Weight Training Workout – A typical legs day

by Christine on May 18th, 2010

filed under Exercise, General Information

I am very curious to know what kind of workout routine you follow, or what kind of weight-training you do. In fact, I’d like SPECIFICS about it!  I think there’s always room in my workout to improve! So…what do you do to work out?

Here was my workout at the gym on Sunday (legs day). I use an intensity scale to rate my effort level. 1=easy and 10=extremely difficult to lift.

Leg Press MachineLeg Press (machine)
12 reps with weight at 110 pounds (#5 intensity)
10 reps with weight at 120 pounds (#7 intensity)
8 reps with weight at 130 pounds  (#9 intensity)
20 reps with the weight at 120 (or until I couldn’t take it anymore; “to failure”) (Starts at 8, goes to 10)

Leg Extension MachineLeg Extension (machine)
12 reps with the weight at 70 pounds (#5 intensity)
10 reps with the weight at 80 pounds (#7 intensity)
8 reps with the weight at 90 pounds  (#9 intensity)
20 reps with the weight at 80 pounds (“to failure”)  (Starts at 8, goes to 10)

Leg Curl MachineLeg Curl (machine)
12 reps with the weight at 70 pounds (#5 intensity)
10 reps with the weight at 80 pounds (#7 intensity)
8 reps with the weight at 90 pounds  (#9 intensity)
20 reps with the weight at 80 pounds (“to failure”)  (Starts at 8, goes to 10)

The adductor machine, for the conservative lady in you.“No” Machine/Adductor (machine)
12 reps with the weight at 80 pounds (#5 intensity)
10 reps with the weight at 85 pounds (#7 intensity)
8 reps with the weight at 90 pounds  (#9 intensity)
20 reps with the weight at 85 pounds (“to failure”)  (Starts at 8, goes to 10)

The Adductor machine, for the naughty girl in you.“Yes” Machine/Abductor (machine)
12 reps with the weight at 80 pounds (#5 intensity)
10 reps with the weight at 85 pounds (#7 intensity)
8 reps with the weight at 90 pounds  (#9 intensity)
20 reps with the weight at 85 pounds (“to failure”)  (Starts at 8, goes to 10)

Butt-building machineGlutes Machine
12 reps with the weight at (I forget) 30 pounds? (#5 intensity)
10 reps with the weight at 35 pounds? (#7 intensity)
8 reps with the weight at 40 pounds?  (#9 intensity)
20 reps to failure (Starts at 8, goes to 10)

Calf Raises (machine)
12 reps with the weight at 110 pounds (#5 intensity)
12 reps with the weight at 110 pounds (#7 intensity)
12 reps with the weight at 110 pounds  (#9 intensity)
(I would have added more weight, but it was already lifting me off my seat: it was a hard enough ARM workout just trying to keep my butt in the seat!)

Walk 5 minutes, increasing speed slowly
Jog 20 minutes, nonstop
Walk 10 minutes, slowing speed slowly.

250 crunches. (regular, side to side, lower-abs with the butt raise at the same time)

Holy crap, this workout really kicked my butt. My legs (especially my calves and hamstrings) have been extremely sore for the last two days. This is exciting – I love getting DOMS!

I don’t know what this weight-training routine is called. I think of it as a “pyramid” setup because the weights increase steadily.  I wonder what other types of weight-training workouts there are, which are most effective for building muscle, which are the most effective for burning fat, etc.

I need to work on lengthening and stretching my hamstrings. Other than basic yoga poses, does anyone have any tips, tricks, or exercises to lengthen this area?

I really want to use the freeweights, but I’m intimidated by the meatheads hanging around that area. I would totally use the freeweights if the gym was vacant. How do I work up the courage to go over there and not look like a complete ninny?


Plyometric Exercises

by Christine on May 17th, 2010

filed under Exercise, General Information

Plyometrics is great for endurance and strength!What are plyometric exercises?

Okay all you Biggest Loser fans – you know how every season Bob and Jillian make their contestants jump onto the top of the (ungodly high) black step stool?  That short, furious burst of energy used to fuel that (super-scary) jump is called a plyometric exercise.

