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TexasDude's avatar

How can I improve my workout routine?

Asked by TexasDude (25199 points ) July 1st, 2011

This past year my physical fitness and my metabolism, it seems, has completely gone to hell. I’m 5 foot 7 or so and I weigh about 165 lbs. Compared to my college roommates who are all toned and glisteny with seemingly little effort, I’m sortof pudgy, and I can hardly keep up with them during physical activities because my endurance sucks.

A few weeks ago, I started the following morning routine, in addition to cutting fast food, soft drinks, and cutting my portions in half:

1. Stretching
2. 5 minutes of vigorous shadow boxing
3. Jumping jacks (counting to 30 by 1,2,3,4,2,2,3,4, etc)
4. 20 push ups
5. 25 situps
6. Jumping jacks
7. Cool down walk

I’ve already toned up a bit more than I was and I have lost a bit of weight. I don’t feel like I’m making the most of my workout, though.

My goals:

1. Flatten and tone stomach/achieve visible abs. I can feel that they are getting larger and harder, but they are still hidden by a thin layer of fat I can’t seem to get rid of.

2. Bulk up arms.

3. My legs are fine from years of soccer. My endurance sucks, however, and I’d like to improve.

Reading fitness forums on the internet has made my brain feel like it is full of fuck. Everything says something contradictory: don’t take creatine/take creatine, running is absolutely necessary/any kind of cardio works, etc.

With all this in mind, dear reader, what can I do to improve my workout routine to achieve my desired results?

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33 Answers

everephebe's avatar

Keep changing it.

TexasDude's avatar

@everephebe any suggestions? I’ve been working on doing progressively more of each calisthenic I do.

incendiary_dan's avatar

Eating Paleo, that is, mostly meat, fruits, vegetables, and nuts, has shown to help regulate body fat and tone muscle to some extent. Makes sense, since it’s what we evolved eating. Meat, eggs, and nuts are especially helpful. Limit processed foods and refined sugars (obviously), but also grains and legumes.

I hear a lot of bad stuff about push ups and rotator cuff injuries. I now stay away from them.

I really like to advocate getting exercise from daily activities, but it’s not always helpful to just tell someone to have a more active lifestyle. For me, gardening has been a good workout (particularly when digging a new one), as has going on regular foraging forays. Walking is the main exercise our ancestors got, and should be done a lot (five to ten miles a day, ideally). Kayaking is pretty good upper body exercise.

Now to just follow my own advice.

bob_'s avatar

Yeah, it sounds like you need some cardio in the mix. Any kind will help you burn fat. What kind of endurance do you want? That is, if by physical activities you mean playing soccer or something that’s primarily about running, then jogging/running will help you the most with that.

Burning fat is the most important part when shooting for a flat stomach, but do throw some crunches into the mix.

TexasDude's avatar

@incendiary_dan I’ve actually been gravitating toward a pseudo-paleo diet. I’ve been eating a lot more raw veggies and such. I’ve been trying to do what you say about making my day to day activities into a workout, but I haven’t had much luck with that because most of my daily activities are indoor, and my garden is pretty low maintenance. That’s why I’m kind of relying on body weight exercises and such. Thank you.

@bob_ I’m at an 11 to 12 minute mile and I feel like absolute ass if I don’t take frequent walking breaks. My roommates range from 6 minutes to 9. I’d be happy at 9. So with that in mind, would you just suggest running? Do you know of any good indoor cardio workouts? (I think that’s probably what I’m really looking for here). And thanks, by the way.

incendiary_dan's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard Do what I did: live on the third floor and have a 2 gallon watering can. Lugging that up and down between the garden is a bit of work. :P

Here’s a workout I used to do that you might be interested in: rifle calisthenics. You basically just load up your rifle and do different forms with it. It’s a pretty good light exercise. If you want some more weight, tape some mags together.

TexasDude's avatar

@incendiary_dan lolololol I was totally just doing that with my Mosin Nagant before you even typed that. :-p That bitch is heavy.

incendiary_dan's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard I didn’t even think of doing it with a large rifle like that. Hmmm. I wonder what weighs more: A Mosin loaded up, or my AMD with two forty round mags.

bob_'s avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard Yeah, the more you run the better you get at it. Do you have access to a gym? Spinning is also pretty good. It helped me lose over 30 pounds.

incendiary_dan's avatar

Oh yeah, I lost a few pounds (I guess, I don’t actually have a scale) by carrying my heavy bugout bag with me everywhere I could. It weighs between 30–50 pounds, depending on the loadout. If it fits comfortably, I think it’s a good idea to get used to the weight of some sort of survival pack like that.

jonsblond's avatar

Add some kickboxing to your routine for some variety.

Hibernate's avatar

If you keep to it [ even if it will start to suck after one month ] for a few months you’ll get your results .

TexasDude's avatar

@incendiary_dan the AMD probably weighs slightly more with the mags. And I’ve considered the bag idea as well, only substituting some kind of more concealed weight.

@bob_ no access to a gym that I know of. I’ll check my local area for free/cheap ones, though. I used to do spinning years ago when I had a gym membership. It was pretty fun. I’ll see if I can find a place to do it again.

@jonsblond I like that idea. Thank you.

@Hibernate that’s kind of what I have thought, but I’m seeing so much contradictory information on the interwebz that I’m not so confident. I’m highly motivated, though, so I’m not worried about losing interest.

funkdaddy's avatar

I usually run into the same frustration you have when trying to research exercising online.

People seem to love to argue about what’s most effective, which would be great if so many weren’t so sure of themselves and think their way is the only way. It would be great if the discussion was more honest and less boastful and belittling in most cases. (I don’t mean here, this has been great)

I think everyone is so sure of themselves because it all works to some extent, just keep moving, and keep doing whatever you want to get better at. Keep pushing yourself.

So if your workout keeps you motivated then that’s perfect, change it up whenever you want to quit and just keep moving.

Two things that came to mind (your milage may vary)
> take the numbers away for the strength exercises (pushups and situps) and just do them until you can’t any more. Your numbers will go up over time and at least for me that progress is motivational.
> Even though you’re not focusing on making your legs stronger, they basically comprise half your body so working them hard will help with your other goals. Do whatever feels great, but body weight squats came to mind, don’t take any equipment and can definitely be helpful.

When I get too sure of myself I like to visit Gym Jones and do some reading. I think a Teddy Roosevelt fan will find something there that resonates.

Cruiser's avatar

PACE…Pulminary Accelerated Cardio Exercise. You will hate me for this but it is the single fastest, BEST way known to man to develop stamina. It is stupid simple too. Do your favorite activity biking, running, swimming, River Dancing and do it full on all out for one minute. Then relax (cough, spit drool) and walk, coast, float or tap for a minute. Then hit it again full on and I mean FULL ON like your life depended on it for another minute as in just 60 seconds. Repeat this just 5 times and you are done. Go shower ‘cause you will need one IF you did this FULL ON and if you do do this every day for about 3 weeks, you will no longer be pudgy, slow sloth-like @Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard. It is a hellacious, gut-check work out and the key is to push it….pedal to the metal….hard as you can possibly push yourself workout you can ever do and it hurts, it sucks to do but it will be the fastest way to develop lung capacity and stamina bar none. But it is all up to you to push the envelope and get your ass up and just DO IT!!

aprilsimnel's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard, I was also going to come in here and advocate a HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) method. @Cruiser‘s is one version.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

Wind sprints build stamina.
Jog 5 minutes,run full-blast for one minute.Repeat until you fall over.;)
I would also get some dumb bells and learn simple weight lifting exercises.You can also use things around your house to lift if you don’t have the weights.

nikipedia's avatar

It sounds like you’re interested in doing body weight exercises instead of joining a gym or buying free weights. I suggest adding squats and lunges to your workout, especially since these work large muscle groups in your legs, and building them up will help you (1) burn fat and (2) run faster.

On that note, start running. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you or how much you need to walk. In my very biased opinions, it’s the best cardio you can do. You might do well with a program like Cough to 5K.

SavoirFaire's avatar

Before going any further, I want to ask about step 1. What kind of stretching are you doing? If you’re starting out with static stretching (reaching to the point of tension and holding that position), you are undermining your entire routine from the beginning. Studies show that static stretching at the beginning of an exercise routine breaks down muscles and does not actually prevent injury. Look up information on dynamic stretching instead, and limit the static stretching to whatever muscle groups still feel a bit out of sorts after your cool down walk.

Here is a video of some dynamic stretches. They’re mostly leg stretches, though, and you’ll want at least some arm swinging and shoulder rolling in there.

ucme's avatar

You can’t beat running for a good work out. Being “pounding the streets” for as long as I can remember. There’s a running track right near where I live & I use that for speed work. I do a mile in just over 5mins, knackered afterwards though. Good luck in your exploits anyway.

KateTheGreat's avatar

During soccer months, I have a pretty extreme workout. It’s an assload of cardio paired with a pretty boring diet.

—Run. Run, run, run, run. And run, a lot.
—500–1000 crunches, depending on how you’re feeling that day.
—500–700 sit-ups
—kickboxing
—hiking. Follow a path with nice steep hills and/or mountains.
—a few laps in the pool.
—Dancing, pilates, yoga, or zumba. Some shit like that. (It really works. Probably one of the best things out of this entire list, although it maybe be a bit “girly” for your liking.)

As for the diet, I usually switch back to vegetarianism during sport seasons. Once I do this, I lose tons of weight over a period of time and end up toning like a motherfucker.

Another thing, if you or anyone else you know owns some workout videos from the 80’s, they really work. I have some videos by some weird dude named Gilad that date back to the early 80’s and they always helped me tone up a lot.

TexasDude's avatar

@funkdaddy thanks so much. I’ve actually stopped restricting myself by numbers and started just going until I can’t anymore. And thanks for the link. TR’s doctrine of the “strenuous life” is what inspired me to start working out anyway.

@Cruiser I like the sound of that. I’ll give it a shot. Thank you sir!

@aprilsimnel thanks for the link, I’ll check it out and see what I can learn.

@lucillelucillelucille I’ve been improvising with weights but my mum got me some freeweights, so I should be good now. Thank you!

@nikipedia you’re absolutely right. I’m going to start running in the subdivision behind my house. Thank you!

@SavoirFaire what I do is definitely dynamic stretching, so no worries. It’s stuff I learned from soccer years ago. I had a very good coach. Thanks for the info, though.

@ucme, thank you sir. I’m definitely adding running to my routine.

@KatetheGreat you may laugh, but I actually do zumba stuff with one of my lady friends. She’s out of town for the summer though, so no dice there. And 1000 crunches in a day? Sweet christ, you must have the abs of a goddess!

@everyone, thank you all so much for the ideas and the inspiration! It is greatly appreciated.

incendiary_dan's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard Carefuly for the running, too much can wear out your joints. If you’re going to do a lot, I double my suggestion for the Paleo diet. It’s always made my joint pains go away, because of the removal of a lot of inflammation-promoting foods (mostly the grains).

TexasDude's avatar

@incendiary_dan yeah, I’ve overdone running before and it sucked, so I’ll definitely be careful. I’m not much of a runner anyway. Thanks for the tip, though.

incendiary_dan's avatar

Damn, edit period ended.

Traditional bone broth is particularly good for a lot of overall health, but particularly joints, ligaments, etc. It is also your friend in cooking.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard Okay, good to hear. Second piece of advice, then, is to do planks. They’re good for your entire core, which can help with endurance. Consider creating a second routine and alternating them each day. Put the sit-ups in one routine and the planks in the other. Also, you’re going to have trouble bulking up your arms on push-ups alone. Lifting would be far more effective and efficient.

dabbler's avatar

Aerobics. As suggested by @Cruiser @lucillelucillelucille @KatetheGreat do the PACE thing or windsprints or some other serious cardio that works for you.

KateTheGreat's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard You do zumba? Ahhhh that’s so cool! And I have the abs of a goddess during sports seasons and then I slack soooooo hard after the season ends. It’s like I have absolutely no desire to work out anymore.

But good luck! :)

dabbler's avatar

It totally dates me as an athlete from the last century but if you have some nice path to run on you can do “fartlek” training, which in Swedish means ‘Speed play’. Pick a short interval ahead of you and go flat out within that. E.g. From that post box to the bush with the yellow blossoms. Then drop back down to a trot – not a walk – keep that weightless moment between steps going. ...and keep doing that. It’s best if you can do this on a course that you know and run frequently so you can give yourself some regular variety of hard targets and rests.

TexasDude's avatar

@SavoirFaire thanks for the tips. I didn’t know what planks were until you mentioned them.

@dabbler definitely going that route. And I’ve actually done those before… I didn’t know it was called “fartlek” though, which is kind of neat. Thanks!

@KatetheGreat I only zumba with girls though and all my lady friends are out of town for the summer :-(

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bob_'s avatar

@KatetheGreat Pics or it never happened.

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