Category Archives: Fitness

A Real Ass Kicker

As you know, I love the Shred.  After a few weeks of doing it consistently, I felt pretty damn buff.   But the truth is that I’m not much of a weight-training kind of person, and I really prefer straight up cardio and resistance training that doesn’t use weights.  So I tried this:

jm metabolismAnd I really like it.  It’s got the usual jumping business that Jillian seems to love, but it’s also got a lot of kickboxing moves, which I really enjoy.  There’s a lot of oblique work, as well as standing ab stuff, which is a nice change from Pilates.  A major bonus is that it’s a full 40 minutes (not including warm up/cool down), which, if you’ve done any Jillian Michaels videos in the past, you know is a LONG time to be working out.  It’s a great way to mix up the Shred workouts (which, to be honest, I haven’t done in a long while) and to give the ol’ quads a break (though be warned, there is one circuit that just might kill your quads – I sometimes skip it).

This is my favorite workout right now, as it gives me that calm/endorphin rush feeling I used to get after running long distances.  And let’s be honest, I enjoy all the punching, kicking, and knee-thrusts.

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Rodney and Mari

Two more workout DVDs to review!  First off, the inimitable Rodney Yee, he of luxurious long hair and sexy beach poses, and, unfortunately, sex scandals.  I’ve been to his studio in Oakland a few times, though sadly I’ve never taken a class from the buff guru himself.  I picked up his 2-disc Advanced Yoga DVD from the library this week:

rodney

If that cover doesn’t make you want to do yoga, I don’t know what will.  The first disc contains an arm balance workout and a “complete hip opening routine.”   The arm balance workout is easy to follow and incorporates a lot of forward bends and easy stretches before moving into arm balances.  I was pretty psyched that I could lift myself off the ground in full lotus.  I guess all the strength work I’ve been doing since February has paid off.

The second disc is all about breathing.  There are four pranayamas.  I found the introduction plus the first pranayama to be very relaxing and more than enough for the day.  The four pranayamas are not necessarily meant to be done back to back.  Rodney’s voice is pretty easy to listen to while you’re relaxing and focusing on your breath, and I feel totally awesome after spending a good ten minutes on the floor chilling out.

Verdict: Both discs are easy to follow and appropriate for intermediate to advanced yoga practitioners. 

Next up…
Winsor Pilates Advanced Body Slimming – Sculpt Your Body Slim DVD

winsor

Mari Winsor is another Pilates guru, though not as weird as Romana.  Apparently she’s the “Oracle of Pilates.”  Okay, that’s kind of weird.  This is also supposed to be an ‘advanced’ workout, though I’m a beginner (albeit with ABS of STEEL) and I was able to follow along just fine.  The workout itself is around 20 minutes, but it’s an intense 20 minutes.  I was sweating by the time it was over.  There are a few interesting variations to the classic moves, and Mari actually made my abs burn more than they ever have doing Pilates.

Verdict: I liked this one the best of all the Pilates videos I’ve tried, and will probably buy it.

Pilates Time

I’ve been interested in Pilates for a while now, but lack the cash to take classes. Plus, I’ve become addicted to working out in my apartment. This week I picked up two DVDs from local libraries (I have library cards for Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda, San Francisco and San Jose … they all have their perks).

romanas
Romana’s Pilates – Ultimate Challenge Mat Workout

The first, Romana’s Pilates, seems to be more in the old-school Joseph Pilates style (though they spell his name “Joesph”). There are a few short vids about breathing and technique, then Romana, a 60s-ish supposed direct disciple of the man himself, works a guy in an embarrassingly tight shiny jumpsuit through the moves. More helpful was the next section, with voice over instructions about breathing, timing, and general how-tos. A woman named Kathi takes us through the hundred, corkscrew, saw, swan dives, and a number of other classic moves. It’s pretty easy to follow, though each exercise moves quickly into the next. Though it was short (15 minutes?) I was sweating by the end.

Verdict: a good video for those experienced in Pilates, particularly those who can clap their hands and feet at the same time from a plank position (wtf?!)

powerhouse

Pilates Powerhouse Workout

Next up, this Pilates DVD from Gaiam.  Gaiam makes some good yoga mats, so I figured this would be decent.  The setting of this vid is pretty idyllic and makes you wish you were also doing your morning workout on an isolated wooden platform by the edge of the ocean, in what looks like Hawaii.  Jillian Hessel leads you through some gentle breathing exercises on a chair, before moving to the mat for some more typical pilates exercises.  This video is lower in intensity, but very helpful for getting the timing of the breathing right  and learning how to ‘scoop’ the abdomen.  I used this as a warm-up for the Romana workout, and it was just right.

Verdict: great, easy-to-follow introduction to Pilates.  Low-intensity.

The Downside of Running

The past few weekends I’ve done some fast hill running in my immediate neighborhood.  Generally I’ll do 2 laps that are about .6 miles each, then a longer lap of around a mile to finish up.  It’s funny because while longer, slower runs tend to be easy for me, shorter runs with hill work (maybe because I push myself until I’m in pain?) are taking their toll.  

First off, there’s that lovely lung/mucus/coughy thing that happens to me sometimes.  That in itself is reason enough to stick to indoor exercise.  Twenty minutes after I got home from my run this morning, amid continuous hacking, Ted was asking if I’d contracted swine flu.

