Work it

Posted in: 

I blame Jeff Rogers, Bon Iver, and a couple of inspiring friends (ie. my fitness idols) for what happened after work today: I exercised. 

Not just my occasional yoga routine, or slow lane puttering in the pool. I did a workout. I did a workout DVD. I did a workout DVD with Bon Iver. It involved squats, weights, and cardio, and some heavy breathing. Things that I haven't done in a long while.

From Huff Post

Are you a human enigma? Does your love for woodsy, angelic folk music and the sweaty spandex just not add up? Don't fret, Bon Iver is here to make sure that sensitive hipsters can get buff too. Although at first thought to be some kind of joke, singer Justin Vernon has released a trailer for a very genuine workout DVD providing the benefits exercise to an alternate audience. In the words of Bon Iver music video director Dan Huiting: "It’s a legit workout DVD. Straight up, for real." ...The video will provide an opportunity to exercise to music not often paired with the Huiting put it: "cool music instead of something stupid." The video will be around 50 minutes, divided into a weight circuit, body circuit and ab circuit. The video takes place in Vernon's yard. 

And that's exactly what it is.

(If the video here doesn't load, please refresh the page and it'll show up - still trying to figure out why this is happening...)


When I saw the announcement for this probably just over a month ago, I decided $15 was worth seeing if it was any good. And then I forgot I ordered it. A couple days ago, it arrived in my mailbox and I went, "What the heck is this...?? ...Oh... yeah... right..."

And today, I tried it out after work. There are three parts to the DVD, each is 15mins: 

  1. The "body weight" workout (mostly lower body)
  2. The "weights" workout (mostly upper body)
  3. The "abs" workout

 I did parts 1 and 2, and managed to complete probably 60% of the workouts (the 2nd with 5lb weights - the only ones I have), which was better than I thought I'd be able to do. Thanks to the segments being pretty intense but short, I felt like hell during them, but recovered quickly afterwards instead of feeling like hell all night and through the next day, which often happens if I over-exert myself. It'll be interesting to see if/how I will improve to do the entire thing.

Lots of people on the internet have joked about this video, but I thought it was great.

  • Great indie music.
  • Nice relaxing, nature-y 'feel' and visuals.
  • Fun to have Bon Iver as the exercise class and see the narrative about their experience with fitness.
  • Short but intense workouts, pretty realistic to do at home.
  • Fair amount of inspiration/cheese which I found motivating but not over the top.

The only few things I think would have improved it are:

  • Excluding the exercises which don't make as much sense to do indoors, since most people would be following a DVD in a more enclosed space.
  • A little more variety (there's a lot of repetition of things like squats and lunges, which I think could get boring and also not provide enough variety for different muscle groups).
  • And most importantly, I would have LOVED there to be a 4th segment of 15 minutes of stretching - I did it on my own after, but would have been a nice addition.

The thing that made me most happy: realizing my body could still do something like this despite my neglect. I did it, and I lived! And I didn't even feel that terrible, though I'm quite sure I'll be sore tomorrow...

More generally...

I've become really aware lately of how much my physical condition/fitness has degraded over the last 7-8 years. Between bouts of fairly debilitating chronic illness flareups, and my usual chronic health problems that include stomach issues (which make me absorb fewer nutrients/calories), joint pain (which makes everything painful), and asthma (which makes any cardio torture), I'm probably in the worst shape of my life right now.

In university, for a long time I was exercising 2-3 times a week. Things like yoga, swimming, weight training, a bit of cardio, mountain biking, wall climbing, etc. were much more regular activities. But that was before a lot of my chronic conditions became more severe. And a few years back, I had some varied diagnoses by rheumatologists and pain specialists. Some thought I had Fibromyalgia, some didn't. One told me to stop doing weight training because it was increasing my pain, so I did. But I had nothing left to replace it with, so I only continued to do light yoga.

But the thing is that stopping doing these other activities completely has really led to a steady decline in my fitness level, and I'm really uncomfortable with that. I don't want to continue to become less and less able, until I potentially slide into a legitimate level of 'disability' if it can be avoided (which I believe it can).

So, I'm going to try and do more frequent light to moderate levels/amounts of exercise on a regular basis, and just maintain that (rather than aim for a level that is not realistic). Sidenote: this PDF on Graded Exercise Therapy was really interesting and hit home with me - if you have any kind of fatigue or chronic conditions that make fitness really challenging, it's worth a read.

I'm hoping to do more of the following to start out, since they're things I've enjoyed and that I feel aren't too taxing on me:

  • Walking.
  • Bike rides (hopefully with the help of an electric bike in the near future).
  • Yoga (mostly in home).
  • Swimming.
  • Wall climbing (haven't done this in years, but really want to again).
  • At home mini-workouts (like on the DVD).
  • Dance (I discovered a dance studio nearby and they said I'd be more than welcome to join and do whatever amount/level I can).

If anyone else is either really patient, or at a very remedial level of fitness, and might want to exercise together on occasion (I'm often really self conscious of other people seeing me exercise - I think it has something to do with the horrid shame of high school gym class - but it'd be nice to have some exercise buddies again), please do let me know!