07 Oct

Four Things

suncountypanthers

Teaching yoga to teenage athletes is my new favourite thing. I’ve been teaching vinyasa yoga to a local Minor Midget hockey team, Sun County Panthers, as part of their conditioning and stretching regimen. I had the opportunity to teach to a local high school football team as well. I love it. These guys are skilled athletes but their minds are all over the place and, as I say to them (over and over and over), “the ability to keep your head in the game is what distinguishes the good athletes from the great ones.” Yoga can get them there and it’s awesome to see that idea slowly start to sink in with them. Especially the ones that are serious about getting drafted. Not to mention that a lot of these guys need to build their upper body strength, stretch their inner thighs, and release tightness in the hips. All the things they’ll get out of a vinyasa class.

weights

I’m getting weaker. At least, I feel like I’m not getting stronger as quickly as I’d like to. My grip strength is pathetic and it’s hindering my deadlifting. My squats have been mediocre. I don’t have a weightlifting partner so I’ve been relegated to the smith machine for bench pressing anything over 140lbs. Though I did recently manage a 140lb push press for 2 reps of which I was extremely terrified and subsequently extremely proud. So there’s that.

lost-weight

It happened to me again last week. Some guy at the gym said, “You look good! You look like you’ve lost weight”. While my mental response was “I always look good, sir.” my verbal one was “Thanks. I didn’t.” I’m still holding strong at 166lbs. My opinion on that whole scenario has remained mostly the same since the last time. I’m at the gym frequently enough that it’s not weird that people would notice my body shape; that’s not what is awkward. I appreciate that the man was trying to pay me a compliment but in it lies several untrue implications, including 1)That I want to lose weight, and 2)That I am more attractive when I appear thinner. I certainly don’t fault the guy for his compliment but next time he could try saying something like “Your deadlift form is impeccable.” It’s a compliment that would be much better received.

Borgen

Everything I know about Danish politics I learned from Borgen. Or I’m starting to learn anyway. I just started watching this political drama from Denmark after reading nothing but good reviews. I want to say it’s like House of Cards except the just and fair main character, Birgitte Nyborg, is the exact opposite of first class asshole Frank Underwood. Maybe that’s why I like it already.

18 Jul

Overheard at the Gym

Overheard at the Gym

Transcription of a conversation that actually happened this week between an unrelated man and a woman weightlifting at the gym:

While doing incline bench press. . .

Dude: “How many sets do you have left?”

Chick: “2.”

Dude: “Mind if I work in with you? I’ll just warm up once you finish this set.”

Chick: “Sure.”

Dude: “I’ve seen you lifting some heavy weight before. Is this all you can do?” (referring to the 45lb bar)

Chick: Nervous laughter. “Yeah, that’s it.”

Dude: “You want to get the bar a little closer to your chin. It will give you more power.”

Chick: “Uh. . . okay. Thanks.” (editor’s note: her face did not say ‘thanks’)

Dude: “Did you tell me before that you were married?”

Chick: “Uhhh no? No. Not even close.”

Dude: “Oh, I thought that was you.”

. . .

While doing dumbbell bench press. . .

Dude: Goes over to Chick on the bench. “You want your elbows out a little more so they’re in line with your shoulders.” Touches her elbows to adjust them.

Chick: “Okay. Thanks.” (editor’s note: her face said ‘don’t fucking touch me’)

Dude: “I mean, you can do it with your elbows in a little. This is how I do it, with my elbows out.” Demonstrates what he’s talking about. “See. Like that.”

Meanwhile, I try to make eye contact with Dude so I can give him a look that says “Stop doing that. Really. Just stop.”

When Dude walks away to socialize with other gym rats . . .

I glance over and offer a look of “What the fuck?” to Chick and her face mirrors my own.

Chick: “Oh my god, he touched me!”

Me: Walk over to Chick so our conversation is not overheard. “What the hell was that about?”

Chick: “I don’t know, but he touched me.”

Me: “And ‘Is that all you can do?’ Is he for real?? That’s not cool. I hope he doesn’t come back.”

Chick: “I know. Thanks.”

