commitment for me. I wouldn’t miss getting coffee with them or ditch plans to watch a movie, so I am not going to cancel my planned workout!

Try scheduling your workout in, if you keep a daily planner. Think about exercise in advance–maybe the night before, plan your day out. When do you have an hour long break or more? Pencil in a workout. Bring your tennis shoes out with you, dress in workout clothes in the morning. Just do what you need to do to get your butt to the gym!

Here’s a challenge: Try working out for 7 days in a row. That’s it! Just 7 days. Write down how you feel each day after exercising. Do you feel relaxed, fit, tired, energized? Jot it down, and when the week is over look at your notes. This should give you some motivation — because I know you’ll be feeling great. 🙂

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The Best Butt-Lifters

21 02 2011

We all want a nice rear-end, yeah? Honestly, it’s one of my most important “target” areas when I exercise. I want a firm, lifted behind, and so I try and work my lower body 2-3 days a week (aside from cardio, yoga, kickboxing, etc. which all work your lower body, too).

Here are some of the best lower body exercises — you can use weights (I do), you can use no weights if you’re new to weightlifting. The best part is, though, if you don’t have access to weights, these exercises are still extremely effective. I’ll be doing them in California next week!

Squat

Squat -- Photo by exerciseabout.com

Bulgarian Lunge

Bulgarian Lunge -- photo by exerciseabout.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Squat with Calf Raise: When rising to the top, add a calf raise. I like to use 10 pound weights with this exercise.

Bulgarian Lunge: Lunge with leg on chair. Make sure your knee doesn’t come out over your toe when you lunge.

Wall Sit

Wall Sit -- photo by exerciseabout.com

Wall Sits: Everyone hates them, but they are the best for getting a svelte lower body. Do them for about a minute. You can make things harder by doing one-legged wall sits or weighted wall sits.

Walking Lunge: I use 10 pounds weights.

One-legged Deadlift: No weights are necessary here.

Do all of these exercises for 20 repetitions (and one minute for the wall sit), and repeat the cycle 2 or 3 times.

*Make sure you don’t work the same muscles 2 days in a row. If you work legs on Monday, do not work them on Tuesday! (By “working” them, I mean an intense weightlifting session targeted directly at that area). Your muscles need a day to rest after weightlifting to repair and grow.

Also, as an added bonus, I use the StairMaster a few times a week. Great butt-lifter!





My Favorite Workout DVDs

18 02 2011

You know those days when it’s cold and rainy outside and leaving your house to head to the gym sounds miserable? Or when you’re in a time crunch and only have less than an hour to squeeze a workout in? Or when you’re traveling and don’t have somewhere you can exercise? Well, instead of just calling my workout off under these circumstances, I turn to at-home exercise DVDs.

There’s A LOT of crap out there. There are thousands of DVDs to sort through when ordering online, and frankly, most of them suck. Here are some of my favorites (aside from P90X)– the ones I think are the best workout.

Jillian Michaels: Banish Fat Boost Metabolism — This is about a 40 minute cardio & strength DVD that doesn’t require any extra equipment. You really sweat and get a whole body workout. Jillian is one of my favorite trainers, and I think this is her best DVD.

Jackie Warner: One-On-One Training With Jackie — This video uses free weights & body training to work your upper body, lower body and core in segments. She’s tough and also one of my faves!

Rodney Yee: Power Yoga Total Body — Yoga classes are really pricey, so it’s nice to have a good yoga DVD you can use at home. This 65 minute workout is tough, but still calming. You only need a yoga mat.

Keli Roberts: Fat Burning Kickboxing Workout for Dummies — I burn about 700 calories with this video–which is a ton. I love kickboxing and how it just sheds fat off your entire body. It’s about 40 minutes.

These are some of my favorites. I think it’s really important to have DVDs on hand. For instance, next week I am going to California and will bring some exercise videos with me so I can alternate between running, hiking and using DVDs to get a good workout in. Also, just a note, if you have Comcast with On Demand, there are about a hundred free workout videos under the “Sports & Fitness” section. I use them all the time!





