Monday, July 28, 2008

Finding Time and/or Inclination to Exercise

In all honesty, working out is the ONLY good habit I have ever integrated successfully into my life. I am not saying that my life is nothing but awful vices except for exercise, but I am just not a person who always manages to do things regularly, even things I enjoy. So, the point is that exercise has become something I do whether I feel like it or not, and usually at about the same time every day - but even if I miss my usual time, it proves it's a habit because I do it anyway, just later than usual!

I really was surprised when I found that I LIKED exercise, and I'm sure that helped me stick with it at first. It also made me feel better long before I started looking better, which was another incentive. However, there was still the problem of just figuring out when was the best time to do this - especially because when you are working out, you are not doing something else that probably needs to be done. You are not paying attention to the kids, not doing laundry, etc. and that's something you need to accept and not feel too much guilt about. Hopefully, you will be around longer to do those other things since you will be so healthy, hehehehehehe.

Anyway, although I exercised through my pregnancy, I really consider my fitness journey to have seriously started when I was 2 weeks postpartum, and I would get going an hour or so after my morning coffee. If Moppet 4 wasn't sleeping, I would have Moppet 1 rock him or wear him in the sling. Moppets 2 and 3 were 7 and 4 at the time, so they were old enough to keep themselves busy. But even so, I often had to stop to nurse the baby and just go back to it. Fitness is the first thing I have really learned to approach without my unhealthy all-or-nothing mentality, and that may be the key to why I stuck to it.

I know that your time constraints and schedule are not like mine. You may work all day and have to get up super early or do your exercise at night...I really like working out at night myself. And before you say you are too tired, let me tell you that exercise often gives you a real burst of energy. My midwife for Moppet 1's birth used to tell me how she would go to the gym and work out if she was at an all-night birth and she had clients to see in the morning. At that Time of My Great Sluggishness, I did not believe she could do that, but now I understand.

You might have little children and no 14 year old Moppet to help with will probably have to use nap time or do your exercise in sections...I still have to do that sometimes. Just stop the DVD or videotape and come back when you can. Or, if you have a lot of patience, let the kids exercise with you...they especially like Leslie Sansone. Just be careful with your weights around them, and make sure they are in FRONT of you when you are lifting, so no one gets bashed.

Of course, none of my advice will help you stick to working out if you don't think it's important. Even if you don't love it, if you know that it will do good things for your health and your appearance, you are more likely to stick with it. But remember - you will not see "dramatic results" immediately. You will feel results first, the you will begin to see them, but you will not be ripped, buff or whatever overnight. You have to walk by faith and not be sight at the beginning of this journey. I have been working out regularly, diligently and with growing intensity for 9 months, and it is only recently that I have begun seeing more dramatic changes in how my figure looks. But I do firmly believe that while you can lose weight without exercise, it takes exercise, mainly weight training and alternative methods of strength training to make your body look it's best, and you can look really good whatever your age, and not just "for your age". There is a 57 year old woman in Jari Love's Ripped and Chiseled who looks infinitely better that I have ever looked - she sags a bit around the navel, probably from having children, but she is lean, toned and strong. It can be a real incentive to know that while you DO have to die, you don't have to become decrepit beforehand.

It also helps if you know some people, either online or "in real life" who are on the Fitness Quest with you. Find someone to work out with, join a fitness forum, write to me ;-) Knowing that you are not alone in your striving is a real encouragement in fitness, just as in life itself.

NEXT TIME - Psychological issues that have come up for me related to my Fitness Quest

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Another Good Exercise Week...

...With the best thing about it being that Husband and Moppet 2 both worked out with me and Gilad today. Husband says, "Gilad saved my life". Now, let's see if we ever do it again, heheheheheeee.

Anyway, since I made my ideal exercise plan and have kept that in mind, I have done really well getting everything done, and in fact, I kind of broke out of my mold. Almost all my cardio this week came from walks outside, and I even (GASP) jogged a bit on a few evenings. I never thought I'd ever do that. I did look like a real dork in my skirt and running shoes, though.

Anyway, this is what I did this week for my bod:

M - 2 Fast Miles with Leslie - ran a full mile on the rebounder - plus a few sections from Squeeze; waist, push ups and tricep dips, mucho buns work with 3 lb ankle weights, abs.

T - Walk outside pushing jogging stroller, probably almost 2 miles

W - Original Get Ripped, plus usual walk

Th - Kari Anderson's Reach and walk/jog outside

Fr - Pure Barre plus walk/jog outside

Sat - Gilad Interval Training

All that, and I'm not even sore!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Just Starting Out? Try These...

I'm so thrilled that 7 people actually read this, commented and even asked questions! Since I stopped blogging years ago, I had forgotten how fun that is...but this isn't about fun, it's about getting fit without having to drive to a gym! Which actually is fun, folks, after you make your exercise a habit (which is the hard part, of course.)

