Posts tagged: exercise

OUCH! The Difference Between Good Pain and Bad Pain

By Katie, 5:53 am

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve recently re-kindled my relationship with my old exercise flame Body Pump. I’ve been going to Body Pump – a fitness class which focuses on endurance-based strength training – two mornings per week (at 5:45 a.m. 8-O ), and I’m just as smitten now as I was years ago.

At class last week, as I was preparing my weights for our back and hamstring exercises, I casually asked the instructor if we could do my favorite “track” or routine for that muscle group. When she asked why it was my favorite, I replied, “because it hurts the most.”

And hurt it did. My muscles were burning.

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As I told Dave this story, his eyes widened with concern. He knows I have a history of taking exercise beyond the healthy limits, of pushing myself to the point of pain and punishment. When I resumed regular exercise after a brief but necessary hiatus, I was very adamant about trashing the “no pain, no gain” motto.

But I can honestly say that my desire to do the strength training routine that “hurts the most” was not coming from a place of self-punishment or compulsion; rather, it was coming from a healthy love of a good bodily challenge. As I found myself grappling for the words to explain this important difference to Dave, this blog post was born. :-)

So after much contemplation, I present to you my thoughts on the difference between good pain and bad pain.

Good Pain: Green Light

- Does not – in any way – feel like an injury.

- Feels within my physical capabilities.

- I know I will stop or ease up when I need to.

- Even though it hurts, it actually feels good.

- Afterwards I feel pride for working hard and challenging myself.

- I look forward to exercising again.

Bad Pain: Red Light

- Feels like an injury, a potential injury, an emerging injury, etc.

- Feels outside of my physical capabilities.

- I refuse to stop or ease up, no matter what.

- It feels like punishment.

- Afterwards I feel a warped sense of pride for “controlling” my body.

- I dread exercising again.

Two things I notice in this list:

1. The difference between good pain and bad pain is as much mental as it is physical. Indeed, oftentimes the physical muscle burn feels the same, but my approach – my mindset – is totally different.

2. Similarly, it really comes down to knowing myself. Since it doesn’t always look different from the outside, I need to be extremely self-aware – of my body, of my motivations, of my intentions, etc. I’m really the only one who can judge whether it’s good pain or bad pain, you know?

It’s very possible that at my next Body Pump class, I’ll again be asking if we can do the routine that “hurts the most.” But I will also continue to challenge myself on that front; I will continue to be self-aware and self-reflective when it comes to my exercise routine. Because I want any pain that I feel to be of the good variety. :-)

How do you define the difference between good pain and bad pain when it comes to exercise? Have you ever pushed yourself beyond the limits of good pain and into the parameters of bad pain?

Everyday Exercise

By Katie, 5:23 am

Maybe you’ve noticed that I’ve been absent from the blog world for a few days. Or maybe you haven’t, which is ok, too. ;-)

Either way, I have indeed been away from my usual spot in front of my MacBook. Far, far away. Looking at views like this.

And this.

Breath-taking is an understatement.

Before leaving for this trip, someone asked me if I was planning to exercise while away. I pondered the question for a minute, and eventually answered by saying, “Well, it depends on how you define exercise.”

If you define exercise as putting on my running shoes and hitting up the treadmill, then no, I wasn’t planning on exercising at all. But if you define exercising as simply moving your body, as getting your heart pumping, as feeling the adrenaline rush of blood coursing through your veins – well, in that case I got tons of exercise. In that case I worked out the entire time. 8-)

Some people call it “functional exercise.” I’m calling it “everyday exercise.” And really, it’s the best kind there is.

I spent hours over the past week walking, hiking, and climbing, not primarily for the purpose of breaking a sweat, but rather for the pure joy of drinking in the incredible scenery, which was unlike anything I’ve experienced before. But the fact that I wasn’t intending to exercise certainly doesn’t mean my body wasn’t getting a workout.

The nice thing is that you don’t have to be in some amazing vacation spot to engage in everyday exercise. In fact, you probably already do it…every day! ;-) Those three flights of stairs you take to get to your apartment, the splashing around you did at those summer pool parties, the time spent hauling around that overflowing basket of laundry – these day-to-day activities keep your body energized and refreshed, even without an elliptical trainer.

