Gear pick of the year 2020 – YouTube workouts

Back in December 2019, Joan and I went to Florida for two weeks over the holidays.

We spent some time seeing her folks at their winter rental in Pensacola and my mom near Orlando.

That meant enjoying dinner out, Mom’s home cooking, and Joan’s Dad and I enjoying our mutual love for craft beer.

Two weeks later, I went to a general checkup. Though I am in overall good health, I am in my mid-40s. Genetic time bombs tend to crop up at this age. And better to know what might happen ahead of time. And I’ve gone back and forth over the fine line between stocky and chubby many times over my adult life. After two weeks of enjoying Italian-American delights from my childhood and perhaps a craft beer or two (!), you can imagine which sign of the line I fell over. ūüôā

The doctor’s nurse called me after some blood work and gave me the news that while I am in overall good health, my cholesterol level (consistently high in my family) needs addressing. If I didn’t lose some weight and modify my diet, medication might be the next step.

Now, I could blame perhaps two weeks of stuffed peppers, lasagna, and almond biscotti  (and craft beer!) on some of the numbers.

But the fact is I am woefully negligent on exercising-for-the-sake-of-exercising when it does not involve a ski tour, a hike, or other enjoyable activities I realistically can’t do every day in the time available. And I am not fond of running.¬† And, let’s face it, I do enjoy craft beer during the week. And though I cook mainly from scratch, the hearty stews and carb-laden dishes of comfort food do not work well when my caloric expenditure does not exceed my output. Challenging hiking two or three days a week does not even it out, alas.

So, I thought of the time when I got laid off back in 2009. Back then, I found myself in a similar position and wanted to get in shape. My childhood buddy ended up being all gung-ho about the P90X craze at the time and proselytized it to me as any good convert.

A 12 exercise package on DVD (!) that for all the marketing hype boiled down to old-school circuit training mixing in some new-ish (at the time) HIIT-style exercises.  Meaning, three days of cardio-based exercise involved ab work and the core, jumping training, and even yoga to work the legs and get the sweat going and alternating with three days of weights.  I did the exercises, coupled with a diet of lean meats, fruits, veggies, and limited carbohydrates.  It is a program that apparently still holds up many years later based on what people know more about this than me.

These workouts emphasized more all-around fitness rather than “bulking up” or getting in fast speeds for running. Perfect for my personal fitness goals.

I did a round, mixed it up with the P90X+ modules that emphasized more total-body workouts than muscle-specific training, and watched my diet. Between ~one hour daily intense cardio or weight lifting coupled with my usual weekend activities, I lost body fat, put on muscle, and became very fit. More so than any thru-hike.

Who woulda thunk it?

I never liked going to a gym as it takes up time bank and financial funds. These types of exercises only need a pull-up bar, a mat, and some free weights. And it all can be accomplished in a small space as little as 6’x6′.

 Weight lifting circuits worked well for my short and stocky frame, more so than running, and I found myself enjoying it. However, I did not care for yoga and swapped in core-focused cardio workouts.

I stuck with it, burned the DVDs to my laptop, and made it a part of my daily routine.

Not long after achieving an excellent fitness level, I moved in with my then-girlfriend, found a job, and slowly drifted off the wagon. A busy job and a marriage came. And living above people in a nicer but second-floor place meant I could not do the intense jumping exercises I found so effective.

My pull-up bar and weights gathered dust, my waistline ebbed and flowed, and the years went by until this past January.

Taking the doctor’s words seriously, I started working out again. I dusted off the old P90X/P90x+ hybrid schedule and modified it, watched my diet during the week, did my exercises, and now I am happy to say I am down 10+ pounds but, more importantly, with less body fat and more muscle definition than this time last year. Joan noticed better fitness and more energy during the week for me and decided that working out with weights mixed in with her job-based hiking seemed a good thing and made these routines part of her daily life.

Of course, little did we know what a month or so later meant for the greater world. ūüė•

The difference between now and 10+ years ago? YOUTUBE EXERCISE VIDEOS! 

And my gear pick of the year for 2020, aka the year of COVID.

Having a base level of fitness means you stand a better chance of enjoying the gift of time, are less likely to get injured, have better overall mental and physical health, and it’s better than watching videos about hiking.

