Tag Archives: strength training

Workouts I Love/Hate

It’s downright balmy here in DC today, which I could not be happier about. I have been over winter since February, so I’m thrilled to see warm weather finally making an appearance (my toes are also finally making an appearance… three cheers for sandals!). When I showed up at the gym to warm up this morning, I saw my trainer was already outside in the courtyard with a client. I was stoked to have my first outdoor session!

Today’s workout featured something that was new-to-me… BATTLE ROPES.

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These are definitely a lot harder than I thought they were, especially when combined with all the other upper body work we did this morning. I was BEAT by the end of our session.

During / after my workout, I was thinking about different exercises that I love or hate. I don’t know about you, but I make myself do the exercises I hate the most because I figure that must mean I need to work on them! That approach might not work for everyone, but I get really motivated to works towards conquering a move that I find difficult. I came up with the following lists.

LOVE

  • Burpees
  • ALL plyometrics
  • Kettlebell Swings
  • Push Ups
  • Planks
  • Sit ups or Oblique Twists

HATE

  • Plank ups – my trainer LOVES these but I think they’re SUPER hard. By the end my abs AND chest are burning! 

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  • Step Ups – It’s not that I really mind these but I feel like they take FOREVER (probably because I have to do each side individually). Sometimes I get scared stepping down that I’ll roll my ankle or something!

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  • Leg lowers (or ANY ab exercise where I have to move my legs up and down together) – my abs are pretty strong but my hip flexors are one of my biggest weaknesses. I can bust out a bunch of ab exercises but throw in some movement the requires my hip flexors and I’m toasted.

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  • Close Grip Pull Ups – My trainer loves to throw these in at the end of an upper body workout, when I’m totally wiped. These are the only exercise where I reach a point of actual muscle failure. He has to be there to spot me lest I plummet to the ground. Some day I will master you pull ups!

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Questions for You Guys:

  • Ever used battle ropes before? What did you think?
  • What exercises are your favorite / least favorite?
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Fitness Tour of New York City

This weekend I had the distinct pleasure of making a trip up to New York City to visit my many friends who live there. We all went to college in DC, so I thought we’d all hang here after graduation. WRONG. I am the sole DC survivor. But that’s ok 🙂 It just gives me more excuses to travel! I grew up in New Jersey so I went into Manhattan often. However, I’ve gotten a much different appreciation for the city just going to hang out with friends, instead of going for some special event.

I love working out when I travel because it gives me an opportunity to experience different things. I wrote this post forever ago about working out on vacation if you’re interested. You might also remember that I participated in the Run to Recover in Central Park after Hurricane Sandy. This trip I decided to try out some of the classes I’ve been salivating over reading NYC fitness blogs (including Losing Weight in the City and A Healthy, Happier Bear). Here’s what I thought:

Uplift Studios

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Saturday morning my bff Sarah and I teamed up and went to the 9:30 am Uplift Strength class at Uplift Studios. This is a women only facility, so we left Mike reading a newspaper in Starbucks. I think he was very happy to not be dragged to a class with me. Here’s what you need to know – if you live in NYC and you are a lady (though I noticed on their website they do have boys night) GET TO UPLIFT IMMEDIATELY. They offered a “first timers” discount of $16 which was amazing. We arrived early because Sarah was on the wait list and the women working at the studio could NOT have been nicer or more accommodating. They got Sarah into the class, which made me a very happy girl. They also provided water bottles, towels, coffee, snacks, phone chargers, locker room products, everything! This is a full service facility.

As far as the workout, I think I might still be sore. We had Michelle as our instructor and she gave one HELL of a class. She was super high energy and provided a superbly efficient workout. We worked each muscle group to fatigue but only performed each individual exercise once. I loved that! Every exercise I could say to myself, you never have to do this again so PUSH IT. Mixed into the class were three rounds of high intensity cardio tabatas (Here’s info on tabatas if you’re not familiar… they rock). I love mixing high intensity cardio in with strength because it makes my heart pump and my whole body pour sweat. I ❤ sweating. The very small class size was ideal for correcting form and not feeling “lost in the crowd”. Also, the music rocked.