Actually, plyometric exercises are a high-intensity training technique designed to produce fast, powerful movements. The most common plyometric exercises are hops, jumps, and bouncing movements.   Plyometrics can help build strength, endurance, speed, and muscle.

Plyometric exercise are also terrific plateau-busters. If you are stuck in a weight-loss stallmate, consider taking up a plyometric exercise routine for a week, or check out a high-intensity interval training exercise (CLICK HERE for more information).

How do I get started using plyometric exercises?

Clap pushups

  • This is pretty self-explanatory. Do a regular pushup, but at the top you launch yourself into the air, clapping your hands underneath you.

Box Jumps

  • Just like in the Biggest Loser, stand behind a box or stepping stool set to the desired height. Swinging your arms and bending your knees, jump onto the stool.  Keep your knees bent when you land. Step down and repeat.
  • You can also do this same exercise by jumping onto the 2nd step on a stairwell.  This is a good at-home alternative if you do not have a safe box or stool to use.
  • You can increase the intensity by holding onto freeweights in each hand.
  • You can increase the intensity by increasing the height of the box or stool.

Vertical Box Jumps

  • Stand behind a box or stool, as in the exercise above.  Put your right foot on the box.  Shift your weight forward, onto that right foot, and use that right leg to launch yourself into the air. Land in the same position as you started. Switch starting legs and repeat.

Lateral Bounds

  • Standing in “ready” position (knees bent, arms parallel in front of your like you’re holding downhill ski poles), jump to the side as far as you can, landing softly on your leading foot. Keep your knee bent and supple. Straighten yourself and regain your balance. Repeat by bounding onto your other foot. Repeat.
  • A variation of the lateral bound is to move at a 45 degree angle to the side. (If you are facing due “north” and if you jump due “east” in a typical lateral bound, then this would have you jumping “northeast.”
  • You can increase the intensity of this by adding freeweights in each hand.

Burpee Variation #1

  • Start by standing tall then drop to your hands in front of you in push-up form. Stand up as quickly as you can. Make sure that you don’t drop your knees and bang them on the floor. Make sure you land with your elbows bent.

Burpee Variation #2

  • Star t by standing upright, feet together, hands in the air by your ears. Bend down, and jump your feet backwards so that you are in plank position. Jump your feet up inbetween your hands again. Stand up into starting position. Repeat.

Mountain Climber

  • Get down into plank position.  Jump your right foot up in between your hands.  Now jump it back to start, but at the same time jump your left foot up in between your hands. Keep your butt down for an increased intensity.

Jump Rope

  • That’s it. Just jump rope. Any variation of jump-roping is a form of plyometric exercise.  No need for a description here!


  • Starting by standing with both feet together. Jump forward onto right hand foot (your left leg should be off the ground), lunging down into a deep lunge on the right leg.  Step backwards to starting position. Repeat on your left leg.
  • You can increase this exercise by holding freeweights at shoulder-height.

Tuck Jumps

  • Start with feet together, knees comfortably bent, arms in front of you. Swinging your arms to help with momentum, jump as high as you can, and tuck your feet under you (kick yourself in the butt if you must!). When you land, your knees should be supple and bent.
  • Add freeweights for an added intensity.

How safe are plyometric exercises?

There are varying opinions in the sports medicine fields about whether plyometrics are safe or not. The American College of Sports Medicine states that “plyometric training is safe, beneficial and fun activity for children and adolescents provided that the program is properly designed and supervised.” The American Council on Fitness and the National Strength and Conditioning Association are also in favor of plyometric exercise.

That being said, there is risk for injury if you don’t follow certain safety precautions. I wince every time those Biggest Loser trainers make their trainees make that leap onto that high pedestal. The most important is creating a safe landing technique.  A safe technique should involve landing on the toes, rolling to the heels, and keeping your knees soft and supple. Avoid twisting or turning at the knee because this could cause your knee to sprain or pop out.

Before embarking on a plyometric exercise routine, it is recommended that you be able to squat 1.5 times your bodyweight in order to have strong enough knees to support plyometric jumping.

