How I Approach Exercise

January 11th, 2012 at 6:06 am
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Exercise in 2012

We’re just over a week into the new year, and I think it’s time we get right down to it and talk about the dreaded E word: exercise.

You read mostly about food here, which is the way I plan to keep things in 2012. I’m not turning Daily Bites into a fitness blog (don’t worry!), but a big part of a well-rounded healthy lifestyle is movement and activity, so I think it’s an important topic to touch on every now and then.

Be advised that I’m not a fitness professional and have no formal training when it comes to exercise and movement. Everything that I’m sharing with you here is based solely on personal experience. You’ll want to consult with your qualified health care professional to determine what form of activity is best for you. Stay safe!

As for me personally, when it comes to physical activity, I’m a big believer in three key points:

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1. Variety

You must, must, must keep your exercise routine shaken up in order to a) challenge yourself and build strength/speed/stamina, b) enjoy your workouts and not become bored, and c) prevent injuries. Last summer and fall, I got into a regular routine of running 3 or 4 times per week, going to some weight training classes at my gym, and occasionally throwing in a yoga or pilates class for fun. What I discovered, though, was that after almost 3 months of sticking with this plan, I still hated running, I hadn’t become significantly stronger from all of the weight training, and I felt like every other week I was battling some kind of injury.

That’s when I decided a change was in order. Could I build strength, stamina, and speed without stepping on a treadmill or lifting a dumbbell? I decided to put myself to the test and give high intensity interval training (HIIT) a go.  My HIIT workouts are short, usually no more than 20 minutes of actual working out, but very intense. Exercises include things like push-ups and variations of push-ups, pull-ups, squats, jumps, kicks, planks, and more. Almost everything is done with my own body weight. During the intervals, I push really hard. After 12-15 minutes of pushing to my maximum level of effort (or as close to it as I can come!), I am usually out of breath, sweating, and begging for a swig of water.

Along with the HIIT workouts, I’ve also kept up with yoga/pilates classes about once a week and occasionally throw in a sprint session on the treadmill if I have the energy and time. Otherwise, I walk briskly a few days per week and try to focus on warming up and cooling down thoroughly after HIIT sessions.

The verdict? After roughly 4-6 weeks of sticking with this plan, I feel stronger, faster, and more conditioned than I have ever felt before. More than anything, I feel like the variety of my exercise program has helped the most. Every day is a little different. I’m not just running 5 days a week or doing a gazillion bicep curls and crunches, hoping to tone up by hitting the gym for an hour a day. I’m keeping my body guessing as to what’s coming next.

And the very best part? I absolutely LOVE this way of exercising! Which brings me to point #2:

2. Sustainability

Your form of exercise needs to be sustainable-–physically, mentally, and financially. Because I work out with pretty much just my own body weight and very few pieces of equipment, I can essentially work out anywhere. In my basement, at a gym, in a hotel room—you name it. Because I’m not injured all the time, I can keep up with the regimen and sustain it long term.

If you enjoy what you’re doing for exercise, you’re going to stick with it! When I was running a lot more this summer and fall, I literally had to drag myself out the door, dreading the XX miles I’d have to slog out on road or the treadmill. I tried to convince myself that it was good for me and my heart, but no matter how much I tried, I just couldn’t grow to love it. I even tried reading Runner’s World for a few months to get inspired and motivated.

Didn’t work. I’m just not a runner.

But have me drop and do burpees, push-ups, planks, and squat jumps for a rotation of 12 minutes, pushing at my absolute max effort? I’ll give you all I’ve got!

For the first time in months (maybe years), I’m actually excited to work out every day. I can see myself sticking with physical activity (along with plenty of rest days!) for life.

 

3. Set Goals

I recently wrote a post about goal setting and how valuable it is for me personally. I challenge you to set goals for yourself when it comes to physical fitness. Use them as motivation to work toward what it is you want in your life. You can read this post for more details about goal-setting, but here are a few examples of what effective fitness goals could look like:

  • I will walk for 30 minutes at least 4 days each week.
  • I will fully recover from {insert injury here} before I begin exercising again.
  • I will support my training with a healthy, balanced diet that incorporates plenty of fresh produce, lean protein, and healthy fats.
  • I will learn how to ski this year.

