My Journey in Pounds

Friday, August 1, 2014

Beginner's Exercise on a Budget

I have to share a little bit more about my journey before this blog in order to be completely transparent with you.

I started in March using Beach Body's "21 Day Fix". Which is an awesome first step to start! It cost about $140 and I got a bag of Shakeology and the DVDs and a whole bunch of color-coded containers and the guide.  Then my coach gifted me 3 lb weights. Then I went and bought 8 lb weights too.

I like it! You work out every day for 30 minutes. You can modify the intensity as needed depending on where you are physically. And you eat according to the plan, which limits your carbs and has you consume them earlier in the day (none after 5pm!).  And you eat a lot, because when you calculate your calories and all the containers you're supposed to eat through out the day, you are eating every 2 hours.  But the guide helps you plan your day, even if you "cheat", so that you stay on target for the most fat-burning you can get for your buck.

I did 3 rounds with a week "break" in between where I stayed active but did whatever I wanted.  And then I was done with it. Not because it was bad (I can never get used to surrenders! It still hurts!), but I felt ready to try something different.  For one thing, the snow had melted and the roads were clear and for the first time in MY LIFE I wanted to run.  And I love Zumba.  And I had the Kinnect Nike Training game I wanted to try. And a few apps on my phone... and I felt like I couldn't DO all of it + 21 Day Fix.  I also didn't want to continue eating like the program suggests because it was time consuming; plan and prep meals the day before. Eat. Clean up. Prep. Eat. Clean up. 6 repetitions of that. Doesn't quite work with homeschooling kids. Although I did learn what an appropriate portion of rice should look like and what my plate should look like.

So if you are brand, spankin' new to fitness and have upfront $160 or so to invest in changing your life, I'd say go for 21 Day Fix (as opposed to something like T25 or P90X because that would be highly intimidating and discouraging).  I don't regret the investment and on my off-days from running, I'll do Pilates, or Upper Body, or Yoga from that work-out program - after my Zumba fix, of course!

But I'm presenting option B if you need to start from ground 0, don't have a dime in your pocket, to build you up to working out 30 minutes a day - and from March until now, I can say I work out about an hour a day, and before March I did not work out AT ALL.

** Apps by Runtastic**
Under the assusmption that you have a smart phone and some sort of wifi or data connection, these apps are amazing to start with.  The free versions are best for beginners, and I recommend the pedometer if you're walking, Runtastic for running, Six Pack by Runtastic for a core workout, and Push-up trainer.  They all link with MyFitnessPal.  And if you want to advance past a beginner stage with this app, you can purchase the pro version of the app for only about $1.99 each (cheaper than a Starbucks cup of coffee!) and keep building up.
- The Pedometer and Runtastic do not have built in "training".  And in the free version you can only do one activity with each app a day.  But Runtastic has interval training and story mode training which are fun - now that I have the Pro version, I honestly don't know what all comes in the free one.  Interval training is where I began running, because even on a "low impact" training, you can reasonably start there: 25 minute work out. Walk 10 minutes. Alternate jogging one minute with walking one minute. End with a 5 minute walking cool-down.  You can do that. Anyone not wheelchair bound can do that.  It's a good place to start pushing yourself - you can jog for a minute straight! It may not be fast. It may not be pretty.  But you can!  That's where I started with arthritic knees when I was NOT a runner, and the most I ran was the mandatory presidential fitness test my sophomore year in High school, where I barely scratched a 16 minute mile. If I started there in March of this year, and today I'm running 3 minute and 5 minute intervals at a time, you can totally start there too.
- The Push Up trainer will take you from doing 0 push ups at a time to doing 20 consecutive push ups. Confession: I do all my push ups on my knees. My planks too. My wrists cannot support my weight on my toes.  It starts you off with a handful of push ups, then a minute-and-a-half rest, then another handful.  After about 20 sessions (usually spaced every other day), you should be able to do 20 consecutive push ups. It counts your reps too; you put the phone under your face, and touch the screen with your nose. Along comes my dog and taps at the screen, or the cat walks over it, and then I have to do those push ups during my "rest time", but it counts for you.  If you get the Sit Up trainer, it works the same way - it counts your full sit ups by the movement of the phone as you hold it against your chest when you go up to your knees.
- Six Pack varies your core work outs. But it starts at a beginning level. Still counts your reps using sensor control.  But it's totally do-able. You can even add 30 seconds to your breaks if you're still winded, or skip seconds in your breaks if you are ready for the next set.  And you can choose bonus extra work outs or not.