Final summation: I will be going back to  Uplift every single time I go to NYC. Besides being ridiculous accommodating on every level, the workout was top notch. In the words of Liz Lemon, “I want to go to there”

Soul Cycle

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In the interest of full disclosure, I was a little skeptical going to Soul Cycle. People who attend classes there are SO in love and obsessed with it, I was certain there was no way it was going to live up to the hype. I also was a little shocked by the $34 / class price tag, but I went ahead and signed up for Emma’s 10 am class on Sunday at the E 83rd Street studio. My first impression upon walking in was, “woah, this is a pretty intimidating environment.” However, after I checked in, I felt much more at ease because they guy working there was SUPER nice. He gave me a pair of shoes and directed me to the locker room to drop my stuff. Then began my completely humiliating attempt to figure out how to work their super high tech lockers. I couldn’t figure out which ones were taken or how to work them. Finally, someone helped me. I basically need a babysitter whenever I leave the house.

When I got into the room, I was shocked by how close together the bikes were. I taught Spinning for 5 years and this was new to me! Mercifully, I reserved a bike in the back so I clipped in a prayed to God I didn’t die. Well let me just tell you… this class left me with NO doubt about why people love this so much. At first I was a little thrown off by all the moving around and syncing up as a whole group, but once I got the hang of it I was totally feeding off the energy in the room. It was a dark, sweaty mess in there and I loved EVERY minute of it. Emma was nuts in the  best way possible, dancing all over the place. It was basically a dance party on a bike. I also loved the little strength training part, which we never did when I taught Spinning. It was just something different and I dug it.

Final Summation: Soul Cycle will give you one hell of a workout but it’s going to cost you. If you want to treat yourself though, this class ROCKS. It definitely made me want to check out other cycling facilities in DC too!

Questions for you guys:

– Ever been to Uplift or Soul Cycle? What did you think?

– Do you workout on vacation? Why / Why not? 

The Spring of Speed

My identity as a runner is not rooted in speed. I have been perfectly happy as a solid middle of the pack runner and get my kicks from distance not time. However, last spring I noticed that I was getting a little bit speedier from not really trying at all. I think I was just getting better at running and training for the marathon, so I was naturally get a little faster. Mike is a speed lover. He loves to push himself to meet new time goals and do track workouts. He pointed out that if I was getting faster without trying, maybe I was more capable of speed if I actually did put some effort towards it. Since my distance game has been off recently (you can read mournful posts here and here), I have officially decided to deem this… THE SPRING OF SPEED!

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Some commonly accepted ways to improve speed are:

  • Run consistently – this means both during the week (3 – 6 days of running) and throughout the year (don’t “stop running” or get completely out of shape)
  • Include speed and hill workouts – Speed workouts are typically slightly shorter and more intense effort than mid-distance or long runs. Some examples of good speed workouts here, here, and here. Hills can mean just including more hills in your running routes or doing specific hill workouts. Some examples of hill workouts here and here.
  • Strengthen your legs and core – I don’t think this requires a lot of explanation. Read more here and here.
  • Do more plyometrics / sprints – I love plyometrics (I’ve talked about this before) and “jump” training is definitely associated with improved speed. Same with sprints! Read more here and here.

 Here’s what I’m doing to get faster:

  • Four runs per week. Monday is short, hard speed work. Wednesday is slightly longer, moderately hard effort. Friday is easy. Saturday is long run. 
  • Lady Ripped. I’m hoping that in my quest to get lady ripped and heal my knee injury, I’ll also get faster! I’ve been doing 100 x more strength training in the last month than I have like… ever. Hopefully I’m on the right track.
  • Boot Camp style workouts. I’ve been attending a bunch of different classes and incorporating boot camp style circuits with plyo into my solo workouts.
  • Actually racing 10Ks and 5Ks. Right now I’m signed up for one 10K and a couple 5Ks this spring. I normally never sign up for these distances and focus more on distance. I really want to improve at these shorter distances so I’ve gotta race them!
  • Hills. I incorporate hills into pretty much all of my outdoor runs (I don’t live in a particularly flat area) but I’ve never done a proper hill workout. I want to give one a try sometime and see how I do.

