Working on My Fitness

Adapting: A Three on Thursday Story

It's been almost 6 months now since I set foot in my gym. On March 12, I went in for a strength training session with my trainer, Jeremy. The gym was eerily empty. The big TVs were all tuned in to the lead-up to the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament -- where the final pre-tourney games were being played with no fans in the seats. It was weird and surreal. My gym, which is affiliated with a hospital, was already quite geared up for the coming storm: floor staff were constantly walking around spraying and cleaning all the equipment, hand sanitizer stations were everywhere, the water fountains were closed, there were signs all over the gym with various warnings about hand washing. (No one wore masks then. Not yet.) The next day? CLOSED!

And you know what? Here in Michigan, the gyms are still closed! 

What's a committed "gym-rat" to do?

In the Before Times, I went to the gym nearly every day. I took cardio classes several times a week. And spinning. I did strength training classes, worked with a personal trainer, and sometimes did a kinda-sorta-yoga-ish kind of class there. I had gym-pals. I liked the instructors and my trainer. I thrived on the energy and enthusiasm and motivation of my gym!

I couldn't imagine . . . life without it.

And yet. Here I am. Six months later . . . living without it, and not missing it at all!

Really, this is one of the biggest shockers of Pandemic Times for me. Because I never worked out at home. Never. I went to the gym. Period. And it took several weeks of safer-at-home living before I adapted.

It took a few (painful and grieving) weeks, but I did adapt much quicker than I expected to. At first, my gym tried online workouts, but they were awkward and filmed-at-home and . . . not really very good (although I appreciated their attempt). When my gym started offering outside classes and set up (essentially) an entire gym outside this summer, I didn't even consider going back.

I'm still working out all the time. I've just shifted my thinking -- and my basement floorplan (!) -- to accomodate working out at home. What have I done?

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1 -- We invested in home fitness equipment. Yep. We're now Peloton People. (Tom uses it, too.) I love the Peloton. It provides a great cardio workout -- right in my own little home-gym in the basement. Yep. It's pricey. But, for me, it's worth it because I use it all the time, and it enables me to work out as hard as I did in the gym. (Plus . . . I'm not paying high gym fees anymore.) We also purchased a home-TRX system, a "body tower" (for pull-ups and dips), more dumbbells, and some REALLY heavy kettlebells (for Tom). We're looking into adding a rowing machine. (Because winter will be long . . . )

2 -- I've started doing online workouts. I've already explained about my now-daily yoga sessions with Adriene, but I'm also using the Peloton app for strength training. (There are hundreds upon hundreds of non-bike class choices on Peloton. You don't need a bike to purchase the monthly classes/app.) I'm surprised by how much I like working out this way, although I do miss the energy of the gym.

3 -- I walk. I mean, I used to walk the dogs in a more casual, focus-on-the-dogs way. But now? I WALK. I walk and I walk and I walk. JoJo and I have logged hundreds of miles since the Pandemic Times began. JoJo has never been in better shape!

So. I've adapted. I actually like being able to work out on my own schedule. That's a very nice benefit to working out on your own. Of course, that also means I need to be completely self-motivated. Would I prefer the gym? Absolutely -- if it weren't Pandemic Times. Might I return someday? Maybe. We'll see how things go.

For now, I'm happy. Sweating on my own in my basement!

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How about YOU? Are you finding it harder or easier to work out these days? Have you made adjustments to your fitness routine? What's working (or not) for you? Share your tips and tricks (or woes and frustrations) -- and I'll share them here in future posts!

Also -- stay tuned as I check back in with some of the people I've highlighed in fitness posts in the past. I'm interested in seeing what kind of changes they've made in their workout regimens 6 months into the Pandemic Times.

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Be sure to check out more Three on Thursday posts over at Carole's today!

 


Move It!

Back in "olden times" (you know . . . last Thursday), I was a gym-rat.  Really.  Like . . . pretty much every day to the gym.  I did kickboxing classes and spin classes and yoga and strength training.  I worked every week with my trainer, Jeremy.  I worked hard.  I sweat a lot.  

And, hoo-boy, do I miss it!

