Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Let's Try This Again: Week 1 of Yet Another Exercise Experiment

Every January and beginning of summer is marked by the media onslaught of nineteen million ways to drop those pounds. The gym in the beginning of the year is packed with people proclaiming resolutions to get fit. Come warmer weather, swarms of people are signing up for cleanses and swimsuit challenges as the impending doom of shore weather draws near.

Here I am, deep into summer, writing a piece about getting in shape. The pumpkin beers are already out for goodness sakes (though an abomination)!

No time like the present? Sure. Or whatever.

I have certainly never been athletically-inclined. In fifth grade, I signed up for JV basketball, and when the coach saw me and found out that I was only in fifth grade, he was practically glowing with joy. I am around five foot eight and have been since about that time. While I am no giant now, I certainly was then in comparison to my classmates. He quickly learned, unfortunately, that my height had been gained in a very short period of time, and all-limbs-me had the coordination of a drunk giraffe. I continued with soccer through middle school, which worked out better than basketball, but I was still no natural. I always swam anytime I had access to a pool, and that was probably my strongest physical activity. I had the advantage of a very high metabolism and never really had to workout to keep trim.

How Rosalita feels about exercising.

However, as my mom always cautioned ("You know, I had a metabolism like you once upon a time..."), my body stopped burning through food at an obscene pace. I have a very close and personal relationship with food, and dieting is just out of the question. I. Love. Food. Once you learn to make a Béarnaise  sauce, you can't just never make a Béarnaise sauce again. Not that I eat unhealthy all the time—I make plenty of good food choices and being a vegetarian for many years previously taught me a lot about nutrition and whatnot, but I wasn't ever going to measure my food (except for a recipe!), count calories everyday, or give up butter or pasta ever (ha!).

So as a lover of food, someone trying to be an adult occasionally, and a person of science knowing all the benefits, from physical health to mental, it was time to get my rump shakin'.

I've had these flights of fancy before so in an attempt to succeed this time, I took a realistic attack:

  • Keep it simple: No complicated workouts, with hard to learn moves. No learning a new activity. I decided to figure out something that I could easily do, and do it.
  • Set achievable goals: It's great to dream, but let's stay on Earth when setting exercising goals. I want to succeed, right?  It was time to be reasonable and truthful with myself, and as a part of that, I had to accept that I wasn't going to wake up at 5:00 AM or workout for an hour and a half each day.
  • Plan: I looked at my schedule and figured out when I could fit exercising into the chaos. I realized that if I was trying to launch a project by end of day Friday, then I would just be luckily to get home at some point, much less home and ready to put on sneakers.

To keep it simple, I wanted something that I really didn't have to think too hard about. When I go to the gym, it's a little overwhelming, honestly. I belong to a bare bones gym so it's not like I have my personal trainer breaking everything out for me. I need someone or something to just tell me what to do. I also don't want to spend any extra money on this quest, until I am sure I am going to stick with it (something else I have learned over the years!). My reward, if I stick with it, can be putting some capital into my endeavor—with some extra classes, new sneakers, or cute workout gear, but for now, I'm cycling through the couple sports bras I already have, wearing old t-shirts, and not spending any money on activities, aside from my monthly $20 membership.

So what's a girl to do who wants to get it shape, is generally overwhelmed by this all to begin with, and won't shell out any extra cash?  Well, of course, there's an app for that. Also, this both wonderful and terrible thing called the Internet.

There have been a lot of free yoga classes around Philadelphia this summer, and I am sad to say I have not taken advantage of them. It has been a while since I have done yoga, and I feel out of practice. It's a lousy excuse, I know, but that was in the back of my mind when I somehow came across the 30 day yoga challenge. These x-number of day challenges for fitness, dieting, even Instagram, seem to be a popular thing right now, and honestly, I kind of rolled my eyes at a lot them. Probably a lot of them are very good in theory, but then hashtags get involved, and it's all downhill from there...[Note to readers: Bookmark this comment in your brain for when I come up with something that has it's own hashtag. Oh crap, have you seen my Instagram?  With Rosalita, #killahkitteh? Hypocrisy, sigh.]

[Gets down off high horse.] Back to the 30 day yoga challenge. 

After all those preconceived notions, I just so happened across the yoga one, and it all made sense. I hadn't done yoga in a while so I needed to re-teach myself and get my body used to it again. It fits my guidelines—it's simple, I don't have to think too hard, and it's totally achievable. A month is not that long, and each day is a 20 minute maximum video. Everything is laid out for me day-by-day, so I don't have to figure out what area to focus on, etc. Instead, I just check my email and do the video that was sent to me that day. The instructor, Erin Motz, is very welcoming and gives variations on the poses so they fit an array of abilities. Also, it's FREE. Amazingly wonderful. You can either sign-up to be emailed daily here (FYI, you will get sent the email each day at the same time each day—whatever time you first sign-up), or you can see all the videos on YouTube.

