Sunday, November 29, 2009

Cardio Gym Workouts at Home

Over the past sixty days, I had found that doing a specific type of cardio exercise at home produced a lot more results for my body and mind than doing any aerobic-type/stepping-type cardio gym workouts (which had NO results). Never before had I ever lost fat consistently on a WEEK-BY-WEEK basis for 2 months straight! There is a huge difference between the two types of cardio exercise routines, known as aerobic and anaerobic, and that difference is what either actually burns your fat or not. I'll explain this in a bit. I will also explain why I am focusing on losing fat, which is measured by a body measuring tape, as opposed to losing weight, which is measured by a body scale.

So, what is this specific exercise that I am talking about? The name of the extremely rigorous set of cardio exercise routines is called "INSANITY". If you have heard of P90X, Hip Hop Abs, or any other sort of DVD exercise routine from Beachbody, Insanity would be the latest addition to the family. And if you have not heard of any of these programs, I would honestly be surprised as there have been frequent infomercials airing on TV for P90X featuring a 25-year-old-looking and physically ripped Tony Horton (who is well in his early 50s), as well as several celebrities that mention P90x being the ultimate exercise plateau breaker. Being someone who actually completed the 90 days of grueling exercise routines, I can vouch for the product (and no, I am in no way affiliated with BeachBody, nor do they pay me to say any of this).

Now, as someone who has gone through 90 days of grueling weight-lifting, cardio, pilates, vertical exercises and plyometrics in the comfort of my own home, I had heard about INSANITY while perusing the Beachbody website, and after watching the video/YouTube preview of the BB folks doing the exercises my jaw dropped. The preview ultimately defined boot camp fitness for me. Never had I seen pools of sweat on the floor, or half of the exercise demonstrators crapping out so frequently. I had been used to previewing exercise routines where everyone in the DVD had magically finished the entire set without sweating, taking breaks, or even really lose that happy smile that usually stays in place.

The INSANITY program's title says it all--it is nothing but crazy!! It declares that in 60 days my body will be in an ultimate form that usually takes an average person an entire year of gym workouts to achieve. The instructor (Shaun T) explains the formula--he takes a cardio technique called "High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)", which is to push the body to move at 110% of its energy for short bursts of time while slowing down to a mellow baseline % for the majority of the time...and inverting the ratio into what he calls "Max Interval Training", where the body is pushed at increasingly steady increments of high % for a majority of the time with a very short yoga-stretching rest break in between.

What appealed to me about this home gym workout was that there was essentially NO use of any equipment whatsoever. No weights, dumbbells, pull-up bars, elastic bands, etc. All I needed were my cross-training shoes, my gym workout clothes, and a BIG bottle of water to stay hydrated throughout the hour of madness. The very same things that appealed to me also challenged me. I was not sure of how much of my fat-loss goals I would end up achieving if I didn't use any equipment in my home cardio gym. It had taken me 4 very long years to break through my exercise plateau with P90X. Would Insanity raise the bar for my fitness?

So, I embarked on the first DVD in the set. Plyometric Cardio Circuit was the title. Now, if you do not know what Plyometrics are, then all you need to know is that they involve jumping. Lots and lots of jumping. It is literally jump training. And that is essentially what I did during what they called a "warm-up".

It did not feel like a warm-up. It felt like I was diving right into the maximum intensity part of the exercise program. Within 3 minutes I was already out of breath and on the floor, crawling for my water bottle. This could not have really been the warm-up. How was I going to survive when the gist of the exercise routines were going to start?

Within 15 minutes, we were finally allowed to take our rest break which consisted of several yoga stretching poses, deep lunges and deep breathing. Strangely enough, I did not break a sweat until this point. This is where the intensity and interval shifting presents itself, and where the heart rate's sudden shift kicks in to confuse the body into continuous fat burning.

If I thought that I was not able to keep up with Shaun T and his BB exercisers in their high school cardio gym (that's where their exercises took place), I would be reminded to go at my own pace. And going at my own pace I did. I took several water breaks to catch my breath, but went right back into my cardio gym so I could push myself to what I previously didn't know I could do.

