Category Archives: Squats

Back For More

It has been way too long since I have posted anything. Full time work, part time work, and full time school do that I guess. Sorry to admit that I would rather be known for being a hard worker than for my blogging consistency. I’m back on track now I swear.

I have another MRI on my knee tonight, however my limited (non- existent) background in medicine makes me think my knee is almost good to go. If you are going to tear a ligament, it looks like this is the one to go for. My theory is that it was on the verge of tearing since the car accident, so my body is used to functioning without much support from it. There is a knee surgeon who works out in my gym and yesterday I picked his brain a little. I asked if he would recommend operating on a torn MPFL and after seeing my leg day he thought I was crazy to consider surgery. He told me that he does full knee replacements and so would not be the surgeon for me, to which I replied that I probably should get a spot on the waiting list now. By age 26, I have worn my knees out to Bambi status, and I am banking on robotic body parts being available soon. This is not a complaint because I’d rather use my body up than be laying on my death bed commenting on my joint fluidity.

I hope the afterlife has squat racks.

On that glorious note, I took off my knee brace for Monday’s workout. It was terrifying, exciting, and significantly reduced the smell of my workout. Someone should invent braces that come with built in fans like they have for those mascot costumes. When I instructed a running group at my previous job, my “smelly knee brace” had a more wide- spread reputation than I did. I think it made people run faster so they wouldn’t get caught downwind. Whatever it takes to make them run.

When I was working out, I kept looking in the mirror trying to figure out how far I am from my body about four months ago before my kneecap dislocated and my hopes, dreams, and body weight came crashing down. I temporarily felt disheartened to realise I am in a permanent state of re-building, until I realised that everyone in the gym is there for the same reason. Sure, some of us do it with a sickness of going until we cramp up into a sweat-soaked mess but everyone has the goal of change.

Still being warped is frustrating because I have been struggling to increase weights and still maintain good form in my workouts. My hips are out of alignment, and my spine is curved so my back is still imbalanced. I guess I just got a little too comfortable and when I feel comfortable, I am not aligned, and every other body part dominoes along into my personal take on anatomical structure. Doing high volume and low weight workouts is working well for me though and I love the change of stimulation. I would absolutely recommend adding this phase into your workouts (depending what your goals are) because 4 sets of 30 reps isn’t easy on anyone.

If your workout isn’t mentally hard, it probably isn’t physically hard enough.

Getting motivated and back at it.

I think this is Abraham's greatest quote.

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Run To Bust

I feel like I am getting close to race day… Not because I feel ready but because my body is worn out. The race is 14 days away and it feels like a 10 foot tall hurdle screaming towards me.

For a blog with the theme of overcoming obstacles, I sure have a lot of material to write on.

Last Friday my knee buckled during my workout and after standing for at least 12 hours a day this week, it is pushing back. I haven’t run in 8 days, I haven’t done any lower body exercises in 8 days, and at this rate I picture myself ending up jacked up top and soft on the bottom. Like actually with a straight horizontal line where the muscle just stops.

On top of that, my mood has been getting exponentially aggressive as I watch the race date approach while I am at standstill.

This world has a consistency that really never fails. This was my last heavy leg day before I planned to transition out of going crazy in the gym. My last set of my last exercise was when everything came crashing down. Literally. I was on the leg press finishing with one leg at a time and my left knee just passed on its turn. This makes me feel like every other time I said I worked out to failure was a cop out.

I did have another trainer tell me I worked as hard as someone who was going to the Olympics. Minus the injury, that felt good.

New strategy: run on pace for my goal time and risk death by bruised body and bruised pride? Now I just need to find a doctor who will encourage me to keep running… Not happy. Doctor’s report to follow.

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Fixed with a Flex

Today my weight was down half a pound. Not really a big deal, but that in combination with having a week that made me zombie-esque tired, I took the day off from working out. Things are still going well considering my weight is still up from the start of this week but I need to pack down some more calories before I start lifting heavy things against gravity again.

If you had told me a year ago that I would excitedly be sharing my weight gains with strangers, I would have thought that was crazy. I do like to affectionately call my blog followers my imaginary friends, so maybe I do have a little streak of weird.

