Fitness Program Review

I recently have had some friends ask about how I developed my workout and exercise program, so this post is for them. Fitness is really an ongoing process, so I didn’t reach the point I’m at now very quickly or without some hard work, but I’d like to outline my journey that I took to get where I am now in the hope that it can help some of you enjoy fitness more this year.

My journey began first by deciding what my fitness philosophy was. I decided that I needed to be fit enough to do any physical activities that I found enjoyable, challenging, and meaningful. I enjoy exploring what my limits might be, so I set some big goals to work toward. While some of my first attempts weren't the best, I slowly worked my way up to longer runs and tougher workouts to meet the challenging hikes, marathons, and Spartan races that I was doing. Beyond just working out or running, I feel we need exciting events and goals to help keep fitness fun.

After you pick a few challenging and fun fitness events or goals to work toward, the hardest step is getting started and building the basic fitness habits that will help you reach those. I worked with a personal trainer for a time to build up a strong base and to have someone to hold me accountable for my daily exercise. Even without a trainer, I think most people could get similar results by working with a friend, group, or class. Start easy, but track your progress and keep moving up the difficulty of your exercises as you get better at doing them.

That's most of the generic advice I have. It's easy to see some good progress even in a month or two if you work hard, but true athleticism and the best fitness achievements are built over time. Each person should have their own idea of what their ideal fitness goals are, so everyone should also have a customized plan that they develop over time. Better nutrition and getting enough sleep will help with any plan. My specific focus has been on balancing general body strength with running. If that's  what you're interested in, I'll include some specific notes on it below.

My current program has 5 separate fitness categories: back/shoulders, legs, arms, core, and cardio. For the strength workouts such as back/shoulders, legs, and arms, I focus on doing one of these workouts each day except for Sunday, which is my rest day from any focused exercise. Initially, I only had one basic set of exercises for each of these categories that I would do twice a week, but to help diversify my workout, I created a second set, so each day of the week, I end up doing a unique workout. Core exercises are spread throughout the week, but I mostly do them on certain days while leaving other days to recover. Cardio workouts are done a few times a week and mostly consist or running, although I sometimes substitute swimming or other activities.

Even with all my exercises, my strength workouts rarely take over 30 minutes a day unless I miss a day and decide to make up my missed workout by combining two workouts. My cardio takes 30 minutes on 2 days a week and 1 hour or more 1 day a week. Over time, I change up exercises if I feel I could get more out of doing a different exercise or if I want to move up to something more challenging. At the moment, I feel I can still improve my workout plan. I don’t currently have much in the way of flexibility, so I’d like to include more of that. At time I did include stretches in some of my workouts, so I may put those back in or add in some yoga.

My current plan is good, and I’m sure people could adjust the reps and weights to fit them. At the end of each workout, you want to feel like it was tough but not completely exhausting. I’ve also been trying to rotate my weight and reps more often, so I’ll usually change my plan in a pattern of switching between low reps/high weight, several reps/medium weight, many reps/low weight. Over time, I also add more weight to exercises as part of this pattern. To do that, I usually multiply the sets, reps, and weight/seconds together and try to slowly keep that number going up as I rotate through my pattern. If you want me to explain any specific exercises, feel free to ask me, but here’s what my current plan looks like:

Monday:

-30 minutes cardio

-Uneven hang time: 6 sets, 30 seconds

-Plank rotations: 60 seconds/40 seconds

-Bosu push ups: 4 sets, 15 reps

-Chest Press: 4 sets, 10 reps, 55 lbs

-Pull downs: 4 sets, 10 reps, 120 lbs

-Pull ups: 6 sets, 5 reps

-Rows: 6 sets, 10 reps, 140 lbs

-Glute raises: 4 sets, 10 reps, 15 lbs

 

Tuesday:

-Burpees: 5 sets, 8 reps

-Side Squats: 4 sets, 10 reps, 50 lbs

-Leg Presses: 4 sets, 10 reps, 230 lbs

-Calf Raises: 4 sets, 10 reps, 30 lbs

-Down Leg Machine: 4 sets, 10 reps, 60 lbs

-Weighted Squats: 4 sets, 10 reps, 50 lbs.

