My Life Lately

Hello, and happy Monday!

My thoughts have been a bit scattered lately, so I’m going to take this brain-frazzled opportunity to update you on the life of moi. Some big changes have happened lately, so maybe that’s why my brain feels like it’s being pulled in ten directions at once! (ouch)

1. The BIG move. Ok so it wasn’t a big big move, but Will and I did move last weekend. It was exhausting, as every move is, but the good news is that our new place is finally starting to feel like our home! We still have a few things to put away here and there, but at this point I think all of the big stuff is in place, and the smaller things are starting to fall in line. I wish I could just wave a magic wand and have everything be organized, but alas, I have no such wand.

Pros about the new place:

  • We have a great and very attentive landlord. Comforting when things go wrong (and they have!) He redid a bunch of stuff for us before we moved in, and has been continuously working with us on the little problems that have popped up.
  • We live smack dab in the middle of a pretty steep hill that’s about 1/4 mile long. Why is this a good thing? Because it means that I have to walk/bike up this hill at least once a day, which is always good for the booty ūüôā
  • My commute to work is more than cut in half. It took me 25 minutes to get to work on Friday, which is much better than the hour it took by train from my last apartment! The shorter walk to the train coupled with a faster branch of the T is what cuts the time down, and I’m not complaining about either of those! I haven’t biked in to work yet because of my walking boot but I think that’ll be an easier commute as well. Win!
  • We have this ridiculous bakery right down the street. We may or may not have gone there yesterday morning and ordered 3 different pastries and a quiche… ¬†for the two of us. Whoops!

stickybunThis is the Sweet Roll from Canto 6. Ah-mazing. Sugar heaven. 

Cons about the new place:

  • Because we live on this hill, people feel the need to fly up it for some reason. And I do mean fly. I don’t know if they’re trying to get momentum or what, but if I’m not careful, I’m going to get run over one of these days.
  • We have this ridiculous bakery right down the street…
  • I no longer live right around the corner from my beloved Harvard Stadium. Once I get out of this boot and back to running stadiums, the trip there is going to be kind of a pain (but well worth it)! ¬†I will be able to run hill repeats up this hill I live on though, and I can’t decide yet if that’s a good thing or a very very bad thing.

2. Back to work!¬†After being off for June and July, I am back at work as of August 1st. I know I can’t complain because I do get two months off during the summer every year, but those first few days back in the office are always a little tough. Last week I couldn’t get my lunches packed ahead of time, so this week hopefully I’ll be back in the swing of things a little more and get back on my work-day routine. ¬†August is typically a relatively slow time before we get crazy in September, so at least I have a couple of weeks to get back into the insanity that is my job.

3.¬†Muscles Schmuscles.¬†I realized yesterday that I’ve built some monster traps after doing chin-ups and pull-ups every single day for over a month now. I can’t remember the last time I saw my upper back in the mirror, but it didn’t look like this! Loving the progress, and this is proof that dedication and consistency will yield results!

traps

On another note, for those of you who aren’t seeking a muscular physique (whaaat?), don’t let this deter you from doing awesome things like pull ups. My upper back is the one area of my body that has always gained definition fairly easily. Every body is not the same!¬†

So, basically, I’ve been lifting a lot of heavy things, hobbling around in my boot, doing pull ups like it’s my job, doing my actual job, organizing things, and eating sugar.

Yep, sounds about right.

Tell me a pro and a con about something big going on in your life right now! Enjoy your day! 

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!

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!

4 Tips To Improve Your Pull Ups

So, you want to do more pull ups huh? Or maybe you just want to be able to do ONE. I don’t blame you, because pull ups are badass.

Not only are they badass, but they are fully functional should you ever find yourself running from a rabid dog or say… a pack of zombies. If you can’t pull yourself up and over a wall or fence, those zombies¬†dogs will get you every time.

Needless to say, not only are pull ups a great test of upper body strength, they’re also an excellent life skill. And although the ever popular kipping pull-ups from Cross Fit can be equally as functional in times of danger, what I’m talking about here are true, dead hang pull ups.

None of that “use your whole body for momentum” crap. (Sorry Cross-fitters)

I have had several readers send me questions on pull ups, and how I have been able to increase mine. The answer is really more simple than people think: Do More Pull-ups.

pullups ecard

“But how can I do more pull ups if I can’t even do one yet?” you might be asking. Last summer, I could do 2 unassisted chin ups and zero unassisted pull ups. Now I am up to 8 chin-ups and 3 ¬†conventional pull ups. The methods I used are listed below, and these are methods that can be helpful to anyone looking to increase their pull ups/chin ups. I’m still working on mine, and I still include these methods in my workouts, although I’ve had to take a slight hiatus lately because of my decreased grip. I’ll be back at it soon though, and hoping to get to 10 chin ups and 5 pull ups by the end of this summer!

