The workout: Hypertrophy. Week 3, day 1.
Focus: vertical push/pull + posterior leg
Total volume: 42 sets
Circuit 1: 4 sets, 8-10 reps
Circuit 2: 4 sets, 8-10 reps
Circuit 3 (Abs): 3 sets, 30-45 seconds
I always enjoy the opportunity to workout with friends. The workout feels faster, I have more fun, and having an accountability buddy is great for consistency. I recently have worked out 1-2 times a week with a friend from my PT class who has a membership with Planet Fitness. Like a lot of gym rats (I assume) I had some presuppositions regarding how my experience would be and they were not entirely positive. I’ve got to be honest y’all, I was pretty impressed.
The gym was CLEAN, like spotless clean. The locker rooms were clean. The equipment was clean….it was amazing.
The gym staff were polite and professional.
Not a single person dropped their weights or performed more than their last rep with bodily noises involved (grunting, huffing, etc.)
Weights were where they were supposed to be! There are signs every 5 feet reminding people to re-rack their weights and I got the impression it was something the staff reinforced.
It was temperature controlled. “What gym isn’t?” You might ask. I’ll tell you. Every single Gold’s location which has bought into the crossfit fad with their “Gold’s Fit” has the darn doors open in the evening so their clientele can pretend they train in Sparta or some nonsense.
Exactly zero gym bros tried to hit on me or “help” me.
The only real negative I found was in the variety of equipment. This Planet Fitness had most of your standard gym fare; however, there were no squat racks, or free barbells/plates available. This is probably due to the idea of keeping away the gym bros or “lunks.” Unfortunately for me, it’s also a nonnegotiable component.
In summary, I won’t be giving up my Gold’s membership anytime soon ( I enjoy squats and deadlifts too much), but for most people I think this gym is a great option and is surprisingly affordable.
At some point everyone has had goals that seemed impossible. Keep moving forward and eventually they will just be milestone in your rearview.
Flexibility Training – what is it and why do I care?
I used to be highly inflexible, the first year of PT school it became somewhat of a joke where classmates would practice special tests on me to see what the “abmormal” result was. However, it was something that I worked on regularly. Now I’m fairly limber, often having clients and patients frustrated at how “easy” i make things look. Flexibility tends to be an underrated aspect of health and wellness as it can contribute to movement impairments and thus injury.
What is flexibility? Flexibility is the combination of soft tissue extensibility and control of the nervous system. This allows muscular control through a full range of motion for a given joint. What the hell does that mean? It means that if you are suppose to have a 180 degree range of motion for a given limb, you can control that limb from 0 to 180 degrees of movement and back.
Why is flexibility training important? – Flexibility training is important, because most people in our society lead sedentary lives. The resulting poor posture and movement patterns increase risk for injury and at the same time decrease the efficacy of workouts. This means that one who is inflexible is not only wasting time while they are working out (let’s be honest, who has time for that?) but also increasing their risk of injury which is of course the opposite goal of health and fitness.
Please stay tuned for a video post on how to determine what you should stretch and how based on your postures.
Nicole Mims. PT, DPT
This is NOT one of “those sites” where the author gives advice without evidence or confuses their opinions with fact. My name is Nicole Mims. I am a Physical Therapist living in Austin Texas. I was an RRCA certified running coach and a NASM certified Personal Trainer before going to school for my Doctorate in PT. I plan to discuss health and wellness with a holistic perspective. My life and education have equipped me to do this. I believe that people should have access to evidence based information to better their lives. In my effort to give back, this site is free and non ad driven.
I walk many different paths in my day to day. I’m an avid gym goer, PT, artist, advocate for sobriety, dog mom, lay buddhist, and often simply a human with all the related strengths and foibles. Advice here will be fact based with resources, but it will also be a sounding board for what I’ve found to be true in my life. Some articles are just personal expression of feelings that need a way out (located under personal). Hopefully we’ll both find something we can use here.
I began this blog approximately 5 years ago, at the same time I decided to go back to school to become a Physical Therapist. I was working in the gym as a personal trainer at the time, and honestly I was miserable. I was bored, I hated selling, and I wanted the skills and knowledge to help more people and help them in a deeper way.
Saying and doing are two very different things though. I set off on my path in Jan 2013 taking prerequisites and earning volunteer hours at clinics. I applied, interviewed for, and was admitted to the PT class of 2014… I was dismissed from the program 2 months later for technical bullshit on a practical. I dusted myself off (I drank too much…another story), and I was readmitted to PT school in the cohort of 2015. This time it took. It was an adventure, there were dragons. Lots of dragons. There were many times I had to compromise, bite my tongue, and pacify egos.
In May of 2018 the Odyssey ended. I graduated and found a great job within a month. Since that point there has been an amazing shift in my life. The politics and drama of PT school are over and I get paid to help people. In summary I accomplished my goal.
