mental health · Workouts

Motivation.

Where does motivation come from? There is a scientific explanation for how motivation is created in the brain. The simplest explanation: dopamine’s chemical signal is transmitted from one neuron to the next, depending on the pathway of this transmitting you end up with motivation.

Of course that is not really what we want to read when we are looking for motivation, I think most of all we just want an easy to follow guide that takes us from unmotivated to motivated in a blink. I certainly wish I had more motivation, and that I knew how to keep myself motivated.

When dealing with mental health, especially depressive disorders, motivation is a big thing, or rather a big thing that is lacking. This time of year is always hard for me, for various reasons, and I struggle to find the motivation to do mostly anything. Get out bed is a chore, eat is a chore, being awake is chore.

To try to  battle it I find something to keep me busy, but mostly that ends up feeling like a chore too. It feels like a chore even if it is something I normally like (for example writing these blog posts).

The hardest thing of all is to have motivation to work out. January, for me. I believe that it is best to combat the lack of motivation by trying to press through it. It usually work if I have the will power. If the will power is lacking I usually try to involve other people, to create more pressure to see it through.

When when pressuring yourself it is also important to keep things simple, which is why I have dubbed January Cardio month (for me anyway). The important thing for me in January is that I go to the gym just for a while, even if I only hit the treadmill for 20 minutes. Anything is better than nothing, and if I do not keep it simple I know that I will just stay at home because I can find so many reasons and excuses to skip going to the gym.

Do things you enjoy, maybe do a little extra of the things you like. The selfish stuff. The “shouldn’t do” stuff. And don’t beat yourself up about it. If you feel like taking a 30 minute shower, do it. If you want to eat a box of chocolate, do it, but take ownership of that choice and don’t beat yourself up for it (because you do not want to do things that makes you feel worse).

Make lists. Write down the simplest things like “get out of bed,” “Shower,” “eat dinner” and “go to bed.” Set yourself up for success, so even things like “Tidy up one object,” you can tidy up one thing. The small goals and the check-lists help me through my lowest lows, and I write them by hand (it makes me connect more than typing it digitally). I throw away the list when the day is over, regardless if it is completed or not, because tomorrow is a new day.

Meditate. It might be cliché, but calming your mind does have a positive effect. Even if it is just for a few minutes it can help you feel more in control, more balances and make you more self-aware and open-minded. Spare just 5 minutes at the end of the day, download a free meditation app or get a meditation clip from YouTube and calm your mind for a couple of minutes.

The important thing is to find something that works for you. When you feel like doing nothing, and you keep feeling like that for days, treat yourself, make sure that you also cross something off your to-do-list and make room for quiet reflection.

That is what I do this week: I make lists and I go to the gym and work out even if I don’t feel like it, because I know it will help in the long run.

And I learned for last week, where I forgot to post Friday’s work out so I will add the three HIIT workouts I’ve written below.

Monday: 

5 Rounds for time:

10 Jumping Jacks
10 squats
5 Squat Jumps
10 Press Ups
10 Bear crawl fire-feet
5 Squat jumps

Wednesday

As many rounds as possible in 10 minutes

10 Jumping Jacks
10 squats
5 Squat Jumps
10 Press Ups
20 Bear crawl fire-feet
5 Squat jumps

Friday:

5 Rounds for time:

200 m run (if you have nowhere to run run in place for 250 steps)
10 Squats
10 Pressups
10 Abdominal crunch

Break down of each exercise and variation: 

Jumping Jacks. 

Stand with arms down your side and legs together, jump legs out while bringing hands to over head (or shoulder height depending on your shoulder-flexibility). Jump back to start position.

Squats: 

Stand with your legs hip with apart, face forwards and start the movement through a hinge in your hip before you bend both your hips and knees at the same time down into a squat position where your thighs are parallel to the floor lower. Ensure that keep your knees over your feet (don’t let them sink towards the middle or extend outside the foot). Keep your knees behind your toes.
If you have issues getting down to parallel only squat down as far as you can comfortably get back up. This is important, especially when starting out, depth will come with time and when you build up your flexibility.

Squat Jump: 

Same as above but when you press up from the squat you jump up to full body extension (you can reach overhead if your like or let arms remain where they are). If you have a bench available you can swap this exercise for box jumps where you jump up and down from the bench (remember to stand up straight on top of the bench), this will make the exercise harder.

Press up/ Push up: 

Lay down on the floor with face down. In order to find the ideal position for your  hands stretch your arms out over your head and then slide them down, starting with the elbow, until your hands are in line with your shoulders.
Depending on your strength you’d probably like to either press up, keeping your body straight keeping shoulders, hips, knees and ankles in line.

Or you can press up from the knees, keeping shoulder’s, hips and knees in line. If that is too heavy you can also do a box press up by pulling your knees closer to your hands.
You can also do press up against the wall, or a steady table, this will make the movement easier to do.

Bear crawl fire-feet

Get down on all fours so that you form a box with your body, keep your feet apart so that your knees are directly under your hips, leaving your knees at a 90 degree angle. Stand up on your toes so that the knees aren’t in contact with t he floor. Hands should be directly under your shoulders, chest should be upright and shoulders detracted. Keep your hands in contact with the ground, but quickly lift one and one foot from the ground as if running in place, try to keep the rest of your body as still as possible.
If my description is too complicated, there is a video of the exercise over at bodybuilding.com.

Ab crunch:

Lay down on your back, press your lower back down enough so you can fit one finger between you and the floor. Put your arms on your thighs. Then lift your shoulders up from the floor, sliding your arms up until your fingertips touches your knee. Ensure you are keeping your neck neutral by pretending to ball between your chin and the top of your chest.
To make the exercise harder you can move you arms to cross on your chest, place your hands or placing your hands by your ears (then make sure you are not pulling on your head with your hands as you lift your shoulders form the floor).

If you want you can post your time and rounds in the comments.

Below I have attached one of my favourite guided meditations:

fitness · Workouts

New Year. New you?

I’m going to be honest and say that I am of that group of people who think of new years resolutions as a big load of bollocks. The concept of new year resolutions is great, but most of the time you just end up making some grand gesture that is supposed to last the whole year and you are burned out by February or March. Most new years resolutions fail because they a too broad or too unrealistic, which makes the resolutions of: “I am going to eat only healthy food this year,” or “I’m going to exercise everyday this year.”

Given my view my next few blog posts are going to seem a little hypocritical, but I am a believer in change and I believe that we all can benefit from changing for the better. And I know that when struggling with extra challenges such as a mental health disorder, change is extra hard. So based on the fact that anything is better than nothing, I will be posting a low-bar, no equipment needed, work outs three times a week for the next 4 weeks. Each week I will device a blog post with an update, I will aim to have it up by Sunday, but it might sometimes end up not being up until Monday. The work outs will be posted on the Instagram page on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. the weekly blog post will be updated to contain each work out on the respective day.

All the work outs will be as intense or as easy as you want to make them as I am basing them on the HIIT-principle (High Intensity Interval training). If you need the work out to be harder, go faster, if you need to ease up go slower. None of the work outs should take more than a maximum of 20 minutes, most of them will probably be done in 10. They are short enough that if you already are following a training program you can just slap it onto the end of your program before you cool down to get some variation, and they are short enough so that time won’t be an easy excuse. Absolutely no equipment will be necessary, not even a chair, in order to ensure that everyone do them from the comfort of their living room. Though I would recommend the use of a stopwatch function on your phone or computer, so that you can monitor your progress.

My challenge to you this second week of January is to do these simple work outs three times a week and then that is all you need to do. Working out in itself is a great anti depressant, and even a short period of exercise will help elevate a heavy mood and increase your wellbeing. Even if these work outs only takes 10 minutes or 15 minutes,  any number of minutes is better than 0 minutes.

