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Saturday, March 05, 2011

Exercise kills stress DEAD

I seriously don't know what I'd do without exercise. No joke, I mean it. I work out to a number of fitness programs, my core one being P90X. While much of it right now is geared towards getting into prime shape for the Avon Walk in May (39.3 miles, baby!) it's also a good source of stress relief, helps me sleep better at night, raises my metabolism, makes me fit better into my clothes, et cetera, et cetera.

It's funny how many people I know who tell me they hate exercise. My response is usually, "You're not doing it right." There's this thing called a "runner's high" which I also get after a good yoga session or weightlifting that is worth the sweat alone. I know of people who work out until they puke, and without a good trainer to monitor them it's likely they're overtraining and doing damage to themselves in the long run. Exercise shouldn't hurt; it should be challenging while you're doing it, yes, muscles unaccustomed to the workouts will be sore after, true, but you shouldn't feel sick or dizzy afterwards. If you are, take it down a notch or two!

I used to be one of those kids who hated gym class. I did just enough to squeak by and preferred being on the computer or playing D&D. I was never into sports, didn't comprehend why people did any of this stuff, and avoided it as much as possible. It wasn't until after I came back from college and in need of losing at least eighty pounds that I gave exercise a try. Quickly I discovered that bad days didn't feel so bad after a good yoga session and that if I watched tv while I worked out on the elliptical, the time just flew by. Before I knew it, I was down 100 pounds and fitting into clothes I once swore my hip bones alone couldn't wear.

There are days when I lack the amount of time I'd like to get my workouts done. For that, I swear by the ten minute workout. One exercise per minute, a different one each minute, and give it all you've got. I use Tony Horton's Ten Minute Trainer for that, and swear by the cardio workout on there. I can work crazy hours as a software engineer and not get home until 10 or 11 at night, so I do my best to workout in the morning so I know I'll be able to collapse at night if need be. And also, it's a great replacement for that cup of coffee!

My advice to people who want to get into shape is this:

1) Avoid plateaus. Vary up the workouts and never put all of your exercise eggs in one basket. Your body is very, very smart and will adapt quickly. Doing the same exercise over and over again will over the long term not produce the results you get in the beginning. 

2) Stretching: you want to warm up beforehand, then do stretching, THEN go into your workout routine.

3) Women, stop worrying about "bulking up" on weights. Men bulk up because they possess far greater amounts of testosterone than we do. We are simply incapable of bulking up, and the muscle-y women you see in the mags frequently take supplements to look that way. Put down the one pounders and start lifting heavier weights. If you're doing 10-12 reps with little to no effort, increase the weight. It should feel challenging on the last couple of reps or you're not lifting enough. If you want to see examples of fit and trim women who lift weights, pick up a copy of Oxygen or Muscle and Fitness Hers magazine.

4) I firmly believe in the trifecta of cardio, strength training, and yoga. The three combined is a powerhouse. Try to get each into your week: cardio 3-4 times a week, strength training another 3-4, yoga 1-3. I usually do cardio in the morning, strength training at night, or yoga in the morning, cardio at night...whatever works for you! I like combining both interval cardio and steady state each week.

5) If you can't deal with gym memberships due to their schedule or your lack of funds, get exercise dvds and workout at home. I took the liberty of transforming my basement into an exercise room after the floods last year destroyed a good chunk of what was down there (and yes, it was a furnished basement). Do what you can!

6) You don't need exercise equipment to get into shape. You can run or rely on your own body weight for resistance. There are plenty of exercises online if you Google that can help.

7) EAT RIGHT. All of the workouts in the world will not correct a bad diet, and if for some reason you get sick or are otherwise held up in your workout routine, all of the crappy food you ate will come back to haunt you, and before you know it your weight will skyrocket. Eat healthy carbs (potatoes, whole grains, fruit), plenty of veggies, and lean protein. Avoid processed foods, fried foods, and unnecessary sugar. Read labels, shop at farmer's markets, and learn to love the joys of the veggie. I recommend replacing at least half of what you consume for animal protein with veggie sources of protein--again, lean and not fried!--and you'll see a dramatic difference. I got into eating veggie burgers for this reason alone! Morningstar, Boca, and Amy's are my favorites but I really prefer Amy's. If you have a restricted diet due to food allergies or intolerances, there ARE ways around it. Quinoa is an excellent grain which is both soy and gluten free, is good for fiber and iron too. Lentils and beans are also fabulous, and I never have anything bad to say about chickpeas, ever.

8) If you don't have a lot of time to work out, don't stress it! Studies have shown all you need is a good ten minutes a day. Run up and down stairs, take it outside, follow a quick workout on tv or dvd. Length does not necessarily make strength.

I'd post more, but I'm about to go out for a morning run. :D Hope this helps!

Love & Magic,


Charlotte McClain said...

I used to borrow exercise videos from the library. Right about the time I was sick of them they had to go back anyway so I got lots of variety. And if I got one I hated, no loss, I just took it back. Now I have Wii Fit and an iPad app called EvEx. Plus there's all that child chasing I do everyday at the kindergarten.

Adrianne Brennan said...

You gotta do what you enjoy, and that definitely helps! My thing is dancing. I absolutely LOVE to dance, so any cardio routine that involves dancing has my thumbs up! I gave zumba a shot recently and loved it.

Also a tip for the frugal: go to yard and garage sales. I scored a yoga dvd for fifty cents!

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