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Beginner’s Cardio and Strength Training Program January 24, 2013

Filed under: fitness — dragonfly180 @ 9:59 pm
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Beginner’s Cardio and Strength Training Program

This program is best suited for the beginner who has little or no fitness base, no weight training equipment, and who may have knee/joint issues. The only equipment needed is an exercise mat and an exercise ball. Always use caution when beginning an exercise program, talk to your doctor about starting an exercise program, listen to your body, back off if anything hurts (pain, not discomfort from working hard!), and remember that this is advice. I am not a trained certified personal trainer (ok, so I trained for it, but I didn‘t take the test, so maybe call me uncertified!). I just like helping others with fitness.

Time: 15-30 minutes per day 5-7 days per week, 2 days of strength training are included, but another day could safely be added as fitness increases.

Begin EVERY workout with a warm-up of 2-5 minutes of walking, jumping rope (you can do this without the rope and low impact by mimicking the rope action with your hands, not jumping high, and switching feet each jump), side toe taps (move side-to-side while tapping right toe out to right and then left toe out to left), arm circles (alternate small, controlled circles using both arms with wide circles). This may seem pointless, but if you begin exercising with cold muscles, you can injure yourself!

Day 1: Strength Training (15 minutes) and Cardio (15 minutes)

Warm-up (2-5 mins) – take the time to do it! :o)

Strength training (10-12 mins)– do three sets of the following exercises in order for 10-15 reps each (meaning start with the first exercise and complete it 10-15 times, go to the next exercise and complete it 10-15 times until you finish the list, start over again, run through it, and then do it a third time)

* Wall pushups – http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/Triceps/BWCloseGripInclinePushupBar.html

(Basically this exercise, but use a wall. Put your palms flat against the wall and your feet should only be about 1 ½ to 2 feet away from wall. To vary this exercise, one set can be done with hands shoulder-width apart on wall, The next set can be done with hands very close together making a diamond. Still another variation is to stagger one hand up and one hand down so that they‘re about 8-12 inches apart and then switch halfway through the set.)

*Squatshttp://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/Quadriceps/BWSquat.html (Beginners do not have to do as deep a squat as this guy is doing. Make sure your knees do NOT go past your toes when you do down into the squat, or you WILL injure yourself! If you can see you shoe laces when you look down during the squat, you’re good.)

*Calf raises – http://www.bodybuilding.com/exercises/detail/view/name/calf-raises-with-bands (You can does these without the bands.)

*Lunges (Split Squats)http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/Quadriceps/BWSplitSquat.html (Notice that in this exercise, too, she is not allowing her knee to go past her toe. It can cause injury of you do allow it to go past the toe!) Do an entire set on one leg and then switch to the other leg before moving on.

*Bridgeshttp://www.bodybuilding.com/exercises/detail/view/name/butt-lift-bridge (Focus on pushing from the heels of your foot and contracting -squeezing- the muscles of the butt -glutes- as you raise your butt up.)

*Cruncheshttp://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/RectusAbdominis/BWCrunch.html (Notice that she is keeping her neck straight and that there is a space about the size of her fist always between her chin and chest while she crunches her abs. Don’t strain your neck. Also, it is fine to put your feet flat on the floor with a bend at the knee.)

Cardio (15 mins) – Choose cardio that you like to do: walking, riding a bike, elliptical, boxing, swimming, etc.

Day 2: Cardio (20 minutes)
Choose cardio that you like to do: walking, riding a bike, elliptical, boxing, swimming, etc.

Day 3: Rest or Cardio (20 minutes)

Day 4: Strength Training (25 minutes)

Warm-up (2-5 mins) – take the time to do it! :o)

Strength training (18-22 mins)– do three sets of the following exercises in order for 10-15 reps each (meaning start with the first exercise and complete it 10-15 times, go to the next exercise and complete it 10-15 times until you finish the list, start over again, run through it, and then do it a third time)

*Rear Leg Raises – http://www.bodybuilding.com/exercises/detail/view/name/rear-leg-raises (Do 10-15 reps on one side and then switch to the other side before moving on. If this exercise hurts your wrists, you can place a rolled up towel underneath your wrists from added cushion and support.)