Me and Chick proceed to bond over the struggle to build strength and how neither of us is athletic or can catch a ball if our life depended on it.

Here’s what’s wrong with this whole situation:

1) Unsolicited advice is never welcome at the gym. Don’t fix someone else’s form because if people wanted help they would hire a personal trainer. In this case, Chick’s form wasn’t even bad it was just different from Dude’s. But even if you see someone with absolutely atrocious form who you’re afraid is going to seriously injure themselves then just tell a personal trainer and they can choose whether or not to talk to that person.

2) If you can’t keep your mouth shut at least keep your advice hands-off. If someone wants a hands-on spotter, they will ask.

3) Never say “Is that all you can do?”. Ever. Especially to a woman who may feel self-conscious in the weight room and be struggling to feel comfortable there among heavy lifting men. And especially to a woman doing chest exercises which, in my own experience, is one of the hardest areas for women to build strength.

It’s moments like this that make me understand why the gym has women’s only rooms. And I now understand that he weights are lighter in these rooms because “that’s all we can do.”

12 Jun

Sampling Something New

I mentioned in my last post that I was straying from my normal gym to train at GoodLife. I’m doing it as part of their Blogger Ambassador Program which is using the power of internet voices like mine to get the word out about their facilities and the importance of physical fitness to a healthy life. It’s not an idea I don’t promote already.

My first visit to one of their gyms (the Devonshire Mall location) was this weekend. It was a nice quiet Sunday morning and I was struggling to slide the rubber coated plates onto the barbell when a gentleman swooped in to help me. I am generally averse to white-knighters like this, but the weights were really stuck and I was keenly aware of how ridiculous I looked so I appreciated the help.

He turned out to be an off-duty personal trainer who introduced himself, shook my hand, and told me my deadlift form was “impeccable”. Take note gents, this boy sure knows how to compliment a lady 😉

I was able to finish up my back workout without much other interruption aside from seeing and chatting with two acquaintances.

2014-06-08 (1) 2014-06-08 (3)

Post workout pump!

I’ve already returned to that GoodLife once, this time on a much busier weekday evening. Despite the crowd of weightlifters I was still able to get all my exercises in without having to sharpen my elbows and fight for a weight rack. Of course I saw yet two more people that I knew there… apparently everyone I know enough to say hello to works out at GoodLife. It could be a problem.

I’d like to try a couple more locations, though I’m not sure how I feel about the Women’s Only gyms. Not enough testosterone.

I also plan to try a class or two, especially the Jillian Michaels Body Shred class that my girlfriend Santina keeps raving about. Though I don’t think I can approach that one with an open mind given how much I dislike Jillian Michaels’ approach to anything.

More reviews to come. Stay tuned!

10 Jun

5/3/1 Cycle 18

I pulled back on the volume of weight that I would be lifting for Cycle 18 because I failed to meet my target lifts in Cycle 17.

Read more about how it works here: 5/3/1 for Women and 5/3/1 How To

It was a good move and, overall, cycle 18 went well. I managed to hit every prescribed lift, even on my ‘5 rep’ days (which I actually find harder than my ‘1 rep max’ days).
I did feel weak and tired at times during the cycle, which I blame on low iron, but I managed.

Cycle 18 Main Lifts

Deadlift: 255lb for 2 reps

Push Press: 130lb for 3 rep

Squats: 240lb for 2 reps

Bench Press: 150lb for 2 reps (flying solo)

The loads are decent but not PR-worthy and I feel like I should have been able to crank out more reps.

What’s Next

I headed to GoodLife Fitness this week to start Cycle 19.

I added the standard amount of weight to my Cycle 18 loads (see here or here for 5/3/1 how-to’s). Unfortunately it’s been rough so far. But! I’m only 2 workouts in so I’m trying to stay positive and see how the next 2 workouts go.

Set up for a 5 rep deadliftAll set up for a 5 deadlifts

It might just be that I haven’t been eating properly the last few days, it might be that I’m tired from a weekend of landscaping. It might be that I haven’t been getting as much sleep as I’d like (What I’d like, if we’re being honest, is 9 hours). I don’t know why I’m feeling so weak and off point this week.

