Shredding

So I started out with the best of intentions last week – with the hubby away for work, I had free evenings galore and planned to make good use of the time by exercising.

Tuesday evening I knocked out Level 1 of the 30 Day Shred. I first attempted these videos almost a year ago, and while I found them easy to follow and challenging enough, I just didn’t stick with it. Gearing up to exercise at home is not my forte. Running and walking seemed a better way to get in shape (and it has been), but now with the onset of winter AND some new exercise equipment, I think workout videos will be an important component of my routine.

If you’re interested in checking out the 30 Day Shred (or various other Jillian Michaels videos), there are lots of options on YouTube before you invest in the full DVD.

I was intrigued to see how a years worth of exercise (and about 35 fewer pounds) would affect the overall workout experience, and I was pleasantly surprised to notice a major improvement. Not only was I able to (easily) finish the workout, I didn’t need to take any breaks (last year I needed to break multiple times during the workout), I was able to complete the harder variation for every move (except on pushups because I just can’t seem to do those suckers), and still felt great when it was all finished.

The next morning I happened to jump on the scale and saw the lowest number in 4 years! It was a wonderful feeling…and I vowed to do the next level of the Shred the following day.

And then life happened. I was in a (minor) car accident; while I wasn’t hurt, the stress of dealing with the fallout and insurance and rental cars…and the overall exhaustion from the ordeal…well, understandably I didn’t touch the 30 Day Shred again. My plan is to do level 2 tonight, though…barring any catastrophe.

I did also do one short video by Tracy Anderson – it’s a bit odd, but surprisingly effective, and I’m thinking of mixing up videos from Jillian Michaels (I’ve heard 6 Week Abs is pretty good) and Tracy Anderson to give me some variation.

A friend stopped by last evening and spoke of attending fitness classes 4-5 times a week; I’ll admit I got very nostalgic, since I LOVED my experience with group fitness classes. But aside from the monetary consideration, I just don’t think I’d be able to fit it into my schedule frequently enough to make it worth while. Arranging for child-care (there is no space on site for kids), and working around lunch and supper times…I think I’ll have to keep doing it from home on my own.

This week:

Level 1 – 30 Day Shred (x1)

Tracy Anderson Arms Video

7 K walk (x2)

3 K walk (x2)

4 K walk (x1)

Total 14 K (pretty sad considering all summer, I typically walked 14 K EACH DAY!)

Linking up with The Domestic Wannabe for Move It Mondays

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Just Keep Running, Just Keep Running…

Remember that line in Finding Nemo…Dory (now there was an optimist!) is instructing Marlin on what to do when everything seems to be going wrong. Her solution (appropriate given she is a cartoon fish): “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” My advice to would-be-runners: “Just keep running, just keep running.”

I thought I’d follow-up on last weeks exercise-related post, and chat more specifically about running, since I’ve been dabbling with it for nearly a year. Technically, I’m a pseudo-runner. Despite running relatively consistently for the past 8 months, I still admit to feeling some dread with each and every run. I’m not a natural runner – I look and feel awkward much of the time – and despite my determination to continue, don’t ever see myself making great gains in distance (unlike my sister who just ran two half-marathons in under a month – c.r.a.z.y).

So if I hate it so much – why run? It really started more as a competition with myself. See, I’ve started this whole running thing before – even made a “go” of it for several months during my undergrad. But I just never managed to stick with it. I ran a few times before I was married, and after Abby came along we actually started C25K, but I only made it to the second week. As funny as this may sound: I wanted to run to prove to myself that I could run. I was desperate to start losing some of the “baby” weight, and knew exercise would be an important component. Running seemed like a logical part of the puzzle.

Last week I did manage a personal best – about 5.5 km (with the last km being uphill).  It only (sarcasm is implied) took me nine long months to get that far! So this is a post to encourage non-runners out there, that if I can do it…really, anyone else can to.

A few things I’ve learned along the way (with a bit of repetition from last week).

