Starting To Exercise

Seems like August is my favorite month for personal development challenges. Last year, on August 4h I started my raw food diet, which lasted for more than 9 months. After my trip to Japan, in April, my raw food diet ended and you can read more about that in the post raw food diet blog post. Now, let’s get physical.

I intend to have a 30 days challenge in the physical area. In plain English: I’ll move my butt and start exercising a bit. I don’t have a very strict goal. In fact, I’m doing this just to create a scaffold for my physical body, to give it a little bit of rhythm.

You see, other areas of my life are already benefiting from setting a conscious rhythm. For instance, I have this goal of publishing at least 3 articles per week in the blog. I also check Twitter and email first thing in the morning, and sometimes several times during the day. I spend time in the garden, wetting the flowers or doing some other type of small jobs. This creates a pattern. After a certain threshold, I’m doing those things with much more ease. I’ve integrated them. For instance, I come to the point when interacting with at least 10 people per day on Twitter is something trivial. In the garden, I’ve gone from planting my own flowers up to setting up a little vineyard. Out of those small things I do every day, some great results are emerging. I call this setting a rhythm.

Now, in the physical area I don’t have yet such a pattern, but I intend to create one. I feel a little bit disconnected on this level, I mean every other parts are moving ahead, but here it seems I’m a little bit stuck. Like I already told you, I don’t have a specific goal, but I do intend to measure this somehow. I guess the best way would be to count the time, but I will also include some other specific measurements.


Based on my previous experience with exercising, I intend to reach 45 minutes of exercising daily, in the next 30 days. As for the type of exercising, I will stick to something moderate. I won’t hit the gym, because I already have quite a fitness setup at my house. The only tool I will use though would be a stepper, for the rest I’ll settle with pushups and small abs. I also intend to integrate some moderate yoga postures. I don’t intend to break any world record here, just to feel a little bit better and fitter.

As I write this I already had my first 20 minutes session early in the morning and I feel great. I will describe the whole thing, including my evening session, in tomorrow’s blog post. I don’t know yet if I will have 2 sessions per day, one in the morning and one in the evening, at this point just seems natural to have it this way. I’ll see what happens and adjust.

The longest exercising period in my adult life (not including the times when I was playing basketball in high-school), was 6 months and it ended just before Bianca was born. It wasn’t something very strong, it was a combination of yoga, stretching and meditation every morning, but I felt really, really great. I remember very clear the feeling of balance I had during that period.

I will try to blog as often as I can about this, but don’t expect anything too strict. It may be one post a day or it may be one post a week.

If you want to join me in this, feel free to comment and post your own goals. I think sharing this goal to as many people as I can reach will increase my motivation level. And I think it will work the same way for you.

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33 Responses to Starting To Exercise

  • Your workout program looks good, but you should consider a gradual approach in getting into exercise.

    Don’t work the same muscle group more than 1-2 times / week, except abs which you can train every 2 days or so. For pushups you will probably get the muscles extremely tired after the first sessions and a good approach is to wait one day over the time needed for the muscle group to recover. Consider doing something like 5 sets of 10 pushups with a 2 minute pause between sets at first and after the first week add one more set with a total of 8×10 pushups after the 30 days.

    Also alternate the exercises and consider running and/or cycling every 2 days.

    At least one day of recovery is recommended in any training method.

    • Thanks for the tips Mihai, I know for sure that I should balance this. Just before holiday I had another attempt, only pushups and abs and it lasted for 3 weeks. I will certainly try to apply that pushups series advice, thanks again :-)

      Are you going to join too? We could update on each other status on twitter and here, if you want.

      • Maybe you can use http://www.dailymile.com/ for some of the training sessions. Easier to share and also allows sending to Facebook & Twitter if you like.

        Regarding the training I did bodybuilding for a couple of years in high-school and I have a good understanding on how my body heals post-training and how to place my workout sessions across the week. Would really love to be able to help you with advices if you need such help. Pushups are a great training to start with, but consider a bench and some dumbbells to better separate groups after the first couple of weeks. No need to go fancy but just figure out your body will get used to pushups rather quickly.

