Help me build an exercise routine.
May 8, 2009 12:22 AM   Subscribe

General advice in the area of finding my exercise/fitness niche? Good, structured DVDs or programs to try?

I am a female in my mid-twenties, and I have never been too "sporty" or all that excited about exercising in general. I want to become excited about it, but I have not yet been able to find something that I really like or something that feels like it's working well for me. I also have no idea how to structure it so that I'm doing something that is definitely worthwhile, so I guess that's my main question--what can I add in to create more structure so that it's effective and simple to stick with?

- Improve heart health, lose a little bit of weight, feel more connected to my body, strengthen my muscles and make myself less vulnerable to aches/pains in my largely sedentary job.

- Can't afford a gym membership or even yoga classes right now
- Don't really have any equipment, or access to any

Things I already know/like:
- I am working on the nutrition part, and that is going well.
- I like to try to challenge myself a little bit throughout the day, like taking the stairs instead of elevators whenever possible, parking at the back of a parking lot to give myself more of a walk, etc.
- I have really loved yoga classes in the past, but the DVDs I currently own are very meditation-focused, and I want something more strength- and challenge-focused.
- I like walking and sometimes hiking; how can I incorporate them in a way that maximizes their benefits?
- I would love to be able to swim, but don't have access to a pool!
- I have been having fun playing Dance Dance Revolution. Dance-focused workout videos make me feel very defeated because I have some problems with coordination.
- I like to follow along with DVDs, and currently I have: some basic yoga videos, some basic pilates, cardio pilates (this is the one I enjoy the most). I am definitely looking for recommendations on good videos that are meant to increase overall strength and encourage weight loss, while being fairly simple and not complicated with a lot of intense dance moves!
posted by so_gracefully to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
It might be worth taking a look at P90X. You dont need a lot of equipment and it contains Yoga as well.

If you have a quick look around the internet you will find many reviews. I plan on following the program while traveling later this year, due to its low equipment needs.
posted by moochoo at 12:29 AM on May 8, 2009

T-Tapp has all those things you seek. No equipment needed, only a small amount of floor space, and you can use the 'stance' when walking to really speed up the toning and benefits.
posted by Kerasia at 12:46 AM on May 8, 2009

You're doing great already, but i think you should focus first on your goals. You say you have some, but how well have you articulated them to yourself, and how much do you want to achieve them? Spend some time working out what it really is that you want to achieve from getting more active, and get them written down. Commit yourself to some measurable outcomes, for example to lose X pounds by a certain date, or to enter a 5k fun run and complete it, or drop a dress size. Whatever works for you - but make it achievable, and if you've got a 'big' goal in mind, break it down into smaller ones.

The reason for this is that if you're committed to some goals, you'll want to do whatever's necessary to achieve them, and this commitment is what builds the structures that you're looking for, and the willpower to get up and do what you said you'd do that day.

I've heard good things about P90X as well, so do look into it. On the other hand, you don't need to pay for their 'system', and for that matter, don't ever think that you need a gym. There are tons of other simple bodyweight exercise routines that you can do, and all you need is some space on the floor and perhaps a chair. Search for 'body weight exercises' on YouTube, or you could buy a set of FitDeck cards.

In terms of walking and hiking, just do it! The point is to add activity into your life. Why not gradually add some running into your schedule? This would up the intensity a bit a couple of times a week. Try the 'couch to 5k' programme, which is a great, safe way to start - it's free advice for the beginner. Running is cheap, flexible and addictively fun, but get into it gently. I think it's the single best way to get into shape. It helped to get me from being a sedentary fatso to someone 5 stone lighter and much more active.

So you're nearly there already! Just get really, really focused on what you want to acheive and then mix it up during the week:

- Pilates
- Daily walking
- A weekend hike
- One or two bodyweight exercise routines
- Perhaps add some running to increase your cardio work

With all of these, you can vary what you do to avoid boredom (shuffle the fitdeck cards, walk, hike or run somewhere different, longer, more hilly etc.) and to keep making progress.
posted by dowcrag at 1:12 AM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Just chiming in to agree that P90X is a great. Their 90 minute yoga routine is definitely challenging, and is just one piece of well rounded program that focuses on building strength and improving fitness. It is expensive, though, and does require some equipment like free weights and/or resistance bands. It's a 12 DVD set, so it may be more than you're looking for.

I know you've said that you can't afford a gym right now, but if you have a YMCA in your area, that may be an option. If you're looking for something to increase cardio fitness and promote weight loss, I haven't found anything better than spinning, and it's also quite addictive.