This isn’t to say that formal exercise isn’t important. It’s actually essential for someone like me who sits at a desk for a living. But because of that, I absolutely relished a few days of heart-pounding activity, no fitness center required. I was just living my life, and accidentally getting a workout in the process.. It’s like a great yoga or pilates workout, just better :-)

What sorts of “everyday exercise” do you engage in?

AND

Tell me about your most memorable vacation. Did it involve any informal, everday exercise?

**Forgive me for the onslaught of photos. They were just too beautiful to keep to myself! And all of the credit goes to 1) God, for creating such awesomeness and 2) my amazing, camera-handling husband. :-)

Pumping Iron for the Golden Years

By Katie, 5:39 am

As I recently explained, a few weeks ago I decided to start focusing more on strength training, primarily by going to Body Pump classes and by lifting free weights in my living room. I really enjoy strength training; I think it’s fun while I’m doing it and I love the way my body looks and feels when I have a bit of muscle-action going on. 8-)

Indeed, the reason I strength train is because I love the benefits it brings me here and now. But the truth is that if I stick with it, the advantages could serve me well into the future.

I recently came across this interesting article that highlights some new research on muscle memory. As the article explains:

Pumping up is easier for people who have been buff before, and now scientists think they know why – muscles retain a memory of their former fitness even as they wither from lack of use…The findings suggest that exercise early in life could help fend off frailness in the elderly.

In other words, what I do today really can have a positive impact on my health down the road, even if I have slip-ups along the way.

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I realize that’s not a huge surprise, but the research could have some interesting implications. For example, the article notes that it may affect how long sports agencies ban athletes who have been suspended for taking steroids and other performance-enhacing drugs, since the advantages they get could last much longer than we thought before. It could also prompt schools to begin incorporating more muscle-building activity into their gym classes.

For me, though, it’s just a needed reminder that I really am in this for the long-haul; I’m taking my health seriously now so that I don’t end up with huge regrets down the road. Of course there are no guarantees – I can do everything right today and my body could still suffer when I’m older. But maybe it won’t. Maybe the choices I make in my 20s and 30s really will enhance my future quality of life.

I admit that when I’m trying to pry myself out of bed at 5 a.m. to make it to Body Pump, I’m usually not thinking about how this will help me when I’m 70. And when I’m 70, I probably won’t remember those mornings I gave up an extra hour of sleep for the sake of exercise. That is, my mind probably won’t remember. But apparently my muscles will, and they will thank me. :-)

Have you heard about this idea of “muscle memory” before?

AND

Does thinking about your golden years motivate you to take care of yourself in the present?

Time To Mix It Up

By Katie, 5:03 am

They say that variety is the spice of life, and I’d say that’s true for certain things in my life. Like ice cream flavors. And jewelry. And exercise. 8-)

I know some people who can stick to the same routine for years, and they never get bored and continue to see results. But I’m just not one of those people. Both my body and my mind crave change, and lately they’ve both been telling me that the time to mix it up is now.

Altering my exercise routine isn’t as simple as mixing up, say, my earrings – dangly one day, studs the next, and hoops the next – but it’s still worth the effort. I’ve decided that my new schedule will focus on two activities I’m currently loving:

1. Body Pump classes

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I used to take Body Pump (an hour-long, full-body, endurance-based strength training class) in college all the time, but then I got out of the habit. I’ve been going to classes again and already notice the difference; I love feeling STRONG. 8-)

2. INSANITY DVDs

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Yep, I’m going there. 8-O Well actually, we’re going there, as Dave and I will be doing these DVDs together. We’re hoping to bond over high knees and push-ups. ;-)

Insanity touts itself as the toughest workout program ever put on DVD. Dave and I have only done one workout so far, but we both think that statement is probably accurate! We won’t be following the program exactly; rather, we’ll be doing the workouts, in order, three days per week.

