iconage with an excuse

The boy and I joined a gym recently, which means that for the first time in my life, I’m trying to exercise just for the purpose of exercising. That is, I’m not taking dance classes to prepare for a recital, or doing summer swim team with organized meets; I’m just going to the gym and doing stuff to be in better shape. This is a new experience for me.

Because I’m still having fun with all my glorious new icon space, I have an exercise icon; I figure Demi Moore doing a one-armed pushup in G.I. Jane is a good inspiration/motivator/what-have-you, because man, she was hard in that movie. (Edited to add: Also, a pic of Hillary Swank in Million Dollar Baby just seemed a little too ominous for my taste.)

This also seems a good chance to pimp something I encountered a while ago (I think from gollumgollum, though I’m not sure): Stumptuous.com. It’s written primarily as a weightlifting site for women, but honestly, half or more of its information is good for men, women, small children, and other humanoid creatures; things like the lowdown on sets, reps, tempo, periodization, nutrition, cardio, and the like are useful for everybody. If you’re a woman, though, you may particularly appreciate the advice that has specifically to do with female body structure and the difficulties that may arise from working out during your period. (I’d say go look at the pictures for inspiration, but the link to the photos seems to be broken.)

I’ve started out with just some very very basic cardio, keeping it easy because right now I think my biggest challenge is simply getting myself into the habit of going to the gym. Time enough to push myself into harder workouts when I’m used to working out in the first place, right? But I’m looking into picking up a bit of weightlifting (hence browsing Stumptuous) because, frankly, I want to look utterly smashing in my wedding dress, and most of them seem to be strapless. ^_^ Plus, y’know, upper body muscle doesn’t suck to have. I’m also stretching again; I love doing it, but apparently need a reason to do it (like an evening of dancing, or a workout I just finished). I’ve often tried stretching for its own sake, and can never make a habit of it. It’s also the one area of my workout that I have experience and familiarity with, where I can not only understand what I’m doing but choose reasonable goals for my progress. Step one: get my front splits back, reliably. (I’m close, but only get them after I’m warm.) Step two: get my side splits to not suck. Step three: get my side splits to the wall/walkover point. (Is there any purpose in pushing myself that far? No, because I’m not a ballet dancer anymore. But dammit, I want my 180 back. Or at least the 178 or so I used to have.)

I’d be interested in hearing advice from the peanut gallery, since I’m so very new to this whole “gym” thing.

0 Responses to “iconage with an excuse”

  1. mrissa

    I went to look at the stuff on menstruation, and the “substantial variation among women” doesn’t seem to really…describe what some of that variation might be, except that something like a third of women kick ass during their periods. The other variations might be…what? Am I missing a section where they talk about the other two-thirds of women, or some examples of how these variations have been examined?

    I often fuss at the handling of split populations in medical testing — where are they saying “no provable link” when what they mean is “some do and some don’t, demonstrably,” etc.

    • Marie Brennan

      Hmm. Maybe I am misremembering that section; I seem to recall a more in-depth discussion of it somewhere, but I am not turning it up in the “ick” article, which is where my memory wanted it to be. It could be she took down or modified whatever I read before, because I thought somewhere she talked about women for whom working out during that time is an unpleasant prospect.

      • mrissa

        I think the phrase I want here is, “Anemics don’t want increased blood flow.” And if someone had helpful articles in that direction, I would appreciate it. I’m scared to post to my own lj, though, because some well-meaning people invariably have great difficulty not ordering me to do whatever form of exercise has gone well for them during their period (and assuming I haven’t tried it), because “X will make your cramps go away!” I have a hard time keeping my temper for more than three repetitions of, “It didn’t, actually.”

  2. ombriel

    Ooh, thank you for that link.

    I really enjoy working out, but it’s usually the first thing to go when I get busy. :~/ That’s one thing I love about having a bellydance class every week I’ve paid for in advance–I have to go, or I’m losing money.

