Archive | January, 2012

Channel Your Inner Sarah Connor

26 Jan

“How the hell did you learn how to do that?”

I looked up to see a girl standing two feet in front of me. I hadn’t even noticed her walk up while I was entering the number of chin-ups I did into my phone. Normally, I don’t like interruptions, but I was happy to address this one.

Me: “Practice. And heavy weights.”

Girl: “I don’t think I could ever do that.”

Me: “You could if you really wanted to. You just have to keep trying.”

Most awkward place to do a chin-up ever.

Chin-ups are the one thing I get the most compliments on at the gym, hands down. The men congratulate me for being strong, and the women gasp and tell me that I’m awesome, but they’d never be able to do it. I call bullshit.

Just ask Sarah Connor:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XE-rT9sXPgI

Ladies, you CAN do chin-ups and pull-ups if you set your mind to it. There is nothing special about me that makes me able to do chins*, except that I’m consistent with my training. I remember a few years ago doing an unassisted chin-up seemed almost impossible, so I never bothered trying. Funny how so many of us lose the battle before even stepping into the ring.

But I still wanted to be able to do them one day, so I kept training my back (and the rest of me) with weights, going progressively heavier as time went on. I remember doing a lot of one-arm dumbbell rows and lat pulldowns. Then one day I was walking along a sidewalk marked with different fitness stops, one of them being chin/pull-up bars. On a whim, I tried to do a chin-up, and I did TWO! I was so shocked and excited that I was actually able to do them. That motivation was all the fuel I needed to start practicing chin-ups regularly.

Today I did a total of 25 chin-ups, broken up between 5 sets. I would eventually like to be able to knock out 15 of them in one rep, but all in due time. I’d also like to improve the number of pull-ups I can do.

(Chin-ups are done with your palms either facing you or facing each other if you can find a parallel bar. Pull-ups are done with palms facing out and usually in a wider grip than chin-ups.)

If you would like to be able to do chin-ups and pull-ups, please at least try! It’s not easy, and it doesn’t happen overnight, but it is SO rewarding when you finally pump out your first one. I think chins and pull-ups are two of the most rewarding exercises for women to accomplish because we have a tendency to dismiss all the potential strength our upper bodies posses.

Here are a few tips:
-Train your back with heavy weights. Use one-arm rows, barbell rows, cable rows, etc.
-Having a strong core is important. Be sure to train it with planks and compound exercises like squats, push-ups, chest presses and rows.
-Try doing band-assisted chin-ups, or if your gym has one, use the assisted pull-up machine and gradually lower the weight.
-Do inverted push-ups. These are a great way to gradually introduce your body to the movement. As you get stronger, move the bar up higher so you become more vertical.
-Make sure your muscles are firing correctly. You shouldn’t be relying on your arms to pull you up, but rather, your back. One way to test this is to hang completely limp from a bar. Your arms should be fully extended and relaxed. Now without using your arms at all, shrug. This is how the beginning of a pull up/chin up should be done. When you shrug from a dead hang, you are firing from your lats. If you can’t do this, you are probably relying too much on your arms to pull you.

And here’s a great article on learning to do chins and pull-ups, and increasing the number you can do.

*Your weight is a factor in how easy/difficult it will be for you to do chin-ups. Obviously, the heavier you are, the harder it will be. But please don’t let this discourage you! Think of it this way, even if you pump out 1 chin-up at 160+ lbs, that is an awesome one-rep max. The link I posted above says that ideally women should be 20% body fat to do chin-ups, but I am probably around 24-25% body fat and can do them no problem.

Back from the dead

25 Jan

Wow. Talk about a disappearing act.

If anyone noticed my absence, apologies! I could say that I’ve been busy (which I have been, but then again I aways am), but the truth is I’ve been going through a bit of a content drought lately. I will write three-quarters of a post, leave it alone for a day, and then think it’s total crap when I revisit it. My thinking cap done broke.

Also, struggling to figure out what direction I want to take this blog has made me apathetic.

But enough of that. Here are some random tidbits that have been on my mind. I’m hoping this will help me get the ball rolling on blogging!

Zuzana Returns
I feel like a stupid fangirl admitting this, but I actually got a little excited that Zuzana Light has re-appeared on the Interwebs. I was a follower of Bodyrock for a while, but after she left the site really lost something. She was the face of Bodyrock, and without her it just felt…weird. Obviously the site has changed, and I understand that change is inevitable, but I’m not really interested in their workouts anymore. Especially since they started adding equipment, when one of the main selling points was that the site had workouts you could do at home with minimal equipment.

