At home vs At the Gym

November 11, 2013

Man is this post long over due….

I “recently” (cough cough: early October: cough cough) spent some time out in Salt Lake City, Utah for work and while I was there, I had the pleasure of some of the best vegan food I’ve had in a long time and even managed to not step foot in a Starbucks once the entire time I was there (A staple for conference goers everywhere…), choosing to explore the local breakfast and coffee options instead, a personal accomplishment of mine.

On top of all of that, I had serious first for me, which was being dedicated enough to a workout to take advantage of a hotel gym to keep up with my scheduled sessions.    Since it was the first time I’ve set foot in a gym other than my basement for the first time since February, I thought it’d be fun to compare my experiences between the two.

First things first: Cardio. 

I have a treadmill at home, but the week I was in Utah was the first that my training program was adding some medium intensity cardio back into the mix.   There are a few things that I came to realize.

1.  Never underestimate the value of a good quality treadmill.  I have my brothers hand-me-down treadmill in my basement, for which I am extremely grateful.  But its a rickity and wobbly machine that doesn’t have proper incline control (read:  none at all).  But I think the most important thing I realized while in Utah, is that good treadmills are a bit softer on the knees.   For 3 days in a row, I banged out solid cardio sessions which were enjoyable and a good workout and I was actually a bit sorry to see the time end.  Compare that to at home, where its painful, sluggish and slow.  Lesson learned, a) get outside and run b) save up for a decent treadmill (sure beats fighting for one at the gym!).

2.  Somewhat related to being on the treadmill, is the fact that I was willing to be on a treadmill.  One of the reasons I first started running is embarrassingly non-inspirational.  I waltzed into my apartment gym ready to elliptical my little heart out.  The only problem?  No ellipticals were free.  No problem, I’d just hop on a bike and work out (steadfastly avoiding that treadmill), but they were full also.  Strangely, the row of treadmills was empty, but people will milling about stalking ellipticals like it was their job.  So instead of wasting my time, I reluctantly got on a treadmill (and voila! A blog was born…).  The moral of this story?  Is I saw my previous self walk into that gym every.morning.   The amount of eyerolling, foot stomping and exasperated sighing that I witness simply because the ellipticals were occupied was both amusing and disheartening.  I was suddenly very grateful that I had the ability to work out in so many different ways.

Next up – LIFTING.

Oh man. I didn’t think I’d ever miss weight lifting machines as much as I have in the past few months.  I love free weights and will forever believe they are the best form of lifting.  But lately I’ve felt a bit limited with the exercises I can safely do (like heavier weights for squats), or even think about about doing (lat pulldowns, leg press, etc).  There are some quick fixes, hamstring curls/leg extensions with dumbbells etc, or front/hack squats to replace the quad targeting for leg extensions, but I have been absolutely missing targeting my back muscles or incline exercises.  Funny though, while it was really nice to use those machines (and do a proper pull up/chin up, I managed to eek out 3-5 each time (leg kicking and all), after which a separate gym goer promptly walked over and banged out about 30 without breaking a sweat – sigh.), I found I missed simple things, like my squat bar (seriously, what gym doesn’t have a barbell.   I also had the pleasure of a workout partner for the week.  Which came in VERY handy after spending hours wandering around a city and eating delicious food.  Sometimes a little outside influence is necessary 🙂