I am now tracking my weight and workouts to a degree that some may have described as “obsessive”, to which I give a big thumbs up and then I flex. Next you can listen to me list a million things worse that I could be obsessed with.

While working out yesterday, D and I were getting all sorts of looks. Some were rude, and some were confused, but all felt like a really big compliment to the effort we were putting in. He said he felt like barfing, and I was holding on to machines to stay upright between my last sets while the gym- goers surrounding us were using the machines as theatre chairs, probably betting on me to go down first. I have found that in some cases, there is no bigger compliment than a dirty look. Take it in stride, and keep going. Then flex at them. After all, you don’t have success if you don’t have critics.

Ah, yes… reading that last paragraph back I now understand the obsessed descriptor.

Also, don’t bet against me.

Let me add in a very important point here: pushing to failure is a phase. When done right, these workouts are very draining, especially on the Central Nervous System and I don’t encourage this as a permanent method of training. As long as that is clear, I would like to add that there are few feelings that match the rush of knowing you worked as hard as you could, without peeing your pants.

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Tomorrow is a new day, another workout, and a chance to reach a new high. If you haven’t ever had the borderline-wet-your-pants-in-the-gym feeling then I strongly urge you to go for it, but in a safe way. Not safe like wearing Depends, but safe like working out properly. Get yourself a trainer or shoot me a message. Let’s squat and trot together, friends.

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One Year + One Week + One Day

Today my roots of running resurfaced as I set a new PB for my leg workout. The same death defying workout (not actually but my quads will say otherwise) from last week, except I heaved to completion in almost fifteen minutes less time. In theory, it seems like less time means less pain however that assumption would be incorrect, as I tested this morning.

Cardio strength training is making a re-appearance to my program (unbelievably, no this was not it yet) so I have scheduled myself in with another trainer, R, tomorrow to workout. I am really focused on learning all that I can and so far this year, I can proudly say I have already soaked up so much more about fitness, training, and nutrition. Luckily, I have some co-workers who are dedicated, selfless promoters of all things fitness and I feel like I am standing on the shoulders of giants.

Side note: If anyone has any suggestions how to thank a person for sharing daily life-altering wisdom, I would love to hear it. All I have got so far is the priceless stuff… as in, actually priceless, like high fives and shouts across the gym such as: “YOU DA MAN”!

I am getting excited to start running again to see what a difference my strength makes. I already notice a substantial difference in my strength and in my body composition which feels rewarding enough. Well, I guess not enough, because I am still charging ahead.

There are 14 weeks until I race again.

If I needed a good omen then I found it: this race- to be exact- will be one year, one week, and one day after my surgery.

Let’s do this, PB.

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Ugly Pretty Face

True friends don’t tell you about your problems, they just help you resolve them.

Instead of D telling me that he thinks I can lift heavier (okay, so he did say this once) he offered to put me through a leg workout today. Despite being a little sleep deprived and on an overly full stomach I thought this was a great idea. I learn something new each time we work out together so I have ultimately learned to never miss a team workout.

First up was barbell squats. 3 sets of 12,10,8 reps increasing the weight with each set. I knew I was in trouble when he added 20lbs for my warm up… I mean, the barbell already weighs 45lbs, my legs will pick up on what is happening. My last set was at 25lbs a side and my last rep was spent mostly at the bottom of the squat trying to figure out how gravity suddenly increased exponentially. It was pure heart pounding pain and absolutely worth it for the feeling at the top. After my last rep of unintentional super slow motion, another trainer walked over to comment on my intensity/ express sympathy for what was to come… this was the first exercise of four.

Next up was deadlifts with the trap bar. 3 sets of 12, 10, 8 reps increasing weight each set. One rep in and my legs were burning. The highlight of this was dropping the 95lbs on my last rep of my last set. I wanted to make sure everyone knew I had lifted something heavy… I say that as if I didn’t already attract attention as a noisy mess of sweat.

Olympic barbell stiff leg deadlifts. I like to think if my gym had trading cards that this would be listed as my specialty. So, gratefully, I didn’t feel quite as terrible through these. I find my grip fatigues before everything else which gets frustrating. My hands are left in a gripped shape like your mittens after handing out cups at a water stop in freezing cold weather. The hardest part was seeing how much my legs were shaking in the last set. That is why when I run I gradually increase my music volume- so I can’t hear my breathing get heavier. Purely mental but definitely applicable. When you see the shake, you can’t deny the fatigue.