In the months since graduation I have had friends and acquaintances ask how I did this. How do you go from having a far reaching goal to making it your reality? To quote Dr. Strange “study and practice, years of it.”
Seriously though there were a few underlying themes to my story and I’d like to discuss them here.
Set your goal: be specific, know when you will have achieved that goal and know what you are willing to sacrifice to do so (and what you aren’t). Know why you want to do this.
–For my case it was “I want to become a licensed physical therapist so that I can use my skills to help people while making a comfortable income.”
–I was willing to sacrifice a lot. Time away from home and friends, the better half of my twenties, and occasionally my pride.
Visualize and believe: there will be people who give up and those who will fail. Decide now that its not going to be you. If you’ve addressed the first bullet point you know what your end result will look like. When things get tough (and they will) take the time to focus on this. It sounds silly, but it is invaluable to check in with yourself and remember why you are going through whatever it is you are doing.
Maintain Focus: this goes hand in hand with the previous point. When you have far reaching goals distractions will almost definitely pop up along the way. You may become infatuated with a person, want to set another goal like “getting in shape,” or you may have doubters that will tell you all the reasons why you can’t or shouldn’t want to do, whatever it is you want to do. Remember the first two things we discussed. You may need to sacrifice that budding relationship (if they are a hindrance/distraction), keep your fitness goals small and build them slowly, or cut out the people who doubt you. It may sound severe but if a person is trying to make you doubt yourself, they are toxic and they can bring you down. Know now that you are going to miss out on things. What that means depends on your specific goal.
Set and celebrate milestones: you have set your goal, you know what it looks like and what you’re willing to do to accomplish it. Now break it down into bite sized pieces. In my case it was a set of steps that would take me to graduation. Ex) prerequisites, admission, year 1, year 2, comps, residencies, research project defense, graduation. What does yours look like? Can you break it down by time line or steps along the way? When you cross one of these off your list make sure you celebrate. You are one step closer. Reflect on all of the previous bullets. Get ready for the next step. Believe you will reach the next milestone as well.
Count down: All of the above is useless if you don’t keep the end result in sight. Sometimes it might seem like you are watching grass grow, but over time you will be able to look back and check how far you have come. If it’s possible to set a finishing date do so. If not, try to quantify what you can and then count down from there. Trying to lose weight? How many lbs to go? For me this was graduation. What is it for you?
Cross your finish line: this looks different for everyone. Recognize when you accomplished your goal. Celebrate, be proud, and then help others. (Where I am trying to be now)
Set another goal.
As a Personal Trainer and health advocate, the most common story I see about losing weight is that of the dreaded yo-yo. When clients hire you for weightloss it is necessary to impress on them the importance of diet for their success, sadly this is a double edged sword. Often people overdo whatever method of diet they choose to pursue and after initial success they see decreasing results, feel trapped, become frustrated, and then quit. I have been asked multiple times what I eat/do on a regular basis that I can indulge in that occasional pint of ice cream or dinner out.
Let me preface the following with saying that I am not a body builder or professional athlete, I am a normal woman who has found a (mostly) healthy relationship with food and exercise that allows me to stay well within a healthy bodyfat percentage and also eat out without regret.
Here’s a 3 day example of how I eat
Day 1 –
Breakfast – scrambled egg + egg whites + turkey sausage, coffee, water
Lunch- Turkey suasage links, salad, apple
Dinner – baked chicken breast, steamed veggies
Day 2 –
Breakfast – Oikos greek yogurt and 1/2 grapefruit.
Lunch – forgot to eat this day (:0)
Dinner – baked chicken tenderloins and steamed veggies
Dessert – whole fruit sorbet
Breakfast – sausage, jalapeno and cheese kolache, raspberry kolache, coffee.
Lunch – chicken and steamed veggies (again, darn you mass meal prep)
Dinner – forgot to take a picture, SUSHI!!
As you can see, not too crazy in any direction. I also ran 2 of 3 of those days and lifted weights 2 of 3 as well (different day).
I believe that keeping a fairly regular workout routine along with consistent but not extreme meal planning is what gives me the latitude to have the occasional splurge. Not consistently denying myself things prevents the obsessive eating and then guilt/denial that i feel contributes to the yo-yo dieting.
As always comments, questions and feedback are welcomed.
New month (4 weeks) means it’s time to change up my routine. Going from Strength (4-6 reps, 6-5 sets) to hypertrophy (3-5 sets, 8-12 reps). Keeping it short and sweet today, workout was a total of 20 sets and a 2 mile run.
-Run 2 miles @ 6mph
There’s a point in training where everyone hits a plateau, it may be when you stop losing weight, stop gaining mass, or peak with how much you can lift. The body is an amazing machine, it adapts to the stress we put it under pretty quickly and it takes more/different stress on the system to effect change. This is when many people get frustrated and fall off of training. So the question is, what do you do?
The answer is not to train harder, but rather to train different. Just pushing harder or working out longer will help a little, but not much. The body responds to new stresses, so changing frequently helps to keep your body adapting (and it’s also less boring).
