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Time To Get Back In Shape!

Get in Shape!

It’s been a long, difficult winter where I live in Vermont, but springtime is just around the corner. I’m really excited to get out and enjoy the outdoors. I had planned on doing a lot of snowshoeing this winter, but I was extremely sick for about four weeks from the end of January through most of February. During that time I could hardly get out of bed, let alone leave the house and go outside and do something fun. Unfortunately I ended up going snowshoeing only a handful of times.

I’m happy to say that the illness is long behind me and I have felt great for the past few weeks. But between the holidays and being sick I have really gotten out of shape. I’ve gained a lot of weight and my cardio has been reduced to almost nil. I had a hard time running for even just 10 minutes on my treadmill. It’s time to get back in shape!

A key factor for enjoying the outdoors is being healthy and fit. This fact becomes more and more evident the older I get. I am therefore using the launch of this blog as motivation to reinvigorate my fitness and healthy diet habits.

Disclaimer

I am not a doctor, nutritionist, or personal trainer. The content of this article is not a substitute for medical advice. I am not advising that you follow any of the information in this article. I am simply documenting my approach to improving my health, my physical fitness, and my diet. Consult your physician before beginning any exercise or nutrition program. You assume all risk inherent in any exercise or nutrition program that I discuss in this article.

My Approach to Exercise

For my exercise programs, I like to take a four-pronged approach and include a combination of the following:

  • 1) Cardiovascular Training
  • 2) Strength Training
  • 3) Stretching
  • 4) Activity-specific Training

Cardiovascular Training

For cardiovascular training I will either run (outside or on a treadmill), use an elliptical, or go old-school and use an ancient NordicTrack XC-Ski machine.

Strength Training

For strength training I lift weights, or do body weight exercises (push ups, pull ups, etc), or use kettlebells. Focusing on my core is a key component of my strength training.

Stretching

As I’ve gotten older, I have become less and less flexible. It happens to everyone. I try and stretch every day, but I have to be honest… I do not do it on a consistent basis. I have a few yoga DVDs and I have taken yoga classes in the past, but I have not incorporated it into my exercise routine in a significant way. This will be an area that I will focus on over the coming weeks and months.

Activity-specific Training

I’ll explain activity-specific training by way of an example. I plan on doing a lot of hiking and backpacking in 2013, much of it on the Vermont Long Trail. To minimize erosion, hikers are asked to stay off the Long Trail until after Memorial Day (last weekend in May). That’s over 2 months away! So to help get in shape for hiking, and to maintain my sanity while I wait those two agonizing months, I’ll go on “training hikes” on a local rail trail. The rail trail (converted from an abandoned railway, as the name implies) is pretty flat, but it is very close to where I live, and it is in usable condition right now (the snow having melted this past weekend). So my activity-specific training for hiking will be to “hike” the rail trail several times each week, using a weighted backpack and my trekking poles. I will hike anywhere from 6 to 12 miles at a time. Not only is this an important part of my overall fitness strategy, it’s a great psychological boost to be out doing what I love, even if it is in a slightly modified fashion.

I feel that this combination of cardio, strength, stretch, and activity-specific training is the best approach to all around fitness.

A few other notes

I will have specific days for doing my cardio and my strength training.  I will try and stretch every day, but will be happy if I do it at least 5 days each week. I will do my activity-specific training whenever possible. It will be dependent upon my work schedule, the weather, and how sore I feel from my other exercises. I enjoy these “hikes” very much, and will typically get out at least 5 times per week, but I don’t hold myself to any specific schedule.

I’ll typically stick to a particular exercise routine for somewhere between 4 and 8 weeks. Then I’ll switch things up by changing the cardio and/or strength exercises. I do this in order to allow for variety so I don’t get bored. I think it also reduces the likelihood of injury due to overuse. I also like to throw in other activities, such as martial arts, plyometrics, P90X, etc., just to keep things interesting.

My first exercise program for 2013

For the next 6 weeks (starting Monday Mar 18, 2013), I will adhere to the following routine:

  • – Cardio: 30 min on elliptical, 5 days/week
  • – Strength: KettleWorX kettlebell DVD program
  • – Stretch:  Every day; actual routine to be determined
  • – Activity-specific:  Hikes on rail trail

Exercise Schedule

(Click the image above to see my weekly exercise schedule)

KettleWorX is a 6-week kettlebell program with three 20-minute strength training workouts each week. It’s not the most challenging exercise program, but it’s a great way for me to start to get back into shape. It actually consists of strength training with some cardio built in, so it will be nice to get a little extra cardio. It is also great for strengthening the core. It’s an excellent all-around exercise program and I highly recommend it (see disclaimer above).

This schedule allows for me to have two rest days each week (Monday and Friday). Getting enough rest is extremely important in any fitness routine. I listen to my body. If I am extremely sore, or just don’t quite feel right, then I’ll take an extra day off. I’d rather take an extra rest day than risk over training. Over training leads to injury and diminished results. After this 6-week program, I’ll post an update indicating what my next routine will consist of.

Diet is another important component of improved fitness and health. In fact, diet is probably more important than exercise…but unfortunately I tend to struggle with sticking to a healthy diet… exercise is so much more fun than eating healthy! I know I need to focus on improving my diet… and I will over the coming days and weeks… and I’ll be sure to blog about it. Stay tuned.

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