On New Year's Resolutions

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On New Year's Resolutions

Author: Abby Resek

Along with the new year comes the unavoidable topic of ‘resolutions’. The will I, won’t I, jokingly yes, fundamentally against, don’t even want to think about it subject of ‘how will I be better this year?’

Just to preface this, I don’t have a set-in-stone recommendation one way or another. What I do have is a gentle reminder, because all I can really do is share my thoughts and hope they’ll be helpful. 

I stopped doing New Years resolutions a couple years ago. I think part of it is that I’m not great at sudden, cold-turkey changes. For some people, they’re a wonderful challenge and a test of willpower (and if that’s you, rock on!). For me, they brought a lot of stress and dissatisfaction. Asking myself to be better and then petering out or failing felt pretty rotten.

Then two years ago, I had a strange dual lightning strike of inspiration. One, what if I made a resolution that wasn’t so much about me, but about those around me? That year, I decided I was going to reduce plastic and paper waste (which was strangely easier to be successful at because it didn’t feel like a reflection on me). I also started doing what I like to think of as “New Year Cleaning”. For me, that means quite literally cleaning my space – my apartment, my closets, my books, my clothes, etc. – because clutter brings me stress. For some people, cleaning might be a social media cleaning (unfollow anyone that makes you feel crappy, etc. ). Or it might be trying to step away from any unhealthy relationships in your life. Either way, I like the idea of cleaning because instead of changing yourself to be better, you’re adjusting your environment so that you can be more at peace. 

If you’ve got a change you want to make, don’t let me (or anyone else) discourage you. All I can suggest is that we think carefully about what we’re changing (ourselves or our environment), and why. If you decide to say ‘screw you’ to resolutions as a whole, I’m behind you. If you, like me, enjoy a “New Year Cleaning”, I’m behind you. If you want to try something new because it’s 2019 and why not, I’m behind you. 

I’ll end with a mantra that I personally find helpful whenever I’m struggling to make changes or see improvement (in weightlifting or in life): consistency over progress, progress over perfection. 

Basically, whether you decide to keep on being awesome, or decide to be awesome in a different way, you are decidedly AWESOME. Cheers to 2019! 

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

 

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"If you don't do crunches and sit-ups, what do you do for abs?"

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"If you don't do crunches and sit-ups, what do you do for abs?"

              “I haven’t done a crunch or sit-up in over a year, and this is the strongest my core has ever been, and best my abs have ever looked”.

              That’s a direct quote from one of our gym members, and it’s important you hear it from her, not just us.  We love core training and everything that comes with it.  Having a strong core is flattering to our physique.  It supports our form in our other lifts & exercises.  It helps us to breathe more efficiently when we’re fatigued.

              Sometimes when we tell folks we’ve never done a crunch or sit-up in the gym, they’re often surprised.  For a lot of us, those seem like the “core” (I crack myself up) exercises of ab training.

              While we don’t believe there are purely “good” or “bad” core exercises, we don’t choose crunches or sit-ups because we believe there are better options out there.  Exercises that do a more efficient job of getting your abs rock hard.

              So why not crunches and sit-ups?

              It all comes down to the spine.

              When you think about your spine, and the different positions it can exist in, modern day life forces us into a seated, hunched forward position, right?  Take someone in that seated, hunched forward position, and lay them on their back.  What do we have?  The same position as a crunch or sit-up.  Our back is put into this rounded position so much throughout the day (even with the best intentions for your posture), why would we want to do more of that in the gym?

              Instead of using our abs to round our spine, we focus on “anti” core training.  That means that we’re seeking out positions that challenge us to maintain a more aligned spine.

              What does that look like?

              Instead of a sit-up, do a plank or ab wheel.

              Instead of a side bend, do a one arm kettlebell carry or side plank.

              Instead of a Russian twist, do an anti-rotation hold or cable chop.

Credit: theformfitness

Credit: theformfitness

              See how each of these options we provided replaced something that awkwardly moves the spine with something that still engages the same muscles?  Instead of moving the spine, we challenge these muscles to hold the spine in place.  That’s what we focus on in our gym.

              It’s no surprise to us that training this way has alleviated back pain and improved performance for several of our members.  Once they learn how to use their core muscles in the way they were intended, our members finally begin to see the results they’ve been looking for with their core training.  Zero crunches.  Zero sit-ups.  Yet, they have the strongest, leanest core they’ve had in their entire lives.

              If you’ve been grinding away in the gym, doing thousands of crunches and sit-ups, try a little more “anti” core training in your program.  Put your body in a position where the core or spine wants to collapse, and use your abs to resist and fight that position.  Not only will you “feel it” the next day, you’ll feel more support in your other exercises, and you’ll feel it when you put on that snug shirt.

