Spin Class review

Spinning is not exactly a new thing but it is something that is new to me. I’ve been to a grand total of 3 spinning classes, and for the foreseeable future spinning will be part of my training regime when I can fit it in (not always easy).

After finishing my first spinning class it was hard to say exactly where I felt it most, the legs for sure, and my shoulders too but I think thats from poor form when I’m standing up on the bike. If there is one piece of consistent feedback I get from almost any fitness class I go to its, “relax your shoulders”. So while I can’t feel what Spinning is targeting specifically, I do finish the class dripping in sweat. Spinning is a great cardio session, and for that reason alone, I’ll keep it up. Its hard to get a good sweat going with the strength work I do on the Olympic Rings or the Parallettes. Those types of workouts are exhausting, but not sweaty. Spinning is a great way to get your sweat on as its an intense, cardio heavy session. Other people I know who have been spinning for a long time tell me they notice the biggest change in their waistlines, and based on a quick glance around at the other people in the class, spinning does look like a good way to stay slim.

My class of choice is Spinzone. Spinzone is a dedicated spinning studio. Spinzone has about 60 bikes, is dimly lit, with lots of neon lights and thumping music, more like a rave than a fitness studio. The audio system the instructors use could do with an upgrade as sometimes its hard to hear what they are saying. Spinzone is a pay-as-you-go service, 6 Euro per class. I like the cheap pay as you go option that Spinzone offers. Most exercise specific gyms like spinning or boxing or barre make the per class price prohibitively expensive to encourage monthly memberships over pay-as-you-go classes. Monthly memberships are good for the gyms, but not good for someone like me who likes to try lots of different classes.

Another thing I like about spinning is that you can make it as hard or easy as you like. You adjust the bikes difficultly yourself, but under the instruction of the person leading the class, “Go to 70% resistance…10% resistance..”, and so on. What exactly 70% resistance is in entirely up to you, which mean anyone of any fitness level can join any class. Its a flat out workout thats easy on the joints and leaves you feeling good about yourself, you can’t ask for much more than that.

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Anniversary Blog Post

WordPress notified me that today is my blog anniversary. My very first blog post was about hitting 1,000 running miles on the Nike+ app. I kept the running theme for my next two anniversary blogs post, which you can read by clicking here: Anniversary One and Anniversary Two.

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On this blog anniversary I have to break with the running theme. I stopped using the Nike+ App to track my runs when the App got an automatic update that made it unusable. Unfortunately I couldn’t find an easy way to extract the data into another app so I lost my historical running data. I downloaded a new running app, Runkeeper, but I only use it when I need to measure distance runs in new locations. The majority of my runs are in familiar territory where I know the distances and times, so I only use the Runkeeper app infrequently.

With no prepared blog post ready for my Blogs anniversary, I took my phone to the gym today and recorded a bit of my workout. I was short on time today so I just did some movement flows. Movement like this (see video below) is part of the “smarter, not harder” philosophy I mentioned in my last blog post. Putting together movement flows is not high impact or high strain, but it is a full body, integrated workout like no other, and using your whole body like this is exhausting, and fun, so perfect for a time constrained workout.  Keep blogging, keep training, keep moving.

Shoulder stretch with broomstick

After every workout I stretch. You won’t see a lot of posts about it on this blog because I’m not very flexible and don’t have much insight to share. Whatever bit of flexibility I have is good enough for me, so I continue to try. Its about the process, not the goals.

What I do know is that, when stretching, its important to use a range of motion that is beyond your normal range. Muscle strains and injuries can happen when you move your muscles in a sudden and uncontrolled way. Stretching is a good way to expand your range of motion to prevent such injuries.

Because I work at a desk, I spend a lot of time with my shoulders and back hunched over a keyboard. Here is a shoulder stretch I like to do with a broomstick handle that I feel counteracts that hunch.

Holding a broomstick handle in front of yourself, hands at either end, lift the broomstick up and over your head, and stretch out your chest. There is another variation of this to help work the shoulder joint so technically I’m doing this wrong, but I like stretching out and feeling my chest and shoulders expand. Even if its just a placebo, I feel like I’m undoing some of the desk damage.

Another good shoulder rotation you can do with a broomstick, is to hold a broomstick handle in front of yourself, closed grip with one hand, open palm with the other, and keeping the closed grip, slide the broomstick along the open palm, rotate the closed grip away from you and slide back. Its a range of motion you don’t typically do when stretching your shoulder.

