In the Yoga Zone

I have been in the yoga zone for more than 2 months now.

How’d I get there? I hurt myself. Tweaked my back, so I thought I’d do yoga for a few days while it healed. Problem is — and this is a good problem to have — after a few days, my back felt so good, I decided to stick with only yoga for a while. Now, more than 2 months later, my back feels better than it has felt in years.

My lower back had always been pretty decent. No pain. Then — and I don’t recall this happening, but I kinda assume this happened — I strained my lower right back picking up a dumbbell. I’ve had pain there ever since. Not the kind of pain that causes me to stop working out or lifting things and it doesn’t restrict my movement, but it’s more of a dull I’m-just-here-to-remind-you-that-you-are-old kind of pain.

I really figured that pain was just going to be there always, because it had not become worse or better.

But, now, it’s almost gone.

I say “almost”. It’s gone, but I can’t believe it, so I’m going to stick with “almost”. When it’s gone for 2 months, I’ll believe it.

Yoga seems to have cured my back.

What kind of yoga am I doing? All power yoga, mostly as led by Rodney Yee and Bryan Kest.

Here’s a list of the DVDs I have been using and highly recommend:

  1. Rodney Yee: Flexibility (25 minutes)
  2. Rodney Yee: Strength (25 minutes)
  3. Rodney Yee: Energy Balance (60 minutes)
  4. Bryan Kest: Power Yoga (#1 and #2 — I haven’t tried #3 yet — 60 minutes each)

While I’m at it, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Tony Horton’s two One on One yoga DVDs. They are entitled “Yoga: Fountain of Youth” and “Patience Hummingbird”. (NOTE: Do not buy “Yoga: MC2”. Unless they’ve added more verbal instruction to it since it was first published, it’s pretty useless, as far as I’m concerned.) Tony really got me rolling in yoga, and I pull those DVDs out from time to time, because they are still a lot of fun.

I own and use other yoga DVDs, but the above are the ones I’ve really liked over the past couple months, while I’ve been trying to strengthen my lower back. As I said, it seems to be working.

If you haven’t tried yoga before, 1 & 2 above are good beginner workouts. 3 & 4 are also good for beginners, with Kest’s DVD progressing from the first workout being easiest to the last being most difficult. Regardless of your experience level and which DVD you choose, if you just focus on doing your best and not trying to overdo it, you’ll be fine.

Yoga can be a bit overwhelming for beginners, because there is a learning curve, for sure. If you are totally new to yoga, you may want to get Tony Horton’s two One on One yoga DVDs, because they are what got me started, and I never felt left behind. Tony made it pretty easy to pick up on.

Yoga. Give it a shot and join me in the zone. I am diggin’ it so much and feeling so good, I don’t see myself leaving it for a while.

Even after years of inactivity, there is no “I CAN’T”!

I am continually frustrated by people I suggest a fitness program to, who try it once, then tell me, “I can’t do that.”

OF COURSE YOU CAN’T DO THAT, YOU’VE BEEN SITTING ON YOUR ASS FOR 20 YEARS!

Wow, I mean, what do you expect? Do you think if I tell you that yoga or Insanity is great and you will benefit so much from it, that you should be able to pop in a DVD or go to a class and knock it out like it’s nothing?

First, any workout that allows you to do that is not much of a workout at all.

Second, just like anything, you have to practice it to get better at it.

That is one of the hallmarks of programs like Shaun T’s Insanity. It’s impossible. I don’t care how good shape you are in, you cannot make it through an entire Insanity workout the first time — IF EVER!

The key to finally getting fit after years of inactivity is to push yourself without hurting yourself. If a workout lasts 30 minutes, and you  took breaks when you needed them, only working out for a total of 7 minutes, that’s perfectly fine. You will improve as you stick with it. Next time you’d get 10 minutes. Then 15. And so on.

This is true about weight loss, and it’s true about fitness, too: There are no magic elixirs. You have to put in the work.

