Tag Archives: fit

On The Edge

merman pose

This morning, I did a hard CrossFit workout. People who dislike CrossFit always point out how form breaks down as you get tired. That seems to be the biggest detraction from this form of high-intensity exercise. Truth is, they always show a video of a beginner who is still in the process of learning proper movement patterns. Yeah, you could say maybe they shouldn’t be doing an Olympic clean & jerk in the first place. But the same could be said for a simple pushup or air squat. All of it is interconnected. What I have found is that mid-way through a workout (WOD), I find a few form glitches just because I’m trying to move faster. But as I get really tired, my form actually improves. A single 135# clean & jerk starts to look like an attempt at 245#. I get set, focus on my pulls, and focus on form. Its the only way you’ll get the weight up. So form degradation is really not happening.

This leads me to yoga. The other day, I taught a Rocket Yoga class. At the end of 5 sun salutation A’s (surya namaskar A) and 4 sun B’s, I had them jump right into a forearm stand (Pincha Mayurasana) for 10 breaths. Usually, when I have yogis do harder inversions and arm balances, I have them rest in child’s pose first. Then they can focus on form and putting strength where it needs it. But we jumped right into it.

This could be done for any technical movement. It might be a difficult yoga pose, a heavy weightlifting movement, walking a slackline, or posing on a Stand Up Paddleboard. It makes you reign in the chaos of your mind, forget the lactic acid in your muscles, and makes you focus hard on the task at hand. So, after my hard CrossFit WOD this morning, instead of laying on the floor and bragging about the sweat angel I made, maybe I should do a handstand or forearm stand. Maybe I should do a set of slow, deep squats. Or balance in Chair Pose on a Bosu Ball. Then, I’m not only training my body, I’m training my mind. It is a true test of focus.

(pictured: me in Merman pose, a man’s version of mermaid. Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)

Off the workout plateau

trap-bar

Sometimes, a new piece of equipment is just what you need to bump you out of the ditch. I’ve had my 3rd day working out with this new trap bar that I bought off of Amazon. I’ve always been curious about it, but I’ve been a purist Olympic weightlifter and CrossFit’r for the past decade and was not very interested. I’m totally sold.

I’m using this as my warm-up for every workout. I leave it at 135 pounds and will do 10-15 deadlifts and a few shrugs to warm-up. Eventually, I’ll start to put some real weight on it and work in some sets. My body is already adapting to it.

I had mentioned a few posts back how bodybuilding has made its way back into my program. I’m probably doing too much right now, but I have some mandatory “active rest days” that help a lot when I teach yoga classes. I also keep to Ashiatsu massage every 3-4 weeks.

Here is my plan:
Warmup with light rowing, ski erg, or bouncing on a mini trampoline*
Trap Bar Deadlifts for a set of 10-15 emphasizing formCrossFit WOD including the bodypart emphasis for the day – goal is not to kill myself but to get my heart cranked up really high
Olympic Weightlifting with reps/assistance work on Weds & Sat, then heavy Thurs & Sun
Bodybuilding with Chest emphasis on Weds & Sat and Back on Thurs & Sun
Grace or Tabata Interval which is 30 reps of something or 8x 20 secs work with 10 secs rest*

*I used to be a runner from age 8 to 48. I injured my calf and it virtually ended my running career, which makes me sad. I’m using the trampoline barefooted to maybe get back into the running game.
*Tabata intervals are researched as the top way to increase cardiovascular health and performance. You can do almost anything. Wallballs, med ball slams, pushups, situps, pullups, push presses with a barbell, hand stand pushups, air squats, whatever!!

My next goals for the trap bar are:

  • Farmer carries around the block
  • Plyometric jumps
  • Overhead presses
  • More bent over rows
  • Lunges (?)
  • Heavy shrugs

 

 

Oh Those Bodybuilders…

Arnold-Schwarzenegger-Physique-4

Without stereotyping myself, I’ve been into something called functional fitness for about a decade now. Actually, if you do sports, strongman, or anything that looks like training we did in the military, then you are doing functional fitness. You can pick apart the definition for functional all you want, but I’ve recently opened my mind to this more.

