Tag Archives: Cardio

My Review of the Challenging Chair Cardio Workout

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and this post is in no way intended to give out medical advice. Please seek the advice of a qualified medical professional before beginning this or any other type of exercise. 

A couple of years ago, I tripped on a slippery set of stairs and sprained my ankle. Luckily, it was a pretty mild sprain that healed well with home treatments, but I remember how bored and frustrated I was with the very limited number of things I could do to burn off energy while it was healing.

This story popped into my mind when I first stumbled across the Challenging Chair Workout a few weeks ago. The vast majority of the workouts out there assume that everyone will at least be able to stand firmly on both of their feet. When such activities aren’t possible due to an injury, it’s so nice to know that there are other options for people who want to keep training to the best of their abilities while they heal.

Before I dive into my review of this workout, let me also note that there is never affiliate marketing in this or any other post on my site. I’m sharing this routine simply because I found it useful and encouraging for the times when it isn’t possible for me to do a regular workout. Hopefully, you’ll think the same thing!

If the embedded link doesn’t work, click here for an alternative link to this workout.

About the Chair Cardio Workout

The video is 27 minutes and 40 seconds long. That time includes a short warmup in the beginning and a cool down at the end, so I’d estimate that it contains about 20 minutes of actual cardio exercise and abdominal work.

You don’t need any special equipment to do this workout. As long as you have a chair, bed, or other sturdy and comfortable place to sit, you’ll be set.

My Review

I believe in being honest and descriptive when you review something. It’s always nice to read other people’s reviews of products or services when they take the time to explain specifically what it was about it that stood out to them. That is equally true for positive as well as negative feedback. Everyone has different tastes, so what was a highlight – or a dealbreaker – for one person might have a completely different connotation for someone else.

The only vaguely negative thing I have to say about this workout is subjective. It simply wasn’t challenging enough for me. I was able to do all of the moves quite well the first time they were introduced, and I had barely broken out into a sweat at all by the time it ended. If I were looking for a replacement for my regular routine while healing from an injury, I’d need to find something more vigorous for my particular needs unless I’d been out of commission for quite a while.

With that being said, this is an excellent choice for beginners or people who have not been able to exercise at all in a long time in my opinion. Everything else I say about it will be positive from this point on.

Caroline Jordan, the woman who created this workout, really knows her audience well. She reminded her viewers multiple times that it was perfectly okay to take breaks, skip certain moves, or change the way they participated for anything that was painful for them. There were several times when she gave specific suggestions on how to modify certain moves to accommodate issues with injuries or flexibility in general. That gave this workout an added layer of depth that made me want to share it with my readers even more.

I adored Caroline’s upbeat attitude. She was positive and encouraging from the beginning to the end. I especially liked the fact that she talked her audience through the faster portions of the routine. She also had all kinds of friendly tips for how to stay motivated when you feel like you’re never going to recover or worry that a certain movement is too hard to do right now.

The lack of background music was a refreshing touch as well. Unless I’m practicing a dance routine or watching a TV show while I do a workout that I’ve already memorized, I prefer silence as much as possible. It’s so much nicer to only be able to focus on the trainer’s voice while I’m trying to copy their movements.

Speaking of movements, there was a decent amount of repetition in this video. Caroline guided her viewers through all of the moves twice. I sure do like it when fitness experts do this. While this routine was a simple one, it’s always nice to try the same thing more than once while you’re getting used to it.

The balance between cardio and abdominal strengthening exercises was handled nicely. I prefer routines that offer a mixture of activities like this. They make it easier for me to remain interested in them as well as to keep going if I find a certain section challenging.

In short, I liked this workout quite a bit. It’s not something I’ll be adding to my current rotation of videos right now because of my current level of fitness, but I will be saving it for reference if or when I ever injure one of my feet again. While I hope that never happens, I’m really glad that I’ll have something to fall back on if I need to stay off of my feet for medical reasons.