    • Marie Brennan

      It’s hard to remind oneself (or make oneself believe) that the hour spent exercising means all your other hours will probably be more productive.

  3. unforth

    I took a class on women’s fitness a few years ago. The first big question ya need to ask yourself is (this is probably on that site but I don’t have time to look!) why are you doing this? General fitness? Build muscle mass? etc. cause that will effect what and how you choose to do, weight lifting wise. Very basically, if you want general fitness, you do the same weight more reps. If you want muscle mass, you do the same number of reps, more weight.

    I like weight lifting, though not enough that I find I’m able to make myself do it for no reason. 🙂 Good luck!

    • Marie Brennan

      One of the things Stumptuous vigorously debunks is the notion of “toning” by doing a lot of reps at low weight (which doesn’t sound like what you meant, but I wanted to bring it up). She does pay attention, though, to the different reasons people might want to take up weightlifting, and the differences that might mean for how you approach it.

  4. coyotewatches

    Just your typical guy coyote poking his now in somewhere he probably isn’t wanted… Hey, its my job!!!

    It sounds like you going about it correctly. Start slow, stretch ALOT, and keep in your zone so the enjoyment remains. What typically happens is that someone will start working out, get excited, and push themselves to far too fast and injure something. A day or so of muscle pain could be considered an injury depending on the severity of it. You should feel a fairly pleasant rush of energy after every workout. If not, then something went crooked.

    Take it slow at first, keep good nutrition and liquids going, and then about the time you start to feel comfortable up it up just a “slight” notch until you feel comfortable again. Once you get to a certain level THEN you can go nutso cause your body will be ready to take the stress of said nutsoing.

    I just made that up… nutsoing. Did you flinch when you read it? I hope so… *grin*

    • Marie Brennan

      Nah . . . “nutsoing” doesn’t sound like corporate-speak, which is the thing that will make me break out in hives the fastest.

  5. nconstruct

    I can tell you what I know that works.

    3 types a week:
    Stretch: 3 minutes~ish. It doesn’t take much to prevent injury.

    Warmup: Cario (usually the elliptical machine or treadmill) for 5 to 6 minutes. Just enough to get the heart rate up.

    Weights: for 30~ish minutes. I’d recommend low weights with high reps and very little wait time. This way it won’t build bulk and adds a cardio aspect to the whole experience.

    Cardio: 30 minutes with any machine for as hard as you can do it. Don’t push yourself since this is where I injure myself the most. The treadmill proves the fastest results but one mistake and ouch.

    Cooldown: 5~ish minutes taking it easy on either the elliptical machine or treadmill

    Thats that. Just over an hour total for 3 times a week. I spend another hour everyday that isn’t a lifting day either at the gym doing cardio or running. When I’m not doing that it usually means that I was able to get out on my bike for a few hours.

    Beyond that all I can say is research research research. I change up my lifting routine every 4 weeks and try not to stick to only one type of cardio. There is always more information coming about so stay abreast.

    • Marie Brennan

      Stumptuous and a few other things have made me very dubious about the whole “won’t build bulk” thing, and also the cardio/weight combination. The former, at least as it’s usually advertised, is kind of a specious idea (either you’re building muscle tissue or you aren’t; the question is how much you’re trying to build), and the latter tends to mean you’re not doing either very well (since your body is in different modes when doing those two things). But your general outline sounds about like what I’m aiming for, with the one alteration being that interval training rather than straight endurance cardio is probably best for burning fat.

      • nconstruct

        I lost about 30 pounds the first 3 months doing that and proper diet. It was one of Those things that I didn’t notice until it was done. I refused to weigh myself the entire time though I did take a picture of my physique every month. Now, 6 months from the beginning I’m not any bigger, but my body is very firm. Basically I have to start practicing yoga soon to ensure flexibility remains.

        That was a very long winded way to say that no matter how you go about it as long as you are consistent with the proper routine you’ll see results.

        Don’t forget these resources:

        Great site but you have to dig a bit to find the plethora of free material

        The spin off from Men’s Health magazine. The site is fantastic, well organized, and free.

