Sunday Sweat Talk {Training For Life}

Time for our Sunday Sweat Talk date! I’m psyched to talk about training for life today.

Sunday Sweat Talk

Last Friday night I went out to dinner with my friends Shannon and Baka from home. We were catching up on life, which included talking about our blogs. Somehow we started talking about my obsession with strength training, and at one point in the conversation, Baka asked me, “why are you doing it?”

I probably responded with something like to feel good, socialize, blow off steam, stay healthy, blah blah blah. Baka (very quickly) interrupted me and said, “no, why are you doing so much weightlifting lately? What are you training for?”

OH. I thought about it for a second and simply replied, “I’m training for life.”

I know this statement was received with eye rolls because, well, that’s what friends from home are good for, amiright? But I was serious. I’m not training for any specific event. I’m not trying out for anything or performing in any upcoming weightlifting competitions. So what does training for life mean?

I’m training because I want to be around for a long time. I want to be able to perform my daily life activities both now and when I’m older without any pain. I want my body to know how to work collectively as an integrated whole to prevent injury. What I don’t want to do is waste my time by isolating one muscle at a time in the gym. Tell me, when’s the last time you had to move like this IN LIFE?

leg extension[Source]

I’ll tell you that the only time I have to move like this in my life is when I take off my shoes underneath my desk and then can’t find them. Then I have to extend ONLY my legs while in a seated position to try and get my shoes back on my feet before scurrying to a meeting. Helpful.

See what I mean? While machines are certainly better than nothing, they actually do very little to prepare you for the movements of life. When’s the last time you pushed something forward from a regular seated position? When’s the last time you just shrugged your shoulders up and down repeatedly? When’s the last time you sat in a chair and just opened and closed your legs 15 times? Don’t answer that, but seriously ladies, STOP USING THAT MACHINE.

So when you ask yourself why you should train, think about preparing your body for what life throws at it. Embrace functional fitness. Bend, twist, change direction, and lift at various speeds in multiple settings.

The concept is very simple: do exercises in the gym that will help you move outside of the gym.

Functional Fitness

Squat and deadlift so you can sit down, stand up, and pick up heavy boxes and bags of groceries.

Do pushups so you can pick yourself up off the ground or catch yourself in a fall.

Do step ups so you can take the stairs.

Do cable chops so you can lift your son out of his crib and give him to another family member to hold.

Move in all positions: front to back, side to side, and rotational. Humans never move only in a straight line.

Challenge your stability. Think about how often you only have one foot planted on the ground at a time. Hint: it’s a lot. Every time you walk, no?

Anyways, luckily for my friends last Friday, I didn’t get into all of this during dinner. I’m pretty sure we immediately moved on to discuss other important things like the best Mexican hot spots in Boston. But I’m happy to be on the blog talking about this topic today. It’s so important. Training for life is part of the reason I feel so awesome like I talked about last week, and I encourage you all to train for life too.

AHA 5k Heart Challenge 2014

^^ Me at my first obstacle race last weekend! Can’t wait to recap this for you guys.

–Let’s chat–
You guys tell me. What are you training for?
How do you train for life? Do you think you need to make any changes to your workouts to make them more effective and focused on whole body movements?

For more Sunday Sweat Talk topics:

Sunday Sweat Talk {Four Month Lifting Update}

Hello! Happy Mother’s Day to all my F&F moms, and to my mom of course.

Sunday Sweat Talk

For today’s Sunday Sweat Talk post, I want to chat about strength training. As you guys know, at the start of the year I decided to switch things up and pursue lifting heavier. Four months in, I’m not only enjoying the changes I’ve made to my workouts, but the changes I’m seeing in my body, both physically and mentally.

For strength, I’m doing around two heavy lifting sessions a week, but squeezing a third one in has been tough with my teaching schedule. I teach muscle classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but these classes use lighter weights. We aren’t using three-pound weights or anything, but we just don’t really have the option to use anything heavier than 15 pounds in the group ex studio, and it’s also not that safe with a large class to do so anyways. So on my non teaching strength days, I shoot for one leg day and one upper body day.

Barbell Row

Here’s a quick progress update:

  • Deadlift: I met my bodyweight goal of 125 pounds with the trap bar last week (yay!), but I still want to reach this goal with the regular barbell deadlift too.
  • Back squat: The heaviest I’ve gone is 115, but I still feel more comfortable in the 105-110 range right now.
  • Bench press: I’m having trouble breaking out of the 65-70 pound range with the barbell.
  • Pull-ups: Still working on them, but I’ve decreased my numbers on the assisted pull-up machine to only need about 30% of my bodyweight now.
  • Pushups: I don’t necessarily have a number update to offer, but I’m happy with how much I’ve improved my form on my everyday regular pushups on the floor.