-Wall Sits: 4 sets, 30 seconds, 15 lbs

-Weighted Lunges: 4 sets, 10 reps, 50 lbs

 

Wednesday:

-60 minutes cardio (or more if I’m training for something long)

-One Arm Ts: 2 sets, 10 reps, 80 lbs.

-Kickbacks: 3 sets, 10 reps, 70 lbs.

-Dead Lifts: 2 sets, 10 reps, 60 lbs.

-Medicine Ball Circles: 2 sets, 20 reps

-Hammer Curls on Back: 6 sets, 10 reps, 30 lbs.

-Rope Tri Extensions: 6 sets, 10 reps, 25 lbs.

-DB Curls: 6 sets, 10 reps, 35 lbs.

-Bar Curls: 2 sets, 10 reps, 60 lbs.

 

Thursday:

-Flys: 4 sets, 10 reps, 60 lbs.

-Bicycle Crunches: 6 sets, 35 reps

-Bouldering Pull Ups: 6 sets, 5 reps

-Horizontal Cable Twist: 2 sets, 10 reps, 65 lbs.

-Standing Cable Crunch: 6 sets, 10 reps, 30 lbs.

-Hanging Leg Raises: 4 sets, 12 reps

-Hanging Time: 6 sets, 30 seconds

-Reverse Rows: 4 sets, 10 reps, 50 lbs.

 

Friday:

-30 minutes cardio

-Side Squats: 3 sets, 20 reps

-Leg Machine Up: 4 sets, 10 reps, 60 lbs.

-Leg Presses: 6 sets, 10 reps, 230 lbs.

-Block Jumps: 2 sets, 10 reps, 2 ft.

-Squats: 3 sets, 20 reps

-Supermans: 6 sets, 15 seconds, 20 lbs.

-Toe Presses: 6 sets, 10 reps, 30 lbs.

-Lunges: 3 sets, 20 reps

 

Saturday:

-Extra cardio if training for something (but if I’m hiking or doing other outdoor activities, I usually just count that)

-Hanging Leg Twists: 6 sets, 6 reps

-Dumbbell Bench Press: 2 sets, 10 reps, 80 lbs.

-Chest Raisers: 2 sets, 10 reps, 15 lbs.

-Plate Pinch Hulas: 2 sets, 10 reps, 45 lbs.

-Grip Strength Squeezes: 2 sets, 30 reps, 90 lbs.

-Outward Curls: 4 sets, 10 reps, 25 lbs.

-Shrugs: 6 sets, 10 reps, 30 lbs.

-Hammer Curls: 2 sets, 10 reps, 40 lbs.

-Kung Fu Curls: 4 sets, 10 reps, 30 lbs.

 

Anyone still reading might be wondering what to do with this information. I think the simplest thing would be to take the same path I did. About two years ago, I started following this sort of exercise routine. I’ve been good about following it most the time, but I’m not perfect and have good weeks and bad weeks. Originally, I’d have probably 5 or 6 exercises to do each day. I slowly added more, including more that used more complicated equipment.

Even without equipment, you can come up with a good routine to work out most the main muscle groups, but certain ones are hard to focus on as much without weights of some kind. Still, even going outside and picking up heavy rocks can give a pretty good full-body workout, so if you’re creative, equipment shouldn’t be a limitation. I personally think the small monthly fee for the local rec center is well worth the access and ease of using the equipment and facilities there, and I also save many and space by not needing to buy and bring different exercise equipment home.

Whether you’re starting from zero or are an average person striving to be more healthy, I feel like my plan could help anyone improve their general fitness. It’s a balanced plan designed to make it easy to do a wide variety of fitness activities.