So here’s what my new schedule looks like:

Monday: Insanity DVD (ranging from 30-60 minutes)
Tuesday: Insanity DVD
Wednesday: Body Pump
Thursday: Rest or Light Movement (walk/jog, yoga, stretching, another DVD)
Friday: Body Pump
Saturday: Insanity DVD
Sunday: Rest

Would I like to keep up with my running simultaneously? Sure, but I’ve made the decision not to at this particular time. Maintaining my running routine – plus Body Pump and Insanity – would require a lot of extra time and effort that I’m simply not willing to give, for two reasons:

1. I have a history of going overboard with exercise, so I am hyper-aware of the importance of sticking with a moderate schedule.

2. The purpose of my exercise routine is to help maintain good health and to manage stress. I’m not planning on breaking any records anytime soon, so I really don’t need a more intense schedule.

I’m really looking forward to mixing up my routine! I already feel excited and rejuvenated, so I suppose it’s already working! :-)

Do you stick to a regular exercise routine, or do you crave variety?

AND

Have you ever taken Body Pump? Ever tried the Insanity DVDs?

Sweat Session with Lady Gaga

By Katie, 5:19 am

While I wouldn’t exactly call myself classy, I do like to think I have pretty good taste. For example, I have excellent taste in food…

pretty good taste in clothing…

and unbelievable taste in men. ;-)

But one thing I do not have good taste in (much to my husband’s dismay) is music. Don’t get me wrong; I love music. Indeed, I have quite a reputation for randomly breaking out into song and dance in my living room. 8-) But I don’t discriminate against high and low quality music. If I like the tune, the beat, or the lyrics (better yet, all three!) it gets a thumbs up in my book. Done and done.

I will add that the music I like to listen to while I’m working out is nothing like the music I prefer when I’m belting it out in my car or in my kitchen. In those cases my choices are Christian worship music and Broadway showtunes (ha!), but when I’m on the treadmill or the elliptical, it’s pop music all the way.

And by pop music I mean Lady GaGa. 8-)

Yes, she’s a bit eccentric. Yes, some of her lyrics are so explicit that they literally make me blush. :oops:   But I submit that The Fame is one of the best workout albums ever produced (and The Fame Monster isn’t so bad either!).

I was recently contacted by Chris Lawhorn, creator of the workout music database Run Hundred. It’s basically a log of popular exericse music, sorted by genre, decade, or beats per minute. He offered to make a playlist for me based on the tempo of one of my favorite workout songs – “Telephone” by Lady GaGa and Beyonce. Stop callin’, stop callin’, I don’t wanna think anymore…

Here’s what Chris had to say:

I wanted to take one of Katie’s favorite gym jams and put together a workout playlist that would highlight songs with the same tempo (122 beats per minute).

To that end, each of the songs below clocks in at that speed. It’s a fairly dense area in the scope of things, so I had lots of leeway to pull up recent tracks by Taio Cruz, Black Eyed Peas, and Three 6 Mafia. But I also tried to throw in a few older tracks by Michael Jackson, Prince and Lipps, Inc. Lastly, there’s a surprisingly feisty track from Mandy Moore and a Daft Punk album track to appease folks who’ve had enough of the hits.

On the whole, it’s an eclectic mix – albeit set to a single beat. For what it’s worth, 122 BPM will probably serve you best for a brisk walk or lower rep activities (Stairmaster, Elliptical, etc.) than it would for a run.

Check out the Playlist:

I have to say, a lot of those songs are new to me. Overall I love the idea of finding new workout music based on the tempo of the songs I already enjoy, and I’ll definitely be using Run Hundred as a tool for finding new tunes and making new playlists. Thanks, Chris!

What kind of workout music do you prefer? Is it different than the music you listen to in life outside of the gym?

AND

Have you ever created an exercise playlist based on the beats per minute? Think you would?

I Smell a Fartlek

By Katie, 5:31 am

Have you entered my $50 CSN Gift Card Giveaway yet?

It’s really hard to write a post about the fartlek and not make some childish, immature jokes. So let’s just get the laughing out of the way, shall we? :lol:

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For those of who thinking I’ve lost my mind, let me assure you that “fartlek” is an actual term. It comes from the Swedish word for “speed play,” and it refers to a running workout where you occasionally pick up the pace for however long you’d like, and then slow down and recover…for however long you’d like.