Once you understand this concept, you’ll realize there are literally thousands of options that you’ll never get bored with.  You shouldn’t be surprised if you never think to do a crunch or sit-up in your life again!  Don’t feel bad, though.  They had their day.  Now it’s time for you to get the most our of your efforts in the gym!

 

*want to train with us and get a fully customized program – not just for abs but for all your fitness goals?

Sign up for a consultation session today @ http://www.rc-fit.com/get-started/

Author: Ross Oberlin

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Rest and Stress in Strength Training

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Rest and Stress in Strength Training

Author: Abby Resek

A couple months ago, while I was getting treated for an ongoing case of tendinitis, someone suggested to me that carrying stress was probably making it worse, and that I should just ‘go with the flow’ more. 

I think he was mostly kidding, and he was certainly right about the stress, but still – maybe one of the least helpful pieces of advice I’ve ever received. So, before I start giving any advice or sharing any personal experiences regarding stress, let me say that I know: it is NOT that easy. 

I think most of us know from our own lives that stress can take many different forms, some good, some bad, some complicated, some self-inflicted, some unavoidable. For the past four years, I balanced jobs and internships and school, and I like to think I did a pretty good job of it. I worked hard, I produced some things I’m really proud of during school, and I held it together for the various jobs or internships I was working at during that time. But, now that I’ve graduated, I truly feel the weight of everything I was carrying during that time. All types of stress, good and bad. 

In a word, it was a lot, and I wasn’t getting enough rest. Sleep, days off, mental rest, you name it – I was missing it. And now that I am getting more of that rest, and my day-to-day life has a more sustainable amount of stress, I realize how much that was affecting me. 

Despite everything I had on my plate, there were areas in my life that I felt weren’t going well enough. Namely, my own strength training: despite how much time I was putting into it (and time was not something I had an abundance of), I wasn’t getting better. And that was frustrating. 

My natural response was to work harder – to train more often, try harder, etc. I was neglecting rest, over-training, and wearing myself down, and the more I did it, the more tired I got, and the more frustrated — a vicious cycle was born.

Then, just last week, about 6 months after finishing school, I hit a deadlift personal best. Twice. In the same day. And the biggest difference between now and then is that now, I’m doing less. 

Training fewer times a week. Spending less time under stress. My increased work hours are offset by the absence of schoolwork and tutoring. Instead, I’m sleeping more, I have a regular weekend, I have opportunities for rest and I’ve been able to take them. 

Truth be told, I’ll probably always carry more stress than maybe ‘necessary’. I have trouble turning my brain off, I create things for myself to worry about – and, of course, I have real responsibilities that cause unavoidable stress. Expecting myself to live a stress-free life is unreasonable, and not something I’d want even if it were possible. 

But what I can get better at is forgiving myself when I can’t do everything. Because no one can do everything. I can learn to recognize when stress in one area of my life is affecting another, and either try to mitigate that, or just be kinder to myself about it. My body handled an amazing amount of stress, and now that I’ve had time to rest and recover, I’ve been able to push myself in other ways again. 

Again, I can’t (and won’t) ever tell you just to not be stressed. But I do know a couple of things that have helped me (or would have helped):

-       Take the rest, in whatever form you need. Overtraining can set you back, and even though it feels like doing nothing, resting is in fact doing something really, really good for you

-       Be patient with yourself. It took me 6 months to start getting past my stress-induced plateau, and I’m still not totally over it. I’ll certainly be experiencing more setbacks and plateaus in my future, and that’s okay too 

-       Try to recognize when stress is a factor. If I had been able to admit to myself that stress was preventing me from getting stronger, maybe I could have reframed the way I thought about my strength training. I could have told myself that training a couple times a week was enough, and stepped away from trying to get ‘better’ for a while

I think the expression “you’re your own worst critic” is usually right; we tend to expect a lot of ourselves. And we usually do put ourselves through a lot, and at the end of the day that’s probably a good thing. But, if and when you get the chance, take a step back and remind yourself that you can’t do everything. Take the rest – you deserve it. 

Photo by Simon Migaj on Unsplash

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Naming Your Scale

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Naming Your Scale

Author: Abby Resek

A lot of our time spent in the health and fitness world is, I think, spent looking for happiness. 

Sometimes, it’s because we think if we change our appearance, we think we’ll be happier. If we lose weight, we’ll be happier. If we get stronger, we’ll be happier. Lift more, build muscle, feel better, look better, we’ll be happier. 

