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!

Your Butt (And Why It’s Not Special)

Maybe when you were growing up, your mom told you that you were special and unique, and that there’s “no one else like you”. That might be true, but the same can’t be said for your butt.

Stay with me here.

Every once in a while I skim through the health/fitness board on Pinterest just to see what’s out there (it’s usually not good). Yesterday was no different. I came across a post that was tagged as being a “workout for your butt type”. I wish I were kidding.

A workout for your butt type? Really? Let’s look at this from a strictly anatomical standpoint. We all have butts. Some are flat, some are round, some are perky, and some are a bit.. um.. jiggly. No matter what “type” of butt you have, or what shape you think it is, the fact remains the same that your butt is made up of the following: your posterior pelvis covered by glute and hip musculature, all underneath layers of adipose tissue (fat) and finally your skin. There are no butt “types”, there are simply different shapes based on your proportions of each of those tissue types, and your genetics of course.  Wide set pelvis? Wider hips, and thus, wider butt. Strong, built gluteal muscles? More than likely you have a full, rounded butt. Small, weak glutes with a substantial layer of body fat? Well, that’ll run the spectrum from flat to round (with or without jiggle).

My point is, your butt is not unique. You do not have a butt-type. You do not need specific “toning” exercises that will fit your type and make your special butt look better than the girl next door. You know what will make your butt look better than the next girl (or guy)? Squats, hip thrusters, barbell glute bridges, barbell lunges, deadlifts, etc. etc. The list goes on and on, but the basic premise is this: strengthening and building your glutes using the basic compound exercises is what is going to change the look of your butt. You know what’s going to happen in the process of strengthening your glutes? You’ll lose some of that body fat that’s covering your backside (if that’s your goal). Heck, maybe you want that thing bigger than the moon. Or Nicki Minaj’s derriere.

big butts

The article that the pin linked to was just as ridiculous as you think it sounds. I’m not kidding when I say that they suggest sumo squats for “saggy” butts, prone leg circles for “double butt” (really? That’s a type? I just thought that meant your undies were too tight), curtsy lunges for “big” butts, some sort of strange jump squats for “flat” butts, and so on.

After I face palmed myself into next Tuesday, I couldn’t believe what I was reading. What made it worse though, was knowing that many women will believe articles like this when they read them. “Ooh, I’ve got a big butt! I MUST do these curtsy lunges, the internet says it will help with my big-butted problem!”  My first issue with this are the ridiculous butt types. Can’t we come up with a better adjective than big? Say, I don’t know, luxurious? And who was it that decided that a big butt is a problem that needs to be fixed? Heck, my girl Tara just facebook-bragged a couple of days ago about splitting her jeans because she has built up her glutes so much. (Go girl!!) My other issue with this is the shear hilarity of one specific body weight move helping to fix your “problematic” butt type.

Here’s what women need to understand: fitness does not need to be complicated at all. Yes, we all have different body types, limb lengths, body fat percentages, and so on, but on a basic level we’re all the same. We all have a bone structure that is the basis of the human form. We all have a very similar musculoskeletal system that moves our bones on a system of levers and pulleys, helping us to perform every day tasks. Yes, we all have very unique genetics, but those genetics don’t mean that you need to be doing plie squats or curtsy lunges while your best friend needs to be climbing stairs. Your genetics may determine how fast you build muscle mass or where on your body you hold most of your body fat, but it won’t determine which body weight exercises will be the magical cure to getting you the shape you so desperately want.

The truth is, all of this genetic detail matters very little in the overall fitness world. Use the tried and true exercises that have been around for ages (squat, deadlift, bench, row, and all of their variations). Add in some other accessory exercises to support the compound lifts. Whether your butt is flat, round, or somewhere in between, a barbell hip thrust will do you wonders. Your butt is not special, not when it comes to training. As long as you have all of the anatomical building blocks, you can build a better backside, if that’s what you really want to do. Your “type” does not determine which exercises will work. Science does. 

giraffe butt

Top 3 Reasons You Should Be Front Squatting

OMG

I’m back!

I’ve been on a slight hiatus…

from life.

Seriously, I was attacked by some virus monster and have been totally out of commission since last Thursday, when I first felt the slightest scratch in my throat. That scratch turned into a full blown monster Thursday night, leaving me feeling like death until, well, about 12 hours ago.

.

Now I’m on the upswing!

I haven’t stepped foot in the gym for 8 days now, which is really unfortunate because my lift last Wednesday was a total Beast. I finally hit 145 on my squats again for the first time since September, and it felt…dare I say it… fairly easy?!  I hadn’t felt that good on back squats in months, and I attribute it partially to resting more lately, but also adding in some serious reps on my front squats. As much as I used to hate them, the front squat can be an enormously helpful tool for improving your other compound lifts, most notably the back squat.

front squat

If you’re familiar with CrossFit, you’re definitely familiar with the front squat. 

