Workout 16/05/2016 – my first ever hour long PT session!

So, on Saturday I did my first every hour-long personal training session (they’re normally half an hour). I also learned an important lesson. While coffee is the perfect fuel/stomach liner for a half hour session, I need more than that for an hour. Perhaps some food. At the 40 minute mark I was feeling good, and if we’d called it a day at 45 minutes or even 50 I might have walked away feeling like I had a top session. Those last 10 minutes though? They got hard. At one point I wasn’t quite sure if I was going to vomit or faint, and the frustrating thing was that I knew that it was likely just a result of not eating anything before I came to the gym. Grr!!! Anyway, it was a good one:

4 sets:

  • 10 x safety squats (45 kg, 55 kg x 3) – NB: still not sure what the weight of this bar is. I know I had 20 kg added for the first set, and 30 kg added for the rest.
  • 10 x clean and press (20 kg, 25 kg x 3) – super happy with these. I managed to do 7 reps in each set without bouncing to get the press up – I did strict presses
  • 20 x walking lunges, with wall ball carried above head (no weight, 2 kg x 3)
  • 10 x raised push-ups

3 sets:

  • 20 x raised heel (hack) squats, 2 second lower and 2 second raise (final set was normal lower and raise)
  • 10 x lat pulldowns (30 kg, 35 kg x 2)
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Where motivation, exercise and food meet

Last week both my PT and my partner were away. My PT offered me a replacement for the week, but to be honest he sets the standards pretty high and his replacement in the past just hasn’t been up to scratch, so I said no and promised him I’d train myself. Except that I didn’t. I did pack my gym bag and put it in the car three days in a row, but twice I got held up at work and on the third day… well on the third day I got lazy. With no PT appointments and no partner around to tell me to suck it up, I just didn’t get off my bum and get to the gym.

While I was busy not being at the gym, I was also busy being absolutely crap at being an adult about my food intake. I fell off the bandwagon, I ate what I shouldn’t have, I showed no restraint and I generally decided that I’d start again next week. Or something. I was also busy reading all the fitness blogs, and looking at all of the fitspo, and generally thinking about how I want to get stronger… and I was doing nothing about it. I chose foccacias for lunch, and chinese takeaway, and I ate chocolate in the car on the way home from work.

Yesterday morning my PT was back in the gym, and so was I. It was a good session, I worked hard, and I enjoyed it. The funny thing was, for the rest of the day, and for the first time in a fortnight, I found it easy to make good food choices. I bought a salad (which I enjoyed). I didn’t eat chocolate in the car on the way home. There was no afternoon snacks. So it made me realise something. If one good choice leads to another good choice, then it makes sense to find the good choice that is easiest to make, and always prioritise it, knowing that putting that first will help the rest of those good choices to flow freely.

In this case, clearly I need someone else to motivate me to work out. Whether it’s paying my PT or working out with my partner, exercising that way comes a lot easier to me than making that choice by myself. But making that choice seems to lead to me choosing to exercise more often, and to choosing better foods. So for now, my choice is to continue to prioritise my finances to pay for a PT, and to choose to start to schedule more workouts with my partner.

Starting with one good choice, which makes the harder choices easier to make.

Workout 17/03/2016 – squats and opera singing

Yesterday I compared doing squats with Opera singing. When I first finished high school, I jumped straight into a Bachelor of Classical Music (opera singing). Ultimately I never finished it, and this story probably indicates why.

I wasn’t (still aren’t) a fan of opera. I didn’t (still don’t!) know what good opera technique sounded like, and I certainly didn’t know what it felt like. When I was singing in a way that felt comfortable and ‘right’, I was told I was doing it wrong. When I sung in a way that felt physically odd and sounded (to me) bad, I was told I was doing it right. But only sometimes. I could feel odd and sound bad in many ways, and sometimes I was told I was wrong and others I was right – but I couldn’t tell the difference.

To me, squats provide a really similar experience. I’ll do 10 reps and none of them will ‘feel right’, but at the end of the set my PT will tell me that reps 6, 7 and 8 were good. But to me they all felt different, and certainly none of them felt right. I explained this to my PT yesterday (including the classical singing anecdote) and he looked at me kind of confused, but also like he kind of got it. We talked about my absolute discomfort with back squats, but how my (rarely practiced) front squats felt better. We did squats san-the barbell, which my arms in back and front squat position, and ascertained that even without the barbell I couldn’t do a squat with my arms in back squat position to a decent depth or with decent technique. Holding my arms in a front squat position was better though, so we went down some weight and played around with that.

