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Week 8 – Fitter, Faster, Stronger…

I can’t quite work out where the last eight weeks have gone.  It just seems like yesterday I was starting this program.

To write this I went back to the first few weeks to look at what I wanted to achieve.  My original goals were to feel fitter, faster, stronger and taking some junk out of the trunk.  I was looking for a way to de-stress and practice some mindfulness.  I was hoping to learn some new skills and strategies to include more exercise in my life while having fun.  Still, I had no idea what I was up for… it was like heading out on a journey without knowing where you’re going and without a map.

So what’s different after 8 weeks?  On the up side, I do feel fitter and stronger.  I know that I am faster at getting through the cardio portions of our workouts than I was at the beginning of the program.  I must admit that my ability to be mindful while exercising did improve over the program… mind you that may have something to do with trying to remember to breathe and counting reps during exercises!   I don’t feel quite so overwhelmed with the different types of equipment and exercises on offer at the average gym.  I’ve been willing to try new things but not always enjoy them (eg. rowing machine).  I certainly know that once you clock yourself in the face with a medicine ball, you learn how to catch another one pretty fast.

On the down side, I am still eating lunch at my desk as I can’t exactly eat and exercise at the same time.  It was also starting to get harder to get away at lunch times, three days a week due to work commitments.  On the whole, I would say that the positives out weigh the negatives.

So a very big thank you to Diane  and Roxana for organising  and to the trainers, Matt, Sam, Robbie, Ben and James for providing encouragement, guidance, support and motivation during the uonwellbeing program.  I’d also like to thank my nine team mates for the camaraderie, commiserations and laughs.   I couldn’t have done it without you.

Anyway folks, while this is the end of the program, it’s actually more like a new beginning for me.

Once again I feel like Lao Tzu but this time I have a better idea of the direction that I am heading because at least I have a map!


Week 7 – Almost Finished – Already?!

What a great week  it has been  I have really enjoyed all of the session this week and yes, I did make it to all of them.

This week I have spent more time using the TRX Suspension Trainers.  They basically look like two long straps with handles attached to a piece of equipment bolted to the floor of the studio.  Unlike  some of the other bands I have previously used at the gym, these ones are not flexible and basically you use your body weight to perform exercises.  I have to admit that the first time using it I was a bit worried that they would snap and I would fall flat on my face.  I was assured by Robbie ( one of our trainers) that they can hold a weight of up to 170kg, so I figured I might be safe.   This seemingly innocuous piece of exercise equipment turned into the work of the Devil… wow, I felt muscles that I never knew that I had!

I am also starting to learn to use the right muscles for a lot of the tougher exercises like the Smith Row and the Assisted Chin-ups.  Previously in weeks 4 & 5 , I was using all of the muscles available to me to complete the exercise. This was very tiring for me and not quite what the trainers were looking for.  This week, under a bit of guidance from Ben (one of the trainers) I managed to use the right muscles for the Assisted Chin-up.  I could actually do it and boy, could I feel it for days afterwards.   This is such a huge difference for me.  When I first started I could barely manage 1 set of 6 reps, I can now do 3 sets of 10 reps.  It has been a huge confidence booster to know that I am on the right track.

I think that the big lesson that I have learnt this week has been about technique and engaging the right muscles for the exercises.    Not that I didn’t know this already but I don’t think I understood it properly until now.  All of that nagging and correcting our technique at the beginning by Matt and Sam is really starting to pay off.

I honestly can’t believe that has already been seven weeks of training… time has certainly flown and I would have to say that it has certainly been fun.

Week 6 – Mind over Matter

This hasn’t been a good week for me.  For the first time since we started,  I have unavoidably missed sessions due to unforeseen circumstances.   While this wasn’t much fun at the time there a couple of things that I learnt about myself this week.  So this week’s blog entry may not be so much on the exercise that I did but more about an internal process.