Readers, have you ever sprained or broken your ankle? Have you ever done a chair workout? I’d love to hear your stories about those topics.

Health and Fitness at the Dollar Store

One of the biggest misconceptions some people have about getting fit is that it requires a significant investment of money in the beginning if you’re starting out with little to no equipment.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

A few nights ago, I took a stroll around a dollar store to see what kinds of health and fitness items they had for sale there. I jotted down everything I could find that could somehow be connected to this topic, and the list was much longer than I ever would have imagined it would be.

Seriously. I was expecting to find maybe ten things there, but I ended up finding closer to a hundred of them if every category is fully expanded to include every example in them.

This is what they had for sale there:

  • T-shirts
  • Hats
  • Sandals
  • Hair ties
  • Socks
  • Sports bras
  • Ponchos
  • Support insoles for shoes
  • Sunglasses
  • Beach towels
  • Goggles
  • Bug Repellant
  • Sunscreen
  • First Aid supplies (bandaids, disinfectant, etc).
  • Plastic and metal buckets of various sizes (for transporting dirty or wet items back home)
  • Reusable plastic water bottles
  • Fishing poles
  • Headlamps
  • Small lanterns (if hiking or camping are on your to-do list)
  • Pet toys (for playing tug-of-war or fetch)
  • Pool toys
  • Toys and games for all ages/abilities (dart guns, dart boards, balls, chalk, jump ropes, etc)
  • Young children’s toys (plastic baseball bats, miniature golf clubs, etc)
  • Balloons (for water balloon fights or other similar games)
  • Beach toys (small shovels, plastic molds for making sandcastles, etc).
  • Frisbees
  • Rainbow flyers
  • Gardening tools (hand rakes, small shovels, etc).
  • Badminton rackets and balls
  • Plastic/rubber balls for other sports
  • Hula hoops
  • Sports equipment (rackets, balls, etc).
  • Yoga mats
  • Kettleballs
  • Resistance bands
  • Exercise wheels
  • Push up stands
  • Stretch bands
  • Roll out exercise wheels
  • Yoga mats
  • Yoga towels
  • Nonperishable, fairly healthy snacks (nuts, beef jerky, bottled water, canned fruit, applesauce.)
  • Many types of large reusable bags (for toting around everything on this list!)

Some of the items on this list did cost more than a dollar, but all of them were very inexpensive in general.

Whether I was planning to hike, swim, build sandcastles play any number of sports, jog, lift weights, stretch, do yoga, garden, go camping, or participate in any number of other activities, there were products for almost every type of exercise one could possibly imagine. I was seriously impressed by their selection.

Why am I recommending checking out your local dollar store if I believe in minimalism and buying quality over quantity?

There are a few reasons why this could be a smart idea under certain circumstances:

Not Everything Needs to be Well-Made in Order to be Useful

Several years ago, I bought a sun hat from the dollar store that suits my purposes perfectly when I want to exercise outdoors on a sunny day. Was it fashionable? Well, only if you’re a time traveller from 1995, but I’m not the kind of person who worries about how trendy I look when I’m working out.

Why spend $60 on something like that if you can spend $2 or $3 instead for the exact same outcome? For the kinds of activities I do, the type of hat doesn’t matter in the least. Anything that shades my face and neck from the sun will be more than adequate for my purposes.

It’s a Low-Cost Way to Try New Activities

For example, I like the idea of playing badminton. Every so often, I toy around with the thought of playing that sport as part of my fitness routine.

As mentioned above, the dollar store carries badminton equipment. While it isn’t made from high quality materials, it would be the perfect thing for me to play around with if I ever decide to finally add this sport to my list of preferred activities.

Spending a few dollars wouldn’t break the bank, and I could  go to a secondhand store or a regular store to find much sturdier equipment if I decided that this was something I wanted to play more than occasionally and my original racket broke.

Speaking of broken items….

