Giving Yourself A Break

I had a really rough week last week with a loss in my family.  It’s one of those things that I know takes a long time to “get over” – I’ve been there before.  

But. . .I’ve also had a lot of conditioning that makes me feel that I’m a burden if I’m feeling down, or that I have tp put on a happy face…even when it’s the last thing I want to do.

Part of me agrees with the idea that I need to keep going – one foot in front of the other, and sticking to my routine is more helpful than it isn’t – I get out of my brain, for one (which frankly isn’t firing on all synapses at the moment.)

And part of me feels like…let me get through this, and then I can go home and cry when I need to…because it is just as important for my wellbeing to “allow” my emotions” as it is to be stoic.

I haven’t had much energy, but I still go through the motions.  Form is integral, though, and no matter if we are doing lighter weight, or just running our “usual” on autopilot, we have to pay attention to the form.  I’ve made it a habit to really focus on the muscle that should be working when I exercise, so fortunately I’m in tune with what’s moving (and what shouldn’t be.)  I listen to my body and always try to respect when it needs a break…and to give it a little bit of a push if it needs it.

Today was one of my leg days – I have two.  I used to do EVERYTHING on one day, but it’s overboard for me at this stage in the game. Instead, I like having two manageable but challenging days that aren’t to the point that I make myself sick thinking about them (which used to be the case.)  What’s the point if you are stressing about what’s supposed to be fun and / or good for you?!

My usual Tuesday exercises include the following (I try to keep some of my rests “active” to knock out my ab work without tacking on a ton of time – I don’t want to live at the gym the way I used to back in the day!)

  • SQUATS – 5 sets, narrow and wide stance (with a reconstructed knee and no ACL in one, I opt for smith machine for these.  Yes, Physical Therapist approved! 🙂 )
  • PLANKS – 4 minutes total, main core and obliques, interspersed with squats
  • LUNGES – 3 sets each side, smith machine (free weight done on my other leg day)
  • CRUNCHES – 2 minutes total, varied, flutter kick and bicycle variations, interspersed with lunges 
  • STEP-UPS – 3 sets each side, smith machine and bench
  • BULGARIAN SPLIT SQUATS WITH DUMBBELLS – 3 sets each side
  • DUMBBELL DEADLIFTS – 3 sets of 12 to 15 (using 2 45 lbs dumbbells. If I’m at another facility, I’ll use the 110 lb bar.  Too much weight here really hinders kicking in Martial Arts!)
  • AB VACCUUM – 3 minutes total, interspersed with the three exercises above, as they fit
  • DUMBBELL HIP THRUSTS – 3 sets of 16, using the 45 lb weights.. (If at another gym, Ill use an 80 lb bar.)
  • JUMP SQUATS – 2 sets for 30 seconds each
  • BENCH JUMPS – 3 sets of 8 to 10 (IF my legs aren’t total jello)
  • KICK UPS – 3 sets of 15 (with a dumbbell if I want to add one more exercise in)

As I look at it here…it’s A LOT.  I’m even happier that I split it up!

So today wasn’t my finest – I wasn’t feeling great, and I’m incredibly over tired.  BUT…

BUT…

I went to the gym, I put on some music, and I went through the motions (carefully.)  I didn’t get upset if I couldn’t do everything as well as usual, or if I had to cut my reps.  Movement is helpful even when it can’t be as much as I normally do.  It’s SOMEthing, and that’s what matters.

We have the opportunity to melt down at any given time.  We also have the opportunity to pick ourselves up and move forward as best we can.  I choose both, and that’s okay.  One allows me the freedom to be comfortable with myself and what I’m feeling – to acknowledge that those emotions are acceptable.  The other reminds me that I’m goddamn strong, and I will get through ANYthing.  

 

The Role Of Consistency In Achieving Your Goals

Consistency can literally make or break you – but it’s important to understand that “consistency” doesn’t necessarily translate to 100% of the time (no, not 110% either.)

Life is complicated – there are days that derailment occurs because of a last minute schedule shift.  It could be, instead, that you come down with a bug. . .one that keeps you down for a lot longer than you’d expected.  Nothing is for certain, no matter how well you plan, so you need to make room – if nothing else, mentally – for the possible blips that may arise.

The principle can be applied to anything – work, home life, fitness goals, an on and on.  For the purpose here, let’s stick with health and fitness – keeping oneself in good shape is important, especially as we get older.  For each of us, the goal is a little different…

It may be simply that we’d like to feel less lethargic throughout the day.  Maybe we have a few pounds of extra “us” that we could honestly do without. It could be based on performance in our sports, for another… Whatever the case is, you must be consistent in your approach.  Successfully reaching goals isn’t only about maintenance, but making it a lifestyle – a comprehensive course of daily actions.

So let’s say that most of the time you eat healthily, and exercise…but you suddenly can’t, for weeks, because you caught a nasty virus – not easy for those who have a need to move around, and for sticking to routine!  (This happened to me just recently, quite unexpectedly, and it was definitely a challenge for my go-go-go personality.)

So what do you do when you simply can’t mange your regular schedule?  Recognize that you:

  1. Are being told to “slow down.” Pay attention!
  2. You can still maintain a level of consistency
  3. Even without your specific routine, you aren’t going to go to hell in a handbasket
  4. Along with #4…it WILL be okay

You need to remind yourself that it takes a lot longer than you probably think to get completely off track.  In the case of not feeling well, rest is necessary – the body has to heal and get back on track before jumping in head first (doing so is a surefire way to stay down for longer.)  I have a hard time with it myself – I want to “DO,” and sitting at home, especially when I haven’t had a chance to move around, can bring my mood down quickly.  But I was actually good about it – I took it slow, and for many days I did absolutely zero.  That was exactly what my body needed.