You don’t have to run a marathon or squat a certain number of pounds to be fit and and strong. You just have to be committed to moving in some way every day and giving your body the rest it needs when it needs it.

How do you approach exercise? What are your tips or ideas for beginning and sustaining an exercise routine? Any fitness goals for the new year? Share in the comments.

 

 

Comments

  1. As a new mom, finding time and energy to exercise is always a challenge. It’s hard to balance getting enough sleep, maintaining a healthy diet, and exercising while trying to care for a baby and work part-time. I find HIIT works really well for my phase of life right now. But my main goal is simply to do more than I did yesterday. That way I know I’m always moving in the right direction.

  2. Brianna – That is a great tip about just striving to do more than you did yesterday. It applies to all aspects of our lives, not just exercise. When it comes to eating well, taking time for meditation/spiritual renewal, sleeping, drinking water, etc., it’s often less intimidating to take small steps that move us toward positive change instead of trying to do it all. Keep it up! :)

  3. I actually do the same as Brianna above. I do the HIIT workout as well. It works great when i do not have a lot of time to devote to exercise. Sometimes it is just too hard to fit in a full hour around the kids schedule’s. But, I do go to Pilates once a week and yoga a couple times of week . Then I squeeze in those HIIT workouts in my other spare time here and there.

  4. I’m a fan of mixing it up too — the HIIT workouts can sure make you sweat, in such a short time. I’m also trying Zumba this year too… it’s a challenge, but fun! Good luck with your fitness goals in 2012, Hallie!

  5. So that I do something active every day, no matter what I feel like, I have “back-up” exercise. Sometimes, I’m pumped and ready to take on any new fitness program, but some days, and even weeks or months if life is getting in the way, I don’t have that same energy. Rather than try to force it, I have fall back fitness that I do … this includes walking, 20 to 30 minutes of yoga, stretching, hiking, etc. Basically things that I think of as purely relaxing and enjoyable rather than fitness. That way when I’m not up to a full exercise routine, I always fit in some healthy activity. I do something active every day.

  6. I enjoy doing interval running 3-4 days a week and biking 1-2 days plus strength training and pilates…something I need to work on is doing a balance of it. I tend to stick with the same thing all the time. Thank you for sharing Hallie!

  7. Thanks for all the great get healthy tips, Hallie! I’ve got my eye on those shredded vegetable meatballs ;)

    The one thing that I have to do in order to work out is schedule it…literally write it in my planner. If I do that, checking it off my list feels so good!

  8. As a fitness instructor, I agree wholeheartedly with your key points. Variety is SOOO important. I teach BodyPump, spin, and sculpt. I love group fitness because of the camaraderie. Having a group or even a partner to workout with motivates me. Left to my own devices I tend to slack, but I try to throw in a run and a few yoga classes each month to workout for ME.

  9. Hi Hallie,

    I was wondering if you follow a particular routine or if you just made your own up? I tried searching HIIT but mostly I get very intense bodybuilding websites and the information is very technical and to be honest very daunting. I’m looking for something simple but intense to do at home a few times a week.

    Thanks!

  10. Victoria: Check out http://www.BodyRock.tv for some great exercise ideas. I also love the Insanity DVDs from Beachbody.com. When I make up my own workouts, a usually choose 2 lower body exercises (like squats, jumps, lunges, etc.), 2 upper body exercises (push-ups, variations of push-ups, clean and presses, etc.), and 2-3 core exercises (planks or variations or planks, crunches, things with my Swiss ball, etc.) and then incorporate them into an interval cycle. I might do each exercise for 30-40 seconds with a 10-15 second break, then repeat the entire sequence 2 more times. Hope that helps! :)

  11. That really helped! Thanks so much!

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