Tag Archives: Exercise

The New Pull-Up Bar!

25 Jan

I’ve been meaning to get a pull-up bar pretty much ever since we bought this place. But I don’t really like the look of door pull-up bars and James was worried they wouldn’t be sturdy enough for him, so our options were pretty limited.

Until I came across the ceiling mounted bar from Gronk Fitness. It’s about as nice-looking as you can expect a piece of exercise equipment to look and it’s mounted into the wood so it’s super sturdy. This is the view sitting in bed and looking up:
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Because we were so sporadic about going to the gym my pull-ups suffered a lot.I’m back down to single pull-ups but as long as I can do one extra pull-up a day I’m slowly improving.

I’m currently up to eight single pull-ups and hopefully next week I’ll be able to get a set of two in and work up from there. Is a set of eight an unrealistic goal for the end of the year? I guess we’ll see!

The Quintessential Seattle Hike: Mount Si

12 Jun

A few weekends ago it was a beautiful day and we needed to use our Zipcar quota for the month so James and I decided to hike Mount Si. It’s a 3150 foot (960 meter) elevation gain over 8 miles, so a nice leg workout.

I read somewhere that it’s the most hiked trail in Washington, so we were prepared for crowds. We arrived in the parking lot around 9:15am, snagging one of the last available parking spots.

As you can see it’s not particularly scenic on the way up. The majority of the route is through the trees, so at least you don’t have the sun on you.
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Most people on Yelp said they reached the summit basin in 2.5 hours, one guy ran up in under an hour, and someone said that 2 hours was reasonable for someone in decent shape. James wasn’t feeling 100% (getting over a cold and some lingering asthma) but we made it up in 1.5 hours.

I often had to trot to keep up with James. It was pretty much constant uphill broken up by slightly steeper uphills. I do feel that my hill sprints paid dividends here – I definitely couldn’t sustain a jog but it wasn’t a huge deal to break into an uphill run every so often to catch up to James.

Also, and I’m sure this is only interesting to me, but my glutes only started getting sore during the last 20% of the ascent. I’m super quad-dominant so I think that’s how long it took for my quads to tire out and stop doing all the work.

As predicted, it was a really busy hike. We were constantly passing people on the way up and there was a steady stream of people on their way down. This is how many people were at the entrance to the summit basin, and by the time we left it was 2-3 times as packed.
IMG_3682It was entertaining doing some people-watching. Hikers ran the gamut from young kids to the elderly, the super fit to the obese. Some people were in jeans and others were kitted out with massive packs and hiking poles (and James got a fair few comments about his Vibrams). We also passed a brave little chihuahua.

We spent some time exploring the area; scrambling over rocks and finding nice views (protip: pretty much everywhere had a nice view).
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The good thing about the summit basin was that it was really spread out, so even with the crowds it was easy to find somewhere secluded to sit and admire the view.

This was where we had lunch (I may have taken James by surprise when I took this photo).
IMG_3708After lunch we decided to climb the Haystack, which is the true summit of Mount Si. When we were hiking up we hadn’t decided either way, but once we saw it we thought it was doable.
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On a sunny, dry day like ours it wasn’t difficult (lots of easy handholds and places to put your feet), but it is a little scary because if you lose your footing you can fall a long way, and apparently people have died doing it. Plus sometimes people higher up would accidentally kick loose rocks down.

There were a lot of people attempting it but not many people made it all the way up. I don’t think we saw any of the people in this photo at the top.
IMG_3716Funnily enough, although James is afraid of heights – he doesn’t even like being in a chairlift – he was fine climbing the Haystack. He said he doesn’t like relying on things that aren’t himself to keep from falling.
IMG_3717Although the WTA website recommends against climbing the Haystack I was really glad we did it, and James said it was his favourite part of the hike.

The view at the top was pretty similar to the basin, but I guess a bit more panoramic. I don’t think it’s worth climbing to get the slightly less obstructed view, but if you feel like some additional work and are a completionist it’s nice to get to the true summit.
IMG_3723It’s also a lot less crowded at the top – maybe 5-10 people at a time compared to 100+ spread around the summit basin. We chatted to the others up there and had a nice time just looking around and taking everything in.

IMG_3726Going down the Haystack was trickier than going up, but there weren’t any worrying parts. Some bits it was easier to do facing the wall and other parts it was easier to face out.
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But yeah, not technically difficult by any means – just a matter of taking it slow and making sure you had good footing.

