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Get moving, no excuses!

It’s true: even the most active people can get a bit unmotivated at times.  And unless your profession entails a high level of activity, you have to make time for getting in some form of physical exertion.  On any given day, you’re going to wonder why you should even bother to move a muscle after you get home from work, especially if you spend the day stuck behind the computer – your eyes are tired, your brain is tired, sometimes even your heart is tired (emotionally, not physically).

 

But there’s good reason why you have to do away with the excuses and get yourself moving to the point of sweating at least 30 minutes a day – and if you can’t get it done daily, at least not miss more than 3 workout days consecutively.  It gets your mind clear and helps you mentally organised – if you get moving at the beginning of the day, it gets you decluttered to start your day.  If you get it in during lunchtime, it helps get your head ready for the remainder of your day.  If you get in your workouts in the evenings after work, it pushes the frustrations and drama of the day off you and helps you boost your endorphins to celebrate the good things that have happened throughout the day as well.

 

Bear in mind, I know it can be a tall order to fill.  But even on your droopiest days, working up a good sweat makes things feel so much better.  So of the million excuses you can find not to exercise, the best after-effects – clearer mind, endorphin boost, gaining strength, getting in better shape, and who can forge the power of the after-burn (with some workouts!) – are more than enough to beat them all.  So get on your gym kit and start sweating!

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Pressed for time? Top three (well, four) strategies to maximise short workouts.

What is the most common – and annoying, by the way – excuse for not working out or at least incorporating some activity into a routine? “I don’t have any time”.  We’ve all heard it at least once in our lives.  Sometimes from our own mouths – trust me, I’ve pissed myself off with that one.  But there are ways to get around to being physically fit when you have an hour or less to spare.  These are my favourite three strategies:

 

Grab your timer.  Or your timer app – whatever you’ve got, whatever works for you.  Interval training protocols are your best friend when your workout time is tight.  Whether you opt for reps for time, every minute on the minute, Tabata or metabolic conditioning (where your rest time intervals get shorter and shorter – insert short panting breaths here!), your body will thank you later for the shortest workouts you can eke out.

 

Be ready to move – a lot.  Compound movements are paramount for maximum effect when time management and workout efficacy are your priorities.  Whether you’re mixing body weight with free weights, plyometrics with weight machines, cardio machines with stability workouts, make sure your moves incorporate multiple muscle groups so that your short burn has a lingering effect long after you’re finished.
Now is the time to go all in – every single minute.  You have 30-45 minutes to work up a sweat – this is not the time to half-ass any of it!  Set your timer app to block interruptions from other apps, set your phone to “Emergency Calls Only”, do what you gotta do.  If you’re only at it for a tight time period, you have to use every single second meticulously.

 

There you have it!  When you have the right principles in mind for your workouts, time is no issue.  Speaking of principles, here’s a bonus tip that I’ve relied on throughout my adulthood:

 

Aim for 20 (minutes, that is).  When I first started training in the gym almost two decades ago, one of the trainers at the gym on my college campus told me that I should aim to keep my heart rate elevated for a minimum of 20 minutes in a session – several years and a number of careers later, I have worked with that as a principle when I hit the gym.  It’s true, my gadgets have gotten more fanciful since then, but I always carried that with me: any gym session must mean that for at least 20 minutes of a session, I cannot be able to respond to a question in more than 3-5 words (my measure of heart rate elevation when my heart rate monitor is either dead or missing in action).

 

 

What are your strategies for working out on a time crunch?  I can’t wait to find out what you do!

Mental Workouts? Yes, You Need It. – Part 1.

