Blogs tagged with "gym"

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Chuck Norris may never have done an Ironman, but he seems to be clued in on other things - and for the purposes of this blog, he appears to know about strength training. As a quick aside, has anyone noticed that Chuck Norris and The Most Interesting Man in the World may actually be the same person based on their quote pages? (Chuck Norris Top 50 vs. M.I.M.I.T.W. Quotes). I wonder what the MIMITW has to say about Ironman?

Back to the thing that Chuck Norris did for me - well, he didn't really do anything FOR me, but he endorses my newest toy - the Total Gym. And it just might be the thing that makes a difference for me this year.

As a background, to finally leave Chuck Norris out of the equation, I first came in contact with the Total Gym through a Cleveland-based physical therapist. In 1993, after several injuries on my left side and several doctors who said I would never run again, I finally found an orthopedic doctor - Dr. Vernon (Sam) Patterson - who could accurately diagnose what was wrong with me. No, it wasn't a leg-length discrepancy. It was a muscle imbalance. Dr. P sent me to a physical therapist named Mike DeRubertis who was finally able to rehab me from three left-side injuries (stress fracture, torn quad, and totally-screwed-up pyriformis). It was May - and my only goal that year was to be able to walk down the aisle at my wedding in October without limping. After a summer of intense physical therapy, I realized my goal, and I've also not had problems with left-side-only injuries ever since.

And when I finally checked out of P.T., at Mike's insistence, I invested in one of those giant exercise balls and body cords (those stretchy exercise cords with handles) to keep me healthy and muscularly balanced. One other thing that Mike suggested that year was that if I wanted to do strength training at home, I should consider getting a Total Gym - a mainstay in his physical therapy rehab arsenal. I couldn't justify the cost of a Total Gym back then, but I've thought about it every single year since (yes, it has been almost 20 years of thinking). (Note, I remind my readers here of my gripping, and yes, irrational, fear of weight rooms.)

The Xmas morning scene under the tree.

This year, I finally stopped thinking and started doing. My husband Jim and I bought a Total Gym for our "Christmas present to ourselves," and all I can say is "for crying out loud, why didn't we do it sooner!"

For the last few weeks, I've been holiday-slacking at swimming because of reduced pool hours (i.e., swimming once or twice a week for 30 minutes). Thus, I made up for it by working my arms on the Total Gym when I would otherwise be in the water.

After about six days out of the water, I finally got back in and I felt like a different swimmer altogether. I'm not stupid enough to believe that I've gained immense strength by doing two weeks of strength training against my body weight, but I have noticed the little amount of arm strength gained has translated into a much stronger feel to my swim stroke. For the first time in years, I feel like I can finally "follow through" with my entire stroke - something I've always been accused of not doing. My stroke has always been short in the water - which may be the singular reason I've never been able to reduce the number of strokes per lap that I take. My first set of 100s after almost a week off was my fastest and most consistent in the last six months! I had to do a double-take when I looked up at the clock after each repeat. (I'm 95% sure of what I was seeing, but with my age-reduced eyesight these days, it might have just been a manifestation of my fondest wishes).

The benefits of strength training are now apparent to me, and it's likely that this has been, indeed, the missing link in my training program, the one thing I need to get under those plateaus (read: sub-1:00 Ironman swim). And now that I don't have to conquer that irrational gym fear, it will be less stressful to fit this (missing) link into my training program. I can't say that I'll go hog-wild at strength training because I still fear muscle gain will have a detrimental effect on my running. But I will continue to do core work and arm strengthening and report back when I have more data to analyze.

For now, let's just say that Chuck Norris may be right about one thing. Even though he never did an Ironman.

Photo borrowed from

It's September, the month during which my local recreation center pool is shut down for maintenance and servicing for three weeks. The search for somewhere to swim in my local area sent me right to the door of a big chain health club/gym. Now, I know I should be thankful for finding a nearby place to swim, but after my workout this morning, I'm feeling judgmental (please note the term "mental" in there), so I'm going to make fun of health clubs (and by default, health club "types"). Any resemblance to actual persons or places, real or in the movies, is strictly non-coincidental.

