Sunday, June 28, 2009

Cardio and music

The gym schedule that we mostly stick to goes like this:
35 minutes of cardio, then weight-lifting -- day 1
just 35 minutes of cardio -- day 2
day off from the gym -- day 3

So that means that today is a "just cardio" day. I'm opting for running on the treadmill today because my sister, Suzanne, is visiting and I can run on the treadmill next to hers. Once again, I was planning to take it a little easy today because my legs are kind of sore from weight-lifting yesterday, but as soon as my music in my ipod takes over, I'm swept away and running like a maniac. Did I look a little bit like a crazy person? I'm pretty sure I might have, but I'm not going to worry about it. Suzanne was inspired to run with me and that was really cool!

Which brings me to the point of this post--music. I don't know of any better "energy booster" (more like rocket fuel!) than my ipod. I've seen study after study that shows that people listening to upbeat music while exercising experience less discomfort/boredom, burn way more calories, create more endorphins, and experience a faster passage of time during their exercise session. I only listen with earbuds or headphones while I'm doing cardio at the gym because, like any sane person, I would never use headphones while running on the street or trail. This is a rule that I hope you'll follow too!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Leg Day!

Today is leg day at the gym. When I was competing in bodybuilding and lifting really heavy, those words would strike terror into my heart, but now I look forward to it.
As usual, I started with my 35-minute cardio session. Today I decided to run on the treadmill with a fairly fast pace and only low hills. Then, after a few good post-run stretches, it went like this:
Start by going through a giant set one time, 15 reps each exercise:

Leg extensions
Deadlifts with two 25-lb. dumbbells
Front squats on the Smith Machine
Lunges with two 15-lb. dumbbells
Hyperextensions with 25-lb. plate

Now you can either repeat this giant set or you can focus on one or two of the
exercises. I chose to do a smaller giant set with the leg extensions, deadlifts, and lunges. I went through this sequence 3 times. In the second and third sets, I increased the weights on the deadlifts and lunges.
After that, I went back and forth between weighted hyperextensions and ab work (cable crunches, sets of 20), doing these two back to back three times.

That's it! The whole thing took me about 30 minutes and it was just perfect for me.
PS As I mentioned before, for anyone who isn't familiar with these exercises, I'm going to come back later and show pictures of them with explanations of how to do them.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Changing Gears

A great question has been brought up by a couple of you and that is how to change gears between doing creative work, doing business errands, and exercise/fitness. This is something that, years ago, I had a real problem with. I know that the human brain is infinitely flexible and adaptable and I was determined to do all the things I wanted to do.
I realized that the most efficient way to make this happen was to use my powers of visualization ahead of time so that my brain would already be there once I was doing the new activity. For instance, the time spent while you're doing your cardio session is an ideal time to think about whatever creative work you're going to be doing later on. In fact, exercising increases dopamine (a brain chemical that makes you feel happy and makes you smarter and more creative!), so take advantage of your exercise time to figure out your next creative move.
Then, while you're painting, take note of what time you think you should stop so that you can do your exercise, errands, whatever, then start mentally preparing yourself while you're working and visualize yourself doing the new activity.
Abruptly ripping your mind away from an activity can be mentally exhausting, but you'll surprise yourself at how painless it can be if you use this visualization technique to ease the transition.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


I start off the day the same as usual with 15 minutes of yoga before breakfast. I'm going to write a more detailed post at some point in the near future about the morning yoga I do, but for now, I'll just say that it's very instinctive and based on how I'm feeling on any particular day. Yoga is all about connecting mind and body and I don't think applying a rigid standard is respectful to the constant fluctuations of mind and body.

At the gym, I decided to do my cardio session on the Stair Master today. It's the kind that has moving stairs so that it's like climbing actual stairs (as opposed to pedals that you push). I did it for 35 minutes and climbed 206 flights of stairs. I did a few speed intervals, but not too extreme. And, yes, it did kick my butt!

We have a lunch appointment that's going to take most of the afternoon, so I'm saving my free-weight shoulder workout for tonight at home.

About 8:30 pm I did a free-weight shoulder workout that was composed of giant sets, each exercise done for 12 reps, the whole routine repeated 3 times.
It went like this:
Front raises with 10 lb. dumbbells
Lateral raises, 10 lbs.
Bent over lateral raises (for rear deltoids), 10 lbs.
Overhead shoulder presses with 15 lb. dumbbells
Upright rows, 15 lbs.

When I repeated the giant set for the second time, I replaced the 10 lb. dumbbells with 12.5 lbs. and the 15 lb. dumbbells were replaced with 17.5 lbs.
For the third giant set, I changed the 12.5 for a 15 lb. dumbbell and switched the 17.5 for a 25 lb dumbbell.

I then did 4 pilates type exercises for abs and core (more on that later), with about 25 reps each set.

