Category Archives: weights

Things to Think About at the Gym

I miss boot camp. Yeah, you heard me right. I’m going through withdrawls.

For trips like this when I’m away from home for an extended period of time, and moments when I want to do different kinds of training (heavy lifting) I keep a membership to 24 Hour Fitness handy.

I hate 24 Hour Fitness for only one reason. No bosu. What the hell is wrong with these people? What is their bosu beef? I digress. You don’t need a bosu to get a great workout, but it sure is extra fun to have one around.

Anyway, I find that going to the gym is always the most fantastic kind of sociological experience. Between the meat-heads, the barbie-dolls, the cool old guys wearing slacks and black socks, and the 1,000 year old grannies getting changed for aqua-aerobics, I never cease to be impressed, appalled, amazed, amused and befuddled.

Here’s what struck me today in the form of some things to consider the next time you go to the gym (and your intention is actually to work out and change your body / attain your goals. Of course, anything is better than NOTHING. I’m just saying, most of us are short on time, right? Why not do what you can to get the most out of the time that you have dedicated to your workout. 🙂 ).

  1. If you pick cardio machines that “seem” easy, they probably are. This is not to say that the eliptical glider doesn’t serve a purpose. For those with joint problems it can be a low-impact way to get the old heart-rate up without having to put on a bathing suit and dip yourself in chlorine. But if you’re sort of mindlessly plodding along thinking, “Great! I’m getting my cardio in.” it’s time to take a good look at what you’re really accomplishing. Be present to your workout. Work HARD. Focus. (Here’s a tip: Want results faster? Do intervals, don’t go long and slow. You’ll save time and accomplish more.) What’s the best cardio machine you can pick for an efficient, ass-kicking workout? The stair-climber. Go suffer. Earn it. And, for godsakes, don’t read while you’re doing it. I’m sorry, if you are reading on a cardio machine you are not getting a good workout. It’s better to focus on challenging intervals for 25 minutes then go slow and comfortable for 60 – trust me.
  2. Don’t hold on. If you are on an eliptical machine or a stair-climber or even a treadmill and you are holding on while you work out you are doing yourself a great disservice. Keeping your hands free forces your core to activate for balance, giving you more bang for your workout buck.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask. The last three times that I have been in a gym I have been asked for advice. All three times it was women about my age who were asking for advice on form, or how to target something, or what’s this thing for? I was never brave enough to do this, fearing that the askee would be annoyed at having their workout interrupted. In truth, I’ve been flattered to suddenly be perceived as someone who probably knows what they’re doing and have taken longer than necessary in all three cases to provide extensive, thorough answers. If you’re not sure about your form, or how something works, just ask someone who looks competent, or find a trainer.
  4. Have a plan. Take 5 minutes before you go to the gym to plan out what you’re going to do when you get there. Don’t rest for 5 minutes inbetween activities trying to figure out what you’re going to do next. Be prepared, even if it’s just a simple circuit of 4 or 5 different exercises that you do consecutively, rest for a minute, and then do again. If you write it down beforehand you will avoid that “lollygagging” thing that happens when you’re unsure.  And while I’m on the topic of lollygagging let me address the really-long-rest-interval phenomenon.  As far as I know, unless you are doing HUGE, heavy-weight workouts, there’s no reason you should need to rest longer than a minute.  I see guys in the free-weights area resting for 2-3 minutes before sets – in reality all they’re doing is checking out their “pump” in the mirror.  You’re doing yourself a disservice if you rest for longer than a minute – and time starts immediately – walking to the next machine/bench/mat/location is part of “rest”.
  5. Be sure to warm up and cool down. Don’t just walk in and start going 100%. I see so many people do this and it drives me nuts. It’s a great way to insure injury. And don’t just get on the treadmill and fast-walk for 5 minutes to warm up. You need to do some active stretching, deep-breathing, marching in place (knees high), hip rotations, etc. Warm up the parts that are going to get the most use (if you’re going to use your shoulders a lot, do arm rotations). I often feel silly warming up in 24 Hour Fitness because it definitely doesn’t look “cool” but my body thanks me when I start in with the heavy lifting and intense supersets.

