Strength-training shenanigans (garage gym workout!)

After dealing with pesky back-to-back viruses that both involved low-grade fever and high-grade fatigue, among other things, I made it back to the garage on Sunday. By then I’d gone to Body Combat twice since recovering, though.

I was determined to make my first garage workout in two weeks a strength-training workout, because that was the whole point of this series of garage gym workout posts: To hold myself accountable for my New Year’s resolution of incorporating strength-training into my weekly conditioning routine. So far, I’ve only done martial arts and general conditioning posts. I like doing a variety of workouts, but let’s face it… it’s time to get down to business here!

I went in thinking I’d do a dumbbell workout, but I ended up mostly using our MMA dummy. I saw it lying there and thought, why not?

 

The MMA dummy has many uses. Today, it's my main strength-training weight.

The MMA dummy has many uses. Today, it’s my main strength-training weight.

 

Do not think for a minute that I picked this thing up and threw it onto my shoulders.

Unfortunately, I can’t entertain you with the maneuverings and contortions involved in hoisting it up there. As usual, I snipped these pics from video footage. The way it works is I set up my camera (phone) in its designated place so the view of the room is the same every time I record. There was no way the MMA dummy operation was going to happen in view of the camera. The dummy weighs 50 lbs (nearly half of my weight), and it’s ungainly. I needed to find something that could assist me, and whatever it was, it wasn’t going to be in the middle of the mat. We’re careful to avoid even wearing shoes on the mat!

Looking around the garage, I spotted the chair near the back door. The chair has arms. I could place the dummy across the arms and then slip my head under it, the way you do with a bar on a rack at the gym! Problem solved.

It didn’t work as easily as I thought it would.

The chair has wheels, so after a few comically failed attempts, I pushed it back against the wall to stabilize it. Then I had to half-squat, half-bend down at an angle to get my head under the dummy. The dummy is wider than the chair is deep, which might be hard to visualize, but you can visualize me crouched over the chair, face-down, like I’m hanging over a toilet throwing up, except on my feet in a deep, twisted squat rather than on my knees, and the top of my head pinned to the back of the toilet and a young St. Bernard sitting on my neck.

(Making things more awkward was the fact that the MMA dummy is wider and heavier on one end, so its weight isn’t evenly distributed from end to end. Like a St. Bernard.)

(The MMA dummy probably isn’t made for this purpose. Again, I AM NOT A TRAINER. I AM NOT AN EXPERT. THIS IS NOT A TUTORIAL. Do not do what I do with my bright ideas.)

Maneuverings and contortions, I’m telling you. It occurred to me to change the position of my feet and pull one end of the dummy down slightly, so it would rest diagonally across the chair’s arms. I held it in place against the back of the chair with my left hand while pulling it down past my neck with my right hand, relaxing my left hand the further I got the dummy down on the right. When I’d inched it down far enough, I carefully backed away from the chair while lowering my body even more, dropping my head, and sliding my hands under and up between my shoulders and the back of the chair and reaching higher to grab the handles behind my head and adjust my stance so my feet would stay rooted under the weight.

Using my knees, I rose up to standing position. The dummy was on my rear delts/upper back, where I wanted it to be. It took at least 10 minutes to get it there, but once it was there, it was fine. By the way, the handles all over this dummy are genius!

I started with legs:

 

Squats on the left, lunges on the right.

Squats on the left, lunges on the right.

 

Then added some back and hamstrings:

 

Upright rows on the left, deadlifts on the right.

Upright rows on the left, deadlifts on the right.

 

Mind you, this MMA dummy isn’t ideal for this kind of exercise, with its weight not evenly distributed and all. I used it for my workout, anyway. Also, the deadlifts were basically a joke because the bag is so bulky that my short self didn’t have far to go between standing and the floor. Yeah… I’ll use dumbbells for that next time.

Chest: Push-ups, using the dummy to elevate my lower body (declines) and upper body (inclines):

 

Decline push-ups on the left, incline push-ups on the right.

Decline push-ups on the left, incline push-ups on the right.

