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:


Sunday Sweat Talk {Unstable Surface Training}

A couple of months ago, I splurged and bought myself a bosu ball. It was definitely an impromptu decision after training on them all day at my MMA Fighter Fit certification, but I learned a lot of new moves using the bosu that weekend. It was also on sale. Like super duper sale. My at home fitness equipment collection was starting to get boring, so a bosu seemed like a good solution to add some variety.

MMA Fighter Fit - Bosu & AirFit

Despite my purchase, I have mixed feelings about using the bosu as a workout tool. If the bosu is used correctly and creatively, it can be a fun piece of equipment to shake things up in a workout routine. However, I know many fitness professionals out there who will argue that unstable surface training is not all that cracked up as everyone makes it out to be.

Here are some reasons for this:

  • You can’t use nearly as much weight while training on an unsteady surface. I know that I can lift much more when both feet are standing on steady ground than when I’m wobbling around on a bosu. And lifting heavy equals results. You think there’s any chance of me deadlifting over 100 pounds while standing on a bosu? No way.
  • Quality of form often gets compromised, which can lead to injury. This kind of goes hand in hand with the first reason because it’s when trying to use too much weight on the bosu that you often see form go right out the window. But even just bodyweight exercises can lead to bad form. Buckling knees on bodyweight squats, arched backs or butts in the air during pushups and planks, etc. are very common things to see in your everyday exerciser who doesn’t know any better while using a bosu.
  • Core strength can be obtained in better ways. Using a bosu DOES challenge the core, but it’s not the end all be all to core strength training like many inexperienced people claim it is. I know that when I am holding a heavy barbell on my back in a back squat, I am using a LOT of core strength to be able to get through my full range of motion.

Weighted Barbell Squat

When I do train with the bosu, I really don’t use it much as a tool to stand on like many people do (and how I used to do myself). I know I’ve posted a couple of workouts on F&F before that include exercises standing on the bosu, but my views have simply changed over time and with more experience. Whenever I stand on the bosu now, it’s either 1) for rehabilitation or balance work, such as building the strength back up in my weak ankle after spraining it in January, or 2) for cardio, power, or explosive types of exercises that don’t focus on using weights.

For the latter, I love coming up with creative exercises that fit these categories. I like to pick the bosu up and LIFT it as part of my workouts by doing burpees with bosu halos and bosu sprawls. I like to punch the crap out of it for upper body work. I like to do core work on the bosu, but again, I prefer moves such as walking planks and oblique hip dips instead of awkwardly wobbling on one leg while curling 5 pound weights in each arm. How boring is that? When teaching, I like to use the bosu in stations classes to introduce members to these different types of exercises.

Stations Workout

I guess the point I’m trying to make in this post is to just be careful if you are doing unstable surface training. Save the weights for a different workout so you can lift heavier and safely. If you can’t yet do a regular pushup with good form and DEPTH without dropping to your knees, don’t do them on the bosu just because it seems like you’ll get more results that way. Use the bosu to work on balance, or try to think of ways to lift and hit the bosu instead.

Maybe I’ll do a post soon on some of my favorite creative bosu exercises. Just not today because I’m recovering from Katrina’s bachelorette party last night, and nobody wants to see me try to do anything that requires an unstable surface today.

–Let’s chat–
Do you incorporate unstable surface training into your workouts? Do you ever exercise using a bosu ball? What’s your favorite way to use them? After reading this post, do you think about some of the “traditional” standing bosu exercises in a different light? Agree or disagree, I’d love to hear from you!

For more Sunday Sweat Talk topics: