Grab Heavy Weights, Feel Stronger Inside and Out
Issue 24: Because who doesn’t want to lift up heavy things and put them down?
With consistent at-home workouts during pandemic times, I’ve gotten even more into strength training. I always did a little of it here and there, taking classes at studios that let me lift some barbells or focus on dumbbell training. (Tbh, there are a lot fewer group fitness options for weight training classes (that aren’t CrossFit), compared to things like HIIT or barre, at least in NYC). But having my own gear at home, namely heavy kettlebells, and committing to focusing on strength at least three days a week has been a saving grace and a real motivator to move.
What I love about strength is just that: It makes me feel strong. Every time I pick up a heavier weight, after one I was using starts to feel too easy, I get a little hit of confidence. Even doing bodyweight exercises like strong push-ups or actually nailing pull-ups also makes me feel powerful (especially pull-ups!). And what’s even better about strength training: You can do a super solid workout in just 20 or 30 minutes, leading to a plethora of science-backed benefits like injury prevention, better bone density, and more lean muscle. Plus, because rest breaks are encouraged when trying to build strength so you can pick up that heavier set, you can move at a pace that simply feels good—long breaks welcome.
At the gym where I teach, and where I get some of my weekly workouts in, I recently picked up a proper barbell for the first time in SO LONG, and darn if I didn’t miss it. Doing straightforward moves like deadlifts, squats, and rows with a barbell brings a new challenge and a drive to go even heavier and work even harder. And when I’m done, and I look at those big ‘ol weights on the end of the bar, I must say I feel pretty impressed with myself.
One thing I will add, as someone who talks about lifting weights often (in this newsletter, with my personal training clients and friends, and in stories I write), what still bums me out is convos that go right to the fear of getting “bulky.” The truth is, you won’t get “bulky” or “too big” if you lift heavy weights. You’ll feel strong, though, and I bet you’ll move with more confidence. If I could squash that fear for everyone who stays away from the next weight up, I would certainly do so. I think what’s most important to remember is that lifting doesn’t have to be all about aesthetics. When you take that out of the equation, weights can become your BFF for simply making you feel powerful and capable—the perfect result of a solid workout. So I’m simply here to say, go for the weights, don’t avoid the heavy ones, and just do what feels good.
A few other people’s words about wellness I’ve read (and loved) recently:
Outside’s “We Need More Campsites” by Krista Langlois gives a glimpse into the future of camping if we don’t create more spots around the U.S. to set up a tent, and if we don’t make camping less of a practice for the privileged. Langlois talks about the rise in camping over the years (not just in 2020 when its popularity continued to skyrocket) and the legislation people are aiming to pass to help make the outdoors more accessible. It’s a super informative read.
I loved Melissa A. Fabello’s story on Self.com, “How ‘Relationship Anarchy’ Can Help You Deepen Your Friendships.” “Relationship anarchy” is all about the idea of letting go of society’s ideas about relationships and putting those you truly value at the forefront of your life and where you focus your attention—even if that means turning your focus away from a spouse or finding The One. It’s about celebrating friendships and deep connections, more so than searching for a partner and putting that person at the center of your world. It’s a story that makes you consider your relationships (of all kinds) and what they mean to you.
Another story on Outside, Christine Yu’s “Running’s Cultural Reckoning is Long Overdue,” talks about the culture of abuse among women in running at (mostly) the collegiate level. Since Mary Cain spoke out about her experience at Nike Oregon Project in a New York Times op-ed, more female athletes have come forward about their coaches perpetuating body image issues and forcing them to run through injuries, leading to emotional and physical harm both in college and for years after. These athletes also speak up about universities not supporting them when they need care or when they report misconduct from coaches. While some changes are happening, there’s still a lot to help change the culture of running in schools. Hopefully, this story helps with that.
The latest updates on the fitness industry:
You might have already read that Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open, shortly after saying she’d skip press conferences. She said in a statement posted to Twitter that she’s suffered bouts of depression since 2018 and that she would focus on herself. You can find lots of stories about athletes and mental health, athletes’ obligation to the press, and more in regards to her stance.
A tragedy struck China at the end of last month, during a 62-mile mountain race, where 21 runners died due to extreme weather conditions. The New York Times covered the story.
Strava added two major updates to their app: group challenges and personalized segment suggestions. For the challenges, you can invite up to 24 friends to compete for things like fastest time, longest distance, most elevation gain, and more. As for the segments (or portions of routes in your area), you can see the most popular segments around you, discover new ones, break your own record on a specific segment, or become a “Local Legend” with your number of efforts for that segment.
Yesterday, The North Face launched its first-ever Pride collection, which is super cute and includes everything from hoodies and tees to totes and slides. The brand will also donate more than $70K to Brave Trails, a non-profit summer camp dedicated to LGBTQ+ youth leadership.
Barry’s Bootcamp—the popular treadmill- and strength-based class—just launched Barry’s X. It features live classes that allow you to connect with the instructor, as well as other class goers.
Here’s one form cue that always resonates with clients…
These words tend to work for individuals I train as an ah-ha moment for feeling stronger in a move or activating the right muscles. You’ve probably heard a million cues about squats, but there’s also probably a million more I could tell you (ha!), so I’m here with another. It’s such a foundational movement, considering it’s what you do when you sit and stand back up, and it’s great for the lower body. This week, one that worked for clients in terms of driving the knees outward, so you recruit those glutes, is trying to spread the floor apart with your feet—that means driving your feet down and out. You can try that just standing and see how it feels in the hips. Then do it for your squat and see how it feels in the backside and the tension it creates in the lower half.
One move to add to your exercise routine…
A single-arm bent-over supported row, which is a mouthful of a move and one I’ve talked about in the cues before. But it’s just a smart one to have in your strength routine, especially if you want to work the back of your body and the core all at once. To do it, start with your right foot back and hinge forward at the waist (like you’re doing a deadlift). The back right knee can be bent or straight—whatever feels more comfortable. Place your left forearm on your left thigh, and grab a kettlebell or dumbbell in your right hand. With your shoulders packed down away from your ears, and shoulders square to the ground, pull the weight up to your rib cage, elbow staying close to the body. Lower it back down and repeat.
For a full workout, try…
Following The Final Rep on IG! It was time for a visual extension of the brand, so you can click follow on @thefinalrepmc, which will feature the move and cue of the week (as mentioned above), plus some workouts I’m loving, more ideas for moves and full routines, plus general fun with fitness. I hope you find it motivating—and requests for workouts, form tips, or anything else are always welcome! It’s new, so don’t judge my follower count, people.
The gear I’m loving to get me out the door…
I love having a handheld water bottle for running, meaning there’s a strap around the hand so you don’t really have to grip the bottle for it to stay in place. My current favorite is Nathan’s Quicksqueeze Lite 12-Ounce Insulated Handheld. It’s also inexpensive at $25 and stands on its own, which is helpful when you take it to the gym or work and want to keep it as your all-day water bottle.
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