Ball Lock and Drop It: Ball Lock Hold Exercise

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My abs and I are on speaking terms and they’re becoming stronger and more confident. I’m experimenting with new moves. I tried a routine from Muscle and Fitness magazine last Fall and it was too challenging at the time. I’m trying it again and it’s just right.

They break the sessions down by ab muscle categories: transverse abdominus, rectus abdominus, and internal and external obliques. One of the transverse moves is the Ball Lock Hold, an isometric exercise. Looks simple enough. Looks like it won’t do anything, but you do it. Lying on your back you bend your knee so it’s over your hip and your calf is perpendicular to the floor. You take a medicine ball, place it on top of your knee (like you’re kneeing a soccer ball), then put your elbow on the ball so it’s locked between your elbow and your knee. Hold for 60 seconds. Enjoy.

All you’re doing is holding a ball between your elbow and your knee and pressing down. You feel your ab muscles pop like popcorn kernels. You will swear the second hand is getting stuck on the clock numbers or the other hands because you’ve been holding longer than 60 seconds. After you do one side, you repeat on the other side to even out the pain.

At first the hardest part of the exercise was keeping the ball between my elbow and knee. It kept rolling and slipping so I’d have to start the minute over or ball park how long I have held it. I also started with 30 seconds. My muscles insisted on that or they were popping out of my skin. So I started with 2 rounds of 30 seconds. Now I do the full 60.

What I like about the whole routine and this exercise is it’s simple yet effective. I feel individual muscle fibers shocked out of their comfort zone (what did I do to them? They trusted me. We were finally talking and now I do this) the way my quads feel after I do certain routines. The article said if you want shapely abs you need to train them the way you train any other body part. They can’t be an after thought. They will not be an after thought after 2 sets of this exercise.

What’s your favorite ab exercise? Let me know.

Best!

Writing My “My Story”

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My gym has a wall filled with stories, a twist on before and after’s. It’s a before, where I’m at now, and where I’m going story. I’ve enjoyed reading them and have been interested in writing one.

My trainer asked if I’d like to fill one out. The only caveat was I had to brag about her. That wasn’t going to be a problem since she has helped transform me by introducing me to clean eating alone.

I looked at the page. It was one page divided into three sections. I was to pour my entire fitness journey into a few lines (and make it legible). How do you convey a journey in a few lines?

“I need a book,” I told her half joking. I have come a long way, physically and mentally. My relationship with my body is very different from when I was 17 years old. My mental game and awareness of my thoughts is very different and making all the difference.

I wrote it all out from high school to present day. I kept condensing, asking what was most important to share? where were the turning points so people could see the most drastic change? I realized I was asking some of the same questions I asked when I was screenwriting. It wasn’t for other people. I was proud of how I’ve evolved and wanted the share that. I feel I have a unique story and one people can relate to because retraining my mind was as important as changing my meal plans and the way I workout.

It was a cool declaration, once a dancer, now a runner who lifts. I still dance but know I have a dancer’s body because it is a body that enjoys dancing. It was challenging sharing I had poor body image because I would compare myself to others (it flares up every now and then, but I have a different awareness about those thoughts). My traumatic brain injury was important to share because recovering from it grew appreciation for my body and all it can do. There was a point I couldn’t sit up much less walk. Now I’m doing 5k’s and leg pressing 375 lbs. My body doesn’t have to do that.

Goals are usually a challenge for me because I want them clear and measurable. They flowed rather effortless onto the bottom section. They were the easiest section to read I noticed. I have goals to run a 5k in 27-30 minutes, continue to grow muscle and lean out. I’m interested in being 20% body fat but open to other numbers. Next year for the Warrior Dash, I’m going to be one of the runners competing in sports bra and shorts. At the very end I mentioned maybe in the future training for a bikini competition. Maybe. Just wanted to throw it out there. I like my goals–they were measurable, but not stringent.

It was one of the first time I’ve written a before and where I’m at now story for fitness. It felt really good and I liked what I had to share.

Have you written a before and where you’re at now story? Or a before and after story? Let me know below.

Best!

I Warrior Dash-ed

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I did it! Last Saturday I conquered the battleground and my mind. It was one the best things I’ve done resulting in one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever had.

Because of the extreme heat, they kept pushing back the start times. I was in the competitive heat with the trainers from my gym. I got an email we’d be at 7:30 am then at 7:00 am. It worked out better for me because I needed to be in Chicago for an audition by 11:45 am.

