Posts Tagged ‘Fitness Advice’

I’m working back to normal workouts now with my broken foot healed.

One things I’ve gotten to discover first hand is the real benefit of compound movements. I know, this is something you hear a lot about in the lifting world on why free weights are better than machines, and it’s something I was aware of on a theoretical basis before but I understand it in terms of experience now.

While my foot was still healing and I needed to stay off it I discovered that while the gym I go to closest to me didn’t have any seated leg machines, one (in the same chain) a bit further away did. So I would sometimes go further away to that gym so I could do a seated hamstring curl and leg extension. Even staying off my foot I could work my legs some.

And surely this would help make it easier to transition back to lifts using my legs, like squats, after my foot was healed, right?

NOPE!

I still can barely manage squatting, even a few weeks back at it now. Trying to squat after so long without, my body completely forgot how to do that movement. Sure, the leg extension and hamstring curl helped build back some muscle on my legs, but muscle from those isolation movements did not translate well over to the functional movement of squatting- my muscles (all of them in conjunction) were not used to this movement.

 

Last night at the gym I for the first time since my break from lifting threw in a metabolic complex and it kicked my ass! I hate these. My comfort zone for workouts are heavy lifts with long rests between. The kind of stuff that builds muscle and leaves me sweating, but doesn’t really get my heart rate up for any sustained period of time. I also like swimming and HIIT cardio style workouts (sprints and such). But cardio HIIT workouts do not kick my ass as much as a barbell complex. I absolutely hate these when doing them, they feel miserable. And I realize I need to make more of an effort to do them more often. Because if I only stick with the stuff I find easiest or most enjoyable, I will be missing out. Sure, even if I only do a low intensity swimming several times a week I would have health benefits from that. But lifting and adding in some stuff that is a struggle and gets my heart rate going a lot more provides other forms of health benefits that are missed by sticking with just one style of workout. Aside from health benefits, it provides a different type of training benefit that other stuff doesn’t, and I’m missing out on performance if i skip it.

It helps though that I love how I feel AFTER it’s over though. And it doesn’t last very long. Not sure something like running a marathon is ever in my future. Much as I hate steady state cardio, not sure I could put up with it for such a long period of time.

Still trying to get into a groove of workouts though. It feels like a lot to fit into a schedule.

My goal is 3-4 days of lifting per week (each session taking 30-60 minutes usually), Krav Maga at least 1 day per week (fitting class times into my schedule is difficult or I’d aim for more often. Classes are 1 hr long if I remember correctly.), 1-2 complexes per week (so that adds 15-30 minutes, usually do these at the end of a lifting workout), and swimming 5 times a week, usually short distances at the end of my other workouts, but trying once a week to work in a mile swim (about 70 minutes). That all plus stretching and maybe working in some yoga classes. …. Kind of adds up to a lot of time. Everytime I go to the gym time seems to just melt away and it’s several hours later by the time I leave. Though it’s one benefit of going to the gym during my lunch break at work is it forces me to keep my workout time down, but that’s why I never try doing lifting workouts during lunch.

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This is actually something I would like advice on.

I feel out of place and like I’m doing something, or everything, wrong when I’m at the gym. And I’m so caught up in that I’ve never really thought about ways to encourage other people there.

Let me explain what brought this up:

Today I went in to swim around 1am. There was a man getting in the pool right about the same time as me. I followed him in down the steps- I prefer to walk in down the steps and then get in lane.

He asked if I wanted the first lane and I told him I was fine taking the second lane, it’s just easier to come down the steps and then duck under the buoys.

After that he struck up some conversation with me asking me how many laps I was going to do. I said I wasn’t sure, probably not many since the pool closes at 2. I ask how many he was doing and he said he doesn’t know, he just does what he can. A lot of stop and go. I said the same for me (I have to rest at least every 100m, if not more often).

We both then started off and I outpaced him for sure as I was swimming the laps and he was doing a bit of swimming and a bit of walking (they do say that if you want to walk laps, to use the leisure pool, but I am guessing late at night when there are only 1 to 2 lanes in use period they aren’t super strict in enforcing that.)

Later I was resting at the same time he was taking a bit of breather, and he told me good job or that I was doing good or something like that. I laughed and said thanks. Told him the same. He says, oh no, not me, I’m just moving around. I said, hey, you are moving, that is something!

Then another time I took a break floating during my rest time, he asked how I did that. I told him I really don’t know [I really don’t actually] I seem to just be naturally buoyant [maybe it’s all the fat lol]. But if i just relax in the water, I will float it seems.