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By the time we’d finished mucking around on top it had gotten massively more busy at the summit base as a several big groups arrived. Mount Si is the wrong hike if you’re after a solitary experience, but it’s as challenging as you choose to make it with a phenomenal view (and optional fun climb) to reward you at the end.
IMG_2100We trotted the whole way down, but it didn’t make much difference to our time – maybe because I was in the lead. A slow jog down, not even fast enough to start breathing heavily, was about as fast as I felt comfortable going, and our descent took 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Afterwards we met up with Rian and Sandra for dinner at Marination Ma Kai in West Seattle for victory fish and chips, fries and sliders.
IMG_3759I don’t think the food is as good as their other locations (still tasty!), but it makes up for it with cocktails and the view across the water towards Seattle. It was a beautiful end to a beautiful Seattle day.
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Club Zum: Our New Gym!

1 Sep

Having been spoiled by the amazing (and cheap!) Melbourne Uni gym, I’m really picky about gyms. I originally wrote “James and I are really picky” but actually it’s just me and James is much more easily pleased. Though he did agree with me that the gyms that we had looked at in Seattle were pretty bad until we discovered Club Zum.

It’s totally an expensive yuppie gym, but unlike one of the other expensive yuppie gyms (where the guy who gave us the tour spent most of the time talking about how great the changing rooms were) it’s actually really decently equipped. A lot of the time I’ve thought to myself “I wish they had X” only to find out that they do have X! I do wish they had more mirrors though.

And the great part is that, unlike at the Melbourne Uni gym, the strength equipment isn’t that popular. It’s not uncommon for us to be the only two people in the lifting area, so James will pretty much set up 4 stations and cycle through them until he’s done.

This is where we do most of our workouts.

And here’s the other half of the room. I like the height of these benches – they’re lower than the Melbourne Uni ones so I don’t need to stack plates underneath my feet to touch the ground.

I prefer the squat rack in the first photo because I use the window as a mirror. Also because there’s a bar on the rack that I use to do pull-ups and chin-ups in between squats.

Nearby is some sort of dedicated pilates area, including what James and I think is some sort of weird sex bed.

To the left of that is a long desk and chairs, and it’s kind of set up as a study/relaxation area, which I thought was kind of wanky until the time James was on call and he had to work on his laptop at the gym. They also have a bunch of exercise-related reference books, including this gem:

Don’t act like you don’t want this book.

Space-wise in the next photo, the study area is to the right of me and the lifting area to the back diagonal right. To the left there are some stretching mats and there’s some cardio equipment to the back diagonal left.

The blue stripe is a 25m sprint track. Awesome huh? To the left of the track are the weight machines, cable machines, and some more cardio equipment. On the right they have some TRX equipment, 2 (or 3?) sets of Olympic rings, and this huge open area for classes.

You can kind of see the open area in this photo. I only took it because I was trying to figure out if the thingy on the right is a glute-ham raise machine (after internet comparison I don’t think it is because there’s no foot plate and it’s too high up, but I’m going to give it a shot anyway).

But yeah, tucked away in that room they have medicine balls, witches hats, skipping ropes, bands, mats, dumbbells, (light) barbells, and a whole bunch of random equipment.

So that is pretty much the upstairs level of Zum. There’s not much downstairs – a foosball table, waiting area, 2 climbing ropes, mats, monkey bars, an Olympic lifting area, and a sandpit that I’ve never, ever seen anyone use. I do my deadlifts downstairs because the upstairs plates aren’t the right size for deads. Oh yeah and there’s this giant container of chalk which is handy for people more hardcore than me.

Zum was the only gym we found that had an area for Olympic lifts. It has bumper plates, rubber floors and plates in kilograms! There’s another squat rack in the top left corner that didn’t make it into the photo. There are 3 full-size bars down here and one that feels like it weighs around 15kg. Also one of the PTs here was a national strongman and powerlifting champion, so if I want to start doing proper oly lifts I can get training from someone who actually knows what he’s doing.

All the trainers seem pretty switched on. I’ve done a few classes and they’re very good at making sure you’re using correct form. The classes are varied and fun – I keep meaning to get to the Monday bodyweight conditioning class, but it starts at 6:30am!

Oh yeah, there’s also a special yoga/pilates room. I went on Thursday and it was a great! The style is vinyasa yoga, which seems to mean that you move through the positions much quicker. It felt more strength-based than the yoga at Melbourne Uni, and was surprisingly challenging. I need to go regularly because I am ridiculously inflexible at the moment.