 

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And here it is, 2020 in the year of COVID – Gyms are of questionable safety, people are home more, and even getting outside for exercise is not always an option esp if you have to travel further than your time bank funds allow.

Unlike in 2009, there are lots of free resources for all kinds of exercises.¬† You can get HIIT Cardio, weight lifting for specific muscle groups vs. overall fitness, yoga, bodyweight exercises with no equipment¬†etc., etc., etc. Don’t like one instructor or style? Try another.

Unlike the DVDs of the past, when you get sick of one routine or instructor, there are quite literally thousands more to choose from of various lengths and styles.

And if you have limited space (we can’t easily put a pull-up bar without impacting how we use our shared space), you can swap out different exercises.¬† And if you don’t want to tick off neighbors, there are plenty of no-jump exercises.

Our gear room/workout room/sewing room/guest bedroom via a blow-up bed!

With these YouTube exercise videos, besides the other benefits mentioned, I find more energy and a clearer head.

I like these videos as I prefer a set routine to follow rather than making my own. I am not experienced enough to make a routine, nor am I diligent enough to do it independently. Set videos with instructions and a schedule to follow keep me on track. YMMV.  For example, Joan likes more instructions in her videos but is better at making her schedule to follow than me.

But, whatever you do, these videos are fantastic for mixing up your exercise routine, getting overall fitness, and making your time in the outdoors both more efficient and easier.

And since, at least until summer 2021, at least for most, COVID  will continue to impact our lives, you may as well make the most of the time.

