Category Archives: pain

How to Rejoin the Exercising World

So recently my friend Kira tweeted this at me: Hey, have you ever written about tips for getting back into exercise (or start) when you haven’t been doing any? And I realized that, nope! I haven’t! So let’s discuss!

Now, a little background here: Kira and I have been friends since freshman year at the University of Michigan where we were thrown together in a tiny little dorm room in Bursley Hall.  Subsequently, we also ended up in the same a cappella group and the same sorority, so we realized we were going to be in this friendship for the long haul.  Anyway, while I was very much a gym devotee, Kira was not.  Don’t get me wrong, she liked to move and be active, but I don’t think she ever felt that compulsion to go sweat for 2 hours in the campus rec center every single day (plus, having a normal relationship with food along with good genes, she probably felt she didn’t need to), which isn’t necessarily such a bad thing.  But now she does want to hit the gym a little more, and I think this is a great thing.

I want you to work hard, but I don't want you to feel like death every time you finish at the gym.

I think as a lot of us are getting older (read: we’re actual adults with lives that don’t involve weekends full of beer and just a few classes to deal with), we’re realizing the importance of a regular workout routine.  And when we haven’t had one in a while — or never had one — it’s important to have a plan for getting into it.  So, here are a few guidelines for starting or getting back into regular exercise.

1) Pick something you like, or even LOVE. You all know that there are certain fitness philosophies I subscribe to, and one is that you need to sweat, and the other is that you need to do strength AND cardio.  But with all of the options out there now, there are plenty of enjoyable and creative ways to do all of these things.  Hate running?  Don’t do it! If something is more painful than enjoyable for you, then you’re going to do it approximately twice and give up on exercise altogether. So try out a lot of things, and figure out which one gets you huffing and puffing with a smile on your face!  If you detest pounding the pavement, then try a dance class or hit the pool.  Can’t stand the weight machines at the gym?  Then hire a trainer who will make it fun (or at least distract you by chatting with you while they make you squat) or take a class in which you will tell the instructor you are a newbie or just restarting a program, and plunk yourself down in the front row so that he or she can keep an eye on your form.  Whatever gets you moving and fits the three requirements (sweating, cardio, and strength) is an awesome place to start!

2) Ease your way into it. As much as you want to dive right into a 5-day-a week routine, DON’T.  I’m not saying don’t try to be active as much as you can, but think about your current level of fitness.  How long has it been since you exercised last?  What were you doing before, if anything? How does your body respond to change?  What are your goals? Is your body ready for intense workouts?  If it’s been years since you’ve exercised, and you were never really that athletic before, your body probably isn’t ready for 5-mile runs Monday through Friday. Be realistic. If you aren’t, you’ll either hate what you’re doing or you’ll be incredibly sore for days or you’ll actually injure yourself and end up sidelined for a while (read: you’ll be taking another break from exercise before you even get into your routine).  Honestly, when you’re first starting out, don’t even exercise every day! (What? Is she crazy!?) Here’s an example: I recently started running again after a little summer love affair with my bike.  I know that in the past I was able to run 6 miles no problem, but now?  Not so much.  So I devised a little plan for myself to get back into running.  I only run 3 days per week (some days only 2 miles, others about 4), and do other cardio or strength on the rest of the days.  I’ll build up from this schedule.  Whenever I’ve tried to jump right back into it previously, I’ve had ankle and stress fracture issues flare up again, and I had to stop running.  As much as I might be mentally ready to do 6 milers, I know that I’m not there physically.  And that’s OK.  I will be soon, but not if I keep pushing myself on the miles and days I run and get injured again.   **NOTE: You will probably be sore after starting up again, but don’t mistake this for a pulled muscle or another injury and just stop exercising.  Learn to know the difference.

3) Take your schedule into account. I know, I know.  I should be telling you that you should always make time for exercise.  And you really should.  But I realize that when starting a new workout regimen, it can all be a little overwhelming.  Just like I don’t want you to throw your body into a new, super rigorous routine without any preparation, I don’t want you to jump into it without considering your LIFE. Maybe 90-minute boot camps every day aren’t really going to work with your 12-hour work days.  But maybe a quick half hour on the spin bike every other day and one or two days of 20-minute strength routines on your lunch hour is something you can make time for.  (Also, see #2.  Don’t throw yourself into something intense like a 90-min bootcamp that quickly!)  Get used to your beginner routine and how it works with the time you have first, and then ramp it up from there.  Baby steps are the way to go here, and I bet that once you make a little time, you find ways to make even more to keep progressing.