But, like all of us, I'm adjusting to a different life these days.  I have a little home-gym with plenty of equipment.  I have some online workouts I can do, and Jeremy is putting together some workouts for me based on the equipment that I DO have.  It'll be okay.  It's not the same, of course.  And I don't really feel like (or even like) working out at home.  

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But it's important.  Because we need to keep moving!  Especially now.

Here are three things to keep in mind . . . about Staying Fit in the Time of Coronavirus:

1 - Move every day.  Even just a little bit.  It helps you get in better physical shape, of course, but it also helps improve your state of mind, sharpens your focus, AND . . . it helps you STAY healthy.  Yep.  Exercise helps your immune system work better!  (Because who couldn't use an immune system boost right about now, right???)

2 - Get outside.  When I was a little girl, and my sister and I got to be too much for our mom inside, she would send us out - telling us, "Go outside and knock the stink off you!"  She didn't really think we were smelly, of course.  She just knew a change in scenery would be good for ALL of us.  It's (for the most part) decent weather out there now -- so get outside!  Get some fresh air!  Knock the stink off you!

3 - Try something new.  A lot of us are stuck at home now; can't get to a gym even if we wanted to.  A lot of fitness-based places are turning to the internet to offer new and free ways of exercising.  My own gym is rolling out online workouts for members, for example.  Maybe yours is, too?  And Peloton is offering a 90-day FREE offer for it's workout app!  No worries if you don't have a Peloton bike or treadmill (I don't have either) -- Peloton includes excellent strength training, meditation, and yoga classes, too!  (I signed up this morning.)  And Yoga Girl (Rachel Brathen) is offering a 30-day FREE yoga challenge/community connection program to help get folks through these challenging days.  This is a great time to try something different and shake up (or even start) your fitness program.

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Get moving!
(Because you can only binge-watch Netflix shows for so long.)

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And . . . from today's Find the Joy department . . . here are links to some museums currently offering virtual tours:

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam

The Guggenheim in NYCity

MoMa in NYCity

The National Gallery in London

(These are just a few of the amazing links available through Google Arts & Culture.  Check it out!)

 

 

 


Workin' On Her Fitness: February Update

It’s hard to believe that we’re already here . . . at the tail-end of February!  It’s time to check in with Kim again – to see how she’s been doing with her fitness and self-care program this month.

(In case you missed the first post in this series last month, you can read all about it here.)

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Kym:  Hi Kim!  Let's start with an update:  How is your fitness program going this month?  How are you feeling?

Kim:  It took me a few tries to find things that work for my back, but I have finally settled into a routine that is working well for me.  Every day I work out to either Kathy Smith’s “Fit over Forty” doing her circuit with weight training or one of Leslie Sansone’s walk workouts on YouTube -- sometimes with weights or resistance bands.  (You can see the Kathy Smith circuit videos here and the Leslie Sansone walking videos here.)

I’m also going to Tai Chi twice a week, and we do try to snow shoe one day on the weekend.  I have found out just how tight my hip flexors are! 

Kym:  Last month when we “chatted”, you were planning to get outside for exercise, you were going to do fitness workouts using Beach Body On Demand, and you had just ordered some weights.  Are those plans working for you?  Any changes to report?

Kim:   It’s been very challenging to get outside except on the weekends because of the weather and the lack of morning light before work, but when I can, I do get out -- and love it!  Instead of Beach Body on Demand, I am working with the videos I mentioned earlier and I’m really enjoying them.   I like being able to work out at home.  I have moved from my 3-pound weights up to the 5-pounders, so that's a bonus.  My muscles are definitely feeling the workout, but it’s a good pain. :)

Kym:  Can you tell me more about your self-care group?  How did you find the group — and what’s involved?   How is it helping? 

Kim:  I am working with a group that meets online called SCI (Self Care Initiative) founded by a man named Jason Seib.  I found his book "Body Beliefs” (which is a free download) through Facebook, and decided to join his group after watching a video he had up.  (Here’s a link to the video Kim watched; you need to register for access.)

He opens up the group to new people every now and then.  There is a $30.00 monthly charge, but you get a lot for the little it costs.  He does a weekly podcast, puts up a weekly focus video, and has a very active FB group where he is always there to help.  He also offers a one on one program for with people (it’s called SCI Accountability).  It’s more expensive, but when he opens that up again I will probably sign up.  

