SLOW PROGRESS

->

 

It’s a beautiful morning today! I’m not naturally a morning person, but I love being awake in the dark, quiet house and watching the sun slowly come in the windows.  I am exhausted, though.  I’ve been up late at night and early in the mornings the last few days, and my body feels drained.  It’s so easy to fall into these bad habits, so something I’ve tried to do ever since I was pregnant with my first 8 years ago is to do some form of exercise every day.  It began when I realized I was going to have to be intentional with being active because I didn’t feel like it many days in pregnancy and after the baby was born I just wasn’t able to get enough hours of sleep at night to give me any energy.  I definitely haven’t been able to keep up every single day all these years, but having that goal in mind has usually kept me from going too many days without doing something.  Some days it’s just a quick 20-30 minute walk and other days I’m able to go on a run.  Some days I can do a full body strength routine, and other days I just do a few sets of push-ups or squats; it really depends on what I feel like doing.  It might sound sporadic and I will never get a six-pack, but I feel stable, strong, and capable, and I’m not having to obsess over exercise every single day, and isn’t that the goal for most of us?  To feel strong enough to lift and carry our children, do our jobs without back or shoulder pain, and to feel capable of taking care of ourselves and the business that needs to be taken care of without struggling physically?

This morning when I felt that exhausted feeling at the beginning of the day, I knew if I didn’t do something early, I wouldn’t muster up any new energy throughout the day to make a workout any easier later on.  I used to get a nap in the middle of the day with babies, but I can’t always count on that anymore, so I squeezed in a quick lower body workout; a few sets of weighted squats and lunges in the morning sunlight, and I feel refreshed and accomplished.  I like to do anywhere from 2-8 total sets of squats while holding dumbbells, each set including at least 20 squats and then I like to vary the type of squat each set.  For instance, 20 regular squats, 20 sumo squats, 20 right lunges, 20 left lunges, repeat.  Or, like this morning, two and a half sets of 25 squats while holding 10 pounds weights, and then somebody needed me and I had to go back inside! Working out one half of the body is an easy way to stay strong without having to stress the whole body.  Sometimes I don’t mentally want to work my whole body, no matter how much I tell myself it’s good for me, and I know pushing myself too hard will make me want to quit altogether–there is merit in knowing yourself!  However, something is always better than nothing.

I think it’s important to be realistic with our goals and not set an image in our minds to strive towards that is only going to leave us disappointed, but instead try to find a level of fitness that is sustainable in the long run.  Quick fix workouts are helpful to jump start a fitness regime, but the level of intensity involved probably won’t be sustainable.  I like to remind myself that slow progress is better than no progress, and my worth is not based on my fitness ability or appearance.  The goal should always be to feel strong and healthy, and that can be accomplished with small daily amounts of work.  It really is a balance of remembering to work on my fitness, yet not spend all my energy and spare time working out or thinking about working out.

Do you have a favorite quick workout for those days when you don’t feel like doing anything but you know doing something would be better than nothing?  I would love to hear your ideas, let me know in the comments below!

<a href=”https://www.bloglovin.com/blog/19150943/?claim=wfy9xrcactz”>Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

DUMBBELL CIRCUIT WORKOUT

Here is another basic circuit workout! Once again, if you’re interested in reading about why strength training is important, you can read about it here.  Dumbbells are an easy way to get a good workout at home: they make it easy to measure progress and you can even find them second-hand at most thrift stores.  This circuit workout is one of my favorite ones to do; it’s simple and easy to follow, and doesn’t take much thought besides counting your reps as you go.

One difficult thing about using dumbbells is figuring out what weight to use.  Too light and it will be unlikely you will see results; too heavy and you will be left with sore muscles, or worse, a pulled muscle.  The ideal weight would make you work at 60-80% of your maximum lifting ability.  However, how do you find this percentage without going to the gym and hiring a personal trainer?  The easiest way to find your ideal dumbbell starting weight is to test yourself.  Begin with the smallest weights you have (2-5 pounds) and do 10 repetitions of an overhead press.  (weights above shoulders and press overhead.  If you feel like you could easily do 10 more repetitions, try a slightly heavier weight.  At 10 reps you should be fatigued but not exhausted; able to do a few more, but only if you really challenged yourself.  For a beginner this weight will probably be between 2-10 pounds for women and 15-30 pounds for men.  Find what’s comfortable for you; a challenge that doesn’t leave you sore.