        I know its not directly your thing, but if I can pilfer the recipes from ‘Women’s Health’ the reverse same applies to here.

        I have tons of other places bookmarked if you need more resources. Let me know.

    • squishymeister

      this is all very good, accept I’d have to caution away from a warm up on an elliptical unless you are already in shape. Those machines will really skyrocket your heart rate, where as it’s much healthier to walk 3-3.5 mph on a treadmill. Once you have to start working a little harder to get that pumper going, then by all means warm up/ cool down on the ellipse.

      • nconstruct

        I do it because its easier on the knees. Those I’m holding out on replacing for as long as necessary.

        • Marie Brennan

          Yeah, given my troubles historically with my ankles and knees, I’m looking for low-impact cardio. I hatehatehate running, but the elliptical isn’t bad at all. It is true, though, that I hit target heart rate in something less than a minute on that machine.

        • squishymeister

          ahhh, that makes perfect sense then! For some odd reason those machines make my feet (toes) go numb. I can usually last about 15 minutes before it starts, and then I usually think it’s wise of me to move on, hehe.

  6. fallenrose

    I took “Women’s weight-lifting” in college, and I enjoyed it a lot. I would love to get back to it, but I’ve been assuming I’d need to use machines again and I HATE trying to adjust them for my 5’2″ height – it’s nearly impossible. After checking out that site, maybe I’ll just add some more free weights…
    But I -really- need to get back in the habit of stretching often. I’m getting all stiff. :/

    • Marie Brennan

      Yeah, machines aren’t designed well for small women. I can get them okay for me, but I may just do mostly freeweights instead.

  7. clodfobble

    “…and the difficulties that may arise from working out during your period. (I’d say go look at the pictures for inspiration…”

    Those two phrases should not be next to each other. I really thought for a moment that you’d gone off the deep end linking to weird pseudo-fetish pics. Yes, I’ll admit I’m a little messed up in the head.

  8. squishymeister

    My 2 cents

    As somebody who has been obbsessed with weight loss and excersize for years, I’ll give you what works as far as “getting in shape” this isn’t a hard core work out, and it’s more designed around my needs, and I’m much heavier than you, but it’s what I’ve got.

    I usually stretch first, duh. Then I’ll do a 5 minute “warm up” on the treadmill slowly building from 2.0 mph to 3.5 mph, increasing it by about 3 tenths every minute, and holding the 3.5 for 2 minutes. Then I increase the speed to comfort range (I walk, so it’s usually only another 3-5 tenths for me) and continue to walk for another 15 minutes. After that I do my weights. I will focuss on one muscle group, and do 3 sets of 10 rep with 12 on the last set. Then I go to the elliptical machine and do another 15 minutes of cardio with a 5 minute cool down.

    That’s what I do if I’m doing weights. If I’m just going for cardio I’ll do 10 minutes on the tread, then 10 minutes on the elliptical, then 10 minutes on the bike.

    Why? I hate working out, mostly because it’s sooooo boring. I can’t read because it’s too bouncy, and I own minimal amounts of music to listen to. The reason the first variation works, is I’m tricking myself into 30 minutes of cardio, and about 45 minutes to an hour of having my heart rate increased…which when it comes down to it, is all you’re really trying to do. You start out on cardio because that way your blood is flowing and your heart rate is up, that way when you do your weights, it’s not hard to keep it above normal, which give you a 2 birds one stone sorta thing…you are building muscle, and actually continuing your “cardio” workout! Then because I’ve sora forgoten how much I was hating the tread, I’ll do a dif machine for 15 minutes, and then cool down, and I’m done. It brings you up, keeps you there, and brings you down again, with lots of variety.

    For the second variation, the reason I do 3 machines is again, because I’m bored. I find setting a goal of 10 minutes on a machine (I hope to eventually get it up to 20 per) is a lot more handleable than a full half hour on one machine. And once I switch machines I feel like I’m setting my mental re-start button, and can do another 10 minutes. and so on.

