Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Back on Track!

Finally, I feel as though I'm back on track with my workouts. Last week I made it to the gym before 6 am Monday thru Friday, which considering my recent track record, that's pretty impressive!So far I'm really enjoying this new workout routine. I think I mentioned previously what my new routine is. But just in case, I'll go ahead and repeat what I'm doing here:

Monday - Chest (2), Shoulders (1), and Triceps (2)
Tuesday - Calf (2), Abs (2)
Wednesday - Cardio
Thursday - Back (2), Biceps (2)
Friday - Full leg (1), Quad (1), Ham (1)
Saturday - Cardio/optional
Sunday - Off

Anyway, there's the new routine and so far it's working great. Here are the main benefits that I've experienced so far: since I'm doing fewer overall exercises, I can really make sure that I focus my energy on the intensity of the workout and other factors, rather than just making sure that I hurry through everything so that I hit as many exercises as possible.I also wrote recently about my opinions on some of the cardio machines out there. The main thing is, right now I feel that resistance training is more important for what I'm trying to do. Even though I might consider myself in a cutting phase, I really focus my intensity of resistance training instead of cardio. That may change in the next while, but we'll see what happens.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Best Cardio Machine?

I think this is an age-old question, but today I want to address what I consider to be the pros and cons of some of the main cardio machines out there. Each one has their benefits of course, but I think that each can also be used for different situations. So let's get started:


Ah, the ever popular idea of running in place. I've read many articles that state that running on a treadmill is the best way to burn fat. And, in many cases I would have to agree with them. Some of the really nice things about treadmills is that they give you the same feeling as running in the country, but without the country smell. So the big pros to doing your cardio workout on a treadmill is that it is a great fat burner and cardio monster. Some of the down sides are that you experience the same impact that you would doing regular running, which depending on the condition of your knees might not necessarily be a really good idea. I experience another problem with treadmills, and from what I've gathered I'm the only person that I know that has this problem: for some reason whenever I do regular running or run on a treadmill, the skin on my legs gets incredibly itchy to the point that it burns and I have to stop running. The only way that I've found to counteract this is to lotion up my legs about 30 minutes before I go running (either outdoors or on a treadmill) and even then the burn might still show up. I should probably look into getting that checked out...

Elliptical Trainer

One of my personal favorites, the elliptical trainer gives you a really good workout with out the impact that the treadmill does. That is probably the biggest benefit to the elliptical. One of the problems that sometimes comes with an elliptical is that it is fixed in the way that it moves. If you've ever sat back and watched people run, you'll notice that different people move differently when they run. I have yet to notice a standard when it comes to every-day joggers. But on an elliptical, you have to fit the machine and that can become somewhat uncomfortable. In the gym that I go to there are only 2 elliptical machines that I like to use because my knees always hit the joints on the other ones because of my height. Other than that, I love using elliptical trainers!

Stationary Bike (Upright)

Another classic, the stationary bike has been around for a long time. For those of us with somewhat bad knees, these are great for staying low impact and also getting a good workout for the quad and other legs muscles. My wife and I both have some knee problems, and the doctor always says that riding a stationary bike is a great way to help that out. Overall the stationary bike is a great alternative for your cardio workout.

Recumbent Stationary Bike

This seems to be a relatively newer version of the old bicycle, and at first I have to admit I really didn't like it. What I've found since then is that it is a very deceiving cardio machine. Let me explain: when I first used a recumbent bike I felt like I wasn't getting much of a workout. Since then, I've found that over time you can work up quite a sweat with a recumbent bike. In fact, that's what my cardio workout was this morning and after about 30 minutes I was sweating really good! The other great feature of the recumbent bike, is that it is the easiest cardio machine to get a workout and some good reading at the same time!

So, when it comes to doing a cardio workout, I've found that its very important to mix up what you do on a rather consistent basis. Cardio is one of those things that can become very boring, so have some fun with it!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Keep on Rolling!

Things have been going well in the working out department. I've been following my new workout split and its turned to be a very good thing. The nice thing about spliting the exercises up a little bit more (in other words lifting a total of 4-5 days a week instead of just 3) is that if I need to I can keep the overall workout time shorter. This is especially nice when I go to the gym before 6 am so I have time to make it to school and other things by 8 (depending on what I have going on that day).

The other reason I'm enjoying this split is that it really allows me to focus on the intensity of the workout for just one or two body parts, instead of trying to make my whole upper body workout intense. I've found that in the past when I do a full upper or lower body workout I'll be rather intense for the first 1-2 body parts exercised, but by the end I just don't have any more juice in me for the same level of intensity.

lifetime fitness is hard to achieve, but with enough consistent work we can all reach it. I've noticed a huge difference over the last month or so in the remaining fat on my lower abdomen. As they say, that's the last part to go. My whole goal right now is to get below 9% bodyfat, and then go through a bulking phase to hopefully gradually work out of my natural skinny self. I plan on being successful, but only time will tell.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Is it Good to Have Sore Muscles?

