Tag Archives: muscle

On The Fly

The confidence that I had in my fitness a few days ago is now as unstable as my knee, wavering in a stiff breeze. Since I am still two and a half weeks out, I am reconsidering my my race prep strategy. It is definitely a heavy schedule and I think I might have given myself a little much credit to think I can conquer and thrive with this program.

Last week I did two workouts a day, twice, just to fit it all in around my clients, but that resulted in runs ending early, running too slowly, or just putting myself through unnecessary pain for mediocre outcomes.

It also resulted in me barely being able to keep my eyes open past 5pm.

Throughout the week, I was happy with the effort that I was putting in, but when it came time to run a 5km (yesterday’s planned workout), I was too burnt out from my workouts for the run to come together as planned.

My 5km turned into a 4km in 20:10; I guess I would rather run a decent 4km than a bad 5km. It’s not like I should practice gutting out that last kilometer in preparation for the race or anything. In a race scenario I would be asking a lot of myself to get through that last kilometer with my fastest pace with these type of training runs. Just because I am confident that I am capable of a sub 25 probably doesn’t mean I should get comfortable and train like an idiot.

I haven’t actually made any changes to my programming yet, but I think I’m asking too much from my body. It does seem to be a trend that no one else thinks my muscles are as big as I do, so maybe I should step back and re-evaluate.

I have convinced myself that any inactivity could give my knees a chance to go back to their old ways of getting all bent out of shape. So instead of listening to my body I’m just trying to keep things moving aggressively. Logical.

A rolling stone keeps rolling faster, and faster, and faster.

As long as I can squeak out my sub 25 run in 19 days then I will consider myself to have been successful.

For now, anyways.

 

BlogRun

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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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Born to be Mild

“There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.”
              -Leonard Cohen

My body has days that make me feel like I was made for a desk job and upper body hobbies. Followed by many rum and cokes.

When a homeless man stops you to say “you are beautiful just the way you are”, it really implies you look terrible and nobody loves you. I had already taken out my rage on all my clients so (luckily for him) I just gimped on by. It was awkward like when you have cruise control on and you pass a car going 1km an hour faster than them and it takes an uncomfortably long eye contact to get by. Just your casual social discomfort being a happy Torontonian.

Despite my body telling me to slow down sometimes, I resist the urge to feel like I was destined for early entry into the inevitable world of grunting sounds every time you stand up. It is a slippery slope from the time you make your own involuntary sound effects.

On the plus side, I had someone tell me in the gym that I should go to a vet now because I work out like an animal. I won’t lie, that made me immediately feel better. I have no problems in the world when someone compliments my workouts. It may as well be a big high five from Arnold Schwarzenegger. I am redefining blood, sweat, and tears, baby- tear referring to my torn body parts of course and not tears in my eyes.

I have been working away on upper body now and I feel like a wannabe bodybuilder who builds their biceps, ignores their legs, and ends up with a weirdly disproportionate body. I have been struggling with my post-surgery shoulder however I’ll chalk that up to pressure changes and I absolutely won’t complain about the heat. I spent so much time preparing my clients for a beach season that I was starting to think wasn’t coming.

So what is next? … defying the mild and embracing the wild hopefully.

progress

 

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It Is What It Isn’t

On Monday I was missing a ligament in my knee, but depending who you ask, it is there today.

I’m not a doctor.

Friday afternoon, just hours after my MRI, I felt something tear in my knee. It was so weird, like being flicked against the inside of your skin instead of the outside. Complete with a snap, crackle, and pop.

So on Monday the doctor told me that I dislocated my kneecap and tore the ligament that primarily stabilizes the kneecap in its tracking. The solution could be rehab or surgery and that was to be determined after seeing the MRI. I thought the imaging would have been deemed useless since the tear conveniently occurred after it, however I was assured it was still relevant. So I figured they would see a ligament on the verge of tearing.

I’m not a doctor.