Losing or Breaking A New Item Won’t Be So Disappointing

I’m very protective of the few possessions I have that are top-notch. Anyone who wants to borrow them has to earn my trust first, and I’d horribly disappointed if they were damaged, lost, or destroyed in an accident or through someone else’s carelessness. There are certain places that I really wouldn’t want to take those items to due to the risks of them being exposed to the water, dirt, or sand that could ruin them.

The nice thing about dollar store purchases is that you don’t stand to lose hundreds or thousands of dollars if they’re accidentally broken or lost. I wouldn’t hesitate to lend out something like a hula hoop or a pool toy I bought from the dollar store to a friend or relative.

If that item was later returned to me in pristine condition, great! If not, I’ve only lost a few dollars at most. Replacing it won’t hurt my bottom line at all, so I don’t have a problem lending it out or taking it places where the risks of something happening are higher than usual.

What’s At Your Local Dollar Store?

Assuming you live in a part of the world that has dollar stores (or pound shops/variety stores, as they’re sometimes called), what kinds of health and fitness items have you spotted there?

I’d love to compare my list with yours!

Why Everyone Should Use a Pedometer

Lately, I’ve been thinking about some of the simplest lifestyle changes I made several years ago when I decided to take charge of my health and get into better shape. Getting into the habit of using a pedometer every day was at the top of that list.

My first pedometer was actually an app on my phone. That phone had to be in my pants pocket in order for it to count my steps back then. If I carried it or put it in my jacket pocket, my step count would rise much more slowly than was normal for me at the time.

I suspected it was a little inaccurate from the beginning, but I didn’t realize exactly how many steps it was missing until I upgraded to a new phone that included a more sensitive step counter in its operating system.

Suddenly, my final count at the end of the day jumped up by a few thousand steps even though my routine had stayed the same. Wow, was that a pleasant surprise! I ended up increasing my daily goal from 10,000 to 12,000 steps a day in order to continue challenging myself.

While my current pedometer seems to be much more accurate, I do sometimes wonder if it still misses steps. I now get about 14,000 of them in the average day, though, so I don’t worry about it as much as I would if I were using the older and more inaccurate model or consistently struggling to get more than a few thousand steps per day.

The nice thing about this piece of technology is that it doesn’t require perfection in order to give you a rough snapshot of how active you are and to encourage you to gradually increase your goals over time.

Every Little Bit Counts

When I first began paying attention to my step count, there were times when it seemed impossible to reach 10,000 steps without spending my entire day walking around. It took time to realize that this wasn’t true and that there were many ways to fit more activity into the habits I’d already formed.

The nice thing about having a pedometer is that you can see the results of even minor lifestyle changes very quickly.

For example, I now know that a walk around the block is good for adding about 500 steps to my step count. Ending a trip one subway stop sooner can add a thousand steps or more .

Even when I didn’t make my original goal every day in the beginning, I was still able to see my average step count rise for that week or month as I figured out how to squeeze a few more minutes of walking into whatever else I was doing that day. The more tricks I found, the more motivated I became to push my steps closer to the 10,000 mark and to make new goals once that one felt easy.

It’s a Great Source of Motivation

Speaking of motivation, I find it incredibly motivating to see how something as simple as taking an extra walk to run some errands could add a few hundred to a few thousand steps to my daily total without me feeling like I was doing anything that out of the ordinary at all. Small lifestyle changes like the ones I just mentioned add up over time.

Many fitness goals aren’t like this. For example, losing weight, reducing your body fat percentage, strengthening your muscles, and becoming more flexible are all goals that generally need to be pursued over the long term. You probably won’t see much improvement at all with them in the beginning.

As much as I’ve enjoyed seeing the results from my longterm goals, there is definitely something to be said for setting goals that you can reach in a month, a week, or even a single day as well.

I can’t double the weight of the dumbbells I lift in that amount of time, but I can commit to taking a walk or pacing around while I’m waiting for something to nudge my step count average up while also working on more difficult goals during other parts of the day.