Here's a little background information: I break into a cold sweat every time I get near muscle-bound body-builder types. It has something to do with my first experience in a fitness facility at age 15 when I was strength training at my swim coach's request. At that age, there were a thousand things I'd rather be doing in the evening than being scrutinized and chastised during workouts by men with giant muscular bodies and tiny heads who missed their calling as drill sergeants and whose only job qualification was to use the word "reps" in a sentence.

Thus, in case I collapsed from repressed fear, I made my husband Jim meet me at the health club. And it was indeed a good idea, because as soon as we walked in the door, I was struck with the inability to speak. I know this because when I finally worked up the courage to make eye contact with someone there, Jim was already pointing at me and saying (to the receptionist): "She's interested in seeing the pool." Within moments, I was being handed a clipboard and giving away my email address and phone number. All this just to look at a pool?

After signing on the line, the next step was to "take the tour." (But, seriously, can I just look at the pool?) We were greeted by a dark-haired muscular, well-groomed, bearded young man wearing the required slightly-tight polyester clothing that conforms oh-so-subtly to muscle curves. Yes, I notice these things. Yes, I'm stereotyping. I looked back at the sign on the door to make sure it didn't actually say "Globo Gym."

To be fair, this particular fitness center/health club/gym was not populated by beautiful people with tight bodies like in the TV commercials. The population (and cost) actually did look a lot more like Average Joe's -- the numbers occupying treadmills and machines were sparse at best. And they do have a boxing ring. But what about the pool?

We went to look at the pool: "It's 25 meters, a mini-Olympic size pool. It's three feet deep at one end and slopes to five at the other."

Me (mini-Olympic, wtf?): "Really? Wow! That should be great. I'm not used to swimming meters."

Gym guy: "What size pool are you used to?"

Me: "25 yards. Will it be difficult to get a lane? Are there usually a lot of people using the pool?" I note to myself that there are four lanes, not all occupied, each less than half the width of my rec-center pool. The lanes are so narrow I've decided butterfly is an impossibility unless I chop off my arms at the elbows. There will be no sharing of lanes here unless one person has gills. One lane is occupied by non-swimmers, and the club's whirlpool is adjacent to the pool (they could almost share the same water).

Gym guy: "No, I never see people waiting. The only time you'll have trouble is during water aerobics classes." He then assures me that morning and after-work hours will be no problem. And... "people can share lanes." Hmmm, has he actually seen that? I'm guessing he doesn't go near the pool often, but I could be wrong.

All things considered, I decide on a month-long membership to start, if just for the pool. And cool, they throw in a free session with a trainer. Maybe, just maybe, this will be my big chance to learn about strength training for the winter. And for the bike.

Fast forward to this morning -- my first workout at my new pool. I grab a locker, get out my pull-buoy and hand paddles and walk onto the pool deck. I'm instantly aware that this is NOT a place for someone as self-conscious as I am. I may be the first person who knows something other than sidestroke to step foot in this pool. I start swimming. I'm instantly aware that three feet is barely enough depth for my hands to clear the bottom. Flip turns at this end will be interesting, if not painful. I come to the wall at the far end. I'm instantly aware that this is NOT a 25-meter pool.

Ok ok ok ok (spoken like Joe Pesci's "Leo Getz") -- call me a POOL SNOB, but here's where the tiny heads come in. Do NOT tell me a pool is 25 meters if it isn't even 25 yards! I can understand the meters vs. yards mix-up, but come ON! This pool is not 25 of anything! Maybe this place has no concept of measurement units unless they involve weight.

I get over the frustration quickly and regroup. I need to get my workout in. On the return lap, I am instantly aware of being watched. A man in the whirlpool is half-way out of the water, bent over the lap lane watching me. This is a little too close for comfort. I decide to breathe on the other side. I get on with my workout, keeping an eye on the people who come and go to the pool. I mean, the whirlpool. And the steam room. And the sauna. It's 6:30 a.m., is this a pre-workout steam? I decide to stop looking.

It's going to be a long September. Do you think they have a dodgeball team?

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