Fit Chic NYC’s Blog


When a Good Workout Goes Bad (The Importance of Rest)

Tuesday after work I went to the gym and did a quick 30 cardio circuit of the elliptical, Stairmaster and spinning before hitting the weight room where I jumped right into overhead barbell squats. Despite using pretty low weight, my quads were done after two sets of 12 reps. It hurt to climb the stairs to use the ab mat area, and walking to work the next morning was miserable.

After going to the gym for decently intense workouts for a week and half straight my body just gave up on me – it needed rest. (And two days later it could still use some extra recovery.) I admit that although I know rest days are an integral part of any exercise program, I’m horrible at taking them. I find great excuses not to. Plus, I feel guilty on days when I purposely miss a workout and I get cranky.

However I have to start practicing what I preach and take a rest day.

There’s a lot of theories floating around about what’s the best on/off schedule or workout periodization program, but it really comes down to what works best for your schedule. One of the best arguments I’ve seen for a recovery schedule is CrossFit’s 3 days on/1 day off cycle.

Pulled from the CrossFit Journal:

“We see a three-day-on, one-day-off pattern. We’ve found that this allows for a relatively higher volume of high-intensity work than the many others that we’ve experimented with. With this format the athlete can work at or near the highest intensities possible for three straight days, but by the forth day both neuromuscular function and anatomy are hammered to the point where continued work becomes noticeably less effective and impossible without reducing intensity… the three-on, one-off pattern was devised to increase both the intensity and recovery of the workouts.”

The science behind this theory is to prevent overtraining (hello aching quads of mine!) but it also establishes the concept of intensity – you can’t maintain a high level of intensity without recovery. My cardio circuit on Tuesday was no where near as intense (aka effective) as it was four days prior. Without intensity in your workout program you’re just going through the movements and you’re not receiving the benefit of working out. (Okay it’s better than nothing, but why not make the most of your time and effort?) Think about it, who would you guess is in better shape: the girl who barely breaks a sweat while hitting the elliptical for an hour at a moderate pace daily, or the girl who is giving it her all – full-out effort – on the treadmill/elliptical for 30 minutes every few days?

Yet the article goes on to mention that convenience, attitude, exercise selection and pacing ultimately serve as the prevailing factors in creating a workout schedule. For example if the gym is close to where you work (and not were you live) the 5 days on/2 days off cycle is more convenient, therefore a cycle you’re more likely to stick with.

Bottom line, rest days are important. Besides having your workouts suffer if you don’t take them (didn’t we learn quality over quantity back in middle school?) you also place yourself at a higher risk of injury. And while there is no magic formula the underlying factor is that each equation includes a rest day!

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Weekend Fitness Round-Up : July 10-12

Bike and Run Your Way Around NYC This Weekend!

Friday, July 10th

What: Free Bike Fridays
Where: Governor’s Island
Why: From my brief excursion to pick up lunch I know that the sun is shining and a cool breeze is in the air! There’s no better weather than that for a leisurely NYC bike ride!
More info: click here

What: CrossFit Games 2009
Where: California (sorry!)
Why: An entire weekend of events like a 7.1km run on a steep hill, deadlifts, rowing, sandbag runs and more! I get exhausted just reading about it. Keep up to date with the competition to find the fittest athlete at http://games2009.crossfit.com/

Saturday, July 11th

What: UrbanSchleppers Bike Hunt
Where: Around NYC, Meet at 26th Street and West Side Highway in the park in front of pier 66
When: Arrive at 10:30am to register and receive clues and map. Hunt starts at 11am
Why: Fitness for a cause! Grab a partner and hunt through NYC on bike while raising money ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease)! Complete as many clues as you can during the 3 hour cut-off for points and the team that reaches the finish line with the most points gathered wins!  Race ends at a pub so riders can celebrate and swap stories
More info: $20 for solo rider (get matched up) or $35 for 2 person team (deadline 7/10 online registration) or $40 (day of). Click here for more information

Sunday, May 17th

What: Yoga for Athletes with Emilie Smith
Where: Lululemon 1127 3rd Ave. at 66th St.
When: 6:30-7:30pm
Why: Explore how yoga can add to a successful training program. This workshop is designed to explore poses and techniques to help athletes and fitness enthusiasts increase their range of motion and flexibility, particularly in the hip, hamstring and shoulder area. Additionally, a focus on breathing and balancing is designed to improve concentration and mental endurance.
More info: RSVP: east66th-store@lululemon.com

What: ING New York City Marathon Long Training Run #1
Where: Central Park
When: 7am
Why: Gearing up to run a fall marathon? Practice a  long run (6-20 miles) in this “non-competitive run, featuring built-in fuel, pace-setters, and training partners” with the NYRR.
More info: click here



Embarrassed At The Gym

I’m almost two weeks into my burpee challenge and while I’m not in the lead, I’m proud to say that I’m the most improved and already increased my rpm! But my biggest challenge in participating – overcoming my fear of performing.

