Tag Archives: strong

Serotonin, Dopamine & Endorphins

Serotonin is a mood booster

Dopamine is a pleasure hormone

Endorphins block pain

Mine are broken.  My mood is apathetic & my dopamine and endorphins have gone on holiday I think, or my remaining serotonin killed them before killing itself.

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I’ve spent days trying to convince myself that talking about mental health is ok, and not a  glorified excuse for attention (thanks, brain!) It feels almost wrong to discuss it freely, like it’s still a taboo & when people ask how you are, they don’t actually want to know; they’re just being polite – this is my current perception of people in general at the minute.

I have depression – a chemical imbalance in my brain that has essentially switched me off.  You seen Inside Out? Where her core memories switch off?  It’s kind like that….sort of. but not really.  Everyone’s experience will vary & this is probably why I put off seeking help for as long as I did – if you read old posts on here, there’s definitely a few that have underlying tones of something not being *quite right* for me.

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Sadness is too sad to walk

However, my blog is not a mental health blog – it’s about my journey through fitness/strength.  I’m aware that you mindset has a lot to do with how you progress, which is the main point of this post……here comes the part that some may not agree with, however the perk of one’s own perceptions; amirite?

A while ago I wrote about how fitness quotes/memes for the most part irritate the living daylights out of me, I thought I’d gotten past that but I now know that I haven’t.  They seem to trigger something in my brain that makes me irrationally anti-motivation.  The buzz words that surround those whose lives are engulfed by the process of becoming stronger and leaner fill me with something that I cannot coherently explain.  I want to scream and shout that not all people think that way & just by saying something doesn’t mean it’ll happen – regardless on what some “fitspo” instagrammer has told you, it simply isn’t the case.

  • The difference between where you are & where you want to be is you!
  • You can be it, if you believe it- you can achieve it
  • Tell yourself you can & you will
  • Focus on being positive

When I started my blog a little over a year ago I hated the above sentiments. However, my personal drive to improve myself meant I chose to ignore them, or sometimes I might have even possibly believed a few – there’s plenty of motivational posts on my blog. That doesn’t mean I’ve aimed them at anyone in particular, that’s just how I felt at that specific time….all the while there was a belligerent part of my brain screaming, silently into a pillow. NO. NO. NO.

No one ever seems to want to talk about what happens when the above sentiments are interpreted as hostile. I’ve been to the gym three times in three weeks.  Do I care? No.  Do I feel bad about it? No. Will reading positivity garbage on line help me get back into my gym routine? No.

I believe that I should be able to teleport to wherever I want to go…..Does that mean I can? No.  What if I focus that I positively believe that it should be achievable, will that make it happen? No.  SO WHY SPOUT THIS STUFF ONLINE?!

That seems a little extreme doesn’t it? Well, what about those who want to do something fitness related, who have tried in the past but given up for whatever reason.  Is reading the positivity going to help someone who is in a dark place go back? I don’t think so.

I have a huge, huge vexation with telling people to be positive – you’re essentially forcing your discomfort of someone else’s unhappiness/numbness/apathy away & life doesn’t work like that.  Ever told a boy that he shouldn’t cry? You’re forcing them to hide their emotions, to block the negativity that they feel instead of talking about it, or allowing them that moment to be vulnerable & at one with how they feel.

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It’s ok to break.

It’s ok to not be happy.

It’s ok to not smile.

It’s ok.

I’ve been hiding my mental state for probably longer than I’d like to admit. I’ve put my woes to a backburner & chose to forget about them, I’ve not acknowledged the spiral in my head & how lost I have felt at times & how I felt like I was drowning in a swathe of emotions that no one wanted to talk about.

I know the gym* & personal trainers are not a place for therapy or qualified to help you in dire times of distress – that’s what counsellors & shrinks are for.  I’m also not saying that you should expect this kind of service from your fitness professionals, what I am saying is that “sucking it up” helps no one.  The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over & over again expecting different results – so even if you train enough to keep your dopamine & serotonin levels high, don’t neglect your feelings on an intimate, almost subconscious level.  Showing the world you feel ok & actually being ok are two completely different things.

Also, if you ever tell someone that you feel sad/empty/upset and they tell you to smile, be positive & to get over it, take a hint from Bronson:

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*The gym is a great place to destress & exercising can increase your dopamine levels but it’s not going to fix the issues inside your mind

 

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Drop It Like a Squat…..