        Updating each other would be great!

        • dailymile.com looks really impressive! I will log everything here for the first 30 days and if the things are going serious I will consider to switch to them. Thanks for the tip :-) And feel free to comment with your own logs in the following blog posts or on Twitter :-)

  • I’ve also just ended my first week of my 30 day challenge regarding fitness.

    We go out with a pal of mine early in the morning (7 am) to the football yard and run 10 laps, in two sets of 5 each. Between the two sets we do sit-ups, crunches, pull-ups and push-ups. I found that exercising early in the morning boosts my energy and mood for all the day. The first 3-4 days were really hard because of the early wake-up and the exercise itself, however, today morning (8th day) it felt very good.

    Cheers,
    Zoli
    .-= Zoltán Cserei´s last blog ..Protected: The Big Sleep Article =-.

    • Wow, that’s great, congrats!

      You are already 8 days ahead, I have to move faster to get you :-) I know it can be quite difficult to wake up in the morning if you don’t have the habit. Fortunately (or unfortunately, if you want) since my military service my sleep is completely messed up, so I can chose basically whatever sleep pattern I want. During my last year at the University I remember I slept an entire exam session (3-4 weeks) in the day and studied at night.

  • :D

    Nice to see you start taking care of that part of your as well Dragos.

    Now, regarding the goals. As you know, you need to have a goal. You do not need to achieve it in the initial time frame , but you have to have one.

    Whatever your goal, tracking as much of the date as it makes sense is of the essence, regardless of what type of exercise you chose. You may set up an spreadsheet for that but paper based seems to work at least just as well. Track how many repetition of a specific exercise you perform for things like pushups, the time and intensity for things like stepper ( be aware that for that you need to track your body mass as well ) and time combined with a personal evaluation of well you performed the exercises / how hard it was for things like stretching & yoga. Just track whatever seems to be interesting. Before every workout, see how you performed on your last workout. It is much easier to know what to do when you know what you did :D

    Time exercised seems a decent one, but you have to define very well what a workout is for you and that might be a bit tricky, especially at the beginning. The biggest advantage is that it is comparatively easy to track.

    If you want to get a bit more technical, start to track your body as well. This by the way makes it possible for you to set a much more relevant goal. The main things that are desirable to control and change are usually :

    #1 % of body fat
    #2 Resting heart rate
    #3 Time that you are able to work out at 85% of max heart rate

    The fist things is a relatively simple measure of how fit your body is, in the sense that you do not carry a unneeded burden everywhere with you. It does take a lot of work, but it is possible to control this very well. Additionally, as soon as you “get the hang of it” you will know what to do when you neglect it and it goes up again.

    The second thing is a general measure of how well your heart & lungs are doing especially in relation with you body mass and body fat. It is very hard to influence directly. The main reason to measure this is to check that you are healthy. For example, if your % of body fat goes down, but your resting heart rate tends to go up, it is a good idea to let a doctor have a lot at you. Anyway, watching that your heart gains the ability to help you do way more work with less expended energy is an awesome feeling.

    For the third thing, the main resource is your brain and your common sense. After you will be fit, and I know you will, :) the main limitation will no longer be your muscles or your heart & lungs , but your will. The thing is , that if you are fit, it is by no way impossible to workout so hard that you do some temporary damage to you muscles. Sometime you mught want to do that to once again chart your limits and better know your save zone, and sometime you might do this just for fun.
    Measuring how much time you are working out above 85% of your max heart rate helps you see how long you may be at a not sustainable level. At the beginning this time will be measured in seconds , later in minutes and when you are really fit in double digit minutes.

    To track this things you will need.

    #1 A decent timer. You might find a good one for the iPhone. If you want to use a simple watch you will also have to sue pen & paper to write down the start and end time. Please do not pretend that you can remember. During the workout your mind has to be fully focused on the workout and on nothing else.

