Thursday, August 30, 2012

Working It Out!

Exercise is a tricky thing.  Getting started is even more tricky.  What should you do? What exercises are the best? Who has the best program? Should I spend $100 on P90X, Insanity, etc...?  Is running bad for my knees? What equipment should I buy? What about muscle confusion?

Where do you begin?

The worst part is that there are so many differing opinions out there that it can be very confusing to know what to do at all.

I know when I was getting started, I tried to just find a simple outline of an exercise program that I could do without investing a lot of money.  Finding time to do it is the other problem.  It does take a lot of time and dedication to exercise and be fit.  I won’t lie. It’s tough, especially when you are juggling work, family, church calling and all of the other demands on life.  I struggle all the time with the guilt that as I’m exercising, I’m not spending time with my kids.

The remedy to this is to remember that by exercising you are drastically reducing the odds that you will have serious health problems as you age.  For an old guy like me, this is important.  For young guys it should be as important.

So to help cut through the junk, I’d like to offer you my workout schedules.  I’ve done a lot of research on the topic and investigated different programs and methods.  I’ve done my programs for a long time and they have yielded the results I’ve wanted.  I’ve lost weight, I’m healthier, I have more endurance and at 43 I’m still able to do a lot more than many other men my age.  My goal is to be that 75-year-old who can still backpack with his grandkids.

Recently I’ve implemented some changes to my program.  Mostly due to the fact that working out when I got home from work wasn’t happening.  Just too many things to do when I got home and my family needed me.  (Soccer, ballet, homework, home repairs, meals, etc…life happens!).  SO I’m going to post two different workouts. Both are really good and based on sound fitness principles.  Success also hinges on your nutrition, but I talk more in depth on that here.

To do this program you will need A) Good running shoes, B) a good sturdy Weight Bench with free weights.  (I found a good used bench with 300+ lbs. of weights online for about $150…there are lots of good deals on these if you look.  If you buy weights new you should plan to spend about $1 per pound. For the bench...just get a good solid bench with minimal 'extras').  It is essential that you use free weights and not a machine as I’ll explain later.

Program #1:

Cardio: Running – 4-5 times a week for at least 30-40 minutes.

I have to be to work at 6:30 AM (catch the bus at 6:00 AM) – so I would get up at 4:30 AM and run til 5:30 or so. There is nothing like being up before the sun and running alone on the streets…it’s is exhilarating! (make sure that you are wearing reflectors though!)

You can replace running with: walking, biking, etc... I believe that running is best, but everyone has their thing.

Weights: Tuesdays and Thursdays right after work.

Here is the chart that I’d use to track my progress. (I have these in Excel and I can send it to you if you send me an email at )

The orange ones on the left are warm-up exercises, usually I only do 15-20 reps of each.  Red is the real workout...this is where I pour it on.  Yellow is optional as time permits.  When I do the yellow ones I still work hard.
Basically you figure out the maximum weight that you can perform each exercise with (functionally) and then start with your warm-up at the lower percentage and work your way up.  Each time that you lift, try to add just a tiny bit more to your maximum, this increases your strength and power.  You’ll see faster gains this way too.  This is based on a principle called Super-composition where you maximize the workload on your muscles.  (BTW – load bearing exercises are really good for your bones as well as it increases bone density). So for example, say the max that you can bench multiple times is 100 lbs.  You'd start with 50 lbs. do to sets of 10, then up it to 70 lbs. do two sets of 5, increase it to 80 lbs. do one set of 5, then put on the 100 lbs and do three sets of 5.  The next time you do it, see if you can add 2-5 lbs. to your maximum.  The key is to allow about 48 hours between workouts.

You may think that this isn't much, but you will be very sore if you really work. Trust's a tough workout. Track your progress in the squares.  This sheet should last you a week, then you make a new one for the next week.

I don’t normally stretch.  Maybe a few minor stretches, but I always start out (running and lifting) slow and at a lighter weight.  That warms up my muscles and then I hit it harder.  When I run I’ll stretch my calves and feet a bit, and sometimes my back.  I am not a big believer in an elaborate stretching program.  When I’ve done a lot of stretching I seem to get injured easier.

This program worked well when I had time.  Working out after work got hard though.

So I designed Workout #2:

This program switches things around. Now I LIFT in the mornings (Still at 4:30) and I’ve broken it up into two groups.  Mon-Wed-Fri is Upper Body day and Tue-Thurs is Lower bod.  Then I RUN (cardio) daily on my lunch break at work. (this works because I have to be at work for @ ten hours to catch my van pool so I have a 1 hour lunch break - thus not taking any more time away from my family).  The only downside is that it is hotter when I run but so far I’m liking the change.

Here is my tracking schedule for this program (it functions on the same principle as the other one):

You can see that the top is Upper Body - Mon/Wed/Fri and the lower half is Lower Body-Tues/Thurs.  One advantage to this program is that I'll be able to work in some weights every day instead of just twice a week.  This should result in increased gains.

I’m just starting this one. So far it’s going OK.  I’ll have to post updates as to how well it works in the long run.

I’ll also throw in push-ups, walks, sit-ups and other body-weight exercises during the day…usually to wake me up at work.

I mentioned earlier that free weights are better than exercise machines.  I’ll try to explain why:  In short, free weights work more muscles and usually will engage your core and stabilizer muscles and work your whole body harder.  Machines tend to isolate muscles and don’t work you completely.  There is even evidence to suggest that doing muscle isolation exercises increase the production of estrogen in men…which we don’t want at all! Free weights are also less expensive, more durable and offer greater versatility. Plus there is just something primal and visceral about that big hunk of iron on a bar that looks way more some kind of Spartan Warrior.

Machines are ‘safer’ in terms of risk of injury…that is why you see so many of them at your local gym…they reduce the risk of a lawsuit.

Here is my home workout station.

My Home gym.  You can see the hood of my car and our freezer in the photo.  This is a great bench. Simple, sturdy and it does everything that I need it too.
One thing that is nice about my bench is that the bench part is removable so  I can more easily do things like the dead lift, military press and squats without straddling the bench.

If you are going to get a bench with accessories, the most useful is the leg lift attachment.  I use this one quite a bit. Other accessories are pretty much useless.

Here is my most expensive piece of exercise equipment.

As with any exercise program, success depends on dedication, discipline and other words it takes a warrior. The best thing to do is get out there and workout like a true warrior.  Get off the couch and get into life!