Working on Working Out

I’m a recent convert to exercise. Sure, I was intense about ballet from the age of 5 until high school, but I hated PE, playing any organized sport, aerobic movement, and most of all, lifting heavy things. Whenever I thought about exercise, my brain called up Chandler’s comment to a gym instructor in a Friends episode“I hate it here! Everything that you have in here is very heavy!”

Chandler tries to quit the gym

Chandler tries to quit the gym… unsuccessfully.

In the past two years, I’ve tried to get into a workout routine, briefly succeeded (twice!) and then slid back into a sedentary lifestyle after a few months. Now that I’m living with Alex, though, we’re making it a morning habit–one that we’ve kept up not only for multiple months, but during a 2-week vacation. It’s now something I look forward to, instead of avoid (well, except for those Really Bad Mornings, but they’re far fewer than before).

The big difference this time has been due to many things: Alex’s self-discipline (I used to be the early riser, but now he has to prod me out of bed), not working makes me feel less time-pressured (although Alex works and we both have schedules), and we’ve made a regular time that we go to work out. But by far the biggest difference for me is getting proper nutrition. Having the fuel to power through gives me the energy to have a better attitude, and to actually have some strength to work with. I don’t think everyone’s nutritional patterns or requirements are the same, but here’s what works for us.

What We Eat

  • protein-heavy foods for main meals (chicken, eggs, some cheese, black beans and beef when we can get them)
  • carbs on rotation (rice noodles, spinach noodles, or brown rice for lunches late in the week & weekends; pancakes some weekend mornings; we have few carbs Monday – Wednesday)
  • fats to make us feel satisfied and full (olive oil, cheese, small dollops of sour cream)
  • fresh greens and cooked veggies (I usually sauté things before or with the chicken)
  • I cook almost everything from scratch. This takes only a little more time than opening frozen skillet meals or cans, and helps me control what we’re eating, especially limiting salt, empty calories, and preservatives.
  • protein shakes (we have these between meals to feed our muscles, because we’re both lifting weights. we have whey shakes throughout the day (fast digestion) and casein shakes in the afternoon and evening (lasts longer, feeds your muscles overnight)). I confess that at first I hated the idea of eating artificial supplements, but eating regularly throughout the day makes me feel so good. I end up craving fewer sweets and salty things.
  • pre-workout amino acid boost to help energize our morning workout (this is like my coffee substitute–except I still have coffee after the workout, heh heh. This is still new to our routine, but it’s been great.)
  • multi-vitamin

When We Eat

  • breakfast = oatmeal with whey protein powder mixed in
  • post-breakfast, pre-workout = protein shake  (whey), plus amino acid booster
  • immediately after workout = protein shake  (whey)
  • two hours later = protein shake (whey)
  • two hours later = lunch (real food)
  • two hours later = protein shake (whey, or whey + casein)
  • two hours later = dinner (real food)
  • evening before bed = casein shake

Workout Schedule

  • weight training 5 days a week
    • I rotate arms and legs days (abs at the end of each day)
    • Alex does 3 arms days, 1 leg day
  • 1 day of rest a week, 1 day cardio
  • workouts are about 1 – 1.5 hours long

The nutrition and exercise are making a big difference in my physical health and my mental well-being–I’m more equipped to dissertation-ize and be productive if I’ve already spent an hour or so at the gym. And the regular small meals help stave off midday cravings for salty snacks or sweets (mostly!). If only I could justify daily cheesecake and whipped mochaccinos…

The biggest plus, of course, is being physically prepared for the coming zombie apocalypse. We’ve been a little low on training material lately–good thing there’s another season of The Walking Dead this fall and a new Resident Evil moving coming up. In the meantime, I’m honing my cooking skills. Being on the run from the undead is no excuse not to eat well!

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