Disclaimer: The information below is for educational/entertainment purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional help. Before beginning a new exercise regimen or making any other changes in your lifestyle, always consult with your physician and/or a certified coach.
Confession1: I’m a cardio queen. After years of experimenting, I found no other form of cardiovascular exercise I enjoy more than running.2
But several months ago, I was hit by a really bad IT band syndrome on my left leg. Even walking became difficult. The pain creeped up really slowly during the weeks before, and I just thought it’s one of those sores that’ll go away as long as I keep moving those muscles. But the pain only got worse.
It forced me to stop playing during one of my weekly tennis rallies – I couldn’t run after the balls as fast as I could, much less control my shots as accurately as I’ve done before. And then there’s the crazy painful sports massage. The following weeks after left me completely restrained from hitting the treadmill whenever I’m at the gym. Either I skip cardio entirely or choose to work with some other cardio equipment until I fully recover.
This leads me to reunite with my longtime pal, the elliptical trainer, and it’s something I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with.
It doesn’t help that out of the four basic components of physical fitness, i.e. speed, strength, flexibility, and stamina, I value stamina the most. Too often, the longer I stay during an elliptical workout, the more I find myself ended up compromising myself and go easy.
It just doesn’t take as much mental effort to last through an elliptical workout as on the treadmill, and there’s always the voices in my head that will come while the clock is ticking (“I’ve got resistance to keep up with the intensity”, “I can lay low for a bit with my balance”, ”No need to go long when I’m already this fast”).
It’s very different from running, at least for me, where your balance, posture, and movements are entirely arbitrary.
But here’s the good news: This machine is much easier on your joints, as you’re not stressing them a lot like when you’re pounding the pavements. When used correctly, the elliptical shouldn’t cause knee pain. As it turns out, those precise reasons I don’t find the it as challenging have become the reasons that allowed me the time to heal while still keeping myself active. So I figured it can also benefit anyone who’s recovering from a running injury, but still wants a gripping workout to keep those cardiac muscles strong.
That said, I want to share this particular workout today. It’s the minimum standard whenever I’m running short on time:
Depending on your current fitness level, the goal of the resistance is to maximize your use of perceived exertion. Also note that there isn’t any particular speed requirement: As long as your heart stays within the 150-200bpm range, you know you’re getting an effective aerobic workout.3
So the next time you rationalize yourself out of cardio with the after-burn effect, or simply decide to forgo the gym, think about this: The time you need for this workout is equals to the time you use watching a sitcom episode (or about seven cat videos on YouTube). Choose one that your future self will thank you for.
Just in case you have no idea how to perform a sumo squat, take a look at this video. I have been one of those who perform workouts without proper form, and you don’t want that, trust me. Don’t focus on whether you’re going to make it through all the sets; focus on your form and take it slow… you’ll be fine.
Okay, okay, I lied. To you and to myself. I know I said I don’t want to know how far and how fast I go, but I did use a Nike+ monitor in my left shoe. I don’t want to know but I wanna know, get it? I don’t.
As long as during the run, I was enjoying the moment, not stressed out looking back and forth at my iPod nano.
First run at the Embarcadero again. Brings back lots of memories… private memories, just my body moving with trance music when it’s still dawn.
When I was at the Pier this morning, I almost don’t believe why I stopped running completely. The atmosphere is so calming – it’s not very sunny, a bit windy and very chilly, there’s not many tourists in the morning (less crowded) and all you see are fellow joggers/runners running past me. I am happy to exchange smiles with some who are quite panting but still managed to give a genuine smile and keep their heads up. I smile back in return, not knowing who these strangers are, except that they’re the ones who give a s**t to wake up every morning and take time to reflect upon their lives, running away from the hustle and bustle, put the messy pieces together with each stride, and come back to reality in a much relaxed state.
I was one of those fast runners who don’t give a s**t about even looking at other fellow runners’ faces, other than getting to my destination as fast as I can. That’s bad, really bad. Look what happened! (1. disappearance of menstrual cycle; 2. depression; 3. never-ending diets that load me weight I’ve lost; 4. impatience; short-circuit; 5. extra-low self-esteem). Let’s skip the crap and fast-forward: I’m a traditionalist and a big believer of long, slow, steady progress now. God tests your faith.
I learned the hard way that security, taking good care of things before they become a problem, is better than solving problems in the first place. Which comes back to the main motivation of running: If you focus on maintaining your health above everything else, which is an intrinsic motivation, you’ll take care of yourself better and increase that feeling of self-worth.
I have not reach the runner’s high yet (it’s a short run, plus I’m not fit enough at my current state), but I have no doubts that I can reach that point again some time in the not-so-distant future.
