Warming up always seems like it adds time I don’t have to my workouts. So I go into it with a slightly jaundiced attitude. This despite that I’ve seen over the years that stretching absolutely helps me continue to progress without injury in meeting my workout goals.
I am old enough to remember when static stretching was practiced. But even as far back as the 1980’s we knew that ballistic stretching was a bad thing. What was promoted at the time was stretches you held for 30 seconds or longer. You can now buy the 30th Anniversary edition of Bob Anderson’s classic book that was the bible on this topic.
The most useful innovation I’ve encountered regarding warming up is the concept of dynamic stretching. Frankly, it looks funny but it seems to work. The chief promulgators of this that have impressed me are Eric Cressey and Mike Robertson who market their knowledge via the Magnificent Mobility website. To me a longtime hobbyist and layperson, they really seem to know what they’re talking about. Most of their information is available via subscription but there is also free information under the heading “dynamic stretching” on You Tube including warm up routines specific to different kinds of training. The website Sports Fitness Advisor has a simple set of exercises with handy moving diagrams.
The point of this type of stretching is that it is done through movement. Rather than just being stretches, dynamic stretches are themselves exercises that not only contribute to mobility but also begin warming up the body in advance of working out. At least six different stretches should form the start of your workout and become an integral part your exercise program each time you hit the gym
About 20 years ago I lived in the region of the country near York, Pennsylvania. During those years I began a collection of York dumbbells starting with a single set of 5lbs. There may be nicer ones on the market but I love these. Eventually I added 8s and 10s and 12s. The last purchase was a set of 15s. Frankly it took me years to have much I could do with this last pair though now I use them regularly. York still sells this style of weight. They’re called “legacy” dumbbells which is a synonym for “if you own these you were probably born long ago.” I’ve now put together 16+ and 18+ pounds sets from plate weights, little threaded weight bars and collars. I’ve been wondering if it might be time for a set of 20s from York. An alternative course would be taking the plunge and buying a pair of those dial-controlled adjustable dumbbells. I gave a pair of these to my dad as a gift last father’s day. I guess the best gifts are the ones we really want ourselves… For him it was a good idea because he has access to a good gym at work but seemed to have pretty little equipment at home. I was hoping mom might take advantage of them also. For me the benefit would be that my house is tiny and all the separate weights take up more room. That said, I must confess an emotional attachment to my weight set. It would probably be hard to give them up.
Typically I learn the names of body parts by injuring them
I started New Rules of Lifting for Women the first time in March of 2010. I loved it. I was amazed by how quickly my body seemed to be changing. Then in mid April I was carrying some furniture at work to set up for an event and without realizing I was straining my arm to this extent, managed to tear both my right biceps and brachialis. This manifested itself in a bloody, purple bruise the origin of which I did not immediately grasp. Being me I figured since I didn’t hurt my arm working out, I didn’t have to stop working out. I know that makes no sense. But the injustice of doing something that isn’t really even my job at work, hurting myself and as a result being forced to stop doing what I love was just too harsh to accept. I kept working out another three months with a sore arm.
Around July I clued in that I was never going to heal this way and I dragged myself to a sports medicine physician who in turn sent me to a physical therapist (PT). When the latter told me our work together was to get me pain free I almost cried I was so tired of being in constant pain. I spent the summer doing my PT exercises and working on walk-run intervals and abdominal/core work. My core was abysmally weak I had learned in starting New Rules and I was eager to improve that before getting back to it.
In November 2010 I took the plunge and started Stage 1 again. This time for any exercise that involved the brachialis in any significant way I substituted my PT exercises. I completed Stage 1 this way. As it was still clear that I was not going to be able to push myself in New Rules, I opted not to continue with this program sought interval and body-weight exercises that I could continue to do without needing to push my arm too far.
I finally felt able to get going again in June 2011 when I started the Female Body Breakthrough program. Having just completed that I am now ready to return at last to New Rules of Lifting for Women. I am coming back to it quite a bit stronger than I was when I began. I also credit FBB with continually allowing me to progress in terms of strength without hurting anything. I think this is due to the super long full body warm up that precedes and is part of each workout. Though it sometimes bored me– it remains the same throughout the whole program– I think it was the reason the program was so successful in allowing me to build strength injury-free. More on that in a future post.
I’ve never really enjoyed participating in organized sports. I don’t have particularly stellar hand-eye coordination and always had little confidence in my ability to connect ball and bat. Thus over the years the athletic endeavors I did enjoy generally involved my competing against a clock or myself. Not that I was particularly good at that either. Over the years I swam, ice skated and jogged. I participated on a water ballet team. I even practiced ice hockey for a bit.
My love affair with weight lifting began in high school where Mr. Johnson the gym teacher introduced me to resistance training. We had some choices about how to fulfill the required gym classes and I don’t remember if I signed up for it or received it as part of a class. I do remember that Mr. Johnson was an attractive, blue-eyed, relatively young African American man. In any case I liked weight lifting a lot though I didn’t really get back into it until after college. I was a good and diligent high school student and I do remember another teacher ribbing me about weight lifting.
Shortly after college I had a job at a YMCA. That was the first time in my life that I had easy and regular access to a good place to work out. I took full advantage of it, even training to teach an aerobics class-though I was terrible at learning dance steps–especially when they changed every 8 weeks. The Y had air resistance equipment and also a traditional weight room and working out became a regular thing for me. When I later relocated and left that job, I joined a health club briefly and continued to build my collection of equipment for home use including a set of dumbbells of various weights and eventually a weight bench, barbells and even a high/low pulley machine. All of these allow me to work out in my unfinished basement.
I love weight lifting for many reasons–principally for its impact on my physique. If there is any sport for which I might make the argument that I have a gift it is probably this one. This is not to my credit but is rather due to an accident of genetics. If you believe in somatypes, I have a mesomorph’s physique and tend to put on muscle easily. (Regrettably I am not similarly gifted in the self-discipline department.) Weight lifting meets the requirement of something in which I can compete against myself. And for a person who likes keeping track of things on spreadsheets it’s a delight.
With the realization that few people that are actually known to me share my enthusiasm for my fitness pursuits, and not entirely indifferent to the way the eyes of most people I know tend to glaze over when I talk about said pursuits, I am embarking on a way to give voice to this passion whether it’s only for my entertainment or for others’ benefit as well.