TWIR #129: the injury rears its ugly head

Well, if you’ve been following along this week, it’s no secret that I haven’t been up to much in the fitness department.  I did, however, potentially break records for the sheer number of hours that I spent laying around, waiting for my back muscles to loosen up, so it’s not like I’ve gone without accomplishment.  Nevertheless, I feel compelled to continue on with TWIR, so let’s do this.

Saturday
Activity: at-home workout
Relevant Stats: 45 min.
Observations: In hindsight, maybe this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was super stiff in the morning and thought that maybe a light workout at home would actually help. At times, my injury responds well to controlled movement and low weights. This time around that didn’t appear to be the case. Despite only using 8 pound dumbbells, whatever I did left me even stiffer and more sore. I knew it was the beginning of bad things.

Sunday
Activity: injury recovery day
Relevant Stats: couch laying
Observations:  As expected, I was stiffer Sunday than on Saturday. I thought it would be smart to try to walk it off (again, I assure you this sometimes does help). About 1 km into our walk, it was clear that walking was not helping. We retreated home, where I spent the rest of the day being utterly useless. On the plus side, it allowed us to invest hours in watching Tiger’s comeback in the PGA Tour Championship.

Monday
Activity: injury recovery day
Relevant Stats: ultra pain + acupuncture
Observations: When I woke up Monday it was clear that something more than rest was necessary. I couldn’t sit upright without sciatic pain, and I couldn’t walk properly either. I was a mess. Thankfully I found physiotherapist #10 who worked some acupuncture magic that provided some fairly immediate relief to aching muscles and inflammation.

Tuesday
Activity: injury recovery day
Relevant Stats: mini walks + physio exercises
Observations: I awoke to much less general aching and pain around my SI, but my sciatica was still in full force any time I tried to sit upright. I managed to work laying on my couch, with my knees bent and my laptop propped up against them. I’m sure anyone who cares about ergonomics cringed as they read that, but you gotta do what you gotta do. I also managed a very short (i.e. 2 block) walk and did my physio exercises, which is a miracle because I almost never actually do them.

Wednesday
Activity: injury recovery day
Relevant Stats: walk + physio exercises
Observations: Once again I felt better, and was actually able to sit upright in 15-20 minute increments. Hallelujah! But the best part of the day was getting a phone call for a last minute physiotherapy appointment where he once again worked his acupuncture magic. Also, I managed to successfully walk 1.5 km so that was a major win in my books.

Thursday
Activity: walks + light arm workout
Relevant Stats: 3 km (!!!!) walking + 20 minutes arms
Observations:  As it was the third consecutive day of seeing improvements, I really pushed it and went out for two short walks, totally a whopping 3 km. Yes, that was sarcasm.  It felt like a major victory. When I got home I also did 20 minutes of upper body work. It was my most active day of the week thus far, and I felt like a champ.

Friday
Activity: strength training (light)
Relevant Stats: 40 min.
Observations: I went to the gym! I promised myself I would keep it light and controlled and stop with any pain, and I still focused more on my upper body, but I went! There’s nothing like not being able to go to the gym to make you appreciate the gym. Even though it was a gloriously sunny day here, I didn’t lament the fact that I was working out indoors. I was grateful just to be able to do something. I did some unweighted split squats, unweighted single leg deadlifts (sidenote: are they still called deadlifts if you’re not actually lifting???), and some kettle bell deadlifts to test things out. Some moves felt better than others, but I survived.

Time will tell if today’s workout was a good idea or not, but for now I feel a tad sore but not that much worse for the wear. Here’s hoping I’m on the mend and able to enjoy the weekend relatively pain free. Wishing you all a happy weekend with able bodies!

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TWIR #128: the rebound

After last week’s ho-hum energy drain and whining, I am pleased to share that my energy bounced back this week. My muscles no longer felt like they were on strike, and my mind was focused (or at least as focused as it usually is…).  The sun even graced us with its presence (occasionally) this week, which allowed for some much needed patio time on our deck. It truly is the little things. Enough rambling! Let’s get on with the week’s workouts.

