Archives for : September2013

Get the Ball Rolling

I signed on with a personal trainer a month ago. Which was unexpected for me. Because why would I spend money (and a lot of it) to have somebody show me exercises that I either already know or can look up online? I’ve had gym memberships before. I’ve built up muscle on the machines! I’ve seen complete workout guides on websites. A personal trainer would be a ridiculous waste of money.

It’s all true. But there are a few facts missing. For instance, machines are great for targeting large groups of muscles, but what about those stabilizing muscles that are required when you pick up a box (or hold an injured eagle for examination, in my case!). But if I were to use free weights, how do I know for sure that I’m doing things properly? Not to mention, I get so bored doing the same thing over and over. A trainer would mix things up, right? And finally – appointments = accountability. I can’t blow off a planned workout if somebody else is involved.

My requirements for personal training:

  • trainer has to have a degree or equivalent credentials, not just CanFitPro

    dodgeball

    My trainer of choice!

  • gym has to be close to work and not jam packed with people
  • program has to be specifically catered to me, not just a cookie cutter program used for majority of clients

I found what looked like the perfect place – a 15 minute drive from work in traffic, experienced and educated trainers, and a holistic approach with considers overall wellness rather than just working out. It’s more of a training studio in that people can’t join unless they’re working with a trainer. It’s new, and it’s lovely – the gym itself is rather industrial, with very few machines and more free weights and items like ropes and tires. There’s a spin room upstairs, and the change rooms are beautiful.

It’s not cheap. But that’s ok. I’ll pay more for quality even if I have to cut back in other areas. And let’s face it – I’ll probably save enough for a training session a week just by cutting out my usual fast food binges.

So yeah, I really like this place, and I really like the trainer I’m working with.

Admittedly, I was sceptical after my first couple of sessions. They are really into SMR (self myofascial release) which is a concept I’d never heard of before. When my original trainer, who is the owner of the gym, started me out by rolling my foot over a lacrosse ball, I was wondering if this hadn’t been a mistake. I was paying him to get strong, to get fit, to become a beast! How the hell was a lacrosse ball going to help with that?

SMR is a soft-tissue mobilization technique. The idea is that the connective tissue (fascia) that surrounds all of our muscles and organs connects our entire musculoskeletal system. Under stress, fascia can become knotted or stuck together and form dense areas of increased tension. SMR is used to apply pressure to those areas, stretching them out and breaking down the knots.

So I’m in the process of researching it. A lot of what I’m reading makes sense, and I can’t deny that I feel amazing after “rolling out” different muscles. For instance, “chest smashes” involve humping a wall while rolling the lacrosse ball across one’s chest, targeting tight spots in the pectoral muscles and applying pressure to relax them. Damn, it hurts when I find those “hot spots”, but it feels so good after rolling the ball over them for awhile.

There’s not a lot of scientific proof surrounding any of these claims that SMR can help with posture and overall body strength and balance, so I’m still not sure about it all. I just know that it does feel good to do it, so I’ll continue and see for myself.

Is it poor office etiquette to take off my shoe and roll a lacrosse ball under my bare foot while I work? Screw it, I’ve been doing it anyway. Despite the fact that our carpets are filthy – my white lacrosse ball was grey after the first five minutes.

I’ve ordered the book Anatomy Trains to learn more about the entire concept of SMR and the biology behind it. I’ll write more as I learn more!

Until then, I’ll be rubbing up against the wall and moaning.

The Devil Eats Grains

“September is no-grain month.”

This is what my trainer said to me on Tuesday evening. No conversation, no discussion, just this statement. He didn’t ask me if I was comfortable with this (I’m not) and he didn’t listen when I tried to tell him so, choosing to believe that I didn’t think I could go an entire month without eating grains. Dude, I went an entire month without drinking Coke way back in the prehistoric era before Coke Zero was invented and Coke was my crack. I can go a month without eating grains should I choose to. But there’s the question – do I choose to go “grain free”?

I’m torturing myself over this somewhat unnecessarily because I know that it’s ultimately my choice. But the truth is, I like this trainer in most other aspects. I like the gym. I’ve enjoyed the couple of sessions I’ve had so far, and I really want to continue working with him and his team. But if he’s going to push his Paleo lifestyle on me, I don’t think it’s going to work out, because I ultimately don’t believe that grains are evil.

I feel as though just by typing that I’m going to get lynched by the Paleo crowd.

I’m not going to dispute that many aspects of the Paleo diet are good nutritional practices. Eat lots of protein and natural foods, avoid sugar and processed/refined food. And – ugh – eliminate alcohol. If I followed those guidelines, I’m sure my overall health would be cavemanstellar. But I can do all that on a normal diet as well (and I mean diet in the “The kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats” sense, not the “trying to lose weight” sense). I truly believe that this is why people lose weight when sticking to a Paleo diet – it’s not necessarily that they’re eliminating grains, but more that they’re not eating junk food that contains grains and are choosing more healthy options. I’m sure I’d see the same effect if I ate a cup of whole wheat pasta with tomato sauce rather than a cupcake.

After my trainer declared Grain-Free September, I did a little research. There are hundreds of websites and articles around that rave about the Paleo diet (or lifestyle, or whatever you’re going to call it) but I saw no scientific evidence whatsoever to support this as an ideal diet. It’s all opinion. I’m not sure if I buy into the reasoning either. Who says that cavemen didn’t eat grain? Some scientists believe that they did. And even if they didn’t, why should I want to eat like a caveman? They had a ridiculously short life span. I’d be dead right now, way before I was old enough to start experiencing high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease – you know, the kind of things that Paleo is supposed to prevent.

It’s true that some people are sensitive to grains – or mostly the gluten that is found in many grains. Celiac disease is no joke, and a gluten free diet has been prescribed by doctors for decades to manage Celiac disease. If eating grains makes you ill, then for the love of God, don’t eat them. But if you can’t eat strawberries because you’re allergic to them, does that mean they’re unhealthy for me to eat?

And check this out: The Sarah Connor diet! “To aid in the body fat reduction and muscle building process, Linda [Hamilton] was put on a high protein, non-fat diet that consisted of cereal with skim milk, lean chicken for clean protein, and dry salads with lots of green vegetables.”  Mmmm. Cereal.

I’ll cut down on my grains – I do believe that it’ll help me lose weight, only because I’ll be eating less calorie dense foods, and for somebody who has issues with quantities of food, foods with a low calorie density are ideal. I don’t really want to completely eliminate them, but I also don’t want my trainer to think I’m not in this 100%. I really loathe confrontations, and I have ridiculous issues with worrying about what other people think. So despite all that I believe, despite all that I’ve written, I’m considering just going with it for this one month.

Yeah, I’m a wuss.