The grand finale was high rep low weight lunges. 30lbs, 3 sets of 20 a side, no break between, and my legs’ ability to support me standing is already questionable. Luckily for me (so I thought) D had a client show up so he couldn’t experience the pain with me. With one set left, I sat for a brief second to which I immediately heard yelling from across the gym to get back up. This guy is good. I propelled myself through the last set with loud grunts and the fear of attracting everyone’s attention yet again.

I do not consider myself to be vain but I live in what I would expect to be the vanity hotspot of Toronto, so it is all relative. After my 26 years of living, I have spent many hours looking at myself in the mirror and only today I realised that I think I look best in the last rep of my last set of my workout.

Whoever came up with the “over the shoulder glance” never lifted like this.

That face that spans pain to joy, and strength to weakness. Tyra Banks invited an “ugly pretty face” but let me tell you-  THIS is the real thing. My attraction to this feeling is that it is purely unmatched. You just cannot reproduce this face until you are deep into your workout, often with over half your body weight on your back or in your hands.

You can learn a lot about yourself in a gym. When someone with minimal body fat is telling you to not stop but everything hurts. When your knees are visibly wobble and your grip is slipping. Still with reps to go. I learned I love that place.

When the going gets tough, the tough get ugly.

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Started From the Bottom Now We’re Here

I am working hard, I am lifting heavy, my body fat has dropped (stay away Polar vortex), and I am building the body that will carry me to my goals this year.

I made the mistake of not taking baselines post injury because I chose to focus on what I hated (my tight pants) instead of appreciating the potential for progress (referencing my tight pants works here too). There have been many times that I have scoffed at people who say, “I want to work out for another month before I set my baselines”, and I easily point out the flaw to their plan without recognizing myself as a fellow baseline avoider. A sheep in trainer’s clothing.

As much as I would love to know how much muscle I have gained, I will forever be left to make assumptions with my biased interpretations of my self image. The only fact I know is that I was not previously ready for beach season. Now I am ready for it. According to women’s fitness magazines, this is a measurement of health.

Have you set baselines? Go weigh, measure, and assess your fitness. Use any dissatisfaction as motivation to chase your goals. I am diligently working away on erasing any “post surgery restrictions” from my file, and adding to my progress daily. I would love to look back on my journey from a statistical point of view and be able to graph it, chart it, and analyse it… if I so desired.

To tackle this year: my first- and hopefully not last- triathlon as well as a 23:59 5km. If you read along last year, you will know that my current PB is 24:32 and yes I expect you to remember these stats. That was a challenge that came together on my second attempt. Word on the street is that Guelph is a great triathlon for newbies and I will do the tried, tested, and true 5km course in London at the Forest City Road Races.

Right now I am focused on building, re-building, and re-creating in the gym. More squatting than trotting. And let me tell you I am standing on the shoulders of giants and I expect big things from myself this year.

Cue the baselines.

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Will Squat for Subway

So, the people in Moscow are geniuses. I just watched a video from BBC Europe about a new way to board the subway. This is to promote the Russian Olympic team but I hope it has a bigger effect than that. And I hope Toronto takes notice!

Here is the deal: if you can do 30 squats in 2 minutes then you can ride the subway for free. Like I said; genius.

Sure, some flaws exist but the idea and the message are fantastic. There was a lineup of people in the video and I bet at rush hour this line would be making people very late for work. Explaining to your boss that you were trying to get a free ride might not be the best excuse. I seem to have a magnetic pull for people with body odor problems, so I consider the potential for sweat an issue to consider, also. If you are wearing stilettos and a skirt? There is no stiff leg deadlift option, ladies. Finally (what I noticed first) is bad form. This is an automated device which counts down your squats but only has a sensor to monitor how low you go; I don’t think the reporter let his heels touch the ground until he bounced up and locked his knees into place. Thirty times.

In exchange, these people are offered a chance to exercise, save money, and travel to their destination. Squat what your mama gave ya! Bonus.