Saturday
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 50 min.
Observations: And I was back at it! I didn’t want to go to the gym, but I made myself go and promised that if I was still legitimately struggling, I would be gentle, do a short workout and come home.  But then it actually felt good, which was surprising, especially given that box jumps into squat holds were involved. Those are just not fun. I stuck with it, and felt like maybe, just maybe, my groove was coming back.

Sunday
Activity: long hill walk
Relevant Stats: 11 km
Observations: We expected a day of rain and were surprised with a mix of sun and clouds. Alas, we had to get outdoors. I didn’t want to drive far, and I still wasn’t feeling the urge to do anything epic with my workouts, so we settled for a long walk from our house to the top of a local ridge. That sounds hardcore, but the ridge isn’t very high and the walk is 95% on roads, so you do the math.

Monday
Activity: stairs + evening walk
Relevant Stats: 40 mins (!!!) stairs + 30 minute walk
Observations: I didn’t think the stairs were going to happen for more than 10 minutes. But they did and, even though they hurt like hell every damn set, I stuck with it and even added one extra climb compared to my usual. Hurrah! I also went for an evening walk, which I admit to mostly doing to justify my cake consumption. What is life without occasional cake? It’s not a life I want to live.

Tuesday
Activity: cardio warm up + strength
Relevant Stats: 15 min. spin + 30 min. strength
Observations: I had plans to spin for longer but the spin seat wouldn’t adjust forwards, which was both super annoying and also perplexing because how did someone manage to tighten it SO much that I couldn’t even get the lever to budge despite repeated efforts??!! At any rate, the seat positioning was so inconvenient that I gave up after 15 minutes and decided to do some leg, glute and ab work. I tried to avoid doing much with my arms the day before a training session. As usual, this came back to bite me in the ass.

Wednesday
Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 55 min.
Observations:  Welp, this workout was like 95% legs. Why do I always spare my arms when I don’t need to?  The only thing I needed my arms for was pulling a 205 lb sled…and push ups…so maybe, actually, sparing my arms on Tuesday was a good call.  On the note of pushups, I have to share that my previous trainer spent years getting me to do tricep pushups exclusively. And it was a battle. It took forever for me to get good at them.  In this session, my trainer made me try a standard pushup after years of avoiding them. And I couldn’t. I could dip maybe three or four inches, and I could only do three.  It felt like one step forward and two steps back.

Thursday
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 40 min.
Observations: Unrelated to the actual workout, I hadn’t driven my car in weeks and when I went to leave for the gym it wouldn’t start. I had a mild panic attack thinking that maybe this was the end for my beloved car. Thankfully, it appeared to be more that I never drive him anymore because after a few rough starts, I got him going and he was spry as ever. I know, you probably don’t understand the attachment I have to my car, but you don’t have to.  The workout was also good. I killed my arms and shoulders (in a good way).  In fact, I may have done too much. By the end of the evening my SI was not feeling good, which sometimes happens when I do a lot of shoulder work without proper alignment.

Friday
Activity: walk
Relevant Stats: 40 min.
Observations: I spent a restless night unable to sleep in any position comfortably thanks to a lot of stiffness in my SI. Grrr. Alas, I had to decide if the smart thing to do was to be a bit gentler on my SI (i.e. not work out in any real way). I made the call to give it some time to mellow out and just went for a good walk, which typically helps to loosen it up. I’d planned to hike, but maybe the universe knew I needed a break because it sent a grey, gloomy and super rainy day my way and I have to say I had no desire to hike anyway.

Now the weekend is here and my plans to escape to the mountains for some late-season hiking are disappearing in a sea of rain forecasts and nagging injury pain. Instead, I’ll have to settle for some local trails (if my SI improves) and potentially checking out a cidery a half hour up the highway. Cider makes everything better. Hope you all find your style of weekend adventures too! Happy weekend y’all!

TWIR #113: is this week over yet?

The thing about going a mile a minute for a couple weeks straight is that you’re bound to crash. And this week I crashed. This was the week I lost my energy, motivation and desire to do anything other than lay on the couch mindlessly watching TV. The only unfortunate part is that I’m still working on three jobs, writing this blog, and trying not to lose the fitness I’m starting to gain. In other words, laying around mindlessly all day hasn’t been an option. Also in other words, this week has been really long and tiring.

Let’s see what my body got up to to try to keep the old mind focused, shall we?

