Tag Archives: pushup

Sometimes it Sucks

I had a rough week. Following a fun-filled week of stay-actioning with some friends who were visiting from upstate New York, it was hard to get back into any routine, but I had particular trouble getting back into the swing of making fitness a priority.

I’m not sure why all good habits are easy to break and, it seems, that bad habits are easy to pick up, but after seven days of stuffing my face with malasadas and sitting on my duff in a beach chair, I didn’t want to go back to a life of being diligent about eating healthy and making exercise a priority.

Doing what I do best, sitting on my butt, enjoying a beer at the Kaneohe sandbar. Can you blame me for not wanting to come back?

On Monday, I dragged myself to a CrossFit class after work and slogged through the WOD. The coach was someone I didn’t know (and I didn’t happen to catch her name), but, as she explained the WOD to us, she recommended that if we weren’t all that good at double unders (jumping rope and having the rope pass under you twice each jump), we should spend about 90 seconds of each round working on double unders and then move on whether we had reached the prescribed goal or not. The goal was a descending ladder of 150 double unders the first round, 100 the second round, and 50 the final round. After I accomplished about 5 double unders and succeeded in whipping myself in the butt and shins with the jump rope several times, the coach stopped by my area and told me that I should probably just do single jumps. It was a humbling moment, but I filed it away under “things to practice at home” and happily did my single jumps.

I awoke on Tuesday sore and tired; a week of being sedentary followed by a tough workout really whipped my butt (literally- that damn jump rope!), and it took me all week to recover. Tuesday’s workout was a short, solo run, and Wednesday and Thursday were more CrossFit classes where I put in wimpy, lackluster performances. Friday was a blissful day off, Saturday more CrossFit, and yesterday Don and I ran about 8 miles before we dragged our chairs to the beach and enjoyed an afternoon of sitting in the sun, doing many reps of beer-can-to-mouth curls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday’s workouts left me with more things to practice at home: pistol squats and wall walks. A pistol squat is where you squat one-legged, like a bird, with whichever leg you aren’t using extended in front of you. Ideally you begin from a standing position, squat all the way down on one-leg, and then rise to a standing position again. On one leg. Go ahead and try it, I’ll hold your beer.

Wall walks were something completely new to me and seem like the precursor to a hand stand (which seems like the precursor to a hand stand pushup; I don’t like the direction this is headed). You start with your feet against a wall and your chest to the floor almost like you’re in a pushup position (or, if like me you don’t do pushups very often, it’s the position you find yourself in when your dog rolls his ball under the couch and you have to retrieve it), and then you walk your feet up the wall and walk your hands toward the wall until, ideally, your nose touches the wall and you are upside down. I didn’t get that far, or, I guess I should say, I did not get that CLOSE. My nose was probably still about 1.5 to 2 feet away from the wall before my arms got shaky and I got nervous about having my butt and legs at a higher elevation than my head. Progress, like most things about me, is slow, I guess.

After my relaxing afternoon on the beach, I made sure to hit the hay a little early last night because I think, along with not eating super healthfully, that part of what was bringing me down and turning me into a slow little weakling last week was that I was just plain tired. Too much fun will do that to you once you reach your 30’s. It seems to have helped; I felt more solid in tonight’s pre-dinner CrossFit class and wasn’t excused from attempting any of the movements.

I learned another new thing at tonight’s class: the Tempo Press. At first I thought that the tempo press was right up my alley because you take about 3-5 seconds to raise a barbell above your head and I’m really slow at everything, but after a few reps, my shoulders were screaming. It’s a good thing I went to the evening class instead of the morning one because my arms are useless now- I’ve typed this entire blog post with my nose; It seems like tonight might bring another early bedtime for me.

Perfecting those beer curls. Good form is important!

 

Ouchie.

Its baaaaack!

Cue the JAWS theme because yesterday I revisited my old friend the ‘Tough Mudder’ workout, and this workout is a blood-thirsty monster. I mean it.

After a bit of fitness leisure time following the Hibiscus Half Marathon (which went totally fine, by the way, I ended up being only about 30 seconds slower than the Hapalua in April) that involved a little travel to the Northeast for a wedding and a lot of beer-drinking and s’mores-eating, I was feeling like I needed to kick things into high gear fitness-wise.

While I was visiting the Shire Vermont, I managed to sneak in a couple of short but lovely runs in the cool New England air, but after a couple of weeks of indulging and several long plane rides, I was feeling a little sluggish and out of shape. Begrudgingly, I accepted the fact that only a hardcore workout would shake things up for me.

In case you have forgotten (and how could you? This workout visits me in my nightmares!) The ‘Tough Mudder” workout consists of doing a variety of painful things an insufferable amount of times over and over again. No, seriously, that is about all you need to know about this workout.

