Staying in shape in quarantine

A year ago, I did a post on getting in shape.  Well, a lot has happened since then.  For instance, there's been a global pandemic and people have been stuck in their houses for six months.  So I thought an update might be in order.

The food situation

In terms of general health, I've made it a point to maintain good habits.  I started working from home in March, but I've maintained the same schedule as when I was going into the office.  I still get up at 6:00 every morning to exercise - I just have a few more minutes to wake up before I start my workout.  And I still prepare all my lunches for the week every Sunday morning - my go-to lately is turkey burgers, roasted sweet potatoes or butternut squash, and sauteéd broccoli or brussels sprouts, along with half a bag of chopped salad.  I find that this is good for my mental health, in that it maintains a sense of normalcy and consistency, while keeping my on track in terms of physical health.

While my weight has been holding steady at around 165 pounds, I've noticed that I have been eating more.  This is probably to support the increased exercise and the extra muscle mass I've gained.  To deal with this, I've been making an effort to curb my sweet tooth and choose healthier foods when I'm hungry.  For snacks, I might have an apple, or a small handful of mixed nuts, or perhaps an RxBar.  (I wasn't a fan of RxBars the first time I tried one, but they've really grown on me.  The chocolate peanut butter is my favorite.)  They even have "mini" RxBars that are half the size if you just want something little.

I've also been eating a lot of PB2, which is powdered peanut butter.  I'm a big fan of peanut butter - I could easily stand there and just eat 1000 calories worth of it right out of the jar if I'm not careful.  PB2 isn't really the same as "real" peanut butter, but I think it's still pretty good and it's much safer as a diet-friendly food - a 2Tbsp serving of PB2 has 6g of protein and 60 calories, compared to 8g of protein and 190 calories for regular peanut butter.  So I get almost as much of the good stuff for a third of the calories, which means I don't have to be so concerned about over-eating.

PB2 has also become part of my typical evening dessert.  Sure, I still have "real" dessert if we have something special in the house, but when we don't, I've been having some Greek yogurt mixed with PB2, which makes a sort of "peanut butter pudding".  I throw in a little store-brand Fiber One cereal and some granola to add a little texture and it's actually a very nice before bed snack.

The training regimen

In terms of exercise, I've been making good progress.  I've been doing the Athlean-X programs for about a year and a half now.  For the first year, I did four rounds of AX-1, which I mentioned in a previous post.  After the first round, I standard integrating their TNT plugins, which each add an extra workout per week that targets a specific muscle group.  There are five of them and you can integrate up to two at a time, so I did one on my second round of AX-1 and two on my last two rounds.  I'll save the details for what the workouts were like for another post, but as you might guess from the fact that I did it four times, the "beginner-level bootcamp program" is actually fairly rigorous.

This summer I moved on to the next program - AX-2, or "Athlean Extreme" as they refer to it.  That's also a 12-week program like AX-1, but more difficult. It still focuses on general athleticism, but includes a bit more strength work.  After that, I did two rounds of Xero, which is their bodyweight-only program.  This has apparently gotten a lot more attention since the pandemic started.  Since people couldn't got to the gym, a home bodyweight program was just what a lot of people needed.

Before starting AX-1, I initially considered Xero, since at the time I didn't have any equipment.  Since it was listed as an "intermediate to advanced" program, I decided against it.  In retrospect, I'm glad I did, because it's actually quite challenging.  The strength training workouts are good, but some of the conditioning workouts are absolutely brutal.  Even after completing the first two programs, a few of them left me feeling like my heart was going to explode, which hadn't happened since my first time through AX-1.

In terms of training results, I think I'm doing pretty well.  My endurance has improved noticeably and I've actually started to develop visible muscles.  I'm stronger, my blood pressure is great, and those random aches and pains that I assumed were "just part of getting older" have gone away.  In a way, it's weird - between training daily and eating right, I feel physically good pretty much all the time.  I'm not used to that, but it's nice.  I highly recommend it.

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