Get real about workout recovery
Friends in Orange Places
For single people, there can often be an ulterior motive for going to the gym. Of course they want to get a good workout, get in shape, be healthy, and boost their energy. But a lot of them are also looking to hook up.
That’s part of the reason that some women don’t like the gym—they feel like it’s a “meat market” and they don’t want to be bothered. Others love that aspect, and purposely get dolled-up to do their workout thang, with the secondary goal of catching a hottie’s eye.
Back in my single days, during the random stretches that I actually went to a gym, I was so focused on trying to figure out the equipment and not look like a complete dork that the last thing on my mind was trying to meet anyone. Now that I’m married, “hooking up” at the gym has a whole new meaning.
I’m talking about friends. Workout buddies. Comrades in exercise. Don’t get me wrong—when I started the Weight Loss Challenge at Orangetheory Fitness, I wasn’t trying to become best buds with anybody and sit around singing Kumbaya together after our workouts. I was trying not to pass out on the rowing machine. But I was pleasantly surprised by the friendliness not just of the OTF staff, but of the members.
The support started on day one, when the staff welcomed me like I was a long-lost friend they were SO HAPPY to see. That was cool, and it made me feel good. And even cooler, it’s still that way. They’re just as welcoming now as they were when I first started, and I like that. It’s part of what motivates me to get off the couch and show up for class.
But what I realized is that their attitude sets the tone for all of us, and helps us encourage each other. I’ve struck up conversations with some really nice people as we were waiting for class to start. I’ve started seeing the same folks at some of the classes. We commiserate over splat points and how many pounds we’re losing. It’s like a little support group.
Take Yukari and Shawn, for example. Coworkers and friends, they’ve been coming to Orangetheory just a little longer than I have. I met them one night after class and kept seeing them on certain days.
Yukari moved here from Japan a few years ago. She said she likes it here, but the culture and lifestyle changes translated into her gaining weight.
“In Japan you walk a lot more, take the stairs, and live an active life,” she told me. “I drive a lot more here and I like American food, too—eggs, cheese, beef, and I love huevos rancheros.”
Me too, Yukari. But I don’t have moving to a different country as a good excuse for gaining weight.
Yukari heard about Orangetheory from a coworker, and recruited Shawn to try it with her. Now both women are hooked. They challenge each other during class and spur each other on as needed. That’s perfect for Shawn.
“I think it helps because I'm a competitive person so I'm like, ‘This girl can't beat me!’” she laughed. “I see the person next to me who seems to be doing the same as me and I compete. And I yell to Yukari to keep going. It fosters a healthy competitive spirit.”
I’ve enjoyed getting to know Yukari and Shawn during our brief conversations. They even gave me tips about using the OTF app. And now, they encourage me, too.
“Come on Kristi, you’ve got this!” I’ve heard Shawn yell out on more than one occasion when I’ve been ready to tell that rower what it can do with itself.
And there are other folks in my various classes whose names I never got, who provide encouragement as well. Several times I’ve been heading from the treadmill to the weight floor and gotten a high-five from another member. That unspoken support (often because we’re both out of breath) is a boost that seems to happen at just the right time.
A few times, I’ve even run into friends of mine that I didn’t realize were OTF members. One Sunday, I saw that two of my friends, Stephanie and Erin, were in the same class. Afterward, we hung out for waaaay too long catching up (props to the OTF staffers for not kicking us out).
So I have to say, I’m digging the social aspect of Orangetheory Fitness. I need that, it helps me stay motivated, and it makes working out more fun. It’s good to have friends in Orange places.
The Fitness Gods Must be Crazy
I don’t know about you, but when I start working out I want to see results quickly. I mean, if I’m putting in the effort, my energy’s up, and I’m committed, why shouldn’t I automatically start dropping weight? Is five pounds per week too much to ask for? Apparently so.
In fact, the gods of fitness decided to play a joke on me during week three of my Orangetheory Fitness Weight Loss Challenge. I was sooooo proud of myself. I’d stuck with this workout thing for three whole weeks! That’s longer than some relationships last! And for this chronic exercise avoider, it was a flat-out miracle. I’d been going to the late-
I imagine the conversation between the fitness gods happened as they were working out on their cloud, and went something like this:
“Oh Lars, god of sculpted abs and bulging biceps, look at that human huffing and puffing on her little treadmill! How amusing!”
