Keeping it brief–a dumb post about working out

Image from 12 Minute Athlete

Image from 12 Minute Athlete

When I started exercising regularly again at 43, I quickly learned whatever I thought I knew about fitness in my teens and twenties–and I thought I knew a great deal–was either hilariously limited or just plain wrong.

That is, I had some hardened ideas that were actually working against me. One was the idea that it wasn’t a workout unless you were busting ass for at least 30 minutes. No wonder I’d think about getting back in shape in my late twenties and throughout my thirties, consider how much work I might have to do, and usually decide I had other stuff that might need my attention.

Once exercise did become a habit again, I had to learn that just for purely practical reasons sometimes a workout needed to be short, but hopefully intense. Especially if I wanted to work out frequently. Otherwise, at some point my body would just stall and say NOPE, WE’RE DONE. (It’s done that to me, so I speak from experience.)

Once I learned to love the fast-paced, brief workout, I discovered there are a ton of good resources for them online. Many are CrossFit-related, but there’s also the excellent 12-Minute Athlete, a frequently updated blog that plainly lays out well-balanced 12-minute HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts with simple, pleasing graphics and videos.

All of this is preamble to note the 12-minute workout I did tonight. Even though I’m making it a point to give a shout-out to 12-Minute Athlete, I actually found this on a CrossFit site. Here it is as posted there:

Complete as many rounds as possible in 12 mins of:
8 Burpees
10 Kettlebell Swings, 24/16 kg
12 Air Squats

I used a 70-lb kettlebell but otherwise did the workout as directed and completed 5 rounds, adding up to 40 burpees, 50 swings and 60 squats. And when I was done, I did all the sweating, for a while. It felt like an excellent workout both for the range of muscles hit and for the level of tiredness I felt when done.

I think my point is to recommend to anyone who might read this that if you’re stuck in the old “I MUST DO THIS FOR AN ETERNITY OF SUFFERING” mindset as I once was, well, there are definitely excellent alternatives.

 

#12-minute-athlete, #burpees, #crossfit, #hiit, #kettlebells, #squats, #workouts

Here’s a dumb post about my workout

Periodic table of bodyweight exercises, find it here.

Periodic table of bodyweight exercises, find it here.

I’m finally working on a 6-7 day a week workout cycle. I’d had ambitions to experiment with 100 days straight doing something, but quickly realized that was an amusingly dumb idea. I need to find a certain kind of pace and balance before I murder myself that way. I sometimes like exhausting 90 minute cardio and strength something or others, and no way in hell I can do that for 6 days straight. I may be near that, I don’t know. I mean, I’m in good shape but I’m also still kind of old and fat, so, you know, caveats apply. Today I did do something that was a little different for me and it felt like a pretty (here’s that b-word again) balanced thing to do.

If I’m doing a circuit of bodyweight or kettlebell exercises I normally plan them out informally ahead of time, either off the top of my head or based on something I’ve seen on sites I visit, like 12 Minute Athlete or FitnessBlender. I write out what I plan to do, set my phone’s stopwatch and get busy. Today, rather than focus on reps, I decided to set the timer for 20 minutes then see what I could get done during that time, stopping when the timer buzzed no matter where I was. This wasn’t intended to be any kind of major workout–because I might lose motivation tomorrow if I slammed it today. Like I said, I’m old.

I ended up feeling pretty good and deciding I’d use this as a maintenance workout (as in I just wanted to sweat and work a bit, but didn’t jump up a level) again. Here’s what happened

Timer: 20:00

  • Burpees-8, 8, 8, 6, 6 (36)
  • Push-ups-12, 12, 12, 8, 6 (50)
  • Dumbbell curls, 2 x 25 lbs-6, 6, 6, 5, 5 (28)
  • Assisted pull-ups (see this page, level 3A)-8, 8, 6, 6, then 2 with strict form, no assist
  • Two-handed swings with a 53-lb kettlbell-12, 12, 12, 10, 10.

This ended up being a faster-paced workout than I sometimes do. I was sweating like a pig who just heard the farmer’s wife complaining she’s out of bacon. I think I could up the speed a good deal in the future and add sets. It hit most everything, though, and I don’t feel like completely flopping for the rest of the night.