I chose clothes I wouldn’t be heart broken if I destroyed. I was stressing because my outfit didn’t match. I’ve become one of those people but only for the gym which I think is funny. I left the house at 4:15 am to make it.

I felt like such a newb. They recommended you show up an hour before your start time so I got there before 6:00 am. It was just me and the volunteers who were still being briefed. What was cool and a nice change was I gave myself permission to be a beginner, to be a newb. I had never done anything like this before so it was okay to not know and ask questions.

I was in the competitive heat and they recommended a 5k time of 20 minutes. I was nervous because I didn’t have that or near that. My trainer assured me it’d be fine because she didn’t either. I wasn’t running with her or the other trainers anymore. I was running with people who looked like they had 5k times of 20 minutes. There were marathoners who ran marathons for fun (why stop at 26.2? Let’s go for 32! Because that’s why we have bikes and cars). One guy ran a couple of miles to warm up. Good for him. The crossfit girls in their micro shorts, sports bras, and over the knee socks used the benches and tables to warm up. Lots of women in shorts and sports bras with me in my capris and baby doll tee.

I have never warmed up for a race before but I’ve warmed up for a horse show. I applied the same ideas, do what you need to do to warm those muscles up, get energy up and going but don’t expend too much energy, don’t get tired. I hadn’t slept well the night before because I was afraid I’d oversleep. I sat to the side to stretch. Felt like a loner but I also enjoyed watching people do their routines. Different personalities, different strategies.

I started getting in my head. What was I doing in the competitive heat? I considered running in another heat but I had signed up for and paid for this one. Do what you set off to do. I centered and focused on my breath.

They called us to the starting gate.

“Are there mile markers?” a high schooler who did cross country asked.

“Yes but they won’t make you feel better,” the announcer said. I lined up with a lacrosse team, cross country runners, and a trainer and two of her students. I don’t remember if there was a gun. There was a countdown and shots of fire over our heads and we were off.

Just keep with the girls ahead of you, I told myself, but I was falling in love with the run. It was held on someone’s farm so we ran through the tall grasses, what used to be a hay field, dodging tractor tracks, ruts, taking hills and berms. Cars honked as we went by the road.

There are some fun signs through out the run. “If you lived here, you’d be home by now. You’d also be a deer.”

The first obstacle was my greatest challenge. Jumping up on a wall to scramble over. My vertical jump is not there, I didn’t care if there was a little ledge to “help” you over. Third attempt I got over so I could then crawl under, then jump over, then crawl under again, to climb over the next wall and pick up in  a run.

I made up time on the obstacles. Prereq should be working on a farm. The dome was climbing a ladder, crawling through a hay loft then climbing down a ladder.

One of the easiest I was so surprised and pleased by was a climbing wall, using your legs and a rope to climb up then climb down. I couldn’t believe how fast I went up that thing.

Crawling through the flooded trenches I felt like a small dog pretending to be a field dog. I was afraid I’d lose my bib which was fully submerged and dragging.

I jumped the fire. That was the one I was sure I was going to walk around, but it was wide not deep.

It didn’t feel like three miles. I was so proud I ran most of it. I walked for the water stations and through the creek in the wooded area because I couldn’t see where my feet were landing. I couldn’t believe when I saw the finish line. I ran across a finish line. I finished before 8 people I started with (but who’s counting?). The feeling at the end was amazing, so calm and happy. It was so exhilarating.

“That’s 35-40 minutes,”someone told the person I finished after. I had run a mud run in 35-40 minutes.

I’ve wanted to do a mud run for a while. One of my goals this year was to do a 5k. I love mud and I love running.

Next year I want to complete it in 25-30 minutes. I’ll improve my time by then. I’m kind of addicted to trail running now. Give me hills and exposed roots, steep inclines, and ruts. I’m already training hills because those slowed me way down. I’ll improve my vertical jump or learn how to better scramble over a wall. I’ll be in the competitive heat next year, one of the veterans in her sports bra and shorts.

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Meet Jacob’s Ladder

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I just wrote about the step mill. I walked into the gym the next day and it was gone. My baby! In it’s place against the wall is a step mill-like creature with wooden rungs where steps should be. Then I remembered my trainer’s excitement.

“We’re getting a Jacob’s Ladder,” she said. Great. I had no idea what that was. “YouTube it.”  I didn’t because I forgot and now this thing is in place of my frenemy (I found her–they had just rolled her to the middle of the room so now it looks like you’re climbing to nowhere in particular).

I met Jacob and his ladder my next training session because I asked to be introduced. You get to harness yourself in (which doesn’t make you nervous at all). The harness controls the rung speed. You harness yourself in and start climbing.