I’m working on other things too (cleans, rows, weighted walking lunges, weighted bridges, etc.), but those are the main things to report. I also feel one thousand times better and more comfortable with my form than I did when I started.

What about cardio?

On days I lift, I will sometimes do a cardio warmup (usually on the spin bike) that is no more than about 15 minutes. If I don’t do a cardio based warmup, then I will sometimes end my workout with a cardio finisher such as a quick blast on the row machine or burpees. Sometimes I will do 3-5 minutes of fast rowing in between supersets, but sometimes I don’t incorporate any cardio at all. It just depends on my mood. Throughout the week, the only other cardio workouts I do include kickboxing on Tuesday nights and either going for a run or taking a spin class another day, but not both. I haven’t touched an elliptical in months. I don’t miss it.

Things I’ve noticed:

I am seeing RESULTS, and I’m seeing these faster than I’ve ever seen results by just doing a cardio program. First of all, I have an ass! Well, kind of. I have always had a flat bum, but because of all the lower body work I’ve done, my glutes have gotten bigger. This is thrilling to me, and I love that my butt finally has *some* perk to it. I can also see more definition in my arms, shoulders, and back, and you know what? Sometimes I catch myself checking out my own arms in the mirror. I don’t care if that comes off as conceited, but I feel awesome about my upper body right now, so why shouldn’t I be pumped about it? I wish more people would relish in what they dig about their physical appearance.


The changes also go beyond just how I look, and I’m noticing things that I’m able to do now that I wasn’t able to do before. For example, when I was on my wellness retreat in Vermont taking a yoga class, I was able to hold crow pose for longer than I’ve ever been able to before. Yesterday I ran my first obstacle race, and you know what? I most certainly would not have been able to get up and over all those six to eight foot walls without improved upper body strength. I’ve also noticed changes mentally as well. I love weight lifting for the journey. I no longer feel like I have to “get through” 45 minutes of cardio. Instead, I genuinely WANT to be in the gym to see what my body is capable of that day. I’m okay taking more rest days than I used to be because when I am sore, I know that my body needs that recovery time to improve. I feel happier and more self-confident. Lifting heavier is helping me realize that a lot of the things I thought I “couldn’t” do were just self-imposed limitations, and this attitude is carrying over to other areas of my life as well. It’s very clear that training your body also trains your mind. Do it.

Fitness Portfolio

So what now?

Aside from continuing to work on my lifts, I am considering some changes to my teaching schedule in the near very future (eeeek I know) to make more time for strength training on my own. I also just purchased the Modern Woman’s Guide to Strength Training program from Girls Gone Strong because I am craving a little more direction with my program. To date, I’ve just been putting together my own workouts which is fine, but even trainers need a coach or trainer you know. This guide is extremely comprehensive, has a solid program that I can follow to progress, and I can’t wait to have a more prescribed approach to my sets, reps, and exercise selections. I’m planning to read through it tonight so I can get started with it this week. For cardio, now that the weather is nicer, I really want to do more outdoor cardio workouts, but I want to take these beyond just going for a run. I want to run the bleachers at Harvard Stadium, do some hill runs, and use outdoor spaces like basketball courts for cardio drills. I’m hoping Tim and/or my gym friends will want to join me for these types of outdoor workouts for some extra motivation.

I’ll let you guys know how it all goes!

–Let’s chat–
What’s going on in your fitness world right now? I want to hear about progress on goals, any programs you are working on, or anything else on your mind. Is anyone else doing The Modern Woman’s Guide to Strength Training? Does anyone have any fun outdoor stadium, hill, or court workouts to share? Fellow trainers, do you have your own trainer or coach? What part of your body are you digging right now?

For more Sunday Sweat Talk topics:


Guest Post: Getting Started with Strength Training

Hi to all the Fitness and Feta fanatics out there!  I am a loyal F and F reader from its inception and one of Athena’s good gym friends, Ashley.