If you’re a Type-A personality like me, initially you might be wary of this whole concept; you probably prefer structured workouts and regimented routines. And yet I truly believe it’s important for all of us – yes, even the Type A’s – to let loose a little bit when it comes to exercise. Sometimes we need to throw caution to the wind, let our hair down, and get a little crazy. 8-)

So that’s why I love the idea of a fartlek workout, which is actually supposed to feel more like playing than exercising. As this article from Runner’s World states,“Fartleks get us back to running like we did as kids, treating it as play and not as work.”

Not to mention it makes for an awesome workout! Study after study has shown that cardiovascular exercise is more effective when we vary our intensity level – as in intervals – than when we simply move at a steady pace. A fartlek is really just a free-form interval workout.

And even though the fartlek workout is technically a running one that focuses on speed specifically, the concept can easily be applied to all kinds of exercises: walking (with intervals of either power walking or jogging), elliptical workouts, biking, whatever! The idea is just to have fun varying your speed and intensity level.

So the next time your exercise routine starts feeling a bit too much like work, why not try playing around a bit with a fartlek workout? No snickering required. ;-)

Have you ever tried a fartlek run or free-form interval workout? Do you think this is something you’d like to incorporate into your exercise routine?

Your Body and Your Bank Account

By Katie, 5:45 am

A few years ago phrases like “FICO score,” “debt ratio,” and “403(b)(7)” sounded to me like a language other than my native English.  But these days I’m spending a lot of time teaching myself the ins and outs of personal finance – not surprising, considering that Dave and I are attempting to pay off our student loans and save for a house down-payment simultaneously.

So my interest was immediately perked when I came across this short article on the Link Between Fiscal and Physical Fitness. Since exercise is something I understand and embrace, the idea of applying those same familiar principles to the foreign territory of my bank account was particularly appealing.

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So if – like me – you’re looking to pump up your wallet as efficiently and effectively as you pump iron, consider these four ways that the two are rather similar.

Four Connections Between Your Body and Your Bank Account

1. Both require discipline.

We all have days when we’d rather veg out on the couch with a bag of chips than hit the gym for a sweat session – even though we know the latter is better for us in the long run. While of course there are days when it’s fun and appropriate to throw caution to the wind with some Doritos and a Real Housewives marathon, much of the time we’re better off restraining ourselves from those urges.

Similarly, the temptation to blow our money on unworthy purchases surrounds us every day. Resisting unnecessary spending and instead sending as much money as possible to its rightful home (be that savings or paying down debt) requires the same kind of discipline that sticking to an exercise routine does.

2. Success comes from within.

Remember back in Psychology 101, where we learned about “locus of control”? No? Let me remind you: the term “locus of control” refers to the extent to which people believe they are in control of the course of their lives. Someone with an internal locus of control believes that her situation is mainly caused by her own actions and behaviors, while someone with an external locus of control chalks life up to fate, chance, or the actions and behaviors of others.

Having an internal locus of control can help you find success both in the gym and in your savings account. If you believe that your life is determined primarily by the choices you make, then you’re more likely to take your health and physical fitness into your own hands (as opposed to blaming your genetic make-up, or something like that). Similarly, you probably believe that your financial status has less to do with factors that are outside of your control – your paycheck, your taxes, etc. – and more to do with how you personally manage your money.

3. Organization is key.

We hear a lot about the importance of planning and tracking in the realm of healthy living, and it’s no coincidence: most people find that when they create an organized exercise plan and record their results, they’re much more likely to stick with it. That’s because when we develop a plan and track our progress, the whole process feels more intentional and deliberate, instead of random and haphazard. We set a goal, outline the steps needed to reach it, and then get moving.

The same holds true for reaching financial goals. Simply saying “I’m going to save more money” will probably not be as effective as outlining your expenses, finding specific areas where changes could be made, and then tracking the success of those changes.

4. Make it a habit.

When you first start an exercise routine, it can be difficult to stick with it because it’s new – it’s not actually a routine yet. But many people find that eventually it becomes such a regular part of their day-to-day regimen that they can’t really imagine life without it. Exercise becomes a habit – you don’t think about it too much, you just do it.

