Category Archives: Weight Training

The Hardest Workout I’ve Ever Done

No, it’s not what you think.

The hardest workouts I’ve ever done only last twenty minutes, and I don’t even break a sweat. I don’t breathe hard, I don’t even get warm in my extremities. My heart rate has to stay in a specific, low zone. Last week I was in the 130s. This week I am in the 140s.

This is the hardest workout mentally and emotionally. To go to the gym, seeing all the people doing all the things I want to do, I used to do, I CAN DO, I miss doing. To have no one know why you’re pedaling at a gear three on the recumbent bike with your hair down. To make the effort to drag the kids to the daycare, with puffy coats and logistics, so I can “work out” without even any endorphin rush, without any training effect on my body.

Why am I doing this? Why am I undergoing this difficulty of self-control and disciple? Because this is my best shot at getting better.

At being able to exercise normally.

If everything goes WELL, I can increase my heart rate by ten beats per minute each week. And at some point down the line, I can double up on my twenty minute sessions, doing two a day at the target heart rate. So if I don’t get any symptoms back during this, I am looking at best case scenario of eight weeks. No weight training. Just this.

I cried a lot when I saw the reality of this. I mean, I am happy to have a plan. I am happy that it seems to be working. I am excited that maybe in a couple of weeks I will be able to sloooowly jog. Once I get into the 160s heart rate zone I think I can jog. (I have a very high heart rate in general) But it seemed daunting, it seemed like a sad mountain to climb, after I just got down conquering a mountain, the peak of staying positive and not surviving two and a half months of total rest but THRIVING during it.

I’ve done so well! I did all my homework and then some. I am a Better Person. I am Humble. I Learned My Lesson! Do I get my reward yet?

But of course it doesn’t work out that way. Or not quite. I am very sure, however, that I will carry these lessons on with me permanently. I see so many errors in the ways I used to think. I was always judging people. I never stopped to think,

maybe they had a story. Maybe they deserved benefit of the doubt. Compassion.

I forgot to be grateful. I don’t mean I didn’t appreciate what I had/have/will have. I forgot to be Endlessly Grateful. I mean, truly, truly grateful. I always knew doing the things I loved, like running and exercising, was a gift, but I didn’t know it was also a responsibility. I’m not sure what that really means, right now. Good thing I have more down time to find out.

photo(19)

 

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Filed under Life & Style, Parenting, Running and Racing, Weight Training

At the hotel, motel, hotel gym…

I just got back from a 12-day vacation in California, where we visited my husband’s family and had an excellent family trip. We started in San Diego, then did three days at Disneyland with aunts, uncles and cousins, then the weekend at the beach at Point Mugu (up the coast from LA) then a couple more days just our family in Santa Barbara.

It was a really nice trip, but rather than write about the trip itself, I thought I’d explain how I work out on vacation. (I know, mindblowing: lace up your running sneakers and go, right? But I can’t just ONLY run, so fitting in other workouts can be more challenging).

But yes: the first tenet of working out is packing running sneakers and running clothes and making it a priority. At home I run at all different times of the day, but on vacation, early in the morning is better. That way, it doesn’t mess up any group plans, if you’re traveling in a pack the way we did, and then you can drink margaritas at noon.

California is made for early morning or late evening running, too, when the sun isn’t killing you and it’s cooler. I never quite made it out of New York time, at least when it came to waking up early, so a few times I snuck out of the hotel room early and ran at like 7 a.m. (early for me). I tend to hate running on sidewalk cement, so that was a problem at Disney, where we stayed in a nice resort in an area of hotels and malls, so I ran on the treadmill instead.

In San Diego we were near Balboa Park so I ran to/there. At Point Mugu, the weather cooled off and we were staying on a naval base on the beach, with the Santa Monica mountains behind us. I had two great runs there, one with my husband. We never usually get to run together because of the kidlets, so it was nice to have relatives watch them while we ran. I had two great runs, I think my fastest 3.1 and my fastest 4 since Henry was born.

In Santa Barbara there is a beautiful pedestrian path along the ocean, and we ran there. For strength training, I fit 3.5 sessions in.

In San Diego, we were staying at my brother-in-law’s house, in a neighborhood called North Park, which is like a California version of a hipster-y Brooklyn hood. It had nice restaurants, art galleries, and a multitude of yoga studios and gyms. There were like four independent gyms in a four block radius. So on Saturday morning (we flew in Friday, which was my first rest day) I chose one, walked in, and asked if I could pay to attend the boot camp class they had.

They said they didn’t really do walk-ins, but the owner was friendly and for $15 I got to take a boot camp class that ended up being me and one other attendee. The trainer put us through intervals of fun stuff like box jumps, burpees, kettlebell swings, mountain climbers, pushups, ab work, battling ropes and shoulder presses. It was hard, and awesome. I was pretty much dripping with sweat (apparently in San Diego if it’s 75 degrees they think it’s cool and don’t turn on the air conditioner).