You know we “Obligers” do better when we are held accountable . . . ha!  I know doing this monthly blog check-in with you has made me commit to working out every. single. day.

Anyway, the group focuses a lot on looking at your thoughts and how they affect the way you react to situations.  One of the key questions he has us ask ourselves . . .  is how a thought that is “self deprecating” (for example) is really about self care; how it impacts the way we care for ourselves.

He also helps us look at stress and stressors in our lives, and explains that by taking out the emotion and by keeping focused on the facts, we’re usually able to deal with our stressors much better.  When faced with stress, he encourages us to ask ourselves a series of questions -- and by the time we’ve really examined it all, it’s easier to remove the stress by focusing our work on the stressor.  

This has really helped me!  In the past I would often have sat ruminating about something over and over in my head.  Now, instead, I’m applying a non-emotional way to confront the situation and resolve it with no bad feelings on either side.  It feels like a gift to be able to communicate more effectively.

It’s hard to describe, but I have found this group VERY helpful, because the focus is always on “Self Care” right down to the food we put in our mouths.  I’m sure that there are a lot of self-care methods out there that are equally as helpful.  Anything that helps us to value ourselves more is something we should all be practicing don’t you think?

Kym:  It sounds like you’ve found a program that is really changing the way you think and respond, Kim.  You’re so right – anything that helps us value ourselves more is something we should all be practicing!  I’m so happy you’ve found this group – and that it’s working for you.

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This is Kim's tai chi t-shirt, along with a book she's currently reading.

Kym:  I know it’s hard to go back to work full time — AND manage the rest of your busy life!  How are you fitting fitness activities into your days?  Is it harder than you expected?  What are the barriers you’re encountering?  And - any tips at working past those barriers?

Kim:  Well, I have cut way back on my yarn business, which has gone a long way towards reducing my stress.  I’ve changed from doing "dyed to order", to having "dyed inventory in my shop.”  I will be making a lot of decisions this year concerning how much longer I will continue with my yarn business.  Working full time really does make things so much more challenging – especially because I still want to find time to have a fulfilling life outside my work.

In order to get a workout in before I leave in the morning, I really have to prioritize my time so I can get out of the house.  Having 5 older dogs that need attention, putting a healthy lunch together, squeezing in a little meditation time, then a workout, a shower, etc. usually has me running out the door in a flash . . . ha!  I am fortunate in my new job that I work 3 days alone in the office, so I am able to slow my pace down a bit on those days once I am there.

I find the more I can try to get ready the night before (such as making my next day lunch if I can, getting my clothes ready, etc.) really helps the next morning go a little smoother.

Kym:  You mentioned to me earlier that you’re learning ways to work out so you don’t aggravate your back issues.  What kind of advice do you have for other people trying to work out after prior injuries or surgery?  What do you find to be the best strategy for figuring out what you can and can’t do regarding fitness activities? 

Kim:  I found out very quickly that there is no way I can do any type of stomach crunches unless I do them supported on a ball!   I have found that you can work on your core muscles and abs when you are standing with little modifications.   It’s important to figure out what kind of exercises work for you with any physical limitations or injuries.   

The videos I’m using have been good for me.  Kathy Smith’s ab workouts don’t work for me with my back issues, so on those days I use Leslie’s videos instead.  What I like about Leslie’s videos is she has options within each video so you can tailor it to your needs, but they are all based around walking.  Sometimes the people in the video with Leslier are a bit corny, but the workouts are good – and effective!  I do work up a sweat, and it starts my day off so much better.  

I’m sure as the year progresses and I gain strength, I will eventually join one of the gyms up here.  It’s sad that our big local gym closed.

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Kim's tai chi studio (can you spot Kim???)

Kym:  How are you dealing with the tedium and fatigue of a long, New Hampshire winter?  How do you keep your energy up at this time of year?

Kim:  Winters up here are just so blessed long!  I find that by the beginning of March, I am really looking forward to spring  - and playing in the dirt again.  I love to read, so I tend to immerse myself in reading stories I can get lost in (and forget about winter).  I usually do a lot of knitting and sewing in the winter, as well.  This year I have been trying to clean out “stuff” from our old house.  We are hoping to move closer to the ocean when we finish renovating this house, so re-homing things that we don’t use any longer will go a long way to making the move easier.  It also is freeing up space in my brain!  

