Strength Training

Pop Quiz and Body Mechanics

Pop Quiz! When does your kettlebell swing begin? Answer to follow…

Summer fun is coming to a close and a new batch of delightful memories are tucked away. Echoes of lakeside laughter and the patta-a-pat of little feet marching down the dock ramp are fading with the setting sun. I enjoy one last long gaze across the lake, feeling content with another year of honest fun for the family. Moments on this dock are the building blocks of ours and our children’s childhood, the dock itself a solid foundation. Three months out of the year I regard this dock with fondness, appreciation, and a touch of nostalgia. But there are two days when I stare it down like a confronted beast in the wild: Opening day and closing day. In true DIY fashion, we put in and take out our dock each year, like many Mainers do. It is a quick annual ritual with little pomp and circumstance, and usually without issue, save for a few moments when someone moves too fast or not fast enough on one side. This weekend I took care of the haul out with my 82-year-old dad. I’d guess the 20-foot long ramp is over 500#s and the float must be close to 800 or 900#s on its own. My dad and I work well together, swiftly, safely, and always with a joke or two to lighten the mood.

The first part of the job was to take out the fleet attached to the dock. The motorboat got tucked away in its winter home, and the kayaks were brought on shore. Next was the big lift and haul of the ramp. We brought it up on shore in what seemed like a snail’s procession, inch by inch. When it was time for the float, I suggested we wait for help, a few “strong backs,” but Dad was ready for the project to be done- so we continued. The logistics of getting this massive float out of the water and away from shore with our DIY manual tactics are sometimes riddled with comedy (yes, people have ended up backside in the water with a splash), and always flirt on the edge of disaster (we all know the risks involved moving something big and heavy). Almost at its final destination, progress came to a halt as the float hitched itself on a large rock. It needed a clear lift on one end. Without much thought, I squared up to the float. With a slight bend in my knees, my back flat, hinging at the hips, I grabbed hold of the edge and, squeezing my glutes, lifted. Dad gave the beast a good nudge, and we cleared the rock and finished the job.

The achievement of this job was all about body mechanics. Bringing my deadlift form to the task was notably a success. Having suffered back injuries in the past, I am astutely aware of the importance of good form and mechanics. All it takes is an over-reach, twist, or pull and we can be laid up for days. All of us are learning proper form and paying close attention to how we move through our exercises and hopefully bringing this same awareness to our everyday lives. Proper technique, from start to finish, is essential to staying injury free. So when do our movements start?

Pop Quiz Answer! Our kettlebell exercises do not start on the first swing. They actually start when you walk over to the cluster and choose your weight. Too often we see people grabbing a bell sideways, or with a rounded back. This is an invitation to injury. Treat the initial pick up as though it were a deadlift- stand near the bell, slight bend in the knees, hinge at the hips, back flat, inhale and press through your heels. The same rule applies when selecting your dumb bells for box squats, presses, weighted lunges, or re-racking your plates after bigger lifts. Keep good form even during your prep and you minimize the risk of injury. Bring this good habit to your everyday life and you save yourself a lot of backache in the yard, on the lake, or even with a bag of groceries. There’s still a few weeks left for hammock time, and as long as I am getting in and out of that safely, these should be good.


New Workouts, Better Progress

This week on our walk around Beauchamp Point in Rockport, I pointed out to Hunter that the wind was coming from the south. This southerly breeze is a tell-tale sign of summer coming. As a sailor this is a welcomed change, one that brings new opportunities and new activities for the months ahead. This change in my routine keeps me engaged, challenges me, and is exciting! You might have noticed that we changed routines at the gym this week too.

One of the luxuries of going to a gym that offers group classes is the advanced programming. I love not having to think about my workout routine. I never have to walk in to Hybrid Fitness, look at the weight room and say, “What am I going to do today?” At Hybrid we have a team of trainers who puts together our workouts for us. Thank you!

Improving our fitness and gaining strength both come from a consistent routine. Our muscles adapt as we challenge them, whether that is through heavier load, higher reps, or faster cardio, and this is where we get stronger. But we cannot achieve these gains by doing the same thing at every workout. Switching to a lighter load, fewer reps, or a change of movement overall is necessary at certain times. Just when you were used to last month’s routine, we mixed it up on you, didn’t we?

Why do we do this?

  • Build new muscles:

Recreational exercisers (that’s us), can build a little bit of everything and be physically ready for anything. Rather than training only one part of our body we can share the love and build powerful legs, a strong upper body, and our endurance through a variety of exercises.