I’m constantly looking for little mindset shifts. Little tweaks I can make in my brain which, whether or not they actually change my life in a tangible way, make me feel better. And sometimes I think I’ve struck gold when, in fact, it’s just more of the same. 

I tried to think about my health in terms of happiness – I thought to myself “if I’m not doing it to lose weight, or look different, or anything like that, if I’m just doing it to be happy, then I’ll be good”. 

Truthfully, though, I think all those things are tangled up together. Happiness, and all the ways we’re taught to get it. They’re so messy and melted and impossible to distinguish that I can’t just say “I exercise to be happy”, because why? And what does that even mean?

Yes, sometimes movement brings me joy. Taking a walk in the sun, nailing a pull-up, doing something challenging and feeling good about it. And other times, it’s incredibly frustrating. When I feel achy and stiff and don’t want to get out of bed, when I can’t get a barbell off the ground, when I go for a jog and I’m just not feeling it. At those times, if my goal is happiness, then I have failed unequivocally. 

The point here is not to have some “suck it up and do it” attitude, either, because I think that’s too far in the other direction. What I’ve been thinking about lately, and what I think is both more gentle and more realistic, is the idea of being at peace. 

This idea started to form because of how frustratedI felt every time I encountered something that I interpreted as failure. When your goal is happiness, and you’re not meeting that goal, by default you’re considering yourself unhappy. And when we think about unhappiness, we think of wrongness – that something must be wrong to make us unhappy. That there’s something wrong with us if we can’t lift a certain weight or do a certain movement. 

When the goal is ‘being at peace’, and I have moments of frustration, I instead think of ‘not being at peace’. And, perhaps, this is a better way to approach ‘failures’, because when we’re looking to achieve peace we look towards negotiation.Meeting ourselves in the middle, instead of fixing something we see as wrong. 

I understand this won’t click for everyone. But what I do think is important is seriously considering what scale we’re setting ourselves on. Whenever we’re goal setting, we spend a lot more time not having achieved that goal than we do actually having achieved it. That’s the very nature of change and growth. So, whatever scale you’re on, it’s important that you’re okay hanging out there for a while. Find ways to think about the process that allow you to feel patient and forgiving. This may be a small tweak, but who knows – it could make all the difference. 

(Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash)

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Working Out vs. Training

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Working Out vs. Training

Author: Ross Oberlin

Imagine, if you will, that you’re walking into your first day of a college course.  You sit down in your seat and to begin the first class, the professor hands out an exam.  “Ok”, you think.  “They just want to assess what we know on day one”.  And that’s fine, right?  They’re testing you to see what the class knows and determine the best course of action for educating you over the coming months.

But what if on day 2, you’re met with another exam.  And the same goes for day 3, day 4, and so on.

classroom exam.jpg

How long would it take for you to walk down to the registrar’s office and ask for a refund?  For me, I think I’d be done on day 3.

And why would we be upset?  Why would we ask for a refund?  Because we didn’t pay to be tested.  We paid for an education and testing is only the means to confirm that we actually learned something during the course.

 

THAT is the difference between working out and training.

 

Now, language matters here.  We have a clear definition of the difference between the two.  If you happen to “train” as we define it, but you just call it working out, that’s fine.  What matters here is intent.

Working out is a single, one off session.  It exists in a vacuum.  It doesn’t have context of larger goals that we might have.  Goals that can’t be achieved in a single session (ie; any goal).  Working out is just going to the gym and “doing some stuff” without a plan.  It’s honestly how a lot of folks approach their training, and it’s why they struggle to get the results they want.

Training means that every single training session exists in a larger context.  That they are all structured to reach a larger goal.  Training means having a plan when you go to the gym.

We’re not training to get tired or sweaty. We’re training to get better, and getting tired or sweaty MIGHT be a byproduct of that, but it’s not the goal.

It seems so obvious when explained this way, but if we do an honest audit of our training program, many of us will realize that we aren’t following this thought process.  It’s hard to know what your training program should look like when you have big goals.  It’s even more difficult to know if you’re doing the right things, especially because if you’re wrong, it might take months before you realize it.

That’s why our individualized training and programming is so valuable to our members.  In addition to the coaching, community, and culture, folks like to know that we’ve not only looked far down the road in regards to their goals, but we’ve already walked that road ourselves.

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And every once in a while, we test.  We have a one-off session where we test and assess to see where we’re at.  It might be testing our strength numbers, or our conditioning, or a combination of things.  Once we’ve located “where we’re at” we continue to move towards “where we want to go”.

This is why rather than working out, we train.

 

This is why our gym slogan is: “Stop Working Out.  Start Training.”

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