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Strengthening and Shaping for the Lazy

I like easy strengthening exercises.  I’m lazy and a procrastinator who will build up what she needs to do to epic proportions in her mind, psyching herself out of doing any work at all.

I have not done yoga or pilates, or any sort of strengthening exercises for months.  (I can blame it on the Holidays, but, well, ok I’ll blame it on the holidays.)  Over the past 2 weeks I’ve been back working on the weight machines at the gym to strengthen without the pressure of not falling over during yoga or Pilates.  I just started to see and feel results this past week so I figured I’d try my hand at some floor moves.  Anyone who says yoga and Pilates are easier than pumping iron are DEAD WRONG.  Ok, maybe it’s relative to your own body weight vs. weights on the machine.  I’ve got some lbs. on me, so lifting 20 pound weights to work my shoulders on a machine is kids play opposed to holding my body weight up in some Pilates moves.  Personally, I prefer floor work over the weight machines since machines isolate specific muscles and yoga/Pilates work all the stabilizing muscles as well as main muscles.  I like a full body workout!

I also strongly procrastinate working on my core.  I know it’s necessary to work your middle to feel your strongest, and once my middle has gained strength I think “why did I ever stop doing this!?”  So, I attempted some new and seemingly easy core work to keep my waistline slim (I like to accentuate the hourglass) and strengthen at the same time.  I threw in some glute work and yoga as well.  These exercises took me about 30 minutes, but you can easily shorten it by picking and choosing your own routine.  Thank you Pinterest!

1. I started with about 15 minutes of Yoga to “warm up”.  I put that in quotes because Yoga is more than a warm up, it’s a great strengthening medium in addition to Pilates.

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2.  Laying your back seems easy right?  I tried these Alternating Single-Leg Glute Bridges to work both the glutes and Hamstrings before heavily working on my core.  Hot damn, they were my least favorite exercise of this series so I’m glad I got them out of the way first.  And let me tell you, I have strong glutes.  I’d probably save this for Intermediate workouts.

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3. My planks, which engage the core muscles, are not very strong so a moving plank exercise seemed up my alley to build up stamina.  I rather enjoyed the Wide Leg Plank as it was challenging but not impossible. I was able to do 3 sets of 10, definitely feeling the burn by the end.  For more waist slimming exercises, click on the image.

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4. I love working my obliques…especially in slight and easy exercises. The Side Bridge and Oblique V-Up are now two of my new favorite exercises because at the time I felt like I was doing nothing but today my sides are SORE. I did 3 sets of 10 for each.  That’s my kind of exercise!

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Oblique V-Up

Lie on your side with your body in a straight line. Fold your arms across your chest. Keeping your legs together, lift them off the floor as you raise your top elbow toward your hip. The range of motion is short, but you should feel an intense contraction in your obliques.

10 repetitions each side

core45. I of course ended with the Corpse Pose because THAT is the lazy lady’s favorite Yoga move. I end all of my routines in this relaxing and meditative pose. Sometimes I fall asleep…

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Today is the day after this workout, and I feel just the right amount of soreness in my core muscles.  That is encouraging and makes me want to continue with new exercises on a regular basis to keep the core strong without obsessing.  Variety is key!  I’m a victim of routine and I need to force myself out of my comfort zone to keep myself interested in body maintenance as well as work some new muscles.

If you’d like to try yoga at home with some help from a professional, check out this great series of Kris Fondran’s ShapeShifter Yoga videos!  Kris Fondran has been teaching and practicing yoga for more than 12 years. Her yoga experience and her Master’s degree in Exercise Science make her one of the top experts on yoga and fitness today. Click through the image below to read more about it!

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Maintaining in Both Worlds

I’ve gotten into the habit of using my personal Facebook account as my voice instead of my blog, and that needs to get rectified.  I want to share my thoughts and ideas with the world not with a limited group of friends!