What?! Yep, it’s not the thought of being completely and utterly winded in a minute flat, it’s my self-consciousness in performing the exercise. Next time you go to the gym, look around; you don’t really see people throwing themselves onto the ground, doing a push-up and jumping back up again very often; let alone a female breaking a sweat. Hence my dilemma. While I’m proud of my strength I find myself wandering around the gym for a reclusive area, out most gym-goers’ view to perform my burpees. Why? I’m embarrassed.

When I’m at a CrossFit box (CrossFit lingo alert “box” is what you typically call their place of operation/studio) I have no problem dropping chest to deck and whipping out a minute of burpees. No stares, no questions. Rather when I get winded I’ll hear cheers of encouragement to push harder, better, faster stronger! But throw down burpees at a globo gym (CrossFit lingo, any chain/luxury gym) all you get is weird stares and maybe an off-hand comment or two.

And perform a burpee in my apartment?! Out of the question! Besides the limited space that comes in living in a New York apartment with three other girls, I’d prefer not to have their looks of bewilderment or complaints from the downstairs apartment about constant thudding.

This isn’t an isolated occurrence either. I find myself thanking the gym G*Ds that I didn’t join the Equinox in my building when I was looking for a new gym membership because now half of my office belongs. When I workout, I workout – I use weights and I do dead lifts, dips and attempted pull-ups. I get sweaty. And I don’t want my coworkers who use the dumbbells without breaking a sweat see me in such a vulnerable state. Geez, when I picked up a kettlebell at a globo gym, a trainer came over to me to tell me how impressed he was with the weight I was using and my form… thanks, but please let me workout in peace!

In a great article on Gubernatrix, the author said, “When going all-out in an intense circuit you know you are going to look a bit crazy. This is all very well if you are surrounded by people doing the same thing. But if you are the only one, it can feel very exposed.

This also applies to any women who regularly find that they are the only female in the gym. Guys will look, they can’t help it. But it can be hard to block this out and just get on with your workout. It’s not as if we are bouncing along at 5 miles an hour on the treadmill with not a hair out of place. We’re under the bar pushing bodyweight or more and it doesn’t always look pretty!”

Amen sister!



GroupThink and Fitness Freshman

Last night a bunch of girl friends and I took a yoga class with yoga guru and all-around awesome person Tara Stiles at her Strala Yoga studio in the Flatiron district.

(If you’re an NYC yoga-lover I highly recommend taking a class with Tara. She is the resident expert and face of the Women’s Health Yoga Channel, the “Yoga Master” for Nissan’s Master the Shift program, model, and a Huffington Post blogger! Whew!)

While I had taken a class with Tara before and some of the other girls practice yoga regularly, this was three girl’s first yoga class ever!! That got me thinking – what should class newbies know?

The 5 Golden Rules for First Timers

1.    Know before you go!: Do your homework before stepping foot in the door – what class are you taking? Does the teacher have a bio listed? What equipment do you need to bring with you? Does the facility have a water fountain, etc.?

a.    Case Study A: Ride The Zone requires cycling shoes (which I don’t have) but can be rented for $3 … therefore bring cash!

b.    Case Study B: Crunch/NYSC has towels available for clients, the gym I went to in Florida, LA Fitness, does not … therefore bring your own!

2.    Arrive Early: This way you can talk to the instructor, set up any equipment (if needed) and get a spot with a clear view of the instructor. Plus it’s just plain rude to the instructor and other clients to walk into a class a minute before it begins and expect to get the individualized attention a first time needs.

a.    Case Study A: I went to a Sunday morning spin class and two minutes before class was supposed to begin a group of four spin class freshmen walk in. Class started five minutes late because the instructor had to help set up their bikes. I was not happy.

3.   Notify: Before class, let the teacher know this is your first time so he/she knows to be more informative and watch your form more carefully.

a.    Case Study A: First time trying yoga, the teacher should give you modifications for some of the more advanced movements.

b.    Case Study B: When I took one of my roommates along with me for her first spin class we had the instructor help set up her bike.

4.    Check Your Ego At The Door: Your first class is not the time to be an overachiever. Work on form and be patient. Being overzealous and overstretching your capacity will lead to injury.

a.    Case Study A: My first time in spinning class I wanted to prove I ride like a pro and increased the resistance/speed like the rest of the class. My legs hurt so much the next day I could barely walk.

b.    Case Study B: CrossFit newbie Peter (check out his awesome blog here) thought he had his form right with handstand pushups. He ended up with black eyes the next day from blood vessels popping.

