Monday, October 1, 2012

Exercise Made Easy

Since +Terry Romero and +John Stavropoulos said they've been getting back to exercise with [my] swole kick ass workout, I think it only fair to come clean about what I'm doing, and the simple rules of thumb I've been using. Bear in mind that my goal has been to get fit and healthy, but I have to be patient with my post-stroke body, so I haven't set any time or weight targets.

If I can't do a set of 8 reps, with good form then the weight is too heavy.
If I can do a set of 12 reps with good form then the weight is too light.
If I hurt and thus can't function the next day, the weight is too heavy,
If I get the weight wrong but do a set anyway, i.e. the weight was too light, then that's the set I did that day. I know better for next time.
If I did better than the last time on at least one exercise, then that is progress, and that's all I ask for.
If I look at what anybody else is doing, then I'm an idiot: I have no idea if they even have a clue, nor what their goals are, nor what their history is.
If I am comfortable, rather than putting in a somewhat uncomfortable amount of work, then I am doing it wrong.
If I am not certain how to use a piece of equipment, then I ask. Not only are there people paid to tell me, but they are also glad to help.
If I weigh a pound or two more or less, I don't care. A 5-day moving average is a better measure. (Same with BP which I track more.)

The first two are really the core of what I have been doing when it comes to free weights. I'm doing an upper body/lower body split program, with each half twice a week and going to Pilates on the other days. I was swimming on the Pilates days, but my stuff got nicked; I'll be back either when I find my old goggles, or can afford new ones.

For a workout, I warm up for 5 minutes on a recumbent bike (the other kind hurts my ass), always following the rule about not getting comfortable. If you can read while doing anything at the gym, you are doing it wrong. Then I go straight in to the weights; I'm using dumbbells more than anything else, because that works my stability most. I do two sets to go for a low volume, high intensity program that is quite efficient. The first is a warm-up set at about 60% of the weight of the second set, and I'm aiming for muscle failure in the second. Then I add some cardio: rowing machine on lower body days. 

Finally, I stretch for about 40-60 minutes a day, covering all of the major muscle groups. This seems pretty essential for me, if I want my right side to function correctly, but unless you want a laughable range of motion, you will stretch, too.

Because I'm a big nerd, I want to be as efficient as possible, and to be measurable. Two sites in particular have been helpful: +Fitocracy, and ExRx. Fitocracy has been great for keeping me honest, but also for tracking what exercise I did at what weight, and allowing me to see clear improvement, week on week. The community is cool, and knowledgeable, and has something to offer pretty much every fitness goal. You can find me as Ironcinder.

ExRx is an equally valuable site that has imagery for almost every imaginable exercise. When I put together the program I use now, I went there. When it's time to change it up, I'll go back. Also useful was the /fitness sub-Reddit.

Allow months to pass before you feel the benefits. Avoid pain, concentrate on feeling good (because you should be), and don't be crazy: I loved my uncle, but I'm still mad at him for having a fatal coronary on an exercise bike. There is no excuse for not starting now. Your future self is more likely to be around to thank you.