The great number of us adults born between the late 70s to early 90s know what a busy life looks like and sometimes it can be difficult to even make sure a regular physical workout is built into our already-packed schedules. But here are a couple of my favourite byproducts of mental exercise, which also illustrate why it is a crucial part of your health from a mental and a physical perspective:
Clarity and focus. With clarity comes vision – and realisation thereof. Mental stimulation, in some settings, goes a long way in detoxifying and decluttering the white noise that floods our lives at times and helps us to clear our mind and realign with our own vision and mission.
Strength and flexibility. Exercise brings agility – not just physically. Regular mental stimulation helps improve skills such as multitasking and strategising. The right ones can even help build your vocabulary – after all, you couldn’t possibly think the word later was actually spelled with an “8”. Right?
Increased likelihood of good mental and physical health. A healthy mind is a crucial adjunct to a healthy body. Believing in your own health mentally and physically is the first stepping stone to making it happen. After all, “as [a man] thinketh… so is he.”(as written in the Bible in the book of Proverbs 23:7 and later revisited by James Allen in his book As A Man Thinketh).

There are so many more that I can mention, but these remain the top three victories of mental workouts that make me look forward to seeing another one.
What about you? What results make you look forward to your mental exercise?

Two for the win: top reasons for the rise of the superset.

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If you’ve been working out for sometime now (or even if you’re a fitness neophyte as of the last year or so), you will have heard or seen a lot of buzz about a workout technique known as the superset.  But why all the hype?  Here are three of my favourite reasons.

 

Low maintenance (well, relatively).  The right choice of a pair of workout moves, your gym kit and your earphones is pretty all you need.  Timer is optional but very much welcome.

 

Isolated muscle group conditioning.  If you’re someone who is strict about having your leg days dedicated to your pegs, the right combination gives you the right amount of burn.

 

Total body potential.  If you’re a person on the go and need a total body workout, the right pair of exercises gives all of you a workout and keeps you sweating for a while to come.

 

Personally, I’ve found that adding my timer to my supersets helps me to push myself harder, whether I’m working on a strict time interval or aiming for a certain number of reps every minute on the minute.  The physical and mental switch keeps me quick on my feet and motivated to get through my workouts.  But don’t take my word for it – try it for yourself.

Rise of the HIITs… Top three favourite circuit styles.

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Some of us remember time-based circuit and interval training for years before the Crossfit or fitness blogging movement began, but the last decade has heralded the rise of the high-intensity interval training (HIIT) fitness regime.  Useful for everything from my jogging routes to my strength training regimes, it is well-loved among trainers and time-starved fitness lovers alike.  As a big fan of bodyweight exercise moves and the interval timer (and equivalent apps!), I incorporate HIIT into my fitness and physical activity routines at least 3 times a week.  While everyone who prescribes to it has their own personal ways to include it into their workouts, these are my top three types of HIIT training protocols.

 

As Many Rounds/Reps As Possible (AMRAP).  I am not particularly fluent in the language of Crossfit, but the AMRAP protocol is something I made an effort to understand.  It entails performing a set number of repetitions for several different exercise moves and performing as many cycles of the moves (with minimal rest between sets) for a fixed time period.  Personal spin I set my timer to 15 minutes, choose 2-3 strength training and/or plyometric moves (I guess paired moves for me would be my twist on the Crossfit superset), perform a set of number of repetitions of each moves in succession with maximum of 45 seconds rest in between sets then repeat another 15-minute session after a short break.  How it feels? About five minutes into the workout will feel like the rest is impossible, but the endorphin rush afterwards is unforgettable.  Maybe it’s a favourite because I keep chasing that rush.

 

Tabata.  Dubbed by many as “The 4-Minute Workout”, the basis of the Tabata protocol is a 4-minute cycle of interval training for 20 seconds at maximum intensity followed by a rest period for 10 seconds.  Can 4 minutes really cut it?  Personally, I am a proponent of elevating the heart rate to 80% of its maximum (the cardiovascular range) for at least 20 minutes per session for it to be effective, so I would not rely solely on a 4-minute workout to keep my body and heart in optimum condition.  Personal spin I perform about 5-8 cycles of the 4-minute workout on my own with about 2 minutes rest in between cycles.  My alternate routine entails setting my timer to 50 seconds of maximum-intensity work and 10 seconds of rest and using the protocol for a total of 20-30 minutes.  How it feels? Like almost every other type of interval training you can undertake, you will feel completely shattered afterwards but your body will definitely thank you.  Long after the workout, in fact.

