Jul 252016
 

How did treadmills and weight machines become the gold standard of fitness? Why have some of us turned our backs on the mirrors and gleaming devices of the traditional gym? What is the appeal of the stripped-down, functional approach to fitness that ís currently on the rise? In this captivating narrative, Daniel Kunitz sets out on a journey through history to answer these questions and more.

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I was asked to read and review the book LIFT by Daniel Kunitz. The book sounded really interesting to me because I was curious about the changing culture of fitness.

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I remember growing up in the 1980s, my mom was really into jazzercise and aerobics. She was even a teacher for a long time. I used to go to the classes with her (not to participate but to go to the daycare) and I’d watch all these moms doing step aerobics in their leotards with their big hair and your typical 80’s music. 🙂 I think a lot of my readers probably remember that time!

The author goes through the history of exercise–Roman times, event ancient Chinese history. He also discussed his own transformation through exercise.

One morning the author was sick and hungover after a rough night of partying when he had a realization. “It dawned on me that the state of your body isn’t something you either choose to care about or leave be, for your body never just is–it is always either decaying or getting stronger. Not choosing is still a choice. [pg 7]”

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The 70’s happened and “people began to shake off the smoking-drinking-drugging hangover of the previous era in unprecedented numbers by joining in the new fad for jogging. Twenty years later I did the same. Of course, by that time some things had changed. The terminology, for: what was once a mellow jog became running. [pg 8]”

The author then realized that smoking and running didn’t really go well together and he quit smoking.

“Running is monostructural: it improves your endurance but not your strength, balance, explosiveness, or flexibility. It might make you skinny, but it won’t produce muscles. [pg 10]”

I found that interesting and very true. In my own experience I was very much a cardio-junkie. I ran, I did the elliptical, I biked, I swam and did the stairmaster. I LOATHED weight lifting. It was slow, it was boring, I didn’t see the calorie burn I saw while doing cardio. Then I started getting injuries and I realized that what I was doing wasn’t working.

“Over time, as I noticed that even those who showed up each day to the gym didn’t make any visible improvements. I had to wonder if this was due to their perfunctory attitudes or the cause of them. [pg 12]”

How true is that statement?? It is very true for me! Being a gym rat I see the same people at the gym when I go and they all look pretty much the same. There is one guy that I saw on a regular basis and then I took a break from the gym a few weeks before my baby was born, then about 6 weeks off postpartum–I came back to the gym and saw that guy and did a double take. He was HUGE. His muscles had quadrupled! I was shocked. I don’t know what he did but he is the only one that comes to mind that made a very real difference in his body.

It’s easy to go to the gym and get into ruts and do the same thing every time, and your body doesn’t change or improve. The author talks a lot about the “new” crossfit phenomenon and the concept of FUNCTIONAL fitness–which I wholeheartedly agree is the better way to work out.

“I’d never seen anybody make a bicep-curling motion outside of the gym. [pg 13]”

Re-thinking the way we do fitness, the way we lift weights is making changes. I learned that going to the Warrior Room. I became SO much stronger MUCH faster doing functional things like flipping tires, carrying sandbags, swinging kettlebells, etc, than I EVER did lifting weights at the gym.

“So why did weight machines continue to flourish in gyms? Aside from the gleam of technological novelty, they offer the untaught user a way to lift. Properly training with free weights requires some skill, while the Olympic lifts–the snatch and clean and jerk–are highly technical, demanding extensive, long-term coaching to master. It wasn’t until quite recently, with CrossFit, that significant numbers of people came to grasp the importance of skill-based work. [pg 248]”

I admit, I often use the weight machines at gym. When I first started getting into weight lifting I did the machines because I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t have the skill set yet. Then having some training sessions with a personal trainer and eventually joining The Warrior Room, I learned those skills and got better at free weights and realized it was more FUN using kettlebells and free weights. No wonder I thought weight lifting was boring–sitting in a machine and going through the motions IS boring!

“By removing skill, machines essentially turn strength training into a low intensity activity: you might look better by using them but you’re not challenging who you are today to become a better version tomorrow. [pg 248]”

I never thought of the weight machines like that, but it makes perfect sense to me. You sure don’t get your heart pumping sitting in a weight machine and passively pushing, not like you do with dramatic movements like kettlebell swings!

“But what’s the point? To what end do we train and eat right and get enough sleep and learn new physical techniques and then relax by watching other people doing these things? [pg 39]”

It was really interesting reading about the history of exercise and weight lifting.

