I have been working out on a regular basis since I graduated from high school after playing four years of year around sports. I have gone through many seasons of trying new workouts, cutting back what I eat, and having weight fluctuations. But at the end of the day working out is a part of my life. Whether I am at my ideal weight or twenty pounds heavier. Whether I am happy about life or feeling a little depressed. Wherever the life pendulum chooses to swing, for the most part, I continue to work out.
Because working out is about more than what my body looks like. It has taken me awhile to figure this out. But as I have slowly been able to let go of some body issues I have held onto for most of my life, at the end of the day I want to be healthy and live an active and long life.
It is a struggle for me to hear about the latest fad diet or how someone is getting into some intense workout only to quickly burn out. It is hard for me because I struggle with falling victim to these same societal pressures. Maybe if I jump on the fill in the blank diet, I too, can quickly lose ten pounds. But it is also a challenge because my heart saddens for those who struggle to find a balance in their health but don't see fitness as long term.
So in my twelve adult years of working out, today I am sharing the different workouts that I do. Because you cannot do the same thing for twelve years, let alone a lifetime, and stay motivated or challenge your body. Plus life happens and different life seasons have not allowed me the same time and flexibility in fitting in certain workouts.
Though the gym is one category there are multiple ways you can work out. The two I will focus on is taking group exercise classes and a mix of weight training and cardio on your own.
1. Group Exercise Class
I took group exercise classes pretty consistently for a lot of years. I had the flexibility in my schedule to show up at a 9:00 am class Monday through Friday. Even when I was in college, I would drive twenty minutes out of my way straight from class to get to my favorite step aerobics class. Group exercise is fun, social, free if you already have a gym membership (most of the time), and has a teacher who does the work in keeping you motivated.
My current favorite classes are turbo kick, boot camp, and step. If you never tried a class before, give them a chance. You have to take a few classes and try out a couple of teachers to figure out what you love. For me, this is the easiest way to get in a full sixty minute class when I have the accountability of people around me.
2. Weight Training and Cardio
I have done a variety of weight and cardio combos throughout the years. I would do the elliptical and treadmill on Mondays, legs on Tuesdays, arms on Thursdays, etc. But last year I started doing a weight training program based off of the book The Metabolic Effect that I really love. When it comes to lifting weights, the main focus of this system is shorter reps of heavier weight. I have always been strong but until I started doing this type of format did I realize just how strong I could be. It has been extremely empowering as well as a boost to my confidence no matter what the scale reads.
How the program works is I have four sets of workouts (as seen below). In each workout I do four different exercises, twelve reps each, in twenty minutes. The goal is to do the four sets four times. If I cannot get four sets in, the weight I am lifting is too heavy. If I get more than four reps in, the weight is too light.
I have my workouts written on index cards that I keep on a ring in my gym bag. Based on The Metabolic Effect, you are to do the weight workouts three times a week. Currently I am not doing the structured program and doing this twice a week (in combination with a group exercise weight lifting class).
The numbers next to each description of the workout is the weight that I lift (the number represents dumbbell weight -- i.e. 20 lb dumbbell in each hand). As you can see I have crossed off or circled numbers when I was able to increase my weight. I have been lifting weights for a long time, so do not use my numbers as a starting guide. Try out what you are comfortable with and see if you can get in a four set rotation.
If you are on the fence about lifting heavy weights as a woman, this is a great article to read.
The other half of The Metabolic Effect is sprint intervals. Which are not my favorite. But I can attest to the fact that they are a good workout. And only a twenty minute one. I just started doing these again and I feel like I am going to die. But I know that in a few weeks when my body starts getting used to it again, they will become easier.
On the next two cards I keep on my ring are heart rate and sprint intervals. For heart rate, I wear a heart rate monitor. My goal in any workout is to maintain a 133 heart rate and to spike up to 162 every few minutes.
The sprint intervals is a twenty minute workout where I sprint for 20 seconds and then rest (wait for heart rate to go down and I usually walk). Then 30 secs, 40 secs, and 60 secs. You repeat this as many times as possible for the duration of the workout.
WORK OUT AT HOME
When life is busy and more recently, with watching my nephews, I cannot always make it to the gym. So instead I have a handful of workouts that I do at home.