Bands –¬†Resistance/Assistance bands should be your best friend, especially if you can’t do at least one pull up on your own. You can buy a heavy duty band, hook it up to a pull up bar, and you’ve got everything you really need to begin your path to pull up domination. ¬†How to use them:¬†Loop the band around a pull up bar. Put either one knee, both knees, or your feet in the band and pull away. Make sure to keep your core engaged, control any excess swinging from the band, and lift yourself in a controlled motion bringing your chest toward the bar. ¬†Variations:¬†Holding your position at various points will help your body to build strength at various points in your lift. Try holding at your top position for 1-2 seconds before lowering, making sure to really engage the lats. When to include them: Bands can be used at any time! They are a valuable tool for those who can’t yet do a pull up, but they’re also a valuable tool for those who can already do pull ups, but want to work on increasing reps, or strengthening a weak point in their lift.

IMG_1181

Here’s me doing some assisted chin-ups last summer. I have one knee through the band, as that’s most comfortable for me.¬†

Negatives:¬†Pull up negatives are devils in disguise. The idea of them sounds quite easy, but the execution is far from simple. To perform a pull up negative, jump up into your top ¬†position, hold for a second, and then lower your self very slowly¬†to the bottom dead-hang position.¬†How to use them:¬†When I say lower slowly, I’m talking anywhere from 4-8 seconds to lower all the way to your dead-hang position. The key is to keep your lats and upper back engaged without letting your shoulders creep up around your ears. This should be a very controlled motion, and when done correctly, should either leave you wimpering, nauseous, or curled up on the floor begging for mercy.¬†When to include them:¬†Negatives are great on their own or as a way to finish out a set. Try doing them on their own with 3 sets of 8 nice slow reps. Or you could do what I do, and finish out my sets to my goal rep range. For instance, it’s my goal to do sets of 8 neutral grip pull ups. When I’m at the gym, I’ll do as many unassisted neutral grip pull ups as I can, which at this point is 4. I’ll then finish out the set with 4 negatives, to end up at 8. The next set, I may only hit 3 full pull ups, so I’ll finish that set out with 5 negatives, and so on.

Repetition –¬†If there is one thing that will help you be able to do more pull ups, it’s doing more pull ups. If you want to increase your reps, you have to be doing them more than once per week. If you’re doing 3 sets of 3 once per week, it’s going to be damn near impossible to add more reps without a little magic. If you’re mixing in high reps with the bands, sets with negatives, and just plain old hopping on the bar whenever you get a chance, you better believe you’ll increase your reps! I can’t stress this enough: more reps will lead to more reps. It’s really pretty simple.

Accessory Work-¬†To be able to do more pull ups, not only do you need to up your reps, but you also need to get stronger in all of the right places. ¬†Your Lattissimus Dorsi (or Lats, or bat wings) is the prime mover in a pull-up, along with a smaller muscle called the Teres Major. You get significant help from other muscles such as biceps, triceps, trapezius, pecs, and others throughout the movement as well, depending on your hand position. ¬†Rowing motions will help to strengthen your back musculature, as well as the accessory muscles in your arms and will be the most beneficial. Including inverted rows, or “let me ups” in your programming ¬†is a great way to get yourself used to lifting your own body weight. ¬†These will also help you increase your grip strength on the barbell (which will transfer to the pull up bar).

inverted-rowInverted row. The more horizontal your body, the more challenging this exercise will be. 


Bonus Note: If you really want to increase or improve your pull ups, your first order of business needs to be buying a pull up bar. Having a bar in your house will allow you to work on your pull ups all the time, not just when you’re at the gym. Plus, when it’s staring you in the face day in and day out, it’s harder to ignore and avoid it!¬†

Now get out there and do some pull ups!  Do you have any other tips for increasing your reps on this badass lift?

When The Going Gets Tough

…The Tough Get Tougher.¬†

As I mentioned last Monday, I had a long, tough week this past week. I’m not saying this so anyone will feel bad for me, because I love my job and I know it just comes with the territory. But I just wanted to pop in quickly to let you guys know that although it was a week filled with uber long days and endless amounts of stress, I managed to still feel pretty good during most of it.

How did I do this?