I saw myself accidentally galloping on all fours. Wow, she’s really killing it. Nope just herself. I get nervous when trainers describe something as intense, people who look forward to training for bodybuilding competitions. But I want to try it.

Jacob’s my boy. It’s very tranquil, meditative. He looks and sounds like your friend’s older brother who is going to bite your head off but he’s actually very sweet, shy, and possibly with a speech impediment. It’s the most relaxing cardio you will ever do. It’s like a labyrinth, just keep climbing and slowly your thoughts float away.

Then you step off and every fiber in your quads go into shock. All of a sudden you can’t breath. How? I was relaxed and heading towards beta state. It’s a work out, my go to warm up.

I’ve introduced him to several people at the gym and converted them to Jacob loyalists.

Today I tried one of the recommended workouts on it called Ladders and Swings. You climb 200 feet then do 20 kettlebell swings. They recommend a lighter weight because it’s intense. It was really cool. Definitely felt my heart rate up and felt my legs sing. I could have gone up in weight. It was a great tight on time workout.

So if you hear Jacob and his ladder are coming to you’re gym, don’t be scared. Enjoy.

Have you worked on a Jacob’s Ladder? Let me know below. Best!

 

 

I’m Warrior Dash-ing!

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It’s been a while and I apologize. I was surfing the waves of life and the blog got left on the beach. So I wanted to return with good news…

I’m participating in the Warrior Dash, a muddy 5k with obstacles. I’m excited. I’ve wanted to do a mud run. I signed up  and trained for one last fall only to be sidelined by pneumonia. Apparently you can’t run a 5k with pneumonia. There’s this whole breathing thing. Running a 5k was one of my goals this year.

I was flattered to be invited. All the trainers from my gym are running (like actually running) and my trainer asked if I wanted to run with them. Someone thinks I can do it. It’s a testament to how far my training has come. No one has looked at me before and said “mud run material”. Or maybe they have and just kept it to themselves.

I asked her what I need to work on and she said running outside. I love running outside but it fell by the wayside with rain and heat. I have an advantage because she ran it last year and can tell me what to expect. The first mile is pure running before you hit mud. She took off from the starting line and met the mud, which is like running in sand only more fun.

I’m psycho competitive so I’m getting my mental game ready. I’m prepping myself to be okay with being at the back of the pack. I’m an endurance runner. I’m getting faster and am faster than I think I am, but I’m also running with personal trainers, many who are/were athletes and taller than me. I know my gut reaction will be to chase down the person in front of me and keep going until I’m out front. Who needs to breath or be comfortable when you can win? I also know the first mile is running, I have 2.1 miles to go with mud and muddy obstacles to climb.

My goal is to complete it. It won’t be pretty. I look good in mud, but I don’t know how graceful or poised my performance will be. I’m in the competitive heat, but I’m competing against myself. My former self didn’t sign up or try this before. My new self is charging into mud and obstacles.

Have you done a mud run? Any advice? Let me know below. Best!

Stepmill: Flirt with Death and Come Back

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The stepmill is my favorite inanimate object to hate. The stepmill doesn’t care. It doesn’t care if you can’t breath or wondering if you’re going to fall and ride the steps down to the floor, possibly becoming a viral video titled “Fitness Fail”. Regardless how you feel and what your mind is saying to you it will keep plugging along at what ever speed you have set. That is also why I love it and make myself do it at least once a week.

Other people have a complicated relationship with this machine because it is always busy. People take it over for half an hour minimum. I want them to step off (ha!) so I can take it over for half an hour.

I love the treadmill. I can play on that thing for hours. It’s amazing how the slight change of range of motion from walking or running to lifting and bending your leg to step up makes a huge difference you feel immediately and immediately wonder why you thought this was a good idea and why did you choose that time limit.

While I’m being a circling shark waiting for the stepmill to open, I observe the climbers look human. By that I mean they are not drenched in sweat or like they’re morphing into a strawberry. I ooze sweat. I just appears. Suddenly my arms are wet, covered in glistening dew, my hands soaked like I just rinsed them. I wipe them on my clothes but those are also wet so it doesn’t help. Forget about wiping my face. I’ve never thought about bringing a towel until I met the stepmill and I never remember I’ve thought about bringing a towel until I wipe my brow. Once you start wiping your face, you can’t stop. It’s just a dripping waterfall. I feel like I sweat half my body weight, but my body disagrees.

I can feel my lungs fill and deflate. I can feel the little tree guys inside them fill and deflate. I start to wonder is this too much? Am I crossing a line? Am I about to die?