Or you can watch more hiking videos trying to sell you yet another backpack or puffy you really don’t need, instead.

~~~~~

Equipment needed? 

Luckily these home workouts do not require much space or equipment. Both Joan and I like to keep it simple. No balance balls, benches (use a folding chair!), etc. . You probably already have a water bottle, a towel, and some sort of shorts.  I do miss a pull-up bar, but our shared space does not allow it. As mentioned, I found workarounds. 

Here’s the equipment we found works for us and our limited space:

      • Dedicated shoes for workouts.¬†¬†Rather than using our outdoor shoes that typically get dirty and filled with desert sand, having some exercise shoes for indoor use works well. Joan has less tolerance for dirt, and I want to keep her happy. ūüôā¬† We both win!¬† I like the inexpensive TSLA brand for fewer than $35 and have used them to good effect this past year. These shoes provide enough support for the exercises vs. less expensive shoes from a discount store‚ÄĒa good bargain for how I use them.
      • We don’t have room for a weight bench, but a folding chair works well for dips, doing curls, and other exercises.¬† It stores easily when you finish. Probably one at the thrift store for $5. Even new, they aren’t terribly expensive. BONUS: If you are, say, oh, 5’6″, you can easily retrieve things on the high shelf!
      • Free weights (Dumbbells) ended up very inexpensive when I bought them at Play It Again Sports in Boulder back in 2009. We have a set of two each at 5,10,15,20, and 25 lbs.

Now? They sell out quickly and have gone up considerably in price bought brand new and, again due to COVID, rarely found used.   Some people report good results with resistance bands that are inexpensive and take up less space than weights.  I have not used them myself. Read for more info on the pros and cons.

If you want the benefit of traditional weights and don’t have the money (or even can’t find them available), substitute some sturdy book bags, totes, or even reusable shopping bags filled with water bottles or books,¬†among other possible ideas.

And it all stacks neatly and compactly in a corner.

Suggested Channels?

There are different YouTube channels fo different tastes, intensities, and activities desired, etc.

I prefer to use less instruction-focused videos to watch, mimic, and go with it while listening to the news or a podcast. I keep the video just loud enough so I know when to start the next set.

Joan likes various workouts where the instructor gives detailed instructions, encouragement, and perhaps some alternatives.

Having said all that, there are some channels Joan or I like for different reasons:

      • Caroline Grivan is the person I follow for ab and core-focused workouts of ~15+ minutes that I’ll typically do after another workout.¬† Her workouts are more challenging and more intense than others. I like these workouts as, again, I can zone out while listening to other media.¬† ¬†Joan finds this instructor having a good attitude that’s always upbeat but not as clear instructions vs. other instructors.
      • HASFit is an excellent channel in that there are various workouts, and the husband/wife team shows parallel workouts for one form and a more strenuous form of the exercise next to the other instructor.
      • Coach Ali is my go-to for weight workouts. Many old-school circuit training-type videos of various intensities. It reminds me of the P90X style workouts I did in the past. Fewer instructions, which, again, I like, and Joan does not.
      • BodyFit by Amy – I’ve used these videos for bodyweight workouts on occasion. I find I can’t zone out as much while listening to a podcast as her routines are very much more of a group workout vibe that happens to be on YouTube. Otherwise, very good overall.
          • We both find these videos overall excellent for beginner to intermediate with some challenging workouts available, too. Works well after a hectic week or activity-filled weekend.
          • Joan, however, makes these videos part of her routine more often.¬† As Joan put it: “Amy makes me feel so part of her team, good instructions that are very clear; always provides modifications and alternatives. Seems like your best friend!”¬†
      • Kit Rich –¬† I have not followed her workouts, but Joan enjoys them. In Joan’s words, “So different since she seems to have a variety of workouts that seems more of a dance vs. weight lifting background. Very clear and positive instructions.”
      • Finally, I like Fitness Blender for Cardio HIIT type-workouts. As with HASFit, often, two parallel workout options get shown.

If one of these doesn’t work for you, try one of the many others on YouTube!

A program to follow

The final portion of all these exercise videos and equipment is actually performing the exercise!

I’ll bluntly state upfront – I am not a nutritionist, have little medical background, and am not a physical trainer. Before starting any exercise or nutrition program, consult with one of the people I listed rather than some anonymous guy from the internet.

Additionally, every person’s different from what they eat, what works for them, and what exercises they gravitate towards.

