September 2, 2013

Stronger in September

Ever since I got injured in July, I’ve completely skipped my strength training. My physical therapist was giving me exercises with 1lb weights and I found them difficult, so how on earth could I get back to regular weight lifting?

But if I’m being really honest, that’s more of an excuse than anything else. I had been skipping strength training for months – or at least, skipping free weight strength-only time at the gym in favor of workouts like Flywheel, CitySurf, and Physique 57 that incorporate strength but aren’t solely the heavy weight/low rep approach that is best for building muscle.

But on Thursday, my orthopedic doctor gave me the all clear to get back to normal, and my physical therapist started transitioning me to only one visit per week + new exercises to try at home. (I’m going to conveniently ignore the fact that just eight hours later, I went to a Flywheel class and somehow strained my neck so badly that I couldn’t even turn my head… because after using my at-home TENS unit to shock the muscles into submission, it had eased up considerably Friday, and was all better on Saturday.)

Labor Day Weekend Sunset on the Hudson
In fact, I was better enough on Friday night to be able to take a gorgeous boat ride on the Hudson – what a great way to close out the summer! (Yes, I know fall doesn’t officially begin till the end of September, but ever since my school days I consider it fall once Labor Day hits.)

Before the pain hit Thursday night, though, my therapist and I discussed how even for the past month or so, there has only been one day where the pain was so bad that I had to go work from home so that I could lie down. Generally, “a tough day” for my neck has been a day where it hurts mildly, or feels tense and I know it will start to hurt if I don’t baby it. (Thursday night being the exception that proves the rule, obviously.) With that baseline of “not terrible circumstances if we push it too far,” my therapist and I mutually decided it was time to start really testing it to see what happens.

On Thursday at physical therapy, we did a lot more resistance exercises than usual. Tons of “bird dogs” with 1lb weights (ohhhh so hardcore), plenty of reverse flys (again with 1lb weights), and then we bumped it up to a whopping 6 lbs for reverse woodchops using a pulley. (Come to think of it, while those were all very light weights compared to what I used to use for weight lifting, the combination of all those exercises may have been to blame for why I was so sore on Thursday night.) Doing the exercises reminded me of how much I missed lifting… and so for the month of September, I’m getting back to it.

So, for anyone scared of dumbbells/free weights, I want to call this out: you do not have to use any kind of fancy gym equipment in order to do a focused resistance training workout. In fact, today my legs were burning like crazy from a bodyweight workout I did that really burned my legs yesterday! I source many of my resistance training workouts from Pinterest, and I actually have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to bodyweight workouts that can be done with no equipment at all. So many blogs are posting “pinnable” workouts that there are a million options to change it up each and every day – which is what I plan to do for the month of September.

But doesn’t the body deserve a rest rather than working out every day? Absolutely. However, as long as you are doing body part/muscle specific workouts (e.g., “abs day”, “back day”, “chest day”, “butt day”, “arms day”), you can do resistance training every day while giving that body part a break. While I love Greatist’s 30 minute bodyweight workout (in fact, I featured it in yesterday’s Links I Love), this month I want to get a little more specific and pass on those full body workouts. Last week’s Ben Greenfield podcast discussed how Hollywood celebrities get in shape so fast – namely, that they focus on one body part at a time and really tear it up before moving onto the next one. Full body workouts are certainly effective when you don’t have a lot of time, but I’m afraid that I’ve been going so broad with my full body workouts that I’m not really working any muscles to fatigue – and am kind of half-assing it all over.

And so, I want to spend this month picking a different body part per day and maxing it out first thing in the morning. I’ve found that my friend Brit has some awesome workouts featured on her blog for this – and when I learned that she’s training Blake all this month for a featured before-and-after, I decided it was as good a time as any to jump on the bandwagon and start getting back to my strength training. So yesterday? Brit’s Labor Day workout killed my legs for the casual bike riding I did this morning… but that left my back free to do several sets of her back it up workout today. Tomorrow, I’m thinking I’ll take it out on my biceps/triceps/shoulders before I hop on a plane to Dallas… perhaps even with a workout of my own.

I’m excited to see what Brit has in store for Blake this month, and even more excited that I’m getting back to something I’ve missed for a while. Now that Labor Day has come and gone, this weekend will be my first marathon of the fall season, and I’m excited to also kick off the fall by getting back to my other old and familiar routine of picking up heavy objects and putting them down again during the week. (On that note, I am also finally switching back from my dorky rolling laptop bag to my trusty old backpack… it will be so nice to only juggle one rolling bag on the plane again!) With fall marathon season starting in just a few days, I think it’s especially important for me to get back to basics. Weight lifting is an integral part of any running training plan, and it’s one that I’ve been really neglecting for a while.

Anyone out there want to join me in hitting the weight room and/or starting your day with some focused bodyweight exercises? And is anyone else out there a recovering Cardio Queen/King who only hits the elliptical/treadmill/open road? Let’s do this together 🙂


11 thoughts on “Stronger in September”

    1. I really liked Crossfit when I was doing it, but I also felt like the box I went to didn’t plan things around leg day/back day/biceps day/etc, and so I was often working out sore muscles instead of doing the appropriate two rest days to really be efficient. But I do love Crossfit-format workouts like AMRAP or doing rounds for time! Having a goal like that makes strength training more fun than just going out and lifting.

