Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Workout Wednesday: Fast and Slow

I generally like to get in and out of the gym as fast as possible.  I don't like to hang around and chat (not that there's anyone at my gym to chat with at 5:30 a.m.).  And I don't like to dilly dally too much between sets or in the middle of a workout.  Fast is the name of the game for me.  

But, there are certain exercises - like those aimed at building muscle - where you'll actually get more benefit from taking the tortoise slow-and-steady route.  It has to do with the amount of time that your muscles are under tension.  And while I like lifting and generally try to take a slow and steady pace (both up and down - using gravity is cheating!) while maintaining good form, that can also get boring sometimes.  So, I mix sets of slower, muscle building moves with faster, cardio-focused exercises to get a great full body workout and keep my boredom at bay.

As always, make sure that you're using a weight for each exercise that is challenging, but will still allow you to maintain good form throughout the entire set.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Outdoor workouts are back, jack

Spring is in full force around here, and I couldn't be happier.  One thing that has made me incredibly happy these past few weekends (and weeks, really), is getting to go outside without having to bundle up against the wind and the cold.  And seeing the sun and feeling the hints of the summer to come.  Along with this comes more mid-day walks to the park to sit and read or just relax for a few, as well as weekend afternoons spent eating outside or laying in the hammock. 

Perhaps most exciting is that outdoor workouts can resume full force.  It's generally difficult for me to get an outdoor workout in during the week - unless I go running in the morning once it starts getting light out just a bit earlier, or do something right after work.  But on the weekends, that's when the magic happens.  Running, walking the dog, kayaking, rollerblading, hiking, or any number of other random outside workouts. 

While it's great to have a ton of indoor workout options at your fingertips for early mornings, late night, crappy weather days, or just times when you can't muster up the mindset to head outside, I find it really is so much more fun to be outdoors, and frankly, much easier to keep going.  It's so easy for me to just hop off the treadmill when I get bored, or cut a circuit workout at the gym short when I'm not feeling it.  But when I'm outside, I've either committed too much time and energy to getting to a good workout spot and setting up, or I'm too far away from my car or house to just quit. 

My favorite part of outdoor workouts is obviously the fresh air, the sun on my face, and the significant dose of Vitamin C.  But there is one other benefit that I really love about working out al fresco: it's really hard to quit mid-workout.  Think about it - if you're out for a run and suddenly you just get bored or tired or don't feel like running, you can't just stop and go lay on the couch.  Yes, you can stop and walk for a while. Heck, you can walk for the rest of the workout.  But, at some point, you need to get back to where you started.  Whether that be your house or your car or your hoverboard.  Same with rollerblading or walking or hiking.  And if you're, say, kayaking, canoeing, or out on a SUP, sure, you can hang out and relax a bit, enjoy the water, but eventually, the tide is going to start taking you somewhere you don't want to go (unless you're really lucky/good at reading the tides) and you're going to have to put in some work not to float away.

Even if you're just doing a strength workout outside - maybe, an interval workout or a bootcamp of sorts - I feel like there's a bit more accountability.  You've gotten dressed and left your house.  You've gone through the hassle of dragging whatever you needed outside.  You've found a nice flat, animal poop free spot to do your workout.  And, unless you're working out in your backyard in the middle of nowhere, chances are there are people around.  Even if they're not looking at you (they very rarely are), if you're anything like me, just the thought that random people might be watching you do strange exercises in the middle of a field is enough to make you want to give it your all and not quit before your workout is over.  Because obviously they care greatly about what you're doing and inherently know when you're slacking or cutting it short.  (I know that there are people in gyms too, but for some reason, this mentality doesn't apply there.)

And after the winter that we just had, I am planning to do whatever I can to be outside as much as possible during this spring, summer, and fall.  I'm already thinking of fun activities (SUP, hikes, kayaking, rafting, horseback riding, gardening), and different types of workouts to do (running, rollerblading, jungle gym workouts, biking).  I just need to get a big bottle of sunscreen and prepare for a nice farmers tan (actually, a tank-top tan, but I don't think there's a name for that).

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Workout Wednesday: Triceps and Calves

It occurred to me the other day that my calves and triceps are often neglected.  While they get worked as part of many of the workouts that I do, I very rarely focus on them.  So, I wanted to give them some love and incorporate calf raises and triceps extensions into a workout.  I guess that I could have just made a full workout of triceps and calf exercises, but that gets kind of boring.  Instead, I combined several compound exercises to create a full-body workout.  

And, since I'm into 50 reps lately (and breaking them up into several sets), I went with the 20-15-10-5 rep scheme.  It seems to work well for me because I can keep my form better throughout the whole thing.  When I'm fresh at the beginning of my workout, doing 20 reps doesn't feel like a struggle.  But by the end, sometimes there's no way that I'd be able to get out more than 5 reps.

Give it a whirl: