The past to now

I don’t often treat shape180 as a journal, but this is an exception. I have made major changes in my life and feel it necessary to write out some highs and lows as reminder to myself in the future.

I recently left my job of four years working for the city of Brampton. I worked as a personal/group trainer at a few different recreation centres over those years. I had the opportunity to work with diverse groups of people and gained experience that cannot be learned in the classroom.

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My experiences all involve people and the relationships I made with them. My clients were a pleasure to work with and I would like to thank all of those who helped me grow. More specifically, I will not forget the day when a couple of men from eOne Entertainment distribution centre came in looking to put a class together for their employees once week. I became their boot camp instructor, and that one class a week eventually turned into 6, with myself teaching 5 of them. Their company opened it up to their office and warehouse staff, and 2 years later I can say with honesty that it was successful on both ends.

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Although the classes were successful; Brampton was wearing me out – overpopulated, frustrating, expensive, redundant. I had lived in the same house for 27 years, only moving out at the beginning of summer to live with a girlfriend before school started in North Bay, September 8th, 2015. I had missed the classroom, and needed a way out. My relationship with me ex-boyfriend lasted about 3 years, knowing him for 5. That was over; a lot of my friends have moved; and I could not be stuck in Brampton for another 27 years.

I started the strength and sports conditioning program at Canadore College and I am fast-tracking a second diploma (thanks to my previous diploma in fitness and health promotions from Humber college). I was so pumped when I was told I was able to fast-track; things were going my way and I am not quite used to that.

So far so good! I am lucky to have my dog with me for the ride – she means the world to me. I am renting a room on a large property with a lot of space for her to run. There are 2 other dogs here – Laska showed them who’s boss so things have been going smoothly since then.

Canadore College

North Bay is beautiful and a breath of fresh air. Its nice to be reminded that civilization hasn’t destroyed all of Mother Nature. I am enjoying my program and cannot believe the difference between Canadore and Humber college in terms of population. It is not crowed here and my experience is so relaxing compared to the past. For one, I have a car and a parking pass (but even if I didn’t, I only live 2km down the road); I used to take the bus to Humber – 1.5 hours one way – and it absolutely sucked. Another reason is all thanks to Humber college; I feel educated in the subjects I am taking and I have a strong background both academically and professionally. This is also largely credited to my experiences in my previous jobs (I worked at Curves prior to the city – at least it was fitness related :P).

It’s just myself and my dog up here but thats ok, I am meeting people quickly and I am training hard like always. I have already met one very important man that I will have to write about another time.

Here’s to a new start.

LOG YOUR TRAINING

When you walk into the gym do you have a plan? Do you know your weights from the last session or do you just go on whim? Having a plan and logging your training will help you progress closer to your goals than without – no doubt.

If you exercise for “general” health and fitness, feel free to leave this page and head to Zumba class. However, if you’re looking to get bigger, faster, and/or stronger; grab a glass of water and stay a while.

WHAT TO RECORD

  • Date
  • Exercises
  • Weight lifted
  • Sets / reps
  • Tempo (optional)
  • Rate of perceived exertion (optional)
  • Additional notes (optional)

IN THE NAME OF GAINZ

Date it. You’ll need to know the last time you performed that workout so you can ensure you won’t go too long without a repeat. I’ve never put the time of day in my log but thats something you may want to consider, as you may notice that you perform better at certain times over others.

For anything to work you’ll need a plan. Make sure to have your programs ready to go so all you’ll have to do is fill in the weight and repetitions. Having a set plan is advantageous for obvious reasons. One not so obvious reason is the fact you can mentally prepare and visualize the upcoming session.

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OTHER POINTS TO CONSIDER

Tempo:

Tempo refers to the rate at which you move the weight. It is comprised of four stages – the eccentric phase (muscles lengthen); pause at bottom; concentric phase (muscles shorten); pause at top. It is shown like so – 2:1:1:1 (biceps curls example: 2 seconds to lower, 1 second pause at the bottom, quick 1 second lift with a 1 second squeeze at the top). This will be important in programs that use time under tension or slow eccentrics. Whether or not you choose to record it is up to you – but tempo is something you should be thinking of either way. SLOW DOWN POWER UP.

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Rate of perceived exertion (RPE):

The RPE scale is strange in the sense it goes from 6-20. 6 being no exertion and 20 being maximal exertion. To keep it simple I just ask my clients how they feel on a scale from 1-10. It’s another way to indicate both progress and weakness within your abilities. Personally, I take notes on how I feel that day and specific weaknesses and/or strengths I notice after certain exercises. This will help me when creating future programs and allow me to train smarter.

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Additional notes:

When listing your exercises its also necessary to take into account such things as stance, body positioning, and grip style. These will all affect the number of reps and/or weight used and will differ from their relative variations. For example, I know I can do 6 strict chin-ups (underhand/close-grip), but I can barely complete 1 strict pull-up (overhand/wide-grip).

You may also want to take into account how you feel that day; the number of hours you slept the previous night; and current mood or mindset. Remember; reaching your goals isn’t a linear path. Your success graph will have ascends and descends but the BIG picture will depict a slow but steady climb to the top; if, and only if, you stay consistent and positive. Oh – and work your ass off.

How to set it up:

There are hundreds of free programs available online, selecting one that coincides with both your goals and current level of fitness will be optimal. Some websites have plans and templates ready to print to make things even easier for you. Feel free to e-mail me though if you ever need any help.

Finally, whether or not you print it out or write it out; keep it in a (water proof) journal or binder and have it in order! Organization keeps me sane anyways and I have kept all of my training logs since I began taking this stuff seriously 10 years ago. Its awesome to look back and see my progression as well as my past training styles/programs.

Look at your plan in the gym, not your cell phone.

Keep moving.

9 Fit Tips I Wish 16 Year Old Haley Knew


1. VISUALIZE

visualize

As humans we have an extraordinary ability to “see” something that isn’t there.  When a vision is so strong coupled with the desire to achieve that picture, it will happen. I used to look in the mirror and only see what I didn’t like, I’d put myself down and then walk away feeling like a pile of shit – useless right? Now I do my best to love what I see, and then take it a step further and see what isn’t there – yet. My butts bigger, delts rounder, and quads are popping. I truly believe that this technique will have you seeing the real thing sooner than without it.

2. THE ALL OR NON RESPONSE SHOULD BE FOR MUSCLE RECRUITMENT ONLY

When a motor neuron sends a signal to a motor unit, it will contract all the muscle fibres it innervates; or none at all. Adversely, you planned an intense hour long workout but life just got in the way. Now you have 20 minutes – skip it? NO! Pick the biggest lift for that day and go hammer it as many times as you can in the time you have. The short workouts add up, as do ones that are missed, which do you prefer? Same should be applied to your nutrition, if you ate a piece of cake for Betty’s birthday today don’t use this as a reason to keep eating junk.


3. EAT FOR YOUR GOALS/DAILY NEEDS

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This one I need to do in point form because here are the facts:

  • If you want to get big, you have to eat big.
  • IIFYM is a load of shit, eat good food.
  • If you want to lean out, you have to burn more than you consume.
  • Not eating at all, or not eating all day, or going too long between meals will not help you AT ALL when it comes to achieving weight loss.
  • Lean proteins are your muscles best friend.
  • Rice, oats, veggies, fruits, quinoa, couscous are the best carb options
  • Healthy fats such as those found in nuts, seeds, coconut oils, avocado, and fish oils are absolutely vital.
  • Pick up a nutrition book, this isn’t your car we are talking about – you can always get a new car.

4. STOP WORKING OUT – START TRAINING

I WISH someone had offered me this tip when I first started to exercise. Like most, vanity and the fact I was uncomfortable in my own skin propelled me to start moving more. However when I stopped working out and started TRAINING is when everything really came together. Find specific exercises / lifts, a sport, something physical to get really good at; then plan your workouts around those moves, and others that help improve it (i.e. Deadlift: deficit sumo deadlift, deadlift from pins, barbell bent rows with torso angled at 90 degrees…).