Update: Even in the time since I wrote this article, my fitness plan has changed quite a bit. I compressed my workouts and do them three days a week, but I still use most of the same or similar exercises. On Tuesday, I do arm and leg workouts with the leg workout focused on exercises I need weights or gym equipment to do. On Thursday, I do an arm and back/shoulder workout at the gym with weights or equipment. On Saturday, I do a leg and back/shoulder workout with exercises I can do at home.

I freed up my other days so I could do more interesting fitness activities. On Monday, I’m currently doing running, parkour, or going to the trampoline/ninja warrior gym. On Wednesday, I try to do some exercises and running that mirrors what I would do in the Spartan Races. On Friday, I try to do my marathon training. I just recently changed my plans, but my Friday plan is to run to work when I can fit that in. My Spartan Race training and time at the trampoline gym are great cardio, so I had those activities replace my basic short runs.

2017 plans

Update: I wrote this back in January, but let my blog get away from me again. Still, my goals really haven’t changed much. I’ve had to delay some of the explorations that I mention later on, but I’m working hard at trying to stay on top of all these fun goals. I also made successful exploration of parkour into a regular part of my fitness routine. I’ll probably do a post about that later, though.

 

As the calendar changes to a new year, I love to reflect on my goals, processes, and how things are working out for me. 2017 is going to be a great year, and I have many plans and goals to make it that way. I still don’t quite know if I’ll be returning to a regular blog schedule here, but I plan to be more informal and stick more to my own voice. Expect at least a few updates a month.

But let’s get back to the main topic. To make 2017 great, I’m focusing on a few simple concepts I feel will help me: discipline, exploration, and connection.

Discipline will be how I approach both my daily tasks and large goals. I feel like all my larger projects and goals are the sort where I need a long-term disciplined approach. To help with this, I’ll be trying each day to meet certain time amounts for different areas while also keeping some weekly deadlines to focus my daily efforts. As an example, to write a book or stories, I’m setting a daily goal of 30 minutes of writing, but I also have a weekly goal of finishing a chapter or section of a story. Discipline is about focusing on both the big task and the little processes at the same time and working to make both great. By having both daily goals (that I sometimes might be too busy to reach) and weekly deadlines, I give myself various ways to track progress and keep myself from falling behind.

Discipline will help with all my yearly goals, which include, but are not limited to, the following:

-Hiking 18 mountains

-Running in 4 marathons and 1 other fitness event

-Completing the Spartan Trifecta again

-4 music performances (piano, choir, etc.)

-Following my art and writing deadlines for each week

-Reading 48 books

Exploration will be about exploring less developed interests or hobbies and also cover those large projects that I finish by focusing on them for about a month. Instead of making these into specific goals, I will just focus on learning and doing more in each exploration project during the month I am working on it. Some of them might later become part of weekly or daily routines if the exploration goes well. The key to exploration is a sort of focused flexibility to learn and grow in the areas I’m exploring rather than focusing on any particular outcome.

For some good examples of explorations, here’s a few I might be doing: videos/fixing my youtube channel, Nanowrimo (national novel writing month), parkour, martial arts, outdoor winter activities, music lessons (piano, vocal, or composition), crafts like sewing or rockhounding, and programming/video game design. In most of these areas, I’d be starting at a level where I don’t really know how good I am or how much time I permanently want to devote to these areas. Instead of making specific goals, I’ll just be focusing on improving, learning, and growing during the month I explore various interests that I haven’t had as much time for.

Finally, the third area I’ll be focusing on will be connection. After last year, I had to admit to myself that I’m often very bad at staying connected to people and communities that I want to interact with. I often hole myself up in my own little world and stay busy there, but this year I’ll be trying to do better at keeping and building connections to friends, family, and communities. I think a big part of this ties back into discipline. If I work hard to get the things I feel are important done first, I find it much easier to relax and interact with others. But I’m also setting some daily reminders to reach out a little more.