I first became acquainted with this bad boy a couple of years ago when I was participating in a fitness Boot Camp, and it is a point of pride for me that I can actually do it. Well, could actually do it; since I’m a little weak and flabby at the moment, I modified yesterday’s workout so that I could live through it.

I shortened the workout to 8 rounds and split them in half to make this one workout into two shorter workouts. Which exercises did I forgo, you ask? The triceps pushups because, lets be real here, one kind of pushup in a day is one kind too many, and the dips because there is never anywhere convenient to do dips near the cardio equipment. I also swapped the running for ellipticizing since I was planning on going running today.

So, my workout started with 10 squat jumps, then as each round continued I added 10 pushups, 10 burpees, and 10 mountain climbers. Then I swapped to round 2 and started with 10 split jumps, adding flutter kicks, twists, and tuck jumps with each round. By the time I was finished, sweat was dripping into my eyes and I was in full-blown tomato face mode. I slept quite well last night.

Tonight I went for a slow three mile run. My butt and quads complained the entire time and I ran my slowest three miles since the marathon, but I expected that after yesterday. My next goal is to complete the entire workout from start to finish again!

Bosu Buddy

Moving is an absolutely terrible experience, but Don and I finally arrived in Oahu about a week ago.

Now that the frantic flailing at the airports to get the cat & dog on the planes with us, and the waiting in endless lines for passport control as the clock ticks closer to boarding time, and the struggle to fit ourselves, our luggage, and two kennels on airport/hotel shuttles is over and the four of us are snuggled into our room at a motel where we will live until we find housing (advice to anyone considering a move to Hawaii- don’t get a dog that will weigh more than 20 lbs when fully grown!), I finally have time to resume some facsimile of my workout routine.

Sky

The island of Oahu is a beautiful, tropical place. The air is perfumed with the fragrance of flowers that I can’t yet identify, the ocean is visible from the highway, and the Polynesian sun is bright… and hot. Good lord, it is so HOT here! I have to take Jack for a walk immediately after breakfast before the pavement has time to heat up and scorch his little doggie paws, and I melt into a puddle of sweat after sitting in the sun for only a short time. I know I shouldn’t be surprised at the heat, but arriving into full-blown Summer after coming from the cool German Spring was a shock to my system. I had imagined I would do a lot of running to stay fit while we settled into island life, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to brave the heat yet. Luckily our hotel is equipped with a gym.

As far as gyms go, this one is very small and outfitted sparsely. There are two treadmills, one elliptical, one stationary bike, a couple of exercise balls, a set of dumbbells, and one of those weird do-all exercise machines that nobody really knows how to use. I was Bosu downdisappointed to discover, on my first trip to the fitness room, that both of the 15 and 20 pound dumbbells are missing from the set, so there aren’t many options for weight training for me. Because of this, I was delighted to discover a Bosu ball leaning in a corner of the gym.

For those who are not familiar with the Bosu and all of the wonderful things it offers, it is basically half of an exercise ball that has a hard plastic platform on the flat side. The rounded portion is inflated and has a little give, and is strong enough to support your bodyweight. You can incorporate the Bosu into your workout pretty much any way you see fit (and safe). The great thing about the Bosu is that when you use it with ‘traditional’ exercise moves (for example I’ve been Bosuusing mine for push-ups and squats) it makes them more challenging because along with the effort of the original move, you are also using your core muscles for stability.

 

As I said, I’ve been using the Bosu to pump up the effort required for push-ups and squats. For both exercises, I turn the Bosu ball-side down. When doing a push-up, I grip the platform by its little indented hand-grippy thingies, do my push ups and the ball wobbles from side to side as I struggle to maintain my balance. For the squats, I stand on the flat platform and do my squats on top of the Bosu while trying to maintain my balance- a word of caution, be careful getting on and off the Bosu!  This has helped me use my own body weight and the Bosu upchallenge of maintaining stability on something that is intended to be unstable to keep my muscles strong along with the exercise I’m getting from the cardio equipment. I’ve seen the Bosu used with other exercises, so you can get creative and see if one will help you step up your workout!

Since the gym is usually absolutely empty and the hotel has free wifi, I have been contemplating bringing my computer with me and letting Jessica Smith school me in at-home working out. Earlier today, I found this squat challenge from Refinery29, and I think I’ll give it a go with my Bosu buddy. In the meantime, does anybody have any recommendations for sunscreens they absolutely love?

Life's a beach.
Life’s a beach.

Simply having a wonderful Christmas time!

