FUNctional Fitness

I’ve started the new year totally disorganized and unfocused in most areas of my life (blogging and housework being the most visible), but I’ve kept the exercise habit up quite nicely. After 7 years, my need to exercise is almost like my need for air.

One day last week, I was feeling kind of bleh about my gym workout. It was one of those days in which I kept having to punt on my first-choice exercises, because someone else was using the station or area I needed. Or, as happened once on the lat pulldown station, they stole my grip! Seriously!

So I ended up doing almost all machine work. Machines get the job done, but to me, they’re dull as dirt when they comprise the bulk (ha! gym pun) of my workout. So I left the gym thinking I needed to come up with some better “Plan B” exercises. And boy, did I ever! In fact, some of these moves catapulted themselves right into the Plan A line-up!

What? Of course, I’m going to share. I want you to have F-U-N with functional fitness, too. The good news is that all of these can be done AT HOME without any equipment at all!

First up, the Dead Bug, so named because you start out in the position of a dead bug: flat on your back with all 4, 6, or 8 appendages in the air. I have actually done this one before without knowing what it was. It just seemed like a good way to stretch out at the time–you know, a couple or three reps at the end of the workout. Well, as it turns out, if you do 3 sets of 10 or so reps, it’s a VERY good core exercise. I think I felt every muscle in my entire body working, but especially my midsection.

It’s kind of like an upside down version of the bird dog. Very simple, very effective. Plus, I love ANY exercise that starts out by lying down.

As it turns out, the Dead Bug was just the appetizer…hmm, dead bugs and appetizer are not two words that should be used together, are they? But you know what I mean. My Eureka! moment came when I discovered Kai Wheeler’s amazing website that is chock-full of FUNctional exercises. No focuse on killer triceps or flat abs, although Lord knows she has both, but on training for a stronger foundation. That’s the way I learned to exercise from the trainers I worked with, and it’s how I work out now.

Under her gallery section, Kai has created short videos in which she explains the how and why of each move and then goes on to demonstrate. Also, she must have anticipated I would eventually show up, because she includes a section on what NOT to do and why. How awesome is that?!

Here’s a link to one of her videos, a no-equipment-needed home workout:

Since watching this video, I can’t seem to walk around my house normally. I’m either side-stepping or jump-squatting or air-punching–it’s so much fun!

From the other videos, I’ve also tried a few exercises that use the BOSU, but I haven’t been able to do more than a few reps of each. One involves side-stepping onto and over the ball side of the BOSU, and I’ll have to develop better balance for that. But practice makes improvement, right?

The other BOSU exercise I’m loving in small doses requires jump squatting onto and over the ball side of the BOSU. My heart rate gets up there pretty quickly on this one, not so much from exertion, but fear of catapulting myself into the attic. (As if I had that much leg strength.)

For now, I’m just doing these exercises sporadically at home. Besides the fact that I need to build some skillz with a few of them, my gym doesn’t have an open area for working out. Those of us who do body weight exercises have to hope there are two elliptical machines not in use so we can claim the space between for our mats/paraphernalia. That’s about a 4′ x 6′ area. Not a lot of room for jumping and hopping. Well, not for someone with a tendency toward clumsiness. :)

The next time my part of the gym feels too crowded, I’ll just mosey on home and jump and skip around my house. Heck, even when it’s not too crowded, I might split my workout into 2 parts–weights at the gym and then the fun stuff at home. This could work!

Have you found any new exercises lately?

An Above-Average Start to the Year

This is my first post of 2015, and I’ll start out by wishing you all a very Happy New Year! I hope you have sufficiently recovered from all the year-end/new year festivities. If you’re like me, you were more than ready to get back to normal, everyday life.

My new year started off okay–not bad, not great, just okay. But a few days into it, everything kicked into high gear, and believe it or not, it all started with a compliment I received waaaay back in 2011. If you were reading this blog back then, you were here for it, but unless your memory is 1000 times better than mine, you won’t remember it. I hadn’t even thought about it in years.

Short version: A very nice man at my then-gym introduced himself as a personal trainer and suggested I might benefit from working with him. Having recently finished working with trainers for over a year, I felt comfortable on my own and said so. He was great with that–not pushy at all–and we continued our respective workouts.

