Tag Archives: strong

Friends in Hilly Places

I have finished my last hill workout for the week. The countdown to race day is almost all counted down!

I left the gym at a nice trotting speed, warming up as quickly as my tin- man joints would unhinge. A lot of sun, a little breeze, and the weightlessness of the first few minutes of a run is a feeling I’ll never tire of.

About a kilometer from work there is a notorious hill known to runners, cyclists, and any drivers who have attempted it in the Canadian winters or in standard cars. I headed in its direction to see if it it had lessened with environmental wear and tear, a change in gravitational pull, or even continental drift, perhaps.

Spoiler alert: it didn’t.

When I reached the base of the hill, there was a man running ahead of me and I thought to myself how tired he looked and how much he must be dreading this ascent. I was feeling (moderately) fresh as a daisy so I casually waited at the bottom until he had neared the top before I began. I didn’t want to pass him and make him feel bad, of course.

Well, guess who felt bad when he turned at the top and came back down to run more hill repeats; completely the same workout as me.

But with an Ironman t-shirt and Ironman tattoo. Not sure I placed my pity appropriately.

I ran my first uphill and as we passed each other halfway we did the customary acknowledgement of each other’s presence on Earth with a half- second of eye contact and the accompanying head nod. Quite generous for Torontonians who customarily put their weight into smashing shoulders on sidewalks, but we are runners after all.

As I cruise back down in my recovery period, I pretend to be super casual and not wheezing like a dying hyena as we pass and he knocks out another hill repeat. We upgraded to the smile and nod this round, appreciating our common “enjoyment” of running up hills. I notice that he looks much less tired up close and I doubted my own sweaty, tomato-red face was giving the same impression.

Two rounds later, I’m trying to get myself back to the top again and I hear a  “Looking strong!” and I look up to see that my running companion has now become my cheerleader. That little ego boost definitely gave me a push to the top of the hill and as we both switched directions again, I made sure to clap and cheer as much as my breathlessness would allow.

As we alternated turns running, it turned into a cheer- fest and definitely an experience in the reliable friendliness of the running community. Halfway up his last hill, my new friend stopped to let me know this was his last one and he ran off into the sunset.

Well, it was 1pm. But you get the idea.

It’s like the Universe is cheering me on, now. On to race day!

Hills! #run: The Roads, Life, Bike, Quote, Rollers Coasters, Open Roads, Crosses Country, Things, Roads Trips

 

 

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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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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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The Friday Sessions

There is no workout harder than the Friday afternoon workout. Not necessarily for the reasons you may think. It has nothing to do with the amount of workouts that come before it in the week, or the program I have planned.

During my weekly workout sessions in the gym, I am usually filling a long break between clients. I can take my time between exercises, make awkward conversation with strangers, watch sports highlights, and make sure I don’t miss any of the good songs on my iPod. I enjoy doing all of these things and I take advantage of the time. Whoever set up the seated leg press in front of the TV showing TSN highlights may as well have added my nameplate to the machine. It is an invitation I always accept- to sit and catch up what I missed because I went to bed before the good stuff happens in everything, until someone wants to use it and I have to “work in” with them. My workouts are so long that I have gone with friends to Hero Burger partway through, and I really wish that was a lie. My sessions get spread into various gaps throughout the day which is absolutely less effective, and makes for an unsettling half-sweaty feeling that leaves me unsure where I stand in terms of hygiene standards appropriate for working in a gym.

Friday afternoon workouts are like Eye of the Tiger is being played on a loop, sped up, and volume loud like an airplane. They are like drill sergeants are screaming at you to do more, keep pushing harder, and keep doing it faster. I will sacrifice my reputation to pretend I didn’t hear someone start a conversation and I will let go of my pride as I make loud, whining sounds as I run to the next exercise. Hydration is a dump over the head, a swig with a spit. I can chug water bottles on the way home.

For real. It’s Friday.

Resistance training somehow ends up as cardio as I navigate the floor in a haphazard yet diehard sort of way. I will cut people off to get to the smallest weights, and I will not be embarrassed to be visibly strained before I run to the next exercise avoiding eye contact (I assume would be dirty looks).

I will apologize on Monday. But it is Friday.

I am not getting my “pump” on to go out. Likely, I am going home to an involuntary nap and then episodes of New Girl after I wake up too late to go out. I am not a girl who preps for the weekend like it is the day before a bikini- demanding vacation. My brain has processed how close I am to going home for the weekend and I physically cannot reduce my heart rate until I see the outside world.