I always try to learn something new in the winter, as well, and lately I’ve been playing with the app Procreate on my iPad.  It’s a fun program that is stretching my brain a little bit.

Kym:  Thanks so much for taking the time to check in again this month, Kim!  I’m really excited to be following your progress – and I’m happy to offer some “accountability” for your Obliger-self!  Maybe by next month - when we catch up again – we’ll be seeing signs of spring!  (Fingers crossed.)

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Enjoy your weekend, everyone!

 


It's That Time of Year

. . . when we start saying things like: 

Yeah, I'm slacking off right now but . . .
. . . I'll get myself back on track after the holidays.
. . . I'll have more time to work out after the holidays.
. . . I'll start a new fitness program after the holidays.
. . . I'll look into joining a gym after the holidays.

About that last one?

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Let's talk!

Now I know that joining a gym or fitness center isn't for everyone.  But for a lot of us . . . gyms are instrumental in helping us achieve and maintain our fitness goals. If it weren't for my gym, I'd never work out as hard or as long or as often as I do!  

Gyms are actually a great fitness option.  And maybe you're thinking about it right now.  (You know.  For after the holidays.)  So I thought . . . NOW. . .  might be a good time for a blog post full of tips for finding the RIGHT gym for YOU. 

First, let's talk about the benefits of gyms as a fitness option.

  • There's the accountability factor.  You pay for it, so you might as well use it!  Yep.  Once you go through the trouble and hassle and financial outlay to join a gym, there's some motivation there . . . to get your money's worth.
  • There's the energy factor.  Energy . . . is contagious.  You see other people working hard, YOU can work hard.  Seriously - you can "catch" other people's energy when you're working out at the gym.  (I work out much harder - and do things I don't think I can even do - when I'm at the gym.)
  • There's the equipment factor.  Sure.  You can work out at home.  But you probably don't have the equipment options that you have at a gym.  Treadmills and ellipticals and rowing machines and stair climbers (which are the work of the devil, I swear) and pools and free weights and TRX and spinning bikes and weight racks and racquetball courts (etc).
  • There's the class factor.  Kickboxing and spinning and yoga and Pilates and barre and Zumba and water aerobics and . . . well, yeah.  All those class options.  A fun way to get your workout in, for sure.
  • There's the personal trainer option.  Maybe you don't want one.  But if you do . . . the gym is the place to find them!

Next, let's talk about some of the things to consider when you're looking for a gym.

First and foremost, be clear about what YOU are looking for in a gym.  Because this is a very individual thing!  Are you wanting a place with lots of options so you're never bored?  Are you looking for community and support in your fitness efforts?  Do you want someone to help you tailor a workout just for you?  Do you need a kick in the pants?  Variety?  A pool?  Heavier weights?  Spin bikes?  Figure out what YOU want for yourself before you even start looking at gyms.

Next . . . proximity and convenience.  You want to find a gym that is conveniently located -- either to your home or to your work.  Because if it's too far out of the way, you won't go.  So try to find a gym that's . . . on your way.  Home from work.  Or on your way to work.  Or within a distance from home that you'll get there.  Regularly.  

Now . . . do they have what you want?  Hours that work with your schedule.  Equipment you're interested in using (on the regular).  Classes you want to take at times that work for you.  A nice locker room with a shower.  Options to hire a personal trainer.  Make sure the gym will meet your needs.

Then . . . visit the gym during the time you'll most likely be using it.  Check out the vibe.  What's the culture there?  Is there plenty of room to work out?  Are people waiting to use the equipment you're most interested in?  Are there too many grunting meatheads?  Make sure you can see yourself fitting in - comfortably - at the gym.

Other things to check out . . . Hours. Rules. Cleanliness. Amenities. Class schedules. Class cancellation policies. 