He said something else about my swimming being good, and the backstroke being hard. I said that I just started swimming again and am trying to remember what I learned way back in high school. He said he never learned to swim and is just trying to teach himself. I told him that he’s doing well teaching himself. Then we both went back to our laps.

 

Afterwards I started thinking and wondering if he feels as self-conscious and out of place as I do there. I hope he sticks with the swimming. And it has me wondering what is it i could say or do in those situations to try to make someone else feel more comfortable and confident at the gym (if they aren’t. I might be projecting.)

 

What do you think?

 

So a little something about me, I tend to mentally freak out and worry about things, expecting the worst possible scenario.

Despite all my experience with it, ever time I have to give a presentation for school I have to fight the urge to literally just get up and run away. And that’s with something I do often! This is often far worse then with things where I’m out of my element and not sure what to expect.

I’ve always wanted to try some strongman training but don’t have access to a place/the equipment to do it. So when I saw a facebook friend post that he got some strongman equipment and inviting local folks over to check it out, I was excited for the opportunity. And also terrified of all the scenarios in my head about how awful this was going to go.

I might be too weak for any of the equipment even without added weights! And I have never done this before and don’t know what I’m doing. And my form is probably terrible even at stuff I do have experience with. Long story short- my mind was racing with all the ways this would go terribly wrong.

The whole drive over I was fighting that “just turn around and go home” urge.

But I didn’t. And I got to try out some strongman stuff with two very nice guys. It was fun and exciting and absolutely nothing terrible happened! It left me just all the more excited to do more strongman stuff, and excited about lifting in general. And as much as I love my home gym and working out alone, it was actually fun to lift with some other folks for once. And I was so sore after in all the best ways.

I know for lots of folks fitness activities that are new can be intimidating. Whether it be the first time in a gym, first time trying a new sort of activity or something else- people get nervous and intimidated (I sure do!)

But there are good things to come out of pushing past all that and trying something new anyways.

And I know I, for one, am definitely working on doing that more often. Getting out of my comfort zone and trying new things!

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a long time.

Awhile back I heard someone say something about the importance of being consistent but not perfectly consistent.

I don’t know what exactly was meant by that according to the person who said it, but it really stuck with me and I wanted to talk about what it means to me.

I especially was thinking of this recently seeing someone online frustrated at being ill and unable to do much exercise for the time being- something I’m far too familiar with.

There are two parts of this that are works in progress for me.

The first part is accepting that I will never be as perfectly consistent at all times that I want to be. It’s clear that a reality of living with my chronic health conditions is that I’m always going to have times when I’m ill and can’t do everything I want, including working out. Sometimes I’m going to have to take a little time off from it. And that’s been hard for me to admit to myself. Because I always want to think I can do everything. But the other side of this is that I am also working on remembering that this doesn’t mean it’s not worth it.

So that’s the second part- always getting back on the horse. Not getting discouraged when things don’t go perfectly and I have to take some time off, but instead just getting right back to it as soon as possible.

So in a nutshell, that’s what consistency means to me these days. It doesn’t mean that I will always be perfect with my consistency. I don’t always hit all my planned workouts. Things go off plan. But consistency, to me, right now, means always getting back to it. Which I have not been good about in the past. In the past I let my health constantly knocking me back a step become a reason to not even bother. I was sick of working out, getting too sick to, getting back at it, and repeat. It didn’t feel worth it.

Now- now I remind myself that it’s still worth it. That I still make improvements even if more slowly. If I can take 2 steps forward and then I get pushed back one, I’m still further ahead for it.

So I am consistently getting back up on the horse and getting back on track.

And I hope other folks in similar situations can learn to not get discouraged by it as well. Because I think often we are given this message that consistency is important and it’s interpreted to mean that it only matter, it only counts, if you are always perfectly consistent. You always make your planned workouts on time, every single week. We think consistency means that things never get in the way. And then we take that and think if we can’t achieve that type of consistency, there is no point in bothering.

Which isn’t true. Even if things don’t always go as planned, there is still value in moving forward and getting back on track as many times as you need to.

One thing that is common for folks new to fitness in general or a particular activity is to think that people are going to judge you, be rude, and act like you don’t really belong. This is a very common fear a lot of women have with weight lifting in gyms that keeps a lot of women out of the weight rooms.

It’s something I’ve felt before, and still, and will surely more times again in the future.

And I feel bad thinking about this subject because a big inspiration of mine in creating this blog was a place to talk about things that annoy me that happen or are said in fitness spaces (in person or more often for me in online spaces). And so I tend to focus on these negatives a lot, which may give the impression that that is all there is out there or even that that is how most people are. Which has not been my experience.