The Yogic Approach

Warrior 2 Pose - YogaWarrior!

I’m going to use this as a learning opportunity though because what’s really cool is that I can take a completely yogic approach to weightlifting.

Yoga teaches me to tune into the subtleties of my body so that I can really be aware of when I feel that I’m off my peak and when I feel strong and energetic. I want to use this ability to pay attention to what I’m doing (with diet, exercise, stress, sleep, etc) when I’m feeling my best so I can use that knowledge to optimize my training.

Don’t worry, I’ll continue to keep you posted as I go. . .

29 Apr

5/3/1 Cycle 16 and 17

Cycle 15 of 5/3/1 was empowering. Energizing. Exciting.

Read more about how it works here: 5/3/1 for Women and 5/3/1 How To

When I calculated my loads for cycle 16 I knew it was going to be too much of a struggle for me to reach them, given that I barely made my lifts in cycle 15. So I repeated cycle 15 instead of progressing which was smart.

Cycle 16 Main Lifts

Deadlift: 265lb for 2 reps

Push Press: 135lb for 1 rep

Squats: 250lb for 2 reps

Bench Press: 165lb for 1 rep

Aside from an extra rep in deadlifts I didn’t make any progress. I should have taken that into consideration when I looked at what I was supposed to lift in cycle 17. Okay, I did, but I ignored it and tried to push on which was not smart.

Here I am now in the middle of my third week of cycle 17 (that’s my one rep max week so I haven’t even finished the cycle) and coming off a deadlift day shitty enough to bum me out. I missed a 275lb lift and then out of stress or confusion or weakness I missed a 265lb lift too.

It’s funny that a mere 8 weeks ago I was ecstatic with the amount of weight I could lift and now that same amount feels like failure. I know full well that it takes a lot of time to build strength (it took me years to get to a body weight bench press, remember?) but there’s always that hint of disappointment when my progress stagnates.

I guess for cycle 18 I’m going to take a step back, er, maybe two. I need to build up my strength and lightening up on the amount of weight I lift is a good way to do it. Mentally I’ll need to develop a  more yogic approach with appreciation for what my body can do right now rather than disappointment with what it can’t.

I also have to get back on track with my diet. If you recall my nutritionist/friend Sarah gave me a dietary outline to follow so I would have energy to weightlift and so I could put on mass. Aside from the calorie count I’ve been mostly neglecting the meal plan for the last two weeks and that could have very well  be contributing to my poor performance. When I was following her plan to a T was when I had my best lifts so there’s definitely something to it.

20 Nov

5/3/1 Cycle 11 Recap

BeastMode_thumb.jpg

This cycle of 5/3/1 was UNREAL folks.

I blew away every single weightlifting PR I’ve ever had. Ever. 

Last cycle I was just happy to have finally regained all my lost strength. This cycle though I’m ecstatic. I’m proud. I’m completely shocked.

I fucking love this programme.

Read more about how it works here: 5/3/1 for Women

Main Lifts

I can’t even believe these numbers are real.

Deadlift: 250lb for 2 reps

Push Press: 130lb for 1 rep

Squats: 235lb for 4 reps

Bench Press: 150lb for 1 rep

I’m happy to have my husband back at the gym to spot me, just when I need him again (I was pretty terrified of crushing myself to death on that 150lb bench press) or injuring myself with the squat.

Accessory Lifts

Each day I did 4 exercises with a related muscle group to supplement my big lift. I performed 4 sets of these at mid range reps (5-8).

I haven’t been doing too much cardio, so I feel like I should start incorporating some more cleans and snatches to get my heart rate going. I’ll keep this in mind for my next cycle.

31 Oct

5/3/1 for Women – Cycle 10 Recap

I’m a bit behind on posting the recap of my 10th cycle of 5/3/1 (I’m nearly halfway through cycle 11 now).

5/3/1’s primary goal is to progressively increase your strength in the big lifts (squats, deadlifts, bench press, and overhead press). You don’t have to waste time on minor muscle groups (holla if you loathe biceps workouts!) because muli-joint lifts target multiple muscle groups so you gain strength everywhere.

