Tag Archives: fitness

5 Minutes

19 Mar

That’s how long I ran today.

5 minutes. 

It was easy. 

I was too busy glancing up at ESPN and people watching groggy commuters to care that it was:

  • 5:30am
  • Tuesday
  • Compression sock-less (seriously, where in the hell did my $20 sock go!?)

And then I walked. Only for two minutes. It could have been much more. In fact, I had planned for a 5 minute break. But I only needed two minutes.

Then I was running again. 

Another. 5. Minutes. 

I hoped that one of the trainers noticed. He always teased me for being a “slow sprinter.” I was the queen of 1 minute on/1 minute off running intervals. I would run that minute for as fast as I could, walk at a brisk pace, and then do it all over again for 30+ minutes. I did that for an entire half marathon. And I loved it.

But today, I ran 5 minutes for a second time. 

I almost stopped at four and justified it as a “run-down,” which have become my new favorite running workouts as of late. 

But I wanted it. 

So I walked my two minutes. And I did it again. Another 5 minutes.

I listened to my ultimate dance mix. It’s the playlist that keeps me positive and inspired while keeping me on my toes. I listened to: 

  • “Complicated” by Poi Dog Pondering
  • “Beautiful” by Apples in Stereo
  • “Calamity Song” by The Decemberists
  • “Kids” by Sleigh Bells (TWICE)
  • “Don’t Slow Down” by Matt and Kim

After my third five minutes of running, I thought I was done. Class was starting soon. I had already burned 200 calories, according to my Polar. I could quit. 

But I didn’t. 

I still had 6 minutes to spare. 

6-5=1 minute cool down. 

So I ran. 

I ran through my coughing.

I ran through my emails interrupting my music.

I ran through the gym crowding up with people getting ready for classes and leaving their sessions.

I ran through my fears and doubts that I would never be as fast or as strong as I was two years ago.

I ran through my run-down-out-of-the-game state of mind. 

I ran through 5 minutes.

And then I was done. 

It was easy.

I could have done more if I didn’t already sign up for a class that started in 30 seconds. 

I quickly wiped down my super sweaty treadmill, dried off my arms and face, and got myself the main spot in the room for kettle bells. And I punished it. 

All because I ran 5 minutes. 

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First Workout After Illness

11 Dec

Oh lord. Could there be anything more torturous than taking a week off of working out to recovery from an illness? Yes, yes there is. There is making yourself workout at 6am while still actually recovering from being sick.

I’m not smart (sometimes).

All weekend, I told myself that I would try out yoga. I’ve been feeling better since I finished off my 5 day Z-Pack and my body was physically feeling ok… why not? Before Sunday’s class, I had a major coughing fit. So, stayed home Sunday. And then yesterday, I had to stay at work late to finish a project that I couldn’t do at home on my sick days… so no yoga again. Color me sad.

But then I had the brilliant idea that I would just go to the gym at my regular time on Tuesday morning and play it by ear.

Again, I’m not smart.

So I peel myself out of bed at 5am, get in my workout gear that has been lying on my couch for the last week, and drive my cold ass to the gym. All the while, I am coughing and wheezing like I did early last week. I kept telling myself “You felt better yesterday! You’ll be fine!” But as soon as I walk in, I knew it wasn’t all good. I needed my inhaler just from the short, one block walk. And I even needed to eventually pop a pain med because my chest felt like it had sucked down sub-Arctic wind on a long run. Oh, and the taste of blood in my mood is always a good sign (note: It’s not).

So, I get on the treadmill. Of course, I pick the one next to the 8 month pregnant girl running at 9 minute mile (no joke, this woman is a beast). My self-esteem takes a complete dive off a cliff as my body struggles through a pre-set hill walk at a pretty slow pace. I can only do that for a half hour before I am spent and holding on to the handles for dear life.

Of course, just as I get off and move to the incumbent bike, the instructor for my kettlebell class spots me and asks if I was planning on going. The class looks empty and I always have empathy for fitness instructors when their classes get canceled, so I say that I will try to save her the cancellation. (Of course, as soon I put down my towel and grab my weights, 4 other people join the class…). She has us grab a light pair of kettlebells (about 4lbs each) and a medium set (about 17lbs).

I start off by reassuring myself that I can just use the 4lbers today. I have a good excuse. No one will care or even notice that I am essentially whimping out. Then I see the girl next to me who is about 90lbs, full of awesome tattoos, and wearing the face of a mad-tiger-woman. I am both humbled and in awe of this kind of woman. She could give marathon running, pregnant lady a run for her money. I feel the need to impress her, and with that, my reassurance goes out the window.

I stupidly do the warm up swings with the 17lb weight. My heart rate is jumping and I wheeze a bit, stop to cough, but keep going. Next are squats with an arm lift. Again, I pick up the 17lbs. No biggie. Except that my inhaler and pain meds make me dizzy so I am struggling to not loose my cookies. But of course, the worst are the lunges with both small weights. I can barely make myself stand up straight before I have to hold on to the wall. I look like a fool. Even more so when I can barely lift my arm (which is now breaking out in the red splotches I got the morning I came down with the bronchitis)… And then there are push-ups. At this point, I might as well just lay on the floor.

And that’s only one round.

