Monthly Archives: February 2014

Olympic State of Mind

I just read an article about how us average folk are hitting the gym with an extra oomph to our workouts as we watch the Olympics and decide to train like Olympians ourselves. Although it was well written and it justified the author’s opinion, I disagree.

I am not even joking that I was going to blog about my surprise at the lack of energy in the gym during the Olympics. Athletes are displaying phenomenal strengths and skills on screens throughout the gym as members intently watch their own reflections doing bodyweight calf raises.

This article is concerned that people can’t train like Olympians and will get hurt. First of all, where are these people? Secondly, without intending to be rude, let me just say that the average person does not know how Olympians train and Google can only help them so much. Unless you don’t work and have access to an extremely talented (enter sport here) coach then you are out of luck. Unless someone brings their hockey stick to practise their wrist shot, or sings the national anthem before they start, I don’t think we should panic. Safety in the gym is always a concern but enthusiasm translating into intensity sounds good to me.

Let’s talk about something that is much more dangerous: watching the Olympics while doing cardio. I felt good, had new music on my iPod, and after 45 minutes of weights, I headed to the treadmill for a 20 minute run.

Some things you I would like to share about myself: I have a background in dance, a little bit in figure skating, and I’m a spaz when I’m excited.

And I turned on the Olympics just in time to watch the ice dance finals. You know how when you’re talking to someone who is shocked and your face makes a shocked face too? I did the body language version of this. In public. While trying to run. My limbs were completely out of control and I was careening around as much as the treadmill would let me. By the time I was ready to get off, I wasn’t sure if my increased heart rate was from the run or from the nerves of competing in the ice dance against the TV.

If anything, we should be concerned for the people who are training while watching and not those channeling their Olympic state of mind into their workouts. Treadmills should be off limits for the gold medal hockey game …

hurdle

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Buns of Steal

Gym rage. This is like the equivalent of ‘roid rage, but omitting the steroids.

I went to another new gym today. This particular location was surprisingly quiet considering how many plates were amassed on all the machines. Here is a tip: if you can push 8 plates quietly, you are doing it wrong. Although being surrounded by workouts of a minimal range of motion was unimpressive, that was not was made me mad.

Side note: Isn’t it interesting how each gym has its own different atmosphere from every other gym? I would love to study the differences in training efficiency based on the “feel” in the gym. Once I figure out how to measure “feel”…

Anyways, since this was my first time here, I was unsure of where everything was and where to go just to be out of the way. In my gym, I know the popular and unpopular spots so when I need space I know right where to go. How comfortable. After consecutively lunging myself into peoples’ way, I took the last available bench to do Bulgarian split squats. Just to clarify I have my back foot on the bench and drop down into a low lunge. This is not a picture of me, but it is the best picture Google has to offer. If this woman jumped her right foot a little more and dropped down a little lower she could do a Buns of Steel workout video instead of these textbook pictures. Fun fact: try using the seat on a machine instead so you can adjust the height. That booty won’t build itself!

splitsquat2

Sorry I got a little distracted there. Gym etiquette would state that I am equal to that moron curling in the squat rack while you’re waiting to squat so I was keeping an eye out for anyone who actually needed a bench. Sure enough, a girl about my age starts lurking me and comes to hang out uncomfortably close by. As I finish the end of my first set  I say, “Hey do you need to use a bench? I can do this anywhere”. Please note I actually said that these can be done anywhere. She says yes and moves in but as I walk away I see her reflection in the mirror doing exactly what I was doing. I just about choked on my Gatorade. Is there no such thing as gym etiquette anymore?!

So I did what anyone would have done… I sent some aggressively capitalized text messages to all of my friends who work out. I especially emphasized that she wasn’t going low enough for it to be a workout. That is what really made me mad. Once my phone hit low battery I decided to resume my workout and then I noticed she was just following me. Shamelessly; there was awkward eye contact, note taking on her ipad, and just her tagging right along.

I guess this is just a compliment but let me tell you, I would be much more flattered to have someone come up to me and just say: “I like the way you look, could you recommend some exercises”. Or maybe she just didn’t know any exercises and I was picked at random. Regardless, if you copy someone’s workout and you catch up to them, do not kick them off what they are doing.

Actually now that I think about it, it is pretty funny. However, not an effective way to workout.

At least we are all in the gym!!

5years

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Ch-ch-changes

The worst thing we can do to ourselves is get too comfortable. Despite my lack of philosophical insight or all-knowing wisdom, I speak based on experience.

We underestimate our capabilities and overestimate how ideal repetition seems to be. I doubt that anyone laying on their death bed would say, “I regret all those times I tried something new”. It is hard to look back on a year, month, or even a week, and feel like your feet are in the same place wearing down footprints in the ground. Our footprints should be spaced far and barely leaving a mark before the next one is planted.