“Weightlifting refers specifically to the sport of shifting loads from the ground to overhead. Although it was included in the first Olympics in 1896 as a field event, it was excluded from the 1900, 1908, and 1912 games. It returned as its own event at the 1920 Olympics and over the course of that decade evolved into something like the sport we know today. Weightlifting was codified in 1928 as three lifts: the snatch (pulling the bar in a single motion from the ground to overheard), the clean and press, and the clean and jerk (cleaning means hoisting the bar to the shoulders, where the athlete can either press it overheard or jerk it, using the leg to provide momentum). [pg 163]”

This book is perfect for the reader that likes history and is interested in reading about the evolution of fitness. It was fascinating reading about the different trends and how things changed–and how ideas and values changed.

I personally would have liked more personal anecdotes from the author’s journey from unhealthy to fit, because what he did share was interesting and I could relate to a lot of it. The book felt more history-heavy than personal. I think there could have been more of a balance between the two. If you’d like to read this book, check it out here:

HarperCollins | Amazon Barnes & Noble

Happy reading!

May 112016
 

Just shy of two months postpartum and I’m feeling pretty good. I was itching to get back to some kind of fitness, even if it was going to be low-key and not as intense as I used to do. Even if it was just walking, I wanted to do something and it felt good to workout again.

I’m getting back into the swing of things and slowly introducing stuff back into my routine.

One thing I’ve found is that I feel really good when I workout and right afterward but later in the day I feel really tired. Not exhausted, but definitely depleted. It’s like my body has a limited amount of energy these days and on days that I workout I definitely need a nap because I can’t power through it like I used to be able to. And rest days I don’t need that nap to avoid feeling overly tired. I never had this issue before–I could go, go, go and rarely sat still but now? That’s not the case at all.

Saturday

I decided to ease back in to weight lifting at almost 6 weeks postpartum. It had been a little over a month since I lifted weights and it wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be but I took it easy nonetheless. (And I was surprisingly sore the next day.)

 

Then later that afternoon a friend and I went for a walk with Logan. It was such a nice day out! I took a little nap (and I mean little because Mr. Man decided he didn’t want to nap) and then my friend and I did a walk. It felt good to get outside.

 

 

Sunday

Michael and I finally got a chance to go for that “hike” we attempted to do a few weeks ago. It was going to be a lovely, hot day in Portland but we were up pretty early and out the door before it was much hotter than 65.

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We went to Mount Tabor Park and parked in the residential neighborhood near the base of the park entrance. Then we loaded up the dog and baby and hiked up to the top of the park. It’s a great little urban hike with tons of trails (dirt) and then paved roads for bicyclists, skateboarders, runners, walkers, you name it. Everyone was out on such a nice day.

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It was all uphill. We hiked to the top, did a circle around the top, went back down and then hiked back up part way before heading back down to the car. We both burned more calories than we anticipated.

 

It was a good little workout though. I think we will do this more in the future on nice days. We’re up early because Logan gets us up at the crack of dawn, so we are able to get to the park before it’s too crowded or too hot. It’s not far from the house, either, so the drive time doesn’t make it too difficult to do right now.

Monday

Monday I woke up and just needed to get out of the house so I decided Logan and I would go for a walk first thing before it got too hot. We stopped for iced coffee on our route first. 🙂

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It was a good walk and I got to clear my head and move my body and get out of the house.

 

Tuesday

Took Bella and Logan for a short walk before lunch today. Looking at the forecast I figured it might be the last opportunity for a walk for a few days.

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When Michael got home from work I went to the gym for yoga class. Unfortunately, when I got there class was cancelled. 🙁 I ended up on the elliptical and did 3 miles in about 35 minutes and then went home. And my heart rate monitor died on me, so no idea on the calories. Bummer of an evening!

Wednesday and Thursday

Rest Days! And it was kind of rainy and blah so no walking.  But honestly I needed the rest days, so that’s ok.

Friday

I’ve been itching to try running again (especially considering I have two 5k’s in a few months) but wanted to wait until I was ready physically. I think it’s going to be a slow process to get it all back.

 

I did a slow walk/jog on the treadmill. I did intervals of about 90 seconds jogging, then 60-90 seconds walking, and so on. It was okay but my knees felt a little creaky. I cut it short and then did the elliptical for the rest of the workout.

Saturday

I wanted to do something a little different this day. Instead of the treadmill I did the stair master. I used to LOVE the stair master. It is a major calorie burn. Even short sessions would make me drenched in sweat. But with my knees I kind of stopped using it. I’ve been slowly getting back to it.

 

This week I hope to go to yoga class, swim, and try running again.

What are you fitness goals for this week?