Saturday, August 13, 2011

Gym Rats and Gym Roaches

Though it's a little narcissist to say, but I am a gym rat. I love the gym. I get so fired up when I'm there. I want to run through the streets and tell everyone about how great the gym is. I want to talk to young kids and tell them that I think they should start looking into hitting up a fitness routine. I love talking about the gym, gym classes, new lifting exercises. Most of all, I love how I feel when I leave the gym after a great workout. It's not always easy to go, but once I get there, I am so very glad I went.

So I consider myself to be pretty "advanced" when it comes to the gym. I've tried the entire gamut of fitness classes, from Spin (which I loathe), to TRX, to Bootcamp, to Core Fusion, to Bikram Yoga, to kickboxing, to step, to old-school 80's aerobics. I also consider myself to be as knowledgeable about lifting and stretching as "expert". I'm actually a certified personal trainer with ACE, which I got just as a plan C when the market started to tank in 2008.

But when I signed on for a show, I wanted some insurance. So I signed on with the ONLY personal trainer, in all the years that I have been a gym rat, that I think is legit.

99.999% of the personal trainers I see, are more interested in being Chatty Cathys than they are training. I call them Gym Roaches. That is because they are sucking all of the value out of client (money, energy, time), but are producing really nothing for the client. Sure, the client gets someone to shoot the breeze with instead of actually exercising, but it's not responsible to do your job poorly. It shows a lack of respect for the profession, your employer, and yourself.

I actually saw a whole lot of it this morning at my ooh la la fancy gym Sports Club LA. I was there at 7 AM, there were probably 5 trainers with clients for 1 hour, not one of them actually doing what I call "training." 2 of them were snacking on something in wrappers, and looked like they were chillin' out in the park with a beer. Not one of them counted out reps and guided the clients on how to maximize the effectiveness of the exercises they were doing. And every single client was chatting away mid-exercise with the trainer, as the trainer engaged them in non-stop conversation the entire hour. One trainer and his client, literally stood around a bench and gabbed for one hour straight. They had weights out, but they were never actually moved. I guess people just want to chill out.

I don't fault the clients, I fault the trainers. I'd be embarrassed if someone saw me being anything less than highly effective as I trained someone. This is something I've seen everywhere, from the grubby former Jack LaLane Fitness in Union NJ, now known as grubby Bally's, to seven Boston Sports Clubs locations I've worked out at, and Sports Club/LA. But, that's their choice. I just wonder why people bother.

I train with Mark at Boston Sports Club. I had taken his Sports Circuit class for 4 years, and each class wipes me out. He's a stickler on form, and changes the routine every week, and really expects the most out of each of the people in the class. He also is genuine and cares about improving peoples' lives through fitness. Furthermore, he competes in fitness competitions as well, so I know he'd be able to give me more information than just exercise tips.

So I hired him. I signed up for 12 weeks, and I have used 4 of them so far. I am taking a break, then I will start up again, so that I have him during the last weeks before my show.

I didn't actually think I would get a lot out of a personal trainer. I know my way around the gym, and when I hit the weight room, I hit it HARD. I don't waste my time with one half-assed set of 5 pound bicep curls and then 30 minutes of jaw exercises as I chat up my girlfriends at the gym. No, I am INTENSE.

But what first changed when I started to train with Mark was that he gave me a training split. A training split is when you only really workout 1, maybe 2 major muscle groups a day. That's it. I'd usually hit up the weight room, and exhaust my body by doing every exercise that looked good to me. I'd usually spend an hour and 15 minutes lifting, with 3 sets of 12 to 15, with 30 to 45 seconds recovery between each set. Then I would blast off to the next exercise and hit it hard again.

So the split is as follows:

- Chest/Triceps
- Legs
- Shoulders/Calves
- Back/Biceps

Each of those is a day, and there are between 5 and 7 exercises for each one, and the trainer gives me a new set of exercises every 4 weeks.

I have found this to change up my body significantly. I also spend less time lifting, usually around 40 minutes. I still struggle to just accept that I'm only lifting for 40 minutes, but hey, I'm willing to change.

The 2nd thing that changed when I hired Mark, was that he showed me how to fully get everything I could out of each rep. He helped me focus my breathing, hone the movement, think about the muscles I am using, and how to get that "extra bit" out of a movement to really maximize its potential.

Another strategy that also changed was how I do my abs. Now, I never really LIKED abs, but I did do the 25-minute ab class that runs adjacent to many of the classes I take at BSC. Mark advised that for my purposes of building muscles and creating growth, these would be less effective than doing 3 weight-type ab exercises, which change during the week.

An example of an ab exercise would be a Paloff Press. (Google it). Here I am, thinking this exercise looks dumb and lame, and ineffective. Yup, nope, I was wrong. VERY effective, and it's created enormous strength and firmness in my core.

Another example would be straight-leg leg lifts on a Roman Chair. Doing 3 sets of that got easier over the 4 week period of that cycle, and I now know what Mark meant by doing isolated strength-based exercises versus an abs class. That isn't to say the abs class isn't effective, it is! However, Mark told me right now that my goal is to BUILD significant muscle, whereas an abs class is a bit more toning.

This morning was legs, followed by a cardio class taught by an instructor I love. Her name is Christine, and she is very aggressive with expectations. Her classes leave me begging for mercy, but they are very effective.

I returned to the locker room (SC/LA's locker rooms have at least 3 locker room attendants, eucalyptus steam rooms, and most importantly, nice soft carpet) and had my post-workout meal, Meal 2, which was exactly the same as Meal 1, but without the Metamucil.

1.5 servings of Rice Protein Powder - Chocolate Coconut
1/2 cup carrots
1/4 cup oats with
1/4 cup strawberries on top.

I love my oats and strawberries. I use the frozen kind, let them thaw, and I actually like them better than fresh. They have more flavor as they have been sitting in their own juice before they freeze. Mmm

I'm truly still stuffed almost 2 hours later.

I then swung by my 2nd true love, the Boston Public Library, to pick up a few books that were on hold for me. Including my first Jonathan Franzen book, entitled "How to be Alone." As a loner myself, maybe I can learn something!

Oh, I have a tip for you ladies out there:
Wear two sports bras at the same time, both sized as small as you can get them on. I am NOT very large (as you can see from the photos), but if you want to truly strap everything in, you will find that you have much better range of motion, and better ability to move exactly how you want when doing cardio. Whether it be step class, running or boot camp. Trust me on this, no matter what size you are.

My favorite Sports Bras are the Champion Double Dry Action Tech. I wear two size smalls at a time. They are the most simple design you could possibly find, but they work. You don't need bells and whistles and shapers and all the nonsense that they make out there. I've been using these for 10 years, and I will never change. One works amazingly. Two makes you feel as though they're not even there. And since I'd like to fight gravity's toll in the long run, it will only benefit me. I even wear a loose sports bra to bed, and I feel as though it has helped me keep things in place very well.

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