In the grocery store today I saw big signs and banners to help support our Canadian athletes for the approaching Olympics. It was a table of laundry detergent samples manned by two teenagers both on their cell phones. As I paused on my walk by, neither looked up. Good thing there is no medal for national spirit. I would be hopeful for Rob Ford to pick up on this, but I expect he will soon either be in jail or rehab. Oh Canada!

Here is the video and story
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-24873180?ocid=socialflow_twitter_bbcworld

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Squat a Lot

Back to the weights today!

It is a rainy day in Toronto and nothing cures the blues like squats. My bony post-surgery shoulder isn’t a big fan of the barbell but somehow the blasting dance music and the adrenaline of pushing weight rules that out.

I worked out today in the middle of the afternoon; that awkward lull when lunch is past, the trophy wives are done their parade, and the 9 to 5’ers aren’t out yet. This is my favourite part of my job. Actually, this is not part of my job. This is the time when the trainers come out to play. We almost all have breaks here so our overlapping workouts are a chance for us to hang out, but more importantly, show off. I weigh much less, and I am substantially not as strong (I am up against men let’s be serious), but trust me I promote my gains more than anyone. I let everyone know how much I was squatting as I moon walked through the gym floor, shouting out my stats, and giving them all the wink and the gun.

Today I did German volume training… which probably means I need to hang out females more often. 10 sets of 10 barbell squats, then walking lunges, hamstring curls, and knee extensions. Terrible facial expressions and weird sound effects included. By the time I finished, my excitement and shameless self promotion was reduced to bending over and panting with a  little bit of walking like a cowboy. It was all worth it though because today was another first! The first day I have added weight to a barbell squat in over a year. Not necessarily my best decision to combine it with so many reps but things were feeling good. If I am problem- free tomorrow then that means that it is time to squat! A lot!

This seems to be what happens to me when I work out with the guys. I forget about my limitations, and for the most part, that is a good thing.

K is three weeks out from a figure competition and more concerned with caloric intake than anyone I have ever met. I had never seen anyone use a calculator to decide if he could eat an almond or not, but he is 4% body fat so I will let it go. When we workout together I am the official Instagram photographer (you’re welcome ladies) but it is worth it because the high intensity is contagious. It was almost too good of a workout considering that it is 7pm and I can barely stay awake. As a bonus, seeing him practise his poses and giving himself seducing smiles in the mirror makes me laugh so hard that is the only ab workout I will ever need.

Depending on if I can walk tomorrow, I think this may have been leaps and bounds for my progress in the gym!

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Annie Get Your Guns

Okay, enough already. Women can lift (and they should). Strong is the new skinny, my friend.

Stop waving your 2.5lb dumbbells around and wondering why your flab is getting flabbier. Here is a completely scientific argument (okay it is based on science) listing why women are just as tough as men and have even more reasons to pump some iron. It is okay to sweat and it is okay to grunt, and most of all it is okay to try something new when your strategy isn’t working. I challenge you to avoid the treadmill for a few sessions and get out of your routine. Here are the best 10 reasons for women to lift:

1. Burn that flab! Bigger muscles burn more calories and the workout will boost your metabolism!
2. Get toned! You do not have the testosterone of a man, you will not get all jacked up. Trust me I have tried.
3. Help fight injuries! Learn proper form and strengthen your body to help protect joints.
4. Burn more calories! Research shows more calories burned post workout versus a cardio workout.
5. Get stronger! Build muscle for endurance, strength, or power.
6. Lose that belly fat! …. you know crunches don’t work so just stop.
7. Feel confident! This is a high that is legal, healthy, and free!
8. Fight osteoporosis! Particularly in post menopausal women, fight bone loss!
9. Get out of your comfort zone!  If you need to read why you should be lifting, you probably aren’t.
10. Get the body you really want.

I hope the exclamation marks got my point across.

If another woman tells me that they don’t lift heavy because they don’t want to get bulky then maybe I will have to start considering that all of these women know the secrets of bodybuilding. Until then, I will believe that strength training is largely misunderstood.

“The myth that women shouldn’t lift heavy is only perpetuated by women who fear work and men who fear women.” – Source Unknown

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