So with no further ado I will be posting Monday’s work out below:

Complete 5 rounds of:
10 Squats
10 Press ups
10 Ab crunches

Break down of each exercise and variation: 

Squats: 

Stand with your legs hip with apart, face forwards and start the movement through a hinge in your hip before you bend both your hips and knees at the same time down into a squat position where your thighs are parallel to the floor lower. Ensure that keep your knees over your feet (don’t let them sink towards the middle or extend outside the foot). Keep your knees behind your toes.
If you have issues getting down to parallel only squat down as far as you can comfortably get back up. This is important, especially when starting out, depth will come with time and when you build up your flexibility.

Press up/ Push up: 

Lay down on the floor with face down. In order to find the ideal position for your  hands stretch your arms out over your head and then slide them down, starting with the elbow, until your hands are in line with your shoulders.
Depending on your strength you’d probably like to either press up, keeping your body straight keeping shoulders, hips, knees and ankles in line.

Or you can press up from the knees, keeping shoulder’s, hips and knees in line. If that is too heavy you can also do a box press up by pulling your knees closer to your hands.
You can also do press up against the wall, or a steady table, this will make the movement easier to do.

Ab crunch:

Lay down on your back, press your lower back down enough so you can fit one finger between you and the floor. Put your arms on your thighs. Then lift your shoulders up from the floor, sliding your arms up until your fingertips touches your knee. Ensure you are keeping your neck neutral by pretending to ball between your chin and the top of your chest.
To make the exercise harder you can move you arms to cross on your chest, place your hands or placing your hands by your ears (then make sure you are not pulling on your head with your hands as you lift your shoulders form the floor).

If you want you can post your time in the comments.

mental health · Workouts

Recovering from recovery days

Weightlifting is a crutch I cling to, for better and for worse. However recovery days are a necessary evil, and my serotonin level drops without daily exercise.

I had a hard work out regime last week which ended with me needing a recovery day. Normally I work on a three split program which means a recovery day is not necessary because each muscle group gets two days recovery while I work other parts of my body. However, in a length of time, even if I change-up the exercises, this regime gets repugnant and I hit a plateau. This is why I chose to do the 4000 reps in 4 days program even though I knew I would need at least one recovery day afterwards.

Thursday was my last day on this hellfire program and Friday was my recovery day. I planned to have one recovery day it turned into three, because I simply lost the motivation to go back to the gym.

My serotonin levels were not stimulated on Friday which meant an immediate drop i my mood and Saturday was even worse but I just could not bring myself to go back to the gym.

When you have bipolar disorder, routine is everything. I have learned this over the last couple of years, but I still mess up because I feel like I am better. Routine puts an order to everything, I go to work at the same time, I go to the gym after work and I go to sleep at the same time. I skip one of them and all three gets messed up.

This means that on Saturday since I had not been to the gym in two days, I struggled to get to sleep at a reasonable time, which meant that on the time I am usually at the gym on Sunday I was still sleeping. When I woke up on Sunday I just did not see any reason to go to the gym, because it was in mu obsessive mind “Too late.” Weekends are troublesome to me anyhow, because I only work some weekends, and I have a weekend schedule: I go to the gym by 12 pm at the very latest. This makes sure I get up in the morning, the earlier the better.

Luckily today was Monday and everything resets: I go to work in the morning, I bring my bag with me and I hit the gym. I am back on track. I wish it was as easy as it sounds, but I almost did not go to the gym today because I was still feeling a constantly low mood which comes with my persisting depressive episode.

Now after working out, I already feel better, and I will go to the gym again tomorrow taking it one lift at a time.

Workouts

4000 Lifts in 4 days – day 3 & 4

I am officially done, and tomorrow will be a well deserved rest day. 4000 lifts in 4 days is completely doable, and my body is 100% fatigued from this. Not a single joint is pain-free (soreness) and today was the hardest day of all with single joint movements at 50% of 10 rep max.

