Life Lately: Blizzard Edition

Well hello everyone! If you’re a reader from New England, you’re probably just digging yourself out from underneath Winter Storm Juno, the blizzard that put a halt to just about everything yesterday. Boston was all but shut down which was pretty crazy. With a travel ban in effect and the subway system shut down, it was like a ghost town!

A lot of schools and businesses are still closed today because the city (and state) is really still digging out.  In fact I’m on my second snow day in a row, and I think this is the first time this has ever happened to me in my career!  Will and I spent yesterday just putzing around the house — I had my nose in the first Game of Thrones book almost all day, and he had some other projects he was working on. We also made sure to get outside and enjoy the storm as well, I find something so exciting about the anticipation of a big storm like this. We went out to shovel and took a walk around the neighborhood — although I’m not sure trudging through 2 feet of unshoveled/unplowed snow can be called a walk!

Steph Snow

Here I am with our buried Prius! 

Anyway, lets get to it.

Workouts Lately

My training sessions lately have been really awesome overall. I am finally getting my deadlift groove back! Since I wasn’t lifting for most of the fall due to injury, I took these first few weeks of January to really groove some of my big lifts, just working on movement patterns and keeping the loads relatively low. This past Monday though, I maxed out my deadlift so that I could have specific numbers to train with. If you missed it on Instagram, there was good news and bad news that came with this lift.

Steph Deadlift

The bad news? I am currently 20 lb away from my previous max of 235. The good news? I’m ONLY 20 lb away from my previous max, despite months of race training and being injured. 215 isn’t my best, but I’ll take it. I know I’ll get back to 235 in no time, and I’m really pushing for 250 lb this year. Can I do it? Only time (and the barbell) will tell!

Besides deadlifts, I haven’t really pushed my other lifts too far yet. I’ve been working a lot with push ups and pull ups for upper body, doing a lot of kettle bell work, and really just working on squat mechanics. I’ve been doing a lot of front squats, single leg work, and more dynamic metabolic work as well, and I’ve been feeling really great! I’ve also been spending a ton of time lately really just working on hip mobility, trying to totally get rid of any butt-wink before I get back to squatting near my max range.

That means I’ve spent a lot of time in the gym lately like this, which has gotten some funny looks…

hip mobility

Food Lately

Again, some of these have already been posted on Instagram, so some of you may have seen a few of these before.

Most weekends, Saturday is our date night and we try to go out to different restaurants each week. We do have a few that we’ve repeated, but with so many awesome restaurants around Boston, it’s easy to go to new places frequently. A couple weekends ago, we tried out a new asian-fusion place in Chinatown called Shojo, a hip little joint with killer cocktails and “small” shared plates. (They say small, we ordered 5 for two people and had way too much food!).

This was one of my favorites of the night — the Kimchi Fried Rice. I’d go back just to have this again!

Shojo Kimchi Rice

Last weekend, during the first snowstorm of the week, we were both craving burgers. We ended up going to one of our favorite burger places in town, Lineage in Coolidge Corner. Their burgers are simple but so, so good. And it’s one place where the bun truly adds a lot to the burger, their bread is some of the best I’ve ever had, hands down.

Lineage Burger

Last weekend also brought a trip down to the South End, where we tried out the brand new Blackbird Doughnuts and stopped into the new (gigantic) Whole Foods for lunch.

Blackbird Doughnuts

Lemon Coconut.. Yummmmm 

Whole Foods Salmon

Made to order Salmon Veggie Rice bowl from Whole Foods 

I’ve also had a few random food finds lately. I have been on a hunt for unsweetened granola, because I love having a little crunch on my yogurt in the mornings. It was proving to be impossible, at least at the stores close to us, and I can’t even find my favorite Renola at most places. I recently found this though, and it’s exactly what I was looking for. Finally, a granola that’s not a total sugar bomb!

