A Merry Rogue

One working Dad's journey to find "healthy".

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

On Nutrition

In my first post I had mentioned that I don't plan on changing my eating habits very much with a couple of small changes (smaller portions, less alcohol intake, more veggies . . etc).   How wrong I was.

The last time I was working out on a regular basis I created a habit of eating healthier, smaller portion sizes, and more frequently.  Eating healthy will always take effort whether you admit it or not.  As "healthy" as you think your regular diet is, there is almost always something that can be change to make it healthier.  When you change from not working out to working out, your body will tell you that you need more food.  This is where most people error when it comes to diet.

One change that has happened on it's own is the fact that I eat more often.  Before I began this workout plan, I was eating about three meals per day.  Sadly enough, some days I would skip either breakfast or lunch.  Well, there is proof right there that starving yourself won't make you loose weight.  I didn't intentionally do it, it was more of me telling myself that I was too busy to stop and eat.

So far this week I have went from three meals a day to about four to five meals a day.  Usually eating about every three hours or so.  Plus, they are smaller portion sizes, less fats & heavy carbs.  So what do my daily meals look like?

Breakfast:   During the week:  Usually oatmeal.  I stopped putting honey, or syrup, or brown sugar in my
                    oatmeal.  Just nutmeg, cinnamon and raisins.  If we have any on hand, I'll toss in a banana.
                    During the weekend:  We have started a household breakfast that varies at times from eggs,
                    bacon, hash-browns, pancakes, or french toast.

Snack #1:    Yesterday's mid-morning snack was one of those small "cutie" oranges, with a handful of blue

Lunch:         Yesterday was a salad.  Mixed leafy greens (spinach, arugula, & a spring mix), along with
                     grape tomatoes, olives, mushrooms, bell peppers, cucumbers, feta cheese & raspberry
                     vinaigrette dressing.

Snack #2:    A little more than a handful of carrot sticks & celery sticks.

Dinner:        Tacos!  I am doing these a bit differently than the norm.  The taco meat will be beef,
                     but a bit less than the normal 1 pound.  I add in minced onions & garlic and some quinoa.
                     We have the traditional toppings of fresh tomatoes, sour cream, mozzarella cheese, salsa and
                     then add in some freshly chopped bell peppers and cucumber.

Snack #3:     After my daily workout I generally have a protein shake.

Aside from that, the only other thing I intake are vitamins that we tend to keep around the house on a regular basis.  Glucosamine for my shoulder, Kelp (iodine), B Complex, Vitamin E, Calcium and a few others.

Admittedly, the worst habit I have when it comes to eating is how fast I eat.  I over eat more than I would like at times.  That and I eat what is on my plate too often.  Both habits formed from a young age.  Habits I am sure that I share with a majority of people.  My mom always told me that I had to finish what I had on my plate.

To fix the eating too fast, I have to force myself to eat slower.  If I eat slower, I will realize that I am "satisfied" after eating much less than when I ate faster.  "Satisfied" is much different than "full".  I don't need to eat until I am full or stuffed.  I hate that feeling anyway.  I just have to eat until I am no longer hungry.  If I eat too fast, I'll already have eaten too much by the time my stomach says "that's enough".
"Put down the fork, chew, chew, chew some more, then swallow".  It will also make digesting that food that much easier.

To fix the portion size, one trick we use at home is to use a smaller dish.  Give your self a smaller portion on purpose.  If you eat all of it and find that you are still hungry, go back and grab seconds.  If you find yourself full and still have some on your plate . . . put it in a container as left overs for tomorrow.

I hope to keep this as my daily eating habits going forward.  Even when I am not working out (or especially when I am not) it is a much healthier way of eating.

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Weekly Update; Week 3 is in the crosshairs

Another week has gone by and I have successfully met my goal of making it to the gym each day during the week.  This week I upped the workout just a bit more than the previous week and felt great.  Due to this, I got sore all over again.  Not as severe as the first time around, but definitely sore.

This week also saw the first week of running three time per week on the treadmill using the Couch to 5K routine as I talked about in Rule #1: Cardio.  Aside from pushing it extra hard in my weights and Kettlebell workouts, this was probably the hardest part of the week.  On the elliptical machine I could go for half and hour to 40 minutes and feel pretty good, but 20 minutes of running on the treadmill was pushing myself further than I had in the previous week.  I am definitely looking forward to the second week of this program.

For the weights and abs/core workout the only change in the routine is a change from the 5x5 Rep/set to 5-4-3-2-1.  In this Set/Rep format you decrease the amount of reps each set while increasing the weight.  As always, you do as many reps on the last set until failure.  For the Kettlebell portion I will keep up what I did last week and work on pushing it a little harder than before.

The treadmill workout is the, which is the second week of it, is only a simple change from week one.  Instead of 60 seconds of running and 90 seconds of walking, it will be 90 seconds of running and 2 minutes of walking for a total of 20 minutes.  As I mentioned in the Rule #1: Cardio post, the plan is for 5 minutes of brisk walking for a warmup, then 15 minutes of running/walking.  Since I do my running after my workout I am already warmed up, so I do 20 minutes of running/walking.