*Alternate Hill Touchers – http://www.bodybuilding.com/exercises/detail/view/name/alternate-heel-touchers (Be careful not to strain the neck by keeping it straight throughout the exercise.)

*Supermans – http://www.bodybuilding.com/exercises/detail/view/name/superman (An easier variation may be to alternate lifting the right arm and left leg up, lowering them, and lifting the left arm and right leg up, and lowering them.

*Ball Leg Curl – http://www.bodybuilding.com/exercises/detail/view/name/ball-leg-curl (Squeeze the back of the leg as you raise your butt up and dig your heels into the ball.)

* Ball Crunches – http://www.bodybuilding.com/exercises/detail/view/name/exercise-ball-crunch (You can vary this exercise by moving your arms behind your head like a floor crunch and twisting your torso when you raise up so that your right elbow goes up toward the left side of your body, lower back down, and when your raise up again, your left elbow goes up toward the right side of your body.)

*Side Leg Raises – http://www.bodybuilding.com/exercises/detail/view/name/side-leg-raises (I suggest doing this exercise with more control than what this video appears to show. You do not have to do this exercise fast.)

*Plie Squat – http://www.bodybuilding.com/exercises/detail/view/name/plie-dumbbell-squat (This exercise can be done without the dumbbell. Just put your hands on your hips instead.)

* Wall pushups – http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/Triceps/BWCloseGripInclinePushupBar.html
(Basically this exercise, but use a wall. Put your palms flat against the wall and your feet should only be about 1 ½ to 2 feet away from wall. To vary this exercise, one set can be done with hands shoulder-width apart on wall, The next set can be done with hands very close together making a diamond. Still another variation is to stagger one hand up and one hand down so that they‘re about 8-12 inches apart and then switch halfway through the set.)

Day 5: Cardio (30 minutes)

Day 6: Cardio (30 minutes)

Day 7: Rest or do a light yoga/stretching routine (you can find these online)


Why Size Does Matter (Body Fat and Goal Jeans) January 23, 2013

Filed under: fitness,hEaLtH — dragonfly180 @ 9:34 pm
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I am having a really difficult time putting into a few words for a blog post what I’ve learned over the past few years about losing weight, gaining muscle, and decreasing body fat. It can be a bit confusing to explain, so I know for the beginner, it is probably confusing to read. I’ll do my best! It’s a bit long, but please bare with me and hear me out til the end :o)

I was reading some posts today from the Facebook Fit Bitch page (kinda in your face but has lots of knowledge and still responds to posts even though she has lots of followers), and she explained that you can’t have fat loss and build muscle at the same time, which is why spot reduction is a big myth. I had always assumed you could do both, that it was a simultaneous thing. I knew spot reduction was bull, but I thought you could lose a few lbs while also gaining muscle. What finally clicked in my head is how Meg explained that there are two ways to get a really toned, beautiful body. You can lose weight/fat (cut), then add muscle (bulk) – and incidentally add back some fat, too, and then you have to lose weight/fat (cut) again OR you can bulk up by adding muscle and some fat and then cut by removing the fat to reveal the muscles, which makes so much more sense! Why? You’re cutting out a whole step (and months of work) AND when you build muscle first, those muscles burn calories at a faster rate, which makes the cut phase so much easier/faster. This is why so many of those Beachbody exercise programs work. Take P90X or Chalene Extreme, for instance. Both have you bulk up for the first month before doing any kind of cut/lean phase. I never really got why they wanted you to lift so heavy for the first phase until now.

Let me go back to her insistence that you can’t lose fat and gain muscle at the same time. You have to create a deficit in calories (and/or a deficit by doing lots of cardio) to lose fat and you have to create a surplus in calories (while strength training) to gain muscle. So the quickest way to get a fit physique would be to first create a surplus in calories while doing a strength training program. You may actually see a bit of an increase on the scale initially. Don’t FREAK OUT! Then, you work on adding in more cardio and decreasing calories to cut the fat so that the muscles you’ve created finally show.