New England Naturals Granola

New England Naturals Berry Coconut Granola 

I’ve also been looking for a tasty sauce lately that isn’t soy based. When I prep lunches for the week, a lot of times I’ll make plain pulled chicken with rice, and try to find new sauces and flavorings to switch it up so that I’m not eating the exact same thing over and over again. The trouble is, most pre-made sauces are full of sugar and many are soy based (either with soy sauce, tamari, or soybean oil). I found this gem at Whole Foods last weekend and am hooked — I even had everyone at work drooling with how good it smells!

Cindys Kitchen

Cindy’s Kitchen Roasted Yellow Bell and Serrano Pepper Sauce

Life In General Lately

Life in general is… pretty great! Will and I are planning a west coast trip for the spring, I have another trip planned with coworkers for a conference (we’re road-tripping to St. Louis!), and we have a couple weddings coming up as well. I know that the spring is going to fly by, and honestly, that’s ok with me. As much as I loved the snow this weekend, I’m looking forward to warm weather again for sure.

One major thing I’m thinking about right now is going ahead with becoming a certified Wellness Coach. It’s going to be a little bit of an investment, both with time and money, but I think it will be helpful to me both in my existing career and in my long-term future. Have any of my readers gone through the Wellcoach certification program? What did you guys think about it? I have to make the decision quickly to enter into the class that I want, so stay tuned on this front.

Advertisements

It’s A Love Hate Thing

If you’ve been reading here for any amount of time, you’ll know that I am pretty in love with most aspects of my fitness routine. I’m not one of those people who hates the gym but goes anyway because I know I “should” — I truly, honestly love working out. Most of the time.

As with anything, there are ups and downs, and things that I don’t love quite so much. There are also things about lifting/training that I down right hate, if I’m going to be totally honest. Today I thought I’d do a kind of fun post about those things about training that I love, hate, and love-to-hate. I’m not going to take complete credit for this, by the way, as I remember reading a blog post similar to this a year or two ago. But unfortunately I can’t for the life of me remember who did it, and I can’t find it.. so if it was you, give me a shout in the comments so you can get proper credit!

Love: 

  • Deadlifting. If this one wasn’t obvious, I don’t know what is. If I had to choose only one lift to do for the rest of my life, this would be it. It’s essentially a full body lift, working almost everything from your head down to your toes, and I think it’s the only lift that I actually love maxing out. Personally, sumo style works a little bit better for my build and hip structure, so that’s my favorite, but traditional and trap-bar deads are pretty high up on my list as well
  • Battle Ropes: There’s no better way to end an upper body day than with a battle-ropes-finisher. I absolutely love using them, even though they kick my ass every time. There’s just something that feels bad ass about swinging around some huge ropes, although I can’t quite figure out why.
  • Kettlebell Swings: I love KB swings because they are one of my favorite tools to combine a strength and cardio workout into one. 100 heavy KB swings in 5 minutes? You bet my ass will be on the floor, and I’ll be panting like a dog as well. As long as you’re doing them correctly and really firing those glutes to create the explosive swing movement, these are an excellent move for your entire posterior chain, which means that they are an excellent accessory move for my number one love, the deadlift. Anything that can help my DL is a-ok in my book!
  • Hill Sprints: Yes, it’s true, I really do love hill sprints. The steeper the hill, the better. I think I just really love that I can get so much work done in so little time — efficiency is a priority when the schedule gets too busy. Not to mention, hill sprints are a pretty amazing workout for your back-side too.

Hmmm… I think I see a booty theme in this “love” section.

