it is what’s behind us

Don’t neglect what we don’t see.

We use it a lot. Every day, all day. And when it’s injured we realize the limitations we have without it.

I want to use this post to talk about muscles of the back and also to give you a picture of how these muscles work so you can have a better understanding and maybe that will help you the next time you work your back.

The main one

We have back muscles that start at the lower spine and run up, right up to the base of the skull. This group of muscles is called the Erector spinae. You can imagine them as large ropes running side by side in parallel with the spine, more or less. As they travel up the back they connect to the ribs and upper vertebrae. They are responsible for spinal extension (moving your back backwards like a big stretch), lateral flexion (moving the back to either side). These muscles help make up our core and if they are strong will add to performance increases and provide stability for the spine when needed.

Knowing that the erector spinae starts at the bottom of our spine and all the way up to the base of the skull we need various exercises to work the whole length of the muscles. Let’s look at what exercises we can do:

Spidermans: This exercise will place focus on the lower part of the back. Lying on the ground on your stomach, hands under your chin, raise your shoulders about 2 inches off of the ground. Focus on the lower back when doing this and try to feel the contraction. It’s a simple exercise but difficult to do only hitting the back muscles.  I would recommend that you have someone knowledgeable show you and work with you on this exercise.

Bird dog: This works more the length of the erector spinae since the muscle is used to stabilize you while carrying out the exercise. Get down on all fours hands at shoulder width and knees in line with yoru hands. Raise your right hand extending your right arm straight out in front of you.  Then slowly raise your left leg out behind you. Hold for 3 to 5 seconds and repeat on other side. Be sure to actively engage your core when doing this.

Stability ball back crunches: Start by lying on the stability ball with your stomach and chest. Your legs should be fully straight out behind you on the floor. Having your hands behind your head, contract your core and glutes. Slowly raise your upper body upwards for a movement of 2 – 3 inches. Hold at the top for 3 – 5 seconds holding onto that contraction. Lower yourself down until your chest touches the ball. Repeat about 8 to 12 times.

Close grip cable rows/ band pulls: Having your hands close together targets the centre of your back and being seated it also targets the middle area of the back. Think about half way between your waist and the bottom of your skull. I’m going to explain this one using the bands. Sitting on the floor legs straight out in front of you, having one end of the band against the bottom of your feet, with arms straight out holding onto the band, pull back until hands are close to your stomach. Hold for a second or two then straighten out your arms. Try to do this for 8 to 10 repetitions.

Now the next muscle I’m going to cover is technically a muscle of the shoulder girdle but I think we all look at it as a muscle of the back. This is the muscle that when developed gives you the highly sought after V look. Pop a couple of big shoulders on top of this V and you’ll be turning sideways just to get through the door. You got it, the latissimus dorsi. It starts at vertebrae T6 – S5 (around the centre of your spine) and inserts at our humerus bone. Makes sense right? If pull ups builds this muscle, the movement of the arms when we do pull ups is how the muscle contracts. The lats aid in pulling and lifting type movements and provide support to the shoulders.

What can we do to build the lats, keeping them strong? Good question.

Pull Ups: An awesome exercise over all since it’s a body weight exercise and also works more than just the lats. You can use a wide grip or a narrow grip target different areas of the muscles of our back. I think we all know what a pull up is so instead of explaining, I’m going to give some tips. If you cannot do a pull up because you can’t yet pull up your body weight, don’t worry. If you work out at a gym you are probably lucky enough that they have a machine where you can rest your knees and adjust how much weight is removed from your body when doing the pull up. Yeah that sounds strange doesn’t it. In a sense instead of adding weight we are removing weight so if you weight 200lbs, you can adjust the machine so the weight you are moving is 140lbs as an example.

A way to do this if you aren’t working out at a gym is to use a chair or something else to put your feet on (the tops of your feet will be on the chair, not the bottom). This allows you to push with your legs when doing the pull up. Please be careful if you do your pull ups this way! Be safe!

Pull Downs: The inverse of pull ups. You will need a machine for this but if you have one, use it. The nice thing about pull downs is you can adjust the weight. When doing this try not to sway your torso. Keep strict form.