When your exercise program challenges you, it is so much easier to tell it’s working. If you choose a program that you cannot finish, when you can finally finish it, it’s quite a thrill, and you know you are more fit. Simple.

So don’t tell me that you are not going to do something because you “can’t”. P90X creator Tony Horton suggests that instead of saying “I can’t” try saying “I currently struggle with.” Keep that mindset as you enter into a program that you “currently struggle with”, and go ahead and struggle your way to fitness!

Day 30 of my High Fat Diet and more about Yoga!

Here I am in day 30 of my high-fat diet, and I was just telling my friend yesterday how I feel that my body is undergoing some kind of positive transformation. I feel leaner and more energetic. I feel as if I am getting stronger.

It’s not as if this is a change that is overwhelmingly better than any of my previous changes, but it’s something, which is better than nothing, which is what I had before. I was stuck. That’s why I kept changing things up until I found something that felt as if it was getting me out of my fitness rut.

But it’s not only about the diet. In addition to eating high fat — 2000 to 2400 calories with targets of 70% fat, 20% protein, and 10% carbs — I had also been doing yoga, and only yoga, for 24 days (with a few days off in there).

I broke the streak on Monday with a round of Insanity Pure Cardio — and, yeah, my glutes were sore the last couple days — but I am sticking with yoga as my primary workout. I’ll do another aerobic workout on Friday, then increase aerobics to 3 times a week starting next week, in addition to my yoga.

I had not meant to be so much into yoga for so long. I meant only to use it as a transition workout after I tweaked my back, but the way I feel makes me want to stick with it for a bit longer.

You may or may not recall, depending on how often you read this blog, that I was introduced to yoga through Tony Horton’s P90X. Tony is not a yoga master — he’s just a guy who likes to stay fit and enjoys a yoga workout from time to time. Because he was my gateway to yoga, I really didn’t know much more from a practical standpoint than what he covered during his workouts.

But I knew if I wanted to advance in yoga, I’d need to find a better teacher than Tony. On Amazon, where I buy almost everything, I found Rodney Yee.

Rodney Yee has a ton of yoga DVDs, but I bought one called Ultimate Power Yoga just to check it out. That DVD has five 15- to 20-minute workouts on it, each with a different focus. And my world opened up.

Let me backtrack a bit.

When I saw yoga was part of P90X, I was intrigued, because I had always thought yoga was a good all-around fitness program, but I had never gotten around to trying it out. It was always so much easier to run or lift weights or do something else I understood better. Yoga, after all, is kinda weird for us euro-americans. You have to learn a bunch of poses. You have to stay still in those poses for what seems like a long time. There is a lot of balancing. It all seemed a bit much.

But Yoga X showed me that once I learned the poses and understood a bit about the rhythm and flow of a yoga workout (I know the yoga people call them “practices”, but I’m sticking with “workout” for now), it was really quite enjoyable, and I always felt great afterward.

So I bought Tony Horton’s two One on One yoga DVDs. I used them extensively, and it was exciting when I could finally do them both all the way through! (Yoga is not easy — it’s definitely a workout.)

As I added more and more yoga days into my program, I felt that I needed to get some new DVDs to keep from getting bored. Enter Rodney Yee.

I now have more than 20 yoga DVDs by Rodney Yee and others. I haven’t tried the workouts from others yet, because I really do enjoy Rodney’s workouts, but I’m sure I’ll give them a go sometime in the future.

So, let me see, I guess I got off on a love song to yoga, so what is the point of this post?

1) High Fat Diet – After 30 days, it really seems to be working for me. As someone whose blood-sugar continually flirts with “too high”, I suppose that makes sense. After another month or two on this diet, I’ll see about getting my blood tested and judge it from there. If I am judging solely based on how I feel, though, I give it thumbs up at the 30-day mark.

2) Yoga – I love it. Perhaps you’ll love it too. (Thus ends my song.)

Ouch, I tweaked my back. Now what?