Why does any of this matter for you? Here is why. Size matters! If you could be 135 lbs in a size 10 or 135 lbs in a size 4, which would you choose? You can technically have either, but it all depends on your body fat %. Look at the following picture, which I previously posted to my Facebook page. This girl shows how adding muscle and losing body fat (but she didn’t do it at the same time) makes her body look much different at the same weight. Had she just started out at that weight, not done much of any strength training, and decreased calories/increased cardio, she would have lost some more lbs, but she would NOT look this good., even if she was 8-10 lbs lighter! She’d just look like a scrawnier version of her old self, still very soft and probably still not fitting in those size 4‘s she wants to get into. (Photo courtesy of Jamie Eason’s Facebook fan page.) Image

Maybe you’re ok with that. Perhaps you have a lot of weight to lose as opposed to 10-20 lbs and would rather lose weight first and then work on adding muscle in before cutting around your goal weight. Fine, that’s up to you. Even if you are ok with just losing weight initially (body fat and muscle, too), you should still check you body fat %. Sometimes when the scale isn’t really changing much, your measurements can still be changing, which can be a powerful motivator to continue with your plan when your resolve is flagging. So what if the scale didn’t move this week if your waist measurement went down a half inch! :o) Checking your measurements regularly (I did it about every 2 weeks) will help you see that you are still making progress, even when you feel like you aren’t. Besides, if you are significantly overweight, even just losing a lot of lbs will make your body fat decrease, for a while anyway.

Here is how you check your body fat %. Grab one of those soft tape measure strips at the store. Go to the Body Fat Calculator. Click on the Female Body Calculator tab (or stay with male, guys!). Enter your age and weight. Click on the Tape tab. (Although the caliper tests are even more accurate than the tape measurement, I found that the tape test was easier for me and for beginners, too.) Enter your height in inches and take measurements of your neck, waist, and hips. Just for fun, I’d also take measurements of my bicep (about two inches below my armpit) and my thigh to track changes. Here’s an important point, though. Wherever you measure, you have to measure there every single time, or your numbers will be off. For instance, I may measure my waist an inch below my belly button this week, but if I measure my waist two inches below my belly button, I’d get two different measurements, even with no actual change. Ok I digress. Back to the calculating! Write these measurements down on a piece of paper with the date. Now, once you’ve plugged those numbers in, the calculator will give you a body fat %. This is the % of fat that is in your body as opposed to the rest of your “weight,” which consists of muscles, organs, fluid, bones, etc. There’s even a nifty little chart that tells you where you fall according to your body fat %.

If you are making good food choices and working out any (whether it’s only cardio or if you’re also adding in strength training), I commend you for working on your health. Any exercise will produce positive results, and you should feel really good about the changes you are making now for your health. Even if you aren’t focusing on losing body fat right now, adding in some strength training still gives you an added boost in calorie burn. If you decide not to check your body fat %, that’s ok, too. Maybe just try taking those measurements and writing them down somewhere a couple of times a month. Just remember that the scale is NOT the whole story and that you shouldn’t let it discourage you from trying to reach your goals.


Clean Eating January 19, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — dragonfly180 @ 7:48 am
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Someone asked on my Facebook page Love the Fit Life, “What types of foods should I focus on for losing weight? Is it only about calories?” You *can* eat 1400 calories worth of Milky Way bars and Cheetos each day and possibly lose a lb or two, but your body would be lacking serious nutrients, and your body would most certainly hold onto the trans fat you’re packing in. So yes, the food does matter.

There are umpteen dozen “diets” out there – low carb, the zone, raw food, south beach, paleo, weight watchers, medfast, Sonoma, perricone, 5 factor, atkins, dukan, glycemic index, rice diet, heck there’s even a cookie diet! Those diets may in the short term produce results, but they won’t keep you healthy for the long term. And of course, we know about all the weight loss pills and drinks and what happens when people finally get off them and still don’t know how to eat! What I’ve seen over the past several years that is the ONLY sustainable “diet” (one that is healthy to live with long-term and provides the necessary nutrients to do so!) that consistently produces results is what is called clean eating. Tosca Reno has a few books on the subject, and there is a ton of info out there. Just search clean eating and read some of the info. It basically emphasizes what most of us already know- eat whole, unprocessed foods (whole grains, lean meats, fruits, veggies), 1200-1800 calories per day depending on what your body needs, 4-6 smaller meals, and get regular exercise. The fewer the ingredients on the package, the better! The goal is no more than 3-6 ingredients on the ingredients list. If you can’t pronounce what’s in it, you probably don’t need it. Nix the sugar and saturated and trans fats as much as possible. Here is a great resource of different articles about eating clean: Clean Eating 101