 

Every minute on the minute.  So simple, the protocol is self-explanatory.  Okay, for neophytes, I’ll explain anyway: you turn on your timer and start a fixed number of repetitions of an exercise move at the start of a minute then start the next set of repetitions when the next minute starts, and then you get the drift from there.  Personal spin I take one or two exercise moves (my other take on the Crossfit superset) and perform my repetitions with special focus on perfecting my form at the start of each minute and I work out for 20-30 minutes with this protocol at a time – this works best within the minute if the number of repetitions is kept low (I usually keep my reps under about 10-12, especially if I’m pairing moves; otherwise, the minute will not be sufficient to finish one round.)  How it feels?  The first two minutes sail by and you feel great then by the start of minute five, you feel like you’ll want to die – you won’t but you may want to – but when you get to the end of the last minute, you feel amazing.

 

The circuit training protocol has been around for generations on end, and the rise of the HIIT is just living proof that circuit training is a mainstay in fitness and healthy living.  Like I said, everyone has their own personal preference, but these three styles are part of my personal key to staying fit and active.

 

Top 4 gym-free workouts…

Blowing off steam with your dukes up...

Okay okay okay okay… I’ll admit it.  I’m fairly partial to the old school style of workouts.  As much as I love my arsenal of workout gear and equipment (I’m pretty much glued into my FitFour callus guard gloves and use my kettlebells at least once a week), some of my most refreshing workouts have been done with no gym, no equipment, no machines.  Here are some top favourites:

 

Bodyweight training.  Calisthenics, plyometrics, burpees, pushups, squats, lunges, pull-ups – however you like it.  Some of these moves are slow and steady, some are explosive and power-packed but nothing gets your adrenaline going quite like it.

 

Shadow boxing.  Jab, cross, upper-cut, parry, duck, body punch… you don’t even need a pair of gloves to get your gears going (you can forego the gloves or even pick up a pair of lightweight dumbbells or wrist weights to build up your strength).  Sometimes all you need is a good shadow to follow – and once you start throwing punches and moving around, yours is the best you’ve got.

 

Swimming.  A swimsuit is pretty much all you need to get yourself sorted for this workout.  Whether you’re getting in an even-tempered breast stroke, a full-forced butterfly or the freestyle and backstroke that can get your heart rate pumping hard anywhere in between those two extremes, this equipment-free, no-frills workout gets your heart and endorphins racing.  Every time.

 

Leg work.  Walk, run, jog… pick one, pick all, doesn’t even matter.  The simplest way to get your heart rate clear into the “cardio” zone is to just put on your sneakers and use those legs you stand on!

 

What about you?  What are some of your favourites?  Leave a comment below!

Workouts for your body and mind – the top 4.

Red Boxing Gloves

In the insular focus on staying active and looking amazing, many of us tend to forget the mental element of physical exercise.  However, there are a number of effective workouts that remind us of the challenge to our brain while pushing our bodies.  These are some favourite exercises in physical and emotional catharsis.

 

Kickboxing, martial arts and Muay Thai.  The ultimate ways to physically sublimate aggression, anger and frustration, while building physical strength, agility and discipline.  You work up a sweat, leave your rage on the mat and then walk away.  Physical and emotional therapy all in one.

 

Skating.  You put on your skates and stand up to find your balance; you move forward and if you’re really agile, you skate backwards; when you’re starting out and even sometimes when you’re pretty seasoned, you fall down.  But you dust yourself, stand up and recalibrate then move forward.  I’m thinking no further explanation is needed.

 

Swimming and diving.  One of the most effective low-impact workouts you can ever get, not just low-impact on the joints but on the psyche as well.  Something about the water offers a symbolic rebirth of sorts, entering the water as your old self, pushing the past away with every stroke and kick and emerging from the water with a new resolve.  Turning over a new leaf never made you look or feel so good.