So I get the phone call that the ligament in question is indeed attached. So naturally I was confused how it reattached itself in a few short days. I am always impressed with the human body but this would be a whole new level of science. When the doctor was holding my knee in his hands and testing it, he said there was no ligament so I took this opportunity to casually remind the doctor that the popping happened after the MRI. In return, I was told “I highly doubt it was torn”.

Later that afternoon at work, someone who treated me many times after the car accident was in the gym working out. He kindly let me interrupt his workout to casually ask him if he could find my medial patellofemoral ligament. He concluded the left knee didn’t have one.

I slunk back to the first doctor to request another MRI. He doesn’t even seem phased when he sees me in his waiting room anymore. I have to have set a new record for MRI requests in a ten day span.

Part of me hopes that it is torn so that I can save myself the embarrassment of getting a second MRI for no reason. But at the same time, I realise how ridiculous that is. What is one more blow to my ego, anyways.

I do know something is wrong, but that is all I know.

I’m not a doctor.

mpfl

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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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Glutton for Protein

Yesterday was leg day, today was cardio strength day, and tomorrow will likely be forced rest due to poor planning. This sounds like a terrible remix to Rebecca Black’s song Friday.

On the topic of punishment… (it is a bad song, get it?!) my sky high levels of enthusiasm have brought me to the lows of accumulated pain and suffering. Some may call it delayed onset muscle soreness. I rode the subway home from work and it got me thinking why there is no “leg day” preferred seating. Instead I just hung on like everyone else who I assume had NOT just done legs. It’s cool, though- I understand Rob Ford has bigger issues.

What was most painful was leaving the subway station and climbing up 6 flights of stairs. It felt like I was trying to climb the rope in gym class all over again. Except this time I had no legs. And everyone else in the class was Indiana Jones.

If my weight is down tomorrow morning then I have to take the day off… my body fat is getting so low that when I tuck my iPod into my shorts, it just falls through to the ground. Or! I could buy new shorts and workout!

When I embarked on this haphazard quest of rehabilitation turned bodybuilding (apparently), I really never thought that eating would be the hardest part. Don’t get me wrong, none of this is too easy, but the next time someone complains how hard it is to lose weight I will absolutely throw the most scientifically educated hissy fit.

Gaining muscle is no walk in the park. You can lose weight by literally walking in the park.

What I have learned is to build size you need to eat. Put on those special pants you save for Thanksgiving and power down some protein and some carbs and then knock back some water. Repeat until exhaustion of your body, lack of food, or loss of hand-eye coordination. Hello meat sweats, my old friend.

Embrace your inner glutton- in a preferably protein specific way. I am playing a little loose with the word glutton.

Lately, my workouts have all been feeling like they are forearm specific since I can’t grip the weight that my other body parts can move. I tried using foam grips which were too big for my hands and that really worked against me. Lesson learned. So I have been warning all the guys that I am planning to try gloves and then I make them promise they won’t make fun of me. They all say they won’t, but I know they are taking this advanced notice to prepare their heckling.

I will be too busy eating to pay attention to them anyways.

Money can’t buy happiness but it can buy protein and that is almost the same thing. Back to eating!

crockpot

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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.

deadliftquietly-470x260

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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.

stiffdead

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Push It Real Good

Today I celebrated my quarter life crisis, I mean, my birthday.

Turning 26 is officially entering the darkness of the second half of my 20’s and saying goodbye to the times when stupid decisions are much more socially acceptable.

For my birthday this year I am giving myself the gift of pushups. When I came out of shoulder surgery 8 months ago, my surgeon told me I wouldn’t be able to do pushups again because I had lost so much structurally. In my post-surgery daze of anesthetic and disorientation, I cried. I whimpered to my parents as if this exercise was the love of my life and couldn’t live without it. After sobering up I went through a “I have an excuse to never do pushups again” phase and thought I would enjoy my justified laziness.

