Tuesday Workout of the Week: Strength training for people who don’t strength train enough.

Guilty as charged. I have neglected the strength-training portion of the program for a while now. Runners, by definition, are aerobic creatures. We like to have our hearts pounding and sweat pouring down our faces. It’s hard. It’s fun. And we feel kind of awesome afterwards.

So when my knee turned up sort of unhappy with the whole running situation, it meant there was some time to ruminate on what I might possibly have neglected while doing all of that running. Like, my arms. And core. And balance. And connective tissues. All of the things that a good, solid strength training routine is designed to address.

Repeat after me: weight training is your friend. (Image courtesy of Boians Cho Joo Young / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
Repeat after me: weight training is your friend. (Image courtesy of Boians Cho Joo Young / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Here’s the strength-training workout I put together last Monday to get myself busy in the weight room. I chose ten exercises, mostly for the big muscle groups, and tried to pick a level of resistance that would make 12 repetitions pretty hard. After a set, I’d either go straight to another exercise for a different muscle group before repeating the first exercise, or take a small (30-45 second) break before doing a second set. I just tried to stay busy for 45 minutes, then rode a bike for 15 more minutes at 90 RPM’s at a decent resistance level to finish it all off.

Here’s the workout:

Flat-bench dumbbell presses (chest)
Incline dumbbell presses (chest)
TRX incline pull-ups (chest, arms)
Dumbbell front raise (shoulders)
Combination front/side raise (shoulders)
Dumbbell mlitary press (shoulders)
Assisted pull-ups (back)
Lat pulldowns (back)
Exercise ball crunches (abs/core)
Back extensions on exercise ball (core/lower back)

I try not to stress about the details of how I do my strength workouts. I get a gold star just for showing up in the weight room. (Image courtesy of Michal Marcol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
I try not to stress about the details of how I do my strength workouts. I get a gold star just for showing up in the weight room. (Image courtesy of Michal Marcol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

That is all. I try not to stress too much about working out opposite muscle groups or otherwise following a ton of bodybuilding-style rules. For me, I get the gold star just for showing up in the weight room and getting a routine done. If I’m sweaty and out of breath afterwards and I kept proper form throughout all of the exercises, then I’m good.

And if you’re new to all of this, there are far more detailed guides out there to help you figure out what “proper form” on all of these exercises really looks like. My favorite book is pretty old-school, but gets the job done: Getting Stronger by Bill Pearl and Gary T. Moran.

Monday “What Went Well” Report: Setbacks can be a gift

At least, that’s what I’m telling myself today.

This week didn't always feel like a gift. I really, really wanted to run - but my knee is not going along for the ride. So the week became another kind of gift: the gift of being aware of how we can problem-solve positively, and support our long-term health in the process. (Image courtesy of Naypong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
This week didn’t always feel like a gift. I really, really wanted to run – but my knee is not going along for the ride. So the week became another kind of gift: the gift of being aware of how we can problem-solve positively, and support our long-term health in the process. (Image courtesy of Naypong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Here’s one of the little secrets of weight loss: it really, really helps when your primary exercise is long-distance running. That sport burns energy like nobody’s business. I’ve been at my leanest when I was in the throes of major-league race training. And today, I can’t run a step, because I have a bum knee.

So my weight was up a tiny bit this week. And I took the opportunity to regroup, revise, and think through how I can get through this setback without letting it take over – or feed the fear monster (you know, the one that keeps telling you that all those mass-media headlines about weight loss being impossible to maintain are really right…when I know otherwise, because this week I’ll be celebrating five years since finally hitting my goal weight and maintaining it all this time).

Here are just a few of the things I did last week – and that I’m committed to doing even better this week:

Nutrition: I did a pretty decent job of having healthy meals around. I -wasn’t super-duper great at resisting temptation at meals out with friends (there were a few more than usual). This week I’ll try to get into that super-duper category, because I know from five years of living life at a healthy weight that I can create healthy meals absolutely anywhere, at just about any restaurant.