“Why yes, Gelda, mighty goddess of physical power, endurance, and badassery, her little legs are just a-flying, aren’t they? Ha ha ha! What say we perform a bit of mischief?”
“Oh, do tell, Lars! What do you have in mind?”
“Rather than her losing pounds, let’s add some to her body!”
“Lars, you are SOOOOOO BAD! I love it!”
And so it was. During class, I would start on the treadmill, and spend most of my time at a four or six percent incline, at a pace of 3.7, and work up a good sweat. I’d get on the rower and I could feel that I was stronger. Same with the weights—I was able to do more reps before I felt like my muscles were melting. So at the end of week three I thought, “I’m gonna weigh myself and see where I’m at.” All the while of course, assuming that I had actually LOST a few pounds. But oh no.
I stood on the scale, and it said I was up two pounds. I got back off the scale. It had to have made a mistake. I got back on the scale. It said the same thing. I had gained two pounds. Dammit!
I admit it. I freaked. How could this be? I was actually sticking with my workouts! I hadn’t bailed once! And I could tell that I was shrinking. My stomach was a little flatter, my face seemed a little thinner. So what gives? Dejected, I had a little heart-to-heart with Doug. Doug was the trainer for my last class in week three. And as luck (and the fitness gods) would have it, he was also a nutrition expert.
First off, Doug calmed me down by telling me that gaining weight when you start working out is actually normal. I had never heard this. He said when you start working out regularly, your body doesn’t know what to think, so it struggles to find a new balance and adapt.
OK, I guess that makes sense.
Doug said I should be more concerned about body composition change than weight loss. I had definitely noticed that my clothes were looser and I had more energy. That’s a good sign. Then we started talking nutrition.
Oh yeah. Nutrition. I had kind of forgotten about that.
“So what do you typically eat? And how often?” he asked me. I told him that I was trying to make better choices. I’d start most mornings with a protein meal shake. Then I’d try to eat a sensible lunch, maybe a veggie burger and quinoa, or a sandwich and some snap pea crisps (much better for you than potato chips, right?). For dinner it could be anything. Hubs is the chef in our house so I’m down to eat whatever he’s cooking.
Of course, I may have neglected to mention that a lot of times, as Hubs is creating his culinary masterpieces, we “might” do some snacking. Some dinner pre-gaming, you could call it. And during the day, when I want a snack, I’ll often have some nuts. Not just a few, though. Way more than the portion size (who actually COUNTS out nuts to eat?!) listed on the container. I told myself that nuts are a healthy choice because they’re not chips (can you tell that I love chips?) but those little buggers have a lot of fat. You can say it’s good fat. But the bottom line is, it’s still fat.
And of course, we do enjoy a drinkipoo or two throughout the week. Whether it’s wine with dinner or one of Hubs’ amazing bourbon cocktails, we like to get our drink on.
Doug recommended that I think of my food intake like a pyramid, where breakfast is the largest meal of the day and the others get subsequently smaller. That’s the complete opposite of how I have always eaten. For me, dinner is always the big meal, the one you really share with family and friends. It is a social event. That would be a big change.
He also suggested that I go by the 80/20 rule, where 80% of the time I am eating healthy and staying pretty strict, but 20% of the time I let myself have a little leeway. Of course he did specify that “leeway” did not mean I could eat an entire canister of cinnamon rolls.
OK. It was time for the reckoning. I had to drastically improve my eating habits.
I went home and dramatically announced to Hubs that we (yes, “we”—I can’t change my eating habits without the help of the chef) had to overhaul our pantry, fridge, and how we shop for groceries. He looked at me like I had lost it. And I kind of had. Because ultimately, I was trying to lose weight/inches.
So we did. We went through our pantry and got rid of things that weren’t so great for us. Then we made a grocery list and really tried to think of items that would be healthy for meals and snacks that we would actually want to eat. We also made a commitment to lessen our portion sizes.
Overall, it’s been working. I can tell that I get full more quickly so my stomach is shrinking (yay!) I’m eating smaller snacks throughout the day rather than focusing on big meals at certain times. And Hubs and I decided to abstain from cocktails for a while (just to see what difference that makes.) I feel lighter and better.