3. Weights and Aerobic Step
I will do a weight routine like the one mentioned above or some sort of combination of weights and cardio on an aerobic step (which you can find at thrift stores). Since doing my current weight routine, I have invested in better hand weights to have at home. I have a set of 10, 15, and 20 so that I can lift heavy in a short period of time, which is really helpful at home as I am usually short on time.
4. Workout Videos
There are a ton of workout videos out there. The ones I have found beneficial is the Insanity workout and yoga DVDs. Insanity is pretty intense but it is one of the best workouts I am able to get in at home. It is a truly tough workout but it is handy to have on hand when I cannot get a routine workout in outside of the house.
I also have a few yoga videos I like. I do not do them regularly and are often weekend workouts at home when I have already done harder routines during the week. My favorites are Yogalosophy (warning she does cuss a little in a humorous way but she also trains Jennifer Aniston) and the yoga section in Gaiam's Lower Body Conditioning. They are both fairly simple and straight forward if you want a good stretching and strength workout every once in awhile.
I also occasionally play Just Dance 3 on our Wii. Fun and a good workout! The more I play the better I am at the moves which makes for a better workout!
5. Gyms on Groupon
Over the years I have tried a handful of private club or gyms. What I mean by this is that they are not the traditional gym setup. Instead they focus on a certain type of workout. These include independent places like CrossFit or boxing.
All of the experiences I have had have been through Groupon. Many of these types of clubs are much more expensive than a traditional gym membership. Always looking to try new things and save money, I have given a few a try because of the good deal they offered.
I have had good experiences and I have had bad. I hate wasting money but one I tried was a yoga studio and I only made it once. It was not the right fit for me so I never went back. With so many hours in the day, I couldn't sacrifice the option of a good workout with a mediocre one.
You won't know what you are getting until you try it out. There is risk involved but the chance of finding something you love is sometimes worth it. While I have not maintained a membership at any of the places I tried, I still enjoyed the experience and workout for a season. Probably my favorite one was a boxing class that I took with my husband. It was fun and a tough workout plus it was nice to try something together as a couple.
I have a love/hate relationship with CrossFit. I have tried two different clubs, one was great and one was terrible. I love that they incorporate heavy lifting as I used to lift in high school. The thing I do not like is that without the proper lifting training, many CrossFit gyms seem to push people too hard. A lot of people get injured and I do not like that for many new to fitness, that CrossFit is their introduction. There are other ways to workout that are perhaps more appropriate to those new to working out.
But in the end I like learning new routines that I can take with me to the gym or to my at home workouts. Learning how to box can provide the opportunity to get a punching bag for the house. And CrossFit has encouraged me to pick up more heavy lifting at the gym.
6. Hiking and Biking
One of my favorite aspects of being active is getting outside and moving my body. Living in Sacramento I have many opportunities to get outdoors year around due to fairly good weather and access to the local river.
7. Walk the Mall
In the winter, I take my nephews to the local mall to walk with all the old people and the occasional mom with stroller. I am often surprised how a simple walk around the wall can make my legs sore and get my heart rate up. It is simply in moving my body differently that such a low impact workout can have a positive impact. We created a good system of three laps and then a break at the kid's play area. Then we finish off with one more lap. It about covers a good three miles for us.
8. Walk Anywhere
Especially in the summer I try to walk anywhere. My husband and I have walked to the grocery store, to dinner, and even to church (this is a bit of a long walk on a very busy street in our church clothes!). But by being open to seeing any opportunity as a chance to walk, you can fit in a workout or walk off dinner as well as enjoy the company that you are with. When we make time for it, Brent and I have some of our best conversations when we go on walks. We just have to be willing to do it.
// At the end of the day, exercising helps me clear my head, gets me outdoors, and keeps my mind and heart healthy. If you have been on the fence at incorporating a routine workout schedule, I encourage you to do so. If you get bored or don't enjoy something, try something new! Though I work out regularly, there are many days that I would rather sleep in or get things done around the house. But once I get my body moving I am grateful for the discipline. It takes a lot of practice to create a routine as well as a good dose of discipline. But in my persistence I have had so many wonderful experiences with working out. It truly is one of my favorite things to do when I can make myself do it!
// You can keep up with my current workout routine over on Instagram where I share many sunrises as well as thoughts on my current workouts.