Saturday
Activity: hike!
Relevant Stats: 10-11 km, 400ish m elevation gain
Observations: We hit the road and drove out to a local trail that was supposedly very challenging and that supposedly featured great views. The trail turned out to be far easier than expected, though it was considerably longer than what I’ve hiked lately, but we never made it right to the end so I can neither confirm nor deny the views. My better half hit a part of the trail he did not like, and I did try to quickly get to the end on my own, but I realized that it was still a lot farther to the end, and I couldn’t leave him standing on the trail alone forever. Especially with the mosquitoes.  Good lord, the mosquitoes. I hadn’t experienced swarms of mosquitoes so terrible since the summit of Mount Allan on Centennial Ridge (a stunning hike, by the way, aside from the bugs).  They were fearless vultures, landing on us en masse whether we were moving or not. Ugh. Aside from the bugs, it was a great outing and definitively proved hiking is getting easier again.

Sunday 
Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: cozy rain day
Observations: Sunday was supposed to be gross, which hasn’t happened here in a while and which seemingly justified a day of doing nothing. I luxuriated in laziness, making waffles, baking a cake, meal planning, and watching hours of golf. It was a lovely day of rest for this tired body and mind.

Monday
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 50 min.
Observations: I was feeling good about my strength and fitness on Monday so I decided to up my weights on step ups and single leg squats, and also combine them with split lunges, back squats, dead lifts, and single leg dead lifts. My poor glutes. They didn’t hurt so badly in the moment, but man were they tender by the end of the day!  I was sort of proud of myself, but also sort of annoyed because it hurt to do basic things like, you know, sitting down. I suppose this is where that stupid expression ‘no pain no gain’ comes from, right?

Tuesday
Activity: spin
Relevant Stats: 45 min.
Observations: My glutes were still sore as hell for this workout, but I thought spin would be just the ticket to loosen them up. Spoiler alert: spin does not loosen your glutes, especially if you do a ton of standing hovers and epic hill climbs.  In keeping with my gym wifi woes, my Apple Music failed to function yet again, which left me super irritated and robbed of spin music variety. I really, really need to update my playlists on my phone so that my workout vibes aren’t hampered by spotty wifi, and yet I’ve been thinking that for months and I’ve made no progress so I’m not holding my breath.

Wednesday
Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 55 min.
Observations: Well, I got my money’s worth in this workout. For one, it was inexplicably 10 minutes longer than usual. On top of that, I asked last week for lower body in our next session and my trainer certainly delivered. Unfortunately, she chose to listen to me during a week when I’d absolutely slayed my glutes already. They were even more tender going into this workout then they’d been the day before. She started me off pulling the sled loaded with way more weight than usual (though she claimed that it wasn’t that much heavier), incorporated some heinous resistance band forward and backward low squat walking, and then also kettle bell lifts, kettle bell squats and glute bridges. My hamstrings and glutes were toast by the end of this one.  Let this be a lesson to us all: be careful what you wish for.

Thursday
Activity: spin
Relevant Stats: 35 min.
Observations: I didn’t have time to do a full workout, so I gave my all to this 35 minutes. Sometimes when I know that my time is limited, I am able to push myself 100 times harder than I would with extra time.  This was that workout. I finally (!!!!) got my Apple Music reliably working and I used some of the longest and most epic Guns n’ Roses tunes to fuel some seriously tough progressive hill climbs. I’m talking 14 minute progressive hill climbs.  I tried to switch up my musical choices at the end to fit in some sprints but my legs legitimately had nothing left in them. On the plus side, my glutes finally relaxed a bit, so I considered this workout a success on many fronts.

Friday
Activity: hike!
Relevant Stats: 8.5 km!
Observations:  Fridays are my new favourite workout day. We’ve gotten into a good rhythm of hitting the trails together and, depending on my workload, our hikes vary in length, but we got in a good one today. It’ll probably mean working a bit this weekend but it was worth it to get out there for a good chunk of trail before the rain descends this weekend.  And, if I must say, we really hauled ass…well, once my tired hamstrings and glutes woke up, that is. Hiking success!