First, I want to talk to Mary about barre workouts and my bar. That bar I have is called the Fluidity Bar. I heard about it on Video Fitness, and most of the ladies there heard about it via an infomercial. If you buy it new, it's pretty expensive, but I got mine on Craigslist for less than half the price of ordering it online. The DVDs that come with it are really the only ones I know of that actually NEED a stable barre for some of the exercises - most can be done with only a chair or something for a support, but the bar is nicer to work with for all of them. The bar folds up and can be stored under a bed or in a closet, but since I am lazy I usually leave mine out ;-) Plus, it's great for an impromptu stretch when it's just there. The workouts I use with them (in addition to Fluidity) are:

Pure Barre
Lotte Berk Method 4 Pack
Bar Method (which is currently out of print and so very expensive...I got mine just in time!!)

I searched around, and watching the clips they offer at the Fluidity website are probably the best to get an idea of what this kind of exercise is like, although if you type in barre workouts at youtube there will be some things there. It's really not like ballet, nor is it very like pilates, but I suppose there are similarities. I prefer it over endless squats and lunges and tall step leg presses (The Firm does LOTS of these) for lower body. It seems to be good for both ladies who are "overendowed" in the thigh and bun area, and those who suffer from PBS (Pancake Bottom Syndrome). Which category I fall into shall remain unknown. Lotte Berk is probably the best intro to this kind of work, although the instructors are a bit odd. I like to use this type of workout on strength days when just the thought of lifting a weight makes my joints hurt.

Now, on to recommendations for you who are even a little inspired to take that first step down the Road to Fitness. I know everyone has different financial situations, so I am going to give you a few different scenarios, depending on how much you want to spend; it will only be DVDs and other not-so-basic equipment I'll be talking about, since for just about everything you will need a mat, a decent pair of cross trainer type shoes, and dumbbells - a set of about 3, 5 and 8 for women starting out, and maybe 10, 12 and 15 for men starting out. Sooner than you think, you will need to get heavier ones...but for now, let's start there.

If you have about 50.00 to spend (I am assuming Amazon used purchases and am NOT including shipping):

CARDIO - I Would Choose 2 Leslie Sansone

Leslie Sansone Walk Away the Pounds 3 Mile - She actually has various 3 miles, but this is the first DVD I had, and it was a great starter cardio. The pace is very moderate, and she uses 2lb hand weights for about 1/3 of the time near the end to boost the walk a bit. This would totally wear me out when I first started! Walk Slim 1,2 and 3 miles would also be good, as it has 2 miles with walk/jog intervals, and a second disc with a 3 mile walk only. It might be a better investment to get this one, actually.

Leslie Sansone 4 Fast Miles - This has intervals of walking and mild jogging - you can go up to jogging if you feel ready, or stay down at a brisk walk. It is a fun walk that really goes by fast!

I also LOVE one of her older walks which looks VERY dated (complete with heavily made up, fake tanned, teased haired ladies from the early 90s, in neon - a lot of them are still in her walks!) Anyway, this one is pretty fast paced, but can be done moderately just like any Leslie, plus it has a section at the end with some floor work for buns, thighs and abs. I actually drip sweat on the mat by the time I am down there doing the floorwork.

About Leslie - A lot of people think Leslie is too chatty and giggly. but that has never bothered me. She is actually pretty calm in some of the series', but other times she is totally wacky. It can help the walk to go by faster to poke a bit of fun at Leslie and her walkers. The choreography, if you can call it that, is very simple ( just 4 or 5 basic steps), but it's more interesting than being on a treadmill or stationery bike. It is very easy to modify Leslie up or down, and she is really very encouraging, and I truly believe she wants her customers to get fit and healthy. She's in her mid 40s, and has normal people as her background exercisers, including men and older people. Truly, ANY Leslies are great for beginners and these are just a few of my faves. The only thing I would recommend is not buying any that are just one mile, as they are not really cheaper and any of the longer walks have mile markers so you can stop anywhere.

STRENGTH - 2 Would Be Good

Ripped with Jari Love - I got all 5 Ripped workouts at Ross for 4.99 each, but this is the first and the easiest, while still being challenging (I just did it today!) It is a high rep/low weight workout that is pretty basic as far as moves go. I really like Jari and you can see a real difference in the physiques of a few of her background Rippers from the first to most recent workout. Jari doesn't chat much, but she is encouraging. You can use dumbbells or a barbell (I use the dunbbells) and the DVD tells you how much weight each of the Rippers is using for each exercise...Jari never goes higher than 20lbs total, or 10 each in dumbbells. She also stretches after each exercise, which is lacking in a lot of all-weight workouts - usually they save the stretch until the end. You could get two of these workouts, but they are quite similar, although there are subtle differences that I appreciate. All the others are more difficult, some because they have compound moves, or just because there are LOTS of reps.