Workouts: Didn’t work out enough. Period. At least, that’s how I felt at week’s end. But the three hour-long workouts I did get in were kind of seriously fun. On Monday I did a solid strength routine, with good heavy weights. I haven’t done that in a long time. On Thursday, I rode a spinning bike for an hour listening to my new favorite music, Ghost Stories by Coldplay. (It’s astonishing.) And on Saturday, I swam – and did a 1000-meter time trial with a pull buoy keeping my legs out of the equation (the better to rest the knee), so it turned into a super upper-body workout. This week I’m gunning for five aerobic workouts and one strength workout – that’s the level of activity I need when I’m training for a marathon, and I still have hopes of running in October, so it’s time to step it up.

Removing the Obstacles: I’m still chewing over a conversation with a super-successful acquaintance a month and a half ago that led me to realize how much I’ve gotten in my own way when it’s come to really going for my dreams. Not just the athletic dreams or the weight-loss maintenance dreams, but the dreams of being really effective at changing our national conversation on personal health. I’m reading Twyla Tharp, I’m listening to Jim Carrey’s lovely commencement speech, and I’m surrounding myself with people who believe that the only way to live is all in.

That’s what this week is going to be about. Living life all in. Have a great workout today – looking forward to the week!

Recent #Every48 workouts: Saturday – a SWIM. Started with a couple of sets of 200 meters of freestyle/100 meters of kicking with a kickboard to warm up. Then did some sets of 25 meters sprinting, 25 meters easy (with pull buoy). Finished with a 1000-meter time trial – freestyle plus pull buoy. 50 meters of kicking to finish it all up.

Fitness Meme of the Week: This is your life.

This meme needs no introduction, and no explanation. It’s just rockin’ awesome.

07_25_14_This is your life_meme
I found this on brainpickings.org, and it made me happy all week.

Have a great Friday – and of course, a badass workout. See you next week.

Recent #Every48 workouts: An unexpected rest day on Wednesday (I was a wuss…that is all). Made up for it Thursday with a great indoor BIKE ride – 55 minutes, of which 45 were at solid moderate-to-hard pace (90+ RPMs).

Throwback Thursday: Getting healthy and wealthy – slowly

This post is from  February 2014 – when the blog was just a mere 30 posts or so. It’s one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in the time since really devoting myself to getting healthy. I liken it to building a successful business. Nothing happens overnight – and the initial excitement quickly gives way to lots and lots of sweat equity. But the work does pay off. And if you pay attention to all of the small things that start to go much, much better over time, you’ll find yourself getting more and more excited about continuing down the path. I’m healthier now than I was a year ago – or two years ago – or six years ago, when I was getting ready to board the plane for Beijing to work at the 2008 Summer Olympics and had absolutely no earthly idea how to take care of myself. All that has happened since then has been just huge. Life is so much better now.

Warren Buffett on getting wealthy (and me on getting healthy)…slowly.

[Originally published on February 6, 2014]

Sports Illustrated’s Dan Patrick did a Q&A with Warren Buffett in the February 3 edition of the magazine. (It’s a synopsis of Buffett’s recent appearance on Patrick’s radio show, which you can watch on YouTube here.)

Among the Omaha jokes (it was a pre-Super Bowl conversation and Peyton Manning was starting to look like Nebraska’s best pitchman with his play calling), Buffett may have given out the single best piece of financial and health advice ever. Here’s the exchange as it appeared in the magazine:

Dan Patrick: What’s the biggest mistake people make when it comes to money?

Warren Buffett: Not learning the habit of saving early, and then trying to get rich quick. It’s pretty easy to get well-to-do slowly. But it’s not easy to get rich quick.

It's your money...and your health. Will you invest a little bit each day to get wealthy, and healthy, slowly?
It’s your money…and your health. Will you invest a little bit each day to get wealthy, and healthy, slowly?

Wait a second. Was Warren Buffett talking about personal finance in that exchange? Or long-term health? Or both?

This theme is coming up in the finance world – or maybe I’m just noticing it now. I recently went to fool.com to look up some basic investment information and came upon their “13 Steps to Investing Foolishly.” It would probably get a good rating from Mr. Buffett for its no-nonsense, simple advice. Here’s the step that really spoke to me: number three. “Treat every dollar as an investment.

Every dollar is an investment in your future. Not every dollar you invest. Every dollar that comes into your life. What will you invest it in today?

I love this stuff, because health works in exactly – exactly! – the same way. Every meal, every workout, every healthy choice counts. The apple instead of the donut for the morning snack, the walk instead of the cigarette for the afternoon break, going to bed early after reading a real book with real pages in it instead of mindlessly surfing the Internet for meaningless head chatter all night long. It all counts.