Hate: 

  • Bench: Yup. I said it. I hate bench press. I hate it. I do it, and I do it pretty well, but it’s not a lift I enjoy. Maybe if I get a good coach and train for a powerlifting meet, I can develop some fonder feelings for this lift, but for now, it’s not ever something I look forward to. And my numbers on bench aren’t that bad, I really am not sure why I hate it so much. It might have something to do with the fact that I see progress much slower with bench than I do with squats or deadlifts, and that can certainly get frustrating. Whatever it is, bench day is probably my least favorite day in the weight room. I’m so not a bro.
  • Step Ups: I hate weighted step ups so much that I probably haven’t done them in a couple years, except for when I am forced to in a boot camp class. These are something that I have always hated — no matter how hard or easy I make the weight, I just can’t get over the tediousness of them. One set always feels like a hundred sets to me, which is why they never end up in my own programs.
  • Bulgarian Split Squats: I hate these almost as much as step ups, but unlike step-ups, I do include them in my own programming because they are such a valuable lift. So I guess I should amend this to say, I don’t hate them in their entirety, I just really hate doing them myself. Throw a barbell on my back, and it’s even worse torture, but I do try to include these in my lifts once per week because of the benefits of single leg lifts.

Love To Hate: 

  • Stadiums: Stadium runs are a special kind of beast. While I’m doing them, I hate life and everything about it. But the second I’m done, the feeling of accomplishment takes over all of that torture and pain and turns it into pride. Running stadiums is pure torture, plain and simple, but it honestly is one of my favorite workouts. I think one reason I love them so much is that they never get easy — sure, I may get faster, but never have I ever had a stadium run where I left and said “Boy, that was an easy day!”. This is quite possibly the reason that I hate them as well.
  • Burpees: I have a really strange relationship with burpees. When I’m doing them, I want to be doing anything (and I mean anything) else, but at the same time, it’s kind of fun in a sick kind of way. It’s kind of similar to my love of stadiums — for some reason burpees never get easy, no matter how fit I am, and for that, I respect them.
  • Barbell Hip Thrusts: Barbell hip thrusts actually make me angry sometimes. I’ll sit and think about how miserable they are in between sets. But they build the gluteus like nothing else, and in my opinion, strong glutes are a girls best friend. They are tough, no doubt, but it also feels pretty darn good to be able to lift some serious weight with these hips. Torture with great results? Sign me up.

Readers: What parts of your workouts or training sessions do you love? hate? love-to-hate? Does anyone else have some sort of sick love for burpees like I do? 

 

 

Lift Of The Week: Trap Bar Deadlift

As I mentioned on Friday, last Monday I maxed out on my deadlift. Last time I maxed, a couple months ago, I walked away from that lift feeling absolutely perfect. No undue soreness, no actual pain, nothing. This time, however, even though I only added 5 pounds to my previous max, I felt it immediately. I wish I had video of my max, because I’m sure something happened to my form on my final (but successful!) attempt at 230.

Steph225

This is my previous max – 225lb, about two months ago.

My mid back was extremely fatigued after that lift, leading to back spasms which were not comfortable, to say the least. I ended up modifying my training plan for the rest of the week, pushing my heavy bench day to Friday from Thursday because of this fatigue. It’s all good, and I feel great now, but it did leave me wanting something a little less stressful for this weeks deadlift session. Enter: The trap bar.

trap-bar

The trap bar is one of my favorite pieces of gym equipment, although it’s something that I see used very rarely. Although it’s an excellent training tool, it seems as though a lot of people at my gym are afraid of it. To be honest, though, it’s probably one of the things to be least scared of, because it’s a tool that actually makes lifts like deadlifts a little bit more idiot proof.

The trap bar, also called a Hex-bar, is a sometimes hexagonal, sometimes diamond shaped barbell which you stand inside, instead of behind, when you’re using it. A quick review of physics and levers shows us why the trap bar places less stress on your spine than a traditional straight bar deadlift.  Standing “inside” the bar, instead of behind it, changes the lever arm when doing movements such as deadlifting. Because the load/weight is closer to the axis of movement due to the side handles (instead of grasping the bar in front of your ankles), it places less stress on the spine, and requires a little bit less mobility and technical prowess than a traditional deadlift or squat. Basically, the load is easier to lift because it’s closer to the axis — your hips.

