Pull Ups Like A Boss

Remember back at the beginning of July when I told you I would be doing my Chin Ups For Days challenge? You can read more about it here, but basically I said that I would be doing the number of chin ups each day that corresponded to the date. For instance, on the first of July I had to do at least one chin up, and by the time the 31st rolled around, you guessed it, I did 31.

pull ups

My main reason for doing this was to increase my chin up capacity, since I had stalled in progress due to not really working on them at all for a while. At the beginning of the month, the most I could do in one set was 4 (I had done 6 in the past, exactly once, and it was some kind of fluke because I was never able to get that number again).

Now? I’ve hit 8 in one set multiple times. How’s that for progress in one month? My goal was to hit 8-10 consecutive chin ups by the end of the month, so I consider this a goal met.

(I did it! I did it! I did it!!! Now for that elusive 10 chin up set…)

BOOM. Meeting goals > Christmas morning. Maybe. 

Not to mention, doing chin ups every day for a month has helped me to feel stronger, have a little bit more definition in my arms, shoulders, and upper back, and basically it has made me feel like more of a badass when I can bust out a set of easy chin ups pretty much any time.

birdpullups

Just for giggles, let’s look at the past month by the numbers:

415: the number of counted chin ups completed.  I actually did a lot of extras, especially in the first half of the month. So I actually did more than 415 with all of the extras I completed, but I didn’t keep count of those. And for those of you who are math geniuses, that number is a little off of what it should have been, which is explained below.

12: The number of these that were assisted. That means I did over 400 unassisted chin ups in one month, which I think is pretty awesome! The only reason these few were assisted was because I came home late one night, realizing that I hadn’t done any that day, but was way too tired (and maybe a few glasses of wine had something to do with that), so I got them done with the resistance band giving me a little boost! Late night chin ups vs. late night food? I think I won on that one! 

3: The number of days I didn’t do any chin ups. Womp womp.  I ended up skipping the 26th, 27th and 28th for a few reasons. I was moving on the 26th and 27th, which left my arms shot, and the rest of me just completely exhausted. I think I actually did like 8 on the 26th before I gave up. The 28th was skipped because while we were at the new apartment, the pull up bar was still over at the old place with a few other odds and ends that didn’t make it in the big trip.

Next up now that my month of chin ups is over? Pull ups, baby! This will be the same plan as last month, completing pull ups corresponding to the date. These will be traditional pull ups, as these area lot harder for me than parallel grip pulls. I do not expect pull ups to be nearly as easy as chin ups were in terms of progress, and I know that I’ll have to do a lot of them assisted, especially as the days go on. Right now, I can do only 2 unassisted traditional pull ups on a good day, so my goal this time around is to hit a set of 5 by months end. 5 may be a lofty goal, but better to set your sights high, right?

If you followed along with the chin ups, or if you didn’t but are inspired to follow along with the pull ups this month, I’ll be using the hashtag #pullupsfordays to tweet about it. Join in and let me know how many you’ve done!

By The Numbers

58: The number of unassisted chin ups I’ve done since Monday. If you’re keeping track, that’s more than required by my #chinupsfordays challenge, and truth be told, I’m already feeling stronger. I went from doing two sets of 4 and a set of 3 on Tuesday, to two sets of 5, one of 4, and one of three yesterday. Progress!

And, I have yet to do one assisted chin up so far. Trying to keep my streak going… maybe I can get through the month with all full body weight chin ups? Can I really do 31 in one day? Only time will tell 😉

6: The number of bugs that flew straight into my eyeball while up at my mother’s camp in Maine this past weekend. Those little buggers must be attracted to my baby blues, because I couldn’t walk outside without a full buggy-vision assault. Gross.

5: The number of power racks in the weight room at my gym now. Going from a tiny room with 3 to a bigger room with 5 is a major win. Now maybe even if people are douchey and taking up 2 (or 3) at a time, I’ll still be able to get my lifts in as scheduled!

1: The number of times I’ve gone to the beach this summer. Blasphemy.

659: The number on Boylston St which now is home to my new favorite lunch spot: Sweetgreen. I ate there for the first time yesterday with two awesome friends of mine, and ZOMG it was so good. Blueberry Basil Lemonade on a hot and sticky day? Yes please. A massive salad filled with local ingredients? Yes again. Next time I’ll try the froyo. Seriously, if you live in Boston and haven’t been yet, go. Now.

No, like seriously, go now. 

