Gym time

I have yet to write a post about what I do at the gym. So far I have written only about what I do in the kitchen, but I haven’t made it to the gym yet (oh I do have a very regular gym routine!). It might be due to the fact that I don’t feel that knowledgable or confident when it comes to fitness related stuff. I just realized how this sounds: “Not confident about the gym, but confident about the food? So writing about food only so far!?” No, that’s not what I mean. In fact, if you know me and I mean really really know me, you will know that I am probably the least confident person you know, period. And if you don’t know me, you shouldn’t be so judgmental 😉 Just kidding. The truth of the matter is, most times I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m just trying things out to see what will stick together and what will fall apart. I often joke that I’m a nobody since I have two useless University Arts degrees, and a 3rd that I dropped out of, that don’t quite define who it is that I am –  therefore I must be a nobody. But isn’t it true that we can make our lives what we want them to be? Aren’t we the sculptors of our lives? I never thought that way, because mom would always pound into us that we need to go to school, find a good profession, get the piece of paper that says who we are and voilà, that’s who we are. So I spend half my life in Universities getting the white, crispy, little papers called diplomas with fancy inscriptions on them until I realized that I was going about it the wrong way, I didn’t find the profession first, I just went and studied languages! Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m still glad I did it, because learning English made it possible to comfortably live in Canada. Learning French, well, let’s just say “French” pays my bills at the moment but I still think its true destination hasn’t been reached yet. I am just still working on figuring out who the heck I really am. It’s work in progress but I digress, or do I?

At the gym I know who I am not. I am not a powerlifter, I am not a bodybuilder, I am not a socialite, I am not a cardio bunny, I am not a pretty accessory to somebody else…. I know this all sounds somewhat harsh, but the truth is that since the time I first stepped into a gym I have seen all sorts of people show up and what they do at the gym does somewhat define them. I guess what I’m trying to say is that we all go there for different reasons and that’s OK, as long as we don’t get into each other’s ways or impose on each other what we should be doing at the gym.

So, who am I? I am a recreational bodybuilder bodyshaper. “Bodybuilder” just seems like such a big word and all I’m trying to do is add some lean muscle mass, melt some fat and shape it up a bit. I don’t desire to be big (which bodybuilders strive for, that’s why they go through a bulking stage in the off season), quite the contrary, I want to tone the muscles, make them visible and in the process get rid of the layer of fat covering them. Yes, I do carry some fat, we all do, some more than others but we all do. And the way to make your muscles visible is to build them and to make them come as close to the skin as possible, aka fat burning.

So, I go to the gym because it makes me feel good emotionally and physically. I believe that it corrects a certain imbalance in my brain and makes me a much happier person, I’ve tested it on a rest day when I don’t go to the gym my mood is down by 200% compared to coming to work when I have just worked out – on those days I find myself to be generally more cheerful and more talkative. Obviously, I like the way it makes me look – muscle definition and sculpted physique bring a certain amount of confidence back into my life. Seeing results makes me feel that maybe, just maybe I do know what I’m doing. So this is mostly why I go to the gym and I don’t like wasting one minute of my time by engaging in something other than lifting weights. I feel, though, that sometimes that gives the wrong impression of me…  

So what do I do at the gym? I’ve been weightlifting on and off since about 2008, prior to that my exercise regimen was home Yoga and Pilates oriented exercise and some cardio and weight machines at the gym. My routine has changed dramatically since I first joined a gym and I even like to say I have progressed in my gym routine. In the beginning I was very concerned about how much weight was loaded on my machine or how heavy a dumbbell I had in my hand. I did not understand very much about strength training and I’m still learning, but back then I truly was just going through the motions. Today, through research and observing people who know what they are doing I’ve learned that it’s not just about picking things up and putting them down.   

For example, my leg routine is split up into 2 kinds of trainings, one that’s a traditional and higher in weight that includes Barbell Squat, Leg Press, Lunges, Leg Extensions and Deadlifts and the other one is more of a metabolic workout that brings my HR higher due to a faster pace and it includes other squats like Elevated Sumo with a Dumbbell, Bench Step-ups, Thigh Abductor, Ski Lunges, Bench Jumps, Cable Glute Kickbacks, Curtsy Lunges, Pistol. Both variations are equally important in my training, but they do differ quite a lot.

While working out with heavier weights I concentrate on bringing my strength up, increasing the weight incrementally and getting the burn from the shear weight. During my metabolic training I do still get the burn, but it comes from stronger contraction of the muscles, which I can do because my body is not working so hard balancing the heavy weight. You’ve probably heard about mind-muscle connection before. When I first read about how you should think about the muscles that you are training and make the connection between the muscle and the brain I thought it was silly. But when I started implementing this technique in my workouts I started seeing results that I wanted. It’s the difference between “going through the motions” and training. You can’t just swing your weights around and expect your muscles to grow, you have to engage your muscles to make them respond. So training with lower weight I can not only concentrate more on this mind-muscle connection, but I can also slow down my movements allowing the muscle to be under tension throughout the repetition and this gives me as much, if not more, of a workout for my muscles as higher volume training.

So I’ll leave you today with a link to a person that I get inspiration from. You should go check out her blog Your Healthy Hedonista where she shares tons of information about food, fitness and health.  This video allowed me to learn how to use the Abductor Machine and feel my glutes afterwards. Before I would preform this exercise in a traditional manner, with my bum on the seat, with much lower weight and not feel like I’ve done anything. This technique along with strong engagement of your glute muscles and slow controlled movements will definitely leave you on fire 🙂