I have enjoyed these days at the gym, they have been hard and I have the weak point in all my lifts so I know how to work from here. My lower back and shoulders were the losers in this challenge. The important part is that I got through it and it felt like it gave my heart quite a pump as well (the beginning of each set felt more like cardio than anything).

Will I be doing this routine again?

At this point my answer is no, this was hell, but ask me again in four months or next time I hit a plateau and I am sure this routine would be helpful to kick my muscles into action again.

Tomorrow I will have a good rest and then I will keep going, one lift at a time.

Workouts

4000 Lifts in 4 days – day 2

It is my second day in following a hundreds program for four days and I must say I was surprisingly sore from yesterday. Today I focused mostly on single joint movements doing one giant set of 100 reps of each exercise.

Today’s workout consisted of:

  • Machine Flys
  • Seated leg curl
  • Diverging pulldown (I know I said single joint movements, but I wanted to)
  • Leg extension
  • Straight arm pulldown
  • Dumbbell shrug
  • Machine row
  • Rear Delt fly
  • Triceps press
  • Cable bicepcurl

Usually I am not a big fan of machines, but they were necessary to make today’s workout. Even though today was a “light day” with lighter weights than yesterday, I am already sore, every joint is sore and no matter how much foam-rolling I have done post-workout today the soreness stays put.

Hopefully the soreness will fade some by a good nights sleep. I am halfway in this program and I really want to complete it. But I will continue to take this one lift at a time.

Workouts

4000 lifts in 4 days

It is a new week and new blog and I have looked to mix up my traditional straight sets weightlifting program for a while.

The yesterday I was over at bodybuilding.com and came across two very interesting articles by Jim Stoppani in the workout section. He had made two posts about giant sets and “the Hundreds” routine.

I have previously done some crossfit and “the hundreds routine” is similar to crossfit. So I decided that for the next four days I will go along with this crazy 1000 reps(repetitions) a day concept.

The benefit of hundreds training is that by doing a (ridiculously) long set you recruit  the two major types of muscle fibers.  At the beginning of the set you will be working the slow-twitching fibers thoroughly before the fast-twitching fibers are taking over somewhere halfway through the set. In many ways this work out should help my muscles develop and grow.

I will be following Stoppani’s set up in terms of four days work out, going heavy, light, light, heavy, but I will prioritize working my back, which makes it sort of like a giant set.

So today’s set up looked like this:

100 reps of:

  1. Bench Press
  2. Deadlift
  3. Latpulldown
  4. Squats
  5. Dumbbell shoulder press
  6. Barbell shrugs
  7. Cable overhead triceps press
  8. Biceps Curl
  9. Seated Row (I know I know, it should have been placed earlier en the program)
  10. Lateral sidelifts.

The work out started out fine with the bench press, as a woman I normally hit the bench press a bit more than I should so lifting at 50% of my 10rep max did tire me out but judging the other exercises I should have felt the burn much earlier on.

What the hundres are good for, is to point out your weak points, and I experienced this during the deadlifts. My lower back was burning (not hurting) after 45 reps. To put it this way: I really needed the lateral pulldown after finishing a hundred deadlifts.

Putting a 100 squats and a 100 deadlifts in the same program at the same day was probably a bad idea,. I managed to do a 100 squats, but towards the end I was afraid my form was slipping as I got pain in my knee. The pain did go away once I put the bar away and got a brief rest though.

The rest of the exercises went by alright, the deadlifts and the squats were definitely the hardest. And I am also glad I put seated cable row that late in my program because it gave my lower back time to rest.

As of now I am fairly positive that I can make it through three more days of a 1000 reps a day. and I look forward to tomorrows work out, I will complete it one lift at a time.

If you want to check out Stoppani’s “the hundreds routine” you can -click here- and if you want to review his giant sets program -click- here-.