I avoided them for a long time, mostly because if you’re not used to them, it’s awfully uncomfortable to have a heavy barbell situated on your clavicles/deltoids. And it gets even less comfortable as more and more weight is added to the bar. Although once I stopped being a huge baby and just sucked it up, I found that each time I did them, having the barbell in the front loaded position got much more comfortable. The body does adapt to repeated stresses, ya know.

So anyway, why are we talking about this? Because it’s an important lift, that’s why. And also because I don’t think I’m alone in avoiding them. So why might the front squat be a valuable lift to add into your training?

1. You will probably improve your back squat. If you’re like many people, you may lean forward a bit too much on your back squat. This is likely due to 2 things: tight hip flexors, as well an anterior abdominal wall that is weak as sh*t. If your core is not strong enough to hold you upright during your back squat, it’s going to hinder your form and limit your potential. Front squatting works your core like crazytown, which will increase your abdominal strength for future back squat sessions. Since I have started incorporating front squats into my program, my back squats have felt infinitely easier. Did I ever think of myself as having a “weak” core? HELL NO. I can plank for days. But apparently, that doesn’t count when you’ve got a barbell loaded with your bodyweight across your back.

2You will improve your core strength. Ahem. Notice I said “will”, and not “can” or “maybe”. As noted above, the front squat is a beast when it comes to strengthening the core and anterior abdominal wall. I won’t get into spinal compression here, or the dangers of spinal flexion exercises like crunches. But just know that anti-flexion and anti-rotation exercises for the core are the bees knees. The front squat just happens to be king of all of those exercises, and then some. As I said above, I can plank for days. But the first time that I front squatted with an appreciable amount of weight? My abs were SORE. I’m talking serious DOMS. And I don’t think my abs have been sore since I first learned how to snowboard, which was years ago.

3. You can’t cheat. Cheating on the back squat is easy, and many people do it. Leaning too far forward is one of the main ways that people cheat, aside from going through about 30 degrees of knee flexion and calling it a day.  With the front squat, you can’t lean forward, or you’ll lose the bar. Really. And no one wants to be that guy.  While yes, you can cheat and only go through a tiny range of motion if you really want to,  I’ve actually found that my range of motion (and the ease of getting to proper depth) on my front squats is better than my back squats. Likely because of my core issues noted above.

Before we go I just want to make sure that everyone knows I am in no way bashing the back squat. It’s one of my absolute favorite lifts, and while is an extremely important lift, especially when training for absolute strength (and why else would you train), the front squat is an excellent accessory lift. It can be a little bit humbling, as you’ll never be able to lift as much with a front squat as you can with a back squat, but as far as I’m concerned, many of those who frequent the weight room could use a little humbling now and again.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the front squat, here is a video of Molly Galbraith (who is basically my weight room hero) crushing them for 210 x 3. Watch and learn, folks.

Of course, if you’ve never done this lift before, start with a weight that you know you can handle, and be sure to use proper form in order to avoid injury.

Do you use front squatting in your lifts? Or do you avoid them like the plague like I used to? Do you find that front squats improve your back squats? What’s a lift or exercise that you used to avoid but now you love it?

Fall Goals

The past few weeks at work have been pretty hectic and crazy, but with pre-season starting up next week, I know it’s only about to get worse. For those of my readers who were/are athletes, you understand how crazy us athletic trainers get around pre-season time. And for the rest of you, well, I don’t even have words to describe it. Fall pre-season is  pretty much equivalent to getting run over by a 10-ton truck… and then getting up and getting trampled by a heard of stampeding wildabeest.

This sums it up quite nicely. Thanks Simba!

Long story short, it’s exhausting. And with exhaustion often comes lethargy, lack of motivation, negative feelings, etc. So knowing that all of that is on the very close horizon, I’m going to take a cue from Kristi over at Sweetly Fit and set myself some goals. The last thing I want to happen this fall is for me to get so busy that I forget to take care of myself, so I’m going to make sure that doesn’t happen by setting a few new goals. I’m a firm believer that goals shouldn’t be set just once a year (Hello, New Years!), but should be continuously re-evaluated, revamped, and they should always be evolving. So here are my goals for the next few months:

  • Read at least 1 book per month. And this is reading for pleasure, not reading research journals for work (although that will be done as well). Reading makes me happy, so even if I can just set aside 10-20 minutes per day, that’s some great, quiet ME time. Besides, I have a couple of book reviews on the horizon for you guys,and how can I do that if I don’t make time to actually read the books?
  • Squat 160 lbs for reps. My squats have been struggle city for the past couple of months due to a back issue I have been having, but I am determined to get to 160. I have been hovering at the 145-150 range for a while now, and I need to push past this roadblock in my training, or I might actually go a little crazy.
  • Write at least 2 blog posts per week. Throughout the summer I’ve been good with about 3 per week, but I know that that’s just not realistic every week, especially for the busy fall season. However, if I keep myself on a schedule, I know I can get two good posts for you guys per week on most weeks, and if there are a few that it just doesn’t happen, well, so be it.
  • Take (and pass) my CSCS exam! This has been a goal of mine for a while, but I finally have my sights set on a specific exam date: December 1st. Now that it’s public, I’m going to have to get my butt registered and get serious about studying!