The same can happen with our finances. For example, our goal right now is simply to save as much as we can by cutting out unnecessary expenses while still living comfortably. While I used to have to remind myself to price-check and cut corners, now taking the time to shop for the best deal feels like second nature; I simply wouldn’t make a purchase without taking that step!

Getting your finances in order can be a scary and intimidating process. One way to make it more manageable is to draw connections between what you need to learn and what you already know. Turns out there really are some logical links between your fiscal and physical fitness! :-)

Do you consider yourself to be finance-savvy? Or is this an area where you could stand to improve?

AND

How did you learn about personal finances? Your parents? Your school? I basically taught myself through books and credible Internet sites (and Suze Orman!). I actually wish that all high schools mandated an Introduction to Personal Finances class.

For more reading on this topic, check out Lisa’s Total Money Makeover posts!

Ode to Walking

By Katie, 6:39 am

My dearest Walking,

The great poets have said that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but I admit that until our recent reunion, I hadn’t even realized how much I missed you. This week’s re-kindling of our relationship has reminded me of why you were my first exercise love.

You see, as I explained in my exercise story, my journey to a balanced, healthy lifestyle began with simply putting one foot in front of the other. I began walking regularly as a way of managing stress and becoming more self-aware. For many months you and I were exclusive – hot ‘n’ heavy, really – and I had no eyes for another. ;-)

After some time, however, I found myself craving something new and exciting, and I slowly began flirting with your best friend: Running. Soon that affair took off, and it wasn’t long before I left you, Walking, in the dust. :-(

But then, a few weeks ago, I felt a twinge of pain on the outside of my left knee. I tried to keep up my relationship with Running, but eventually going uphill left me screaming, “Ouch!” 8-O After a sports injury screening, I was informed that my IT Band was a bit inflamed. No major worries, I was told, just get out your ice pack regularly…oh, and take it easy with Running for a week or two.

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And so, Walking, this week I have returned to you. The primary purpose was merely to give my knee a break, but now I am realizing that the flame between us is still strong. Allow me to list some of the reasons I adore you so:

  • You allow me to savor my surroundings in a way that I sometimes fail to do with Running. Running puts me in the “zone,” but with you, Walking, I never fail to hear the birds chirping or the leaves rustling. With you, I always stop and smell the roses.
  • We can get together anytime, anywhere, under any circumstances. You see, my relationship with Running requires a certain degree of preparation – a special “no bounce” sports bra, athletic tape and Vaseline to prevent chafing, etc. – but with you, Walking, it doesn’t really matter what I’m wearing or where I am. We can be united in an instant.
  • Others can more easily join in. Occasionally Running allows the hubby to come along, which is certainly fun! But when Walking, hubby, and I all get together, I have an especially good time because, Walking, you allow me to exercise and have a meaningful conversation with my husband simultaneously. And while not everyone is always up for a run, I can go for a walk with just about anyone.
  • Most days, Running leaves me feeling peppy and energetic. But some days – especially humid ones – I actually experience a higher level of fatigue. But with you, Walking, I am always left feeling more energetic…never less.
  • Finally, Walking, with you it’s always good. With Running, there can be good days and bad days – good runs and bad runs – but it’s almost impossible to have a bad walk. :-)

It is true, Walking, that in another week or so I plan to return to the loving arms of Running, so long as my knee doesn’t have other plans. But this time around, I promise I won’t leave you behind entirely. This time I will strike a better balance, because I have now been reminded of how wonderful it is to have you in my life. ♥

With love,

Katie

Are you a walker? What do you love most about walking?

Exercise Mishaps

By Katie, 7:16 am

There’s a word for people like me, and it’s this: Klutzy. 8-O

I am, quite simply, not a graceful human being. I trip over my own feet. I’ve been known to accidentally hit people with my umbrella on rainy days. And my mom used to tell me that I walk like a Clydesdale, a fact that I cannot dispute.

