I absolutely love being in gyms. I’ll be the first to admit that a gym full of clean, up-to-date equipment gets me feeling absolutely giddy inside. But sometimes we don’t always have access to a gym or maybe we aren’t in the mood to leave the house and make the trek to the gym. That’s OK! Not having access to a gym does not mean you can’t workout. Our bodies are one of the best “machines” we have for exercise! Keeping a few bodyweight workouts on hand can come in super handy and increase the likelihood that you will challenge your body with a workout, despite the obstacles life might throw at you.
We will be gallivanting through Europe for two weeks, so I’ve been thinking about different bodyweight workouts I can do while abroad. At the moment you may be thinking, “You are going to be on vacation, why are you thinking about exercise?” Well, you see, I need to sweat. First of all, I enjoy it, a lot. Second of all, I need it for my own mental clarity. I notice a significant change in my ability to think, handle stress and my happiness levels when I don’t exercise. I am not saying I will be doing hour-long workouts every day, but I know that I am way more likely to do 10-30 minute workouts while on vacation. We also plan on walking and biking as our main forms of transportation, so I will get lots of movement in that way. Here are three total body workouts you can do anywhere without any equipment except your body!
How many times have you heard someone say, “I worked out earlier, so I don’t feel bad eating this” or “I can’t believe I ate (insert food they feel “bad” about eating), I definitely need to go to the gym tomorrow.” I’ve literally seen a gym advertisement that said “Pizza tonight. Gym tomorrow.” I cringe when I hear these statements. Exercise does burn calories and is good for your health; I have no problem with that. In fact, exercise is extremely beneficial for your physical and mental health. It gives you energy, relieves stress and anxiety, boosts your mood, improves sleep, strengthens your immune system and reduces your risk for many preventable diseases. If exercise does so many of these amazing things, why don’t we focus more on these benefits and less on the negative relationship between exercise and food?
My issue with clumping exercise and food together is that, in most cases, we turn exercise into punishment for eating (insert low nutritional quality food). Rather than focusing on all of the amazing things that exercise does for our bodies, we are focusing on how we are going to use exercise to burn off some food we feel bad about consuming. This in turn creates a negative relationship with exercise, when instead we could be thinking, “I’m really stressed right now. Exercise would make me feel better.”
This issue delves deeper into extrinsic vs. intrinsic motivation for exercise. If we solely focus on extrinsic motivators, like body composition, we are much more likely to lose our desire to regularly engage in exercise. If we don’t see the results we want in the amount of time we think we should, it’s really easy to lose motivation. However, when we link exercise to how we feel or something within us, we can reflect on that intrinsic motivator every time we move our bodies. For example, I like being strong, because it is relates to my desire to be independent. If I need something moved or lifted, I enjoy knowing I can do it myself instead of waiting for someone to do it for me. Sure, I enjoy the muscle definition that being strong provides, but feeling competent and physically able makes we want to sustain a consistent exercise schedule for the rest of my life.
I do think that food and exercise are very interrelated, but I think it is essential view this relationship with a positive light. Food fits into two categories for me: fuel and pleasure. Most of the time, I see food as fuel to make me stronger, help me perform better in workouts and focus at work. Our bodies rely on us to fuel them with the food they need to get us through the day and handle the many demands that life throws at us. From years of listening to my body, I know what fuel my body needs to perform at its best. I know that I can’t eat much before exercising, but I do need a large breakfast full of veggies, fruit, protein and fats after working out to keep me satisfied all morning. On the flipside, I know that consuming a lot of sugar makes my head foggy, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop eating sugar all together.
Sometimes I eat food simply for the pleasure of eating it, despite knowing that it won’t do anything beneficial for my body. Sugar usually falls into this category. I don’t focus on this too much though, because I know that it’s not my body’s main source of fuel. When an opportunity arises that involves a food that gives me pleasure, I try to focus on the experience not how I’m going to “burn” it off later. For example, I don’t frequently get the opportunity to share a donut with my nephew on a Sunday morning. We recently had a sleepover with him, so better bet that I sat there soaking up the moment and the donut! Did my body feel awesome after? Not exactly, but I really enjoyed the moment instead of thinking about how I was going to “work” it off.
