Tag Archives: getting fit

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.

deadliftquietly-470x260

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Women’s Rights

Be warned: this might turn into a rant.

Today was my last day working out in London while I was home to visit family. While the gym I was temporarily using does offer a women’s only area, I didn’t think twice about it before heading out to the gym floor. The main gym is hardly co-ed as it was filled with guys working out in small groups and walking around like they expected girls to ask for their autographs. If you aren’t looking at them then they will stare you down in the mirrors until you do. These guys just reinforce why women deserve a private area to wear their stretchy pants.

At my gym in Toronto, there is no option for a women’s only area. The ladies who don’t feel comfortable in front of the men are relegated to stick to the cardio machines, or let their attendance slowly drop off. Women brave enough to trek into the free weights risk the careful watch of creeping men or the ignorant looks from those who consider them flawless at their “gym ratting” ways. I do see the benefit of offering a separated option in a gym, but if it is done right.

The New Years resolution crowds must have got a head start on January because all of the benches were full, all of the cables were taken, and training partners were eager to step in. So I did a lap and ended up in the women’s area.

I have previously expressed my frustration at women working out differently than men (waving 2.5lb dumbbells at their reflection in the mirror) but as I entered the women’s section I realized that we are set up for it. This area was primarily cardio machines and I had to dig through a pile of mats to find the single Olympic barbell in the place (no joke). Even if you can scout out the barbell, there is no squat rack, and there were only 5 or 6 renegade plates from the co-ed section. The machines looked like they were plastic and I expected to see “Playskool” covered up somewhere. This room begs you to ride an elliptical from any of the endless aisles of cardio that dominate the space, and overlook the mess in the corner (attempted “free weight” section).

Let’s give women some cables and some benches, and some direction as to what would be most valuable to women in the gym. As much as I appreciated being alone with the free weights, it was ridiculous how many women were just doing steady state cardio. Hey, who knows, maybe they are training to become long distance elliptical riders in which case I support their training. In all fairness, maybe they are just doing a cardio day. I know from working in a gym that too many women neglect resistance training, and I am just trying to make a point here. Check out what I wrote earlier (not in a rant): Annie Get Your Guns.

Women are absolutely different than men and this does require some minor changes in training, however, this does not mean in any way that a woman is restricted from going heavier than 5lb dumbbells. Next time you see someone who has a body similar to your “goal self”, ask them how they got there. I would be shocked if anyone said “mindless hours of cardio!” I am not biased at all…. however I have science on my team.

The best advice I can give someone (over blog): get a trainer for a short period of time and learn all you can. Ask lots of questions and pay attention. Show up early, warm up on your own, and cool down on your own. Then follow their advice!!

WHYYYYYYYYY

WHYYYYYYYYY

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Eyes on the Prize

This strategy of listening to my body seems to be paying off for me. I have spent most of my time with weights in the gym, doing my shoulder exercises, and foam rolling until I’m nauseous and what do you know; I just ran a 25:05 on a 5km route.

Previous runs have been faster, less physically and mentally painful, and much more effortless. But this feels so much more rewarding. Today is a victory for me… despite the fact I’m going to miss all of Sunday football. Again.

This is what I needed. My goals keep changing and my body keeps changing and I keep moving towards wherever I am going. I don’t think of myself as inconsistent or not committed, but I have changed so much in the past year that I am just adapting as my standards and ideals change. I am consistent because I listen and respond to my body.

Post- race will be another big re-evaluation for me because I haven’t completely stressed myself out with life changing decisions yet. Close but not quite. Running will never be abandoned as it always steps up in my life when I need it but I can be unbiased enough to recognize that my body responds best to other forms of training. After my run today I was rewarded with sharp knee pains and overwhelming tightness in odd places showing me a flash forward to my future as a crippled old woman. In a wheelchair. With all my trophies piled on my lap.

To earn today’s pops, cracks, and twinges I ran a time I’m actually happy with. I said I would be happy if I go under 25 flat when I race and I’m pretty darn close. What makes me happiest is how close I came to quitting and how hard I worked to keep going. Few experiences match the high of a solitary maximal effort. No one knows where my route ends and no one will make me run until I barf, except me. I did what I set out to do (and I kept everything down).

I have to admit: this is the first time I have run a full 5km since… probably over a year ago? And yes I am racing a 5km in 3 weeks; it is a weird training style absolutely. But my body didn’t feel like it could do it before, so I didn’t make it. This could have backfired and (knock on wood) could still work against me. But how can some pre-planned workout schedule know how my legs will feel, what my terrible schedule will allow, or adjust to where my head will be at. I don’t know even know these things. My body won’t advance in regularly timed intervals so neither will my program.

After my run, I texted one of my good friends who I used to sell running shoes with (think dream team style). He is a fantastic athlete and all of his times blow mine out of the water, yet he has this amazing enthusiasm for my modified distances and increased times. Sure enough, he follows up to my run time with a link to a race in support of a donkey sanctuary, where my time would have placed me as the first female. A donkey shaped trophy would really add to my apartment but running and being supported is rewarding enough.

Maintaining commitment to anything is worthy of reward but committing to something, working hard, and seeing progress is a reward in itself and I can’t promote that enough. That is probably why I work in fitness? Or maybe it is because I just like a career that lets me spend the day in stretchy pants.

Feeling rewarded, motivated, and supported; the countdown to race day is on.

“Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”   -Theodore Roosevelt

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Squats and Trots

I consider myself an athlete.

Sport is a mental game and although I may be temporarily sidelined from competition, I think the situation is a great challenge for my mental strength. I compete against myself every day that I workout (or I don’t). No one in the gym will know if I cheat myself a few reps to save myself from the ugly face and weird sounds that come with them. No one will know if I am actually not changing the song on my iPod but killing time while I pretend my legs are still feeling strong. No one will know if I go straight home to stuff my face with junk food because “I worked hard and earned it”.

But this is a mental game and my willpower is an Olympic barbell.

Being injured slapped me across the face with its silver lining. It took its time but sure enough it appeared as it always does. I was in a rut at work as a personal trainer and the world kindly gave me a wake up call when I was hit by SUV  while I was biking to work. Lifestyle changes are incredibly hard and this bad situation ended up being an amazing lesson to remind myself just what that experience is like.

As a trainer I was given a chance to learn (again) how intimidating the gym is to an unfit person, and how physically and mentally hard getting fit is. I would even dare to say it was unappealingly difficult. Luckily, I knew I would come to one day appreciate the struggle. The journey is just getting started and it is worth it already.

This blog is my story, my motivation, my interest in fitness and nutrition, and my progress. Thanks for reading 🙂

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