Tag Archives: Strength training

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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Happy Birthday Shoulder

“And though she be but little, she is fierce.”
           -William Shakespeare

I spent my one year surgery anniversary knocking back rum and cokes, plowing through chocolate eggs, and not exercising. So far off the rails it pains me to put it into print.

All these comebacks sure are tiring. I won’t let health go unappreciated again.

This has been a week of resetting, refocusing, and pushing back. I should be prepping for a 5k race that is four days away and somehow I have ended up exhausting the exercise database in my brain for ways to avoid getting fat. Today a trainer smacked my leg to tell me to activate the muscles to which I stopped and screamed, “Stop jiggling my fat!!!”

Each workout since the infamous doctor-says-no-lower-body-exercise fiasco of three weeks ago increases in creativity. I’ve said this before, but I think it needs to be restated: my clients do not get hurt, I give great advice but I don’t take it. The other trainers just laugh when I walk by carrying a 10lb body bar saying, “This counts as body weight, right?”… People pay me to push them, and this gets difficult to turn off, I guess.

Today I did the Stair Master, single leg Romanian dead lifts (10lbs what up!), single leg hip bridges, and modified knee extensions. My knee felt tired but not painful, so I did some Peterson step ups but three later, I had to stop. It felt like I had just pogo-sticked up Kilimanjaro on one leg. The best part of it all was that a celebrity’s bodyguard was beside me bench pressing about twice his body weight and I was working substantially harder. I tried to play it cool but the sweat stains and muffled crying sounds probably blew my cover.

As with all situations, there is a silver lining. Each time your feet are taken out from under you, the world is opening a door of opportunity to rebuild your physical and mental strength, and develop consistency, resilience, and pride. In my case it was technically only one leg that went out from under me, but my point remains. I would rather be hurt from exercise than develop issues from being sedentary, a hundred times over. Injuries allow us to learn so much about ourselves, and offer us the chance to improve in much more than just a physical way. We can all admit that starting anything is easier with a kick in the butt.

Sure, some things haven’t gone the way I had them playing out in my head. I did, however, spend my one year surgery anniversary surrounded by friends and family, laughing loud and eating well. Compared to a year ago, my shoulder is significantly better, my overall health is definitely better, and I have lots of zig-zagged footsteps behind me. Maybe I need to think less about how I thought things would be and focus on all the greatness that is now.

I can hardly wait to work up a sweat again tomorrow.

(Throwback to my shoulder a year ago…)

shoulder

 

 

 

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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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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.

exhaustedfromsuccess

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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Repeat to Failure

Lately I’ve been a little annoyed being part of a silent herd of people, anxiously traveling to their destinations at a speed that is just never fast enough. I’ve got caught up in the Toronto sidewalk mentality to want to push past whoever is in front of me and go faster. Hurry up and wait. Never have enough. Speed through life by dragging your feet.

I believe I have discovered the root of my annoyance of repetition. To be honest, I’m sure I’m nowhere near figuring myself out but here is a start.

After 2 years of working in the same gym I’ve seen the same people come in every single day and workout. This is good. They are committed and dedicated. This is good. They look identical to when they first started. This is bad.

Why are people happy with not making progress?! This is like the people who purchase sessions with a trainer and then think that they have made an investment towards their health and the hard part is over. Maybe I am so frustrated by them because I spent a long time in that place, myself. Now I want to tow everyone with me to the place where people aren’t wasting their time in such a consistent and effortful way.

I am going to switch up my program soon and focus on strength more than size. I am surprised at how much I am enjoying these bodybuilding workouts however there will come a time when that will absolutely hinder my ability to run. Also, my friends are tired of me asking them to feel my muscles. Can’t stay in one place too long!

Stop wasting your time! 🙂

drivetowalk

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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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