Every choice. Every single thing we do to take care of our health matters. If we make deposits every day, the compound interest over time is astonishing. We just have to prioiritize it, make the time, do the work. It doesn’t have to be a massive amount of time – three or four hours a week, tops, will get the job done on the exercise front. But the payout is nuts. We wake up at 70 or 80 years old having had a super quality of life up to that point – and looking ahead to a super quality of life for another decade or two. Imagine that. Those deposits today pay those kinds of dividends tomorrow. It’s the real deal.

Science Wednesday: Yes, exercise works at any age.

The science is in: exercise is great for us, at any age. Move in order to be able to move more...and more freely. (Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
The science is in: exercise is great for us, at any age. Move in order to be able to move more…and more freely. (Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

So, according to a dear friend who posted this idea to my Facebook account yesterday after I bemusedly commented on the fact that the Bum Knee Post from Monday attracted more readers in a single day than any other post for at least the last month…I have some content here that appears to be “age-appropriate.” For people of, ahem, a certain age. (You want to know what she said. Of course you do. She wants me to pitch a story to AARP Magazine, okay? I’m 42. But evidently the Bum Knee Rap has some relevance here for the AARP readership.)

Because – and gosh, how I didn’t connect the dots before now is beyond me – limitations in physical activity really do happen, a lot, as we get older.

And we have choices.

We can either use those creaks and cracks and whatevers to stay in our rocking chairs and play with our pet cats…or we can decide that, come hell or high water, we’re going to stay mobile, and we’ll work around the creak or the crack to make it work.

So on Science Wednesday I bring you this report on exercise and aging from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The subtitle of the article says it all:

Study proves daily exercise can prevent loss of mobility

Well, duh. But it’s all good science – and I’m convinced that it’s true. I have a lot of company, by the way, in the movement-equals-slower-aging brigade. Just check out John Medina’s hilariously readable book Brain Rules. Rule #1: Exercise boosts brain power. Yup. If you’re toying with a vexing problem, take a break…and move. Forget the donut, the break room, or for goodness’ sake, the cigarette. Power-walk around the block for twenty minutes, preferably with some good music to power you. (My current iPod: Coldplay, Yes, Rush, U2. The old stuff. Old music keeps you…young. Really, it does. If you haven’t heard The Unforgettable Fire, stop everything right now and go make Apple a few more bucks by downloading it. Classic. Anyway, I digress.)

Here are the top takeaways from that exercise and mobility study (quoted directly from the Post-Gazette article):

 A physical activity program consisting of aerobic, resistance and flexibility exercises significantly reduced the risk of a major mobility disability.

Moderate physical activity helped aging adults maintain their ability to walk at a rate 18 percent higher than older adults who did not exercise, the study showed. Moreover, there was a 28 percent reduction in people permanently losing the ability to walk easily.

The benefit of physical activity was proportionately greater for the seniors who began the study with the lowest physical function, the researchers found.

Got all that? Check out the full article for the straight talk – and the specs on the research, and the workout they had the research subjects perform to get those results. These findings just makes perfect sense to me. Move, in order to be able to move more. Good advice at any age.

Yesterday’s #Every48 workout: A rest day.

 

 

 

 

Tuesday Workout of the Week: Back in the saddle (I mean, the pool).

The WOW (workout of the week) is here.

And this week, it’s a swim.

So it turns out that when your meniscus is an unhappy camper, swimming is A-OK. Even kicking. Just to be safe, though, I did a workout on Thursday using a pull buoy between my legs, which does a couple of things. (1) It helps keep me afloat, so it’s kinda-sorta easier than just regular ol’ freestyle, and (2) It keeps my legs from getting involved, so I can really work on my strokes and core strength – without worrying about moving my knee awkwardly, at least for the first day out there.

These dolphins appear to be having far more fun in the water than I ever do. I shall channel my inner dolphin this week and see if that helps me enjoy being in the pool a little bit more. (Image courtesy of tiverylucky / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
These dolphins appear to be having far more fun in the water than I ever do. I shall channel my inner dolphin this week and see if that helps me enjoy being in the pool a little bit more. (Image courtesy of tiverylucky / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Pool workouts can be deadly boring or mildly exciting. I haven’t crossed the line yet into “blissful paradise” when it comes to swimming (maybe I have to wait until I have surroundings like this around me again), but I’m trying to keep an open mind around the situation. When I think of the big three cardiovascular exercises out there – running, biking and swimming – there’s no question that swimming gets slotted into the “hardest one to do – and the one I least look forward to” category.