The main point of all this is don’t waste your time! If you’re going to go work out, then go work out. Don’t go read the paper while going through the motions on an eliptical machine. Don’t go spend half your allotted workout time figuring out what to do next. Be focused, have goals, go after it! Earn it! This is your time to shine so for godsakes, BE SHINY!!

And be sure to count the small victories.

Today was the first day at the gym I actually had a guy come up, interrupt my workout (he actually made me pull my headphones out), and complain to me that I was lifting more than he was. I appreciated this because usually when I am pulling more weight I just get the evil eye, not friendly competitive recognition.

Small victories!!


Go be. Go big!


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Don’t Call it a Comeback

On Wednesday I popped out of bed at 4:15am.  I was elated!  I felt normal again.  I felt like ME!  The sickness, the plague, the illness… she’s subsided.

In truth, I wasn’t 100% well, but there wasn’t a constant pounding in my head and my lymph nodes weren’t the size of golf balls anymore.  I could swallow food without pain!  Someone had removed the sandpaper from my throat!  Coherent, clear, and even somewhat complex thoughts were once again making my brain a home.

I never realize just how much illness takes out of me until I snap back.

I was so overjoyed at the progress of my healing that I ran into boot camp, nearly skipping, while the not-so-overyjoyed faces of women who were sleepy, tired, and sane greeted me.  I was literally vibrating I was so excited to be back at a normal energy level.

“Daniel,” Kirsten said just as we were starting, “I think you need to do some drug-testing on Heidi.”

It was true.  I was in Full Spaz Mode.

We had a great workout and I went home elated and wrote the Five Simple Lessons post.  I worked on personal projects, contract work, and house chores.  I kicked Wednesday’s ass.

So I was a little surprised when the cough crept back into my throat on Wednesday night.  I was more surprised when it didn’t go away.  Not even after 3 doses of codeine cough syrup from the bottle I’d begged off the urgent care nurse earlier in the week.  In fact, I coughed so much that for the first time in our relationship, I went downstairs and slept on the couch because I was keeping Sal awake.

Thursday the glands were back and so was the sandpaper so I stayed home and ditched my workout plans.   I’ve been strongly criticized in the past for working too hard through illness and I’m really trying to get better about it.

Here’s the thing though:  I’m always sick.

Seriously.  I get sick far more often than the average person.  This seems ironic since my lifestyle is arguably healthier than the average person but whatever.  I asked the doctor about it this week and got kind of a lame answer.  She suggested that some people just are more prone to illness.  What a cop out!

I mean, maybe it’s true, but isn’t it worthwhile to at least take a hollistic look at my overall wellness and try to see if we can’t identify some things that may be adversely affecting my immune system?  I guess I can’t blame her – she’s an urgent care doc – get ’em in, get ’em out.  But I feel like her answer was pretty indicative of the way that Western medicine is going to frame my “frailty”.

As such, I just bought Paul Check’s book “Eat, Move, and Be Healthy” on the recommendation of Daniel The Boot Camp Dude and another woman in class who has read it.  The primary focus is metabolic typing and eating for your optimal health, but it also presents a holistic approach to health that may help me find ways to boost my immune system and stay healthy more often.

Either way, my throat and lungs were still searing this morning so I opted out of what is arguably one of my favorite parts of camp – the timed mile.  Instead, I hit the local 24 Hour Fitness and cranked out a sweet, little upper-body blowout session.

It’s been a while since I lifted on my own and I was surprised (and elated) to discover that I am almost as strong as I used to be in San Francisco before I left my trainer there.  Even better?  I’m stronger in some areas; namely, my triceps.  Biceps, shoulders, chest and back have all slipped a little bit but the little tris are kicking ass!

Sweet.  Now I just have to figure out how to ditch that creepy girl who trailed me through all my weight circuits and exactly mimicked everything I did.  She freaked me out!

Enough about me, time to talk nutrition!


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Filed under health, life, training, weights, wellness