Elements of a Great Workout: Sustainability

So we went over all the important elements of a great workout, right? 

Well there is one thing that hasn’t been discussed, Sustainability.

What do I mean when I talk about sustainability?  We have talked about the what’s and the how’s and some of the benefits to working out.  Here is where we dive into the motivation of keeping up a good thing.   For instance, we know eating healthy is important and we can rattle off healthy things to eat, but what keeps us from eating those things we say are healthy?  Motivation and Habits are the Keys. 

Sure we have the knowledge on what we can do for the warm-up and cool-down, upper and lower body, core and cardio.  But what if we do those things and then get in a rut?  This is where sustainability comes in.     

First we have to ask ourselves, Why do we even want to exercise?  And we need a better answer than, my doctor told me to, or it’s the right thing to do.  If we are being honest, those answers aren’t going to keep us going. If it were, you wouldn’t be reading this.  Just because someone told us to, doesn’t mean that is going to keep us motivated and going strong.  Just because “it’s the right thing to do”, doesn’t mean squat and we will find excuse after excuse for why it’s not the right time yet.  We have to dig down to figure out our WHY. 

If you can’t answer this question, then you should move on and not waste your time.  I don’t say this because I’m heartless.  I am anything but that.  It’s because I can’t give you the answer.  My answer isn’t your answer.  This isn’t one size fits all (like that is even a real thing).  It’s why deep down you want things to be different.   It’s why you can’t stop thinking about it.  It’s why it’s always on your mind. It’s why every day or week or year you say THIS TIME it’ll be different.

But it hasn’t been different and yet you are still stuck in the same old routine.  So what makes you think if you keep going down this path things will change?

Let’s camp out here and dive deep. If you stop reading here, I’m fine with that. At least this will get you thinking as to your why because that is oh so important. This is the thing that keeps you going. This is the thing that keeps you coming back for more.  This is the thing that won’t let you quit, forever.  Sure we all go through ups and downs but do you get back up eventually?  That’s the true test to making sure your reason(s) and your why(s) are enough.

Next take a look at what you are already doing.  Here are some questions to ask yourself to uncover if something is going to work or find the reasons it won’t work, but you’ll be able to fix it. 

  • Is it fun for you?
  • Do you need to mix it up?
  • Is it efficient for you?
  • Do you need to do more in less time?
  • Are you still be challenged on the regular? 
  • Are you dreading the workout or are you a mix of nervous and excited?
  • Is it working for your season of life? 
  • Do you need to change the time of day, the length or anything about it to keep working out?

If the answer to these questions are on the positive swing, you are doing fabulous!!!!  If your answers are on the more negative side, you may want to switch gears.  Or at least think about…  Don’t worry – I’m not telling you to change your whole life just hear me out and keep reading.  

So what if things aren’t going well and you need a change? What if you are doing great, but want to make sure things keep going that way? Let’s go over keeping the fire lit.  For this step we want to write down things we like to do or have always wanted to try. These things can be hot yoga, boot camp, CrossFit, kick boxing, rowing, rock climbing, Pilates, walking the buckeye trail 😉, biking across the US, canoeing down the river, or even just trying a workout video from home. It doesn’t have to be crazy or a big deal, it just has to be what you have had your heart set on.  Make a list of things that get you excited. This way when something gets boring, you can go to the list and check to see what else you could do that would light the fire again.  This list will be a reminder of things you have wanted to do.  I forget constantly so notes and lists help to remind myself what my brilliant-yesterday-self thought of!!  Am I the only one that forgets things constantly?  Maybe I am, but this will be good for you too!

So One – We have our why that will keep us motivated.  Two – We took a good look at what we are currently doing in terms of our fitness and asked good questions to see if it is sustainable.  Three – We made a list of activities that excite us for when we get complacent and stuck in a rut, so we can keep moving forward.  (Notice I said “when”.  No single thing will keep your fire lit forever.  We as humans crave change even if it’s something small.  That little or big change helps us keep growing and evolving.  So try to embrace it and not fight it.) 

One last thing to make working out stick. 

Can you make working out a habit?  Can you put it in your calendar a consistent number of times in the week?  Can you block out time in your day to devote to you?  I’m not saying workout 7 times a day for 2 hours each time.  That is just not realistic to me and that doesn’t excite me.  I’m talking about, can you make an appointment in your calendar with yourself and your workout clothes and set it on repeat?  Can you sign up for a class every Monday that gets you excited?  Can you have a cue or trigger that helps you build in the habit of working out?  Say you sleep in your workout clothes or you block out an “out of office lunch” so you can get your walk in.  Can you message a friend and ask them if they are free on Thursday nights to take a kick boxing class together?  Or can you find a canoe group that canoes down your nearby river once a week after work? Find something and try it out consistently.  

I’m not saying your life has to revolve around working out, but your life should revolve around things that bring you joy and help you become the person you wish to be.  Be that volunteer at your church or work in your garden or cook dinner for your family.  All I’m saying is, if it’s important to you and you have been dreaming and wishing to be healthier, than make it a priority and start with the steps outlined above. 

  1. Figure out what your motivation is. 
  2. Take a look at what you are currently doing and ask the hard questions if what you are doing is working or not.
  3. Make a list of things that excite you.
  4. Figure out how to incorporate them in your life. Start small with a new habit and keep going!!!!

That’s really what sustainability is all about.  Can you keep up with what you are doing or do you need to make a change.  How can you keep working on your goals?  How can you make this a way of life so you can live happier and healthier?

That’s all I want for you.  I want you to be happier and healthier and don’t forget, stronger!  Because life is too short to be anything else. 