So Friday: rest day

Saturday: boot camp class

Sunday: four miles in the hills of San Diego (ouch, need to run some more hills at home)

Monday: ran about four with Walt, his brother, and Henry in the jogger along a park path with a view of the city. Their jogging stroller (Bob) has a fixed front tire which I found really really hard to push for some reason.

Tuesday: rest day

Wednesday: did a weights workout at the hotel gym

Thursday: did three miles on the hotel gym treadmill, after wandering around looking for coffee with real cream or milk so not to wake up everyone in our hotel suite at 6 a.m. I ran too fast for two miles, 7:50 then 7:40 so I had to slowly jog the last mile.

Friday: 3.1 run, loving the 60s temperature.

Saturday: did some body-weight type exercises on the playground and the beach. Yeah, I’m that person doing chin ups while their kid plays. Then pushups and dips on beach chairs and squats. Then Walt and I ran four miles that night. There is always a way to workout, even with no equipment, even in a hotel gym (or on a beach, if you don’t care what people think of you). You may even inspire relatives to join you in impromptu pushup reps.

Sunday: Hotel gym in Santa Barbara to finish the half-assed strength workout of the day before. This gym was swanky and only played Real Housewives, of course.

Monday: Ran just shy of three miles along the beach, but I wasn’t really feeling it. The pathway was cement (why?!) and my body was twinging and feeling weird, so I cut off the run a little early.

Tuesday: flew back, rest day.

On Wednesday home and back to the gym for a sculpt class. I’m feeling really strong, maybe from the two Crossfit classes I did? Or maybe the change from my regular routine was a good thing?

So there you have it. Away for 12 days, 9 workouts done. Running in places away from home is always an awesome way to see a new place. And now the next time I travel I’m going to repeat my drop-into-a-cool-looking-gym trick. Everyone was so nice. Maybe that’s just because it was California? People are really noticeably more friendly there than New York. Especially toward kids. And pedestrians. No SUVs tried to ram us down at any point, so that right there was 200% better than home.

Working out while away is a must, if only so that we can eat more restaurant food.

Do you work out when you go on vacation?

 

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Comical Crossfit Hands

I’ve wanted to do Crossfit for a long time (which means since last year when I was at my peak fitness) but haven’t felt ready since the baby until now. On Monday my husband unexpectedly came home really early (because he cracked his tooth in half!) and so I took the chance to go to Crossfit instead of the normal Elevated Training class I take at the gym. (There’s no babysitting at Crossfit, obviously.)

Won't someone please think of the children?

A nearby Crossfit gym was recommended to me and I called to make sure it was okay to just stop in without having taken the “On ramp” intro training first. I a little nervous, if only because it was new, and I didn’t know what to expect. There was a female trainer and two men and two women working out.

The WOD was written on the board, but it was kind of indecipherable to me (Minoan Linear B maybe). We started the warmup (jog 800 meters around the block, dynamic stretching, 10 pushups with rotations, 20 sit ups, 20 air squats, 10 pullups) and then practiced the skill of the day: toes to bar (TTB). Crossfit has a particular way of doing even familiar moves, and the trainer showed me the specific Crossfit official way.

Toes to bar. Yeah. I couldn’t hang, literally. I have a decent amount of upper body strength (I can do a chinup or two) but I have the worst hands. Like, they are tiny and weak. They always fail me before I actually fail on any weight that I have to hold. If people examine my hands, they laugh, because they look like kid hands. Small. I wear a size six shoe, so, yeah. I can’t hang long enough on the bar to keep kicking my feet up and kipping to get toes to bar. My hands just open and I fall down.

I guess if I kept doing CF I would necessarily strengthen my grip, and maybe I should walk around my house doing grip exercises?

So unluckily for me, toes to bar was one third of the WOD (Workout of the Day if you’ve been living under a rock).

The WOD was five rounds of three exercises, done for a minute each, for reps. Box jump-overs, toes to bar, and a kettlebell farmer carry. I liked the sound of that, because if the Spartan Sprint taught me anything, it’s that I’m good at things that are reminiscent of manual labor (thanks European peasant stock) and bad at things that demand athleticism and dexterity and agility.

The trainer started me off with a low box to nail the movement and then gave me a higher one when I wasn’t a total spaz, and then I got an even higher one because that one was too easy. So I had a 20 incher, same as the other two women who were there. I’m not competitive or anything ;)

So see the zeros? That was the toes to bar. I didn’t realize that if you couldn’t do something as prescribed you were supposed to do the substitute move and count those and then your total score would be asterisked as not “official,” so instead I counted zeros for the toes to bar minute when I just practiced trying to get knees to bar. Which I couldn’t do either.

When the trainer explained the farmer carry I thought we each had to have our own set of kettle bells and the two women grabbed the only medium weights (53 lb pairs) so I grabbed a lighter pair. But then I realized that we were doing the intervals in turns so I was able to use the 53 pound bells. I wanted to do what they were doing if I could. So yeah that was hard. We had to walk with them down the driveway and back. My forearms are still sore and it’s now Thursday. I was able to do one trip each time.

