Saturday, January 14, 2012

Health and Fitness Plan 1.0

I was always a nose-in-a-book kid rather than a get-outside-and-play kid. In fact, when my parents would kick me out of the house to get some sunshine I'd bring a book out with me. Some people are active by nature. They love to be moving and get antsy when stuck in one spot for too long. I can disappear into a quiet activity for hours at a time and never once feel the need to get up and stretch.

As a kid, this tendency to be sedentary wasn't too much of an issue. My weight stayed mostly under control exercise free. Several times during my twenties I would half-heartedly begin an exercise program only to abandon it a few weeks later. Even then, the weight was not a major issue. Two children later, with my age creeping towards a whole new decade, I am getting a little frustrated with my weight. I have the 10-15 pounds I didn't lose after the two pregnancies in a row, and a slow steady creep upwards since then.

My husband, completely on his own, was also coming to the conclusion that he wanted to begin to exercise as well. Now that the children are a little older, we are all sleeping better, and there's a little more "free time" in our schedule, I was willing to commit a tiny bit of that time to exercise. Not too much, mind you, just a little.

We decided on 15 minutes a day. Start to finish it is 20. In order to actually accomplish that regularly, we wanted to chose a consistent time of day. We had tried the wake up before the kids and exercise plan before only to fail miserably at sticking with it. This time we decided to do the 15 minutes right after we put the children to bed. That's something we do at approximately the same time 7 days a week. If we exercise immediately after the children are in bed, we can still have 60-90 minutes for other activities before our bedtime.

We alternate days. The first day I'll do aerobic while he does strength training and the next day we switch. That's between 45-60 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week and 3-4 sessions of muscle strengthening activity a week. This page on the CDC website says that 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity and 2 sessions of muscle strengthening activity is the minimum recommended weekly amount for an adult. Well, I figure our current regimen is a heck of a lot better than the nothing we were doing before, so this isn't a bad start.

If I decide to increase my elliptical days to 20-25 minutes I'd be closer to that recommendation (60-100 minutes per week). I'd have to do 45 minute elliptical sessions to meet the 150/week average and I'm just not willing to commit that much time yet. I'm pretty sure I couldn't sustain it. I think it is more important to establish a shorter routine I can sustain than a longer one I give up in two weeks.

We have an elliptical machine we bought shortly after we got married that was supposed to be the foundation of our fitness. Well, it worked well for a few months. Then it gathered dust for years during my pregnancies and the first few parenting years. Now we're dusting it off again. I found a great app for my iPhone by lolo that takes my music and uses it to make an interval style plan for my elliptical machine. The program lets you choose the difficulty level you want, and the length of the workout and it does the rest. So, I tell it 15 minutes and then it plays my music and tells me the resistance level to change the machine to every minute or so. It controls your pace by choosing music that has certain beats per minute and can even modify the beats per minute slightly to get you to speed up or slow down slightly.

lolo also has upper and lower body weight training programs, but I didn't like them as much. I found the music distracting and didn't like matching my exercise repetitions to their arbitrary pace. Instead I designed my own weight training routines. I pulled out some dusty books I had bought years ago. Strength Training Anatomy and Women's Strength Training Anatomy by Frederic Delavier. I really like these books and think they are extremely well done. I like the way it shows you through anatomical style drawings the exact muscle groups targeted by each exercise.

I designed three routines - an upper body, lower body, and abs/back/core routine. That way, I'll hit everything at least once over the course of the week. I used the books to identify the major muscle groups in each area and identified one exercise per muscle group. Each routine can be done in approximately 15 minutes, so it meets my requirements. All I need to do these workouts are a few different sets of dumbbells which I already owned.

My Upper Body Routine


  • Hammer Curls - biceps
  • Reverse Curls - outer forearm
  • Wrist Curls - inner forearm
  • Lateral Raises - deltoid
  • One-Arm Triceps Extensions - triceps


  • Dumbbell Presses - chest
  • Dumbbell Flys - chest

My Abs/Back/Core Routine


  • Crunches with Feet on Floor - upper abs
  • Leg Extension Circles - lower abs
  • Dumbbell Side Bends - oblique abs


  • Plank - Core-Abs
  • Torso Swimming - Core-Back


  • One-Arm Dumbbell Rows - latissimus dorsi, rhomboid
  • Dumbbell Shrugs- trapezius

My Lower Body Routine


  • Squats - quads
  • Floor Hip Abductions - outer thigh
  • Adductors on the Floor - inner thigh
  • Hamstrings on the Floor - hamstrings
  • Standing Calf Raises - calves


  • Floor Hip Extensions - glutes

Then I took a flashcard program I had bought to convert some of my artic decks into iPhone form for Ava and used it to make flashcard sets for the three programs. I took a picture of each exercise from the book and attached an audio file where I counted down either 60-90 seconds/exercise (Begin, halfway done, 15 more seconds, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.) Now I just flip through the flashcards, hit play, and work my way through each one ending at about the 15 minute mark. Lots of setup, but now everything is efficient.

And that's the plan at the moment. We're only about a week in, but we are actually both enjoying the brief workouts and find it gives us fresh energy to enjoy the time before bed. It also makes us feel a little more flexible, less creaky, and a little healthier and stronger during the day.

A decent beginning. Someone ask me if we're still keeping up with it in a month. I sincerely hope so/intend to.

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