Who’s with me?

Thanks for joining me on this blog series of Elements of a Great Workout!  Got any questions or comments?  Think I forgot anything?  Love to hear it!

Elements of a Great Workout: Cardio/Heart Strength

Do you love or hate cardio?  Do you avoid it and know you need to incorporate it?  Or are you stuck in the same pattern and need to mix it up? 

I have experienced all of these at different points in my life.  At one time, I was running constantly and training for my next race.  I was excited to up my mileage, but nervous at the same time.  Then out of nowhere, I would get tired of running and avoid it.  Next, I would miss the “high” my runs gave me and would start again.  After dabbling back and forth with running, I started having knee issues.  I knew I had to get into something else. 

So, I started trying Bootcamp and HIIT (high intensity interval training) type of workouts.  These incorporated strength and cardio in short intervals so boredom was kept at bay.  And I loved it.  But then I would see others excel at running or swimming and it made me want to get back into a cardio heavy activity.  I knew that my strength and cardio workouts were beneficial and working for my health, but they weren’t the same as running for miles and miles.  So I would try to run again, but it wasn’t like the old days.  I wasn’t in love with it like I was before, I was just trying to fit in. 

So I decided to keep doing my interval workouts and incorporate some runs on the side.  That turned out to be a good mix.  I realized I didn’t have to conform to what others thought exercise should be.  My training schedule could look different than other people’s schedule.  It makes sense when I said it out loud – different exercises fit different people.    

Why do you care about my cardio history?  It’s important to know that throughout your life, you may think you have to do a certain type of cardio forever because that’s what you have always done.  But if something happens and it’s not doable for you anymore, do you just quit? 

Well, you can do whatever you want.  But I recommend not getting your head too focused on what you were able to do, but not able to do now.  That’s futile and just leaves you frustrated.  What I suggest is to be open to change because we don’t have total control of the future.  And I’m here to load your toolbox with other ways to get your cardio “high”.

Before diving into the specifics, why should we even care about cardio and getting it into our lives?

Cardio health and fitness are linked to so many benefits.  The reasons to incorporate it into our daily lives never end. Even though I’m not a cardio junkie in this season of life, I do know that I need to keep it in my life for multiple health reasons.

Here are only a fraction of benefits to Cardio Fitness:

(American College of Sports Medicine. 2010. ACSM’s guidelines for exercise testing and prescription, 8th Ed. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins)

  • Decreased heart rate
  • Decreased anxiety and depression
  • Reduced resting blood pressure
  • Reduced insulin needs and improved glucose tolerance
  • Increased stamina and energy
  • Improved immune function
  • Improved sleep
  • Stronger Heart & Lungs

I would be hard pressed to find someone that is not interested in at least one of these benefits.  Any takers out there??  If nothing speaks to you, did you even read, “Increased Energy And Stamina”??

Alright now that everyone is on board let’s list out different methods of cardio:

  • Running or Jogging
  • Walking
  • Bicycling
  • Rowing
  • Swimming
  • Elliptical-ing
  • Jumping Rope
  • Boxing
  • Jumping (or Falling on Your Face)
  • Playing Sports (Basketball, Tennis, Raquetball, etc.)
  • Dancing
  • Straight Burpees!

If you do cardio regularly, you may have fitting it in your schedule mastered.  If you tend to avoid it, here is where you can sneak it in and get its benefits. 

A fun way to sneak it in my workout, is to incorporate moves that get my heart pumping and me out of breath.  Say I want to workout my entire body.  I’ll work on my arms and back and legs and glutes and then core (just to name a few) and then in between each exercise I add in some quick punching.  If I’m doing my interval workouts, I’ll have one interval for strength and then the next for cardio and keep alternating.  That way I break up the monotony!! 

If you want some added zing, make your cardio interval dual purpose. For instance, you don’t just want to run in place, but you want to work on your lower body as well.  Add in some jump squats and Boom you have your cardio element and it serves as a leg burner too!  Or you want to get out some aggression and you have some light weights (or soup cans – anyone remember Denise Austin??? One of my faves!) you can do some weighted punches.  That’ll get your heart rate up, so it’s working your heart and you have the weight adding resistance to your arms and shoulders.  There we go again, being efficient and savvy.

For those interested in some quick and dirty cardio that can function as strengthening too, here you go:

  • Jump Squats
  • Burpees
  • Weighted Punches
  • Jump Lunges
  • Plyo Pushups
  • Battle ropes
  • Kettlebell swings
  • Box Jumps
  • Mountain Climbers
  • High Knees with a weighted vest

*Any exercise that gets your heart pumping and makes you breathe harder is a cardio exercise.  Don’t let the jumping and the swinging exercises scare you off. Modify to your level always and listen to your body. You know it best!!

Alright, how does that sound? 

That’s a lot of info, so how are you going to implement it?

First, look at what you are currently do.  See if you need to incorporate more cardio or if you’re good.

Second, if you find that you may need more cardio in your life, look at ways to sneak it in.  Can you alternate your strength intervals with cardio intervals?  Can you add a cardio burn at the end of your workout by dancing to 2-3 songs?  What might be a continuation of your fitness routine or one step up from what you are currently doing?

Third, if you already have cardio in your life, but it’s not working for you, is there a way you can mix it up to get off that plateau?  What out of the list of cardio choices gets you excited?  Try that out!   

Comment below on your favorite cardio of choice.  For bonus points, name a dual cardio and strength exercise not listed here that you love or love to hate!

Join me next time as I wrap up the series “Elements of a Great Workout” by bringing it full circle with the aspect of sustainability.