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Archive for the ‘Training’ Category

How To Motivate Yourself, Part 2

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

A while back, I wrote an article titled “How To Motivate Yourself“. I came across a few more suggestions for people out there who are lazy or don’t feel like working out on their scheduled day. This is something I experience quite often, but easily control with the following tips.

Before I give you my suggestions on how to deal with laziness and tiredness, I’ll tell you my personal experience first. Since I’m a computer programmer, I sit on my ass all day writing code. This is mentally exhaustive to begin with and coupled with the caffeine crash, it really drains you down. When I get home, all I want to do is veg out and not socialize with anyone. Thanks to all this, I really don’t feel like training at all.

So here’s what I do: I think back to my previous training experiences, especially at the end of every workout session. Anyone who remembers their training days will recall the period of relaxation after a good workout. In case you’re wondering, it’s when your hormones (dopamine and serotonin, among others) get released. Don’t you feel happy after pumping some weights? This is what I focus on. This alone gets me motivated to hit the weights again and give it all I got. Once you prepare your mind for it, the rest will flow naturally. Just doing the first exercise alone (e.g. squats) really gets my blood pumping. I am then happy that I did not ditch the scheduled workout for the day.

Now, what if you’re physically tired? This is up to the trainee to figure out and organize their schedule accordingly. If you’re constantly doing physical activities (job-related, sports, etc) it’s best to train on your off days or times where your body isn’t under constant stress. At this point, athletes should talk to their personal trainer/coach for scheduling, and people working physical jobs need to find some time to let their bodies relax before pounding it with some weights.

A forgotten tip, one that I always have to remind myself to do, is taking a quick nap (1.5-3hrs) before your workout to let your mind & body rest a bit. Coming home after a hard day’s work and sleeping for a bit is quite possibly the best thing you can do for yourself. You’ll feel so much more refreshed upon waking up, and a lot more motivated to train.

One last thing I recommend is a cup of coffee or tea before your workout. This is only useful for people who don’t already load their bodies with caffeine throughout the whole day. I find that a cup of tea or a can of Red Bull can really do wonders before exercising, almost magical-like. 🙂 There are other supplements out there in the wild that are really potent in terms of energy, but I will withhold myself from listing them as getting used to them is a waste of cash and sometimes can be harmful if abused. You’re better off with my above suggestions for now. Happy training!

Hyper-Extensions Are Always Necessary

Friday, November 7th, 2008

I learned this the hard way, and my experience and short tale is for you to learn and avoid future mistakes. Never avoid doing this key lower-back exercise, or you will highly regret it.

So, let’s rewind back a year ago and beyond that. I was training at a local gym for 7 years straight, till I finally decided to plunk down the cash and buy a squat rack for the home. After saving up non-stop, my wish finally came true and I was the proud owner of a Powertec squat rack system. Long story short, I bought the rack, Olympic bar, weights and a tree-stand to organize the weights. Notice in this equation that a hyper-extension bench is not present. See, I didn’t have enough saved up for it, so I thought to myself, “whatever, I’ll pick it up in the future when I have the funds.”

I should have bought the hyper-extension bench and dealt with the weights thrown all over the floor instead.

Within a month or two my lower back weakened tremendously, and one day it just decided to crap out on me while squatting. Luckily for me, I managed to put the bar back safely onto the rack, but my lower back never felt the same after that incident. Doing squats, deadlifts or anything heavy just wasn’t pleasant for my back. I had to take some time off as much as I was against it. Fortunately for me, over the course of the summer, I had other ways of staying active and fit, so taking some time off weight training wasn’t that bad.

Fast forward two months ago from today. After letting my lower back heal and watching everything I do with it (picking up things from the floor, moving stuff, sleeping, etc) I felt ready to lift weights again. I started off slow and always made sure to keep my back “straight” (that is, arced). Today, I am back up to 90% of my strength, but I have a lot of trouble doing rows.

The moral of this story? Don’t skimp out on the hyper-extensions. They may not be fun to do, but they’re damn-sure necessary. Your lower back can’t always be indirectly trained on its own and needs some direct work, especially when you deal with higher weights.

I decided to go ahead and purchase the hyper-extension machine as the funds were available. It should be coming in this week. Lesson learned.

How To Motivate Yourself

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

Some people out there lack motivation when it comes to working out. Usually, they would love to get into the habit of working out on a weekly basis, but they can’t seem to motivate themselves to do so, or more specifically, they bring up a lot of excuses such as “I don’t have time” (that’s a good one) or “I don’t have the money to go to the gym” or “I don’t know where to start”. While the latter one is a decent excuse, it still doesn’t cut it. Below, I have compiled a list of the top excuses and what you can do about it.