The Trials & Tribulations of a Non-Swimmer

18 02 2011

When it comes to exercising, not much sounds worse to me than taking my workout to a cold, chlorinated pool. And that is precisely why I force myself to hit the lap pool about once a week.

You see, I have a motto: the things you like to do the least are usually precisely the things you should incorporate into your exercise regimen. We don’t like things because they’re hard. Maybe they’re foreign to us. So we stick with what we know – maybe the elliptical? Hitting the pavement outside? But I cannot stress enough the importance of variety. Our muscles get used to our workouts, and that’s when we stop seeing the benefits of exercise.

Only variety, variety, variety can combat this dilemma.

And this is why you’ll find me – never a swimmer, never even close to a swimmer – in the lap pool at the YMCA once a week.

Swimming is great for your body. In fact, I started swimming laps when I had injuries from exercise. I needed a break from high impact workouts, and so I took my cardio sessions to the pool.

I’ll admit, when I first started swimming, I had no idea what to do. How many laps should I swim? What stroke should I use? How often should I breathe?

I’m still definitely not an expert. Sometimes I even dread my swimming days. But once I go and get in the pool, I never regret my decision. Actually, I feel amazing afterward. Here is what I do, and I think it’s a good swimming workout for beginners. So just take the leap (or should I say the dive..har har) and go burn some calories in the pool!

My Typical Swimming Workout:

I’m an obsessive lap counter. I can’t help it, I just like to keep track. So, to break things up and make the workout fly by, I count in increments of 10 [lengths, not laps]. I swim 6 lengths of the forward crawl, then I do 2 lengths of sprinting the forward crawl. –Refer to my previous post on intervals, this alternating between regular and fast paced exercise even works in the pool. Then, I swim 2 lengths of breaststroke to calm my breathing down from the sprints.

I repeat this 10 length cycle usually about 7 times. In my pool at the YMCA this is a mile. It takes me around 35 minutes or so.

*Just a note: I belong to the YMCA, but the UofM IM building has a pool–check the hours of operation here.





Ditch the Elliptical & Try Something New

16 02 2011

I hate the stereotype girls get at the gym.

You know, wears her hair down, texts on her cell phone, reads Cosmopolitan, barely sweats on the elliptical machine for 30 minutes and then she heads home.

While that stereotype may be in place for a reason – there are a good number of girls who do this – I really don’t approve. Mainly, I have a problem with girls’ obsession with the elliptical. To me, it just seems like an easy way out. Hop on, don’t work too hard, and call it a “workout.” Not my style. And you may argue that you can still get a good, sweaty workout from the elliptical–but come on, you know you’re choosing it because it’s easier than other cardio workouts at the gym.

Elliptical

Photo by itsaboutellipticaltrainers.com

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not completely shunning the elliptical. It can be great if you have an injury because it is low impact. It is also okay to use every once in a while, or if you’re feeling beat from weightlifting or just not feeling great. For instance, sometimes I’ll use an elliptical machine if I have a cold. But usually you should opt for a harder cardio session.

So what do I suggest?

Well, I am a big fan of interval training. Studies have shown that alternating between fast and slow paced exercise [ex: sprinting for 2 minutes then walking at a fast pace for 2 minutes] can improve cardiovascular fitness and raise the body’s potential to burn fat. Experts have even gone so far as to say interval training is the best workout you can do.

So, here’s a few workout ideas.

Workout #1: Hop on the treadmill. Warm up for 2 minutes, walking. Sprint at about 6.5-7.0 for one minute. Walk at 4.0 for one minute. Repeat this 30 minutes.

Workout #2: Get on the StairMaster. Choose the interval training button. The levels usually go from about 1-20. Make sure you choose at LEAST level 10. I usually try around level 13.

Workout #3: Variety. Sprint on the treadmill for 3 minutes. Get on the StairMaster for 3 minutes. Alternate back and forth for about 30 minutes.

You should be dripping sweat and tired from all of these workouts! I usually aim for around 45 minutes of cardio, but 30 minutes works well if you’re weightlifting in addition to your cardio session.