4) Hire a trainer. Yes, I’m a little biased because I am one, but I’ve also been a client, and I know how much this helped me.  I also know that trainers are expensive, but if you have the means, hire one for just a session or two (or longer if you really have the means!).  What you’ll learn will help you so much in creating and sticking to a plan.  They can make sure you know proper form for strength moves and they can give you tips on how to commit to a workout routine.  Plus, making an appointment with someone almost guarantees that you’ll get your exercise in for the day!

I’m sure I could go on and on about how to start or get back into working out, but I want to hear from you!  How did you get yourself (back) into a routine?  Any tips for those who have no idea where to start? Spill!

Gym Pet Peeve #1

So you know those things that people do at the gym that just drive you CRAZY? Well, seeing how I work in a gym allll day, I’ve got quite a few, which I plan on sharing with you periodically. Here’s the first one on my looong list:
Toothpastefordinner.com always tells the truth. 
 

 

The Siderail Treadmill Sprinter: This is most often the person who has never run ever and has decided to start recently, but doesn’t want everyone to know about his beginner status. So he cranks up the treadmill speed to as fast as (usually faster than) he can go, and sprints as hard as he can (clomping noisily as he tries not to slip off the back of the belt) for about 30 seconds. Then he hops off to the sides and hangs out there panting for the next minute and a half while the empty treadmill belt rotates. I usually want to tap these people on the shoulder and ask them if they know that the distance and calories the display reads don’t actually count if they only run a quarter of the time they’re hanging out on the machine. Lucky for everyone, thus far I’ve refrained.

 

I do want to say something about this as a trainer, though. It’s great to push yourself — it really is. My job wouldn’t exist if people didn’t want to challenge their bodies. However, you simply cannot force something that isn’t there if you want to get the results you’re looking for. You have to know what you are capable of right now and work with that. If you’re lifting, start with what you can do for 10-15 reps, not 3 (unless you’re looking to be a power lifter perhaps?). If you’re doing cardio, do it intensely, but not so intensely that 10 minutes is all you can handle. You won’t reap the benefits of exercise if you do it this way.  And you’ll just push so hard that you’ll burn out in… oh, 30 seconds.

 

Have you seen these sprint-stomp-stop exercisers at your gym?  Are you one of them? (Be honest!) And what are some of YOUR gym pet peeves?

Are Eating Disorders Contagious?

Lately at work, everyone has been sick! We all have colds right now, and it probably doesn’t help that we all hang out with each other for 14 hours at a time on very little sleep at a super germy gym. We’re totally passing it back and forth to one another.

At the same time, a lot of us here are working towards certain fitness goals and training for sports or competitions, especially with summer coming up. Being trainers, we’re all pretty committed to it, but I’m starting to get a little hyperaware of what I’m doing, how much I’m training, and what I’m eating. While I like the discipline I’m getting back, I’m also getting a little nervous about how much I’m starting to think about my training and my diet. Because the guys are constantly talking about their food and calories and how much weight they need to cut and how if they don’t puke they aren’t working out hard enough, I’ve caught myself thinking about these same things. A lot.

The thing is, I really don’t want to. Yes, I want to be healthy and make conscious choices about my food and workouts, but I don’t want it to escalate to obsession. Because I’ve been there before, and I have no desire to let being a certain weight or size completely run my life again. In college, I was so focused on keeping my weight down (at a weight that was far too low for me, in fact), that I planned out every little thing I put in my mouth (planning isn’t bad, but the level to which I did it was ridiculous), and I ended up putting so much stress on my body with exercise that my period stopped.

So I think you can understand why getting anywhere near that territory again scares me. Before, I was influenced by other people too. All of my friends being fixated on their weight and food put in my head that I should be too. I sort of ‘caught’ disordered eating habits from the women around me (and maybe society as a whole, but that’s another post). Here it’s a bunch of guys with “athletic goals,” so no one says they have eating disorders. They admire each others’ commitment, even though sometimes it clearly is disordered behavior.