This week I will try to do a post describing my weight lifting workout in more detail as well as one on what my nutrition/diet looks like.
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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Rule #1: Cardio

Whether I like it or not, Cardio is an import piece of the "in shape" puzzle as a whole.  Truth is, I actually do like it.  I enjoy the feeling of being able to push myself beyond my previous limits of time and distance when it comes to doing Cardio.

As part of my explaining my workouts a little more in detail, I figured Cardio would be a good place to go next.  To my way of thinking, it is one of most important keys if you want to lose weight and stay in shape.  Not to mention keep you ahead of the zombie hordes (as well as the slow and feeble) come the zombie apocalypse.

The cardio that I do on the Elliptical Machine is pretty well explained in my first two posts, Me vs. The Scale (01/10/2012) and Week 1 - The Beginning . . . well sort of (01/16/2012).  So I will skip that and move right into the dreaded Treadmill workout that I began started the Friday of Week 1.

Inspired by a friend who is doing the Couch to 5K program, and forced by the treadmill being the only open machine last Friday.

The basics of the 9 week program is that you run three times per week.  The first week you warm up with a 5 minute "brisk" walk, then alternate between running for 60 seconds and walking for 90 seconds for a total of 20 minutes including the warm up.  Each week the program increases the amount that you run until at the very end you are running (read as jogging) for 30 minutes or 3 miles.

There are different versions that you can find of this for treadmill and outdoor running.  Currently I am only running on the treadmill.  I can't really say if I am a fare-weather runner, and indoor runner, or an outdoor runner.  Being that I just started, it is something that I'll have to test out, but I'm pretty sure that I'm a fare-weather runner.

One thing I was gleefully exited to find yesterday morning when I went to run on the treadmill is that there is a custom interval workout that you can select.  It will ask you the "Rest Time", the "Work Time" and "How Many Intervals".  This will only work for the first two weeks.  After that, weeks 3 through 6 vary in the intervals so this setting won't work unless you can manually adjust the time after the first set of intervals and then back after the second set of intervals . . . lather, rinse and repeat.

If you are interested in doing this, here is the quick & easy of how to setup the treadmill.

1)  Select the Manual workout mode and walk briskly for 3.5 minutes (after stretching of coarse).
     The reason for 3.5 minutes instead of 5 is that the Interval workout starts with walking.

2)  Select the Custom Interval workout.

3)  Enter the "Rest Time" & "Rest Speed".

4)  Enter the "Work Time" & "Work Speed".

5)  Enter the "How Many Intervals" and press Start.

So now you are probably asking, how many intervals?  If you are in your first week where you are walking for 90 seconds and running for 60 seconds, it would be 6 intervals to equal the 15 minutes.  Personally I do 8 intervals, which puts me at 20 minutes.  Being that I run after my weights and ab/core routine, I am already stretched and warmed up enough.

Week 2 doesn't work out so nicely with the timing.  Doing 4 intervals will get you 14 minutes and 5 intervals will get you 17.5 minutes.  For me, I'll be doing 6 intervals, which will put me at 21 minutes of running.

For any Android & iPhone peeps, there is an app for that!!  I don't use iPhone, so I don't know where or how to search for that App, but clicking the Android link above will bring you to the search results on the Android Market website.  I've downloaded the free C25K by Guy Hoffman, but haven't tried it yet.  Once I do, I'll post my thoughts on it.

Until then, Happy Running!

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Overweight and Back Again; An Everyday Person's Tale

It is a common tale, known by most of the people out there.  A tale of living a sedentary lifestyle.  One in which you are seated for a majority of the day and get little to no exercise.  A lot of jobs are done seated these days and a good majority of the people I know have these jobs.  Even my friend who works retail, even though he stands most of the day, doesn't get a lot of exercise.  Then when we get off work and go home, eat, maybe clean and then sit in front of a TV or a Computer for the rest of the night.

The other side of the coin is an active lifestyle.  One where you rarely stop moving.  My friend Jer is this way.  He rarely stops, eats everything in site, bikes, rock climbs, goes skiing among other things and stays skinny as a stick.  He is home so rarely that I wonder at times why he even bothers to have an apartment.

For those that find a balance somewhere in between a sedentary lifestyle and an active lifestyle, kudos to you.  For a time, I had found a nice balance between the two.  Yet I've still have the same issue over the years that a lot of people have.  I go up and down in my weight and how "in shape" I am.  As I mentioned in my first blog/post, Me vs. The Scale, I haven't seen the weight that I am at now since my early 20's when I first started working full-time (and part-time) and had a kid.  Since then, I have been pretty "in shape", but I have also had time periods where I've went up, and I've went down.  There is always something that gets in the way.  Injuries, work, schedules, lack of a place to workout . . . etc.  Or, let's be honest, sometimes we just get lazy and don't want to.