  • I rode my bike to work every day except one (because it was raining and I was being a big whiny baby). Never mind that riding my bike actually cuts my commute time in half, the fact I get an automatic 10 miles of cycling in per day is a definite WIN.
  • Even though I had to be at work extra early all week and didn’t have time for the gym, I was determined to get a few good heart pumping workout sessions in. I did this by squeezing in hard work where I could, no matter how little time I had. Twice last week, I stopped at the stadium on my way to work and ran 10 stadium sprints. One other day I stopped at the outdoor fitness area along the Charles River mid-ride and did a body weight/plyo circuit. Each of these workouts took only 12-15 minutes, but they all thoroughly kicked my ass.

  • I practiced my pull ups whenever I got the chance. Even though I didn’t have time for the gym, I did have time to hop up on my pull up bar at home a few times per day. Reps are reps right? And doing 5 pull-ups is more physical activity than doing none!
  • I prepped some homemade snacks at the beginning of the week, so that I would have a little extra energy for the longer days at work. Keeping myself from getting famished in between meals was key to my sanity, and having home made snacks made me feel better about what I was fueling my body with.

  • I tried my hardest to keep up with a good sleep schedule. I didn’t get quite enough sleep every single night of the week, but I was able to get a consistent 7 hrs/night, except for one. Without enough sleep, my mood and brain power go downhill extremely fast, which is not good for me, my co-workers, and certainly not my patients!
  • I relaxed when I could and took some “Me” time every day. Yes, this meant stepping away from the blog for a few days, but I think you guys understand. I read a little each night, lounged around on the couch a little more than I should when I got home from work, and spent some much needed time with Will. Sometimes you just have to let yourself relax for a little while, you know?

So that’s how I survived my hell week at work. I’m not saying that these tips will work for everyone, but they helped me to feel healthy and energized through some very long and stressful days. I¬†know that not everyone can ride a bike to work, and certainly not everyone has access to showers at work (Trust me, if I didn’t have access to a shower, those stadium runs pre-work would make for an ugly, smelly day in the office!). But even when you simply don’t have the time for your normal workout schedule, and the last thing you want to do after a 13 hour work day is cook dinner, there are always little ways that you can help yourself. Find the things that keep you energized and add a little positivity to your day, and battling the stress gets that much easier.

Do you have any tips or tricks to get through stressful times? How do you keep yourself energized and positive when life gets in the way? How do you fit in physical activity when you don’t have time for the gym?

Good News and Bad News

Helloo!

For this post, I bring to you both good news and bad news. I’ll start off with the good news since I just can’t hold it in any longer.

Remember a few weeks ago when I wrote this post, talking about how I was stuck at 3 unasissted chin ups FOREVER, and couldn’t get past that sticking point? Well, boy oh boy, do I have some news for you.

Last Wednesday, I went into the weight room for my upper body lift, and for some reason had a crazy amount of energy. I decided to hop up on to the pull-up bar to start out, just to see what I could do. Well, to my surprise, my first pull-up felt super light, the second still easy, third was a piece of cake… Could it be? Was I going to get past my set of 3? YES! I hit 4! 4 Unassisted Neutral Grip Pullups! ¬†And to make it even sweeter, I then followed it up with 2 more sets of 3, and then a set of 2.

This was particularly awesome because up until this point, I had been able to get a set of 3, but had never been able to repeat the 3 on the following sets…I would always drop down to 2, and eventually 1. Well NOT THIS TIME baby. Sets of 4, 3, 3, and 2, and I was feeling pretty good.

Fast forward to Saturday of this past weekend. I was sitting at home getting ready to go to work, and just happened to walk by my pull-up bar. “Well, ok” I thought, and hopped up…. and 5 unassisted chin-ups later, I was dancing around my living room. Not only that, but I promptly followed it up with a second set of 5. How’s that for progress? 2 more full reps in a matter of 5 days. Can’t beat that.

Who’s excited for pullups!?

Just goes to show what a little dedication and a lot of hard work can do, because I was starting to think I’d be stuck at 3 for the rest of my life. I’ll describe how I did it in a different post, just in case any of you are trying to increase your pull-ups/chin-ups too!

And now for the bad news…

This is basically my hell week at work. Almost every day this week I’m working anywhere from 10-13 hours, which leaves little to no time for this little bloggy if I want any chance of staying sane.¬† So unless I come across anything that I just can’t wait to post, I’ll be back again next week when I’m on more of a regular schedule. I’ll be writing this week, but I don’t want to stress too much about posting at certain times, etc. Gotta take care of yourself sometimes, right?

So with that, I hope everyone has a wonderful week, and I’ll be back with some good stuff next week, I promise!

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?¬†