In the end, the moment I got to cool down and stretch was my triumphant moment. The hour just felt so epic. When I rewarded myself with a nice and cool shower (in the comfort of my own bathroom), I looked in the mirror and could not believe what I saw. No, it was not a skinnier me as it was only Day 1 (silly!), but it was the deepest shade of pink/red I had ever seen on my face and neck. I really pushed myself! More than I had ever done with any other DVD and gym workout.

This was how I felt for many of the other DVDs in the Insanity set.

And at the end of each week I had taken cut-out strips of measuring tape to gauge the fat loss on my arms, thighs and calves. By the end of the 60 days, I had accomplished the following:

boot camp fitness, gym workouts, cardio gym, exercise routines

Note: Don't pay attention to the numbers on the strips, they are irrelevant. What you should pay attention to is the individual notches, starting from the right to the left.

It makes a huge difference to have visual data along the way when determining how (and if) you are reaching your goals, especially with exercise.

Why do I not mention a word about my weight? If you must know, I started 60 days ago at 143 lbs, and ended at 137. But, the 5 lb loss means nothing to me. As you hopefully will come to understand, muscle ways a lot more than fat, and visually seeing the fat burn off the body is much better proof than seeing a number on a scale that fluctuates anyway.

And, if you really really want to know how much I weighed 4 years ago, I weighed 160 lbs. I wore a size 7 in jeans, and now I wear a size 4!

In addition to this set of cardio workouts, Insanity also had a thorough nutrition program with several options for each of the 5-6 meals it recommended each day. The nutrition program was very carb-friendly, so I was able to snack on crackers and eat rice and sandwiches (as long as the grains were whole wheat and not processed grains). The options were also very delicious as I got to make steak or chicken salads, egg white omelettes and fruity protein shakes. I honestly think that if this program did not allow for any carbs, then I would not have trusted its validity. Our bodies genuinely need carbs and there should be no part of this nutrition that forbids it, and especially with all the intense cardio gym workouts we are putting ourselves through we would certainly need the fuel to keep burning that fat!


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Saturday, November 7, 2009

About Me

Hi, I’m Charli Hathaway and I write Exercise Routines for the Home Gym to help men and women achieve their best fitness in the comfort of their own homes (and without the necessity for expensive gym memberships). I started this Exercise blog in 2009 to shed some experience and wisdom on the different types of weight and cardio workouts that have worked (or failed) for me...in the hopes that others who are curious about how manageable exercise can be in the midst of having a family and/or a busy workweek! Prior to raising my two sons, I have been exercising on and off since 2004 with "yo-yo diets" and extreme eating regimens (like no/low-carbs, high protein/fats, etc). Thankfully, I've wisened up over the years as I learned to listen to my body and shape it up a lot better!

Monday, October 26, 2009

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Exercise Routines

exercise routines, gym workouts, cardio gym, boot camp fitnessWith the busy moments of day-to-day life, it can be such a difficult task to set aside any time to establish some normal exercise routines that are easy to stick to. I can not speak for everyone, but I myself had thought quite often about how nearly impossible it was to maintain some form of fitness with my busy schedule. Is this the case for you? Let me guess how your day goes: From the moment you wake up, you are immediately swept into the entire day of other activities—you brush your teeth, take a shower, eat (or SKIP) breakfast, speed off to work, grumble away the daily grind, snack on whatever junk food is available because it is quickly available, and before you know it you will have returned from work pooped and drained. All you want to do is veg out and hit the hay, right?

But, a part of you feels that you could use some more energy in your life. While there simply is “not enough time” to stop by the gym to do some cardio and machine exercise routines, there somehow has been plenty of time for those love handles (also known as “ab flab”) to blossom. Well, if you do not stop to smell these wilting roses, you will be continuing to perpetuate the downward spiral of feeling tired and lethargic, and you will be that much less likely to want to exercise at all. These are routines that you want to snap out of, but you are not sure how or where to start.

