Friday, December 5, 2008

More weight, please.

Hi! So I got a really interesting comment from Jennifer after my last post asking about weight training and gym boredom. I feel you Jennifer, because for the longest time I only took classes at the gym - any solo workout requiring self-motivation was really hard and really boring.

Here's the thing with the weightlifting I've discovered:

1. Most machines are completely bullshit useless. Those Nautilus machines? A waste of time. Now, they're certainly better than nothing, but unless you are a 6 foot tall man, they aren't going to fit you correctly. Also, why would I spend an hour isolating small muscle groups when I can do full-body compound movements (that work EVERYTHING) in half the time?

2. 20+ reps of anything is too many reps. I can't count that high and I get bored. 6-8 reps is a whole different story. I know I can't squat much weight 20 times, but I'm certainly willing to challenge myself for 6 measly reps. That's practically nothing! I should put more plates on the bar. This is how I think: 4-6 reps is a fun challenge, 15-20 reps is pure torture. (I should add this: I used to do B0dyPump and really loved it, but you can only lift so much weight for such high reps. Eventually you top out and need to go heavier and slower. That's what I did.)

3. Getting strong is fun, but being strong is awesome. When you start lifting as a weakling (which I was) and then six months later you can bang out a set of tricep pushups, it feels fantastic. it's even better when you can pick up a really heavy box without even thinking about it. I still have a long way to go, but the changes motivate like nothing else.

4. For a cyclist (especially for a mountain biker like me who doesn't get in long endurance miles) there is no better winter workout than weighted leg work. Again, no press machine, no stupid leg extension machine, do the real work that will allow a full range of natural motion and will force you to work ALL the supporting muscles in your legs, not just the big ones. I'm talking about squats, lunges and step-ups. My hill climbs have gotten so much better since I started lifting.

5. If the gym bores you but you know you have to build some muscle and improve that bone density (Hi, Jennifer!) please consider a program. For me, doing a program is like having a trainer tell me what to do, but it's cheaper and less flaky. I have my exercises, my reps, my instructions, I just need to go and do it. I really recommend The New Rules of Lifting for Women because it's a great place to start and will give you a base of knowledge about lifting like nothing else. I also like that the first six weeks of workouts only takes about 30 minutes each. (Hint: if it seems too easy, you aren't lifting enough weight.)

6. If a program is too much commitment, that's okay. You can always do something like this:

Working out in a dilapidated one-room shack

or if you're a beginner, this:

A weight-lifting routine for beginners

PS. If you saw Jennifer's comment and wondered what story she was talking about, it's here.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Who even counts November, anyway?

Yeah, I missed a month. I haven't been posting here because, as I've said before, it's hard to write about riding the same trails over and over again. I have achieved a few small milestones, though. You know that crazy cement bridge I swore I'd never ride? Yeah, I ride that now. It wasn't a momentous thing, I just kind of rode it one day and ever since then I've felt obligated. I can also ride down the big insane ramp thing, but not so much up it. That just seems harder than it's worth right now. Maybe in the spring.

We've been riding on Sundays, my usual winter ride day, weather permitting. I've been enjoying doing the longer rides (2 1/2 hours is long for me, shut up) with the old gang even if it means I'm hobbling around for the rest of the day. It's worth is to get the fitness in, to get out in the world, to get warm even when it's cold out. Last weekend it was cold and raining, however, and I don't play that. I didn't even leave the house last Sunday.

As for other stuff, I've finished The New Rules of Lifting For Women program and started a new one called Power Training. It's very similar but I get to pick my own exercises which I like because I'll be damned if I ever do another front squat/push press. Hateful. I am required to do front squats which are also hateful, but not as much.

My most recent workout looked something like this:

Squat Jumps - 4 sets of 5 reps
Romanian Deadlifts - 60/6, 65/6, 75/6, 85/6
Dumbell Row (single arm) - 20/6, 25/6, 25/6, 30/6
negative chin-ups - 2
assisted chin-ups - 60/6, 60/6 (meaning, I had the assisted machine set at 60lbs, so I was lifting my body weight minus 60lbs. Woo.)

Then I did a bunch of ab work and 20 minutes of high intensity intervals on the stepmill. Then I scraped myself off the floor and went home for dinner. The End.