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Wellness at Work

My job requires me to be at my desk all day. I am grateful that my workplace values wellness and has equipped every office with desks that raise to standing height, so I spend much of my day standing.

I found a way to keep myself entertained at work while trying to stay active. I grabbed  four of reams of copy paper and stacked them two up, side-by-side. I am using them for calf raises and for step ups.

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It could be a tad higher for step ups but I risk the paper shifting and me falling down, which would likely be frowned upon by HR in the instance of a workplace injury. I’ve decided I need to purchase a fitness stepper for my office. I have purchased some resistance bands that I intend on using, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet.

Over the next two months I am going to really try to improve the strength in my legs and my cardio capacity for a hiking trip that I have planned in August. I am looking forward to climbing the tallest mountain in Maine, something I have always wanted to do. Once I got my MS diagnosis I knew I needed to make it a priority, while I am doing fine now, the uncertainty of this condition is always at the back of my minds.

 

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New, new, new

I’ve recently moved and there is a gym that is close to my house. Close enough that I could walk or ride my bike, if it weren’t so cold! So far April has been colder than March here in Maine. I am going to the YMCA campus closest to my house instead of my regular YMCA location. There are pro’s and con’s to doing this.

The biggest plus is that I can finish my workout and go home and shower in my own warm bathroom (those locker rooms are always so cold!). The other upside is when it is warmer I look forward to riding my bike there.

Now for the downsides, bigger gym, more people. My old location usually had one or two other people I had to work around. We all pretty much knew each others routines and worked quietly around each other. Now I need to be prepared to change up my routine on the spot if I can’t get what I want. This gym also has different equipment, it is newer and nicer, which is great but I have to learn this equipment and again make some adjustments. They don’t have a lying leg curl machine so I’ll have to find an alternative to that one.

Overall, it is a great change. Making adjustments is sometimes necessary and welcome, not only in fitness and health, but life in general.

 

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Bodybuilding and de-loading

De-loading is a term that I’ve read a lot about in various bodybuilding and fitness magazines. De-loading is a planned reduction in volume or intensity of your workouts, usually for one week. The purpose is to allow the body to dissipate fatigue and allow you to recover. I’ve learned that de-loading is valuable tool to have in my routine because weight training also puts stress on the joints, ligaments, connective tissues, and the central nervous system (aka where my MS lives).

Incorporating this into your schedule can be done in different ways.

  • Continue with your normal routine and normal volume (sets & reps) but reduce the weight you use by about half of what you normally use.
  • Use the same weight as you normally would, but drop your total volume (less sets & reps).
  • Decrease your lifting and increase your cardio
  • Take a week off completely

Normally I just take a week off, usually planned around vacations. This week I am on an unplanned de-load. I had every intention of continuing with my training this week; however, I have a new schedule with my children and I haven’t yet figured out how to incorporate my training days into this schedule. I also haven’t actually taken a week off since maybe Christmas, or it could have been my vacation in September, I don’t remember.

I feel so much guilt for taking the week off. I feel like my muscles are slowly deteriorating, an exaggeration, yes.

I know that I need to take time and listen to my body and enjoy some rest and healing, from the physical stress I put my body through and the emotional and mental stresses of life.

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Survey Says

I just read an interesting article  regarding a survey of how MS patients warrior’s perceive diet, exercise and drug treatments. It shows weight training as the least cited exercise routine among MSers.

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At first I was really surprised by this statistic until I got to thinking about it a little more. Everyone’s MS is different and everyone has different abilities, yet I wonder how many think that it is impossible. I just KNOW there is a way to modify and substitute exercises to meet the abilities of each individual.

As the article states there are multiple benefits to weight training. Maintaining muscle tone will help reduce weakness, improve strength, decrease fatigue and depression.

A strong body is a strong mind.

I hope that bottom bar on that graph grows and I look forward to having a part in helping others find their abilities.

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Not so Fit Friday

I am not on top of my game this week. I’ve been in transition lately with moving to a new house and other things and my nutrition has suffered greatly. I am actually craving veggies and some normalcy back in my schedule, which is still yet to be fully determined.

I have been eating, what I would consider to be junk food all week, not getting enough protein and carbohydrates at the right times and not getting enough sleep. Let me tell you I noticed in the gym today. Everything felt heavier! I felt weak and tired.

In some ways this is a good lesson. Although the upheaval in my schedule is necessary this week, it reminds me just how important proper nutrition and sleep is for my physical and mental health as well as my level of fitness.

Next week I start fresh.

 

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Checking Your Form

I had a video that I wanted to share of yesterday’s Deadlift session; however, the lighting is really bad and the quality is low and well I’ve determined I need someone to follow me around the gym each day and video my lifts.

All kidding aside though, I don’t just take video because I enjoy watching myself, or because I want to share it on social media, I use it as a tool for checking and analyzing my form.

I’ve studied various bodybuilding and exercise videos over the past year and while I think I perform every exercise correctly, watching the videos is extremely helpful to see where I might need work.

Those who train with a partner have the benefit of getting on the spot critique on what they should be doing (hopefully the partner is aware of the actual mechanics) and they can help them get corrected right away. Proper form is very important when strength training for several reasons, one you reduce the chance for injury and two you want to ensure that you are actually working the desired muscle group.

My favorite website for studying proper form is bodybuilding.com. They have so many videos in their exercise database that are helpful when you are just starting out, or need to revisit when you discover your are not lifting properly.

