My Fitness Routine: Muscle-Conditioning, Bellicon, and Yoga

Well it took me a couple of months, but finally talking about my fitness routine. Why?¬†I get a lot of questions about what I do to stay in shape. I’m happy to share more about my routine. But first let’s backtrack a little, because I’d like for you to know that anyone can start and maintain an exercise program.

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I wasn’t an athletic child. I would bike ride and roam on my bike and play spotlight late into summer evenings with my friends, but I wasn’t a sporty kid. We didn’t have a lot of organized athletics as kids, and I wasn’t really that interested either. I was a little heavy as a young girl, so did not feel particularly comfortable in organized sports. In my teens I picked up tennis, loved it, and played for years. But, other than tennis I wasn’t very athletic. Later in my teens I began exercising at home. Those were the days of Jane Fonda and 20-minute workouts. Then, into my 20s I started going to gyms, working on the machines and also doing fitness classes. With all the exercise I was doing, I didn’t see significant changes in my body – how it looked or how it felt. Some, but not a lot. So, I would slug it out for hours at the gym, coming home wiped out and eating skinless, boneless chicken breasts for protein. How much I’ve learned since then.

While I was working out hard, my workouts were hardly working. Because my diet never changed much, I continued to eat meat and dairy, just what I thought were healthier versions of them (low-fat meats, low-fat dairy). Looking back, I also didn’t eat a lot of whole fruits and vegetables, but rather many more “low-fat” choices like Lean Cuisine – I kept them in business for a couple of years. As I mentioned, I carried extra weight as a child, and then in my early teens I gained a lot of weight after my dad passed. Through those years I developed some poor dietary habits and understood very little (mostly nothing) about real food. So, the gimmicks of the low-cal and fat-free era totally sucked me in. Lean Cuisine, meet Snackwells.

It wasn’t until I removed the animal products that I saw my body change, more naturally. I was still eating generally a more processed diet. So, it wasn’t until I gravitated towards more whole plant-foods that I really noticed my body change – not just in how it looked but also how it felt.

At 43 and after three kids, I feel better, and am in better shape than I was at 23.

Now when I see people working out hard just for weight loss, I want to run over and talk to them about diet. I’ve seen through my personal experience, and also many of you, that fitness is far more about diet than exercise. There are some quotes circulating like this…

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While those numbers can be disputed, there is truth to the message. Overall fitness is much more about what we EAT everyday, rather than how we workout.

If diet is such a big part of healthy weight maintenance, why bother with exercise? For strength, bone health, cardiovascular improvements, and for that great mental and physical boost. Also, exercise may be another way we connect with friends or simply enjoy an activity that we love!

I exercise just about every day. But, not for very long. Most days it’s about a 20-25 minute session. And, I exercise not to lose weight, but for strength and tone – and also for sanity! Does that make sense? When my day starts with 20 minutes on my rebounder, yoga, or some strength-training, I feel better. I shake off the cobwebs so to speak and move on with my day!

So, what DO I do? As I mentioned, my workouts are usually not more than a 1/2 hour. I realize that seems like very little time. But, you can exercise efficiently in 20-30 minutes, and for my body frame and activity level (always moving with the kids and on my feet!), this is what works.

Also, I workout at home. This may not work for everyone, yet it works for me. I am not someone that needs external motivation to exercise, whether that’s going to a gym or running with friends. That’s just me. After having the girls, I also found it much easier to squeeze in a workout in the mornings before they woke or before getting everyone off to school. I’ve been collecting some workout tools and ideas over my years as a mom, so that I have variety.

Fitness Ball

Fitness Ball

I have a step and BOSU, a stability/fitness ball, and recorded shows and dvds. But, in the past two years I’ve been gravitating to mostly rebounding, muscle-conditioning, and yoga – so that’s what I’ll focus on here.

Rebounding and Bellicon

I have had a mini-trampoline for quite a few years, over ten I think. I learned how rebounding was a form of cardio that was gentler on the joints, and also offered health benefits including stimulating the lymphatic system. Last year my rebounder started to wear (as you’ll see in the video). It was time to find a new one.

 

Bellicon Rebounder - with blue mat and orange bungee cords

I had heard quite a lot about the Bellicon and after some research, ordered one. I love it. I talk about some of the differences between a standard mini-trampoline and the Bellicon in the video. It’s larger, higher, is quiet, has a smoother flow for jumping, and just plain feels good! I usually alternate strength-training with rebounding, so I use my Bellicon about 4 times a week.