Anyway, I’ve learned some things that doesn’t work for me over the years I run, and today I don’t follow these lessons. I don’t feel qualified giving advice for anybody. These are just things I want to keep in mind, so that I won’t hurt myself in the future, especially now that I’ve got someone who loves and cares for me very much. So these are my personal reminders:
1.Don’t wear baggy clothing. You’ll have a hard time trying not to be sloppy. Keep it light and keep it tight. Your clothes must fit your frame.
2. Respect the distance – no matter how short or long it is. Like I said, I used to be the one who don’t bother. It’s just a very difficult attitude in running, and in life, when you hold up too much pride in yourself, and that you self-sabotage yourself to work up to your ideals and don’t admit where you are right now. I obviously can’t run a full 60-minute workout at my current fitness level. I’m not the person living in the body I used to be. I can be in that body again, which can be mine for as long as I want but it can only be lived in the right attitude, a great respect for your body and every body else. Okay, I’m just going to quote Amby Burfoot here from his book, The Runner’s Guide to the Meaning of Life:
You can’t go far in running without respect. First, you have to respect the distance. which is often said about marathons but applies equally to all distance running. If you don’t understand the many ways running can challenge your body and mind, it can overwhelm you.
Second, there’s the mutual respect all runners feel for each other. It doesn’t matter what your 10k time is or how fast I’ve run the marathon. The experience is what matters, and the experience is basically the same for all of us. An exercise physiologist can essentially “prove” that a 4-hour marathoner “works harder” than a 2-hour marathoner, even though it seems ludicrous to say this about the slower runner. But when different runners begin talking about a marathon, or any other running, they realize they’ve been through essentially the same thing. A true runner understands this.
3. Keep your head up. Stand tall. Look ahead. BE CONFIDENT, simple and sweet as that. Why do I want to go for a run this morning at that long stretch of piers I once used to know so well? I don’t know, and I don’t know if I’m going to make it long enough, considering my fitness level today compared to before. It’s because now I bother. I now care. I now have someone that I care. I care about myself in return. If somebody asks me why do I run? I’ll answer:
BECAUSE I CAN.
Quoting Christian Grey there. And just to add to the note… My boyfriend read to me a line that resonates a lot of truth to him (and to me) too while we’re on the phone:
Anastasia, I’m delighted that you’ve met my parents. Why are you so filled with self-doubt? It never ceases to amaze me. You’re such a strong, self-contained young woman, but you have such negative thoughts about yourself. If I hadn’t wanted you to meet them, you wouldn’t be here. Is that how you were feeling the whole time you were there? (Fifty Shades of Grey)
Urgh. I don’t know. I just assume all women have a lower confidence level than men in general. But now I think it’s just me.
There are just some days when you have no time to hit the gym. That doesn’t mean you won’t have the opportunity to sweat, even if it’s just a little. In fact, short, high-impact workouts are proven more effective for boosting your metabolism than long, low-impact ones.
I found that doing circuits of these moves, which works your essential muscle groups, energizes me from head to toe.
Picture from Wikipedia
Do an 8 to 12-rep pushup, then build up to 4 reps total. That’s enough to wake your arms, abs, butt and thighs up.
Work your core for 20 reps. Do around 4 to 6 reps, and you’ll feel the burn.
A plank is essentially a static pushup, focusing on strengthening your core. Hold your abs still for 1 minute. If you’re can’t hold that long, 30 seconds is good to go. Do this 3 times a day for great blood circulation.
Do 15 reps, then 4 sets until you feel the burn in the inner thighs.
Same as your lunges. Squeeze as low as possible until you feel the burn in your butt. Personally, though, I need to do 20 reps and 8 sets to feel the burn, because my schoolwork requires me to sit around way too much.
*Burpee (or squat thrusts)
If you still feel like panting some more (loving that endorphins, doncha?) a burpee is a great workout to get your heart pumping at its best. Here is a great video by diet.com to illustrate how to do burpees properly:
Stacia’s personal challenge of the week is walking 60 minutes a day to improve her aerobic strength, energy capacity, and endurance. To see her upcoming challenges, check out her challenge of the week page under the Agenda tab.
Well, this is not really a big challenge for me, because I do walk a lot in general. I get to places usually by walking, just out of habit. However, when given the choice of taking the bus, or the school shuttle, or any form of transportation to get around faster, I always opt for the that instead of walking. Because simply I am one of those time-bound person who follows her schedule of the day, personal or business-wise.
