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.  

 

Spell Your Name Workout

I LOVE this idea!  ❤ And I have a fitness fetish, so I’m particular. 😉

Bravo, Skinnymom! – this is…rather remarkably…a new take on a commonplace idea (using a tool to mix up the workout.)

It’s fun, simple, and keeps your body guessing – no plateaus for you!  If you feel like you haven’t had enough of a challenge, throw in your middle and last names! For me that’s a total of 19 exercises.  

Boredom a real problem?  Spell out a loved one’s name and get moving!

 

 

Leg Day Changes

I LOVE leg day(s) – they are definitely the most exhausting workouts of the week, but…I love them.  

I know perfectly well that “no pain, no gain” doesn’t completely hold water but…I’m “one of those”! I like to feel the soreness because it indicates I’ve actually done something worthwhile.  (Zero soreness?  Sorry, I didn’t put the effort in!)

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I generally do HIIT sprints on the treadmill the same mornings I have leg workouts – it is a lot, but I balance it out with days of active rest, or Martial Arts training and less stressful lifting.

My routine can vary but I do have a few favorite “staples” like squats, deadlifts, and leg press – I mix it up so I have both “heavy hitter” exercises, with less heavy-duty supplemental ones.  I also generally add abs in there at the end…

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The other day, though, our Smith Machine broke… It’s funny because I know a lot of fitness gurus who might well have gone to pieces! Can’t do a staple you are used to doing, and suddenly the world ends!  (Do you know the type?!)

Well…it SHOULDN’T.  Changing things up, even if we are forced while the equipment is down, isn’t a bad thing…  (I don’t do free bar squats because I have one reconstructed knee, and one missing an ACL – the Smith offers a security my physiology does well with!)

So my regular squats were out, as were my single leg lunges on the Smith.  End all be all?  

NOPE!

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I supplemented the workout with Goblet Squats (using a kettlebell), extra dumbbell curtsey lunges, and weighted walking lunges (love these!)

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It was a nice change because sometimes by the time I’m done with cardio, I just want to plow through my “regulars.”  The forced change offered me the opportunity to jump to a few other exercises, equally as effective, that kept my body guessing.  

So if change indeed DOES occur, especially the unexpected kind…just embrace it and do something you haven’t done in a while.  Your body will actually appreciate the alteration and give you some lovely gains in return! 🙂 

 

 

Leg Day Splits

I try to split up my leg workouts these days, not because I can’t finish a workout focusing on quads and hams together…but more so because I am FAR too sore when I do both in the same day!  The ramifications of that are not only discomfort on a higher scale, but the inability to train as well in the Dojo / Dojang / on the mats.

Glute recruitment happens either way, but some of the heftiest quadricep dominant and hamstring dominant are relegated to two separate days...meaning I split up the squats and leg press from the deadlifts and single leg deadlifts.

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Now obviously, I’m using those muscles in all of the lower body exercises, but I have found that doing all of them in one day can be too much of a good thing, and I get better results when I am not totally decimated…

LEG DAY 1

  1. Deadlifts – 4 to 5 sets of 10 to 16 (depends on weight)
  2. Single Led Deadlifts – 3 sets of 12 with 45 lb dumbbell
  3. Hip Thrusts – 3 sets of 16 with 80 or 90 lbs (varied foot placement)
  4. Leg Curl – 3 to 5 sets (weight depends on machine)
  5. Straight Leg Cable Kickbacks – 3 drop sets using heavier weight, 3 sets lighter weight
  6. Abs

LEG DAY 2

  1. Smith Machine Squats – 5 sets (varied weight and foot placement. I don’t go heavy here.)
  2. Walking Lunges or Step-Back Lunges – 6 sets, or equal to about 120 lunges, including both sides
  3. Leg Press – MAJOR Drop sets (3 sets with 10 45 plates, 3 sets with 8 45s, 3 sets with 6 45s, 3 sets with 4 45s, 3 sets of single leg presses with 2 45s.)  Nasty.  *LOL*
  4. Sumo Squats – 3 sets of 12 with 65 lb dumbbell
  5. Bent Knee Cable Kickbacks – 3 sets only if I’m not too sore!
  6. Leg Extension – 3 sets at 90 lbs, not too heavy
  7. Abs

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Basically at the end of the week it’s hard to walk! 😉  I LOVE lifting heavy, but I’ve also learned that sometimes I have to go easier, especially these days – because I do Martial Arts, flexibility is MASSIVELY important.  

I need to be mindful and stretch, as well as foam roll (I need to be better about that) – heavy lifting WILL impede your flexibility, like it or not.  Can you have both?  Absolutely!  But the reality is that you will be more limber when you don’t destroy your legs, so either going a little easier…or really making that time to stretch out…will make a difference – your goals will determine what works best!

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Leg Day

I love leg day…  It takes it out of me, but…I love it.  I was going into it tired today, but I wasn’t about to forgo the routine – I knew I needed it, and I’d be happier if I pushed through.

Leg day is actually the only workout day(s) during which I feel sick. My gym rat buddies would say that’s a good thing…it means I’m “working.”  *LOL*  How very old school.  (And how funny that I’m saying the same thing in my mind! *LOL*)

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I’ve actually split up quads and hammies these days, in part because of time constraints (I can be at the gym for HOURS if left to my own devices!), but also because I need to maintain some level of flexibility and I want to recover better.  

When I would do everything on one day, I was sore for daaaays.  I’m still sore after splitting it up, but recovery is more manageable, so for right now I’m sticking with it.  I do glutes both days, but vary the exercises (except cable kickbacks – I bring my own ankle strap and tend to do those regardless – yay for perkiness! 😉 ) 

The tougher quad exercises I do first – everyone is different, but this works for me physically AND mentally (the latter is important!) So leg press, squats, and weighted walking lunges go first in the group!  It gives me both a sense of accomplishment, as well as a “phew, that’s done!” feeling…and I have more energy to push hard, having not exhausted myself prior.

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I can’t say it was my most stellar day, but I maintained my form and got it done.  

Some days we are stronger than others, and there is nothing wrong with that.  So even if it is leg day…and that happens to be your toughest too…just hang in.  

You don’t have to be a superhero every time you step foot in the gym – safety and health are first!  You will feel great even if you manage some of it because…well…endorphins!  🙂  They come to the rescue the second you start jamming, so don’t give up!