** Couch to 5 K **
Running is such a good, cheap, easily available whole body exercise.  You spend money on a good pair of running shoes, which is a must to start. I got my cross-trainers on Amazon.com for $26 something and I'm due for a new pair, but they're still holding up.  But if you can head outside, you can run.  I run rain or sunshine.  In Alaska, as long as I am not in danger of slipping and breaking a bone, I run.  And that's why I love this app.

It does exactly what it advertises it'll do.  For free.

You'll start out with a 5 minute warm up, jog 1 minute, walk 90 seconds, and cool down for 5 minutes, for a total of 30 minutes. 3 times a week.  Every week it increases intensity.  You can stay on the same week until you master it.  Just plug in headphones, walk when it tells you to walk, jog/run when it tells you to run.  I'm still amazed that I jogged for 5 consecutive minutes - I've never ran that long in my life! But I've been using this app specifically since the end of June.  If you push yourself to do what the app tells you to do, you will run a 5K straight (3.2 miles or so?) at the end of 8 weeks. Everyone has to start somewhere.  The point is, you can start. Right now.

** Yoga **
As much as I don't practice the spiritual concepts in Yoga, stretching is soooooo crucial to your recovery that I've accepted I can't do without.  I can tell you first hand there is a world of difference (usually distinguished by PAIN and CRAMPING) when I do yoga in between my runs and when I don't.  So I downloaded this app, and I'm pretty happy with it. I can choose a "workout" based on purpose, duration, or level of expertise. It talks me through it, there's a video to show me what the pose looks like, it also shows me what muscles it works on.  If the thought of going to a class intimidates you (financially, emotionally, or spiritually), the app is a good alternative to ease into it.  Provided that you do things within reason and don't hurt yourself trying to bend in a way your body has never bent before.

Yoga is also a light, compact, any time work out because even just 15 minutes can have tremendous results.  And you DO sweat.  It's more than just trying to reach your toes, some poses engage your thighs and your abs, makes you work out your core and get stronger, while getting a little bit more flexible at the same time. In a slow, steady, do what you can, no pressure way.

I've never been flexible.  And personally I've never cared if I can do a split or touch my toes. But when my joints hurt, downward facing dog cracks every joint, lengthens my muscles, reduces inflammation, clears the circulation to my feet, invites the dog to lick my face and the cat to sit on my head, and overall improves my day.  Breathe, stretch, Namaste! (which is simply Indian for "thank you", in essence).

I know there are people who are somewhat iffy about yoga as they would be about martial arts because it originates in a culture very different to Judeo-Christianity and sometimes has the implication of being "pagan".  I'm no theologist so I'll just let that go.  I look at it this way:  The pose is called "downward facing dog". It looks just like what my dog, Sherlock, does when he gets up from a nap and stretches his back. It gives me a mental image of what my stretching should look/feel like. I do not worship my dog when I do the pose.  Plain and simple. I will not get into a more theological conversation than that.

Of course, all of this needs to be combined with a healthier way of eating. I'll cover my thoughts on that some other time.  But I think with this here the most unathletic, beginner person can start moving.  You don't have to do all the workout apps on the same day - you can do them all 3 times a week, or alternate running with strength training for 5 days a week, or alternate running with strength training every day and work out 7 days a week.  You can do some in the morning and some at night.  Whatever works for you, make an appointment with yourself, and get it done!  Even simple goals like, "I'm not watching my favorite TV show until I've done my push ups" can go a LONG way.  Or do your sit ups during the commercials of your favorite show.  If you have the time to watch a favorite show, you have the time to invest in your health and your body - and YOU are so necessary!  I cannot over-emphasize how much YOU are needed.  So take care of YOU!

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