At times, I really wish that I could find another career.  One where I can make as much money as I do working in Software Development.  Last summer when I was out of work for a few week, I did some landscaping & tree removal for a friend.  It was awesome!  I was quite sore not being accustomed to doing that type of work on a regular basis, but I loved it.  Aside from being outdoors all day I got to create something and I must have lost about 10 lbs of fat while building muscle.

Well, until I find that dream job or my financial situation gets better, it's back to the desk and computer.  Aside from continuing to frequent the gym I plan on starting to ride my bike to work again when it get's warmer (I'm not a cold weather rider!!!).  Jer has been bothering me off and on for a few years to go climbing with him.  One such place he has been trying to convince me to go is Midwest Mountaineering that has free bouldering.  That definitely would fit the budget for an activity to get involved with on a regular basis.

For a while there was a group of us that would go hit the rinks during the winter and play hockey several times each week.  With new family members added here and there for several of my friends that has fell to the wayside.  I could definitely go on my own and see what pick-up games I could find.  Yet with the weather the way it has been so far this winter, I'm none to excited about that option.

One thing that I always try to do that I suggest to others as well is to change up their workout after a while.  Do something different, something interesting.  Otherwise your workout will get stale, you'll plateau and you'll stop going to the gym.

Feel free to share what you do to keep it interesting and change it up.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My Kettlebell Workout

I've had a few questions in regards to my workouts so I thought that I share them here in more detail.

The Kettlebell workout (which I have been posting as Kettle Bell) is a workout program that has always intrigued me but most gyms that I have been at didn't have them or I didn't know enough about them.  When I finally came across a gym that had them I figured I would give them a shot.  The more I used them, the more I loved them.  The only problem was that the gym I was at only had a wall chart depicting a few exercises and most were just variations on each other.  I wanted more than that, as well as heavier weights.  This gym was a little over protective of certain equipment and locked up the heavier KettleBells.  

Luckily for me, the new gym that I go to has a set from 10lbs all the way up to 45lbs.  Seeing this upon starting to workout there I was inspired to look up and research more exercises.  The result you see below is the Kettlebell workout that I did this morning.  I perform this workout each Tuesday & Thursday.

Tuesday, 01/24/2012 - KettleBell Workout
During the first week, which was a 3x10 week, I did two sets of 10 for each exercise.  This week I did 3x5 being that this week is a 5x5 week for the weight lifting.  I perform the exercises in an almost superset fashion.  I do each exercise's first set and go down the list before moving onto the second set and so on.  

There are a few exercises that probably bear some explaining.  All other exercises can be Googled to find more information.

Bent Over Pec Swing
The "Bent-over Pec Row" is something I created for my weights workout using dumbbells.  Due to issues with my right shoulder, working my pecs can be a challenge.  Basically you place your left hand on the end of a bench, low table or something similar and bend over.  Holding a dumbbell in your right hand you start out and to your right then pull the weight to your left just outside your left armpit.  Then switch and repeat for the left.  The "Swing" was added for the Kettlebell workout.  The added swing into the movement engages your core

The reason this exercise is grayed out is because it will not be performed until week 4 of my workout plan.  Week 1-3 has enough exercises on the weight lifting days for the pecs.

Bent Over Lat Fly
This is the same concept as the dumbbell version of this exercise with the only difference being that you do one side at a time rather than both.  Using the same position as the Bent Over Pec Swing, you move the weight in the opposite direction.  I usually have this one grayed out, but tossed it in today for some reason.

Pendulum Swing
Pretty much the same thing as a Side Lateral Raise, just with a swing added and alternating right then left.

The Last Two
The Side Lunge to Shelf and the Get Ups are grayed out because they are optional.  Most of the exercises in this routine engage the core muscles where these two focus on them.  Sometimes my low back feels great and I can do them, other times . . . not so much.

So there you have it, my Kettlebell workout.  Look for a description of my weight workout . . . sometime in the future.

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Weekly Update; Up Next - Week 2

After a five day love/hate relationship, I bid farewell to Week 1.  I couldn't be more happy to see it in the rear view mirror.  In the first week of a workout where you use weights or other equipment there is an extra amount of time that you workouts will take.  This is mostly because you need to take time to figure out which weights you need for each exercise.  Week one is like you trial and error week.  You try a weight for curls and halfway through the second set, you realize you need a lighter weight.  Or you are doing chest press and you realize that you need a heavier weight.  Not to mention the extra time you need to get acquainted with where everything is in the gym if you are unfamiliar with it.

Despite the "love/hate" relationship with Week 1, it was an awesome week.  I feel great!  I feel stronger, healthier, and more energetic.

There wan't very much deviation from the workouts that I had planned.  I did change a few of the lifts that I had selected for equivalent lifts, but everything else stayed the same . . . until Friday that is.