Here’s hoping it sticks.
I'm Back on the Treadmill Again
Back where a splat point's my friend
Sing it with me, people! “I’m back on the treadmill again… back where a splat point’s my friend…” It’s week two of the Orangetheory Fitness Weight Loss Challenge and I’ve gotta get back in the groove. I was pretty (awesomely) tired after my trip back east to the Women’s March on Washington, so I took a couple of days to rest. But I had to get my three workouts in so off to Orangetheory Westside I went.
I had more energy than I did during my workouts in Week 1. I hopped on the treadmill and our instructor, Elia, got us going. We spent roughly 25 minutes alternating between our base pace, and doing “pushes” of higher intensity. During the pushes, I kept my pace at a 3.5 but upped my incline to six percent. I could definitely feel it (super heavy breathing) but I hung in there. Once or twice, I’d bring the incline down and up my speed to 4 just to mix it up. I broke a serious sweat and knew I was getting a good workout.
After the treadmill we hit the rowers for a 1000-meter challenge. I was doing pretty well until I hit 461 meters. Yep, that’s when my quads started burning like mofos! Note to self and anyone else who is doing an intense workout – stretch before you exercise!! Yes, I know I’m supposed to. No, I didn’t do it. And I paid. I hopped off the rower and stretched my poor little fiery quads out. Then I got back on to finish that last 500+ meters. Our instructor, Elia, saw me and the next thing I knew, she was on the rower beside me. “Come on Kristi, you can do this! You’re almost there!” she cheered me on. That was pretty awesome. I was the last one to finish, but hey, it got done.
Despite my burning quads, I’m trying to stay focused on “what I burn for.” That’s Orangetheory Fitness’s big question—“What do you burn for?” I burn for preventing myself from becoming a diabetic and having the same health issues my parents now deal with. If I burned for looking like a swimsuit model I would’ve done this years ago. Nope. Health has got to be the motivating factor.
I had a long conversation with my parents about their Diabetes during my recent visit. They told me some things I’d forgotten over the years. And some of it freaked me out. Like, that they weren’t all that overweight when they were diagnosed. I now weigh more than they did when they were told they were diabetic. Crikey.
I asked how dealing with Diabetes has impacted them. Mom said, “It consumes your life. There's not a day that goes by that you don't think about it. There's not a meal you eat that you don't think about it. You never get a day off.”
She said she definitely recommends exercise, because it helps control your blood sugar numbers. This is a HUGE statement coming from her. She and Dad were late to the exercise party. They finally started working out in 2014 at around 70 years old, after my Dad had another heart catheterization. I’m really proud of them for doing it. I get my sedentary genes from them, so I know it takes motivation to get them to the gym.
Mom’s Diabetes is under control, but Dad’s isn’t. His numbers are all over the place. He’ll count his carbs and shoot the appropriate amount of insulin, but an hour or two later his blood sugar can be sky high. He’s working with his doctor to regulate it better.
I finally met their doctor. The infamous Dr. Musselman. He was very nice, and in the brief chat that we had, I asked him how to keep myself from following in Mom and Dad’s footsteps. The look on his face said, “You’re doomed.” Shit! He told me that exercise will help at least delay it (delay!?) and that I should go ahead and lay off eating sugar. “One coke has 30 teaspoons of sugar in it,” he said. “You should try to eat and drink things that have less than eight grams of sugar per serving.” 30 teaspoons?! Less than eight grams? But what about my beloved Malibu and Cokes?
A little freaked, I asked Mom to test my blood sugar. The next morning, on an empty stomach, she poked my finger with a needle. A small prick (get your mind out of the gutter) and a tiny drop of crimson emerged. I held my breath. The meter beeped. “109,” Mom said. “That’s in the normal range.”
Woohoo!!! What a relief! Normal and I want to keep it that way! I am definitely keeping up with this workout thing.
At the end of one of my workouts, Elia shared this quote from Jim Rohn: “Everyone must choose one of two pains. The pain of discipline or the pain of regret.”
I’m choosing discipline. I don’t want anymore regret.
Hate Working Out? Me Too. So I Am Doing It.
I wish I was one of those people who couldn’t wait to hop out of bed in the morning to hit the gym at some ungodly hour. But I am SO not. A night owl by nature, my natural body clock would keep me up until around 2am, and sleep until 10 or 10:30am. Not exactly on par with societal norms.
