Several years ago, I stumbled across Charlotte’s blog, The Great Fitness Experiment, and I was totally hooked. A new workout every month? Tracking stats to see what was most effective? So cool, especially since I could just follow Charlotte and the Gym Buddies vicariously and learn from their mistakes. I fell in love with Rachel Cosgrove’s Female Body Breakthrough, which first introduced me to the concept of lifting heavy, and it completely changed how I viewed workouts. This was the first time I really got into weight training vs my typical cardio, and I think it’s really paid off in both how my muscles look and how amazingly strong they are compared to what they were like a few years ago. (If you told me even a year ago that I’d be able to run a sub-4 hour marathon and not have any soreness the next day, I’d call you insane – and yet, here we are!)
But while I never opted to “play along at home” and do the same challenges that Charlotte and her friends did, one of the major lessons I took away from GFE is that varying your routine is great. I’ve seen this in other ways too – when I first started running, I hit a major plateau where I couldn’t seem to go faster (or slower, for that matter) than a 9:30 pace. No matter what distance I did, I defaulted to that pace. On the plus side, it’s a totally respectable pace. On the minus side, I wanted to get faster than that – but I couldn’t seem to break the rhythm. To solve that running dilemma, I continued to run, but tried changing up my stride – I used beat analysis software to identify songs that had a faster beat per minute than I normally run, and then tried making playlists of those songs and allowing my stride to match the beat. Voila – I moved out of that plateau, and was thrilled to finally get faster. (To this day, some of my running playlists are still titled things like “Running – Country – 79-90bpm.”)
With consulting always moving me around from project to project (and city to city), I get a lot of variety in my daily routine as well. That is certainly hard to deal with when it comes to managing my health and weight, particularly with all the research about how naturally thin people tend to get into a routine and eat the same things every day – just not possible for me! However, one advantage of constantly having my routine disrupted is that I usually take the opportunity to reassess my diet/exercise habits and come up with a new plan to stay on top of them. while I’m staffed on a long term project now, I’ve gotten so in the habit of switching it up that I’ve now decided it’s time for a change here too. My most recent routine was designed to last three weeks; I’ve been doing it for five so far, and loved what I’m seeing in terms of arm muscle. Check out my left arm in this pic from the final mile of the Country Music Marathon (race report still in progress, don’t you worry):
However, it’s time that I moved on, and a new routine has caught my fancy. This time it’s from a book I picked up on a whim after randomly seeing it at the library: Push, by Chalene Johnson. In addition to the fact that Chalene has an incredible body, I was drawn in by the fact that she’s part of the Beachbody franchise – the makers of Insanity, which totally kicked my butt. Since her book seemed to be about productivity as well as workout habits, I was excited to check it out – and what I found was pleasantly surprising.
First of all, Chalene is insanely intelligent – I really enjoyed hearing everything she had to say. I know this is horribly biased, but I kind of assumed based on how gorgeous she is and that she’s a fitness model that she might not be that smart. Instead, I discovered that she’s incredibly business-savvy, and I found a whole slew of productivity tips that have actually changed how I work and how I organize things. For example, I now keep my to do list in an Excel workbook that has multiple tabs for things that must get done today, vs medium-term items to do this month, vs long-term items to eventually do, vs a list of goals that I should constantly be striving to achieve. I put down literally everything that crosses my mind – even silly stuff like calling my best friend to chat, which I’d never forget – and it’s really helped me stay on task and prioritize things so nothing slips through the cracks.
On the health/fitness front, the diet that Chalene sets out doesn’t really work for me with the travel lifestyle – but the exercise plan is exactly what I needed. It’s a circuit of three routines, each of which combines compound lower/upper body movements alternated with rounds of pushups (which I love, since half of Insanity was pushups and that seemed to be very effective). My first workout was yesterday, and it only took 25 minutes… but I am feeling it today, and I’m thrilled. Call me crazy, but I really love post-workout soreness – it makes me feel like I’m really making progress as far as breaking down muscle to build it back stronger.
Today’s workouts were simple: a quick 30 minutes on the elliptical in the morning, and a 25 minute ab routine (courtesy of DailyBurn, which I am still loving) in the evening. Tomorrow’s agenda will be day 2 of Chalene’s lifting routine (hoping it gets me as sore as day 1!) and then perhaps a 5K here in Dallas in the evening.
Any Dallas readers out there who want to come check out this 5K and/or introduce me to other area fitness activities? Now that I’m settling in for the long haul down here, it’s time I found some fitness friends!