  • Move off the Plateau

My favorite reason for change is avoiding the plateau. Once we do something over and over our bodies get very efficient at it and we eventually adapt, which means burning fewer calories and not experiencing strength gain. Mixing in new movements makes us work harder and progress more.

  • Prevent overuse injury:

When we do something over and over we are more likely to experience a repetitive strain injury. Changing it up, gives our joints, muscles, and connective tissue a chance to rest. We are training for life, and this is why we want to have a well rounded training program. We do not need to over-emphasize any specific muscle as though we are an Olympic shot-put champion.

  • Prevent boredom:

This one is obvious, but important. If we aren’t having fun, or feeling challenged, we will lose interest. Mixing it up keeps us coming back for more!

With our Hybrid workouts we go from high volume and low intensity to develop our foundation and build our muscles, and then we progress to low volume, high intensity where we are reaching our top performance in those movements. As we hit that peak we move on to other movements and develop a new muscle group. Through these cycles we are reaping the benefits of our hard work, and as clients, we don’t have to give it a second thought. Workouts that have their own winds of change~ What a luxury!

Personal Development

Strong Moms for All of Us

Recently I wrote a list of the people I admire and their attributes. This outline serves as a reference for my intention, what inspires me, who influences me, and what qualities I value in life. My list includes my mother who is patient, compassionate, present, peaceful, and a good listener. I also included many of my mom friends from the gym who I see as resourceful, dependable, self-reliant, knowledgeable, loyal, and independent. These qualities inspire me everyday. Life throws a lot our way and the moms in our lives are amazing role models for all of us in how to handle what comes at us, with grace and ease. I feel very fortunate to be part of a community that includes many strong moms. Your strength is not just in your deadlifts and back squats, but also in your successes and struggles, your personal daily prs and your ability to show up and do your best, just like you do at the gym.

Who is on your list, and what are the qualities you admire?

Motivational Personal Development Strength Training Uncategorized

Healthy Fear and the Seduction of Deadlifts

Growing up, our neighborhood sentinel stood watch from his front porch, alert and ready to seize upon any passerby. His bark echoed between the houses, and we were dutifully warned by all the adults to give him a wide berth. He was a troubled dog, with a mysterious past. I imagined his face behind the screen door, an angry pairing of daggered teeth, slimy, dripping gnarled lip, and dark, menacing eyes. On our side of the door his swift canine canter would break into a full-speed sprint across the lawn, a black blur with a single glistening highlight at his flapping jowl. In our young minds it became a survival art to navigate to each other’s houses and back without waking the beast. Palms sweaty, on tiptoes, we’d walk in pairs with one suspended breath from the edge of his property to the next, one eye on the door, and one eye on the safety zone. From paper boy terror, to cyclist wounds, the dog’s ferociousness became legendary and walking by his house was no longer an option. Fear’s invisible hand guided us like marionettes; first one house away, then eventually two, and finally, we never walked within three houses of our local, furry vigilante. Our neighborhood boundaries of safety were prescribed, our path and playground dictated by a healthy fear.

Practical fear serves us well when it keeps us safe; it is a self-defense mechanism. With that in mind, I listen to my fear, but I try not to be a marionette in its hand. The dog is long gone and I have since left my neighborhood, but my boundaries of safety are always being established, informed by the combination of my experiences.

About 8 years ago I sprained my hip lifting a crate of artwork that weighed 220 pounds. I was immobile, and needed help to do even so little as tie my shoe. I was in agony not just from the pain, but because of my dependency on other people. As a “strong, independent woman,” being stripped of my capability, stripped part of my identity, and it was unnerving. After weeks, even months of recovery I operated in a newly defined safety zone. My boundaries included lighter lifting, even baskets of laundry were questionable, and I NEVER approached 220 pounds. The number itself invoked a visceral response, sweaty palms, stilled breath, as if 220 was my new ferocious beast just around the corner, whose bark echoed between the houses.

There has been a lot of growth in the last eight years, including learning how to be comfortable relying on other people, welcoming new definitions of my identity, and being more fluid with my ideas about safety, comfort, and risk. Despite the growth and awareness, strength and (a reasonable degree of) independence continue to be a priority for me, as made obvious by my work at Hybrid Fitness. These last few weeks with deadlifts in our workouts, I’ve been staring down the dog of 220. It has been waiting for me around the corner. I’m perfectly comfortable and safe “2 or 3 houses down” in the 190-200 range, working on my form. I can stay here quietly, but honestly, there is something seductive about the deadlift. And for all my convincing of myself that I am fine to steer clear of 220, there is a powerful part of me that wants to tame the beast, to walk right up to it and have it eat out of my hand.