Sometimes little feet use it…

Sometimes Sarabi also uses it. ūüėČ

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And when they’re ready to share… I use it:

*Apologies for the vertical videos. We had some technical difficulties… meaning: we lost the Flipcam for 2 months… meaning: little hands. :)

As for how I jump on it and what videos I use, I incorporate a mix. First, I have been working out with fitness classes whether in gyms or online for over 20 years, so it’s not difficult for me to transfer a lot of floor moves to the Bellicon. So, I could easily spend 15-20 minutes jumping to music following my own moves. But, I do prefer to follow a routine. So, I use some online videos for rebounding, and I also have a couple of dvds¬†(a few of the selections on these dvds are a little hokey, but many I really like, including the ‘Ballet Bound’, ‘Resistance Bound’, and ‘Kick Bound’). Between the two, it gives me a mix of routines to keep me going, and with YouTube there are often new videos every couple of months. Here is one online video I use:

Those grippy socks she mentions in the video? I have them on in photo below. In the summer I like going barefoot on the Bellicon, but when it’s cooler I wear the grippies! Love stretching out on this mat, it’s very comfy.

belliconDB

Strength-Training/Muscle Conditioning

For years I did aerobic classes, jumping and jacking and grapevining around room after room! It might have helped my cardio conditioning, but my body shape didn’t change. Later as I moved into a cleaner diet, I wasn’t looking to lose weight but rather to have more tone. Yes, I’m thin, and I’m no bodybuilder! But my body now has more muscular tone than it used to — and, in my 40s, I like my figure. That’s something I never thought I’d say in my 20s!

fitnesspostsideplank

I have some pretty loooooong arms and they have never had a lot of tone. So, I really wanted to focus on toning them up. Also, you moms might relate that after having kids, you need some upper body strength! At first it’s holding a wee babe in one arm while multi-tasking with the other hand, then later it’s carrying a wee babe in a car seat while bringing another kiddo to preschool/school. Then there are groceries, and other things that we seem to ALWAYS have at least one arm full while holding our kids with the other hand/arm. I don’t know about you, but that made me feel (1) lopsided and (2) desiring more upper-body OOMPH!

This past year I focused even more on increasing my upper body and core strength. I use a combination of online videos and some sets of weights. I’ve really noticed a difference in my shoulders and arms in the last six months, so I know that my workouts have been effective. As with rebounding, I usually do about 20-25 minutes, and take a day rest in between (those days I usually rebound or do some yoga). If the videos are short (10 minutes), then I often combine two arm videos or do one arm video and one ab/core video. Here are some of my favorites:

1. Fitness Blender. These workouts are very methodical and detailed with instructions. Plus, there are MANY videos to choose from, so you won’t bore easily. From squats to crunches to planks to cardio to arms and shoulders – Fitness Blender has it all covered! Some videos are rather long for me (hour), so I choose the shorter clips (roughly 20-30 minutes), or do a portion of a longer video. Currently, I’m using these videos a lot for upper-body toning, and I love them!

2. XHIT. These also provide a great variety of workouts, and most are quite short so you can squeeze in a 10 minute ab session or a 10 minute arm workout and they are still quite effective! There are a few different hosts, but Rebecca Louise is featured in the majority – and I was somewhat hooked for a few months. So much so that our 4 year old would say when waking up “look mommy, I’m stretching like Rebecca Louise!” I enjoyed her personality, some humor and silliness in her clips, and also her energy.

XHIT also incorporates a number of plank exercises in their videos. I love planking!

fitnesspostplank

But, this is the craziest plank workout I have done to date. c-RAZ-y!

3. Tracy Campoli. Tracy also has a great variety of strength-training workouts, plus she includes some cardio and other segments. With her workouts, I like how she keeps us mindful of full-body integration, keeping the core engaged and working out smart not just working out! She doesn’t use heavy weights, more body weight and light weight with lots of repetition. But again – effective! Her ab workouts are the BEST. My favorite, and when our daughter needs some core training for hockey, I get her doing Tracy’s ab workouts.

4. FitSugar. This is where I started with online workouts. Just doing some searching on YouTube and I came across some terrific arm workouts on FitSugar. The segments are also pretty short, most about 10-15 minutes. Recently I found a couple of Anna Kaiser videos in the FitSugar channel. Her videos are wicked-effective! Caution: You will be sore!

Yoga

This is one area of exercise I know I should do more often. Anyone relate to that? I tend to go for the “rush” that I get from rebounding or strength training. Yet, I know my body can often benefit from more stretching, deep breathing, loosening… mindfulness. One of the best programs for this wholeness in yoga is also on YouTube: Namaste Yoga. Melissa delivers yoga programs every week as well as supplemental wellness videos. Definitely subscribe to her free videos if you are interested in learning more. She is knowledgeable and well-trained. And, she cares. You can feel how much she cares about her viewers and connecting with individuals and helping them address specific concerns. She is very real in her videos, and I appreciate how she helps us not take it all too seriously while making it meaningful.