However, due to my innate human tendencies, if you tell me I can’t do something then I am overpowered by desire to conquer it. I remember doing pushups against the wall for the first time months ago while D was trying to politely tell me how terrible my form was. It was like glorified leaning on the wall and I felt like the Hulk.

Slowly but surely, I worked down to the ground through various stages of incline pushups and to the terror of my friends, I announced I was ready for the real deal. Their faces all said “this will be a train wreck” so we were all pleasantly surprised when I eeked out 3 in a row.

I then ran through the bodybuilders as I screamed “Shoulder champion of the world!!!”

Some days you have to choose brains or brawn.

hulk_comic_book_wallpaper_01

 

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Not Back(ing) Out

On Thursday I woke up to my 430am alarm as usual and hopped out of bed. No crying, no swearing, and no pillow punching. I should have known something was wrong. My 3 kilometer walk to work was normal; a half asleep attempt at speed walking in the morning darkness. It wasn’t until I reached work that I realised how achy my back was. But as far as my normal goes, that is pretty much normal.

Time turned this ache into a soreness, then a stiffness, then immobility. And pain. And constriction. And an inability to do anything except lean awkwardly on whatever sturdy object was close by. A few (long) hours later, I was wincing in pain, seeing spots, and experiencing shooting pains in my spine. It felt like morphing into Larry King’s posture with the fluidity of a creaky robot. And not the good kind of robot like on the dance floor.

By the time I got home, I couldn’t get my shoes off or change my clothes so I just laid down on the floor. Not as graceful or simple as I made that sound, either. Picture it like I was being magnetically drawn to the floor but resisting it the whole way. Or one of those dancing inflatable attractions being deflated in slow motion. That is as best as I can describe it considering I had my eyes closed and was trying to hit the floor with my necessities as close to me as possible.

So living alone has its pros and cons. Con: My text response time was drastically reduced. My phone mocked me as it lay 6″ from my fingers. Pro: It wasn’t awkward when I did my ugly cry in a pile of cramped muscle on the floor.

Luckily for everyone involved, the desire to not pee my pants was the motivation I needed to get me vertical. I had spent nearly 6 hours on my back like a turtle that had flipped over, and to express the seriousness of the situation, I did not voluntarily or involuntarily nap at all. My love for sleep is borderline narcolepsy so that is saying a lot. My attempts to stand mimicked a professional women’s tennis match where each muscle contraction was a high pitched, over- enthused scream. I hope my neighbours thought it was tennis anyways.

I actually could not figure what caused this, and trust me I had a lot of time to think. Could it have been my back workout from the previous day? Or could it have been something I did in my sleep? It is sad when you can’t differentiate the two in intensity. I got in to see an RMT the next morning who was surprised I was still walking. I’ve heard that enough times that it is essentially meaningless to me now and my reflex response is something like a mindless,  “oh thanks, you too”. Basically, my asymmetries had built up so much that the muscles doing all the hard work cramped up, and once one seized, all the other ones joined the party. My “quick fix” is three sessions of deep tissue massage and a slap across the face to my rehab program. Not quick at all.

I was told this was bound to happen at some point considering what shape I was in, but may I suggest to everyone not to get injured right before a long weekend. It is really terrible timing if you would like medical treatment. I did singlehandedly make a large contribution to the company that makes Rub A535, as I spent several days in a cocoon of muscle relaxant which really helped. The amount of rum and cokes I had could also be an argument for my recovery too. Since I can’t be sure, I will keep up with both.

This was another setback to my journey, but what is a comeback if there is no challenge?! This was a learning experience for me anyways: being an RMT is now a requirement to date me, and I probably enjoy the smell of Rub A535 too much. I have so much sympathy and respect for anyone with chronic back pain but that being said, I don’t want to be one of them.

So here we go again. I have added another medical professional to my team and I’m back in business.

Cheesy puns come standard.

Larry-King-1

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