The other day I received the following email: Hi, I've been following your account on Instagram for awhile. Thanks for sharing so much of yourself with others. I think you are spot on with your views on nutrition. If it were up to me, I would only practice yoga and walk. I have not found that I am able to do that and achieve my desired result. Would you mind sharing your philosophy on what you do to work out other than yoga? (Such as cardio, light/heavy weight lifting?) Thanks for your time.
Last year I attended a yoga workshop on arm balances. The instructor was this ripped older guy. Like, maybe mid forties or early fifties, but really cut, you know?
Anyway, arm balances require a ton of core and upper body strength and during the question and answer portion of the workshop, a younger guy raised his hand and asked what else could be done to build the necessary strength needed to do a handstand.
Our instructor sort of laughed and said, "Listen. If you want muscles like I have, you just need to practice yoga. What you shouldn't do is lift weights. That's quite possibly the worst thing you can do to your body. It damages the joints and it's really just pointless."
That really bothered me. Mostly because I all but grew up in a gym, and enjoyed lifting weights regularly. Sure, I personally know a man who had major shoulder damage due to heavy weightlifting. But he had also had a long career as a professional bodybuilder, and let's be real, most of us aren't lifting like that. The other reason the statement bothered me is that I felt it wasn't true. You can absolutely gain upper body strength by lifting weights. It probably won't be the secret to a fantastic handstand because I don't think lifting is going to help find that sweet spot where the pelvis balances comfortably over the head - only practicing inversions will do that, but it's pretty obvious that strength will improve, no?
Anyway, I don't like these types of blanket statements. I'm more a live and let live kind of person. Do what feels good.
Love lifting weights? Then lift weights. Love zumba class? Then take zumba. Love Pilates? Do Pilates. It's all okay, in my opinion, so long as you're doing what you love mindfully.
My old style of working out
So what do I do? In the past, it has depended on the time of year and how I'm feeling physically. This confuses (read: irritates) my husband Greg to no end. He doesn't get how I can feel like I'm making any progress if I don't have a set schedule of what I do. For example, he goes to the gym and knows ahead of time what part of the body he's going to work and what exercises he's planning to do. Me? I'll just walk into the gym, see how I feel, and then decide what I want to do. Maybe I get there and feel low on energy so I'll do 20 minutes of cardio and a few arm exercises. If he gets to the gym and feels low on energy he battles it out and does what he's planned to do.
Ever since I can remember I've been working out like this. It's probably sort of weird, but to me it kind of takes the pressure off. For some reason, I feel sort of anxious if I have this huge thing scheduled. It's like a giant school project looming overhead (this is ridiculous, I know). Anyway, what this all means is that I never really kept track of what I did for working out because it all depended on how much I felt like doing on any given day. Just for a general idea, though, I'd say I'd lift light weights maybe 3-5 times a week and do cardio (running, mostly) for anywhere from 20-45 minutes a few times a week.
My new style of working out
But this year I'm trying something different. I've decided to finally listen to Greg and try a more regimented approach. I'll be doing his workouts with him (but obviously less weight). The overall goal is to build strength and just see if this way of working out makes me feel good. I am irrationally nervous that I will bulk up, but he assures me I won't, that it takes a really long time to bulk (who knew?). I'm four weeks in on this new way of working out (sort of, it hasn't been easy since we've been a traveling circus for the last week, but we do the best we can) and it includes heavy weightlifting (olympic style lifts) and cardio. So far I really like this style of working out, and am looking forward to seeing how the next few weeks go. The schedule is:
Monday: Lift (legs- squats, hamstring curls, lunges, etc - all with heavy weights)
Tuesday: yoga and cardio (endurance training)
Wednesday: abs and lift (upper body- shoulder press, bench, rows, curls - all with heavy weights)
Thursday: yoga and cardio (interval training like sprints)
Friday: abs and lift (total body exercises tailored towards explosive movements for speed and power like cleans, battle ropes, sled pushing/pulling, and plyometrics)
Saturday: yoga and cardio
The cardio will be 45-60 minutes, and will be switched up all the time. So maybe spinning one day, treadmill the next time. The yoga will be whatever I find around town in LA, though I tend to gravitate toward ashtanga vinyasa and flow styles - I'm excited to be a student and take whatever classes or workshops I find. I'm actually excited about the whole new approach to working out. I'm curious to see how it'll feel for me mentally and physically, and I'm looking forward to getting back in the gym after a few weeks of being in transition.
The best way to work out
So I know this whole post was sort of jumbled and confusing, but to answer your question - my philosophy on working out is this: if we choose to work out, we should find something that we love to do and do it often. I think we should do it out of joy and not from a place of guilt or as a punishment. I think we should always listen to what the body says, and make sure we get quality rest to allow the body to recover. It may not be what the super buff yoga man I saw last year would say, but I'm okay with that.
Do you work out? What are your work out goals? What do you do to work out?