Be Well: Interval Training

Image via the Cody App blog

Today I want to talk about one of my favorite workout topics as of late: interval training. An article that was forwarded around at work today referenced this article about the rising popularity of interval training, which gave me my Workout Wednesday inspiration.

Back in my younger days, this is what my gym workouts used to look like: I would run on the treadmill at 6 mph until I had run three miles. I would then go do three or four weightlifting exercises. I would then leave, and never be sore, and never feel challenged, and never see much of an impact on my fitness level or my appearance.

But then I started to get a little bit smarter. First, I put more emphasis on weight training with heavy weights, lifting more weight for longer sessions. And then I embraced interval training.

Let's talk about the upside of interval training here: if you have a very limited amount of time to spend at the gym, interval training is your friend. It's got your back. You can do 20 minutes of cardio all-in (including warm-up!) and finish a full workout. You can feel good about getting in and out of the gym in half an hour.

The other major upside is that it challenges you physically in a way steady-state cardio never will. I'm not a scientist, so I can't explain why that is, but it will wear you out and increase your fitness level faster than you could have imagined. After all, no pain, no gain, right?

My absolute favorite interval workout is two minutes walking, one minute sprinting, alternating five to ten times. The concept is easy - work hard, then rest. Work hard, then rest. You can apply that philosophy to any standard cardio workout - swimming, running, biking, stairclimbing, jump roping, etc. etc.

So, give interval training a try the next time you're at the gym. Or, if you haven't been to the gym in awhile, try an interval workout to get yourself re-engaged. For a really easy introduction, try this easy interval workout that's set to the song Gentleman by PSY (it's catchy, but I will admit, it's no Gangnam Style)Remember - the hard parts of the workout should be REALLY hard. As in painfully hard. It will be uncomfortable at the time, yes, but I promise it will be worth it.

Be Well: Summer Activities

As I've probably complained about too much on this blog, I've been having trouble getting myself to do traditional workouts as of late. While there are plenty of reasons for this (new job, long commute, weird gym situation), I think one of the main things holding me back is the fact that it's the summer. There's just something about summer, with its beautiful weather and long daylight hours, that makes you want to focus on being social over being in shape. The best way to adapt to summer's effect on your priorities means finding fun, outdoor, social activities that will provide you with some exercise in the process. Below are three of my absolute favorite summer fitness activities - let me know how you like them, and fill me in on your favorites!

Swimming

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A little over a year ago, my husband and I spent a week in the British Virgin Islands with my family. Every day, my dad, siblings and I spent several hours swimming - swimming from the boat to the beach, snorkeling around an island, or just goofing off around the boat. There's something about swimming every day that just makes you feel more alive, you know? In my mind, there is no better exercise than the workout you get when you hop in the ocean or pool. Take advantage of the beautiful weather and enjoy the water while you have the chance!

Tennis

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There are tennis courts everywhere in San Francisco. And not only are they everywhere, but they tend to be situated on the tops of the highest hills with the most incredible views. After two years of walking by, admiring these tennis courts from afar, my husband and I finally walked to a local sporting goods store, bought cheap tennis rackets, and took a whack at playing a game (literally). We discovered that we are terrible at tennis (truly a menace to those on the courts around us) but we've had so much fun playing that we plan to make tennis a regular feature of our weekends. I'm still sore today from playing tennis on Sunday, so I think it's safe to say I at least got a little bit of a workout in!

Hiking

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I consider almost every walk in San Francisco to be a hike. It's virtually impossible to walk anywhere without climbing a hill, so my husband and I often substitute long walks on weekends for traditional workouts. However, I find classic hikes to be some of the best, most fulfilling, most entertaining ways to exercise. Last summer we hiked through Muir Woods north of the city - spending four hours in gorgeous surroundings, climbing challenging hills, talking to my favorite person in the world was an absolutely fantastic time, and just thinking about it is making me want to do it again! Next time you find yourself with some free time on a weekend, consider finding a hiking trail near where you live. Or even take advantage of long summer nights to walk around your neighborhood!

Be Well: Online Workouts + Liz DiAlto

image via shebrand.com

Don't let the title mislead you - I'm not saying you can work out by sitting at your desk (if only!) I am saying, however, that today I've got a great online workout resource for you. Liz DiAlto does what I do on this blog, except she does it in video form (and the picture above is enough to get me to like her regardless of her workout philosophy). She has an entire YouTube channel devoted to workout move demonstrations and videos of great workouts that you can do in a short amount of time with a limited amount of space. She has videos featuring almost anything you could want - ab exercises, arm exercises, hotel room exercises, long workouts, short workouts, the list goes on. If you prefer to work out at home or like using the internet to pretend you have a personal trainer (like I do), I think Liz is the perfect resource for you. Check her out!

