Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Fitness Challenge: Conclusion!

Well, I did it! Here's a quick breakdown of my thoughts on this challenge.

Amount of time: 28 days / 4 weeks
Times I completed the Program: 10
Times I did interval training: 9
Rest Days: 9

It’s 28 days later. How did I feel about the workout program? 

I really enjoyed how each of the exercises targeted a different part of the body.  It offered a fast, complete, alternative workout to those huge machines at the gym.  I certainly felt the burn after doing this workout, which I was somewhat surprised about given the simplicity and small number of exercises.  I began to notice a difference after about a week, as my quads got more toned.  The real differences, though, came right around the third week.  This was when I noticed I was looking forward to working out, and it wasn't impossible to do the exercises right from the outset. 

If you are going to take up this program, I highly recommend you pair it with an additional cardio workout as I did.  While the program had me breathing hard and sweating, it is no cardio substitute for a 20 minute run. 

This is an absolutely fantastic workout to do when you can’t get to the gym.  While I loved this total-body workout, I personally wouldn’t make it part of my everyday workout routine.  It’s simply too limited to give a proper, extensive workout over a long period of time.  That being said, it is perfect for those times you can’t get to the gym because you are travelling, too busy, etc. 

I also recommend taking up this program if you are just starting to work out.  It is hard, but doable, and it is quick! Get through a couple weeks of this program, then work your way up to a more comprehensive workout routine.

How did I feel about Interval Training?

Interval training is absolutely the greatest thing in the world!  I thought I was in shape, but if you were to throw some 30 second sprints at me I’d be finished in 10 minutes.  I saw my fitness level increase substantially as soon as I began running with intervals.  I got in far better shape far faster than I ever did simply by running. 

Another thing I suggest is to avoid that flat, track running; get out to somewhere where there are a few inclines (hills, gradual climbs, even stairs).  Just like sprints, running up a hill or two will get your heart working.

In Conclusion:
I’m not sure if I can say I was ‘successful’ at my challenge (I had a few more rest days that I originally planned) but overall I think I did pretty darn well.  My cardio improved, I got much more toned in my arms and hamstrings, and I am now able to multiple push ups.

Looking back I would set this to a difficultly level of 8/10, and highly recommend you to try it and let me know how it goes for you!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Fitness Challenge: Days 22 - 28

Day 28:  Program Day

Today was the last day of my scheduled program.  I took my time, and focused on my breathing and doing the exercises correctly.  I was able to get through all of them, except for those damn push ups.  I still did 3 reps of 10 push ups though! And my arms are looking much better for it.

Day 27: Rest Day

To be honest, I just felt lazy today.

Day 26: Program and Interval Training

It’s nice to find that just over 3 weeks ago I could barely get through 20 minutes of interval training and/or the complete program. Now I am doing both in a single day! That’s the kind of progress that makes this all worth while!

Lesson Learned: In any workout program, results are not going to be immediate. Quick fixes aren’t fixes at all, so stick to it!

On a personal note, today I signed the papers to close on my dream house in Mount Pleasant, Vancouver.  It was built in 1912, and I will spend the summer renovating it with my family.  Perhaps that could be my next challenge…?

Day 25: Running Day - The glorious return to Vancouver

I am back to running with my dog in the wonderful trails around Capilano dam, and doing the program in my parent’s living room (which is actually bigger than our entire apartment in Paris).  I’ve been exploring these trails since I was 11, and despite knowing them like the back of my hand, I doubt running in them will ever get boring.

Lesson Learned: No matter where you are, try and get outside to work out! You don’t have to have the French countryside or BC rain forest outside your door, the bottom line is: fresh air beats stale a gym/house environment any day!

Day 24: Rest Day

Can’t work out on a plane! 
I had a pleasant surprise when I was getting dressed today. I threw on a pair of shorts and caught a glimpse of my hamstrings in the mirror. They are looking much better than they did 3 weeks ago…  I guess that means the program is working!

Day 23: Another Running Day -  Running it is…

Yes, this program does not require a lot of space. But it still requires more space than our 300 sq. ft. Paris apartment affords.

Day 22: Running Day – I’m not running FROM anything guys…

We left Bordeaux today and took the train to Paris.  Paris is a funny city to jog in. Granted, you see more runners in the city now, but when my father and I first started coming here we got the strangest looks from people when we would go jogging.  People would glance around, a bit nervous, as if to ask, “What are you running away from? Should we be running too?!”

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Fitness Challenge: Days 15 - 21

Day 15: Program Day - %?$% Push-ups…
So its right around the 2 week mark and I'm beginning to see some real improvement! I can get through full reps (15) and sets (3) of each of my exercises, and I am even starting to really focus on doing them PROPERLY, not just doing them! What a great feeling.
I lied. I still cant do a the double stop push up. I HATE so-called ‘girl push ups’ but have decided to do them for a week and see if I can work on getting a real push up or two under my belt.

Day 16: Interval Training DayYet another reason to love coffee
Another lazy day in France. I read online caffeine may help improve stamina during a work out. So naturally, this morning I had two delicious espressos at a café in town (to go with my two croissants) and took off for my run. I'm not sure if it was the coffee, a culmination of the runs Ive been doing, or purely mental, but my cardio has improved drastically!
My interval run: 1 minute sprint (about 85%) alternated with a 2 minute jog (60%) for 20 minutes. Not bad!

Lesson Learned? Improve your workouts by having a caffeinated drink before your workout- coffee and green tea both work!