Nearly Everyone Can Do It

Unlike many other forms of exercise, walking doesn’t require a gym membership, special equipment, or protective gear. The only thing you need other than a pair of comfortable walking shoes is a pedometer. I’ve seen pedometers for sale for as little as $5 to $10 each.

There are also options for people who can’t afford that expense or who want to try this idea out before buying one of their own. Many public libraries have developed programs that lend out pedometers to their patrons the same way they’d lend out a book or DVD.

The Toronto Public Library had one of these programs several years ago, and I believe they allowed people to keep the pedometers for up to two months at a time while they had it. I’d gotten ahold of my own step counter by the time I became aware of this program at my local branch, but it was a great way for people from any walk of life to get a snapshot of how active they were and decide if buying their own step counter was a good decision.

Pedometers Teach You How to Stop Needing Them

After you’ve used a pedometer for a while, you may very well develop an automatic sense of how active a day should be in order to reach your goals like I have.

For example, I now know that I need to spend about a hour a day walking around in order to make my step count goal. This time is virtually always broken up into smaller increments. Occasionally, it’s as brief as as a five minutes walk here and a ten minute walk there every hour or two until I’ve gotten my full 60 minutes of movement in for the day.

Other people have different goals, of course. I’m young and in decent shape, so my exercise routine may be too challenging for people who aren’t used to any sort of exercise at all. That same routine might be too easy for athletes in peak physical shape who are used to vigorous workouts instead.

While I continue to check my step count for the sheer joy of seeing what my numbers are looking like and as a reminder to keep encouraging myself to do a little more over time, I could stop using it and maintain my current routine without an issue.

To me, this is a sign of a worthwhile piece of equipment. Just like my muscles have outgrown lighter pairs of hand weights, my mind has learned to adapt to my new fitness routine. Any habit takes time to develop. The fact that my pedometer has done such an excellent job of teaching me how to intuitively know how much and how often I should be moving makes it something I’d wholeheartedly recommend to anyone reading this who is hoping to develop similarly strong habits.

5 Fitness Rules You Should Break

One of the most interesting things about fitness culture is how many different rules there are about what you are and are not supposed to do in order to get healthier. I’ve learned so much about the art of staying fit by listening to what other ordinary people find helpful.

There is a lot of fantastic information out there about what you should be doing, but today I wanted to talk about fitness rules that should be broken instead of being followed.

No Pain, No Gain

Of course there are times when I’m a little sore during or after a workout, but I genuinely enjoy the time I spend exercising overall. It feels good to get my blood pumping as I learn a new move or break a new record. Achieving small goals like that are what keep me motivated as I push through tough or new workouts.

If whatever I’m doing starts to genuinely hurt, though, I take it as a sign that I shouldn’t be doing that particular activity for now. Often it’s okay again if I ease back on how quickly I’m doing it or if I move to a lighter set of weights. Over the longterm, I can almost always work up to whatever it was that was too hard to do the first time I tried it.

There’s a difference between pushing yourself to run a little faster or lift harder this time and risking an injury by ignoring your pain.

If it isn’t fun on at least some level, don’t do it.

Work Out No Matter What the Weather Is Like 

Here in Toronto we occasionally get warnings about smog, snowstorms, fog, sleet, snow, heat waves, or cold snaps. As much as I like exercising outdoors, these days are not safe and healthy ones to do anything active outdoors. This is even more true for people with pre-existing health conditions like asthma.

Other areas of the world have different warnings. I have relatives whose lives are occasionally put on hold by haboobs (dust storms). When I say their lives are put on hold, I mean that they have to stop whatever they’re doing, find shelter, and wait for the storm to pass. One time one of them even got stuck on the side of the road for a little while because all of that dust would have badly damaged the engine of their car if they had kept driving through it.