So this week, I’ve been walking so much – even if it only takes 20 minutes to reach a place, I’ve walked an additional 10 minutes without the public transportation. i can’t give you numbers of my heart rate and all that, but I can well be sure that my posture has improved, my back is straighter, and I seem to walk faster. I also held my head higher just because i’m out in the sun more.
It seems easier to breathe out and speak in a clear voice whenever I’m talking with people, well, I don’t know whether walking has that kind of effect, but I guess it’s all just about the straight posture, not to mention stronger legs too, especially from all that squats I did last week.
However, I’m not confident as yet to face myself on the weight scale, even though I know I have lost a little bit of weight. I haven’t been on the scale for about 3 months now, during which my jeans has expanded and contracted. But right now, I can feel my watch and my jeans getting so loose right now, they keep sliding.
Nagoya City University researchers in Japan believe that the protective effect of physical exercise could decrease the chances of developing breast cancer by 55%. The study, published in the medical journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, involves the researchers following 30,000 women from ages 40 to 69 and their lifestyle habits over a 12-year period.
“We recommend walking for one hour a day, along with additional weekly exercise, to protect against breast cancer, regardless of menopausal status or body mass index,” the researchers wrote.
When you continue this daily habit in the long run, you’re better off with more dramatic benefits for your heart health. “If you exercise more, your vessels dilate more. The more a vessel dilates, the healthier the vessel,” said Michael McConnell, associate professor of cardiovascular medicine at Stanford University in California.
Vasodilation is defined as the ability of the heart and its working arteries to expand and contract. When these arteries get more elastic (through exercise), where Stanford researchers found that subjects have increased their vasodilation by 50% just by walking an hour a day, they’ve walked away with a stronger cardiovascular system and therefore less chances of getting heart attacks.
To begin with, researchers studied healthy subjects, 212 men and women between ages 60 to 72, who have no history of heart disease of any kind. This study, which was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Cardiovascular Imaging, found that those with moderate-activity levels, such as walking for an hour a day, had their coronary arteries dilated 50% more than those who did lower-activity levels. McConnell also stated that those who included higher-activity levels at least once a week (think tennis, swimming) dilated their arteries twice as much, implying that exercise is directly impacting the performance of the heart.
Recent studies like these have proven physical exercise and its benefits for the elderly. But another study on middle-aged women, published in the Journal of American Medical Association, showed that there are little to no weight loss results many women today want to achieve. In fact, they gained weight over time, suggesting that weight gain is inevitable as women age.
Researchers from Harvard’s Brigham and Women Hospital studied 34,079 non-dieting middle-aged women, following their exercise habits for 13 years, and the participants gained an average weight of around 6 pounds during the study.
Only 13% of women with heathy weight to begin with, a body mass index less than 25, gained little or no weight during the study. They are the ones who get moderate-activity exercise for about an hour daily. Other women who began already overweight eventually get that amount of exercise, but results suggested that that wasn’t enough to achieve weight loss.
“There’s no sugarcoating about it,” said Dr. I-Min Lee, the lead author of the study. ”You can eat a candy bar in two minutes. Most are at least 200 calories,” working those off would require walking for about an hour.
Nevertheless, it does not mean you have to give up exercise once and for all.
Even if your ultimate goal is to lose weight, you can still achieve other numerous benefits out of exercise that you cannot see from the mirror. Bigger heart, stronger vessels, and robust blood circulation are the things that make the process of aging slower. And that can be done by simply walking an hour a day.
Not only does it boosts your heart health, but if you practice doing it, lady, the more you increase your sex appeal too.
How a woman walks tells more than she may think. The more flexible those hips sway, the more she has the ability to reach vaginal orgasm. “This could reflect the free, unblocked energetic flow from the legs through the pelvis for the spine,” cites the study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine.
Two trained sexologists observed walks of women in the study and were 82% accurate in picking out women with greater vaginal orgasm potential.
“It is that the vaginally orgasmic women do not have blocked pelvis muscles. As a result, the walk is natural, with the natural unobstructed connection between leg, pelvis, and spine movement,” says researcher Stuart Brody, a psychology professor at the University of West Scotland.
“It might be that the women have the capacity for vaginal orgasm, but have not yet had sufficient experience or met a man of sufficient quality to induce vaginal orgasm,” the authors wrote.
It’s either that, or you have been in fulfilling relationships, physically and emotionally, in your love history. ”Such a confidence might also be related to the relationship(s) that a woman has had, given the finding that specifically penile-vaginal orgasm is associated with indices of better relationship quality,” states the authors.
The simplest way to change right now is improving your posture. One can determine how you treat yourself and others just by watching how you stand. So if you did your squats and you keep walking straight, you might just be exuding how sexy you are.