I came back thoroughly proud of my workout dedication and extremely burnt out.  As I worked through some minor jet lag and general conference/travel exhaustion, the last thing I wanted to do was prep meals, wander downstairs after work and lift  heavy.  I took a glance over my workout logs (another reason I am super glad I kept them) and realized that it had been about 7 weeks straight of very intense lifting, 5-6 days a week.  For someone who’s used to those workouts, it starts to be second nature, but for this little gal, it was definitely time for a breather.   I also glanced over my food logs and was a bit skeptical of the amount of calories I was taking in (and with the lack of cardio in the first part of the program, not burning off as much).  I did a few more calculations and reading and came to the conclusion that I was probably taking in about 500 more calories than I truly needed, which would explain my overall discontent with body image and feeling sluggish.  I was so focused on protein and carb ratios, that I completely overlooked my veggie intake also.  Instead of my clothes fitting better, they were beginning to feel a bit too tight.  Oops.  So for the 2 weeks or so after my conference, I worked out moderately, but really focused on not focusing too much on the diet. I ate what felt healthy (and much much lighter).   My natural caloric intake came back down to a far more reasonable intake amount and I now feel a TON better.  After a few days of 100% no workout rests, I kept up my workouts, but instead of 5-6 days a week, I cut back to 3-4 days a week and kept the weights a little lighter.    Slowly but surely I’m working myself through the burnt out phase.  I’m keeping an eye on inspirational sources and trusting my food instincts a lot more, instead of focusing just on numbers.  Certainly nothing groundbreaking, the body is this crazy thing that requires a lot of fine tuning when it comes to workouts.  So its just a general moving forward and tweaking as I go.  Which I’m proud of doing, rather than saying “nope! not for me, peace out, workouts!”

Now that I’m starting to feel a little more inspired, I’m beginning to pay a little more attention to my at home gym.  I’m still not convinced that I need a gym membership, so I thought I’d give a peek into how I’m getting through some hurdles I’ve found.

The Squat Rack

The Squat Rack

My biggest concern  when working out at home is safety, especially since I workout solo without spotters.  As my weights for squats went up, the need for a “squat rack” became pretty apparent.  I have two sets of 10 lb weights, a set of 5s and a set of 20s.  And anything above 25 lbs it gets a little sketchy trying to clean and press the bar on to my neck (body pumpers will know this move).  So the solution, was this rack.  It puts the bar just below shoulder height for me, so that I can easily get under the bar and not have to worry about getting the weights up and over my head.

My "incline" set up

My “incline” set up

One of the staples of weight lifting, is to target the same muscles from different angles.  Think, regular bench press vs an incline bench press. The above set up is my quick fix for any incline exercises until I get a bench that can be adjusted for different angles.  Its just my exercise ball propped against an old fridge (or wall, etc) in the basement.  Its definitely not perfect, but it works for now.

Exercise bands

Exercise bands

My last quick fix so far is the use of exercise bands for exercises like tricep pushdowns or seated rows.  The above set up is what I use for the pushdowns, if I’m doing a row, I wrap the bands around a pillar instead of a ceiling beam (which incidentally is also where I try to build up to some efficient pull ups).   The obvious downside to this fix is the lack of added weight resistance.  I do find with the tricep pushdowns that if I’ve worked my arms out hard enough previous to this exercise that the bands will be extremely sufficient in fatiguing the muscles.  But for the rows, lat pull downs, etc, I usually end up wishing I had more weight to pull.  I usually try to find different exercises that target the same muscles that use dumbbells instead.

So there you have it – that’s the current state of my at home gym, with a pretty decent set of dumbbells to go with.  I’m happy with what I’ve pulled together so far, but next up on the list is definitely a proper pull up bar, a bench and I’ve seen a few online tutorials for putting together a lat pulldown machine.  I also think I’d like to seriously look into a decent treadmill or elliptical machine.  Its definitely not perfect and I absolutely miss the amenities of a fully equipped gym, but I also don’t miss waiting for a machine (cardio or otherwise) and the added few steps of working up the motivation to get out of the house and to the gym.   Plus, you can’t beat having 2 four-legged furry workout buddies to keep you company!

Happy Monday ya’ll!

xo

p.s. How is it the 2nd full week of November already?? I’ve been doing my daily “I”m grateful for…” but keeping it private, in a little notebook that I carry with me everyday.  I’ve really been enjoying the practice and plan on keeping it up even after November is done.

p.p.s.  Thank you so much to whoever nominated me for the Mobbies ( A Baltimore based Blog award).  I’m super sorry I haven’t been too timely with posts lately.  The above mentioned burnout recovery involved some nights of complete self reflection.

 

 

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2 Responses to “At home vs At the Gym”

  1. Dominick S. Says:

    You’re a regular Rocky Balboa. Your gym is awesome and makes me wish I had extra space!


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