I’m being tortured. A strong man is pulling on my arm. Now he’s pushing on my shoulder. He’s leaning in, pushing down while holding my arm against him. I can’t get away. I can’t make him stop. In desperation, I try  to get off the table. Despite being inured to the pain he’s causing, he senses my struggle. “Where do you think you’re GOING?” he queries. “I’m trying to get away from you so you’ll stop hurting me,” I reply. He breaks into a grin and lets up for a nanosecond from reefing on my arm. Welcome to boot camp physical therapy.

Yes, I’m actually paying for this. My physical therapist, who studied at Mr. T’s school of physical therapy, has the hands of a mob boss. For the last few weeks, he’s been singularly determined to beat the tendonitis out of my shoulder if it’s the last thing he ever does. He’s exercised it, stretched it, iced it, heated it, ultrasounded it, taped it, and now he’s massaging it. Although it’s more like the kind of massage one might expect to get at Gitmo. In an earlier time, Mr. T. was a trainer for a Big Ten college football team. This explains a lot. A 300-pound linebacker probably would be saying right now “So when are you going to start?”

It’s not just physical therapy. In my efforts to keep biking despite the tendonitis, I’m accumulating a large collection of accoutrements. I have pages of exercise instructions scattered across my desk. The thought is that when I see these papers, it will remind me to do them. I have a foam roller for stretching the myofascia, leaned up against the piano. Yes, so I’ll remember to use it. I have a large red exercise ball in my living room, again, to remind me ….  I have a small exercise ball too, also red.  And a yellow stretching band. And a blue one. The Tony Horton “Ten minute trainer” series is sitting out on the table to remind me that if I give Tony ten minutes, he’ll give me the body I want, so I won’t have these problems in the first place. Right.

Then, there’s the Yoga stuff. I gave up Yoga when I started having trouble with my shoulder. But my massage therapist, the other torture guy, keeps giving me Yoga accessories to use for stretching. So, now I have a Yoga bolster, which is like a long narrow couch cushion, and a Yoga belt, which for the life of me, I can’t imagine, and really don’t want to know, what they do with this thing in Yoga class.

But back to Mr. T. He’s done “massaging” my shoulder and now he’s getting ready to tape it. The same man who minutes ago was pushing my arm in directions it doesn’t normally go, is stretching and smoothing out tape as gently as if he’s taping up a butterfly’s wing. He’s the same guy who softly wraps a wonderfully warm heating pad around my neck every time I arrive. He gives me all sorts of sage advice to help me balance my cycling habit with a shoulder that doesn’t want to behave, all the while making me laugh. When I’m not crying that is. He’s cajoled me into agreeing to have my bike refitted, and even recommended I hire a housecleaner, so I can give my arms a rest, and save them for biking. What’s not to like about a man like that? Turns out he’s more Mr. Rogers than Mr. T. And as I leave the office, I notice my shoulder feels, well if feels good. He’s managed to turn aiieeeeehhhhh into ah. Thanks Mr. T.

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 © Huffygirl

Home Exercise Equipment Revisited

As a postscript to my earlier series on home exercise equipment, I’ve managed to corral another guest blogger to do a review. Please welcome Aaron King to Huffygirl’s Blog. 

Home Exercise Equipment Review: Tony Horton’s P90X 

Whenever I find myself in a conversation about working out or getting in shape, someone always seems to mention the P90X program. I always wondered what made this particular program so well-known, so notorious. Even the name itself makes it sound exotic and exciting. P90X could be a disease, or a drug, or the name of a galaxy far, far away.

I was one of those guys you always hear about on the infomercials. I had tried a variety of different diet and exercise programs in the past, but none of them had seemed to work. But the buzz surrounding P90x was so big that I decided to order the program and give it a try. A couple of my friends from work were all interested in trying it also, so we decided to begin our 90 day journey together.

When my P90X package arrived, it seemed full of promises and positivity. It was full of congratulatory messages about taking the first step towards a better life and so on: all the standard post-purchase assurance language one would expect. But it also promised to be a lot of hard work. The secret to the program is what P90X calls “muscle confusion.” Another way to look at it would be “diversifying your portfolio of activity”. There are three main ways to stimulate your muscles: pushing and pulling heavy weights, moving rapidly, and holding positions. P90X includes weight lifting, push ups and pull ups, plyometrics and jumping, kickboxing, ab routines and Yoga. Yes Yoga. In this way, every week the muscles are worked in all the major ways.