While eating clean can be somewhat restrictive (Waaaah, I don‘t wanna do it! No fun!), it’s just sound nutritional advice. I am all about the sugar, but let’s be honest – I KNOW it’s bad for me. Will I never eat it again? Ha! We are all human and want some processed food occasionally. Even Tosca Reno promotes having a “cheat meal” each week, which I would call dessert! :o) Do I need dessert daily? Absolutely not.

Even if you don’t go wholeheartedly into the eat clean lifestyle, your weight loss efforts will definitely benefit from replacing even *some * of the processed foods you eat with clean eating. Just gotta make Hamburger Helper in all its trans fatty goodness for supper? Ok, have a small portion and add bigger portions of carrots and green beans to your plate. No one said eating healthier had to be the “all or nothing” approach, especially if your goals don’t include being a fitness model in the near future.

What’s that? You don’t like your veggies? Stop being a 5 year old, try them out for a while, and I promise that they will begin to taste better once you get away from all the over-processed, chemically treated junk you’ve been eating. Or change nothing and whine at the mirror every time a shelf of fat hangs over your jeans, your upper arms begin to look more like thighs, and your jowls begin to sag. Sit on the couch feeling sluggish and depressed Cry and lament every picture taken of you and posted and tagged on Facebook. Or better yet, just hide from every camera for the next decade until you have finally had enough of “living it up” on McDonald’s and Nabisco until there’s a whole chunk of your life missing from your kids’ photo albums.

Well, I wish you wouldn’t, but what can I do but put the info out there! I know I‘m being kind of abrasive here, but wake up and take control of things, you awesome person, you! Nobody can change you but you alone. Keep the words of the old Nina Simone song in mind, “It’s a new dawn, it’s new day, it’s a new life for me, and I’m feelin’ good.”


2013 is here! January 1, 2013

A new year has begun. Many are so afraid to set resolutions for fear of failure. Not me. I love setting goals for myself, even if I don’t reach all of them. Here is what I’m looking forward to this year:

  • I’m going to be a mommy! This is probably the biggest and most important thing that will happen to me in 2013. This opens a huge door for all kinds of resolutions, but for the most part, I want to just learn how to take care of my baby and juggle the responsibilities of family and work. Since I’ll be having Rachel at the end of the Spring semester, I’ll get all summer to spend time with her and get adjusted to being a mommy before going back to work in the fall. I know the time will fly by, but I hope to make the most of it. Which leads me to my next resolution…
  • I want to focus on spending my time wisely. I am the Queen of Time Wasting. Brother Don gave a sermon about time wasting just this Sunday, and it really hit home. Satan steals our time with needless anxiety by overloading us with unnecessary commitments, possessions, work, and information. The other major source of anxiety (and time-wasting) is regret. We have only 8,760 hours in a year. Why spend it dwelling on what has already happened and can’t be changed? Instead of wasting time on the above robbers of time, I want to focus my attention to the following: drawing closer to God, spending time with family and friends, doing all I can to raise Rachel as well as I am able, taking care of my health (exercise and nutrition).

Those are the things I’m setting my sights on in 2013. My spiritual life is very important to me, so I plan on devoting more time to Bible study and prayer. I plan on working through the entire Bible in a year (one of those plans for weekly study), but even if I am unable to always keep up, reading even half or a third on my own will be better than just opening it only when I’m in church.

I feel like I am constantly struggling to give more attention to my family and friends, who honestly deserve it. I know I can do better in this area. I have resolved to work on this issue in the past, and I believe that it has gotten much better recently. There is always room for improvement, though!