Stacia’s personal challenge of the week is squatting 20 times, 8 repetitions a day to improve her leg strength and hip flexibility. To see her upcoming challenges, check out her challenge of the week page under the Agenda tab.
OK. Honestly, I’m not that disciplined about the 8 reps per day part, but in my defense, I always did the 20 consecutively.
At the end of the week, I still did 20×8 squats, just not divided equally throughout the seven days like it was supposed to be. But I did it!
I do feel my hips becoming more flexible, and my inner thigh muscles stronger when moving up and down the stairs. As a matter of fact, I found myself walking more often than before I did my squats. On most days, I even did additional crunches just to work out the largest muscles of my body – up from my abdomen and down to the buttocks.
Squats have been considered the ultimate move for total-body workout for the busy ones who can’t squeeze in some time to hit the gym. Might as well consider squeezing your core and your glutes right at this second (while you can), right?
Noted as the best overall exercise (after pushups), the move works two major parts of your body – the core and the legs. Daily, we use our core to balance our stance, and we move our legs to, well, get to places. In fact, the leg muscles the largest groups in the human body. When you hit the spot, you will burn more calories throughout.
“You get greater overall muscle and strength gains from the squat than from any other exercise….Squats create an overall anabolic environment in the body that maximizes gains from other exercises [in your workout],” says Jeff Volek, Ph.D., R.D., C.S.C.S., an exercise researcher at the University of Connecticut.
Most people simply forget this fact, forgo the leg workouts, and lift those heavy weights to work their T-shirt muscles instead (shoulders, arms, chest). Best of all, you can skip the weights altogether when doing squats, and the exercise is still effective. In any case, strong legs are the essential building blocks you need to carry yourself forward.
When you target your core and your hip areas to the max, your upper and lower back will straighten accordingly to your abs and obliques. Abdominal and back muscles work together to keep your posture balanced during the movement.
What I learned from my first challenge here is that it’s nearly impossible for someone else to inculcate daily instructions until you obediently follow the lesson yourself, believe it in your heart that you’ll get through the challenge. As a result, after only a week of doing lots of squats, I found my Waist-to-Hip Ratio (WHR) getting noticeably smaller. I also have more pronounced muscle tones on my legs. On any normal day, I have improved my posture even when walking for hours in heels. So, even though squats give me burning sensations throughout my body (and my skin always flush), the glowing results are worth it.
I’ve just started reading up my first chapter readings for the week for my Psychology class. The next class is all about the brain, its cells, its functions, and the magical mysteries of the mind. But we’ll get into that next week, I guess.
Yesterday, I posted about the increased size of your hippocampus and an improved overall health and well-being. I edited it quite a bit earlier, so that you can understand better about building an aerobic base on a consistent basis and what it can do to your brain.
I’m fascinated about the way we can learn to control our minds for positive changes to our internal and external environments.
Okay, just call me a geek.
I read magazines for breakfast, read novels for lunch, and textbooks for dinner. In-between meals, I surf the net reading articles from my iPad. I know. It’s crazy, but you can’t help imagining the things you read all day long. Indeed, it sparks my imaginations. That’s what I love about digesting the written word one letter at a time.
You see, since regular aerobic activity has been repeatedly proven to increase the size of your hippocampus, I’ve found even more findings about it.
If you’re old, between ages 55 and 80, and your memory is deteriorating, you cannot blame your nonexercise habits during your middle age, because those times are gone, and time is the only thing you cannot reverse. You can only change your biological clock through aging.
This research shows that any type of exercise, and I mean any, not just aerobic or just anaerobic, shows an increase in the size of hippocampus over time. In this case, it’s about a year. So if you think about it, if you start building your aerobic base as early as in your 20s, you’ll delay memory loss even longer.
In theory, you can slow down the inevitable cost of aging: Hippocampal volume loss, which translates to loss of short and long-term memory functions – which is why it’s never too late to start exercising.
If you’re reading this, you can start moving right at this very second, no matter how old you are. ”Starting an exercise regimen later in life is not futile for either enhancing cognition or augmenting brain volume,” wrote the researchers of the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Illinois, Rice University, and the Ohio State University on the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Since my last post wasn’t as clear as it should be, let’s go into further detail, with reference to HealthGuidance for the obvious benefits of regular exercise.
As I’ve mentioned in my previous post, as soon as you move, your glands immediately releases a number of hormones that control your physiological needs and functions.