The weekend is now upon us and, here at least, it’s looking like a total rain fest. At first, I was quite upset by this, but I suddenly see the potential to be lazy yet again, to perhaps completely finish one of my projects so that I can go back to having a reasonable two jobs, run stairs again (because rain = not too hot) and maybe even to find a new guilty pleasure on Netflix.  Yes, I lead a wild life. Happy weekend y’all! Get out there (or stay in) and do what you love.

Training Tuesdays: when things start to feel easier

It is hard to stay motivated towards fitness goals when things feel hard. Who hasn’t gone out for a run at some point and struggled to make it to a half hour, only to return home utterly discouraged and wishing you could just give up running altogether? Who hasn’t been so sore from a workout that you wondered if it was even worthwhile, if it would ever start to feel good to exercise?

For me, the last couple of years have been a constant battle to keep putting in the work on my strength even though I rarely felt like I was getting stronger, to keep hitting the trails to build up hiking endurance even though every hike reminded me just how little endurance I had.  I’ll be honest, particularly when it came to hiking, the delta between where I used to be and where I am now was at times so vast I almost lost my hiking mojo completely.

But there is this magical thing that happens over time when you stick to whatever your activity of choice happens to be: things start to feel easier.  You have a moment where you suddenly think to yourself ‘hey, this isn’t as painful/tiring/hard/challenging as it used to be!’ It can happen in a moment and serve as a spark to keep you pushing forward.

I was lucky enough to have two of these moments in the last week. The first occurred while running stairs.  It sucked. My lungs were burning. My legs felt like dead weight.  But as I stood there trying to regain my breath at the top of the stairs, I realized something big: I had run to the top of that set of stairs several more times than on my last outing. Even though it still felt really hard, I was making progress. I was doing more and feeling no worse as a result.

The second moment occurred on our weekend hike when I realized that all those easy trails that we’d been hiking, the ones I thought were doing nothing for my hiking fitness, were actually making a difference.  My legs weren’t tired. This longer and slightly more challenging trail felt comfortable. Did I feel ready to tackle a 30km day hike like I used to? No. But I could tell I was making progress.

These moments when things feel easier, when you can tell you are making progress, are the ones that can keep you going when things feel hard, when you feel discouraged, or when you inevitably have another bad workout day.  Bottle that feeling to pull out when you need it most and you just might find yourself a bit more inspired to go harder, push your boundaries, and to just keep going.

TWIR #111: the overwhelm

It has been a long time since I felt like I am in over my head with work, like more than two years. I had forgotten what it feels like. It hasn’t been the crippling kind of overwhelm where you just want to curl in a fetal ball under the covers and hide from your responsibilities. It’s just been the kind that’s required intense focus. And some extra coffee. And some extra sugar. Yes, I soothe my stress with food and drink. It’s not actually helpful to anything but my emotions, but my emotional health could use a good hug right about now. Suffice it to say that it’s been a busy week and my workouts have been enormously helpful in keeping me relatively sane and functional.

Let’s see what I got up to.

Saturday
Activity: mini hike
Relevant Stats: 6.5 km
Observations: My mini hike wasn’t meant to be my workout. I actually planned Saturday as a possible rest day, with the chance that I’d be motivated to hit the gym after our short hike. I was not motivated to hit the gym by the time we got home, and I also ended up counting this as a workout even though it was only about 30 minutes of legitimate trail requiring any significant exertion. I broke a sweat and thus I consider it good enough to qualify as a legit workout.

Sunday
Activity: cardio warmup + strength training
Relevant Stats: 10 min. spin + 35 min. strength
Observations: Amidst a day of errands, chores (hallelujah, we hung all our artwork and pictures at last!!!) and work (yup, on a long weekend no less), I escaped the house for a trip to the gym. I spun for 10 minutes just to get the heart and legs going, then switched to a total body strength workout including some weighted single leg squats, lots of annoying tricep work, and some core work for good measure (and to attempt to combat the additional jiggly-ness from Portland and overall increased sugar consumption…it did not work. Sigh.).

