The Thought of Training
Recently I was asked what I do with my personal workouts that varies from what my clients do. My answer was actually a bit boring but it was true: everyone has a different workout. Oh, sure, there are a lot of things that will fit into everyone’s training. For example, I think everyone can benefit from good old fashioned pushups and situps (or, at least, core work because situps don’t work with everyone’s back). I think everyone, male and female, young and old, should do squats; and I think everyone should get down with regular cardio work. From that starting point, you can cut your suit to fit your cloth. Build your own workout – and that includes the fuel that you use when you train.
I was taught by a man who is extremely old school when it comes to training: eat clean, workout hard and sleep it off. During my training with Ray Scalvino, there came a day when I asked him about protein shakes to which he replied “why not go all the way and just drink cake batter?” So, for the most part, I have tended toward staying away from protein shakes. That is not to say that I don’t use them from time to time – for example, when I am craving something. Your body tells you when it needs something and sometimes I get cravings for sugar, a substance I prefer to shun. The best way for me to deal with it is a protein shake that incorporates banana, peanut butter and a chocolate protein powder – whichever brand the gym shake bar uses. I like this flavor combination and I do it with water, avoiding dairy always, and it is usually something that I do POST workout, when I need to refuel and replace glycogen in my body. Before my training is a different matter, though.
My favourite workouts happen at five am. I rise at 4:30 and land at the gym at five. I’ve been sleeping and need fuel but I won’t want too much in my stomach when I hit the jump rope. So I tend to have a cup of green tea with a small (pre baked) sweet potato and a cup of eggwhites (pasteurized All Whites is my preferred brand) – yes, I just drink them but people who are against this practice can feel free to scramble theirs. This combination fuels me through my two hour workout (one hour lifting, one hour cardio) and by the time I reach home I can chow down on some oatmeal, which carries me through the morning and into my day. The preparation of the oats is important, though, because of my no dairy no sugar thing. This is where Protein powder really comes in handy. I boil down whole raw oats or Irish steel cut oats in water with some cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla; when it is nearly ready to take off the stove I add a small diced granny smith apple and, once in the bowl, I put in two scoops of protein powder. It’s tasty, packed with nutrition and filling. This is the way my trainer, Ray, taught me and since he is the Rolls Royce of personal trainers, I listened, learned and live by his guidance. The thing you really want to do is research the protein powders (indeed all supplements) you take and make sure that they are as clean and natural as you can get. Don’t put chemicals and fillers in your body. Keep it clean.
As far as the workouts themselves go, I have a structure by which I like to work but it should be said that it is only an outline and that it can change, day to day, depending upon my mood, the time available to me, any injuries I might be nursing and how adventurous I am feeling. The most important thing is just getting there. Consistency is the key to a good health and fitness regimen. As the saying goes: just do it. That’s why I like five am workouts. You wake up, you do it. It’s like breathing. You wake up, you pee, you train. Just do it. It has to be second nature. Some days I wake up and want to be in nature so I make my workout an hour long run outdoors. Other days I wake up and feel stiff so I make my training an hour of yoga. Most days I wake up and want to lift weight. I love lifting. I’m in my fifties and have sustained many injuries in my life, so I don’t lift as heavy as I once did but I think everyone knows that it isn’t about how much you lift – it’s about how you use what you got. Some days I like to get the heaviest weight I can push and do five or six sets of eight reps. Other days I like to go with a lighter weight at four sets of twenty five reps. Authentically: it won’t matter what you do as long as you get to the gym and do something. I have found that, for me, changing the routine keeps my body guessing what the heck is going on and I rarely plateau. I’d like to say that changing it up keeps the training from becoming boring but I love my training and am never bored by it. If someone is the kind of person who does get bored with exercise, then switching it up is definitely what they will want to do, especially with cardio because it can be so repetitive. Any cardio that you do on a machine is going to be repetitive. If that bores you, change it every time. For me, a regular schedule is to lift three alternating days and follow that lifting with an hour of cardio, then fifteen minutes of stretching. On the two day s between them, I do cardio and stretching. Saturday and Sunday are wildcard days but I know that either will be a day of training and the other will be a day of rest. It’s so important. You cannot catch up on the sleep you have lost; once it’s gone, it’s gone.
At the time that I was asked about my training regimen, I was also asked how I feel about music during workouts. I’ve actually written about this in the past so I had an opportunity to ask many people about their training playlists. The most die hard of lifters use no headphones in their training: the music, for them, is the sound of the weights hitting the floor, their regulated breathing and the beating of their hearts. Others with whom I spoke play everything from NPR to club music, rock and roll to showtunes. It is, entirely, a personal thing and all that matters is that the music in your headphones spurs you on. My personal workout tastes lead me to club music with heavy thriving beats, though there are times that I really need an extra push so I use angry movie soundtracks – usually from one of the BOURNE films.
I suppose what I have discovered most about a life in health and fitness is that with consistency comes great reward. If you train five or six days a week, you’re doing better than most of the public. If you eat six meals a day, seven times a week that’s forty two meals – if thirty eight of those meals are clean eating, you’re doing better than most people. If you miss a day at the gym or opt out of clean eating for a meal, don’t get in your head about it: just start again the next day. Yesterday doesn’t matter. Every day that you wake up and get back on track is the good. Each day that you get up and stay on target is a day for which you can be thankful and about which you can feel proud. And the bonus is that you will also be happy.
Now, who doesn’t want to be happy?