Monthly Archives: April 2012

Rise & Shine: Tips for Morning Workouts

This is an excerpt from a post by Eric Cressey, who writes one of the best fitness blogs in the world.

We are creatures of habit – not only psychologically and socially, but physiologically as well.  It should come as no surprise that changing the time of day when one’s workout routine takes place is a huge deal for everything from mood to performance. Perhaps the most common adjustment that takes place is when someone decides to exercise in the morning.  It may be because a long day at work is too exhausting to be 100% when you hit the gym after it’s over, or you may just not want to wait for equipment access in a crowded gym at 6PM. Or, it could be because a parent is super busy with kids’ afterschool activities, so first thing in the morning before they wake up is the best bet for getting in a strength and conditioning program. Here are five keys to making it a smooth transition:

1. Get to bed earlier.
You’d be surprised at how many people complain that they can’t get results from exercising in the morning without realizing that they’re still going to bed far too late at night. If you’re someone who is accustomed to sleeping 12AM-8AM, then racing to be to work at 9AM, it’s going to be an adjustment if you want to start training at 6AM before you head to work.  You’re only making it tougher if you decide that you’re simply going to sleep 12AM-5AM. It’s also going to crush your productivity for the rest of the day, as you’ll be sleep walking rather than enjoying the post-exercise energy boost most people experience.  If you want to be up at 5AM or 6AM to train, you’ve got to be in bed by 10PM.

2. Stand up for a bit.
Our spines are stiffer first thing in the morning. Simply standing upright and moving around upon waking allows us to move the spine more safely and effectively.  If you’re someone with a history of back pain, you’re probably best off not incorporating exercise in the morning, especially if your workout routine includes a lot of bending and rotating.  If you’re going for a walk or light jog, though, it’s probably not a big deal. If you’re someone who plans to use some of these more challenging compound movements and have to exercise in the morning, I’d encourage you to get up 30 minutes early and just focus on standing up, whether it’s to read the paper, pack your lunch, or take the dog for a walk.

3. Take a hot shower before exercise in the morning.
One of the biggest struggles a lot of folks encounter is getting warmed up in the morning.  Folks usually turn the heat down at night while they’re asleep, and it’s obviously colder outside at nighttime.  You might think I’m nuts, but hopping out of bed and into a hot shower is a great “body temperature transition” strategy that bridges the gap between bed and exercise.  And, since you’ll be standing in the shower, it also helps to accomplish tip #2 from above! It only has to be 25-30 seconds to get your body temperature up a bit, and then you can take your “real” shower after you sweat up a storm.  As an alternative to shower #1, you can always splash some hot water on your face and drink a cup of coffee.

4. Extend the warm-up.
In line with points #2 and #3, it’s a good idea to add a few more dynamic warm-up drills to your pre-exercise routine. It might add five minutes to your dynamic warm-up, but that’s far better than spending far more than five minutes in physical therapy for an injury you got from insufficiently warming up! In line with tip #2 from above, you likely want to focus on more standing variations in your mobility exercise selections.

5. Tinker with various nutrition approaches.
I’ve heard thousands of different nutritional strategies outlined for those who want to exercise in the morning, but the truth is, everyone is different.  I have known folks who will throw up anything solid that they consume prior to exercise, and others (myself included) who could eat a giant breakfast and keep it down just fine.  For most, I think sipping on a shake as you start the training session is a good place to start.  If you handle that fine, you can consider having some solid food before the training session, if you find that you’re hungry in the middle of the training session.

6. Recruit a training partner.
A training partner is almost always a good idea, but this is especially true when you’re up at the crack of dawn and not necessarily in the mindset to really push yourself.  Plus, when you’re awake for exercise before the sun rises, you’re far more likely to hit the snooze button if someone isn’t waiting for you at the gym.

While training first thing in the morning isn’t exactly ideal, it may be your only option for staying consistent with your workout routine – and consistency is the name of the game.  Implement these strategies to get the most out of your early morning training sessions.

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How did this man lose 115 lbs? (Part 2)

Sean Reveille, who appears in the photos above, lost 115 pounds in a relatively short period of time. This is part 2 of our interview with him.

4) How did you get into rope jumping and what do you like most about it?
I am a creature of habit, and I wanted a form of cardio I could stick to that I could do whenever, wherever, and without weather being a factor.  Since I often find myself simply jumping up and down in my room while listening to rock or heavy metal music, I figured jumping rope was the natural way to go.  I now own a few ropes, one of which I keep at work so that I can spend 20 minutes of my lunch break jumping rope.  I wasn’t intending on doing it EVERY day at work, but it’s one of those things that gets really fun when you have the right background music to accompany it.  So now I find myself doing it daily.  They know me now as “that guy who works out during lunch.” What I like most about it is the fact that it was totally natural to me.  I had always just found myself pogoing up and down while listening to heavy music, just without the rope. Adding in the rope completed it.

