Saturday, December 21, 2013

Cycles

Everything cycles. I’ve gotten out of the habit of regular exercise. Every once in a while I think it’s good to take a break and go through a softening period. It allows me to fully recover and to start again fresh.

Even during the most recent hiatus, I still maintained an active lifestyle. In large part, thanks to my dog. I walk River at least twice a day and often go on short runs with him. I also get down on the floor and wrestle around for about twenty minutes almost every day. Also, during the time I wasn’t ‘working out’ I still taught Nia classes now and then and practiced my routine in my home studio. So I was far from sedentary.

But about a month ago I decided to get back into my old routine. I was inspired by seeing a picture of myself taken a few months ago and comparing that to what I saw in the mirror. It was clear that the time off I had given myself to soften up had done just that.

I know from experience that it isn’t a good idea to jump right into full blown workouts, so I gradually added things back in.

I started by joining a gym and re-establishing my weight lifting routine. I hadn’t been in a gym at all since I injured my shoulder in 2009.  It’s been a month now that I’ve been back at it, and I really feel good. I’m glad I am doing it again.

I’m working towards getting back into my four day cycle:



Day One: Rest and/or Recovery movements
On this day, I might do nothing but go for a walk and play with my dog and throw in some light stretches or gentle movements throughout the day. I don’t really set aside a time to spend in the studio.

Day Two: Yoga
This is a day devoted to a basic yoga sequence with a focus on relaxation and on preparing my body for more strenuous days to come.

Day Three: Metabolism
On this day, my goal is to increase my heart rate as high as possible, using athletic, full body movements and a strict timing protocol. I use the Tabata protocol, which is shown to be the most effective and efficient at increasing metabolism the most in the least amount of time. My work out lasts less than half an hour, not including warm up, cool down and meditation. But even including all of that, it’s still usually about forty minutes of movement, plus however long I meditate for.

Day Four: Strength
This is the day I go to the gym and lift weights. I’m using three sets each of Squats, Pull-ups, Dumbbell Bench Press, and Crunches. Each time I go in, I start with a very light set and then a second set with slightly more weight. That, plus the brisk, five-block walk to the gym and the fact that I always wear long pants and a hoodie sweatshirt with the hood up, serves as my warm up.

I keep track of the number of reps and set that I do of each exercise. I started off very easy and each day I gradually increase the number of reps or the weight I’m using on the third set. The first two sets are always the same weight. It was a couple of weeks before any of the exercises have felt challenging, since it was my intention to ease, rather than shock, my body back into the routine.

Up until this week, I was only doing the weight training. I hadn’t gotten back into the four day cycle so that I could accelerate my progress at the gym without rushing. But the last few times i was at the gym, I could really feel the sensation of being near my edge, so I felt it was time to add the whole cycle back in.

The day before yesterday I did this yoga routine
I was out of practice, but I got through it. My balance was wobbly and my mental endurance was way down, as I found myself leaving the mat after every four or five poses for one reason or another. I didn’t get upset by it or belittle or judge my experience, and I made it through the sequence despite almost prematurely quitting twice. Afterwards I felt very ethereal for about half an hour, but after I took a shower and ate, my body felt so comfortable and emotionally, I was very peaceful.

When I use my home studio, I use my video camera as a self-coaching tool. Upon watching the video of this yoga practice, I was alerted to a situation I need to address; an exaggerated curvature in my spine in both my lower back and middle back. My lumbar curve was lordotic and my thoracic curve was kyphotic. That’s fancy talk for “I was slouching”. 

But, unfortunately it isn’t only due to the fact that I was slouching in the studio. I wondered if it was a by-product of the softening period. Or maybe it was developed from doing squats with weights on my shoulders for the past month. But then I wondered if was something that developed while I was doing so much driving this past year, or maybe it is just a new postural attitude I’ve taken on gradually without noticing.

The good news is that I’ve noticed it now and now that I’m aware of it, I can correct it before it becomes a real problem. Maybe I’ll ask someone to shoot a video of me doing my squats at the gym, just to be sure I’m not using bad form.

Another thing that I noticed is that I sometimes look at the reflection in the glass doors to stabilize myself.  Mostly, I just use a soft gaze and don’t really look ‘at’ anything, but there’s something very grounding about the mirror image sometimes. I also sometimes look at the video monitor while shooting my practice. But rather than a reversed mirror image like I’m used to, what I see is the actual video image. So, for example if I see in the monitor that my left shoulder is higher than my right, I’d raise my left shoulder even higher. But then the higher shoulder would go up further in the video image and I’d respond by rising it even higher!

So... I need to not look at the monitor at the very least. And maybe consider getting a mirror for my studio.

Yesterday was the first day I added the metabolic workout back into the mix. It was rough, but it was meant to be. I was focused on learning new movements as well as incorporating my new awareness of my spinal curves. I have done this same routine a couple of years ago, so I was working on increasing the sophistication and challenge of each of the six movements. My cardiovascular system couldn’t keep up with the intensity that my body remembered being at when I had done the same movements last year. I know I’ll get there, and then improve even more, but for now, it was a strange feeling.

Today, is supposed to be Day Four of the cycle. Today I am scheduled to go to the gym and lift heavy weights. It’s 5:00 pm on the shortest day of the year and I still haven’t gone. I’ve decided to insert a special day of rest in honor of Saturnalia.

Just kidding. I’m sore! My legs, my butt, my lats, my arms. Just wrecked. It would be a waste of time for me to go to the gym right now. I’m in no shape to go in there and lift heavier than I did when I was there four days ago. I know that. But if I rested today, I feel like I could go in there tomorrow and blast it out, no problem.

And then I will go right back to the cycle, which would mean resting AGAIN the next day.
I don’t think this will happen every time I go through the cycle. I think that I was unusually sore after yesterday because it was new. My body will repair itself for me to go back and do the same thing again, so it won’t be nearly as traumatizing to me muscularly.

Today: Solstice Yule Rest of Saturnalia
Sun DAY 4 - weights
Mon DAY 1 - rest
Tues DAY 2 - yoga
Wed DAY 3 - metabolic
Thu DAY 4 - weights
Fri DAY 1 - rest
Sat DAY 2 - yoga
Sun DAY 3 - metabolic
Mon DAY 4 - weights
Tues DAY 1 - rest
etc



1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That metabolic workout is fantastic. Lot of energy spent there. Like to try that some time.
Gary