 

Outside of Body Combat, where I do push-ups on my knees to keep up with the pace, I do push-ups with straight legs and my head up, military-style… and I do them very slowly, lowering myself all the way down to touch the floor (or the bag), mindfully working my breathing into the exercise.

I was going to leave it at that, but then I decided to grab some dumbbells, after all:

 

Using the MMA dummy as a bench for dumbbell chest presses.

Using the MMA dummy as a bench for dumbbell chest presses.

 

The MMA dummy does function wonderfully as a bench.

I used 20 lb dumbbells. We’re going to Play It Again Sports to get more in different weights. We want 15 lbs (especially me, for biceps), and we want some heavier ones. The 20 lbs are the heaviest we have at the moment.

Then arms:

 

Bicep curls on the left, tricep skullcrushers on the right (not really skullcrushers if you're not lying down, but for lack of a better term...).

Bicep curls on the left, tricep skullcrushers on the right (not really skullcrushers if you’re not lying down, but for lack of a better term…).

 

Lacking 15 lb dumbbells, I used the 10 lbs for the curls, and an 8 lb dumbbell in each hand for the skullcrushers. That’s a comfortable weight for me to keep good form doing that particular exercise. If I continue this routine, it shouldn’t be long before I can move those up to 10.

I also did forearms (wrist curls, both pronated and supinated), but the move is too small to look like anything on film, so I left it out. (The move is especially small in my case, with my inflexible wrists.)

And here’s the traditional pic (3x = tradition!) of me walking back to stop the final recording at the end of the workout:

 

First garage gym workout in two weeks, DONE. Also, it's getting hot in here, and it's only February.

First garage gym workout in two weeks, DONE. Also, it’s  getting hot in here, and it’s only February.

 

Let’s just take a second to think about the fast-approaching issue of heat. It was about 88 degrees F outside when I did this workout. By the end of the workout, I was uncomfortably hot. It is too early in the year for this. I was hoping to be able to use the garage gym at least through March without feeling the heat, but alas, today is the first day of March, and my mind is already shifting to heat-strategizing mode with that garage. Measures will be taken.

The next day, yesterday, I started to feel everything. I’d done some serious weight-training for the first time in years, and my body was like, WHAT IS THIS.

My abs are sore, though I didn’t do abs. Evidently that 50 lb MMA dummy on my back forced me to engage my core as I did the squats and lunges, so that was good!

My triceps, forearms, pecs, and quads are sore. My biceps, back, hamstrings, and glutes are not sore, because I didn’t hit them hard enough. My shoulders and calves aren’t sore, either, because I didn’t work them. Next time, then!

[ETA: I caught and deleted a second “glutes.” Too much editing can do that.]

I remember how I used to love that post-workout soreness when I was lifting weights regularly. I still love it. And Body Combat felt really good last night! It loosened everything up.

Silent Kiap: Tae Kwan Do techniques (garage gym workout)!

I was sick with weird ear pain on Friday, but I went to work (thinking I wasn’t contagious… sorry, work friends). On Saturday, I felt better and thought I was over whatever it was, so I went to the gym for Body Combat (sorry, gym friends).

**In my defense, I wasn’t coughing yet. Maybe I wasn’t contagious.**

On Sunday, the ear pain was gone, but I felt worse in other ways. I worked out in the garage, anyway, practicing some Tae Kwan Do. There was no one around for me to infect, and I kiaped silently in my head to spare my scratchy throat. Still, I started coughing that night, lost my voice for real, and went to bed with a headache, body aches, and a 100 degree fever. I did not leave the house the next day (yesterday).

Maybe Sunday’s garage gym session wasn’t the best idea.

Be that as it may, I had a good practice session out there, and I recorded it again because that proved to be a great way to spot my mistakes. Also, many of you seemed to like those first two garage gym recording-snip posts, so I thought I’d continue with it.

Here are some of the techniques I ran through on Sunday:

 

Knife-hand block (prep).

Knife-hand block (prep).

 

Not sure why my front foot lifted off the ground before I executed that block. See… if I didn’t record this practice, I wouldn’t have known I did that! I swear, this whole recording business is the next best thing to having an instructor here to correct my form. The mirror helps to an extent, but not as completely as recording my techniques from different angles.

