Looking Good (for a mom)

has been moved to new address


You will be automatically routed to the new site...please update your bookmarks.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Evolution of a fitness plan

In the final post in my one-year look-back series, I wanted to walk my readers through how my fitness plan has evolved over the past year - as well as how my physical fitness has improved. I didn't start out doing 30 push-ups in a row, cranking out chin-ups, or running a mile without getting winded. Not even close!

Perhaps it might help if I dial back a bit further, just to give you some context. I am not a traditionally athletic person. Those of my readers in the U.S. might recall doing those "Presidential Fitness Tests" in school. Well, I was the annoying girl who hated running so much that she insisted on walking the required "mile run," while the rest of her class sat on the bench and waited for her. I can see the physical education teachers rolling their eyes right now! While I enjoyed swimming, dancing, and horseback riding, I only did the latter competitively. I was not a soccer, softball, lacrosse, or field hockey player. The closest I came to running track was being half-sibling to an alum of my school's cross-country team. So I didn't have any personal experience to pull from, or default mode of training to fall back on.

But running...hate it though I did, I had forced myself to do it once before, back in 2002, and dropped down to a svelte 117 pounds. So that's where I decided to start.

It begins...
Tuesday, June 17, 2008 was the first day of my new workout plan. My neighbor was waiting outside for me at 6:00, and she'd kick my butt if she got up early and I was a no-show. So I made myself get out of bed and get outside. As a physical education teacher, she had the plan. We walked to warm up, and then did jogging intervals, running for about 45 seconds at a time, and then walking for two minutes to recover, with a cool-down walk at the end. It took us 33 minutes to do 2 miles, with about 8 minutes of running and about 25 minutes of walking. I have to say, it was REALLY hard for me. Every time we started running, I wanted to stop almost immediately! Later that night, I did 20 crunches on a stability ball.

That was the first day. Each day after that, we ran a little longer, and walked a little less. As the days wore on, we added a "long run" in the middle, skipping one of the walking intervals. And every few days, I'd do some crunches on the stability ball.

Two weeks into this, I started doing a routine of stability ball exercises, which effectively were a form of resistance training. This included crunches, push-ups, wall squats, hamstring curls, etc. I did these exercises in the evening, while I continued the running and walking intervals in the morning. By this point, the running and walking had progressed quite a bit. I was now running as many minutes as I was walking (about 15 minutes each). It was getting easier, and we kept pushing ourselves to make it harder again.

Then came Friday, August 1. The local running store was holding "Friday Night Runs" in August. It was a timed run on a flat, paved trail near our home. You could run 2.5 or 5 miles. I had never tried to run 2.5 miles without stopping to walk, but decided to try. And I did it! After just 6 weeks of training, I ran the 2.5 miles in 28 minutes! So much for the girl who couldn't run a mile! Just after Labor Day, I ran a 5K. I had done a few, years ago, but never was able to finish without walking at least once. This time, I ran the entire race, finishing in 33 minutes.

I also started the 100 Push-ups program for the first time in August. I tested my regular push-ups and could only do two, so I started with the lowest level in the program, switching to knee push-ups when I couldn't do anymore regular push-ups. Although I stopped the program when it started interfering with other workouts I was doing, I was able to do 30 regular push-ups by November. Look for some video showing me back in August, trying to do push-ups, and a follow-up one that shows the change in my ability. I'll post that separately later this week.

I introduce some "Turbulence" to my training
By the time October rolled around, I was ready for a more intense resistance training program. That's when I started Turbulence Training. I started off with the 4-week bodyweight program (which I send all of my email subscribers for free), and switched to the TT 2K3 workout (2K3 = 2003, the year Craig Ballantyne created the workout) near the end of the month, when I was able to start working out with weights.