Now I finally learned that whenever I’m having my ‘high’, like as if I’m having my state of trance, a euphoric mind and reaching my runner;s high, or thinking that I’m having orgasm on the spot – it’s the endorphins that are responsible for how I felt. It’s amazing how I can go in to such a manic state without any dose of drugs, such as marijuana and ecstasy.
I guess higher BPM, melodic and vocal dance music, plus unlimited liters of water, are my drugs.
Other than feeling super good, you can alsoincrease your ‘fluid intelligence’, and, with regularity, exercise can increase your IQ. HealthGuidance defined ‘fluid intelligence’ as intelligence that doesn’t require previous knowledge. So it’s basically your short-term memory, like whenever you’re trying to remember the name of the girl you saw across the bar or calculating your bills in your head. This not only saves time, but also helps you little boys in skirt-chasing.
And all the hype about bulking up your hippocampal volume, it all deals with exercising control of the brain, just like controlling the movements of your muscles. They say that if you don’t lose it, you lose it. This principle also applies for training your brain. With regular exercise, you are not only inducing cell growth in your body, but also new neurons in your brain. “By repeatedly training a movement you increase the neuronal networks involved and so grow that area of the brain,” explains HealthGuidance.
This new phenomenon in neuroscience, of the ways you can literally change your brain psychologically and physiologically, is called brain plasticity, or neuroplasticity.
We’ll get more into that once my Psychology class explores the topic more in-depth.
But until then, I learned that you can literally brainwash yourself the natural way through exercise, which is, of course, the positive kind.
I’m doing an experiment focusing on consistency – 20 x 7 = 180-minute a week of exercise. Meaning distributing those minutes in smaller, manageable, bite-sized 20-minute pieces throughout the week.
Breaking it Down
He told me that the simple act of doing aerobic exercise, which is all about repeated movements of both the small and big muscles, is a major antidepressant, a natural way to cure anxiety and stress. Other than that, it can also create new neural pathways in your brain if you do it so regularly, letting your brain cells go between the process of positive stress (exercise) and intervals of resting in-between the rest of the each day after you exercise. With consistent stress and rest intervals, you may permanently change the structures of your brain.
Rather than a massive amount of time spent on long exercise and going a longer time-interval until the next time you exercise, this regularity supports the growth of more blood capillaries to help let your improved blood circulation (through regular exercise) flow throughout your body properly.
No Sick Days
When your blood circulation improves, so does your body’s immune system. Your mitochondria, the superhuman minute organelle inside each and every one of your little, innumerable cells, starts to enlarge and protect your body once you’ve got your aerobic exercise. This protects your body from being invaded by external viruses, therefore preventing you to diseases and all that bad stuff.
If you didn’t pay attention during your biology class back in high school, here‘s a good read about how aerobic exercise, literally meaning the type of exercise that uses oxygen for your body to convert energy (as opposed to anaerobic exercise), can help increase the number and size of mitochondria in your body. If you, say, run long distances every week for a year, by next year, you’re this sexy fat-burning machine who never gets sick.
Not only are you going to avoid getting problems if you do exercise during your academic semester, you also get to, literally, bulk up your brain, just by having regular cardio.
There’s been a research about this.
You: Big-Brained, Lean, Mean, Lovin’ Machine
Turning up my stock of Women’s Health magazine last night, I found the cutting-edge science behind cardiovascular exercise and the brain from the article,Gain The Cardio Edge on the March 2010 issue. You can take your time and read through the five benefits cardio can do for you.
The article focuses on the BDNF, or the Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, which plays an essential role in brain cell growth, mood regulation, and cognition (thinking, therefore learning).
“BDNF is like fertiziler for the brain. Without it, our brains can’t take in new information or make bew cells,” says Harvard Medical School associate professor John J. Ratey, Ph.D. Studies show regular cardio boosts BDNF in the brain more rapidly when participants workout everyday than every other day.
Here’s more: Cardio is the single thing you can do to elevate the neurotransmitters in the brain, which improves communication between the cells, not just in the brain, in your body (Because all that involves better communication throughout your body’s endocrine system. Read my page:Water Cycle 101). “Cardiovascular health is more important than any other single factor in preserving and improving learning and memory,” says clinical psychologist memory research Thomas Crook, Ph.D. Here’s why: Your glands pump out these major hormones responsible for maintaining homeostasis:
Serotonin: Mood booster
Dopamine: Affects learning and attention
Norepinephrine: Influences attention, perception, motivation, and arousal
When these hormones interplay, in general, all of your basic physiological needs are met.
You won’t get depressed, your mood will elevate, your brain will always be alert, and the most important finding is …. Your hippocampus, which is the part of your brain that controls memory and learning, will literally increase in size. Isn’t that cool?