September 18, 2013

Checking In: Why I’m Not Stronger in September

Well, I’ve been pretty quiet so far this month, huh? Time for me to get back into the blogging game, especially since fall marathon season has begun. Lots of race recaps to share (I’m planning to finish my Bozeman Marathon recap on Friday), plus I also wanted to do a mid-month check in on my Stronger in September challenge.

Thanks to a Bodybar Dallas one-week-unlimited pass that needed to be used last week, I ended up taking pilates/barre classes all week long. While I had taken mat pilates classes as a young ballet dancer, last week was my first time experiencing the reformers, and I was really amazed at just how much they worked for resistance training. I loved them (review to come), and definitely had some sore muscles after the classes. Unfortunately, as much as I loved Bodybar, that wasn’t really in the spirit of the “back to lifting” challenge I had set out for myself this month… and when I got sore from Bodybar, it prevented me from doing the free weight training that I had really wanted to do this month! Oops.

So this week, I wanted to get back on track with free weights, but a nasty cold had me in low gear Friday through Tuesday, and Monday through today I’ve been doing company recruiting at my college alma mater in Ithaca, NY – where the Holiday Inn Ithaca turned out to have the absolute worst hotel gym I have ever seen. Two treadmills (with one broken for my entire stay), one recumbent bike, and a combo lat pulldown machine/hamstring curl machine (that was from the 80s, extremely rusty/unwieldy, and couldn’t be converted to do any other type of resistance training) – all squeezed into a 12’x8′ space so that if anyone else was in there too, it felt claustrophobic. I did a single one mile run there on Tuesday morning and then hightailed it out of there to do bodyweight workouts in my room! I was most frustrated by the lack of free weights – I never understand why hotel gyms would get expensive pulley machines that do only one exercises instead of versatile and comparatively cheaper dumbbells. Fortunately, I’ve only seen one other gym with this set up (the Sheraton Four Points DC, though that at least was more spacious and had additional cardio equipment), and I’m really grateful that most hoteliers understand how road warriors want to work out.

Although I haven’t been hitting the free weights, bodyweight workouts are definitely helping me to feeling the burn. I’m mostly doing ones by my friend Brit; favorites are her Labor Day Legs Workout (I really like that it’s a quick 3-5 minute circuit that is over before you know it, and you just keep repeating it to really burn those legs), her Fab Arms and Core (again, no equipment and done pretty fast), and her Sexy Arms Workout (this one uses dumbbells and hits the arms from all angles). Can you tell what a huge fan of Brit’s I am?! In addition to putting out awesome Pinterest workouts, her blog has lots of great diet/exercise tips… and if you’re in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, she teaches some killer classes (like this one I took on the rooftop pool deck of the W Hotel a few weeks ago!).

Looking positively at the month so far, workouts like Brit’s have been helping me to avoid breaking the chain – and so far, I have worked out every single day in September. Some days are definitely much lighter than others (today it was only 10 minutes of a kickboxing DVD before I took it easy on my still-sick self and called it quits), but having “I must work out today” as a rule has made the process of doing it a lot easier. I just finished reading an interesting book, Barry Schwartz’s The Paradox of Choice, and while I had heard of most of the studies before, seeing them in one place made me think more about how I can use the paradox of choice to influence my own behavior. The author talks a lot about the power of setting rules, standards, and routines, particularly when it comes to being a satisficer vs a maximizer (if you’re not familiar with these concepts, 99u did a great summary here), and I find it goes along quite well with breaking the chain. There isn’t a question of whether or not to exercise – I will exercise, since that is the daily rule I have set for myself (now 18 days and counting!).

Unbroken Chain of Workouts
Check out that unbroken purple chain of workouts! (And let’s conveniently ignore the very broken blue chain of healthy eating.)

But one other example that stuck with me very clearly from The Paradox of Choice was what happens when you ask a two year old “do “do you want apple juice or orange juice?” You can see the two year old visibly struggle to answer the latter question – whereas a simple “do you want juice?” yields a very easy binary answer: yes or no. I think this has been tripping me up a lot with my fitness routine, in that I haven’t really created a “routine” at all. I used to lay it all out for the week, but now I am trying to play it by ear – and that really isn’t working for me. Since I’m still sick, and since I have the Adirondack Marathon coming up on Sunday, I’m not going to go too hardcore right now – my schedule is already kind of a disaster since I’m only in Dallas 1.5 days this week instead of 4. But next week, I think it’s time for me to return to planning my workouts at the beginning of each week – and remembering to include that free weight training as part of my plan if I really intend to do it.

Instead of looking at it as failing at my original September goal, I’d rather take a positive mindset and change my goal to something that I can accomplish. For the rest of the month, though, I’m going to focus on keeping my daily chain of workouts going. I am still reaping the benefits by getting back the strength I lost while injured through bodyweight training, and actually pumping iron can take a backseat to my new goal of exercising daily. Free weight lifting may turn out to be a better challenge for October, or maybe it’s just something I will do implicitly without the need to make it my focus for an entire month.

Final note of irony: I think I’m headed to a yoga class tomorrow, and I’ve been doing yoga at least twice a week all this month so far. Would be kind of funny if I accomplished my “breathe” goal in the month of September, and my “free weight” goal in the month of October… apparently my procrastination lately extends to more than just blog posting! Better late than never?


2 thoughts on “Checking In: Why I’m Not Stronger in September”

  1. Ugh, I’ve definitely been to some of those hotel gyms! So pointless to get some of those machines. It’s obvious no thought was put into them…or maybe they got them cheap at a garage sale or something, haha. I’d much rather do a bodyweight workout in my room than sit on a recumbent bike in a tiny room!

    I love your positive attitude…sometimes you just need to re-frame your goals, and that’s okay!

    Good luck tomorrow! Can’t wait to hear about it!

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