It’s mind over matter. I know I’m not going to die. I coach myself like I’m talking to someone else. You only have seven minutes left. That’s nothing! And I need to have a routine. I can’t just climb to the top of the Sears Tower. I skip stairs for a minute. I crossover facing left or right for a minute, walk straight, and repeat on the other side. Something to fill the grueling monotony.

Why do I do it? I’m getting better. I can see myself getting better. I like simple things that kill. It’s climbing stairs. I ran them in college when late to class. After 25-30 minutes I’ll feel like I’ve pushed too much, abused my body, going to need to take a day to recover. I cool down on the treadmill and feel renewed, reinvigorated. I survived. I did it. It’s mentally and physically challenging. If I had quit when I wanted to, I wouldn’t have felt this way.

Just as computers are better for some students because computers are consistent and “quiet” (no sighs, no facial expressions or other body language), the Stepmill is good for you. It lets you work your mind and body on your own at your own pace. I thought it was a complicated relationship, but it just wants me to be better.

What’s been your experience with the Stepmill? Let me know.

Best!

 

Wavering is Part of the Process. Move Forward.

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This week’s challenge in the Still In It challenge from Bodybuilding.com was identifying your kryptonite and sharing how you were going to overcome it. Mine was simple. As much as I love clean eating, I waver from the path sometimes. And when I say “waver” I mean hit a hard left and go sprinting through the woods. I return back to the path which is the important part.

What was also important was identifying why and what was going on that I felt it was okay to deviate from something that made me feel good. It was my birthday this weekend and by the end of last week I was feeling emotionally full and numb. My coworkers went above and beyond making me feel cared for and appreciated with their gifts to me, which included proteins bars, fruit, a Harley Davidson gift certificate and a journal. I did not want my plain chicken and veggies. I wanted something special. I enjoyed every bit of that gyro.

Saturday I had sodas for the first time in a long time for caffeine, pure man- made caffeine. My schedule didn’t have time for naps even though I took one. I coached Special Olympics in the morning. I got choked up during the parade and opening ceremonies. I love seeing all the athletes and I love the opportunity it is for parents just to be parents. They don’t have to explain anything.

After coaching I drove an hour home to drive two hours to the Southside of Chicago for rehearsal where I sat for two hours before being rehearsed. I had expectations for this rehearsal, which I shouldn’t have had, but I did, so I had a doughnut. By the time I got home I wanted comfort. I was tired and wanted to feel better so I had stove top popcorn which is my newest vice. My trainer staged an intervention. I told her I could stop anytime but I didn’t want to. It’s so good.

Preparing to respond to the challenge, I looked at my week and what I ate. Overall it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Yes, I added some less than ideal items but my clean eating base was still there. I feel whenever I commit to a challenge whether it’s online or just a personal best (“I’m going to clean eat for so many weeks”) I feel I’m challenged right away.

From a spiritual aspect I know things get worse before things get better. One teacher said it’s the universe bringing up your beliefs so you can evaluate them and see how you want to change. Another said it’s the universe seeing how bad you want it. It is a blessing.

I know it’s part of the process. How I’m changing is I’m going to be gentle with myself and move forward. I return to clean eating and working out. I have not derailed. I’ve just wobbled. How you feel about the situation is so important. Just because I wavered doesn’t mean I’m done for and all is lost. I did the best I could at the time. I’ve looked at the situations, I’ve seen how I thought and felt, and planned for the future. I’m going to work a different way with my mind.

What’s one of your greatest fitness challenges? How have you overcome it? Let me know.

Best!

My Gym Twin

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The regional manager of my gym stopped and stared at me. “Were you here earlier?” Nope. “Could have sworn you were here earlier.”

The head trainer gives me a huge smile. “Back again! You’re killing it, girl!” I am, but this is my first time here today.

“There’s this chick that looks like you,” one of the guys in my TRX class explains between sets. She must show up during the day because no one has been able to point her out in the evening.

(It’s kind of funny because I was supposed to be a Gemini, but I was impatient and I’m a Taurus.)

I asked my trainer if she knew who my twin was. This was the first time she had heard of it.

“I hope she’s nice,” I said.

“And cute,” my trainer added. Well of course she’s cute if she’s my twin. My trainer laughed. “Well, you’re the nice one so wouldn’t that make her to bad one?”

It could. I just don’t want her to be this midday ice queen (I have a mean resting face–if she’s being mistaken for me she must look as pleasant between sets). I’ll know if I say hi to someone in the evening and get, “Oh now you’re saying hi? What? You’re only social after 4:00?” Pretty much.

