I’m in the middle of my first real injury, and it sucks.  I was teaching a friend to swing kettlebells last week; did a warmup with him, showed him a few example swings, then sat back and coached.  After we finished and cooled down there was a slight twinge in my left spinal erector; by the time I got home it was a big twinge.  The next day it had totally seized up.

To be honest I don’t know what it is – a pull, a strain, a sprain, a spasm? – but it hurts a lot.  Sudden movements literally take my breath away, and even sitting still there’s a constant throbbing.  When it’s really bad there’s a mild burning sensation around the base of my spine, and stabbing sensations into my left hip.

So, I’m being sensible – no exercise at all, plenty of heat treatments (there’s no inflammation as far as I can tell, so no point in icing it), and trying to stay mobile.  The worst thing I did was get all the kettlebells out of their storage cupboard for class on Saturday, which made things approximately 17 times more painful, so until I’m better I’m trying to not even lift a shopping basket.  I’m going to visit my mum on Thursday, which will involve a 10 hour train journey.  Need to pack extra pain pills…

But just to end on a positive note, the guy I was teaching when my back went took very little coaching – as a former group fitness instructor he had an inate understanding of how to move, and even started correcting his own technique within a few minutes.  “Used my back that time…too much knees…not enough hips.”  When I showed him the clean he immediately saw that he had to “control the swing”, which is really just another way of saying “tame the arc”.  It was a real pleasure to coach someone who engages their brain and really gets functional movement 🙂


Core strength (or lack of)

I really, really hate planks.  They show up what I consider to be my biggest weakness – my static core strength.  I see all these women come into the gym who don’t train much (or at all, really) and they can hold a plank for what feels like hours, whereas I’m beginning to struggle at 30 seconds and by 40 seconds I’m swearing and shaking.

It’s frustrating, because I think my dynamic core strength is pretty good, or at least satisfactory; I can windmill a 20kg kettlbell fairly comfortably, and find it’s shoulder stability that begins to fade well before core strength.  I can also snatch a 24kg kettlebell, and that is definitely a core-intensive movement!  And just to top it off, I really enjoy exercises like Russian twists and wood chops, especially dynamic chops with a lunge added.

On the bright side, matters are improving – just a little too slowly for my taste!  When I started Phase 2 of the New Rules I could only manage around 20 seconds, now at the start of Phase 3 that’s more than doubled to 45 seconds…but that’s still only half of the 90 seconds required by the programme.  I’ve been meaning for months and months now to try and get to some pilates classes, and I should really do that because I think it’d do my core a world of good.

Just need more hours in the day now!

The free weight spectrum

We’ve all seen some weird stuff in the free weights area, from the slightly odd and the wildly hilarious, to the downright dangerous.  Sometimes there’s just so much (and I hesitate to use this word, because I hate it) ignorance on display.  Sometimes you’ll see something really interesting that looks effective and fun.  My workout the other day looked like someone had set up a little panorama to illustrate the spectrum of duh.

At one end of the free weights area is the Smith press machine.  Not my favourite bit of kit, but one of our PTs (speciality: biomechanics.  The guy’s a genius)  was using it and getting what looked like an awesome workout.  He had the bar set only a couple of feet above the ground which confused me at first.  But as I watched, he did a set of pushups, then flipped over to use the bar to do a set of pulls in a kind of reverse pushup position.  Finally, he stood up and did a set of burpees.  Quick, efficient, whole-body workout.  Awesome.

Then there was me.  I was plugging away at my New Rules of Lifting for Women workout; not exactly original, but a well-designed, effective workout.

Next up was a guy doing set after set after set of dumbbell chest press.  It’s obviously an effective exercise, but do you really need to do 20 sets of 20?

Next to him was a group of kids doing basically the same thing.  We’ve all seen ’em; they hang out in packs, doing more posing and showing off than actual training, and the amount of noise they make is apparently the best indicator of an effective workout.  They had a bench and a pair of dumbbells that was obviously too heavy for any of them, but macho pride meant none of ’em was giving up.  Macho pride also meant that the grunting, swearing, cheering, clapping and general egging on was deafening.  Joy!

And finally, at the “duh” end of the spectrum.  The squat rack is tucked into the very end of our free weights.  There was one guy using it, who looked like he knew what he was doing…until he set up an empty Olympic bar in the rack, and started to do bicep curls with it.  Sigh.  I have no words…