This morning I was training a client. Her workout was: 90 seconds on the rowing machine, 40 kettlebell swings, rest x 4.
For round #2, I challenged her to row more meters than she had in her first round. She sprinted all out and destroyed her first round distance. But she was huffing and puffing too hard and had to take a break before her second set of kettlebell swings.
Round 3 on the rower I challenged her to “make this your easy pace”. I asked her to match her second round distance but make it feel easy.
She did just that. She hopped off the rower after rowing the same distance as round 2 and went right into kettlebells, no rest needed.
As your trainer, if I see you struggling, I could coach you through good form: relax your shoulders, keep your core tight, support your lower back, drive your knees… But by the time I get to the end of all the cues I’d need to start back at the beginning. Instead, if I keep telling you to “make it easy”, you naturally relax, control your breathing and find good form.
When running, you stop fighting to turn your legs over and take more efficient steps. When biking, you begin to make smoother circles, pushing and pulling evenly. And when rowing, this client relaxed, stopped struggling and found a better rhythm by taking the time to fully extend each stroke.
Try it for yourself! Go out and make fast your easy pace!
A former roommate set up a “competition jar” for me much like some people have a “swear jar”. Every time I tried to turn an every day thing into a competition, I had to put a quarter in my jar.
I’m a competitive person. But I’ve found ways to use my competitive spirit as a healthy form of motivation and drive. When I have no one to go for a run with, I push myself by constantly trying to catch or keep up with the stranger in front of me on the running path. That’s healthy and effective. But when does competitive working out become unhealthy?
I don’t have the answer. I’m not sure that there is one specific answer that fits all people and all situations, but I do know this: when you feel so competitive with the person working out next to you that you cheat, that you do less reps to finish faster, that’s no longer healthy or motivating and you lose in the long run.
CrossFit, which is self described as “competitive working out”, is what has me thinking about this. Most of the time at CrossFit, unless you are in a competition, you are the only person counting how many reps you complete. It becomes tempting to cut a few off so that you are the fastest athlete or so you aren’t the slowest. And there’s nothing motivating, productive or healthy about cutting yourself short.
I am finally done being pulled down by injuries and am working hard to get back to where I was pre-accident, especially when it comes to running speed. This, combined with an awesome workout in nature on Wednesday, has made me ready to come back to this blog.
So what was so great about Wednesday’s workout?
While visiting a friend in Ohio, I headed to Caesar Creek State Park with 2 competitive bike riders for a fun day on the trails. We ran a trail loop and started some active stretching, comparing favorite moves and discussing dynamic vs. static stretching (side bar: my opinion is strongly for dynamic before working out and static after). We showed off different kinds of push ups. Then we headed to tackle some hill sprints… Actually hill sounds so weak compared to the long, steep, grassy slope before us.
After just one hill sprint of death each, it was back to the trails for a fast 3 mile run.
Still not worn out, we grabbed my new weight vest and the fun really started: stairs, burpees, pistols (one-legged squats) and anything else we could come up with.
We rounded the day out with another mile in the trails — me wearing the weighted vest — and some static stretching.
It was a gorgeous day. The weather was perfect, the scenery amazing and the company motivational. It was the kind of day worth writing about!
I love taking every possible fitness class. Sometimes I steal their moves if they do something new. Mostly, I want to be able to give an honest, first-hand opinion on the gym or class when someone asks me. Recently, I have tried quite a few very different workouts around Philadelphia, thanks to sites like Groupon.
Here are a few things that I have learned from my fellow fitness leaders:
1. If you do a move, any move, for 20 minutes straight, you’ll be sore. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good burn the next day, letting me know I worked hard, but I come to class for some creativity and motivation. Repeating push ups, sit ups or whatever for 100+ reps is something anyone could do on their own and something that puts me to sleep.
2. On the flip side, too much creativity can really kill a potentially good workout. I watched a lot of confused, out-of-shape but ready-to-push-themselves women spend time standing, gaping mouth trying to catch on to complicated moves. And then, once they got the hang of it, the move changed completely. If you want me to stand on one foot, hop up and down, and do a bicep curl, maybe start by having me balance on one foot.
3. Classes should not have a script. I don’t care if that’s how you always teach it because that’s how you were told to teach it. If overweight women walk in for their first fitness class ever, you adapt the workout.
I work all day. Why would I then want to go to the gym and work some more?
If you aren’t a “gym person”, or even if you are but ever feel like your exercising is monotonous or boring, or even if you are just a person in general … get out and play like a kid!
Fitness should be fun. We’re already getting the mood-boosting benefits of exercise so why not make it extra fun by just letting loose, forgetting the rules, and leaving the notebook and pen in the classroom.
Join a recreational league like the Manayunk Sports and Social Club.
Get friends together for an impromptu pick-up game of anything from basketball to small ball to running relays like a school kid (trust me, everyone will have fun once you get started). How about a game of Twister or energetic charades?
Or still go to the gym but move around like a kid with ADD. Don’t count reps. Don’t have a plan. Don’t worry about hitting certain muscle groups or not. Just look up, see what catches your eye and use it to do something. Any thing. Get playful!
My friend Sunshine and I did this before and had a blast. We warmed up with jump roping to one song and dynamic stretches to a second, then we just went. It was so much fun and everyone mindlessly moving around the gym with their plans and notebooks looked on in envy of our fun.
A few things we did:
Played catch with a medicine ball while standing on a BOSU
Monkey bars and pull ups
Lots of different jumping … up, over, around; really far and really high
Burpees with a medicine ball
Just HAVE FUN and PLAY like a kid! It fully counts as an excellent workout. In fact, I was quite sore the next day!