The first thing is that I think that my attitude towards exercise and training has changed. While on previous occasions if I had missed an exercise session, it would have barely rated a “meh... no skin off my nose” (including the shoulder shrug). This week I actually felt like I was missing out by not exercising.  It almost felt like itchy feet (no, not like tinea) but that sort of toe tapping, “let’s get going” type of feeling where you want to burn off energy.   I actually did a couple of make up sessions on the weekend as I felt guilty for not being well enough to exercise during the week and for missing my sessions.  Crazy, eh?!

The second thing  that I learnt this week was that I need to listen to my body, rest and recover before coming back to exercise.  I really pushed myself at the Monday session to the point where I thought I might be sick on the walk back to the office afterwards.  I actually felt sort of OK at the time but when I think about it later, it probably wasn’t quite the smartest thing that I could have done. In a previous life, I would have been back at the gym and going hell for leather as soon as I was back on my feet whether I was ready or not.   Then I would just get angry and frustrated with myself when I couldn’t match my usual standards or my own expectations.

I think this week has made me think about training smarter.  It all comes down to knowing your limitations, knowing when to push yourself and knowing when to cut yourself some slack.   It’s when you mix those things up and you don’t push yourself when you can or over training that real problem start.  You either don’t create enough of a challenge to stay motivated or you give up because it is all too hard to keep going.

I am looking forward to getting stuck back into it next week, catching up with the team and the trainers.

Week 5 – Changes are Happening

Phew… got to the end of a tough week just about in one piece.  Fortunately, I managed to catch everything that was thrown at me.  Week 5 was about upping the intensity of the training.  We now have the the basic exercises down pat and now we’re learning new ways of mixing these all together to create a workout.

The great thing is that I can really start to see some changes to my level of fitness.  Sure, I am still as sore as I was in the first week but that is because I am pushing myself more and keeping up the intensity.  I am feeling stronger and feel more confident taking the resistance or the speed to the next level.    I can feel my clothes starting to get a little looser, even though I haven’t been too keen to get on the scales to confirm it.

The thing that I am most impressed with is how tough and motivated the rest of the group is.  They are going from strength to strength… It inspires me to do my best every session.  So to all my teamsters, keep up the good work and to the trainers, thank you for supporting and pushing us just to do that little bit extra.  It’s been worth it.

Week 4 – When the going gets tough…

I knew by about 9:01am on Monday morning that this week was going to be tough… and we all know the old saying about when the going gets tough.

After the previous week interstate without the usual access to email, I had a mountain of correspondence to attend to, things to organise, meetings to go to and decisions to make.  Not that I am complaining, it’s why I get paid.  I just knew that with the amount of competing deadlines and a list of  priority tasks as long as my arm, an exam to prepare for and take, not to mention a  mountain of housework to get through, I was worried that something was going to give.  Usually, this is the point where my exercise routine gets shoved well and truly on to the back-burner… so far back it doesn’t even rate a simmer!  Not this week.  This week I decided to go Old School and use the traditional ending to the statement: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going…”

Which ended up being a good thing, because Matt and Sam introduced me to a few new exercises and I certainly discovered muscles I didn’t know that I had.  I arrived at the first session of the week with trepidation as I knew that there was likely to be  a couple of new exercises that the group learnt during the week I was away.  I must admit it was great to get back into the Squash Court gym, full of  familiar equipment, friendly faces and lots of laughs.  Mind you, the laughs may have been at my expense as I clocked myself in the square in the face with a medicine ball after missing a catch.   OK, so the medicine ball looked like a massive pouf cushion and it was difficult to miss, I still managed it. By the end of Monday’s session I couldn’t actually feel my arms.  It made for an interesting time taking notes at meeting that afternoon… I still can’t decipher what I wrote and I was there!