87654987234: The number of times I look at my engagement ring per day. I mean, I know it’s obnoxious, but I can’t help it. It’s like a sickness. A sweet, sweet sickness.

2: The number of times this past weekend that we drove past a giant bull in a field that was hanging out with a tiny, white miniature horse. (On the way to the camp, and on the way home). I think they were best friends, and I wanted to hug them both. And/or take the mini horse home, but that’s besides the point.

Can’t you just picture it though? A huge bull with a tiny miniature horse by it’s side? DOES IT GET ANY CUTER? 

Zero: The amount that any of this has to do with anything relevant, especially related to health/fitness. Besides the chin ups of course.

I told you I’m bad at blogging in the summer.

Have you been to a Sweetgreen? Have you been beaching it up this summer or have you been missing out on sun and sand time like me? Have you been participating in the #chinupsfordays challenge? 

Happy Weekend everyone!

Chin Ups For Days

Literally. Chin ups for days.

What does that even mean? I’ll tell you what that means.

Every day of July, I’m going to do at least the number of chin ups for the corresponding day. For instance, on Monday, the 1st of July, I did at least one chin up. Yesterday, I did at least 2 (I actually only did 3…but it’s more than 2!) I will continue this until the very last day of the month, at which point I will be doing at least 31 chin ups in one day.

IMG_1181

31 chin ups? That’s pretty crazy right? Of course it is, and I obviously don’t expect to be doing that many unasissted. My plan is to complete as many unassisted chin ups as possible each day, and then finish out that day’s number with assisted (using my resistance band hooked onto my pull up bar). As I get to the higher numbers, I’ll break them up into small sets throughout the day most likely, but I will complete all reps, every day.

Why am I doing this?

Because I’ve totally slacked on my chin up/pull up progress over the past few months. I need to get back into it, and what better way than progressing myself towards 31 chin ups in one day? My record for unassisted chin ups is 6, although right now I’m at 4 because I’ve been slacking. My hope is that by the end of this month, I’ll be able to consistently do 8-10 unassisted chin ups in one set.

Notice also that I said at least the number of the corresponding day. If I want to do 30 chin ups tomorrow, I will (I mean, I probably won’t, but still…). As with any big lift, consistency is key. And if I want to keep building on my progress, I don’t want to slack on these first few days just because I can. I’ll most likely try to bang out at least as many unassisted ones as I can a few times throughout the day, and then settle into the actual numbers around the 10th. Or maybe sooner.

So who wants to join me? Who wants to increase their chin ups, or maybe even get their first unassisted chin up? All you need is regular access to a pull up bar (you really should have one in your house by now, silly), and a resistance band to help you along the way should you need it.

And I’ll share a little secret with you as well: August is going to be for traditional pull ups. BOOM. Talk about a challenge. 

If you accept this challenge, tweet about it! I’ll use the hashtag #chinupsfordays to tweet about my progress, and you should too!

Hooray for summer challenges!

If you need more reasons to join this challenge, here you go:

1. Being able to do unassisted chin ups makes you badass.

2. This will really come in handy during the zombie apocalypse.

3. Guys dig chicks who do chin ups. And vice versa. And chicks probably dig chicks that can do them… and guys… you know. I could keep going here. Point is, people dig other people who can do chin ups.

4. Your shoulders will look fantabulous.

5. Need I say it again? Being able to do chin ups is bad ass. You do want to be bad ass don’t you?

So go do some. And tweet about it. #chinupsfordays

Let’s Go!

Fitness Challenge Week 8: HIIT, Tabata, and Semantics

Hellooo Blogosphere!

So after a week hiatus due to my obsession with the Olympics, the fitness challenges are back. Which brings me to the question…is it week 8 or week 9? I couldn’t decide, so here we are back at week 8….It’s almost as if we’ve gone back in time. I told you guys I would give you 12 weeks of these, and 12 weeks I shall give you, damn it.

Even if no one is doing them.

As you can see by the title of today’s post, this weeks challenge is a HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workout. It was originally going to be called a Tabata workout, but then I did some extremely scientific research, and had to slow my roll a little bit.

See, I’ve used the term Tabata on here before, and honestly this type of workout has became even trendier than leggings with crop-tops (seriously…can we leave that trend far, far behind?), but what I learned through my research is that most of what the fitness world calls “Tabata” workouts, are not exactly that.

What is Tabata?

Tabata is an exercise protocol that was developed by Dr. Izumi Tabata in 1996, after he and his cronies published a study in which they  found HIIT to be more effective than steady state cardio at improving aerobic fitness.  The specifics of the study were that the intervals were 20 seconds of high intensity (170% of VO2 Max) to 10 seconds of rest, repeated for 4 minutes.