Friday workouts require a big effort, a slightly crazy mentality, and a relationship status of single (due to moderate unpredictability of weekend napping to follow).

My plan is to get a run in this weekend and since my back survived my Friday session, it should be good to go. Wave if you see me, I’ll be running with Rub A535 in one hand and a rum and coke in the other.

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Weights to Mates

Observe; the muscular man attracting a mate in his natural habitat.

He sees the weights he wants and quickly advances towards them. He maintains eye contact to make clear his desires yet acts casual as best as he can by walking with a swagger. Once he has claimed his irons he can take as much time as possible to check his phone, watch his reflection, and speak softly to himself in his best tough guy voice. Timing must be precise so that women may be safely distracted by his masculinity, as determined by the size of the weight he has chosen. A male specimen who is not as strong as the others must make up for his lacking bicep circumference by extra bold clothing color selections or obscenely loud music with his headphones. The female may notice one of these secondary characteristics.

Now it is time to lift these weights; form and function are irrelevant. The sound of the effort is most significant, as the male grunts with each repetition. Grunts may be replaced by yells, words, or curses as long as they can be heard throughout the gym. The more attention he can attract the better as his admirers look on. Other males stare with looks of disdain as he beats his chest by letting the weights fall as loudly as possible. Now he must strut the gym floor to show his dominance by the swagger in his walk. If a suitable female has not approached him, he must continue. If a potential mate has been met with eye contact, he can retreat to a quieter exercise to let another male make his presence known. This will repeat until a mate is found or until the male concedes protein shakes for beers and search for a female that doesn’t squat.

For the record, a lot of my friends are big guys who lift heavy, grunt loud, swear a lot, and slam the weights. I wrote this after a session with one of my clients where there were many men being extra loud and we laughed as they tried to outdo each other. The gym really is a place to attract attention to your physical strength and I see guys hitting on girls all the time this way (the other way around too of course)! National Geographic should be looking into this, really.

'Pain And Gain' - Film Set

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Fit is It

A woman’s physical presentation is an often discussed and carefully analyzed topic. I consider myself very aware of the double standards, the unrealistic expectations, and the issues for our daughters. Despite my education on the topic, I had a wakeup call today that I need to think a little more critically.

I went to buy a pair of jeans and took two into the change room. The first pair was a size smaller than I normally get- it is the end of the week and so my brain only functions sporadically. I thought “these won’t fit” but of course I started hiking them on. But they buttoned up? I was legitimately too excited about these jeans. Or sorry, excited about the size of these jeans. I tried on the other pair in my normal size but found I was going to need a few weeks of hamburgers to make them work. I was giddy to drop a size as I did my victory dance that is usually reserved for actual victories.

How exciting right? Well not really because then my brain started working again.

I am healthy and my weight is very proportionate to my height. So going down a pant size is actually not ideal considering my fitness goal of building muscle. I have been trained so well to celebrate a smaller number on the tag that it took delayed conscious analysis to see the stupidity. Then I didn’t want the pants, but it is getting cold and I like to wear pants. How is it possible that my gut reaction and my conscious thoughts are so conflicting?

I have been doing some reading (and the processing has been slow apparently) about the new trend of “strong is the new skinny” ads. I will be honest and admit I have one of these saved on my computer. I liked the way the model looked and I find visual goals to be motivating. After an article prompted me to pay more attention, I started reading more reactions from others.

Let’s acknowledge that strong means many things and it is entirely subjective. The issue to be discussed is that these models are by most definitions skinny. If strong means clean and jerks like female weightlifters then yes these ads are gross misrepresentations and nothing else. If strong means having muscular definition and the ability to train at a high intensity then these women are likely very strong.

I don’t want to preach what people should do with their bodies, particularly because the capabilities of the human body are nearly endless. My opinion is that we should endorse this trend of women’s fitness and appreciate the transition (however slow it may be) from the beauty ideals of visible ribs and spaghetti noodle limbs. These ads are trying to convey an image of sexiness which is a woman who is healthy and fit.

Opinions on “strong is the new skinny” being irrelevant, we need to keep topics like this in debate. Although the ad could be more accurate to display a woman with more size to her, I think the fact that fitness, muscular definition, and women’s health are being promoted is moving in the right direction. What is most important is that we can recognize the standards of women in advertising and the beauty of real women. If you define strength with building muscle then yes, being a smaller size is counterproductive and misleading. If strength is getting through the day without fatigue then that will result a completely different body type.

I am going for fit and whatever size that makes my body. Maybe I will go back up another pant size or maybe I won’t- but I will do my victory dance for only the right reasons.

3u6x7b

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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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