My PT realised that if he verbally cues me at the right time I push my weight back where it needs to be, and I did some really decent low squatting reps like this. Unfortunately I couldn’t do very many, and (luckily my PT was spotting me closely!) I ultimately ended up losing power and falling over backwards. But that’s ok – I felt like it was my best squat session in a really long time. I had a technique breakthrough, and although I’m a long way off being able to confidently do them on my own with good technique, yesterday’s session took me a step forward.

2 sets:

  • 10 x back squats (40 kg, 50 kg)
  • 10 x high jump squats with arm thrust

1 set:

  • 9 x front squats (30 kg) – failure and rest at rep 5, failure and stop at rep 9
  • 10 x high jump squats with arm thrust

3 sets:

  • 10 x horizontal leg press (80kg) with wide-legged stance, and angled toes

Workout 16/03/2016

Arm/upper body day today. But because the scale have gone up instead of down over the long weekend, my PT threw in some whole body/fat burner stuff just for funsies (his funsies, not mine). I totally hadn’t mentally prepared for it after Sunday’s humungo hike (I’ll write about that later in the week when I’ve got some time), and my legs weren’t too happy, but I found some ways to mentally push myself and be reasonably happy with the workout.

3 sets:

  • 8 x pull-ups on the pull-up machine (50kg, 45 kg x 2)
  • 8 x dips on machine (50 kg, 45 kg x 2)
  • 8 x raised push-ups on lowest pull-up machine step

4 sets:

  • 30 seconds x battlerope slams (31 – 35 slams each round)
  • 30 seconds x wall ball squat throws (12 – 16 throws each round)

Workout 2/02/2016

Arm/back/shoulder day with my PT. This workout made me cry… in the first 20 seconds. I don’t know if it was because I’d got up at 5 am (at least 2 hours earlier than my body would prefer), or because I’d had no coffee, or because I’d had a huge day the day before, or because there was some high emotion stuff going on, or because of hormones, but either way this workout got to me. I wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary, besides higher-than-usual reps, but it got to me. My PT kept telling me that I was having a ‘strong day’, doing reps at high weight at a good pace, but it was frustrating to know that if my head had been in a better place I could have done even better.

2 sets:

  • 20 x barbell cleans (25 or 30 kg – unsure)
  • 20 x angled ring rows
  • 20 x pushups
  • 20 x bent over rows (same barbell and weight as the cleans)

1 set:

  • 10 x angled bench press on smith machine (10 kg + smith machine weight)
  • 10 x seated vertical lat pulls (unsure of weight)

A semi-dislocated shoulder. A step backwards.

stepping backwards

How does it feel to not be able to hold your handbag in your left hand? What is it like to feel that your shoulder may drop out of its socket if you pick up your water bottle?

It feels scary. It feels foreign. It feels unstable, like your shoulder might drop out of your socket. It feel embarrassing, a little humiliating and, most of all, it just feels fucking frustrating.

For two and a half years I have paid $50 twice a week. I have invested in gym gear, for the first time in my life. I have sweated, sworn, ached, felt proud, risked a lot, and trusted my very movement to a personal trainer. I have invested all of this to strengthen my somewhat unstable shoulders to make sure that, unlike my mother from whom I inherited them, I would prevent them from dislocating rather than having to rehab after the fact.

But today, merely half an hour ago, my left shoulder slipped. It didn’t dislocate, to be fair, but it slipped enough to make a popping feeling, to feel my muscles twinge, to leave my left arm feeling vulnerable and helpless. I wasn’t doing anything that I’d classify as risky- I was pulling a rope, bringing a reasonably heavy sled towards me. But I got enthusiastic, sped up, and forgot to brace my shoulder. A reminder that no matter how long I train for, no matter how strong I get or how much I achieve in the gym, my shoulders will always be vulnerable. A reminder that no matter how many times I’ve done a movement, no matter how practiced I am, no movement can ever be routine. I must always be alert, concentrating, aware of every muscle in my back and shoulders- how they’re placed, how they feel, how they’re working.

