Posts Tagged ‘exercise’

About five weeks ago, I started the Recon Ron pull-up program. I had considered at least five (probably around eight) other programs, including the Armstrong pull-up program. I chose the Recon Ron program for its simplicity. You just read the number of pull-ups to be done per set and do them. The other programs require you to do things like determining the maximum pull-ups you can currently do or determining how many sets you are going to do in a day, or keeping track of when to increase the number of pull-ups and so on. The Recon Ron program simply has five sets of pull-ups to be done in each day’s workout, with the number of pull-ups in each set already specified for you. So you simply read and do. And of course remember where you are on the program. Ideally, each step is to be done for one week, then you go to the next step, that has a slight increase in the number of pull-ups. (more…)

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Start Exercising – 004

Exercise protects you from disease. Exercise makes you stronger. Exercise helps you do things more easily – lift luggage, walk up stairs to an office, run after your child. Exercise relieves stress. So, knowing all this, why do you not exercise? You may say that you cannot afford gym membership or afford the equipment you think you need for exercise. Or you may say that you do not have the time to exercise. Or you may say that exercise is difficult.
Let us address these concerns one by one:
1) Cost: Well, the truth is, you can exercise without expensive equipment or without joining a gym or aerobics class. You can perform bodyweight exercises or use minimal equipment like a skipping rope, items found in your house or running shoes. That means that as long as you are able-bodied, you can take up exercise inexpensively. Today.

2) Time: We all make time for the things we find important. Or things we find pleasant. We tend to put off things we find difficult, or unpleasant or unnecessary. The same applies to exercise. We may agree that it is important, but we think it is difficult or too demanding, and hence unpleasant. The good news is, you can spare as little as 30 minutes or less a day, 3 days a week and get reasonable exercise, right in the convenience of your home. Chances are, you will later want to increase this time all by yourself, because you will find that exercise actually need not be unpleasant. That *you* can actually enjoy it.

3) Difficulty: We may think exercise is difficult, because we think of doing too much or doing things that are currently too far beyond our ability. So we may start, strain for a short while and lose momentum or give up. Again, the good news is that you need not do anything that is very difficult. Start where you are, and grow in exercise. Just like anything we learn properly, we start where we are, and we increase our ability slowly over time. The problems usually arise when we do not want to learn during the course, then we want to try master things the night before the exam.

One problem is, the longer you stay without exercising and while not taking care of your nutrition, the bigger the problem gets. It will take more effort or time to undo the effects of such a lifestyle, than if you start making changes sooner. So the sooner you start, the better.

What are some exercises you can do? There are all sorts of exercise out there. A simple Internet search will give you more than you need, and several videos exist showing how to do the exercises properly. Examples are walking, jogging, skipping, stair running, star-jumps (also known as jumping jacks), press-ups, squats, and so on. All these require little or no equipment. Many of them can be done in or around your home.

So where do we start?
Set a written, easy, specific, measurable goal and write or find a plan to achieve it.
For example, you could set a goal that a month from now, you will be walking a total of 1 hour a week. (Remember we are starting with something easy).
You could then break down that goal to walking 20 minutes a day, 3 times a week.
You could then start with 5 minutes a day for the first week, then 10 minutes a day, the next week, then 15 minutes a day, then finally 20 minutes a day.
Just like that, you will have a goal and a plan to reach it.

The Internet also has several workout plans for various goals. These plans tell you what to do each day for a number of weeks. You can find one that is easy enough for you and follow it. If you feel you have enough knowledge about yourself and exercise, then you can write your own plan.
A written plan simplifies your work. You simply need to read what to do each day and do it.
A written plan helps you monitor and see the progress you are making.
A written plan motivates you to exercise, even if just so that you can mark off one day as done.

Start with something that you can actually do. For example, if you want to take up running and you have not been running at all, you can start with a walk/run plan, where you walk a number of minutes, then jog for a short time, then walk some more. Don’t plan to start jogging 30 minutes straight when your body and mind are simply not prepared for it. You will get to your 30 minute goal if you work towards it properly.

The plan should be specific. e.g. walk for 5 minutes, then jog for one minute. Or skip 200 times. Or walk up 3 floors and back to ground floor, 2 times.
Similarly, it should be measurable. You should be able to know whether you did as planned or not. Did you skip 200 times or 180? Did you jog 1 minute or 45 seconds?

The plan should also include rest days, to allow you to, well, rest, so that your body has time to recover. Rest days also cater for times when realities of life prevent you from exercising.

Record progress. This can be done by simply ticking against your written programme above or writing the date, the activity, and the number of repetitions done, such as “Skipped 500 times.” Seeing your progress will help motivate you to keep going.

You may want to share your plan with others who can keep you accountable and encourage you to maintain the habit. Better still, if you can find someone to join you in the exercising, that would help. A partner can help you stick to your exercise appointments.