Videos to watch

Confused about my descriptions? Want more ideas? See what I’m talking about by watching these videos on Youtube:


148.5 (76.5 pounds lost): Weekend Getaway

by Christine on May 17th, 2010

filed under Christine's Life Updates, General Information

Yale University - example of buttressed cloistersThis was a very busy weekend! Living on the East Coast never ceases to amaze me; there is so much to do! I grew up in the midwest where it takes a minimum of 8 hours to get to another region/city of worth visiting. Around here, I’m: 2 hours from NYC, 4 hours from Boston, 3 hours from Montreal, 20 minutes from the mountains and Vermont, with 30 minutes of Massachusetts and Connecticut, etc.  As far as I can tell, I have about 100 day trips just calling my name! I feel very lucky.

St. Paul's Cathedral in LondonOn Saturday we decided to take a drive to Connecticut.  First we drove to New Haven to visit the Yale campus. I wanted to look at the Gothic architecture. We went to the Yale Center for British Art (free admission) and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that they are doing an exhibit on the “tools of the trade” used in architecture, surveying, and masonry. There were many old documents, including original plans of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London! I thoroughly enjoyed looking at the painstaking efforts that the artists took to focus on symmetry, ornate decoration, high and lofted ceiling, buttresses, etc. What a wonderful exhibit and a pleasure to stumble across! I brought some almonds to snack on in the car during this leg of the trip.

Then we drove to Foxwoods Casino and Resort located in eastern CT.  Together with the MGM Grand, it is one of the largest casinos in the world.  We gambled there for nearly 8 hours! That sounds like a lot (and it was), but we are not big gamblers; we always play the penny machines. (There are even 1/2 and 1/4 of a cent machines these days!) Leann Rimes was there, and we stumbled across her doing a press shoot before the concert. I waved and said hi like we were old chums.

We had dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe.  I scoured the menu and had a conundrum: I really wanted a salad, but all the salads were $15-or-so dollars.  I would only have 1/5th of what they gave to me, and I didn’t want to walk around the casino with a box of leftovers.  I could get an appetizer or a sandwich-minus-the-bun, but neither of those options were healthy and had vegetables with them. Shoot, what should I do?  Then we found the perfect solution! Aaron ordered a hamburger, but he could add a side salad for $3.  He ordered me a Caesar salad, and I ordered a “side” shrimp skewer, which I added to the salad. The perfect meal size and it only cost $8! Plus I didn’t have to deal with leftovers.

Plus, all that time at the casino meant 8 hours of nonstop walking. Oh, I’m not going to go so far as to call it exercise because it didn’t elevate my heart rate one iota. However, it was nonstop movement, so that was good. I didn’t feel guilty at all for skipping the gym that day!  At the end of the day we were up $20 (winners!), and we didn’t get home until almost 4:30 a.m.!

Iron Man 2. Rawr!I set the alarm for 10 a.m. I got up and, despite my urge to go back to sleep, I hauled my butt to the gym. I got a tremendous leg workout (weight-training) in. Today I am sore and have leg DOMS all over! (Click here for a conversation about DOMS.)  Then we saw Iron Man 2. I brought almonds with me to the movies for a healthier snack alternative. Yum!  Afterwards it was a dash to the mall to meet a friend for 2 hours, then home to cook dinner.  It was such a busy day that I couldn’t get a gym workout in during the evening (the gym closes at 7 p.m. on Sundays), so I was very glad that I made the effort to go to the gym in the morning.  It was…empowering!

Later today I will add a post about polymetric exercises, so stay tuned!

Namaste, Revolutionists!


148.8 (76.2 pounds lost): To share or not to share?

by Christine on May 14th, 2010

filed under Christine's Life Updates, General Information

Yesterday I had a networking function to attend after work.  These commitments are remnants of my past job. The event included a tour of a project site (the adaptive re-use of a former funeral home into a modern library, including the process of getting it certified LEED Gold) followed by a cocktail hour. I have been advocating for project tours for nearly two years now, and I’m glad that the event was a success with more than 30 people attending. I look forward to the organization (SMPS) doing more tours!