Once I’m up I’m ready to work, and I hit my über-productive, fabulously creative stride in the afternoon. At some point, I think, “I should exercise today.” But by then, I’m on a roll with work and don’t feel like I can stop to work out. By nightfall, I’m tired. No exercise happening here.
I’m making progress on the bedtime/wake-up time thing, but the exercise thing has eluded me. I just haven’t felt motivated. That is, until recently. My wake-up call (so to speak) came thanks to my parents. Around the holidays, I spent roughly five weeks with them (two each at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and one when I headed back east to take part in the Women’s March on Washington.)
They’ve both been diabetic for a good two decades. My Dad has had a couple of mild heart attacks and a mild stroke. My Mom has autoimmune issues. And though I’ve known this, seeing their day-to-day again firsthand was an important reminder.
“What can we eat? How many carbs do I shoot for? Did you shoot your insulin? Check your blood sugar.” These phrases dictate their life. They constantly have to think about what they eat, what they just ate, and what they’ll eat later. If they don’t shoot enough insulin, their blood sugar is too high. If they shoot too much, their blood sugar can fall too low and cause a diabetic attack (think Julia Roberts’ character, Shelby, in the beauty shop in the film Steel Magnolias.) Scary as hell, and potentially life threatening. I wish they didn’t have to live like that, but I’m grateful that they are managing it fairly well. And I finally decided, I want to avoid dealing with that if I can.
Which brings me back to the exercise thing. I know I have to do it, and it has to be a lifestyle change. So I am praying to God and sweet baby Jesus that I will stick with what I’ve just started—the Orangetheory Fitness (OTF) Weight Loss Challenge.
I had no clue what Orangetheory was until recently. At a pre-holiday dinner (read: WINE) with some girlfriends, several were RAVING about their workouts at this new place. I was like, “Good for you guys!” and I thought, “That sounds hard. I’m not a gym person. More power to ‘em.” But my curiosity was piqued. Fast forward several weeks of witnessing my folks’ daily diabetes adventures and what did I do? I signed up at Orangetheory Fitness Westside, hoping to become a workout fanatic.
The challenge lasts six weeks. You have to work out at an OTF location at least three times per week. “OK, I can do this!” I psyched myself up. Hubs was totally supportive. “You’ve got this, Baby,” he said. I went to OTF before the challenge to get my fitness tracker (they’re all high-tech over there). I walked in a little unsure, and Bam! It was like a wave of positivity hit me – everyone was so friendly and encouraging. They got me set up and I weighed in. That was another wake-up call. I knew I’d gained weight the last few years but seeing 170 on that scale did NOT impress me. They showed me the place (nice digs, lots of orange) and by the time I left I felt like I’d just joined a fitness support group. Which I guess I kinda have–and truth is, I need the encouragement. So that’s a good thing.
I kicked off the challenge the following Monday with a 7pm class (great for my body clock). They’ve got a row of treadmills, a row of rowing machines (say that real fast) and a weight area. I put on my fitness tracker and boarded a treadmill.
“OK, where are my power walkers at?” the instructor, Bobby, yelled into his microphone. Power walker, that’s me! No jogging here (at least not yet). “Okay, I want you to start at base level for 2 minutes, then we’re going up to a 6 percent incline.”
Six percent. Okay, I can do that. Oh holy crap. That’s harder than I thought. I’m doing it anyway. “I will NOT be a diabetic. I will NOT be a diabetic,” I repeated to myself. Bobby took us through a series of what they call “pushes” and “all-outs” where we switch up our speed and incline for one to two minutes at a time. I was huffin’ and puffin’ and sweatin’ but I kept moving. I also kept looking at the big screen that had my real-time fitness monitor stats. More sweat and heavy breathing and I finally hit the Orange Zone!
Woohoo!!!!! That’s when you reach your optimum heart rate for burning calories. The longer you stay in it, the more you burn, and that calorie burn continues for another 24 – 36 hours after the workout. More bang for my workout buck. I’ll take it.
For every minute you’re in the orange zone, you earn a “splat point” (I’m still learning all of the cool terminology). Their splat symbol represents a fat cell bursting. Kinda gross to think about, but good. Burst little fat cells, burst!