As an aside–I hate most of the fitness-related writing I find online. I’m not talking about sports journalism; that’s a totally different animal. I’m talking about bloggers and various posts for websites, some of them really popular. Too often the tone is far too “that one gym coach you had in high school whom you plotted to blow up his house.” You know–it’s either frustrated drill sergeant or belittling jock. As in, “HEY PUNK LOOK WHAT I CAN DO CAN YOU DO THIS PUNK WELL, CAN YOU????”

I really want to avoid that when I do choose to write about fitness. If many of the people who take on that sort of authorial tone (honestly, this also applies to a lot of Youtube videos about working out–hell, maybe most of them) truly cared about helping others learn about the benefits of fitness, they’d be way more inviting and accommodating. Maybe shaming a person struggling with their weight and appearance will work for a time, and maybe it’s exactly what some people think they deserve, but it never worked for me, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that. I’ll do my best to not link that sort of thing, save for amusement value.

#burpees, #daily-workouts, #exercise, #sets, #swings, #timers, #workouts

100 Days

This is a real kettlebell. Those ridiculous little plastic kettlebells you see at Target are not kettlebells. This is the business.

This is a real kettlebell. Those ridiculous little plastic kettlebells you see at Target are not kettlebells. This is the business.

On April 17, in one of the several little notebooks I scribble in daily so I don’t actually pester the internet with all my bullshit, I unofficially began a 100-day fitness challenge. It’s unofficial because I’m figuring it out as I go, I guess. I have two goals so far: variety and no rest. That is, I’m not going to skip a day, for 100 days. I typically take 2-3 days a week off. That’s out the door, for a few.

Now, if I was going for 10 mile runs or doing heavy duty kettlebell/strength stuff for 2 hours each day, that’d be an utterly insane goal for a man my age, with some of the medical challenges I’ve had in the past. I’m not that crazy.

I’ll work out at least once a day, and no routine will be shorter than 12 minutes. That may mean 5 straight days of 12-15 minutes of something, each day, but that’s better than nothing. To keep myself honest, I’m noting what I do on paper. That’s also a way to organize the effort and keep it honest on the variety end of things. I’ve found that since I went from just running or walking to body weight, dumbbells and kettlebells, I have favorite exercises and will stick to those if I don’t think too hard about it–when my body might be better served by a wider variety of lifts and moves.

I suppose I just want to see what, if anything will happen. I don’t necessarily feel I’m at a plateau right now or anything, but I do feel a bit slowed, somehow. And there’s something charming in the 100 Days concept, even if I get tired of seeing “inspiring” 100 Days videos posted on Facebook (hell no, I’m not going to make any videos, ew). That’s not the fault of the people using the challenge to achieve something, it’s the fault of our forced inspiration/whimsy internet culture. Which is another subject, entirely.

#100-day-challenge, #100-days, #kettlebells, #running, #workouts

Maybe Almost Daily Workout Post

I’ll try to keep this brief because sometimes these fitness posts are really just for me.

I took a day off from exercise yesterday because I’m just kind of used to not working out, running etc. on Wednesday. It just makes sense. Today I decided to see what I could fit in a half hour. Here’s what I did. I used a 70 lb. kettlebell, 25 lb. weighted vest (for the push-ups only) and two 25 lb dumbbells.

  • 5 sets x 10 reps of KB Swings
  • 5 x 10 push-ups
  • 5 x 10 burpees
  • 5 x 10 Arnold dumbbell presses

I did the above circuit style (1 set of swings then 1 set of push-ups and so on; repeat) and damned if it didn’t take exactly 30 minutes.

No idea how many calories it burned or anything.

Just telling you. Don’t try this at home.

#burpees, #daily-workouts, #push-ups, #workouts

Another dumb workout post, wherein I shout out Fitness Blender, Again

I’ve posted this workout on my Tumblr and given FitnessBlender.com–run by husband and wife Daniel and Kelli Segars–shout-outs there, too. There’s a reason: discovering the Segars’ thoughtfully made, carefully constructed workouts was crucial to getting me over a fitness hump.

