Category Archives: Workouts

On 90-Day “Miracles”…

Hi, everyone. You may (or may not) have noticed that Aj’s Focus lacked a post this past Friday. I didn’t forget. Nope. Instead, I decided to just skip it altogether.

With each new post published, I learn something new about blogging and about my readers. So from now on, unless I’m just particularly inspired to write, Aj’s Focus will not publish on Fridays. Thanks to everyone who has been following!

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Do this; get that. Guaranteed!

Back to the primary subject here. I’d like to take a moment to hit on something most of us have at least heard of if not seen on TV or perhaps even purchased. It’s what I call “Promises of the 90-Day Miracle.”

Many fitness-oriented infomercials today focus on guaranteeing astounding results within three months. We don’t often hear them refer to it as three months, though. Why is that?

For one, a period of days, no matter the length, just seems shorter than months, doesn’t it? Think about it. It’s the same reason car dealerships and banks focus on months rather than years in reference to auto loans.

It’s all about investing, whether it’s money or time…

In fact, some might say the two are nearly interchangeable. Isn’t it true the less time we think we’re putting into something laborious, the more money we may be willing to spend to do it; especially if there is a promise to fast track results.

Examples:

Manual-style lawn mowers:

How many people do you know who still use them?

Hand-mashed potatoes:

The effort is sweet, but are Cuisinart-mashed spuds really all that different?

Plumbing, electricity, audiobooks

Must I go on?

Actual results may vary…

I know a few people who have experienced some amazing results from programs like P90X, Insanity, Tae Bo, TapouT XT, Body by Vi, to name a few.

Unfortunately, I know many more individuals who, after an honorable shotgun start, failed to complete even the first 30 days of a given program. Why is that?

Because real miracles come from real effort. And real effort takes a lot of time. And what is time? Money!

Keepin’ it real…

As you may know from previous posts, I am currently experimenting with P90X. I actually started the program about five weeks ago, but after a week of vacation, I steered a bit from the program. I really wanted to experience the whole deal. So I decided to just start over.

After already experiencing a few weeks of the program, I pretty much knew what to expect. But then I decided to crunch some numbers.

How many seconds does it take to get to the “90” in “P90X”?

I couldn’t find a wise old owl to ask. I did, however, refer to the materials that came with my copy of P90X.

As it turns out, an average week requires about 8 hours of gym time every week. That’s quite a bit of money…I mean time…considering there are 7 days in a week, but only 6 P90X sessions a week.

In this case, the prospect of total days spent doing P90X is pretty palatable when one considers other possible time measurements.

Here’s the math:

At 8 hours a week, I’m looking at spending more than 100 hours with Tony Horton and friends by the end of the program. That’s 6,000 minutes…or 360,000 seconds!

Tony doesn’t even know I exist, yet I know his poker tells after just 2 weeks!

The point to all this?

My point is…anyone can promise sweet results over a particular period of time, but that doesn’t necessarily mean things will be easy.

I awoke this morning at 4:15 in order to knock out “Chest & Back” without being late for work. After 40 minutes, I nearly vomited from the effort…literally. Tomorrow, I get to do it again. By Wednesday, I’ll be halfway to earning my next off day for the week.

I’m okay with all that. In fact, I often take slight nausea as a sign of a solid workout. Horton even mentioned feeling a bit queazy during today’s sweat fest!

Question: How far are you willing to push it?

Answer: That depends on the fight within.

If you focus less on the investment of time and more on improved performance from one workout to the next, I believe you’ll be much more likely to achieve the miraculous results you were promised by that TV actress with the impossibly tight midsection. Keep at it!

Thanks again for reading, and feel free to share your own 90-day fitness experiences via the comment box below.

Until next time…

Warmest Regards,
~Aj

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Friday Wrap-Up on Thursday…

Well it’s Thursday and not a scheduled publishing day for me. I definitely want to sum up the week, but tomorrow’s docket is pretty full. Today will do just fine for that. Consider it an early Friday treat…but you still have to go to work tomorrow. Sorry.