Questions for you guys:

  • What kinds of fitness goals are you working towards this spring?
  • Have you ever worked on improving your speed? How did you do it?

DIY Bootcamp

It’s a snow day here in DC! But unfortunately the computer has ruined the snow day for us adults because when the Federal Government closes, I still have to work from home! But it was nice to make pancakes for breakfast at home, work in my PJs all morning, and be able to take a break for cool adult tasks like clipping Fig’s nails (After two attempts, several bites, and a couple tears we managed to get all but one nail clipped. I’m going back for that nail later). Unfortunately, that also meant that my bootcamp class was cancelled this AM! Super bummer. I still wanted to do a bootcamp style workout mixed with a little speed work on the treadmill so I decided to come up with my own bootcamp and share it with you guys!

This workout follows the basic idea of bootcamp (strength moves mixed with high intensity cardio). Each “set” should take 15 minutes. I did it 3 times for a 45 minute workout, but you can definitely do it once or twice to modify the time. You should be breathing hard by the end of this one… get ready to sweat! Enjoy 🙂

45minBootcampCircuit

Some references below for a few of the exercises mentioned above. Feel free to ask questions in the comments!

Jumping Lunges

Skater Jumps

Tap Up on Box

Bicep Curl / Military Press Combo

Fitness Class Review – Boot Camp

As you may recall, I recently tried a new yoga studio and then did a little review on the blog. Well yesterday, I went to my very first group fitness class at my new gym. I wasn’t sure at first if I should write a review, mostly out of my own insecurities. I was like, “well what do I know??” and “who’s going to care what I have to say??” or worse “what if I get a ton of hate comments about a review??” But then I sat up and I said, Hey Christina, you were a group fitness instructor for 6 years, a personal trainer for 4, you have a degree in health science, and if were worried about getting hate comments, why are you writing a blog?? As with EVERY review I do, I only do it in a spirit of constructive feedback. If I absolutely hate a place or class, I just wouldn’t mention it on the blog. I try to write reviews on the blog that I feel like will be legitimately helpful to consumers and to the “management” (of the gym, race, studio… whatever). Ok… here we go!

I am absolutely loving working with my trainer… even though he absolutely annihilated my legs in our first session! However, a great group fitness class is still one of my favorite things. I was a regular group fitness junkie during my college years. I usually taught 5 times a week, so basically group fitness was my life. I don’t do it with the same frequency anymore, but I do love to try new classes! This morning I tried the 6 am Boot Camp class at Fitness First Arlington. On top of Fitness First being ridiculously affordable… group fitness classes are all included! Sweet. They are really popular though (have tried twice to get into a spinning class… no cigar). Luckily, the 6 am start time made it not too crowded 🙂

So I walked into the room and noticed the instructor was busy getting her music set up. I know how that was when I was an instructor (I liked a little time to get set up before answering questions or saying hello) so I didn’t want to bother her. I was also feeling a little shy and nervous so clearly I picked a spot in the back. There weren’t too many others in the room but I noticed the guy next to me had a mat. I didn’t know what I needed so I just went into the back and grabbed one. Well other people started coming in and saw us with mats and starting getting them too. Then the instructor turned around and looked kinda confused and said “Oh, you guys don’t need mats” hahaha and then I died a little inside. Clearly this wasn’t a big deal to anyone but me, but I was super embarrassed that I helped start this erroneous mat trend. I was like, damn I better bring it in this class to make up for this.