Is it always easy to avoid turning exercise into punishment for food consumed? No. It’s extremely hard, because of the messages that society and the media have ingrained into our culture. I find my mind frequently letting those thoughts sneak into my head. Now that I am aware of the negative impacts these messages have on my overall outlook on health, I can quiet these thoughts and reframe them in a positive light. So, I challenge you to try the same strategy. Next time you are eating something that might not have the most nutritional value or isn’t something you regularly eat, just simply enjoy it. Don’t think about exercise at this time.Think about how the food tastes, smells and the memories it brings to your mind. Then when you’re thinking about exercise, think about all the positive ways it will benefit your health. Think about how you are going to feel after you exercise and how your body 20 years from now will thank you for investing in its health. When someone around you makes a negative comment about exercise and food, take this moment as an opportunity to educate them. We have the power to change the conversation and create more positive spaces around us and our community.
I’d love to know your thoughts on this! Comment below 🙂
When people ask me if I miss living in San Diego, I usually stare at them with a dumbfounded look on my face as I wonder who would even ask that question. If you’ve ever been to San Diego, even on vacation, you understand. It’s an amazing place. Of course I miss the beaches and the weather, that’s a given. But, one of the things I miss the most is the countless exercise options. Yes, there are tons of opportunities to move your body outdoors (especially with the lovely weather), but I’m mainly referring to group exercise classes.
You see, I’m a group exercise junky. I fell in love with group exercise when I first attended a Step Aerobics class with my mom when I was 16. I was easily the youngest and most confused in the class, but I absolutely loved every aspect of it. I love the community aspect the classes create. I love when everyone groans and moans together about the instructor throwing them a curveball, like another set of burpies even though you’ve already done like 1,000. Instead of giving up, you come together as a class to complete the challenge and congratulate each other after. I enjoyed group exercise classes so much that I eventually found myself on the other side, as the instructor, getting the eye daggers as I threw curveballs the the poor, sweaty souls in my classes.
When we decided to move back to Davis, one of the first things I looked for (besides trying to find us a place to live of course) was a gym with classes. Needless to say, Davis’ gym game is nowhere close to San Diego’s. There is a huge gym on campus, so I decided that I would just workout on my own. Although it was extremely convenient, my motivation and excitement towards exercise dwindled.
I decided to start looking into other options and while mindlessly scrolling through Facebook one day, an advertisement for Get Fit Strength and Conditioning popped up on my feed. It’s like the Facebook gods were giving me a gift (also sorta creepy). I signed up for a trial month and was extremely excited to get started with something new. I walked through the front door and checked out the whiteboard for the days’ workout and immediately realized I had just signed up for a Crossfit membership.
I tried Crossfit for the first time in 2011. Crossfit wasn’t nearly as popular then, so I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that there was a new class available in Davis, so I had to try it. The coach had me do a 10-minute workout then spent the next hour talking to me about the Paleo diet. It really irks me when people talk to me about food and diets while I’m exercising. I truly enjoy exercise and love the way it makes my body feel. I like to focus on that when I exercise, not what food I should or should not be eating. Instead, please tell me how I can change my form to lift heavier weights and become stronger. Unfortunately, this initial experience with Crossfit really set me off from trying it again.
Needless to say, I was a little shocked when I found myself at another Crossfit style gym. I was already there though and needed to exercise for my mental health, so I gave it a go and guess what? I absolutely loved it! I loved it so much, in fact, that I signed up for a membership and consider this gym my community now. These workouts challenge me in a whole new way. I am using muscles I didn’t know I had and am getting stronger every week. Every day we focus on how to improve our movements to get better at what we are doing, not how we can burn more calories to change the way our bodies look. The coaches truly care about each individual and their progress. Also, the coaches seem like real human beings, not some superhero fitness people that live crazy, unrealistic lifestyles. On my first day, someone turned to me and asked my name. That rarely happened in a class in San Diego. Everyone supports each other and doesn’t talk about how they feel guilty for their latest “cheat day”. Instead, we motivate each other to push our limits and support each other when we listen to our bodies. Now that’s what I would call motivating.
The biggest challenge in trying these new workouts is learning to quiet the doubtful voice in my head. I believe I am very good at self motivation and believing in myself, but I do still doubt my abilities from time to time. Do I think I can really lift this bar with weights above my head? Can I really deadlift more than I weigh? It’s incredibly easy to let these voices get the best of you and I have before, but it’s most rewarding when you learn to prove them wrong.
