People are constantly asking me questions. Some are basic (“How do I separate eggs?”). Some are technical (“If I ride my bike west from Chicago and my friend rides their bike east from Boise” — I’m sure there was more to this one, but I nodded off. Too mathy.) And some are just plain hurtful (“Seriously? You want me to read your blog EVERY time?! Are you going to pay me?”).
But some are all about me. Those are the ones I love.
The point is, I like talking about exercise. So I’m happy to talk about what I’m doing now for exercise.
First, I always take Wednesdays off. I sometimes take one weekend day off, depending on what I’ve got going on. But the rest of the week is spent alternating between cardio and strength workouts.
I warm-up before my workout, but I don’t stretch, per se. Instead, I increase my heart rate and warm up my muscles. I hula hoop, jump on the mini trampoline, do some jumping jacks, swing my arms around, dance — just easy, dynamic movement to get going.
On long cardio days, I hop on the treadmill or the elliptical (both of which are parked in front of TVs) and go about 5 miles. I go at a steady clip without inclines. I watch a movie, or The Daily Show, or mindless sitcoms guilt-free. Sometimes I have to split these into two sessions to get the mileage in.
On strength days, I also do cardio, but I do hill or speed intervals on the treadmill. (I go 30 seconds at 10 mph or the highest incline, then rest for 30 seconds. Repeat 10 times or until I croak.) Usually I do the cardio at the end of the workout.
On these days, I have a strength training workout I do too. Previously, I found myself cheating, only doing the exercises I liked so I switched it up.
I made a list of all the exercises I know how to do then separated them into three groups — arms, legs, core/abs. There is overlap, of course, dumbbell swings help your butt … handwalking on the treadmill helps your core, and so on. But three categories seemed reasonable and didn’t overwhelm me with options. My notes might not make too much sense to you, but feel free to ask about any of the exercises I do.
To thwart my cheating ways, I set the timer for 45 minutes and, never skipping an exercise, rotate through the pages — arms, legs, core, arms, legs, core, — until the dinger dings. I always try to increase everything, but if I stop to rest — even if I end up doing more reps — I don’t write down the higher number.
I still cheat, of course. When I see the timer ticking down, I’ll go reaaallllllyyyyy slow so I don’t have to do another exercise.
I never write down a lower number of reps, unless I increase the amount of weight. Sometimes, for reasons I try not to think about, I simply cannot do what I had done last time. In fact, just the other day I could only do 8 bicep curls even though I had been doing 19 and had been increasing each time. Usually this happens toward the end of the workout so I don’t beat myself up about it. I just acknowledge that I’m pooped and pat myself on the head for completely fatiguing my muscles, which is the whole point, after all. If it happens on my very last exercise, then I’ll mark it to begin my next workout.
I’m very conscious of using the heaviest weights I can manage, while maintaining good form. Once I hit 20 reps I try to increase the weight. I read constantly that women don’t push themselves hard enough. As much as I like Marlo Thomas, I don’t want to be That (Weak) Girl.
If you’re having trouble losing those last five pounds, or you’ve hit a plateau, you might consider kicking up your cardio and lifting heavier weights. You may have gotten into a bit of a rut and you need to shake up your body every few weeks. That’s why I like this rotation — it’s never the same from workout to workout.
You’ll see that many of these exercises don’t require free weights — most of them work with your own body weight instead which I like.
When I’m done, I do my cardio intervals and stretch and then I collapse, weeping, rolled into a fetal position. Sometimes I reward myself with an episode of The Daily Show. Sometimes with bacon. It’s all good.
Now go make your own lists!
What do you do for strength training? What have you learned along the way? What’s your favorite exercise? What’s your least favorite? (You probably won’t be surprised to know mine are burpees!)