Dresden Striezelmarkt at night
Dresden Striezelmarkt at night

I know I’m not alone in this sentiment; I LOVE CHRISTMAS TIME! The lights, the boxes wrapped in shiny paper, the tinsel, the music (played ad nauseam in every store, but a good kind of nausea), the parties, the hot drinks, the cookies and candies… the holidays are the BEST… except that all of the rollicking festive cheer can sometimes hijack our schedules and, even with good intentions, we are sometimes forced to let our workouts slide.

Twice this week I found myself standing in line at the Post Office watching my gym time tick away while I waited to mail packages (TICK, there go the barbell 21s, TOCK, and there go the cable rows). As frustrating as it can be to have to forego planned workouts and improvise, it is still much better than not doing a workout at all especially at this time of year when it seems like the only fruits close at hand are made of marzipan and the only veggies being offered are the garnishes next to the baked brie.

On the days when I was really crunched for time this week, I made sure to do my (stress-relieving!) cardio first, and then fit in whatever weightlifting I had time for after, and on the days when I was ahead of schedule, I made myself do a full-fledged, ball-busting workout.

It's beginning to look a lot like…calories.
It’s beginning to look a lot like…calories.

Sticking to a healthy diet is the hardest at this time of year, especially in Bavaria where everything is bobbing in butter sauce or dusted with powdered sugar. At a dinner event last week, our table was discussing the inevitable weight gain that accompanies a move to Europe (almost thirty pounds in total for me!) and one man, who has lived here for a while,  says he calls it the ‘European Squishy’ which I found quite funny. In effort to avoid returning to my ‘Squishy’ state, I feel like I’m coming out ahead if I pass on a few treats and make it to the gym at least four days a week.

If the holidays are hampering your gym schedule, there are some at-home ways to get your workout in. Jumping rope is great cardio, and a jump rope is cheap and easy to store. I spotted this (painful sounding) strength workout posted on the bulletin board at my gym: 10 pushups, 10 jumping jacks, 10 lunges, 9 pushups, 9 jumping jacks, 9 lunges, 8 pushups. 8 jumping jacks, 8 lunges…all the way down to one of each exercise; this is something that can be done anywhere (even at the in-laws’ house if you are on the road for the holidays). Crunches, sit-ups, mountain climbers, squats, burpees, and long jumps (or jumps of any kind) are other things we can do without needing a gym or equipment, and, if your holidays are feeling a little too National Lampoon, going out for an afternoon jog is a fantastic excuse to snag some alone time! So even when you feel like working out is futile in the face of all the holiday goodies, remember that every little bit you do now will help you be healthier no matter what. Something is ALWAYS better than nothing when it comes to your health.

Sometimes, Ignorance is Bliss

I now know what a burpee is.

It is not, as I previously thought, a cutesy way to describe a belch (“Oh, excuse me! I just burpeed!). It is, in fact, a particularly puzzling exercise that can only have been thought up by a Fitness Freak (who am I kidding?  All exercises were thought up by Fitness Freaks!). There are a couple of things that are puzzling about this maneuver; one being who can execute this exercise without worrying their arms are going to give out and, in one instant, years of orthodontic work will be undone as their face smashes into the floor? That was a big concern for me when I attempted to burpee (can burpee be a verb?), but what is most puzzling is how in the world does anyone do a burpee well?

I am not a very coordinated person, and this probably is easier if you are coordinated, but this exercise seems to defy physics. If you do not have the misfortune of knowing what a burpee is,  it is a combination of a pushup and a jump. I know what you are thinking, you are thinking that there is no WAY a pushup and a jump can be combined, and you are thinking this because you are a rational human being who understands the physical limitations of the human body. Unfortunately, someone, maybe as a joke or a dare, decided to fall from a standing position onto their hands, kick out their legs behind them, do a pushup, and pop back up into standing position again. It’s pretty hard to do when you have gravity and your level of tiredness working against you.

Thirty burpees was the assigned amount to do on Day 59, Chest & Shoulders day. I got through ten of the them before I felt I was in serious danger of losing my front teeth, and then I finished the last two sets as plain ‘ole pushups. The best thing about the burpee is that it makes pushups feel comforting and almost easy by comparison. If I had to rank them, burpee would now come in as my least favorite exercise and pushups my second least favorite.

What is my all-time favorite exercise? I’m so glad you asked! The hands-down BEST exercise is a yoga position that I call ‘Starfish out of Water.’ For this exercise, you simply lie flat on your back with your legs and arms flung about you and your chest heaves up and down as you gasp for breath. I composed this exercise myself and I demonstrate it daily (usually when I’ve had enough of the active rests) in hopes that it will catch on as the newest craze.

Week Nine is super-intense, and I am very proud of myself for making it through. I had to step out of my comfort zone quite a bit this week, most notably on the day I could not fit a morning workout in and had to go to the gym after work. This unfortunate circumstance happened on Day 2 of Week Nine which was the looooongest workout of the week and the first workout that required running on the treadmill.

