To Track or Not to Track…

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How many shoulder press reps did I do yesterday?…I have no idea and I’m good with that.
Do you track the details of your strength training workouts? You know, things like…

* reps
* sets
* weight
* specific exercises
* rest time between sets

or any number of other factors that are important to you.

There’s certainly value in keeping detailed notes on these items. It’s smart to note the exercises you do so you know you’ve hit the muscle groups you intended to. You totally planned to skip triceps, right?! The number of reps you do and the amount of weight you lift can show you concrete, measurable progress (or lack of it!) right there in black and white.

These carefully documented details of your fitness life can also help you backtrack to pinpoint gaffs that led to injuries (that crazy new move you saw in a magazine probably wasn’t executed properly!) Or, on the flip side, show you what workouts helped you make big gains.

If you’re training for something specific, a race, a competition, a special occasion, capturing these details could be critical to your success.

I used to keep all these details. I religiously recorded every rep, every set. I wrote down every little variation of an exercise, every change in exercise order, every time I took a longer rest break than usual. My orderly columns of numbers and shorthand notes were important.

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Not my actual journal!

Until one day I thought, important for what?

My strength training routine has always been for general fitness. I’m not a figure competitor. I’m not an Olympic lifter. I train to be fit and healthy and because I love it. I have several small notebooks full of penciled-in workouts. I even tried a few iPad apps that collected all my data and gave it back to me in beautiful colored graphs or charts.

But when I really stopped and thought about it…I wasn’t DOING anything with all that information. I never looked back through it to check for anything. I can feel and see changes in my body without checking my training log. I know, during my workouts, if I’m working hard enough or not. I know when I’m slacking and I don’t need to record the pitiful numbers to prove it!

My strength routine can vary from week to week or even day to day because of things like the time of day I workout, how much energy I have or whether my kids kept me up the night before and comparing today’s chest press numbers to last weeks chest press numbers just isn’t realistic or beneficial for me.

I still keep a workout journal. It’s just very general in nature. It’s a simple spiral notebook and I write notes like ‘upper body workout-felt great but need some new back exercises’.

Sometimes I write more details, sometimes less. Since I’ve ‘let go’ of a lot of workout details, I’ve relaxed about my workouts. I’m more likely to change them up in the middle if something’s not working instead of trying to stick to the “prescribed” plan. I don’t freak out if I’m not lifting as much weight as last time, mostly because I can’t remember what I lifted last time! I actually recover during my recovery time instead of frantically scribbling my numbers before I start the next set.

Keeping detailed workout notes wasn’t a huge stress in my life but now that I’m NOT doing it, my workouts are easier. Not physically, of course, but mentally easier. I know that sounds silly, after all, how hard is it to write some numbers down but, for me, it felt easier.

I know this is not for everyone. For many people, a journal provides valuable information that is useful to them. If you’re one of those people then keep doing what you’re doing because it’s working for you. But if, like me, you aren’t using all that data for anything other than filling pages, take a good look at why you’re doing it. Don’t make more work for yourself!

Happy exercising!!

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Exercise is becoming a pain in the ass…

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Actually, it’s becoming a pain in the hips…and feet…and hands…
In recent weeks, I’ve developed joint pain as a side effect of a medication I’m taking as part of my breast cancer treatment. I’m only 43 years old but I feel like I’m 100! It takes me 10 minutes to loosen everything up enough to stand out of bed in the morning. If I sit or stay in one position for more than about 20 minutes, I have to do the loosening up thing all over again.

As you can imagine this is affecting my fitness routine. I have two road races coming up that I’m training for. Not being able to fully flex my feet kind of hinders the running process. When my hips are stiff I move with a sort of waddling motion…like a duck! Have you ever seen a duck run? It’s not pretty.

As with everything else since my cancer diagnosis, I’m trying to take it all in stride (pun intended!) and just figure out a new normal for my fitness plan. Some days are better than others. Some days I’m so uncomfortable that anything more than a 10 minute stretching session is all I can handle. Other days, I feel pretty good and get in my regular routine. So far, all the medication side effects I’ve experienced have been temporary and and my body seems to work through them within a couple of weeks. I’m hoping that will be the case once again so here are a few things I’ve been doing to work through this.

  1. I’ve made my warm-ups longer. Whether I’m going for a run or getting ready for a strength training session, I make my warm-up as long as I need to feel comfortable.
  2. I’ve renewed my commitment to working on my flexibility. Anybody who knows me personally knows that my flexibility is laughable at best. My hips and lower back are always tight and I can barely touch my shins let alone my toes. So now I make sure to stretch (dynamically and statically) before and after every workout. I also use my foam roller daily. And I’ve started to stretch a few nights a week before bed.
  3. I modify my workouts when I have to. And I don’t stress about it. If I’m only able to run 3 miles instead of 5, then that’s what I do. If I need to skip squats because my hips hurt, then that’s what I do. The bottom line is that I’m still doing something. It might not be as much or as intense as I’m used to but I feel worse if I don’t do anything.

If you’re experiencing any kind of chronic pain I hope these tips can help you too. I’ll keep plugging away and hope that these symptoms fade before my race next month.

Happy Exercising!

P.S. Look for my Complete 10K Training Plan ebook on sale soon!

Germs, Germs, Go Away…

Ugh…back to school germs…
When you have 3 kids, they can’t be avoided (actually, I don’t think they’re avoidable even with one kid!)

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We do our best to stay healthy around here but, nothing is full proof.
3 weeks into the new school year and 2 kids have already been hit with a head cold and a lingering cough.
I felt that dreaded raw itch in the back of my throat this morning. Being sick, even with a mild cold, just makes everything in an already busy schedule, even harder. My sinuses feel like concrete, my head aches and my energy levels are sapped. Should I still try to workout? A workout almost always makes me feel better both physically and mentally. But will a workout in my current state just make it worse? It depends…

With cold and flu season on approach here are a few tips for managing illnesses and not letting them completely derail your fitness efforts.

  1. First and foremost, it’s ok to rest!!! I cant stress this enough. Being motivated to push through discomfort is usually a good thing. It’s what helps you reach your fitness goals in the first place, but a couple days of rest when you’re feeling under the weather is not going to undo all your hard work. I often ask myself what I would have my kids do if they were suffering the same symptoms. That being said…
  2. A common guideline is if symptoms are from the neck up, workout cautiously. If symptoms are from the neck down, rest. If you are suffering from a stuffy or runny nose, sneezing and sore throat but no fever, you can modify but still go ahead with your workout if you feel ok enough to do it. If you’re running a fever, have chest congestion or a cough, definitely rest.
  3. No matter what you choose to do in terms of a workout, maintain healthy nutrition as best you can. I know when you don’t feel well, you often don’t feel like eating but your body needs the healthy nutrients to heal. A healthy vegetable soup or cup of green tea can feel good on a sore throat and help relieve sinus pressure.
  4. This should go without saying but just in case…if you’re feeling ill and still want to workout, try to do it at home to avoid spreading germs to others in the gym. How would you like it if you were trying to get in a killer workout and the person next to you was sneezing all over the equipment? You should modify your workout anyway and doing something at home will be healthier for everyone!

Happy Exercising! (or resting, if that’s what you need!)

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