Not to mention, the positioning and load changes actually allow you to lift more weight with a trap bar than you generally can with a traditional, straight bar deadlift. Who doesn’t want to lift more?

This week, in order to give my back a little bit more time to rest, I’ll be replacing traditional deadlifts with the trap bar variation in today’s session. This will allow me to continue my training, while protecting myself after overdoing it last week. I can still train heavy deadlifts, but can put less stress on the muscles surrounding my spine that were so royally pissed off at me last week. Sounds like a win to me!

Things to remember when doing a trap bar deadlift:

  • Step inside the bar with feet equidistant from the front and back of the bar, a little bit wider than hip-width apart.
  • Just as in traditional deadlifting, keep your chest up, core engaged, and lats engaged — pull those scapulae into your back pockets!
  • Remember — this is still a deadlift. Most of the movement should come from a hip hinge, not from your knees coming forward. Stand with your hands by your side, and push your hips back in order to lower yourself to the handles. If the movement starts with you bending your knees and pushing them forward, you’re doing it wrong.  You can do more of a quad dominant trap bar lift by bending your knees a little bit more, but this turns it into more of a squat like movement than a deadlift/posterior chain movement. Remember what your goals are, and correct your form accordingly.
  • Use those glutes! Just like in a traditional deadlift, squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement. Thrusting your hips forward at the top of the lift without contracting your glutes will put a lot of undue (and dangerous) stress on your lumbar spine. Squeeze those glutes, and keep your hips underneath you. No air humping at the top of your lift, please!

Readers: Do you use the trap bar? What’s in your workout plan this week? 

Training Updates

….Or lack thereof.

Either way.

You may have noticed that I haven’t posted anything about heavy lifting, squatting, or deadlifting for a while now. I haven’t posted anything about training because my training has been at a complete standstill since the beginning of June.

New_York_City_GridlockYep, something like that. 

For those of you who read regularly, you may remember the goals that I set for myself back in the beginning of the year. Many of them are training related, and one of them has had to be pushed off indefinitely due to the ridiculous string of injuries I’ve had since last fall. I had set a goal of getting an assessment and program at Cressey Performance, hopefully from one of my favesies in the strength and conditioning world, Tony Gentilcore. But that was before I mangled my finger in a blender and couldn’t grip a barbell for 2 months. And that was also before I fell off an 8 foot wall and mangled my right ankle back in June.

And although I thought my training was going to be able to pick up speed again, it seems that this goal is now going to have to be pushed off even farther. Over the past few weeks as I’ve begun to ramp up my training and activity again, I realized that my ankle was just not healing and responding as well as it should have been. One would think as an athletic trainer that I’d take perfect care of my ankle and know when to hold back. The truth is, I did take great care of it, but I might have pushed it just a little too hard (I really believe that us ATs are often the worst at taking our own medical advice).

Anyway, long story short, after reviewing a recent MRI, my ortho has put me back in the walking boot for 4 weeks. 4 weeks. 

boot

Meet my new best friend. 

That means 4 weeks of no heavy lower body lifting, 4 more weeks of no stadiums, 4 more weeks of no sprints. I am going to wallow in my self pity for a little while, but then I’m going to go ahead and make some new short term training goals. I guess it’s time to beef up my bench and really focus on some of the smaller, accessory muscles in my lower body. It’s a bummer because I know my squats and deadlifts are going to take a huge hit (it will be more than 2 months without heavy lifting by the time I come out of the boot). I had been making great progress after the finger incident and now I feel like I’ll be starting back at square one.

Did you get that? That was your invitation to my pity party. Wanna join?

pity party

So anyway, I haven’t posted much about heavy lifting because I haven’t been inspired to do so as of late. And now it looks like it’ll be a little longer until I have that bar across my back again. Maybe I’ll just turn into one of those gym bros who trains chest 4 days a week and that’s it. Brah. Who needs leg days when you’ve got permanent tickets to the gun show, AM I RIGHT? 

