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Drag You Down: My Disagreements with Gravity Thursday, March 20, 2008

Posted by Grace in fit addiction.
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Gravity is great. I like gravity. It’s got important effects on most elements of every day life. Still, there are moments…

At the gym, The Resident Italian has got me on suspended curl ups. So you’ve got your chin up bar, and you hook your knees over the bar, in so doing suspending yourself upside down.

The idea is to do curl ups in this position so that you’re using more of your body weight in each curl than if you were doing the standard on the floor.

At first, I could not do them for the life of me. I would end up upside down easily enough because I was a child who climbed trees and played on jungle gyms and so have some experience in the hanging upside down by the knees. But then I would try to curl up as instructed, and really only managed to wiggle back and forth a bit. It was sad. I couldn’t do it, not strong enough.

The Resident Italian took it off the roster for a while, saying we could get back to it later when little Gracie gets a little stronger. I hate it when he gets patronizing like that, so that thing he’s saying I am unable to do becomes a goal in my mind. Gotta get in those suspended curl ups. Understanding that he knows that’s what will go through my head, I can see why he does it.

When we came back to them, I could do a couple. We built up from there, and when I could do my 2 sets last time I was there I was forewarned that next time, that would be this morning, he was gonna introduce the textbook. See, when he does these evil, painful curl ups, he bear hugs a textbook or two. Extra weight, you know?

So I got all hanging-upside-down-like, got handed the textbook (just one, I’m small). He slid a bean bag under the doorway where the chin up bar is, and explained, I’m right here spotting you, if you start to slip, I’ll catch you. The bean bag is there just in case, because I’ve hit the floor before.

If you start to fall, bail on the textbook. It’s more important to have your arms free than it is to keep it safe.

Being my size, a textbook takes up a majority of the space on my torso. It’s kinda hard to curl up, against gravity, when you’ve got a heavy block of info on physical chemistry weighing you down more and getting in the way of the curl. I struggled quite a bit through a couple of curls, and began to lose my position on the bar. I stopped, readjusted, and took a deep breath to get ready to try for some more.

Which is when gravity, the big meanie it is, decided that it was time to come back to the earth. Instinct kicked in, and I tossed the textbook, freeing my arms and hitting the Resident Italian. He wasn’t expecting to be hit with a projectile, and in his surprise was a second late in catching me.

I felt the strong impact of him trying to catch me around my middle, but kept falling until I hit the bean bag that he’d very intelligently put there as a safety net.

Now, because gravity is cruel, I have finger mark bruises on my sides and a sore neck. Fearless laughed like mad when he saw the marks and then heard the story. Any other girl, Grace, and I would have been less inclined to believe that.

I think I’m going to avoid suspended curl ups for a little while.

Song of the Day: Drag You Down – Finger Eleven

I’m Only Happy When It Rains Sunday, March 16, 2008

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Today is marker day, and once again I am blamed for being a perfectionist.

Every six weeks, the Resident Italian and myself take some time after working out to map out how things are going, and how they are going to go for the next period of time. I get handed a marker and am given an opportunity to voice exactly what results I am pleased with, what I feel we are making progress on, and things that still need to change. Revealing as much skin as I feel right about, I get to draw out in washable ink what I want to change. My renovation plans.

It is a good method in theory. A lot of things can change in six weeks, and its good to stop and reevaluate and make sure you’re getting what you want out of the gym. That all makes sense. Until that washable marker gets put into my hand.

As a fairly standard female, I know I am overly critical of myself. It’s not that I ignore my assets, believe me I’ve been told enough times by Fearless that I know how to work what I’ve got. Just standing in front of a mirror, marker in hand, with my gym guru behind me, bits and spots that I really don’t mind become things I still feel I need to improve.

I ended up with a lot of marks drawn on. Quite a few more than I thought I had concerns about, because as previously stated, I am pretty happy in most defenses.

The Resident Italian shook his head and in his regular brutally honest fashion told me just which areas of concern he can agree with, and just which areas I should shut up about. You need to have a reasonable level of enough.

I do. Really I do. Only put in front of a mirror, marker in hand, that seems to change.

Shower and change he says, laughing at the silly girl I’m being we’ll talk about the plan for the next little while after.

I have six weeks until the next marker day, and next time I will try to do better.