Here is a sampling of the weights I used in that workout (all weights listed for two-handed exercises are for both hands), along with the weights I used last week for the same workout:

October 2008
Chin-ups 3x6 chin-ups at -52lbs (using an assisted chin-up machine)
DB chest press 3x8 at 40lbs
DB 1-arm elbow out row 3x8 at 15lbs, repeat other side
DB low-incline press 3x8 at 30lbs
Decline push-ups - could only do 6 per set 3x6
DB incline curl 3x8 at 20lbs

Forward lunges 3x8 30 lbs
Side plank 3x30 sec per side
Romanian Deadlift 3x8 40lbs
Jackknife w/ ball 3x15 reps
Step-ups 3x8 40lbs
2-leg Hamstring curl w/ ball 3x15 reps

June 2009
Chin-ups 4 unassisted chin-ups, 1 + 5 assisted (-22 lbs) in remaining 2 sets
DB chest press 3x8 at 70lbs (+30 lbs)
DB 1-arm elbow out row 3x8 at 30 lbs, repeat other side (+15 lbs)
DB low-incline press 3x8 at 40 lbs (+10 lbs)
Decline push-ups - 3x15 (+9 reps per set)
DB incline curl 3x8 at 30lbs (+10 lbs)

Forward lunges 3x8 60 lbs (+30 lbs)
Side plank 3x60 sec per side (+30 seconds)
Romanian Deadlift 3x8 75lbs (+35 lbs)
Ab-Pike 3x15 reps (Same reps - harder exercise)
Step-ups 3x8 60lbs (+20 lbs)
1-leg Hamstring curl w/ ball 3x15 reps per side (Same reps - harder exercise)

As you can see, my strength has very much increased over the course of the last 8 months. For the curious who are also using the Turbulence Training Program, here are the names of the other workouts I did in the following months:

TT 2K4
TT 2K5 (only 2 weeks)
TT for Female Strength Phase II
TT Gain Muscle Lose Fat
TT for Buff Dudes and Hot Chicks (BDHC)
TT Fusion Fat Loss Intermediate
TT for Meatheads
TT 2K3 (tried again specifically to see how far I'd come since I started)

I get serious about Kettlebells
The Turbulence Training programs recommend you replace "long, slow, boring cardio" with high intensity interval training (HIIT). I started off doing treadmill sprints for my intervals, building on the running I had been doing over the summer. But running inside is far less interesting, for me, than running outside, and I found myself skipping HIIT sessions because I dreaded stepping onto the treadmill.

But my friend Anna, from Path to Fat Loss was a kettlebell enthusiast, and her descriptions of what she was doing piqued my interest. There were several kettlebells at my gym, and I decided I would learn to do the Kettlebell swing (the most basic kettlebell move), and use swings for HIIT at least once per week.

So, near the end of November, I replaced one of my normal HIIT workouts with kettlebell swings. I did 30 seconds of swings, with 90 seconds of recovery for six total intervals. I used a 12kg kettlebell to start, but found it was very difficult to keep good form on the last three intervals, so in future sessions, I switched to an 8kg kettlebell. Within two months, I was consistently using a 12kg kettlebell for swings. Then, at the end of February, I started working a 16kg kettlebell into my routine. I would do half of my intervals with the 16kg, and the other half with the 12kg. I loved how I could get a great HIIT workout that left me out of breath and exhausted in just 12 minutes.

In April, I started working with a RKC certified trainer in a weekly group class. She helped refine my swing, and taught me a few more exercises. Now, here's the kind of circuit I might do for a quick HIIT session after my weight lifting workout:

30 seconds 16kg swings
5 weighted squats (16kg)
30 seconds rest
30 seconds 12kg overhead swings
30 seconds 12kg one-hand alternating swings
30 seconds rest
30 seconds 16kg swings
30 seconds jumping jacks
30 seconds rest
30 seconds 12kg overhead swings
5 weighted lunges (12kg) per side
30 seconds rest
30 seconds 16kg swings
5 burpees
30 seconds rest
30 seconds 12kg overhead swings
30 seconds 12kg one-hand alternating swings
30 seconds rest

In conclusion...
It amazes me to look back and see how far I've come in the past year on all levels - appearance, nutrition, health, and fitness. But there's one common thread in all four posts, and that's that none of these changes happened overnight. Dozens of small, incremental changes accumulated to influence my physical ability, health, appearance, and diet. So if you look at the way I live my life now, and think "that's great, but I just can't do that right now," don't be ashamed. If you asked me a year ago, I would have said the same thing!

Find one thing - just one - to change and start there. Maybe it's eating real food for breakfast, or starting a daily walking habit with a friend. Maybe it's signing up for a yoga class or cutting back on alcohol, sweets, or fatty foods (whichever is your vice). But whatever you do, don't let it stop there! Once you've acclimated yourself to that first change, decide on the NEXT thing you will change.

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. "
Lao-tzu, The Way of Lao-tzu
Chinese philosopher (604 BC - 531 BC)

1 comment: