This post is inspired by friend Nick who recently started doing is own home-rolled workout.  I’ve been doing something similar for years.  I started doing it in the year 2000 when I was living in Brooklyn, and I had been sick for most of the winter and had lots of problems with my back and shoulders from using the computer too much, and had been gaining weight too.  I also had an injured ankle that needed some kind of rehabilitation.  I’d been in pretty good about getting regular exercise in thru college, but once I got a regular desk job I kind of let it slide for a few years.  When I lived in California I biked and skated alot year round, but when I was back in New York City that became a seasonal thing.

So it was time to get back into a workout groove.  I had a baby and was living in an apartment, so it wasn’t feasible to either go out to a gym or get lots of a equipment.  I started with just pushups and situps and a few stretches and sort of added in new things and changed them around over the course of the first year or two. Alot of the focus is on core trunk strength, the back, abdomen and shoulders. The basic idea is to alternate between strength and flexibility exercises in sets or short sequences.  When I got weights I decided to limit myself to a pair of dumbbells that could be easily stowed.  After I got my house I got a bench, cuz I had to modify some exercises where I lift weights over my head so as not to hit the ceiling.

I got most of my stretching ideas from two books:  Yoga for Health by Richard Hittleman and Body Control (Pilates) by Lynn Robinson and Gordon Thompson. Yoga and Pilates are alot alike, except with Yoga it’s tied in with the holistic philosophy and vegetarianism, and the ultimate goal is to be in good enough shape so you can spend hours sitting in meditation without getting tired or losing concentration. Pilates is more western and non-spiritual but both have the goal of using the body as a lever to work itself out.

My workout goes like this:

warmup: 60 jumping jacks
stretch: chest expansion, rishi’s posture (touch opposite knee), toe touch, abdominal lift
25 pushups
stretch: chest expansion, rishi’s posture, toe touch, abdominal lift
25 more pushups

stretch: triangle, waist twist
weights: shoulder roll, arm curls (10x @100 lbs.)
stretch: neck roll, trunk roll
weights: shoulder roll, arm curls (10x @100 lbs.)
stretch: balance posture (stand on one foot), leg stretches
weights: shoulder press (10x @100 lbs.), bench press (10x @100 lbs.)

stretch: leg lifts, ankle rolls, knee-thigh stretch
weights: upright butterfly, tricep curls, horizontal butterfly, backstroke (10x each @ 70 lbs.)
stretch: shoulder stand, plow
weights: upright butterfly, tricep curls, horizontal butterfly, backstroke (10x each @ 70 lbs.)

10 squats
40 full situps
40 oblique crossovers
80 crunches
80 oblique crunches
80 reverse situps
cool down: headstand (2 minutes)

I can usually do it in an hour and 10 minutes.  If I push myself for speed I can do it in an hour even, but this is only possible if my energy level is really good, and when I’m tired I tend to take the stretching slower.

A funny thing, it used to take more like an hour and a half to do the workout.  Then about a year ago I started listening to music while I worked out.  It’s important to have a good CD to workout to, and after trying a few I fell into a groove with Steely Dan Alive In America, which is a great album, but only half the songs are really uptempo.  A few months ago I switched to Moving Pictures by the great Canadian power trio Rush.  A good high energy record and perhaps their greatest disc.  I had thought the record was 45 minutes long, and really hustled to stay on pace, and when I was done I realized the album was only 40 minutes long and I had shaved 10 minutes off my workout!

Another thing: I never did a headstand in my life until I was over 30. Now I can do it for 10 minutes or more.

Nowadays I usually work out 6 days a week. I do the workout I just described three times a week and on the alternate days I do a cardio thing, which when the weather is good means rollerblading or bike riding, and now in the winter it’s the Nordic Track or sometimes just a walk.  The Nordic Track is new this winter for me and seems to be working pretty good so far.  As evidenced by the recent ski trip…

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