I’d already lost a great deal of weight through running, diet, and some basic bodyweight workouts, but I think I was getting bored and needed to add variety. I also wanted to feel more fully fit, stronger in general. Somehow I became interested in kettlebells (wish I could remember what got me into them, but I can’t), and in researching the best workouts using those, I discovered this beginner kettlebell workout.

The straightforward and well-organized presentation had me hooked, and Fitness Blender videos became weekly components of my workouts, and remain so today. I’ve learned a ton from them, including proper form for stuff I already knew and a number of exercises I’d never even tried before. I also learned logical workout structure, which is pretty damned important if you want to make sure you’re doing a balanced routine.

I think one reason the Segars’ videos have become so popular (many of their workout videos have six-digit view numbers on Youtube) is because a huge number of people who run fitness websites and make such videos are coming from such an intensely aggressive, challenging, off-putting place, and Daniel and Kelli come across like trustworthy next door neighbors, people you’d invite over for a barbecue.

See, so many workout videos made by others are the same: heavy metal soundtracks blare while some bulked-out wannabe drill sergeant type whips out kettlebell snatches and then stares unblinking in the camera and bellowing about “PROTEIN” and “MASS” before flexing all the way down to their eyelids. Everything is BEAST MODE, all the time, and some of these Terminators even make it a point to note they’re doing this stuff drug (read: steroids)-free, when, funny enough, no one asked.

It’d be one thing if I was making fun of one such ‘guru,’ but the hilarious thing is I’m not. The majority of what you’ll encounter doing online research into fitness will resemble what I described. It could put someone who can’t afford (or like me, doesn’t really want) to join a gym off the whole thing. Fitness Blender works because the Segars(es?) know what they’re doing and seem adult enough and smart enough to lead you into new stuff without breaking your back or your spirit in the process.

I’m convinced that the last thing needed by many people who want to lose weight and get in shape is an approach that attempts to shame them. A terrible catch-22 of our society is just that–if you are very heavy, the moment you begin trying to make a change, you may become the butt of jokes and ridicule–even as you try. Even for trying. I don’t know why anyone in that position would want someone in their face aggressively challenging them for 30 minutes to an hour every other day. It ends up being motivation through resentment and anger–at the trainer and yourself–and I’m convinced that sort of motivation has a limited half-life.

(Steps carefully off soapbox, minding my form.)

Anyway–I did the workout in the video above today, but I had to make modifications, because I’m old (is my excuse). My changes are in parentheses. I used a single 45 lb. kettlebell for everything:

Brutal Kettlebell HIIT Cardio Tabata Workout

  • KB Halo
  • Mt Climbers
  • KB Snatch Right Arm
  • Squat Jacks (I hate these, but they’re great for your quads.)
  • KB Snatch Left Arm
  • Burpee (I admit it, I threw in a 1-minute break between this and the next set.)
  • KB Swing
  • Push Up (I did plenty of push-ups yesterday, so I took it easy with these and did two rounds of these with the easier style of push-up, done on knees instead of full-on plank.)
  • KB Goblet Squat
  • High Knees
  • KB Crush Curl (I just went ahead and did hammer curls with a pair of dumbbells, 25 lbs each.)
  • Jumping Lunges (These are really brutal, coming at this point in the workout. My thighs were burning.)

Fitness Blender estimates this workout may burn as many as 432 calories, and I believe it. In High Intensity Interval Training, intensity is the key word. Some people recommend you don’t do more than 3-4 HIIT workouts in a week, and I can say from experience that even 4 will mess with you, so tread lightly.

[Fitness Blender]

#daniel-segars, #fitnessblender, #fitnessblender-com, #high-intensity-interval-training, #hiit, #kelli-segars, #kettlebells, #tabata, #workouts

Another dumb, non-daily workout post

I don’t know how I went from 4 years ago being a guy who thought about exercising then shook my head at the foolishness of the idea (a mindset that can keep a lot of seriously overweight people from even starting, I’d bet) to being that guy who gets anxious if I skip more than a day, but that’s where I am now. This weekend I did nothing and this morning I realized the inactivity was driving me crazy. So here’s the (first? I’m considering a two workout day today) effective and simple nonsense I did this morning, between taking my wife to work and getting my youngest kid on the bus:

  • 50 burpees, ladder style (10, rest, 9, rest, etc. down to 1).
  • 50 push-ups in one set of 20 then two sets of 15. You can throw a push-up into a burpee and I considered that but I think the push-ups are more effective done as a separate exercise.
  • 15 pull-ups, done in a modified ladder–4, 3, 2, 2, 2, 1.
  • 20 burpees–wearing a 25 lb. weighted vest. Also ladder style–5, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

In the future I’ll speed it up and add reps and planks. This took 34 minutes but I bet I could finish it in less than 30. I might have done mile runs instead of burpees but situational and time constraints wouldn’t permit (another point in favor of the burpee–it can be a time-saver).