I love the performance based training that I do, but that kind of all-out training can be difficult to maintain without wearing yourself out both mentally and physically. In past months, I’ve adopted some of the old-school bodybuilding techniques that I was raised with. I’m really noticing tendencies and weaknesses from the training I’ve done. For instance, an incline dumbbell fly looks nothing like anything I’ve done for 10 years. You don’t have the benefit of leverage or momentum. Its just you and this crazy movement. I can feel tweaks in my shoulders where injury and weakness lie. And, I’m starting to feel that “pump” again that Arnold talked about in Pumping Iron. I’m not huge per bodybuilder standards, but I can feel that flush of blood into the muscles. It feels good…real good!

To tell you the truth, when I came to CrossFit, I was already pretty strong from bodybuilding and powerlifting. When they said to squat or deadlift, I was right there with everybody. When they said do pullups or heavy kettlebell work, I’m all over it. But when they said to do something for reps or something dynamic like box jumps or jump ropes, I wasn’t there at all. I was a top-fuel dragster that flamed out quickly. I wasn’t the stock car that was strong to a long-finish.

But what I’ve lost in finding a longer-lasting performance is the ability to strictly apply strength. I’ve lost what it meant to “feel” the muscle as it contracts. I mean, you really have to get your mind into the muscle itself. It feels really good to be in that space. And a great side effect is that my muscles are growing again.

Life is about balance. We try things, we learn, and we adapt. Find your place in life.

Be Nice to your Yoga Teacher

yoga teacher

And personal trainer too!

When I was in yoga teacher training, someone said that when you are in a yoga class, the teacher is likely the least wealthy (by money standards) in the room. This is probably true in most cases. Many yoga teachers I know are University students, small-company entrepreneurs, or some other transitional status. This is also likely the case for many personal trainers and other service professionals.

I am probably in the minority in that I have a full-time job as a scientist. But I also know this is all relative. I was teaching a class at a gym with a lot of older members and retirees. I noticed as I was walking to my 2004 Ford F150 truck a lot of BMW’s, Mercedes, and fancy Cadillac’s. So I was probably the poorest person in class that day.

Regardless of our social status, we provide a service to the community. For me, I see this service as a necessity. But in the context of worldly needs, it could be seen more of a pleasure than a need. I still see yoga as a need in that it maintains my health and mental state, of which I’d be a hot mess without it. I’d probably miss days of work from my bad back and I’d probably go a little crazy. So yeah, its a need for sure.

So be nice to your service professional. They care for you and want to see you reap the benefits of a healthy yoga practice.

Namaste!

Baby Steps to the WOD

baby steps

Mental barriers to working out are huge for most people. We are full of excuses.

  • I don’t have my clothes with me to workout
  • I’m sore. Maybe I’ll just rest today
  • I don’t have time
  • I’ll be too sore to function if I workout hard
  • I’ll just do this tomorrow instead

And these are only a few that I use myself. As a yoga teacher, I need to be able to demonstrate poses in classes I teach. If I wipe out my chest and can’t do a single chaturanga, that’s not good. So I structure workouts around that. Many of us have something that holds us back. Time seems to be the biggest hurdle.

These excuses are largely invalid. Instead of simply walking down the hall, lunge or hop down the hall. That is, if your colleagues don’t mind. Maybe do 50 squats or 30 pushups in your office or cubicle. That takes all of 1 or 2 minutes. Sit forward on your chair and lift your legs for a 1 minute hold. There really are no excuses.

I’m lucky that I have a very well-equipped CrossFit gym in my basement. I have everything from competition Olympic KG bumper plates, to Concept 2 rower and ski erg, to wall balls. There really aren’t many excuses for me NOT to workout. I could easily stroll down in my jammies or my work clothes and bust out a WOD. But why don’t I do that? Because my mind won’t let me.

So, this morning, I almost called off my workout. I teach Rocket Yoga tomorrow and thought, I really don’t want to be sore tomorrow. But you know what? I can make a WOD (workout of the day) that doesn’t affect my yoga teaching muscles too much. I was short on time, so this is what I did.

