Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Exercise for Non-Exercisers Part Two - Muscle Toning

As mentioned here, I'm not an exercise fanatic. I do it mostly to fight boredom and less to keep myself healthy. Cardio fitness has been a fairly constant routine for me since I was a little girl driving my parents crazy. They must have thought that putting me in dancing and swimming classes at a young age would lessen my energy levels when at home. I've heard enough infamous childhood stories to know that that didn't happen (Do you remember the time you stuck a bean deep inside your ear canal? Do you remember when you locked everyone out of the house except yourself and Abuelita had to break a window to get back inside? Do you remember when Tia had to hold you under the cold shower in your pajamas to calm the hysteria you went through at not having ice cream before bed? Do you remember when you cut Caroline's hair? Etc...). So cardio seems normal to me; it's doable without too much effort. I run enough to sweat heavily a few times a week and that's it.

What doesn't seem normal to me and does require extra effort on my part is muscle building. When I was on the swim team in high school we had to lift weights twice a week. When I graduated I tried to maintain that discipline but it only lasted a few months. While my friends would keep their bodies toned in order beat each other up during our weekend backyard wrestling shindigs, I would sit on the sidelines as a "commentator" (meaning I never had to wrestle or ,actually, do anything) and drink beer.

Occasionally I would run or swim during the weekdays.  I spent over a decade doing cardio and nothing else. At first this seemed sufficient and I was able to maintain my figure but then I started noticing that the amount of exercise I used to do was no longer enough. It's that whole getting-older-metabolism-slowing-ass-widening thing that happens to everyone eventually. Thus, recently, I decided I needed to start building some muscle again.

Remember when I said to do whatever works for you because we're all different? That goes for muscle building, too. I am of the dogma that you don't need to use handheld weights to strengthen muscle. I believe doing the right moves with your own body will make your muscles strong. Maybe not strong enough for you, but strong enough for me. I'm not trying to look like a body builder or like those guys at my gym who have big balloony muscles but probably can't run a mile. I just want to be toned and for me that requires two forms of exercise: yoga and my "get fit" routine.

I actually found this muscle toning routine on Pinterest and decided it looked easy enough to do because I already knew what all the different exercises entailed - except for burpees; I had to look that up on YouTube. This may seem easy at first glance but for someone who hadn't done any type of push up or wall sitting in years it was quite challenging. See how on the very bottom it says "Repeat 3-5 Times"? Well, I've only worked up to repeating twice and then my body is collapsing in on itself. But this is what I mean about doing whatever works best for you. Just because the workout says that it should be repeated at least three times doesn't mean that you have to do it that way right away. Build up to someday repeating three to five times and you won't hate exercising. By the way, burpees are hard, don't let the name fool you. 

In order to fight boredom from repeating the same workout every week I interchange the "get fit" routine with yoga. Let's say I run on Monday, then Tuesday I'll do yoga or "get fit", then I'll run on Wednesday, then on Thursday I'll do yoga or "get fit" - depending on which one I didn't do on Tuesday - and then so on. Sundays I rest, which means no working out of any kind. But, sometimes, if I play too hard on Friday nights then I also rest on Saturdays...and refuse to feel guilty about it. 

I used to do yoga at the gym but it was an hour long class, only once a week, and so packed that I felt awkward being so physically close to the people around me. The instructor, Rina, would always make everyone feel more comfortable by saying "Obviously you all have never done yoga in India. There's plenty of room here for more people!", but it was still a little weird. One bored afternoon I was surfing YouTube and discovered a plethora of free yoga videos online. After trying a few of them out I decided that my favorite was Power Yoga with Bryan Jones. It is challenging. I promise your muscles will be shaking and sweat will be flowing from your pores. But it's only thirty minutes so it's feasible to those of us non-exercisers! 

I've been doing this running/muscle toning combination for about a month and I can see the difference. I don't judge the change based on weight, I judge it based on my reflection in the mirror, the way my clothes fit me, and the ease (or less sloppy way) in which I can now chaturanga in yoga. And just for fun, here's a gratuitous picture of Chris doing what he does to keep his body and spirit in shape.

Whatever works for you!

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