Week of Yoga, day 3

The yoga class that my gym offered today was rated "intermediate-advanced". This was enough to induce anxiety; sure, I’ve been doing yoga on and off since high school (yes, that’s like 1995, I had a VHS tape) but I’m not really sure what level I’m at, or what the levels even mean. I’m not a beginner. Intermediate? Maybe. Advanced? Definitely not.

So I went to the gym early and asked the gym staffer about the class. He said, "Well, I haven’t taken it, so I can’t really tell you." Helpful! But in the end, I figured that the worst thing that could happen was that I would fall over and spend the class in child’s pose, which honestly isn’t that bad so I went anyway.

Now, yesterday I was talking with my Indian coworker about my yoga class, and he told me that yoga in India was different from yoga in the US– he spoke of it as something that mostly old people do, sort of like how old people in China do tai chi in the park in the morning. Not the super-trendy, $100 yoga mat, type-A fit young person image we have here.

My teacher for class today was actually a young man from India (according to his bio, he’s a grad student at a local university, but has been studying yoga for a long time). The class started with some simple warmups– just moving the body around, rotating the wrists and ankles and moving the neck and shoulders. After 10 minutes of warming up, I was pretty sure that I had wandered into a yoga class like my coworker had described. But then we got started and I was quickly convinced otherwise.

Is there a proper name for one-legged upward-facing plank? I might call it "wtf pose".

The class was good though, I felt invigorated at the end. I guess I would call it intermediate, but the teacher was responsive to how we were all feeling and gave us a little time in child’s pose after some tough poses. It was a small group, 6 or 7 people total, so there was plenty of attention. Hopefully I can make it back another time!

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Yoga nightmares

You guys, I feel so accomplished already. I was up at 5am to get to work in time to attend a new yoga class at 7:30. It was definitely a beginners’-level class, but the teacher was good and I had a lot of fun. Definitely worth shorting myself a little sleep; hopefully I can make it back next week. The teacher focused on the iliopsoas today, which was just what the doctor ordered.

But I hope that I never again have the experience of being in a yoga class, in the middle of bridge pose with my groins up in the air, and realizing my period’s started 2 days early– with a vengeance. Thankfully any mess stayed confined to me and no one was the wiser. But eesh.

I also found a little time to run a quick mile on the treadmill before class. My left knee and quad seem to be mostly behaving themselves, so we’ll see if I can do the standing desk for a while this morning.

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Post-NRoL4W thoughts

Well, all the soreness of NRoL4W has dissipated, save for my quad and knee (foam roller, stretch, repeat, hope for the best). Now it’s time to take a look back at the year+ I spent working through the program.

Overall, my experience was that it was a solid and balanced workout program. It packed a full body, compound exercise workout into each session, which meant I could get a lot of lifting done in a reasonable amount of time. However, doing full body workouts meant that I was often using muscles sore from Tuesday again on Thursday. And the book recommends 3x/week; I was only doing 2x!

That leads me to another criticism: I was often sore enough that my other activities suffered. This is probably more on me than the program; I push myself hard and take a while to recover, and the regimen doesn’t really include other exercise. But I felt like I lost aerobic conditioning by not being able to run as much, though I gained tons of strength that helped me easily gain it back when I started training running again in the spring.

And I didn’t just get sore– I genuinely hurt myself a couple times, including something thing called meralgia paresthetica where my thigh went numb for a few weeks. (Actually, looking back I’ve had a lot of problems with this left leg, starting with this…) That’s another concern: illustrations in a book are well and good, but having a pro around to help with form would be super, especially with heavily-loaded exercises. I’m lucky that my gym staff has been helpful in this regard.

I saw genuine improvement in my lifting. Squats started at 85lb and finished at 125lb, and deadlifts started at 95lb and ended at 165lb (and a ton of that improvement came from better grip strength; I could barely keep hold of the loaded bar for 15 reps when I started.) Plus I can do things like pushups on the floor now (I just busted out 10 to prove it to myself!) The progress report tag is full of my breakdowns from each stage! This is the real proof.

The best part of NRoL4W has been gaining the confidence to throw myself at something that I know is going to be really tough– this entire program has been an exercise in getting through psychological hurdles. (Remember the chin-up stage? I finished it. It didn’t work, but I sure as heck got stronger.)

It’s tremendously reassuring to know my own strength! And hey, if I can stick with this intense lifting plan for over a year and finish it, I can probably do other hard things too. So what’s next?

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I DID IT!

