On May 1st, 2022 I started exercising again. Basically, a friend of mine proposed a spreadsheet tracking our progress on some physical fitness goals while a group of us was playing the Street Fighter RPG. Out of the group, I'd normally consider myself the least likely to be "in shape", but I decided to hop on board. This all led to me being surprised at the fact I was the one most often entering exercises into the sheet! Still, there is always hope we can get the whole group more actively in on it. The basic idea of the sheet is that there are two pages to it. The first page has a list of particular exercises, with our names, and a proposed benchmark level to reach for. The idea is that you put in where you are at on a particular exercise the last time you performed it. The second page is a tracking page, just a log of every exercise a person does and chooses to enter into that page. There is nothing that says the exercises you perform and log on page 2 need to directly correlate to the benchmarks on page 1, it's just a way to see what other people are up to and kinda track and "get credit" for what you do yourself. Here is a list of the benchmarks that are on the sheet and what I think about them:
Pushups (50): I'm currently in remedial "build up to real pushups" mode, doing incline pushups, but I like this benchmark just fine.
Pullups (15): I'm also in a remedial "I can't do a single real pullup" state, but this is also a great goal I'd love to achieve.
Squats: (250): This is a kinda crazy high number that, after a point, becomes a weird cardio achievement. I don't see exercise programs that suggest this volume. Still, I'd like to be able to do 100 in a single set without pausing, after which time I might progress to using a kettlebell for weight, or doing some other more difficult variation of the squat to build strength. I'm currently getting around 100 reps of this, doing a set of 50 or so, followed by a couple sets of 25.
Planks (for time) (3 minutes): I am also maybe a little unsure about this one. I read a lot of conflicting opinions about planks, and it also seems like an exercise I could more easily cheat a bit with. Still, it's not bad. In addition to however other exercises will work my core, I'm going with leg raises, then may test my plank from time to time.
Walk/Run (30 minutes, for distance) (3 miles): It's good for me to walk, and so I have walked a little, but running feels bad to me. I don't really like it. It makes my ankles and calves hurt (probably in part because I don't walk enough to build up some of those achy muscles). Anyways, my personal alternative here has been to use my rowing machine! I love the rowing machine, because the only pain is the burn from working, no joint impact. I've been doing 30 minutes of rowing, and also am interested in improving my 5k times. This benchmark is good overall, as 30 minutes & 3 miles amounts to a decent 5k run, I've just personally decided to substitute rowing and trying to improve there, for the most part.
Burpees (25): I'm pretty sure this is an OK benchmark to have on the list, but I'll be waiting until I'm doing at least 25 real pushups before I even consider getting in on this.
Looking above at the benchmarks we have on our friendly little exercises list, you'll see they don't necessarily form an exercise program. People engage in all sorts of programs and so far I am falling towards preferring a progressive calisthenics approach. Powerlifting with conditioning seems like another very sensible approach, except that it requires more equipment. Things like Yoga or Pilates also seem to have aspects to recommend them. I'd prefer a program that is easy to understand and leads to improvements in strength, conditioning, balance and mobility/flexibility. This rules out bodybuilding for me, as I care more about the utility than the aesthetics, and it also rules out more narrowly targeted things like a "Couch to 5k" program. Here are a couple resources I've looked at and found interesting regarding program ideas:
Hybrid Calisthenics: This site is run by a friendly guy, Hampton, who has a pretty good YouTube Channel. A lot of the principles of his program seem to be based on an approach recommended in the book Convict Conditioning. The basic idea is that you have broad calisthenic movements like pullups, pushups, squats, leg raises, twists and bridges. Each of those types has a bunch of variations that are harder or easier. So, you assess where you are at and work your way through the variations as you build in ability.
The Barbell Prescription: Also known as "Greysteel", this is a powerlifting program that is pitched as a method for preserving physical capabilities for people as they age, but really is just a careful take on a powerlifting program. The name of the site refers to the book The Barbell Prescription: Strength Training for Life After 40 by Jonathan M. Sullivan, which also seems to be influenced by the book Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe. They also have a decent YouTube channel. The program incorporates squats, deadlifts, overhead presses and bench presses. It promises some pretty impressive gains in the beginning of the program during the "novice" phase, before modifications are needed when you begin to hit progression limitations.