I recently started reading a book, The Checklist Manifesto. It’s written by a surgeon who observed the use of routine checklists in medical procedure and found that the benefits of using simple lists of actions helped save lives and increase efficiency by incredible margins. It’s a fascinating book.
I’ve always been obsessed with the idea of routine, perhaps because I’ve always felt my life lacked it. But over the past few years, that has started to change. I read the teachings of The Fly Lady, who advocates making routine checklists for before bed, in the morning, throughout the week – it is a central part of her program to organize your life. I’m also a big fan of Maria Menounos’ book, The Everygirl’s Guide to Life, which also has a big section on the importance of checklists and writing down everything you need to accomplish as part of your routine.
For the sake of posterity, I want to start documenting my routines for myself. Right now, my most important routines are related to fitness, since that is my #1 focus at the moment. I’m currently in the middle of a round of INSANITY, the Beach Body DVD cardio workouts. They’re very intense, but the results are fantastic. The fat just seems to melt away when I’m consistent about the workouts, and I also feel incredibly strong, healthy, and energetic as a result. I want my workouts to become a habit – something I can’t imagine starting my day without – and I think establishing a routine is going to be a big part of that. So here’s the routine I’ve been [loosely] following:
1. Put on workout clothes. I have a section of my closet dedicated to workout clothes so it is easier to grab them and put them on. I want as few barriers as possible between me and my workout, so this is an essential step in my mind.
2. Put on my heart rate monitor. My heart rate monitor is crucial to my workouts. It helps me to see how hard my heart is working and whether I can step up my intensity or I need to take it down a few notches. It also provides me with a fairly accurate calorie count at the end of my workout. I use a very basic Timex heart rate monitor (it was the recommended budget heart rate monitor on consumersearch.com) and it works great. Sometimes the heart rate is off and seems way too low or high, but for the most part it works fine and is a perfectly acceptable and very affordable solution. Eventually I plan to upgrade, but for now it fulfills my needs.
3. Put on socks and sneakers. I have three pairs of sneakers, two Mizuno shoes (one basic running shoe and a trail runner shoe) and a pair of the New Balance Minimus shoes. The Minimus shoes have very little support, as they’re essentially a transitional shoe for barefoot running, so I only use them for runs and not for my INSANITY workouts since they require better arch support. I switch between my Mizunos so that I’m not using them too often. It is said that your shoes should get at least a day’s break in between workouts so they don’t fall apart, so I try to abide by this rule.
4. Set up my hydration station. I have a hard time drinking plain water, especially during a workout, so I sweeten my H20 with U Natural water tablets, which I love. My favorite flavor is Goji Berry Green Tea. It takes a few minutes for the tablet to dissolve in water, so I like to get that process going before I set up for the workout. Once I’ve filled up the glass and dropped the tablet in, I bring it out to the living room and set it on the table as my “hydration station.”
5. Grab my yoga mat, move the couch and lay down the mat. I need to push back my couch in order to create enough room for the workout, and the mat really helps cushion my feet during the workout.
6. Press play! I did P90X last year, which was my introduction to Beach Body workouts. Tony Horton, who leads the P90X workouts, had a saying: “Keep pressing play.” That’s a big motto of mine, because once you press play and you start to hear the instructor giving orders, it’s easier to get going. One of the things I love about Beach Body workouts is that the instructors are very encouraging and provide me with the feedback I need to keep pushing myself.
7. Follow the rules. I have a few simple dos and don’ts I try to stick by for my workouts:
- Do stick with the workout the entire way through without pausing or taking a break. Never press pause! Even if I need to run in place because I can’t do a particular exercise, I need to be there and present for the duration of the workout. When I first started taking bikram yoga, my instructor, a lovely British woman, used to say “No matter what happens, just stay with me for the entire 90 minutes. Even if you need to lay down and rest, stay with me and don’t leave the room.” I never left class early even when I really wanted to quit because I kept remembering her words, and I never regretted sticking it out and not giving up.
- Don’t check my calories burned on my heart rate monitor. I feel like it’s a hindrance for me staying focused during the workout. I would rather focus on keeping my heart rate up and pushing myself that way instead of fixating on calories burned.
- Do check my heart rate monitor to make sure I’m pushing myself without overdoing it. During my INSANITY workouts, I like to stick to a 165-180 heart rate for the intense parts of the workout. During warm up and cool down, I’m usually in the 125-140 range.
- Do drink water regularly and get refills as necessary. INSANITY really makes you sweat, and I find myself drinking 1-3 glasses of water throughout the workout.
Once the workout is done, I follow up and:
8. Put everything away. The yoga mat goes back in the hallway closet, the couch gets pushed back into its original placement, and the workout video is closed and the TV turned off. This is an important part of my overall philosophy that you should put things away as soon as you’re done using them.
9. Prepare my recovery drink. Beach Body has an orange creamsicle recovery drink that helps you replenish nutrients after your workout. I usually don’t do the full serving (2 scoops) because it’s a little much for me. Eventually I want to start using a more natural recipe with whole ingredients instead of a processed powder, but for now Beach Body’s recovery formula is working just fine. I use my KitchenAid hand blender to mix it up (it’s pretty much the most amazing device I have in my kitchen), drink it at my counter, then rinse the blender parts, put them away, and put the dirty glass in the dishwasher. Again, putting away things as I finish using them.
10. Shower and put on clean clothes. Showering post-workout is so important to wash the sweat off my skin and prevent breakouts. If I don’t have time to shower, I at least wipe my face, neck, décolletage and limbs with Yes To Carrots’ Brightening Facial Towelettes, which are fantastic – they smell delightful, provide good cleansing and a gentle exfoliant, and also moisturize my skin. It’s the perfect multi-tasker if I’m in a pinch, a hurry, or just plain lazy. Then, putting my workout clothes away (or throwing them in the laundry if they’re too sweaty) and throwing on clean clothes is a way of signaling to myself that I’ve accomplished my goal of working out and it’s time to continue with the rest of my day. There are few things worse than hanging out in stinky workout clothes and procrastinating on getting clean and dressed in fresh clothes.
And that is my workout routine to date. I’m consistently thinking of ways I can improve on this routine and make it even better. What type of checklist do you use when doing your workouts? I’d love to hear any ideas on how to improve the process.