This week I hit hard on being good to yourself after a sad run-in with an individual who, to me (i.e. not a doctor) appears to suffer from an obsessive compulsion to exercise.

UPDATE:

(See Monday’s post, I’m Sexy And I Know It…, for the whole story)

My suspicions were clearly confirmed this morning when I once again witnessed the workout stylings of the girl who punished herself.

To kick start my morning, I headed to the gym for a quick 30-min cardio session. She came in a couple minutes after me. Here’s how her workout went from start to finish:

– Speed walk into the gym

– Jump onto treadmill

– No warmup; hard run (5 min)

– Full stop on tread; run to the scale; measure weight 2x; run back to tread

– Hard run (10 min)

– Full stop; run to scale; measure weight 2x; hit the deck

– Begin wild, side leg “flutters” (5 min/leg)

– Begin speed “crunches”

– Back to scale; measure 1x

– Speed walk out the door

So what do you think? Does my gym neighbor have a problem?

I believe she does.

The information I have is admittedly limited. There is a wide range of possible reasons for her gym performance.

– Perhaps she’s fixated on slipping into a particular outfit.

– Maybe she saw someone else work out like that once.

– It’s possible she runs a very tight schedule and is just trying to cram as much in as possible.

Who knows? What I do know from observation is that she 1) is dangerously unfamiliar with fitness fundamentals, and 2) exhibits a very unhealthy focus on body weight.

So please think about this story the next time you hit the gym, the road, the pool…whatever you do for exercise.

Make sure you know what you’re doing; not because it annoys others when you don’t, but because it’s unsafe to do so otherwise.

A structure’s fortitude depends largely upon the quality of craftsmanship. Same goes for your body.
~ Aj

Also, focus on your intent. Why are you working out? Is it to lead a healthy lifestyle, or is it to punish yourself for a dietary goof-up?

Finally, look out for others and be courageous enough to confront them about your concerns. That can be very tough to do, but it can be a real positive game changer for the individual.

So did you? Confront her, that is…

Right. That’s a fair question.

No. I did not confront the girl who punished herself.

Why not? Because I could not bring myself to confront a stranger about such a personal thing.

Maybe if I could witness her a few more times — perhaps strike up a friendly conversation or two. Maybe then I could move into a chat about exercise habits.

Unfortunately, developing that kind of rapport takes time, and today was my last visit to this particular gym. My hope is that someone she knows can see clearly enough to intervene soon.

With that, I wish you all a wonderful weekend.

Please do feel free to share your thoughts on this or any previous article right here on my blog. Also, I’m interested in what topics interest you. Sound off!

Until next time…

Warmest Regards,
~Aj


I’m Sexy and I Know It. I Workout! Maybe Too Much…

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So I went to the gym this morning early enough to beat the Monday morning crowd. The thing is, I’m not sure there is such a thing.

There was one person, though, who challenged my focus on training. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s a real bummer. Regardless, I almost always learn something from such situations. This time was no different.

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Story time: “The Girl Who Punished Herself”

When I walked into the gym, there was a very thin lady truckin’ away on a treadmill. She must have seen that I was about to hit the weights (very limited selection), because she literally jumped off the tread and jumped (again…literally) directly in front of the weight rack.

Now that, in itself, was not a big deal. I figured she just really wanted to make sure she got her preferred weights. Who am I to stop anyone from getting their workout done?

It’s what happened next, though, that really blew my mind.

Right there in front of the rack, with no weights in hand, the lady dropped to the floor and started doing side leg raises. Being polite and generally supportive of other people’s fitness efforts, I was patient and stretched while waiting (with my back to her so she didn’t think I was a creeper *).

* Mad props to my teen for gifting me this new term for “creepy stalker.”

If her apparent lack of situational awareness wasn’t enough, things got even MORE weird.

