Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Nike Training Club

I (mostly) love Nike Training Club.  Mostly.  It's been around for quite a while now, but it's drastically changed since the first iteration - and for the most part, I love it.  For the past three weeks, I've been going an NTC training program, which is also, for the most part great.  And I'm super psyched to finally have a strong enough base to complete it.  (Mostly! More on that later)
So let me tell you about how awesome NTC is, but also a few issues I have with it.

The biggest winning point for NTC+ is the wide array of workout lengths, types, intensity levels, etc etc etc.  You can choose anywhere from a 12 minute intense blast to a 45 minute full body workout.  There's yoga, there's stretching, there's cardio... Given my tendency to get bored easily, there are so many options.  I can focus on just abs, just butt, just arms.  I can give my whole body a workout.

The workouts have beeps to cue the start of each exercise, a small amount of guidance throughout the move and videos you can click on (it pauses your workout) so you can figure out what the hell a Crazy Ivan is.  In general, I like the workouts but they're generally a bit tough, so I found I wasn't yet strong enough to complete them a couple of months ago, when I wrote about rebuilding the base.

But then I decided the base was there (or at least, just strong enough) and I decided to jump in.  And not just do a workout, but do a plan.

Now, I've completed an NTC plan before, but I've also failed a few of them.  While I enjoy having a workout plan feature, I have to say, I have a lot of problems with out the NTC ones work.
The plans are all 4 week plans.  To begin with, you select your focus (Get Slim, Get Toned or Get Strong).  Then your level:  Beginner, Intermediate or Advanced.  Then you decide if you want to add running and sync with Nike+ (I love this feature) and then you get your plan.

However you're then stuck with the plan based on the day you start it.  It is not in the least flexible.
This time, I selected Get Toned and Beginner and also synched with my Nike+, which adds two runs a week.  My schedule was then as follows:

  1. Monday:  30 minute Body Flexor workout:  This workout is great!  30 minutes seemed intimidating at first but after the 5 minute warm up and the 5 minutes of stretching at the end, it goes by so quickly.  The workout is an array of 1 minute workouts that cover the whole body - lunges, pushups, ab stuff and more.  I loved it, which is great, since this workout repeats every week.
  2. Tuesday:  3 mile run
  3. Wednesday: Rest
  4. Thursday:  This is the tough one.  A 45 minute workout (different one each week) - they seem to be mostly from the beginner levels of Get Toned.  They are Tighten Up, Dream Team, Body Buffer and Pump Station.  And they ALL include about 50,000 lunges (of all sorts) and lots of push ups.  Each week, this workout killed.
  5. Friday:  3 mile run
  6. Saturday:  15 minute Dynamic Yoga.  This one is also deceptive, but in the opposite way from the Monday Body Flexor.  It's tough! It's a good thing it's only 15 minutes and to be honest, to know, I still haven't been able to complete the multi-side planked series at the end (though each time I've gotten further along)
  7. Sunday:  Rest.

On the whole it's been great.  The problem with this program though is that there is zero flexibility.  You can't change a workout day, so if you miss one workout or hope to swap days of the week, you fail the workout.  It doesn't work.  This pissed me off when I first did the program several years ago.  Then I learned to (sorta kinda) cheat:  I run the app even if I'm not doing the workout.  Then I feel awfully guilty.  Then, I make sure I still get the workout done at some point that week, so I feel better.  But I still feel guilty.  It would be great if the program allowed for a grace period within each week so that you can make up a missed workout.  

All things considered though, it's a great app, and it's free.  The workouts are demanding.  They seem to post new ones pretty frequently (if you check out the Get Focussed section of the workouts, there are all kinds of new workouts of different types:  stretch guides, core strength, barre, tabata and yoga...)

I finished the program last week and it felt awesome.  I still have trouble finishing the yoga side plank section at the end, but on the whole feel pretty great.  I'll probably do an intermediate level program in a few months, but for the next few weeks, am on a holiday mini break and then in January I'll be starting the Self Challenge as well as a Nike+ coaching program for 10k.

(Today, I just snuck in one of my favourites:  Alpha Abs.  It's a super satisfying 15 minute workout for when you don't have that much time.)

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Building A Base

This initial month of my gettin' back in shape program is what I'm calling building a base.  I'm still way to weak to do something like P90X or even most of the N+TC workouts.

My main goal this month is to really focus on strengthening my core and protecting my back, all while starting to build up a little bit of cardio endurance.

Because of the previously mentioned back problems (aka the Babyback), the core strengthening is crucial. I have a little routine I do thanks to my lovely physical therapist Sydney that I supplement with some other stuff taken from here and there.