As a disclaimer, I have no formal training in anything fitness related (I am a Speech-Language Pathologist according to my degrees), but I have made fitness a regular part of my life since around 2005.  However, I didn’t get started in my absolute FAVORITE part of fitness, strength training, until about 2008.  That year I was a senior in college at UMass Amherst and looking to take some “fun” classes for credit.  I found a strength training class in the Five-College Consortium at Hampshire College (right up the street) and signed right up! (side note: I also took SCUBA for credit that year – man do I miss being in college!).  In that class I learned about many different strength machines as well as how to properly use free weights, and I have been using them ever since!  More recently (since around April), I decided I really wanted to challenge myself and go for much heavier weights with bigger, full body movements (deadlifts, squats, pull ups, etc).  This is the journey I will be discussing today…

I have never had any personal training before, but I decided that if I was going to lift heavier, I wanted to make sure my form was correct and I wasn’t going to injure myself.  I decided that getting some proper coaching would be worth the money, at least initially, until I got my form down.  I decided to find a Strength and Conditioning Coach rather than a Personal Trainer.  This link gives a pretty good breakdown of one versus the other.  While they are very similar, I decided a Strength and Conditioning Coach would be better for me since I wanted to focus more on strength training, movement patterns, and injury prevention.  I was referred by a friend to Coach Tad Sayce at Sayco Performance, and I have been seeing him once a week since April.  Tad has helped me improve my movement patterns, increase my flexibility, and increase my overall strength.  He has written me programs to follow while at the facility with him as well as programs to follow when I am training without him during the rest of the week.  Whenever I have pain in certain areas or something doesn’t feel right, he helps me figure out what’s causing the problem, fix it, and re-writes my program if necessary.  These are a few of the exercises I’ve been working on consistently with him:


I have done a few variations of deadlifts – trap bar deadlifts, single leg deadlifts, and sumo deadlifts (pictured below).  Deadlifts work a bunch of muscles, but mostly the hamstrings and glutes.  I loooooove deadlifts! They are dangerous because if not done properly, you could hurt your lower back (and probably other areas as well).

Ashley Deadlift

Chin Ups

Usually chin-ups are done with an underhand grip, while pull-ups are done with an overhand grip.  In the picture below, I am doing them with a neutral grip, which is kind of in-between, but chin-ups are generally the easier of the two exercises, so that’s what I am starting with.  Chin-ups are a great upper body workout because they work your biceps, shoulders, back, and core.  Chin-ups have been the bane of my existence for a while because it is an exercise that I simply can’t do unassisted YET.  Strength ability, like anything else, varies widely from person to person and my good friend Addie said to me a few weeks ago “You encouraged me to try doing chin ups, but I can only do a few.”  Well, I have been working my butt off on them since April and I can’t do any yet!  Pictured below, I am using a resistance band, so I will continue working my way to less resistance until I don’t need anything!  You bet your tushy I will brag for a while on Facebook when that happens, complete with picture and video.

Ashley Chin Up


With Tad, I have been working on goblet squats and front squats (pictured below).  Squats are a great full body exercise, but they mainly work the quads.  I had never done front squats before, and I have learned a lot about technique and squat movement from Tad.  In the picture, you’ll see that I have a wider stance and my toes are pointing outwards a bit.  Because of my hip movement patterns, this allows me to get more depth (squat lower).  I also learned that I was leaning a bit too far forward in my squats, so you’ll see in the picture that my back is pretty straight.

Ashley Squat

Push Ups

I had always done push-ups on the ground, but I realized I was “cheating” and not going as far down as I should, so I have been doing incline push ups with Tad to improve my form.  Push-ups are another great upper body exercise because they work your core, chest, back, shoulders, and triceps.  If you elevate your hand placement (as seen in my picture) on a barbell, bench, step, etc, it makes the push-up easier.  Placing your hands on the ground would make it a regular push-up, and elevating your feet would make it harder. Additionally, you can change your hand placement to work different muscles (wider, narrower, etc).

Ashley Pushup

I enjoy strength training because I would rather focus on adding more weight to my barbells than the number on the scale.  Also, there is no better feeling than being the bad-ass chick with all the men in the weight room.

Amber Rogers at just did a great 3-part series on Taming the Weight Room if you want more information on how to get started with strength training.  I highly recommend hiring a Personal Trainer or Strength and Conditioning Coach to show you the ropes and proper form, but I understand that’s not financially reasonable for a lot of people.  I would recommend doing some more reading on the exercises you want to start and start with very light weight (or just bodyweight!) until you really get the form down!

Good luck and don’t give up!

Thank you, Ashley, for your guest post!  You know I always love hearing about your new strength training adventures.

Let’s chat – Do you strength train with heavier weight?  Have you ever used a personal trainer or a strength and conditioning coach before?