The cocktail hour included one free drink and appetizers. I had a glass of white wine and gazed longingly at the appetizers. I did partake by having one small pita with a dab of hummus (30 calories at best), but I steered clear of everything else. Chicken wings, teriyaki meat skewers, potato wedges, etc.  I’m afraid social functions leave me a little uncomfortable when it comes to food and drinking.  As I was standing there, a colleague made some comment like, “What, are you losing all your weight by not eating? You haven’t touched a thing.”  I laughed and replied that on the contrary, I eat all the freaking time!  But I was a little uncomfortable because I was aware that they were aware that I wasn’t eating anything.  The feeling is that it’s downright unsocial to not partake in the festivities!

To rectify the situation I drank.  Not only did I have three drinks, but I did so on an empty stomach. Oh, I was starving! At least I had the presence of mind to excuse myself from the gathering after two drinks (before I got drunk), then went to a restaurant with a friend. At Applebees I ordered a grilled steak, steamed veggies, and some mashed potatoes…and another drink. I ate until I was stuffed, but I still have enough leftovers for three or four meals. Leftovers plague me!

When it comes to drinking, sometimes I just don’t make the smartest decisions, I guess.  I’m not sure that I can say “I won’t do it again,” because I will. I enjoy an evening out, and I enjoy having a drink. I don’t drink every day – maybe once a week? I’m not sure what the balance should be.  Never drink at all? Go out, but only have one drink? Or is having three drinks okay, assuming I don’t do it very often?

This socializing question has me wondering something: I haven’t shared this website with any of my family or “real-life” friends. Should I?  I’ve been trying to do my best to increase traffic to the website (thank you for being here and reading this!), and I’m sure that if I shared the website with, for example, my Facebook list, that some people would check it out. The problem is that I feel like I would have to watch what I say here in order to accommodate family, coworkers, friends, etc.  Don’t get me wrong, everyone close in my life knows about my efforts to lose weight, and they are all remarkably supportive. It’s not that this is a secret. My issue is more about the openness and sharing aspect.  If you’re reading this, and if you have a blog and website….do you share it with your friends, family, co-workers, facebookians, etc?   How do you balance the content to make sure that nobody gets offended and everyone stays happy?

I found this post from a year ago:

Today Aaron woke up early to go golfing with all the boys. I woke up and finally had some QUIET TIME! I went to the mall and did some clothes shopping. How depressing! I haven’t gone clothes shopping in a while because I have been hoping that I’d just go down dress sizes, which I HAVEN’T! Grrr! So I don’t really have many summer clothes that fit my fat ass, so I bought a pair of shorts and a super cute kackhi skirt and some shirts. And black flip flops! Nothing exciting but I needed the clothes. Then I came home and put some jazz on and enjoyed the quiet time!

How funny! I hadn’t gone down any clothing sizes this time last year? Oh my, how far have I come! I’m wearing my last tub of clothing (I went from a size 22/24 to a size 8/10).  Do you have any idea how expensive it was to buy clothes in all those sizes as I was gaining weight? That’s thousands, THOUSANDS of dollars worth of clothes!  Now that I’m on my last tub, I need to start budgeting for more clothes in smaller clothing sizes. How funny that I hadn’t lost any clothing sizes! They started to melt off me shortly after this time, I think.

Look what I came to work to today!

Namaste, Revolutionists!


Interval Training – Blast Calories and Strengthen Your Heart!

by Christine on May 13th, 2010

filed under Exercise, General Information

Interval Training Blasts Fat!High Intensity Interval Training (also called HIIT) is a type of exercise that involves bursts of high-intensity work followed by low-intensity work.  Alternating between high-energy and relatively lower-energy work strengthens your heart by repeatedly elevating the heart rate, slowing it, and repeating the process.   This type of workout can be used in any cardiovascular workout – jogging, cycling, stair-stepping, rowing, etc.  Anybody can do interval training, regardless of their exercise ability. It’s all about raising your heart rate, so the amount of exertion might differ from person-to-person, but anybody can do it.

If you’re stuck in a weight-loss plateau, adding a few interval workouts will help you blast through it.