I think that’s good for now. Having just a few specific goals will hopefully help to keep me centered and focused throughout this crazy hectic time. I’m pretty optimistic that I can accomplish all of them, and then you can all congratulate me when I’m a CSCS in December 🙂 In the meantime, don’t be surprised if I start going a little batty. Just knock some sense into me if my posts get a little too off track.

Do you set goals regularly? Do you find that it helps to keep you focused when things get a little crazy? Do you have a busy time of year at work/school or is it all pretty much the same for you?

The Best Piece of Gym Equipment You’re (Probably) Not Using

I want to take today to talk about one of my favorite pieces of equipment in the gym, and one that I don’t think gets used enough:

The Landmine

Half home-plate half machine-gun-turret… How does this thing belong in the gym?

When my gym first got one, I probably spent a good two or three months just staring at it every time I went into the weight room. What the heck do I do with that thing? I would wonder, but of course never bothered to ask anyone (why would I ever do that?). Instead, I turned to some big names in the Strength and Conditioning world, watched some videos from Tony Gentilcore and Ben Bruno, and realized all of the potential that this little piece of equipment has. And did I mention why I think that you’re probably not using it? Because in all of the time that I stared at it wondering, and in all of the many months since then, I have never seen another person in my gym using it. I swear everyone stares at it with the same questions I had, and I get a few odd looks when I’m using it sometimes as well.

Why is it one of my favorites?

  • It’s Versatile. You can incorporate the landmine into upper body days, lower body days, it’s great for core work and just gives you a little bit of a different twist on some basic exercises. Basically, it’s a jack-of-all-trades of the weight room.
  • Anyone can use it. You don’t have to be a bodybuilder to use this, and you certainly don’t have to know any fancy techniques. Basic form cues will do here, and whether you load it up with plates or just use the weight of the bar, it can be valuable for any strength level.
  • It’s excellent for supplemental work. Supplementing your compound lifts, such as squat, deadlift, etc. is essential, and this is a great tool to do just that. Even if you don’t squat/deadlift/bench on a regular basis, this is a great tool for increasing strength and stability for those at any level.
  • It’s totally badass. What?

So, what can you do with the Landmine? As I stated above, it is so versatile. It can be used for a multitude of lifts and movement patterns, so I’ll show you a few of my favorite ones that I’ve been using lately, but just know that there are many more out there!

This one is a great movement for core stability, and you’ll also get a little shoulder/upper back work in as well:

This next one I use a lot, and you can also do it from a half kneeling position for a little bit more of a challenge.

A few shoulder press variations:

This next one is a great supplemental lift for your squats, and includes a little bit of upper body work too:

I’m really loving this last one at the moment. However, my grip strength is not great in my right hand due to an injury, so I’ve been holding the bar up on the shoulder of my forward leg:

I also tend to use this a lot for single-arm bent over rows, but I couldn’t find a good video for that one. I’m sure you can imagine, but if you have any questions about form on that please ask in the comments!

And if your gym doesn’t have a Landmine specifically, that’s ok! You can still take advantage of these types of lifts. All you need is a barbell and a corner, and you’re all set. Just place one end of the barbell in the corner (so it doesn’t roll around), and you can do just about all of the exercises listed here.  Now get after it and try something new!

Do you ever use a landmine? Does your gym have one? Do you see many people using it? What are some of your favorite lifts to do with this piece of equipment?

Turning Failure Into Success

Last week was basically one big Fail.

I wasn’t sleeping well. I was continuously dehydrated (my own fault for not keeping up with my H2O intake when I get busy at work), I was craving sugar like Cray-Cray (Hello, symptoms of sleep deprivation!) and I had an Epic Fail in the weight room on Tuesday.

I went in for a heavy squat day, did my warm up sets, and then went ahead with my work sets. That’s when my body started to cry. I have been stuck at 145 for at least a month (probably more like 6 weeks by now?) but had been able to complete 3×5 at 145 for each of my last couple of heavy squat days. Last week, however, was a different story. I got to rep #3 on my first set and hit failure.

BOOM.

Ok, Not quite that bad, but you get the idea.