Best of luck.
posted by contrariwise at 3:25 AM on May 8, 2009

One of my favorite workout dvds is Minna Emergency Workout. Half hour of good cardio that's really easy to figure out after doing it once, and a half hour toning (does require a pair of hand weights). Also, Denise Austin's boot camp and Kathy Smith's cardio knockout (I've only done the kickboxing portion of this one, and it does require a bit of patience with yourself to learn the sequences, but trust me, I'm a coordination mess and I got the hang of it. It's a fantastic workout.)

I also really like the box set of MTV yoga and pilates.

None of these require much space- I could do them easily in pretty small apartment living rooms.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 3:41 AM on May 8, 2009

A few more thoughts. Collage Video carries tons of fitness DVDs, including some of the ones mentioned here, and you can watch previews of most to get a feel for what the video looks like. Their customer service is great, but even if you decide to buy locally, it's nice to be able to preview first.

You may also try your local library to see what videos they carry, or if you have a Netflix account, line up a few videos to try before you buy.
posted by contrariwise at 4:22 AM on May 8, 2009

Can you join your local YMCA? They're usually fairly inexpensive, and you can even get a special rate if you fall within the income requirements for it (easier to do than you might think - or at least I was able to do so living on an academic stipend). They have pools.

As far as yoga goes, I highly recommend Yoga Today. They have a free new streaming yoga class each day online, and you can also browse through some older classes. Generally not easy yoga. I particularly like Adi's classes.

I understand your concerns about coordination, but if you stick to a dance video you will become more coordinated over time. It's just something you train your brain in.

Have you ever tried Tae Bo? I think it's a great workout, especially for maximizing calorie burn in an allotted time frame.
posted by sickinthehead at 5:22 AM on May 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

I really like Denise Austin's Mat Workout based on Pilates, which has a yoga-focused routine at the end (I haven't tried it since I've taken a few yoga classes, so I can't comment on that part of it). The 20-minute Pilates routine is challenging without being defeating, and it gave me noticeable strength and definition.

You could also try OneHundredPushups, which is free.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 6:19 AM on May 8, 2009

What about running? I was never sporty either and running was something I never thought I'd do, but it was really surprising how much I could push myself while running. The cost outlay for a good pair of running shoes (go to a specialty running store) can be high, but it's a one-time cost and then you run outside for free! I've heard good things about Couch to 5K around here.
posted by pised at 6:40 AM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

I love the Flow Series, especially Fire. Good sun salutations that invigorate me. I also really enjoy Bikram yoga -- I took classes for a while but now make do with the CD and use his book for reference.
posted by hilaryjade at 8:07 PM on May 8, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for all of these great suggestions! I just looked up my local YMCA and realized it would be a great place to start some swimming, cycling, and organized classes. I also looked at the Couch-to-5k website and want to try it... I don't really do any running because it gets painful for me after a short time, but I like the sound of that program (and it might help in reducing some of the pain, in conjunction with tweaking some other things).

Thank you, thank you for all the video suggestions! I'm checking them all out online... I've heard of a lot of those types of exercise, but it's good to know where to start with them to see how I do with them. P90X is scaring me because it has so many photos of muscly men (also because it's so expensive, but the muscly men were the original reason I wanted to navigate away immediately). Does it turn people into muscly men??
posted by so_gracefully at 9:12 PM on May 8, 2009

I'll respond in more detail to the actual question later if I get the chance, but I just wanted to address this:
Does it turn people into muscly men??
Not if you're female, no. No exercise program can. You simply aren't producing enough testosterone to put on serious muscle. Further, building muscle 'accidentally' is completely impossible for anyone, without spending a small country's GDP on injecting iffy pharmaceuticals from foreign countries.

Stumptuous says this better than I can:

Now is the time for you to get over any pictures of female bodybuilders you may have been unintentionally scarred by. These women don’t look masculine because of strength training; they look masculine — first and foremost — because they take male hormones. Don’t want to look masculine? Don’t take androgens. It’s pretty simple.

Even if you’re not a fan of bodybuilders, it’s an insult to all their hard work to think that you might look anything like them without years of ungodly dedication, unwavering adherence to programs specifically designed for size gain, great genetics and (most likely) some unnatural supplementation. Without embracing the lifestyle wholeheartedly, the closest you’re ever likely to get will be a bad spray-on tan. So, put that stuff out of your head.
You might want to take a look, in particular, at this article and this article from that same site.
posted by oostevo at 9:21 PM on May 10, 2009

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