Workout. A Haiku Trilogy.

Endorphins
Working out can hurt
Endorphins overload me
Pain and rush, so good

Gains
Just one last rep, man
Lactic acid overdrive
But what gains I make

Weight
The weight of my world
Bench press, squats, rows, curls, pull ups
Take my cares away

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Training Without Calves (or, Cows With Guns)

See what I did there? Okay, well it sounded funny at the time*.

I have been lying in bed recovering from my torn calf for the last week and a half (grrrrr…). Being the fitness-addicted idiot that I am, I decided that it was time to get back to exercising before I went stir crazy. Here is the routine I worked out to ease myself back into the big stuff:

  • 3 sets of sit ups (40 reps per set) – core/abs
  • 3 sets of push ups (15 reps per set) – chest/arms
  • 3 sets of bicep curls (10 reps per set) – upper arms
  • 3 sets of tricep extensions (10 reps per set) – triceps
  • 3 sets of dips (10 reps per set) – chest/triceps
  • 3 sets of bent over rows (10 reps per set) – back (make sure you are supported so there’s no weight on the offending leg)
  • 3 sets of pull ups (10 reps per set) – back

I do warm ups/stretching before starting. You will note this is all upper body (I’m a fitness idiot, but I’m not stupid). Avoid leg work for a few weeks (if you regularly work out you will know it is an in-joke that most gym heads avoid leg work like the plague, so it shouldn’t be too hard…). Remember: If you have a torn calf, do NOT stretch your calf unnecessarily while exercising – you risk tearing it again. If you feel any strain on said calf (it will ‘moo’ at you – just kidding), cease and desist immediately.

This work out is pretty easy considering what I did prior to my injury (you can check out some of my workouts here), but I’m taking it slow to start with.

Ahhhhhhh…I’m feeling better already (the calf’s not, but you know what I mean).

Health Warning: I’m not a doctor (despite past girlfriends assuming I was a gynecologist), so if you aren’t used to training, or if you have torn your calf, make sure you consult with a real doctor (no, not your workout buddy at the gym) before attempting any new training routine.

 

* Didn’t get the reference? Do yourself a favour and check out ‘Cows with Guns’ below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQMbXvn2RNI

Rest, Recuperation and the Art of Camouflage

(It’s been three days since my last workout. I’m lying on the lounge, checking Twitter. Alpha Girl enters and does a double-take. “Hey,” she says. “Aren’t you supposed to be doing 500 push ups or something, by now?”

“I’m having a week off,” I reply.

“So, you’re resting your arm?”

“As a matter of fact, yes.”

“Good. It’s about time you used your brain for something other than being stupid, or upset with yourself. Are you intending to lie around all week?”

“That was my intention.”

Alpha Girl’s hands are on her waist, her head cocks slightly to the side. An air of haughtiness floods the already cramped room. “Oh, no you don’t, mister. If you’ve got a week off, you can help Beta Max to paint the spare room. And clean up all that crap in the back yard.”

Beta Max enters the room and smiles. “No rest for the wicked, bro.”)

 

Every few weeks of working out, I have a week off. This is so my body has a chance to completely recover, allowing time for muscle tissue to grow and ligaments to repair themselves.

At my age, you don’t recover as fast as you do when you’re younger, so you need to take a bit more care. For those of you who have followed my blog from early on (that would be none of you), you may remember (or not) that I have a long-term tendonitis injury in my left elbow that causes me pain when I use it (read about it here). I’ve been using an ultrasound wand on it, but after some initial positive results, my elbow seems to have settled back into the “I hate you and intend to hurt you by making all your fevered self-torture dreams come true” mode.

If you’ve read any of my blogs, you will know that I use exercise as a way of combatting my ongoing depression (along with medication, therapy – you know, the usual suspects), so skipping a week is a big thing for me. But I have to weigh up the pros and cons. On one hand, it’s good for my tiny brain, on the other, I need my arm to get (slowly) better.

Yeah, I can still do chores and the like, I just don’t push myself with big weights until I’m a wet smear on the ground. That means no tabatas as well (don’t know what a tabata is? You really haven’t been reading my blog – check it out here). So, this week is going to be laid back. A week I can catch up on my uni work, watch some TV, look for jobs (yes, I do that occasionally, y’know), read, and do some work around the house. I might even do some meditation.

I think I’m going to be absolutely desperate for a workout by the end of the week.

 

(“Have you finished that yard work, boys?” calls Alpha Girl from the kitchen window.

Beta Max hides his beer and yells: “No worries, we’re right on it.” It’s been three hours and we’ve managed to move one small pile of junk about five feet away from where it was originally.

“She’s going to come out at some point,” I say.

“By that time, my friend,” says Beta Max, “we will be safely ensconced at the pub.”

While his logic is sound, I don’t believe the final outcome will be ideal for either of us.)

Tabata This, Tabata That…

So, I’m a bit of a fitness freak (well, less freak and more fitness). Exercise is not only great for physical fitness, but for mental fitness as well. Research has shown that regular exercise can decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety, and contribute to improved self-esteem. So, I need to exercise to keep reasonably on track, head-wise.

I work out regularly and also do tabatas. So what’s a tabata, you say? I’m glad you asked that very intelligent question.

A tabata is a 4-minute routine that utilises four different exercises done at full intensity for 20 seconds each, with a 10 second break in between. These exercises are then repeated to complete the 4 minutes. By the end, you are exhausted. It’s designed to improve your cardio fitness and to burn fat.

Want to see one? Check out this YouTube video.