And, of course, there's cost . . . A gym membership is an investment in your fitness, and paying to use a gym is a powerful incentive for lots of people.  Just make sure you understand the fee structure and any contract requirements.  Find out exactly what's included in the fee.  Read the fine print.  And know that a cheaper gym that doesn't have exactly what you want OR is not conveniently located for your life is probably not really cheaper.

Final tips . . . Try it out before you decide.  Most gyms offer test-drive deals (my gym, for example, has a 5-day trial membership for potential members).  There are often membership/sign-up deals in September and January.  On the flip side, gyms are most crowded in the fall and early winter.  The numbers drop significantly by mid-February.  (So if you join in January, keep in mind that the gym will be at peak-crowd just then.  It won't last long.)

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I hope this information is helpful for you if you're considering joining a gym in 2020.  

  • If you already belong to a gym, what benefits or tips might you add to my list?  
  • And if you haven't had a good experience at a gym, what barriers did you encounter?

As for me?  Well . . . I'm off to the gym!

 


Walking in a Winter Wonderland

It's warmed up again here.  I mean . . . it's a relative thing now, at this time of year.  But it's not THAT cold.  And all the snow has finally melted.  (I may even try throwing my bulbs in the ground later this week.  Because what have I got to lose???)  Slightly warmer temperatures and no snow/ice on the ground makes for easier outdoor walking, that's for sure!

Which got me thinking.  I know a lot of you walk outside as your primary fitness activity.  And it's hard(er) to get out there and do it in the winter, when it's cold and there's snow on the ground.  But it's not impossible!  (Just ask my sister, who walks every day -- even in Cheyenne's brutal wind and "sideways snow!")  I thought it might be helpful to share a few tips for winter walking - to keep us all moving -- and moving safely.

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So.  Here we go.  My tips for winter walking:

Stretch a little before you get out there.  When it's cold outside, your muscles take a bit longer to warm up.  Help them out with a few quick stretches before you begin.  Get that blood flowing before you leave the house.

Watch your step.  Mind where you go when it's snowy or icy.  Keep to a moderate (or even a slow and careful) pace when there is ice or snow on the road.  If possible, walk on trails or the sidewalk or less traveled streets.  Watch out for those piles of plowed snow!  Seriously, take it easy -- because you don't want to fall.

Take smaller strides.  The longer your stride, the more likely you are to fall on an icy road.

Dress in layers.  Even though it's cold, a brisk walk can get your heart rate up and make you sweat.  If you're overdressed, you'll be uncomfortably warm, and that's no fun.  (When that happens to me, I usually take off my gloves for a while and unzip the top of my jacket.  I can always pop the gloves back on, or zip back up again if I get chilly.)  But . . . don't layer your socks!  You can better avoid blisters by wearing only single socks.

Wool!  (I don't need to tell the knitters out there about the benefits of wearing wool.)  Wool is your best layer.  Leave the cotton stuff at home!  (Really.  Cotton absorbs moisture -- which never works well when you're exercising.)

Pay attention to your visibility.  Wear something bright -- and something reflective if you're walking in the dark.  If it's dark, put on a flashing clip light.  Carry a little flashlight so you can mind your footing.  Or, better yet, go ahead and get yourself a headlamp.

Try some studded boots or "traction cleats" for your shoes.  When the roads are icy or snow-covered, I pull on my YakTrax.  They provide an amazing amount of stability and make walking outside possible for me in the winter.  My sister has some sort of studded boots that she wears for winter walking (I'll ask her for more information if you're interested).

And then, of course, when you get back home from your winter walk be sure to do a bit more stretching and drink plenty of water!

How about you?  Do you have some tips to share for . . . walking in a winter wonderland?

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Please join us for our Week 3 Read With Us discussion of Just Mercy.  Carole's hosting us for Friday Tuesday Night Snacks -- and you don't want to miss that!


Checking In

It's been a while since I've written a post about fitness and wellness.  (Like with exercise itself, sometimes we get off track, y'know?)  So as I head out this morning for an early spin class and probably some weight work (I don't really feel like it right now, but I really ought do it anyway. . . ), I thought this would be a good time to check in with you.

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How are you doing with your fitness these days?  
What's working for you?  
Or . . . what's not working for you?
Do you have any progress or new goals you want to share?

Let's . . . check in!