Monday
Activity: mini hike #2 (!!) + golf
Relevant Stats: 6 km hike + 9-hole round
Observations: We hit the trails early to avoid the heat and knocked off a 6km loop hike before 9:30 am. It was very enjoyable with a morning breeze and without the sun’s intensity. We also fit in a 9 hole round of golf. Look, I know that golf isn’t really exercise, but we do at least carry our golf bags around the course and, when it’s hot out, that feels like a legitimate burden to the body.  We finished both our day’s activities before 1 pm and were like ‘uh, now what’. Getting up early sometimes backfires, because ‘now what’ turned into afternoon drinks on our patio.  We try to be good, but sometimes early season patio weather and drinks are irresistible.

Tuesday
Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: travel day
Observations: I was up and at ’em early to hop down to Vancouver for a quick overnight work trip. Getting up at 5am is absolutely never my cup of tea, but I will say that morning light and the sunrise did make it somewhat more palatable. Aside from walking in airports and walking around downtown, there was little to no activity. The day’s highlights were seeing all my bestest friends for dinner, and then having a moment of panic when I didn’t think there were blinds in my hotel bathroom, which featured a full glass wall looking directly into an office building. Never fear, I found the blinds eventually and was relieved that I wouldn’t have to avoid the bathroom for 24 hours.

Wednesday
Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations: I was reunited with my old personal trainer! I was so happy that she was able to fit me in for a session, even though it meant yet another 5am wake up call.  We got right back into it with lots of dead lifts and front squats and all sorts of strange exercises she thinks up that I have no idea how to describe let alone do (seriously, there was this one exercise where I was supposed to be engaging my hamstrings and core at the same time and I could NOT wrap my head around her instructions so much so that we gave up and did a modified version…which I also really don’t think I did right). The session reminded me just how much I miss my old trainer. She is the best.

Thursday
Activity: spin
Relevant Stats: 25 min.
Observations: A 25 minute workout wasn’t my intention but when my parents showed up about four hours earlier than anticipated, the stress of knowing I wasn’t there to greet them (even though my partner was) got the better of me and I left the gym with the full intention of doing a quick at home workout once we got my parents settled. Best laid plans. Of course getting them settled took longer than expected, and then, you know, work needed to happen and so there’s my really long-winded excuse for why I only worked out for 25 minutes. Sigh.

Friday
Activity: cardio + strength training
Relevant Stats: 30 min. spin + 3o min. strength training
Observations: After Thursday’s workout fail, I was determined to get in a good workout to round out the week. My favourite spin bike (i.e. the only one that isn’t inside the black spin studio of doom aka the spin studio that has no real lights in it) is missing the piece that holds your foot to the pedal, so it wasn’t the world’s best spin workout. I feared my foot flying off the pedal and the pedal slicing into the back of my leg. My anxiety about random things is real. Nonetheless, it was decent and I rounded out the day with lots of arm, leg and core work. I felt accomplished when I left the gym, which is about all I can ask for.

With that, another week comes to an end.  This weekend we are entertaining my parents, which should include a diverse range of activities like hiking, cider tasting, wine tasting, and patio drinking. Come to think of it, those are not diverse activities at all, are they? Regardless, the weekend is here. Let’s celebrate! Happy Friday!

Training Tuesdays: when you’re too overwhelmed to workout

My work life is typically pretty chill. I don’t work in one of those occupational areas where it’s life or death, and I self-ejected from the corporate scene years ago. Still, I have times when deadlines all seem to coincide magically, pressures rise, and the thought of taking breaks even to work out seems impossible.  I know that I am not alone in this and that, for many who work in high pressure gigs, this is a constant feeling.

I’m not telling anyone how to live their life, or how to manage their time nor priorities. We are all adults and we all make the choices we think are best for us. What I am here to say is that when you feel too overwhelmed and stressed to work out, that is exactly when your body and mind need it most.

When we are hyper stressed and overwhelmed, our bodies and brains go into threat response mode. Science will tell us that in threat response mode, our brains are at their least effective. We are more prone to making mistakes, overlooking information, responding ineffectively to other humans, focusing on the wrong information (i.e. tunnel vision), and a whole host of other equally damning behaviours. In other words, we’re not terribly productive when we’re in high stress modes.  And yet, when we feel super busy and stressed, we tend to think that taking time to do anything other than staying focused on the work at hand is going to make matters worse. Once again, science tells us that’s just not true.

Taking a break, be it an active break or simply something that breaks the psychological association with what’s causing your stress, will actually do wonders for moving your brain out of threat mode and back into normal operations. With that comes the return of your productivity. Isn’t science wonderful?