P90X Plyometrics: The Best Calorie Burner Out There

10 02 2011

The P90X workout program is intense. At best. It’s a 90 day exercise program containing a variety of DVDs–13–that you do six days a week. The videos range from yoga to chest and back to cardio, and so on. Each and every muscle gets used and abused in this program–until your 90 days is up and your stronger and fitter than ever.

I finished the program about a month ago, and I have to admit, I was so sick of it by the end. The videos get repetitive and I was craving the gym. I wonder how many times in my life I’ll say that? But it did help me break out of an exercise rut of doing the same old, same old. The guy who started the program, Tony Horton, is pretty humorous and keeps you cracking up through the videos. Until you have them all memorized and you want to beat the crap out of your TV if you hear him tell you not to eat Krispy Kremes one more time.

P90X Poster

Photo by bestbuyp90x.blogspot.com

The video I want to tell you guys about today is one of the hardest workouts I’ve ever endured. And I had to endure it again..and again..and again until my 90 days were up. As much as I love to hate it, though, I still try and do the Plyometrics video at least once a week because it is amazing for your body.

Plyometrics is jump training. You know, like you did during high school sporting practices? Those jumping lunges, 180 jumps, and knee hops? Yeah, this video has everything. It is an hour long, and you’re basically jumping the entire time. Tony says at the beginning of the video that this kind of training is out of fashion. And it’s true. This high impact kind of exercise has largely been deserted for more low impact training, such as the elliptical machine. And while I don’t recommend Plyometrics for people with injuries, doing the video once a week is great for your overall fitness.

Basically, there is NOT a workout where you will sweat more. You’ll be more out of breath, more beet red, and more exhausted than ever. But once the video ends, you feel incredible. It is a great metabolism booster, and you’ll keep burning calories all day long.

I have the entire program–which is pricey. It’s about $150, and you need a few sets of free weights. There are ways, however, to download just a single video..albeit illegally? Not that I’m a proponent of this method, but I know some of my roommates have been able to download some of the videos on their computer. Whatever your method, if you are serious about exercise and want to get one of the best workouts of your life–I suggest you try P90X Plyometrics.





A2 Yoga: Yoga for Exercise-aholics

10 02 2011

I didn’t believe in yoga for a long time. Yogis are crazy. It all just seemed weird to me. It didn’t seem like a real workout. You don’t sweat. You don’t work your muscles. I am much better off running on the treadmill for an hour than holding some stupid pose. Right?

WRONG. so-so-so-so-so wrong.

I’m still not a die-hard yogi. I won’t pretend to be. But it has greatly improved my fitness, it has helped me recover from injuries, and it has given me something to look forward to during my hectic weeks.

I have to admit, though, I am super picky when it comes to a yoga class. If I am going to go to yoga, I want a workout. A real workout. And let me tell you, the A2 Yoga power vinyasa classes give you just that.

The power classes at A2 yoga are amazing. They are 75 minutes long and very challenging. They also heat the room to around 80 degrees or so. Class skill ranges from the ridiculously advanced (those crazy people who can simultaneously hold both legs in the air at a 45 degree angle while doing a military push-up) to somewhat beginners. Although, I do recommend some athleticism and stretching ability. They tell you this isn’t a class for beginners–and I’d agree with that since beginners won’t be aware of common yoga poses. If you are a beginner, try a vinyasa 1 class first before moving on to the more advanced classes.

A2 Yoga

Photo by a2nia.com

You will sweat, your muscles with shake, and you’ll get a great workout. What I really enjoy is watching my skill evolve from week to week. I started out being unable to do many things, and now I can generally keep right along with the instructor. From tripod stands to one-legged splits, you will do it all in this class. Plus, you have the added benefit of clearing your mind and feeling amazingly calm afterward. Check out this WebMD article on the benefits of yoga — including increased strength, flexibility, posture, decreased stress, and the possible treatment of arthritis, asthma, and back pain.

The studio is located on Commerce Road — right off Stadium. It’s a quick 5 minute drive from my house, and by far my favorite yoga studio in Ann Arbor. (I’ve tried Center for Yoga, Sun and Moon Yoga, YMCA yoga, CCRB yoga.) Plus, drum-roll please, your first class is free! And there is a student discount. Drop-ins are $13. Pricey, but so is all yoga.