Get detailed instructions on Barbell Deadlift. Learn correct technique with their Barbell Deadlift video, photos, tips and reviews.: Bodybuilding.com – Barbell Deadlift 

 

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Never Miss a Monday

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When I first started my fitness journey, I saw these memes all over the Internet and they made sense to me. I think they are actually really good  rules to live by  and promises I’ve made to myself, I try really hard to keep them. Sometimes, due to certain circumstances, they must be broken.

This morning I really didn’t feel like going to the gym when my alarm went off. That being said; I don’t feel like it, is not a good enough excuse for me.

Somehow, starting off my work week by pushing myself makes for a good day and a good week. This first day of spring is a snowy mess in Maine today, which can be a little de-motivating, but tomorrow will be better!

Get up, go get those endorphins!

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Mix it up

I am a huge fan of variety – usually, I say usually because sometimes I will find something that I like and stick to it for fear of not liking whatever the new items is, or the new item not working as well. Toothpaste; for example, I have been using the same toothpaste forever. It works well and tastes good, why risk changing to something that might taste gross or be too foamy and gritty, I hate gritty toothpaste.

Where am I going with this? It is time to change up my training (and diet) routine. I’m reluctant because I love my routine and it has been working for the goals that I had set for myself, build muscle.

Some people change up their routines to avoid boredom, however, it is necessary to challenge your body. When you do one routine for too long of a period your body adapts to that cycle and no longer needs to work to get better. If you change up your routine every few weeks you are signaling your body that it is time to work again and re-adapt to the new situation.

There are various ways to change up your routine. If you are doing cardio on a stationary bike for 30 minutes you could try increasing the intensity (tension) or increase the amount of time you are doing the exercise.

In weight training you can increase the number of sets (the number of times you perform the exercise) you do and decrease your rest time in between sets. You can increase the number of repetitions you, or you can go heavier on the amount of weight you are lifting. So while I do like routine, what I love about weight training is the variety of different types of exercises you can do and how you can do them.

I’m beginning to work on my summer slim down, which means goodbye to beer and junky foods and increasing the intensity of my work outs. I do this by increasing sets, reps and reducing the amount of rest time in between sets to keep my heart rate pumping. Another thing I’ve begun doing is taking a lap around the track at the gym in between my sets, it keeps my heart rate elevated, in turn keeping me in that fat burning zone.

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Fitness Friday

I am in a fantastic mood. The sun is shining here in Maine, it’s going to be a nice weekend and I am looking forward to getting outside, maybe some walking, tennis, not sure, but definitely outside.

I am taking a CPR class on Sunday, which I am excited about. This is a pre-requisite to taking my ACE Personal Trainer certification exam. I don’t have to take my exam until this summer, but I’m antsy and I am trying to absorb as much information as possible, I’m ready to get going!

Today’s training at the gym was a bit compromised by the new tattoo on my hip. Squatting was a tad uncomfortable, but as a gymaholic, I couldn’t not go. Friday has traditionally always been a leg and glute day; however, as I’ve realized my upper body is lacking in strength, I am now trying to include some upper body movements in all of my training days.

My Fitness Friday

Legs & Glutes

  • Barbell Squats –  4 sets of 12 reps
  • Barbell Hip Thrusts – 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Plie Dumbbell Squats (stand on top of two benches for added depth) – 4 sets of 12 reps
  • Calf raises on a smith machine – 4 sets of 12 reps. I stand on a step platform, these babies burn!

Shoulders

  • Smith Machine Military Press  – 3 sets of 6 reps. I use the smith machine because I don’t have a spotter and I don’t want to drop the barbell on my face. (I’m clumsy like that)
  • Upright Barbell Row – 4 sets of 10
  • Arnold Dumbbell Press  – I love to do drop sets with this exercise. I lift until failure and then I drop the weight 5 pounds and immediately lift to failure again. This really sets my shoulders on fire.
  • Finally, I finish with an nice isolation exercise, the Front Plate Raise , 4 sets or 10.

When I’m done, lifting my arms above my head is a chore. I cap off the morning with a 15 minute walk at a fast pace on the treadmill.

Happy Friday everyone, stay on track this weekend with your fitness goals, get out and move!

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Drop it like a squat

Happy Friday! I am feeling much better today, the fatigue cloud has lifted and I am still riding my post gym endorphin high – which I love and wish I could carry with me throughout the day.

Today was all about the squat. I have become a huge fan of squats in the many variations. They are a great total lower body workout, effectively working the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes.  Squats are versatile, can be done with or without weight, easily modified and with all of the variations it is hard to get bored.

I remember when I began my fit chick journey and I tried a weighted barbell squat for the first time, 50 pounds and my quads were burning for days. I think that is where the addiction began for me. I have been competitive with myself, always pushing a little more to see how much more I can handle.

In order to progress with lifting heavier weight, I used a smith machine. A smith machine consists of a barbell that is fixed within a rack, allowing only vertical movements. Some, but not all smith machines are counterbalanced, making it easier to lift. I like the smith machine because I don’t train with a partner so I’ve got no one to spot me when I want to go heavy. It also allows me to get my feet far out in the front and drop down low to target my glutes. A lot of people knock the smith machine due to its limitations, I haven’t replaced barbell squats completely as seen in the video.

I am not getting as low as I should here because I went a little heavier than normal (still testing my limits!). My balance issues cause me to rock a little on the way up, though the barbell squat has helped me improve my balance.  This is a staple exercise in my training and it is a work in progress.

Hope you all have a fun FLEX Friday and enjoy the weekend!