Although, my legs weren’t sore afterward. Just my forearms and some shoulders. So I’m worried I didn’t get enough of a leg workout. Because usually after leg day I’m deathly sore. Cue “leg day” memes…

You can see my number of box jumps declining too…it was nice and tough to keep going and going with no rest. It was so much fun. By the fourth round the other women started doing lying v-ups instead of the toe to bar so I did that, too. But again, I didn’t realize I was supposed to count them. So I would have gotten a way higher overall number.

Instead, I just look stupid, with my way low number up there. It should probably be way higher. Let’s say I did 15 v-ups each time, that’s another 75 points! Even though it wouldn’t be the official “rx” count.

So now I must go back and avenge my pitiful number. I’m going to sign up for the on ramp course (three personal sessions) to learn all the moves and lingo and then buy a punch card and go if I can, like weekends or late at night or whenever my husband needs more emergency dental work.

We can only hope.

Also, I got some callouses on my comical baby hands, so that’s fun.

 

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Gyminy Crickets

I can’t stop, won’t stop, being flabbergasted at things I see at the gym.

Like, in one day, I can find ten things to complain about. And that’s not even counting Spin class, since I felt the need to expound on the problems for an entire blog post.

But yeah. I see things. I know things.

First of all, it’s 2013. If you haven’t gotten the memo that you need to rest body parts in between strength training, I give up.

I know, I know. You do it anyway and you get some results and so you think, huh, it must not be so bad. Plus, working out is good, and more is good, so more working out is always good? Logic fail.

But listen: you’re comparing doing this sub-optimally with being sedentary, not doing things sub-optimally and doing them optimally.

In other words, you’re sub-optimal. If you don’t give your muscles enough time to regenerate and regrow, larger and stronger, you’re missing the point (and your own potential).

Which brings me to the second cardinal mistake: copying what the fitness instructors do. Yes, they are skinny and toned. They probably don’t even eat, and some most likely have exercise and eating issues. Don’t look at them teaching four sculpt classes four days in a row and think that means you should do it too.

You are not them. They are not you. They are doing it for work (or eating disorders) and they may be lifting lighter than they would otherwise to get through another class. Left to their own devices they’d probably lift heavier and then rest in between. The ones who look super strong and fit? They are doing other things than what they are telling you to do in their class (lift eight pounds a million times). They are telling you that because the class is geared toward the middle common denominator. If they want to get stronger, they lift heavier in the weight room. Come to the weight room. You will even SEE them there.

So stop copying them. Don’t do two classes two days in a row with lower body strength exercises. That makes no sense. Don’t worry about what someone else is doing. Do you. You with rest days.

Now, don’t worry. I will pick on the instructors as well.

My biggest criticism is that they constantly assume everyone at the gym must, by definition, have a disordered relationship with food.

No. Girl, no. “We just burned 600 calories, now we can all go home and eat a sliver of pie since it’s a holiday! Yay!”

I was going to eat several slices of pie, anyway, whether I worked our or not, and even on non-holiday days as well. Don’t speak for me.

I like to eat, and I like life, and enjoying myself, and to get even more radical about this, I don’t even work out to change how I look. I work out because I like it and I want to get better at shit I do.

Speaking of calories, really? You use calories to see how hard you’re working? I could walk all day and burn a shit-ton of calories. Do you think that will make me look or feel or be fit?

No. It’s like when people think sweating automatically means intense aerobic exertion. I could work up a sweat waving my hands in the air. Not a good workout. I can get sweaty if I feel embarrassed. Embarrassment is not a cardiovascular training tool.

I know I talked about Spin class ad nauseum already, but listen, spinning in second or third gear may SEEM harder, because you’re bouncing around and you may even sweat, but no. You are not working as hard as sitting down and adding gear. Aren’t we trying to simulate riding bikes and not elliptical machines?

Other things that seem like good ideas but actually aren’t: the negative weight pull-up machine. I used to use this, then did some research and figured out why it wasn’t helping me do an actual pull-up after months of using it. It doesn’t use the right muscles. To do things you have to actually do them (shocking right?) So what do you do if you can’t do a pull-up?

You do negatives. Get a chair, use it to get to the top, then slowly control your descent. x30.

Seated adductor and abductor machines.

Since I’ve been ranting a lot about what not to do, I will be fair and post some things I actually do.

Am I a bitch or what? Disclaimer: I am not a licensed physical trainer or doctor, I just play someone who’s smart in my every day life.

