Shit people say the gym . . .

So some lady interrupts me in the middle of my bench press. (People . . . for safety reasons you should always let a lifter rack their weight before you try talking to them!)

Lady: “Oh! You are so strong!” She says to me while she flexes her arms in front of her. I was in the middle of a set so couldn’t respond right then. She then apologizes for interrupting me and moves off to collect some dumbbells.

After I racked the bar the lady came back.

Lady: “You are so strong. Are you a hockey player?” She is once again flexing her arms low in front of her body and shrugging her shoulders.

Me: “Uh . . . ? No. That would require that I be able to skate.” (I also seriously hate team sports . . . soccer, football, basketball, hockey, etc. If you are my arch nemesis and want to make me suffer horribly before I die make me watch sports for an entire minute.)

Lady: Looking surprised . . . “You can’t skate?!”

Me: “Nope.”

Lady: “Oh”. She looked a bit confused. I am not sure why. I know we are in Canada, but I can’t be the only Canadian who can’t skate.

She ended up asking me for some help with completing the workout plan she had. She had only been attending the gym for two weeks, and didn’t remember what all the short forms of exercise names the trainers use on the form stood for. I helped her out as much as possible while hiding my desire to go find the trainer who thought it was ok to write one cookie cutter workout plan to hand it to all new gym members and smack that trainer silly. (Seriously, my gym has one free plan they hand to all new members. A trainer walks the new member through each exercise once and then they are on their own.)

Walking home I kept wondering why this lady had decided to ask if I played hockey and made ape gestures at me. I don’t wear or carry any sports paraphernalia. I don’t watch the sports playing silently on the gym television. All I could think of is she maybe thought I had the body type of a hockey player? Again I hate sports and don’t watch them or play any myself. The people I know who do play recreational hockey are all of very different body types (tall, short, thin, fat, medium etc.). I personally don’t have an image in my mind of what a typical female hockey player looks like.

So when I got home I told my partner about this conversation. He said well a lot of hockey players are the stockier sort (he also did a kind of low flexing gesture with his arms) . . . and then he kinda trailed off like he realized that he may be digging himself a coffin shaped hole and jumping in head first. (I mostly just found this funny. I let him squirm a little in silence. Don’t worry. He still breaths. He did not commit suicide by spouse.)

So . . . average height, fat, and muscular equals hockey player? WTF?

I have put a lot of work into body positivity, ditching diet-culture, and bad gym-culture. I am ok with being of average height. I am ok with being fat. I will never have a thin body. What I do have is a very strong body that responds wonderfully to my training efforts by building muscle for me and letting me lift more and more weight over time. I love that I am able to build muscle and get stronger. I love muscle. I have more muscle then ever before and it has come from working out less and eating more. The only thing the “eat less and exercise more” shitty diet advice did for me was make me miserably underfed and over exercised.

I am bothered by this conversation mostly because it seems to suggest the idea that if a female is strong or is training for strength . . . she must be doing it for some (socially acceptable) reason, such as sports. She can’t just pursue strength for the sake of building strength.




A week off

I got this

(This post was actually written several months ago. Just discovered that I forgot to hit publish, but that is OK.)

I have a week and a half off. My partner is still working, so we aren’t going anywhere. But my partner does have Friday off for my b-day. (There will be cookies n’ cream cupcakes.)
It is so nice to pump iron like there is no tomorrow. I know for this week I can go home and lay on the sofa for an hour or two and watch Netflix after my lifting session so there is no holding back. I can be productive later.

I need to get some stuff done in terms of cleaning up our apartment, but I am doing it in small batches. I despise the never ending element to cleaning. Yesterday was bathe the dog and clean the bathroom day. (It is absolutely critical to execute these activities in that exact order.) My dog is also happier for the week (I am forgetting the bathing incident when I say this) because she is getting extra walks and lots of company. Yay for time away from work.

What I do hate about vacation is the fact everyone keeps asking me “Where are you going?” or “Are you going anywhere?” like vacation is not vacation unless you are going somewhere. When I say “No. I am staying home” people then ask “Why not?” and give me a funny look like I am wasting my vacation. The way some co-workers talk about their vacations it almost sounds like they are completing for the “who had the best vacation” award. Is there such a thing? Personally, I call any vacation where I rested plenty and spent time doing something I enjoy a successful vacation. (Not bankrupting myself on travel is also good.)