I may have mentioned this before but it bears repeating: if you’re going to do burpees (and again, this is just my workout, and is not intended as instruction in any way) with a weighted vest, make sure your vest has a comfortable snug fit and is relatively short in front. I made the mistake of buying a full-fitting vest (it looks like a flak jacket) and it’s great for push-ups, torso dips and runs, but the motions used in a burpee make it bunch and flap a little, which is pretty annoying.

 

#burpees, #daily-workouts, #exercise, #workouts

Workouts! Eh, I don’t know. (Wherein the author digresses about the burpee.)

The goddamned burpee. (Photo by: 100lbslater.blogspot.com)

The goddamned burpee. (Photo by: 100lbslater.blogspot.com, via)

Yeah, I have to accept I can’t commit to writing about working out all the time. Two main reasons: my workouts are often variations on a theme, therefore kinda-sorta same/same; I find other things more interesting. I definitely find a wide variety of fitness-related subjects fascinating, so I think the tack I’ll take when blogging about fitness will be more along the lines of covering whatever’s interesting to me at the time (strongman stuff, kettlebell lore, whatever).

That said, here’s what I did recently:

January 7

  • 50 burpees, ladder style (10 reps, 9, 8, etc…)
  • 5 sets of 5 reps of kettlebell cleans & jerks with two 53 lb bells (5 x 5)
  • 5 x 5 kettlebell squats, same weights
  • 4 x 8 reps of plain old curls with two 25 lb dumbbells, then 1 set of six reps.

I threw in three 1-minute planks. It felt like a pretty good workout.

January 9 (today)

Wearing a 25 lb weighted vest, I followed the following pattern:

  • 4 x 5 burpees–burpees in a weighted vest are something else, hence the low number of reps. I recommend them, but you need a good, close-fitting vest. Mine’s not great.
  • 5 x 10 kettlebell swings, with a 70 lb bell.
  • Burpees. Again. Same as above.
  • 4 x 5 reps of torso dips. Add a weighted vest and these are bastards.
  • 5 x 10 reps of “Arnolds” dumbbell presses with two 25 lb dumbbells.

I took off the vest and did two sets of 10 burpees, two sets of 10 dips, the rest of the workout the same as above. What’s funny is looking at it now, it’s a good, tiring workout, but at the time I felt like I could do more.

The couple behind my favorite online fitness resource often mentions feedback from people who like their videos about hating burpees. Anyone who’s ever done a few understands that, but at the same time, I can’t help but feel they’re a genius move in the world of bodyweight exercises. A burpee hits almost everything. And damned if you don’t feel like you have seriously done something when you’ve finished a set.

Then there’s the fact that they’re easily one of the most portable exercises imaginable, which is why if you read up on prison fitness (a weirdly fascinating subject I may cover in a future fitness post) you always read about burpees. I love running for my cardio, but since I’ve been living in a wintry climate and discovered that it’s just kind of a dumb idea to run in the ice and snow sometimes (though I still occasionally do it), burpees have been a lifesaver. Once I began incorporating the damned things into workouts, I found I could go 10 days between runs and then out of the blue do 4 miles at a fairly reasonable pace. Granted, my fairly reasonable pace as a runner is other runners’ fast walk, but still–I’m talking about endurance, here.

As miserable as they make me, I’m a fan of the burpee, and will include them in workouts as long as I’m able to do one.

While the usual disclaimers about my workouts merely being a record of what I’ve done apply, I will say, in closing, that you should learn to do a goddamned burpee. For your health.

#burpees, #daily-workouts, #double-kettlebell-workouts, #fitnessblender-com, #for-your-health, #kettlebells, #prison-fitness, #prison-workouts, #workouts