I am already focusing a lot of attention on how I want to raise Rachel. I am reading some books that I think might be helpful. I am getting my registry in order, buying some clothes and other items along the way, and learning about cloth diapering. I’m taking birthing and breastfeeding classes this month to prepare for her arrival.

As I always strive to do, I plan on focusing on my health. During the time I was trying to conceive, I let a lot of this go to the wayside. I stopped teaching Zumba when I had my first miscarriage in March. Zumba had been my most favorite type of working out, and suddenly, it was gone. So was that 2-3 hours of calorie burn every week that I was suddenly missing. I wasn’t eating all that well and rarely exercised. Running wasn’t giving me the solace it had in the past. Much of it was from apathy/light depression. Some of it was from fear that exercise might cause another miscarriage. So I became complacent about my health. Now, I am struggling because I am gaining a good bit of weight with this pregnancy. I know that I can make more time for weekly exercise (I have become very lazy about exercise and have really lost the habit), and my nutrition has been atrocious. I’d really gotten into the mindset of ‘I’m pregnant, so I can eat whatever I want!’ I know better, so I’m going to start eating better. Will you never see me with a big scoop of Coldstone? No, I won’t go that far. :) But I can doing better on a day-to-day basis. Part of making health a priority is to maintain focus, which I do through my Facebook page, which is a source of self-motivation, and Dailymile.com, where I keep up with my yearly walking and running miles.

It’s always a little overwhelming looking at what you want to accomplish in a year, but we are amazing in our ability to adapt to new things. Make your 2013 a wonderful year.


Nice Walk Yesterday January 9, 2012

Filed under: fitness,hEaLtH — dragonfly180 @ 11:34 am
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my friend Samantha and I went for a nice walk yesterday after church. her parents live next door to me, and she and I are doing the Warrior Dash together in April. she hasn’t exercised at all since around the time she found out she was pregnant sometime around the first part of last year, so we had to get out and get started on our training for the Warrior Dash.

it was warm for january but was also threatening to rain all morning, but after we left her parents’ house, the sun came out, the air really warmed up, and it turned out to be a beautiful day. we walked almost 3 and a half miles total, but it didn’t seem that far because we chatted the whole time. we were actually sweaty by the time we were through, even though our pace was pretty slow. my calves are so sore this morning, which surprised me since i’ve been running some this past week. i guess walking is just a different motion, though.  it is going to be a challenge to teach an hour long Zumba class tonight with sore calves. one of my biggest fears is catching a calf cramp in the middle of a song. i have issues with my calves anyway.

i’m so glad Samantha is out moving again and getting in some exercise. not only is it necessary for good health, exercise just makes you feel better if you get into the habit of it. and it was such a pleasant change to have someone to talk to during a workout. so many of my workouts are solo. we plan to try to get out every Sunday for our weekly walks, and i’m really looking forward to them.


First Run of the Year January 2, 2012

Filed under: fitness,hEaLtH,running — dragonfly180 @ 4:45 pm
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just went for my first run of 2012, and it was actually the first run i’ve done in about two months. i haven’t really been feeling like running lately as much as i work, but i started a challenge on dailymile.com with my friends to help motivate us to run 400 miles this year. it was my goal mileage for 2011, but i really didn’t put out much effort last year. i’m hoping i can do it this year, though. 400 miles is only about 8 miles per week. this year, though, i am going to count all my mileage, so that includes any walking i do, too. see, i do this weird argument with myself. i usually convince myself that walking isn’t worthy of counting as mileage (because really we walk every day and everyone can do it, so it’s not that special right? so wrong!), so on days when i don’t feel like running but could easily get a few miles of walking in, i don’t because it’s a waste of time if it doesn’t “count.” so then i burn zero calories all because i think i’m too good to count walking as exercise. i mean, i am a tough half marathoner. i can run 14 miles without stopping. i can train in 95 degree mississippi heat. it’s okay for others to walk but not for me. i can run and run and run. i can’t belittle myself to get on the treadmill and walk for two miles. oh so silly reasoning. egos. our pride stops us from doing so many good things for ourselves. walking is a great form of cardio. you burn almost as many calories as running without the impact of running. i admit that i have listened to running elitists and let their distaste for walking or run/walk influence me far too long. so long as i am moving my butt off the couch, who cares what i’m doing??? with three jobs, i know that i will probably not be able to do 400 miles worth of just running, but i am determined to do 400 miles regardless. i’ll run when i can and walk when i feel like it.