The lessons I am learning in the gym are transferring into other aspects of my life. I’m finding that I am more confident in my ability to accomplish tasks at work and am more willing to tackle challenges I was hesitant to confront before. For example, I officially turned in my parking permit and am a full-time active commuter (woohoo!). Will it be hard to do it on a daily basis? Yes. Do I think I can do it? Yes. Do I think it will benefit my body in the long term? Yes.
Disclaimer: If you have a terrible commute, this post might make you hate me. Read with caution.
Let’s start this post with some upfront honesty. I live less than 2 miles from my work aaaaaand I pay for a parking pass. Phew, it feels good to get that off my chest. Now before you begin to judge, let me explain. I went to college where I am currently working and biked 90% of the time (the other 10% of the time I begged my roommates with parking permits for a ride). I remember getting to class just drenched in water from biking in the rain. I have scars on my legs from the lovely combination of a city policy to pile your yard waste in the street and my refusal to spend money on a bike light. Safety clearly wasn’t very high on my priority list during my college years.
Basically, when I began working and knew that I could afford a parking pass (one of the many perks of adulting), I said screw biking in the rain and the hot as hell summers- give me that parking pass! Speaking of those insanely hot summers, it’s really hard and uncomfortable to dress “business casual” when it’s over 100 degrees out. My go-to summer work outfit includes a dress or a skirt. Guess what’s difficult to bike in? Dresses and skirts. Are you starting to understand my reasoning yet?
You’ll be happy to know that my inner physical-activity-loving self felt guilty about having a parking pass ever since Day 1. Do I feel guilty when I happily arrive at work not soaking wet during the winter months? Not one bit. I feel content being warm and dry. But most days, I feel pretty lame about driving. I should let you know though, that I don’t always drive. I frequently walk or bike during the fall and spring when the weather is ideal. Thinking about that just frustrates me though, because I realize that I’m paying for a parking permit and not using it to its capacity. Therefore, I’ve decided that I need to cut the cord and just give up the parking permit altogether.
During the last few months, I’ve been working on a literature review at work to determine how my work will be focused for the next 3 years. I am looking up research and best practices within the last five years related to my content areas: physical activity, nutrition and bike helmets. While searching for ways to increase physical activity levels, the concept of active commuting came up multiple times. I’ve always known that walking or biking to get places was better than driving, but who knew people referred to it by a cool term like “active commuting”?
Research and science is my jam. I love it. As I was reading more and more about active commuting my guilt for having a parking permit grew immensely. In a recent study from the United Kingdom, researchers assessed data from 18,000 commuters, collected over a 10 year period. Not surprisingly, they found a positive relationship between time spent walking to work and well-being. They even found that individuals’ happiness levels increased significantly when their walk to work increased by 10 minutes. As you may expect, the same cannot be said for drivers. Another study highlighted the fact that commute lengths are linked to a sense of time pressure. People driving feel more stressed when their commute is increased, but active commuters don’t experience the same stress.
When I actively commute to work, I feel like I’ve done some positive for my health and this motivates me to tackle the day. When I’m irritated that I have to sit in yet another meeting, I look forward to spending 30 minutes walking home and giving my body the movement it deserves. Therefore, I’m going to take the plunge to bike in the rain and the 100 heat, possibly even the wind storms (yuck). Instead of making excuses about why I shouldn’t give up my parking pass, I’m going to create opportunities and change my attitude. I’m going to put a fender on my bike, purchase a tire compressor, download some audio books and happily hit the road. My goal is to officially cut the cord on Friday, February 24th and allocate the money I’ll save from not paying for a dang parking permit to my retirement account (more adulting). I’ll keep you updated on how this goes. Hopefully I don’t add more scars to my legs…
You may have noticed that Lowering the Bar Blog dropped off the face of the earth after getting my feet wet in the blogging world in 2016. Why? The simple answer is that life happened and I didn’t enjoy being on my computer after work. Summer is generally slower time at work (less meetings, more planning), so I am stuck inside on my computer for most of the day. I didn’t love the idea of hopping back on my computer after work. Instead, I went on walks where I continuously told myself that walking in 98 degree weather isn’t that bad or on an adventure with my husband to the batting cages or driving range. I just wanted to be outside.
