Cross-training

Break Your Bad Workout Habits

This post is just in time for all the people who will soon be flooding the gym for New Year’s Resolutions! And a good reminder for us old folks that have been going a long time (and probably picking up some bad habits along the way).  It’s easy to get into a rut and hopefully this post reminds all of us (me included) to break some of those bad habits. I recognize a few of these in me.

Just Doing Cardio

I used to be a cardio junkie. I hated weight lifting. I would force myself once in awhile to do a quick circuit around the weight machines and it would be boring, I’d feel like it was a waste of my time and I’d never see any changes in my body or strength.

After a few different injuries kind of forced me to take it easy on the cardio, I had to find something else to do so I could still work out. I started lifting weights on a consistent, serious basis and I finally “got it.” I started to LIKE lifting weights. It wasn’t just a boring slog. Seeing a difference made me realize if I stuck with it, I COULD see a change and it wasn’t a waste of my time.

I liked feeling stronger. I liked that I could lift things easily in my day to day life simply because I was lifting weights on a regular basis. It was empowering! Check out this old post that is still a great one: Reshaping Your Body with Weight Lifting.

So if you want to see some CHANGE in your body, mix it up. Get off that elliptical and try doing some body weight exercises or add some free weights into your routine.

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Unrealistic Expectations

You have to start somewhere. If that’s walking/jogging in intervals before you can RUN, that’s ok. If it’s lifting 15 pounds to start with, while the muscles guys in the gym are lifting 100 pounds next to you, who cares? You have to start at the bottom and work your way up. Having expectations that are unrealistic will just cause disappointment and probably injury!

 

Phoning It In

GET OFF THE PHONE! Get off the phone! SERIOUSLY PEOPLE get off your phone and work out! I see this in my gym ALL THE TIME and it makes me crazy. People doing nothing and fucking off with their phones. Sitting on weight machines, not lifting weights, but playing with their phones. Taking up equipment and space goofing off.

A tip for this: make a playlist ahead of time and stop messing with your phone. You don’t need to be on Facebook or texting or whatever else. Focus on the task at hand: getting FIT.

Another tip: write out your workout routine for the day and follow that. I have a little notebook that I take to the gym with my weight lifting routine already mapped out for me. I have 5-8 different routines and I mix them up and sometimes I change things around once I get to the gym, but overall I follow it. It keeps me focused and keeps me from wandering around the gym aimlessly.

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Overtraining/Not Resting

I can tell when I’m starting to get into the over-training territory. I feel tired, run-down, burned out and I often end up getting sick. That’s a clear sign it’s time to rest.

When I was going to the Warrior Room, I went 2-3x a week for over a year. It was great and I loved it and I loved the progress I was seeing. But last December I decided to take a month off. I was starting to have some aches and pains, mostly in my joints. I wanted to avoid an overuse injury and I felt like I might be on the way to tendinitis in my elbows or something. I decided to take a month off and do something different, then go back.

It was a good idea and in theory it should have worked. After a month I still didn’t feel quite ready to go back. I had managed to avoid overuse injuries but I was still mentally not ready to get back into something so rigorous or intense. I decided to give it a few more weeks–then I got sick, then I had some back issues…then I got pregnant. So…I haven’t been back since. But in theory that break would have worked (as it had in the past) if those extenuating circumstances hadn’t popped up.

Check out some posts on the topic:

Why Recover?

Addicted to Exercise

Are You Overtraining?

Improper Fueling

Not drinking enough water before, during and after a workout is bad bad bad. Take a water bottle with you and drink it all!

Drinking sugary “sports” drinks when it’s not necessary. I see this one in my gym all the time, too. Except it’s usually big guys lifting weights carrying around a GALLON jug of some kind of juice drink. I have no idea what it is or how many calories are in it, but think long and hard about your Gatorade sports drink…are you burning 400 calories in the gym but then drinking 150 calories worth of sugar?? What’s the point??

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The Long And Slow

I am so guilty of this at times! When I was a cardio junkie I’d go to the gym and spend the entire time doing a long and slow cardio workout like the elliptical or running on the treadmill or the stairmaster. Just slogging along, no variation, my heart rate staying pretty steady in the same range.

