Hello, friends. Last weekend was the first weekend since I started this little blog that I didn’t post anything. I have been working on a longer piece and it just ain’t ready yet, plus I have been feeling rather slothful. So I felt a little bit bad about not posting, but hey, life happens.
That said, one area where I have not been lazy recently is with actual physical exercise.
I was a serious ballet student from childhood through college, and even after I stopped dancing I tried to keep up some kind of physical activity. It ebbs and flows, both in terms of what I’m doing and how frequently or how hard I work. I’m a firm believer in doing whatever kind of exercise you won’t hate, so the last few years have had me getting into running for a while, then doing various Zumba-inspired cardio dance classes, and lately, doing strength/cardio training videos at home.
Exercise is good for you, we all know this. And we’ve all heard the line that exercise is a great stress reliever, but I didn’t understand until very recently that, yeah, actually, it’s like the absolute best way for your Neanderthal brain to release stress. After all, what usually causes an animal stress? The fear that it’s about to get maimed, killed, and eaten. What does an animal do when it’s in danger? Aside from the ones that curl into balls to play dead, most of them will run away.
If you are feeling anxious about something, taking a jog around the block will help a lot. This is basic science, it turns out, not just a feel-good thing that your mom or a women’s magazine told you.
Anyway, it kind of broke my brain when I learned this, because I have often used stress as a reason NOT to work out. I used to only go for a run or whatever if I already felt good. If I was feeling a little sad or anxious, that seemed like a reason to just sit still and stew in my feelings. And, hey, sometimes that’s what you need to do–but I was using it as a crutch. I was working in the opposite way that my body needed.
So now I try to exercise four or five days a week, and I don’t know if it’s actually helped my stress levels, because I fall into placebo traps all the time. But I feel good and my body is getting stronger, and yes, I think I’ve lost some inches and maybe even some pounds. I am 100% in favor of working out for reasons other than fat loss, but if you want fat loss, that doesn’t make you a bad person. (Sometimes feminism makes me feel like wanting to be sleek and toned is a bad thing, but I am fighting that impulse. You do you, to infinity.)
Here are three of the workouts that have been working really well for me lately.
(Disclaimer: these are all from PopSugar Fitness, which sometimes uses the narrative of “get the bikini body you want!” and “burn off those love handles!” in a garbage way. It’s not as bad as it could be, though, and they’re good about providing modifications to certain moves and encouraging you to take breaks when you need to. So, just, be warned.)
This has a nice Pilates foundation which speaks to my years as a dancer. It’s also the best workout I have found for thigh work. Total hamstring and quad killer. I usually avoid the crunches, because crunches are really bad for your back, and just do plank variations instead.
The first thing I thought when I started using this workout was, “Oh my god, she looks like me!” Becky has a body that I can actually relate to. This one is really good for abs and upper body (I had to invest in some heavier weights after a few weeks), and I find it usually goes by quickly.
Okay, first of all, Yumi has the most incredible quads I’ve ever seen. This workout is not terribly complicated, and it’s only 20 minutes, so it’s good for the days when I don’t really feel like doing much of anything.
It’s weird, guys–for the last several years I’ve been content with sort of half-assedly exercising two days a week, and now I want to be sweating it out all the time and am very invested in getting super ripped shoulders? The word SWOLE is in my vocabulary now. Apologies.