so back to my first run of the year. i was really nervous (as i always am before a run, which is odd after 5 years of running…), so i procrastinated for a few hours. i needed to eat. then, the food needed to digest. then, my dog needed to go out. then, i needed to hydrate. then, my garmin needed to charge. then, i needed a nap. then, i…had no more excuses. i bundled up because this southern girl does NOT like the cold. and boy was it cold! i wore my thin nike livestrong wind breaker, which i love love love. it makes me feel like such a runner (why, i don’t know). anyway, i started my garmin and was off. i was surprised to find that i wasn’t dying like i thought i would after having not run for two months. i figured it was just the cold wind numbing my pain, and i kept going. coming up near the first mile mark, i started to feel a little fatigue, and it was so COLD. the wind was gusting at about 20 miles per hour, and the shady spots in the road were so chilly. i glanced down at my windbreaker, which is a gorgeous blue and along the zipper on my chest in bright yellow is “LiveStrong,” the trademark for the Lance Armstrong Foundation for cancer research. when i look down, all i can see is the “strong” part of the logo, and it made me think about all those people out there battling cancer, living their lives day to day struggling much worse than i was out on the road today, and i picked up my pace. i resolved to finish the run with no walking, not because i was feeling snobbish toward walking but because i knew that i was strong enough to do two miles without a walk break. not only was i going to finish the last mile without walking, i was going to do it stronger and faster than the first, and i did. i am healthy, i am fit, and i am alive (in more ways than merely breathing). that’s what i have to celebrate this new year.


to join my 400 miles  in 2012 challenge, join dailymile.com for free and join the FIT IN 400 challenge or click here: FIT IN 400 Challenge


Zumba and Gyms September 23, 2011

Filed under: fitness,hEaLtH — dragonfly180 @ 7:32 pm
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I am working this weekend on a couple of Zumba songs to add to my class. One is an abs workout and the other is mostly cardio. I set up my playlist to have an extended stretching session at the end to help newcomers gain back some flexibility, but the whole routine is still a tad short. Classes are going pretty well, other than the occasional slip up from allowing my mind to wander and forgetting where we are in the song, but I cover myself pretty well. Teaching Zumba is surprisingly easy once you get the basic latin rhythms down and learn the choreography for the songs you want to do. I heard this morning that someone is teaching it in a neighboring town, but they aren’t Zumba licensed. It really annoys me, because I put in the hard work and hard-earned money to get my license to teach Zumba, and here is someone making money off of people and probably isn’t even teaching latin moves. I think it mostly irritates me because if these people take her class and it’s just some hip hop aerobics with the Zumba name attached to it, all these people go out thinking that this is what Zumba is like. So what if they’re turned off by her lack of inexperience and never try Zumba again? I can’t help being irritated. I want to keep the integrity of the fitness program in tact, because when I become a part of something, I truly care about it. But I knew I’d come across this. Anyway, if you are wondering if your Zumba instructor is legit or not (and therefore is worth all that money you’re paying her or him each month), go to the Zumba website and click ‘Find an Instructor,’ where you can type in their name. Also, if you’d like to try out a Zumba class, go there and click on ‘Find a Class,’ to find classes in your area. If you are interested in becoming a licensed Zumba instructor, click on the ‘Instructor Training’ link.

Part of the reason I love doing Zumba is that I really love being in the gym atmosphere. I love being surrounded by people who want to live healthier lives.  There is something so positive and hopeful about that. It’s so motivating. I love seeing people push themselves where they know deep down that their bodies can go. I love seeing people smile as they work out. I even love seeing the frowns that come from intense concentration and hard work, because when they’re done, the grins of accomplishment come out. I still love my at-home workouts, but since I’d finished school and no longer get to go to my college gym anymore, I have really missed those things. Now, if the little gym I worked at just had an indoor heated pool, I’d be in fitness Heaven! :)