With nutrition, consistency is HUGE.  But again, remember that deviating from your plan once in a while is not a big deal. AT ALL.  What matters is whether you take it in stride, and get back to the usual…or if you let it pull you into the downward spiral.

When I was sick, I wasn’t quite as hungry as usual…but I still prepared the meals I normally do, because even without the exercise, my body needed the fuel and replenishment.  It isn’t worth abstaining because I think I’ll gain a pound or two.  I might not be processing as much, burning as many calories, or even keeping my muscles as cut as usual…but even two weeks isn’t going to turn me into a lump!

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It’s definitely frustrating when you can’t be “on” like usual – for some of us it isn’t just relegated to the physical, either, it’s as much mental.  But take heart that when you do get back to it, you are going to do great – your motivation and mind WILL return to go-go-go mode, and your body will respond.  

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No matter what life throws at you, or how the routine shifts, you can achieve your goals – it’s a lot like the “be water” concept – allow yourself to be flexible.  Move with tides, and you will find your usual stride soon enough. 

 

It Doesn’t Have To Be Your Best, Just START

I general dread traditional cardio – I DO it, because I know it’s important.  But…it’s a struggle most days!

I recently gave myself a lovely bout of plantar fasciitis from running too hard, too fast, too intensely – I woke up the next day and knew EXACTLY what happened.  

Frustrated I may have been, I knew it was a cue from the grand ol’ Universe telling me to slow down.  My feet have been hurting, I’ve been overly exhausted, and frankly. . .I’ve derided cardio even more than normal.  Did I take a break?  NOPE!

So…the Universe HANDED me one.

Instead of busting my buns of the treadmill, I’ve done a few days of moderate spin.  My session aren’t stellar – I haven’t drilled myself for a while, so my pace and power isn’t necessarily where it could be.  But, I put in the effort.  I get on knowing that it may not be perfect, and it doesn’t have to be – the point is, I’m doing SOMETHING.  I’m getting on and giving it a whirl – there’s no need to be breaking records every time you do an activity (maybe I’m writing that as an extra reminder to myself! 😉 

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So don’t worry about making one session or another your absolute best – just START.  A little CAN go a long way towards your goals of staying fit and healthy. ❤

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For more on Fitness

Keeping A Strong Core – Ab Exercises

A strong core is absolutely essential – not only for athletes and sports performance, but for daily activities as well.  Having a strong core to support you will most definitely stave off those lower back aches and pains, and will help you even when you have to be bound to a chair most of the day (been there!)  

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While cardio and nutrition are important to allowing your abdominal musculature to show, the cool part about ab exercises themselves is that they don’t have to take forever – they can also be done at the office or in the car (for example, as you are seated, think about pulling your navel to your spine.  Hold that position and brace for a few seconds.)

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One of my favorites is the ab vacuum – it can be done absolutely anywhere, at anytime.  I sometimes forget to do it, but when I do, I ALWAYS see a huge difference.  Yes, HUGE.  I also try to sneak planks in, oblique twists, hanging leg raises, and certain types of crunches when I can.  Planks are another one of those quick exercises that you can do during a tv commercial or any time you get up at home.

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Here are some links to some of the exercises I do myself, and that have really helped to make a difference for me.

I definitely do other exercises, but these are my more regular suspects.  Give them a try and see what you think!

For more exercise stuff…

Back Spin

Back Day! 

I love working larger muscle groups – I think it’s because I feel like I get more bang for my buck on leg and back day. Or maybe it’s because I inherently know my caloric expenditure will be higher…even if marginally…on those days.  That’s always nice! 😀

The Spring (and totally unexpected, in my case!) allergies are draining my energy like a vampire on a binge, but there’s no way I’m not going to put forth my best effort!  After about 15 sneezes in a row, I got dressed and hopped on the bike, tissues in tow.

I did 50 minutes of spin sprints early – getting cardio out of the way does matter for me.  If I am aware I am doing it, I need to do it first so I can push through, and have it behind me.  There are various camps of thought on what *should* go first (as with stretching) but this works for me…and I am all for per individual.  Cookie cutter doesn’t work.

I always sneak in hanging leg raises and 2 minutes of planks as a maintenance ab routine, so in addition to that I did:

  • Dumbbell Row
  • Seated Cable Row
  • Seated Pressurized Row (on a pressurize machine)
  • Lat Pulldown (I avoid tons of lats because my wings are broad naturally.  I don’t want to totally emphasize that area, just keep it toned.
  • Standing Cable Row with rope attachment
  • Lying Lateral Raise

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I usually do a bit more but it was still a great workout – I always do at least three sets.  I finished with my stretching, which is really crucial in my opinion (certainly for what I do in Martial Arts, but also from a staying-mobile standpoint – it’s good for everyone!)

Tomorrow is leg day – I don’t know if other folks like to leave it for a weekend, but I feel like Saturdays afford me more time.  And if I eat a little bit more, I don’t feel as badly…because I KNOW I’d have killed it earlier! 🙂  

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Happy workouts to all, and if your allergies are getting you down, hang in there!  It’s okay not to be perfect, just give whatever you have and know that yes, that IS enough – you’re doing great!

X ❤