 

Overhead double block – set.

Overhead double block – set.

 

For some reason, I didn’t clip a picture of the block, itself. Next time.

 

Axe kick.

Axe kick.

 

I have a bad habit of dropping one of my arms when executing this kick. I need to work on that.

 

Rising block.

Rising block.

 

Thrust attack with spear hand.

Thrust attack with spear hand.

 

Side kick.

Side kick.

 

Pardon my dirty foot. Also, the shadow under my arm makes it look like I didn’t shave, but I did. Haha.

 

Face block.

Face block.

 

I don’t know what this block is actually called. The move blocks the groin and then the face in one continuous motion, so it’s a down block that becomes a high block as you twist into a deep front stance. It looks something like this at the beginning:

 

Prep for double block.

Prep for double block.

 

Then it becomes this (practicing from a different angle):

 

Transitioning into the block.

Transitioning into the block.

 

Tae Kwan Do is mostly structured and precise, but there are some transitions, like this one, that can be more fluid.

Back to precision:

 

The uppercut.

The uppercut.

 

A Tae Kwan Do uppercut is not the same as a boxing or a Muay Thai uppercut!

 

Punch from back stance.

Punch from back stance.

 

Lots of back stance in this practice session, actually.

Then, as in my first Tae Kwon Do post, here’s a clip of me walking over to the camera to stop the recording:

 

Feint.

Feint.

 

La Fin.

 

Martial arts fitness workout in the garage!

This is something of a New Year’s resolution update post. I said I’d work on strength-training this year. I haven’t started lifting weights yet, but my garage workouts have involved body-weight strength-training – so does Body Combat, for that matter – and that counts!

I’m going to post training updates regularly to share with any of you who might be interested, and also as a way of holding myself accountable for my resolution. I found this worked well last year when I made my resolution to go cruelty-free with my cosmetic and personal care products.

On that note, as I did with my Tae Kwan Do post a couple of weeks ago, I filmed parts of my last garage workout so I could clip some pics! My workout on Sunday morning consisted of the sort of general fitness workout I enjoy the most, which is conditioning geared toward martial arts. The strength-training aspect is significant in these kinds of workouts, though I just realized that the pics I chose don’t reflect that part as much. Go figure.

Before I get started, I have a few cautionary notes in case you want to use this post for workout inspiration:

[**DISCLAIMER** I’m not a certified trainer or a nutritionist, and I don’t claim to be either one. If anyone finds inspiration here, that’s great, and it’s for that reason that I’ll explain some of what I do in these workout posts. If you have health concerns and you’re thinking about starting any kind of fitness program, get medical clearance from your doctor first, just to be safe!]

1). I got started later than I’d wanted on Sunday morning, so I didn’t have breakfast. I had a Larabar and called it good. The simple fruit and nut combination did the job, but I would normally fuel up on something more substantial, and something containing whole grains. Eat substantially several hours beforehand, or eat something light 30-60 minutes before starting. I feel most energized when I have some combination of protein and complex carbohydrates (i.e. peanut butter on a slice of whole-grain bread) about an hour before working out.

2). Stretching was one of the things I did that I didn’t film. It’s important to stretch! Stretch at the beginning of your workout, but don’t stretch without warming up your muscles first. At least jog in place for 5-10 minutes before stretching.

3). You don’t see me drinking water in these pics, either, but I drink water periodically during my training sessions, usually between rounds/exercises. Hydrate regularly throughout your workout, but don’t overdo it. Just a swallow or two of water at a time will suffice.

4). I incorporated some punching into my abs workout, and, as per usual for me, I didn’t wrap my hands or wear gloves of any kind. This is NOT advisable. Wear gloves or at least hand-wraps when punching things. For several reasons, I usually go bare-knuckled when training in the garage. Do not follow my lead here. Protect your hands with wraps and/or gloves (either boxing or MMA) if your knuckles are going to be making contact with solid objects.

5). Also unlike me during this workout, Wear pants that don’t fall down. (Another thing you won’t see in this post: my underwear.)

