I Also Do Healthy Things: Stretching and Abs

Given how many of my posts are centered around times where I did unhealthy shit, I figured it was time to come clean, and let you all know that I often do healthy things to balance out all those choices. As a matter of fact, I’d go so far as to say that my lifestyle is largely healthy, but that’s just not as entertaining to read or write about. I’m gonna give it a shot, anyway. Maybe some of this will be useful to you other heathens who need a way to counteract all the bad you’re doing to your bodies.

Stretch

This is an important one. I’ve recently taken to stretching for about 15-20 minutes every day, and it’s paid off in terms of my ability to do my job well and continue with my exercise routines. Grab your yoga mat and throw Moving Art on Netflix, and you’re ready to reset your body.

Start with warm ups: exercises that get your body moving, warming up your muscles so that when you do start stretching, you don’t hurt yourself. I start at the top and work my way down: neck rotations, circular shoulder shrugs, arm rotations, toe touches, and leg raises (tuck into chest then kicking your own ass).

Then I run through about 20 different stretches I’ve learned over the past ten years from military training, way-too-thorough online research, and yoga practices. Again, I start at the neck, work down to the arms, then I skip straight to legs, and circle back to my back. When you’re spending hours lifting kegs and crates, stretching your lower back can make a huge difference, and has allowed me to pick up extra shifts when my coworkers peter out. At some point I’ll create a video running through this whole routine (and the other ones), so you can see the whole lineup. Until then, wing it to your heart’s content.

Exercise

I had a bartender say to me once, “You could basically use this job as your workout!” I think that was incredibly misguided. If I didn’t exercise in my off time, I wouldn’t be ready for game time (during service hours at the bar). I wouldn’t be strong enough to lift that last bag of glass-laden garbage into the dumpster at the end of the night. I’d pull muscles straining against kegs. I wouldn’t be able to confidently escort that drunk idiot out of the bar because I’d be too focused on my aching lower back. So, even when I’m sore from the night before, I push myself to get at least a little bit of exercise in aside from the dog walking and wrestling I do on the daily.

What I’ve found most helpful in terms of sticking to a workout schedule is short bursts of heavy activity. Basically, I need to cram a lot in to a short time window, as my schedule is hectic and I’m often tired. So I’ve come up with ab routines and upper body routines that I can do in 15-30 minutes if I’m pushing myself, and I do those 3-4 times a week most weeks.

Abs: I have a routine that I found a couple years ago that I find to be really effective (based largely on what I know about how the body works and how much pain my midsection is in during and after the routine). I’ve modified it to be a little more taxing than the original version, but I’d recommend adjusting the numbers to fit your level of fitness (don’t adjust them too low – push yourself into discomfort for the best results).

30 Crunches > 30 Straight Leg Lifts > 30 Cross-Body Sit-Ups (both sides) > 30 Bicycle Crunches > 1 Minute Side Plank (both sides) > 1 Minute Plank > 30 Super Man Crunches (lay on your stomach and contract your lower back to lift your trunk and legs off the ground).

I allow myself about 30 seconds of rest between each of those exercises. In the beginning (and for the rest of time), focus on your form. Do less repetitions, but do them perfectly, then work your way up in numbers. And of course, remember to breathe – inhale as you release, exhale as you flex. Your lungs take up space in your abdominal cavity, the less air you have in them when you contract your abs, the harder you can contract them.

There you have it. Entry one in the “I Do Healthy Things” category. More to come. Also, I’m considering doing a 30 day keto thing because why the fuck not? Plus 30 day challenges seem to be the most effective way to get me to actually do anything/write about it. Remember that meditation thing? That went well. I should maybe start doing that again, also…

Oink Oink

002bI was not fit when I was younger. I spent a lot of time playing video games and eating as much junkfood as my mother would allow (turned out to be a fair amount). I have always used food as a source of comfort, in spite of the overeating being the route cause of many of my insecurities.

At one point I mused, “I would love to take tap dancing lessons!” My aunt looked at me, then looked at my dad and said, “Don’t you think he’s a little big for tap?”

In 5th grade, there was a group of kids that called me “Oink Oink.”¬†Yeah I know – it’s a really offensive name for a 10 year old! It’s so offensive that I’m 29 years old and I still base my body image on what people used to call me when I was 10.

One time we were playing ball tag together and one of them tried running by me to prove he was faster, so I clothes-lined him. To his credit, he was running really fast, which made it all the more satisfying when I stuck my arm out and dropped him like a sack of overly-cocky, organic Yukon gold potatoes.

“HA! I got you!” I yelled victoriously. Caught up in the triumph of the moment, I wound up, threw the ball at him as hard as I could, and missed (because I was a fat, and fat kids are bad at sports). When I finally confronted another kid about the nickname, he heard about this incident, and sheepishly said it was a compliment because cops are sometimes called pigs, and police officers deserve our respect.

Middle school rolled around and I grew neither taller nor thinner. The more I got made fun of, the more appealing it sounded to stay inside, and snack and play video games and watch movies. Food and television never called me fat (at least not directly), but I’m sure that watching the ripped abs and chiseled upper bodies of the super heroes I loved watching on TV or playing in video games didn’t do wonders for my self esteem.

My dad spent weekends with me running around a track, trying harder than me to get my mile time below ten minutes. I huffed and puffed my way around the track, and finally got to 10 minutes and 12 seconds, and was thrilled with my progress.

Luckily, I was great at math, so when I moved to a new school halfway through eighth grade, I had to be shipped off to the high school for sixth period because the middle school didn’t have the math class I was supposed to be in. Add that to the weight issues, the thick glasses, the budding cystic acne, and the fact that I was deathly allergic to the grass on the field where the mile run was timed, it made me a real hit come recess.

At high school registration, I was told that the Naval Junior Reserve Office Training Corps (NJROTC) could take the place of my mandatory Physical Education class. Sure, we were required to actually exercise once a week, but the rest would be taken up by studying, marching, and uniform inspections. One hour a week sounded manageable.

NJROTC and Dance Dance Revolution turned my life around (and around and around). They allowed me the chance to find a love for fitness, but the self-loathing I developed in my childhood is really what keeps me moving. If you’re struggling with your weight, try truly hating the way you look – it’s done wonders for me.