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The Schedule
Yesterday I went for my scheduled sprints. No, don’t get the impression that I keenly follow my schedule, but I have learnt with some surprise that having a written (well, typed and printed) schedule helps me be a bit more consistent in following my exercise regime. Maybe it’s simply the happiness in ticking off something as done, or looking at the progress made so far in the plan. Or maybe it is just that a schedule allows me to focus on one day’s task at a time, knowing that other days and their tasks are catered for.
Time Loss
So, back to yesterday. My schedule says I should currently be doing 30 second sprints with 120 second rest periods. I use a phone’s lap timer to measure my times. I usually start the lap timer when I start each sprint, then count off seconds in my head as I sprint. I then stop the lap timer when I stop sprinting. Many times, probably most of the time, I have found that I stopped sprinting before the lap timer counted off 30 seconds. I think this is partly because perhaps my mind counts off the seconds too fast, in an effort to end the sprint sooner. Sometimes I simply stop because I feel spent, unable to continue sprinting and aware that I probably have not reached 30 seconds. The result of this is that unless I add a sprint or two to the workout session to make up for lost time, so to speak, I end up having sprinted less, at least time-wise, than I was supposed to.
The Idea
I read an article on the Web that gave a suggestion that addressed this problem of doing less than planned. It suggested that instead of running for a predetermined amount of time, you should run a predetermined distance. The reasoning was that during your workout session, as you get tired, you are likely to cover less distance in a given amount of time. By fixing the distance, even if you are running slower, then you will still cover the distance you intended. That means each running session can cover the same distance, even if one day you feel less energetic than usual and therefore take longer than anticipated. For me, that also meant that I would not need to count the seconds in my head. I would simply need to determine the distance I can cover in 30 seconds, and simply run that distance, knowing that I am not stopping too soon. I thought the suggestion was very good. Simple and logical.
So, back again to yesterday. I decided to follow this bright idea. So I made my way to the road where I sometimes sprint. I say ‘made my way’ because there seems to be no official route nearby from the more-used road to the target road. People on foot pass through what seems to be other people’s land, and sometimes sections of the route are inconveniently muddy. Anyway, I jogged to the road and chose a starting point, where I took a break to catch my breath and get ready for my sprints.
I started the first sprint. After some seconds, I glanced at the timer, saw 30 seconds were not up and sprinted a little more. I then took note of where I was to stop. Unfortunately, I had not marked precisely where I started, (imagine that!) but this was good enough for guidance. I walked back to the starting point. As I neared it, I found that the 120 seconds rest period was nearly up! I did the remaining sprints using my new knowledge. It was tough! I thought that if I had not actually seen weight loss results on the weighing scales, I may not have sustained this sprint routine.
How Did It Go?
The plan worked quite well. In fact, of the eight sprints I did, five exceeded the 30 seconds I was aiming for, and two were 29 seconds each. So my total sprint time was more than the target 240 seconds.
A few thoughts that occurred to me (Yes, I do have thoughts):

  • Have a plan. I have mentioned this before. A plan helps you think through the steps to your goal, helps you track progress and can help motivate you.
  • Where possible, it may be better to plan and later measure tasks by fixed, specific outcomes, than rely on changeable, subjective criteria.
    For example, it is better to plan “I will peel fifty potatoes, rather than I will peel potatoes for an hour.” (Don’t ask me under what circumstances).
    Or “I will write two chapters” rather than “I will write for 2 hours” (I know, sometimes the intended writing just does not come out as smothly as hoped).
    Or “I will write the program to add up and display the figures” rather than “I will work until I feel tired.”
  •  The Web has some good information. Well, it also has conflicting information sometimes, but it has lots of good information.

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I have started running. Or jogging. I’m not sure how this came about. I think what finally set me into action was a video clip I saw about keeping your tummy flat. There was a comment that one needs to run or walk to shed the fat, in addition to doing the specific exercise shown.
Jogging is not new in our family. My dad has been a jogger since as far back as I can remember. I used to join him sometimes when I was a kid. My sister also took up running and says she is addicted. So here I am now.
Last year, a friend of mine send me a training program before the Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon. I looked at it but did not do anything with it.
When I decided to take up running, I searched my Inbox, found the training program, looked at it more closely, then decided to search the Web for more.
Not surprisingly, there is a world of information out there. I got a number of free training programs and selected two that seemed suitable for myself.
I researched some more and got more tips, learnt a bit about pronation, hydration before and after exercising, warm-up and stretching, Fartlek, shoes and so on.
Then I selected a start date – Monday 13th December 2010 (simply because it was a Monday), bought running shoes, updated my Facebook status, measured the distance of the route I intended to use and I was good to go. (I measured using our car’s odometer, in case you are wondering. And in case you are wondering what an odometer is, Google is your friend)
On Sunday, my wife, some friends and I went visiting. We were to spend the night. I was not sure what time we would get back home, so I carried my running gear just in case running time reached before we got back home. My intention was to jog in the evening.
On Monday morning, our hostess said she was going jogging. I was urged to join her, but I was reluctant, because I felt I would slow her down (or that she would rush me) since my training program said I should walk for some minutes, then jog for some minutes. I eventually decided to go, since she seemed keen on having company.
We set off on the road along which she normally jogged. She was jogging and I was walking, with my phone at hand to time my walk/jog intervals. I was able to keep up with her. It turned out that I could jog for 3 minutes (instead of the 1 minute suggested by the program) and still feel reasonably comfortable.
So we did 35 minutes. Our hostess jogged the whole way, while I walked and ran at intervals. I was quite impressed by her fitness.
I thought that onlookers may have thought I am a lazy guy. Or maybe that I was training her. I also thought that someone seeing me with her may get tempted to tell my wife that they saw saw me with a strange woman rather early in the morning, is she aware of my whereabouts? My wife would probably then laugh out loud, to the puzzlement and possible embarrassment of the reporter.
So we ran for about 35 minutes, which was close enough to my target 30 minutes. I hope to be able to estimate the distance, based on how long it will take me to cover the 4km or so that will be my regular route.
The program I am on should get me running for 30 minutes non-stop in 8 weeks.
So, there. Another member of my dad’s family joins the running world.

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