Another week, another Tuesday workout! For those of you following my ankle plate woes, no news is frustrating news, the ortho trauma center has yet to contact me for an appointment. Meaning, of course, that I should probably stomp on in there and slam my leg up on the nearest available table. Because if I’m anything, it’s subtle.
Back to the fray! Due to issues with treadmill running causing some shearing forces on the lower leg that I’m trying to avoid, I instead went back to the tried and true treadmill walking. To keep the blood flow flowing and the heartbeat beating I threw drinks over my shoulder. Actually I was doing a weird type of “curl” while walking with 7lb dumbbells. Basically you hammer curl close to your chest (elbow points out to the side) and as the ‘bell approaches your shoulder, you rotate your elbow away from your chest. If you were holding a glass of water it would look like you were hucking it over your opposite shoulder. This exercise activates tons of muscles, biceps, triceps, deltoids, pecs, rear shoulder, forearm. The only thing to be careful of is that the rotation has the potential to harm your shoulder if you use too much weight, so don’t overdo it. On the bright side you look like a dapper lad out for a stroll while you do it, which is always a bonus.
12 minutes of silly walking later I was warm and ready for “the stuff”. My good pal Todd was joining me for the workout, which always makes it more fun (and sometimes, a lot tougher, we tend to push each other). The Sac Fitness Fairy had a doozy for us today, and she wasn’t letting us leave until we finished.
The general pattern was 1 minute of each exercise, 4 total exercises, 5 rounds. Those of you who didn’t spend 1st grade math staring at the holes in the ceiling tiles will, quite quickly, determine that we had 20 minutes of movements.
Wait? That sounds suspiciously easy. The workout is 1.5 hours usually, where’s the other hour and ten? Well, outside of the warm-up eating into it, it turns out that just doing 20 minutes straight of these exercises would probably kill you. I say that not because there was no way in Hades that I could pull it off (which is true), but because my extremely in shape pal Todd wasn’t actually able to pull off a MINUTE straight of some of them in the later rounds. These were full blown, go to failure type motions, designed generally to be done in sets of 5 or 10 maybe, or for 10-15 seconds on the static ones. The SFF kicked the notch. Up, even.
My first movement was an odd one, an “L” pull-up but done seated using a pair of TRX straps above your head. The straps add a number of factors. First of all, they move (duh) and swinging while doing these is really not what you want to be doing. Second, because of your position, it was a very compact movement, which actually allowed you to be a bit more explosive (at least at first). After a while though you run out of steam, and the mod to this movement is to keep heels on the ground. You can see me in the background doing the L pull while Todd gets planked.
Movement 2 is something like water boarding except you use a steel plate instead of water and you’re the board. OK, I guess they’re not similar, but this one IS torture. Basically, it is a plank, like any you’ve ever done in yoga or your own workouts, done off the elbows. Except that you then drop a 10lb steel plate on your back and hold it there. I cannot stress enough how much that changes this static exercise. I can usually hold a plank for quite a while. After just 20 seconds of this one though, my forearms turned apple red and you could see the veins popping out. One of the reasons is that, without really thinking about it, we adjust our planks up and down, hitting other muscles. But with a plate on your back, that’s not an option, unless you want the plate to slide off. Ouch. Plus of course it is like you suddenly gained 10lbs (or 20 if you’re really looking for pain). Todd said it best when he commented “Man, this is rough!” Buddy, you said it. Rough indeed.
The third movement was a v-crunch in the TRX straps. We’ve done these before. Essentially you get in a push-up position with your feet in the straps. You then fold in half, butt to the sky, then return to a push-up plank and pull your knees to your chest. That’s one rep. Here we were doing as many reps as we could in a minute. Normally this exercise is kind of fun and not super tough per-rep, but by this point my shoulders were already totaled. Eventually just staying in the plank position becomes tough and you end up putting a knee down. At which point SFF usually says “Oh, I’m sorry, your minute isn’t done. Let’s go.” She’s such a kidder!
The last exercise was one that I’d seen a lot of people do, and had always been curious about. What I should have considered is that the people usually doing it were boxers, MMA fighters and extremely in-shape Cross-fit athletes Basically you take two huge (they are as big as my forearm in diameter) ropes, about 20 ft long, and you tie one end of each off on something unmovable. In our case we used the fighting ring. Then, holding the other ends of the ropes in each hand, you make the rope wave. Easy right? We used to do that as kids! So fun! Well, I will say, it was fun. For about 10 seconds. Those ropes weigh a lot, and transferring motion into them is extremely hard. Doing it for a minute straight was almost impossible, but somehow I managed it. Round one, done.
Then we jumped in again, and again, 5 times through total. That 20 minutes stretched as we took a little longer each time to move between exercises, desperately trying to get the ache to leave our cores, arms and shoulders so we could at least start the next exercise strong. We finished with about 15 minutes to go till the 1.5 hour, so with the 15 minute warmup we basically did 20 minutes of movements in 60 minutes. That includes a fairly long rest between round 3 and 4 because OMG TIRED.
It is difficult to actually say how many reps total of the various movements I did, I lost count. I know on average I was managing about 14 L pull-ups though, with most of the first round’s coming with heels off the ground and most in the latter stages with heels firmly down. The point really was to keep going, keep doing, maintain motion for as much of the minute as possible. I surprised both Todd and SFF by actually staying in the death plank the entire minute all 5 rounds, and never stopping rope movement once during the entire minute of each round.
Something to note here. You hear a lot of people complain that they don’t have time to workout. While what we did took about an hour, the actual exercises themselves took 20 minutes. It took us an hour because we were pushing our limits on every single round, which honestly most people don’t have to do. Even if you did 2 rounds, the benefits of these kinds of full body motions are amazing. You don’t have to death plank, you can plank. If you don’t have ropes, do jumping jacks for a minute (the ropes are there to push your heart rate into the cardio zone for the other exercises). Do what you can for as long as you can!
The second, and more important point, is to look at the two people who were doing the workout. One is a professional athlete, in amazing shape (he could walk around a mall with his shirt off and people would ask why he isn’t over at Abercrombie & Fitch), and in excellent health. The other is a slightly overweight computer programmer with a loose metal plate hanging off his ankle. Yet we did essentially the same workout in the same amount of time. Did Todd get more of a workout? In total, yes. In relative terms, no, we put forth our personal best efforts and got that back. He probably did a lot more reps in the rep movements than I did (well OK, he definitely did… he was keeping track), but his fitness level demands that.
The point here is that even if you are injured, out of shape or otherwise not able to do some particular exercise, the option to modify is there. Can’t do a push-up Knees down. STILL can’t? Do a tilted push-up off the edge of a counter, or the back of your sofa. Whatever it takes. Right now I can’t do box jumps. I can’t do burpees. I can’t do mountain climbers. If you define yourself by can’t, you won’t. Look at what is possible in your life instead.
A quick shout-out to my friend Nicole at Mama Needs Mana. She’s an Aussie buddy who I know from playing World of Warcraft, and it seems I’ve gotten her stoked on fitness and health. Super! Rock on Mama! Rock on!