If you’ve been reading my blog the last while you know how much I love this programme but I’ll keep saying it over and over (I love this programme, I love this programme!) so that maybe one day you’ll give it a try. If you want to consistently get stronger you’ve got to follow a programme like this that has you pushing yourself harder and harder every week.

There. I’ve said my piece.

Read more about how it works here: 5/3/1 for Women

Main Lifts

I’m happy to report that I’ve regained all my strength, you guys!

It took me 3 months to recover the strength that I lost with just 3 weeks of yoga teacher training.

I know it sounds totally ridiculous and it was a mental struggle for me to have to cut way back on my loads, but it worked to help me rebuild my strength. I’m excited (and also terrified, tbh) to move forward and start lifting heavier than I have before.

For cycle 10 I was working on the same loads as I completed in cycle 6 right before yoga Teacher Training. Compared to then, I’ve improved marginally in terms of reps, which I’m really happy about.

Deadlift: 240lb for 2 reps

Push Press: 125lb for 4 reps (PR’d that shit!)

Squats: 225lb for 3 reps (without a spotter!)

Bench Press: 120lb (added weight on Smith machine) for 3 reps

I’m so happy that I was able to push up more weight than ever with my push press this cycle (for 4 reps, no less!).

My bench press loads are increasing (very slowly, but increasing nonetheless) to the point that I definitely need a spotter to prevent me from crushing myself to death, or I have to use the Smith machine. I hate the Smith machine. It has it’s purposes, but everything feels so much easier because you don’t have to self-stabilize. It feels like cheating.

But I hate asking for a spotter even more. Most guys, if they don’t think you’re hitting on them, will take too much weight off and say “It’s all you! It’s all you!” No sir it is, in fact, all you. Plus as they lean over to help me I somehow manage to spit in their faces on an exhale and disgust us both. So until the husband makes his triumphant return to the gym (at the same time of day as me) then Smith machine it is.

Accessory Lifts

I don’t even know what I did this cycle. It was very unorganized, which is very unlike me. After my big lift I did a handful of exercises (usually 3 or 4) with a related muscle group, sometime for around 6 reps, sometimes for up to 12 reps. I’m not sure I liked this unorganized approach, but that’s what happens when you don’t plan your workouts before you get to the gym.

Unfortunately I haven’t planned anything better and I’ve been doing the same thing so far in cycle 11. Must rectify this situation.

24 Oct

This body wasn’t built for asana

Chaturanga

I got an e-mail today congratulating me on my new yoga website and asking me about my practice.

“Seems like your build differs from other yoga instructors, as you’re much more muscular + stronger than the norm. Are you trying to change your physique in that direction?”

Let’s be honest. When it comes purely to physiques I’m not cut out to be a yoga instructor. During yoga teacher training I became the poster child for joint compression in our anatomy discourse, wowing everyone with the pathetic range of motion in my extremities. Our anatomy instructor took one look at my shoulders and said (and I’m not making this up):

“Look at you! It’s like you’re wearing a suit of armour!”

Thanks. That’s exactly what every young lady wants to hear. o_O

In the past it would have concerned me to be reminded by another human being that I have the bone structure of an armadillo. I’m already reminded by the mirror every time I try on a cute strapless dress and see the reflection of a linebacker… in a cute strapless dress. (I’m lying. I don’t even try on strapless dresses any more.) But these days I’m much happier with my body as it is.

So no, I’m not trying to change my physique because I can’t change my bones or where I carry my body fat or the length of my arms (which, fyi, are not long enough for yoga). This body is all I’ve got so this is what I’m going to have to work with. This body will give me a greater appreciation for what I can do.

Yoga, or the practice of asanas as we think of it today, was made for men with long limbs and short torsos accustomed to sitting in lotus pose just for fun. The people who can best master the poses without props or variations have the bodies for it to begin with and, the thing is, most people don’t have those bodies.

But that’s okay because the awesome thing about yoga is that it’s about self-acceptance and self-awareness. It’s about breathing. It’s about creating a moving meditation. Anyone– any body– can do these things. What yoga isn’t about is perfecting postures.