1. Start with walking. I couldn’t run to the end of the driveway without getting winded, so clearly my lungs needed to adjust to more vigorous exercise. We started walking (as a family) around a 7 km loop at least once per day. I don’t think the distance matters as much as a) speed (getting the heart rate pumping) and b) difficulty (try to incorporate some hills into your route)

2. Use a training tool. I mentioned back here using, and loving, the C25K app. This running program is designed to get you running a 5K in about 9 weeks. The distances get incrementally longer (the first week you run 60 sec segments; the second 90 sec etc.,). I started off in BAD shape. I literally thought I was going to die the first run of my second week. Looking back, that was definitely the hardest week, which is laughable to me now considering I only had a run 90 sec at a time! A few words of advice re. the C25K program:

a) Move at your own pace. The program is designed for 3 runs/week, before moving on to a more advanced “level.” Some times I repeated a week (I think I maxed at 5 runs of a particular segment), and I think this is a better alternative to pushing too far too soon.

b) Use the app! By using the app, you don’t have to worry about calculating times on your own. Audio prompts will let you know when to run, walk, cool down, and other important milestones (half-way point; 1-minute until the workout is complete).

3. Consider your route. For the first few weeks I used a simple route; I ran back and forth along a straight stretch of road. I KNOW I looked ridiculous just looping back and forth along the same patch of sidewalk over and over and over again, but I found it comforting to a) stay close to home b) get familiar with landmarks that helped me gauge my pace etc., After I became more comfortable with running, I started to vary my route, although still prefer to do a specific route so I can mark distance etc., Think about hills, where you’ll end up (and how far it will be to trek back to home!). Don’t bite off more than you can chew. While it is great to push oneself, there is a fine line when going too fast with the program and getting discouraged/quitting when you’re overwhelmed.

4. Don’t be afraid to look silly. If you’re really afraid of what people will think (or if you’re embarrassed because the elderly gentleman hobbling along on a cane can outpace you while you’re running) consider an obscure route, or get outside at odd hours (early in the morning/later in the evening).

5. Dress appropriately. I never invested in an armband for my iPhone, so I usually just hooked it under my shirt. That worked fine until my headphones started to fray. And frayed wires, mixed with sweat create shocks. I was terrified (from the shock – both physical and emotional, not from the pain) the first time I was “electrocuted.” There are lots of great options, including clip-on MP3 players, armbands, or if you decide to skip C25K, running without any accompaniment.

I also tried to wear: a) socks that wouldn’t slip down – as trite as this sounds, it can be the difference between a good run, and a bad run b) good sneakers and c) comfortable shirts that weren’t too baggy…and if long-sleeved, that could be rolled up as the run progressed. I found if I looked and felt semi-presentable in my running garb, I felt more enthusiastic about the run in general.

6. Stay on top of your health. I visit the chiropractor regularly, replace worn shoes promptly, drink LOTS of water, and take the time to cool down after runs (stretching is more important at the end than at the beginning…be careful about stretching cold muscles, so the best warmup is actually usually a brisk 5-minute walk or quick jog).

Linking up with The Domestic Wannabe for Move It Mondays

Thoughts on Exercise

There are a few things you should know about me right off the bat.

1. I despise exercise (always have)

2. I struggle with weight issues (always have)

Trust me, the aforementioned points make it pretty daunting to think about getting into shape. Even more daunting, the morning I found out we were expecting baby numero uno (which was somewhat of a surprise), I had vowed to lose ten pounds in the coming months. Whomp, whomp. By the end of my first trimester, I had lost a total of 4 lbs. Who knew having a baby could be so good for the figure, eh?

But then reality hit – hard – in the third trimester, when I started gaining weight in direct proportion to the epic food portions I was consuming. Final weigh in (I like to account for lots of water retention in these numbers) put me somewhere in the 35-40lb weight gain range. Ouch!

The first few months post-baby were a free ride – I had, after all, just delivered a living, breathing human being from my body…the best excuse I know for extra baggage round’ the middle. But then said baby got bigger, and bigger…and mama wasn’t getting any smaller. There is good news in this tale of woe, and if this post were a movie, well you could go ahead and cue the cool music montage with inspiring images of sweat, blood, and tears, culminating in sweet success – not only did I lose every last baby pound, I’m currently sitting 14 lbs below my pre-baby weight.

