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!