One of the things that has crossed my mind lately is how awesome I feel in my skin. I’ve had a lot of personal road blocks this year, but right now I am in such a good place I need to share it with you all.  I found my goal has slightly changed as far as my clothing size.  Naturally, I’d like to feel lighter, stronger, and ultimately reach a healthier weight goal, but I also realized that losing more weight may hinder the natural curves of my body.  In the past when I’ve gone down one pant size lower than my current size 16, my ass got lost.  I have such a larger bone structure that I literally have to lose my ass to fit into a size 14.  I can feel my sit bones protruding and it’s actually uncomfortable sitting on hard surfaces.  If anything, I should maintain my booty for seat comfort alone!  I’m hoping glute exercises will help me keep the meat on the bone as I continue on my journey, but it seems when I get to a certain point of losing weight my body pulls from the areas I quite rather appreciate, like my derriere.  Does it pull fat from the rolls in my belly or my double chin, not so much!  But, I digress, that is a subject for another post entitled “Embracing the Rolls!”.

So for now, I’ll keep up the regular exercise and well as drink a milkshakes every so often to make sure I keep my curves nice and full.

milkshake

My Milkshake bring no boys to the yard because I’m still single.

Another reason I’m enjoying this time to maintain my shape while sharpening up the curves a bit with some yoga/cardio/pilates 3-4x per week, is because I’m wearing the perfect clothing size for a woman who loves to shop.  I’m 5’9″ and wear a size 14/16 in plus.  I also wear a L/XL in non plus sizes (depending on the store).  This is an awesome size to be because I get to shop IN BOTH WORLDS.  I get to wear clothing especially made for larger curvier ladies at Plus Size stores, as well as the higher end sizes at non-plus sized stores.  It’s quiet magical to say the least. I truly do find some items that fit me  well at shops like NY&Co., H&M, Kohl’s and TJ Maxx since they carry up to XL as well as some plus sizes,  but I tend to shop at more plus size specific stores like Lane Bryant because the clothing really caters to my curves.  (Please see my Curvy Fashion Page for a list of Plus Size friendly  stores.)

I recently invested in the Scalloped Boudoir Lace Dress in size 14/16 from Kiyonna, a high end plus size designer, to wear to a wedding last November in Manhattan.  Kiyonna’s designs are not cheap but they are simply stunning as well as durable and well worth the cost.  She is actually one of the only plus size designers who starts at size 10 instead of 12, which reaches a wider range of women but ultimately leaves out sizes lower than a size 10.   I wore this dress to two Halloween parties as well as the intended Manhattan wedding and I’ve gotten wonderful and genuine compliments on how classy and well made it is for my shape.

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Manhattan Wedding November, 2013

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Halloween Party #2 in Philly Oct. 2013

Halloween Party #1 at Artworks Trenton, Oct. 2013

Halloween Party #1 at Artworks Trenton, Oct. 2013

Needless to say, I got my damn moneys worth out of that dress.  I’ve been asked where I purchased the dress as well as the designer, both in person an on Facebook, by numerous women.  Being one who is not ashamed of being a plus size lady, I simply tell the gals who are clearly not more than a size 8 that it’s from  Kiyonna, a plus size designer for sizes 10 and up.  I do feel bad if it’s not available in their size, then I think about the clothing items I find online and in stores that only go up to a Large and I know by the cut I will never be able to squeeze my T&A in that item.  C’est la vie!

So, let’s wrap up.  Where am I on my journey to Health and Wellness?  Well, I’m taking some time to maintain my weight and health where it is now.  I’m not going to obsess over losing weight, even though I’m only half way to my “set” weight goal.   I feel if I can maintain at the half way point and find it’s not the end of the world difficult, then when I do reach my goal I won’t sabotage myself like I have in the past.  My tattoo artist (he lost 100 pounds!) gave me some advice regarding my journey to health & happiness.  His advice was NOT to set a weight goal and just do your thing, be healthy, be active, until you feel you have reached your goal.   For some of us, that sounds awesome and for others it sounds like a train wreck.  You know you.  You know if you need structure, goals, a plan or if you can change your mindset for the better and ride it out until you find your  healthy weight.  I’ve gone the regimented plan before and it works only temporarily for me.  Once I hit that goal, I seem to self-sabotage in order to find that other “goal” I need to reach.  Maintaining is not fun for me.  There is no prize at the end, except perhaps living a longer healthy life and not feeling like crap.  But that’s apparently not enough for me! So we’ll see if having no goal in the back in my mind (for now) is either worse or better.  Commence Happy & Healthy Kate Experiment #53983404.