5. TRAINING WITH YOUR BOYFRIEND/GIRLFRIEND SUCKS

Middle finger

I didn’t have time to make, never mind drink my green tea. Yet I had to wait 20 minutes for him to go through his 50 mobility corrective bullshit exercises. By then my warm up was done and that mental peak had come and gone. I had weight loaded on me before I was ready and he was totally annoyed with the fact my bar height/weights were so different from his. He’d then go on to be a loud jackass and treat me like one of his juiced up buddies. Worst of all, God forbid we’d stick around to do anything extra because it wasn’t in “the plan.” Needless to say we don’t speak anymore, and the fact we hated each other in the weight room definitely contributed to that. Your gym partner should compliment your style of training, not completely piss you off and make you feel small. #itsmyblogicansaywhatiwant #yeaheisadouchebag  #totallybiased

6. IF IT’S FOR ANYONE BUT YOU, IT WILL TURN INTO “WORK”

If entering a fitness competition motivates you to train harder – great! If your boyfriend likes big glutes – awesome! If you have to be strong for your job – fantastic! However, the more you train for reasons other than those that hold true to yourself, it’s only a matter of time before that spark fizzles.

7. YOU’RE NO BETTER THAN ANYONE ELSE

Letting the size of your ego inflate along with your biceps is so very, very unattractive. It’s great if your new physique makes you feel like Hercules, but there is a fine line between confidence and cockiness. Please don’t turn into to one of those people that scare newbies away. It’s about overall health for most people; they don’t give a shit how much you can bench.

8. HAVE A BEER AND A SLICE OF PIZZA

Don’t misconstrue this point; I would never try to sabotage your goals. I myself am a very healthy eater. I eat to Train and I am lucky because I find true enjoyment in doing so. However, there are days when I’ve eaten all my lean protein and leafy greens but still have this gut feeling I need something more. Only something greasy will satisfy this, and without going overboard, I feel like that cold beer and slice of pizza is the punch in the face my metabolism needs once in a while. However if you post your “cheat meal” on social media, I’ll then want to punch you in the face.

9. FOOD SCALE IS A GOOD IDEA SHORT TERM

food scale

The food scale is an excellent tool to get a good grasp on portion sizes. You may be surprised that 15g of peanut butter isn’t the size of your fist (unfortunately). Through weighing my food I have learned what serving sizes look like and it was the reality check my eating habits needed. Unfortunately it got to the point where I felt like I had to weight everything, all the time. This is unrealistic unless you plan on busting out the scale at restaurants, and it’s a habit that can eventually turn unhealthy. Learn how to “eyeball” it and only use the scale if it’s really needed.

APPLE CIDER VINEGAR

ACV 1

APPLE CIDER VINEGAR

ACV is a delicious addition to salad dressings, homemade pickles and marinades; but I have reason to believe its benefits well exceed that of taste. I find myself recommending ACV to friends for a variety of reasons, and I too make the up-most use of this type of vinegar.

AVC – What is it?

Apple cider vinegar is produced from cider or apple must (crushed and aged apples), which are fermented until the sugars turn into vinegar. The unfiltered cider contains the “mother of vinegar”, which is the part that contains the most benefits.

ACV is a natural bacteria fighter containing minerals and trace elements such as magnesium, phosphorus, chlorine, sodium, sulfur, potassium, calcium, copper, iron, silicon and fluorine. It is brown-yellow in colour and has been said to hold many benefits including weight loss, acne, digestion, acid reflux, cholesterol, constipation, heartburn and possibly even help fight diseases.

AVC – What I use it for:

DIGESTION

One reason I use ACV is for digestion. Simply put, it makes my stomach feel better. I mix one tablespoon in a small glass of lukewarm water and drink it prior to a meal and/or after eating.  ACV can help stimulate Hydrochloric Acid which is responsible for breaking down food. The better you breakdown food, the more your body can absorb and make what it needs from that food. In addition, if you are someone who suffers from an underactive stomach and experience bloating, cramps, gas, belching or get the feeling of being “over full” after a meal, try ACV. Mind you, if you experience those symptoms after eating an unhealthy meal, I strongly recommend you clean up your diet first.