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I thought the instructor was great, but I was hoping she would ask if anyone was new. I know I should’ve just gone up and told her I was new, but I was being shy and silly. I ended up being able to manage just fine, but I was confused about what equipment I needed (turns out in this class you do the warm up and THEN get your equipment). I totally understand that it was 6 am and no one was particularly chatty, but standing in the room before class started was a little awkward. Once things got going, the attitude definitely changed though… phew!

Class started with a warm up to get our hearts pumping, which I definitely appreciated! With a 6 am start time, I definitely rolled in at 5:53 am. Not a lot of of time to do my own warm up. The warm up was done to aerobics music which was a fun throw back for me. I was pleased to see I could still keep a 32 count in my head! The class broke down into 30 seconds strength, 1 minute cardio, repeat 2X for each muscle group. I wrote a post awhile back about a bootcamp style class I was going to at my old gym, but this is definitely my favorite way to do strength training. I liked the repetition of exercises because it made me feel much more fatigued. Since each strength move focused on one part of the body, I felt like I could really work that part to exhaustion. (My old class was somewhat all over the place, you never knew what was coming next so it was hard to judge if you should blow it up on a move or leave a little in the tank for later).

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The 45 minute class FLEW by and I really appreciated how the instructor worked her way around the room checking form instead of doing her own workout the whole time. It was helpful (and much safer!). I was dripping sweat and definitely breathing heavy at the end of each circuit… got a really good workout! This morning I was even a little sore in my chest (from doing “negative push ups“… I did one round full push ups and then switched to negatives which were actually REALLY hard) and my calves from all the plyometrics we did. I definitely needed heavier weights for a couple of the moves… that was my fault though. I always get nervous committing to higher weights. I need to just man up and go for it!

Questions for you guys:

– What do you look for in a group fitness instructor?? – I know I want a tough workout but someone who won’t call me out in front of the whole class. That’s my biggest pet peeve! I was super glad this girl didn’t do that. She came around and made a quiet comment to me about my form, which was helpful and I appreciated!

– Have you ever done bootcamp before? What did you think? Do you incorporate this style into your on-you-own workouts?

Living Room Circuit Workout

As much as I love getting lady ripped in the gym… sometimes I need to be able to work out on the go. Running is such an easy go to exercise while traveling because I don’t need to bring anything with me but my sneakers! Wouldn’t it be great if strength training were the same way? I spent some time thinking about it and came up with the below “living room circuit workout”. This workout gets your heart rate up and gives a mean burn without requiring any equipment besides what you would find in your living room (carpet or mat and a couch or chair). Enjoy!

living room circuit

Lady Ripped

Since moving out of the district into Arlington, I’ve purposely left myself uncommitted to a fitness establishment. I was working out my new budget, training for a marathon, and getting my bearings in a new area. I didn’t want to commit to a yoga studio or gym before I was really settled. Plus, as a runner, sometimes it’s hard to justify the expense of a gym. Our apartment building has a fitness center that is very adequate with treadmills and free weights. I was just using that for the little bit of strength training I was doing and for bad weather days I didn’t want to run outside. However, with my knee injury flaring up again and my decision not to run the full marathon in March, I’ve been spending some time reflecting on my workout schedule.

The truth of the matter is that I need to up my strength training game. My knee injury is a result of insufficient strength training, I know that. More than that though, despite being is great cardio shape, I’m not in great strength shape. It was time to join a gym and get serious about getting lady ripped (I credit this term to Sarah J, and I love it. I’ve really taken recently to modifying all my activities with the word “lady” because it’s a cool word).

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The perfect solution for a budget conscious runner… Fitness First. For the exceptionally reasonable price of $29 per month I have access to a large facility with great cardio equipment, group fitness classes, and a really sick strength training set up. I can also go to any of their other locations free of charge… sweet! They have free weights, machines, kettle bells, and a functional training area. I was sold about three minutes into my facility tour. At that price, I won’t feel bad if I’m only in there 3 days a week and running outside the other days.