Reclined Pull Over: Lying on the floor on your back, legs bent and feet on the floor, straighten your arms so they are stretched over your head like you are giving two high fives. Using a barbell or a dumbbell in each hand engage your core as you raise the weight up until your arms are perpendicular to the floor. As you raise the weights, keep a small bend in the arms. Hold at the top for a few seconds then slowly lower. Do this for 8 to12 repetitions.

The rest

There are other muscles that benefit from these exercises such as our trapezius, teres minor/major, posterior deltoid muscles, etc. I’ll probably get to some of these muscles in another post more specifically to do with their respective area such as the shoulder or rotator cuff.

Try these exercises out if you haven’t already. Build a solid back and rock that V like it’s no one business. Your back will thank you for it.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

the view can be different from here

…and I like the view

Ninety, one hundred and eighty. Degrees of angles. Degrees of angles we normally train in. Squats, bench presses, pushups. Most times when we do these exercises we do them at a square angle to the ground. We do our exercises this way because we need gravity to provide the needed resistance. So what’s the issue? Doing the same thing over and over, the same way. Repetition.

Resistance

Over time our bodies will adapt to a load being applied at the same angle relative to the muscles that are being worked. As our muscles adapt the less they respond to the load and the lessening of the benefits  we get from working out are realized.

Another benefit of incorporating angles into our workouts is it can target different areas of the muscles being worked. Also, it can help to maintain strict form when working out, preventing us from cheating an exercise.

How to

Lets look at the bench press or the pushup. Most times when doing this exercise our body is mostly parallel to the ground albeit on a bench when doing bench presses or the slight angle we realize when doing pushups. What if we raised our feet when doing pushups, or elevated the back part of the bench that supports our upper body when doing bench presses? This now changes the load from being distributed to the middle of our chest to more of the upper area of our chest. This also changes up what our muscles have been used to. I guarantee if you have been doing either of these exercises in the traditional sense and change it to incorporating this angle you will feel the difference. Now do the same but use a decline. With respect to bench presses, you will need a decline bench. For pushups, you can do your pushups by having your hands on a bench, couch, or anything that is about 12 to 16 inches above the ground, keeping your toes on the ground. Be sure that whatever you are using that it is stable and safe.

The same principle can be applied when carrying out dumbbell chest flies. Doing this exercise on an incline or decline angle will put the load onto the upper and lower chest area respectively.

Using an incline bench you can apply the same principle to when you do dumbbell bicep curls. With your back against the inclined bench, let your arms hang down, holding the dumbbells. Having your body at this angle, no longer parallel with your arms will make it almost impossible to cheat when doing dumbbell curls. If you try this, you will notice that the amount of weight you use will probably be less than when doing dumbbell curls the traditional way.

The traditional lat pull down, pulling down the horizontal bar directly from above you can also be modified to incorporate a new angle. If you pull down having your upper body on an 80 degree angle you will still be hitting the lats but you will also target more of upper/middle back area, similar to a seated cable row. Be careful doing this one that you don’t end up swinging the body because of the load being too high. This is not what you want to do, and could lead to injury.

Not everything

Not all exercises can be done this way, especially when exercising safely. These are just a few options to help you keep realizing the benefits from resistance training, another way to ‘shock’ the muscles.

It’s beneficial to you to incorporate different things in your workout routine. Altimately you are the one that benefits, the one that grows.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

Put me back on the line

Give me more of a reason

I look at things that happen in my life, things that I see, questions asked, people’s experiences and I look at these things and see if I can find a lesson in them. Maybe find something that I can pass onto you that helps you with your training and helps you reach your goals quicker.

That has always been the purpose of my blog, to help. To help you grow in the part of your life that is fitness. If only one article has done that, than I have succeeded.

A new one

I recently revisited a client of mine that I started training about eight weeks ago. This client of mine is very goal oriented and had a specific goal she wanted to achieve – to better her game by increasing her strength and power.

I liked the idea of training this person because her goal was very specific and I felt it would be very challenging. She is a very athletic person, I have known her for probably the last 4 years and already knew her work ethic. This is partly why I had no issue leaving her on her own to train. I have said in previous posts that I don’t feel that everyone needs a personal trainer for all their workouts. Some people? Yes. But not everyone.

The purpose of this visit was to reevaluate her performance and to touch base as to the next 4 weeks. I was anxious to see what the results would be.

No hiding

I said I was anxious but I was also nervous. There is no hiding from the results, or massaging the results to provide a different outcome than what it is. The numbers don’t lie. It can be like shining a bright light onto you. Success or failure, there can be only one outcome.