That was just the beginning. Once I realized that my squats were going to be totally craptastic for the day, I lowered the weight and proceeded with a lower weight, low volume leg day. It wasn’t scheduled to be a de-load week (this week was), but the way I was feeling, I knew I had to listen to my body and give myself some slack. I kept the rest of the week pretty very low volume, but still felt tired, sluggish, and unmotivated. Friday’s leg day was one that would normally be super light, even on a de-load week, but I ended up being sore from it through Sunday.

Not only was I tired, sluggish, and unmotivated, but my hamstring flared up again as well. It hasn’t gone back to 100% since I first started feeling it, but last week it got a little bit more angry than it had been lately.

My body was in fail mode. However, I wasn’t my usual moronic self who would just push through because I wasn’t “scheduled” for a de-load, and I actually listened to my screaming, pleading body. Looking back, I probably should have just stayed away from the gym totally, but hindsight is 20/20, isn’t it? And I can’t change that now anyway.

But you know what? My light week did WONDERS. I came into the gym this Monday, following a glorious 9 hours of sleep Sunday night, and hit 150×3 on my back squats. WOOP!

Moral of the story is: I was able to turn my failed lift one week into a new PR in the next. The combination of sleep, stress reduction, and general rest is a powerful thing, especially if you find yourself in a rut or having a generally sub-par workout.  After giving myself the time off that my body so clearly required, I have been sleeping much better this week, my workouts have felt much better, and I’m not the irritable B*tch who showed up towards the tail end of last week.

To this I say: Success!

*Note: I was reading an old issue of Shape magazine this morning, where Molly Sims was talking about working out for 30 days straight. It made me want to cry just thinking about it… Give your body a break, people!

Have you ever had to change your de-load week or rest days because of outside stress? Do you take de-load weeks or scheduled time off from working out? Do you notice how much stress or sleep deprivation can effect your workouts?

Happy Friday, Happy People!

A moment of self pity

I’m a generally healthy person. I eat relatively well, I spend a good amount of quality time in the gym,  and I take care of my overall health pretty well. I have a great job and my life is cruising along pretty smoothly if I do say so myself.  However, there are certain days when my overactive female brain makes me feel like this:

Take this past weekend, for example. While getting dressed for work, I put on a pair of pants and realized that they were just too tight for work. Now, instead of just accepting that   my recent holiday eating habits and 2 weeks away from the gym had resulted in this minor fitting issue, I went into some sort of rage blackout.

Self Portrait.

Before I knew it, 80% of my closet was strewn across the bed and I was 100% convinced that I owned NOTHING that I could wear to work that day. Logically speaking, I am well aware that a small fluctuation in weight (probably a pound or two)  is virtually unnoticeable to others, and also very easily corrected, usually within a week or so. (I’m also aware that I own way too many clothes, and of course I have something to wear). However, in that very moment when my extreme emotional sensitivity kicked in, my brain went through something like this:

WHY DOESNT ANYTHING FIT I HAVE NOTHING TO WEAR NOTHING EVER LOOKS GOOD ON ME WHY ARE MY LEGS SO BIG WHERE DID THIS ASS COME FROM F*&% S#%* I HATE EVERYTHING IN MY CLOSET THERE ARE NO PANTS IN THE WORLD THAT WILL EVER FIT ME AGAIN……… and on and on in this vicious self-loathing thought cycle.

Now, luckily I have a very supportive boyfriend who is able to talk me off of the self-pity ledge, but even then, it takes me a couple of days to break out of this sort of thinking once it starts.  And I know I’m not alone here. Why do we, as women, go through this? I am well aware of the multitude of things that can cause my weight to fluctuate a couple of pounds either way: hydration status, hormones, water retention, etc. I’m a health professional for crying out loud. My brain contains a multitude of reasons why my pants may have felt too tight and lots of sensible ways to correct this. Usually when this happens, I can just toss on another pair of pants and head out the door, but every once in a while, it’s like I get sucked into this negative-thought cycle for no good reason.

So what’s the point of this post? Honestly, I have no idea. I just wanted to let you all know that yes, even “healthy living” bloggers go through this type of S— too.  We’re all vulnerable to negative self-thoughts, and as much as I like to think that I have all of the answers, I definitely don’t. I don’t have some magical elixer that will instantly give me my confidence back when something like this happens. So the question is, What do You do? How do you correct your thinking when you’re having a Debbie-Downer, self-pitying, pants-not-fitting day? I need to come up with a game plan here. Maybe next time I’ll go the Stuart Smalley route:

Note: So what DID I do to make myself better? Come Monday morning, I went to the gym and had a killer heavy squat day. Because that is what these legs are for. And Yes, 3 days later, my pants fit just fine. I guess a rage blackout wasn’t needed after all.