And so I began. The first thing I noticed: Tony Horton is an absolute nut! He’s got a goofy, quirky personality. Sometimes he acts more like he is hosting a late night TV show than a workout session. He has a crew of different athletes he assembles for each session, and each video has its own style of playful banter. Some of my friends have found it annoying, but I find it to be absolutely hilarious.

The P90X workouts are challenging, and even after almost two years of doing the videos, I still cannot keep up with the athletes on the screen. Slowly and surely I am getting “in the best shape of my life.” Over time, the workouts have become much less intimidating. In fact, I’ve now became addicted to them. If I go a few days without hearing Tony Horton crack a lame joke, I feel like I’m missing a dear friend.

Unfortunately, I was not able to make it through all 90 days of the program. I got to day 78, ended up getting sick and was just too tired to finish. I’ve continued to use it though, although after two years of use, have yet to develop the polished and chiseled body that I was promised.

I have found that by doing at least four of the videos per week, and customizing the program a bit to fit my lifestyle, I can still get the benefits and make slow progress. With this method I have actually lost about 20 pounds over the past four months, my arms have gotten bigger, and I have a lot more flexibility.

I believe that if I keep going with these workouts, I will get there. Maybe 90 days is not enough time for the average user to develop into a chiseled, muscular powerhouse, but calling the program “P2 yearX” is not as catchy of a title. But as workout videos go, P90X is a more comprehensive workout program than just about anything out there. I think If I stick with it and continue to eat healthy, that chiseled body might be just around the corner.

The hardest part of the P90X is finding the time to fit it in. It is between 60 and 90 minutes every day. But if you can decide that being fit, active and healthy is worth your time committment, then P90X will give you a strong return on your time investment.

Aaron King is a “senior book-getter” for Better World Books. He enjoys an active lifestyle.

HuffyHow: Home Exercise Equipment Review

Although I’m not recommending one brand of home exercise equipment over another, I thought readers might appreciate the perspective of someone who has tried a home exercise video. Please welcome guest blogger Chris Barry to Huffygirl’s Blog.­ 


Chris Barry


 Okay, I’ll admit that when I saw the Tony Horton’s 10-Minute Trainer infomercial at 3 AM, I was as skeptical as probably every other bleary-eyed insomniac watching infomercials in the middle of the night. But desperate times called for desperate measures. So one night, I whipped out the credit card and made a late-night eBay purchase of Tony Horton’s 10-Minute Trainer. 

 Up through my late 20’s, I’d kept in pretty good shape by running three or four miles and lifting weights three or four times per week. But when I reached the big 3-0, my metabolism informed me (via email as I recall) that it was going to work part-time. Shortly thereafter, my childhood asthma returned, my daughter was born, and my wife went back to school full-time to finish her MBA. I found myself working all day, taking care of my daughter at night, and stealing a few hours of sleep in between watching infomercials while holding a screaming baby. My once fairly fit body now hovered around 144 pounds. And when you’re 5’5 ½” on a good day, every pound counts. 

 My expectations when I purchased the 10-Minute Trainer were pretty low. I wanted a way to fit in some exercise around my daughter’s sleeping schedule and get back under 140 pounds. Luckily, the product far exceeded my expectations. 

 The original 10-minute trainer basically consists of a resistance band and five workouts on DVD—Total Body, Cardio, Lower Body, Abs, and Yoga Flex. They also advertise a diet plan, but it’s sort of weak. And frankly, if you’re spending the 80 bucks for a diet plan, you’re making the wrong decision. Save your money, go online, and buy a $12 cookbook. 

 I still remember putting in that first DVD and thinking I’d “do a little cardio” workout. Ten minutes later I was gasping for breath on the couch. See, the magic of these ten minute workouts is that they’re super-intense. In every exercise, you’re working multiple muscle groups AND doing cardio. I’ll admit, I struggled at first just to get through the workouts (though as previously noted, I was kind of slob) but I committed to doing each workout every week. After two weeks, I saw a noticeable difference. One day I was changing my shirt after a workout and my wife noted, “You’re looking slim and trim!” Score one for Tony, and for me. 😉 

 Four months later, I was feeling great. My pants were falling off, so I had to buy 31” jeans, which I’ve never purchased before. And I would take my shirt off at random times for no reason. The best surprise though happened when I went to the doctor, stepped on the scale, and was officially charted at 130 pounds—a number I hadn’t hit since I was 24. 

 Since then, I’ll admit I’ve fallen off the wagon a few times. The workouts do get repetitive and Tony is a little cheesy, but Beachbody recently released a deluxe version with nine new workouts that helped me get back on track. These days, I hover around 132 pounds, I pocket my $38 gym membership every month, and I don’t have to watch sweaty old men walk around naked at the gym. Score one for Tony, and for me. 

