Saturday, March 24, 2012

How Things are Proceeding in the Asylum

I am now twenty days into the thirty day Asylum program and thought that I might provide a brief update. Yesterday, I did the final workout that I had -- Overtime. The Overtime workout is a fifteen minute workout that you tack onto the end of the hour long Game Day workout -- basically a supplementary workout. I have to report with all honesty that my level of success with Overtime was low in this first effort. The hour-long Game Day workout is intense, and I was exhausted at the end. Doing an extra fifteen minutes with Overtime seemed to me, a person who loves a crazy workout, the height of insanity (but I guess that's the point). All the moves in Overtime were very difficult. I made my best effort, but it was too much to do more jumping and deep resistance training moves when my muscles were so fatigued. I think that I might try this workout again (after a brief warm up because the workout assumes you're warmed up) when I am a bit fresher to really get down the form.

Overall, I feel I am progressing with the Asylum. Everything is still killer hard, but I feel I am able to do more reps of each move. Since the Asylum is only 30 days, it might be helpful to do this program again to have better mastery. Not right away though. After I finish, I plan to take it a little bit easier for a while and allow myself some time for outdoor activity after work, like a light jog before dinner.

Monday, March 19, 2012

More Birthday Fun

This past weekend, I engaged in more birthday fun! On Saturday, Dad and Lisa came to visit for lunch. They got me awesome exercise clothing. I have, for some time, been wanting to get me a running skirt. I love having my legs free but I don't like shorts. Hence an exercise skirt is a perfect option. They got me a cute skirt, top, and sports bra. Below I have poor quality pictures that I took of myself modeling the skirt with the full top option. (I didn't post the skirt with sports bra option as I wouldn't want to shock family, friends, and/or colleagues with an over abundance of skin.)


I'll exercise with the shirt when at the gym and in just the sports bra at home. The latter is my workout preference, as it allows my sweaty self to have less clothing sticking to me, but shirts are required at pretty much every gym. Something I have always found interesting since people wear way less at the beach and that's okay. 

Yesterday, for my actual birthday, Seth and I have a fun-filled day. He went to the market in the morning and came back with a surprise: a giant novelty cookie. Message included.

After lunch and some cookie snacking, we headed into Northampton to visit the Northampton Running Company. Every since starting to run, Seth has been experiencing discomfort in his shins. He has been running in cross-trainer trail shoes and wanted to go to an official running store to have them analyze his stride and get him some shoes that would be ideal for him. This is especially important as he prontates, meaning his foot leans in when he walks. At the store, the very helpful sales person recognized this immediately and recommended a very supportive shoe that would support his feet, help with the pronation, and offer him more cushion on the ball of his foot to reduce shin pain.

While there, I picked up a new sports bra.

While I usually exercise in a compression bra, I wanted something ultra supportive for some of my more high impact Asylum workouts, such as Vertical Plyo. More supportive bras feature cup and band size like standard bras and can fit much better to help with less movement in high impact activities like running and jumping.

After the running store, we browsed Northampton a little bit enjoying the nice weather before heading off to dinner at Ibiza Tapas. I have taken quite a shine to tapas. I feel each one is an adventure, and I love the chance to try so many things! We had a half dozen great dishes, and I had some lovely white wine. A super fun time.

All in all it was a great birthday. I loved the two weekend celebration with Mom last weekend and Dad, Lisa, and Seth this weekend. Now I just have to recover from all that cake and food!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Asylum Workout: Through Day 11 (Plus Some Birthday-Related Excitement!)

Things are going well with the Asylum. After my most recent post I had a couple of days of repeat workouts. I re-did the Speed and Agility, Strength, Back to Core, and Vertical Plyo workouts. Then, yesterday, I got introduced to a new workout, Relief.

Now I have been tricked by Beachbody workouts with friendly sounding names before. For example the TurboFire 55EZ workout is far from easy. And the Insanity workout, Max Recovery, didn't seem like too much of a recovery -- more like a different type of effort. I was thus pleasantly surprised to find that the Asylum Relief workout was actually twenty-five minutes of pure stretching. Just what my body needed! I felt much better after all that stretching yesterday.