The IT gig I picked up means less caloric burning activity than when I guided up until COVID hit. On the other hand, Joan’s daily routine often involves taking people out for four or five-mile hikes in the canyon country and assisting them as needed.

Having said all that, as mentioned, watching what I eat during the week makes up the other portion of this plan.

For me, that means a bowl of oatmeal in the morning with some nuts and fruit, two between-meal “snacks” of 16 oz of non-fat milk and a scoop of protein powder, a lunch of 8 oz of tuna or chicken with two cups of greens, and a similar meal at night of chicken, fish, or turkey burgers with veggies, too. I’ll have a post-dinner snack of an apple, typically. I tend to hit the weights more than Joan and, again, run stockier. Suitable for building muscle..or fat if I am not careful. ūüôĀ¬† More protein and fewer carbs and fats work well for me overall.

If I am doing an extensive backcountry activity over the weekend, I’ll eat mainly what I want within reason starting Friday evening. When I drink a craft beer or two at night, make a pasta dish, and maybe treat myself to ice cream on Sunday after a challenging trip.

Joan will eat the same breakfast with two eggs but prefers cheese, Greek yogurt, and fruit for her snacks during the day. Lunch will mean something such as tofu with veggies and rice. We’ll eat the same dinner, but I’ll cook up something like quinoa to add to her meal. Joan has a leaner build than me naturally and feels better with more carbohydrates than myself.

As for routines, I put one potential 90-day program below based on the P90X/P90X+ hybrid schedule. But it’s only a suggestion. You may like more yoga or maybe even more weight training? Or work in more HIIT cardio? Many of the YouTube channels listed earlier have 30, 60, or even 90-day programs you can follow as well. The key is finding something you like, exercising consistently, and doing various workouts to keep from both getting bored or your body adapting to the routine.

One potential schedule

Here’s a schedule that worked for me in the past and the present. You might want to use it as a template for yourself. Or not.

EDIT:¬†Even with the ebb and flow of my weight, I’ve managed to stay in decent to good endurance shape overall due to my weekend or more prolonged activity. So I did not have to shock my body in 2009 or 2020 completely. ūüôā And, as noted in the comments below, despite all my hiking, I’ve had no injuries, back pain, or joint damage. More luck than anything and some good peasant DNA! ūüėÄ You may want to adjust as needed.

I don’t religiously follow it because I am hiking, backpacking, or even skiing on weekends. Depending on how hard the weekend felt to me, I just may pick up where I left off again on Monday. Or if I felt the weekend particularly arduous (or arrived home late on Sunday), I just might take a rest day. I listen to my body and don’t beat myself up if I think a day of rest is warranted.

One advantage to higher mileage or longer days when thru-hiking? I know how to listen to my body and when I can push it. Or ease off the gas peddle a bit and slow down.

I enjoy the 45-60 minute routines. I realize not everyone’s in the position we find ourselves in (lower stress and less time-consuming jobs, no family obligations, and I WFH many days, so no commute to take away time bank funds), but an intense thirty-minute workout four or five days a week adds up over the year.

Do what you can, and your body and mental health will both thank you!

 

Phase 1

  MONDAY TUES WEDS THURS FRI SAT SUN
Week 1 HIIT Upper w/ weights ~45 minutes

Example 1

Example 2

Ab/Core workout  with weights ~15minutes

Example 1

Example 2

HIIT Tabata / Interval ~45 minutes 

Example 1

Example 2

Ab/Core Workout

 

 

Total Body Workout w/ weights ~60 Minutes

Example 1

Example 2

 

 

 

HIIT Cardio – Core Focus ~45 Minutes

Example 1

Example 2

Note: Some prefer Yoga for this slot. I get bored even if I completely understand the benefits. ūüôā¬† Plenty of free YouTube yoga videos as well.

 

HIIT Upper

Abs/Core workout

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plyometrics  / Speed and agility workout  ~60 minutes

Example 1

Example 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rest

Week 2 HIIT Upper

Ab/Core workout

HIIT Tabata / Interval

Ab/Core workout

Total Body Workout ~60 Minutes HIIT Cardio – Core Focus HIIT Upper

Ab/Core workout

Plyo Rest
Week 3 HIIT Upper

Ab/Core workout

HIIT Tabata / Interval

Ab/Core workout

Total Body Workout ~60 Minutes HIIT Cardio – Core Focus HIIT Upper

Ab/Core workout

Plyo Rest
Week 4  

Back and Biceps w/ weights ~45 minutes

Example 1

Example 2

Ab/Core Workout

Core workout w/  weights ~60 minutes

Example 1

Example 2

Chest and shoulders w/ weights  ~60 minutes total

Example 1

Example 2

…and add one of these 15-20 minute workouts to make the full hour.

Example 1

Example 2

Abs/Core

HIIT Cardio ~20 minutes

Example 1

Example 2

Legs w/ weights ~60 minutes. 

Example 1

Example 2

…and add one of these 15-20 minute workouts to make the full hour.

Example 1

Example 2

HIIT Cardio – Core Focus Rest

 

Phase 2

  MONDAY TUES WEDS THURS FRI SAT SUN
Week 1 HIIT Upper w/ weights ~45 minutes

Ab/Core workout  with weights ~15minutes

 