Mix in some HIIT-type workouts instead. You can still do the elliptical but mix it up with the different programs the machine has. Hill climbs, hard resistance, etc. If you are doing the spin bike, add in intervals of really hard standing climbs to get your heart rate up instead of the steady same old same old.

 

Doing The Same Exact Thing

What I miss most about going to the Warrior Room (besides the people and the fun classes, of course) was the variety of the workouts. It was a mixture of weight lifting with kettle bells and intense HIIT cardio. I loved the fact that it was different every single time I was there. I was able to see progress in my strength after each week of going to classes because my body was adapting and getting stronger doing different things.

When I am Married to My Workout I don’t see progress like I should. I feel stagnant and stuck and wonder why the scale isn’t budging or why I’m still doing the same thing every time. It’s also boring! Variety is key.

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Not Planning Ahead/Being Inconsistent

I schedule my workouts on my Google calendar like I do appointments. Sure, I can be flexible sometimes and move things around if needed, but for the most part I stick to that schedule. It makes it harder for me to skip a workout. It’s on my calendar, after all.

In a similar vein, a bad workout habit is being inconsistent with your workouts. I think variety in fitness is CRUCIAL. Crucial for your body to avoid overuse injuries and burnout; crucial for your mind to avoid boredom; crucial for your body to not get used to doing the same exact workout every time (see above). But at the same time, not having a consistent schedule/routine with your workout can mean no progress.

An example of this is weight lifting. If you only lift weights once a week, you aren’t going to see any differences. You won’t see progress in your body shape or strength. And it will feel like you’re wasting your time. But having a routine that steadily increases the reps and weights you are lifting shows you are making progress. When I was consistently lifting weights 3x a week I had a different weight lifting routine each time, but I was working the same muscles (just in different ways) and I could SEE and feel the progress I was making. Doing kettlebell swings with the same 25 pound bell each time, I realized it was too easy. So I went up in weight. Then after awhile 30 pounds was too easy. I would switch around doing MORE REPS with 30 pounds, or I’d do less reps at 35 pounds. I could see and feel a difference.

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What are some bad fitness habits you want to break?

Warrior Room

I bought a Groupon for the Warrior Room here in Portland. It’s a kettlebell gym and the reason I signed up for it was because I know my form isn’t great and I really want to improve that. A friend had also recommended I try it out because she knew the people.

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The First Class – “Fundamentals”

The first time I went was on the Veteran’s Day holiday because I needed to take the “Fundamentals” class first and the schedule wasn’t really working for me. That’s my biggest issue with a lot of these types of gyms–the classes are never at the time I can get there with work, etc. I went to the class thinking it would be a tutorial but it was a full-on workout that kicked my butt.

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It was basically Crossfit. I will admit that I was disappointed. I wasn’t looking for a Crossfit class. I wanted to learn the proper form for kettlebells so it could be something I can incorporate into my normal workouts without fearing injury. The hip tilt and snap are just something I cannot get! I don’t know why. The teacher was super awesome and worked with me individually to learn the form. She gave me a few different tricks for practicing at home.

The workout itself was an ass-kicker for sure. I was out of breathe, getting fatigued but I modified a lot of things in consideration for my knees. I wasn’t going to push it too soon and end up crippled. Still, check out my numbers:

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It was a circuit type workout. Lots of squats, sumo squats, jumping jacks with thrusting the kettlebells above the head, running around the block, burpees, high knee jumps, side-steps, Russian Twist, push-ups, crunches…It was a whole lot of hard work!

I knew I was going to be sore the next day and I was. Surprisingly, it wasn’t my quads and hamstrings like I thought it would be. That’s usually where I’m sore! Instead, it was my triceps, abs and calves! My calves were SO TIGHT. Ouch ouch.

The Second Class – “Isolation”

A week later I went to my next class. This time I signed up for the “Isolation” class. We warmed up with some jumping jacks, squats and push ups and then got started with the kettlebells. I was trying my best to keep up so I don’t remember all the moves we did. This workout was mostly upper body.