So, now you know what it is, I can tell you it is one of the best short exercises I’ve come across for improving fitness and burning fat. You can also customise the tabata to target particular body parts. I’ve included examples below of some of the routines I use:

Kettle Bell Tabata

  1. Single-Handed Kettlebell Swing (core and shoulder – one hand at a time, between legs to shoulder height, transfer to other hand at top of arc)
  2. Double-Handed Kettlebell Swing (core and arm workout – two handed, usually with heavier kettlebell – between legs to shoulder height) – see the picture above
  3. Kettlebell Spider Power Plank (core workout – legs are raised during plank one at a time to touch elbows)
  4. Kettlebell Power Plank with Renegade Row (for core and latissimi dorsi muscles – the “wings” of your back)
  5. Repeat each of the four exercises again

Bodyweight Tabata

  1. Push Ups (chest exercise – can be normal, incline or decline)
  2. Wide Grip Pull Ups (back exercise, using chin up bar)
  3. Dips (chest exercise, using dip rack)
  4. Mid-Grip Chin Ups (arm exercise, using chin up bar)
  5. Repeat each of the four exercises again

Keep the intensity high throughout the tabata. By the end your heart rate will be elevated, and you’ll probably be puffed out. The high intensity and increased heart rate kick starts your fat-burning.

So you’re interested in doing tabatas? You’ll need an interval timer, to set alarms at 20 and 10 second intervals, so you can keep track of where you’re up to. Here is the one I use:

If you already do tabatas as part of your routine, please share in the comments!

 

Warning: If you haven’t exercised before, are unfit or carrying an injury, check with your doctor prior to commencing any exercise routine.

The Ballad of Long Term Systemic Gym Junkie Injuries

(I’m just finishing my fifth set of weighted pull ups – that’s where you hang a 20 kilogram barbell from your belt and do correct form pull ups from a suspended chin up bar – when Alpha Girl enters and stands with her arms crossed. “You sweat a lot,” she says. “And do you have to grunt so loudly?”

“Could you go and bother someone else?” I say. “I’m pretty exhausted.”

“You look like you’re in pain.” Is that concern I sense? Can’t be.

“A bit. I have a long term tendonitis injury in my left elbow, and it hurts every time I work out.”

“So you’ve hurt yourself, and you keep making it worse?”

“Well, sort of. I have rest days and -”

“Your elbow injury is getting worse.”

“I’m looking after it.”

“Why are men such idiots?”)

Anyone who works out at home or in the gym on a regular basis will know what sort of short term damage you can do to yourself, if you’re not careful. Strained and torn muscles and ligaments are part of the game, but can generally be avoided if you stretch and warm up properly before starting your sets.

About two years ago I was working out with a mate who was much bigger and stronger than me. We were doing one of my favourite exercises, the aforementioned weighted pull ups, and I was lifting the same weight he was (as you do). I felt a twinge in my left elbow, but ignored it (as you do). I kept going, not wanting to show any weakness (as you do).

Over the next few weeks the elbow got worse. Being a man, and a stupid one at that, I chose to think it was just ligament strain, and that it would heal with a week off (as you do). I got back into training and the injury got worse. Eventually I went to the Doctor who gave me pain killers, a support bandage, and a recommendation that I stop training altogether for six months. After considering this for all of five seconds (as you do), I wore the bandage for a few weeks then took it off as I believed my left arm wasn’t getting the workout it needed (as you do).

Every gym junkie has their preferred approach to training. Many do 5-10 sets of 5-10 reps (repetitions) per body part (chest, back, legs, arms), exercising a different body part each day (a split routine). This can include supersets (my preferred option, whereby you do supersets of 2-3 different exercises for the same muscle group each set), drop sets (where you start with heavier weight and drop the weight back continuously as you go until you’re exhausted), circuits (multiple types of exercises for an all over body workout, moving from one machine to the next), and so forth.

Most sane people work out around three days per week. Body builders can work out five days per week, and if they have a competition coming up this can be stepped up to twice per day over that week (generally you would need steroids to recover from such intense workouts – my apologies to anyone who is competing who says they are not taking steroids).

I currently train for about 1.5 hours a day, four days per week. This includes a body split with a changing mix of supersets, followed by a tabata (a 4-minute intense cardio blaster) and/or jogging/walking circuits with push ups and lunges after each lap. My workouts tend to keep me lean with reasonable mass, but not huge body builder size.

One of the most important facets of training is having perfect form. This is where the exercise is done strictly, not rushed, using precise form so that the muscle is hit to maximise micro-tears in the fibres for optimal regrowth. Along with this is the need to eat right (lots of protein for muscle building, along with complex carbs for sustained energy) and sleeping right (good rest for recovery). This is, of course, oversimplifying things, but I didn’t want this post to go on forever.

(“That would be a first,” says Alpha Girl.

“Just go away,” I say.)

Anyone who has been training for any amount of time inevitably becomes a backseat expert (as you do) – you read a few fitness magazines and suddenly all of your advice is golden. Despite the threat of constant joint pain and crippling rheumatoid arthritis for the rest of your life, the basic formula is: Training = good, six months rest = evil.

But I had to do something. My neanderthal gym brain was telling me “must…fix”.

I finally started ultrasound therapy on my elbow, which is showing some promising results. I’m still working out regularly, so the improvement is slow. But at least it’s a start.

The moral of this story? Even a stupid gym junkie can use his brain. Sometimes.

(“Are you sure it’s getting better?” asks Alpha Girl. “I wouldn’t want anything to prevent you from getting a job. Or even better, moving out.”

“For a moment there I almost thought you cared,” I say. She smirks and exits.)

(English spelling, not American. Just so you know.) 

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