And if I’m that clumsy under ordinary circumstances, you can imagine how bad it gets when i’m exercising – when I’m fatiqued or zoned out to my music or thoughts, there’s no brain power left over to try to feign an element of grace. This has led to some unfortunate mishaps, which I thought you all might get a kick out of. ;-)

KATIE’S EXERCISE MISHAPS

- A few days ago, in the middle of a 6-mile run, I face planted in the middle of the sidewalk. After hauling my now scraped and bloodied body back up, I immediately turned around to see what I had stumbled over. Nothing, apparently. :roll: Several passersby saw me take the plunge and called out to see if I was ok, which  – apart from my embarrassment – I was.

- Last week I was completing a 4-miler on the treadmill at the YMCA. By mile 3 my face was dripping with sweat (yuck!) so I reached for my handy-dandy towel, which was hanging over the treadmill display. Well, I must have yanked too hard or something, because somehow I simultaneously pulled my stainless steel water bottle off its designated ledge next to the display. It went flying into the air, landed with a hard thunk onto the rotating treadmill, and then flew off the back and into a reclining bike. :oops: My face must have been beet-red as I immediately jumped off the treadmill and saw a hundred eyes staring at me as I retrieved my runaway H2O.

- On a similar note, before I purchased my now-essential iPod armband, I used to sit my MP3 player on the same ledge of the treadmill. I can’t even count how many times my arm got caught on the headphones cord, sending my iPod flying across the room. :-o

- These days I love doing crunches on a stability ball. But let me tell you, the first time I tried to use one, I made a fool of myself! I had no idea how to position my body onto it! :lol: There was a decent amount of rolling and sliding before I figured it out.

So now that I have completely embarrassed myself, please make me feel a little better by sharing your exercise mishaps!

 

Warm It Up

By Katie, 7:54 am

Before I get into today’s topic, let me say that I am amazed and inspired by the passion many of you expressed through your comments on my last post about “wearing disordered eating on your sleeve.” If you haven’t yet checked out the conversation (or contributed!) I encourage you to do so; many people shared some very insightful views!

But let’s proceed to the topic at hand…

While we may fantasize about having an unlimited time frame for exercise, the reality for most of us is that our workouts are usually squeezed in somewhere between our jobs, relationships, children, home responsibilities, and hobbies. Working out is merely one in a long list of commitments and activities.

So it’s not surprising that many people take a “get-in-and-get-out” approach, skimping on the parts that seem like luxuries rather than necessities…parts like warming up. I’ll be the first to admit I’m guilty of this. :oops:

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I’ve been twirling around my thoughts on the importance of warming up ever since Dave sent me this New York Times article on the subject. It’s worth a full read if you’re interested in the topic, but let me give you a quick summary:

While warming up is important in theory – the idea being that muscles contract more efficiently once they’ve already been contracting – there’s little quality research indicating that it actually improves performance. One exercise researcher from the fitness site getinwaveshape is quoted in the article saying, “It is not known whether warming up is of benefit, of potential harm, or having no effect on an individual’s performance.”

And even if we agree that warming up is helpful, there’s really no consensus on what kind or how much is necessary. Some athletes warm up for 10 minutes, others for 50. Some do very light exercises, others do intense ones. The article’s author writes that most athletes – and also us regular, moderate exercisers – base our warm-ups (or lack thereof) “more on trial and error than on science.”

I’m not a scientist or a researcher, so all I can speak from is my personal experience. When I go for a run, my warm-up generally consists of 5 minutes or so of brisk walking or easy jogging. Some days it might take me a little longer to find my “groove,” so I just go at a comfortable pace until I feel ready to speed it up or push it more.

I will say that on those very busy days when I try to maximize my time by jumping full-force into my run, I’m usually miserable. :-( The first few minutes feel so difficult that it’s discouraging. My muscles just don’t feel ready.

Science or no science, I’ve found that doing a short, light warm-up helps me to set the tone for a good workout. So I try to make it happen as often as possible, even when my tiny exercise window is crammed in between earning a salary, maintaining an inhabitable living space, being a wife/daughter/sister/friend, and – of course – blogging. :-)

Do you warm up before exercise? Why or why not? What does your warm-up routine consist of?

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