I mentioned the towel service in a previous post, but wanted to reiterate how awesome it is. Other cool features include several chilled water dispensers dotted around the gym, with little disposable cups if you don’t have your own water bottle. The changeroom lockers are programmable with a temporary PIN so you don’t need to carry a key around or bring your own combination lock. Oh and the changing rooms are really swish – they have wooden hangers for your coats, automatic flushing toilets, automatic soap dispensers and Aveda toiletries – I remember James washed his hands, came out smiling and was like “the soap here smells really nice”.

So anyway that’s our happy little gym. We’re really pleased with it – not only does it have everything we need, but it’s not too busy, everyone who works/trains there is really friendly, and it’s only a 10 minute walk from home. =)

Current Workout:

Monday

  • Squat
  • Dumbbell Press
  • Chin-ups
  • Hanging Leg Raise
  • Handstand Practice

Tuesday – Cardio/agility class.

Wednesday

  • Turkish Getup
  • Deadlift
  • Seated Row (I think I’m going to swap this out for inverted rows)
  • Straight Leg Deadlift (but going to try the glute-ham raise machine next time)

Thursday – Yoga

Friday

  • Pull-ups
  • Front Squat
  • Bench Press
  • Pistol Squat

My lifts aren’t quite what they were when I stopped working out in March (neither are James’) but now that we’re lifting in pounds we feel quite strong. =P

New Training Schedule

22 Aug

My shoulder is almost completely fixed – the only thing that seems to regularly hurt it is doing pull-up negatives (and only when my arms are almost fully extended).

Tim the physio has told me I need to start gradually strengthening the muscles around my rotator cuff, so I’m starting to do upper body workouts again. It is pretty humbling – I went from a 40kg bench down to 35kg, from doing 3 pull-ups to struggling with negatives, and from a 30kg overhead squat to 15kg.

This is my tentative training schedule. I managed everything except BJJ on Tuesday last week, and hopefully I can keep it up.

Monday
Kettlebell class (considering swapping this for yoga)
BJJ no gi and gi

Tuesday
Gym
BJJ gi

Wednesday
Kettlebell class

Thursday
Gym
BJJ no gi and gi

Friday
Kettlebell class

Saturday/Sunday
Gym (it varies depending on whether James has uni that Saturday)

I need to re-do my gym exercises too. It was easy when all I could do was lower body stuff (even if it did earn me the nickname “Asian girl who squats a lot”) but now I’m going to have to be more strategic. I’m thinking lower body on the weekend, less important lower body and accessory exercises on Tuesday, and chest/back on Thursday. I’m not even sure if there’s a point to that since the kettlebell classes are a jumble of exercises anyway, but we’ll see how it goes.

Also for the past couple of weeks I have been non-stop sore. I need to book in for a massage or something.


Bodyfat Challenge!

21 Jun

Some BJJ buddies and I are embarking on a 6 week challenge to cut some body fat. I don’t remember the specifics, but the person who cuts the most of their remaining bodyfat gets $25 from all of the losers. You can tell by my haphazard recollection of the challenge parameters that I’m not really expecting to win, but $25 is a small price to pay for 6 weeks of motivation. =)

We all got Lili from Absolute Mixed Martial Arts to test us with calipers, and I had a “before” photo taken. Ugh, moment of truth. This is what 3 months of slacking off will do:

Weight: 51.7kg
Bodyfat: 20.48%

I look really happy because Kalo said something that made me laugh (I can’t remember what though – I think he ordered me to stop sucking in my gut so the “after” photos would be more dramatic). He also took one where I was trying to look sad, but I looked weird, so I went with overly happy instead.

My diet these past few months has been relatively good, but I was less stringent than normal since I was only exercising 3x a week and I didn’t need to make weight for comps. It was a double whammy because I didn’t have those extra workouts to help soak up those extra calories. When I’m uninjured I sit around 50kg without much effort – as soon as I dropped back to just gym I shot up to 52kg and have hovered there ever since.

For about half of the Bodyfat Challenge I won’t be able to train upper body/BJJ so I’ll be doubly careful with what I eat, and I’ll add an extra session of yoga, and some HIIT sprints to help my cardio and give that fat-burning a kickstart.

I’ll post weekly updates on my exercise and diet progress, though I won’t know my body fat percentage until the end.

I’m sad to say goodbye to my frequent cheat meals, but I’m looking forward to getting back in shape!

New Gym Program

14 May

Now that I know I have 6-8 weeks for recovery I thought I’d go chat to Nic and get him to recommend some more leg exercises since I’m sick of cycling through back squat, glute-ham raises, deadlifts and pistol squats. In addition to being our favourite gym instructor, he’s in his final year studying to be a physio and also the strongest person I know, so I always listen to his advice!