Secondly is the crazy state my metabolism goes into after running.  After my run I immediately ate a lunch consisting of whole wheat pasta with veggie ‘sausage,’ baby carrots, and some deviled eggs, followed by a couple Petit Ecolier chocolate cookies.  A few hours later I was ready for some afternoon pancakes.  I honestly doubt that during my run I burned the equivalent of the one billion or so calories I felt impelled to consume this afternoon, but I sure felt hungry enough to do so.

Lastly, there’s something about hard running that can make me fatigued for the rest of the day, and can sometimes give me headaches.  I’ve got both the fatigue and the headache going on right now, despite the emergency medicinal Diet Coke I consumed about an hour ago.  Hopefully this truly is just a result of running too hard, and not swine flu (or hog cholera)!

Shred: Week 7

I’ve been doing the Shred for nearly two months.  Here are my stats:

  • Level 1: 16 times
  • Level 2: 12 times
  • Level 3: 3 times
  • Shred-type-workout, on my own, to music: 3 times

That’s 34 strength workouts over the last seven weeks, or about five workouts per week. I’ve mixed in a few runs and bike rides as well.  The results?  Well, I can’t say I look like this:

biggest-loser2-jillian21And I can’t tell you if I’ve lost weight, because I don’t own a scale (and weight loss wasn’t really my goal anyhow).  What I CAN tell you is that I’ve gotten a lot stronger.  I can do squats for a minute straight with no problem.  I’ve noticed muscles in my arms that I hadn’t seen in quite a while.  And my abs, though they will probably never ever look like Jillian’s (I love my carbs far too much) feel very strong.  I don’t know if I’ve lost weight or just am more toned all over, but I notice a difference when I look in the mirror.  My real dream, though, is to be able to do this.  Maybe not in this lifetime, but I can hope, right?

Here are my tips for making the Shred a little bit more interesting:

  • Mix up the moves.  If I get tired of doing Level 1, I’ll do Level 3 and just substitute some of the cardio sequences for those in Level 1 or 2 to make it easier.  I’ve also added harder moves to Level 1 to make it more difficult.
  • Once you know the sequences, set a timer, put on some music, and do them without the video.  This is nice for a change of pace, but I still rely on the video to push me into that higher sphere of performance (i.e. pain)
  • Take time off.  If you notice muscle fatigue, take a day (or two) off.  Go for a run, a hike, or just give yourself a day off of exercise.  I know you’re supposed to be able to do the Shred everyday (since it’s mostly using the resistance of your own body plus light weights) but muscles can get run down all the same.  I noticed my biceps aching today when I was doing curls – it’s time for a day off.
  • Eat a high-protein snack after your workout.  I learned this from marathon training.  It helps build muscle, so you can look like this:

huge_musclesAwesome.

    Mixing it Up

    After doing the Shred for the last six weeks, most of the workouts are ingrained in my head, so I’ve been setting a timer, picking an artist, doing my exercises to YouTube playlists for about 30 minutes.  Yesterday was the Kinks; today was Beyoncé.

    I can’t seem to embed today, so click on the images below for two of my favorite videos.  The common thread seems to be pets.

    kinks

    beyonce-kitty-kat

    Added benefit: though I’m not usually one to be ‘inspired’ by other people’s bodies, I have to fess up that Beyoncé has helped me get through a few workouts.  The fact that she’s curvy but incredibly fit is at once impossible to achieve (it’s called genetics) and somehow inspiring to me, as someone with a curvy frame.  Maybe it’s just that she’s one of the few celebrities out there that I think embodies true sexiness and glamour.  Yes, I’m probably overthinking this, but isn’t she pretty much the queen of glam?  Even when she’s riding around on a cat?

    p.s. on a stalker-esque note, I happened upon a site that told me Beyoncé’s height and weight, which happen to be almost exactly my own dimensions.  Hm, then why don’t I look like her?

    30 Day Shred: Day 25

    Sorta. I’ve been doing the Shred about five times a week, and taking one day off on the weekends, and running the other day. My overall goal is increased strength, and though my muscles aren’t exactly rippling, I definitely notice a difference.

    The first week was one of sore quads. There are so many damned squats in this workout. I managed to push through the pain, and after a while the only thing holding me back was my pure level of fitness. I’m a fairly fit person, being a pretty regular runner and dancer most of my life. However the intensity of the Shred workout is such that level 2 is still kicking my ass hardcore after three and a half weeks.

    I tried level 3 once when I was feeling brave and that shit was INSANE. I was sweating out of every pore in my body at the same time. The good thing about these workouts though, once you’re accustomed to them, is that they don’t wipe you out for the rest of the day. You still have energy to go on a hike, walk, or even a run if you’re ambitious.

    The upshot of it all? When I went for my usual run on Friday, I felt like a gazelle. My legs had so much spring and energy to them, I felt like I could run ten miles. And I wasn’t feeling that muscle heaviness I normally feel at the end of a run. That in itself is reason enough for me to continue to let Jillian kick my ass.

    Also, I noticed Exercise TV has posted some of Jillian’s mini workouts on Hulu.  I don’t have the discipline to do the reps on my own (without her doing them alongside me, warning me against “phoning it in”) but if you do, check it out: http://www.hulu.com/videos/search?query=jillian+michaels.