It varies (because I get bored with routines quickly) but here is what my week roughly looks like:

  • Day One:  Core stabilizing routine and abs plus 30 minutes elliptical
  • Day Two:  Short core stabilizing routine plus 30 minute treadmill run
  • Day Three: 30 minute Core strengthening workout
  • Day Four: Core stabilizing routine plus 30 minutes treadmill
  • Day Five: 45 Strength and Abs (probably a N+TC workout)
  • Day Six: Rest
  • Day Seven: Longer run

The short core stabilizing routine involves:
  1. Supine pelvic repositioning - 4 times 
  2. Core activation - twice with crossed arms and twice uncrossed
  3. Toe taps
  4. Bird dog - 15 seconds per side, 3 repeats
The longer version includes also:
  1. Hip Lifts
  2. Hip lifts with alternating legs lifts
  3. Bicycles
  4. Flutter kicks (still with legs pretty high up to keep back pressed against floor)
  5. Forearm planks
  6. Squats
Today was Day 3 and I supplemented the Core stabilizing routine with an ab workout from N+TC - Alpha Abs.  It was perfect for me right now.  (At some point, I'll tell you all about my love of N+TC)

I'm hoping to do this for two more weeks and then maybe move on to a specific 30 or 90 day workout block, either from N+TC or maybe PiYo...  Any favourite 30 day workout plans out there?

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Where I'm Returning From (Pre to Post Natal)

Well, as mentioned before, it's been a while.  Since I last posted, I've had one kid, recovered my fitness, got back on track, then had a second kid.  Many lessons were learned in the process.  I'm not going to bother recounting that first journey, since I'll cover some of the stuff I learned when I tell you my current Back In Shape plan.

So here I am, 4 months postpartum... How to get back on track? How to get back into shape, start running again, tighten up that baby pooch?

First thing I did learn from last time was to start slowly.  Things don't work quite the same as they used to and if you don't strengthen the parts that need strengthening, when you then start running again, things get hurt.

During pregnancy:
Both times, I ran all the way through the beginning of my 8th month of pregnancy, and then swam laps for the last two.   I did this 2-3 days a week.

In addition, I did yoga and strengthening.  The three workouts I did most were:

  • Jane Austin Prenatal Yoga:  This was great and even on days when I was exhausted or felt awful (which sadly was the case for a lot of both pregnancies) I could even just do the first 30 minutes of this and it would help a lot!  I also love that it works the arms hard but then really stretches and relaxes.
  • The Perfect Pregnancy- Vol. 1-Sculpting:  I do love this - it feels like a real workout, working on strength and has three levels you can do within the workout.  As someone who was pretty fit coming into the pregnancy, this workout was satisfying.  And the Keep Up arm workout at the end burns!!!
  • Prenatal Fitness Fix with Erin O'Brien:  This workout was shorter but also satisfying in that it wasn't too easy and felt like an actual workout.  I didn't do this the first pregnancy but after doing Erin O'Brien's Postnatal Rescue, I found these and added them to the mix this time.
That was my schedule during pregnancy and I honestly do think it helped me make it through both pregnancies, both mentally and physically.

The AfterMath:
Both times, I was careful about waiting six weeks till I was cleared by my OB to workout. I did however start doing Erin O'Brien's Postnatal Rescue stretching before the 6 week mark.  

After 6 weeks, I began the following:
But this was not enough either time.  Both last time and this time, I have had severe lower back pain that made it difficult to stand up, bend over, pick up my baby... So I needed to step up my back and core rehabilitation.  That's where I'll be starting from... Next post :)

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Can Fitness Be Sidelined?

You might think you know the answer to that question. Fitness can be sidelined, we say, because Crazy Job, because New Relationship, because Babies Be Babies*.

Ok, yeah. But no.

It's been about 5 years since I contributed to this blog, mainly because I stopped contributing to my fitness. After a series of really annoying injuries and issues (at one point I had a tweaky right knee and a painful left shoulder, which pretty much put me out of any game) I decided to hit the pause button. 

Damn that pause button. It's sneaky - it says Pause then changes to Stop, and life doesn't have a helpful transitional screen saver. Eventually I stopped feeling the need to work out, lost the giddiness of a personal best, misplaced the delicious habit of knowing my own metrics by heart. My V02, heart rate zones, target rpms and pace per mile, almost as dead as the dodo. 

Almost. Because the real answer to the question is this: No, your fitness cannot be sidelined.

Once you have a sense of your own fitness, once that is stamped onto your DNA, injected into your bloodstream, embedded under your skin or tattooed on the back of your neck, that sense doesn't leave you. Your fitness habit will slip next to you in the soft gentle light some dawn and like a delicate kiss, whisper "You're going to age really badly and that's not what I had planned..."

Then it will taunt you when you rise from a good night's sleep and don't feel rested, stand accusingly when you notice your gut popping over your jeans and laugh like an ass when you face plant on the sidewalk.

When we interpret fitness as physical beauty, sculpted abs or Perfect-Butt-in-30-Days! we miss a crucial point. Fitness is feeling incomparable. Fitness is being energized. Fitness is balance, flexibility, grace in handling life's weird twists. Fitness is us: happy.

After a frustrating and stressful job, never feeling quite rested, massaging my waist fat like it was bread dough and quite literally falling flat on my face on Howard Street to great humiliation (Hi guys across the street at Kate O'Brien's, drinking beer and watching me bleed) and expense (emergency room, ambulance, stitches), it finally dawned on me during that delicate dawn kiss that I really missed being fit.

So I'm back at it. New personal metrics, adjusted zones, different targets. My former personal best will stand, but not quite as high on the scale as the simple act of taking my fit self off pause.

*My Tiny90 blog partner, Sara, just had her second baby. She kept running until a month before her due date and will likely start running again the very minute she can. Babies be Babies, but Mom Needs a 3-Mile Run, Dammit :-)