Another set of videos I have found come from Bryan Jones. Bryan’s videos can be quite advanced, probably better described as power yoga – just a note if you are beginning with yoga. Sometimes when I want to do strength training but don’t feel like using weights, I’ll tune into one of Bryan’s videos.

Speaking of yoga, I also discovered an amazing Canadian yoga clothing company through Melissa West. In her videos, she sports yoga wear from Squeezed Yoga Clothing. Here’s I am wearing their bamboo skirt. I love this skirt and wore it most of the summer. And, I haven’t stopped wearing it! I’ve found a way to pair it with leggings through the fall because I just wasn’t able to part with it into the cool months. (And, I’ve since bought another!) Later this month I will do a more complete post to share more about Squeezed Yoga, because they are a beautiful company worth knowing!

Wearing Squeezed Yoga bamboo skirt - LOVE this skirt!

Wearing Squeezed Yoga bamboo skirt – LOVE this skirt!

This is what works for me. I’d like to hear from YOU. How does exercise fit into your healthy lifestyle? Do you have a regular routine? Or, do you need some motivation/inspiration to get started? If any of the ideas I’ve shared help you, please let me know. And, if any of you have other programs – online or otherwise – to share, please do! I’d love to know that we can help each other with exchange of ideas here.

Sending you plant-powered health and happiness… :)
Dreena

Yes, Vegan Women DO Get Wrinkles

This past week I did a brief interview for Care2.com, about vegan parenting. ¬†With some of the controversy that arose with the “Vegan Is Love” book, I was asked a few questions. ¬†They posted the piece yesterday.

Today I read this comment that was posted to the article. This person said:

“What I have noticed most with all the vegans I have met or seen (including the photo of the author of this article) is their skin always looks prematurely wrinkled, extremely thin or exceedingly pale, usually with dark undereye circles, probably from iron deficiency.”

Can I speak to this, folks?  I did leave a comment on the article, but really want to elaborate here.  That photo was taken as part of a family photo shoot just 2 or 3 weeks after our third baby was born. 3 WEEKS! Anyone that has had children knows that 3 weeks pospartum, you look and feel like crud. And, not only was our baby up about 5 times through the night (and had reflux), I had two other children to take care of during the day Рand also had in-laws visiting at the time. So, forgive me if I have dark circles under my eyes and some age-appropriate wrinkles, I had a lot on my proverbial plate.  And, I was 39 at the time.

And, I had a few wrinkles. What 39 woman doesn’t? Ok, I don’t mean Jennifer Lopez or other women in Hollywood. I mean real-life women. ¬†Because, on that topic, when Jennifer Lopez was named “the most beautiful woman in the world” last year, I thought “great, now us 40 year old women have THAT kind of standard to live up to“.

She doesn’t look 40, because she is being filled and fixed! ¬†I would like to see Jennifer without the fillers, without the special make-up and lighting and photoshop work. ¬†I know she is still beautiful, because she IS a beautiful woman. ¬†But, I bet she looks more like 40 than 30.

I just need to say this because I’ve been “out there” for more than 10 years now. ¬†I know that being a visible spokesperson for living vegan, and being a vegan mom, I will always be judged on my appearance – because my photos are on the internet. ¬†It’s very hard, and like I said in my comment, I try to judge my health by how I feel. ¬†And most days I feel pretty damn good. ¬†Most days. ¬†I am a mom of 3 with no extended family support, that is also running her own career without much assistance. ¬†So, my days are full-on, and there are no vacations or weekends.

I work hard because I am passionate. ¬†But, alas, I am 41, so I won’t look 30. ¬†I think I look pretty good for my age, but also I feel very good for my age. ¬†(Excepting these occasional judgemental comments, that is.)

As women, we are judged FAR more on our appearance than are men.  It is unfortunate that women take so much judgement for how they look Рrather than being judged for what they contribute.

Finally, to address the issue of iron. ¬†It is a gross misperception that vegans are anemic. ¬†It has been shown that “iron deficiency anemia is no more common among vegetarians than among the general population“. ¬†If you are eating foods like dark leafy greens (kale, collards, bok choy), beans and nuts and seeds and other varied whole foods, it is not at all difficult to obtain the iron you need on a vegan diet.

(p.s. I write this today not to seek compliments or reassurance Рwe all enjoy such positive feedback, but that is not my intention.  Rather, I want to speak to the unreasonable and unattainable expectations for women as they age Рand the equally unfair judgements placed on vegans.)