I’m still leading an active life, I’m not counting calories or cutting back on any certain food, but I’m just trying to be more aware of portion control and what my body is telling me.  Do I still overeat? Yup.  Especially with the holidays surrounding me.  But as weird as this sounds, I don’t overeat as much or as often as I used to and to me that’s a small victory.  I’ve also realized a setback won’t be as huge in my crazy mind as if i was trying to lose weight.  Maintaining is just as challenging as losing weight for someone who has struggled with the scale their entire life, so once I master the art of maintenance I think I’ll finally have the knowledge I’ve been lacking in the past throughout my yo-yo dieting to finally live life at a healthier weight, whatever that may be.

Focusing on strength instead of weight has also really helped my overall mindset regarding my health.  On some level it feels great to fit into a lower dress size, it shows your hard work is paying off, but for me I’m at the point where I am OK with the number printed on my clothes.  Why?  Because I feel healthy, I feel great in my clothes, and I look damn cute.

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TJ Maxx – Owl Sweater in XL

Humpday Humor (for the thick thighed)

thick thighs

Aaaaaand this is one of many reasons I don’t even own an iron or an ironing board! I am proud of my thick strong legs! I bet you are wondering what the other 24 reasons are… 😉

Grat…I mean…Catitude.

I am thankful for so many things and for so many people.  I have numerous exciting changes going on in my personal and professional life.  I am grateful not only for the specific wonderful new chapters opening up, but for my readers/friends/family who have been cheering me on along the way.

Specifically, I wanted to extend a humble bow to everyone who has supported me with kind words, constructive non-judgmental feedback, and inspirational energy and stories regarding exercise & wellness.  I started this journey for myself, and I stay true to my goals because of you.  For that you will forever have my gratcatitude.

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Killin’ it at the gym, cool cat style.

This morning alone I had 3 people tell me that I am still losing weight and looking great, when in fact I have gained weight…muscle weight.  It’s amazing how building, strengthening, and shaping your body can make such a difference not only in how you feel and look, but in how you are perceived by others who are NOT your scale.  It’s taught me that the scale is not always the best judge when it comes to your health, but it is still a good way to make sure you aren’t going too crazy with extra calories with an increased workout.  I’m currently trying to balance out my calories with activity right now and it’s been a struggle.  I’ve been hardcore committed to classes 2x a week at my new gym (pilates and yoga) and learning other types of core work to do on my own after cardio/weight training. Needless to say, my appetite is increased a lot and late night snacking is my vice.   This is something I am working on curbing.

I honestly don’t see a dramatic difference in the mirror, my clothes are still pretty tight fitting and luckily I still think I look damn good.  Others have been kind enough to notice positive changes in my body shape and nice enough to tell me.  Even my favorite sandwich technician at Subway noticed I look more fit, without any type of selfish prompting!  To me, that is success. Look out Jared!

All in all I am grateful for everyone who has  been there for me when I was not at my best, when I was at the top of the world, and when I’ve just been blah.  It shows to the true character of my friends when you’re there for me through thick fat and thin, sickness and health, and unbalanced and balanced serotonin levels.  I wouldn’t be on this road to wellness without your unconditional love and support so from the bottom of my cat loving heart, thank you.

The Grocery Store Told Me I’ve Got Badass Muscles.

Last night I quickly popped into the local grocery store to grab a few items in a basket.  I know if I get a cart I will fill it and I was not in need of more than a few things.

That is, until I reached the drink aisle where everything was on sale!  So, I decided to utilize my new guns.

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My Badass Muscles

I carried  my basket full of food along with a fridge 12-pack of Diet Dr. Pepper and  a 12 pack case of Diet Peach Snapple Iced Teas.  At first I thought, I need to get a cart to carry all this.  Then I thought, let’s see if I am now strong enough to carry these cases first without assistance.   In the past, there was no way I could handle the weight of these cases along with a basket full of items without dropping everything with rubbery arms.  But last night, man, I carried all those items like He-Man!