After 25 minutes it was row time. We started with 400 meters. I pushed back with my legs and pulled the handles back with my arms in one fluid movement. Well, I was supposed to, anyway. It took a bit to get in the rhythm, and soon, my quads were on fire. But I was determined to finish those 400 meters! I was the last one to do it and head to the weights. We used hand weights to do bicep curls. Then we did sit-ups while holding a weight. The last exercise was using a TRX band to pull up our own body weight.
Bobby yelled instructions and encouragement. I kept checking my progress on the board. Come on, splat points! My calories-burned number kept increasing. Awesome. I sneaked peeks at the people beside me. Consistently, on the treadmill they were faster or at a higher incline; on the rower, they were faster; and they did more weight reps than me. But at least I did it.
I made it through the first workout. Hallelujah! Red-faced, sweaty, and breathless, I felt like I’d really accomplished something. Because I had! After each workout, OTF emails your personal stats from your fitness tracker. I’d burned 538 calories and gotten 20 splat points! 20! Not too shabby!
Little did I know my numbers would soon plunge drastically, which I chalk up to traveling. I left the next morning for North Carolina to see my folks before heading to D.C. I found an Orangetheory in N.C. so I could meet my challenge requirements.
Again, the staff was super cool and high-energy. But my numbers weren’t. I was tired. Because of my trip schedule, I exercised in the morning. And I felt it. My energy was lower and I just didn’t have enough to give. My email from OTF confirmed my suspicions: 490 calories burned but only two splat points for my first N.C. workout. And 399 calories burned and zero splat points for the second. Zero!?!?!? Ugh!
The trainers said not to sweat it. They said the orange zone is optimal to burn calories longer, but lots of time in the green zone (just below orange) is still a great workout. I’d spent 38 and 39 minutes in the green zone, so I’m gonna consider that success. Surely at least some of my fat cells burst. Plus, at the Women’s March on Washington my personal fitness tracker said I walked over 12,000 steps. I’m totally counting that as a workout.
I was happy to have survived week one of the weight loss challenge. I’ll chronicle my workout journey and let you know how it goes. I’m excited to do it, and hope I’ll notice results that spur me on towards better health (and no Diabetes). Wish me luck. And lots of splat points.
Workout Trends 101
For Trendy Gym Rats and Cutting Edge Couch Potatoes
The New Year is known for two things: predictions and resolutions.
Predictions, as in, “The hot trend this year will be purple-sequined zebra print. You’ll see it EVERYWHERE.” And resolutions as in, “THIS is the year I’m gonna work out regularly! I’m losing 20 pounds if it kills me!” Put these two together and you'll be working out in a purple-sequined zebra print ... What a mental picture.
Fortunately, purple sequined zebra print is not on the fashion radar for 2017, but fitness is virtually always a resolution. And just like jelly bracelets and neon colors in the '80s, grunge and “The Rachel” cut in the '90s and some of the styles predicted to rock our closets in 2017 (all shades of pink, a resurgence of platform shoes, and “vacation-style prints”) there are trends in fitness, too. Think Thighmaster, Jazzercise, Zumba.
The American College of Sports Medicine has released its annual list of the New Year’s top fitness trends. Here’s what’s hot for 2017.
1. Wearable Technology
This is number one for the second year in a row. Whether you’re working out on your own while wearing a Fitbit, Jawbone, Garmin, or Apple Watch, or hitting a gym like Orangetheory Fitness that issues a special heart rate monitor to members, chances are you’ll be wearing some sort of device to track every heartbeat, mile, and calorie burned.
“We use technology to help people train through their workout zones and reach their target heart rate,” says Orangetheory coach Colton Gibney. “It helps people stay motivated, because you have the stats to know you can push yourself a little more.”
But he cautions against getting too dependent on your device.
“Sometimes, instead of using it as a training tool to learn your body and how things should feel, people get fixated on numbers. It can get a little obsessive,” Gibney says.
2. Body Weight Training
This was the number one trend in 2015 and was number two last year as well. Push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, squats–you can do these anywhere. No time for the gym today? “Stand up and sit down 10 times from your work chair and you just did a set of squats,” says Gibney. It also helps you focus on that 2pm meeting with the boss.