Success! The reevaluation showed lots of positive gains. Vertical jump increase, drastic increase in leg strength, increase in chest strength and so on. The program I had put together worked and I am seeing the results.

But the results were not evident to my client, until we measured them.

Tracking

It wasn’t until I tested my client again and compared the results to the initial test that she realized that she was making gains. Part of this is due to a good part of the program designed around exercises using body weight making it difficult to see increase in strength since no dumbbells or barbells were being used.

At the end of the evaluation my client was so pumped seeing the increase in strength. Could she of seen this earlier? Absolutely.

Journal. That’s it. Recording each workout on paper. Capturing what you have accomplished. It’s also a good way to capture your general feeling that day; tired, energized, strong, weak. A journal can be a great way to see your progress as weeks go on and to keep yourself motivated in reaching your goal, or goals. I think we underestimate the value of capturing each workout and the impact it can have.

The payoff

If my client had a journal, she probably wouldn’t have been as surprised at the results. It was the action of me reevaluating her that showed the gains made, but it didn’t have to be. The gains were there, just not being measured. Record everything, from day one.

How do you measure your progress if you don’t know where you came from?

Yours in health,

Darryl

I want to

A bright light in the darkness of defeat.

Workouts have been awesome lately. You’ve be killing it, walking away feeling really great, tired but you know you’ll be able to do more later. But lately you’ve been struggling from almost the beginning. 2 minutes in feels like 60 minutes. It sucks. Why do you feel this way? You didn’t feel this way last week.

What’s different

As best as you know, nothing is different. You’re doing the things you have always done. There could be a number of reasons why you feel like you are lacking energy, or you actually are lacking energy. Have you been doing the same things that you have been doing when you don’t feel this way? Things such as getting enough rest, eating enough carbs before your workout. Fueling before a workout is very important, so much I wrote a post about it.

But, there could be other things going on, things I would like to write about.

What else

There is a lot of chemistry happening for our body to perform and perform well under harsh conditions. Our body requires vitamins, minerals (micro nutrients), carbs, water to create energy. I have excluded fat purposely because if you are burning fat for your main source of energy, you are not working that intensely. Let’s take a look at things that if we are lacking proper amounts of our performance goes drastically down, so much that we take notice.

Magnesium: Magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body and is needed for breaking down glucose into energy. Not having enough magnesium will result in a higher heart rate and the need for more oxygen to work out.

If you feel you aren’t getting enough magnesium, be sure to consume more almonds, hazelnuts, or cashews. Also, you can increase your intake of whole grains.

Iron: Iron deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia which occurs when the body does not have enough iron. Your body needs iron to produce red blood cells which bring oxygen to the bodies tissues. Your muscles and tissues need oxygen to perform properly. If you aren’t getting enough iron it makes sense why you would be tired. You are also probably tired outside of any exercising that you do.

If you feel this is you, get your blood tested to see if you are deficient in iron.

Water: They say by the time we realize we are thirsty, we are already dehydrated. Water plays an important role in the chemical process of creating energy. If you feel you are not getting enough water, well, drink more water!

Vitamin B: B vitamins are responsible for the conversion of carbs into ATP, the currency of energy. They are needed. Plain and simple. Lacking in B vitamins will make it very difficult for your body to convert carbs into energy. So you might be getting the proper amount of carbs, rest and so on, but if you are lacking in B vitamins, more than likely you will end up lethargic.

Be sure to eat foods high in B vitamins to get what you need and supplement if necessary. Dark green vegetables, grains, lentils and nuts are all good sources.

Vitamin B12: Being deficient in B12 can also lead to a low red blood cell count, and we now know the detriments of that. No wonder you don’t have energy. In fact, for people who are constantly tired, doctors have prescribed B12 injections. If you feel you aren’t getting enough B12, or aren’t sure, have blood work done. An easy way to get more B12 is by supplementation. Stick with the pills that dissolve under the tongue for better results.

Lets look at other things that can impact our performance.

Thyroid: It could be possible that you have a low thyroid function issue. If you fatigue is an ongoing issue, have it checked out by your doctor.

