Feeling (a little less of) the burn.

April 25, 2008

I learned something about myself today.

(Oh by the way–hi readers! I guess my promised increase in blog posting over spring break didn’t quite materialize, as here we are on Thursday night–Friday morning, actually–and I’m only just now writing a new post. What can I say? I’ve been doing a lot of sleeping.)

…So, as I was saying. Learned something about myself. Today, after many days of lazing around NOT exercising, I finally got in a workout. The last time I’d worked out, if I’m recalling correctly, was Thursday morning of last week, April 17th. And that day I’d just done a quick maintenance workout, one set of each basic strength-training move plus 10-15 minutes of cardio, thinking that I’d do a “real” workout over the weekend (what do I mean by a “real” workout, you ask? Well, that’s a good question–I’ll come back to that). But somehow it didn’t happen. Then my period started on Monday, so I was feeling crampy and gross for a few days. By today, I was practically itching to get back on the workout horse, so to speak.

When I worked out today, I did my upper body exercises (push-ups, shoulder presses, bicep curls and tricep kickbacks, various exercises for my back, and crunches for my upper abs), then I went out for a brisk 30 minute run, then while out at the track in the park, I did my lower body strength workout (lunges, two types of squats, calf raises, and reverse leg lifts for my lower abs). THEN I walked home from the track, which was another 15-20 minutes of mild cardio. Naturally, by the time I got home I was exhausted. My muscles ached–still do, actually. Who goes for a run, which already takes a toll on the leg muscles, and then follows it with squats and lunges? AND a walk?

But this overexertion felt right to me, somehow. It felt like what a so-called “real” workout should be. And as I thought about it, I realized that one of the reasons I’ve been letting more and more time lapse between my workouts (I’m down to one, maybe two sessions a week, these days) is that I subconsciously expect my workouts to tax me to depletion. I don’t feel right doing just a little bit of exercise in a session; similarly, I don’t like to do “just” weights or “just” cardio when I work out. I have convinced myself that I have to do both, and indeed that I always have to train my entire body when I do weight training. No splitting up the upper and lower body exercises into different days for me, oh NO. A “real” workout means a full cardio blast and a full body strength session, and if I have time, some serious stretching too, although that’s fallen off recently.

Of course, this means that when I do work out, it takes the entire morning. On top of that, I’m so worn out afterwards that I need several days to recover. This is especially true when I go running rather than using the elliptical machine. By the time my quads are no longer sore, I’ve gotten out of the habit for a few days, or I’ve gotten into a busy moment at work or a busy social weekend and I can’t find two or three full hours (!) to devote to working out again, until a whole week (at least) has gone by. And by then I am so ready to work out again (or feeling so guilty for not working out for so long) that I do another super-intense session that leaves me sore and spent. So it’s really kind of a vicious cycle.

I think that there are a few reasons for this, but they all boil down to not changing my lifestyle to that of a fit person. I’m still thinking, and working out, like the person I used to be. For one, I’m expecting my workouts to exhaust me just as they did when I was much heavier and much less fit. After years of going through workout spurts in which I’d go strong for a couple of months and then , as soon as I was approaching a reasonable level of fitness, start slacking off, and enter a lazy cycle for many more months (to the point that I became out of shape again and had to start all over), I think I’ve come to believe that exercise should always hurt in some way, and that if it doesn’t, I’m not doing it right.

Now, I’m not Serena Williams or anything, but I am pretty fit these days. Of course I should keep pushing myself in workouts, because that’s how you continue to grow and improve, but every workout doesn’t have to take me to my physical limit. Sometimes I really can just do a short workout, or a lighter workout, and still reap benefits from it. I have to realize that right now, I’m maintaining my level of fitness rather than trying to “get in shape.” News flash: after eight months of consistent exercise, I AM in shape. Not perfect shape, no, but I cannot consider myself a couch potato, or think something’s wrong if my body doesn’t react to exercise like a couch potato’s body.

I also think that I need to shed the supposedly time-saving idea that I can do it all in one session. Now that I am at a decent level of fitness, each component of my routine takes longer, because I need to do more reps, or more complex exercises, or run for (slightly) longer distances. It makes more sense to break up that routine over five or six days. Then, too, if I break it up I don’t have to have an open two and a half hours in which to work out–I can do 20 to 30 minutes daily. Even the busiest day has 20 unused minutes in it somewhere.

So that’s my new plan. I’m going to try to do shorter, simpler, daily workouts from now on, taking one day as a rest day (probably Saturday). Maybe I’ll try for upper body weight training on Mondays and Thursdays, lower body weight training on Wenesdays and Sundays, and 30 minutes of interval cardio, either running or elliptical, on Tuesdays and Fridays. (I’d like to fit some yoga in there too, maybe on my rest day? I definitely think I need to bring that serious stretching back into my life).

Of course, this is the kind of routine that seemed both daunting and ridiculous to me when I was out of shape–who has time to work out that often? Why do I need to do so many different kinds of exercise? Now I worry that it will be “too easy,” but I know that’s just my old no-pain-no-gain mentality rearing its head. Instead of feeling the burn I am hoping to feel the fitness.

Oh P.S. Plan IVF has officially been pushed back once again, to the end of July (or even very early August). No more push backs after this, though. I’m supremely happy with the decision, and looking forward to a summer of not thinking about infertility at all. But more on that in another post.

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One Response to “Feeling (a little less of) the burn.”

  1. kenya Says:

    Keep us posted!

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