Now let’s jump in!

 

Cardio. I don’t know what these are called… you hold onto the top of the bag and take quick, continuous, alternating hops, tapping the base of the bag with the ball of your foot each time. It’s like doing the leg part of mountain-climbers, but standing.

 

100 alternating foot hop-ups (or whatever you call them) on the standing bag.

100 alternating foot hop-ups (or whatever you call them) on the standing bag.

 

I like to start a workout with a few rounds of jump rope.

 

Jump rope intervals

Jump rope intervals

 

You can’t see the jump rope as I’m jumping, but it’s there. Jump ropes in motion are the ghosts of workout equipment. They can’t be photographed.

 

Jumping rope

Jumping rope

 

(These pants are weird, by the way. I don’t think I’ll be wearing them again.)

 

Cross-overs with high jumps to mix things up.

Cross-overs with high jumps to mix things up.

 

A jump rope is a fantastic piece of training equipment. Jumping rope conditions the entire body, and you can bring a jump rope anywhere and jump anywhere. Just make sure to wear pants that don’t fall down.

 

I stopped to pull up my pants (I hadn't worn these in a while and forgot that they don't stay up!)

I stopped to pull up my pants (I hadn’t worn these in a while and forgot that they don’t stay up!)

 

I practice front and back rolls because they’re fun and they help you to learn how to fall in martial arts situations. Always roll on a padded floor!

 

Coming out of a front roll

Coming out of a front roll

 

Front rolls in all directions

Front rolls in all directions

 

Here I’m doing what I’d said wouldn’t suffice for my strength-training goals – shadow-boxing with weights. It’s actually great if I do it regularly as a component of a complete workout. These are five-pound dumbbells.

 

Shadow-boxing with weights.

Shadow-boxing with weights.

 

“Keep your hands up and your chin down.” ~Golden rule of boxing~

 

Uppercuts with dumbbells

Uppercuts with dumbbells

 

Hooks with dumbbells (great shoulder work!)

Hooks with dumbbells (great shoulder work!)

 

Keep moving!

Keep moving!

 

Abs! I usually do these toward the end of my workout.

 

Stabilizing the MMA dummy for crunches

Stabilizing the MMA dummy for crunches

 

This is great core work. Hold the bag in place with your ankles, crunch up, and punch the bag diagonally to the opposite side. Lower yourself down, crunch up again, and punch with the other arm to the other side. You can do these without a bag, too. The important part is the twisting to punch diagonally across your body at the top of the crunch, as that works your obliques. Using your ankles to stabilize something like this bag works your lower abdominal muscles.

You can make this exercise harder by ditching the bag (have someone hold your feet, or hook your feet under something stable) and holding a medicine ball or a dumbbell as you crunch up. Thrust the medicine ball or dumbbell diagonally across your body at the top of the crunch. Alternate sides and do as many as you can.

To make it even harder, do it without someone holding your feet. In any case, your abs and obliques will hate you the next day, which is what you want.

 

Crunches and punches!

Crunches and punches!

 

Crunches and punches on both sides

Crunches and punches on both sides

 

Don’t forget to keep your non-punching hand up!

 

Stabilizing the bag with your legs is half the work

Stabilizing the bag with your legs is half the work

 

Bonus exercise when you’re done with your abs: Plant your foot on the MMA dummy, forcefully kick it down, and immediately jump on it to get in some ground-and-pound!

(Kidding. Unless you have frustrations to work out. Then do it.)

(But make sure your hands are wrapped or you’re wearing MMA gloves. Or both.)

 

La Fin.

 

Cold weather joy!

This last week we’ve had quite the cold snap here in Phoenix Metro, which I believe we can actually attribute to El Niño. A few days ago, our state registered the coldest temperatures in the U.S. while everyone else basked in unusual warmth. Hell has frozen over here in Sun Devil country!

It’s all good, though, because cold weather means a lot of enjoyable things. Such as:

1). Cold weather means I can light a lot of candles in my office at home.

 

Forest of candles.

Forest of candles.

 

It’s normally too warm for so many candles at once, obviously.

