Monday, January 28, 2013

Beginner's Workout

Today marks the 4th week (1 month mark) of my adventures in fitness. I am actually pleasantly surprised that I have kept it up, and even more shocking still, I enjoy doing it. If you had told me at the beginning of the month that I would actually enjoy working out, I would have laughed in your face. I had so many reasons not to go (don't have time, don't have money, don't want to do it, I'm sick, crafts seem like more fun obvi, etc.). I even had legitimate concerns about going (I had back surgery 9 years ago, will I hurt my back? Will my (already small) boobs disappear completely?) Coming from the girl who HATES to run, even around the block, and has started and abandoned workout routines no less than 10 times, I surprised myself. I am kicking myself (not literally--I bruise easily) for not having started earlier. I have been buying some cute new workout clothes, and even got myself some weight lifting gloves--something I never thought I would buy!

I believe that I can attribute my success thus far to 3 big factors:

1. I got a GREAT deal on a gym membership for only $25/month. I am on a family plan, so it's actually about $10 cheaper than the individual membership. The gym is also just down the block, so it's very convenient to go anytime.

2. I have a great workout buddy (Josh) who has given me really good advice to work out the right way and not get hurt. A workout buddy is also great motivation for you to go when they are holding you accountable. Every time I thought up an excuse to not go, I felt really bad, like I was letting Josh down for not going myself. Guilt for the win!

3. I have had the willpower to go 4-5 times per week religiously.

At first, 4-5 days per week sounded like a lot to me. But honestly, going 4 or 5 days a week is not as hard as I thought it would be. It still gives me 2 days off to let my body rest. Also, the days i know I am going to be hanging out with friends or making plans after work, I take as my days "off" from the gym. I originally set my goal to go at least 3-4 days per week, and so far, have easily been making 4-5 days. And when I do go, it's for at least an hour and a half. I do about 40 minutes of circuit training, 20 minutes of stretching, and 20 minutes to finish on the elliptical. The biggest thing is that I am not making excuses to not go the gym. Believe me, I have thought about it, but the one day I didn't go last week was because I was feeling pretty sick, and had a pounding headache. I know if I would have went that day, it would have only intensified.

I cope with the time out from my day by not looking at the clock while I am at the gym. I don't even bring my phone with me (unless I am working out alone). Seriously, I just don't keep track of the time, because the reality is that I should be doing all of the workout without worrying about how long it will take. I have also gotten some good reading time in, because I bring my Kindle to the gym and read while I run on the elliptical. I also almost never watch TV shows (mainly because I can catch anything I ever want to see online, and also I am usually busy doing other stuff), but I can catch some of them while on the machines at the gym. It's also easy for me to be indoors when it's so cold outside right now. I am looking forward to summer, and being able to be active outside. I will probably ride my bike, but who knows--I may start running! That's a long shot, but it could happen.

My body has reached the point where it's no longer sore after my workout. The soreness thing only lasted about 3 days, max, so once I made it past that, I was golden. What I am learning about working out is that you have to do it properly, and so many people do not. Here are some great beginning pointers I got from Josh. Already from just my short time at the gym, I have seen people violate almost all of these.

Beginner's Workout Tips

-If anything is hurting, stop. Just stop. Working out is supposed to be challenging, but you could really injure yourself if you feel hurt and you keep pushing yourself.

-Stretching should be done before anything else in conjunction with working out, because you actually can lose flexibility from weight training. Striking a balance is key.

-When stretching, hold positions for about 25 seconds. Anything less than that does not give your muscles enough time to really stretch out. 

-Doing 3-5 sets is ideal for each exercise you do, and anywhere from 8-12 reps per set is great. I do 3 sets, and the reps vary, depending on the machine.

-Allow yourself to have a full minute rest between each set, because you have to allow your muscles to disperse the lactic acid you just built up. While resting, you can pop over to a different machine that works a completely different muscle group, then switch back to your original machine, and cut your workout time down by doing this.

-For weight training, you will know if you are lifting the correct weight, because you should be able to just barely do 8 reps of one set. If you can easily do 12 reps and keep going, you probably need to increase your weight.

-Each rep you do should be done slowly: at least 2-3 seconds out, 2-3 seconds back in. You don't get more benefit out of the exercise by going faster. In fact, you get less. I have seen several people doing fast reps, although the benefit is not about quantity, but rather, quality.

-For cardio, try to run on a machine that can display your heart rate. It's important to do this because you should maintain a pretty consistent heart rate throughout. Many people get tired and slow down at the end of their cardio workout.

-Crunches actually put an unhealthy strain on the weakest part of your back, which could down the road could lead to disk herniation (umm...OUCH!) Flex intolerance can also occur, which is so much pain and stiffness that one cannot easily bend at the waist to pick something off the ground. I swear, I am not trying to scare you, I just learned this. They also don't work ALL the stomach muscles, which can lead to good looking abs from the side...and no other angle.So what is a good exercise to get abs? Planks and leg drops, in which you lie on your back, raise your legs in the air at a 90 degree angle, and slowly lower them until they almost touch the ground. Repeat until you cannot do them anymore. Rest a minute, and do 2 more reps.

-Drink lots of water during your workout, because otherwise you will get very parched and dehydrated.

I know the results of working out will not be immediate for me, but I am willing to work hard for them. The short-term effects I have experienced already have been nothing but positive: I feel physically stronger, I have more energy throughout the day, my mood is better, and my appetite is increasing. I am actually able to eat everything on my plate and still get hungry every few hours. I also am thirstier lately and have been drinking more water in general, which has health benefits all around. I took some "before" pictures, and in 3, 6, 9, and 12 months will take updated ones to see how far I have come. My diet is a whole other beast--I am a total foodie. I pretty much have always eaten whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted it, and don't ever really gain weight. I am a twig, and I always have been my whole life, so I am looking forward to actually putting on some muscle!

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