The bad news – I still despise exercise, and I suspect I’ll continue to struggle with my weight, but I thought it might be a good mental exercise to summarize what has worked for me with regard to exercise (in the form of some contradictory points):

1. Just start…have a plan

One day, I just slapped on some sneakers and started. Just pick a day…today works…to start exercising. Don’t think about your upcoming schedule, nitpicking about some day a month in the future where the stars will align to start some intricate exercise routine. Just do it. That’s what…Nike said. Rain or shine (or in eastern Canada, snow). I think nothing of heading off in the rain these days, because exercise is a habit to me now. Thankfully, babies are pretty tolerant of the weather when dressed appropriately.

Equally, try to start with some plan – rudimentary is fine. Think about what type of exercise you hope to complete (aerobics, gym-based, walking/jogging, recreational sports). I started with walking (at first about ~2km a day, and within a month was up to ~10 km/day), and soon added jogging to the mix (see below), because they could involve the whole family (and gym memberships just won’t fit our budget).

2. Plug-in…unplug

With the plethora of MP3 players and smart phones, there is a gizmo and gadget to suit every need. There are apps to track distance and speed, apps to track weight gain and count calories. Given my hubby is an IT consultant, you’d expect my exercise journey to be marked with fancy programs. I hate to disappoint, but I’m a pretty simple gal. My one exception is a good one though – C25K. This app was spectacular. It leads you through a series of runs, increasing in distance/duration over about 10 weeks of training.

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I swore I would never make it past the second week. But once I made it over that hump, I never looked back. I haven’t touched C25K in months now, but I know this is the only reason I still run on a semi-regular basis. The app will offer prompts telling you when to walk, when to run, and encourages you/horrifies you by letting you know when your workout has reached the half-way point. You can also listen to your own music in the background the whole time. For those looking for a greater challenge, there is also a Bridge210K program.

I also think it’s important to unplug. Walk with a friend and talk. Or, perish the thought in modern-day society, walk or run without any distractions. One evening my iPhone wouldn’t work properly and so I skipped my run! I thought I was wholly dependent on music to keep me going. A few nights later I ended up out without my phone, and lo and behold I ran a personal best that evening. I tuned in to my breathing and my footfall, and there were no changing rhythms with song switches. I simply distracted myself by people/car watching, thinking, and enjoying how beautiful it was to run in the out-of-doors. I haven’t used music in months now. And, just last week, completed another personal best (finishing with a ~1km uphill)

3. Invest in proper footwear…don’t go overboard

I have had foot issues for years now, and eventually gave in and invested in a pair of orthotics. While they alleviated some discomfort, I still struggled with foot pain (and shin splits) when walking or running any distance. I finally took the time to find the shoe brand that works best for my foot (my new Asics are a dream), and also took a trip (well, multiple trips, now) to see a chiropractor. He adjusted my back and feet, and the changes are incredible. Limited foot discomfort, and always directly proportional to the distance covered.

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That said, don’t expect a fancy/expensive sneaker to solve all your problems. And don’t be surprised when a newer, nicer pair doesn’t boost your time or distance! Do your research ahead of time, and don’t rush into buying (wear them around the store for as long as it takes, or buy them and wear them around the house…so you can return them…for several days to isolate potential issues).

4. Weigh yourself frequently…don’t obsess over weight

While I know a few folks exercise without thoughts of weight loss/maintenance, most ladies (at least those trying to lose some baby weight), are concerned with those pesky numbers blinking on the bathroom scale. I weigh-in every day…sometimes multiple times a day. A bit obsessive compulsive…perhaps? But I find frequent weigh-in’s help me isolate problem areas, and give me motivation to work harder (if I hit a new low weight, I’m spurred on to lose more, and if I have gained, I want to watch my diet more carefully). I think frequent weigh-in’s help monitor excessive weight loss, too, which is something to be avoided (I’ve lost about 25 lbs over 8 months; the recommendation is no more than 1-2 bs/week).

I only document my weight once per week, on Monday morning. And now, I really don’t stress about the number. I’ve been sitting steady around the same weight for 3 months now. And while I’d love to lost an extra 15 lbs, I know it will come with time. Don’t forget about “skinny fat”…just because someone looks skinny does not mean they are healthy!
Off for my afternoon walk! I’ll discuss diet suggestions another time…

Oh, and invest in a good stroller. A must for all the exercising-mama’s (and papa’s) out there (we have this one).