However, I really enjoyed writing for this blog, so I spent some time trying to dig deeper and understand why I lost total motivation to post. Eventually, the light bulb went off and I realized that I was trying to make this blog into something that I don’t necessarily enjoy. I read a lot of blogs (editors note: seriously a lot of blogs) that post recipes and photos of food. I love reading these blogs and drool over the beautiful photos, but I really, really don’t enjoy taking my own photos of food nor writing recipes. I appreciate food photography and the time and effort that go into it, but I have zero patience or passion for it. After creating something in the kitchen, I want to eat it, not stare at it through my phone screen. I also don’t own a legit camera, which disqualifies me from the food photography club.
Creating recipes also isn’t my favorite thing to do. It takes the joy out of cooking for me. I rarely follow a recipe as written unless it is for baking or an international food that I am not very familiar with cooking. I am a fairly creative person and cooking allows me to express that quality. I like to choose spices based on how I’m feeling, add my own twist and basically just do whatever the hell I want. Sure, there are cooking rules like letting your meat come to room temperature before cooking and letting it rest after cooking that should always be followed, but I like just trying things to see what happens. When I am in this zone, I rarely remember exactly what I did (not wine related). The thought of actually having to slowly add salt with a measuring spoon until I reach the perfect recipe worthy amount, then writing this down on a piece of paper sounds terrible. Rather, I grab a pinch or (more often) a bunch of salt out of our salt jar, throw it in the food, and hope it was the right amount. Sometimes this method doesn’t work very well with red chili pepper flakes…
So, what does all of this mean? I promise there is a purpose to this rant. I am going to make this blog something I enjoy rather than try to fit into a mold of what my mind thinks it should be. I won’t feel sorry for the terrible photos of food that I post. I won’t feel guilty for posting a recipe without exact measurements, but I will write about what truly inspires me and gets me all worked up. Some weeks I may post our weekly meal plans and other weeks I may post about things that drive me crazy, like food marketing to kids. Basically, I’m going to let loose at Lowering the Bar Blog. There may be no rhyme or reason to the posts and some may even be posted week’s apart (gasp!). I just want to write and share my thoughts about health, wellness and life with you. I invite you to come along for the journey, but you have to promise you won’t hold me to any blog standards; because I’m Lowering the Bar for my blog standards.
I am not famous for many things…actually I’m not famous for anything. However, the Deck of Cards workout is something I can say I am at least well known for.
My roommates from college might shake their heads in disdain and remember when I convinced them to go to a park for this super fun workout. Sometimes I have to remember that my definition of “fun” is different from others.
The lucky souls that used to attend my boot camp classes would probably just laugh out loud and remember the buckets of sweat shed during the deck of card workouts we did as one big happy boot camp family. I’m not going to lie, I greatly enjoyed watching their faces and reactions when they walked in on a Saturday morning and realized they had 45 minutes of sweaty fun ahead of them. On multiple occasions they accused me of stacking the deck with higher number cards and even took the deck to count it themselves.Sure, I took a few 2’s out, but who really want to do 2 reps of anything? 10 reps is way more fun.
Recently, I was at a wedding and the groom’s father came up to tell me that he told his gym instructor about the deck of cards workout after we did it together during his visit to San Diego. Guess what? They are doing the Deck of Cards workout at his gym in Philly now!
Now that I’m thinking about it, maybe it’s the Deck of Cards workout that’s famous. It is one of my all time favorite ways to move, because it is so adaptable to any situation. You can do it by yourself or with friends. You can make it easy or a gut buster. You can use your own body weight or equipment. You can do it indoors, outdoors, anywhere!
Assign an exercise to each suit. For example, hearts could be squats.
Make the jokers something special. For example, hold a 1 minute plank for each joker.
Decide how many repetitions the face cards will be. I usually assign 10 repetitions to all face cards, but you could also do 11 for a jack, 12 for a queen, 13 for a king and 14 for an ace if you’re feeling really frisky! (Sorry this isn’t blackjack, Aces cannot be 1 or 11)
Pull your first card! The number determines how many repetitions you will do. Ex: If you pulled a 6 of hearts, that’s 6 squats. Get movin’ pal.