Wait.  That’s not how the song goes is it?   I don’t know.  *shrugs*

Anyhoo.  Today’s lesson kids is all about the SQUAT.  SQUUUAAAAAAAAATTT!!!! Oh, dear lord.  Why?   Why are you talking about that most (imo) discussed move in the gym?  Why discuss the elephant in the room that is “The perfect form”

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Just like “The Perfect Form”

I spent a year with Andy, PT extraordinaire & lot of our sessions were focused around squats; he mentioned not taking videos of clients because as soon as you do & post it on-line everyone has an opinion about whether their form is correct or not.  Helpful, you may think?  Yes, it can be from time to time…..the more stringent of moves can definitely benefit from opinions of others & I guess, that from time to time a form check on a squat can be advantageous too – however everyone has an opinion about whether your squat is correct or not.

Unless the person giving you feedback knows your bodily mechanisms – such as femur length, ankle flexibility, any prior injuries & how your hip joint sits into your hip socket, then they’re probably not overly qualified to give you advice.  I don’t mean that you can never ask for a form check, however there are a few things to bear in mind if you so choose to open yourself to the array of feedback from the internet (I have found myself on the receiving end of unwanted feedback, however that’s by the by)

I’m not an expert & I have NO intention of ever telling anyone their form is wrong – if they ask for critique then fine, there’s a set of basics I like to adhere to:

  • Warm up! Warm up! If you can squat with weight, body weight squat a few reps to engage your hips. At bodyweight?  That’s fine, hold onto something or box squat to warm up.
  • Break parallel – if you can’t with a barbell squat, do box squats with a kettlebell (known as goblet squats) to know where parallel is, then move the box & work on getting lower to the ground….not to low though, you don’t want you back to curl too much.
  • Keep your feet FLAT, or if ankle mobility could be an issue, raise your heels.  You don’t need expensive lifting shoes, just some small weight plates with your heels (up to your foot ach, I’d say) keeping your toes FIRMLY on the floor.
  • Flat shoes!  Converse, chucks, Crossfit style….not squishy style running shoes.  They’re too soft for all that weight you’ll squat – if you can’t afford other shoes, then take off the squishy running shoes & squat in your socks.
  • The way I squat isn’t the same as the person in the rack next to me.  Comparing our forms to be a “cookie cutter” one size fits all with squats is outdated, incorrect & potentially, harmful.

A little insight if this is the first post of mine you’re reading – I have degenerating discs in the lower area of my spine (L4 & L5) which can rub nerves through my SI joint causing pain across one or both hips.

When I squat my toes point out & my knees go over my feet – I have long femurs (or at least from what I read online it means they’re long) A lot of people who think they’re attempting to be helpful by telling me things like I need to open my hips more, or lean a little backwards, or whatever critique they want to lay on me when it comes to squats is either, A: Ignored. or B: Retaliated – this person doesn’t know me & I wasn’t asking for their input.  Their “help” is actually extremely out of date & if I wanted my form checking, I’d be asking Andy for a session in the gym.

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This is why no two people will squat the same & why you shouldn’t expect them to.  If you can squat low & keep your knees from tracking over your feet, bravo. Well done.  If you can get “ass to grass” but your knees are over your feet?  Well done to you too.

In conclusion, you do you & don’t ask for multitudes of advice & opinions of others, too much information can be more confusing than helpful. This is why I advocate the use of a PT.  These guys are trained & should be up to date with all the latest sciences to help you prevent injury & become stronger.

This is me at work the other day, after reading a discussion about femur length on a group I wondered if mine tracked out farther than my shoulders (I tend to squat away from mirrors in the gym, so I can “feel” the movement) so I whacked on the self timer & repped out a few BW squats in the kitchen.  My position is what it right for me, it may not be right for you, but the best thing to do is to try. Don’t attempt to fit to the “perfect form” aim for form that is good, form that won’t cause injury.  Keep to the basics, don’t overthink, ask for feedback if you want it, but remember what works for one, may not be right for you.

A day of squats in the gym means it’s a day closer to deadlifts!

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Bonus last year vs this year BW squat

 


A Quick Progress Update………

I posted a progress picture earlier & Andy had some feedback for me, I won’t bore you with details but he essentially aid I’m still selling myself short.  Tonight; whilst perusing facebook I happened upon an old image that I decided to change to a progress picture instead:

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The text I added to it was as follows:

A progress picture; with a difference. This is not about weight, not about physique nor vanity or whatever. This is about my overall well-being and being able to function without grimacing in pain.

First image is from October 2013, I was in a tremendous amount of pain. Taking tramadol, ibuprofen and gabapentin like they were smarties. I was awaiting my appointment to beg for spinal surgery because I was tired. Tired of hurting, tired of not being able to carry shit, tired of waking up in the night because my back hurt.

Fast forward to now and, although the pain is still there, it’s no longer constant. It’s no longer looming over my head like a grey cloud. My medication intake has dropped to a few codeine every now and again, only if I really, really need them.

It’s not been easy and I’m no where near my goal, but I’m a hell of a lot closer than I was. I wouldn’t have got this far if it wasn’t for the support and encouragement I’ve received. “if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.”