5.    Ask Questions: This is for fitness freshmen and fitness aficionados alike, always ask if you’re  unsure of a movement. And as long as the class you’re taking doesn’t involve a meditative component, I think you should ask for information – what muscles does this movement make? Why is this a good exercise. Ask for correction and ask to be informed!

a.    Case Study A: I’ve been doing CrossFit on-and-off for just over a year and just this morning I was asking if my stance and grip was proper for my Sumo Deadlift High Pulls



The Ultimate Total Body Exercise – Join The Burpee Challenge

No matter how fit you think you are, allow the burpee to humble you in less than one minute.

Also affectionately known as the jumping squat thrust, the prison workout or just plain workout hell, this famously miserable exercise can be considered the ultimate total body exercise that serves both strength training and cardio purposes.

How to do you do a burpee? Check out this video for a great visual:

1.    Squat and jump back into a plank position
2.    Perform a pushup with your CHEST TOUCHING THE GROUND (besides being proper form, it’ll make your life easier)
3.    Jump to squat landing on your HEELS
4.    Jump up (and if you want, clap your hands over head to ensure your getting your hands up)

What are you working? Well everything! You are firing your legs with the squat, your using your triceps and shoulders with the pushup, your abdominal is engaged helping to stabilize your plank and I promise these will have your heart pumping and leave you breathless after just a few.

Best part about burpees (said with tongue-in-cheek since there are no “best” parts about burpees)? This exercise can be performed anywhere, doesn’t require equipment and uses your own body weight. So NO EXCUSES (burpee like a champ)!

It shouldn’t be a surprise to see the reemergence of burpee popularity; it incorporates a few of the predicted 2009 fitness trends – back to basics/primal, bootcamp and budget-friendly workouts – plus they are repeat offender in CrossFit WODs (workout of the day).

So fellow fitness fanatics I invite you to join my one-minute burpee challenge. I’ve engaged in a little friendly competition with a friend where for 5 days/week we will each perform as many burpee reps as possible in ONE minute. We record our daily numbers as well as a weekly average and winner gets street cred and bragging rights.

Think you can handle one minute of burpees? Join the challenge. Post your daily one-minute burpee totals in the comment section of the daily post and see how you measure up.



Gym Superstitions

“Everyone knows that bad things happen when the plates face out. My hairdresser’s cousin knew a girl who got pregnant because her boyfriend lifted with the plates facing out. True story.”

And during yesterday’s CrossFit class the guy behind me about to squat 315lbs was suddenly yelled at to stop and re-rack. Why? The coach has a superstition and needs the white numbers facing out.

From the outside, gym superstitions sound pretty absurd, but it got me thinking… what do I do at the gym that I consider “routine” but others may see it as a bit superstitious?

Clothing
I’m a lousy runner so anytime I do a decent run I automatically bless that outfit as my running outfit. I’m convinced that anytime I tackle a run I need to be dressed in my blue Nike shirt with my blue Asics sneakers to have maximum performance.

Exercises
Anytime I do an isolated exercise or stretch I start with my right side of my body – never, never with my left. And if I’m on the elliptical I cover the timer with a towel and never look at it before at least 20 minutes have passed. And I have certain machines I like to use, I’ll wait for them even if others are open.

Why do fitness fanatics and athletes develop these superstitions? Quoted in the article by Ryan Clark, Richard Lustberg, a sports psychologist based in New York, said the reason for developing superstitions is simple: It’s a “coping mechanism” to deal with the pressure to succeed. “Athletes begin to believe, and want to believe, that their particular routine is enhancing their performance.”

So maybe I have a few superstitions and maybe I’m a bit delusional in my belief of my success but it’s working, so they’re staying. Melissa Byers wrote a great article about her workout oddities and if you have any weird gym-related things, add them in the comments!



Conversations Overheard at the Gym
June 11, 2009, 10:13 AM
Filed under: Overheard At The Gym | Tags: , ,

Take your headphones off and listen to the people around you – this stuff is just too good to miss!

Gym Paranoia
Coach: “No stop don’t squat that.”
…guy re-racks the weight…
Coach: “Sorry man superstition, got to have the white numbers facing out on the weights.”

Okay these conversations were overheard at the office, but they’re gym material so I’ve determined it counts.

A Workout to Workout
Male Coworker: “I’ll try that class in another two weeks or so, I got to workout and get in shape first.”
Female Coworker: “Um isn’t that the point of going to the class in the first place?”

Buns of Oatmeal
Coworker 1: “So show me how to do the squat again. I have a friend coming in town soon whose body is made out of granite.”