3. HIIT -- High Intensity Interval Training
Number one on the list in 2014, HIIT is still super popular, rounding out the top three. This concept is what a lot of gyms like Orangetheory Fitness are based on, because it works.
“A lot of people are on the go. That’s what makes HIIT great—you don’t have to spend as long training because you’re hitting it harder for a shorter time,” says Gibney. “We’re taking you up into a push zone or all-out–that’s taking you into a HIIT zone, spiking your heart rate, then back to your recovery zone.”
Along with the top three fitness trends for the New Year, there are some other notable fitness processes that made the list.
On the list for the first time, Group Training makes a strong showing at number six. It's high-energy exercise, motivation, a social outlet, and support group all in one (and who doesn’t need that?)
“You’re with a group of people experiencing the same thing and when you see they’re not giving up it lets you know that you can keep going, that you can do it,” Gibney says.
It also ups the fun factor. “You make new friendships you may never have made otherwise,” he adds. “They’re your fitness buddies now. It helps with accountability.”
Fitness programs for older adults
Chances are, you’re noticing more, shall we say, “distinguished” folks at the gym. The older population is working out more often, and for good reason. They’re building strength, coordination, and balance for their golden years.
“Low-impact exercise with good resistance training helps keep those bones nice and strong, and increases cardiovascular and cognitive function as well,” says Gibney.
And don’t kid yourself. Some of those people can outpace fit Millenials.
“We’ve got a member who has had a double hip replacement and has taken almost 300 classes,” says Gibney. “There is an 82-year-old woman who works out with us who has eight children and 12 grandchildren. We ensure that everyone works out within their own means.”
Whether you hit the gym or exercise at home, you can try some of these trends to stay motivated. And the best part–you never have to wear purple sequined zebra print workout clothes. Unless of course, you’re into that.
Friday, May 20: Bike to Work Day
Sunday, Apr 3: Pickleball Clinic
Saturday, Apr 2: Gratitude Bike Parade and Party
Get Bouncy With It
Saturday, Mar 26: Inflatable Obstacle Course
Thursday, Mar 17: St. Patty's Pub Ride
Monday, Mar 7: Metal Yoga Mondays
Dem Derby Dames
Saturday, Mar 5: Duke City Roller Derby Home Season Opener
Cuckoo for Gaga
Time to Sit Up and Review Your Exercise Regimen?
¡Viva la Science!
Maybe you've heard this a jillion times: Core strengthening is vital if you want to avoid injury. But is it true? A new study doesn't conclusively say one way or the other, but it sure casts some doubt on the incredibly common assertion.
In the study, released in the journal Physical Therapy, 1,100 soldiers aged 18 to 35 were divided into two groups. One group used a core stabilization exercise program that lacked sit-ups, while the other used a traditional exercise program that included bent-knee sit-ups. The point was to compare how the two programs affected the rate of musculoskeletal injury.
Why the focus on sit-ups?
Despite longstanding tradition and the widespread popularity of sit-ups, it has been postulated that this exercise results in increased lumbar spine loading, potentially increasing the risks of injury and low back pain (LBP). Specifically, sit-ups produce large shear and compressive forces on intervertebral disks and across the lumbar spine. Increased muscle activation anteriorly results in both initial hyperextension and subsequent hyperflexion of the lumbar spine, contributing to large compressive forces during sit-ups.
Sit-ups have long been an important yardstick by which the US Army measures physical health. But if they're causing injuries, or failing to prevent injuries that core strengthening could prevent, that might need to change.
The results, though, didn't show any massive difference in injuries between the two groups. “There were no differences in the percentages of soldiers with musculoskeletal injuries. There also were no differences in the numbers of days of work restriction for musculoskeletal injuries overall or specific to the upper extremity.”
It’s worth nothing that the results for the two groups weren't identical. Soldiers who completed the traditional exercise program did have more days of work restriction than the other group if their injury was to the low back.
As much as we all like studies that conclusively prove broad truths, the reality is that what we “know” tends to advance in teensy increments. This study is one thread in a much larger tapestry. What it tells us, though, is that sit-ups might not be the bogeyman and core strengthening might not be quite the miracle each has been portrayed as—as usual, more studies are needed.
Via: Saveyourself.ca – check out the lively and informed discussion taking place on their Facebook page