Not only is it difficult to find ANY motivation at 6:30pm when it is dark outside and I should be home eating dinner, but the gym is quite busy at that time. I was overwhelmed when I walked into the fitness center and felt the burst of hot, sweaty air. It seems that 6:30 at night is prime time for the muscle-bound 18-22 year olds to hit the gym. And I mean MUSCLE BOUND- guys with rock-hard C-cups and tendons that looked like Rebar bulging out of their necks. At one point, I had to ask a guy to return my barbell because he snatched it while my back was turned assuming nobody was using it because there wasn’t any weight on it. These dudes were serious about their weightlifting and that helped motivate me quite a bit; maybe I couldn’t add any weight to my barbell, but I gave 100% effort in every single one of my sets and I rocked those active rests. In hindsight, my Monday night workout was the best of the week. The biggest upside to being at the gym with the entire cast of WWF wrestling is that I was the daintiest person on the treadmill. I looked like a graceful little goat prancing along in a sea of bulldogs.

After the high-impact routines featured in Week Nine, I was thankful for my rest day yesterday, and I used my time away from the gym to invest in the coming weeks by treating myself to a pair of new sneakers! Today I began Week 10 and my feet were feeling fantastic in my shoes. Make sure you are rewarding yourself for all of the good work you are doing, whether it be a new pair of workout pants (most likely in a smaller size!), a sweet treat, or even just five minutes of ‘Starfish out of Water’ on the gym floor.

My new sneaks!
Life is good in my new sneaks!

Interrupted

As this ‘experiment’ in exercising began, I looked ahead on the calendar to see when I would be finished with my self-inflicted torture and was pleased to see that a wedding I have been looking forward to would fall in the later weeks of the program (surely I’ll be looking damn fine by then!), and also disappointed to note that I would have an unavoidable two-week interruption when I would not be able to go to the gym AT ALL. Not once.

My first thought was to wait and start the program after the interruption, but then I said to myself, “Self, if you don’t get yourself to the gym and start this program tomorrow, you will most likely NEVER start this program.” And it’s true. I know myself pretty well; I don’t do the at-home video game or dvd workouts because If there is a couch in the room I will sit on it and not do the work out, I don’t go to the gym after work because I’m tired and hungry and will usually talk myself out of my sneakers and into my pajamas in under thirty minutes, and I don’t wait to start a project that I find unpleasant because if I put it off once, I will continue to make up reasons for putting it off indefinitely. So, I started the LiveFit program knowing that I would get through the first four weeks and then have to pause while my family visited for two weeks. Not an unpleasant interruption, but an interruption just the same.

As the program started to build, I began to feel  more strong and confident. I could lift more weight (even the push-ups became almost easy!) and I understood the exercises better. It was like I had cracked some foreign code when I began to look around the gym and recognize what the various machines were for. My proudest moment was when I worked out with two of my FFFs and they admitted that the exercises were kind of tough. The program was helping me make progress, and that is one of the most important factors in an exercise program; if you don’t see or feel progress, its easy to get discouraged and give up.

By recording each day in a little notebook that I can take around the gym with me, I was able to see that I could lift ten pounds more in week four than I could during week one and that I could do ALL of my push-ups the ‘real’ way and not the ‘girl’ way. Progress is a fantastic feeling and by the end of week four, I was flying pretty high.

And then I took two weeks off……….

and ate food like this………   Knoedel

and the only exercise I got, was walking around in places like this…………

Alps

Thankfully, most of the sights worth seeing in and around Germany are situated on top of a hill and the walking I did could counteract the delicious beers and knödels I consumed. The break from the gym was worth the time I got to spend with my family, and I had a very fun vacation with them.

Knowing that I had a hiatus on the horizon, I was able to form a plan of action in advance. I stopped the program at week four, and week five was pivotal because that is when cardio is added into the daily workouts. Wanting to be fully prepared for week five, I decided to repeat weeks three and four to build my strength back up. It didn’t seem fair to ask my body to condition itself, then sit idle, and then work hard without any further conditioning. I have turned this into a fourteen week program, and after my first time back at the gym this morning, I am thanking myself for having such foresight.

Today was an unimpressive workout; my legs felt shaky and my core muscles weak. It is disappointing, but not surprising, and I’m not letting that bother me, because the real prize is that I WENT BACK TO THE GYM! It would have been so easy for me to blow it off (I’m busy catching up after my vacation, its too cold and dark to get up early to walk the dog before the gym, I missed two weeks so why bother finishing now…), but I didn’t. It might not have been pretty and it definitely wasn’t easy, but I hauled my ass to the gym and I did my thing.

So now, you try. Get out there and do your thing. Maybe you like to swim or maybe your thing is Prancercise? Whatever it is, do it!