Rest: Rest, sleep. Quality sleep. Hopefully you are getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night, and hopefully they are quality hours. If you find that you are having a really hard time getting out of bed when the alarms sounds, that you are constantly hitting the snooze to get more sleep, you aren’t getting enough quality sleep. Quality sleep. I qualify this with the word quality because just sleep isn’t enough. Your brain has to go into the proper state for your sleep to be adequate. Alcohol can be a contributing factor to not getting quality sleep even though you tend to sleep.

It’s really straight forward. Your body, and your mind need sleep. That’s it. It’s basic.

Carbohydrates: Hate me if you want to, but I don’t agree with high protein/low carb diets. Our bodies need complex carbs for energy. Carbs are what gives us glucose and glycogen which is converted to ATP the currency of energy for everything we do. If you are lacking in carbs your body will convert protein (sometimes existing muscle)  into carbs through a chemical process, but it’s inefficient and why would you want your exiting muscle converted to carbs anyways? Doesn’t make sense, does it.

Sickness: It could be as simple as you are sick, fighting some bacteria or a virus. But, if a couple weeks pass and you are still lacking energy, see your doctor

Seek

If you are feeling this way, you feel your performance is not where it should be, and it’s been more than a couple of weeks, see your doctor. You will want to have blood work done to see if there are any vitamin or mineral deficiencies, if you have a thyroid issue or if your lack of energy needs medical attention.

Training and feeling like there is an additional 50 lbs on your shoulders, or an anchor tied to your body is not fun at all. We are supposed to be making gains, not feeling like we are moving backwards. It can be discouraging, even depressing. Take the steps necessary to see if any of the above is going on. Don’t delay it unnecessarily as you will only feel worse as time goes on.

Address this issue as soon as possible and get back out there, killing it like you do. You are a beast and need to get back on your feet as close to 100% as you can be.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

Our black letters cross on tightrope lines

push…pull. push…pull.

I hope this post doesn’t discourage you, or make you think ‘Ugh, something else I need to worry about’. If you feel this way after reading this post, read it again and focus on the message. The execution of the message is a matter of changing what you do. It’s not going to be something else you need to add onto your busy schedule. Knowing that, this post can benefit you short term and long term. There is a Chinese proverb; “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago, the second best is now”. Lets plant that tree now.

Common

You may have noticed that some of my posts cover the same subject but each in a different way. I like to think all things I write about are important, they are, but some are more important than others. Think of the car analogy, keeping your car clean is important for longevity, but changing the oil is more important. My goal is that if I write about these important things more than once, and in different ways, people will start to implement these things and ultimately benefit from them. We’ll see.

On that note let me write about something that we all have. Some more than others, some less. Muscle imbalances. Specifically 2 common imbalances. Pretty much everyone has imbalances from one side of our body to the other, left and right, but this post will focus on imbalances between opposing muscle groups.

Muscle imbalances can cause us discomfort, and can ultimately alter our posture to a very negative state (Postural kyphosis, or hump back is an example of this). Imbalances can cause injuries, injuries we had no idea were due to imbalances.

Through identification of the imbalances we have and taking corrective action these imbalances can be reversed. Let’s get into two common imbalances.

The two

Rounded Shoulders: This is very common as a large amount of us work with our hands out in front of us. Another cause of this imbalance is having a workout routine that is heavy on the chest and pressing type exercises and light or non-existent pulling exercises.

Is this you? Stand up straight with your arms by your side. Relax. Look down at your hands. Are they more towards the front of your legs, or are they down the mid line of your legs. If they are front of the mid line, congratulations, you have pecs and front delts (shoulder) that are strong. Now all you need to do is strengthen the opposing muscles, the back muscles.

The antidote.  Any exercise that has a pulling element to it will strengthen your back muscles. Seated cable rows, dumbbell rows, pull ups, lat pull downs, bent over dumbbell rows. These exercises will strengthen the back muscles and the rear delts. To help balancing things out, you will want to focus more of your stretching on the chest and front delt muscles. Try the chest expansion stretch, or the doorway pec stretch.

Anterior Pelvic Tilt: Have you suffered from lower back pain? Did you think it was due to spinal issues such as disks, vertebrae? Believe it or not, back issues can be caused from muscle imbalances such as tight hamstrings and tight hip flexors. This can cause an anterior pelvic tilt. This is when the pelvis is no longer in a neutral position, and ends up with the front side lower than the back. A way to test if you have an anterior pelvic tilt is to see where your belt buckle points when wearing pants. Does it point straight ahead, or to the ground? If your buckle points to the ground, your pelvis is anteriorly tilted. How did we get here?