What’s the last injury that kept you from your training goals? Who thinks I should live the rest of my life in a bubble so I can avoid these stupid injuries? (I mean, Jake Gyllenhaal made it look really fun).

That’s all for now! Happy Hump Day!

Strong For A Girl

I’m NOT Strong “for a girl

I’m just strong.

I’m strong because I can deadlift 155 pounds from the floor.

I’m strong because I can squat with 145 pounds on my back 

I’m strong because I can do 6 unassisted chin ups

5 unassisted parallel grip pull ups

and 2 unassisted traditional pull-ups

Strength.

I’m strong because I can run 19 sections of Harvard Stadium in 20:04

I’m strong because I can run all 37 sections of Harvard Stadium in 43:45

I’m strong because I get up at 5:45 am to run Harvard Stadium every Wednesday…

…in the cold, dark, rain, and potentially snow.

I’m strong because the barbell is my favorite accessory.

I’m strong because I ride my bike to work even when it’s 30 degrees (or lower) outside.

I’m strong because I gain strength from my mother, who never gave up.

strength!

I’m strong because I’m a d’Orsay woman and that’s just how we do.

I’m strong because my heart is strong, both literally and figuratively.

I’m strong because I know that I can handle whatever life throws at me.

I’m strong, even if my tears tell you otherwise.

I’m strong because if you tell me I can’t, I will. 

I’m strong because if I’m not, no one else can be strong for me.

I’m strong because I always want to Be Better

I’m not strong for a girl. 

I’m strong because I AM a girl.

strength & dignity

Why are YOU strong?

Easily Frustrated

There is almost nothing that frustrates me more than not being able to complete my workouts due to pain.

I’m not someone who has had a ton of serious injuries; I was always pretty lucky in that department. But lately I’ve had my fair share of nagging aches and pains that have been taking much longer to heal than I would like.

Recently, I’ve had more than a few frustrating moments in the gym, and it’s getting hard to just look on the bright side and think “well, next time will be better”.

My ankle is still bothering me enough to limit my lower body lifts, and a stupid lat strain that I sustained a few weeks ago has started to derail my upper body efforts as well.  At this point, as far as upper body goes, my “pushes” (bench press, push-ups, OH Press, etc) are fine, but almost anything involving a “pull” (row variations, deadlifts) is pretty darn painful. Which, for those of you who have been following along, is a perfect recipe for a shoulder injury.

lats

[Source]

Performing exclusively “pushing” motions without balancing them out with “pulling” motions , especially in the big lifts, is a disaster in the making, with me basically begging for a rotator cuff strain, shoulder impingement, or something equally as obnoxious.

SO WTF.

grumpycat

I am limited in the amount of weight I can squat because of my ankle. I can’t deadlift or row because of my lat strain, so what in the hell am I supposed to do?

Luckily, I am able to do stadium runs, which is an excellent lower body and conditioning workout. And I am riding my bike to work again, which isn’t a ton but is at least some physical activity each day. But these two things don’t make up for the weight room at all. Last week, I had a couple of sub-par lifts, trying to figure out how to work around my injuries and still get a decent workout in. Unfortunately, by doing that, I unintentionally made my lat feel a little bit worse, delaying my progress even further.  Coughing even makes me yelp now.

Oops.

This week, I think I need to sit down and do some serious planning before I hit the weight room. Even if I have to do some lighter lifts, and avoid some of my compound lifts for a week or two, it’s better to do that than to keep delaying the healing process simply due to my own stubbornness, and stupid need to “test” my injuries even though I know better. If I spend this week on some accessory work, mobility work, and conditioning, hopefully within the next couple of weeks I can get back to the compound lifts that I love.