And finally, if you have three broomsticks, you can sit in an A-frame to stretch out your hips.

It helps me, and its worth a try.

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Sitting in the A-frame, a good way to stretch the hips

 

Training with a New Born

Having a new born in your life makes it harder to fit in exercise. Along with the usual demands in your life, a 9 to 5 job, cleaning, cooking, shopping, eating, you now have the all-hours demands of a baby taking up all your energy. Time is definitely more scarce, but you might also have a new-found desire to stay healthy and active to set a good example for your child, and to keep up with them. Here are some tips:

Find a place to train

When I gave up free-weights I also cancelled my gym membership and moved all my training to the home. I thought this would mean that baby would cause minimum disruption. That was not the case. If I’m at home I’m either with baby or catching up on house chores. I’ve joined a gym near my office to fit in training before work or during lunch. Find somewhere to train thats within walking distance of work, or your home, you can’t waste time commuting.

Have a flexible workout schedule

Bad weather or a traffic incident and the morning bus will crawl into town at a snails pace, add to that a busy day in the office and a fussy baby when you get home and suddenly the pre-work workout you had planned has drifted from 8am to 1pm to 9pm. You’ve got to go along with this and seize your training opportunities whatever the time.

Lazy Workouts

Late nights and broken sleep can mean the you only get a few hours sleep and the next days workout will suffer as a result. Its okay to just go through the motions sometimes, not every workout has to be 100%.

Be prepared to miss some days

I used to say, “don’t let one bad day become two bad days”, now its “don’t let two bad days days become three”. Some workout days will be missed and you won’t catch up, just make sure to get back to it asap.

Equipment-less training

Bodyweight training is a major advantage with a new born. Operating a flexible schedule won’t be as easy if you need big pieces of equipment like bench presses and squat racks that are only at the gym. Having some equipment-less (or close to it) exercises like wall-walks or parallettes will be beneficial for that 11pm session.

Its all great

Baby changes so quickly that if you hit on a routine that works one week, it can easily become obsolete the next. These challenges are real and baby will get in the way of your training goals. Baby will have a negative impact on your training, but rest assured its absolutely, completely, without a doubt worth it. Being a Dad is the best.

Training with baby
Hello, I’m Batman

Indoor Exercise four: Chin up bar

We are firmly in the cold, dark, and rainy winter months. Lacking the conditions to train outside means its time to bring the training inside again. Previously I blogged about indoor exercises such as headstands, wall walks, and parallettes.  Today I’m looking at the Chin Up Bar. Youtube is full of home chin up bar fails and I think that puts people off, but having used a chin up bar for over a year, and not having a single youtube worthy fail, I deem this piece of equipment to be perfectly safe.

My chin up bar routine consists of:

  • 3 sets of close grip chin ups (10 reps per set)
  • 3 sets of shoulder shrugs (8 reps per set)
  • 3 sets of wide grip chin ups (10 reps per set)
  • 3 sets of incline press ups (12 reps per set)

Close grip chin ups are the best exercise you can do to build bicep strength. Shoulder shrugs work your trapezius muscles and teaches you to manipulate your scapula in a compression/depression manner. Wide grip chin ups develop the upper and outer regions of your lats and shoulders, as well as spreading the scapula. Push ups work your chest, shoulders, and triceps. Its amazing what you can do with one piece of equipment and a door frame.

With the chin up bar, its important to not let your ego get in the way of progress. When I say 10 reps, I mean as close to 10 as you can get. Don’t cheat the movement, all the way up, and ALL the way down, thats 1 rep. Don’t be surprised if 1 rep is all you can do. This routine takes no more than 30 minutes, theres no commute, you can watch TV while you do it, and its a decent, all over upper body workout. No excuses for not having this at home.

Not a morning person

I’m not a morning person, I think few people are. When my alarm clock rings every muscle in my body is telling me that its okay to sleep in a little longer because I need the rest, and my brain is telling me that a missed workout this morning can easily be compensated for later in the week.

But getting up early is a good habit to get into. The early hours of the morning are a good time to get things done without distraction. The time between when you wake up and when you get to work is ideal for accomplishing personal goals that are not related to your job. I also enjoy starting my day with something other than work because it means that work is something that comes in the middle of my day, but the beginning and end of the day is my time. Preparation and routine are key to being an early starter.

You won’t win every morning, but its worth trying.