When muscles are tight, the pull on the bones they are attached to. The 3 muscles that make up the hamstrings are connected to the base of the pelvis and the upper tibia and fibula. So when these muscles get tight due to fighting the tilting pelvis, they pull on the bones they are connected to causing a change to our body mechanics that can result in injury. Have you wondered why you have knee or hip pain when or after running? This could be why.

Why do we end up with tight hip  flexors? Mainly due to too much sitting which causes our hip flexors to constantly be in the contracted state. When we stand up the tight hip flexors, which are connected to the femur and the pelvis, pull. The femur (the bone in the upper part of our leg) doesn’t move so it’s the pelvis that ends up rotating. So what is joined to the pelvis? Yeah, our spine. If the pelvis moves the spine will move with it. It makes sense, the constant pulling of the hip flexors causing tension on the spine due to the pelvis be pulled.

Not only can this cause back pain, but it can also lead to hip, knee, shoulder, neck pain and headaches. Just like the song, our bones are connected. When one moves from it’s normal position due to tight muscles, the bones that are connected move too. And when the spine is moved to an unnatural position that can cause a lot of discomfort that may get misdiagnosed.

Does this sound like you? Wouldn’t that be great news that all your discomforts are because of an imbalance such as tight hip flexors? Something you can address and fix through stretching. Throw away the pain meds and stop worrying about back issues * see note below.

The antidote.  Stretching. Stretching the hip flexors will help lengthen the already tight and shortened muscles. The kneeling lunge stretch is a good one for this. Some other stretches are the butterfly stretch and the pigeon pose. If your job requires you to sit for long periods see if you can get up out of the chair every half hour to walk around and relax the hip flexors. Have a phone call to make? Get out of the chair. See if you can get a work station that can accommodate you while standing. I know it’s probably an expensive option but so can being off of work due to injury. On a side note I wish companies would take workplace ergonomics more seriously.

Only two

Only two muscle imbalances but these two can cause a lot of problems if not addressed. If you have either one, or both of these imbalances try to change your workout to accommodate the ‘fixes’. Mark it in your calendar the day you decided to take control of your body and not let external forces rule you.

One more thing I want to say. By no means do I take back pain lightly. My comment to stop worrying about back pain if you happen to address your muscle imbalance is more of a perfect storm scenario. It would be great it that was the impetuous of your back issues. In no way do I mean to marginalize other issues that can cause back pain.

Make the change and do yourself and your body a favour. This small change might result in a large gain.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

 

…more frequent than to fail

Easy to understand time, that dark process.

It’s something I did today. Something I have been doing over the last 4 weeks. I know about this, I’ve known about this.

It’s really simple. But knowledge is fleeting and we are not aware of it, or pay it no attention. Time to make a change, time to take control.

Do as I say

I’m not the best when it comes to doing the things I should be doing. I know the things that need to be done but don’t always listen to myself, I don’t always listen to reason. As an example I’m one of those people who tell others that when they are injured they need to take care of the injury, rest, ice, compression and so on. I’m not the best at doing those things myself. I usually try to ignore the injury and continue in what I am doing. I know, not the smartest thing to do. But I have my reasons, or motivation.

I’m someone who enjoys the feeling of getting my ass kicked and finishing my workout drained, tired. Not really a good excuse is it. Not the best thing to do, but like I said, I don’t always follow my advice. I should.

Kill it

Fuel. We overlook the importance of how we fuel our body and when we  fuel  our body. Don’t! Let me lay  it out to you. Do you want to feel like crap during your next workout, or do you want to feel like you can keep going, and going strong?

The latter, right? Why not? It feels awful when working out and you are drained, you don’t know how you will make it through the next 60 minutes, or half hour. Time to change that. Time to kill it.

Just like a car, a furnace, stove or anything that moves, we require fuel to perform. And optimally we want the best fuel there and ready to feed our muscles. How do we do that? A couple of things can be done.