I tweaked my back last Wednesday, right at the end of the workout. During the last move, rep 2 of 4. Tweak. DAMMIT!

I don’t really know if “tweak” has any medical validity — perhaps my friend Donna can chime in on that — but I use it to talk about an injury that seems minor, one that’s not debilitating, but which does cause me some concern.

So what did that tweak do to my workout routine?

Well, when it comes to my back, I always choose to err on the side of caution, and I was headed into my recovery week anyway, so the timing was almost perfect.

The injury occurred, by the way, during a jump up from wide pushups. Do 4 pushups with wide hands and feet, then jump the feet forward, standing to a squat.

I felt it in my left side, lower back, at the rear point of the hip. A twinge of pain. I am actually accustomed to minor pain in the same area, but on the right side. Been there for years. This left side, though, is new pain, and it was a pretty sharp, so I quit right there. I probably should have put some ice on it, but I didn’t.

The injury felt better the next morning, but only by about 50%, so I swapped the heavier planned workout for a lighter yoga workout — #1 and #5 from Ultimate Power Yoga, which put a lot of emphasis on the lower back.

I did that same yoga routine the next two days, then took Sunday off.

Then, on Monday, I did Rodney Yee Total Body Workout from his Power Yoga Collection. Yesterday it was back to #1 and #5 from Ultimate Power Yoga, and today will be Patience Yoga from Tony Horton’s One on One collection.

Can I tell you something? My back feels great! Seriously, not this good in quite some time.

In fact, my back feels so good, I am going to continue this yoga routine through the next few weeks, just to see what happens. Yeah, I know, I was in the middle of my Insanity with weekends off program, but I like to roll with the flow. I’ll sprinkle some Insanity or other cardio workouts into the mix starting next week.

(And, yes, I am still on my high-fat diet, but I’ll write more on that in a few days.)

Staying fit by varying your workouts

Sure, sure, Tony Horton and his P90X program have made “muscle confusion” a buzzphrase, but the fact is, as Tony readily acknowledges, that the idea of muscle confusion has been around for years.

For example, in P90X we do 3 weeks of varied workouts, a week of recovery, 3 more weeks of different workouts — same muscles, different moves –, a week of recovery, and 3 weeks of workouts that mix the 2 sets of moves.

Why is it so important? I mean, I’m not a bodybuilder, so why do I need to worry about muscle confusion?

Well, I figure it this way: If I am going to put the time into being fit, why not go ahead and get fit the best, most efficient way I can? And, let’s face it, running every day is not my style. Too boring.

Plus, I want to be generally fit. If my goal were to run fast 10k races, I would run. But I don’t need to be able to fun faster than the rest of the world, I just want to lower my fat level and have an overall stronger body.

So I’ll cross-train and keep my muscles confused.

I have told the story before of the distance runner who used to fail the fitness test when I was in the Air Force, because the fitness test was done on a stationary bike. Once he added bicycling to his distance running, he was able to pass the test.

Beyond just engaging in different cross-training activities, though, the principle of muscle confusion also tells us to switch it up by working our muscles differently.

I use muscle soreness as a test. If I get to the point where I notice I am not sore (or not as sore) as I should be, that’s a reminder to switch it up. I tend to do the same routines for 3 or 4 weeks, then take a week of recovery, then change things up for another 3 or 4 weeks.

Switching up a routine to create muscle confusion can be as simple as reversing the order of the moves.

For example, try doing Steve’s Chest and Back for 3 or 4 weeks as part of your workout plan, then, after your recovery week, keep it in your plan, but reverse the order of the moves. You’ll feel it!

Muscle confusion is the basis for cross-training, and it’s the reason I engage in resistance training, do aerobics, and practice yoga. It takes a lot of different kinds of activity to build a body, and, for me, anyway, doing the same thing all the time is too tedious.

So, relieve the tedium and reach your general fitness goals by varying your workouts on your way to a better body!