Dumbbells are my go to exercise equipment because I can use them at home and they build enough muscle to get strong without bulking up or spending time and money at the gym.  Good luck, and remember if you have any questions, let me know!

*You should understand that when participating in any exercise or exercise program, there is the possibility of physical injury. If you engage in this exercise or exercise program, you agree that you do so at your own risk, are voluntarily participating in these activities, assume all risk of injury to yourself, and agree to release Slow Wellness and it’s writers from any and all claims or causes of action, known or unknown, arising out of participation in exercise programs found on this site.

SIMPLE WORKOUTS

<!-->

Strength training is so important, but can be a little overwhelming and complicated, especially if you’ve always gone straight for the cardio when you workout.  I wrote about the importance of strength training here, if you’re interested in reading more about it. These workouts are simple and basic and for anyone who doesn’t have time or doesn’t want to put a lot of thought into working out.  I have trouble making decisions when I have too many options, and that applies to all areas of life, including working out.  There have been times where I enjoyed trying new workouts and doing exercise videos, but lately I’ve been choosing simple and dependable; otherwise I get overwhelmed and find myself going days, and sometimes weeks, between working out.  Sticking with a basic routine helps me stay consistent because I don’t have to waste any extra time trying to figure out what I’m going to do or how to do a particular exercise.  Right now I just need something that just gets the job done so I can move on with my day.

I like the simplicity of working out at home right now, so I’ve put together the most basic do-at-home circuit workouts possible linked below as PDF files.  Circuit workouts include a series of exercises done in rotation, and they can be as simple or as complicated as you want them to be.  The workouts linked below are extremely simple, and either of them could be done 2-4 times each week for results.

Complete round 1 without breaking between exercises, and only take a small (less than a couple minutes) break between each round.  If a particular exercise is too difficult, modify it so that you can still complete the exercise.  For instance, modified push-ups still have proper form, but knees are on the ground; pull-ups are an extremely difficult move and can be modified by simply hanging from a pull-up bar up to 30 seconds.  Do this 3-4 times each round to slowly build strength, eventually working up to using a chair or bench to help with the pull-up.

Circuit #2 is exactly like circuit #1 with very few additions . The instructions of the push-up variations are below.

I will be adding more variations on this same workout soon, so keep watching for more simple, routine workouts!  Good Luck!

 

*Each variation of the push-up puts the most intense work on different muscles, but variety is not necessary to get in shape or stay in shape.

Regular Push-ups: hands line up under the shoulders.

Wide Grip Push-ups: hands placed wider than your shoulders.

Tricep Push-ups: hands placed below the chest, close together.

 

Disclaimer:

You should understand that when participating in any exercise or exercise program, there is the possibility of physical injury. If you engage in this exercise or exercise program, you agree that you do so at your own risk, are voluntarily participating in these activities, assume all risk of injury to yourself, and agree to release Slow Wellness and it’s writers from any and all claims or causes of action, known or unknown, arising out of participation in exercise programs found on this site.

TAKING A BREAK FROM EXERCISE: HOW LONG CAN YOU BREAK WITHOUT LOSING PROGRESS?

->

Nothing can kill motivation like burnout.  Whether it’s from pushing through muscle soreness one too many times, trying to function on too little sleep, or just overall fatigue, taking an intentional break from working out is necessary.  My biggest question, though, when I’m taking a break is how long can I break before I begin to lose muscle, momentum, and all that I have worked hard to gain.  Basically, how long can I be lazy before it begins to show?