Here are some tips to help get started in the morning:

  • Prepare in advance. This means your alarm is set, clothes ready by the bed, workout equipment set up, and coffee capsule in the Nespresso machine.
  • Use a motivating Alarm Clock. The standard “beep beep beep” would drive anyone mad. For a long time my alarm clock was set up to play this video. Lately, I’ve been using the Rock Clock. The Rock Clock has no snooze feature, to turn it off you have to hit two buttons, one saying “Get Up”, and then the other “Get After it”. The Rock Clock has a weird psychological effect on me, its seems disingenuous to sleep in after having already confirmed with The Rock that I’m “getting up, and getting after it.”
  • Have more time than you need. Don’t set you alarm so that you can get up, achieve a personal goal, and make it into work with seconds to spare, this is more stress than its worth. Time should be your friend, no rushing.
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6am Wake up call with the Rock

 

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Inspirational message of the Day

 

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Workout Gear Prepped and Ready to go
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In town by 8am for a cafe stop off, coffee and a read
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Different coffee, different read, have to keep things free

 

 

 

 

 

 

Indoor Exercise three: Parallettes

Arnold Schwarzenegger once asked and answered the question:

Q: Whats the hardest workout in the world?

A: Someone else’s

The body grows used to the same exercises over time. Getting used to an exercise is a good thing, it shows progress and that your work capacity has increased, but it also means that the same exercises are now less effective. “Less effective” doesn’t mean you should stop certain exercises, as your old routine is still useful for maintenance, even if the gains in fitness are less.

February hasn’t brought a change in the weather and with that in mind I went looking for a new exercise I could do indoors. I found the parallettes. The parallettes are an excellent all round upper body workout, and there is a huge variety of exercises you can do with this simple piece of equipment. I bought mine from Gravity Fitness.

While I’d like to show a video of me being awesome on the parallettes, I thought it would be more fun to show my first attempt as using them. Like Arnold said, someones else’s workout is the hardest workout there is. I tried dips (went well), press-ups (successful), the L-Sit (also good), planche negative press (fail), handstand press up (disaster, I got stuck), and even though I failed at the handstand press, I tried a L-Sit sit through into a handstand (I came crashing to the ground). On the plus side, I really felt the stain and had to exert maximum effort with movements by body just isn’t used to. Looking forward to lots of fun and progress with the parallettes over the coming months.

 

Indoor Exercise two: one handed wall drill

Its still cold and miserable outside so finding bodyweight exercises to do indoors is still the goal. This one is fairly difficult if you’re not reasonably confident with handstands already.

To begin, with your back to the wall, walk your feet up the wall until you are in a handstand position facing the wall. The only touch points should be your hands on the ground, and your feet on the wall. From here, alternate from one hand to the other, 5 second holds each side. Continue for as long as you can. When I started I could only do one hold each side before I fell, but I’m progressing from there, practise makes perfect.

This exercise requires concentration so don’t rush through it. Blood will rush to your head and to your posting hand. The more you do this exercise the more you’ll adapt and the blood rush will stop, or at least, you’ll adapt to it.

This a great exercise for shoulder strength and over all stabilisation, and it will help with your free standing hand stand progression too. Video below has been sped up.

 

Indoor exercise one: Triangle Headstand

Irish winters make it very hard to keep exercising. Its dark in the morning on the way to work, and dark in the evening on the way home. Constant darkness makes me feel tired, even when its relatively early. Because I train outside, its hard to get the motivation to go out and train, the wind and rain don’t help. Even if you train in a gym, it can be hard to motivate yourself to pack a gym bag and head out the door.

I’ve started moving some of my outdoor exercises, indoors. One such exercise is the triangle headstand. I saw this a few months ago in Men’s Health magazine, I figured that because I can comfortably walk around on my hands, the triangle headstand would be easy, I was surprised by how hard it is. Its a test of your core stabilisers, because you can’t rely on arm strength to hold you up. Instead this works your back stabilisers, abs, and neck muscles. As per the video below, kneel on the floor with your fingers interlocked and forearms in a triangle. Place you head between your arms and walk your feet to your chest, then slowly extend your legs over your torso, tensing your core, and hold. The triangle Headstand can take a while to get right, mine is far from perfect, as you can see from the video below. My legs are not straight enough, and as you can see, I fall a lot. Don’t worry about falling, as you can see, you just roll forward. If you’re not good at something, it means you have to work on it. I’m going to continue working on the triangle headstand until I can get perfectly straight. I can feel the benefits to my core already.

 

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