April 2 – Lower

This routine had less exercises (one group instead of two) but the exercises were more challenging in terms of form and control so it still took up as much time as a high rep, speedy work out like March 28’s.

Group 1 – Repeat 3 times
Sandbag Toss – 2 Squat Jump combo: 20 lb sandbag with 16 reps – note: try to keep the throw more horizontal than in the video (you don’t need that much height for this). Ideally, you should be having enough room to do two squat jumps before reaching the bag. If you have a lot of extra space, bump it up to three. Remember to focus on contracting the abs, especially in the pick up and throw movements. You’ll also want to remember to keep your chest up and butt down for the squats, you don’t want to have your chest parallel to the group.
Resistance Band Lunges: black band with 25 reps per leg – note: this is the exact same as a normal reverse lunge, so remember to keep pelvis tucked under, hip over your back knee (no leaning forward). The middle of the resistance band should be under the middle/arch of your foot, not your toe or heel. Take the handles with palms facing your thighs. When you’re ready, pull them up to the chest so your palms face away then rotate them to face your chest. The band should be on the inside of your arm (not around the outside). Starting with feet together, step back into the reverse lunge, lower, rise (through the front heel) and step back so feet are together. The band makes you want to lean forward, so be sure to focus on avoiding that. You want to move through these quickly. Even if you’re focussing on form, the goal is to get your heart rate up as well.
1-Leg Sit Squat: 12 per leg – note: like with the squate jumps, keep the chest up, no leaning forward, avoid rocking when you are coming up from the bench, and when you’re coming down, control it; don’t just plop down on the bench. There should be almost no sound as you sit. You can do this with a chair or anything else you sit on, if you want, as well. Just focus on pushing up through the heel, and keeping the knee facing forward (it may have a tendency to turn in as you push up). This is easier to track if you have a mirrored surface facing you. You also want to be sure that you’re keeping the raised leg in front of the working leg. Don’t allow it to drop behind or to the side. I usually feel it in that hip flexor area near the end, but you’re not getting as much of a challenge if you drop it down. As you get better at these, you can look for lower surfaces to try this with, but starting out, nothing lower than knee-height at most (so you’re at a 90 degree angle when sitting). Keeping your core/abs tight and using the but to push yourself up for this, is essential!

A note about resistance bands: They come in varying degrees of resistance based on their colours. Yellow is usually considered the lighter of the resistances, so I’d start with that and adjust until you find one with the right level for you.

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Breaks

There’s a whole variety of breaks, but the ones I’m thinking about right now are the unanticipated days where no matter of good intentions will either get you to the gym or give you the strength to get a work out done.

Fatigue/Lack of Energy
Sometimes it’s fatigue or lack of energy. Those days I feel the worst about since it’s usually my fault some how. Maybe I stayed up too late when I knew I shouldn’t have. Maybe I ate a lot of grain carbs and blew out my energy and sugar levels causing them to sag later on. These are the types of break days I try to minimize.

Usually, the lack of energy sensation passes once I force myself into the actual building. Even planning my work out gives me a little boost to overcome this. I do find, if I don’t get myself into the gym, even the parking lot, I know I won’t overcome this challenge.

Illness/Unwell
Then there’s the sick days. I was told once, if it’s above the neck, work through it, and if it’s below, rest it. I don’t know that I would fully agree with this. There are times when the issue below the neck can be worked around and the issue above the neck could easily hinder my ability to perform an exercise safely.

A good example of the above neck rule not working for me is migraines. I become light sensitive and often very disoriented. Doing a chest press would cause me to be staring into bright lights or, when raising my heartrate through cardio or resistance training, the pressure might build to increase the pain. Neither of these scenarios is a good one.

Will I take a painkiller and re-assess later? Yes, I will and do, but in terms of what pains to work through, the above rule is not tried and true for me all the time.

The same goes for below the neck. Sure, if I have a strained or pulled muscle, I won’t necessarily work that one. But if there’s other things Ican work out in the mean time without adding to it, then heck yeah I’ll do it. Often, after a particularly joint-stressing uppeer body work out (usually involving chin ups, bicep curls, and push ups), my elbows get a mild form of joint pain (similar to tennis elbow, minus the tennis playing).

I will ice my elbows the night of and maybe the following night as well, but I still work out. I never work a group of muscles two days in a row anyway so the next couple of days might be leg strength resistance and then a day of running. When I do return to arms, it’s when my elbow no longer has discomfort or with a routine that doesn’t put as much strain specifically on the elbow (seated rows, for example).

Mental
Yes, I go mental sometimes. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t. I define mental break days as the days where you aren’t in a good headspace to be pushing yourself. It takes time, in my experience, to know when is a “Mental Break” Day and when is a “Need an Outlet” Day. The difference between these two for me is usually the nature of the issue.

If I’m angry, frustrated, mad, boiling over, etc., those days I go to the gym and work through my frustration. These days often include medicine ball slams. I can’t tell you how GREAT that feels on those days. I can’t recommend enough doing that exercise on these days. By the third set, if you have any energy left for frustration, you’re either not doing enough reps (and need another set) or you’re the Hulk and you’re going to be smashing everything anyway.

The way I tell if it’s a “Mental Break” day is when the nature of my ‘mentalness’ is being down, in an extreme way. I take medication sometimes to treat an internal physical problem, but the medication is based on hormones and as such, sometimes in the course of this medication, my moods will fluctuate. Other times it might be I get some really bad news.

Whatever the reasoning, I’ve tried to work through those days before. Everyone is different, but for me, those days are the days where I would be best to be at home, processing whatever is going through my head. I’ll be processing it where ever I am, and if that’s the gym, that means my mind will wander, and most likely when it shouldn’t. I can tell you I have had it wander at the worst times (at the peak of a chess press, when the dumb bells are right above my face, for an example, that was scary). I also find I don’t push as hard and even a moderate work out that I normally would have no trouble with, I trod through at best.

So what does this all mean? In the end, it means that break days are sometimes necessary and the reasons can vary. Everyone needs to mess around to find out what works for them, but don’t feel discouraged if you have to take an unanticipated break day, because it happens. It doesn’t mean you ‘fell off the wagon’ or ruined your work out routine. It means that you recognized that either your body or your mind was not going to be in a place to give its all and most likely whatever you would have done, would have been risky/dangerous or wouldn’t have been up to par (possibly also adding to your mental state of mind). We all need them sometimes, so don’t be afraid to use them when you do. You’ll be rewarded the next day with more motivation and energy for having allowed yourself to rest.