One of the other perks of a new membership is a free fitness evaluation with their head personal trainer. I signed up immediately. I used to be a personal trainer, but I haven’t had a proper fitness evaluation since my friend Haley and I used to practice on each other while studying for our exam.

I was a little nervous about the fitness evaluation. It’s the same reason that I get nervous when I go to the doctor. It’s no secret that I have issues related to my body. For some reason, I always think that doctors or fitness professionals are going to tell me I’m morbidly overweight and putting my health at huge risk. I also hate being weighed. I feel like a cattle being sized up for slaughter. Weighing myself is something that I do at home, ALONE, and when I’ve had enough time to prepare myself mentally. Regardless, I manned up and went to the fitness evaluation. As to be expected, it wasn’t half as bad as I imagined.

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I did, however, find out that my body fat percentage is slightly higher than ideal (about 3%). That wasn’t shocking information, but it was a semi-tough pill to swallow. I’m not unrealistic about my body. I’m not a small person… facts are facts. But I do want to make sure I’m as healthy as I possibly can  be! After chatting with this PT about my current exercise routine, she made some really interesting suggestions. First she suggested that I cut back on cardio. I’m sorry… Come again? She explained that if I’m running 4 days a week for 1 hour (or longer on some days) that is plenty of cardio for the week. She suggested I cut out my other cardio days and devote those days to strength training. As a self-proclaimed cardio junkie, this clearly blew my mind. She argued that I could cut my time in the gym and still achieve optimal fitness. I was very intrigued by the idea of streamlining my workout routine to be more time efficient and achieve better results.

Then we went and did a physical evaluation. The first thing she noticed was a strength imbalance between my hips. My right hip is MUCH stronger than my left, which is likely the source of the recurring knee pain while running. This wasn’t shocking though… I did spend 2 months in physical therapy working on my hips. I also have stronger quads than hamstrings / glutes. This was also something I knew from physical therapy (apparently my stride is very “quad dominant”. I blame that on spending my entire young life from age 8 – 18 crouching behind the plate in softball.)

Another interesting piece of information I learned is that I have a strength imbalance between my chest and back. I can hold a full arms-extended plank for at least a couple minutes, but when I do them on my forearms I’m ready to die after one minute. I always thought this was because my core wasn’t strong enough. Apparently, it’s actually because my back isn’t strong enough. The full arms-extended version of the plank draws more on your chest strength, which is why I can hold it so much longer.

Here’s the good news though. I’m actually not THAT bad with overall strength. She also told me that I was very good endurance (SCORE!). Basically, I don’t have many problems. I really have two problems (hips and back) that express themselves in various ways in my workouts. Apparently, they are very, very common issues for runners too. Running is extremely efficient for cardio and conditioning the front of your body. It does less naturally for the back of your body. I expressed an interest in working with one of the personal trainers, but I was nervous about making the investment. She offered me a follow up session with her to see what a full session with a trainer would be like. I readily accepted.

I joined her for a 30 minute session last night after doing a quick 15 minute warm up. I’m sold. The workout was awesome. It totally kicked my butt, but in a really good way. It felt really good to switch things up (I’m starting to get bored with just running). I’m even a little bit sore, which I haven’t felt in a WHILE. So, I signed up to work with one of the personal trainers. I’m going to work with him once a week for the next six months. It was an investments, but after giving it careful consideration, I think it’s an investment I need to make. I want to be running and exercising for… well… forever. I need to learn how to condition my body to protect it from injury. I’m SUPER pumped.

Plus, I think this could some really awesome things for my body. With running, I’ve really reached a plateau point. I love it, but my body is just used to it now. I’m looking forward to seeing how (if at all) my body changes by changing up my workouts. So be on the lookout for many more strength training workouts to pop up on POTR! Let’s get LADY RIPPED!

