August 27, 2014

When One Workout Prevents Another

Group exercise is my favorite way to exercise… but as kind of a control freak, it’s hard not to be able to do whatever I want. Like the conundrum I posted about on Monday (whether to quit or keep going when things get hard), I really appreciate that group exercise classes make me work harder than I might otherwise do on my own. However, because the workout is planned for me, I don’t get any say in what happens – and that means I sometimes end up doing exercises I really shouldn’t be doing.

Some studios, like Barry’s Bootcamp, Bodybar, or Tread Fitness, do an awesome job of segmenting their workouts. There is “arms and abs” day, “back and shoulders” day, and “legs” day – so I know what muscle group is going to be the focus when I go. I also know that Flywheel is going to work my legs like crazy (and my arms not so much, despite the 8th song “arm song” break). But when it comes to total body workouts, I never know what muscles are going to get hit the hardest, and as someone who likes to work out every single day without fail, that makes it tough for me to plan ahead.

(Why do I try to work out every single day? Because if you do it every other day, every day becomes the “other” day and I don’t work out at all. More on that in this post from last year.)

It used to be that I planned my workouts carefully in order to be able to work out daily. For example, I’d go for a run and do some abs exercises Friday, go for a long hike Saturday, then do some easy cardio and heavy upper body weights Sunday. When I’m working out solo, it’s easy to plan around my sore spots and make sure that each muscle group is getting the rest that it needs to recover and rebuild stronger than before. But there are so many awesome total body workout classes that I love – and total body workouts are really better for you than spot-training anyway, since they make you work harder (and burn more calories) when you get your whole body into it.

Superheroes Always Skip Leg Workouts
Because if you don’t do total body workouts and you skip leg day, you might end up looking like this.

Sure, most total body workouts do concentrate on at least one area (even if they still hit the others briefly), but I usually don’t know till I get to class what the focus will be. That means I don’t know if it’s okay to really work my shoulders hard the day before a Crossfit class (in case we do a crazy overhead press series), or if I can go into City Surf with sore legs (and then find out the workout is a few hundred air squats, lunges, and kettlebell swings). The result of this confusion? I go to fewer total body classes, and when I do go, I alternate them with simple cardio activities like hitting the elliptical – where I really don’t push myself as much as I should.

After Leg Day
Because this is what I look like when I accidentally hike and then hit CitySurf on a leg-focused workout day. There really has to be a happy medium here…

However, I’ve now realized that my reluctance to do total body group classes is creeping into even my own solo workouts. I’ve gotten so far into planning mode that I’m afraid to do a workout one day because I worry that the soreness is going to mess me up for my next workout. Should I go run today? Nah, because I have a hike tomorrow night and want fresh legs. Should I lift weights on Monday? Nah, because I want to take a Tread class on Tuesday and that might require lots of arm strength. And so I skip a lot of workouts that I actually do have the time/energy to do. Not good at all!

I really do need to break that pattern of thinking in my head. Since I’m not training for a big goal race or other “must perform well on this occasion,” I really need to let go of resting up for a future workout. As I learned from Refine Method owner Brynn Jinnett, soreness isn’t actually a good measure of your workout – it might happen, or it might not, no matter how hard you work. And if it doesn’t happen, that’s a big shame that I blew off one workout because I wanted to hold out for another one.

So – no more for me. I’m a little bit sore from Tread yesterday, but that didn’t stop me from going to City Surf this morning and it’s not going to keep me from going back to Tread tomorrow. I don’t have anyone to impress, so if we end up doing the crazy bicep circuit again that we did Tuesday – I’ll just back off. Or switch to a different exercise. But I need to look at each class as an opportunity to get stronger, not as a chance to show off to the instructor/other students how much weight I can lift or how many reps I can do. Class isn’t a race, and for that matter, not every race (for me) is a PR attempt.

How do you manage workout planning when you’re taking group classes and fear sore muscles?


10 thoughts on “When One Workout Prevents Another”

  1. I am guilty of this especially during marathon training. I took body pump yesterday and did my tempo run right after for fear of being sore today. Always afraid of dead legs! Even when in marathon training I try to remember that even if sore and a run doesn’t go as planned the strength training benefits are always worth it! Ps I so want to try City Surf!

  2. Probably not the best method, but when I used to do HIIT workouts, I’d run beforehand to get my run out of the way! Yesterday my arms were tired (not sore) from swimming the night before, but I did my routine with two different sets of push-ups. I’m a bit sore today but I pushed through. I think it’s a balance of not being scared to be sore and being smart so it doesn’t sideline you!

  3. That first graphic is awesome! I dread leg day… I get so smashed that I can’t even use the bathroom by the second day. I try to time my rest day accordingly (2nd day soreness is the worst for me), and I also aim to work other groups surrounding it. If it’s reasonable, then I’ll push it with some cardio. a lot of times I’m ok if I can just get going. BUT you have to be smart and listen to your body. I’ve pushed it too hard and pulled a ham.

    1. OUCH to pulling a hamstring! I’ve been lucky enough to not have any real injuries (knock on wood) but I also don’t have the results to show for it that you do 😉

  4. If I am training for a race, or I HAVE a race, I try to plan my workouts around that. Otherwise? I go with what the gym schedule allows and go from there. If I am a little sore from one workout, I may take it a little easier the next day, but I have found for the most part once I am warmed up I usually feel good anyway. For example: I had a half marathon on Saturday so I knew I would want Friday off. I had tabata class on Wednesday and I needed to choose between HIIT and a run Thursday. I decided I wanted to get some extra miles in, and that HIIT after tabata might be a little much. Like you, though, I prefer group exercise and I do try to do something every day, if I can.

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