2 hours

2 hours before you work out be sure to consume a meal high in complex carbs so your body’s fuel tank has some fuel in it to provide the necessary energy for your workout. But that’s not it. 20 minutes before you start your workout consume something high in carbs. You can try a pre workout energy mix, or something else like figs, dates, or dried cranberries. The idea is to get something sweet into your body, but also something beneficial. Don’t think you can down a soda or eat a brownie and get the same results. You won’t.

The testing

For the last 4 weeks I have been consuming a pre-work out drink to see if it’s something that works or just a waste of time. Should it work? Absolutely, the pre-work out drink provides the fuel my body, or our body needs for the workout. The workout has been a workout that goes for 90 minutes and I’ve been doing this workout for a few years now. I have a baseline to compare it too and so far the results have been good. I feel better during the workout, not so fatigued or drained. At the end of the workout I’m tired, but I’m not dead. Am I working just as hard? Yes.

That should be no surprise. The body requires fuel and if you don’t fuel it, it can’t perform to it’s best level.

Now this test of mine is in no sense all that scientific. No beakers have been harmed. But, it does go along with the principle that our bodies need fuel to perform and to perform well we need to have the right fuel at the right time.

Change

Try it. Try it with what works for you. It’s science, and you will feel the difference. I almost guarantee it.

Yours in health,

Darryl

the stars are alive, and they are in my reach

the flame flickers, reaching, grasping, waiting with it’s hand outreached.

I consider this the third post in my series regarding adding strength and muscle.  The first post was the challenge that I’m sure you accepted. The second post deals with the progression made so far. This post I will talk about things that you may be doing that in affect could be sabotaging your progress. Will there be more posts in this series? Yeah, I think so. Stay tuned.

It’s what we do

Restless. You want to add the poundage of muscle onto your frame, but you are that type that when in a gym, or anywhere working out you cannot just ‘sit there’ counting the seconds or minutes. You try to take a 2 minute break between sets but no matter what you try you can’t. You find yourself waiting no more than 30 seconds, or maybe a minute. The fact is you won’t be adding the muscle you would like to unless you take that rest. Try it yourself. Look at how much weight you use when resting for 2 to 3 minutes compared to how much weight you currently use between sets. I bet you that with the longer rest you are using more weight each set. Why? Because the body needs that length of time to replenish its energy stores used to lift weight. Rest, slow down, and relax. Enjoy it. You’ll be glad you did.

Minimalist. Are you eating enough or are you eating the same you always have. We know where that has gotten you, nowhere when it comes to adding muscle. If we don’t have the protein intake needed for our muscles to grow, they won’t! Personally, I’d rather be on the side of too many calories than not enough. Once you hit that point of knowing you are consuming too much, you can always scale back.

Enjoy it. I always think this sounds funny when I say it, I love food and I love eating. If you do too, enjoy it more and get in those quality calories. If you can, keep track of the amount of protein you are consuming daily. Try to spread it around too. Don’t try to consume larger amounts of protein in fewer meals. Have that protein always available for your body to use it.

Stress ball. Relax. Yeah, I know. It’s easy for me to say, isn’t it. But it’s true. Stress can be good, it helps us react to threatening situations but if stress isn’t dealt with properly it can be detrimental to our weight gains but worse, it can be detrimental to our overall health. As westerners I think we missed the boat on how to deal with stress, and how to relax. I don’t think meditation gets the respect it should. Hopefully it will now that the technology exists to show the benefits of meditation.

We all need more. Sleep. That’s it. As simple as the word, it really is that simple. You will want to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night so the body can rebuild, become stronger, become bigger. That is the goal, right? If you aren’t sleeping, why is that? Do you know? Can you do something about it, maybe the previous point can help? Getting the proper amount of sleep can be tough, I know this because I am there myself. What can you do? Some say if you are going to eat before bed time, eat foods high in protein (a plus) and fat because this will regulate your blood sugar and prevent a rise in blood sugar possibly impacting your ability to fall asleep. When lying there in bed, breathe in through the nose and exhale out of your mouth, nice and slowly. This rhythmic breathing can help to relax the mind and body.

By no means do I pretend to have the solution. I wish I did.

Playback. Are you keep a log of what it is you are doing? No, why not! How is it you know what you did last week, or what you did the last workout? Are you resting the proper amount of time between sets, are you lifting more that the last workout, do you know what you did yesterday? Besides being a great motivator, a log helps you get the most out of your workouts be knowing what you did previously, and letting you know what it is you need to do today. Recording what it is you are doing, number of sets, number of reps, rest, amount  of weight helps you stick to the program and will help you get there quicker. It also allows you to review what you did against what you were supposed to do and make changes if necessary.

