action giles

Things I do at the gym.

In more oddities from my life, today I got a sports massage for the first time. This is unlike spa massages, which are all about the relaxing music and the hot stones and the scented oil. For one thing, this happened after my workout, so I was wiped and sore to start with and not all meditative and newage. Let me start by telling you all about that, because I need a writing warmup and maybe it'll amuse you.

What did I do to wipe myself? Nothing special. I started with 30 minutes of warmup, stretching, and foam rolling to get my muscles ready to move. I spend a lot of time on hip and ankle mobility because so much of what I do these days involves squats under load. I didn't squat much today, though. Today I did a barbell complex. What's that? It's a sequence of movements done with a single barbell, where one movement flows into the next. You don't put the barbell down between movements. You can do them with dumbbells as well; there are lots of variations to try. One well-known one is the bear complex, so-called because it's a total bear to do. Alwyn Cosgrove, who provided the workouts for The New Rules of Lifting for Women, also devised a set of barbell complexes for overall fat loss and metabolic conditioning. Here's somebody doing one of them. I've been doing one of his complexes every time I work out recently.

The New Rules of Lifting for Women is an excellent book, by the way. I highly recommend it to anybody thinking about starting an exercise program. Don't screw around on the elliptical machine; do something that works instead. I could rant on this topic for a long time, however, so I will restrain myself and get back to the workout…

Barbell complex B today. Load up a barbell with a fairly light weight, one you'd normally consider too light for serious work. Pick up the bar. Do a Romanian deadlift (sometimes called a stiff-legged deadlift), then a hang clean, then a front squat into a push-press (sometimes called a "thruster"), then with the bar in the front rack position, do a reverse lunge on each leg. Then, without putting the bar down do it all again. And again.

I did this with a 55 pound load. 6 repetitions of the sequence. 60 seconds of rest. Then repeat it all again for a total of 5 sets.

This is where the sweat comes into the story. By the fifth set, I was dripping with it and breathing about as hard as I ever do. This isn't a strength exercise. I can lift that weight with one hand if I want. This is a metcon: it builds endurance.

(I couldn't find any video of women doing the complexes, by the way. Usually Crossfit videos come through with women doing them alongside the men, albeit with atrocious form and with the usual idiot stopwatch. But not this time. Alas.)

I will now tell you about what I was thinking about while I was doing this complex. I wasn't thinking about how tired I was or how bad my lunges were in that last set. I was thinking about my left pinky finger and my thumbs. Why? Because earlier in the week I'd done a similar complex using one of the brand new barbells at the gym. The new barbells suck. They have a very sharp knurl on them. I wasn't using chalk or anything, and of course you never lift weights with gloves. (You can't feel the bar to grip properly. If you see somebody wearing gloves to lift, you're watching somebody who isn't serious. If you want to avoid building calluses, use chalk on your hands instead.) The knurl chewed into my thumbs right where the bar rubs as you shift grip to move from the rack position to the pressing position. That was on Wednesday. I set up on one of the good, older bars today instead, one with the knurl rubbed down in the right places. But it wasn't enough: the first set finished the job and ripped open the blisters on my thumbs.

This is sort of okay. I need to build some callus just there. But it's uncool to bleed on the bars. I finished the workout with athletic tape wrapped around my thumbs. I'll pre-tape before my next workout.

My pinky is another issue. On Wednesday I gave myself a blister on the last joint and I couldn't figure out how the heck I'd managed it. Today I figured it out. Er, how to explain. I was catching the clean in the front rack position but my left pinky was escaping from under the bar. But it needs to be under the bar when I press up, so it had to shift back, and when it was shifting it was rubbing on that effing stupid sharp knurl. Hence the blister. The fix was for me to clean up my rack position and keep the pinky with the other fingers underneath the bar. Voila! No more rubbing.

So I was nice and tired from Cosgrove's Annoying Complex B. Time to deadlift!

The deadlift is one of my favorites. It's a display of raw strength that works your entire posterior chain from your neck down to your calves. Even your biceps get into it. You load up a barbell with a heavy weight. You crouch down with a flat back, grip the bar, and stand up again holding it. You're using the biggest and strongest muscles in your body to stand up like that (glutes and hamstrings) so you can get some heavy weight on that bar. My max deadlift is 275# and I'm only an intermediate lifter. The brick-shaped men who do this in the powerlifting sport get going at 500 pounds and up.

I didn't lift 275 today. I was already tired from the complex. I did three sets of five reps, starting at 185# and ending at a mellow 215#. If I were making the deadlift my main event for the day, I might start warming up at 215#. Not today, though.

Then I stretched some more. I walked on a treadmill for 10 minutes to let myself cool down. I took a fast shower. Then I got that massage.

I got it right out there in the middle of the gym on the tables people use for stretching. The guy who did it is one of the personal trainers, not somebody who works in the spa attached to my gym. (This is Club Swank not Club Funk the climbing gym. I let my membership lapse at the climbing gym.) He warmed up and stretched before he started working on me. I think it was an athletic thing for him.

Sports massages, as I mentioned before, are not relaxing affairs. You're supposed to relax during them, because you want your muscles mellowing out, but it's hard to stay chill when you're in so much pain. Yeah, pain. Because this guy sought out the sore spots and then dug right into them. "How's that spot?" he'd ask, even though I bet he already knew what I was going to say. "Four on the one to ten scale," I'd say. "I'm gonna apply some pressure here." And he'd lean on it. Or rub it. Or pin the muscle in place and move my arm around instead. He would dig in deep, too. And it would hurt a lot and then there'd be this magic moment when the muscle released and relaxed and it would just stop hurting.

Wild stuff.

Spots he worked on: traps, shoulder girdle overall, lats, pecs. So many sore spots, oh god. My pecs are still sore to the touch where he dug into them. I wonder if I'll have bruises. My traps, sigh, I don't know about those. They're a constant problem for me. They are very strong (thank you deadlifting) and they want to volunteer to help in all sorts of movements where they're not wanted. I have to work diligently to get them to stop firing. And they're all knotted up to boot. Getting them to stop pulling my shoulders into my ears was the goal of the massage. I think it helped. Maybe. Ask me tomorrow.

After that I went home and made myself a smoothie with frozen cherries, yogurt, almond milk, and protein powder. Next I'll eat the entire contents of my refrigerator. If you watch me eat post-workout you'd never realize that I've lost 30 pounds without trying to lose any weight all doing this.

So, there you have it! My hobby has me sore, bruised, tired, and with bandaids all over my fingers. Don't you want to do it too?
  • Current Music: SoundLift: Long Way Back (Original Mix)
Ah, deep tissue massage! My massage therapist friend works in a spa, but does therapeutic stuff, too. She often talks about needing a massage herself after doing one.

Next I'll eat the entire contents of my refrigerator.

*snort*

Like after slaying, eh?

That smoothie sounds yummy, btw.
I've had maybe two massages in my life, and the previous one was the mellow kind. It didn't do much for me. This, on the other hand, was a whammy. My shoulders feel great now, several hours later. I asked the guy what he called what he was doing, and he called it "sports massage". I will read up on deep tissue massage as well!
Massages freak me out, but the few times I've been with my friend and my shoulder/arm have really bothered me, it took her five minutes to fix. Gotta love that!