2017 is going to be a great year. I feel like last year was mostly about me finding out what the path and keys to me accomplishing more were. I feel like by following those with greater discipline and continuing to grow through exploration and connections with great people, I’ll be able to help myself and those around me be better this year.

Review of 2016

Craters of the Moon, Idaho

Craters of the Moon, Idaho

With a new year, I think it’s a good time to breathe new life back into this dead blog of mine. Writing in general wasn’t something I did the best at in 2016, including blogging. But this past year had plenty of other lessons for me to learn.

Shingle Mill Peak, Utah

Shingle Mill Peak, Utah

The biggest lesson was about determination and staying motivated. I went back to finish my degree, and this time I could more easily tell what things would hurt my motivation or focus on my studies. With that, I was able to finish my final set of classes, even if it still wasn’t the easiest. My determination was also tested in some other events. I finished a marathon for the first time and ran a second one later in the year. Other full-day fitness events like the Spartan Beast were just as difficult. These long events helped me learn that determination can be as simple as putting one foot in front of the other as long as it helps you get closer to your end goal.

Kelsey Peak, Utah

Kelsey Peak, Utah

Another important lesson I learned was to plan realistically. This is more a lesson I learned by failing rather than succeeding. As I became busy with first school and later my first post-graduation job, I came to realize that if I didn’t carefully plan my own deadlines and set aside time to do things that are important to me, they won’t happen. It’s easy to dream about doing a lot of things or even to do a lot of things when there isn’t much taking up my time, but as life gets busier, it’s obvious that the only way to fill it with the important things is by making space for them.

At the end of the Breckenridge, CO Spartan beast race.

At the end of the Breckenridge, CO Spartan beast race.

After reviewing this last year, I can say that it was a good one for me in many areas. I achieved most my realistic fitness goals like summiting 16 mountains, running 2 marathons, or completing the Spartan Race trifecta. I achieved many small goals like practicing Spanish almost every day or doing two small musical performances. I feel like I really made these things a simple and easy part of my daily habits to build towards these successes.

What didn’t work this last year were my goals for creativity and connection. I got too caught up in the trap of being busy and didn’t take much time to create or strengthen friendships and relationships. With my creativity goals, I feel like I got lost in the divide between the huge project-based goals and the small but undirected daily goals. Because of the disconnect between the two, I ended up procrastinating or not doing much.

I’m happy with the results of 2016, but like always, I feel I can still do a lot better, especially with the lessons I learned throughout the year. 2017 is going to be a great year, and I have big plans, which I’ll talk about in my next post.

PS: Oops, I wrote this several weeks ago, but let my busy schedule get in the way of reviving my blog! Expect a few posts a little more packed together since I now have a little backlog of things I wrote for January.

It's the Little Hikes that Count

The weather has often been rainy over the last month or so, but I did get out a few times to explore some fun places in Utah. Even if you’re only looking for a short hike, Utah has plenty to offer.

The first place is Saratoga Hot Spring/Saratoga Spring. It’s a small hot spring close to the northern shore of Utah Lake and it’s right in the suburbs of Saratoga Springs or Lehi to the west of I-15. After a quick walk through the forest, I found a nice little pool. The shallow parts of it were warm and even had a few small fishes. It never got more than a few feet deep, but had plenty of spots where the hot water from the spring would come up and make a nice hot area.

All around the pool were reeds, trees, and the great scenery of the surrounding valley and mountains. It seems the sort of place that would be better to go when less people might be there, like the cool, windy day that I visited.

Unfortunately, it has the problem of many nice places near cities and has attracted a lot of trash and junk left behind by careless people. It might be the sort of place that could use a little service project or even the act of bringing a small trash bag and filling it up.

The other new place I visited was West Mountain. This West Mountain is the one at the south end of Utah Lake. Back when I did the marathon, I ran around much of this mountain, so I wanted to see what it was like up on top. It has slightly rough roads with some dropoffs that might make some drivers uneasy, but it’s definitely doable in a normal car.

