June Fitness Challenge: Reset my Workout Habits
Since spring has sprung and we’re well on our way to summer, this month I’m changing it up from doing a creative challenge to a fitness challenge. Maybe someday I’ll rename my monthly challenges to something more catchy that works for multiple types of challenges, but that day is not today. 🙂
Wait, aren’t you a runner?
Eh … more or less (with emphasis on less these days).
Grad school forced me to fall out of my workout habits. This is actually a GOOD thing for somebody with a background of disordered eating and exercise. Prior to grad school, I thought I needed to do 60+ minutes of high-intensity 5-6 times a week to stay fit. While in school, I didn’t have time or energy (mostly energy) for those bust-my-ass workouts. At this time I also quit doing workouts for the sake of my looks and started doing them for the sake of my health—my biggest health concern during grad school was my mental health. I walked (sometimes for hours) and spent time outside to help my anxiety when stressed.
My routine hasn’t changed much since grad school, except for with sporadic streaks of circuit or strength training, and that time I trained for an 8-mile race—all efforts to “get back at it”. I mildly sprained my ankle in March right before that race, so I lowered my activity again. Now, the ankle is doing fine, so it’s time to morph my easy fitness routine into something that is good not only for my mental health but also for my physical health (including that dang ankle!).
Research: What Kind and How Much Exercise Do I Need?
I based workout routines of years past on trends: the endless cardio fad of the 90s, Jillian Michaels DVDs of the 2000s, and CrossFit style boot camps of recent years. Workout trends are great to get people excited about exercise, but they aren’t meant for everybody and are definitely not sustainable. Instead of getting caught up in another fad, I did a bit of research to see what exercise I need.
- The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center recommends weight-bearing exercises as the best exercises for bone health. Examples of this include: weight training, walking, hiking, jogging, climbing stairs, and dancing.
- The NIH National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the Center for Disease Control (CDC), and the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity a week—or a combination of both. They add that for more health benefits, do 300 minutes (5 hours) of moderate-intensity or 2 hours and 30 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise.
- The NIH, CDC, and AHA also say to include full-body muscle-strengthening activities 2 or more days a week (such as yoga and weight lifting).
- The AHA also adds that to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, you should include an average fo 40 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity 3-4 times a week.
- Harvard Medical School published the benefits of yoga, including a better body image, cardiovascular benefits, and soothing anxiety.
Goals for This Challenge
Although walking and hiking regularly cover most of these recommendations, I can still do more for my health. I have high cholesterol due to genetics, so I’d like to add vigorous activity to my routine. I don’t have a strength training habit, so I need to add that back into my routine, with focus on weak areas (knees, ankles) and muscles that I need for my favorite activities (like running). I should also consider yoga for a strength-training activity since there are added benefits to that practice (body image and soothing anxiety), vs. traditional weight lifting.
With the above recommendations and my health concerns in mind, here are my three goals for this challenge:
- Add three 20-minute sessions of vigorous cardio once a week (running, biking, other heart-pumping activities).
- Strength train two times a week. Each session should include six exercises. I don’t remember where I read the rule of thumb as six different exercises, but this rule has proven its worth to me, so I’m keeping it.
- Do 15 minutes of yoga each week. Ideally, add a few moves after the vigorous cardio.
These goals seem minimal compared to lofty goals I’ve had for past workout overhauls. In the past, my goal was usually to lose weight. This time my goal is my health, so I aim to do something sustainable (and not fall prey to another crash workout regime). Walking (for me) is so sustainable that I barely think about it. Anybody who’s participated in a FitBit step challenge with me will tell you this.
I can do better for my health, so here’s a start!
What are your favorite exercises to do?
Can you recommend a yoga routine, video, or app?
I really hate yoga… the only kind I enjoy is hot yoga, which isn’t free (good news is: summer is almost here, so it’ll be free soon).