Wednesday, Sam challenged me to tackle the “super sets” that Matt had left for us.  I took one look and thought…nah, way too hard.  By the end of the session I thought to myself that wasn’t quite the attitude.  So I set my mind to tackling the challenge on the Friday session and embracing the challenge.  This was great up until the last set of exercises where it was a combination of wall throws (with the dreaded pouf cushion), assisted chin ups and chest presses.  I literally could not feel my forearms… Sam assured me that it was because I was not use to the exercise and once I had built strength up, I would be able to start using the right muscles (instead of any muscles) to complete the exercise.  I hope he’s right…

Next week is the start of a new phase, bring it on, because you know what happens when the going gets tough…

Week 3 – On the Road…

Week 3 and just when I think I have an exercise  routine sorted a spanner gets chucked into the works.  Yep.  I was away interstate at a conference.

So the question for me this week has been “How do I keep up the motivation to exercise when the enormous breakfast buffet, hotel meals and conference happy hours call my name so insistently?”  Honestly, I can hear the pancakes calling my name…

Well thankfully, the swanky hotel did have a gym of sorts… wasn’t quite the state of the art facility that they claimed and was mainly geared to cardio junkies with steppers, cross trainers, treadmills and even the dreaded rowing machine.  Personally, not quite sure why you would need to walk on a treadmill when there was the most gorgeous location to walk around outside.  Still it was open 24/7 so I guess if you felt the need you could go for a walk at 3am…

I must admit that it was easier for me to tackle the cardio component of the exercise plan that we had ( I was still using last week’s session as my laptop decided to die on the first day away).   The machines were different but very similar to those that we’ve been using at the Squash Courts, so I could adjust the settings to what I needed to achieve.   The tricky part for me was trying to work out how to do the resistance workout that we had.  There were a set of free weights, some medicine balls and a couple of combination weights machines that I had never seen before.   I did have to really think laterally about how to achieve the same exercises. I remember looking at this equipment in a completely empty room, no trainer to advise me, no other users to talk to, thinking to myself “How do I do this?”   It was certainly a challenge.   Eventually I just thought about what the movements and muscles required and used free weights and my body weight to achieve the remainder of the session.  I actually felt pretty good that I could adapt what I had learnt so far from Matt and Sam.

I guess with working out while you are travelling, you need to be adaptable yet persistent.  I love this quote that I found by Napoleon Hill (he was one of the first “self-help” gurus) ” Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success “.  Does that not sound like a perfect description of getting healthy and fit!

Oh, and by the way, I did give into the pancakes at breakfast on the last day of the conference!

Week 2 – Juggling life to include exercise

Week two… the initial spark of enthusiasm gives way to the reality that I  have to manage my time more effectively in order to get exercise in for the next 6 weeks plus.

Hey, I know that I am not Robinson Crusoe here.  Like everyone else, I am juggling and trying to maintain a healthy work / life balance.  Between full-time work, part-time study, housework and maintaining some semblance of a healthy relationship with family and friends, there is often very little “me” time.  I have to admit that this week has been a little harder with some looming deadlines, meetings and tasks to complete but I have managed to make it to all of the sessions this week.  I have had to plan a bit more to juggle the “exercise” ball as well as all of the others.  Still I have made some small progress on that score.  I’ve managed to find the fastest way to walk across campus to the Squash Courts and back plus my lunch and my gear are all ready the night before so I don’t forget anything.

It is said that it takes at least 21 days for the  brain to start forming new neural pathways required to change a habit.  There are very few habits that I have ever tried to change and maintain so this is new territory for me.   I am one of those people who love routine, consequently, I’ve never been really very good at change.   I guess you have to get in the right head space to adapt and take it one step at a time.  To paraphrase Franklin D Roosevelt – change should be “evolutionary, not revolutionary” to be maintained… sounds like a good idea to me!

This week’s exercise plan has certainly upped the anti on cardio.  We’re having to go further in the same amount of time or faster.  We’ve got more sets or increased repetitions on the resistance and core exercises plus two brand new exercises to learn… the workout is certainly a challenge to finish in the time allocated for each session.  But who doesn’t love a challenge?  I am still having fun but I am not yet convinced that the rower and I are ever going to be friends… perhaps getting to a point where we tolerate each other!

So any other advice trainers,  teamsters and readers?  What do you do to try and keep exercise included as part of your routine?