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And . . . head over to Bonny's today for more Read With Us.  This week, Bonny is hosting our continuing discussion of Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson.  (I hear she has pastries . . . )

 

 


Get Strong

I've been harping on about getting fit(ter) for several months now.  I hope that I'm beginning to convince you that adding some fitness to your life would be a Really Great Thing.  And, further, I hope that I'm convincing you that strength training should REALLY be Something You Want To Do.  Because being strong and fit will serve us all well as we age.

So let's . . .

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shall we???

Okay.  So many of you have let me know that . . . yeah, yeah.  You're interested.  
But you don't want to go to a gym.  
And you don't have the time.  (See my quote from yesterday.) (Just sayin.)  
And you don't know where to start.
And can you do this at home?  Without any equipment? 

Starting today, I'm going to take those comments on!

Let's begin here:  What, exactly, IS strength training???

Well.  Strength training can be explained by two things:

  1. Movement of any weight . . . including your own body weight.  Turns out that doing ANY exercise that pushes your muscles outside their comfort zone will force them to rebuild stronger.  Y'know . . . to prepare them for their next challenge!
  2. Progressive overload . . . exerting just a little more effort than last time - consistently.  That means lifting heavier weight or doing more repetitions.  You need to make your muscles adapt constantly -- rebuilding themselves to get stronger.

And what does that mean?

Well.  If you do 10 wall push-ups and 10 squats right now . . . you've just done a strength training workout!  (Right there, right now . . . without a gym or a trainer or anything.)

The trick?  Do it on the regular a few times.  And then . . . you need to up your game!  Maybe 11 (or 12) wall push-ups and 11 (or 12) squats.  Or add more days.  Or do them twice with a little rest in between.

Why?

Well.  You need to push your muscles outside their comfort zone.  Regularly.  When you do this . . . pushing your muscles like that . . . you're actually "breaking them down." Kind of "tearing" them (just a little bit) during your workout.  And then, as you rest and recover . . . they build up again.  Stronger and more resilient.  (Rinse.  Repeat.)

What about soreness after you work out?

Yep.  That's going to happen.  Because you're working specific muscles you probably haven't worked in a while -- hard enough to make them "tear" a teeny bit.  This soreness actually has a name:  Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS (which usually peaks on the 2nd day after your workout).   And the best "cure" for DOMS?  Movement.  Getting the blood flowing to those sore muscles.  (I know.  Counterintuitive and NOT what you want to do.  But true.)  So.  You need to work through the muscle soreness (not to be confused with an injury, which is different thing altogether).

So.  Here are my strength training beginning basics for you:

  • Intentional, regular workouts
  • Progressive overload
  • Work through the soreness

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Now.  What about a workout to get you started?

First, I'm just going to say this:  Personally, I think it is best if you can get to a gym and take a strength class (many of them are designed specifically for women or for the "over 50" set) or - if you can swing it - work with a trainer for a while.  Proper form is important, and sometimes it's hard to figure out if you're doing your exercises properly on your own, at home.  (Plus, it is nice to have a personal cheerleader.)  BUT . . . don't let that stop you from beginning!  If you absolutely can't (or don't want to) do the gym thing, doing it on your own is better than not doing it at all!

The best way to get started at home . . . is to begin with bodyweight training -- "lifting" the weight of your own body.  No equipment needed!  You can do it anywhere!  And it really works to build strength.

Here is a great beginner-do-at-home-strength training workout for you to try (20 min).  It's from NerdFitness and includes a video.  (You'll have to scroll down to the middle of the article to the headline Beginner Body Weight Workout Video & Exercises.  They also promote their online coaching services, etc. so you'll have to scroll past all that to find the workout.)  NerdFitness does a great job making fitness accessible for people who aren't "athletic."  I really like their attitude and approach, and if I were beginning at home with strength training, this is where I would begin.

You can also do what Carolyn does . . . and find YouTube videos featuring beginning body weight workouts.  I just tried a YouTube search using the terms "beginner body weight workouts" and a BUNCH of options appeared, so that's a great source of at-home workouts.  (The top video in my search?  The NerdFitness workout referenced above!)