There are times when it can be downright dangerous to go for a jog or do other strenuous activities if the weather in your community is really bad. I have a full repertoire of workouts that can be done in my apartment or other places indoors when the weather isn’t cooperative. If it’s extremely smoggy or humid, I might not exercise at all that day depending on what the air conditioning situation is like and how my lungs are feeling.

Missing one workout isn’t going to make a big difference in the scheme of things. Safety always has to come first.

Make It a Competition

Some people thrive on competition, but I find that kind of motivation to be demoralizing instead of encouraging. I really don’t enjoy pitting people against each other. This is especially true when it comes to something as individualized as how or when you work out.

Part of the reason why I dislike making exercise competitive is that I have a few friends who are living with various illnesses and disabilities that restrict how much energy and strength they have. They are simply not physically capable of doing a lot of things that I can do without a second thought. There are other people I know who are in much better shape than I am. In all of these cases, the competition wouldn’t be a fair one because we’d be coming from such different starting points.

Even when we’re more or less evenly matched in strength and overall fitness, some of my other friends  participate in types of exercise that are so different from what I do that it’s almost impossible to compare them. For example, how on earth would you compare swimming to jogging? What about tai chi to a team sport like volleyball? There’s no easy way to weigh things like these, especially when you factor in the different fitness levels and physical abilities of everyone involved.

The final problem I have with it is that I believe exercise should be fun for everyone. As someone who isn’t competitive, having only one winner at the end of it makes me not want to play at all.

Why not focus on having a great time instead?

It’s cool if other people want to compete with each other to stay motivated, but I’d much rather encourage everyone at whatever it is they enjoy doing and not worry about who “won” in the end. If you’ve found a sustainable way to stay active, you’re a winner in my book!

All You Need Is One Routine

Confession: I was guilty of this one myself when I first started working out. I stuck with the same cardio and light hand weight routine for a long time and was a bit hesitant to try anything new because of how much I liked what I was currently doing.

All of that exercise was still very good for me, but I didn’t realize how much more I was capable of until I started branching out. Dancing and bodyweight videos on Youtube made my muscles ache in ways they hadn’t ached since I first started working out. It was also much more mentally stimulating than doing the same routine day after day. I had to learn how to move my body in new ways and try stuff I’d never considered doing before.

This has become even more true as I explore what yoga routines work best for me. Once again, I’ve been thrown into an entirely new way of working out that’s challenging and exciting.

Food Is Nothing But Fuel

Yes, having a healthy diet is important. One of the things that alarms me about certain parts of fitness culture, though, is how they focus on the physical effects of food so much that they sometimes forget the other meanings it can have.

Sharing food is a sign of love and friendship in many cultures. Some of the best memories of my childhood involved spending time with my extended family as they cooked a big meal. My grandmother has a huge dining room table that gets filled up with family members at the holidays and on other special occasions.

Anywhere between some and most of the food served there would come from my grandparents’ farm depending on what time of year it was and what we’re eating.

There are a lot of fresh vegetables from the garden in the summer, but in the winter we eat more bread and meat instead.

While I wouldn’t recommend doing this every day, eating a specific treat can also be emotionally satisfying. For example, my mom and I used to drive to a nearby city to buy dairy-free chocolate bars when I was a teenager. We lived in a small, rural town at the time that had almost nothing in the way of specialty foods for people with dietary restrictions, so these trips were a wonderful glimpse into how people in more populated areas lived.

Once or twice a year, I’ll buy a couple of bars of dairy-free chocolate and think happy thoughts about that part of my childhood. Those extra calories are easily burned away over the next few months until I treat myself again.

How about you? What fitness rules do you think should be broken? Come over and tell me about it on Twitter today!

Things Nobody Told Me About Getting Back Into Shape

I was in great shape in my early to mid-twenties thanks to a physically active job I had back then that kept me running around all day. As my routine shifted over time, though, I found myself gaining weight and losing some of the strength I had built up.

My wake-up call came several years ago when I caught one cold after another. There was a stretch of about four months when I was either coming down with a cold, actively sick, or recovering from a cold. It might have been a string of bad luck, but I took it as a sign that something had to change.