The Treadmill!!!!!
I guess Friday after work is when everyone hit's the gym.  I was able to do my weights & ab/core workout without issue, but when I went to jump on the elliptical there were none available.  There was however a treadmill open  . . . I hate my life.

I'm not the type of person that gives up when I am in the gym.  I workout out until my workout is complete unless an injury prevents me from doing so.  For those of you that know me, you know that I'm not a runner.  I'm the guy that always states that I'm not a runner and jokes about it.

I stood and stared at the empty treadmill for a while (in truth it was probably about 5 seconds or less . . . but that's less dramatic) before my trepidation was overcome by my need to complete my workout for the day.  So I jumped on the treadmill and began to run.

I'm not going to lie, it was a challenge and I planned on giving up several times.  I ran for the first two minutes, walked at a brisk pace for a minute before running another two minutes, then continued to do a minute of running and a minute of walking until I hit 15 minutes.  It was a great workout, I felt as if I had pushed myself harder than I had all week.  A victory of sorts if you will.

This reminded me of a friend of mine who is doing the Couch To 5K program.  A program where you use a similar method to what I did on the treadmill to work yourself up from not running at all to being able to run a 5K without stopping.  Despite me "not being a runner", I will be adding this program in my own form to my weekly workouts.  This will replace the elliptical machine workouts about 3 times per week.

PS:  Basketball was one of my biggest addictions from the time I was in 3rd grade until I was in my 20's.  So to say that I am not a runner is load of crap.  I just grew to lazy and hid behind the excuse to avoid running.

This week will be the same as last week with two differences.  The first difference of coarse is the change from the elliptical workouts to the running workouts.  The second difference is the planned change in the Set/Rep used for the week.  Last week was 3 X 8-10, and this week will be 5 X 5.  With this Set/Rep format the weights will vary here and there from last week, but not by much.  The only issue with a 5 X 5 week is that the workouts tend to take a little longer than the previous week.  Oddly enough it is less total reps, but it is broken up more and therefore more "rest" periods are taken, overall making the workout a bit longer.

That is all I have for now.  One week down and three to go until the next weigh in. Blogarama - The Blog Directory

Friday, January 20, 2012

Doing It Right; From Form to Attitude

In my post The Things That Stick With You I talked about all the things that I learned from my weights class in high school that stuck with me over the years.  There is one of them I forgot to mention (there are perhaps more).  Using correct form during and exercise.  It was one of the first lessons we were taught and has become second nature to me.  I'm not going to perform an exercise, unless I am performing it correctly.  If I can't perform a exercise with the correct form at a certain weight, then I decrease the weight I am using to a weight where I can perform the exercise correctly.  Doing this prevents injuries in so many ways.

I realized I had forgotten about this just the other day as I was watching one of the personal trainers working with a client.  The client was a younger woman that was over weight.  The trainer was having her pull a rope pull that was attached to a weighted sled.  After the first two pulls she had a look on her face that fell somewhere between "are you nuts" and tears.  The first thing I noticed was the trainer's attitude.  The second was her form.  A combination that made me want to choke slam the idiot.

The Attitude
As I mentioned in The Things That Stick With You, these personal trainers are messy.  They leave the equipment they use on the floor most days and never put it back.  The one thing I will say is that they have a wall of success stories from clients they've worked with an have great energy when working with their clients.

. . . Usually.  This guy didn't really seem to care and had no energy.  No real words of encouragement and (granted I may have been reading into it) an attitude of "let's get this over with so I can work with someone else".

If you are a trainer, please, please, show your clients that you are engaged, interested and enthusiastic to be the one helping them reach their goals..  Not half of them, not 99% of them, but ALL of them.  Especially someone who is over weight, appears to have self esteem issues on top of self image issues.  You are not only their personal trainer, but also their life coach.  You are on their team and should be their biggest supporter.  Not just the person who's 30 minutes they are wasting until your next client.

The Form
Correct Form should be the foundation of ever exercise that you do or that you teach to people.  If you are not doing that, then you are not a personal trainer.  You are nothing more than a glorified workout buddy who happens to be getting paid for it.  Teach them the basics and the foundations to weight lifting and exercise.

In this instance, the form that the woman was using made the exercise that much harder and could have caused serious back injury.  Bending mostly at the waist and twisting awkwardly on each pull.  I wouldn't be surprised if she is really sore tomorrow from it.  What the trainer should have done was had her sit as if she were sitting in a chair, tighten the core, pull and stand up leaning slightly back.  That way she is not only using her arms and back for the pull but her whole body, making the lift more effective, safer, and actually easier.