There are assholes out there. Like the guy at the gym who suggested I should use a machine instead when doing bench presses because he was clearly annoyed having to share equipment with me (if machines are so great, you use them. Problem solved.) Or the times I’ve gotten comments mocking my workouts that I track (publicly) online.

But for all those assholes, I’ve probably met a lot more folks who are very supportive. For every person who posts something mocking a workout of mine, I’ve had several people comment in support and encouragement.

Part of what got me thinking about this was chatting with this girl via text message- and I hope if she ever sees this she doesn’t mind me sharing this bit of info. So I’ve mentioned lifting and running to her, and I was talking about running and she comments “I’m afraid if you’re looking for a workout buddy, I will be veryyy slow”. Now my first thought was actually that I don’t think it’s even possible for anyone to run slower than me. I am really slow already myself. But if someone was slower than me or needed to walk more often, if they wanted to go running with me I would gladly go at a pace comfortable for them. I’d love to have someone who wanted to join me in these things and would not be at all bothered if someone was less experienced than me.

It actually reminds me of a geek related complaint I have. There are some “geeks” out there who look down on folks for not being as into a particular geeky thing as them, and have this exclusive “you don’t know about this so you suck and aren’t welcome” attitude. Which I have never understood, as a geek. When a friend of mine told me he had never watched x-files I didn’t think “what the fuck is wrong with you? You suck, you are obviously not really a geek, we can’t be friends anymore, get out!” No, I thought, “how the fuck can you have never seen x-files? Well let’s fix this right now, you should come watch x-files with me because it is awesome and you will love it!” Because when I love something and think it is awesome, I want to share that with people and let other people in on the awesomeness of it.

I feel the same way about fitness. I love it. It’s fun. It makes me feel great. And I would love to share that with other people!

And I’ve found that a lot of folks feel the same way there. And when I met up with folks in person who are much faster runners than me, they were fine with slowing down and going at my pace.

So yes, there are assholes out there, that’s life. But I would hope people who are new, or thinking about giving lifting/running/whatever else a try would know that there is actually a lot of support out there and most people are not going to be assholes. And just ignore the few who are because the problem is them, no you.

This post is going to have to two parts. I workout at home, and I’ve had some folks ask about my home gym so I’m going to start with a little virtual tour of my home gym in it’s current state. After that, I am going to talk about some of my thoughts on working out at home vs a gym.

My Home Gym

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A tidy looking view of my home gym

My home gym area is not particularly large and nothing really fancy about it. I don’t have a ton of equipment, just the basics mostly.

This is a photo of what it looks like when I'm working out though- set up for squats here.

This is a photo of what it looks like when I’m working out though- set up for squats here.

The space is just big enough, which also means that I’m constantly moving around my barbell and bench for each exercise. I would love if I could get another barbell so I could leave one in the squat rack and one outside it, but for now I have what I really need, and it’s not too much of  a problem to move the bar in and out of the rack as needed, along with moving the bench as needed.

So I also want to talk briefly about cost. I love my home gym for a number of reasons I will get into later, it did require  a fair bit of cost total. Though in the long run I think cheaper than gym membership for me. In total I think my gym cost around  $1,136 to me. That’s an estimate because I’m guessing at how much some of the older items cost me. That was not paid all at once, I got parts of my gym at different times.

Average gym membership cost according to my googling is $55/month. So a year gym membership is cheaper, mine works out cheaper after the 2 year mark. I expect my equipment will last me that long, though by then I will probably have more. A fair bit of my stuff is over a year old already. I’ve spent $895 about in the last year- and that was for all the big stuff.

Within the past year I have bought puzzle mat pieces for the floor which ended up costing me around $100 for the space covered here.  I bought my bench new on sale for $75 (it’s incline and decline adjustable if you can’t tell from the photos). My power rack was $370 new (actually as cheap as many second hand options I found, I might have been able to get it cheaper but my ceiling in the basement is low and most racks were too tall. This one just barely fits.) And I got my barbell set for I think it was $350 second hand off craigslist.

My weight plates, weight rack, and ez curl bar.

My weight plates, weight rack, and ez curl bar.

This was good deal since my barbell set included a standard 7ft olympic barbell, an ez curl bar, 435lbs worth of plates for the olympic bars, and of course the rack for the weights (which also can hold the barbells) as seen here.