I’ve done side leg raises before. Who hasn’t? But this lady’s leg-flailing Kung Fu was out of this world! As it turned out, they weren’t exactly leg raises. They were more spasmodic upward flippings of the lower leg, totally uncontrolled and on the verge of being dangerous to others (and possibly herself).

She did this for at least five minutes…before switching to hit the other side. My workout hadn’t even begun at this point. I was actually starting to look around for the hidden camera!

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Am I Being Punked?

As it turns out, this was totally legit. Well…as legit as it could be. She clearly had no idea what she was doing, but it was also clear she had a very specific goal in mind. What that goal might have been, other than perhaps to throw out a hip, I had no idea.

And then, in the midst of all that judgmental gym rat stuff, I had a moment of clarity. In an instant, I went from being unnerved to understanding–and more than a little ashamed of myself.

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10 lbs of self loathing = 50 lbs of fat? That can’t be right…

Earlier I mentioned how thin the lady was, right? Well as she got up from 10 minutes of radically fierce leg raises, she kicked off her shoes and stepped onto the scale. I didn’t catch her weight (none of my business), but I didn’t have to. Her knee bones were wider than her calves and her thighs.

She jumped off the scale–apparently unsatisfied–and left the gym at a run. I finally began my own routine, but I thought about this poor stranger the whole time.

My conclusion:

She might very well suffer from a serious disorder called exercise compulsion. My heart went out to her as I wondered if anyone has ever tried to confront her about this? Does she even suspect a possible problem?

How much is too much?

It’s a fine line between exercising for health and exercising for control. Here’s a short list of questions WebMD asks to help one determine if he or she may suffer from exercise compulsion:

Do you have exercise compulsion? Look at the following statements and see which ones apply to you. If two or more of the statements apply, talk to your school counselor or your health care provider about your compulsion to exercise:

– I exercise even when I run a fever or have a bad cold.
– The first thing that comes to my mind each morning is “exercise.”
– When I can’t exercise, I’m so afraid that I will gain weight.
– I break dates with friends and family so I can exercise more.
– When I miss exercise, I feel irritable and depressed.
– I work out rain or shine, even in freezing temperatures or thunderstorms.
– I crave the “high” feeling that I get from exercise.
– I am underweight for my height.
– Losing weight has become more of a priority than maintaining a healthy weight.

Now be careful here. Not all of these symptoms are, by themselves, bad.

    I run a busy schedule, so I get up earlier than I would otherwise in order to fit in a training session. When my alarm goes off at 04:30, of course I’m going to think about my workout.

    When I miss a session, I do feel a bit bummed. If I miss two or three in a row, my friends and family notice my mood going south.

    I love the post-workout buzz. There’s just nothing like it!

The remaining symptoms are the clear signs of an unhealthy relationship with exercise. Couple any of those with the more positive symptoms I myself experience, and you’ve probably got a real problem on your hands. That’s what makes it so difficult to differentiate an exercise fiend from an exercise victim. One symptom can overshadow another.

Ask yourself the questions above. If you think you may have a problem with excessive exercising, PLEASE seek medical attention. Do it now; not later. Be inspired and get help!

Why do you care? It’s my body, anyway…

Why?

BECAUSE YOU ARE WORTH MY CONCERN!

Be a hero!

If you know of anyone who may suffer from exercise compulsion, talk to them. Be courageous, and be proactive. Wingman. Battle Buddy. Friend. Lover. Associate. Neighbor. Whatever you are to them, do something!

For more information on exercise compulsion, here are some links to get you started:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3210598/
http://www.disordered-eating.co.uk/disordered-eating/compulsive-exercise.html
http://www.nedic.ca/blog/?p=96

Until next time…

Warmest Regards,
~Aj




Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net


TBH…I Juice for Performance

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Happy US Independence Day, everybody!

I said today would be an off day for my blog. But today is just too awesome, and this proud American is inspired to write!

