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Resuming Exercise

February 19, 2018

It’s February and the time when most people’s new year resolutions have fallen away, so I’m getting started on this year’s. My goal this year is simple: do one free-standing handstand.

It’s a simple goal to state but takes a bit of preparation and work to get there. A big part of the challenge is that I’ve not been exercising much since last October and I need to get back into it.

Getting back into exercise

It’s hard to begin exercise, and even harder to continue it long term. I found this last year when I had got myself into a good routine of bodyweight exercises and by the late summer was seeing great results. Then I got a bad head cold, followed by school holidays, then Christmas, along with all sorts of delicious unhealthy food and absolutely no exercise.

One caveat - I’m still running and have been out most weeks at least once or twice for 5 to 7km of a run each time. When I say I’ve not been exercising, I don’t really count the running. What I stopped was the bodyweight exercise routine. Here’s how it worked.

My routine

Before the multi-month gap, I had been following a weekly routine that involved a “focus” exercise each day along with a bunch of others. The “focus” exercise I would do multiple sets of, and then one set of each other exercise.

  • Monday: Pushups
  • Tuesday: Leg raises
  • Wednesday: Squats
  • Thursday: Bridges
  • Friday: Pull-ups
  • Saturday: Handstands
  • Sunday: One set of each

It was fairly intense, doing multiple sets of one exercise but I had worked up to this point gradually and it felt good. As long as I could spare 30 minutes each day I could do all the routine.

Starting again

Since I let things go, I’m now facing a bit of an uphill climb to get back to where I was. My approach begins this week. To get started I’m going to do one or two light sets of each exercise daily.

The idea is that by doing a light routine each day, it’ll prompt the old muscles to wake up and realise that they’re going to be needed again.

Last week I began by doing two sets of each of the above exercises. Being light sets, it was along the lines of 15 pushups, 10 leg raises, 5 pullups etc.

It wasn’t easy. Even though the sets were quite light I did struggle toward the end of them. When I came back the next day I was also weaker and had to struggle more.

Progress so far

It’s early days but I’m definitely feeling the result - a bit stiff but not quite sore. I’m hoping this workout routine will be a good way to prompt my body back into place and I’ll be able to catch up to where I was last summer.

Finding time has been a challenge. With a couple of small kids and lots of work to do, it’s hard to really set aside the 30 to 45 mins I’d need to do this. I like to get up a little earlier than the kids in the morning and get a workout in before the day starts, so most days I take this approach. If that doesn’t work out, I can usually get a little time in the early evening. Motivation at that point of the day is tougher though, I feel like my reserves of motivation dry up as the day goes on so generally best to try to get the exercise done first.

As a side effect it definitely lifts my mood for the rest of the day.

Diet

Along with working out, it’s important to feed the body properly. I’ve been neglecting myself for a while, indulging in all the snacks and fast food. As a result I’m carrying more weight than I’d like (it makes the pullups harder!). To fix this I’ve put MyFitnessPal back on the home screen and I’m tracking my food, to make sure I’m getting enough protein and vitamins, along with taking it a little easier on the carbs and sugar.

I’m not being all “diet” about it though, I still had a bowl of cheerios this morning for breakfast and I’ll look forward to a nice burger later, but in between I’ll reach for an apple before making a sandwich if I’m peckish. A sensible approach to eating shouldn’t feel unsatisfying.

Sleep

The last part, which is also important, is sleep. When adding in extra stress in the form of exercise it’s important to give time for the body to recover. Getting the right food is part of the recovery, and then getting an early night helps a lot too.

One thing I’ve found that really helps my sleep is cutting back on the alcohol. Even one beer in an evening has a measurable impact on my sleeping heart rate, pushing it up from the mid-50s to mid-60s. I suspect this results in less useful sleep.

Having cut that out of my evenings, and making a point of being in bed a little earlier, I’ve seen a definite improvement to both the quality and amount of sleep. I’m hoping this will be good both mentally as well as physically.

One handstand

The resolution this is all working toward is being able to do one handstand. So far I still feel a long way away from that. I can hold myself up against a wall for 20 seconds, arms shaking and gasping the whole time, but if I get everything else in place I am sure I can do it.

How about you?

How are your new years resolutions working out? Got any goals for the year? Mention me up on twitter, I’d love to hear from you.

Photo credit

Many thanks to Emma Frances Logan on Unsplash for the photo used in this post.