Also, a few weeks in you can look back at week one of your log and marvel at the progress you have made.

I wish

I don’t have the pill, I don’t have the magical answers. I wish I did. I can only provide recommendations to you to help you achieve your goal. There is one thing I will say that I think is probably the most important. If you take only one thing away from reading this, take this: Believe in yourself. Know that you can do it. Why? Because you can! I know you and I know what you can do, and you can do this. Don’t ever doubt it.

Yours in health,

Darryl

虎穴に入らずんば虎子を得ず。

Koketsu ni irazunba koji wo ezu

No pain no gain. Words to live by, right? It depends. It depends when the pain happens. We need to experience pain from working out but that pain needs to be later, not during the workout. If we aren’t experiencing pain after the workout, we have not challenged our muscles significantly for them to grow and become stronger. What about during the workout?

Injury

Experiencing pain during a workout is your body telling you to stop, right away. The pain you are experiencing is because you have injured yourself and if you continue to work out, you will only aggravate the injury, possibly making it worse. Stop and treat the injury.

Understanding what is it

Some people make the mistake of taking being uncomfortable as being in pain, and tend to stop because of being uncomfortable. I’ve written a few posts on the power of the mind, and this is a case of the person become defeated by the mind. Being uncomfortable is not fun, most people prefer not to be. But we need to be uncomfortable to realize any gains from working out. You need to learn the difference between being in pain, a pain that is muscular or skeletal and being uncomfortable. If you never do, you will never experience the gains you are looking for.

What kinds

Muscular pain can be a pulled muscle, or worse a torn muscle. You can also experience injury of the connective tissues, the tendons. With these types of injuries you should follow the rule of RICE. Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Rest. Stop what you are doing and get yourself somewhere comfortable. Relax and enjoy some downtime. Ice. Put ice on for 15 minutes and then remove for 15 minutes. Do this until swelling has gown down. You can make your own flexible ice pack by putting water and rubbing alcohol into a zip lock bag and throw it in the freezer. Or you can use a bag of frozen veggies. Compression. Use a tensor bandage to add compression. Elevation. Keep the injured area higher than the heart. If after a while you still have swelling, or are concerned about the injury, see a doctor.

Injuries to our skeletal system such as a fracture, break, or sprang should also follow the RICE rule. Again, if swelling remains or you are concerned about the injury, see a doctor.

If you have experienced any of these injuries you need to let that area recover. Give it the rest it needs. Coming back and training that area too soon can lead to extending the time to recover to 100%, or could lead to a more serious injury of the area. If you are someone who needs to workout, see what options you have that remove that injured area from the workout. See a personal trainer for ideas if you need to. An injured foot is a great time to train the core. An injured arm could be a great time to train the legs. Be flexible in ideas as to what you can do. But give the injured area rest.

Smart

Training smart. I always say it. Training smart will result in getting more out of your workout, and lessening any chronic aches and pains you may experience down the road. Train hard, hard enough that you do feel the muscles aching the following day, or two. That’s the pain you are striving to capture.

Listen to your body. Respect your body. Love your body and it will love you back.

Yours in health,

Darryl

Of all the words of mice and men

It’s not for the things you’ve done, it’s the things you haven’t done.

You have read the mission and you have accepted it. It might have seemed somewhat daunting, but you knew you were up for it. It’s something you have been wanting to do and have been having trouble doing it, or getting the anticipated results. But this time it’s different, this time it’s going to happen.

Where are we

About a week and half ago I wrote an article on what you can do to gain 5lbs of muscle in 4 weeks. I laid out things to do, and things not to do. Some of them easy, some of them more challenging. Things like getting an adequate amount of sleep. Yeah, we all wish this was easy to do. Getting the right amount, or even too much protein can be tough too. But I don’t want to talk about these things necessarily.

It’s been 11 days! Well, eleven since I wrote the post. Where are you in project five lbs? 4 days, a week, or 11 days? How are you making out? Have you been weighing yourself? If you have, relax if you haven’t gained weight yet. The body may not necessarily respond right away. It might take two weeks to see an increase of 2 or 3 lbs. The worst thing you could do is start to worry. When we worry, or create stress our body responds by releasing cortisol, a hormone that can be harmful if we don’t handle the stress correctly and do away with it. Don’t sabotage the work you have been doing.