Well, today was the LAST WORKOUT of NRoL4W. Really! The very last one. I’ve been at this since August 2013 and working through the program has become so ingrained in my life that I’m not sure what I’m going to do with myself now!

This workout wasn’t glorious and wonderful, though. It started off okay with heavy deadlifts (165lb again, that was really tough to get through). But then I started up the squats and felt something weird in my knee/quad/thigh area, some kind of frictiony/scraping weird feeling in the muscles at the bottom of the lift. I finished the set, and did the shoulder presses, step-ups and pulldowns too but the step-ups were weird too. I tried one more set of squats with just bodyweight and finally decided to scrub both lower-body exercises. I finished up everything else but it was disappointing to not be able to fully complete my last workout. (I suppose I could’ve tried to blow through it for pride’s sake, but why mess around with my knees?)

I think I’ll need a few days to reflect before I write more detailed thoughts about my experience with the program, but I went in without real expectations and I’ve been pleased with how it turned out in the end. (How did I start up and stick to a year-long program with no strong expectations? The power of my routine is staggering.)

The first order of business, however, is some well-deserved rest. Stage 7, with its long-ass sets, has beat up my body in a spectacular way and my forearms and hands and knees and feet and hips all need a chance to recover.

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Short run and yoga day

My knee felt good enough to try a short treadmill run today, so I wrapped that up in 30 minutes/2.5 miles. I tried to pay attention to keeping my quad activated to support it and my stride focused. The hard part was my tired backs of legs again… I wound up taking a break halfway through to go to the wall and stretch my calves and hamstrings.

After all that I headed to the big room for another quick yoga practice. A nice addition today was reclining big toe pose (using a strap)– it makes for such a good leg stretch, and the internally rotated twist was perfect to get at my tight IT bands. (Remind me to do that again in the evening!)

I really ought to go in for a massage. I like getting them, but it’s hard to find the time and I hate setting them up and I haven’t found a good place to go around here either. I’m jealous of my mom– she lives in a tiny Midwestern city and there’s no fancy massage spas there but she knows a woman, a retired nurse, who practices massage from her house. My mom made an appointment for me when I visited over the holidays, and the massage therapist is fantastic. She knows her stuff and I felt so comfortable there. Massage places here feel corporate and impersonal and anonymous. I’m pretty sure I’ve been spoiled now.

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Hardcore lifting and yoga

(The title of this post works better when said in a metal growl: HAARRRDDCOOOORRREEE)

Second-to-last session of NRoL4W. I’m pretty surprised that I’ve made it all the way to the end! Lunges were on the program for today, but I swapped them out for light sets on the quad and hamstring machines to try to spare my knee. (Speaking of, I went over that quad with the foam roller after my workout, and sure enough: IT band weirdness. But I can work on that, so at least it’s not mystery pain. Stretch, roll, repeat.)

I was alone in the weight room today until an older man came in. He seemed a little odd. First he asked if I wanted to do bench presses with him (I said, no thanks, I’ve already done mine for the day) and then proceeded to name and tell me about every lift I did. ("Straight-leg deadlifts! Good back exercise!" "Yep.") I don’t think I’ve ever finished up those sets so fast.

After that, I headed for the big room to get some quick yoga in (focusing on my hips again, because that was great). Someone else was using the room to do some kind of torturous-looking HIIT thing, and he had on 1990s dude pump-up music. I would not have thought that Rage Against the Machine and Red Hot Chili Peppers made good yoga music, but it was oddly refreshing and motivating to power through it with a more aggro soundtrack. It worked.

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Nice yogas and recalcitrant knees

I’m not sure what my knee is up to. I haven’t done any exercise over the weekend (besides walking around all day on Sunday, but that’s nothing out of the ordinary) but earlier today my knee just started hurting. Like not-able-to-bear-weight hurting. I hobbled around for a little bit, and after stretching out my quad it felt better. Not 100%, but I can walk normally. That was weird. Later today I’m going to get out the foam roller and see what’s going on with that quad. I would put money on there being a big knot or something weird that’s keeping the muscle from supporting my knee properly.

I certainly wasn’t going to take a chance and run, so I decided to do some yoga. I think my body’s been gently (?) encouraging me to do more yoga– I have so much tightness everywhere. The practice I chose has a big long section of pigeon, and it felt both awful and amazing to get into my hips. I tried to take it easy on my knees, and I used a pillow any place the knee was on the floor. It feels okay.

Over the weekend, I watched a caber toss competition– basically, men pick up telephone poles and try to throw them end over end. It’s a ridiculous-looking sport, and I really want to try it! It looks like fun.

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