Here is a scenario I am sure many of you are going through: the commute home.Not only is it already frustrating to deal with traffic on the way home—whether it is in a car or in a train—it is also mentally draining to even think of anything else but wishing to be home to a fully-cooked meal. And if you are like me, you may have tried a crash diet (or two) that somehow claimed that you would lose ten pounds in two weeks without much exercise. In addition, you probably have ended up in a “yo-yo diet” rollercoaster. Better yet, maybe you just don’t eat much because you do not feel you have the time for it (i.e. us moms with the kids!). Whether you did or not, you probably thought of how you could magically lose weight or gain energy without any gym workouts. Wouldn’t that be an ideal world!

And with the current recession beginning to plateau (or at least that is what we are told), we still have a long way to go before we can stop worrying as much about expenses. Now is not so much a feasible time to be forking over big down payments for the gym. To be honest, it always felt like I was signing up at a car dealership when I would really be sitting at a gym office, and I am in no way in a mindset to buy a car, either! At this moment, there are many of my dear friends who became unemployed--who found themselves despondent in the midst of all this abrupt abundance of free time, and there are many other friends who have jobs but are equally unhappy but about other aspects of their circumstances. It just seems like there will be at least one thing that is causing some form of negative energy. And, you know that could be the reason why you are physically feeling ill (like those headaches and bad stomach ache that somehow appear after a week of stress).

But, I will get off my soapbox now--because, regardless of what type of employment/life situation you are in, there is an opportunity create something for yourself in any area of your life (in this case, fitness). You do not want to use the economy or your busy schedule as reasons not to engage in exercise routines whatsoever. Feeling like a victim to the circumstances would have you cheating yourself out of your human potential!

Why am I making such a big deal out of this? It is because I spent so many years trying to go exercise at the gym, do machine workouts, attending those cramped and smelly studio classes...all the while trying as often as possible for the first four weeks knowing how much I paid up front for the gym membership! I deemed this cycle the 4-week bootcamp fitness failure. Once I got sick of the dirty machines, the dirty studio floors, and the murky gym locker rooms, I would develop an exercise phobia only to become stuck in a depressed routine. It did not matter how much I paid to use the gym, and I did not feel positive about having the capacity to achieve anything consistently rewarding in my life. I would never see any results and I would always feel stuck.I have also seen the demands of every other aspect of my life somehow taking precedence, and I felt that I was sure to fail.

That is, until I decided to take a stand and create a positive context as well as a simple solution to establishing an exercise routine without having to repeat the same mistakes at the gym. Well, the answer had been under my nose all along. What better place to do my cardio and weight gym exercises than in the comfort of my own home? It just made perfect sense to me. Along with the routines of waking up, showering, eating (NOT SKIPPING) breakfast, working, and coming home, I could add the routine of doing exercise in my own home gym! No longer would I have to wait to drive home in my own sweat from doing so much cardio exercise at the gym--I could now simply walk from the living room to the bathroom to take a quick and rewarding shower. If I needed to drink some water during my home gym workout break, I could simply walk to the kitchen to refill up on my purified water (whew!).

I found an immense benefit in being able to have an entire floor space to myself. I never had to worry about bumping into the crowded studio classmates. I also could go at my own pace--after all, most of these exercise routines involved using DVDs, so I could hit pause if I needed to adjust my shoelaces or if I needed to use the bathroom. In terms of weightlifting gym workouts, I was able to achieve just about the same type of exercise at home. There are many types of weights and weight-resistance bands available for purchase. There are even pull-up/chin-up bars available (assembly might be required).

Of course, the caveat to a home gym is that you could just as easily be lazy and go to sleep! But, like I have stated, this is an opportunity to create an empowering context so you can achieve your fitness in the comfort of your own home. And, I am here to share my experiences and lessons from these home exercise routines so you can decide for yourself how feasible this really is for you to try at home.

Try to think of this as a treat to yourself to get a hot shower and a good night's rest after such a strength-building exercise! This is one of several routines you can practice until you can shift your mentality to a positive one, especially when you start seeing results inside and out!

So, again, welcome to my website. I hope my reviews and experiences will encourage and inspire you to making fitness a much more attainable goal knowing that someone has gone through (and is going through) this with you!


-Charli