Okay, so yoga is a great way to work on toning, strengthening, stretching, and generally, making your body and mind feel pretty great. I usually do my video in the morning, since they are short, and it's a nice way to start my day without having to get up obscenely early. I wanted to do something else, too, with a little more cardio, so enter the running part of my plan.

Runners, prepare to eye roll.

I am not in good shape so running, along with all physical activities harder than walking, is difficult. Also, when I did run, it was usually inside on a treadmill. I really want to run outside because it seems more enjoyable, you can pretty much do it anywhere, and I have to make the most of this nice weather before a polar vortex returns. Running outside, however, is hard (in my humble opinion). Or at least harder than the treadmill. Consequently, I decided to keep it simple, achievable, and guide myself with a 5k training program. [Runners, cue eye rolling.]  It may not seem like much, but it is conditioning me in a planned and regulated manner to get in shape, get used to running outside, and it is not so extreme that I hate it and will abandon it. There are plenty of online printable guides, as well as apps (including a zombie one). I am using the "Coach" feature on the Nike+ app. I am not endorsing them or anything—I just liked that in one app, I can track my runs and stats, as well as get training schedules for running all sorts of distances (in case I ever graduate from a 5k).

I am in a beginners level 5k program so the first week I just completed wasn't too taxing. Some days I just do a brisk mile walk (living in the city, I'm pretty used to that), other days I run, once a week I cross train, with another cardio activity of my choosing. Since it was week 1, I can alternate running and walking in 1 minute intervals. I use this interval timer to track that and also use it to push myself—increasing my run intervals, decreasing my rest periods, each time I run. It's simple, and I can run it in the background with my music, and it will beep when my interval is over.

For the cross training days, I grab free workouts from these sites:

  • FitSugar: This site can run on the more calorie-counting, "faddish" side of fitness, but I have found some fun workouts. The articles are to be taken with a grain of salt sometimes, but the exercise info is worth a look. I go through the videos and bookmark the best ones so I can go back to them quickly (otherwise you can waste a lot of time settling on something). I also organize my bookmarks by the length of video so I can easily grab an appropriate one given how much time I have. They also have some good tutorials on how to do various moves properly—something I struggle with sometimes (hello, squats). Finally, they have a lot of printable workouts that I made a binder of to keep by the TV so I can lessen the guilt of reality TV watching (yikes). They also have a free mobile app, PopSugar Active, with some of their workouts for when you are on the go.
  • Nike Training Club: I swear I'm not all about Nike, I just discovered this one after the Nike+ running app. It's a free mobile app that has workouts and training programs, based on your goals and ability level. In one of my previous get fit attempts, I was doing a NTC program and a running program and that was not realistically achievable (for me!), but I do highly recommend this download. You can use it for either the workouts à la carte, or do them as part of a guided program. You really will get a good workout, and there are little videos demonstrating the moves for those of you (like me) that had no idea what a frogger was (it's agony by the way). It's not fun like dance cardio, but it very much does the job, and you can play your music while the app runs. NTC, like FitSugar, is definitely more female-oriented, just FYI.
  • Booya Fitness: Booya is a subscription, workout-on-demand service. They make videos with all the trendy places like Brooklyn Bridge Bridge Bootcamp and BeyondBarre. It's a nice way to try the "hot" workouts without leaving the house, making the big bucks, or living in New York. The majority of the workouts are equipment free, and about 30 minutes long. I have enjoyed all the ones I've tried, including some really butt-kicking plyometrics ones. You can get access to all the videos for $99/year or $9.99/month OR you can join at the free level (like me) and get access to a weeks worth of videos, one a day, that then change up on a monthly basis. Each month I figure out my favorites and then plan my workout week around it.

And there you have it—my guidelines, my resources, and my overview of week 1. I'm hoping that by putting this out there, I will hold myself more accountable to stick with it (because who wants to read "Week 2: I'm a Failure. Again"). I'm also hoping that someone out there will benefit from this—even if it is just discovering a new app, or feeling better about themselves after seeing my sorry state of physical affairs.  Let me know if you have any tips or fitness discoveries!

What I've Done Week 1:
  • Completed week 1 of the 20 day yoga challenges and week 1 of an 8-week 5k running program
  • Ran even though it was rainy one day (planned ahead and brought workout gear with me in the morning so that then I could go to the gym straight from work)
What I'm Going to Try to Do Week 2:
  • See if listening to audiobooks or podcasts while running (rather than music as usual) helps distract me for longer runs
  • Try my binder of workouts to squeeze in some extra exercising when I watch TV

I'll keep ya posted!

Disclaimer:  I am obviously not a professional and intend to only share my story and what worked for me. Anyone seriously considering starting exercising or other fitness programs should trust the medical and fitness professionals out there.

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