FAT BURNING

Another reason I choose to swig back this bitter substance is to help my body burn fat. Do I think this will help someone who is clinically obese reduce body fat? Yes, but only if it’s part of a bigger picture; coupled with exercise and healthy eating. Myself, I eat well and for my goals. Without any particular ACV 4change to my diet I noticed an improved body composition after a few weeks of drinking ACV daily. With that said, it may just be that punch in the face your metabolism needs to shake that last couple pounds. Scientifically, ACV’s acetic acid has been shown to suppress the accumulation of body fat and liver lipids. It’s also believed that its pectin may slightly reduce your body’s ability to absorb fat. If I want a real kick, I’ll add a few shakes of cayenne pepper to my water and ACV – probably better, safer, cheaper and more effective than those terrible “fat burner” pills.

ACV – What I recommend it for

Apple cider vinegar is an amazing natural substance that has said to been used to effectively treat and heal many common illnesses/ailments. Luckily for me, I don’t suffer from most if any of these illnesses, so I can’t guarantee its effectiveness. However, I have had clients and friends with some common issues and I quickly recommend ACV to relieve the following:

ACID REFLUX

An older woman whom I’ve been training for the past couple of years pops Tums like it’s her job. I keep telling her to stop the Tums and start drinking ACV! The acetic acid in ACV lowers stomach acidity; increasing its pH, which may help relieve conditions such as heartburn and acid reflux. Unfortunately, this client has yet to take my advice and continues to eat those useless chalky tabs. So please, if you suffer from acid reflux, try this and get back to me!

PSORAISIS

Psoriasis is an extremely common skin condition that causes skin to be dry, itchy, red and flaky. I’ve had friends complain about it, so I recommend ACV. Diluting a couple tablespoons of ACV in a spray bottle full of water, and then lightly spraying the affected area(s) has been said to clear up psoriasis quickly and effectively. Why go to your doctor for some expensive, smelly cream when help is available naturally and for less than 7 bucks? One friend got back to me after trying this and said the psoriasis on his scalp was gone after a couple treatments.

ACV – Other Uses

Although there isn’t much solid, scientific proof of the following, I have no doubt that AVC can also help with:

  • Acne
  • Athlete’s Foot
  • Heart Health
  • Kidney Stones
  • Nails
  • Rosacea
  • Sunburn
  • Vaginal Irritation
  • Animal Care
  • ArthritisACV 3
  • Blood Pressure
  • Gout
  • Hair Loss
  • Sore Throat
  • Menopause
  • Acid Reflux
  • Pink Eye
  • Salad Dressings
  • Toner
  • Weight loss
  • Moles/Scars/Lesions
  • Cleaning
  • Energy!

ACV – How to take it

Raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar is the only way to go! That stuff you see floating around in the bottle is the “mother vinegar” and it holds almost all of its health benefits. Shake well before using.

Start by taking 1 tablespoon of ACV diluted into a 12 ounce glass of lukewarm water. You can slowly increase that dosage to 2-3 tablespoons per day if needed. Consume prior to eating or during times of stomach discomfort.

Yes, it has a distinct smell and tastes sour. If you can’t handle it, I say stop being a suck and drink it for your health.

Cheers!!

References:

Roberts, Jeff. “12 Reasons Why Apple Cider Vinegar Will Revolutionize Your Health.” Collective Evolution. 2 June 2014. Web. 20 May 2015.

Kondo, T. “Acetic acid upregulates the expression of genes for fatty acid oxidation enzymes in liver to suppress body fat accumulation.” Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. 2009. PubMed.gov.

The Complete Power Look Program – My progress

I just wrapped up the first phase of “The Complete Power Look Program” that I picked up off of one of my favourite training sites – TNation. The first phase was 4 weeks in length and I am now transitioning into the second, with 3 phases all together.