My very first weight workout was Gilad Sculpt and Tone...and I was pregnant at the time - he actually has a pregnant woman acting as modifier. I like Gilad because he is encouraging, a bit odd, and an Israeli Jew. A lot of people like the fact that the workout is set on a beach in Hawaii, but I have never cared about sets, or music either (but a lot of people like or dislike a workout because of these factors).

Shape It Up by Debbie Siebers is another high rep/low weight workout. It's pretty long and is actually kind of tough, but since you can use really light weights I think it would be good to start with even if you couldn't quite keep up at first. It seems to get every muscle in your body!

Strong Body Ageless Body by Erin O' Brien is actually one I just got recently, but I wish I would have had it earlier. I really like the instructor, and the moves are a bit different and can be modified up. I also liked the odd way the DVD was shot. The instructor talks a lot to older people, about how this or that exercise is important for this or that joint, or maintaining strength in ways important for life as you age. The ab/core section is really good.


Yoga Zone - Flexibility and Stress Release with Alan Finger was my first flexibility DVD. I actually couldn't do it at first because I was too hugely pregnant - but after Moppet 4 was born it was challenging for me, but not so difficult I wanted to throw up my hands and quit. Alan Finger has a very soothing South African accent, and there really is not any of the "spiritual" components of yoga (if you want to avoid those) except a bit about the chakras during the final relaxation pose.

Cool It Off is also from Debbie Siebers. It is a VERY thorough hour long athletic stretch. I really, really like it and feel great after it is over.


None of the Barre workouts are that inexpensive, so I will suggest trying Breakthru Pilates Plus by Michelle Dozios or Reach by Kari Anderson. These are both "fusion" type workouts that are kind of ballet, kind of pilates, kind of yoga.

If you want to spend closer to 100.00 I would add:

The Firm Transfirmer - this is a step that has two parts, a 6 inch and an 8 inch, that can stack into a 14 inch tall step and also placed on an incline. It comes with 3 DVDs - the all cardio one I traded off since it was too complex for me, but I do like the all sculpting one and the cardio/sculpt mix. The Firm is actually a controversial entity in the fitness world - you will hear people talking about "old" vs "new" Firms...that is not something I will get into here...but know that this is a "new" Firm thing, and although I prefer the "old" Firm workouts, I LOVE this piece of equipment.

Once you have the step, and if you want to spend about 150.00, you can add:

Go by Kari Anderson - a BASIC step wokout for people like me who have no desire to dance. It is lots of fun and a great cardio workout, as is Simply Step by Gin Miller. Both of these are a nice break from Leslie, and apart from The Firm aerobic weight training and "real" walks outside, Leslie and these and a few Gin Millers that use a ramp (which is kind of like a step only inclined) is the only cardio I do.

The Firm Total Body Shaping Mix - an "old" firm that is interestingly put together from all kinds of workouts with different instructors. Tough, kind of dated, but fun.

And a barre workout! Probably the Lotte Berk 4 Pack, or Squeeze - the Lotte Berk is really good for beginners, but I pull Squeeze out a lot more...Each Lotte Berk is about 30 minutes, and one focuses only on abs, one on yer back end, and two are just total body. Squeeze does not have as many form pointers, but it has almost as much total exercise time as LB, with a Total Body Squeeze (60 minutes) a Power Squeeze (30 minutes) and a Custom Squeeze which lets you mix and match various exercises. The one DVD of Squeeze is about the same price as all the LBs.

And it would be great to round off a beginner's collection with:

A 36 inch foam roller and Kelli Roberts' Flexibility for the Inflexible - GREAT for self massage, and you will get sore when you exercise, even when you are no longer a beginner

Kickbox Yoga Fusion
with Patricia Moreno - I absolutely HATED Billy Blanks and Tae Bo, but I wanted to try kickboxing because it is supposed to burn mucho calories and be really good for your whole core area. I asked at Video Fitness if there was something kickbox-y that wasn't oozing testosterone, and I was directed to this. I haven't done it often enough - I forget about it, but I like it a lot.


A kettlebell is a different type of weight training with a weight that has a handle - also fun to use, and challenging, but they are expensive. You usually use only one, though - mine is a 15lb I got from Target, plus 2 DVDs I got there, too.

I use my rebounder all the time when I jog with Leslie, and I also modify her moves to higher intensity by using it. I bought mine on Amazon...not sure which one, but it was about 65 dollars with free shipping.

I also just began using ankle weights when I do the buns sections of barre workouts, and I have dumbbells up to 20 lbs.