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Multiple Choice Monday

The post is the sampler platter of blog posts. Something for everyone, like a really good buffet or IHOP sampler breakfast. Except, delicious, because those things aren’t. Maybe this is a chef’s tasting menu, unless you’re drunk, because then IHOP IS delicious. For a minute at least, then you’re not hungry anymore. I used to waitress at a diner, and lots of drunk people came in after the bar/club and they used to order SO much food, eat one bite and then leave like many twenties of dollars worth of tips. Drunk people are awesome customers. Now I know why people bartend. Maybe I should close the circle of this metaphor and ask what you’d like to drink? I recommend:

Running

Saturday I had no jogging stroller to push, it was under 95 degrees for the first time in a while here in NY, and I drank like a metric ton of iced tea. When I make iced tea, I make it like 400% more caffeinated than coffee and it goes down so easy. I think I had a blood caffeine level off the charts. So I started running and I realized I was under 8 minute mile pace and it felt EASY. It felt so good. Like it used to. The heat caught up with me a bit as the run went on, but I still managed to run my fastest outside 3.1 since having Henry. I almost broke 25 minutes for the first time (this year I mean) but narrowly missed and ran 25:17, which is still good for me right now. I think pushing through this heat wave and running outside in the death heat and with the stroller too has been a kind of additional training. My real 5K PR is 23:02. I used to go out and run 23,24 minutes pretty easily. It’s so strange to be battling to run 25 minutes. But this gives me some hope that maybe come fall, and some cooler weather, and the end of breastfeeding, I can get back there again.

Shopping

I love thrift store shopping but I haven’t done it in a while. Henry’s pretty chill in the shopping cart these days, though, and I was in the mood to hunt so we made a Salvation Army run. Friends always ask me how I find stuff, or how to thrift shop, and the biggest piece of advice I have is to Be In The Mood for it. Don’t go if you’re not feeling like browsing and exhaustively perusing aisles. You have to look at every single thing to find stuff. Henry got grumpy before I managed to find too much for myself (I’m hunting for a maxi dress or maxi skirt I don’t have to hem at 5’4 and also maybe some J Crew type cropped skinny pants) but I got like half of an entire late summer into fall wardrobe for Anna.

All this, plus a shirt for me, cost $13.

I pretty much don’t buy any clothes for my kids. I have about ten boxes of hand-me-downs for Henry JUST SIZED 12-18 months (it’s insane) in my attic and Anna gets a lot of cute stuff from the girl my sister nannies for who’s a couple years/sizes bigger. I round out with specific things she needs and family loves to get her stuff. Probably because she looks so cute in everything. All her winter coats, boots, etc. have come as gifts from grandparents and relatives and then birthdays bring a lot, too. But it was fun to let Anna pick out anything she wanted (it all cost $1-$2 per item).

Fashion Conundrums

So I’ve always been unbestowed in the bosom, and all my clothing reflects this. I have tons of things that I can wear easily with medium-small boobs but this year with breastfeeding, I suddenly have, like, cleavage and apparently no knowledge of how to dress for this condition. Things that looked fine before now look too Too, if you know what I mean. One of my bathing suits is a Victoria’s Secret pushup contraption that makes me look ridiculous right now. I don’t want to buy boob-friendly clothing just for this brief period of time, and I hopefully only have a few more months with this Alternate Me Body B (for breasts I guess) but it’s just weird. Now I understand how the other half lives, and dresses.

Weight Lifting

I’ve been making some actual strength gains lately, so I’m toying with the idea of posting a full workout here. Exactly what I do, and in what order, what weights, etc. I don’t know if that’s interesting to anyone, though. I know I’d like to read blogs with a full explanation of someone’s strength training workout, and I don’t know if I know any bloggers who do this. Any recommendations? Anyone want to read what I do?

I’m also finding myself returning to the idea of getting certified as a personal trainer. I’ve wanted to do this for a while. I’m not sure what I’m waiting for, or when the right time will be, or if I should have a potential job lined up first before I start the process. I’m not sure how, but I know I want to do this somehow soon.

Babies

There are two things that “most babies” do, two pieces of received wisdom that just plain don’t apply to Henry (and didn’t to Anna when she was a baby).

The first is that more sleep=more sleep golden nugget of wisdom. I totally believe other moms who say this is the golden rule with their kids, and I think that’s why people are so divided in their views on Weissbluth’s sleep book. It either applies to your baby, or not. My kids are squarely in the Not. If they nap too much…they sleep worse at night and go down much later. When they’re good and tired, they sleep much better. Yesterday Henry napped two and half hours over the course of two car naps because we spent a lot of the day driving instead of the one to one and a half hours of total daytime sleep he usually gets. That meant he wouldn’t go to sleep until 11 at night! I have to police his day sleep but not to make sure he sleeps enough, rather make sure he sleeps enough but not TOO much.

Immersion in bodies of water is a critical component of the getting them tired strategy.

The other thing that seems contrary to the Popular Baby Way is the circadian schedule my kids were born with. They have never woken up early, like those 5, 6 a.m. early bird wakers everyone is always complaining about. Henry’s preferred timetable is to go to sleep between 9 and 10 p.m. and to be up for the day between 8 and 9 a.m. Usually Anna wakes him up before then because I can’t seem to keep her quiet enough (three year olds with their love of life!). She was similar as a baby, though maybe a tad earlier. She goes down now between 8:30 and 9 p.m. and up around 7:30 a.m.. She probably truly needs to go to bed more like 8 p.m. these days since she stopped sleeping in until 8 a.m. and she has some days where she’s overtired and naps. But our family tends to slide later…part of that is my husband getting home at 7 p.m. It gives the kids a kind of second wind of excitement and then we eat late, start bedtime late…Days that my husband works late or is away I find I have them both asleep by 8:30 p.m.