Cardiovascular fitness begins to diminish after about three weeks.  For the first couple weeks the strength is still there, but after three weeks real loss begins to happen.  Breaking for a month or longer can leave you playing catch up, and taking two months off will cause you to lose all progress and put you back at the beginning.  It’s also important to note that the benefits exercise has on lowering blood sugar, reducing stress, and improvement on insulin sensitivity are more short term, and cardiovascular exercises must be done daily to see benefits in these areas.  If high intensity exercise is wearing on your body and your mood, continuing a light schedule of walking or another relaxing form of movement can help retain these benefits without putting stress on your body.

Muscle that isn’t being used will eventually atrophy (lose strength, shrink, diminish, etc.)  However, muscular strength takes longer to lose than cardiovascular fitness.  It can take months to lose all progress, and even then your muscles will be able to remember lifting and you might not have to go back to the very beginning depending on how fit you were when you began your break from exercising.

So, how long can you break, really?  Taking a week to rest and recover every 8-10 weeks is healthy, and up to two weeks of rest can be mentally beneficial if you are struggling with burnout without causing you to lose all your progress.  The greatest secret about strength training is it only takes working out one time per week to maintain your current level of muscular fitness.  So, if you are struggling with burnout or a busy schedule, simply cutting back to one day a week will keep you in maintenance mode until you are able to jump back into the workout game.

THE NEED FOR STRENGTH TRAINING

 

Because we no longer need to do physically strenuous work to survive (carry water, hand wash clothes, etc.), we have to intentionally work our muscles to strengthen them. We steadily lose muscle as we age.  Approximately 3-5% of your muscle mass is lost every 10 years after the age of 30 if you are inactive, and unfortunately a small amount is lost even if you are active. This muscle loss causes your metabolism to slow down–a problem we are all aware of but don’t often have a solution for.

Metabolism is the rate that your body burns (or uses) the energy–fuel–food–calories– that you eat. As you get older and you steadily lose all that muscle, your body becomes so efficient at burning your food/calories that you actually need less and less food to survive as you age.  Think of a toddler getting a cup of water off a table. They awkwardly and inefficiently climb on a chair, using all four limbs grab the cup and awkwardly crawl back down. Now, an 8 year old might run to the table to get their drink, leave it and keep playing. However, as an adult we’ve learned the most efficient way to do everything, and we get really good at doing things with as little movement as possible.  For instance, as an adult, I either carry my water around with me or chug an entire glass of water at once to avoid needing to go back to the kitchen.  Or, if I sit down and forget my drink I’ll ask one of my energetic kids to bring it to me! These natural tendencies to become more and more efficient as we age keep us from using our muscles, leading to muscle loss, causing us to need less food for fuel.

Google, Pinterest, or YouTube search workout videos and you will discover there are so many options of workouts and variations of exercises that it is almost overwhelming, and it is hard to even know where to begin.  The truth is, though, all of them work. You can pick a workout you enjoy and stick with it, or choose a different workout every time.  It doesn’t matter what exercise program you choose or which specific workout you choose: you will see results if you are doing the exercises properly and you stay consistent.  Consistency is the key to any progress towards anything worthwhile.  If you want to be a better athlete, artist, musician, or writer you must practice and work consistently. It is no different if you want to strengthen your muscles or lose weight or body fat.  In the same way that one week does not make you an expert, one month does not mean you are done and can stop working. Results come slowly and visible results come even slower.  Just remember, in the beginning when you’ve been working hard a few weeks and still don’t see results, your body is changing–you just can’t see those changes yet.  They come eventually, and sometimes very suddenly you realize you have a little muscle definition. The best part about strength training is you don’t have to do it every day.  As a matter of fact, studies show that even just 2 days a week can make a difference if you have been inactive, and just 1 day per week of strength training can bring positive results for older adults. 

 

I would recommend beginning with 2-3 days each week, with at least 1 day of rest between strength workout days.  If you’re looking for a simple workout and tips on where to begin, I’ve put together some of the most basic circuit workouts that you can download for free here.  Stay consistent, and I promise, you will feel so successful that you persevered and were self-disciplined enough to continue even when the work was hard and results were slow to appear. Good luck!