Plyometrics  / Speed and agility workout  ~60 minutes

 

 

 

Total Body Workout w/ weights ~60 Minutes

 

 

 

 

HIIT Cardio РCore Focus ~45 Minutes or Yoga for this slot. 

 

 

 

HIIT Upper

Abs/Core workout

 

 

 

 

HIIT Tabata / Interval ~45 minutes 

 

 

 

 

 

Rest

Week 2 HIIT Upper

Ab/Core workout 

Plyometrics  / Speed and agility workout  ~60 minutes Total Body Workout ~60 Minutes HIIT Cardio РCore Focus HIIT Upper

Ab/Core workout 

HIIT Tabata / Interval ~45 minutes 

Ab/Core workout 

Rest
Week 3 HIIT Upper

Ab/Core workout 

Plyometrics  / Speed and agility workout  ~60 minutes Total Body Workout ~60 Minutes HIIT Cardio РCore Focus HIIT Upper

Ab/Core workout 

HIIT Tabata / Interval ~45 minutes 

Ab/Core workout 

Rest
Week 4 Chest and Back w/ weights ~60 minutes

Example 1

Example 2

..and add one of these to get the full hour

Example 1

Example 2

Core workout w/  weights ~60 minutes

 

Shoulder and arms w/ weights  ~60 minutes

Example 1

Example 2

..and add one of these to get the full hour

Example 1

Example 2

Abs/Core

HIIT Cardio ~20 minutes

 

Legs w/ weights ~60 minutes

 

HIIT Cardio – Core Focus Rest

 

Phase 3

  MONDAY TUES WEDS THURS FRI SAT SUN
Week 1 HIIT Upper w/ weights ~45 minutes

Abs/Core ~15 minutes

 

HIIT Tabata / Interval ~45 minutes 

Ab/Core Workout

 

 

Total Body Workout w/ weights ~60 Minutes

 

 

HIIT Cardio РCore Focus ~45 Minutes or Yoga for this slot. 

 

 

 

 

 

HIIT Upper

Abs/Core workout

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plyometrics  / Speed and agility workout  ~60 minutes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rest

Week 2 HIIT Upper

Abs/Core

Plyo Total Body Workout ~60 Minutes HIIT Cardio – Core Focus HIIT Upper

Abs/Core

HIIT Tabata / Interval Rest
Week 3 HIIT Upper

Abs/Core ~15 minutes

HIIT Tabata / Interval

Abs/Core ~15 minutes

Total Body Workout ~60 Minutes HIIT Cardio – Core Focus HIIT Upper

Abs/Core

Plyo Rest
Week 4 HIIT Upper w/ weights ~45 minutes

Abs/Core ~15 minutes

Plyo Total Body Workout ~60 Minutes HIIT Cardio – Core Focus HIIT Upper

Abs/Core

HIIT Tabata / Interval Rest

UPDATE July 2021 –¬†

I’m still sticking to regular workouts and watching what I eat during the week.¬† I now weigh the same when I initially did the P90X/90X+ program back in 2009, but with a much more sustainable lifestyle to continue with my workouts regularly and for continuous improvement.¬† I also weigh what I weigh after a multi-week hike but with more muscle mass and a lower body fat percentage. And I’m up to using 30 lb free weights during my routines.¬†

Though not 100% accurate, the Navy body fat calculator makes a good “quick and dirty” way to get body fat percentages that’s about 2-3% off, depending. More importantly, consistent use gives a good baseline as I continue with my fitness routines.

Joan’s seen similar improvement with regular workouts. Though taller and leaner than me naturally, the weight and core workouts have only helped her backpacking.

Joan tends to do an “ala carte” schedule versus a more regimented workout program. Her job involves hiking up to five miles a day for field trips versus my IT gig.

I’ve been using a modified classic P90X schedule combined with more of the overall muscle-group workout style of P90X+ with outdoor activity on weekends.¬† I take rest days as needed or I ratchet down what I do on a weekend.¬† ¬†In lieu of yoga, I’ve been using Coach Ali’s Full Body (no weight) workouts that combine ~15-20 minutes each of bodyweight exercises, core workouts, and HIIT cardio in a ~45-60 minute session.¬† Additionally, I’ve been adding his 6-pack ab workout series in rotation coupled with one of his dumbbell routines as appropriate to make a full one-hour workout. My plyo day alternates with the old-school P90X plyo and this one I’ve particularly enjoyed.¬†¬†¬†I’ll add a 45-60 minute HIIT cardio routine as an adjunct on the rare weekend home or during the recovery week.

Lastly, I’ve been performing a 10-minute HIIT style cardio workout at roughly noon with a 10-minute total body, light weights, workout around 4:30 PM. I have the routines saved on my phone with an interval timer to make them easy to perform almost anywhere. These quick workouts get the blood flowing, give me some needed mid-day energy, and encourage more calorie burning.

Here’s the schedule that’s worked for me for about the past 6 months:¬†

 

 

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Steve
Steve
9 months ago

I like this calendar with hyperlinks idea. Very clever.

Any joint, muscle, or skeletal issues you cater your workouts to, or known susceptibilities that get special preventative attention?

Also kinda curious if those many years/miles of youthful abandon on trail have left you with the repetitive use injuries that plague others…Bulging discs, ITBS, achilies issues, sciatica, burgeoning arthritis, no-more-knee-cartilage, etc.

I hate the idea of not physically being able to do the things I enjoy doing. Hoping to avoid that.

Tony
Tony
9 months ago

I’ve using resistance bands (very cheap to buy and/or replace) and have found loads of video on youtube to give me that bit of variety. Not a huge fan of S&C workouts, but know I need to do more really.