I think we have all asked the question before: is it good to have sore muscles after working out? So what is the real answer? Personally, I think that the answer is YES! Now of course, you have to be careful with this, but before you just run off and disagree with me let me explain what I mean by this. Here's my reasoning: unless I'm sore the next day, I really start to question either if I used enough intensity in my workout or if I've been doing the same routine for too long and my body has acclimated to it. Either way, I start to be a little concerned if I don't feel at all sore after what I though at the time was a good workout. I like to have sore muscles after a hard workout because it makes me feel that the workout was actually effective!

The way I look at it, the hole point in doing
resistance training is to help the muscles grow. And we've all heard that muscles grow by rebuilding the micro-tears or whatever that are caused from an intense workout. So, if that really is the case, how you think that being sore isn't a good thing if you really are trying to build muscle?

I guess the reason I'm mentioning this is that I'm very glad to be sore today from my chest/shoulders/tricep workout yesterday. The main reason that I'm glad about this is because like I mentioned yesterday I just barely mixed up my routine, so I feel like I'm back on track to making even more progress. Of course, only time will tell...

Monday, September 11, 2006

Sept 11, 2006 - Workout Mixup

I've discovered that as soon as I am starting to get bored with a routine, I had better change what I'm doing and change it fast or else I'm going to find myself not going to the gym. That's what happened this last weekend. I've been following the Body-for-LIFE workout for the last 2-3 weeks, but felt that it was time to change. So, that's what I did! Here is the new workout split that I'm following:

Monday: Chest, Triceps, Shoulders
Tuesday: Quads and Hams
Wednesday: Cardio
Thursday: Back and Biceps
Friday: Calves and Abs
Saturday: Cardio
Sunday: Off

Since I'm trying to do more of a cutting cycle, I'm also trying to do at least 10 minutes of light cardio after my workouts every day. And, whenever I'm up to it I plan on doing some crunches/situps and pushups at night before I go to bed. My whole thought on this new split is to do only 2 exercises per body part, but make them intense. I'm also still following a 12-10-8-6-12 for the rep counts and sets, since I've found that by the end of that last 12 I really start to feel a burn. So anyway, feel free to let me know what you think!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Sept 7 and Sept 8 - Great Workouts!

So I finally did what I've been talking about all week - I sucked it up and made it to the gym the last 2 days in a row. Its sort of funny, but the situation of my baby and wife being sick hasn't improved any, but I did just what I suggested in a previous post where I just did my best to get to bed earlier so even if the worst happened, I would be able to get enough sleep to make it to the gym. So, as a personal testament, that plan works rather well!

It amazes me sometimes that I still have some energy at the end of the day given the pace that my life is going right now. Between family, work, school, and websites I keep myself plenty busy. Which seems to confirm my personal believe that even if you get up early in the morning to exercise, the fact that you are doing exercise tends to give you more energy to finish out the day. Or, part of the help could be the
fat burning supplement I'm taking right now, but even before I started taking that I noticed a definite difference.

Anyway, yesterday I had a really good lower body workout and today I had a really good upper body workout. I haven't decided yet how long I'm going to follow this same program, but I figure I should probably mix it up over the next 2 weeks or so.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Early Morning Workouts and Babies Not Sleeping

I know, excuses excuses excuses. But I have to confess that I didn't make it to the gym again this morning. Here's my idea of a perfect world at home: first of all, the baby would always sleep through the night. Secondly, no one in the family would be sick to where they aren't getting sleep or accidentally keeping anyone else up either. Unfortunately, I don't live in that perfect home world. Last night was just one of those nights where the baby woke up screaming several times, and another unfortunate thing is that my wife hasn't been feeling very well so she was doing a little more tossing and turning than normal.

So, here's the new thought on getting everything done: go to bed earlier and plan on not getting much sleep. The main root of my problem is that I haven't been preparing for the worst when getting ready for my next day. I always like to think "Hey, the baby's gonna sleep tonight, so if i go to bed right now (11:30 pm) I should be able to get somewhere around 6 hours of sleep!" Then something like last night happens and I only really get about 4 hours of sleep. So, the new plan has to be this: go to bed earlier so that if something unexpected does happen, it shouldn't really get in the way of making it to the gym in the morning. But, if the night does go smoothly, then I would get a bonus of a little extra sleep. There was a time in my life where it seemed that I could get only 5 or so hours of sleep and be totally fine. I guess those days are starting to disappear because over the last few months to a year or so I have developed this need to get at least something over 6 1/2 hours on a consistent basis to be able to function the whole week.