That's it for today! That workout only took me about 20 minutes, so it is something that can easily be worked into the day.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Day two

After doing a light weight-training session yesterday as well as a medium-light cardio session, today I'm going even easier so that tomorrow I can start to pick up the pace a little.
I started the morning with my usual 10-15 minute yoga session before breakfast (this is something we do every day).
We went for a 2 mile walk after breakfast, and we painted all day (gotta do that, too!).
We had an early dinner and then a couple of hours later, I did a light one hour session of ashtanga-based yoga. If you've got the great fortune to have access to Steve Ross's fantastic yoga show, "Inhale", you must try it! He makes it so fun and not so serious, but you still get all the benefits.
Now, off to a good night's sleep because there's more to do tomorrow!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Easing back into regular life after the IMC

Boris and I are back from being two of the faculty members of the 2009 Illustration Master Class, a week-long intense illustration workshop put together by fellow artist and fitness enthusiast, Rebecca Guay. The IMC is a first class Happening. We all gather at Amherst College and spend a full week of 12-plus hour days (starting at 10am and going on until at least 10 pm--most people stayed until about 1 am every night, some even later), drawing, painting, critiquing, listening to lectures from top professionals in the field. It is intense and emotional and everyone who participates seems to love it!
The intensity of the experience is physically draining and it would be true craziness to just jump back into my regular exercise/fitness routine without easing back in slowly and thoughtfully, in a way that wouldn't leave me too sore to continue my workouts later in the week.
Rebecca thought it would be a good idea if I wrote a log of my daily fitness habits,
so here's what I'm doing fitness-wise today:

First thing upon getting out of bed is a short 15-minute yoga session, especially focusing on stretching the muscles along my spine. The mindful breathing that defines yoga is perfect for starting the day with a balanced state of mind, connecting body with mind.

Breakfast is next, then a short walk around the neighborhood (about a mile) just to get some daylight, fresh air, and blood flowing. Just connecting with the day.

After a cup of tea and a few e-mails, we're off to the gym. First today, we do 30 minutes of cardio exercise. Boris likes the stationary bikes and elliptical machines today, I choose a nice, easy run on the treadmill. I start off with a minute or two of walking, then get to an easy pace. But after turning on my ipod, I start to go a little faster and, before I know it, I'm kind of flying along with The Clash. Oh well, so much for easing in. Whatever! It was a great run and I got rid of the cobwebs in my muscles.

After cardio, we do weight-lifting. On a day like this, I just want to hit every muscle group lightly and keep moving constantly. Fortunately, the gym is pretty empty today, so I can pick whatever I want to do. It went like this (one set each exercise, all sets are for 15 reps, light to medium weight, no more than 30 seconds rest in between sets):
Leg extensions (quads)
Lateral pulldowns (lats, biceps)
Seated rows (lats, biceps, and full back)
Deadlifts with dumbbells (full body, emphasis on legs)
Lunges with resting leg on the exercise ball (legs, balance, core)
Shoulder presses with dumbbells (shoulders)
Upright rows (shoulders, biceps)
Hyperextensions (lower back, core, butt)
Bench press (chest, shoulders)
Bicep curls (biceps)
Kneeling crunches with weight (core)
Regular lunges (legs, butt)
Pushups (chest, core, quads)

So the idea here is to make the blood jump from upper body to lower body, back and forth, sideways, all over the place. Move fast, thinking of what you're going to do next while you're in the middle of an exercise. If someone takes the machine or station you had your eye on, forget it and immediately pick something else. This is a good idea if you're new to weights or, as in my case, coming back from a week or more of rest from the gym. You won't build a lot of muscle if you do this consistently, but if you're just looking for general fitness and conditioning, it's a great way to go.

Around 3pm I do a 15 minute meditation, focusing on my breath, just keeping my head screwed on--not too tight and not too loose!

After dinner, we go for another walk, this time about 2 miles. This keeps your metabolism up while letting your stress from the day out.

That's about it for today. Good night!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Cool Mind Trick From Another Dimension

The next time you find yourself in a situation that you feel is less than your favorite thing (let’s say, doing any kind of paperwork, a boring meeting, waiting in slow traffic, things like that), pretend that you are an alien being who exists in some other dimension where your reality is entirely different from ours here on Earth. So now, you, the alien, are in your own dimension and you’ve gone to an amusement park where one of the rides is that you get to pop into the body of some random person on Earth and experience whatever situation they are in for 15 minutes. And here you are! Suddenly, you become aware of your new living, human body (in the other dimension, you only exist as a bunch of electrons or something) and all the cool things it can do. All the things around you would be so amazing and new. Even filling out tax forms would be such a thrill! I know you’re probably thinking, “It would have been better to pop into a different person for my 15 minutes”, but you wouldn’t think that way because you wouldn’t be comparing it to another experience.

This is something I like to do just for fun sometimes when I want to taste a different reality, but I was reminded of it the other day when Boris and I visited with our friend and fellow illustrator, Dan Dos Santos, his wife Cristina, and their two sons, Uno and Kai. Uno is about 2 and a half, and he got the most amazing happiness from helping Dan measure cups of water to make rice. For him, this was a great adventure, filled with risk and reward. That’s the kind of other-dimensional thinking that can make a person’s life so much more fun! It’s not the task you have to do, it’s how you’re thinking about it.

Whatever is going on, just think of how rare it is that you would have a chance at this very moment!