Exercise and fitness is such an important part of my life these days. Today I am sharing with you my history with exercise and current workout routine. I was not always an exercise lover . I was as sedentary as it gets. In fact, I even avoided walking short distances when I was heavier. If there was a parking spot available more than a few yards away from where I needed to go, I was definitely waiting for a closer space versus risking having to actually move my body. I mean, when you are almost 300 pounds, simply existing in your body can be a workout in itself.
My History With Exercise
When I first started attempting to get healthier, I took the occasional kickboxing class and I LOVED it. Mostly because there was so much choreography involved that I could convince myself I was dancing instead of working out. When I wasn't kicking and jabbing my way through the gym, I was plugging away on the elliptical. When my husband tried to get me to lift weights with him, I was convinced it wasn’t as good of a workout because I didn’t sweat as much. I wish I knew then how wrong I was. So instead, I started working on a major goal of mine: Running.
I began my training with a Couch25K app and I swear this app changed my life. Running was a good outlet for me because it was a great stress reliever and while I was focusing on increasing my speed or time, I was far less focused on the numbers on the scale. It took me a while to get to a place where I felt comfortable running because there was just so much pain involved for me. I used to get the worst shin splints and the pain in my knees was intense. On top of that, I was so out of shape that my heart felt like it was going to jump out of my chest anytime I went faster than a casual stroll. (You can check out my post on Running While Overweight for more specifics on how I got started) But as I lost weight and gained endurance, the pain lessened and I was able to go farther and faster. I signed up for several 5K's then 10K's and eventually ran my first half marathon in 2014 (followed by 4 more that year!). Running a half marathon is one of my greatest accomplishments and non scale victories to date!
Throughout 2012 (the start of my journey) to mid 2015, I focused almost exclusively on cardio. Now, there is nothing wrong with cardio. Any activity that gets your heart rate up and burning calories is A-OK in my book. But strength training was a big piece of the puzzle I was missing. Towards the end of 2015, I moved into an apartment complex that had a pretty decent gym and I started playing around with weights more often. I googled different exercises and it was easy and safe to practice in a gym that was relatively private. Over the past couple years, I have developed a love for strength training that has me kicking myself that I didn't join my husband all those years prior.
Current Workout Routine
I currently work out about 5-6 days a week with 3-4 of those days being weight lifting days and 2-3 days being some kind of cardio. My cardio routine is usually one session of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) in the form of treadmill sprints or a Tabata style interval workout or most recently.I have been OBSESSED with the Peloton bike. It's an amazing cardio workout and I love the group fitness feel of the classes even though I am taking virtual classes. and one session of steady state cardio with the elliptical, a jog or my own version of personal hell, the Stair Master. I have noticed the biggest overall change in my body composition by focusing on strength training and ladies let me tell you, you will NOT get big and bulky if you pick up a heavy weight! In order to put on that amount of muscle you would also need to be eating in a significant caloric surplus. Trust me, add some weight training into your routine and you will be amazed at the difference it makes in your body. I truly believe it can give you results that you will not see doing cardio alone.
I typically split my weight training days into:
- Leg day (glute/hamstring focus)
- Cardio/Abs (or a full body HIIT workout)
- Leg day (quad focus)
- Chest & Back
I also typically include 15-20 minutes of warm up cardio (usually on the Peloton) on weight lifting days. Recently, I have also been incorporating a lot of stability and balance work into my routines.
I love the BodySpace app from bodybuilding.com and I cannot recommend it enough. You can create your own custom workout templates online or follow one from someone else. It also lets you search for exercises based on muscle groups you want to work or equipment you have at your disposal. It will also keep track of your weight lifted and reps so your progress can be measured over time. Listed below are a few of my favorite exercises. You can find detailed descriptions and video tutorials for them all on the BodySpace app (linked below).
- Skull Crushers
- Tricep Pushdown
- Arnold Press
- Standing Military Press
- Lateral Raises
- Barbell Curl
- (I like doing 21s: 7 reps from starting position then halfway up, 7 reps from all the way up then halfway down then 7 full reps)
- I also like variations of bicep curls (hammer curls, wide arm etc)
- Weighted Bench Dips
- Upright Barbell Row
Chest & Back
- Assisted Pull Ups (I am using an assist band I got from amazon)
- Lat pull down
- Barbell Rows
- Face Pulls
- Bench Press
- Single Arm Row (with dumbbells or cable machine)
- Chest Fly
- Lat Dumbbell Pullover
- Rear Delt Fly
- Lat Pull Over
- Romanian Deadlifts
- Squats (barbell, narrow stance, sumo, goblet, plie- love 'em all)
- Cable Pull Throughs
- Hip Thrusts
- Split Squats
- Curtsy Lunges
- Reverse Lunges
- Single Leg Deadlifts
On Full Body days, like to incorporate compound movements that integrate multiple muscle groups in one exercise. Here are some of my favorites.
- Barbell Deadlift to Upright Row
- Single Arm Snatch
- Clean and Press
- Squat to Overhead Press
- Reverse Lunge with Bicep Curl
My typical HIIT consists of treadmill sprints. I start with a 5 min jog to warm up then 30 seconds of an all out sprint followed by 30 seconds of rest. I usually just jump off with my feet on the sides of the treadmill during rest. Those 30 seconds of rest go by super quick so I find it easiest not to mess with slowing the speed down and bringing it back up again. I continue this cycle for however long I want my session to go for, usually about 15 min of sprinting and then cool down with a 5 min walk.
The other thing I do for HIIT is a Tabata style workout where I perform an activity for 45 seconds followed by 15 seconds of rest. I typically will do an arm, leg, core & cardio move and complete 5 circuits all the way through. For example:
- Burpees w/ pushup (45 sec)
- Rest 15 seconds
- Weighted Plie Squats (45 sec)
- Rest 15 seconds
- Commandos (45 sec)
- Rest 15 seconds
- Box Jumps
- Rest 15 seconds
- Jump Squats
Then I continue until 5 circuits are up. I use an app called "Seconds" for this. It's such a good tool! You can customize your times, your exercises and it will "talk" to you and let you know what exercise is next, when you're halfway through and when your timer is done.
Hopefully this was helpful and answered some questions regarding my current workout routine and how I incorporated working out into my life in those beginning stages. Some days I still can't believe how different my philosophy and outlook is on exercise. I went from never exercising, to doing it only as a punishment of what I ate, to truly finding a love of fitness and the ways it changed not only my body but my mind.
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