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 WHY I CHOSE THIS PROGRAM:

  •  4 years ago I transitioned from endurance training into heavy strength training in the pursuit of lots of lean muscle mass and continual increases in strength. I build my programs around the 4 main lifts – Squat; bench press; deadlift; and overhead press (push-press/military press). This program is built around these king exercises for 10 weeks, with changes to the reps/sets and the accessory exercises every 3 or 4 weeks.
  • This program uses the front squat instead of the back squat, and the push-press instead of the military press; which I absolutely love because my spine could use a break from heavy back squats, and I will benefit from the push-press since the military press is one my weakest exercises; the push-press will allow me to move more weight and use the eccentric phase to help build strength.
  • I chose this program to learn more about proper strength training programming. The use of % RM is something fairly new to me, as well as the manipulation of the set/rep schemes each week.
  • I have yet to incorporate exercises to correct weak areas in my main lifts such as the deficit deadlift, floor press, and top-half press from pins.  Therefor, I can’t wait to see my new 1RMs at the end of the program.

 MY CURRENT 1RMs

MY CURRENT 1RMS

EXERCISE WEIGHT(LBS)
Front Squat 120
Bench Press 90
Deadlift 200
Push-press 90

WEEKS 1-4: My thoughts and progress

  • Figuring out my weights for the accessory exercises, along with mastering the correct movement pattern for new exercises, always contributes to the challenge during my first week on a new program.
  • The deadlift from a 2 inch deficit challenged me the most; the increased forward lean made it harder to sit back on my heels. With that said, I feel like my low back and quads were more taxed than usual, but the whole posterior chain benefited from an increased range of motion.

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  • Getting a solid push-press technique down took me a few tries. Learning how much momentum to use, along with keeping a solid stance took time, but I improved immensely as the weeks progressed.
  • The bent-over barbell row with torso angled at 90 degrees attacked my mid/low traps and biceps.
  • The paused front squat was a fantastic incorporation of time under tension and my quads benefited.
  • On squat day, arms remain in the front squat grip position for almost the entire workout – very hard on the wrists if you aren’t used to it.
  • The Bulgarian split squat with a front squat grip was new to me, and it just made me love the split squat even more.
  • I have already seen an increase in the size of my triceps thanks to the floor presses, and significant anterior chain development thanks to the front squat and push-press.
  • I no longer work-out; I TRAIN.

WEEKS 5-7: My thoughts and progress

  • I thought the deadlift from a 2 inch deficit was hard; and then came the sumo deadlift from a 2 inch deficit – holy shit, hands down the most challenging exercise for me this phase.
  • The wide-grip bench press initially made me nervous (not-so-good left shoulder), but I was surprisingly stronger than I thought I would be. It’s too bad my right side is noticeably weaker despite it being the more stable of the two (I’m a southpaw).
  • Deadlift from pins (pins just below knees), blasted my mid/low traps and lats.
  • Week 5 – day after push-press, my triceps were extremely sore due to the half push-press; I loved that one, along with the 1/2 bench press.
  • Week 6 – the night after the 3×5 front squats my quads and anterior delts were screaming! I continue to see immense anterior chain development and I love it.
  • EXTREMELY IMPORTANT: USE OF GUARDS OR PINS. I’ll admit, I was an idiot and actually performed a couple moves incorrectly and felt it right away. Read the whole program and make sure you understand each exercise before walking into the weight room (unlike me).
  • Week 7 – Front squats; my legs were feeling strong and my confidence was going up as quick as the weight that day. Also, I knew I had made gains because resting the bar on my anterior delts was less uncomfortable = shoulder development, woot woot!!
  • Sumo deadlift is still blowing me away (I made a lot of notes about this one, so I’m not kidding).
  • Noticeable development of my “top shelf” a.k.a. Upper Traps.
  • On average, these workouts have been taking me 30-45 minutes to complete. I stick around afterwards to bang out conditioning work such as BARBELL COMPLEXES or I practice aspects of the Olympic lifts, which I hope to soon conquer.

SIDE NOTES: 

If you have a look at THE COMPLETE POWER LOOK PROGRAM you’ll see that Christian Thibaudeau offered exercises for optional bonus work. I am always game for more, but I decided I would choose the exercises (it’s hard for me to follow a plan designed by someone else and not have a say at all). Moreover, you’ll notice there isn’t any direct ab training included in this program. I add 1 or 2 weighted ab exercises after training, but make sure not to overdue it – this program is incredibly heavy on the core!