Before, when I lived with all girls in the dorms and in the sorority house, it was actually a similar situation. We talked about food and calories allll the time, and girls were always giving each other tips or asking questions on how to cut calories and fill up on the smallest amount. The girls that could eat the least seemed to have a whole lot of self control and received praise, but I think we all knew it wasn’t healthy. I happened to be one of those girls for most of college. I ate “super healthy” all the time – which actually meant that I stayed away from sweets, loaded up on veggies to stay full, and ate the least amount of calories possible while running every day. But there was also a backlash from that, with my house mom telling me I looked a little too skinny and someone starting a rumor that I didn’t eat dinner at the house some nights because I didn’t want people knowing how little I actually ate (for the record, I had to work during the little half hour window they gave us for dinner at the house.)  Anyway, at one point I was living on 700-1000 calories a day (unless I drank, then it was just a little more – that’s what we call “drunkorexia,” folks), running 6-7 miles daily, and lifting a few times a week. I’m shocked I never passed out, honestly. Anyway, I convinced myself that I was just really disciplined, when in fact, I was really obsessed and had major control issues.

I do want to keep up this discipline and renewed commitment to feeling like an athlete again, but I don’t want to drive myself crazy with it as I did in the past. I already caught a cold from the guys I work with, but I’d like to avoid catching anything more serious.

What do you all think? Can you ‘catch’ an eating disorder or disordered eating from someone else? Or do you think some people are actually predisposed to EDs? Do other people influence your food and exercise choices? I really want to know how you feel about this topic, so spill!

Friday’s Quick Tip: Stretching

Clearly, I love Jane Fonda.
As the week comes to close and all of you weekend warriors start planning your lengthier workouts or sports for Saturday and Sunday, consider when you stretch.  Because you DO stretch, right?
I‘m going to assume that you do stretch and give you something to work on this weekend.  One of the most important things to remember is to never stretch without warming up first.  Even if you are one of those people who has stretched before working out for her entire life, I’m telling you now: get those muscles warm first!  If you don’t, your stretching could actually do more harm than good.  When you pull and push those muscles before getting the blood flowing, you run the risk of majorly injuring yourself.  Think about it this way: Stretching cold muscles is equivalent to yanking on a frozen rubber band.  The elasticity just isn’t there, but you’re trying to force it.  Personally, I have no desire to feel anything snap.    
So make sure you get moving before you loosen up!  You really can actually hold off on stretching until after the entire workout is done, but if you must stretch at the beginning of your workout, get at least a five-minute warmup in first.  Run, bike, have a dance party — doesn’t matter as long as you move it!  
I personally love stretching! What about you? After you’ve warmed up, what are YOUR favorite stretches?

Resolution Check-in!

Hey all! I know I said I didn’t make New Year’s resolutions, but I did make some year-long objectives which I’m working on via monthly goals. So I thought I’d let everyone know how those goals are going, and you can let me know how your resolutions or monthly goals are coming along too! (Here’s a refresher on my January goals.)

1) Get more sleep: Hmmm… so the goal was to get seven hours at least five nights per week. That hasn’t exactly been happening. However, I’ve been getting better about it! Weekends I’m obviously still getting plenty, and six hours during the week has been a lot more common than the five I was looking at before. I could still improve here, but I must say that I’ve been a lot less tired, my skin has looked better, and I’m pushing a lot harder in workouts. I’m going to start getting myself on a more consistent sleep cycle (especially since I’m getting a LOT more morning clients, so these seven hours are going to be key!)

2) Sit somewhere different on the bus: I wanted to do this so I could change my point of view in more than just a figurative way. This one has actually been harder than any of the others, which seems so silly to me. I don’t know why, but I’m practically drawn to the back of the bus! Maybe it’s because I was never a cool enough kid to sit there in grade school, so I have to live out that dream as a 24-year-old woman. Whatever. Still working on it!

3) Strength train twice per week: Yes! I’ve got this one! I’ve been working out almost everyday with my fitness director at the gym, so that makes it a little easier to get motivated to do it. When the lunch rush dies down and 2pm rolls around, I hear, “You have five minutes to get changed. Let’s go.” Which may sound kind of bossy (well, I guess he is my boss), but I totally need that push sometimes. It’s not like I don’t have a choice, but I kind of feel like I’m back in high school and I’m getting ready for practice, so I really like that. Plus, I’m following his workout plan, so it’s tough! I’m starting to feel like a real athlete again, and it’s making me a bit more ambitious. Like, ‘maybe I should sign up for the Chicago Triathlon’ ambitious.