Today, I got to explore the main workout of the Asylum program, Game Day. This workout is a little bit longer than the rest at an hour. (The other workouts are usually 40 - 45 minutes.) Shaun T got me focused for the workout right away with his talk of being in the game. Funny, yes. Motivating, yes. In Game Day, you get to "complete" in various events. After the warm-up, we started in with a distance run of around seven minutes. We did high knees, then "ran up hill" (which was basically one armed floor sprints) and then did more high knees and high knee sprints. Following that we completed in track and field and did some long jumping and the like with the agility ladder. We went on to do other sporting themed things, which I will name in random order. Early on there was a tennis segment which involved running in the ladder and doing some tennis arm movements and jump.s There was wrestling in which we did plank floor exercises. For basketball, there were exercises with squats (to pick up the ball) and jumping for shooting the ball. There was a swimming and surfing segment in which one did a bunch of back-work, again on the floor. In order to make sure we were set for soccer, we did a kicking sequence, followed by juggling/running bit. I got to practice my skating with a speed skating segment that included lateral jumping. For football, there were wide-leg sprints, shuffles, and jumps over the ladder laterally.  There was a mountain climbing segment that had one doing plank chest and lat work. There was a baseball segment with pitching and hitting (in which you "hit" and then jumped 90 degrees and then hit in the other direction).

This workout was quite tough, but it was fun! All the focus on sports did, corny as it sounds, make me feel like an athlete. Unlike some of the other workouts in Asylum, Shaun T did a great job explaining each workout, which allowed for some breaks to get water and regroup. I really appreciated this, especially as this was a longer workout.

I have now completed all of the Asylum workout except for Overtime, a fifteen minute workout that will get tacked onto Game Day towards the end of the program. Vertical Plyo is definitely the most difficult workout in this program (and the hardest thing I have ever put my body through), probably followed by Game Day. I like the program a lot as a follow up to Insanity. It's close enough to the original to make me feel like I was prepared for Asylum but different enough to be new and exciting and to progress my fitness.

In completely unrelated news, I got an early start on my birthday, coming up on Sunday. Mom came to visit last Saturday and brought me a much wished for blue velvet cake! (While the cake is totally lovely in real life, my attempts to take a picture ended in failure. This image does not do the cake justice!)

I also finished up the baby blanket for my brother and sister-in-law's baby expected in June.

The pattern is by designer, Brooklyn Tweed, and I adore it!

That being said, I am excited to make my next project. For Valentine's Day, Seth got me yarn and a pattern for a shawl. With the needles I got from Mom for my birthday, I am ready to knit one of my first non-blanket projects in a while.

I actually have plans to branch out from blankets for at least a little while. I have a cabled stole and sweater in the knitting queue next.

I will also have to make time for my reading as Seth got me a lovely B&N gift card for my Nook for my birthday. This will come in handy for when the times when the digital libraries don't have something I really want to read. I already downloaded around four samples of books I have been wanting to check out but that the library doesn't have. My Nook will also be rocking it in new style in the cover he got me.

Super cute! Seth got it because he said it reminded him of our wedding motif that he designed. There is also a jaunty green half dot on the reverse of the cover. All in all very exciting.

As an extra bonus, I am taking off tomorrow and Monday to get some rest. I have been tired, as work has been busy for all. A nice four day weekend for birthday celebrations will be just what I need!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Asylum Workout: Days Three - Five

For workout three, I woke up early and exercised before work. I knew I might have to stay late at the office for a conference call and wanted to make sure I didn't miss a workout. The third workout was called Back to Core. It featured many slow and controlled movements that worked the entire core region, especially the upper back. I found it to be moderately difficult, especially the static movements in which you had to hold positions for thirty seconds. (Which seems very long, not very short when you're in a difficult strength training move.) The workout, for the first time, incorporated the resistance bands (one green and one red) that came with the program. The day after, I actually found that while my lower abs were a little sore, my shoulders were very sore. All those movements of the arms and holds to work the upper back seemed to create some tension in my shoulders. I'll have to take note next time.

For day four, I took a rest day as I had a busy day otherwise. I had to get to work at seven to help coordinate some calling we were doing to China (where it was eight at night). After work, we had fun plans. Seth and I went out to dinner with Maddy and Dave. We went to the Lumber Yard, a new restaurant in Amherst. The food was awesome. Seth and I shared some hush puppies for an appetizer while Maddy had a chicken pastry and Dave has salad. For dinner Seth and Maddy had hamburgers, which looked quite deluxe. Dave had meatloaf and potatoes. I had an amazing mac and cheese. It had a great breadcrumb topping and was super rich! All these excitements led to no time for exercise.