Marathon Friendly Circuit Workout

How sweet is this picture?? I used Picmonkey.com to jazz it up for you guys!! I read about Picmonkey from Julie at Peanut Butter Fingers and am very grateful for it 🙂

Anyways onto the post at hand! In the spirit of my resolution to do more strength training this week (for the sake of my knee but also in the hopes of one day having a smoking hot bod… bahaha just kidding), I put together a “marathon friendly” circuit workout to do on Tuesday morning. Marathon training and strength training require a delicate balance. I don’t want to blow out my legs lifting when I need them for a difficult run, but at the same time I want to make sure I’m keeping key running muscles toned and ready for injury prevention. I also don’t want to neglect my upper body and core, which are totally crucial to good running posture and injury prevention (mostly core for the injury prevention part).

I tend to use my off day and my easy run days for my strength training to allow all my energy / focus to be on running on my SOS days (That’s Hanson Method speak for “Something of Substance” workouts… basically your hard workouts).

I incorporated some basic lower body movements and plyometrics (GREAT for runners), a solid upper body workout, and plenty of focus on the core into this approximately 30 minute strength training workout. I did it “for time” to get my heart rate up and challenge myself. You can totally just do 12 reps each for 3 rounds and not time it.

My times were: Circuit #1 = 7:57, Circuit #2 = 7:25, Circuit #3 = 8:59

Marathon Circuit FINAL

2012 Closeout Workout Challenge

Jumping on my Winter To Do List right away! I’m participating in Sweet Tooth Sweet Life‘s 2012 Closeout Workout Challenge!!

If you want to sign up here is the info on Courtney’s Blog (and thanks for encouraging me to sign up earlier Courtney!)

I’m starting a few days late but here’s what it’s going to look like… 2012 reps of 5 (I chose 5, you can choose between 2 and 5) exercises by December 31, 2012.

My exercises are:

  • Push ups
  • Squats
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Crunches
  • Bicycles

I chose these because they are areas where I have a desire to improve! I’m not very good at push ups (never have been!) so I want to commit to doing them regularly / getting some results. Squats are great for my knee while running so they’re in. Mountain climbers, crunches, and bicycles were chosen because I would like to improve my overall core strength. It’s pretty good but it could definitely be better!

In order to reach 2012 reps by December 31st I need to do about 72 reps per day. That’s about 15 reps per exercise (I rounded up on all my division because I didn’t want to be under!).

I’ll be checking in daily on Challenge Loop, but I’ll check in with you guys once a week (let’s say Tuesdays since Monday’s are for Marathon Musings!) I’m really excited about this challenge… it is a GREAT way to squeeze in some strength training every day and keep my on top of my goals 🙂 You know me… always working on my strongs.

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Bootcamp to Bust Boredom

If you follow my “Week in Workouts” you’ve probably noticed that I am mildly obsessed with a class at my gym called Cardio Strength Intervals (CSI for short). This class occurs every Tuesday and Thursday at lunch and as long as I don’t have a meeting that prevents me from attending, I’m there. I’ve traditionally found weight lifting really boring, and I definitely prefer cardio or yoga. However, this class is totally changing my mind! The 60 minute workout is an absolute KILLER but it literally flies by every time. I thought maybe I’d share a little information about the class today in case anyone was interested in getting into strength training or just changing up their routine!

The basic format of the class is Warm Up (5 minutes), 1 Minute Strength Training / 1 Minute High Intensity Cardio (30 Minutes), Something special like Tabatas, 5-10-15s or Progressive Sixes (10 minutes), Abs (10 Minutes), Cool Down / Stretch (5 Minutes).

The high intensity cardio is either jumping rope, high knees, or jumping jacks (I used to be AWFUL at jumping rope but now I’m getting really good at it! I can even do the boxer shuffle!).

The strength moves are my favorite part though because they’re usually combo moves (combining two exercises into one to make it more challenging) or plyometrics (“jump training”). Here are some of my favorites:

Burpees: ignore the end of the video where they start using the rings. We don’t have that 🙂

Clean and Press with Dumbbells

Plant / Row / Reserve Fly

Box Jumps

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Push Ups on Medicine Ball (Alternating Hands)

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