4) Write and post at least once per week: Mission accomplished! I’ve been taking every opportunity and free moment to write, and I have this renewed passion that I am loving. Expect to see some big changes happening on the blog soon!

Overall, I’d say two (and a half…ish) out of four ain’t bad! Did you make goals for this month or for the year as a whole? How are they going? If not, are you thinking about making some? Let me know!

Male or Female Trainers – Who Would You Rather Have Train YOU?

Have I ever made anyone cry like Marshall did on “How I Met Your Mother?” Not yet :-)

This is a question I have to ask a lot of potential clients. Every new member at our gym gets a free personal training session, and when setting up these appointments, I often ask, “Do you prefer a male or female trainer?” Now, a lot of people will say they don’t care either because they really don’t or because they’re afraid of offending me with their answer. But I often wonder, who do people really want training them? And what’s the reasoning?

Personally, I have only had male trainers. You would think feminist me would be all about having a female trainer, but I just wasn’t. Mostly because guys were the ones who approached me, but also because that’s what I asked for when it came time to actually buy training. It’s not that I don’t think a female trainer could kick my ass, because I know from my own training that this simply isn’t true. In fact, I’ve nearly made guys puke during my workouts before (so there!). But honestly, I think my choice stemmed from my own insecurities. The female trainers at the gym by my apartment all seemed so girly and just teeny. Thanks to being a sorostitute for three years, I was worried that they would all be sizing me up while we trained, as women often do with one another (catty bitches, right?). So I went with guy trainers because I didn’t care about being sweaty and gross in front of them. They can judge me all they want, but they can’t really compare my body to their own, so I don’t really care.

Other women feel the total opposite. My friend Kate said that she wanted a female trainer at first because of her insecurities. When she started with a male trainer, she said she always tried to “get dressed” to go to the gym, but then she learned it was more about the sweat and the hard work, and stopped caring what she looked like while she was working toward her goal. And I’ve talked to a lot of women who feel this way. They don’t mind dripping and panting in front of other women, but working out with a male trainer makes them nervous. I’ve also heard that women like working out with other women because they can relate. Duh, I didn’t even think of this one, even though most of my female clients talk to me about their lives every single day. I get it that stress does a number on you and your goals. I get it that we can’t drop five pounds as easily as the guys. I get it that sometimes you need a little chocolate and that there are certain days when you will be crankier than others. I get it.

With guys, the situation can be a little different. Boys are gross to begin with (if there are any male readers, feel free to defend yourselves in the comments section), so I doubt they worry too much about sweating a lot during their workouts. However, some men are a little iffy about sweating that much in front of cute girls who are telling them what to do. I’ve even heard from one or two male gym members that they’re worried that if a woman trainer is touching them (for instructional purposes, obvi) and ordering them around like a drill sergeant that they’ll “get turned on.” (I had no idea how to react to that comment.) Anyway, some guys choose male trainers because those are simply things they don’t want to fret over.

The issue of competence is something else entirely. I think, at times, both men and women think that female trainers won’t be as tough or can’t possibly know what they’re doing. I’m going to be biased for a second and tell you that, we do, in fact, know our stuff. We had to get certified just like the guy trainers, and we do just as much strength training as they do. Just because we can’t lift as much as some guys, this does not mean that we can’t put you through the workout of your life. [Girl Power rant over.] Some guys will say they want a guy because they don’t think a girl will be able to help them bulk up. Other male clients will say they wouldn’t mind a female trainer because they don’t mind if someone a little prettier watches them sweat, and they feel like they might even work a little hard to impress their trainers.

In the end, there’s no general answer across the board. I guess it all depends on personal preferences, and it might not even be gender-based, but actually just whether or not your personalities mesh.

What do YOU think? Would you rather hire a female or male trainer? Why? Does it matter to you, or you just need to make sure you have a trainer with whom you get along and who motivates you the right way? Spill!