WOD 1: 5 rounds for time

  • 5 kettlebell swings 1.5 pood
  • 5 burpees

This was short and sweet and took under 5 minutes – and my heart jumped out of my skin. I rested less than 2 minutes and went to the next WOD.

WOD 2: 5 rounds for time

  • 5 pullups
  • 10 push press with 30 pound dumbbells

Again, this was nothing really. But I worked opposing muscle groups and got my heart pumping. Both of these WODs hurt. If something seems easier, then you go faster and it hurts just as much.

All together this took under 15 minutes. And I was sweating hard and was totally exhausted. But now I feel wonderful. It doesn’t take much at all. You just have to do it. Don’t even think about it. Don’t even pre-plan. Just get it into your mind that you’ll do something. And do it!!

Side Butt

bodybuilder

Wait! Before you run away. Listen to what I have to say.

Writers are inspired by what they are feeling in the “now”. And right now, I’m feeling very sore in my gluteus medius region a.k.a. the “side butt”.

One way we can divide human movement is in unilateral and multilateral movement. These aren’t exclusive of one another, but they are generalities useful for discussion.

Unilateral Movements (mostly)

  • road or track running
  • bicycling
  • most resistance lifting (Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, CrossFit, …)
  • other cardio (elliptical exerciser, rowing, …)

Multilateral movements

  • most sports (basketball, soccer, baseball, racquet sports, …)
  • trail running
  • yoga

I point these out because, for one, we may be deficient in our side butt muscles. Any time we have a deficiency, we compensate in other areas and this can lead to long-term problems and injuries. Secondly, if we do movements or sports that use side glutes, then it makes sense to strengthen them more.

There are numerous exercises that are commonly used to target the side glutes. Side leg raises either free or with cables/bands and side-wards running or bounding. These are great dynamic movements, but isometric and isotonic contraction that focuses on weight bearing may be more effective (which we do in yoga).

Yesterday, I spent a considerable amount of time in Warrior 3, dancer, side angle, and triangle poses. These are all incredible side butt poses, but the most incredible may be half moon (ardha chandrasana). Warrior 1 & 2 and many other poses target side glutes as well. I may be biased, but there is no better builder of side glute muscles than yoga.

glutes

Pictured 1) gluteus maximus (posterior view), 2) gluteus medius, 3) gluteus minimus.

Muscles 2 & 3 help abduct the femur (leg opening) from your central axis. This helps stabilize the hip joint and adds considerable stability in movement. If you do squats and your knees turn inward, these are the muscles that help keep you knees in line with your feet. Its a major weakness in many novice and women lifters. Outer hip strength helps prevent injuries like hip dislocations and even knee and ankle trauma. It can also add fullness to your appearance in jeans or even a bikini (oh my!)

I never recommend that you do one pose for a bodypart or for a specific sport. There are no quick fixes. So I always say:

All yoga is good yoga

Our bodies are interconnected. And when you do yoga, it encompasses every little muscle of your body plus breath, balance, and mind. When you do Warrior poses, think about strength as you press into your feet. This engages those side glute muscles. And spend plenty of time in half moon pose as well.

image

(yours truly doing a half-moon in the urban jungle)

Cha-cha-cha-Changes!

DSC_0020

Changes come slowly.

In the past week, I have had 3 people who told me that I looked more trim. They couldn’t put their finger on what it was, but there was something different. And it was good.

To be honest, I ate really badly a couple weeks ago so I haven’t stepped on the scale in a while. I’ve been working out harder than normal, mostly adding CrossFit back into my life to a greater extent. When I was measuring, both my body weight and my body fat were stable. But I felt very different. I felt really good. And I’ve been sore a lot, so I know I’ve been doing the work.

Sometimes there are intangibles about how we look. Sure, maybe we have restructured our physiques. But people can also see confidence, a glow to your skin, joy in your face, and walking with pride. Since my rhomboids and lats are always sore from pull-ups and Olympic weightlifting, I open my chest more and my arms spread wide. I can’t help it. But I’m sure that plays a role too.

Don’t worry if body weight or fat doesn’t change analytically. Its more about how you feel. And if you feel good, you are definitely going to look good. Do the work and be patient. The work never lies.