Review: The Hardgainer Solution by Scott Abel

I just finished reading The Hard Gainer Solution by Scott Abel. I don’t think I really fall in the category of a “hardgainer” but I was curious to see what the take was on training for a “hardgainer”. Everyone says eat lots and push hard in the gym, but I wanted to see if there was more to it than that. This was book was a really interesting read. Mr. Abel advocates high volume rep style training that is not very typical of more traditional styles of body building in order to put on muscle mass. The most interesting part was the emphasis on avoiding excessive oxygen debt. In recent years more than ever I have noticed the fitness community as a whole has tended towards a “work harder, push harder, go faster, do HIIT everything, and gargle your heart!” attitude. To be told to avoid oxygen debt to build mass really got my attention. I also liked how the workouts in the book are designed so they can be done anywhere from 3 to 7 days a week if the rules provided are followed. I highly recommend reading this book. The content and writing is excellent and Mr. Abel is very generous at the end by including 80 complete workouts and multiple eating plans for various calorie intakes. Talk about body builder candy land.

The book can be found on here.

My current exercise plan

I spent a long time working with the very standard 3 sets of 8-12 reps when doing my strength training. Which was totatly fine for a time. I got a lot out of doing that when I first got back to working out in a gym. But after awhile I found I had adapted. and it was boring. So for last little while I have changed things up. I have changed my rep and set rangs, doing a lot of supersetting to keep me moving more and have also been trying a different body part breakdown. It is has been working very well. Personally I find my body responds well to splitting my strength training up by body parts. But while working full-time combined with a crappy Canadian winter getting to the gym more than three times per week can be tough so I have just given myself permission to only go three times per week. I complement those workouts with 2-3 home based workouts.

I have been splitting my days as chest/back, legs/tricep, shoulders/biceps. The first superset I do on each day I pick a solid compound exercise for each body part for that day and do 5-7 sets varying my rep ranges. I rest a maximum of 1 min between sets. Then I do two or three more supersets of four sets each with a rep range of 8-15 depending on the how the weight feels. I have made some good strength gains, especially on my weak points like biceps, shoulders, and back. And my workouts are actually done quicker and feel more intense than past workouts where I did three sets of more exercises without the supersetting. Also incline walking after my strength workouts has been a nice addition to my cardio rotation. I always walk my dog a lot so walking never really struck me as a “workout” but cranking up the incline on the treadmill and setting a brisk pace is very effective cardio. I especially like tagging it on the end of my leg workout.

Sample WeeK
Day 1: Chest/back (gym)
Day 2: home workout – eg. cardio kickboxing, aerobics, spinning
Day 3: Legs/triceps (gym)
Day 4: Home workout – eg. yoga/pilates, low impact cardio/fusion workout
Day 5: Shoulders/biceps (gym)
Day 6: Home workout eg. cardo kickboxing, aerobics, plyometric drills, kettlebell work
Day 7: Rest

Some workout idea basics: Body weight & weighted circuits

Bodyweight circuit-Peform 3-5 times, with 1 min rest after exercise 5:
1) pull up x15
2) sit up x15
3) body weight squat x15
4) press-up x15
5) box jump x15

Weighted circuit-Perform 3-5 times (pick up some heavier weights for these), 1-2 minutes rest after exercise 5:
1) back squat x8
2) bench press x8
3) shoulder press x8
4) deadlift x8
5) cable row w/ wide pronated grip x8

Kettlebell resources

Now that I have my own kettlebell I am doing a lot of reading on different things to do with it. In the past the kettlebell was just something I used a little bit with my workouts. I might pick one up at the gym for some swings or high pulls and such then go back to the traditional weights. I noticed when I was doing my squating the other day with just one kettlebell that even through the weight was significantly lighter then what I would do with a barbell back squat it was still tough. So I dug around on and have found some great kettlebell articles. Here are a couple:

6 Things to do with a heavy kettlebell

Grind to Grow

Kettlebell Explosion: Harness the power of the kettlebell swing

To Cardio or not to Cardio

HIIT is all the rage and for good reason in my opinion. It really makes conditioning and cardiovascular work interesting. It is intense and time efficient. I am able to push myself harder knowing my workout is going to be under 20min. It is easy to spot improvements in recovery, power, strength, and endurance when I am working with small consistent time intervals. (Oh my gosh! I did 19 jump squats in 20sec today instead of the usual 17!). Research shows there are plenty of cardiovascular benefits to be had from short intense bursts of exercise. But I have noticed that if I am trying to change my body, all the HIIT in the world doesn’t seem to make my body change like I want it too. My body is stubborn and bizarrely (and annoyingly) what it seems to need in order to change is some steady pace cardio. A respectable amount of steady pace cardio too. With heavy lifting, and a little HIIT on the side. I hate it. I am experimenting trying to find the minimal amount of cardio I can do while still moving forward because I don’t want to live on my spin bike. Ouch.