Bad Reception

So… confession. Lately I haven’t been perfectly tuned in to what my body needs or how I’m feeling. I’ve been so busy and so tired that I’ve been less than diligent about my health. My workouts have not been completely consistent and my eating hasn’t been anywhere near what it should be. I know that keeping up a routine always improves the way I feel, but I’ve been slipping lately. My food hasn’t been completely whole and healthy (packing enough healthy food for a 14-hour day at the gym is hard!), and I’m working on a teeny budget. And I haven’t been doing what I need to do to keep my sanity. I haven’t been writing and reading as much, so I’ve felt a little less creative (and a little dumber! I won’t lie). Plus, my knees have been killing me for some reason, so the running mileage has decreased and the lower body strength training has been almost null. On a positive note, I have taken up swimming again in lieu of pounding the pavement (or the treadmill), and it’s been a really good change of pace.
Anyway, I guess it’s time to refresh and find the right station again so I can keep tuning into my health. I need to set a good example as a trainer, and most importantly, I just need to feel good!

First Day of Work!

Hi! Can’t make this a long one because I need to get to bed, but today was my first day working at the gym, and I loved it! It’s going to be hard work, and it’s SO different from what I’m used to (goodbyeeeee, corporate America), but once I get the hang of it, I know it’ll be what I was searching for.
Anyway, quick tip from today: If you have a job that requires you to be on your feet allll day, work that core! Strengthening your back and abs will make standing for 10 hours at a time totally bearable. Which is something I need to do myself, since stretching my back when I got home at 9pm tonight almost made me cry.

The Pro in Procrastination

Yesterday I put off working out for a little bit. Like, until 7pm. And the gym closes at 8.

So what’s a girl to do when she needs to cram in a good workout in less than an hour? Crank up the intensity, baby! Which is exactly what I did.

Luckily, I can see the gym from my apartment window, so a) it’s super close and b) I no longer have an excuse to skip it. Ever. Anyway, I was in by 7:10 and ready to go. I decided to do circuits with little to no rest in order to make it more difficult. Honestly, because it was so quick, I was worried that I hadn’t worked hard enough, but this morning I woke up pretty sore! Mission accomplished. Overall this workout took me about 35 minutes, and I was able to hit every muscle group:

Bis, tris, chest

3×15 bicep curls, standing on Bosu ball (multitasking, work that core!)
3×15 pushups, pushing off of flat side of Bosu (working on stability again!)
3×15 triceps kickbacks

Legs

3×15 leg press machine (love this one because I can lift as much as some guys at the gym, ha!)
3×15 seated leg curls
3×10 (on both legs) lunges

Back (lats) and shoulders (delts)

3×15 bent-over rows
3×10 front raises
3×10 lateral raises

Core

2×25 situps on Bosu (can you tell I love this thing yet?)
2×25 Russian twists, holding dumbbell
(was going to throw a plank or two in there, but I was running out of time!)

After that I finished up with an easy 25-minute run outside (which was supposed to be speed work, but the previously stress-fractured shins were saying, ‘not tonight, honey.’), and I was feeling pretty good. Plus I got some practice in for making up full-body workouts on the spot, which totally builds my confidence as a trainer. Anyway, the point is that sometimes we work better under pressure, even in exercise, and can get in just as good of a workout in one hour as we can in two!

Together Again

So listen guys, Running and I may have gotten back together. I know, I know. It was a short break. But I thought about it a lot. And we are going to take things slow this time. Not dive into it like last time and tell ourselves that 6 to 8 miles at a fast clip every single day is good for us.
Running and I have talked about it, and we’re going to keep things casual for a while. I think I’m still going to do other activities, and we’ll just spend a little time together every week. It will be kind of like when you break up with your boyfriend but miss him terribly because you know you can be so good together, so you decide that you guys will still talk sometimes and just meet up for coffee and maybe dinner, until you have it all figured out. Keep it friendly and without commitment, you know? (I need to stop comparing running to boyfriends and actually start dating, I think, because this is getting ridiculous.)
But instead of coffee (which I miss terribly right now because I am trying to give it up for a whole week!), we are doing short jogs a few times per week. Wednesday I did 20 minutes on the treadmill, and today I did 23. This weekend, if I’m really feeling it, I might take Running out for a spin by the lake. But an easy spin. I’m running when I feel like it and not forcing myself to do it when my shins are screaming or I’m drained after a long day at work. Because I believe that with Running, as with any other good relationship, my heart should actually be in it.
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