My pride broken and feeling totally embarrassed, my instructor makes it worse by asking me what’s wrong as I breathlessly explain to her in between wheezes that I am getting over bronchitis (BUT I’M NOT CONTAGIOUS), and that I am trying not to push myself. I take a third (fourth?) blow to my ego when she takes away my 17lbers so I am forced to only use the 4lbs. As soon as I get through the third round, I am out of there… leaving a trail of coughs and wheezes. I some how managed to make it through the class.

Worst half hour of my life.

I told myself that if I could make it through, I could go to my more traditional, but harder, weight lifting classes tomorrow morning. But now, I’m not so sure. I’m actually feeling worse today than yesterday, and I am even canceling on a concert that I had planned on going for the last two months. Bronchitis, you win.

How do you recover from long term illness? Do you get back on that treadmill, or do you force yourself to ease back in to it?

HR Monitor vs. Trackers

27 Nov

For years, I have been working out without a legitimate heart rate monitor, besides my GPS watch I had for running that did track my calories (but was not based accurately on my weight or age). Instead, I relied on website trackers like Sparkpeople and Myfitnesspal to track calories burned.

For the most part, I figured they overestimated it by a bit. No better way to convince you to continue working out and using their site by posting bloated calorie burns. And, for the most part, it worked on me. I set my target at an unreal calorie burn number and would be thrilled when I hit that number week after week while only committing about 45 minutes per day.

An old friend of mine from high school is a personal trainer, and she frequently posts her daily calorie burns from her favorite workouts. She is a former fitness competitor, so her burn would be outstanding. But it mirrored mine. That was the first sign that something may be up, and that the number I was tracking was more than just inflated.

I started poking around online on how sites like these determined calorie burns. All the websites and trackers I would use had vast databases of workouts. Check out sparkpeople’s! Finally, I found a site that gives a vague method from fitday.com:

We begin with the amount of calories you burn currently (for calculations assume 12 calories burned per pound for women and 15 calories burned per pound for men). Add the amount of calories burned by your exercise (with walking, you burn .30 x your weight by walking 3 to 4 miles per hour).

But, what if I dont give my all that day (like today when I was feeling a bit off?). Or, what if my instructor was lazy and gave us a pretty easy workout compared to her normal thigh burner? These numbers cannot be same for me (who is admittedly overweight) compared to the girl who spends her life working in fitness.

So, on a whim and fueled by Black Friday, I bought myself a Polar FT4. Polar is the leader in heart rate monitors for fitness. (I will review the watch itself later after I get a good solid week with it.) That being said, I figured that a million users and a ton of friends using it couldn’t be wrong for this experiment.

Here’s my hypothesis: Trackers like Sparkpeople and Dailyfitnesspal, despite being set for my weight, height, gender, and age, would overestimate my calorie burn for a 1/2 hour kettlebell class by over 100 calories. It would be about 20-30 calories off on my 20 minute hill climb treadmill walk (moderate pace, but first thing in the morning).

Experiment: I brought the watch today for my 6am workout. As normal, I started out with some stretching and walking around the gym. Obviously, my heart was pretty much in a good base rate when I started since I literally rolled out of bed.

I start my Tuesdays with a light walk on the treadmill since there is no 6am class. I pick a typical 20 minute, scripted hill work with the max speed at 3.5 and the max hill at 7.0. No cool down. I feel pretty decent, no sweat just yet. Here are the results:

  • Treadmill reading: 158 calories
  • Sparkpeople reading: 192 calories
  • Myfitnesspal reading: 175 calories
  • WW activity points: 1
  • POLAR READING: 135 calories

So, the treadmill was the closest estimator. To be fair to it, it did not have a heart rate hand holder, so if you use that, it may be even closer. My beloved Sparkpeople, where I do most of my fitness tracking was WAY off by 60 calories. To give you a better idea, to actually get to 192 calories at the rate I was at, I would have to work out around 8 more minutes, or near half of my planned 20 minute workout.

After hopping off (and cleaning down) the treadmill, I head straight to my kettlebell class. This is one of my favorite classes because I’ve seen significant improvement in my form and strength. The teacher is also great and gives us a variety of sets. She starts the class with a version of kettlebell swings, moves to lunges and squats, gets a couple of core, and then 2 or 3 sets of arms and shoulders. No rest between the :45 sets, and we repeat each round 3 times with a 2 minute rest between the rounds. We then do about 3 challenging core sets.

Today, I used a medium set (17lbs), a heavy set (22lbs), and one small one for the lunges on the last round (12lbs). This is about typical, if not a bit heavier for me.

Here is the readout for my 30 minute class:

  • Sparkpeople: 600 calories
  • Myfitnesspal apparently doesn’t list kettlebell in their cardio or strength, so this is out. But, I am guessing that they would estimate it around 20 cals/minute = around 600.
  • WW activity points: 4
  • POLAR READING: 249 calories. 

In other words, according to my HR monitor, I didn’t even burn HALF of the calories I believed I had before today. Pretty disappointing, to be honest. I felt defeated walking out of the gym.

Am I going to give up on the class because of this reading? NO! This class, even if it is less effective in burning calories than I had originally believed, still works me up in to a good sweat, and I leave feeling stronger and more fit. Believe me, that’s half the battle.

Moral of the story: You can track and track all you want on WW, myfitnesspal, sparkpeople, etc., but there are so many other factors that determine your burn besides the pre-calculated nonsense or whatever comes out from holding on to a heart rate grip.

Just like the annoying State Farm, dont trust what you read on the internet!