There are some things I learned along the way as I got back into shape that I wish I’d known from day one. Today I’m going to share them with you.

The Beginning is the Hardest Part. 

Starting any new habit is tough. This is even more true when it involves something that leads to sore muscles and moving a body in a way that it isn’t accustomed to moving.

There were a few days early on when I stopped 5 or 10 minutes into a routine and counted that as a workout for the day. The next time I went back to that video or set of exercises, though, I made it my goal to last one minute longer than I had the previous time I’d tried it. I was often able to push through and stick with it much longer than than my original goal had been because almost anything is endurable for another sixty seconds.

It was honestly as much a mental challenge as it was a physical one in the beginning.

Your Diet Matters

What you eat and drink affects how you perform. For example, everyone needs to be careful to consume enough water or other fluids when they’re exercising outdoors in hot or humid weather.

I’ve also found that it’s easier to get through a workout when I’m comfortably full but not overstuffed. A bowl of oatmeal or some hardboiled eggs give me the healthy boost of energy I need to get in that final rep or those last few minutes of cardio.

Yes, I did have to make some changes to my diet in order to get healthier. This isn’t something I spend a great deal of time obsessing over, though, and I still have treats. They’re simply chosen a bit more carefully these days, and I don’t have them as often as I used to.

With that being said…

The Scale Only Tells a Small Part of the Story.

One of the most frustrating things for me when I first started exercising regularly again was not seeing any change in the number on the scale. I wanted to lose some weight, but my results bounced around in the same general area from one day to the next.

What I learned is that the scale only tells a small part of the story. For example, everyone’s weight shifts a little from one day to the next. I’ve had days where I magically “lost” or “gained” 5 pounds or more simply based on when I weighed myself, whether or not I’d eaten anything before stepping on the scale, how recently I’d used the bathroom, and how much salty food I’d eaten in the previous 24 hours.

So now I pay attention to the scale only if the number on it trends up or down for a prolonged period of time. It is one way to keep track of your progress, but there are many other questions that are also important to answer.

Is your clothing getting looser because your body fat percentage is changing even though your weight has remained constant? Do you have more energy? Are you now taking the stairs instead of the elevator sometimes (or usually!)? Have you finally moved up to a heavier set of weights or a more challenging workout in general? Did you finally figure out how to use that complicated piece of gym equipment that you thought you’d never bother trying?

Or, my personal favourites, are you catching fewer colds? Are you recovering more quickly from them? I still get sick a few times a year, but it doesn’t happen as often these days and my colds don’t last as long as they used to.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve never been able to get into jogging despite liking the idea of it and trying multiple times to enjoy this form of exercise. I didn’t like how uncomfortable it was to catch my breath after a few minutes of jogging or how jarring it was to my joints.

Obviously, this isn’t true everyone. I have a friend who enjoys jogging so much that they train for and compete in marathons.

I know other people who can’t do any vigorous exercise at all due to certain health conditions that restrict how their bodies are able to move. A few people that I’ve known have noticed a difference in their abilities from one day to the next. Sometimes they have more stamina than I do, while on other days they get worn out easily.

You’re the only person who can figure out what kinds of exercise work best for you. It can take a lot of trial and error, but at some point you’ll find the right activity.

It Gets Better

All of your hard work eventually pays off. My life has changed in many small but important ways since I started exercising again.

The first benefit I noticed was that I was sleeping a little better. I used to have some trouble relaxing and falling asleep, but that started to change for the better once I became more active.

I’m more willing to try new things now than I was several years ago. My confidence that I’ll eventually master them has grown and continues to grow.

My posture has improved. This one is a combination of having a stronger core, feeling better about myself, and having more practice with moving my body in ways it hadn’t moved in quite a while.

I have more energy, too.

Regardless of where you are with your fitness goals, keep plugging away at them. It gets easier as you go along!