The past few months I have slanted my workouts a bit more towards conditioning. I have still been doing strength training twice a week, but have included three conditioning workouts a week. This was done primarily to ready myself for the Memorial Day Murph workout I blogged about last time and was very successful as I beat my goal by over five minutes.
One of my favorite conditioning workouts has become interval training. Interval training is simply short high intensity periods of exercise alternated with short rest periods. I have done this type of workout in the past with sprinting. With my current knee situation I have been advised to reduce or eliminate running from my program by my doctor. I have greatly reduced my running to just the Murph workout. I have replaced running with the trusty Schwinn Airdyne I purchased off of Craigslist shortly before my surgery last year.
Typically I will pedal for either a certain length of time trying to keep a specified RPM or I will go all out for a certain distance. In between I will continue pedaling at a low RPM of around 50. As a personal preference I don’t really care for long distance running or biking so this type of training has been ideal for me and a great benefit to my conditioning.
In the example above I included some core work after a slight break from my interval workout. I enjoy including some core work on my interval days.
I enjoy a good bargain and I also enjoy do it yourself projects. That has also applied to my fitness equipment. Most of my equipment has been purchased used and some of it I have made myself. I am going to discuss one of those home made items today and plan on featuring others items on this blog in the future.
The first item I am going to discuss (as you can tell by the title) is the T-Handle. This item provides you with an adjustable “kettle-bell” for swings. It is fairly inexpensive to put together and extremely easy. I was fortunate to get the weights for free so that also helps with the cost. As I was driving down the road one day I noticed someone putting out a large amount of items with a free sign at the end of their driveway. Some of those items were old plastic cement filled weights with three barbells and two dumbbell handles. I stopped and grabbed them all.
The T-Handle is made from 3/4 inch black pipe and should cost you around $20 or so to make. Below is a list of the parts needed:
- 1 3/4 floor flange
- 1 3/4 T
- 1 3/4 12″ long pipe nipple
- 2 3/4 3 or 3 1/2 pipe nipples
- These are for the handles. If you have bigger hands you may want to consider 4″.
- Tape for the handles
- Clamp to keep the weights from moving. I don’t have one in the picture below but I have used clamps in the past until mine broke. With the weights I am using they fit fairly tight and don’t move much.
It is important to make sure that each fitting is tight each time you use this. I also would caution that the T-Handle is not a replacement for all kettle-bell exercises; only the two handed swing. It is a great finisher at the end of a strength training workout and an excellent conditioning exercise.
Unscheduled rest days happen. I typically try to follow a Monday through Friday plan for my workouts with Saturday and Sunday as scheduled off days. This allows me to use Saturday as a makeup day if I should happen to miss a workout during the week.
When you have children, missed workouts can happen for many different reasons. Lack of sleep due to a child who doesn’t feel well from being sick, having a nightmare or because they just can’t or don’t want to sleep that night. Sometimes it is difficult to understand why your kid doesn’t want to sleep. My wife deals with the majority of these nights; especially with our youngest, but I help out as often as I can.
Due to our busy schedule in the evening I am often getting to bed much later than I would like. This makes it difficult to wake up at 5:00 a.m. to workout. I have gotten into the bad habit lately of pushing that snooze button and rationalizing with myself that I can still workout if I only stay in bed for 10 more minutes. Unfortunately I often sleep through the snooze or simply turn off the alarm and roll back over.
Sleep is so important to your recovery in training. Lack of sleep is probably the leading cause of my missing workouts. At 46 I cannot burn the candle at both ends the way I used to. I find that I definitely need more sleep than I used to but I am not getting it.
It is important to recognize when your body needs a day off. And it is equally as important to take the day off when needed. Yesterday I woke up feeling tired, with sore muscles and a sore lower back. I elected to workout anyway. I pushed through a short workout and struggled mightily through it. It was not a good workout at all. I couldn’t match the pace I have been doing lately and the reps were very poor.
When I woke up this morning I felt the same as yesterday; tired, sore muscles and a sore lower back. I originally planned on pushing through like I did yesterday. After some internal deliberation I eventually decided to take a mid-week rest day. I did not want a repeat of yesterday’s workout. I am hopeful that I will feel better tomorrow and can get back on schedule.
From March of 2018 till February of 2019 the main focus of my workouts was on strength training. During that time I did get much stronger and reached three of my four lifting goals. Along the way I also learned some things about myself and training.
The first lesson I wanted to discuss is being willing to adapt and change your training or even how you perform certain exercises. I came to this conclusion with two exercises in particular this past year.
The first was the trap bar dead-lift. I began doing this exercise last year after repeatedly tweaking my back doing traditional bent legged dead-lifts. Through some internet searching I saw this exercise was advertised as being much easier on the lower back. This is primarily because the weight is in line with your body’s center of gravity and not out in front of your body as it is for a traditional bent legged dead-lift. I definitely found this to be true at first. Each month I was adding more weight to the lift and my back felt good. But I began to notice that my knees were aching each time I performed this lift. Eventually I had begun to unconsciously alter my form due to the knee pain which led to lower back pain. I became frustrated and was ready to give up on the exercise. I once again did some research and saw many people doing this lift off of blocks. I examined my form and realized that my knees were bending further than ninety degrees at the bottom which was causing the extra strain and discomfort. I decided to perform the trap bar dead-lift off of blocks to see if the shortened range of motion would help my knees. It did not take long performing the exercise in this shortened the range of motion before my knee pain and subsequently my back pain disappeared. I began to add weight once again and in February hit my goal. Initially I was upset that I reached my goal by lessening the range of motion. But it doesn’t bother me now because if I hadn’t done this I would not be able to do the lift anymore.
The second exercise was the dumbbell press. I have had an issue with my right shoulder since college that has gotten worse over the years. To avoid shoulder pain on most upper body movements I need to perform them with a neutral grip. If you’ve read my earlier blog posts you will know that I have been up and down with the dumbbell press, taking me many months to see progress. Towards the end of my yearlong strength cycle I had hit the wall with this lift. I was cleaning the dumbbells and resting them on my shoulder. From there I would start the lift. I realized that I was weakest at this position and I also realized that part of the reason was the position of my shoulders. With the dumbbells on my shoulder there was a great deal of over exaggerated stretching to the shoulder joints. Due to my previous shoulder injury the pronounced stretch was causing the pain and discomfort to increase. I decided to try shortening the range of motion by having my starting position be around ear level. The shortened range of motion put me in a better position to be successful by taking pressure off of my shoulder joints. This was highly effective right away and in two different ways. The first was that I was able to lift heavier weights. The second was that my shoulder pain was greatly reduced.
I now understand that it doesn’t matter if I am doing what the experts deem to be full range of motion on all lifts. What matters is that I am lifting the fullest range of motion that is safe for me. I’m not competing against anyone but myself. I am still getting stronger. I am still getting fitter. I wish I had known this years ago; my joints may feel much better if I did.