And if you've already doing some at-home workouts and would like suggestions of other body weight exercises to mix things up, here is an "encyclopedia" (pretty much) of 53 different body weight exercises to try.  It takes a while to load because it includes a lot of photos and videos of people doing the 53 different body weight exercises.

And if you have access to the New York Times online, they have a great at-home strength workout option that includes detailed instructions and videos.  There is even a chart of the workout you can click on to save to your computer or print out so you don't have to load the whole article each time you want to do it.  (You need to scroll down to the "Time to Train" headline, and then to the "At Home Workout" headline.)

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Okay.  I imagine that's probably total overload.  But certainly a place to begin!  Please let me know what you think -- and especially let me know if you try any of these workouts.  And if you're already working out at home, please add your suggestions or tips.  I'll be sure to share them in future posts.

(Next up:  Adding equipment for your at-home strength training workouts.)


So. Why Weight?

Last week, I introduced you to Claudia . . . who made a compelling case for adding weight training to your fitness activities -- and especially as we age.  I thought I'd piggyback on that post today, with a story and some facts about strength training.

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First, a story.

I've been a workout-freak for a very, very long time.  Cardio fitness activities have long been part of my repertoire - jumping, dancing, running, swimming, kicking.  And I did yoga and Pilates to build core strength, flexibility, and balance.  But I was completely uninterested in strength training or lifting weights.  Because . . . boring.  And I didn't want to get "big muscles." And it didn't actually feel like working out to me . . . because you don't really even sweat.  (And I like to sweat when I work out.)

So I ignored the whole strength thing.

And then . . . in December 2011 . . . my mom fell off a counter stool at my house and broke her ankle.  Badly.  She stayed with me at my house for her recovery, and I saw first hand what happens when you age . . . and didn't work on your strength training when you were younger!  My mom had to keep all weight off her injured foot -- which meant using a walker . . . and "hopping."  She couldn't do it!  She didn't have the upper body strength to use the walker to "hop."  (She couldn't hop either, but that's an issue for another day.)

It was a miserable time.  My mom was frustrated and depressed.  Her early physical therapy efforts were completely focused on building her arm muscles so she could use the walker.  It was hard work, and discouraging for her.  Especially because she was in pretty good shape for a woman in her late 70s!  She walked every day and went to the gym regularly, where she swam and took "Zumba Gold" classes.  

She did not, though, do any strength training.

Watching my mom struggle with her lack of strength had me re-assessing my own workout routine.  I decided I needed to work on my strength . . . now . . . before I became that "woman in her late 70s" who was in "pretty good shape."  (And that's when I contacted Claudia.  Because she was the only woman I knew at the time who WAS working on her strength in a serious way.)

Ever since my mom's broken ankle experience, my motivation has been . . . to NOT have that happen to me!

Now, why weight?  (A few facts about muscles and weight training.)

  • As we age, our muscles begin to melt away.  Muscles begin to deteriorate in our 30s.  When we hit 40, we lose an average of 8% of our muscle mass every decade -- and this continues to accelerate even faster after age 60.  Loss of muscle limits mobility, speeds the onset of some diseases, and is linked to premature death.
  • Loss of muscle also has an impact on your bones.  In fact, the factors that help us maintain muscle are the same factors that keep our bones strong and dense.  As we lose muscle with age, our bones become brittle -- leading to osteoporosis, arthritis, fractures, frailty.
  • Most of us just accept that the loss of muscle and bone density just happens as part of aging.  BUT studies show that you can slow and delay these processes by years - even decades - with muscle strengthening programs that work your entire body.  In fact, studies show that adding 2 resistance-training sessions to your workout each week can reverse age-related cellular damage that causes muscle loss and functional impairment.  (Here's a link to the study if you want to get technical.)

And the benefits?

  • Studies are showing that muscle mass is linked to longevity.  There's something called a "muscle index" (muscle mass divided by height squared), and this muscle index is turning out to be a more important predictor of premature mortality than obesity.
  • Resistance training (strength training) improves your cardiovascular health by increasing your blood flow.
  • Skeletal muscle helps regulate and dispose of blood sugar.
  • Muscle acts like a coat of armor against diabetes.  (Something to do with insulin and absorbing glucose, which is too complicated for me to go into here - because I don't understand it to begin with - but if you're interested, let me know and I can send you a link.)
  • Regular strength training - in combination with cardio exercise and eating a healthy diet - can help burn more fat than just cardio and a healthy diet alone.