There are many ways to vary your routine. How you do so depends on what your current training looks like and also what your goals are. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Try pick-ups and/or sprints (cardio)
If you normally do steady state cardio (same pace for a certain period of time), try changing up the pace. Alternate between your normal speed and one that is a good bit faster. Or break the total time that you do cardio up into smaller segments where you sprint for a ways and then cool back down to your resting state.
Decrease reps and increase weight.
– this increases the recruitment of fast twitch muscle fibers. It also maintains the intensity of the workout while shortening the length of any given set. You may just be surprised at how much you can lift when you don’t just reach for the weights you are used to.
Increase sets/decrease reps
– pretty self explanatory here. This increases your overall volume, but not by a huge amount and can help maintain mental focus across more of your workout. (You may also try combining this with the first strategy to increase your workout intensity )
Change the speed with which you lift
-most people lift with a pretty regular pace, 1 second down/1 second hold/1 second back up. Try adjusting this pace to increase the time on the “down” or eccentric portion of the exercise as this strength is often undertrained and is important for joint stability.
Last but not least
Change the exercises
Hopefully you already know that it is good to train all of the major muscle groups (pecs, lats, traps, delts, glutes, hamstrings, quads, abs, calves). Many people split these up to where they target a certain area or areas on different days. There are many different exercises which workout the same muscle group. For example to target the chest, one can perform flat bench press, incline press, decline press, or chest flys (among others). There are also any number of hand positions for each of those options. (Close grip, wide grip, neutral). Try alternating between different exercises or variations on your favorites. This will keep the direction of stress changing as well as alternating between some of the smaller supporting groups which you may not be addressing when you do the same old exercises over and over.
Hopefully this was a helpful jumping off point for anyone who has reached a plateau in their training. Feel free to comment or message me with questions or suggestions.
I was driving a friend of mine home and we were talking about the benefits of meditation. She asked me a question that I found very insightful. It struck me as such because I don’t think a lot of health professionals ask this question enough (or at all) which then leads to frustration with clients. “So we know what is good for us, why don’t we (as in people) choose to do it?” She then used several examples including sleeping enough, eating well, exercising, and meditating.
The first and primary reason I think this is, is that humans like immediate satisfaction. Health behaviors usually require setting aside something that has immediate gratification for a future gain. For example “I should go to bed but I don’t want anyone to spoil this episode of GoT,” or “I should get up and go workout…but my bed is so comfortable.” These non-healthy behaviors provide immediate gratification and often we don’t have to exert any kind of extra effort to pursue them.
So how do we do what’s best for us anyway? I have a few recommendations. I use working out as my example in most of the following, but I feel they can be applied generally as well.
1) Make it part of your daily plan. Ie, dont just fit your workout in “wherever.” That is the quickest way to make sure it becomes ‘never.’ The time you go to work (for most of us) is non negotiable. When someone wants to make plans your exercise time should be just as static. This is one of the reasons that group classes can be helpful. Those classes are only held at specific times on specific days. This same mindset for your personal exercise can be very helpful.
2) Write it down. A journal, a planner, an exercise tracker, or even a blog (🤗) can be a good way to track and give some tangible record of your health habits. Having an end product will add to the satisfaction you feel and help keep you motivated. I recommend recording what you do as far as workouts and the results you see/measure. For example if you realize your jeans have gotten a little big, write that shit down! That’s awesome, celebrate! You can also record bodyweight, body fat, strength gains, or just how you feel.
3) have some patience and forgiveness. Habits don’t form overnight and sometimes you will choose the unhealthy option. Beating yourself up and going into a negative mindset does not help. Acknowledge your choice, and then make an effort to make a different choice next time. It is important to learn from our successes, not just our failures. So consider what you did right then or in previous circumstances and try to apply that. When we wallow in failure there’s no joy, and it becomes all too easy to associate the behaviour we are trying to adopt with guilt or negativity.
4) Practice mindfulness. With continuing practice in mindfulness it becomes easier to say no to short term hiccups that will detract from your goals. You realize that the craving you are feeling is transitory. The wish to eat that extra pizza, stay out late with that person or sleep in on your alarm is temporary and soon will be replaced with guilt. Knowing what your habits are and adjusting for them is key.
5) Last but not least, enjoy the moment. Find the enjoyment in what you are doing and acknowledge it. This sounds hooky I know but bear with me. Too much of our time is spent experiencing the past or anticipating the future. When we are exercising or eating a healthy meal we are often not actually present doing that thing but rather daydreaming or planning to do precisely the opposite. How can we make disparate behaviors into a lifestyle without actually experiencing that lifestyle? I would argue that that is unsustainable. Enjoy what you are doing, otherwise it’s wasted breath.
Obviously I’m far from perfect but these are some strategies that work for me. Maybe you will find them helpful. If so, or if you have some advice to share, I would love to hear from you.