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Thank you grocery store for inspiring me to keep lifting at the gym!

Also, have you seen this fun gadget for carrying your bags into your home in one trip?!!

onetripgripOne-Trip-Grip-NG-HW058-

This may just have to become a part of my permanent grocery collection.  Reviews are mixed, saying they are not as sturdy as advertised, but I’d give them a try just to try and save my fingers from losing circulation!

Shopping and strengthening = getting things done!

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Coring is not so boring.

I am the kind of person who likes to see results right away, otherwise I feel like that 1 whole hour of hard work is not paying off.  I blame it on being a Generation X’er.  I’ve tried to dismiss that mindset throughout my wellness journey and more importantly over these past 2 weeks.  About a month ago I hit a wall.  To change this feeling of not moving forward, I’ve made it a point to focus on a new regiment, eat when I’m hungry, snack on healthy stuff when i’m not so hungry, and not beat myself up if the scale fluctuates.  I also recently joined an affordable 24 hour privately owned gym, Urge Fitness, 3 blocks from my house with state of the art equipment and unlimited classes so there is NO EXCUSE not to work out!

I’ve been focusing on my core/abs in addition to lifting weights regularly again.  Historically, I’m the worst at regularly working my core area even though it’s the most important area to focus on and strengthen.  I usually bitch and moan and complain to anyone trying to help me, saying that it’s too difficult, it hurts my back, and I don’t want to “bulk up” my middle.  I realized today that those were pretty lame excuses to not work hard and in fact, my back has never felt better.  This is a pretty sad realization since I’ve always known that a strong core helps alleviate back pain and help with posture.  I was just too lazy and too impatient to put in the time.  In addition, over these past weeks my abs and other core muscles have never felt stronger which is surprisingly a more rewarding feeling than slimming down my mid section. Who knew!??  

I’ve focused on very basic core/ab exercises (crunches, side reach heel touches, lower abdominal leg lifts, kettle bell swings) in preparation for the hard “core” techniques of today (bridges, planks, twists, thrusts!).  I only recently started doing kettle bell swings (pictured below) which have become my new obsession.  I feel they have made a HUGE difference in my overall strength and I use a very low weight kettle bell.  Just look at all the muscles one single exercise can help strengthen!

kettlebellswing1MuscleAnatomyKettleBellSwing

If you google “Core Exercises” a slew of results pop up.   I’m still not at the point where I can hold a plank or bridge for 30 seconds, but I have finally attempted to at least try.  That is a HUGE deal for me!  After laying the ground work with beginner exercises, I finally feel well prepared to start trying more intense core techniques.  Core exercises are very intimidating to a larger woman like myself who has a lot more weight to hold up than the average sized human.   I’ve set a goal for myself to be able to hold a plank (without and then with arm raise) or lateral bridge for more than 2.3 seconds over the next couple of weeks.  Not so surprisingly, I can rock the Glute Bridge like no other.  I will then add different intense core exercises over the course of the next couple of months.

core exercises

For me, 2 weeks seems to be the point of clarity.  When I stick to a routine for at least that amount of time, I can start to see and/or feel small results that make me feel like the sweat, pain, and frustration over the past weeks wasn’t for naught.  In addition to my lower back pain being practically nonexistent due to my core work and religious stretching routine, I’ve felt my muscles responding to the weight training.  I feel stronger, I feel definition, and I feel that the weight I’ve gained is healthy and not worth getting depressed about when the scale numbers creep upward.

If you have lower back pain and it’s not due to a bulging disc or any other medical condition (as always check with your health care physician) take a gander at these Princeton University Athletic Medicine exercises and stretches.  I plan to try some new techniques and the page categorize them ranging from easy/medium/difficult.  I also came across core exercises geared specifically towards runners and thought it could be of use to some of my friends and followers.

All this being said, I do not want a 6-pack.  I do not want to look like a body builder.  I just want to feel strong and healthy and fill out a nice pair of jeans.

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