Thursday, November 7, 2013

Countdown to TTC: Week 41

Oliver After Weight Training

Strength Training

Last week it dawned on me that maybe my plan of eating less and exercising the same amount as I have been for the past year or so wasn't going to result in the kind of change in fitness that I am hoping to achieve.  I do want to weigh less, ideally, but I really want to be physically ready for the challenges of pregnancy.  Even during the times when I lost a substantial amount of weight, I never really felt that I had increased in strength, flexibility, or endurance.  Usually, I felt weaker but also thinner and lighter.  As I've mentioned before, that won't do for this year's goals.  

But as obvious as it sounds that I need to add strength and flexibility training to my routine, I was really reluctant to do so.  I don't want to reduce the amount of cardio I've been doing substantially--partly because that might actually cause me to gain weight instead of maintaining the status quo and partly because it's the kind of exercise I find most tolerable (at least I can watch my shows).  And there are only so many hours in the day.  So, I have started to add strength and flexibility training in small, tolerable ways with minimal equipment.  My workout gear consists of (1) tennis shoes, (2) three and five pound weights (I like the kind with the non-slip coating that don't leave your hands smelling like metal), (3) a sturdy wall, (4) a sturdy chair, and (5) an inexpensive thigh workout device.  I think someone can make a perfectly good strength and flexibility routine out of these few items, but there are a couple of additional things on my wish list, such as a plush yoga mat, an exercise/stability ball, wrist weights for walking, and maybe some resistance bands.  As a person with very minimal upper body and core strength, here's what I have been trying so far:

  1. Twenty wall pushups and a few squats any time I go into the restroom at work and there is no one else in the room.  The handicap stall has a fairly sturdy wall and enough room to do these moves while locked into the stall, so in case someone comes in they won't see my mini-workout.  If you have your own office instead of a cubicle or are at home most of the day, this would be even more doable.
  2. A few minutes of stretching after my cardio workout.  This is the time when my muscles are most warmed up and I am at my most flexible.  I can even bend over and touch the floor sometimes if I stretch enough.  Eventually, I plan to build this up to a 15 or 20 minute yoga or Pilates video a couple times a week.
  3. Brief but challenging core training.  My core strength is pretty weak, so I will feel the burn the next day if I do a few arms-up full situps and about 10 Pilates criss-cross exercises.  This is enough usually to wear me out, but if I have any strength left I will do some crunches or leg lifts.  Hopefully, my stamina will improve over time.  I am working up to the 12 minute seated core workout video that's available for free on SparkPeople.
  4. Extra weight lifting and gravity-based leg workouts when I have time.  I will usually do 10 or 20 dumbbell curls, another 20 two-arm tricep extensions (where you hold the weight behind your head and lift up), and then just spend some time doing leg lifts and balancing my weight.  Unlike my cardio workout, I don't have a particular routine.  I just pull something from memory from the various strength training workouts I have done that targets an area I want to strengthen, and then I keep doing it until I feel the muscle getting tired.  Eventually, I would like to work up to a more specific, measurable plan.  

What about you?  Do you have a favorite strength or flexibility training routine that works for you?  Any suggestions on where to find a strength training plan that starts with the lowest level of ability and keeps you feeling motivated and continuing to see improvements?  How do you know when to increase the weight or try something different?  What has been the greatest fitness milestone you've passed?  I'd love to hear from you, so please share your thoughts below.

For more in this countdown series, see last week's challenge about Tracking My Eating.