To me those are the basic- barbell, plates, power rack and bench. Before having these it was hard to really do much real strength training. I consider these the basic necessities you need if you want to do weight training. The power rack is important for safety working out alone. I’ve had to explain this a number of times to people I know who acted like I was being frivolous in my spending when money is tight by buying the rack. But without it, I couldn’t really go heavy. Working to increase my bench I’ve several times failed that weight- a power rack means I have bars next to me that catch the barbell if I fail a lift instead of it coming down and crushing me. And the weight on my bench isn’t that heavy, it probably wouldn’t kill me if 95lbs fell on my chest, but I’d rather just avoid that injury. And the higher I get my weights, the worse those injuries could be without the safety of the rack. (plus for things like squats, it means I can do heavy weights. I can’t clean what I’m squatting right now and definitely can’t press it overhead. I could clean to a front squat but before my rack to get the bar on my back I would clean and press then lower to my back. That works for bar only or light weights- it doesn’t work for heavy squatting.)

I also have a weight cheat sheet telling me which plates I need to have a total weight number on the bar (counting the bar weight)

I also have index card cheat sheets telling me which plates I need to have a total weight number on the bar (counting the bar weight)

Prior to these main pieces of equipment I’d had some dumbbells, standard size plates, resistance bands and an exercise ball.

Dumbbells and exercise ball.

Dumbbells and exercise ball.

Resistance bands and extra plates for adjustable dumbbells.

Resistance bands and extra plates for adjustable dumbbells.

These were bought peice by peice years ago when I didn’t have the space for a full gym area.

The latest addition to my gym: a fan!

The latest addition to my gym: a fan!

Treadmill residing in a different, uncleaned-up area of my basement.

Treadmill residing in a different, uncleaned-up area of my basement.

I also have  treadmill. This was not factored into my prices above since it came free to me (it was my mom’s before). I have not gotten this set up to use yet though (mainly would like it for winter, until then I just run outside).

If I ever get the money for it next up on my wishlist for gym equipment would be kettlebells, foam rollers, and medicine balls (probably in that order) (I do have an actual home gym wishlist too! lol).

Home Gym vs Commercial Gym

There are a few things that go into this sections on my thoughts between a Home Gym vs Commercial Gym. For me, personal preference has me preferring a home gym hands down.

With a home gym I don’t have to worry about gym hours (great since I workout late at night and so I would otherwise need a 24/hr gym. I also don’t have to worry about limited holiday hours). I have no commute time to get to my gym. I can wear whatever I want to workout- now that it’s summer and it’s overly hot inside my home gym, I usually stick to a sports bra with no shirt which I would not be comfortable in at a gym. I’ve also been known to forgo pants, because hey- it’s just me. Sports bra and boy-short style undies and I’m good to go! I doubt a gym would be ok with that! A big one for me is not worrying about people watching me or judging me. I never have to wait for equipment either. And the newest thing I like about my home gym is that I can yell during heavy lifts, which I’d probably be too self-conscious to do in a gym.

There are some things I think gyms have as benefits. They more equipment available- if I was a member of a gym I would likely have access to a larger range of dumbbells and cardio equipment. I might have access to Kettlebells, medicine balls, and with some gyms even things like a pool. And while my home gym offers flexibility, on plus of a gym I’d have to go to is that I could go after work and tell myself I’m not going home until after the gym rather than currently when I go home, decide I should eat first, sit around for a bit, and then it’s later than I planned on it being to start a workout.

That’s all kind of basics though. In ranked order, the issues of feeling comfortable are probably top in reasons I prefer my home gym. I don’t have to worry about people judging my workouts, I don’t have to worry about people mocking me or even posting photos of me behind my back, I don’t have to deal with men in the weight room being condescending or acting like I don’t belong. Anecdote time- when I was working out at my University’s fitness center in undergrad one time I was doing bench presses when it was crowded- I usually tried to avoid crowded times when I would have to deal with waiting for equipment. I managed to get a bench and a bar though and I start a set. Some guy asks if he can work in- yeah, no problem. Well he stands there while I’m doing my sets acting annoyed at having to work in and share with me, and then starts telling me how the gym has chest machines I could use instead. I don’t want to use the machines- I prefer free weights. You can use the machines! Getting unsolicited advice from men and annoyed looks that I was using equipment they wanted as if they had more right to it that me was common. And I hear the same thing from women all the time in gyms- many men act like women do not belong in the weight room and can be downright rude and offensive as a result.

This is where I feel some internal conflict though. Individually, being able to avoid this is a huge plus. There are times though I feel like I should workout at a gym just for this reason. Because more women in the weight rooms will help make other women feel comfortable in them, and by choosing to avoid the issue by working out at home that’s one less woman in the weight room. Also more women in weight rooms I think can help teach men that weight rooms actually don’t belong to them alone.