And now I’m left sitting in my manual car, wondering how the hell I’m going to drive home when my arm feels too vulnerable to pick up even my handbag.

Clenching my bum

I’ve had a realisation in the gym. I’m sure my PT’s been trying to tell me this for ages, and I heard him, but I didnt’ get it. So here it is: when I engage my glutes, everything gets easier. It doesn’t matter what exercise I’m doing, or what area of the body I’m focusing on – when my bum’s clenched, everything’s better. I’m sure there’s exceptions to the rule, and I’m sure I’m not supposed to be doing it all the time, but for now it seems that engaged my glutes in helping to engage other back and core muscles that I struggle with otherwise. It’s bringing some kind of balance to my body that I’ve been missing otherwise.

Last night I was doing some mid-weight clean and presses, and some bicep curls and presses. Often when doing these movements I do well for the first 6-7 reps (out of 10) but struggle for the final couple. Engaging my glutes meant that suddenly my stability increased, and although the final reps were difficult they were as hard as they’d been before.

So I’m sure this is something that the whole world knows. I’m sure I’m behind on the times, and what I’m saying is going to be pretty ‘duh’ for anyone reading this. But it’s somewhat of a revelation for me, it’s making life easier, and I’m excited to see what I can achieve now that I’m adding some of this stuff into my workouts.

Finding motivation: counting down to Spartan

Spartan-Race-Spartan-Logo2

I’ve lost some motivation recently. Not only with my eating (which didn’t surprise me at all), but also in my training (which did). Losing training motivation snuck up on me and yes, it surprised me a bit, because for the majority of the last 18 months my motivation’s been strong. While I’ve not enjoyed specific exercises, or had down days in the gym, for the most part I’ve wanted to be there and I’ve wanted the results. But over the past couple of months I’ve found myself consistently thinking about skipping-out on PT sessions, and dragging my way through them when they do happen. My PT’s noticed it too. At the start of the year I set a couple of goals for myself- weight loss (not specific), to be able to deadlift my own body weight, and to do a pull-up.

Turns out I’m very motivated by an end-point, but when I set that end-point myself I don’t work so well. This isn’t new to me- I’m constantly dealing with this exact same thing in the workplace when it comes to deadlines- but it’s a new concept for me in the gym. Needless to say, with no ‘other-imposed’ due date on those goals, they weren’t pushing me very hard.

Late last year I completed The Stampede, a 10 km obstacle event. It’s not a race- it’s supposed to be fun, supportive and non-competitive. My partner couldn’t do that event, so we’ve been keeping tabs on the obstacle race calender for a similar event to do together ever since. There’s been plenty happening across the first half of the year, but none of them at a convenient time. Anyway, Spartan Race recently announced their next Melbourne dates and races – on September 12 their running a 7 km, 21 km, and completely insane 42 km. So we signed up for the 7 km.

It’s crazy, but the day after I paid my cash and signed up, my motivation in the gym shot through the roof. Suddenly I had a six month time frame in which to achieve some fresh goals, and my mind was really really happy with that. Spartan seems to have a lot of monkey-bar style challenges (although it’s hard to tell, because they don’t release a map of the course), so my first goal is to improve my grip and upper body strength enough to be able to complete at least one of those obstacles. And if I can do one, hopefully I can do more.

We’ve signed up for the 7 km, because let’s face it, 21 km is just a bit nuts. The furthest I’ve ever run non-stop is about 3.5 km, and I’m definitely not up to running that right now, so my second goal is to get my running back up to a fairly decent standard. I’d like to be able to run 5 km of the 7- which should be doable, seeing as there’ll be obstacles breaking up the running. So it’s back to the Couch to 5km running app for me- and with six months, I know that’s realistic. I think the time-frame is the best bit about all of this. Not only do I have my motivation back, but I also have goals that I can actually achieve in the time frame. Run 5 km, do one monkey bar obstacle, and of course generally kick the rest of the course’s bum.

I know Spartan is a tougher, more competitive course and environment than the very family-friendly Stampede, but I’m really looking forward to giving it a go- and giving my body a go at pushing hard.