Nowadays, the fitness world is a-buzz with “Tabata” workouts, where people perform sets of squat jumps, lunge jumps, push-ups, bicep curls, barbell presses…etc. And if they’re doing it with a 20s work to 10s rest time interval, they’re calling it the T word.

This is all swell, but after reading a few articles including this one, it’s abundantly clear that the widespread use of the term Tabata is not exactly correct. Yes, people are doing 8 rounds of 20 seconds of high intensity work coupled with 10 seconds of rest, but this does not a Tabata make. A true Tabata includes that crucial component — 170% of your VO2 Max. This is a level of exertion that is near impossible to create with push-ups, burpees, squat jumps, or whatever other exercises are being used for the so-called “Tabata”.  Not to mention that this level of exertion is ridiculously difficult for the average-joe to work at, even for just 20 second intervals.

Semantics, I know, but after reading up on it I just couldn’t bring myself to call this a Tabata workout. Maybe Tabata-style? Tabata-ish? Baby Tabata?

Who’s a cute little Baby Tabata!

Hmm…Maybe we better just stick with HIIT.

So regardless of what you call it (I’ll be honest here…Baby Tabata is starting to grow on me), here is your workout for this week! You will perform each group with the 20s work/10s rest interval, and you will take 1 min of rest in between each group. The entire thing will only take 20 minutes, but if you’re working hard enough, 20 minutes will be plenty.

For those of you who are beginners, or who have not done HIIT before, I recommend starting out with just 2 groups instead of all four. Trust me, if you’re working as hard as you can, 10 minutes of this will leave you in a puddle of sweat on the floor.

Another bonus — this is a circuit that you can do with very little equipment, so if you don’t have much time, or can’t make it to the gym… No excuses!

Ready?

Burpees: Begin in a standing position. Squat down, placing hands on floor. Kick legs back to high plank position, quickly bring them back to your hands, and jump straight up. That is one.

Squat Jumps: Do a bodyweight squat, immediately  jump out of squat position and straight up. Continue without pauses between squats, keeping good form in mind.

Lunge Jumps: Lunge forward with R leg. Quickly jump up, switching legs in the air, and landing in jump position with L leg forward.

Lateral Ski Jumps: Starting on R leg, jump laterally to your left and land on L leg, with knee bent. Immediately jump off of L leg to land on R leg. Focus on height and distance of each jump, with proper landing mechanics.

Soup Stirrers: Begin in plank position with forearms on physio/stability ball and feet on floor. Keeping core tight (think of a straight line from head to heels), move arms in a steering-wheel sized circle. Move clockwise for the first set, counterclockwise for the second set, and so on.

A few notes:

If you don’t have a kettlebell, or have not been trained in proper KB swing technique, substitute Frog Jumps for this. (Begin in a squat position. Jump as high and far forward as you can, landing again in squat position. Repeat this.)

If you don’t have a physio-ball for the soup stirrers, substitute side-planks, alternating sides each time you perform that exercise. 

What exercises do you like to include in circuits? Do you do “Tabata-style” workouts? What Olympic sport have you enjoyed the most so far?

Fitness Challenge and Other Thoughts

It’s Monday!

It’s also the last week of my summer vacation.

It’s also the last day of my 20’s.

EEK.

I know. I feel the same way. 

So since I’m on the verge of a traumatic breakdown over the loss of my youth, today’s post will be a little random.

First order of business: Your Fitness Challenge for this week! Did anyone do a sprint workout last week?

Anyway, your challenge this week is inspired by a couple of things.

1) My friend Cal, who I just found out does 100 pull-ups per day(!) He mixes up the grips, and does sets of pull-ups, chin-ups, and neutral grip pull-ups, to combine for about 100 per day. This is impressive, no? Heck, I don’t even do 100 per week, ever.

2) My pull-up game has been slacking lately. I’ve gotten up to 3 unassisted chin-ups (I’ve done a set of 4 once), but I seem to have stalled there. And I know exactly the reason why: I don’t do them nearly enough. I add them into a lift probably once per week, with about  20 total interspersed throughout my workout.