  1. So important to have that balance in your workouts! Even during marathon training…and teaching 4 spin classes a week…I try and get my strength training in…it’s not easy but I find it helpful to leave the weights in the living room! Also bodyweight exercises combined w yoga make a difference in your distance running.

  2. I’ve been out of my strength training routine ever since I injured my knee back in April. I’m fully recovered now, but that started the several month stint of being out of my solid routine (Injury back with honeymoon, other random traveling, moving, house hunting, etc.) I can totally tell that I’m not at strong as I was a few months ago. I’ve gained some weight and running isn’t as easy (or maybe that’s the Texas heat making the running harder). I desperately need to get back into strength training again! I’m a few days late to the September challenge, but I know I’ll feel better once i get back into a routine with the strength training again!

  3. Somewhere (i think) you mentioned (quickly) that the August challenge did not go quite as you hoped. I was wondering why it did not, if you had a debrief post planned, how (or if) you were going to follow back up, etc. I’m not sure what I can do to help with the follow through, but I would like to see you develop that challenge some more.

    1. I think I definitely need to develop that challenge some more! I think the main problem was that my goal wasn’t specific enough – it was way too broad. I tried one meditation series and hated it, and never bothered to try it again. I did start going to yoga, and that helped, but I wasn’t going a set number of days per week (like I am with my lifting challenge). Going for daily runs seemed to really calm me down and start the day on the right foot, but that wasn’t what I originally had in mind when I first planned the month! I will say, though, that seeing a therapist is something that’s helped immensely and taught me some ways to relax (like her new directive that I take one night every week to accomplish nothing, ignore my to-do list, and just relax).

      In general, August was a great month for experimentation, but I discovered that the yoga and meditation (which I originally thought would be the crux of the month) were not all that helpful. I wouldn’t declare the month a success because there wasn’t any one daily habit I latched in on, and I had quite a bit of work-related stress toward the end of the month that especially shed light on the fact that I wasn’t in a great place – but I think I entered September in a much better frame of mind and don’t feel quite as much of a need for a “breathe” challenge. (Or maybe I am just deluding myself!) Does that make any sense?

    2. Yes, that all makes sense.

      As you found out, I also don’t think yoga and meditation is the be all and end all as far as training our mind, body and spirit to be more calm and relaxed. There are many ways to develop the mental attitude to handle any life events in healthy, sustainable ways. Really, it is merely up to the individual to find the desire to seek the mental clarity through a means meaningful to the individual.

      I am sure you have heard of (or maybe even read of) Dr. George Sheehan, right? I am re-reading for the first time one of his two books on the quote unquote philosophy of running. This current one is called Running and Being. At some point in the first half he describes that after awhile it seems all runners reach a point where running is no longer about personal bests or achievement, but that all runners seem to continue running for some other reason – this reason being stronger even than the first desires of achievement and speed.

      Your therapist sounds like a smart doc (for a therapist anyway! haha). Perhaps, accomplish nothing insomuch as related to short or long term goals one night a week, but accomplish (do) something purely for selfish reasons – paint your toe nails, spend two hours in a full body tub, turn on the music and dance. I personally will tinker with my bicycle, write, make some bread from scratch, cook, give or get a massage…

      Lastly, I really wish that you, another blogger, my (current) gf, a couple classroom teacher friends and other young professionals lived in a society where the workers felt free in their responsibilities, and if not, at least felt that they were free to test new waters without losing financial independence and security. That being said, it seems everyone that I know, that allows themselves to succumb to life (financial) stressors at times, are talented individuals with strong networks that can adapt and overcome and be successful at anything they take on. In short, everyone I know are the exact individuals who I would expect to be stressed the least.

      PS It probably wasn’t until I turned 30 that I truly appreciated the practice of meditation (I had perused theories and practices related to the discipline during my 20s). Also, at that age I finally (to a degree) learned how to implement strategies to clear my mind of “busyness”. Now I can sit for an hour and focus on just one thought – with only having to re-center myself (quickly) 2 or 3 times. I guess my point for saying all of that is this: don’t feel too bad if meditation/yoga doesn’t come easily. In general I think there is some cognitive development that delays the ability to focus on one thing until the individual hits 30 (yes, there are exceptions) – not that that is a bad thing!

    3. Danny, that’s exactly what my therapist meant – doing things not because they are on a to-do list, but because they’re genuinely what I want to do. While I still think putting everything on my to-do list helps me with time management, some things have become much more of a chore since they become things I have to do instead of things I want to do. (E.g., I use FollowShows to track my TV shows, which is helpful when I get behind to know where I left off, but it does turn the “relaxing” habit of watching TV into another item to tick off – no fun!)

      No offense taken whatsoever at the age difference in meditation – in fact, that gives me something to look forward to in a few years! I will keep trying various activities (have actually been getting more into yoga this month even though it didn’t take off last month) and seeing how they go; it’s never too late to change!

  4. I need to get weights back into the rotation. I don’t love lifting at the gym, but I do enjoy cardio fusion/strength classes and/or DVDs that incorporate dumbbells and/or bodyweight. So, which is to say, yes. 🙂

    1. I think the important thing to remember is bodyweight CAN be resistance training too! I was staying at a hotel this week with no free weights but burned my muscles out using some awesome bodyweight workouts instead 🙂

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