 

Rock climbing.  While offering an amazing full body workout that especially trains your core and upper body, there is an emotional release felt rappelling up and down a climbing wall – sometimes it gets too hard and the next move ahead isn’t as clear, sometimes you have to take a step back to revise your plan to go further and sometimes you lose your grip and fall, ending up back at square one, back to the bottom of the wall.  But you think it through, try again and again until to you make it to the top – then you free fall from the wall, find a tougher path and overcome that one, too.   How’s that for catharsis!

 

What are some of your favourite exercises for the body and mind?  Write in your comments, I’d love to hear from you!

Confessions of a Busy Naturalista, Volume 1.

First confession on the list happens to be inadvertent warning to those with inquisitive hands:

Where’s my butter knife to stab someone in their hand when someone reaches out to touch my hair without asking?

 

April, 2010

Workout by aggression – the top 4 venting exercises.

Ask anyone you know who exercises and they’ll have any number of different reasons.  Some work out for personal health, some work out to increase their productivity in general but every so often some people work out to blow off some steam.  And lots of it.  Here are the top four workouts by aggression; there’s no denying that if you’ve tried at least one of these workouts, you felt like a load came off when you finished.

 

Boxing.

Kickboxing, speed bag, shadow boxing, sparring.  No matter how you try and play it down, pounding a bag with one’s fists just seems to get out more and more anger with each and every cross, jab, parry and (sometimes) the occasional roundhouse kick.

 

Kettle bells.

Yes, it’s grueling and there are some workouts you feel like you want to die.  But somehow it gets out all the tension and rage that seems to build up sometimes.  Just a word of caution – keep your grip mid-swing!

 

Contact sports.

Wrestling, American football, rugby, lacrosse… The aggression is baked right in just as it effervesces off the field, enough said.

 

Baseball.

Apparently it has to do with swinging the bat, connecting with the ball that results in the clunking sound (sometimes pretty loud) that sends that ball flying somewhere.  Sometimes across a field, sometimes just across the batting cage.  But somehow, the harder you hit that ball, the more steam that seems to dissipate.  Same principle seems to apply to quiet, waspy games like golf.

 

We all need to vent from time to time.  Some of us just tend to use our workouts to channel our venting, while some of us wish we could.  It’s not that hard with batting cages, golf courses/putting greens, local arenas and open fields with neighbourhood teams within walking distance.  So get on your trainers and get out there.  I’m sure your body – and mind – will thank you for it.

 

Blowing off steam with your dukes up...

The Centralised Fitness Pass – the new fitness movement.

To gym or not to gym.

Fitness in any way, shape or form for everyone.  Access to fitness classes, gym passes all rolled into one.  Many of us either have seen an ad for one, bought (or considered buying) one or know someone who has.  The centralised gym membership has become one of the latest and most popular movements in fitness.  Seeing many of the ads around for things like GuavaPass, KFit, ClassPass and several other similar companies with the same pedigree of services, I opted to try one of the passes out partly because I was in need of a push to shake things up in my exercise routine but mostly to see what the fuss was all about.

 

I do have the answer to why it’s so popular and the answer is this: depending on the consumer’s behaviour, it becomes value for money.  First of all, most of these passes tend to be relatively affordable and give you access to various gym facilities in the area; sometimes the gym facilities extend beyond your current location and allow you to stay fit when you travel around different regions, even different continents.  Second of all, the number of passes (albeit limited to a certain number of visits a month) to a particular facility gives the user enough variety to keep things interesting when it comes to keeping fit.  Third of all, a lot of these passes not only included gym access but also allow the member to sign up for classes in various fitness disciplines and some even allow passes for leisure activities (one particular pass has passes for paintball!) and different spa treatment and/or therapy sessions.  Finally, the variety and pedigree of services that are offered by the central gym pass can pretty much ensure that even choosing any 2-3 sessions per week gives you time to keep mentally and physically fit, all for a price equivalent to as little as a week’s worth of lunch outings to a week’s worth of groceries.  Put those altogether, and that’s a reasonably priced recipe for keeping fit and keeping fit interesting.  At least for me.

Have you had any experience with the centralised fitness pass?  Did you like it?  Did you hate it?