Cool, Aj! Happy 4th to you, too! Now what’s with the header? TBH? I don’t get it…

First off, if you’re anything like me, a teen had to explain to you what the heck “TBH” means and why they and all their friends preface almost every Facebook status update with those letters. If you haven’t had that experience but are still wondering what it means, I’ll save you the frustration of being schooled by a middle schooler.

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Here are a few examples of how to use TBH (or “to be honest”) in a text or social media update. TBH, I think this should be submitted to Urban Dictionary. Here goes:

    TBH…Nick’s new haircut is epic

    TBH…Ms. Thrasher totally kills us with homework on Fridays

    Or

    TBH…YPH

Ok. I made up that last one for effect. YPH = You’re pretty hot. Man I hope my daughter doesn’t read this and start that new trend. NOT something I want as part of my legacy…

Regarding my (ahem) “juicing” habit…

Though I’ve never used “roids” to enhance a workout, I sure do like to juice before one.

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If you’re new to this blog, you should know that about 2 weeks ago, I made a pledge to myself to juice at least once each day. l literally pull juice from organic produce and ingest whatever concoction pours forth from the magic juicing machine. So, no. By juicing, I do not mean anabolic steroid injections. That would be illegal and (more importantly in my mind) stupid.

So far, I’ve honored my pledge. Every morning for the past 11 days, I’ve pushed veggies and fruit down the chute of my Jack Lalanne juicer. The taste has grown on me to the point I can juice just about anything and find something enjoyable about it.

I just finished a spinach, beets with stems, carrots, orange, and goji berry mix. So delicious, and I’m ready to hit the P90X arms and abs routine with everything I’ve got.

So I’m signing off to go complete today’s workout with Mr. Horton and company. I’ll let you all know how things went after super-feeding my body on micronutrients. TBH…it’s gonna be epic!

To life!

~Aj

UPDATE!

11:35AM – Just completed the Shoulders & Arms Plus Ab Ripper X routine. My teenage daughter joined me. What a troop! If only she was old enough to join the ranks. Uh…ok. Maybe that’s one way in which she doesn’t need to be like her old man.

According to my heart rate monitor, I burned about 830 calories in about 75 min. How did I hold up after juicing? TBH…it was grueling! Still, I felt more energized than I did Monday morning when I juiced after my workout.

I’m completely soaked. It’s time to hit the shower and start celebrating the awesomeness that is the United States of America! *

* I struggle with this all the time. Is USA singular or plural? Of course we’re referring to all the states that make up the Union, but I guess it’s the singular Union to which we refer. Oh well. Let’s celebrate!


Stress Cookies? No Thanks…

This post is a bit closer to the fringe of the fitness and nutrition discussion. The focus here is on stress.

So. Are you? Stressed, that is. If so, do you know if it’s a healthy or unhealthy stress? Do you understand that distinction?

Enough with the questions, Aj!

Right. Sorry. The reason I ask is that I deal with all kinds of stress each and every day, and so do you if you are a cognizant human being. I’ll spare you the long talk on stress. Here’s the abridged version.

Stressors: Cookie Cutters Need Not Apply…

You’ve certainly heard before that people experience stress from many different situations and in many different ways. The kind of stress we experience, for most of us, depends largely upon the type and intensity of the stressor(s) acting upon us. All stressors, believe it or not, influence your physical fitness level to some degree. And not all of those influences are the kind your mother warned you of (i.e. “we are judged by the company we keep”). Some can be quite beneficial.

Stress and Lifting…

According to a January 2012 Men’s Health News article, “stress can activate a part of the brain that’s also triggered during muscle contractions…”, which some researchers contend causes one to lose focus in the gym (imagine working out solutions to differential equations while counting “1 up, 2 down”).

Unfortunately, the MH article falls flat in explaining exactly what kind of stress is at fault there. They do make a connection to a few generic stressors (e.g. work, relationship, or financial issues), but nothing quite specific enough.

Where’s the discussion on positive stress? And what about linkages between the physical (neural) stress placed upon the body during a workout and the mental (psychological) stress we endure at work and at home? What’s more, they make no mention of the connection between stress and weight management.