Today, D and I worked out at a different gym. New faces, new equipment, completely different atmosphere, and most importantly- new people to race on the treadmills. Even though we are going from one gym to another gym, it allows enough fresh air and change of scenery to clear your mind. Because nothing clears your mind like body odor and the sound of weights crashing, am I right?

This was a great time in discomfort, just in a small scale, one day type way. Finding new things, trying new things, and accommodating this with strangers’ schedules are all things that should happen daily. I found it really surprising that even as a trainer, I was intimidated at times. Maybe it was because I spent a lot of time wandering to see where everything was or maybe it was because I was the only female not doing cardio. I ended up doing deadlifts just right in the middle of the gym since the racks were taken and I wasn’t sure where to go to be out of the way.

As a bonus, today was the first day I saw what happens when steroids go bad but that is a whole other story.

This is about more than just fitness.

I am itching to be uncomfortable.

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Gravity

Gravity goes sideways in the gym.

It is like I can’t control my head cocking to the side when I see some people working out.

Everyone starts somewhere, as my mom and I were just discussing. You just can’t know how to do something when you first start, it is that simple and that difficult. People stroll from one machine to the next, casually looking at the pictures and doing just enough reps to not get too tired.

Just like gravity, there are certain things you can always count on in the gym…

It is leg day and there are two squats racks. One will have several times your body weight in plates loaded onto the bar. Sometimes the person here can actually squat it but probably not. Either way, you can’t work in because the workout will be changing the plates. The other squat rack: someone curling the barbell. This gives me a Hulk-esque rage but unfortunately not the strength (which I would use to remove this person from the squat rack).

If you know what you’re doing (or if you look like you do) someone will follow your routine right behind you. This always makes me want to throw a bunch of handles behind me in a trail to throw them off. With my business card mixed in. They will always catch up to you and it will be awkward. Just get a trainer.

The talker. Every gym has one. This person has no concept of time or social cues and they thrive on those who are in a rush. Three seconds to go on your rest break? All of a sudden the talker is between you and your weights telling you about his trip to the planetarium six years ago.

We all know the guy you can hear before you can see him. He will take all of the plates in the gym to load up a barbell and be as physically loud as possible while he pounds out two reps within one quarter of his range of motion. Grand finale to follow with a smashing of the weight and a final scream,  followed by fifteen minutes of “recovery”. He earned it, just ask him.

My favourite is after work when people who aren’t really done work rush to the gym. Benches become offices as cell phones go off but there is no working in because obviously this bench is in use. How dare you interrupt a meeting.

chestday

This list needs to mention the hunter- gatherer. This unsuspecting exerciser appears whenever it is busy or just whenever you need something. They will claim everything that is available no matter whether they can use it or not and sharing is not an option. If you ask to work in with something in their pile: “just twenty more minutes, bro”.

There are three of you in the change room. Your lockers will all be in a row. No exceptions.

No matter the distractions, they all turn into stories to share later once the rage passes.

Did I miss anything?

imagesCARU2ZAL

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Process and Progress

I am trying to upgrade my workout log from my current system; millions of loose pieces of paper scrawled with increasingly tired handwriting as the list goes on. As much as this is wasteful and inefficient, I am too OCD to make a book of partially illegible workouts. I need to come home and print them out neatly. The handwriting is definitely a good measure of how hard the workout was, though. On days when I need to really kick my butt I could look for the page where the words turn to shaky lines and there are traces of tear drops. No matter how authentic the chicken scratch on paper shreds, my personality requires tidy writing. Must be my only quirk.

Next in importance after tidy printing, I have felt the thrill of almost smashing my face in.

I am (carefully) checking off my to- do list, which not so coincidentally is identical to my “you won’t do these again” list as per my surgeon. It is with great proudness I can say I conquered a dumbbell bench press. Started with 20 pounds in each hand, and found it shockingly easy, in a relative sort of way. My spotter encouraged me to keep pounding out reps until my right arm decided it had enough and it careened its’ dumbbell towards my face.

In danger, I close my eyes and brace myself apparently. Awesome life skills. Use a spotter with quick reflexes, friends!

The only thing that remains in that no fly zone is contact sports. I won’t lie, it probably will never be crossed off that list and I’m okay with that. Contact sports will be the one time I will use my shoulder injury as an out. As much as I love thinking I have super strength, my body was not built for combat.

My swimming career is in the making now; I have been in touch with someone who will help me regain (or learn) my strokes and then I’m sure this challenge will feel much more real. Triathlon also comes with the added challenge of finding a flattering one piece bathing suit.

Just kidding.

That doesn’t exist.

swimmer

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