This is me back in January of this year finally hitting one of my long term goals – 200lb deadlift. I hope this program takes that number up a notch, or two.

Could testing grip strength predict heart disease risk?

Check out this article:

Could testing grip strength predict heart disease risk?

Article overview:

– The study authors used a longitudinal population study to see whether muscle grip strength can predict the chances of getting a range of diseases.

– 142,861 people across 17 high, medium, and low income countries were Hand gripincluded in this study.

– The grip test could be useful in low income countries.

– Researches said their findings showed that muscle strength is a strong predictor of having a heart attack or stroke.

– The study suggests that people with low muscle strength may be at an increased risk of dying prematurely.

Side notes: Weight training will increase your grip strength and chances of living a longer, healthy life. It’s not about looking good at the beach, or flexing a ridiculously bronzed body on stage – it’s about keeping your cholesterol, blood and glucose levels in check; having energy to get through your day; independence; confidence; and ultimately freedom.

Obese Canadians should be granted legal protection from discrimination, professor says

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Obese Canadians should be granted legal protection from discrimination, professor says

Interesting read!

I 100% agree that no individual should be discriminated against because of their physical appearance, ever. However, I think considering an obese person as disabled is pushing it; unless there are physiological or medical reasons contributing to their inability to lose weight.

What do you think?

Some Things I’ve Learned About Core Training

mark wahlberg

  1. Core = everything but your limbs

Your abs are your abs, your core consists of all but your limbs. This means the glutes; hips; back; chest and abs are all part of the core. If your core isn’t strong, don’t expect your arms and legs to be.

  1. Heavy carries are the best for adding thickness and increasing overall strength

Waiters, suitcase, and farmers walks are some of the best exercises you can perform to increase size and strength of all the core muscles. Just grab a heavy weight in one hand, or both, and take x amount of steps. Make sure to keep your chest proud, back up straight, and shoulder blades together.

  1. Train your abdominals like any other muscle group

Planking for days or performing hundreds of crunches is boring and no good long-term; it also isn’t a true determinate of core strength. 2-4 sets of 8-12 reps of weighted exercises such as cable crunches, reverse cable crunches; barbell pull-over leg lifts and landmine 180s are your best bet.

  1. Heavy deadlifts and squats aren’t enough

I took a break from direct ab training taking on the notion that performing heavy squats and deadlifts every week were enough. Wrong!! I noticed the definition in my mid-section slowly diminishing and soon realized that isolating the rectus abdominus through weighted crunching exercises, and activation of the deep transverse abdominus with the use of such exercises as the weighted plank are absolutely vital to a good, strong core.

  1. Both anti-rotation exercises AND crunches should have a place in your program

A lot of trainers seem to be on the “anti” high when it comes to ab training, and for some clients using anti-flexion and anti-extension exercises may be the best thing for their abilities or current condition. However, in order to work a muscle effectively it should be worked in all the planes of motion it is capable of; therefor crunching is necessary!

  1. 6 packs aren’t impressive – thick, bulging 6 packs are impressive

I was younger and naïve once, I used to be so impressed with 6 pack abs. Now I’ve realised that crack heads have 6 packs; which means your body fat just has be low enough to see them, not that you’re in great shape. Now what impresses me most is a nice, thick, bulging 6 pack that can be seen even with a higher percentage of body fat. What gets me even more than this however is back muscles that are so well developed and defined I could label them.

I hope these tips save you some time and frustration if you’re on the quest towards solid and impressive core muscles. Keep Moving!!!

Lost Battle with Mental Illness

My passion lies in promoting health and fitness while helping others lead a long, happy, and healthy life. Beyond promoting good nutrition, physically active lifestyles, and consistent exercise; I am a huge advocate for mental health. As I mentioned in a previous article (Beyond Blue), this factor is often overlooked when considering ones overall health status.