Be Well: The Self-Righteous Trap

Every fitness post I've written on this blog, I've written to a target audience of people for whom exercise and weightlifting specifically are sporadic parts of their lives. In general, my basic thesis is that lack of know-how and motivation are the two predominant reasons why so many people in America can't work their way into a regular fitness routine. And everything I write about fitness on this blog I write in hopes that it will be helpful in combatting those two enemies, lack of know-how and lack of motivation. But lately I've been thinking about a third reason that people do not work out, a reason that so far I have done nothing to combat, a reason for not exercising that I've most likely made worse, not better. And that reason is the attitudes of fitness-oriented people across the country (and let's face it, the world). That reason is the abundant amount of self-righteousness that any person will encounter as soon as they enter any gym, yoga studio, running club, sports league, CrossFit box, swimming class, or any other fitness activity or center you can think of. Fellow fitness devotees, ask yourselves this: are we the problem?66005950761333449

This issue of self-righteousness has weighed heavily on my brain lately. I used to be a very self-righteous person. I thought that everything I did, I did the best way. For me, life was a competition, and I was winning. That two equally-valuable strategies for doing anything could exist was beyond my powers of comprehension. Luckily for me, I met my husband before my obnoxiousness had solidified completely, and he slowly opened my eyes to the fact that different people could do things in a variety of different ways that were (at least!) equally as valuable - different strokes for different folks. When I realized that someone didn't have to be a good-grade getting, Office-watching, joke-telling, exercise-enjoying Republican to be a good and worthy person, I had taken a huge step forward.

All of this is not to say that I am no longer self-righteous. I am. I'm working on it, but I am. While I don't think this attitude shines through too much in my day-to-day life, I think it probably bursts through whenever I get to talking about fitness. Because while we fitness-lovers love to talk about how humbling a workout can be, we still pretty much always consider ourselves superior to those who don't work out at all (or don't work out regularly). It never seems to occur to us that maybe, just maybe, people aren't coming to the gym NOT because they don't have the self-discipline to come to work out every morning, but because they don't want to be around us. Think about that for a second.296085207160682

The thing about self-righteousness is that it just isn't all that easy to hide. I've found that the easiest time to spot (and be turned off by) self-righteousness is the first time you try something new, particularly in fitness. For example, I can look back on the first time that I tried any kind of exercise class and tell you almost word-for-word the self-righteous material spouted by the teacher that made me want to turn around and walk back out the door. In my first cycling class, I remember the teacher going on and on about how cycling was superior to every other form of exercise, how we were special because we were burning so many more calories than everyone else, and feeling really self-conscious that I hadn't clued into the magic of cycling before that day. I remember how during my very first yoga class the teacher said something about how people are unable to truly be connected to their bodies and their souls without practicing yoga, and I wondered how I could have possibly functioned in this world up to that point considering I was clearly out of touch with my soul. I remember my first day of Pure Barre, when the teacher kept talking about how the workout was going to be so hard and so challenging and how there was no way that most of us would be able to do it right for awhile...but how we might get it someday. Ugh. And I rolled my eyes so hard on Monday morning when the coach in my introductory CrossFit class spent ten minutes lecturing us on how wearing our standard tennis shoes is akin to attempting to work out while standing on a mattress, but don't worry, she's not judging us for our shoe choices. Yeah, right.

Each of these experiences made me feel alienated and like an outsider and, honestly, none of them made me raring to go work out with those people again. In all of this, I think there are two primary lessons to be learned. One: if you do not feel comfortable about fitness and are turned off by the self-righteousness you encounter in an exercise situation, I urge you to power through those negative feelings and give it a second chance. Do it for your body, not for the holier-than-thous. Secondly (and more importantly): we gym-goers, we proselytizers of the exercising word need to be far more careful in how we spread our message. We need to take a closer look to make sure that "because I do it this way" isn't forming the base of why we believe that working out a certain way is better. We need to find a way to be encouraging, without being simultaneously judgmental. And we need to stop thinking that we're better than everyone else. Lastly, we need to stop being so determinedly blind to our own self-righteousness. If you are reading this right now and thinking that you aren't self-righteous, you're being self-righteous. It's a trap, and so many of us are in it. Let's find a way to climb out, shall we? 66005950761333468

Okay, preaching over! Time to look forward to a fun and exciting day. My going-away happy hour is tonight, and I'm really excited about having an evening to reflect on why I love my coworkers so much. Have a great day!

Photo sources: 1 / 2 / 3 (found via Pinterest)