Right after high school when I started college, I had planned on pursuing a career in physical therapy or personal training.  It's quite obvious that I love this stuff, but part way into my first semester I found out how much I would earn doing computer stuff. . . .
So here I am, working in IT and criticizing those that do what I had originally planned on doing for a career. Go figure. Blogarama - The Blog Directory

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Pushing yourself just a bit more than before

Every time I go to the gym I step onto the elliptical machine for some "cardio".  Until today it hasn't really been a true cardio workout.  I normally use the "Fat Burner" workout, which asks for a target heart rate.  Which for a guy my age weight is about 130.  I set it for about 138.  Which is a decent enough workout for 20 minutes that gets me sweating.  Yes, I may be overweight, but I am the type of guy who sweats just thinking about exercising.  It really doesn't take much.

While it is a decent workout, it is no where near pushing it.  I don't fall off the machine at the end trying to catch my breath, and I sure don't feel like I've "kicked some butt".

So today that 30 minutes on the elliptical I chose a cardio workout setting and set the target heart rate at 156.  Holy crap is it hard to hit that on an elliptical.  You really have to push it to get to that rate.  I think it would be easier on a bike or a treadmill, but I don't have the patience for the stationary bikes and . . . well. . . I don't run.  So finally after about 12 minutes of pushing and pushing I finally made to to my target heart rate and kept it at or above that for the last 18 minutes of the workout.  Needless to say, I almost did fall off the machine at the end, but I feel a certain sense of accomplishment & success afterwards.

It's like riding a natural high when you push yourself further than you thought you could. Blogarama - The Blog Directory

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Things That Stick With You

The Scene; Any high school weight room in the Mid 90’s.  The Sound Track; AC/DC, Metallica, Slayer, Guns & Roses, grunts & screaming words of encouragement.

Sweat, loud music, grunting, yelling . . . a scene that I’m sure that a lot of us are familiar with, the typical high school weights class.  Filled with everything from a jock to a goth.  A scene that would probably put a scowl and a bad taste in the mouth of most gym goers.  Yet it is where a lot of my experience & knowledge in weight lifting & exercise all began.  To this day, a lot of those lessons still bear weight and have remained with me.  Muscle Soreness ("What's In A Name?" Or "Soreness Abounds!") and Gaining Before Losing (Week 1 - The Beginning . . . well sort of (01/16/2012)) are two that I have mentioned previously that both have their beginning here as well .  Here a few more tips that I haven't mentioned yet but always come into play when I workout.

Power Balance
I’m not 100% sure, but I’m pretty sure that is what my weights teacher called it.  When I started lifting weights in 8th grade, everything in our weight room at the high school was free weights with one multi station cable machine in one corner and a sled in the middle of the room.  

The whole idea behind power balance is that when you are lifting free weights, lets say squat for this scenario, you use “stabilizing” muscles to help balance and hold the weight stable.  When you use a machine, you stop having to use those muscles.  We were always told that those muscles were what helped you prevent injuries and have good balance.

While I have never done any research into this, I find that when I life with free weights that I have better balance.  I must say in the defence of machines that when you use them you can 1)  Lift heavier weights and 2) have less of a chance of injuring yourself during a lift.  I always try to keep a balance between the two for certain lifts.  Mostly those exercises, such as squat, involving my lower back.  I’ll use the free weights for the lighter weights and a machine for the heavier weights.

Now fast forward to the start of my senior year.  The school had purchases a bunch of new equipment for the weight room.  A weight bench, two squat machines, and a press machine.  They were pretty high end machines from what I recall.  Ball joint hinges to allow a little more free movement than a standard machine.  What I remember about this specifically was a discussion that occurred solely based upon the fact that a group of students wanted one of the old squat racks to remain in the room.  Solely based upon what our weights teacher had taught us about those “stabilizing” muscles.

Put it back where it belongs
One thing that was drilled into me was the practice of putting the weights back where they belonged.  Everything in a weight room has a place, whether that is where you got it from or not, that is where you put it when you are done with it.  A clean weight room makes for a safer weight room.  Not to mention a quicker workout.  If there are where they belong, you don’t have to waste time looking for them.

To this day it is one of the biggest things that annoy me when I go to a gym.  Some gyms aren’t so bad.  The last gym I went to for example was nice & tidy.  It was a rare occasion when something was out of place.  The gym I am going to now is always a mess.  The weights are out of order, in the wrong place or still laid out on the floor from the last person who used them.  Usually the person responsible for not putting things back is given hints by their fellow gym goers in typical Minnesota fashion.  With subtle passive-aggressive hints.  However, not only are the gym goers horrible at this, but the staff is the worst at it as well.  When a personal trainer gets done with a client, everything gets left exactly where it is.  In the middle of the floor.

So why do I go to this gym?  Aside from being the closes to my work and to home, it has more of the equipment that I use.  Whereas the other ones within a reasonable driving distance lack what I want.

Muscle Confusion & Tracking Progress
These are both bi-products of the routine that we used in high school and to this day I still use both of them when forming my workout plan.

Tracking Progress:  I still make log sheets to take with me to the gym.  I write down the total reps and weight used for each set of each exercise.  I compare my current weeks results with the last time I did the same workout to make sure that I am progressing towards my goals and improving where I need to improve.  