What do/did your babies do/did that seems contrary to the expected wisdom?

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Spin Class Curmudgeon

First off, the winner of last week’s Spartan Class Spirit Award goes to…Kim from TryItMom!  Kim, I will email you the code. I can’t wait to hear how you kick even more #motherSpartan booty at your next race. I think you will go professional by the year’s end.

Now, in my continuing quest to become a fitness curmudgeon, I present to you: a rant about spin class.

Disclaimer: I am no exercise scientist, no professional cyclist, and am only marginally qualified to comment authoritatively. But I do, however, also exercise that organ inside of my head along with the rest of my body, so I feel the need to point out some glaring errors I see all the time.

I am certified to teach Spin, and I pick the brains of actual fast cyclists, triathletes, and dude and ladies who ride outside, I own an actual bicycle, I rode it a couple of times,  one time for 100 miles, a few races, I research this crap for work, and I can understand basic mechanics. This makes me 80% more capable of discussing what 9 out of 10 spin instructors don’t understand than the average gym goer. I kind of straddle the endurance sports world and the gym addict world. I’d like to see some of the common sense effectiveness of the outdoor riding world in gym spinning, since there’s nothing wrong with gym spin classes. They are an excellent training tool when used correctly.

So I am lucky that my gym has Keiser bikes. The Keiser bikes have computers that read out:

RPM (Cadence) – cycling speed

Calories/Watts – power output

Time

Gear – resistance level 1-20

Miles

The sad thing is that 95% of instructors don’t USE the computers. It’s the single best training tool you could ever have but most ignore it and teach the old way from when Spin bikes just had a resistance knob and no one knew what anyone was doing besides perceived exertion. I guess because those teachers learned that way and are creatures of habit and/or don’t understand how to teach with watts.

Because watts are the single most important piece of data you can use. Unless you’re just riding for fun, and not to get fitter, but then you’re strange and you should go ride a basket bike to the market and pick up a loaf of French bread.

Some attempt to use the data to teach, but in a misguided way. Because everyone’s gear and watts will be different, because fitness level and body weight matter. If a 100-pound woman and 300-pound man are both using 12 gears, then that woman is working way harder and would be pushing her way up a hill way faster than the guy, because she’s putting out more power for her size.

The bigger you are as a rule, the more power you can exert and the faster you can go on a bike. Your watts= power=speed=how fast you can push your ass through space on a bike. Not using this number as a teaching tool is like trying to teach algebra without the X, like teaching geography without a map. It’s plain dumb.

I think I need bullet points to break this down.

  • How many miles you went doesn’t really matter. They aren’t real miles. If you are using gear 6, you didn’t really go 20 miles in an hour. Sorry.
  • When you spend the class out of the saddle, it’s fun and more interesting, but it’s not as good of a workout as sitting down with moderate gear. The watts will show this. Ever see cyclists on trainers prep for outdoor fitness by bouncing around all over the place to Fergie?

  • An instructor should never call out a gear to you. “Use 14!” No, each student should find their base gear (the instructor should be able to help you with this) and then be told to add two more gears from base, or five up, or two below, etc.
  • If you are moving all around and bouncing your butt and, like, flailing about you don’t have enough gear.
  • If you aren’t sweating and your hair is down, you’re paying for an hour of meditation in a dark Day-Glo room. Don’t tell me you don’t sweat. Push twice your body weight in watts and see if you sweat.
  • A good power output sustained over time is anything from your body weight in  watts, to 1.5 times your weight to double your weight, depending on your fitness. If you really want to see how you stack up there are books with age and gender tables for time trials for outdoor riders. You can test yourself on a Spin bike, subtract some wattage for indoor vs. outdoor (no one really knows how much) and see how well you are doing.  Warning: this is some nerdy shit.
  • A better way to determine ideal watts for you (and base gear) is to do a simulated lactate threshold test on the bikes. Kill yourself for 30 minutes after a brief warm up and see what your average watts end up being. I did this right after I had Henry so I wasn’t that fit and I averaged 258 for 20 minutes. I weigh about 120 so this is decent for me, but I think I could do better. When you train with tests like these, make sure you repeat them as you get fitter or every few months or so. Now I can take this number and plug it into an online calculator for ideal training zones. But you don’t need to get so fancy. Just try to keep those watts as high as you can.

  • Gym spin bikes don’t have computers? Same principles still hold. Sit your butt down, train your mental discipline, and hold the heaviest gears you can for the whole class. Add some hills and speedy portions, sure, but spending the class in second and third position is actually kind of silly. Sorry. I know it’s more fun. The thing about this is that it gives you the ILLUSION of working hard. Like, you may get out of breath and a little sweaty, but if you stood in place and yelled long enough and maybe waved your arms around, you’d get out of breathe too. Does that mean it’s a good cardiovascular, muscular and training workout?
  • Your instructor shouldn’t really be making you spin over 120 rpm, maybe as part of a short kind of skill drill but not as a rule. Yet I see this all. the. time. I guess it’s part of that cardio junkie female mindset that thinks the faster, the better, the more Energizer bunny, the better. Yes, this works in running but biking is different. If you were outside spinning 130 revolutions per minute with your gear at five you’d fall over. You have to hold your own weight and the weight of the bike (your body weight in watts) and you have to have enough gear that your ass is not moving wildly side to side. The crazy ass test is actually a pretty reliable one.