5) I hear you like to squat. What’s your personal best and are you shooting for a specific goal?
My preferred form of resistance training is calisthenics. However, I make an exception for lower body. Squatting is one of my favorite things to do. I normally do 5 sets of 8-10 reps at the gym and for my final set I like to try to increase the weight. Monday this week I hit a new max.  I did my last set with 225 lbs, which is a big milestone for me because it’s an even two 45 lb plates on each side of the barbell! I don’t really have any specific goal.  I don’t like setting goals when it pertains to self-improvement because I see goals as stop signs. It means hitting a point and then saying “okay, I can stop now.”  And that’s just not how I am.  As long as my legs don’t get so massive that I can’t fit into my riding leathers, I’m going to keep working on it.

6) What do you like to listen to when working out?
Well, on top of your typical “gym rat metal” (Disturbed and other similar bands), I like to listen to a lot of film score tracks (typically the background music from epic battle scenes), and remixes of video game tunes.  Yes, nerdy, I know!  I also like listening to ’80s synth-pop bands, hard rock bands such as AC/DC, and Industrial metal such as KMFDM.  My favorite genre of music is a subgenre of metal called Power Metal, but I find that it doesn’t make suitable background music for working out.

7) We hear from the medicine ball police that you like to toss those suckers around. What do you do with them?
Here’s another one that’s going to give away my nerdy background! Haha. I have a set of medicine balls ranging from 2 to 8 pounds that I purchased some time ago for use with a video workout program.  I couldn’t stick to the program, however, so they gathered dust for some time.  Then one day I got into a little argument with my sister about how the foods she is feeding her kids combined with their lack of activity is going to make them just like I was.  I didn’t want to sit by and watch, so I started thinking of ways to get them exercising. I noticed my nephew was really into the show Dragonball Z and liked to pretend he was the characters from the show. So I gave him the lightweight medicine ball and had him imitate the movements characters make with their bodies when they perform their signature energy attacks, and then pushing/launching/throwing the ball into a wall and catching it as it came back to him.  I put together a workout program for him based entirely on imitating his favorite Dragonball Z characters using this approach, just throwing medicine balls instead of firing mystical energy, and it ended up being a full, total body workout. It seemed so fun I figured I would try it myself, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I usually finish the medicine ball workout by doing static holding exercises with the 6 lb ball, holding it at arm’s length, arms fully extended, and slowly turning from side to side.

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How did this man lose 115 pounds?

The other day, we had the pleasure of chatting with Sean Reveille (pictured at far left in July 2009 and at far right in February 2012), a Punk Rope customer who happens to be a fan of metal and rope jumping, and who recently lost 115 pounds by making some very sensible choices. We were inspired by Sean’s story and think you will be too.

1) Most Americans struggle with their weight. How did you drop 115 pounds?
I tried a lot of different things as far as exercise went, but for a long time I wasn’t consistent about any one thing. I tried various video-based programs as well as basic workout programs I got off the Internet. But the big thing I did was change my diet, which I did in phases. The first month, I stopped drinking everything but water. The second month, I started preparing my own meals at home rather than eating fast food. I didn’t do anything to drastically change my eating habits as far as WHAT I was eating, but I prepared it all at home using low-fat ingredients, and that made a big difference. Messing around in the kitchen, I came up with ways to cook things like burritos, burgers, and other foods I was already eating in a way that was diet-friendly. All grains became whole grains, eggs became egg whites, etc. Then during month 3 I began completely cutting the foods I knew to be bad for me.  Honestly, I tried a lot of things and I wasn’t meticulously following any sort of exercise regimen until I had already lost a lot of the weight. But because I was strict about my nutrition, I could afford not to be serious about exercise, at least until I hit my plateau at about 250 lbs. One key thing to understand (and this is something I learned) is that no amount of exercise can make up for poor overall nutrition habits. A person who is strict about nutrition, but only exercises casually and not following any set program will get a lot closer to achieving their goals than one who works out like a beast but has poor overall nutrition habits.

2) Has it been difficult to maintain the weight loss?
I would say that keeping the weight off is easy. Once you’ve been doing it for a few months, the desire to go back to your old ways kind of stops, except for the odd treat meal, and that’s okay to indulge in.  I know that, on the rare occasion we go out to eat (which is once a month, if even that) I throw the nutrition rulebook out the window. And that’s okay.  It doesn’t get in the way of your progress when it is that rare.  I’ve noticed that most people who give up do it early on, and they do it for one of two reasons:
a) They don’t understand how the dietary changes they’ve made along with the sudden introduction of exercise will affect their weight in the short term. They weigh themselves constantly, not understanding how, in the beginning, water retention and muscle gain will throw off the scale. And since the scale isn’t showing progress, they give up.
b) They don’t give it long enough to become a routine. As I said above, sticking to it and keeping the weight off is easy once it becomes routine, and that can take anywhere from 3 weeks to a couple of months depending on the person.

3) You mentioned being an outlier in 2 different communities, Florida and Pittsburgh. Why do you think people perceive you as an outsider?
I grew up in Boca Raton, FL, a very upscale beachfront city in South Florida. EVERYONE there is thin, and quite a few people have had some sort of cosmetic surgery. Being that I was overweight, I was an outsider.  In 2002, I moved to Pittsburgh, PA, where obesity is more the standard thanks to lack of organized physical activities and local Polish-based cuisine.  In the beginning, I fit right in.  But after adopting a healthy lifestyle, I began to drift toward the opposite end of the spectrum.

Stay tuned for part 2 of our discussion with Sean, which will appear next week.

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