Keep pulling cards until you complete the deck. It’s your workout, so you determine the pace. Go as slow or as fast as you want to go. Take as many or as few breaks as you need. Depending on your pace and the exercises you choose, this could take anywhere from 20-45 minutes.
I’ve got beef with this “no pain, no gain” message that is so frequently used to convince people that they need to keep pushing through a workout. Before I start ranting, I would like to admit that, yes at one point in my life I also had this mentality and would repeat this saying in my head over and over as my body told me to stop. I also used to think fat was the devil, but I’ve come along way, OK? Don’t judge.
When I first began exercising, specifically lifting weights, I always wanted to be sore. I didn’t think I was working hard enough if I wasn’t sore afterwards. Spoiler alert! You don’t have to feel like your body got hit by a train for exercise to be effective. Yes, I do love a good burn and that feeling of faint soreness after a workout, but lack of soreness doesn’t mean your body didn’t experience a benefit from exercise.
In my opinion, our society likes to take everything to an extreme- politics, nutrition, hot dog eating contests, exercise- all of it. Can exercise be as simple as getting some movement in throughout the day rather than being sedentary? No, of course not. We feel the need to go harder. We need to push our bodies to the limits, which is why P-90X, bootcamps, Crossfit and other high intensity workouts have become extremely popular in the last decade. Am I saying this a bad thing? No, not at all. In fact, I really enjoy a sweaty, high intensity workout every now and then. However, we need to be aware of the messages we are communicating when we are expecting people to push their bodies to the limits during these types of workouts.
I used to teach bootcamp classes and absolutely loved it. I loved building relationships with my clients, watching them gain more confidence as they got stronger and positively influencing their perception of exercise. Clients often entered the facility with the expectation that they were going to get pushed to the limit, yelled at, and leave dripping with sweat “given the bootcamp culture”. Sorry, but I wasn’t a drill sergeant and I didn’t have a whistle. I definitely challenged them, but always encouraged them to listen to their bodies. If they needed to stop and take a break, then I told them to stop. I wanted people to feel good after exercising, not defeated and broken. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean people always listened, because this “no pain, no gain” mentality is so engrained and promoted in the exercise world.
Challenging yourself to work outside of your comfort zone is different than working through pain. A fast heart rate and being out of breath but still running to the finish line is different than continuing to sprint even though your knees are on fire. Finishing your last set even though your shoulder is killing you isn’t smart. It’s sometimes dangerously ignorant and it isn’t going to make you stronger. You will likely get injured at which point and you will have to take a break from that exercise for a given time, causing you to lose any progress you have made. So why do people push through this pain then?
From my experience, the “no pain no gain” mentality is most embraced when an individual is focusing on the way exercise will change their appearance. Let me just say, I don’t think there is anything wrong with exercising to alter your body composition. However, I think focusing on how exercise makes you feel is much more beneficial in the long run. If someone is exercising because they know it makes them feel better and reduce stress, they likely aren’t going to keep pushing through pain. Exercise doesn’t make you feel good when it’s painful. However, if you are only focusing on how exercise is going to change your appearance, then you might be more influenced to keep pushing through that pain and mutter one of these ridiculous sayings to yourself.
Everybody is unique and has different tipping points. Through tons of trial and error, I have found my limits and the signals my body sends me when I should stop. I know how hard I can work without injuring myself and I know what exercises my body doesn’t enjoy. I also know my limits will continue to change throughout life and I must be willing to adapt. It’s taken me a long time to accept that my body just doesn’t like high impact, plyometric exercises. I want to do them so badly and fit in with everyone else jumping all over the place, but it’s not worth the pain they cause my knees. I can do other exercises that won’t make it hurt to walk later and I can modify plyometrics to fit my needs. If I attend a group fitness class, I tell the instructor ahead of time that I am going to modify exercises and do what works best for my body. I have never ever had an instructor tell me that wasn’t acceptable and I needed to push through the pain.
I encourage you to find and honor your limits. Appreciate your body for what it can do, not what it can’t do. Don’t force yourself to push through pain. The potential short and long term damage isn’t worth it. If you have to stop a workout early or modify an exercise to maintain your form and prevent injury, focus on how proud you are of yourself for exercising in the first place. When you can wake up the next morning pain free and ready to move again, your body will thank you.