Not enough time: My solution to this problem is to simply organize your day around your training time. It may not work for everybody, but if you prioritize your training above everything else, you’ll manage just fine. Students should excel at organizing their daily schedules, so inserting 3-4 hours of training per week can work. People with day jobs can also manage; just hit the gym before or after your job. I would say from experience that the best time to train would be in the morning right before work or school, or during noon (around 1-2 PM) but your mileage may vary. I have noticed that training beforehand makes your day go by much quicker.

Not enough money for a gym membership: Maybe I’m spoiled with the extremely low membership fees at my local gym, but this shouldn’t be an excuse. Let’s say a yearly gym membership costs 4 to 6 hundred dollars (USD). For teenagers and students, this may seem expensive, but for the working-class people out there, it shouldn’t. Instead of dining out every week, put the money in a jar and save it for the gym membership. Having too many parties? Spending too much on gadgets? You get the drift. Remember, the gym (and training) is an investment for your health: if you much rather sit at home and watch movies on your spiffy new Blu-ray player, then perhaps it’s time to change your ways and get off your ass.

No clue on where to start: this is a valid excuse for most people, but if you’re reading this site, it no longer is. Just do yourself a favor and buy a strength training book and learn from a professional coach with visuals. You’ll thank me later.

Chalk: it’s messy, but it works

Monday, June 18th, 2007

Yesterday, I got to try out chalk as a means of giving my hands a better grip on the bars. For the longest time, I used to train with gloves. I still got callus’ forming in my hands and I noticed my grip was very weak without them. When I started the strength training routine however, I decided to let go off the gloves and try to develop some grip naturally with the weights I was lifting. Sure enough, after a month or two of weight training, I developed a natural grip and had slightly stronger forearms. As the weights got heavier and heavier, I realized that my hands were quite moist resulting in me losing grip. I literally felt the bars slipping off my hands!

The solution was simple: use chalk. As a famous strength training coach once wrote in his book, “[Chalk] increases traction between the bar and the hand, reducing the likelihood of lost bars and grip accidents. It reduces callus formation, since stress against the skin of the palm and the fingers is a function of the movement of the bar against it, and callus forms in response to this stress.” (p. 211) Putting this little experiment to the test, I had a wonderful workout with the chalk. Well, except the first time I actually put it on my hands, it made a bit of a mess around me. One trainee looked at me and smirked at my novice attempt (there was a cloud of chalk around me). I quickly apologized for the mess. I understood to use minimal amounts of the substance upon the next time I applied it. Luckily, my local gym (the Monster Gym in Montreal) allows the usage of chalk (I made sure to ask one of the staff members about this). This is a great thing as many gyms do not permit such a commodity. Of course, every real gym should allow it, as the coach goes as far to mention that “A gym without chalk is a health spa.”

Lifting Incorrectly

Friday, May 25th, 2007

One of the things I have noticed (through myself) is that people always try to lift heavier weight but at the same time perform the exercises incorrectly, usually with bad form or technique. This ends up causing serious injury, especially when it comes to squats or the power clean. For example, when squatting, rookies a lot of people stop squatting above parallel (instead of performing “Ass To Grass” squats) in hopes of lifting heavier weight. Most advanced trainers know that stopping above parallel is dangerous, inefficient and useless. A lot of trainees also maintain incorrect form by forgetting to keep their knees outwards when squatting down and not leaving a shoulder’s width between their feet. I have also witnessed some people simply going down a few inches from the starting point when squatting (referred to as “quarter squats” among the community) which is quite simply, a wasted workout. Usually, these people who start off on the wrong foot have a hard time fixing their technique since they feel discouraged when they downgrade the weight on the bar. They must know that when you actually perform the lifts correctly, you are going to get more efficient results than simply lifting heavy weights. You will only get stronger if you build the base correctly (meaning, utilize the full potential of your muscles). In other words, use the full range of your muscles to achieve optimum results. When you squat all the way down, you are actually using all of your hamstrings potential to build better muscle.

More than two months ago, I learned the above the hard way when I was performing the squats incorrectly and this resulted in me experiencing a slight pain in my hamstrings. For the next month and a half, I had a hard time performing the squats because of this pain. Until I realized my form was to blame, I wasted more than a month performing incorrect squatting techniques. To fix my problem, I re-read the squat section in the Starting Strength book and figured out what I was doing wrong (my knees were too inward). Coupled with some key stretching exercises, I was back in the squatting game and have been lifting heavier since with the proper form. Sometimes you need to re-evaluate your exercise techniques to make sure you’re getting the best out of your workouts.