Tag Archives: workout

Getting a workout, without working out

21 Feb

I love compound exercises. Stuff that not only challenges you to do several things at once, yet which also exercises as many muscles as you can at the same time. Not only do you get a better overall workout, you also get your body temperature up more quickly, you heart beats more strongly, and you burn more fat simply because you are actually using more muscles. The trouble with compound exercises in workouts however is that they can be damned hard to do, and they aren’t always a log of fun unless you enjoy punishing yourself for no immediate benefit beyond “feeling the burn”!! [face-palm]

Now if there is one activity that I have always hated around the house, it’s gardening. Out in the sun, it’s a stinking hot day, the fly and mosquito population seem to want to bother nobody else in the street except for me, and there’s this endless pulling of weeds, pruning of plants, lifting of garden related “stuff” pushing wheelbarrows and all that boring stuff that only seems to be enjoyable to those “old people” who seem to love gardening!! The thing is, that those “old people” are probably staying fitter than all of their lazier younger neighbours like myself who hate the gardening.

Gardener Gardening

No… that isn’t me… it’s an analogy!! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nearly everything you do in the garden is going to give you a workout. You squat and bend to pull out the weeds, you do pulls, presses and lifts, when raking, hoeing, digging, planting, or laying out the paving, you get stretches and extensions when you are reaching high places to prune, and in many cases the activity is also going to apply resistance or weight to your movements. You are literally getting a workout without going out of your way to plan a specific workout, and you do all of this without needing to see any Lycra  sweat bands, $200 footwear, and not a single cardio machine in site…  unless you’ve got a hyperactive dog that needs your attention !  So while I still hate gardening as either a hobby or a general activity, I can’t help but love the efficiency where not only can I get a damned good workout but that I can get in an hour of solid work and get some of the chores done at exactly the same time!!

Apparently this is me doing cardio with a pair of “cardio machines” – ok, again this is an analogy… work with me people!!

Now as someone who is getting on top of his fat loss and fitness, I got to thinking today about how efficient the combination of chores and workouts are because I found myself needing to take care of some pruning today. I had borrowed some long handled shears from my dad, and set about “destroying” some overenthusiastic growing things with them. I noticed a while later that even though I was in the shade and cutting leftover tree bits down to a size that would fit our green waste bin, I was sweating like I had been running for an hour, and my arms and legs were feeling that same soreness you get after you’ve been lifting and squatting for 20 minutes. I finished my garden chore after an hour, and not only hadn’t I noticed how quickly I had finished the job, I also hadn’t realised that I had been working my body quite hard at the same time.

This put me in mind of another time when I had worked my body so hard that I could barely life a finger. I was about 19 years old and had spent a whole Saturday with friends at a large country property that had been set up as a paint-ball range. We’d had a wonderful day capturing flags, shooting up the “enemy”, getting covered head to toe in those little coloured paint dots, leaping over obstacles, commando rolling into bunkers, and literally running ourselves ragged. I remember I was never really much of an athlete when I was younger, so this was a very physical day for me.

Analogy? Or was that “me in disguise aged 19″… [yes, my mother worries sometimes!]

On the Monday when I went to work, I was pushing the company mail cart around, and I could barely walk, lift an arm, bend or turn. It was like every single muscle had been punished so badly that my entire body was one combined muscular knot!! It was probably the biggest, bad-est, longest workout I had ever done, and likely I’ll never get in another full day workout like that ever again. The thing is though, that it was definitely a workout and I hadn’t noticed myself getting it at the time. The day literally flew past without my noticing the time passing.

Now these are just two very broad examples from my own life of times where I have managed to be getting a workout without intending to do an actual workout. Yes, one example was more extreme than the other, yet it does show you how you can do things that can keep you active while at the same time helping you to maintain a level of fitness without necessarily making a chore of fitness itself. This is perhaps one of the many reasons why people start to dread doing workouts and why their commitment to improving their fitness often fails. Seriously, I don’t blame them either. We starve ourselves with diets to lose weight, and we do workouts that make us feel all broken and uncomfortable. Why on Earth would anyone do all of that to themselves for more than the time it takes to realise how much easier it is to simply stay unhealthy!!

Have you ever noticed how an activity that has kept you active in the company of others has passed in the blink of an eye, yet an average workout leaves you counting the seconds that have passed and the seconds left in your workout, and you’ve sometimes started wishing a particularly difficult workout could somehow be over sooner? Now if on the other hand you can find a way to make eating the right foods less of a chore, and working out both effective and fun, surely you’ll find yourself sticking with it for longer, and not needing to rely on nebulous strategies such as finding motivation, or sticking positive affirmation posters up all over your house and office cubicle! This is where getting involved in group activities that require active participation can be such an effective way to help you to achieve those sometimes difficult lifestyle changes that people so desperately need to employ to reach their goals.

Perhaps you have a community garden, or a walking group (with or without babies or dogs), or perhaps even a boot camp nearby. Maybe you have an elderly neighbour who would appreciate your help with some of their big outdoor chores such as clearing gutters, painting the house, or some big gardening jobs that they can’t physically do on their own. Maybe you could get involved with a sporting or recreational club where the activities will keep you moving and working your body. There are just so many ways that people can keep themselves active and engaged in their communities on a daily basis without necessarily needing to sweat it out alone in a gym, and while you’re mind is also engaged and you are receiving positive feedback from your friends or from the activities themselves, your body will certainly reap the rewards.

