Monday, November 29, 2010

The Importance of Starting Small

I've had a number of discussions with various friends of mine recently about exercise and getting into an exercise regimen. My advice for many of the people who ask what gym I go to, where it is, what I do for exercise is the same: Start small.

One of the young ladies in my history class at college talked about how she started doing P90X with her boyfriend. She said she could only do it for two days before she had to quit. Now, I consider myself pretty knowledgeable, but I am not by any means an exercise expert. Nevertheless, to me, this approach to fitness seems less than useful, and even a little counterproductive. What is the point of starting a regimen that one is unable to continue?

One of my good friends was lamenting that he can't seem to find the motivation to get into the gym as much as he'd like, which is effectively never. My advice to him was to start small, with pushups, situps, and squats, one day a week. My friend asked me if one day a week would accomplish anything. My answer to him, the same as it would be to anyone, is yes. Exercising one day a week will set him up for exercising two days a week.

This brings me to my point for this little post. When I started CrossFit, I didn't just dive in and start doing the workouts everyday, full go. I did what any intelligent and committed person would do; I did what I could handle, until I could handle more. What I tell people over and over is to simply start small. Pushups, situps, and squats is a great way to ease into a workout regimen. Twenty-five of each a day, no matter how long it takes, or how many sets the person has to break them into. It could even be hours in between sets. Of course, twenty-five is a completely arbitrary number. It could be as little as one of each, every so often throughout the day. One of my friends started his exercise regimen with walking, and has progressed to walking further as he lost weight. He has now lost twenty-six pounds as a result of his exercise.

That is one example of a success story. Small steps which lead to big gains. The hardest part of any new habit is taking the first step, especially one which may involve a certain amount of self-sacrifice. I have a gazillion things I would prefer to do on some days besides hit the gym or some other form of training. I do it because I enjoy it, and because it's continuing the commitment I made to myself when I began my exercise regimen. Small victories lead to larger ones, and this is true just as much in the realm of physical fitness and personal well being as it is in other areas of life.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Review of Rogue Fitness' CrossFit Package Alpha

Okay, so, I like Rogue Fitness. I like the fact that they are trying to have as much of their equipment made in this country as possible. I like that they are building their own factory in Ohio, at a time when other companies are building factories in China. The newsletters they put out seem to embody the entrepreneurial spirit that our country has lost in recent decades. If you want/need fitness gear, I urge you to buy from

I purchased one of the Rogue Fitness CrossFit equipment packages, Package Alpha. Shipping was pretty quick, everything was packaged very well. All the bumper plates, kettlebells, medicine balls, and other odds and ends came in cardboard boxes stacked neatly on a pallet. The entire pallet was shrinkwrapped as well, which was nice since the gear came during the rainy beginning of spring. The pallet made it easier to unload from the UPS truck, since we have a tractor we can use at our house to lift extremely heavy objects.

The kettlebells have a nice, thick handle, which I prefer to some of the skinnier versions. They also have flat bottoms which make them fantastic for doing Renegade Rows.

Rogue Fitness's standard bar is very solid, and does not have a knurled grip in the center, which makes it somewhat easier on my shins during cleans and deadlifts. It also doesn't bounce like some of the bars I've used before. The bumper plates themselves are solid rubber, and did no damage whatsoever to the concrete pad that I dropped them on. It's nice being able to just drop heavy weights instead of having to lower them to the ground in a controlled manner. Makes for much more efficient workouts.

The jump rope is kind of scary, since it's pretty much a thin, plastic coated cable. Make no mistake, if a person hits themselves anywhere there is bare skin with this thing, it's going to hurt.

The collars for the Rogue Bar are very different from the average collar. They don't slip very much, although I think a little slip is inevitable. They clamp down tight, and when not clamped slip off very easily.

I haven't had a chance to use the resistance bands much, however I have put the weight vest to good use. I really like the straps on the weight vest, they're simple, effective, and don't restrict breathing or movement too much. When running or even walking this vest definitely bounces a lot less than other vests I've used. I think the only thing that would bounce less than this would be body armor. This vest can be purchased in increments up to forty-five pounds, which is what I chose. I decided to go for the full weight, and downsize as needed, rather than having to buy more weights in the future as I grow stronger. I use this vest for pullups, dips, box jumps, running, or as just a little extra resistance when I'm walking my dog. The weights themselves are two and a half pounds of cast iron, with nine in front and nine in the back. My only complaint about this vest is the addition of the U.S. Army's universal camo pattern, but that is more of an aesthetic complaint than a functional one. I would prefer multicam.

There was a little bit of confusion on my part as to the Ader kettlebells. I had thought they were made in the USA, but it turns out they were made in China. However, Rogue now offers Rogue "Kilo" Bells, which are 100% American made. The bumper plates were also made in the U.S., as the Rogue bar and the Rogue rings.

All in all, the equipment that I purchased from Rogue Fitness was a good investment, I feel. It has allowed me to continue my weight training at home, as well as throw some weights in the back of my truck and haul them down to the track for days that involve running mixed with weights. The kettlebells and the bumper plates have added a whole new dimension to my training at home. I would like to see more people support companies like Rogue Fitness, and I will continue to purchase equipment from them as I need it.


Friday, November 19, 2010

Frustration and Aggravation In the Gym

I was training a client today in the gym on campus as part of my lab time for my ACE Personal Trainer course. The client was having trouble with her knees, but had come back from a visit with her physician bearing a clean bill of health, and a few recommendations. Overall the physician told the client that some knee pain was to be expected as the muscle groups around the knee are untrained and inflexible.

One of the exercises I had the client do was lunges, using interval training, twenty seconds work, ten seconds of rest. She at first complained that she couldn't go down all the way past parallel, which I reassured her was fine. Then she stated that she had a hard time keeping her balance, so I modified the lunges, making her stance and base wider. Still, she did have a hard time, and became intensely frustrated with her inability to both do lunges, and do them pain free. I managed to calm her down, and keep her on track, but it brings to mind some important ideas for training that I feel some people, including myself forget on a regular basis.

Aggravation happens. I still aggravate and irritate my joints on a regular basis through CrossFit, running, and Activities of Daily Living, such as chopping and cutting wood. This is just a part of being an active human being, and there's no getting away from it. The best thing to do is acknowledge that a body part or old injury has been aggravated, take steps to soothe and treat it after the work is done. Ice, and anti-inflammation drugs are the two things the Army P.A. always recommended. I also take fish oil for inflammation, stretch, and do self-myo-fascial release. After treatment, the best thing to do is acknowledge that the part is bothering us, and move on. There's no reason that I can see to ruin a good workout because a body part is being achy and otherwise obstinate.

As a result of aggravation, or something else, we may get irritated with an exercise routine, or our inability to do a certain movement or exercise. This too is natural, but if we fail to recognize it we risk severing the mind-body connection that is so vital to getting the most from exercise and life. Get irritated, it's fine. Then take a deep breath, acknowledge it, and move on.

Last, no matter what happens in the gym, everyone should recognize what they accomplished that day, and that week. Sometimes a person cannot get as much done in the gym as they would like. This is okay. Work has been done, health has been maintained, strength has been improved. These are all positive outcomes, and should be viewed as such. Focusing on what did happen instead of what did not happen will set the stage for another positive exercise session.