 

2). Cold weather makes savory, hot food even heartier.

 

Bocca burger at Red Robin (with iced tea, which I love in all kinds of weather).

Bocca burger at Red Robin (with iced tea, which I love in all kinds of weather).

 

We eat stuff like this year-round, but I find it most fulfilling when it’s cold outside. This particular visit to Red Robin was especially welcome because it was the day after we got back from France, where I’d spent over a week subsisting mostly on salads, bread, and the Larabars I’d packed. Those salads were wonderful, for sure, but by the time we got back I was ready to sink my teeth into something savory and hot!

 

Roasted purple potatoes.

Roasted purple potatoes.

 

Pinto beans in the slow cooker.

Pinto beans in the slow cooker.

 

Pinto tacos!

Pinto tacos!

 

Side-note: Did you know that Field Roast makes vegan cheese? I didn’t know until we found it at the store last night. It was great in these tacos! My favorite vegan cheeses have been Follow Your Heart and Daiya, but now there’s Field Roast. Daiya probably still works best on pizza, though. I might have to do an experiment to find out. There are other vegan cheeses out there, too.

 

3). Cold weather means that chocolate tastes like Christmas.

 

Stonegrindz Chocolate

Stonegrindz Chocolate

 

This chocolate is made locally, and it is delicious. Somehow, cold weather and Stonegrindz’ midnight dark chocolate really go together. Callaghan even likes it, and he generally doesn’t care for dark chocolate! We get it at the Farmer’s Market down the street, of course.

 

4). Cold weather makes garage workouts possible.

You know it’s been cold if you see that my elbows are bruised… it means that I’ve been working out on heavy-bags in the garage, a thing you can’t do in Arizona heat if there’s no A/C out there.

 

I waited seven months for this.

I waited seven months for this.

 

(A selfie was going to be impossible, so I took these pics with the web cam… that’s why they’re kind of grainy and dark.)

 

Garage workouts once again!

Garage workouts once again!

 

Because let’s be honest… there’s nothing like an intense workout on heavy-bags to relieve your frustrations. Any shrink would back me up on that, I’m guessing.

The cold also means that I can lift weights in the garage, since we have some dumbbells out there. I need to build up some strength.

Did I mention, by the way, that my strength-training attempts at the work gym ended in failure? The plan was to go during lunch, but evidently the rest of the world had the same idea. I couldn’t get the weights I needed because they were always in use, and I didn’t have time to wait. I gave up after three or four days.

 

5). Cozy winter kitties.

 

Nenette in her favorite windowsill sunbeam on a cold day.

Nenette in her favorite windowsill sunbeam on a cold day.

 

Nenette asleep on the back of the couch, one of her favorite spots.

Nenette asleep on the back of the couch, one of her favorite spots.

 

Sleepy Nounours and his little pink freckled nose.

Sleepy Nounours and his little pink freckled nose.

 

Blanket weather!

Blanket weather!

 

It’s supposed to warm up a little starting today, but it’ll still be cold enough to be magical!

Looks like this turned out to be something of a “favorites” post, which I didn’t intend, but it’s great because I wasn’t going to do one for December. (At the end of the month I’ll do a “best of 2015,” instead.)

BodyCombatversary!

It’s the last weekend of March. You know what we did last year on the last weekend of March? We went to our first Body Combat class! This is momentous, guys. On March 29, 2014, I finally got off my ass and ended the longest period of inactivity in my adult life. Planners and agendas are useful like that… you can look back and note such things. I love celebrating -versaries of all kinds. There has to be one for everything! Happy BodyCombatversary to Callaghan and me!

The idea of getting established in a workout routine was hard, but it hurt my brain more than my out-of-shape muscles. I’d been sedentary for so long, and out of training for even longer. We’d actually signed up at our gym a few months earlier, but I hardly went because zero motivation. Callaghan had way more determination than I to get to the gym. When I did manage to drag myself there to half-heartedly walk on the treadmill for 20-30 minutes, all I felt was this weird mixture of boredom and accomplishment and more boredom. Like, YAY, I went to the gym, go me! OH NO… I just spent 20 minutes of my life on a piece of cardio equipment. I could have been doing laundry. The struggle was real, folks, as they say. It’s HARD to get back into habitual exercise once you’ve fallen out of it for any length of time!