So it might just be the Triathlon Goddess who is suddenly nudging me into the pool by making me rest my ol’ meniscus.

Anyway, here’s the WOW:

15 minutes of warmup – kicking with a kickboard (easy does it with that knee), freestyle, freestyle with paddles, freestyle with hands in fists, etc.

With pull buoy (all of this is freestyle for me, but you can do whatever stroke floats your…well, you know):
1 lap hard/1 lap easy
2 laps hard/2 laps easy
3 laps hard/3 laps easy
2 laps hard/2 laps easy
1 lap hard/1 lap easy
Rest 1 minute

Repeat the entire 1-2-3-2-1 set two to three more times.

Cooldown – 10 minutes of easy kicking with the kickboard, or a mix of kicking and easy freestyle with the pull buoy.

Pretty straightforward stuff. And the knee was cool with the situation. That’s the best part.

Yesterday’s #Every48 workout: A 45-minute strength session at the gym (upper body and core), followed by 15 minutes on the bike at 90 RPMs. Wanted to get there at 7. Got there at 8:30. Got the workout in anyway.

Monday ”What Went Well” Report: Bum knee, but not for long!

It had to happen eventually. After a lifetime of running (sometimes at a wildly inappropriate weight for the kind of stress that knees take on a regular basis with all that pounding), I finished my ten-miler last Sunday afternoon and felt…something. No pops, tears, or trauma. Just…something that wasn’t right.

This is your knee, and all the key parts that keep it humming. We're thinking my medial meniscus needs a rest. (Image courtesy of http://drwaltlowe.com/knee-anatomy/)
This is your knee, and all the key parts that keep it humming. We’re thinking my medial meniscus needs a rest. (Image courtesy of http://drwaltlowe.com/knee-anatomy/)

So I called the nurse hotline at my insurance company the next day. Turned out the nurse who took my call is a trail runner, so she knows something about knees. Specifically: don’t mess with them. Get ‘em looked at, or risk a chronic, lifetime injury.

Needless to say, she convinced me to see a doctor the next day.

By Tuesday afternoon, I was in a decently-supportive knee brace with good lateral (side to side) support,  and I was sitting (literally) on a probable diagnosis of a meniscus tear – a little bitty one, because my knee’s range of motion was fine and I didn’t have any traumatic pain involved when the doctor poked around the joint for a bit. Prescription: no running for now. A physical therapist at the end of the month. And I can do just about everything else for exercise. Excellent.

(An aside: In a former life, I would easily have used this injury as an excuse to do a whole lotta nothin’ for workouts for the next several weeks. But no siree, not here at Every48. Life is different now.)

So, What Went Well this week? I rediscovered the pool – and the pull buoy that I can hold between my legs to work my upper body only. I can kick (from the hips, please, not the knees) and I can definitely swim freestyle, so the pool is my new best friend.

And I can take spin class too – biking is just fine. I’m taking it a little more slowly just to be sure, but so far, so good. And I’m committed to doing everything I can do to plan out the week, get my work done (there’s a lot to do, so I need the concentration and the discipline), and take exceptionally good care of myself so that my knee can start to heal and I can get myself to my physical therapy appointment in fighting shape.

And here’s what really went well this week:

I no longer believe that a setback equals a failure. It just means we have a little more work to do to reach the goal. And the challenge that it requires – or, I should say, the discipline – might actually do a little something extra for us, like build character and toughness and grit.

Okay, I can’t run right now. I’ll deal with it. I’m actually a little relieved, because my knees have never been my favorite joint, and now I’m going to get to see a real live medical professional who has far more of a clue than I do about how to keep my knees healthy, so that I can keep running for the rest of my life. Yay. I’d say that’s pretty good news.

Recent #Every48 workouts: A SPIN CLASS last Friday – loved it and it gave me a ton of energy for the rest of the day. A SWIM on Saturday – some freestyle with pull buoy, some kicking with kickboard. About 50 minutes total. Felt like a badass getting out of that pool.

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