As I was working my way through my second circuit, the same nice man came up to me and gave me one of the best compliments I’d ever received:

“Save your money; you don’t need a trainer. You’re definitely above average.“

I get shivers even now just thinking about it. (Yes, I am a gym nerd.)

Fast forward four years. Over the weekend, a new friend from my Facebook resale group asked if she could post an ad for her husband’s business and included a copy of the ad. You probably guessed that the ad was for that guy from the gym It turns out he’s her husband! Small world, isn’t it?

While we were OMG-ing back and forth, I remembered The Compliment and that I’d blogged about it, so I tracked down the entry. As I read it, that same sense of pride and awe that I’d felt back then washed over me. I wasn’t kidding when I said that I considered being labeled “above average” by a trainer to be quite the accomplishment. Just a few short years before, I’d been a complete couch surfer who couldn’t even do a single push-up.

Rereading that post was a happy memory, one that carried over into that afternoon’s workout. As I approached each exercise, that “above average” memory floated through my mind and I either increased the planned weight or the number of reps or both. I’ve been having good workouts–average, you might say–but I’m “above average” and it’s time I acted like it. And I did. :)

Funny, in a wonderful way, how one little compliment from four years ago has resurfaced to inspire and motivate me today. There’s a lesson in that, for the gym and beyond.

Have you ever had a compliment from the past resurface to inspire you again?

Mid-Holiday Check-in

Well, I managed to miss blogging before the Christmas break and didn’t get to wish you all a Merry Christmas. I feel really bad about that, but I hope you managed to struggle through anyway.

With this being our first Christmas without Memaw, I knew it would be a bit bittersweet, and it was. But I tried to shake things up a little by hosting the family’s Christmas morning breakfast at my house this year.

We’ve always gathered at my parents’ house for a good ol’ southern-style breakfast, complete with Dad’s breakfast potatoes and Memaw’s homemade biscuits. I didn’t want to endure that empty spot at the table, and I don’t think anyone else did either because they all readily agreed to the change of venue. I think my father and sister had second thoughts when they realized that breakfast at my house meant I’d be cooking things MY way. :)

I wish I’d thought to take pictures of the finished meal, but due to an oven malfunction, I was pressed for time in getting it all on the table. Thank goodness for a double oven, or I’d have had to serve breakfast in courses. LOL

I do have a picture of the sausage balls I made:

sausage balls

This year I used more cheese than I have in past years, and everyone said they were the best I’d ever made. Duly noted for next year.

In addition to the sausage balls, I had scrambled eggs, oven-baked bacon (pork and turkey), breakfast potatoes, and biscuits. I also had a plate of tiny cinnamon rolls in case anyone wanted to finish with a bite of something sweet. Everyone did.

I was a little nervous about baking the bacon in the oven, but I’d always heard it was the easiest way to prepare larger amounts of bacon. I put the slices on a few cooling racks set on cookie sheets and baked at 400° for about 15-20 minutes. Minimal shrinkage and curling, and zero splatters all over my countertops and hands.

For the breakfast potatoes, I also used the oven. I chopped up some small white potatoes and tossed them in a bowl with chopped onions, olive oil, and kosher salt. Then I dumped all of that on another cookie sheet and baked at 400° for about 45 minutes. So.good. My father, who didn’t seem too excited to learn I was baking the ‘taters-and-onions, even asked for seconds!

Needless to say, I didn’t try to make biscuits from scratch. Instead, I found some biscuits in the freezer section of the grocery and relied on those. Pretty darned good, even though they didn’t rise very much thanks to the malfunctioning oven.

Considering how much everyone ate (present company included), I think my Christmas morning breakfast was a success. Enough of one that I’m pretty sure we have a new tradition for Christmas morning. :)

As usual after the Christmas holiday, I am more than ready to return to my normal routine–both nutritionally and physically. In fact, I’m downright excited about it! :)

Just in case I don’t make it back before Wednesday/Thursday, I’ll go ahead and wish you a Happy New Year now! Got any big plans for ringing in the new year?