Then I decided to check out the group fitness class offerings, and everything changed.

According to my 2014 agenda:

–Tuesday, March 18, 2014: I went to a Body Pump class, just to try it. I didn’t hate it, but I never went back. I think I’m too lazy to do Body Pump. The very idea of making numerous trips to the equipment corner and hauling things over to the floor and then having to quickly change the configuration of the weights in between sets and then hauling all the stuff back to the corner at the end makes me feel annoyed (and bored)! Conclusion: I’m not badass enough to do Body Pump.

(Side-note 1: You know who’s really badass? THE PEOPLE WHO DO BODY PUMP IMMEDIATELY AFTER BODY COMBAT. I marvel at all you guys who do the classes back-to-back! When I’m done with Combat, I’m done. I got nothing left.)

(Side-note 2: I really should start some kind of strength-training routine, though. Shadow-boxing with dumbbells in my garage for five minutes once a week ain’t cutting it.)

–Wednesday, March 26, 2014: I tried a boot camp class. It was super hard. I loved it. Conclusion: Yes!

–Saturday, March 29, 2014: I tried Body Combat. The word “combat” on the schedule caught my eye, and my interest perked up immediately. I hadn’t thrown a punch in almost seven years. Okay, I thought. Let’s try this! So I went, and that was it. I was hooked. Body Combat is simple: I go in and follow the instructor’s commands until we’re done, and that’s it. No fuss, no muss, no equipment! You’re in and out and home before you know it, dripping sweat and feeling accomplished.

Overall conclusion: I made a standing date with the gym for Monday evenings and Saturday mornings (Body Combat), and Wednesday evenings (Boot Camp).

There was no reluctance from that point on; I surprised myself with my 180 turn-around. I’d been against the idea of group fitness classes before I even saw the schedule, because even though I really wanted to work out, in my advanced state of workout apathy and gym-self-motivating-brain-cells-atrophy, the notion of committing myself to a workout “schedule” seemed about as appealing as escaping from jail by digging a tunnel with a teaspoon. Sunken deep in my routine of sitting on my ass, I was perversely comfortable in my little prison cell of inactivity.

Of course, doing Body Combat brought back the old obsession with actual training (the sweet science addiction never really goes away once it bites you), and this led to the equipment in our garage. We went out there to play a little late last night. Callaghan took pictures.

Excuse the demon eyes. It was late and we had to use the flash in the dimly-lit garage... plus, these pics were taken with my phone, as usual. I still haven't replaced my camera since my last one died.

Excuse the demon eyes. It was late and we had to use the flash in the dimly-lit garage… plus, these pics were taken with my phone, as usual. I still haven’t replaced my camera since my last one died.

Elbows on the WaveMaster

Elbows on the WaveMaster

Jumping rope

Jumping rope

Elbows on the ground

Elbows on the ground

 WaveMaster, bare fists

WaveMaster, bare fists

Now, we do three Body Combat classes per week and no Boot Camp, because the Wednesday night Boot Camp went away and was replaced by the third Body Combat.  I’m not complaining about the extra Body Combat, though I do miss the Boot Camp! In a perfect world, I’d be able to get away from work one morning a week just long enough to do Suzy’s Core, Cardio & More class (Wednesdays), or Geeny’s H.I.I.T. class (Thursdays). If I’m ever off work on either of those days, that’s where I go! Huge shout-out to those ladies, and to our phenomenal regular Combat instructors and friends Izzy, Rebecca and Amelia, and also to our sometimes-instructors Jessica and Diane!

That’s the best part… in the last year, I’ve gained much more than a higher level of fitness with increased energy, strength and balance. I’ve gained new friendships with other class participants and the instructors, themselves.  I’ve also gained something concrete to look forward to, three times a week (looking forward to stuff is so important if you have clinical depression, by the way). Each time we leave the gym, I can’t wait for the next time, and that is awesome.

Happy Friday, Everyone! =)