A conundrum happens when you go to a class and it’s all wrong. Are you rude and do your own thing? (I’ve done this, sorry) Do you only go to classes that ask you to train effectively? There are only two or three at my gym, and I go to a somewhat sophisticated gym. It’s worse at the national chain gyms. But sitting home alone on a trainer isn’t fun! I like the group atmosphere, the healthy competition, being pushed, the music, the lights. That’s why I’m certified and I want to start teaching again soon.

Even if you never ride outside and don’t care, even for the sake of exercise you should care. Spin is the single best cardio workout besides running and a lot of people can’t or won’t run. Runners can use spinning as a highly effective cross training tool. BUT YOU NEED TO KNOW WHAT THE HELL YOU’RE DOING AND FEMALE GYM FITNESS WORLD?

You don’t right now. Hope this helps. Let’s copy what the nerdy guys are doing with their fancy outside bikes a little. Because right now we’re silly. We’re doing step aerobics on bikes, but it’s worse because it’s not even as hard. A lot of us have tried to start lifting weights like a guy (no more endless reps with two pound pink dumbbells) now let’s ride the damn inside bike like we’re serious.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen in a Spin class?

 

 

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Weighty Matters

I’ve been wringing my hands over a conundrum in the world of exercise and children: the gym day care.

Henry is at the single worst possible age to be let loose in a busy room. At eight and a half months old, he will find every small item and promptly stick it in his mouth (except he’s weirdly slow about it so I usually have time to dive/slide/run/body slam my way over and grab it. He also looks at me, like Baby Can Have Small Game Part?

No, baby. You can not have that.

Also, he pulls up on everything and everyone he can find, even very small children. And then said children run away, and he falls. The gym day care room has a cement floor. Not sure what planning brilliance went into that one, but it’s not even covered with those interlocking rubber floor pieces or anything.

It’s one room maybe 12 x 12. Ten year old boys run around practicing their kung fu kicks and if a crawler gets a knock to the head, well it seems the luck of the draw. They have no cap on the number of kids who can go, and even though I go in the evening at off times, there’s no guarantee there won’t be three crying babies to hold and ten rambunctious eight year old building a teetering tower out of something that will hurt when it falls down.

They have a policy of no chokeable items, but the big kids often bring in their homework, their crafts, their beading necklace sets, their assorted childhood flotsam and jetsam, and if a piece fell on the floor, and Henry put it in his mouth, what are the chances that at that exact moment the caretaker would be watching him closely?

Not good.

He rarely naps/stays in the stroller in there which is another strategy moms of the youngest babies use. This is actually a nice gym that’s not cheap ($60 a month) but the day care is free and since it’s kind of a clique-y place I feel like no one dares complain. Take it or leave it.

So I have a summer workout problem. Running is fine, I can just run at 7 p.m. when my husband gets home and then Anna has two weeks of summer camp so I can run with the jogging stroller then. Then there are lots of vacation days mixed in, and I can do a lot on the weekend, but but but but I need to go to my Monday 5 p.m. Elevated Training class or I will be unfit. It’s like such a must for me. I guess I could pay a babysitter once a week since this little period should be over relatively soon. Once he’s a good walker and out of the peak oral phase the day care will be okay. Maybe by the fall?

Blah. blahblahblah

I guess I can go lift weights at 7 p.m. by myself in the weight room, since I want to focus on gaining strength now anyway.

The weirdos come out at night.

But 7 p.m. is hectic. Dinner, bath, pajamas, family time. Plus I enjoy the time out break that divides up our long days. Without it I’m like killing time and entertaining kids and …. … …   …. endless  long days and then I’m tired and THEN I have to go work out when I’d rather eat dinner with my husband and kids. It’s not ideal.

But I know this time period is short. It just doesn’t feel like it when you’re in it.

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Fitness Friday: The Bare Minimum Edition

So I hate that my weeks in fitness are becoming so lackluster and just going through the motions, but I guess that’s the reality at the very end of my pregnancy. I’m 39 weeks and 3 days and I’m so over being pregnant, that I’m also so over my pregnancy workouts.

I’m really struggling with staying motivated to do anything! I’m pretty tired and I also feel sort of blah. Maybe it’s some kind of hormone dip or maybe it’s just because I feel like I’m in a limbo phase….just waiting to go into labor. I know logically I should try to stay busy and enjoy the time I have now, but logic doesn’t always come through for ya.

(My daughter and I waiting at my last midwife checkup.)

So here’s what I did this week, in between obsessing over not being labor:

On Monday I did a full body weights routine in the gym and felt pretty good. See detailed recap below.