I think a lot of us share a love of the deadlift. It is a movement that is new to many of us since joining Hybrid and at first may have seemed inaccessible or intimidating. But many of us convert after walking up to that bar with those big weights, squeezing our glutes, driving our weight through our heels, popping our hips out and our chests up, and BOOM! We’re deadlifting and going back for more. We use this movement to measure and express our comprehensive strength and power, and we celebrate this success.  In strength training, we learn to trust the process of progression. We learn technique; we get better; and we get stronger. While I have been milling around in my safety zone these weeks, I have reinforced my technique and gained strength. This progression led me to my next step.

I’m standing in the front yard of 220, its gnarled lip and frothy mouth inches from my own. I know I can choose to go home, but I chalk up and let my body do what it knows how to do. I walk right past my own imaginary boundary and dance my way to 225. Fear is not even in the room, not a single shadow of an echoing bark.

In order to progress I had to think about what message my fear was sending. Was I the marionette of fear directed by arbitrary boundaries, or was the fear protecting me from doing something harmful? As soon as I knew I could handle what I was doing, I did it. I made sure there was no ego, no bravado, and it wasn’t about anything other than my own strength in that moment. The arbitrary boundary dissolved as I allowed my knowledge to surface. Listening to fear in a practical sense protects us from certain dangers, while trusting our experience frees ourselves from other types of fear. What are your growling dogs and 220s? Is your fear good self-defense, or is it something to face and move past? Explore the difference, and dance yourself safely to the best version of you!

Exercise Tutorials Motivational Personal Development Strength Training Uncategorized

Why is my trainer happy that I’m not at the gym?

When I broke the news to Hunter that I was going to miss class because I would be out of town, he was so happy for me. I joke about my perfect attendance when I sign in at the gym, but my commitment to wellness, all kidding aside, is a priority. I’m not just a fair-weather exerciser. So when I lamented I’d be missing class because I was traveling I was surprised by his response. “Great,” he said, “Go do what you love.” My first response was, “Aren’t you disappointed I won’t be keeping up with my workouts this week?” And he simply reminded me, “Dorrie, you don’t come to the gym to come to the gym.” What a simple, brilliant, statement.

I don’t come to the gym to come to the gym.

Like any of us, I come to the gym for all sorts of reasons, many of which support my mission to be healthy so I am able to give to my community and to live a full life. This month at Hybrid Fitness we are talking about why we do things, so I wanted to take a look at the exercises I do and why I do them. I don’t just deadlift so I can walk around town and deadlift. That would be weird! All of these movements improve my overall strength which in turn support me in being able to give the most of myself and have a full life. Of course I love the big, complex movements and the measurable gains of the isolated movements, but today I want to talk about what keeps it all together-the core. This is the foundation of our exercise regimen.

What is our core?

Our core is made up of a series of muscle groups, including the upper and lower abdominals, internal and external obliques, lower back muscles, hip flexors, pelvic floor, and I like to include on my list, the powerful glutes.

Why is core strength important?

These muscles provide a framework of support for our inner organs; they protect our back; and a strong core improves balance and stability; promotes better posture; and lessens our risk of injury. We don’t just need a strong core to be able to protect our back or have balance at the gym. A strong core helps us shovel snow, carry groceries, help an injured pet, carry bags of mulch for the garden, hike a mountain, put a suitcase in the overhead compartment, tie our shoes, cross the deck of a moving sailboat, or hold a child in our arms. A strong core impacts our lives every day.

How do we strengthen our core?

The following core movements are the favorite five at Hybrid Fitness. These are all body weight exercises. If you find that you might miss a week at the gym because you are off doing what you love, you can always do these core strengthening exercises on your own.

  1. Plank- targets the upper and lower abdominals and the glutes
  2. Russian Twist- targets the obliques
  3. Superman- targets the glutes and lower back
  4. Dead bug- targets the pelvic floor and promotes hip stability
  5. Glute bridge- targets the hip flexors, the pelvic floor, and fires up the glutes

While I don’t have to know all the what, why, and how of the exercises, I think it helps. Giving your body the cues to engage certain muscles sets up a pathway from your brain to the muscles in a way that supports them. Paying attention to building your core through these movements helps you put the extra effort and intention into those twists or lifts rather than just going through the motions. Knowing why your core muscles matter for you can help keep you motivated to do these motions as much as knowing why you come to the gym. Remember you don’t just do planks to do planks, and you don’t just come to the gym to come to the gym.