Saturday, December 22, 2012

FITNESS POST!! (finally)

Okay, okay, finally, I have sat to compose the coveted fitness post per my reading of THIS BOOK! (Thanks, Mel!) This post is long, but I’ve bolded the key points I learned from the book. Ultimately, I’m an active person involved in a myriad of activities that keep me pretty fit. This book helped me to refine some of my activities to get the most from them, while helping me to realize other areas that I could stand to improve upon for fitness/diet/etc. Great book, definitely recommend to anyone out there looking to improve their fitness routine/life/understand better about what is best for their body.

(And additionally, I've schedule this post for a time when I should be up on the mountain skiing! Yeah, fitness!)

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My take aways from the book:

Cardio is important! High intensity interval training (HIIT) will give me the most bang for my buck: I’m a busy person. I think anyone who has followed my blog for any length of time will realize that – hell, I’ve been so busy lately I haven’t even posted with the frequency I used to! So, obviously, fitting in time for a workout is sometimes difficult. Fortunately, I lead a very active life, my busy schedule is such because I fill it with so much time for play. Work with the horses? Exercise. Rock climbing? Exercise. Skiing? Exercise. Adventuring in the woods and exploring? Exercise. The majority of what I do involves moving my body in some way.

With this being said, I know I could still benefit from a more structured workout. Mel runs. A lot of people run. After reading this other book I found that I, too, liked running. I ran for a solid month and was able to run longer than I ever had before and had to make myself quit running some days (I decided 45 minutes was probably sufficient) because I didn’t want to hurt myself. But, inevitably, my ankle injury (tendon-related) from swimming came back to bite me. I can’t get rid of this issue and thus, running isn’t a very viable cardio option for me. I tried to do HIIT with running and succeeded for almost 2 weeks before my ankles reared up and bit me.

I love swimming. I swam competitively for 10 years. I had scholarship offers to college for swimming, but academics have always been more important to me, and my ankle injury from hyperextension when I did kick sets for years had become such an issue that I didn’t want to botch them up even more. Since swimming has left my life, I’ve really struggled to find good cardio that fills the void it left. I loved swimming, I loved getting my ass kicked daily, I loved being utterly exhausted from workouts. I haven’t found something that kicked my butt so much that I also loved so much.

For the past month-ish I have been going to our local YMCA for spin class twice a week (total of ~2 hours a week). I did it to have some cardio in my life and to prep my legs for ski season. (Wait, the east coast can get snow? Haven’t seen any yet…) Hanging out with a bunch of mountain bikers and hearing them talk/getting my legs whooped into shape has been a blast. I’m really reconsidering this whole biking thing (I’d formerly tossed any idea of me biking out the window after a series of not-awesome experiences with it…and the fact that I’m certain a tree would jump out and kill me if I did any single track mountain biking). I look forward to spin class and the burn I get from it. It might be filling that void that swimming left – at least a little bit.

2 hours a week of these workouts has been perfect. We do HIIT training during spin class doing hard sets and maxing out, then resting, then repeating. A 5-10 minute warm up and 5-10 minute cool down with 30-40 minutes of HIIT in between. My legs are slightly sore afterwards, but I’m never miserable. I’m always recovered and ready by the next workout. Additionally, since this isn’t as concussive as running my ankles are happy and, thus, I’m happy.

Weight lifting twice a week would really help me out: Weight lifting to most people brings to mind images of dumbbells and big, sweaty men grunting it out while staring at themselves in the mirror in the gym. This is not weight lifting for me. Weight lifting that I’ve incorporated into my life involves me lifting my own body weight in some way. Pushups, pull ups, etc.

I incorporate this primarily by rock climbing and attempting to keep myself fit for climbing. I’ll do push ups and pull-ups (off my door frame, yeah, I know, those are narrow and involve finger strength in addition to upper body strength – that’s the point) in addition to some plyometric-type exercises occasionally.

I will soon have my own hangboard to use to workout, as well. This will lend very much to a weight-lifting-type exercise regimen. I’m headed to San Diego in early February and have a two-day climbing/camping trip to Joshua Tree planned. I want to be in quasi-shape for this.

Carbing up while exercising is recommended: I don’t eat enough when I am doing something active for an extended period of time. Its my biggest flaw when it comes to fitness. I get so involved in whatever I’m doing that I forget to eat. I usually manage to keep some (minimal) liquids in, but food? Not enough. I need to work on doing this. The book recommends 200-300 calories every hour you’re being active. I need to strive for this. I’ve felt rather faint several times because I haven’t done this (and, tell you what, sitting atop an exposed rock fin hundreds of feet off the ground is NOT a good time to be feeling like that!). Making sure I consume “real” food is also good: I need to better figure out what kinds of snacks (grapes or crackers or something) that I will eat no matter what so that I have something to fuel me.