Keep going

If you have hit a stumbling block, don’t quit! Keep going. Push out your date if you have to. Reevaluate that roadblock and put together a plan to deal with it in the future. It’s not the end of the world (that stress thing again). Instead, focus on the positive things you have been doing. Feel good about them. You should.

A slice in

It’s a small slice in time to see what you can do when training specifically, for a specific goal. Try to manage things so you are able to keep on track.

If it’s late, and you haven’t worked out, do it anyway. Once you are into it you’ll feel better and you’ll feel better afterwards, nah, you’ll feel fantastic because there won’t be any guilt! You’ll then go into the next day carrying that high you felt from your workout. Believe me, it’s a great feeling.

But don’t sit there contemplating it. Sometimes you have to say f*ck it, and just get it done. That’s it.

4,3,2…

Week 4 will be here in no time. Fly by just like that. Welcome that week with that 5 lbs. of muscle on your frame. Who knows what comes after that. I’m thinking another 5.

Yours in health

Darryl

Hold hold the light that fixes you in time

Finding out who we really are.

You’ve been with your trainer for about 2 to 4 weeks and you’re contemplating cutting the cord. Ahh, the pain, how dare you! Ok, I will get over it. Being a personal trainer I know I’ll have clients that need me there every workout, and I know I’ll have clients that don’t. That’s fine. I’m not in the group that feel everyone needs a personal trainer every workout. So you are ready. You feel that you are ready to work out on your own. You have your schedule, your exercises and you are confident you have the technique down.

But you are a little hesitant. There are questions on your mind. Will you be able to perform as well without your trainer being there to push you? Will you remember how to do every exercise you were shown? Will you remember all the nuances?

All valid concerns.

It comes down to

I think it can be said that if you are someone who needs to be pushed, who isn’t a self motivator when it comes to exercising, you may want to rethink the decision to start out on your own without a trainer. A personal trainer plays many roles, one of them being a motivator. The motivation can come in the form that you are paying for their services so you want to get your monies worth, or your trainer knows what to say and do to get the most out of you. Probably the latter, I hope so since that should be happening.

There’s nothing wrong with this. It’s ok to have to have someone there to push you. If that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes.

The art

Technique is another area that a trainer services are invaluable. Improper technique can lead to short term or long term injury. Some people pick up proper technique fairly quickly, just like some people learn to ride  a bike fairly quickly. If you aren’t one of those people be sure you talk with your trainer. Your trainer should be able to tell you that she or he is comfortable in you doing your workouts on your own, and that your technique is satisfactory. If your trainer has concerns they should be voicing them. If you choose to ignore those concerns that could be a risky decision.

Something you can do to help you understand the proper technique for the exercises you are doing is to ask questions. Remember, you are responsible for your health and well being, not your trainer. If you aren’t asking questions when your trainer is there you are passing up a great opportunity to better understand technique. Questions such as ‘where do I keep my elbow?’, ‘should I lean forwards or backwards’, ‘what if I can do more reps when I hit the number I’m supposed to do?’. If you can’t think of anything to ask when doing the exercises, try to think of questions after the workout when you are home and can reflect on the workout. There aren’t any stupid questions, well, there is. The question that doesn’t get asked. No one is going to ask the questions for you, it’s up to you.

Move forward

So how do you know your workouts are working now that you are on your own? A journal is a great way to keep track of your progress. Keep track of weight used, number of repetitions, number of sets. If running keep track of time and distance, elevation if running on a treadmill. Also enter into your journal how you feel during and right after your workout.

When working cardio by running, biking, etc., the length of time it takes you to get your resting heart rate back is a good indicator of your fitness. If your heart rate returns to resting in around 1 minute you are doing really well.

Keeping a journal of these things will allow you to see if you are progressing, plateauing, or regressing. If you find a couple of weeks go by and you aren’t making any progress it might be the right time to call your personal trainer and talk about a reengagement.

No right or wrong

It’s alright to use a personal trainer bits at a time. A personal trainer does not have to be a year long commitment, for most of us. Understand your needs and goals and if you are meeting them than that’s great. That’s the goal, isn’t it?

Yours in health,

Darryl