We all know that practice makes perfect, and that applies to getting stronger and improving on exercises/lifts too! The more you do something (without overdoing it) the better you’ll be at something. So the fact is, I really just need to do more pullups. A whole lot more pullups. I’m trying to get to 5 unassisted chins,and 3 unassisted pullups. Reasonable, right? So my challenge to myself to kickstart this progress, and thus my challenge to all of you, is this:

If you can’t do unassisted pull-ups, that’s ok! You can do them assisted with a resistance band, with a partner, or you can even count your pull-up negatives for this challenge. (I described those in this post).

Of course it will take more than a week to increase my reps, but you’ve gotta start somewhere, right? And there’s only one way to get better at something. Do it (a lot). If you have a goal of increasing your pull-ups, or even of doing your first unassisted pull-up, I encourage you to tackle this challenge!

Random thought #1:

I’ve recently added more cardio back into my training sessions. Not long, steady state cardio, but I’ve been adding in more metabolic work at the end (Tabata sessions, intervals, bodyweight circuits, HIIT, etc.). I have been running a little bit more, trying to get out to do stadiums 1-2 times per week, and also riding a bike to the gym on most days (about 5 miles each way). For a good portion of the year, I was hardly doing any cardio and was really just focusing on increasing my strength and improving my form for my big compound lifts (back squat and deadlift). I know a lot of you out there don’t do any cardio and have great results with that, but I have realized that for me it just wasn’t working. I started out this summer a little bigger than I should have been, and since I’ve added more cardio back in, I’m seeing a lot of improvements in body composition. Just goes to show– what is best for one person may not be best for others!

I just ordered these bad boys. Woo! I’ve always been an Asics girl when it comes to running (the little bit of it that I actually do). I love my New Balance Minimus for lifting, but nothing has ever beat Asics for running in my book! 

Random thought #2:

As much as it pains me to say this, I may be staying away from back-loaded barbell lifts for a little while. (I’m shedding a tear for back squats, the love of my life). For the past several months, I’ve been having a very point specific pain over one vertebrae in my thoracic spine. After trying to ignore it for a while, I’ve finally been getting some deep soft tissue treatments on the area surrounding it for about 1.5 months now. While I do feel great improvement in general, the second I load up that bar and put it on my back, I feel that one specific point of pain. I haven’t decided for sure, but I may try avoiding back loaded lifts, increasing my upper back work, and sticking with front squats for the time being. (Blegh).  I reluctantly did front squats on Friday and miraculously had no pain without the weight of the bar across my back, so I’ll let you guys know if I actually do this, and if it helps!

I really don’t enjoy front squats. But I might just have to suck it up for a little while! 

Random thought #3: 

I’ve realized recently that I have 2 rather serious addictions. String cheese and buying sunglasses. No, they’re not related (although I wouldn’t put it past me to be eating string cheese while sunglasses shopping), but I’m starting to realize I have a problem. I guess there are worse problems to have!

That’s all the random thoughts I’ll leave you with for the moment, since I’m sure most of you don’t really care very much about my addiction to string cheese.  Who’s going to join me on the pull-up challenge? Do you do cardio or just lift? Do you front squat regularly? Does anyone else share my strange addictions? 

Fitness Challenge Week 6: Sprint!

Since I gave you an easy week last week with the lunges, this week I’m cranking it up a notch and giving  you a sprint workout that will probably make you want to slap me.

Source

Why sprinting?

Well, for starters, because I like it. Second of all, for all of you steady-state-cardioers out there, adding in 1-2 sprint and/or HIIT workouts each week will really help you to kick your fat-loss into gear. *Note: I am not suggesting that interval/sprint training is the end-all, be-all of cardio. I really believe, based on research that I have read, that both types of cardio have a place in a training program. But if all you do is steady state, adding in some sprints or intervals could really help increase your results, when paired with a balanced training program and nutritional plan.

And although it’s not the only thing you should be doing, sprinting is a valuable tool in a training program, be it for fat loss, strength, or energy-use efficiency. If you lift weights (which most of you do), adding sprints to your program can help with your body’s ability to power through the end of those tough sessions in the weight room. Sprints will also help your body to burn more calories post-exercise, and who doesn’t want that?

So without further ado, here is your workout:

As it says above, you’ll need to set up cones, or some sort of markers, at 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50 yards. Or better yet, you could use an already lined football field!

This picture is actually perfect, because you won’t need a full 100 yard space, only 50 yards. This is because each sprint (besides the 10 yard ones) will be done with a cut and turn at the mid-point. Why? Adding in the cuts gives this workout a little more difficulty… and for any current athletes that are reading, makes this a more functional workout.