    #2 A good way to measure your body fat. Here exist basically 2 options. A digital scale that also measures your body fat or a fat caliper.
    As a digital scale I can only recommend the BODY BALANCE COMFORT FS5 from http://www.soehnle.de . You may find it on http://www.amazon.de . I have one for little over 2 years and am completely satisfied with it. I also had other scales including an expensive one from Tefal and was very unsatisfied.
    As fat caliper I can recommend one from http://www.accumeasurefitness.com . You Can get the FatTrack GOLD as it is easier to use. The basic model Fitness 3000 works just as well but will not give you data in very small increments.

    #3 To measure and control your heart rate you will need a heart rate monitor. To avoid the frustration of cheep ones you may want to consider one from Polar or Garmin. I personally got myself for my birthday this year a Forerunner 405. Garmin is a bit more expensive but it has very nice sync features with you computer. Also, if you get into running, like me , the GPS tracking from the Forerunner 405 becomes a very useful ubercool feature. Then again, if it is just time tracking and GPS capabilities that you need you can find all that you need in a more decently priced iPhoen app.
    Generally hear rate monitors are a good idea if you plan to do a lot of cardio. Really no need to get one in the first month anyway.

    The best book on how to redesign your body that I read is “Burn the fat feed the muscle” by Tom Venuto. It is a great eBook that I advise you to read.

    I will be in Bucharest this week, so if you like, we can get together and have a chat regarding this new project. of yours.

    Good luck Dragos.

    • Bogdan, this seems to be one of those serendipituos moments when the comment is actually longer than the blog post. Thanks for that :-)

      Now, let’s take it one at a time:

      1. I will measure a lot of stuff, otherwise that wouldn’t be a challenge, just another habit I want to implement. Since my raw food diet challenge I am already very keen on my weight and I check it almost daily (to my deep sorrow in the last few weeks, I admit it). I will definitely love to measure my body fat, but I don’t think I’ll do it since I don’t own a device. I saved the URL’s for that fat checking device and gonna check them later

      2. I will time mostly the stepper sessions, for the rest of the “workout” (notice the quotation marks) I will try to just note how many and how much of each.

      3. I will definitely go for a heart rate monitor but I won’t do it right now. I am more interested in what you mean by “resting heart rate” and how you can get into it. I reckon I don’t know much about it so you can assume I’m a total rookie.

      As I told you, I do plan loose this challenge. It’s more of an adaptation period, I want to create the rhythm and then I will increase or decrease the pace as I see fit. I will definitely love to talk more about it.

      Thanks for the comment :-)

  • Nice challenge! I tried myself a similar approach: before the holiday season I had one body-building class every monday and walks to the office or back home almost everyday (a 30-min walk, to the office is uphill, so a bit more effort required…). I read aboput people doing running everyday, but one thing I learned form my colleagues that are “chronic runners” if I may say so (people that run at least one marathon a year and other 3-4 smaller races a year) that in fact you shouldn-t do this effort everyday. it seems your body needs a 24h break between vigurous efforts, so a 1h-1h30min run evryother day seems to be better than everyday. Anyways, I’m not the specialist here, and i don’t know if I would ever have the energy to run for that long… I found an interesting book that gives you the types of exercise that are best suited to your personality type (based on the Meyer-Briggs typology): http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0979562503/ref=ox_ya_oh_product#reader
    Me I am the “sofran” type, and things like light running, or dancing, light aerobics are best suited
    Fun reading too, hope you like it
    Enjoy your challenge and keep up the good work:-)

    • Well, that is one happy moment for me :-) And I mean it! For those of you who don’t know, this is the very first comment of my sister! I am really happy (and a bit puzzled, I confess) that you will join me in this. As for those chronic runners, I know them very well. I think it’s just another sort of addiction (endorphin based, i suppose) and I’m not heading there (at least for now ;-) ). But you know how it was for the raw food diet, so never say never…

      Thanks so much for the book recommendation and for the nice words, means a lot to me :-)

      Take care (all of you)!

  • I’m working out for several years now. I started with the general goal of loosing body fat as I was always “the heavy guy”. Now it’s more of a healthy bodybuilding thing I’m doing. ;-)

    I stick with a pretty strict pattern, working out every monday, wednesday and friday. Same time, same workout plan. I do vary my plan from time to time, but I stick to my general routine of 3 workouts per week. I find it much easier to follow this strict pattern, while others try a “do when I have time” strategy.

    Anyway, it’s always better to workout a little instead of not working out at all. ;-) Have fun an write about it soon.
    .-= Carsten´s last blog ..Mein Caliper =-.

    • Thanks for the nice words and for being around, Carsten!

      I plan to workout every day in the first month. As I already wrote to Bogdan, I intend to internalize the acivity in the first place and the start to fine tune the process.

  • Definitely a huge step in the right direction. I joined a gym back in January after having been very sedentary since starting my own business last summer. It’s made a huge difference. Would definitely recommend it – although I find pushing weights to give the greatest “feel good factor”, rather than aerobic exercise. I’d also recommend interval training (also known as HIIT or Tabata Sprints) as a good way of burning calories quickly.

    • Hey, this is what I call a surprise! I wonder why you didn’t write an iPhone app for this? I mean it! For those of you who don’t know Andrew is the author of the fantastic iBlueSky iPhone app which is for almost a year part of my daily work.

      I know about intervals and I use them last year, when i also had a 3 weeks fitness attempt. I don’t know yet how I can use it on my stepper though, I’ll try to figure that out.

      Thanks for the comment and for being around :-)

      • I have been thinking about a fitness iPhone app, as I’ve bought the most popular one and had high hopes, since it’s one of the top selling apps on the platform. However I’ve been disappointed by it’s complexity. There are also so many hours in a day and I’d rather do one really good app than several which are kind of OK.

        You can do interval training on virtually anything, although treadmills aren’t so good because you can’t change the speed rapidly at the end of a high intensity sprint. The cross trainers/steppers at my gym have a digital power readout, so I do 30 secs at 300 watts, then 30 secs at 75 watts and do that for 15-20 minutes. That burns around 200 calories.

        If your stepper doesn’t have a power output display, you could use a heart rate monitor and work at 90% of your maximum heart rate for 30 secs, then take it easy for 30 secs etc. You can calculate your theoretical maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. Based on this rule, my heart rate fairly regularly goes over 100%, so your mileage may vary.

        • Thanks for the info on interval training. My stepper has a digital display and I can clearly see my heart rate there. I will try this pretty soon. Until then, I will focus on raising the time until I reach 30 minutes on each session. At 17 minutes, as it was today, the stepper shows me I burn around 165 calories.

  • I just got started with exercise a few weeks back because most of the time I am either sitting in front of the computer or studying and I really need to, like you said, move my butt.

    I got interested and all pumped with running outdoors. Love the idea of a 30 days challenge since all my past exercise attempts fail because there’s not enough persistence in it.

    Look forward for your updates on this challenge.
    .-= Wayne Liew´s last blog ..David King Interview on Social Media Marketing and Running a Live Show =-.

    • Well, welcome aboard :-) Running is one of my favorite things but unfortunately I can’t do it right now (the environment is dog friendly, but not human friendly and any other option will be too time consuming). Good luck to you, then, and stick around :-)

  • I love going to a rock climbing gym. The one near by is 4 stories high, aired conditioned, different grades of difficulties, etc.
    Do they have one in Bucharest?
    It does the body, but also it does the mind and even more important, the body/mind connection.
    I know you’d love it too 
    .-= Doru´s last blog ..Out of control and the Libet experiments =-.