We did four sets of the workout: chest press, fly, rear fly, bicep curls and then the kettlebell press. You can see pictures of the press here. My shoulders and arms were burning! There was another set of four that included squats and lunges and side lunges. Since lunges are kind of a no-no for me (knees), the instructor, Ashley, had me do something different with the TRX for obliques. It was sort of like this video. I also did deadlifts instead of the lunges.

The class was small and intimate. I really liked it and the camaraderie of the group. There wasn’t any snobbiness or elitism. Everyone worked at their own pace, doing the amount of weight appropriate for them and no one was judging.

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I woke up the next day sore in my shoulders, upper back and lower back.

The Third Class – “1/2 Tabata, 1/2 Isolation”

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this type of class but I have to say I enjoyed it. We alternated tabata workouts with isolation workouts. Tabata  is like HIIT–basically doing intervals/bursts of cardio then resting.

The workout was formatted like this: warmup, isolation workout, tabata, isolation, tabata, isolation, tabata, abs, cool-down. An example of the isolation workout from this evening was this:

10 deadlifts

20 sumo squats

30 kettlebell swings

We did that set 3 times, rested and then did the tabata which meant the workout was PUSH IT REALLY HARD for 20 seconds, rest 10 seconds, then do it again. An example of the tabata workout was an overhead press with the heaviest kettlebell we could hold–even if we only pressed once, the point was to do something out of our comfort zone.

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Another isolation set was chest press, pushups and then hammer curls. Boy oh boy was I struggling! I don’t know why–maybe it was the combination of workout types, but around the 35 minute mark I was hitting the wall and those pushups were near impossible for me to do!

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I liked the variety of this style of workout. The tabata training was FUN, HARD and different. And in some ways it was easier because you knew you only had to do the workout for 20 seconds then you could rest.

The Fourth Class – The “Warrior Workout”

I didn’t know what to expect with this workout. There wasn’t really a description online, so all I new was that it was a 90 minute class instead of 60. The class was packed when I got there. It turned out that it was a lot more like crossfit and we were working with partners.

The partner workout meant that for 20-30 seconds one partner would do the kettlebell swing and the other would do mountain-climbers, and then we’d rest for a few seconds and switch. There were 2-4 rounds of each workout depending on what we were doing. It was pretty fun doing the workout that way.

Then they split us into two groups. One group was doing a certain kind of kettlebell workout (the more advanced people) and then my group of “beginners” was doing the simpler workout. Basically, learning the proper form of the various moves. It was nice that they did this because I really wanted to get some tips on my kettlebell form. This gave me the opportunity to work directly with a trainer that was watching all of us and then she’d give me some pointers and I’d get to practice what she said. I appreciated this part of the workout!

Then the two groups did a competition. We all had to do wall squats as one team member from each team ran to the center of the room where the TRX straps were set up and do either the “lawnmower” or a row. The lawnmower was FUN!! I will try to incorporate this one into my regular gym sessions. So each team member would run up there and do 12 reps, then run back to the wall. I liked this a lot!

Now we get to the part I was not a fan of: the “Snake run.” The two teams went outside for a run in opposite directions. The snake run was where we all ran in a single line and the person in the very back of the line would sprint to the front of the line and then set the pace for the group and then the new back of the line person would do the same. I didn’t like this because obviously I’m a little nervous about pushing it too much with knees and running. Sprinting is definitely not what I’m doing YET. It also made me anxious because I was so much slower than everyone else. Even the pregnant lady in front of me! It was too much pressure! I hate organized sports and competitive things like this. I am so not competitive!

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Despite that, the class was pretty good and I had fun. I liked the sense of community in the class. That was a nice change from the solo gym sessions I do!

I have four more sessions left on my groupon deal for the Warrior Room. Michael recently bought one and so did my friend Debby and they are going to join me for some of the classes. I’ll write another post on those workouts and the results I see when I’m done. Overall, I’m really enjoying the Warrior Room. It’s a step out of the norm and gives me good ideas for other workouts on my own. If I could afford it, I’d buy a membership!
Stay tuned for the follow-up…