Tuesday was a half hour of elliptical and 15 minutes of incline treadmill walking. Spin classes are pretty much done. I don’t think sitting on the bike would work at this point in terms of comfort.

Wednesday was another elliptical and walking day. I was getting some nice contractions while working out and had a burst of energy, thinking something was happening…but then they petered out.

Thursday I…rested! I made a last minute decision to rest instead of doing weights again, for pretty much no reason besides being tired. I had that imminent labor feeling again, which makes me want to rest and conserve energy, and then of course, nothing happens, so I end up feeling more blah because I didn’t work out. But I’m trying to listen to my body and rest when it says rest. I have the all of my life to work out (and I know I will).

I suited my dog up for a nice walk…and then thunderstorms hit. I was hoping the rain and barometer falling would help kick start something, too, but here I am, nada.

Friday (today). Going to do the full body weight routine I missed yesterday and walk the mutt while Anna is in preschool. I have a major urge to walk, walk, walk and I never get to. Maybe that means something?!

So here’s what I did in the weight room on Monday, just so this fitness post can have some fitness in it:

  • Really low weight body bar squats (30 lb. bar, three sets of 20). This also serves as my warm-up
  • Plie position squats with a 15 or 20 lb. dumb bell (three sets of 15)
  • Standing leg curl hamstring machine (three sets of 10-12 with 20 lbs. or so)

(This machine is great, since I can’t lay on my stomach for the other hamstring curl machine. But I think I like it better anyway. It seems like it targets the hamstring more. Check it out if your gym has one.)

  • Quad extension machine (I usually do one leg at a time to isolate a stronger or weaker muscle)
  • Short plank sets (three of only about 10 seconds…I’ve slowly lost the ability to hang out in plank as I’ve gotten bigger and bigger…mostly because of heartburn
  • Another preggo core move: In a tabletop hands and knees position, I suck up my tummy to work my transverse ab muscles (three sets of 12-15 reps)
  • Pushups! I am still gritting out three sets of ten real ones with good form. Heartburn makes this interesting.
  • Lat pull-down machine (80 lbs. still! Three sets of 10ish)
  • Low grip cable row (three sets of 8 at 80 lbs. or 15 at 70 lbs.)
  • Wide chest press machine (90 lbs., three sets of 8-10)
  •  Dumbbell shoulder fly (15′s) or lateral shoulder machine (like this one)

This machine is hard! I can only do 10 lbs. on it

  • Bicep curls (20 lbs. each arm, for about 8 reps)
  • Tricep pulley extension machine. I think I’m calling these machines the wrong names, since they are the ones I’m making up in my head as I go along. One day I will learn the proper names. It’s a machine with stacked weights, where you sit and do an overhead tricep extension on a cable. I can’t find a photo of something similar to what they have at my gym! So strange. Anyway, I just graduated from three sets of 12 reps at 30 lbs. to doing a couple sets at 40 lbs. Woo-hoo!

Overall, I do a lot less body weight and leg work than I did when I was smaller/ not pregnant. Less intense cardio type moves, and I rely more on machines where I can sit. I’m psyched I haven’t lost any strength! Maybe because I’m working with the advantage of an extra 30 pounds, but I’ll take it.

I’m ready for post-partum walking and a break from my routine. It’s been 39 weeks of not missing many days and I’m sick of walking into the gym to hear comments like “You’re still here??”

YES. But I don’t want to be here. At least not until I’m making a full stop return to maximum fitness in a few months.

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Pregnant in the Weight Room

So I’ve managed to keep up a regular strength training routine through 38 weeks (yay!) and since I get a lot of questions about it (Can you do that? What does your doctor say about that? What do you have to modify?) I thought I’d recap how it all went down for me.

Everyone is different, of course, and everyone starts at different levels when they get pregnant and have varying levels of comfort when it comes to exercising while pregnant. I know with my first pregnancy, I was more cautious, even paranoid, coming off of two miscarriages, and not particularly fit before I got pregnant. All I did was walk the entire pregnancy, but I felt fine and healthy anyway.

This time, I got pregnant after two and a half years of pretty intense regular exercising so I knew that fitness would carry me pretty far through the pregnancy and allow me to do more. And it did! I was lucky to have two healthy, low-risk pregnancies and to not suffer from too many serious side effects. Morning sickness and heartburn are incredibly uncomfortable, but they aren’t something that would prevent me from going about my life, like friends who’ve had to deal with preterm labor, or pre-eclampsia, or serious things like that. I had no excuse not to push through!

I get a TON of comments and remarks from friends, acquaintances and strangers at the gym when I work out. I don’t mind, and 99% are overwhelmingly positive. I know people are staring at me–I am huge, and people aren’t completely used to seeing big pregnant ladies lifting weights in the free weight area of the gym, I guess–so I’d rather they ask me questions or chat, if they are going to stare anyway. But I don’t mind the looks, either. There is just something about big pregnant bellies that catch your eye. It must be an evolutionary trait or something.

can't miss this...