At the top, there’s mostly desert scrubland as well as some broadcast towers, antenna, and the BYU observatory. The mountain itself had a lot of signs of being pasture land for sheep or other livestock. It’s an easy hike once you drive up to the top. We were aiming for the south peak but ran out of time so we only reached the north and middle peaks of the mountain. But even with our shorter hike, we got an incredible view of Utah Lake, the Wasatch Mountains, and the more rural parts of southern Utah County.

When it comes to amazing places, Utah has so many that it’s easy to overlook some like these two. Big or small, each hike has something fun to offer.

20 Years of Pokemon

A little over two months ago marked the 20th anniversary of the pokemon franchise. For many, pokemon was something they heard about or participated in when it was popular or during their younger years, but many, like me, grew up with it, stuck with it, and drew inspiration from it. But what is it that makes pokemon so special and enduring?

Pokemon offers not only a world to explore and love, but friends and companions to be at your side while doing so. There are hundreds of pokemon, but in any one particular journey through the game, it's easiest if you pick a few to be by your side rather than try to use all of them. It's a bit like being a coach and pet owner at the same time while traveling the world.

Alongside the companionship of your pokemon, you also get a few similar lessons in each game. Time after time, the game points out that the thing that sets you apart from your rivals is that you win through understanding your team and caring for them. Logic, ideals, and power are shown to be beaten by compassion, team work, and determination. After twenty years, I only wish the mechanics behind the games could better reflect these great lessons, but when it comes to enjoying games, I've always paid more attention to the lessons taught by the story rather than the mechanics.

Pokemon also offers a mirror to the sort of hard work and determination that people need to achieve real world goals and become champions in whatever achievements matter to them in real life. In each game, you start off with weak pokemon that can barely do a few things. Often adding a new pokemon to your team also means putting in some extra training. But by continuing forward, you and your team get better and stronger until you can pull off amazing things. While it’s certainly easier that a lot of real world goals, it’s the sort of optimism I like to see. If you keep trying, you'll get the experience you need to overcome the obstacles and reach your dreams.

But these are only the most blatant lessons of pokemon. I think it also offers a few more subtle lessons. In each game, there’s a wonderful world out there to explore and your friends and family offer their best love and support as you go out to take it on. Respecting and living in harmony with nature and pokemon is also a topic that comes up frequently in the games. The pokemon games make it easier to see how life is about more than only humans.

Pokemon has also been personally meaningful to me for much of my life. Like many, I got into through the games, show, and cards during elementary school and middle school. I loved it and got a chance to shine in a regional card competition as I studied and practiced the card game. I think it taught me a lot about what sort of competition and people I enjoy being around.

As I grew a little older, I lost some of my interest for a few years, perhaps foolishly thinking pokemon was for kids. I’m glad that didn’t last forever, though. After a break from it, I got drawn back in to Pokemon through the mystery dungeon series, and Pokemon has been a part of my life since then. That particular game inspired me in such a way that I began to see the stories possible in the world of pokemon and so I took up the craft of writing to tell one of my own while sharing in stories told by others online, many of which would become close friends.

From there, I also took up art to tell my story in a different way, encouraged by an online group. I tried my hand at doing competitive pokemon battles with the newer games and had fun, but I enjoy the creative aspects of the fandom more than the games, now.

Pokemon has been a world of fun, adventure, and friendship for me and so many others for twenty years, and I hope that it can continue to be that for many more. I’d love to see more innovation in the series to make it more true to the types of stories and ideals that the games want to convey. I also feel that if they treated it more as something for people of all ages to enjoy, they could tell much better and deeper stories with Pokemon. After twenty years, Pokemon has its traditions that have kept it strong, but it will be the innovations that make it even greater in the future.

And if anyone wanted to know, Charizard and Flygon are my favorites.