All this would keep you busy for quite some time and get you in really good shape! But it is very possible that as you progress you will become a "vidiot" and want to branch out into different types of exercise, different instructors, different equipment. You can ask me questions, or better yet, get the combined wisdom of all the vidiots at Video Fitness...they have a forum, a huge page of reviews arranged by instructor, and every month there is a thread on the forum called Share the Wealth, where ladies pass on DVDs and videos they don't use just for a self addressed stamped envelope. After reading there for a while, you might see inexpensive DVDs at Ross, Marshalls etc. and decide to just try something new.

Next to find/make time to exercise, and making exercise a habit.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Diet, What I Did Last Week and Some Recommendations If You Are Just Starting Out

1) Carmon asked me if I changed my eating habits in addition to starting exercise. I would say that for the most part, what I have done is learned what a portion is. I also don't eat a lot of junk or processed food. I do eat carbs, quite a lot of them, but a very high percentage of those are whole grain - mainly brown rice. When I want something sweet, I will often eat some Kashi Honey Almond Flax cereal, a few pieces of 85% Dark Lindt Chocolate or something that has some redeeming value, rather than just a bunch of empty calories.

For a month or so, I used FitDay to track what I ate and the exercise I did, which helped me learn to recognize how much I can eat - and I was really surprised by the large number of calories I could consume and not gain (and actually lose) weight. One of my favorite things to eat is 1 cup of brown rice with 1/4 cup of almonds or cashews, with 1/2 cup of yummy Brown Cow Farm WHOLE MILK yogurt, with instant espresso powder in the yogurt. I often eat that after I exercise in the morning. I also like to make a chicken quesadilla with whole grain corn tortillas, about 1/2 cup grilled chicken, 1/3 cup or so mixed sharp cheddar/pepper jack cheese and some onion - this must be cooked in a cast iron skillet to get the right kind of outside on the quesadilla!! This is sooooo good with the yogurt, too!!

Anyway, did I answer Carmon's question? I guess the answer is that I don't diet per se, and eat whatever I want in moderation, and usually what I want is fairly healthy...but if I want something that isn't, that's fine, too. That way of eating, plus exercise 5-6 days per week, seems to be a lifestyle I can maintain without feeling totally deprived or worn out. I have slowly but steadily lost weight doing this - I don't have a scale, but I weighed 172 at the end of my last pregnancy (only gained 17 with this one, thanks to exercise!!), and two months later at a midwife appointment I weighed 145. I haven't weighed since then, but judging by how my clothes fit and how I look in general, I think I have lost another 10-12 lbs. So, you can see this is not an infomercial on How to Lose That Tub O' Lard In 48 Hours, but it is working slowly but steadily for a woman pushing 40, who is trying to stay as fit and lean as possible. Whether I will need to change things up a bit when I start the menopause thing, only God knows (being totally omniscient, He even knows seemingly trivial things like that.)

2) One thing it took a while to learn is how much of each kind of exercise was best for my body. I think I've figured that out, but I still like to have a variety to choose from within each exercise type - and sometimes I want to put a special focus on a particular thing. Right now I am going to the chiropractor to take care of my long-standing back pain, and so I am trying to focus on my "core" area, which includes the lower back. Plus, I have a friend at church who has really great abs and she has inspired me to work mine more ;-) So, last week I wrote down what my "ideal" week of exercise would consist of, and then I wrote down what I "actually" got done.

Here is my Ideal List (don't worry if you don't know what any of this stuff is, or what the workouts are like...I am going to review every workout I own on this blog eventually)

- 3 cardio or 2 cardio and 1 aerobic weight training (such as The Firm)
- 2 full body weights or 1 weight and 1 AWT
- 3 barre (such as Squeeze, Lotte Berk, Pure Barre, Bar Method, Fluidity) - these workouts are all isometric strength exercises done using mostly body weight...they are tough but fun! The barre you see in the front right of the picture at the blog top is used for this kind of exercise.
- 4x abs/core
- 1 stretch/pilates or yoga

Last week, I did pretty good getting all this in:

M - Various exercises from Squeeze (which includes good ab stuff), some work with a 15 lb kettlebell, and a long walk outside pushing a stroller
T - Leslie Sansone 4 Fast Miles (which has intervals of fast walking and jogging), kettlebell
W - Fluidity Advanced (which has good abs), and a few exercises with 15lb dumbbells
Th - Simply Step with Gin Miller
F - Strong Body, Ageless Body with Erin O'Brien, The Firm Ab Sculpt, short walk with stroller
Sat - Leslie Sansone 2 Mile Express (1 mile jogging on rebounder), Lotte Berk High Round Assets (basically lotsa work fer yer buns), Kathy Smith 10 minute Core Matrix

The only thing I missed was 1 full session of flexibility, but all the barre work includes lots of stretching. So, that was a good week.

And just so you know, just 7 months ago, I physically could NOT have done all this, so you can see how fitness is something that increases as you work at it, and it often sneaks up on you, just how fit you have become ;-).

I want to get this posted tonight, so I will save the recommendations for next time.