Most women say really sweet things, like that I look amazing, or so cute, or good for me for still going to the gym or things like “I couldn’t even tell you were pregnant except for your belly!” Or ask when I’m due and say how easy it will be to get back to the gym after the baby, etc. (Ha, if only that were the easy part. THIS is the easy part when I don’t have a newborn!) A lot of guys say good for you, or just congratulations. I think a lot of men are scared to assume someone’s pregnant, until it’s pretty apparent (like the baby is being born).

One funny comment I got last week was a man in the weight room who said “You’re making me nervous! I’m scared I’m going to have to jump into action and deliver a baby or something.”

See? The lady behind me seems concerned about my gravitational pull.

I’ve gotten very little negative reactions, but I’m guessing that’s because people with negative views on what I’m doing probably keep their mouths shut and judge silently. My father has been one of the few skeptics, and I understand why…he’s coming from a different generational understanding, and I get similar things from older people…”Don’t lift that!” He was worried that moderate exercise would be somehow dangerous or harmful to the baby, and I get that concern. Another older man came over and admonished me not to lift a weight plate at the gym…it wasn’t a particularly heavy weight for me to move, and happened to be exactly what my daughter weighs…who I lift many times per day.

I think the guys in the gym should be happy I don't work out in a sports bra...I've been tempted.

But of course I’ve educated myself about what’s safe and I’ve moderated everything I’ve done. I made sure to stay out of anaerobic threshold zones when running and taking spin classes. I watched out for overheating early on. If something feels funny, or bad, or makes me dizzy, or uncomfortable…I stop.

I’ve read my James Clapp and you should too if you are planning to exercise throughout your pregnancy. As for people who ask me what my doctor thinks, well, I don’t have a doctor ;) I see certified nurse midwives who treat pregnancy as a pretty normal, low intervention, natural process. Of course they monitor me, and all the modern miracles of medicine are at my disposal should I need them, but they don’t really care what I do as long as the baby is healthy and I am healthy.

This is the bible.

I don’t get ultrasounds telling me the baby’s supposed weight, I don’t get cervix checks, I don’t get artificial deadlines on when I have to go into labor, or get to the hospital after my water breaks, or how long I’m allowed to labor, or what I can eat or drink during labor. I love the way they treat pregnancy but the truth is, I wouldn’t put too much stock into what they think of my workouts. They probably don’t really know-  they aren’t exercise experts and I bet I’ve read more studies about exercise during pregnancy than they have. They would just say “be moderate, watch how you feel, it depends on what you were doing before”…all the same things the most current research shows.

So what have I changed in my weight workouts?

  • I rest more in between sets if I feel like I need to
  • I load machines with multiple lighter plates instead of trying to drag the 45 lb. plate over
  • I do less pushups because they’re harder
  • I can’t do some body weight things like pullups and parallel bar dips just because I can’t physically do them, so I skip those
  • I don’t do anything that crunches my abs…I do planks and transverse abdominus stuff instead
  • I do more reps of lighter weights for things like squats instead of heavy sets in the rack, just because as I’ve  gotten into the last half of the third trimester, my knees and hips seem less stable and less able to withstand a heavy upper load

Besides those modifications…I do exactly the same weight workouts I used to do before I was pregnant!

These are three great moves for the core during pregnancy, by the way:

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Fitness Bucket List

Over the last year, I got into a kind of rut fitness-wise….I was so focused on specific training goals (runs, triathlon) that I couldn’t fit fun stuff into my schedule. Yoga classes and fun dance classes at the gym all appealed to me at one time or another but weren’t really essential to my routine (weights, bike/spin, run, swim) that I didn’t really try to fit them in.

Just recently, I had the opportunity to try out two new types of fitness classes for articles I’m writing, and I really enjoyed doing something new and different. I did a Real Ryder indoor cycling class, which I found I l0ved, and think it would be a great addition to my routine post-baby-and-post-baby-recovery. I also did a Core Fusion barre Pilates class that was surprisingly challenging.

My friend and I test out a Pilates class, something I would normally never have tried.

I think I will try to keep switching it up when I get back to regular working out again. I have a running list of races I want to do and fitness things to try from now until the rest of my life. Here’s my list so far:

NYC Marathon

NYC underwear run…this just looks like the most fun thing ever

A Pump and Run style race. I can’t wait to do this!

Another sprint triathlon (probably this one since I don’t have to worry about wetsuits or open water swimming just yet)

Run a race with my dad (I’m going to see if I can convince him to do the pump

and run with me…we might even see who can place better in their age group, mine 30-34 women and his 60-64 men!)

A half marathon (any will do)

CrossFit

Meditation

More yoga

Mud/survival run

Get personal training

Become a personal trainer

Go on a multi-day bike tour

I’m sure I will keep adding to this list as I hear about must-do events or new trends. What’s on your fitness bucket list?

Now if only I can go back from B to A, I'll be ready for the underwear run.

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Filed under Life & Style, Pregnancy and Post Partum Fitness, Running and Racing, Weight Training