Many people view psychological disorders differently from other diseases such as cancer or heart disease; but the reality is they are just as serious, and just as commonly end in death. Like cancer, there are treatments, but some begin too late and fail to save the diseased individual.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), someone around the globe commits suicide every 40 seconds. In the year 2000, 815,000 people lost their lives to suicide — more than double the number of people who die as a direct result of armed conflict every year (306,600). For people between the ages of 15 and 44, suicide is the fourth leading cause of death and the sixth leading cause of disability and infirmity worldwide (World Health Organization, 2002).

While catching up on the world’s news this morning, I came across this heart breaking, eye opening story which I felt compelled to share. A young woman by the name of Natalie recently took her life after a long battle with mental illness.

Natalie and her Mom

My daughter, who lost her battle with mental illness, is still the bravest person I know

I was more than taken back by this story, and my heart goes out to Natalie and her family, as well as anyone who has lost a loved one due to mental illness. I truly believe –as the article suggests- that psychotic breaks are not sudden, but are rather a climax of a long buildup. If the body can become ill; so can the mind. Educating yourself on topics related to mental health will help you get a clearer understanding of the diseases, and hopefully detach the social stigmas surrounding them.

  1. World Health Organization (October 2002). World Report on Violence and Health. Geneva.World Health Organization (October 2002). World Report on Violence and Health. Geneva. http://www.who.int.

Jacked Up Calves

Calf Muscles

Lately I have been totally neglecting an important muscle group that I used to hit all the time – calves.

By the time I am done my leg workout, the last thing I feel like doing is working on my calves. There’s just something about working the not-so-big muscles at the end of a heavy workout that bores the crap out of me, and I often head into it half assed, or not at all (shaking my head in shame right now). With that said, I have to change my approach and once again get excited about making those calves grow.

One of the rules of training is to exercise any lagging body parts first in your workout. Instead of waiting until I am exhausted after my workout; I am going to start training my calves first thing while I’m fresh. I can foresee this being hard for me because I’m that girl who will race you to the squat if it’s free, so putting that second will be challenging.

Also, I know that calves respond nicely to high volume. I normally won’t do anything less than 20 reps at a time when training calves and perform anywhere between 4-6 sets. That’s not to say I am going super light with the weight, I still want to make it as heavy as possibly while still being able to effectively go through the full range of motion and emphasize a squeeze at the top of each rep; if I can’t do this, I have gone too heavy (I’m talking to those people who load up 5 plates a side on the standing calf press, like wtf?).

The Gastrocnemius and the Soleus are the two major muscles of the posterior leg. Together they make up that nice bulge and run the entire length of the lower leg, connecting behind the knee and at the heel. The Gastrocnemius crosses both the knee and ankle joint, while the soleus just crosses the ankle joint. This tells me that I need to be training my calves from both a standing and seated position; hence the standing and seated calf press machines.

On another note, I’m big on angles. I know that slightly angling my toes inwards will emphasize outer portion of my calves, and turning them slightly outwards will emphasize the inner portion. I used to make the mistake of performing calf raises on extreme angles, but I have come to learn that this will prevent me from achieving maximal calf activation and likely puts excess strain on my ligaments. With that said, do not over angle your feet, or don’t bother using that technique at all; everything will be hit while keeping the toes straight forward anyways.

In my defense, I may not currently stick around to work my calves at the gym, but I do focus on them often while walking and standing. You really don’t need external weight to make those puppies grow; body weight will work wonders too.

For whatever reason, I have always been one to walk on my tip-toes, specifically while making dinner or concentrating on something while standing. I also love playing with my gate while walking and will push forcefully off the balls on my feet (especially while walking uphill) to really get my calves involved. These techniques have resulted in strong calves without the heavy weight. It also allows me to train them more frequently, which is also a great way to make them grow since your calves are great at handling high volume and frequency.

Try this Calf workout with me and let’s see if we can make some gains:

  1. Bodyweight standing calf raise 1 x 20
  2. Standing Calf Raise Machine 5 x 20-30
  3. Seated Calf 5 x 20-30
  4. Single Leg Body Weight Calf Raise (do not bend knee and use one finger to balance yourself on an external object) 2 x 20-30 each leg

Note: Do not bounce or jerk the weight at the bottom of the movement. Each rep should be done with control; slow descend (negative), full stretch, and full contraction (squeeze) at the top.