I dunno what it is about Zuzana (besides those abs and her Czech accent), but she has a huuuuge following. Homegirl deserves it, if you ask me, and I really look forward to the new content she’ll be putting up.

The Problem with Skinny Bashing
After being annoyed at all those memes on Facebook asking when This (a thin girl) became more attractive than This (Marilyn Monroe), I was really glad to see this article. Yes, larger women have gotten the shit end of the stick in our society, but I don’t think that makes it okay to insult small women. I think it’s hypocritical to want to be accepted for the size you are, but then jump at the opportunity to criticize someone who is the opposite of you. But up until now I’ve kept my mouth shut about it. As someone who is relatively small, I feel like the situation is comparable to a white person complaining about being discriminated against: I’m bemoaning something I’ve never really experienced the brunt of.

If it could be summarized in a meme, me complaining about thin bashing would be considered “Thin Girl Problems.” (Does that already exist?) In all honesty, I am glad that I’ve never been bullied or made to feel less than because of my body. Really, I am. I know it must suck tremendously to be a bigger person who’s been ridiculed their whole life because of their size. I don’t think it’s right, and I fully admit that I will never understand what it’s like to be shamed like that. But I don’t think pitting one body size against the other is the answer, and it does bother me when people do that. Even if you don’t agree with me, I think you should check out the article.

BOOT CAMP!
I had my biggest turn-out yet this past Sunday. It was awesome!! More people are expressing interest, too, so I think I’m going to start a Facebook page to keep everyone updated.

Emily was fueled by vodka. Hey, whatever works!

Damn blurriness!

There was also some post-workout sword fighting with the boys:

Can’t wait to see who shows up next week!

Something for everyone

12 Jan

Boot camp was a lot of fun this weekend.

Two new recruits came out.

And so did a regular…who brought this Coke along with him. Tsk, tsk! But at least he showed up.

It was from Taco Bell, too. -_-

I wanted to share the workout we did, in the hopes that some of you out there might be willing to try it. It’s good for getting your heart rate up and building strength and endurance in beginners. It’s nothing crazy, sexy or cutting edge like Insanity, pole dancing cardio, or whatever the latest fitness craze may be. It’s a basic full-body routine, but it’s all you need to start getting into shape.

And best of all, you only need a chair or bench for this workout. So it can be done at home or the park or wherever you fancy.

Beginner’s Boot Camp Workout

Warm up by doing some light jogging or walking and stretching. Do each of the following exercises for as many reps as possible in the prescribed time. When you have completed all the exercises, repeat the sequence one more time.

Squats – 1 minute
Push-ups (perform regular or on knees) – 1 minute
Lunges – 1 minute
Inch worms – 1 minute
Plank – 1 minute
Burpees – 1 minute (Beginners do these without the push-up.)
Bench dips – 1 minute
Side plank (left)- 1 minute
Side plank (right) – 1 minute

If you can only make it through the workout once, that’s fine. Everyone’s gotta start somewhere, and as long as you gave it your all it’s a pretty damn good start! If you feel like the workout isn’t challenging enough, you can add in a 5 minute run at the end of the sequence. Try to write down how many reps you do for each exercise so you can beat your score the next time you try it.

Intermediate/Advanced Interval Workout

This next workout is a more difficult one for those of you who have a higher level of fitness. I structured it similar to a Bodyrock style workout because I like short, intense intervals.

You’ll need either two dumbbells or some other form of resistance, like a gallon of milk or a gym bag stuffed with something to weigh it down a bit. You guys are a smart bunch; I’m sure you can come up with something.

Burpee
Two-arm dumbbell row with leg lift
Jump lunge
Jumping Inchworm

You’ll do each exercise for 50 seconds with a 10 second rest. During those 50 seconds, you really want to push yourself as hard as you can. After the 10 second rest is up, proceed immediately to the next exercise. Go through the circuit 3 times, for a total time of 12 minutes. It’s important to really give this one your all if you want to benefit from it.

Here are detailed descriptions of the two exercises that needed more explaining:

Two-arm dumbbell row with leg lift

You’re going to perform the row the same as you would in that video, only each time you bring the dumbbells up, you’re going to lift a leg straight behind you. Make sure to alternate legs with each rep. It should look like this:

Start like this. Yes, I realize these pictures are terrible, amateur and too dark, and I'm still in my work clothes.

