Pushing through difficulty, do whatever you can

Today was a doozy. No Sac Fitness Fairy workout is easy or lightweight, but today was one I barely managed to walk away from. And, of course, it was mostly my fault.

Trouble 1: The ongoing ankle plate debacle. I finally got an appointment to see someone about getting the suspension looked at, but it won’t be for 2 weeks. So I continue to have issues with doing exercises with shearing forces that go perpendicular to the shin. These tended to wreak havoc on my knees as well, so no big loss there. Still, by having to modify, it often forces me to double up sometimes on upper body muscles.

Trouble 2: I just got inked. On Sunday I went and got a big old tattoo on my left arm and shoulder. Tattoos that big will often tire you out, and I was no different. Sunday I went to bed at 7pm and I’m still a bit tired as it heals.

Trouble 3: I just started Lisinopril. There’s no doubt now, I have high blood pressure. Even fairly extensive weight loss didn’t drop it into safe levels, nor did my diet changes (which include a big reduction in saturated fats and sugars). My father had high bp as well, and he has been on bp medications for 20 years, even though he is now fairly skinny and quite active, and eats pretty decently healthy foods. Some of the side effects of the drug I am taking include being lightheaded, tired and dizzy. All things that make working out easy and pleasant. And to top it off, I think it made me dehydrated. SUPER.

So with all that on my mind, plus a tatted arm bandaged 10 ways till Sunday, I wandered into Ultimate Fitness 3 minutes late (I’ve NEVER been late before). An inauspicious beginning. I had a happy surprise though as my buddy Todd was there ready for a workout. Very exciting! It is always good to see him, though generally it means the SFF will have dreamed up a killer to really challenge us. Even without the three troubles above, this would have been rough.

Since running on a treadmill isn’t really working for my lower leg, I walked up a steep incline instead to get warmed up while Todd zoomed along next to me at warp speeds. We went for about 12 minutes or so total. I only managed about 3/4 of a mile but had the mill cranked to nearly the max incline. Super!

Then we dropped off and went to the TRX straps. Always a pleasure, TRX makes even the easiest exercises harder, and harder exercises painful. We began with a 1 legged squat (back leg in the strap) with 2 15lb bells. At the top of the squat you push the bells up over your head. Immediately I found I couldn’t do the movement, the shearing forces killed my leg and knee, so I switched to just having 1 leg back and using the toe to help offset some of the forces. Here’s a great tip, if you can’t do the movement as is, don’t give up! Change it up. By slightly modifying it I turned something incredibly painful for me into an excellent exercise that still did 90% of what the original movement did. 10 each side.

Then we dropped to the ground for situps with a 10lb plate, pushing the plate to the ceiling at the top of the sit-up. I usually like these but found myself totally blown up after just 7 out of the 20 SFF wanted out of me. This was the first clue that something was up, I simply should not have been so tired. I was honestly not really even sweating that much, the muscles just didn’t want to cooperate. I was frustrated and annoyed but I just chunked them out. I could only do 5 at a time so I did 5 at a time. That’s another way to get through a workout. If you can’t do 10 push-ups, do 5 then 5. Or 2 five times. As I like to say, optimal shtoptimal. Get’er done. Honestly in many case you’ll get more benefit from breaking movements up and doing them with good form than you would trying to go all at once and being super sloppy. Any, 20 done I got up and did the single leg squats again, then dropped and chunked out another 20 sit-up presses.

The next TRX exercise was a suspended spiderman push-up. I knew even before I started that I was doomed. These are rough on my on a good day. Today was not a good day. To do these you put one foot in the straps and get into a push-up position. As you lower yourself, you bring the unsuspended leg in like you are a male dog watering some bushes. As you come up the leg goes back. This activates the hell out of your core, but more brutally it moves your body weight forward onto your arms. In a way you are making yourself heavier as you lower yourself into the movement. 10 each side took a while.

The “sister” exercise to the spider push-ups was a set of over and backs with a 10lb plate. This has a real name but I’ve forgotten it. Basically you sit on the floor, back at an angle and legs slightly bent with feet off the ground (kind of like the top of a v-up). While in this position you swing a 10lb plate in an arch over your hips, hitting it on the ground to either side of you. Left/right is one rep and we had 25 reps (“So… 50 total then eh?” as Todd put it). Once more through the push-ups and again with the over and backs and we were ready for the next group.

This one was interesting, an SFF original. Without video it will be tough to explain (and for non-gymnasts it was tough to explain even while THERE) but I will try. You sit on the ground, legs straight, holding the TRX straps taught in your hands, which are straight out in front of you. You then straighten your body while throwing your hands back over your head, all the time holding your arms straight as possible, and at the top you spread your hands so you end up in a suspended Y for a moment. For mortals like me this position is impossible to hold so you then swing the arms back forward (or just fall to the ground if you’re totally destroyed). For gymnasts, the first part of this movement is identical to the motion you use when “throwing the bar away” on your high bar dismount, and is similar in some ways to a giant on rings. Since I was familiar with it, I picked it up right away and got through it. Poor Todd however had not had the experience of years of being both a competitive gymnast and a coach, and between both myself and SFF it took a bit of time to explain to him how to do it, at which point he just rocked right through them. 15 total.

Then we dropped to the floor into a side plank. The arm off the floor held a 15lb bell and you basically lifted it until it was straight up in the sky. 15 times each side. Then back to the crazy suspended gymnastics move and then more side planks.

The next movement was another odd one. Heels went into the TRX straps and you lay on your back. With your hips up you spread your feet apart, bring them back and then push them to the sky, lifting your hips along with. This is a core and hamstring killer, especially if you aren’t used to popping up into a “candle” type position in gymnastics. So, another I got a little cheat in. Poor Todd. 20 total.

The second movement in this group was a suspended side crunch. Feet in the TRX, you get into a push-up position and crunch to one side 10 times, then to the other 10 times. Back to the suspended candle and once more to the side crunches.

We were running out of time so we were only able to squeeze one last movement in, which was a standing squat with a 15lb bell in each hand, pushing them to the sky at the top of the squat (so a 2 legged version of how we started the day). 20 total and we were done and running outside to keep from getting a ticket.

While I certainly survived the workout, it wasn’t one where I felt I conquered or thrived. At some points it was a bit soul crushing, and considering the level of fitness I’ve acquired over the past 10 months, it was also a bit frustrating and disappointing. As usual, Todd came to the rescue. “Look man, you did great, it was a rough workout for me too”, he said later while I picked some lemons at his house, and finished off with, “and remember… everyone has bad days, everyone.”

He was right, and basically I was feeling sorry for myself. Yeah I didn’t fly through the workout. If I did, what’s the point? A workout is SUPPOSED to be challenging. You’re supposed to be a bit destroyed at the end, because otherwise you’re just flailing around a bit, Sometimes it takes a huge workout to destroy you, other times it doesn’t take much at all. The important thing is getting through it, recovering and rinse repeat. Even though I didn’t feel like a winner after today, I do know I did good work in there, and I’ll be better and stronger from the effort.

And there’s the last lesson. If you can only do 5 push-ups before being completely wrecked, do 5 push-ups. Do them enough and there will come a time when you can do 6.

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