Working out with Resistance Bands

19 Feb

A bit about resistance bands

I’ve become a big fan of resistance tube/bands/straps/rings, and all of those other rubbery, stretchy items that are available as an alternative to weight for strength and resistance training. I  bought myself a small set of resistance bands a couple of years ago, and for me the biggest plus has been that they are very strong, light, can be packed into the tiniest space, and this makes them extremely portable, so that I can take them literally anywhere. Whether you’re on a long distance trip and need to squeeze in a late workout after the hotel gym has closed, or simply out away for a weekend and you don’t want to miss your scheduled workout, resistance bands are the ultimate in ultra compact and portable fitness equipment.

One of the things I like about resistance bands is that they are easy to use anywhere. If you have a door, a pole, a fence or a park bench nearby, you can easily secure your bands to a fixed point, or you can simply use the bands detached and use your feet, knees, arms or some other creative positioning to use the resistance material to get a good workout.

Something else that I like about resistance bands is that they can literally replace an entire set of dumbells, because they offer varying levels of resistance. The more you stretch the band, the more resistance it gives you. If you have the bands which can be clipped to handles you can increase resistance by adding more bands to your handles, and with any resistance material you can also double the resistance of any band simply by folding it in half if it is long enough. Literally any weight training exercise that you can think of can be done with a little creative thinking, positioning, and an appropriate resistance selection. If you don’t believe me, have a look at the following video:

Now before you think I’ve given them up entirely, I really do enjoy using free weights and I’ll often use dumbells and barbell in my workouts. I keep a small set of weights at home, however I’m a minimalist and I prefer to stick to bodyweight and light weight exercises, particularly while I am still rebuilding my fitness. I also like to set an example, and I don’t want to be the sort of trainer that tells his future clients that they need to spend hundreds to thousands of dollars on expensive fitness equipment that will work just as well as a $50 weight set or a $30 dollar resistance band set.

One of the criticisms I have against resistance bands is that they can feel a little awkward to use when attempting certain compound movements, because the handles and/or the bands themselves can get in the way of certain natural body movements. My only other problem with bands is that you need a lot of little extras to make them really useful, such as anchors for doors, poles/trees and other places you might like to fix them to. These are really only minor problems though which are far outweighed by the versatility of the bands themselves. So while I will continue to use my free weights, I will also be using resistance bands to mix things up a little and ensure variety in my workouts.

My workout for today

For today’s workout, a did 3 sets of the following using 30 second intervals with 10 second rests between exercises:

  1. Left Leg Reverse Lunge + Row
  2. Right Leg Reverse Lunge + Row
  3. Forward Lunge + Chest Fly
  4. Arm Curl + Shoulder Press
  5. Resistance Squat
  6. Left Side Plank + Reverse Fly
  7. Right Side Plank + Reverse Fly
  8. Split Stance Tricep Extensions

This workout is a slight variation of a workout which inspired me to write this article, and which I found accidently on Youtube today while looking for something else:

What I really enjoyed about this workout is that it really gave my core a good going over, as well as getting me to do more lunges and squats which I don’t think I use enough. I also particularly like that nearly all of the movements are either compound movements, or combination movements. By the end of the workout, my heart rate was nicely elevated, I had a good sweat and body heat, and I could really feel the effect of each of the movements on my muscles. My only complaint today was that my shoulders are still feeling a little sore from a workout a couple of days ago, and I found that I had overestimated the amount of resistance I needed to use with the Arm Curl + Shoulder Press, so I dropped the resistance and then dropped the shoulder press so that I would not risk damaging my shoulder, which had a rotator tear a few years back and which still gives me occasional trouble.

Recovery

I always make sure to hydrate well after my workouts. today was no exception, and I drank about 600 ml shortly after my workout. I also did some light stretching and mobility exercises for about 10 minutes to make sure I don’t get too tightened up in the shoulders, knees and hip. I followed all of this up about 30 minutes later with a smoothie made from bananas, a couple of hard boiled eggs, a little salt, water, and a little honey and cocoa to give it a nice chocolatey flavour, and blended on high speed for about a minute. I had a good high protein meal a couple of hours later, which was a paleo pizza inspired by this recipe, and loaded up with good iron and amino acid rich meats and vegetables. Yum!

Today’s Workout

17 Feb

So this is how I chose to “punish” my body for today:

Tabata sequence:

  1. Flutter Kick
  2. Bicycle Crunch
  3. Plank Crawl
  4. Burpee
  5. Right Side Plank with Oblique Twist
  6. Left Side Plank with Oblique Twist
  7. Mountain Climber
  8. Press-up with Oblique Crunch

At your highest intensity, The bicycle, burpee and mountain climber will get you all nice and sweaty, while all of the other stuff will help to really shred your core. By the time you get to the last exercise in the sequence, you should be practically wasted and struggling to do what amounts to a 3-point press-up with an added kick to your obliques. If you’re a real glutton for punishment, try doing this twice at maximum intensity!

Weights/Resistance:

  1. Seated Overhead Dumbbell Press (8kg, 6kg, 4kg)
  2. Walking Lunge with Dumbbells (8kg, 6kg, 4kg)
    • I lunge down the corridor a few times, so it ends up being between 10 & 20 meters rather than to failure so that my knees don’t give out.
  3. “Plate” Raise with alternating twist (8kg, 6kg, 4kg)
    • I don’t have plates at the weights I want, so I raise a dumbbell instead.
  4. Kneeling Dumbbell Row (8kg, 6kg, 4kg)
  5. Lat Pull-down (Heavy Resistance Band)
    •  I treat the resistance band as if I am pulling on a cable with weight attached, so it’s done to failure also, and I can always double the band over or increase it’s stretch to add “weight” as needed.

With the exception of the lunges, I lift weights to failure in 3 sets, and I don’t bother counting the reps.

One of these days I’m going to need to remember to ask my wife to help me take some photos so I can show you what all of these exercises look like!

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