We are here to PUMP you up

I have written a lot (I mean a lot) about my yoga practice. And I’m totally cool with that, because yoga is awesome. I’ll write more about it, and I’m cool with that, too.

But I haven’t really written about my weightlifting and HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), which a lovely reader pointed out to me. So, here’s the routine I’m using to do my best Dana Carvey.


Gym etiquette

Listen. I have a huge problem with people who don’t follow gym etiquette, so let me just tell you right now, because it’s easy.

  • Don’t hog the weights or move them out of sight of the weight rack. I use 4 different sets of dumbbells, and the guy who takes the 15s over to the other side of the gym, uses them maybe twice, and keeps them there for like half an hour is my least favorite person right now. This is why circuits and the fact that weight lifting requires so much rest between sets are awesome: you can get your workout in, but so can other people.
  • Put the weights back if you move them. In the right place. Don’t be a dick.
  • WIPE. OFF. YOUR. MACHINE. Especially if it has a seat. I don’t need your crotch sweat on my favorite Nike pants.


I use free weights (dumbbells), but they just upgraded a bunch of the machines in our gym, so the dude is going to teach me how to use them. If I decide to switch, I’ll make sure to give you an update. For now, you need the following:

  • a set of dumbbells. I use varying weights, but you could do all of these exercises with 5 lb weights if you wanted. I’m regularly increasing weight and reps because I want my arms to get cut, so I’m going to note the weight I currently use for each exercise. (UPDATE: My arms are totally not cut but they are strong so I’m good with that because, frankly, I’m not going to eat the bland diet required for Courtney Cox-level arms)
  • a bench that’s about knee height, or two chairs of the same height.
  • a good workout mix – see end of the post

Doing each of the following exercises is ONE circuit. I usually do two circuits.

  • Overhead press. Stand with your feet hip width apart, weights in your hands by your hips(left). Bring your hands up so that your arms look like goal posts, palms facing forward(top right). Exhale and push the weights up overhead until they’re almost touching(bottom right). Inhale and return to goal post rotation. I use 15 lb weights and do 8 reps.
  • Calf raises. Bring the weights back down to your hips. Push through your toes and come to stand on the balls of your feet. Make sure you’re feeling your calf muscles flex. Bring your heels back down. I use 15lb weights and do 8-10 reps, depending on if I did yoga the day before.
  • Bicep curl. Return to start(left). Exhale and squeeze your bicep to bend at the elbow, rotate the weights, and bring them up to your shoulders, palms facing you(right). Inhale and bring them back to their position by your hips, or if that’s too hard, keep your palms facing out and stop a few inches from your hips. I use 15lb weights and do 8 reps.
  • Another set of calf raises.
  • Hammer curl. This is the same as the bicep curl, except your palms should be facing each other(right). I use 15lb weights and do 8 reps.
  • Deltoid fly. Stand in starting position(left). As you exhale, keep your arms straight and lift them out to the side, making a T shape with your body(right). Inhale and bring them back to start. I use 10lb weights and do 8 reps.
  • Goal post rotation. Stand in starting position(left). Bring your arms up to shoulder height,  like the deltoid fly, but this time your elbows bent at a 90 degree angle. Your entire arm should be parallel to the floor(middle). As you exhale, rotate your hands up so your arms look like goal posts(right). Inhale and bring your arms back parallel to the floor. I use 5 lb weights and do 12 reps (use low weight, otherwise you’ll start engaging your bicep. The low weight engages your rotator cuff and works on definitions).
  • Tricep kickback. Bend your right knee and rest it on the bench, your right hand in front of it. Your knee should be right under your hip and your hand right under your shoulder. Keep your left leg in line with your hip, but bring it out to the side as far as you need to to keep your back straight. Hold the weight in your left hand, and bring your upper arm in line with your torso, elbow bent so that your forearm is perpendicular to the floor and your body(top). Squeeze your tricep and straighten your arm(left). Inhale and bend your elbow back to start. I use 12.5lb weights and do 8 reps.IMG_7519
  • Repeat tricep kickback on the right side.
  • Plank. Hold a pushup position for 10 breaths, but don’t lower down. If this is tough, you can rest on your forearms instead of your palms.
  • Downward-facing dog. On an exhale, push into the ground with your hands, push you hips back, and come to down-ward facing dog. Hold for 10 breaths. Slowly walk your feet to your hands to stand up.
  • Tricep dip. Sit on your bench or chair. Rest your hands on the seat, palms steady on the edge. Bring your legs straight out in front of you, heels on the floor, arms supporting your weight, butt in front of the bench. Lower your butt until your arms are at 90 degree angles (elbows even with shoulders), then exhale and push yourself back up so that your arms are straight. I do 10 of these.

That is all one circuit. Because you don’t want to plateau, there are two ways to change it up: lift more weight but do less reps, or lift less weight and do more reps.

If you’re not that concerned about building muscle, you could probably do that with the same weights for most of the time (making sure to change it up a couple of times per month) and be fine. But because I want super toned Michelle Obama arms, I add 2 reps to each exercise every other week until I get to 12 reps. When I’ve done 12 reps for two weeks in a row, I move up to the next set of weights and bring the reps back down to 8.

Some tips!