Let’s add one more goal to the list.

I’ve asked some questions but so far offered up no answers. I want to, and I will. My goal for next Monday is to get more fidelity on the subject. There is a lot of research out there on it, and I’ll dig up as much as possible.

I fully understand that MH relies on perhaps more than a few half-baked articles in order to create a platform for advertisements. Nonetheless, readers should expect (read: demand) more thoughtful answers to such questions. If you read fitness and health periodicals, you’re obviously looking for helpful information; not an advertisement for the latest pre-workout supplement (and don’t get me started on those other ads in the back of some h&f magazines).

Why is this such a biggie, Aj? We’re all stressed…

Right you are. We’re all stressed, and I want to know how it’s affecting my workout.

Say I had a boss with crazy expectations no regular human could live up to. Thankfully, my boss is supportive, understanding and realistic. But we’ve all had that boss at one time or another. The solution MH gives is to get plenty of exercise to help cope with that kind of stress.

Brilliant, MH! Only…I’m already doing that, and I’m interested in excelling in the gym; not just hitting it to blow off steam.

Come Monday, It’ll Be Alright…

So on Monday, we’ll hit this topic in greater detail. In the meantime, keep working on those mid-term fitness and nutrition goals (and on getting cheesy song lyrics out of your head).

I’ll sign out with an excerpt from today’s gym log. What a motivating session! Until Friday…

Warmest Regards,
~Aj

The Workout — BACK and TRAPS

Back

Back
Exercise Sets Reps
Barbell Rows – Power 2-4 3 to 5
(115×5) 1min (125×5) 1min (125×5) 1min (125×5)
* Last week, I used the Smith machine. Today, I used the bar. 125 w/bar is harder than 135 on Smith. These sets were awesome! Much better than last week.

Exercise Sets Reps
Dumbbell Rows – Muscle 2-3 6 to 12
(60×8)* 1min (60×8) 1min (60×8)
* Note: Went up 5lbs from last week. harder but still good form; right stronger than left. Work on that with more isolation movements.

Exercise Sets Reps
Lat Pull Down – Muscle 2-3 6 to 12
(60×9) 1min (60×8) 1min (60×7.5)
* Machine is plated & marked about 60 lbs heavier than standard pulldown machines — fooled me last week when I tried to start at 120…not this time. Great sets!

Exercise Sets Reps
Seated Cable Row – Burn 1 40
(85x24x3x3x3x3x3x3) = (85×42)
* This is up by 15lbs from last week. Super tough sets!


Sharing Is Caring…for Oneself?

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Goal #2: “I want my bench, squat and dead lift sets to go up by 20 lbs each in the next 30 days.”

I know. Last week I promised only three posts per week, and I’m sticking with that formula. But just as I’ve encouraged you all to do, I want to share with others (you) a couple recent successes. This mini-progress report touches on one of my long-term goals.

Woe Was Me…
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I spent Saturday and Sunday completely wiped with a low-grade fever. Obviously my 5-Day Split routine went on hold, with me only knocking out 3 of the 5 workouts for the week.

By Monday, I was on the mend but made a bit woozy by too much exertion. So I decided to take yet another day of rest. I also juiced some fresh veggies and fruit to boost my recovery. The lost workouts were a real bummer, but all was not lost.

Unforecasted Growth…
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At 5:00 this morning, I hit the road for a solid 2.5 mi run. By noon, I was in the gym. I decided to take my last two missed workouts (Saturday and Sunday) as losses. So just as I did last Tuesday, I hit chest and triceps…hard.

Throughout the workout, I paid close attention to the notes I kept during my previous session and really pushed myself (I track my workouts via my iPhone while listening to Pandora–usually reggae).

Notes from today’s session:

Bench Press – Power
Sets: 2-4 Reps: 3-5
(165×5) 2 min rest (165×5) 2min (165×5) 2 min (165×5)
* Note: This is 10lbs more than last week, and I missed zero reps. Time to move up!