I don't know if I have mentioned this, but I am currently working out using the good old Body-for-LIFE program. Granted, I haven't exactly been following it to a tee, but I feel that it was a good way to get back in the program. Also, I am a big believer in following programs that promote
natural weight loss, but I'm not opposed to using supplements to get a little extra boost on things. I think the real problem comes in when people assume that all they have to do is take a magic pill and all there weight will magically disappear. Don't count on it. I had an uncle that took such a drug for a while and yes, he lost a lot of weight. But they then found out from doing more research that that particular drug had some possible very negative side effects, so he stopped taking it. Within a very short amount of time he was back to his original size. So let's all get back to the basics and do things the way they should be done.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Quality over Quantity?

So which is really more important when it comes to workout, quality of the workout or just making it to they gym every day. I think that this is one of those areas where you can easily be caught justifying an excuse not to go to the gym. Now don't get me wrong, there are some very valid reasons that someone might not make it to the gym every day. I've come up with a bunch of those reasons and made them excuses many times! But that doesn't change my question for the day. Let's say for example, that you were planning on going to the gym at 6 am in the morning, but didn't really get to sleep until about 1 am. So, you basically would get about 4 1/2 hours of sleep (assuming you could get up and out the door and make it to the gym in 30 minutes). I don't know about you, but whenever I've done that in the past, my workout has been pretty much worthless. But, if quantity is much better than quality, than it shouldn't matter.

I happen to be a believer that the quality of your workouts supercedes just mere quantity. I would much rather have 2-3 really good workouts in a week than 4-5 crappy ones where I just went for the quantity aspect of things. I think I remember reading in the Body-for-LIFE book that Bill Philips has similar beliefs, but I might be thinking of something else. But once again I think the danger really comes when someone will start to think every morning "oh, I'm too tired today again! Well, wouldn't want to have a crappy workout, so I'll try again tomorrow." And then tomorrow never comes because they keep putting it off. I know that I have been guilty of this in the past. So, here's my verdict on the whole thing: yes, quality is much more important than just mere quantity. But, if you catch yourself missing more than 2 days in a row because you think that the quality will be bad, then you better get your butt out of bed because at this point anything would be better than nothing!

I guess the reason I'm writing about this today is because the scenario that I mentioned above was exactly what happened to me this morning. So, tomorrow is a new day, and even if the quality is going to be really bad, I still plan on making it to the gym tomorrow morning just to make sure I don't slip into a "after the holiday" rut!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Cardio Mix

I've found recently that its a really good idea to always be mixing up the way you do your cardio workout. I'm not just talking about what machine you use (elliptical, treamill, stationary bike, etc.) , where you do your cardio workout (indoors, outdoors, etc.), but also the way you actually do the exercise. There has been a lot of talk over the last few years about "what is the best way to do a cardio workout?" Should one follow just a HIIT method (High Intensity Interval Training), or is it better to do a lower intensity, longer duration workout? My thought is, if both have been shown in different studies to be effective, then why not do both?

It seems to me that there are a lot of different ways that you can do cardio, and almost all of them are effective in some way (I'm sure there are some really wierd ideas out there, so that's why I don't say that all of them are necessarily effective.) so why not give yourself some variety? In my honest opinion, the more variety you put into your workouts from time to time, the more likely you are to stick with it for the long haul. One huge benefit to doing an HIIT workout is the amount of time it saves you. You can get in a really good cardio workout in about 20 minutes. But, if you have more time why not go longer than 20 minutes? I'm sure there is a point of diminishing returns, and if I ever learn where exactly that point is I'll be sure to mention it. Here's something that I like to do for my workouts: when its an early morning cardio workout, I'll usually go with an HIIT program because more often then not I don't have time to just spend an hour on the elliptical machine. But, on Saturdays and other days when I have time, I love doing a 30-45 minute cardio workout. Normally on days like that, I pick a particular speed or heart rate level to try and stick to for most of the time, and from time to time I'll throw in an extra little burst of energy. After a cardio workout like that, I have to admit that I feel great!

So here's the main thought for today: have some variety in your cardio workouts!

Friday, September 01, 2006

My Thoughts on Deadlifts

This morning I made it to the gym to do my lower body workout, and I found that although they are apparently a very good exercise for building size and strength, I really don't know that I like to do straight leg dead lifts. Let me explain why. Maybe I'm doing them completely wrong (which is very likely the case), but it seems that when I do dead lifts I get more of a stretching feeling than a burn. This would make sense since when you touch your toes you get a stretch, and this is a similar motion. The other thing that I don't really like about dead lifts is that by the time I'm done doing a set, its my hands that hurt from the exercise instead of my legs or lower back. Now don't get me wrong, I have had times when doing dead lifts that I definitely felt a good "I just got worked out" feeling in both my lower back and legs, but for some reason this morning I wasn't getting that same feeling. I think I might have just been in a very low energy mood this morning.

I have read several articles that say that dead lifts are one of the main mass building and strength building exercises that you can do. Many articles put it in the same category as the bench press and squats for how important it is. I think I just need to read up more on how to properly do dead lifts so that I can get the full benefit from them.