Today, I did the fifth day of the program and fourth exercise, Vertical Plyo. This was without a doubt the most difficult workout I have ever done. It was forty minutes of non-stop jumping. And not just easy jumping, high jumping. The workout incorporated the ladder and bands (which were optional but which I used). It also gave the option of using the jump rope, which I did not use for space reasons again. The workout, while super challenging was amazing! Definitely my favorite of the bunch. It required precision jumping using the ladder -- you had to jump and land in the boxes cleanly. It required power jumps and tuck jumps with the bands around your legs for resistance. It also had you do some huge jumps in which you jumped the length of the six foot ladder. It was absolutely crazy. I forgot to put my heart rate monitor on, and I really regret this, as my heart rate must have been super high. I felt so accomplished when I successfully finished the workout.

Over the next two days, I will be repeating some of the workouts from earlier in the week, Speed and Agility tomorrow and Strength on Sunday. Hopefully I'll see improvement!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Asylum Workout: Day Two

Today I woke up and was not in the mood for exercise. In a way, this was a moot point. To me, exercising is like going to work; something I do regularly without question. It doesn't matter if I am "in the mood" or not. I checked the schedule for my workout to see if it would excite me. The schedule called for the Strength workout. Oh, no. I don't like strength training. I only do it because I know it's important to cross train, and I probably don't do it nearly as much as I should.

I needed something to excite me. I decided to give myself a treat my wearing my new Nike Frees. I hadn't worn them yet, so they were clean and could be worn in the house. Immediately I felt much better. I was ready to work hard enough to be deserving of the shoes I had purchased myself.

It turns out I loved the Strength workout! It was the best resistance training workout I had ever done, no question. You can do the workout with either hand weights or a resistance band. I alternated between a set of five pound hand weights and a twenty pound (red) resistance band depending on which tool worked better for each exercise and which tool challenged me at the appropriate level. At some points the hand weights were too easy; at some points they were ideal.

As with Insanity, there as a lot of chest work. I was really pleased with my performance. All those push-ups in Insanity have really paid off. I was able to do many full plank push-ups today. It was really pleasing to feel that I had increased my strength in an area that has always (and continued to be) a challenge for me.

The workout incorporated enough movement to make it cardio, which was also pleasing. There was a little bit of plyo jumping in some of the exercises, which I always like and appreciate. I hadn't though to wear my heart monitor because it was a strength training class, and now I wish I kind of had for comparison. (During yesterday's workout, my heart rate got into the mid 180s and averaged in the high 150s.)

I am not re-energized and ready to try tomorrow's workout. I hope it is as much a success. Of course, I could be entirely sore by tomorrow and hardly able to move. We'll have to see...

Monday, March 5, 2012

Asylum Workout: Day One

Today, I did the first workout, Speed & Agility in the Asylum. It was 45 difficult minutes.

The workout began with a ten minute warm up done with a speed rope (aka. a jump rope). Because this was my first time through, I did the warm up without the speed rope, which the workout gives as an option. I am not sure if I will ever integrate the speed rope just because the rope that came with workout is hugely long! It's way too big for me and also too large for my space. I might try wrapping it around my hands and integrating it into my workout as I get more comfortable.

Everything was based off of the agility ladder that I was first introduced to in the fit test last week. The moves, as with the fit test, required intense precision. For many moves on either had to jump and land cleanly inside the ladder. Jumping in the boxes was done often standing or in a plank position. For some of the moves, they show you multiple levels, one through three with three being the most difficult. I am not sure that I will be able to move up to level three drills, which require you to jump the farthest from rung to rung in the ladder. This is just a matter of my height. I am not quite that tall!

As with the fit test, I found some of the moves a bit difficult to get used to. I think that this is because I have never done a workout with any equipment like the agility ladder before. After a week, I hope I am more used to it, as I again has to "waste" some time getting used to how to do the moves. Unlike in Insanity, Shawn T, the instructor, spends no time preparing you by showing you more difficult moves -- he just goes immediately into the workout. 

Another difficulty I had was that of space. I exercise in a relatively small space in my living room. The agility ladder is rather long at around six feet and finding space on all sides of it to do my workout was kind of challenging. I found I had to move the ladder around quickly between workouts so that I had enough room to move. Again, I think this is something I'll get used to. 

I am excited to try all of these new workouts and really get into the program. I think that after trying all the workouts once and going through them a second time, I will be able to perform much better. It's always a good challenge to use new equipment and try new things. I am excited to see what the next 29 days of this 30 day program bring!