Incline Bench Press – Muscle
Sets: 2-3 Reps: 6-12
(135×8) 1.5 min (135×7) 1.5 min (135×6)
* Note: Same weight as last week, but gained reps on all sets for a great overall performance. Will use same weight next week and try to hit 12 reps/set before moving up in weight.

Dumbbell Bench Press – Muscle
Sets: 2-3 Reps: 6-12
(60×7) 1 min (60×6) 1 min (60×5*)
* Note: Finished with alternating presses to really isolate the movement, hence the lower rep count on that set. I did, however, gain a rep on that first set. Definitely felt a power increase from last week. So much progress despite being wiped out the last few days!

As you can see, in just one week I’ve made measurable progress toward a long-term goal. Talk about motivation! And because of that, I’ve had even more nutritional discipline all day long. Awesome!

Keep working on your goals, achieve something, and be awed by your own abilities. Until tomorrow…

Warmest Regards,
~Aj

Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Friday Wrap-Up No. 3

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Happy Friday, folks. I hope you’re still tracking and making progress toward those seven goals for the week!

As for me, it never ceases to amaze me just how successful we can be when our minds are focused on specific goals. My progress this week has been astounding! And I’m not just trying to motivate myself to keep it up over the weekend ahead.

One of my goals for this week was to find a new gym routine and stick with it. I’ve been weight training in earnest for over two years now. The routines I’ve followed have mostly been my own.

Remember, over the course of nearly 20 years, I’ve built up my fitness experience and knowledge base. But that doesn’t always translate to best practices.

So after making good on my goal to grab a new routine (that 5-day split discussed on Wednesday), I was admittedly a bit reluctant to take it all the way.

But I did take it all the way, and I’ve got to say, it’s been a real eye opener!

Less is more…

As it turns out, less really can be more.

My typical workout takes me about 45-60 minutes, though I’ve been known to spend upwards of 90 min in there if I throw in a 3 mi run on top of it all.

The touted success behind this routine hinges on the concept of focused output in three ranges: power, muscle, and burn. Here are my notes from yesterday’s workout:

Quads and Calves
Start: 15:50
Finish: 16:20

Quads
Exercise
Squat – Power Sets: 2-4 Reps: 3-5
(180×5) 1 min rest
(180×5) 1 min rest
(180×5) 1 min rest
(180×5) 2 min rest
* Smith machine- 90 lbs per side

Leg Press – Muscle Sets: 2-3 Reps: 6 to 12
(270×12) 2.5 min
(360×8) 1.5 min
(360×8)
* Solid set at 360 (4 plates/side)

Front Squat – Muscle Sets: 2-3 Reps: 6-12
(90×5) 1.5 min
(90×6) 1 min
(90×6)
* smith- 45lb per side

Leg Press – Burn Sets: 1 Reps: 40
(210×12 — 190x8x8x4x4x4) = 40 reps

Calves
Exercise
Seated Calf Raise – Muscle Sets: 2 Reps: 10-15
(50×14) 1 min
(50×14)

45 Degree Calf Raise – Burn Sets: 1 Reps: 40
(90x24x3x3x4x3x1) = 40 reps
* mega burn!

So you can see how it works. I probably could (perhaps should) have given closer to 2 minutes between sets…at least for those heavier, power sets. In all, it took me just 30 minutes to complete the entire workout.

What happened to my legs?!

I awoke this morning with LLS, or lead legs syndrome, with yesterday’s quick but intense leg workout nearly lost from my short-term memory bank (doesn’t take much). Obviously there is something to be said for this 5-day split. I am very grateful that I made good on this specific goal. It’s just what my body needed!

Next week…

We’ll set some more goals on Monday. This time, though, let’s narrow it down to just two or three objectives that may take more than a week (but no more than two) to reach. I thrive on shared goal setting, so please start thinking about your goals now. Until then…

Warmest Regards,
~Aj

Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net