That is all. For now.


Foam Rollers – The Modern Day Torture Device You Should Be Using

Foam rolling is a fairly new thing for me, before I moved to LSF Gym I’d never heard of them.  Andy suggested using it to help release any muscle knots from my cycling.  Sweet baby jeebus!!  It was gooooooooooooooooood but it also hurt; adding additional hand pressure just amplifies the pain/pleasure that emanates from these little rolls of plastic.  I now own my own little torture roll & have combined breakfast eating with rolling before.

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There are many types of foam rollers, some are harder than others – these hurt more & some have grid/nodule patterns on them.  When I started foam rolling I’d opt for the softer version, however the one I purchased was a medium density foam, because I’d used the harder ones in the gym and they’re evil – good evil but not something I’d want to use all the time.  The one in the image is identical to mine.

Foam rolling has a posh name; SMR meaning Self Myofascial Release.  Essentially, it’s like having a massage without paying for a therapist every day to help get blood flowing through your muscles, relieves soreness as well as stiffness.  It’s good to do as part of your warm up, however I tend to use mine if I have epic DOMS, or if my back/hips are more angry than usual.  I usually stick to IT band, glutes & have recently started doing my quads.  I need to do my lats after doing some heinous dumbbell moves yesterday.

Apparently you can use them for more than just rolling to help ease muscles – however I’m not going to comment on that as, aside from using mine as a little seat from time to time, I’ve used it for its original purpose…..sort of.  I don’t do full body rolls with mine, but I have seen people do them in the gym.  I might reach the stage where I feel a full roll is necessary before training, however for now it’s my DOMS helper.

I found this pretty helpful video on Livestrong Women for a full roll:

As she says in the video:

  • It will hurt
  • Pause if you find a knot
  • Hold your form
  • Never roll over a joint

They really are evil little devices & will probably be the most “ouchy” part of your training, but you feel so much better afterwards!  I’ll be honest, I wondered what the point of them was when they were introduced to me, but I’ve never needed to question Andy’s methods; I’ll tell him he’s mean – but he always has the clients well-being in the forefront of his mind, so I do as I’m told.  I’m glad I was introduced to the evilness of foam rolling.  It’s helped SO much!

I bought mine locally from TK Maxx, but I know places like Argos, John Lewis & sports stores sell them – you could get one on-line but I prodded and poked all the rollers in store til I found one that was a good density.


This Girl Can

Did you know approximately 2 million less women regularly work out compared to men?  Sport England have a campaign running at the minute to get more women involved in a sport.

I like this. I enjoyed sports when I was younger.  I got older, started smoking, partying & generally being lazy.  When I first attempted some sort of fitness regime, I went to an all ladies gym; I’m not entirely sure why.  Maybe I was more comfortable around women, less intimated. I don’t know.  I do know I thought I’d feel silly in a mixed gym.

Why?

My thought process changed, obviously.  However, if I felt like that, then how many other women do?  That’s partly the point of the campaign; there is no need to feel silly. Yeah, you may look it from time, to time. Everyone’s gotta learn, right??

You can find out more at: http://www.thisgirlcan.co.uk/


Either You Do It, Or You Don’t.

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Well, today has been a rest day BUT a rest day like no other!  Today, despite my thighs screaming at me every time I move (can I get a “Hell Yeah!” for walking lunges??) I decided to do a few standard squats at home. I took pictures.  Wanna see?

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So, first thing about this, image on the left is the first squat I did, image on the right is how I corrected it.  I also noticed today I do this little foot wiggle before I squat; I should film it & show you on day.

I don’t normally notice stuff like this as my PT corrects me, so had I not have taken the picture I’d have not noticed and continued with my little set in the incorrect form. There’s some conflicting info on-line; some say “Do It & Do It Properly” and others say “Doing it badly, is better than not at all” So, which is it?  Or could it be both?

Begin, but it might be wrong.  That’s okay because as you get fitter, you get better & you do it properly?

I’d have to choose do it right, or don’t do it, especially seeing as how I’m still in the process of strengthening my core; they have to be correct or I could quite probably hurt myself.

So!  FORM CHECK! Make sure your move is correct before you continue.  If you’re in the gym, go with a buddy if you’re without a trainer, or use the mirrors – be a narcissist! Watch yourself in the mirror (Be careful of joins in the glass though, one of those can be off-putting if they’re not flush to the wall) if you’re unsure, Google the correct posture for whatever move it may be. Photograph or film it & adjust as necessary.

Doing it right all the time also stops you from picking up bad habits, like as we grow we forget about squats but toddlers can do them so well!

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My youngest making it look easy in Spring 2011

It’d probably be hard to remember it for your entire life though.  Clearly something happens to children for them to forget this.  It is school? Is it?  I don’t know & I’m not up for debating that!