So until I can do deadlifts without feeling like a grizzly bear is shredding my right lats, I will avoid them. And to be honest, this is essential for not just my lifting future, but for daily life as well. Lats are one of those muscles that you use in so many normal daily activities, never mind the weight room. I’ve gotten to the point where even opening doors is painful, and pushing through that won’t do me any good at all.

I guess in my old age, even though I seem to be falling apart, I’ve at least gotten a little bit smarter. Silver lining?

Ok, complainy-pants rant is over. If you made it all the way to the end of this post, I applaud you, because there really was no point to this one at all, was there? Now go enjoy your Monday!

pleasegoon

How do you work around injuries in the gym? When you’re hurt, do you tend to avoid the gym all together? What was the last injury that kept you from your usual routine?

Saving Time In The Weight Room

People often ask me how long my workouts are, and then they’re almost always surprised when I tell them that most of my gym sessions are right around 45 minutes. Sure, every once in a while I’ll go longer than that, but these days it’s pretty rare.

And I’m the strongest right now that I’ve ever been.

Yet I know of plenty of people (mostly women), who spend upwards of two hours in the gym every time they go, but they still aren’t seeing results. First of all, who has time for that? And second of all, who wants to be spending that much of their day in the gym? Not me, that’s for sure.

elliptical-fail

And lastly… when your workout lasts that long, you’re actually doing more harm to your muscles than good. Sounds counterproductive to me!

Sometimes, I cut it down even shorter if I have to. There are some times when I still want to get a decent lift in, but don’t even have time to fit in the hour it normally takes me to warm up, lift, and foam roll. Recently I had a few days like this in a row, but do you think that stopped me from hitting the weight room? HECK NO.

I came up with the following plan that worked out well, so I wanted to share it with all of you. We’ll call it the 3×5 and it went a little something like this:

Pick 3 exercises that will hit large muscle groups (in other words, no bicep curls allowed). I chose trap bar deadlifts, weighted Landmine squat and press; and standing overhead shoulder press. Weights should be relatively heavy, but manageable enough that you can move through your workout at a fairly swift pace, and hit slightly higher reps than normal. (These should not be max lifts).  To put it into perspective, I my trap-bar deadlift is generally 135-145 lb. For this, I was lifting at 115 lb to reach 10 reps at a fairly quick pace.  With these lifts, I effectively hit my posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes, calves), quads, shoulders, and a little bit of chest. Not bad for a threesome right?

The actual work done was in the form of a kind of circuit, completing 10 reps each of the DL and squat/press, and 8 reps of the shoulder press.  As little rest as possible was taken between exercises, and about 2-3 minutes of rest was taken after each set of all 3 lifts. I went through this “circuit” 5 times (hence the 3×5).

So how much time did this save me? It only took me 25-30 minutes to complete (including a good warmup, of course). Boom. Done.

The best part is that I got in a decent full body lift, while still allowing myself to get in and out of the gym quickly. This isn’t something I would recommend doing every day, because having a full, well rounded lifting program is important. But let’s face it, we don’t all have time for a full lifting program all the time. Every once in a while we need a quick, but effective workout, and fortunately that doesn’t mean you’re limited to the treadmill or other torturous forms of cardio. As an added bonus, you can get some great cardio conditioning in by doing a quick-sequenced workout like this one with little rest in between exercises. Strength and conditioning in one efficient session? Count me in.

weights

To incorporate something like this into your own routine or program, you can certainly use different exercises than I did. To make it the most efficient full body workout that I could, I chose 1 lower body lift, one combo (involving both upper and lower body), and one upper body. I would recommend a split similar to this, but feel free to get a little creative.

Just remember, you want to be doing exercises where you’ll get the most bang for your buck. I’ll repeat: NO Bicep Curls! Now get after it. And stop using your lack of time as an excuse. You’re better than that.

How do you save time in the gym when you need to? Is a lack of time a common excuse for you? Do you tend to scrap a lift all together if you don’t think you have time for your full plan?