The Personal Trainer’s Real Workout

Every Thursday, the Personal Journal section of The Wall Street Journal is geared to health and fitness.  I look forward to reading it and often articles in it inspire my blog posts.  One recurring article is “The (Fill in Blank) Workout” where an “average” person is selected and we get a sneak peek into that person’s exercise and diet regimen.  I loved this feature when I was studying for my personal training certification but it has since become the one article in the section I’m most likely to skim over if not skip altogether.  Why?  It doesn’t feel authentic, inspiring, or particularly healthy.

It usually features someone who’s pretty hard core into a particular workout style or recreational sport.  The average person reading about the workout regimen of Joe Amateur Tri-Athlete isn’t going to see themselves anywhere in Joe and will find his fitness lifestyle to be intimidating rather than inspiring.  But, even more of a turn-off is the unrealistic picture that’s usually painted.  Brutal, vigorous, long workouts most days a week.  Many require professional supervision to get started, if not on-going.  Most people don’t have the money or time to invest in this type of regimen, never mind the desire.  I sometimes wonder if the people featured in the article actually keep to the schedule or if it’s embellished.

But the most suspicious part of these features comes at the conclusion of the story when the reader is treated to a “typical” menu of the featured person’s day.  Often the person claims to be following a current diet fad – vegan, gluten-free, Zone, South Beach – and a quick scan of the menu reveals a calorie intake consistent with someone on a weight-loss plan, not someone with a vigorous exercise routine.  Most menus fall short in terms of complete proteins and several micro-nutrients required for the average person, never mind someone working out at close to professional athlete level.  If Jane Amateur Tri-Athlete really is working out as much as she says she is and really is following the diet she’s giving us, she’s at risk of over-training, injury and mal-nourishment.  I’m just not buying it.

So, in today’s blog, I’m featuring me.  Here is a peek into my real fitness life:

Weekly Workout Schedule

Sunday: 50 minute strength and stretch: Exhale Spa Core Fusion Total Body Sculpt DVD (10 minutes upper body, 10 minutes thighs, 10 minutes glutes, 1o minutes abs, 10 minutes stretches)

Monday: day off

Tuesday: 20 minutes high intensity cardio-strength combo: Exhale Spa Core Fusion 30 Day Body Sculpt DVD (I cycle through the 14 different 20 minute workouts offered on the DVD), stretches included

Wednesday: 20-25 minute step (8 inch step) routine, followed by stretches

Thursday: 20 minute full-body, circuit strength workout (cycle through body weight, free weight, medicine ball, stability ball & stability disk exercises), followed by stretches

Friday: 30 minute jog outside or, in inclement weather, 20 minute HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workout inside, followed by stretches

Saturday: 50 minute walk with steep hills, followed by stretches

Sample Daily Menu

Breakfast: 1 cup Trader Joe’s 9 Grain Cereal, 1 cup 1 % milk, 1/3 cup blueberries, 12 oz coffee (2 tsp sugar, 1 Tblsp half and half)

Lunch: 1 slice 100% whole wheat bread, 1 Tblsp natural creamy peanut butter, 1 oz Terra chips, 1 med fresh peach, 1 cup 1% milk

Snack: 1/4 cup low-salt cashews

Dinner: Quesadillas made with 1 Fiber One wheat wrap, 1/4 cup black beans, 1/4 cup shredded reduced fat Mexican blend cheeses, 2 Tblsp mashed avocado & 1 Tblsp reduced fat sour cream; tossed salad (spinach, shredded carrot, scallions, cucumber, celery, avocado, dried cranberries, 1 Tblsp crumbled gorgonzola) dressed with homemade balsamic vinaigrette; 1 cup 1% milk

After Dinner: 1 oz dark chocolate, 3 oz red wine

Water: between 32-48 oz, depending on workout load for the day

Keep in mind a few things.  First, this is where I am today with my workout schedule.  This doesn’t even resemble where I started about 25 years ago.  For many years, I did only cardio 2-3 times a week.  What I did for cardio changed over the years as well.  I started with aerobics classes and moved on to stationary biking and then a rowing machine.

After several years, I had gotten to the point where I just couldn’t put myself on the stationary bike or rowing machine anymore – I was bored and completely unmotivated.  I found jogging, my step routine, HIIT workout and Core Fusion DVDs when I was looking for ways to escape the machines.  The result is a varied routine with all things I enjoy.

Also, I decided to simply record today’s food intake to reflect an actual day in my diet.  But, today is Monday and my day off from exercise.  I’m careful to watch my calorie intake on my more sedentary Mondays.  The rest of the week I consume more proteins, complex carbs and fats than are reflected here.

The purpose of opening the door into my personal fitness world isn’t to brag or even to present the “right” way to fitness.  It’s to demonstrate that a fitness regimen doesn’t have to be worthy of a feature in a major newspaper to be good.  I guarantee no matter where you are in terms of your attitude toward exercise or the amount you do, I have been exactly where you are at some point in my life.  Just like career and personal aspects of one’s life each take many twists and turns, so too does one’s fitness journey.

Even so, my schedule likely looks modest compared to many of my colleagues in the fitness industry.  (Granted, most of them are half my age!)  That doesn’t concern me.  This is the routine that works for me, it’s the one I love.  Ten, fifteen, twenty years from now, I have no doubt it will look quite different.  And I’ve no doubt I will still love it.

You can have a fitness routine you love too.  But, you’ll never find it looking outward, following directives, mimicking others.  You can’t be concerned with how your routine compares to others.  To find something you truly enjoy, it has to come from your own heart and soul.  That’s the path to real fitness.


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