My workouts of choice: Bikram and bike-riding.
“Biking outdoor” by motograf at sxc.hu.
Anyone interested in getting/staying in shape has to find the type of workout that’s right for them, that fits both their fitness goals and their personality: otherwise, working out winds up feeling too much like a chore. This is a post about the methods I’ve found work for me.
In the past, I tried the usual routine of using cardio machines and lifting weights. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that it wasn’t for me. For one thing, I didn’t feel challenged enough, and as a result I ended up working too hard and overextending myself. Secondly, it felt like working out for the sake of working out – I felt like that wasn’t enough. If I was going to be exercising, I wanted it to be more than just exercise. I wanted to accomplish something more at the same time.
After that, I turned to yoga. Yoga was supposed to be good for flexibility and general health as well as strength, so why not give it a shot? I found I got bored with that, too. A lifetime of on-and-off dance classes meant I was already fairly flexible. I didn’t find the majority of the poses all that challenging, and yes, I felt relaxed at the end of the class, but I didn’t feel as though I was getting a workout.
Then I discovered Bikram yoga.
Bikram yoga is a form of hot yoga, also known as yoga practiced in a room of about one hundred degrees Fahrenheit. Bikram yoga specifically involves twenty-six poses, or asanas, always practiced in the same order, with infinite room for improvement. I rarely sweat normally, but Bikram will make anybody sweat. The combination of yoga poses and a hot room eventually forced me to reign in my tendency to be a workout overachiever – if I push my body too hard in a Bikram class, my body will push back and I’ll have to take a knee. The style encourages balance and patience from someone like me, who can be more of a “push it to the limit” type.
As with most styles of yoga, the instructors like to tout Bikram yoga as a cure for all your ills, and I can’t speak to that, but I can speak to my own experience. I used to get pretty bad knee pain – certainly worse than someone my age should have. I figured out in high school that it was probably due to tension, but couldn’t do much for it. Leg stretches would assuage it for a while, but not for long. I also used to experience neck pain due to tension: occasionally so bad that it would bring me to tears. Massages would help, but were much more expensive than yoga classes and didn’t give me the same additional health benefits as yoga. It’s been a year since I began attending Bikram classes – approximately one class a week – and those issues are virtually gone.
I am also demonstrably stronger. Notably – even though this might seem like a small thing at first – I have a much stronger grip. Being forced to hold one’s leg in a specific position while it’s drenched in sweat will do that. I haven’t had to ask my fiancé to open a jar in months. I have gained some muscle tone, but Bikram, like all yoga, is focused on lean muscle, not bulk. This is the one area in which I’d want to improve in my workout regimen.
These days, Bikram is my primary method of working out, but bicycling is also a great form of supplementary exercise. When it’s warm enough outside, I’ll occasionally use my bike to get from Point A to Point B instead of taking public transit. The added benefit of the cardio is, of course, getting myself where I needed to go. It’s also easier on my knees than running.
It feels good to have figured out what works for me, at least for now. If you’re interested in finding more information about Bikram, check out this website.