So while I might not fit the physique of a typical yoga instructor, that doesn’t make me any less a yogi.

. . . and– just in case you’re wondering– no, I’m not going to stop lifting heavy weights. Body acceptance for me means knowing that my suit-of-armour bone structure was designed for power-based activities and I should take every advantage of it.

Plus nothing feels better to me than lifting something heavy.

25 Sep

5/3/1 for Women – Cycle 9 Recap

I just finished my 9th cycle of 5/3/1. That’s 36 weeks on the same programme. I’m still loving it.

5/3/1 focuses on increasing strength in the big muli-joint lifts (squats, deadlifts, bench press, and overhead press) and lets you vary the other exercises that you do in addition to these lifts (ie. your accessory lifts)

Read more about how it works here: 5/3/1 for Women

Main Lifts

You may recall that I had to cut way back on my loads because of all the strength that I lost during my 3 weeks of yoga teacher training. I had failed at moving the required weight so I had to take 2 steps back to rebuild.

For cycle 9 I was working on the same loads as I completed in cycle 5 back in May. Compared to May, I’ve improved marginally in terms of reps, which I’m really happy about.

Deadlift: 230lb for 4 reps

Push Press: 120lb for 5 reps

Squats: 220lb for 2 reps

Bench Press: 140lb for 1 reps

 

This cycle, I’m most proud of my push press, not only because it was a PR, but also because I was only a little scared and I wasn’t figuratively shitting my pants in terror of hoisting that much weight overhead. That’s progress.

Accessory Lifts

I focused on complexes and circuits that involved intervals or moving a little weight very quickly. This way I elevate my heart rate and a get a good sweat going in just 10-20 minutes.

I vary the accessory exercises every day and my favourites always include sprints. This cycle my favourite was:

Sprint 1km
10 push-ups
Sprint 1km
15 push-ups
Sprint 1km
20 push-ups
Sprint 1km
25 push-ups
Sprint 1km
25 push-ups
Sprint 1km
20 push-ups
Sprint 1km
15 push-ups
Sprint 1km
10 push-ups

Deload Week

Lots of yoga, a bit of running, and a little lighter weightlifting.

28 Aug

5/3/1 for Women – Cycle 8 Recap

I just finished my 8th cycle of 5/3/1.

I can’t believe I’ve been doing this programme for 32 weeks already! That’s the longest I’ve ever stuck with any routine, so I’m clearly jiving with it. I like that the programme focuses on increasing strength in the big muli-joint lifts (squats, deadlifts, bench press, and overhead press) but lets me play around with the other exercises that I do in addition to these lifts.

Read more about how it works here: 5/3/1 for Women

Main Lifts

During my 3 weeks of YTT (yoga teacher training) I completely cut weightlifting out. When I got back I tried to pick up where I left off, repeating my pre-YTT loads in cycle 7 but I lost a lot of strength and failed miserably at hitting my deadlifts and squats.

So for cycle 8 I went way back to my cycle 4 loads and I’m trying to build back up from there.

Deadlift: 225lb for 3 reps
Push Press: 115lb for 4 reps
Squats: 210lb for 3 reps
Bench Press: 135lb for 4 reps

the number of repetitions that I completed for each exercise was identical to what I did back in April for cycle 4, so at least I know I scaled back properly.

Accessory Lifts

For cycle 8 I went back to doing a variation of the ‘boring but big’ accessory lifts:

– the Main lift, then
– the Main lift in a different form (eg. squats + front squats, bench press + dumbbell bench press, etc), then
– 3 accessory exercises with a higher rep range (10-15)

But I find this quite boring and also I was becoming pressed to get cardio exercise in so I’m switching back to complexes and circuits that will elevate my heart rate and a get a good sweat going in just 10-20 minutes.

Some of these circuits I make up myself, others I steal from crossfit football.

Deload Week

I think I only got one weightlifting session in during deload week. Woops! 😛

I opted instead for more yoga, stand-up paddleboarding, and hiking sand dunes.