This workout wont take you very long, but it’s tough! I would not perform this on a day of, before, or directly following a heavy leg day in the weight room.  And if you are very new to working out, or have never ran/done sprints before, I would do a very modified version of this. Try starting out with half the reps of each distance and see how you do. I would even omit the full 100 yd sprints if this is your first time doing a workout like this.  And if you are advanced, I would add 1-2 reps of each distance after the 20s. As always, safety needs to come first! If you have a pre-existing injury or feel pain/shortness of breath/dizziness, please discontinue the workout and consult with a medical professional.

Now get out there, get motivated, and get going!!

yes yes yes.

Do you do sprint workouts usually? How often do you incorporate sprints or HIIT into your training?

Summer Fitness Challenge: Week 5

Hello, and I hope everyone had a weekend as excellent as mine was! More on that later this week. For now, let’s get into your challenge.

This week’s fitness challenge is not really a “challenge” exactly, but a little experiment I want us all to do. I recently read a blog post somewhere but I honestly have no idea where.(I’m really sorry. I know I keep doing this and I really need to start writing these things down). However, the author of this blog (who is a personal trainer) said that he has all of his clients perform a series of light, bodyweight exercises immediately upon waking. They do this not as a workout, but to sort of “wake up” and activate the central nervous system. What I got from this blog post was that he believed that this would help to activate the healthy movement patterns that we use both in our workouts and in our normal daily lives, in order to encourage those movement patterns from the get-go.

Give your CNS a little Wake Up Call 

So what I’m doing this week is just a little spin on this idea and taking it to a really basic place. I’m really not asking you guys to do a lot this week. This is more of an experiment… and also a little break before I kick your butt with a killer sprint workout next week.

Your challenge for Week # 5 is:

For those of you who aren’t familiar, a reverse lunge is exactly what it sounds like — you are stepping back into a lunge instead of stepping forward. Start standing on both feet. Step back with right leg and bend until your right knee is barely touching the floor, and left leg is at a 90 degree angle. Step back far enough so that you can have both legs in a good position without your front knee coming out over your toes. Push off your right toes, activate your left glutes, and return to start position. Switch legs and repeat. (Complete 20 each leg)

This is a “good” lunge. You can see some pictures of “bad” lunges for reference below. And on another note, you probably won’t be outside. But Hey… if you DO wake up outside, I’m not judging you, I swear. 

 Key points to remember when doing these lunges (especially when completing them first thing in the morning:

  • Catch your balance at the bottom and top of the pose before progressing. If you’re wobbling around at the bottom of your lunge, chances are you’re not going to get into a true good lunge position, and you also risk injuring yourself.
  • Take your time! Rushing through these with poor form will completely defeat the purpose.
  • Make sure to keep your trunk/torso elevated; avoid leaning too far forward.
This is TOO far forward. Engage your core and sit up straight, just like your mother taught you. (It was actually really difficult for me to lunge like this…We had to take several pictures before I was actually leaning enough to notice it, and this isn’t even that bad)
Another no-no. The lean is a little better in this one (but I felt like I was leaning for days!), but my feet are not far enough apart, which is giving me bad angles at my knees. 
  • Make sure that your front knee always faces forward; do not let it “cave in” towards your midline.
Ignore the stank face and notice the horrible knee posture. This is the BIG no-no: Letting your knee cave like this is a recipe for disaster and injury. 
  • If you absolutely can’t do a lunge without your front knee caving in, chances are you’ve got a lot of work to do on your gluteus medius and other hip abductors/stabilizers! (That’s a whole other post in itself… and will probably be coming soon).
  • No, this is NOT your workout for the day. Don’t skip your normally scheduled workout because I asked you to do 2 minutes of lunges in the morning. Think of it as a supplement; instead of asking you to take a fish oil pill every day, I’m asking you to do lunges. Simple as that.

The second part of your challenge is very simple. Take a moment each day to notice how you feel. Do you hate me the first day, but then find them getting easier each day? Does doing this help you to wake up a little bit quicker? Do you feel more energy throughout the morning when you do this? Does it give you more motivation for your workout later?

I’m not even sure how I feel about this yet. I might hate it, I might love it and do it forever. Who knows if you don’t try, right? It might make a difference in my day, it might not. All I know is, when I step out of bed and stand at the stove like a zombie, stirring my oatmeal, I feel like crap. Maybe giving myself a little kickstart and a little blood-flow boost will make me feel way better?

Let me know how you do! Send me an email sometime this week (or several if you please) at itrainthereforeieat@gmail.com, and give me your thoughts on this.  Now lunge away… and as always… Enjoy!