Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Ridiculous Workouts

Ridiculous can mean many things. Sometimes, it means absurd. Sometimes, we use the word to mean extreme. In trying to get back into the exercise habit, I had both kinds of ridiculous workouts recently. I prefer the former meaning.

Have you seen that episode of "King of Queens" where Doug overdoes it at the gym?

It's not exactly the way to ease yourself into the exercise routine after a period of inactivity, is it? This was me recently. A nutritionist I met through Facebook persuaded me to join her 21 Day Fix group. The 21 Day Fix is an eating plan available through the Beachbody company. The kit also came with some workout DVDs.

I have had excellent exercise habits at different times in my life, and I have a big collection of exercise DVDs and Wii games to prove it. However, a bunch of health issues ganged up on me to make maintaining that difficult and get me off track: a slew of migraine attacks, insomnia and weird sleeping patterns, which are not necessarily completely separate issues. So, suffice it to say that I am not in the shape I once was.

So, when I tried doing the "surrender" move along with my new DVD, an exercise that involves getting down on one knee as if proposing, then on both knees, pulling the opposite knee forward in the proposal position and then standing, I was ready to surrender pretty quickly. "Okay, I surrender." "Seriously, I surrender?" "Can we stop now?" I didn't actually surrender. I went through this exercise while holding little five pound dumbells at my shoulders for what I estimate to be 10 repetitions. When we were done, I was relieved, only to hear the instructor say, a short time later, "And now for the other leg." And I did 10 more starting with the opposite leg.

I more or less murdered my legs. I don't mean that I was just a little sore. I mean I was in agonizing pain every time I did anything resembling a squat or a partial squat, including sitting down. At work, I couldn't sit down or get up without making groaning noises. I felt the need to explain my strange sound effects to my coworker. "Is this the first time you've exercised in a long time?" he asks me. I said, "Yes." "Yeah, you're in pain," he says in a way that is partly humorous and partly sympathetic.

They say that to stick to an exercise routine, you should pick a form of exercise you actually enjoy and will be motivated to do. Some years ago, I discovered I like dance exercise. I saw an exercise DVD in a store labeled as dance exercise. I had previously been familiar with aerobics which could be somewhat dance-like but nothing that called itself dance exercise. This particular DVD had three dance workouts in three different styles: salsa, funk and retro. I remember looking at it and thinking, "Would I like this? And what exactly is funk?" I'm still not sure I can precisely define funk, but I loved the workouts. "Retro" turned out to be disco and 70s fad dances.

Here's a little preview:

You'll notice it doesn't even call itself a workout. It's called a "dance party." It seems the creators are familiar with the philosophy that people are more likely to stick with a workout if it's fun. It almost seems like psychological manipulation to call it a party and not a workout, but this sort of approach works for me.

I've lost some conditioning and stamina from going through a period where I wasn't dancing, but going back to it, I find I may drop out when I'm tired and can't handle jumps, but since I enjoy it, I won't give up entirely.

It works better for me than hearing my DVD coach tell me to hang in there and do five or 10 more of a repetitive exercise when I'm already strained to the max. I'm speaking for myself. That approach may work for some. I don't think it's merely the level of difficulty involved, because I will do challenging things under the fun approach. I like variation and I like movement to music, so I prefer TurboJam, that combines dance and kickboxing moves, to Tae Bo with Billy Blanks, and I've tried both.

A TurboJam preview ...

One of the TurboJam DVDs features the song "Mama Said Knock You Out," and the sound bit is so timed that it coincides with an upper cut punch, and I would always get the giggles when it got to this point, partly because I can't imagine my mama telling me to knock somebody out and partly because I can't imagine myself doing such a thing (at least under normal circumstances.)

I truly have been doing some ridiculous workouts lately ... the absurd kind. All of this dance interest eventually led to the collection of Wii Just Dance games, and I've been back at it and discovering some of the newer versions of the game. The Just Dance games really do have recreation, social and party applications, so many of the dances are designed to be fun ... and silly ... sometimes very silly, like dancing along to a fox in "What Does the Fox Say?"

Does it feel a bit ridiculous? It can, but the silliness can also start off my day in a very cheerful way. There are many others like this one, where you are following the actions of a ridiculous costumed character on the screen to a goofy novelty song.

Just Dance games have some dances that are intended for partners, a girl and a guy or sometimes two girls or for groups of four. I try to do all the dances and all solo. Some of the group and partner dance moves are hard to even simulate without buddies, such as leapfrogging over your buddy or climbing on someone's back. I did this Tetris dance, but I had my limitations.

Do you think I could talk my three brothers into doing this with me at the next family gathering? Or my niece and nephews?

On Youtube, I came across this group of guys in Cyprus who did the Tetris dance. Here is their goofy, unpracticed version.

Hhhmmm... Does it seem to you they're lifting their heaviest guy?

Well, this same group of guys nailed this dance later on.

It might not seem like dancing, especially such goofy things, are actually doing your body much benefit, but dance has a lot of benefits. It works out the whole body. Some dance styles are legcentric and some are corecentric, so if you do a combination of both, you are working different muscle groups. Wii Just Dance games also have a lot of upper body and arm motion, since, in fact, it really is only tracking your arm motions for points. Dance can work in a lot of the same motions that are used in (more boring) strengthening exercises such as squats and lunges. It's good mental exercise to learn new choreography, and there are even some claims that the combination of mental and physical exercise in dancing is good for Alzheimer's prevention. It helps develop balance. It's mood lifting. It's good cardio exercise and can improve your heart and lung health.

 The Just Dance games have a range of slow to energetic dances as well as easy to difficult, and you can pick according to your energy levels, alternating between slower and faster and work your way up to doing more of the most energetic variety.

Just Dance games can be a fun way to get in a ridiculous workout.