There is also the fact that in the age of smartphones, it’s becoming more common for folks to take photos or videos of people at the gym and then posting them online to mock them. So glad I’m not in those by working out at home. Sometimes though I feel a similar conflict there, about taking the easy way out, but less so because I don’t feel like I owe it to anyone to have my body mocked online. And as a fat person if a photo or video of me at a gym made it online to a place were people make fun of people like that, my body size would almost certainly be a target.

All or Nothing Fitness

Posted: June 25, 2014 in Problems
Tags: , ,

Hanging around a fitness website I’ve noticed among some people this sort of all or nothing mentality to fitness. And by that I mean, there is this idea that either people be completely dedicated to being completely ripped or you are wasting your time and don’t really belong.

Of course I suspect that most people actually fall somewhere in the middle of that- people like working out and/or do it for health benefits, but don’t really want it to be a focal point of their life. And that’s where I fall. I love working out! But it’s not the focal point of my life, my life does not revolve around working out. And, personally, I think that’s ok!

I’ve heard it said sometimes that “it’s a matter of priorities”- typically meant to mean that you need to make working out a priority. But I think “yeah, it is a matter of priorities”, and at the end of the day working out is not my top priority. My first priority is my education right now. Getting through my PhD program successfully- which means not just passively moving through it going to classes. Actually that’s the biggest difference I would say about a PhD compared to other degree levels, the actual “school” part of school is minor. I’ve been told this by faculty many times, classes aren’t that important it’s what you do outside classes that matters. Which is hard when classes take up a large portion of your time while you are in them (though only the first part involves taking classes) , and you are expected to get straight As in those courses because anything less is not ok at the PhD level. But outside of classes and qualifying exams, there is also the research. You better be working on research. You should be reading, talking to faculty, getting on their research, going to conferences, presenting at conferences and writing journal articles. It takes time and dedication. And right now that is my top priority. I mean, there is work-life balance. So I try to juggle those obligations with obligations to my health, and working out, and working, and fun (a mental health obligation), along with all the other parts of life like still working on getting unpacked at my house, and painting and cleaning and so on.  But working out gets balanced around my school demands, not the other way around.

It’s unrealistic to expect that working out be everyone’s top priority- that’s not life for most people.

Another thing I saw recently was someone mentioning that if you are not taking training seriously, then it’s just a pastime and so, basically, why bother at that point? Which just makes me go o.0 This may make sense if working out isn’t just a pastime for you, such as you are a competitive powerlifter or something. I’m not. Training is just a pastime for me. It’s a hobby. Why bother to do it if it’s just a pastime? Because I enjoy it. Because there are plenty of health benefits to working out. What more reason than those do I need?

And this is my problem with all or nothing- it’s missing a lot of people. And then the message become,s ‘don’t bother working out’. Which isn’t true. You can workout and see health benefits from it without needing it to be your top priority. If life gets in the way sometimes, that’s ok, take break and come back. It’s better if you can avoid taking a break, but sometimes life does get in the way of things. It does not have to be all or nothing. There is no reason to give up entirely because something happened and you missed a few workouts. Even if it sets you back and you can’t run as far or fast, or lift as much or do as much at whatever you were doing, coming back is worth it!

And if you can only fit in working out sporadically, a little at a time, around your life- it’s still worth it! You do not have to be at the gym an hour a day, everyday, without fail in order to workout. There is middle ground for shorter, less frequent, even sporadic, workouts.

Will you get the same results as long, harder, or more consistent workouts? No. But as long as your expectations are reasonable, what’s the problem?

I really don’t get why certain people seem very bothered by the fact that other people might like working out, without it being as important in their lives- and then react to that feeling by seeking to make those people feel unwelcome in fitness based spaces. And should you feel unwelcome, and by into this belief that if you aren’t going super hardcore at your workouts, it’s not worth doing at all, the same people will still mock you for being such an inferior human being for not working out.

Working out has tons of great impacts on health. There is really no denying this. So why should anyone seek to push others away from a great healthy activity just because they are doing it in a way that fits their life and their needs instead of yours?

 

I’ve also noticed a trend though, that people who do make working out their top priority end up going to work in jobs related to it. Which is fine, nothing wrong with that. And it makes sense! Because if part of your job is working out, or at the very least at the gym were you can fit in workouts in you breaks and such, then it is easier to workout daily and keep that as a top priority for you. But obviously not everyone can lead group fitness classes or be a personal trainer- you would have no costumers if everyone was, not to mention not having people doing all the other jobs we rely on as a society. So among the rest of us, fitness will be a pastime,  a hobby, and not the #1 priority in our lives for many of us. And that’s ok. And it doesn’t mean we should just quit working out, or that we don’t belong in the gym, or participating in fitness websites, or anything of that nature.