    • Of course I’d love this! There is a single place like this in Bucharest in a school gym hall, as far as I know. When I was younger, just 2-3 years before you live for US, I did some real rock climbing on Valea Oltului (I’m sure you remember that place) and it was a transformational experience. Strangely enough, I wouldn’t think of that as a form of fitness, but you’re right, it’s even more challenging.

      Nice to see you in a better mood :-)

  • Hi Dragos,

    I always start off and finish with stretching exercises. First start with cardo for 20 – 30 minutes.Switch your exercise routine every day upper body to lower – legs etc.It is very important to keep hydrated so plenty of water. I eat fresh fruit before and after also. I need to get back to 3 days a week.when the toe is better.
    Enjoy and looking forward to reading about your progress.
    .-= BunnygotBlog´s last blog ..Eleanor Roosevelt: Speaking Volumes, Part 2 =-.

  • Great goals Dragos. I won’t be joining you as I have no specific short term goals for exercise as I’ve developed regular exercise and active habits long ago and so it really is a part of my me now, without needing to focus to make it a habit. From sports to commuting and hobbies, I stay very active, with or without a routine and I find my natural clock kicks me into exercise routines when I need it.

    I can say its important to find exercise that you have a passion for so its more enjoyable and easy to do. I love mountain unicycling, water sports and soccer so all of those happen each week for me and its a great way to stay active. Go for it!
    .-= Mike King´s last blog ..100 Ways to Simplify Your Life and Mind =-.

    • Got me here: I’m a huge soccer fan too. I do enjoy watching, although I don;t get to play too much. I’d love to, but there aren’t many opportunities for that. Thanks for stopping by (and I didn’t forgot about that 100 something list ;-) …)

  • Hey Dragos! It’s awesome to have someone exercising alongside!! :D As I’ve mentioned to you earlier I’ve been doing my 21-day exercising trial, so I’ll be ending off earlier than you. But hey, I’m pretty sure at the end of the trial, I’ll probably continue it on (maybe 5-days/week or something). Look forward to your updates on the challenge! :D
    .-= Celes | The Personal Excellence Blog´s last blog ..Why I Wake Up Early (And 9 Reasons You Should Do So Too) =-.

  • Good for you Dragos. I already exercise regularly but I am with you in spirit my friend. Using Applied Focus Sessions gives me a 15 minute free space every hour. I use some of those 15 min. focus shift sessions for some form of exercise. I like it because it keeps the blood moving and doesn’t require that I add to my schedule. It just dovetails in there in a natural and enjoyable way.
    .-= Jonathan – Advanced Life Skills´s last blog ..When Lightning Strikes =-.

  • Cindy and I go walking – or we did and have taken a pause – for at least an hour. For me, this is the best kind of exercise because I’ve had some operations and my right shoulder is pretty screwed up.
    30 days to start a habit and 2 days to break one so we are going to start walking again, hopefully when I get back home this morning.
    .-= McLaughlin´s last blog ..Using LinkedIn to Drive Traffic to Your Blog =-.

    • I used to do long walks too, especially when Bianca was younger and I had to take her out in her stroller, but now we moved in another neighborhood and she’s much too restless for a walk. It is a great way to keep you healthy, that;s for sure.

  • [...] started to read some material on the topic (specifically, the book presented in this comment) and also started to look around for a body fat checker device, but I’m not in a [...]

  • Dragos, I have recently started exercising more intensely. Like you I haven’t set any strict goals. I’ve been lifting weights twice a week, but they have been very moderate sessions so far. I don’t want to push it too hard. Also I’ve started using PACE for cardiovascular fitness. It’s a very interesting concept and it’s based upon a method that is proving superior to traditional aerobics. It’s a short burst of very intense activity followed by a period of rest. The whole thing is repeated several times and your session only lasts 15 minutes.
    .-= Stephen – Rat Race Trap´s last blog ..Accepting What Is Does Not Mean Giving Up =-.

    • That’s an interesting concept, to be honest haven’t heard about it until now. Looks kind of similar to interval training, or at least this is the closest match to me. Thanks for the comment, always appreciated :-)

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