Muscle Confusion:  Each week is different from the last.  The high school workout plan was the same lifts on the same days for a set time, then you changed them up.  They were still the same exercises, just done on a different day.  Each week differs in the set/rep used.  Week one in high school was 3X3, week two 5X5, week three 5-4-3-2-1, and week four was 10-8-6.  Then you would repeat.

One last random piece that has always stuck with me is that final set.  Did as many reps as you could.  You pushed until failure.  It is easy to say you’re done at the end of an exercise, but are you ever really, truly done?  Push yourself sometime and see how far you can go.  You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve.

PS:  Have a spotter watch you on that last set.
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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"What's In A Name?" Or "Soreness Abounds!"

What's In A Name?
I thought it would take me forever to come up with a name for this blog.  However I proved myself wrong and came up with the name fairly quickly . . . in under 30 minutes I would almost figure it to be a world record.

So why "A Merry Rogue"?  For those of you that know me, you also know that I play the part of Will Scarlet for the Robin Hood show at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival.  So "A Merry Rogue" seemed fitting being that fitness is a large part of playing that part.  It is also likely that you will see posts about stage combat, rehearsals, script writing and more.  So even though this blog was started based upon my efforts to get back into shape, it will likely develop into something different in the future.
Photo by James P Jordan Photography

One of the things I enjoy the most about playing Will at the renaissance festival is the people that I work with.  I couldn't ask for a better group of people to work with.  The friendship and relationship we have with each other plays a huge part in our group dynamic.  At any given time we are somewhere between The Three Musketeers and The Three Stooges.  There are more than three of us, but I can't really think of a more apt description.  As one of our co-horts and photographers Jim Jordan posted as a caption to the following photo: "Sean and the rest of the bunch have way too much fun doing this!".

I don't know about "way too much fun", but we definitely have a blast portraying these characters for 7 weekends every year.  Don't let the laughter fool you, we take our merriment making very seriously in Sherwood.  If by chance you see a serious face in our group, it is most likely that they are the object of the rest of our laughter. . . just ask Robin Hood himself!

I'm sure I'll be posting more on my work at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival in the near future, until then . . .

Soreness Abounds!

If you are someone who exercises, you know exactly what I am going to talk about.  If you aren't someone who works out but are considering starting, consider the following another tip an a warning.

It is only day two of my workout plan and I am sore from head to toe.  Last weeks workouts were mostly cardio and one day of light weights.  Nothing serious.  Just enough to get my body moving and the blood and sweat flowing.  Monday's workout on the other hand was intense.  A reality check if you will in where I am exactly in strength, flexibility, and endurance.  Today's workout (Tuesday) was much the same.  Needless to say, I am sore.

So why exactly am I sore?  Any strenuous activity that our bodies are unaccustomed to leads to physical stress on our muscles.  The stress causes our muscles to stretch, and even causes small tears in the muscle tissue.  That is the cause of the soreness, as well as how our muscles get leaner & stronger.  After all this stretching and tearing our muscles rebuild themselves to adapt to the new activity and become stronger as a result.

So what do you do about the soreness?  Push through it!  Keep going.  The only way to get past the muscle soreness is to keep up the activity.  If you stop and rest, then you have to restart all over again and you'll be just as sore as the last time.  I was always told that day 3 & 4 are usually the worst, and I have through experience found this to be true (I am really going to dislike moving tomorrow).

As always, stretch & warm-up before a workout or any physical activity.  Especially if you are sore!  It will only lead to injury if you don't.  If the soreness is accompanied by any sharp pains, STOP!  If you ever have any doubts what-so-ever, seek the advice of a medical professional.  I am not one, and you should take their advice or mine any day.

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Week 1 - The Beginning . . . well sort of

Aside from my “check-ins” that I will most likely do off and on throughout the week, I am going to try post a weekly update for those following along (as well as for myself).  I will give a recap of the past week, an outlook for the following week, and whatever random thoughts happen to spill out along the way.

I also want to point out that while I may give “tips” here and there that I am in no way a personal trainer, or anything of the like.  I’m am just a guy who has spent a lot of time in my life in the gym.  I enjoy it and I enjoy sharing that with people.  Always trust your “certified” professional when it comes to anything health, fitness, or nutrition related.  

So last week was the “warm-up” week, or week zero.  The plan was to do cardio(elliptical) all week and toss is a day or two of weights to get a feel for what weights I will use for each exercise.  Monday & Tuesday were elliptical only, Wednesday I added the weights. . . and that is where the week stopped for me.  Wednesday was an amazing workout, however during one of the lifts I felt a twinge or a tweak in my neck.  Ever since I have had a pinched feeling that goes from my neck down into the back/shoulder.  From what I can tell, I pinched a nerve.  So I spent the rest of the week nursing it.  Despite all that, for the week I did a grand total of 100 minutes of cardio on the elliptical and 20 minutes of weights.