So.  Strength training twice a week . . . can help you get stronger, live longer, feel better, and burn more fat.
What are you "weighting" for?

(Seriously.  I want to know.  What are your barriers to strength training?)

 


Back At It

Usually, I am a workout-aholic.  I go to the gym pretty much every day (I'll share my own fitness story someday), and I work out hard while I'm there.  I take my fitness pretty seriously.

I really, really need those endorphins to flow or I don't feel quite . . . complete.

While I was on my trip to Alaska . . . which happened to be on a small luxury cruise ship . . . I tried to keep as active as I possibly could.  Tom and I walked a lot each day.  We worked out on the ship whenever possible.  We went on a couple of higher-intensity treks (hiking on a glacier, for example, or kayaking around islands).  

But.

I did more of this . . . 

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than usual.  (Let's just say . . . we used our premium drinks package more than we used the gym . . . )

I arrived back home craving a diet cleanse, a massage, and a good, hard workout!

So.  I'm back at it.  And feeling better already.

But it got me thinking -- how do YOU get yourself back on track after a break?  As in . . . after a vacation or an injury or being sick or, well, maybe a heat wave?  

What works for you?
(Share your stories in the comments, and I'll follow up with a summary next week.)

 


Right Now . . . November 2016

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November has been a crazy-busy month for me, end to end.  Filled with stresses and emotions and too-long ToDo lists . . . but also with love and gratitude and turkey!

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(These gorgeous flowers are from my mom's memorial service last Tuesday.  Aren't they lovely?)

Here's what's happening in my world . . . Right Now:

Watching - I finished watching The Crown last night.  I loved it.  Tom and I watched Love Actually the other night.  Other than that, not much watching going on.

Reading - But . . . I do have plenty of reading happening!  I finished reading The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (and winner of this year's National Book Award) just yesterday morning.  This is a powerful book -- one I will be thinking about for quite a while.  I also recently finished Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  Again, powerful.  I have two books on library loan through Overdrive -- and I'm going to have to read fast because they're due far too soon (when it rains it pours, it seems): Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh and Hot Milk by Deborah Levy.  (Luckily, they're both on the short side.)  

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Knitting - I have been finding some time to knit a bit.  Not much, but some.  I'm knitting this sweater, and I'm nearing the end (just one more sleeve and the pockets).  On size 11 needles with bulky yarn, this one is clipping right along (so to speak; it's a relative statement).  I'm anxious to try some of these cute little guys -- and I'm still looking forward to knitting up some of these.

Drinking - Tea.   And plain old water-infused-with-oranges.  And wine.  (Natch.)

Humming - This one.  Four Strong Winds was one of my mom's favorites.  (She was from Alberta, you know.)  Erin sang it at the memorial service last week --- quite a bit different than Neil's version, of course.  Seeing that Erin's voice is classically trained.  And Neil's is . . . not.  Anyway.  I've been humming this song ever since.

Needing to - Resume my usual fitness routine.  Because my life has been so upside-down and inside-out lately that too many of my workouts have, well . . . pretty much disappeared.   (I also need to quit eating so much cheese.)  (But let's not talk about that.)

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Delighted by - Shhhhh.  It's kind of under the radar . . . but I'll let you in on a secret.  My knee has improved enough that I am running again.  Just a little.  And very slowly.  But I'm delighted.  (I'm also delighted by the shoelaces in my new running shoes.  Aren't they great?)

Looking forward to - Bringing light and winter comfort into my house during these dark times (seasonal AND political).  (Stay tuned.)

Celebrating - Something that I can't quite blog about yet.  But it's fun.  And I'll tell you as soon as I can.

Planning - A party.  The holidays.  My dad's move.  What to knit next.  Which book to load on my iPod.  Year-end tax stuff.  Pretty much . . . All The Things.

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Grateful for - These four goofballs.  I was so happy to have them all home last week.  I was happy to buy them drinks and take them out for dinner and laugh with them and listen to their banter.  It doesn't get much better!

How about YOU?  What's going on for you . . . right now?