Please remember to keep your back straight, and lift your leg as high as you can. My range of motion was restricted by my too-tight jeans.

*I only used one dumbbell in these pictures, but use two (one in each hand) when you perform the exercise. You can also do it this way, but make sure you work the other side too. Also, I’m more upright than the girl in the video, but that’s okay. The most important thing is that you keep your back straight.

Jumping Inchworm:
This one was originally in Fit Geek Workout #1, but I’m bringin’ it back!

It’s explained in that video. One thing to keep in mind, when you are walking your hands back to your feet, you should be using small movements. You don’t want to be at your feet by only walking your hands back 3 times. It should be more like 5-6. Hence the name inchworms; you should be inching your way back.

(Also, as that clip was from another workout, ignore the stuff about 15 reps. Just knock out as many as you can in a minute.)

Please let me know how you liked them if you try ‘em out!

Starting from scratch

6 Jan

It’s been chilly the past few days in Miami. Since it’s normally as sticky and hot as Satan’s armpit, I’m kind of short on cold-weather wear. And by cold weather, I mean 50 degrees Farenheit. Everything is relative, okay!

Fortunately I am good at improvising, and used my hair as a scarf. It really did make a difference!

So, the new year is here. I’m not really big on writing about resolutions and goals, mostly because I feel like everything there is to say about it has already been said.

But, one thing did come to mind.

A lot of the tips that are geared toward “January joiners” echo the same ideas. Namely:

-Don’t be too ambitious; make realistic goals.
-Make small changes so that you’re more likely to stick to them.
-Do what you enjoy.
-Don’t expect to be perfect.

These things don’t just apply to exercise newbies. They’re also relevant to more experienced gym-goers like myself. While I am very dedicated to lifting weights and do so regularly, I have a lot of trouble being consistent with cardio. I’d like to do more of it, but that’s not so much a resolution as it is something I’ve been meaning to do for a while.

Sometimes, even more advanced folks have to start from scratch. That’s kind of what I’m doing to get my cardio mojo back.

Referring back to that list above:

Realistic goals: walking every day for 30 minutes is a good start, and then doing more if I feel like it. I don’t want to promise myself that I’m going to do some crazy cardio workout 5 days a week because I’ve said that before, and it didn’t happen. Walking, I can stick to.

Small changes: I’ve started parking far away from work almost every day so I walk more. It’s a start!

Do what you enjoy: I like walking a lot more than any other kind of cardio. And I have a feeling that walking daily will be a gateway to more intensive cardio for me. Also, I love lifting weights, but I do that consistently, so yeah.

Don’t expect to be perfect: I should probably be walking right now, but here I am writing this post. Oh well. Anyway, it’s “cold” outside :P

That being said, I did do a Bodyrock-inspired cardio workout a little while ago, so I’m feeling good. I plan to share it with you soon. Also, boot camp this weekend, and some new recruits are coming. I’m nervous/excited!

And now for some more randomness:

-I started off this blog with the intention of making it informational. However, writing those kind of posts is extremely time consuming. Also, I’m not a professional (yet), so I felt kind of like a quack writing articles like that. However, I plan to get certified very, very soon! Anyway, things have become pretty personal and conversational around here. I don’t know how I feel about that. Ideally I’d like to combine personal posts with informational ones…but those are hard to mix.

-My interest in fitness has evolved. I started off learning as much as I could about working out (largely thanks to figureathlete.com – RIP). Now I’m trying to learn a lot about functional movement and being a successful trainer. Can you tell which direction I’m heading?

-This frittata was kind of a fail. I used a whole bunch of chard, not realizing that chard holds a ton of water. I tried to cook it like a casserole, and when I pulled it out of the oven there was liquid still pooled in the dish. At first I thought it was uncooked egg, but it was just water. So they’re soggy, but edible. Also, I burned the cheese on top.

-I was doing Romanian deadlifts with 115 lbs at the gym today. My face was red and I’m sure there were measly big, intimidating veins popping out in my delts and neck. This freakin’ trainer chick walks up to me while I’m in the middle of it to ask me if I’m using a dumbbell there. WHY do people do this? In the future I am not responding at all until I’m done with my set. Manners, gym rats. Learn them!

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