 Chris Barry is a marketing professional and sometimes freelance writer who lives with his beautiful wife and daughter in Chicago.  

Disclosure: Huffygirl, Huffygirl’s Blog and Chris Barry have no association with Tony Horton and his exercise series, and do not receive any benefits from recommending this product.

© The author and Huffygirl’s Blog, 2010 to 3010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and Huffygirl’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

HuffyHow: How to Exercise with Minimal Equipment

Balls, Bands, Videos and Mats

A great way to do toning and strength training at home with minimal investment and equipment, is with exercise balls, bands, videos, and mats. For a fairly modest start-up cost (around $50) you can get a large exercise ball and 1-3 bands, which should last a long time with proper use. You may be able to borrow these as well, or find them at garage sales or thrift stores.

Thera-Band is the leader in exercise balls and bands. While their website does not sell the products to individuals, it’s a good source to see what’s out there. Balls and bands are available at fitness stores and large discount department stores such as Target. Balls are color-coded for the user’s height and weight, so make sure you buy the size that’s right for you. Balls are great for stretching and strengthening the core muscles. You can do crunches, press-ups, push-ups, squats and more. The ball comes with an illustrated instruction sheet for many of the exercises; you can also find plenty of resources in books and online for more workouts.

Exercise bands are color coded according their level of resistance. Colors vary somewhat by brand, so make sure you’re getting the resistance you want. As strength improves, you can move up to a higher level of resistance. You can also get more of a workout from each band by holding it shorter or tighter for more resistance, or longer/looser for easier resistance. If your bands are latex, they’ll last longer if you store them where it’s not damp i.e. don’t leave them lying around on the basement floor. That said, if you are latex sensitive, make sure you buy latex-free bands.

The pros of balls and bands? Beginners can start with the easier exercises and work towards harder ones. Expense is minimal and they should last a long time. Bands are easy to transport – you can tuck them into a corner of your suitcase and take them with you for quick work-outs while traveling. (The balls, though, not so much.)

The cons? You’ll have to follow the pictures and instructions until you learn how to do each exercise, which may be cumbersome and awkward at first. One way to get around this is to take a ball/band class, or get a video. Balls can be hard to store, so if you don’t have empty closet space, you may end up with one sitting permanently in the corner of the family room, like I have. Bands will eventually become overstretched and need to be replaced, but if you’re really thrifty you can find uses for the worn out ones, like using them to tie up your tomato plants. While bands can give you a great resistance workout, if you want the look of a body builder, bands will not be enough for you.

Most exercise videos are fairly inexpensive and available in everything from Yoga, Pilates, aerobics, band/ball and everything in-between. One widely touted video exercise guru is Tony Horton, a muscular hottie who offers a variety of video workouts, the most well-known being P90X (“Go from regular to ripped in just 90 days!”) and 10-Minute Trainer (“Give me 10 minutes, I’ll give you results!”) Although I can’t recommend these over anything else as I’ve not tried them myself, I know the Tony Horton series has enjoyed huge popularity. Tony’s approach is a little less saccharine than the typical workout video, and there is a wide selection of series available. Don’t expect to save any money if you go with Tony though. This is not a $20 video. Prices start at around $100 to $125 and go up from there. Another caution – I doubt that you’ll end up looking like Tony with only ten minutes of exercise per day.

The pros of exercise videos? Many are low-cost (except Tony).They’re easy to follow, portable, easy to store. The cons? Most people sooner or later get pretty tired of the typical exercise video banter. You can easily become bored with using the same video day after day. If you buy a video and don’t like it, you’re pretty much stuck with it. To avoid these pitfalls, try renting or borrowing a video to see if you like it before you buy. Have more than one video and rotate them so you don’t get bored. Look for videos at garage sales or trade them with your friends to avoid burnout. If you’re interested in going the Tony Horton route, you might want to borrow one to try it first, or buy used on eBay before you make the big investment.

With all this exercise you’re doing at home you’ll need a comfortable floor space. Yoga mats start at about $20 and are readily available in discount stores, fitness stores and online. A Yoga mat is good not only for Yoga, but also Pilates, or any floor exercise you’re doing. Yoga mats are also great for protecting your floors when using equipment such as a Wii Fit or balance board, can double as a beach mat, can protect the floor under large exercise equipment such as stationary bikes or elliptical trainers, and can be used for just about anywhere you need a cushioned, nonslippery surface. When not in use Yoga mats roll up pretty small and can be stored in the corner of a closet.

Coming up next: weight machines and weight benches