Song of the Day: I’m Only Happy When It Rains – Garbage

Hard Sun Sunday, March 2, 2008

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It seems spring is on its way. My little patch of planet is finally leaning a little closer towards the sun. The incredibly cold snap that was upon us, seemingly endlessly, has finally lifted. With the warmer conditions come more moisture in the air, and therefore snow and nasty driving conditions. Still, it seems such a gift not to need to layer upon layers, still to find your skin and lungs hurting because it is so cold.

I have always preferred running outside to running on a treadmill or on an indoor track. And so, every year, as autumn turns to winter, I push my luck as long as possible, running outside, until frostbite risks get too high, and bronchitis starts to set in. Every year I tell myself I will switch to indoors earlier, save myself the down time being sick. Still, every year I get into the habit of, One more day won’t hurt. I’ll start running inside tomorrow.

When this time of year rolls around, it is wonderous. That first morning you look outside, look at your running shoes, and know its warm enough. This morning was it.

Just like the first tentative steps you take after the cast comes off and the crutches are laid aside, that first outdoor run of the season is a dichotomy between a victory and a defeat. Half of me is so happy to be back out there on the pavement, but the other half is sad at how soft months of the treadmill/track makes you.

The first good run of the season is always one to remember. You’re back to where you belong, but you become enlightened to all of the things you still need to work on.

Song of the Day: Hard Sun – Eddie Vedder

Its a Man’s World Saturday, March 1, 2008

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How come boys get to have all the fun?

The Resident Italian has started a new workout, the 300 Spartan workout via Men’s Workout Guide. In the mornings, he sets me to my workout, and so long as I’m not needing any spotting (which I normally don’t), he gets to his.

For the past week or so, when I’m on breaks between sets, or when I sneak a peek across the room, he’s never on a break anymore, and there are all of these interesting, fun and difficult looking pulls, lunges et cetera that he’s been doing.

I’ve taken the chance to try a couple out that are shown in this video. The weighted pull ups (yay for textbooks in the backpack!), I couldn’t do. Couldn’t as in being suspended up there, wiggling and trying to will myself to be stronger. The recline pull, I managed two. Well, fine, one and a half; I kind of fell out of the second one.

There may be a thing or two he’s thinking of incorporating for me, but I keep getting reminded, Grace, you’re not looking to muscle up a bunch. That’s what this is designed for. I realize, and I agree, but it looks so fun from across the room.

Not fun in the everyday way, I mean fun in the ‘at the gym, pushing hard’ kind of way. They don’t get breaks between sets most of the time! It’s nuts, but in such a profoundly cool way.

His arms are getting meltingly beautiful, and he gets to have all the fun. I’m jealous.

Song of the Day: Its a Man’s World – James Brown

You Can’t Always Get What You Want Wednesday, February 13, 2008

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I have a problem to pose to the gym gurus out there: At the gym, I’ve been very happy with the results I’ve seen from strength training and toning. I feel great, and am quite happy with how things are looking. It is getting to a point where it’s fine tuning and maintenance. Still, there is a little bit of fatty tissue that I’d like to be rid of sitting over my abs.

I know that females tend to carry more fat than males, because of our body design, and that that little patch tends to be a point of contention for many of us out there, but I just don’t know what to do about it. The Resident Italian, my personal gym guru, has instructed me in some pretty standard slimming down procedures, and it is working, I definitely have noticed some overall, but just not where I want it. Now, I’m pretty willowy by nature, so simply sticking with this doesn’t seem to viable, as I’m already starting to see the little dips between my ribs. This isn’t a big obstacle I’m trying to jump here, it’s just a wee soft bit I’d rather not be there. What’s the point of all of the crunches and oblique work if you’re going to have that stubborn little pad of fat over top hiding the results?

The Resident Italian doesn’t know a lot about this area, he’s all about the getting big and strong and buff, and not about “I want a flatter tummy.” His is flat (I’m jealous!) because he spends hours and hours at the gym and there isn’t much fat on him anywhere. He did that magical boy thing where he didn’t need to think about it, it just went away. But no, I’ve got the recalcitrant little bit of tummy I’m ready to be rid of. He’s not sure how to go about fixing this dilemma I’ve been having, because its about smaller instead of bigger, and its kind of ‘a girl thing’ (his words not mine).

So, as you can see, my gym guru has currently run out of advice in this instance. Anyone have any suggestions?

Song of the Day: You Can’t Always Get What You Want – The Rolling Stones

Float On Tuesday, February 5, 2008

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The theme of the gym lately seems to be muscle confusion, which keeps you from adapting to a certain way of working out, or from adapting to certain exercises, so that you are getting results at a constant rate instead of plateauing between workout changes.