Drink when you’re thirsty; don’t guzzle water/Gatorade/what-have-you if you’re not thirsty: Well, duh. Fortunately, I’ve never been someone to force-drink anything (alcohol in a college-party atmosphere [or via webcam *coughcoughcoughDOM&MIKEcoughcough*] does NOT count. I do need to make certain I stay better hydrated pre-big fitness activity and in extreme weather conditions. I get heat stroke very easily, so I may have to force-drink on days when that is a threat because heat-illness is not pleasant or funny. Oh, and chocolate milk post-workout is recommended by science. I’m totally for this idea.

Diet to maintain weight, exercise to maintain fitness: This seems so glaringly obvious, but sometimes the most obvious things aren’t. I think this was probably the absolute biggest thing I took away from all of the reading. This statement has fueled me to continue making good choices for myself as far as diet and exercise are concerned.

I’ve never eaten very poorly, and I’ve always been very lucky to not have to worry much about my weight or fitness. There are times when I lose my focus and “let go” a little, but for me to get on track again has fortunately never been a great sacrifice or battle of any kind. I am incredibly fortunate to be this way. At the same time, I don’t know that it is in my make-up to be lazy. Sure, I’m lazier than some of my crazier adventure friends, but in the grand scheme of things, I’m not a lazy person at all. I sometimes long for a day of rest, but usually I get halfway through that day of rest and I become restless. I feel guilty when I’m not out doing something and making the most of a day.

The best part about my fitness activities is the people I meet along the way. They are often very like-minded to me. Additionally, as far as rock climbing is concerned, it’s rare to meet a serious climber who isn’t very aware of their diet and other cross-fit routines. They are some of the most physically fit people I have ever met. They play hard, keep their bodies in perfect form, and eat VERY well. To have a diesel body you have to eat well and take rest days. These athletes really have it all going on. They’ve been great role models for me in terms of diet and fitness.

Exercise stimulates creation of brain cells: I didn’t know this before I read the book. The finding doesn’t surprise me in the slightest though. I gotta work out to make sure I stay smart! And to keep my brain sharp for when I’m old. Yeah, I want to be quick-witted always.

Be patient and keep it up: You won’t see results from any sort of exercise or fitness regimen unless you keep up with it. This is an “oh, duh” kind of statement but its very true. I’ve been spinning for twice a week for a month now and am finally starting to notice benefits. Hiking to the crag to climb last weekend wasn’t taxing at all.  My legs welcomed it and screamed for me to bring it on harder. I love the burn I get at spin class. My muscles yearn for it now. I can tell that I’ve gotten over the initial hump of getting my body back to being used to a usual cardio routine and now its time to push it even harder. If I expected to feel this way on day one of spin class I would have been very disappointed.

Listen to your body: So many people DO NOT DO THIS. Well, guess what, science says you should do it. So, HA. I’ve always done this because I’m mostly a wuss about working through pain. If I’m sore, I’m either going to not work out, or if I have to (i.e., High School sports practices) I don’t put forth much effort. I rest. I come back stronger when I’m not sore.

Additionally, if I’m hungry, I eat. If I’m thirsty, I drink. And, a twist to the eating/drinking listening to my body thing, I don’t diet hardcore and keep certain things out of my diet. I eat what I crave. Some days I may eat very unhealthily, but for every day that I crave bad foods my body counters it craving healthy raw foods. I don’t give into cravings for bad things always, but I’m definitely not afraid to indulge. It’s a balance. I’ve come to realize that my body won’t let me get too crazy, if/when I go against it and eat too poorly it really comes back to haunt me as I tend to feel ill. (I did cut things out of my diet when I was swimming hard in HS to help increase my performance, and I remember it being hard at the time. But cutting things like soda and super sweet things out of your diet long term ends cravings for them. I’ll have a soda or something super, super sweet occasionally, but I can’t handle it as well and don’t typically want these things at all anymore.)

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So yeah, that about concludes my summary of learnins from the book. It was a really good read – even if I was interrupted in my progress of reading it/posting this because of school. Moral of the story? Be active, people! Get out there and play hard and have fun and eat good food when you’re done.


  1. WOULD post a fitness post that I'd read right after a certain drinking night made me feel incredibly fat and out of shape. LOL