  • Exhale when you lift, push, pull, or raise the weight. Inhale when you release.
  • Stretch first!
  • Go slow. If you can’t do all of your reps at once, take a 5 breath break halfway through. If you want a challenge, you can move through the exercises one right after the other, but it’ll be really hard by the end. I’d rest for at least 20-30 seconds between each, and DEFINITELY rest for at least 2 minutes between circuits.
  • Go easy at first until you get the form right.
  • Only left as much weight as allows you to maintain proper form through EVERY rep. Those last few might be really hard, but your form shouldn’t fall apart. If it is, you’re lifting too much for that amount of reps. Lower the reps or the weight.



Ah, HIIT. You’d be amazed how long 30 seconds can feel. I like to do my HIIT on the bike, but you can also do it running, on a rowing machine, or on an elliptical(or even yoga!). Be forewarned: you’ve gotta prepare for this one mentally a little bit. HIIT is tough, and if you’re not used to really pushing yourself when you exercise, you may want to take it easy at first and only do 2-3 intervals. Your brain is going to be screaming at you to stop and it takes some mental drive to ignore that. Here’s how it goes:

  • 5 minute warm-up. I take this at a leisurely pace in an easy gear. To put it in number, I’m working at about 40% effort and on gear 3 of 10. This is when I really make sure that the seat is the right height, the straps on the pedals are tight enough, a good episode of Friends is on, etc.
  • Interval cycle. After your 5 minute warm-up, start your first cycle: pedal on a higher gear (I do 5 out of 10) at 90% effort for 30 seconds. Then “rest” by pedaling on the same gear but at 60% effort for 60 seconds.
  • Do interval cycles for 10-15 minutes. By the last one, 30 seconds seems like eternity. I like to count my breaths; I know that I need to take at least 12 per interval, so I don’t even look up at the clock until I hit that number. Of course, once I get to towards the end of this portion, I’m generally taking close to 20 breaths per interval. This can be mentally discouraging if you haven’t really thought through the fact that your body is working really hard and it’s tired and you need to breathe more often because your muscles need more oxygen to function. Even when you have thought through that, it can still be very fuuuuuuck, isn’t this over yet?!!!?!
  • 5 minute cool-down. Switch back to the lower gear and pedal however damn slow you please.
  • Stretch. I like to use the Restorative practice on Down Dog, usually for about 15 minutes.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll be drenched in sweat at the end, which is why I always use like 3-4 wipes the clean off the bike. If you want to vary it, I would suggest giving yourself shorter “rests” – either 45 or 30 seconds. If you do that, make sure you don’t do the actual interval part for more than 20 minutes; you’ll be pushing your body really hard if you do and you might injure something. Or just be really fucking sore the next day.


And finally, the workout playlist.

I keep this on shuffle, and it makes me so happy. Please be prepared for a list of stupid 90s music, pop, and a couple of actually good songs. Don’t judge me.

  • “Everybody” – Backstreet Boys
  • “Sunlight” – Bag Raiders
  • “Not Over” – Bag Raiders
  • “On the Sly” – The Bamboos
  • “Body Movin'” – The Beastie Boys
  • “I Need your Love” – Calvin Harris feat. Ellie Goulding
  • “The Mother We Share” – CHVRCHES
  • “Recover” – CHVRCHES
  • “Walking on a Dream” – Empire of the Sun
  • “Let Me Blow Ya Mind” – Eve
  • “Get Lucky” – Daft Punk/Pharrell Williams
  • “Orange Shirt” – Discovery
  • “Can You Discover” – Discovery
  • “Swing Tree” – Discovery
  • “Hungry Like The Wolf” – Duran Duran
  • “Crave You – Dub Step Remix” – Flight Facilities
  • “December, 1963 (Oh What A Night)” – Franki Valli & The Four Seasons (TRUST ME)
  • “I Want You Back” – Jackson 5
  • “Blame In On The Boogie” – Jackson 5
  • “What Do You Mean” – Justin Bieber
  • “Sorry” – Justin Bieber
  • “Company” – Justin Bieber
  • “Where Are U Now” – Justin Bieber
  • “Jesus Walks” – Kanye West
  • “Stronger” – Kanye West
  • “Touch the Sky” – Kanye West
  • “Heartbeats” – The Knife
  • “Thrify Shop” – Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
  • “Oh No!” – Marina and the Diamonds
  • “Uptown Funk” – Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars
  • “It’s Alright” – Matt & Kim
  • “Block After Block” – Matt & Kim
  • “You’re Always Going Too Soon” – Matthew Jay
  • “Maybe So, Maybe No” – Mayer Hawthorne
  • “Paper Planes” – MIA
  • “The Way You Make Me Feel” – Michael Jackson
  • “New Romance” – Miles Fisher
  • “Superbass” – Nicki Minaj
  • “Just A Girl” – No Doubt
  • “Bye Bye Bye” – NSYNC
  • “It’s Gonna Be Me” – NSYNC
  • “Tearin’ Up My Heart” – NSYNC
  • “I Want You Back” – NSNC
  • “Sun of a Gun” – Oh Land
  • “Voodoo” – Oh Land
  • “What Makes you Beautiful” – One Direction
  • “Kiss you” – One Direction
  • “Never Gonna Give You Up” – Rick Astley (THAT’S RIGHT)
  • “Start Me Up” – The Rolling Stones
  • “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” – Stevie Wonder
  • “Heartbeat” – Tahiti 80
  • “Dynamite” – Taio Cruz
  • “Shut Up and Dance” – Walk THE MOON
  • “Glad You Came” – The Wanted
  • “Switch” – Will Smith

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