Here’s some more geek information: During high intensity workout, the body’s anaerobic system users glycogen (energy) stored in the muscles to fuel the short bursts of activity. Anaerobic metabolism works without oxygen, and the by-product is lactic acid. During high intensity workouts, the lactic acid builds, which means you enter an “oxygen debt.”  When you recover after this workout, your heart and lungs work together to replenish the oxygen deficiency and break down the lactic acid.  In this phase, the aerobic systems in your body take control, using oxygen to convert stored carbohydrates into energy.  (This is why many athletes train in high-altitudes, such as in Colorado. By training in high altitudes they can increase the number of red blood cells, which helps them perform for a longer period of time with little or no fatigue throughout.)

This should sound like magic to your ears, readers!

Interval training has many benefits. It strengthens your heart, replenishes its supply of oxygen, increases your metabolism for 24 hours following your workout, improves your athletic performance, and may even help lower your risk for diabetes by improving insulin action.  According to the American College of Sports Medicine, more calories are burned in short, high-intensity exercise.

A recent study of athletes following interval training exercise showed that interval training increased the resting metabolic rate (RMR) for the following 24 hours because of post-exercise oxygen consumption.  (Smith 2003) Studies have shown that interval training burns fat effectively and improves athletic performance.  For instance, a recent study showed an 8.2 second improvement in 2000m rowing following four weeks of interval training in well-trained rowers.  (Driller et al, 2009) Additionally, a study at Laval University in Quebec found that HITT cardio helped trainees lose NINE TIMES more fat than those who trained more traditionally (moderate speed for 20-60 minutes).  (bodybuilding.com)

Interval training is a training method used by long-distance runners, sprinters, and football players. In fact, intervals account for 50-75% of total training volume of most athletes.  I think the most common place I see athletes do interval training are in the images of boxers. Sure, they stand there and punch a bag. Then they go and jump rope for 2-3 minutes, then return to the punching bag. That’s interval training in action!

To be maximally effective, you should warm up, cycle through the high/low intensity six to ten times, and then follow the workout by a cool-down exercise.  Instead of measuring heart-rates, let’s use an intensity-scale. Assume 1=easy and 10=you’re going to fall over dead from exertion.  During the low-intensity interval you want to be at a five. During the high-intensity interval you want to be at a 7 or higher.

  • This is a great table that shows what your target heart rate should be during low- and high-intensity training.  (CLICK HERE)


Beginning exercisers:

  • If walking is the main crux of your exercise, you can still get intervals in.  Try walking briskly for two minutes, followed by one minute of skipping like a silly schoolgirl. The higher (more “air”) you can skip, the better. You may want to consider adding an ankle brace just for some extra support.  Repeat until your mile walk is done.
  • You can also elevate your heartrate by putting your hands over your head; this increases blood to your heart.  So another option would be would be walking briskly for two minutes followed by two minutes of brisk walking with your arms moving like you were doing jumping jacks.  You can add some light, 2-pound weights for a little extra gusto.

Intermediate exercisers:

  • Try 60 seconds of intense exercise followed by 75 seconds of rest, repeated for 8-12 cycles.  You can use this technique in any exercise (jogging, cycling, rowing, stair-stepping, etc).  Try to push yourself beyond Level 7 intensity and into the Level 8 realm.
  • Try jumping rope in between whatever your normal exercise is.  If you haven’t jumped rope as an adult, it’s going to surprise you, I promise.

Advanced exercisers:

To get the best bang for your buck out of interval training, you can change up four variables when designing your interval program:

  • Intensity (speed) of work interval
  • Duration (distance or time) of work interval
  • Duration of rest or recovery interval
  • Number of repetitions of each interval

You want to try to get to a maximal heart-rate during your high-intensity workout.  Try to aim for 85-100% heart rate reserve.


Smith TP, Coombes JS, Geraghty DP (2003). “Optimising high-intensity treadmill training using the running speed at maximal O(2) uptake and the time for which this can be maintained”. Eur. J. Appl. Physiol. 89 (3-4): 337–43. doi:10.1007/s00421-003-0806-6. PMID 12736843.

Driller, Matthew; Fell, James; Gregory, John; Shing, Cecilia and Williams, Andrew. (2009). The effects of high-intensity interval training in well-trained rowers. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 4(1)IJSPP

BodyBuilding.com has a great article about incorporating HIIT training into your program, with tweaks for what your long-term goals are (weight loss, muscle-building, etc.) CLICK HERE.

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