    Important things to note is that
    1. your cardio work out does not need to be all at one time. Experts used to say that you needed 20 minutes straight heart rate at fat burning (about 150 for our age group) to be in shape. this is not the case! It doesn’t matter if you have 4 different 5 minute workouts throughout the day, as long as your heart rate is elevated for a total of 20 minutes (preferably more) a day.
    2. There is no such thing as “toning” muscle. You are either building muscle, or you aren’t doing anything.
    3. Do not over do it! I think you already fully understand this one. Don’t drive yourself nuts with the workout. If you don’t like something, don’t do it. If you just want to walk for 10 minutes and then your done, great! it’s better than nothing. If you insist on a full hour workout every time you go, you’ll start hating it. This is my biggest challenge, because if I’m there, I want to make it count. and that leads us to
    4. heart rate. find out what your resting heart rate is, it’s just good to know. If your goal is getting in shape, then do not worry about getting it up to the 165-170 range of the “cardio” workout. It’s not necessary. That’s the target heart rate for athletes. If all you want is to be in shape, then 140-150 is okiliy dokily!

    Hope some of that helped…and it wasn’t all just repetition of stuff you already know 😛

    • nconstruct

      Re: My 2 cents

      I’m with you on the switching up on the machines, though not out of boredom. Not sticking to one routine, type of machine, etc., ensures that the body doesn’t get used to it. It speeds up the process of shedding fat which makes it easier to do the rest of the working out thing. If I could find that article I’d throw it up here.

      • squishymeister

        Re: My 2 cents

        true that! every cardio uses different combinations of stuff. And keeping your body guessing is always a good thing 🙂

    • Marie Brennan

      Re: My 2 cents

      Two tips for you, that I picked up on Stumptuous: interval training (shifting between high-intensity and low-intensity cardio, i.e. sprinting and walking) is apparently the best bang for your buck when it comes to burning fat, for reasons nobody is quite able to explain yet; also, focusing on weight training can be really helpful for people who are overweight, because it will make your body work (i.e. burn calories) without stressing your joints the way a lot of aerobic work will. (Also, the more muscle tissue you have, the more calories you burn just sitting on your ass — a product of the way your body fuels itself.) So you might want to try tinkering with these approaches a bit and see what kind of results you get. As with everything else, your mileage may vary, but it’s always worth a shot.

      • squishymeister

        Re: My 2 cents

        yes! I’ve heard of, and have done both of those things, and they are ABSOLUTELY the truth. At the moment I’m in the same boat as you on the going to the gym, in that I just need to get myself in the habit, so I’m not always doing weights, just cause it takes sooo much longer and I’d rather not eat dinner after 8:00, but when I’ve had muscle it’s helped increase the metabolism which in turn makes the scale move a little more at a pace I enjoy, and helps make the cardio a little easier.

        As for the interval training, it’s a great idea! I used to do a class at the SRSC on the tredmill that an instructor would lead us through a 20 or 30 minute excersize timing us on the switcheroos. They would not only interval speeds, but incline too. It was nice because I think the work out worked so much better, and it also broke it up into little 3 minute segments, and as you saw earlier, I’m all about breaking up a work out into small edible chunks. I’m planning on going back to it, but at the moment I’m too heavy to really do any running at all. It’s too hard on my knees, ankles, and asthma. But I’ll get back there eventually. For now it’ all level one and walking slower than 4.o MBH (I’m trying to not feel lame about it, but that’s where I am right now hehe)

        Thanks for the link on Stumptuous! Good stuff in there!

  9. gollumgollum

    Stumptuous!1 That was me. In fact, i just started up at the gym again and i couldn’t remember what that was called (as all of my bookmarks got hosed a while back). Badass. Thanks. (:

    Good luck with the working out. I’ve found that the iPod utterly transformed my workout–i went from twitchy and bored to occupied and motivated. Word, yo.

    And i bet you rock your wedding dress. *grin*

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