Harder, better, faster, stronger

I hate working out.

Truly. Running laps? Bench pressing at the gym?

Ha. No thanks.

Fortunately, I’ve had pretty good genes and a high metabolism due to youth, so this hasn’t affected me much health-wise… until now.

For the first time in my life, I’ve spent the past year or so struggling with weight gain, muscle loss, and lethargy. In recent months my back has been strained, aggravated by hours spent sitting on my bed doing work and hunched over at my desk at my much-loved internship at South Bay Church.

My friend Erin tells me that a strained back is often the result of weak core muscles (in the abdomen), so she gave me several low-intensity strengthening exercises to hopefully relieve the problem. Knowing that I have no arm strength, she also suggested some (very) easy arm muscle-building practices to help me out. (Like, really, really easy. Baby exercises. I-can’t-do-a-single-push-up exercises.)

And you know what surprised me?

I’ve been keeping up with them.

For two and a half weeks now, I’ve been doing the exercises Erin gave me. It hasn’t been every day, and it hasn’t been exactly the same every time, but I’ve been making a sincere effort to actually work out for the goal of losing weight and gaining muscle, for the first time in my entire life.

I’m actually doing the exercises. Intentionally, repetitively, getting sweaty.

This is a HUGE deal for me.

You know what also surprises me? Exercising is do-able from a comfort standpoint. I strained my knees in dance my senior year of high school, especially my right knee, so too much bending and weight-bearing makes them hurt like the dickens. But Erin — herself nearly qualified as a physical therapist, since she’s been to therapy herself many times and has learned a lot from her PT — gave me exercises that don’t strain my knee very much at all.

Exercise is also do-able from an endurance standpoint. I frequently joke that I have no muscle strength at all, but I’ve actually been able to keep up with the exercises, pushing and challenging myself yet not feeling completely exhausted and over my head. For example, my arms are too weak for regular push-ups — I can’t even do one — but Erin has taught me about the awesomeness that are wall push-ups (hey, don’t knock it ’til you try it). I can feel the burn but not feel like I’m going to break my arms and split my body in half and immediately give up.

And the best part?

I’m already getting results. 🙂 Nothing too crazy yet, but crazy and exciting for me. I can feel muscles actually developing (and the pain that it takes to get there – oww), and I have more energy throughout the day. Getting to see your day-by-day efforts pay off, even in tiny increments, is always wonderful!

So here’s the list of exercises and stretches I’ve been doing. I’m posting them so that you can steal them and use them for yourself. They’re nothing fancy, nothing too impressive, and nothing ultra challenging (I’d need to step it up if I wanted to be truly in shape). But that’s exactly what I need, so that’s what I’m doing.

My current workout routine, in approximate order:

  • 15 triangle knee side lifts, 2 reps each side (no video, sorry)
  • 15 side leg lifts, 2 reps each side (video)
  • 8 minute abs (video), slightly modified to put less stress on my neck
  • Plank: regular (45 sec), left side (45 sec), right side (45 sec)
  • 50 wall push-ups (since I can’t do floor push-ups)
  • Bench press lying on floor, 50 lifts, 5 lb weight in each hand
  • Pec flies, 50 lifts, 5 lb weight in each hand
  • 50 standing lifts w/ proper stance: knees bent, back straight and slightly angled forward, arms straight down at slight angle
  • Approx. 20 minute cardio (many videos available on YouTube – so far I’ve liked this one)
  • Choreographed floor stretches I learned from jazz dance class, set to Sara Bareilles’ “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” and Amy Winehouse’s “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”
  • Brief choreographed sit-ups routine from jazz class, set to will.i.am’s “T.H.E [The Hardest Ever]”

I’ve been on summer break for two weeks, so this list of exercises & stretches is rather long. I have the scheduling flexibility where I don’t have anything to do during the day, so I can devote much more time to exercising than most people. If you don’t have this kind of time, don’t worry – do what you can with the time that you have. For me, some days (like today) consist of only getting through a few of the exercises (leg lifts, 8 min abs, cardio) rather than all of them. And on some days, being lazy is just too tempting, so I do nothing at all. Ah, well.

I would highly recommend to anyone who identifies with me — who feels like exercise is way too difficult, way too exhausting, way too time-consuming — to just check it out! Find exercises that you love and that are helpful to your body, and do them. Don’t give up or get lazy. If it’s walking 30 minutes a day, do it. If it’s four or eight-minute abs, do them. You still have 23 1/2 hours left in the day, and your body will thank you.

Have any suggestions for “easy,” manageable workouts that someone like me (with no muscle) could do and not feel hopeless? Feel free to post suggestions! I’m very open to advice 🙂

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2 thoughts on “Harder, better, faster, stronger

  1. Hey congratulations on the commitment and growth!
    And also thanks for the exercises, I have weak abs as well.

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