I want to meet her to see if we do look a like or if she just has dark hair, glasses, and works out really hard. It’d be cool if she was hotter and fitter then I’d be like, “Yes, we’re twins.” I’ve had other people say I look like someone only to wonder how? Or were they being rude to my face and I missed it like it was an off joke?

It’s a compliment to her. I live at the gym, making progress, and continually grateful for everything my body does, strengthening this positive relationship. I wonder if she’s ever asked about my trainer or things that are going on with me. Then she might give them looks like a midday ice queen.

Have you ever been mistaken for someone or thought to have a twin? Let me know.

Best!

10 Things “Nothing Tastes As Good As…”

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I’m participating in Bodybuilding.com’s Still In It competition. This week’s challenge discusses healthy eating. My healthy eating has been my challenge area as I have no problem going to the gym and working hard there. It’s become a lot stronger, but I’m continuing to work on it. The challenge made me think of a phrase I’ve used for motivation.

There’s a phrase “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” I’ve heard it attributed to Kate Moss and several others. It’s great to say and remind yourself when well meaning people offer you doughnuts from a family owned bakery or it’s Taco Tuesday. But I don’t want to be skinny. I want to be fit and look it. I want to be bad ass. I adapted the phrase to “Nothing tastes as good as fit feels” but that wasn’t enough. It wasn’t specific enough. What is fit? What exactly am I looking for when I’m turning down a sweet I used to not think twice about? That wasn’t cutting me to the quick.

Here are 10 alternatives to “Nothing tastes as good as…” that have moved me.

  1. Nothing tastes as good as peace of mind.
  2. Nothing tastes as good as being proud of yourself.
  3. Nothing tastes as good as discipline feels. It’s not denying yourself, it’s choosing to take care of yourself. #Smallwins.
  4. Nothing tastes as good as clean eating feels. Stable, consistent energy and…
  5. Nothing tastes as good as abs feel. Abs are made in the kitchen. You can do as many off the wall, innovative or classic ab and core routines, but the truth is April clean eating brings May abs.
  6. Nothing tastes as good as the skinny jeans becoming the baggy jeans. True story.
  7. Nothing tastes as good as confidence feels. You stood up for yourself, your future and your goals. Well done.
  8. Nothing tastes as good as new identity feels. Identifying as an athlete, a runner… joining a new group of people is exciting.
  9. Nothing tastes as good as looking as good as you feel. You work out often and hard. Don’t cover the new architecture with fluff.
  10. Nothing tastes as good as your self worth skyrocketing. Your self worth should not be dependent on your looks, but judgement is self harm. You are always doing the best you can even if it doesn’t feel like it. Take care of yourself. Nurture your body. Investing in yourself is an investment guaranteed to pay off.

 

What’s something you say or do to keep to a healthy eating plan? Let me know.

Best!

 

An Awkward Aspect of Fitness Inspiration…

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I follow many brands, magazines, and athletes on Instagram. I enjoy the little glimpses into their lives, the quick updates, and bite-size motivation. The only awkward aspect of following so many fitness feeds on Instagram is my feed is full of skin.

It has made people do double takes. I’m rarely on my phone so when it is out people tune in. They’ll peek over my shoulder to see what’s Cora looking at. I can hear their eyes widen as glistening glutes go by.

A simple scroll will reveal several smiling bikini clad women. The guys never show up first in the feed, but that’s okay. I find these brands (Live Fit, Gym Shark and Better Bodies) and athletes inspiring. That’s why I follow them and want to hear from them. The brands show new clothes and styling ideas using my favorite athletes. I get to see how clothes hang on them, how they present themselves, and see where I’m heading.

I can appreciate another woman’s body. I find more inspiration from women’s bodies because I am one. I know how it works and know how much work she’s put in. I’m motivated to join them, to be associated with them, to inspire others to take care of their bodies.

It must be a little awkward to overhear women talking about other women’s bodies with respect but also in a similar tone the way car guys talk about parts on a classic car. Did you see her abs? I love her abs. She does this, this, and this. Yeah and did you see Emily’s abs? She does this, this, and this. But it’s just admiration. I love learning and new information creates variety. I didn’t know I loved ab circles until my trainer shared them with me.

It was just a funny realization I had: I see fitness and goals while others see scantily clad shiny women.

Have you ever had an awkward Instagram moment? Let me know.

Also, let’s find each other on Instagram! If you follow me, I’ll follow you. @coravasseur

Best!