I believe it was back day here, and perhaps bad hair day too! It’s a bugger trying to use your dog’s electric clippers to cut the back of your head, but I am getting better at it! (I wear the mask all the time at the gym by the way, except for this quick selfie, as you can see I am socially distanced, well, alone.)
I imagine many of us have been struggling with various fitness/ wellness related issues––motivation, attitude, concentration, and sanity to name a few––over the past nine months, with more to come. I found motivation my biggest hurdle. I say this because exercise seems to have always come naturally to me. Movement was built into my routine, and when it wasn’t I became fairly grumpy. Of those few nine to five jobs I had, I could never leave exercise to the end of the day. I would be wiped out and the gym would be packed and kind of moist and smelly at the point. For those times I tried to hit the gym early morning or somehow trade lunch hour for gym time.
My mom told me I did a lot of kicking as a fetus, and I was the earliest of my siblings to walk (and talk), so yes movement has been on the agenda. As I’ve gotten older, to be honest, it seems a bit more difficult to get movement into the equation. Time does indeed race by. Seeing clients throughout the day however, I had been able to usually schedule my own gym time into my schedule. Then, at the gym I could be focused, no distractions, and get on with it.
Well with working out at home, and in a rural setting there seem to be a million distractions. I can’t seem to look anywhere without thinking that something needs a paintbrush, some pollyfilla or a spade or trowel or a hose or a pair of clippers. These distractions do not present themselves at the gym. And I’m sure that no matter where you are living, whether it’s a mansion with a pool in the basement or a wee studio tucked into Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan, you’ll find some distractions.
Anyway this is not all negative. I bring you good tidings of great joy! Over the year and in time for the home workouts, I read (peer review studies––S&C report Chris Beardsley––not just listcicles) that the sweet spot for reps to enhance hypertrophy (muscle growth), is actually somewhere above the 16 rep mark and can go as high as into the mid 20’s. NOW STOP! That does not mean you breeze through sixteen easy reps and sit around, check your messages and watch swimming puppies videos, waiting to crank out another sixteen easy reps. No. When you do those reps you take it to almost failure. By ‘almost’ I mean “if I do two more I’m gonna die, or I am going to compromise my brilliant technique (and you must have brilliant technique before you continue, lots of guys––AthleanX, Scott Tousignant––on Youtube to show you brilliant technique. Me too if I am training you). You do your reps to that point and allow yourself some good recovery of 60-90 seconds, or superset another body part, then recover. Perform 3-5 sets.
I tried this on myself. At that point I did not have more than dumbbells at home and the gym was closed. My weights were much less than what I use at the gym, and I was doing fewer reps at the gym with heavier weights. What the hell, I thought, I’ll give it a try it.
First of all, having that amount of reps gives you time to make the mind body connection, something so important as we workout. (Your workout should be a time of focus and in-the-moment kind of meditation, not an eye rolling what can I think about or dwell upon to get through this boredom.) It also helps you focus on technique. As well, your muscles are working longer than a rushed set of eight or five or three at a greater weight. These extended reps increase your overall volume of weight lifted, and your muscles’ time under tension.
I tried it, and lo and behold I saw the results, and I felt the results, the next day. Fatigued muscles that had had a good workout, not in the gym, but on the edge of my garden where the plants scream to be watered. Sixty to Ninety seconds for recovery? Hmmm, just enough time to pull some weeds before the next set. (It’s winter now, no weeds.)
So, seeing the results helped with my “why bother” motivation. Some other things did too: sometime I just said to myself, “look, let’s just go through the motions, no expectations, just move,” and invariably I would get caught up in my own little world of striving and soon the workout was over and I’d done something.
I know weights are scarce right now, but if you have some, or bands or anything, the Oxford dictionary (the big one) or some soup tins or a wet towel, taking those reps to almost “failure” will give you results. I wish you well. Be gentle, kind and forgiving to yourself now and always. Yours in continued wellness.