I know if my first note had stated that it is more important just to make it into the gym and do something and that it doesn’t have to be exactly the workout you planned.  So you only made it to the gym and did 20 minutes on the treadmill. . . well, that’s 20 minutes more than not going at all.

Herein lies my next bit of advice when working out.  Don’t let the fact that you had to take a day (or 4) off from your workout get you down.  Over doing it will only make injuries worse & more frequent.  Take it easy and don’t obsess/stress about it.  Take the down time your body needs and then get back in the gym when you can.  

Once every four weeks I plan to weigh in and I will share that information here as well.  I am also taking measurements at the same time, which is something I have never done before.  I will most likely not share those until I make my goal at the very end.  

I did weigh myself at the beginning of last week even though today is my “official” start.  Today I weighed myself and took full measurements (I seem to be stepping on the scale an awful lot for a guy who claims not to be focused on weight!).  Last weeks weight was 266, today’s was 260!!  I’m sure there is a bunch of factors that equal to that -6lbs, but it makes me happy non-the-less.  

So when I say that I am not someone who is to focused on weight, what I mean is that if at the end of this I fit back into my pants from a little over a year ago but end up gaining a ton of muscle and end up at 225 lbs instead of 220 . . . I will be perfectly happy with that.

When people ask advice about losing weight, one of the things I tell them is not step on the scale very often.  Do it at specific intervals during your weight loss plan.  Once a month is a great time in my opinion.  A lot of people over obsess about their weight on a day-to-day or weekly basis.  There are so many variables that can affect your weight day in and day out.  

That six pounds I lost since last week can come right back for many reasons.  With my workout plan, I will be gaining a lot of muscle the first couple of weeks.  With that comes an increase in weight.  It is after week 3 or week 4 that I will actually start to see a change in the number I see on the scale.  Even though my weight may increase, my pants may start to fit better.  For a lot of people, they’ll think “hey!  my clothes are loose!”.  Yet the second they step on the scale and see and increase, or no change in weight, and they get depressed.  

Wait until the first month is over to weigh in.  You’ll see greater results, and more accurate for that matter.  

One thing that I would like to mention is that my workout plan is focused mostly on exercises where I will end up gaining muscle.  Creating lean muscle mass causes in increase in metabolism.  The more lean muscle you have, the more calories you will burn throughout the day.  Because my plan focuses on weights and not on cardio, I will see an increase in weight before I see a decrease in weight.  If you are focusing on a cardio plan, that increase won’t be as apparent to you.  Your gender, age, body type & diet are also varying factors in this equation.

So it begins!  
In my weekly forecast, I will provide a little more detail into the plan that I have laid out for myself.  At this point, I have no idea how long these workouts will take me.  These workouts may adjust here and there due to time.

Monday, Wednesday, Friday
These three days will be weights.  Each of these days the actual exercise used will be a variation from the exercises used in the other two days.  

One thing I kept from the Bigger, Faster, Stronger workouts in high school is that each week I change the set/rep each week.  While I am doing the same routine each week, I am hitting the muscles in a different way.  First week is 3 X 10, where I do 3 sets of 8-10 reps for each of the weights exercises.  In the weights exercises, I hit ever part of my body, head to toe, one exercise per area.  

After weights will be Abs/Core exercises.  These will not change much each week.  I will shoot to do 15-25 reps per exercise.  

After Abs/Core will be Cardio.  I will either do Plyrometrics or the Elliptical, or both, depending on how much time I have left for my workout.

Tuesday & Thursday
These days will be the Kettle Bell workout & cardio/elliptical.  

Why Kettle Bell?  Because I love it!  The workout I have put together hits just about every part of my body and many of them are “combo moves” that use more than one part of your body’s muscles to complete the movement.  There is also a huge focus on core muscles and balance as well as the fact that it gets you sweating & breathing hard.  A good combination of weights and cardio all in one.

These may vary a bit on the rep/set.  I find that 2 sets of 8-10 seems to work pretty well, but I will allow myself the freedom to change that up at times.  

For the cardio/elliptical, I plan to do about 30-45 minutes on the elliptical.  Although I may substitute in an P90X video now and then.  YogaX, CardioX, & KenpoX are all options.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Me vs. The Scale

First, I’d like to state that I’m not one for focusing on my weight.  When I’m healthy, I’m healthy.  It’s about how I feel and what I see in the mirror.  At 6’2”, I consider my healthy weight to be between 215 lbs and 220 lbs.  Since high school, about the lowest I have ever been is about 209 lbs, a bit thin in my opinion, but that was after suffering a herniated disc in my low back which prevented me from working out for quite a while and caused some muscle loss.  The highest I have been since high school is 265.  I found myself at that weight back sometime around 2001 or 2002.  

Ironically enough, that is where I find myself today.  Towards the end of December 2010 I was laid off for the first time in my life.  I was jobless for a little over two months.  Two months spent looking for work and not getting any exercise, not really getting out much either.  From there it was pretty much all down hill.  I did make it to the gym now and then, however I didn’t make it a priority, so it never really equated to any weight loss.