I consider my workouts my sanity makers.  When I’m overwhelmed I’m a 12 out of 10 on the emotional disaster spectrum.  Sometimes a workout only brings me down to about a 9, but that three point difference is a wide chasm, my friends.  Granted, you could get the same benefits from taking a quick walk, stretching, doing some structured breathing exercises, talking to a friend about something unrelated to your work, etc. There’s a whole host of ways in which micro-breaks can reduce stress, enhance your productivity, and make you feel better.  That said, why not mix your break with physical activity? Not only will you get the productivity boost that comes from the break itself, but you’ll also get the energy and endorphin boost of physical activity. It’s a double whammy.

Consider it food for thought: when you’re super stressed, feeling overwhelmed, wondering how you’ll ever possibly get it all done, you might just be past the point of productivity already. Even if you feel like working out is the last thing that you need, it might just be the opposite.

Happy stress busting!

Monday Musings: when you accidentally give up twitter

In my last job I was so incredibly bored and so remarkably un-busy that I often checked Twitter hourly. Okay, if I’m being really honest, sometimes it was every 15 minutes. So basically I checked Twitter way too often. But then I got busy in my new job, so busy in fact that I cold-turkey stopped checking Twitter almost two months ago.  It’s been an enlightening experience to let go of something that used dominate a fair bit of my time and mental energy, and today I share that enlightenment with you.

For the most part, I followed a pretty light crowd, a pop culture hodge-podge of musicians, movie stars and athletes. Still, there’s enough going on in the world today that it was easy to fall down the Twitter rabbit hole of infuriating tweets and retweets and sub-threads. Often, I’d walk away from my brief but frequent forays into the Twitter-scape with feelings running the gamut from mildly irritated to disgusted with the state of the world. In other words, Twitter was bad news for my emotional well-being.

At first it was difficult to let go.  Sure, I was busy, but I wondered what  Chrissie Teigen was cooking that day or whether Ryan Adams was hanging out with his cats.  I felt disconnected from the world at large.  But then when I realized I also wasn’t reading Donald Trump retweets or endless and increasingly illogical arguments between the anti-NRA and the pro-NRA, suddenly I realized that my mental energy was staying more balanced. I was getting less worked up. The world was looking brighter. Twitter was in grave danger of being forgotten.

But the best part of this whole unintended Twitter breakup was that Twitter knew it was on the verge of being ghosted. They clearly have a game plan in place for when frequent users experience a drastic drop off. It started with the daily emails, that ones that kindly informed me that I had 29 updates from a handful of whatever Twitter’s algorithm had determined were my favourite celebrities du jour. I could live with that. I liked to know Twitter was still thinking about me.

But then they added a second daily email, these ones a little more focused on just one celebrity. They were putting all their eggs in one basket.  They were willing to bet that if I knew Ryan Adams tweet was featured in the news, I’d have to get back into that app. I mean, I might be missing kitten pictures. I was sort of impressed with this strategy. I am a highly curious person. I did want to look, but my new job has kept me so much busier that I often simply forgot.

Never ones to accept defeat, Twitter then unleashed its unleashed the ultimate FOMO-inducing strategy. Feast your eyes on this one:

It’s so supremely mysterious, so very deliciously vague. I mean, what is this one message that is waiting just for me??? I actually give Twitter a huge kudos for this one. It’s one thing to tell me that someone I follow has just tweeted, or to let me know that his or her tweet has somehow gone viral, but it’s a whole different ballgame to create the illusion of personally curated tweets that only my eyes might see.

It’s a total lie, of course, but for just one brief moment I imagined a world in which Twitter might somehow know that what I needed that very moment was a picture of Ryan Adam’s cats and not the inane political ramblings of a bunch of total strangers. But although it was a nice dream, it was also a flawed one, and so I ignored even this most coy of click bait and continued without Twitter. On the other side of two months Twitter-free, I can honestly say that almost nothing could tempt me to come back.*  I might finally have cracked the code on my own sense of FOMO. Thanks, Twitter, I’ve been working on that one for a while.

 

*It also helps that I finally unsubscribed from all their “you’re missing out” emails.