After doing some reading, it seems interesting and perhaps plausible. For example, in running, because thats the area I know the most about: right when you make the decision to take up running and start, it is difficult stuff. You may only be going a short distance, you’re not fast, and you’re tired by the end of it. Your body gradually gets used to the process; you can go further, faster, and don’t get as winded and tired doing it. Doing the same thing repeatedly acclimatizes your body to the process of doing it, and it doesn’t feel as taxed in the process. Your muscles can languish in the knowledge that sufficient oxygen is coming, enough energy is present, and that lactic acid buildup (hello cramps) is unlikely to be a big factor. Just another beautiful day in the life.

Sure, it is still a good workout. It definitely beats being sedentary, and running has its Zen like mindset, but your body learns to not expend as much energy as it did before, because we are efficiency machines.

The Resident Italian has applied this to the gym. Mostly for himself, as it seems to be geared towards gain in size and strength, which is what he is looking for. Instead of reaching those plateaus where you don’t see the muscle you’re looking to, you get your slow but sure up and up. Now, I’m not looking to be the girl with the huge pipes, thats for sure, I’m just looking to get a little stronger, tone, and stay healthy. Obviously, though, having had The Resident Italian appoint himself as my training guru, some of the ideas are diffusing over.

Some of the really tight schedule rules have been made more malleable, as instinctive training is part of the idea. Maybe today was supposed to be a arms and back day, but that happy-gym-hurt is kinda lingering. So why not just do cardio? Yes, there are the good points to scheduled plans, making sure you don’t over strengthen certain groups while ignoring others which creates issues, but if sometimes your body is saying “no,” why not listen?

But what really is interesting me, is all of the new different ideas that have come about. On any occasion where cardio came up, I would immediately turn to running because it’s what I’m good at and I enjoy it. The issue there is that while it is still cardio, it isn’t optimizing the effects to be had, because I’m so used to doing it. Today we hit the pool on campus and went swimming.

I swam competitively for a while before knee injuries (from other sports) started to pile up. I’m not shabby at swimming. But it isn’t something I do nearly as often as I would like, and I was surprised just how tired I got and how quickly it came up on me. I didn’t go as long or as fast as I used to be able to easily, but this was harder because the muscles aren’t used to it anymore.

I think I’m going to have to spend more time in the pool. I was faster than The Resident Italian was though, but I suppose that would have to do with being a lot smaller, lighter, and not having to carry all of that muscle with me.

Song of the Day: Float On – Modest Mouse

Hurts to Love You: An Ode to the Gym Wednesday, January 16, 2008

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Not everyone likes to work out. Actually, I’ll take the risk of saying that probably the majority of people don’t.

Before I started, I didn’t either. Sports were great for me; they fed my competitive and social sides while getting in exercise. I still play soccer and floor hockey because of those reasons. I just hated the idea of sitting down at a weight machine and doing something multiple times just because. There didn’t seem to be much to drive you, much that would make it fun.

The gym though, I have developed a profound love affair with since I began. I started because: sports didn’t go year round, running (what I do all year) wasn’t getting me the results I was looking for by itself, and a friend of mine who is in love with his muscle has the equipment and the knowledge.

I love being there, pushing for just one more set, being stronger than I was before, and getting all lovely and toned. There are are actually very few parts of me now that I feel I really need to ‘fix.’ All of the meeting in the wee hours of the morning with a good friend recounting weekends and strange days doesn’t hurt either.

This morning, after pushing through a particularly difficult workout planned by the sometimes evil Resident Italian, I literally fell off of the weight machine and melted onto the floor as a big puddle of gym-happy, sore-everything goodness. It was like shavasana at the end of a yoga class. Just laying on the cold floor and taking in both how awesomely accomplished I felt as well as the much talked about ‘happy hurt’ you get from the gym.

So many muscle groups were just aching, but the endorphins were kicked in, and in that moment I felt like after finishing that workout, I could do anything. The Resident Italian came and sat down beside me, let me have my quiet glory, and in a couple of minutes helped ply me off the floor and told me to hurry up with showering because he needed one too, and we were going to be cutting it close to get to class.

Going every day doesn’t suit the goals that I’m going for, I’m not looking to muscle up, just strengthen and tone, but part of me just wants to be there all the time. I could deal with starting my day every day like this.

Though if you ask me tomorrow morning, with all of the ouch that will have set in, I probably won’t say it the same. Tomorrow is going to hurt, but it still makes me so happy.

Song of the Day: Hurts to Love You – The Philosopher Kings