So what exactly am I going to do about it?  

My workout routines have constantly changed and evolved over the years.  I still use a lot of the things I learned in High School weights class where we used a program called B.F.S (Bigger Faster Stronger).  I’ve also added a lot of things through trial and error.  Taking exercises and workout formats I’ve read in magazines, books, blogs and even stuff from workout DVDs.   

The main theme this time around is “Simple”.  I tend to get too complex with my workouts and end up burning out on them.  Heading to a gym by yourself and being the only one doing a specific routine can be tiring and time consuming.  It’s not like weights class where you have a whole class of people doing the same routine and all tracking it and writing it all down.  Instead, this time around I am just setting some minimum goals that I need to achieve.  I do have my workout lists that I will bring with to the gym where I will track my sets, reps, & weight used, but I’m not going to force myself to do that each and every time I hit the gym.  

Minimum Goal #1:  Go to the gym 5 times per week and workout for 45 minutes.  That’s it, that’s all.  As long as I am doing something, I am burning calories.  Whether that “something” is a 45 minute weights & cardio workout or just 30 minutes on the elliptical & 15 minutes of stretching/movement . . . at least I will be doing something to work towards my end goal.  

Goal #2:  The “end goal”.  What is it exactly?  To lose 40 lbs (in truth it’s more like 45).  According to the “experts” they consider a healthy weight loss rate to be 1-2 lbs per week.  So roughly 20 weeks to get to my goal, give or take a few weeks.  

The actual format of the workout plan I intend on doing goes as follows:

Week 1:  That would be this week.  The plan for this week is to “ease” back into a regular schedule of working out.  I’ve tried several times over the past two months to get back into the gym and failed each time.  The first time I over did it and strained a few muscles.  Then of the coarse everything else was a priority!  Work, the holidays, gaming, sleeping . . . being lazy!!  Yesterday and today were spent on the elliptical.  45 Minutes yesterday and 35 minutes today.  Plus some stretching.  The rest of the week will be much the same.  I’ll take two of the last three days of the week to lift some weights so that I know what weight I need to use for each exercise.

Week 2 and Beyond:  I plan on using a combination of traditional weight lifting, Kettle Bell, and Cardio for my weekly routine.  Each week will vary from the prior week.  I will also start restricting myself on how much time I spend at the gym.  I will not spend more than 45 minutes lifting weights on the days that I lift.  On the days that I lift, I generally spend about 20-30 minutes on the elliptical afterwards . . . So an hour and fifteen minutes max.  
Weight Lifting:  The routine is pretty basic. Hit all major muscles groups. Each week will be a change in the set/rep format. 3 X 8-10, 5 X 5, & 5-4-3-2-1 are the ones that I usually stick to. Once in a while I’ll use the machines to keep it simple. Hit each machine and you’ll typically hit each muscles group.

Kettle Bell:  I’ve fallen in love with this type of workout. I’ve always enjoyed exercises that worked several different areas at once and Kettle Bell is great for that. It adds a combination of strength training and cardio. These will almost always follow the 3 X 8-10 set/rep format.

Cardio:  My typical cardio workout is done on the elliptical machine or the stair stepper machine. I also use the Plyrometrics video from P90X at times to change it up. On lifting days, I usually use the Fat Burner setting which requires a lower heart rate (about 130-140 for me) than the Cardio workouts. On days where I don’t lift, I’ll use a workout setting that requires a higher heart rate. 

Other:  I always leave it open for other options, depending on how sore I am or what mood I am in, I always allow myself room to change it up. The gym I go to has some free group classes that I may look into participating in. The two that I am interested in is a Spin Class, and a Movement Class. Spin of coarse is stationary bikes, Movement is all exercises that replicate movements in life with weights. Pushing, pulling . . .etc. 

I am not the type of person that counts calories.  I’ve tried several times and have failed.  I am someone who loves to cook and loves to be creative.  I don’t eat a lot of unhealthy foods.  Most of what we buy and eat in our house in non-processed foods.  Not exactly “organic”, but real vegetables, fruits and the like.  

One of my biggest problems in portion size, especially when my lifestyle is not really active.  Like most people, I was always told to finish what was on my plate before I could leave the table.  I just need to dish up less and I’d probably be fine.  Also planning on adding more vegetables to my diet.  Currently meat makes up a majority of my diet, followed by bread.  Could do with a bit less of both & a bit more of the vegetables.

I am also cutting back on alcohol intake.  If you are someone interested in calorie counting, check out how many calories you intake when drinking alcohol.  It will surprise you.  

I am not someone who takes supplements for gaining muscle or the like.  I do partake in protein shakes and vitamins, but nothing specific to weight loss or muscle creation.  

So there it is!  Should all go as planned, I will have attained my goal by the end of May.  Just in time for all those trips to the cabin, the beach, . . . renaissance festival practices, parades for fest . . . so on and so forth.

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