Day 17-18: Program Day and Interval Training - Keep on keepin on!
I love that first day working out goes from being a chore to something you enjoy! Such a fantastic feeling! This is what staying in shape is all about: Looking forward to running around outside!

Day 19: Rest Day
My family is going to the town of St. Emilion to do the tourist thing and pick up some bottles of wine for our wine blind taste test.

Day 20: Interval Training DayI should call this post-hangover day
Today should have been a program day, but I am a runner at heart, so when I feel crappy the best thing I can do is run. Running is also a MAGIC hangover cure! Why?

I have this theory: You can have an amazing workout the day after a night out drinking. How is this possible you say? All the alcohol you consumed turns to sugar while you sleep, which gives you tons of extra energy to use up when you're working out!

**Please note, I have no idea if this theory is medically valid… but I'm more likely to go running while Im hungover if I believe it is!
I went for a great run and came back to lie by the pool guilt-free for the rest of the day.

Lesson learned? If you find something that motivates you to work out, exploit it to its fullest!

Day 21: Program Day – How to do a push-up!
Today I had an epiphany about the program. It's great while you're travelling or if you don’t have a lot of props, but after 3 weeks I am beginning to get a little bored of it. I can feel myself starting to crave the bosu ball, free weights, and a bit of a harder workout in general.
On the upside, today I was able to get through 8 REAL push ups! Heres some tips on how to do a proper pushup:
  • Proper form is key! – arms shoulder width apart, keep your eyes straight at the ground (don’t look down to your feet or tilt your head to look up)
  • Don’t arch your back – this is a problem a lot of girls have, myself included. Keep your pelvis tilted flat. If you have pain in your lower back, its probably because its over extended. Try shifting your pelvis, tighten your abs, and keep that back flat.
  • The wider apart your feet, the easier its going to be!
  • Use your arms! – this seems intuitive, but I think this was the major problem I came across. Rather than using my arms, shoulders, and back to lower my body, I was trying to lower my body WITHOUT using those muscles. (Try and figure out how that one works, no wonder I failed)
I also noticed that as my push ups improved, I found the bird dog exercise  has become significantly easier as well.  Push ups employ multiple different muscles, including your abs (which are essential for the balancing you do when executing the bird dog exercise).  I'm happy to see my commitment to learning how to do a push up has helped me with the other exercises!

Lesson Learned: Don't get discouraged if you can't do an exercise right off the bat. See if there is an easier version of that exercise and start there.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Fitness Challenge: Days 6-14

Day 6: Program Day - Slow and Steady...
I've gotten pretty quick at making my way through the exercises: I do 3 of them in about 10 minutes. While its nice to be able to get through these things quickly, its actually much harder (and you get better results) to do them slowly. And I don't mean power through the moves and take a 5 minute water break!

Tips to help you get more out of your workout:
  • Take your time executing each move
  • Keep your form in mind - if something new feels too easy, you may not be doing it right!
  • Think about the muscle you are supposed to be working
  • Pause at the extension
  • Keep your abs tight, ALWAYS!
  • Breathe, breathe, breathe! (I find this also helps you to slow down)
Once I slowed down a bit, I started to feel the burn after far fewer reps. Even after slowing myself down significantly, I was still able to get my workout done in under 30 minutes.

Lesson learned? Slow and steady gets the tight butt!

Days 7-12: Excuses, Excuses...
Rest days. That's a nice way of saying exams and packing up my apartment got the best of me. In my defense, days 9 and 10 were spent on a plane and in a jet-lagged haze. On the upside, I'll be in France for the next 10 days!

Day 13: Program Day - Stay Motivated!

My 4-day sabbatical did a serious number on my mental game. All momentum was lost. I was pretty upset with myself for going so long without running or doing the program, especially since I had made such an explicit commitment to following through with it. That disappointment really translated into not wanting to work out at all. I did it though, and afterwards I felt great! The program has definitely gotten easier, and that feeling of disappointment is long gone.
I am able to get through a minimum of 12 reps of each exercise, except for the double stop push up. Can't complete one double stop push up. And by "one" I'm not referring to "one set."No no, I can't do a single, proper push up.

Lesson Learned? Don’t let a long time between exercising discourage you, and especially don't let it stop you from getting out there. As soon as you get it done, you get to bask in a wonderful feeling of righteousness. And eat a croissant - or two - without TOO much guilt...

Day 14: Interval Training Day - The Importance of Great Running Tunes
Today I went for a 30-minute run along the Dorgodne River. (To read about my French travels, check out: bfishoutofwater.blogspot.com ). It was a muggy, languid kind of day, and in order to leave the pool side I knew I needed a little extra help.

I purchased an app called ITGO- Interval Training Go (here for a review). I love this thing. You can choose how long you want to run, your warm up time, and how long you want your intervals to be. You pick songs (chosen directly from your ipod list) you want for your slow and fast intervals. The app tells you when to switch between intervals by automatically changing from your fast paced song to your slow paced ones (and vice versa) once your chosen interval time is up. In case that isn't clear enough, a guy also yells, "SLOW!" or "FAST!" at the beginning of your interval, which always makes me giggle a bit.

I'm a big believer in having fast paced tunes to get me moving during a run, and studies have shown music can actually increase workout performance. This app fit exactly what I was looking for. My day 14 run was dramatically better because of this little gadget.

Lesson Learned? Listen to music to get your butt moving, harder and longer! Remember to choose songs whose pace matches your desired running speed. Think fast, heavy beats like techno or heavy metal.

**What do you listen to when you run? I'm always looking for new music and I'd love for you to share some of your best running tunes!