Actually I just remembered a story Nic told us. He saw a guy trying to do a one-armed chin-up, and cool exercises like that are kind of his forte, so he went up to the guy and gave him some advice (namely that he’d progress faster if he did negatives). But apparently the guy copped a bit of attitude and was like “Can you do them? Probably not.” So yeah, Nic busted a few out, which as far as I know made the guy shut up and do some negatives.

But anyway, for my new program we’re changing my back squats up a bit. Currently I do 5×5, starting from 20kg and going up in 10kg increments. The new squat routine seems to be pretty flexible, but it’s basically mixing the weights and reps up a bit, eg:

5×3 at 40kg to warm up
50kg x 3
55kg x 3
60kg x 2
65kg x 1
67.5kg x 1
then dropping back down to 5×3 at 55kg

I’ll be squatting 3x a week (2x back squat, 1x front squat) and in addition to what I’m currently doing I’m also adding:

  • Cossacks with the 20kg barbell to warm up
  • Clean Pulls (40kg 3 x 5)
  • Kettlebell snatches with my left arm
  • Turkish get up
  • Box jumps
  • This weird exercise where I use the strength of only one leg to stand up

Nic also recommended that I sometimes do pistol squats facing a wall (well a partial wall so that my non-squatting leg can still extend) because it forces you to focus on technique, like squatting in front of a wall does.

He also gave me some extra therapy exercises to do for my shoulder, and fixed my form for my existing theraband exercises. He said my shoulder blade wings out when it shouldn’t, and you can stick your finger under there. I can’t feel the difference between doing it correctly and incorrectly, but we figured out that if I put my non-theraband hand back there I can use that to feel when I’m doing it right.

For the new rehab exercises I get to use the 1kg dumbbells. Yay me. Actually, another Nic anecdote. He tore his biceps tendon (doing some hardcore gymnastics move I think) and wasn’t allowed to lift anything for awhile, not even a can of soup. When he started exercising his arm again he had to start with the really light dumbbells for rehab. So he’d do his 140kg squat or whatever, and then he said he had to wait for some girl to finish with the 3kg dumbbell so he could use it because he was too embarrassed to ask her whether he could work in with her.

In 3 weeks I’ll be allowed to do push-ups again, but only on my knees. I’ll have to do those in private. My secret shame!

I’m really excited about my new program. I was talking to a gym buddy who has had tendonitis in his knee for several months now. He said that if he’d known that he couldn’t squat or deadlift for that long he could have done a cool program to really improve his bench or his pull-ups, but instead he was just aimless, hoping his knee would get better. So I know I have 6-8 weeks, and I really want my lower body strength to improve in that time. Then when I can do upper body stuff again I can focus on increasing that, and just maintaining for my lower body. At least I’ll have my beginner gains again. =)

Jogging

13 Apr

It used to be that when I saw a guy and a girl jogging side by side I’d think “aww that’s nice, they’re exercising together”. And one day I commented on a jogging couple to James and he was like “when you see a guy and a girl running together you know the guy is slacking off”.

Now I can’t look at jogging couples without thinking that the guy is being slack. Stupid James, now it’s ruined.

But anyway, I’ve started running a bit these past few days – though sometimes I have to stop early because my arm starts aching. I hate running. But it’s one of the few exercises I’m allowed to do for the next 3 weeks. No BJJ, no deadlifts, no squats (Tim doesn’t want my arms supporting the weight on my back), no upper body, no nothing. My shoulder improved with rest, so no magical steroid injection, but for the next month I’m sitting around not doing anything. I tried filling the fitness void by baking, but that was just a double whammy – not exercising and eating terribly.

I’m trying to avoid shopping too much, since we have some big purchases in the near future ($1200 for my Aeron, and $2000 for a Miele dishwasher since our crappy Whirlpool is on its last legs).

I regret not buying a Miele right off the bat. The Whirlpool was $700 (or $900?) and we also spent about $500 fixing it a year ago. That’s $1200, not to mention the fact that we’re going to have to buy a Miele anyway. Buying cheap things is false economy. Unless it’s stuff you only use a couple of times, like evening dresses.

That’s how I’m trying to see training – doing upper body stuff and BJJ now would be like false training. I’m making the rotator cuff tear worse, and not fixing the underlying problem, which will just crop up again anyway. But if I take a couple of months, I can hopefully repair fully and rebuild my strength, and be better than I was before.

It just really sucks. One guy at the gym last night did like 100 “sit-ups” with the freaking ab-sizer. I was filled with irrational annoyance at the thought that he probably had a fully functional rotator cuff.

So yeah, I’m doing my rehab exercises and just trying to think of this as a rest week month.