How balanced is your training program?
Why keep a journal?
- Motivation. Looking back at where you come from is inspiring.
- Awareness. You get an understanding of what works for you.
- Experience. You learn from your errors: injuries, etc.
- Confidence. You’ve got a plan when you go to the gym.
The process of writing down your loads, sets, reps, etc. helps you to better remember the workout. It’s nice to be able to flip back and see what weight you used and how many sets and reps you did. The process of keeping a log enables seasoned lifters to critically analyze their programs and see if they’re truly delivering results.
Also, use your log to jot down important notes such as machine settings, how the set felt; (light, heavy), how you felt that day (energized, fatigued, hungry, sore).
Keeping a journal accelerates the learning process.
By writing down your workouts you are taking an additional few minutes to process what you have learned, repeat the concepts and terminology to yourself, and ingrain it into your brain.
If you are a beginner it is likely you will be able to beat previous efforst every week for several months. As you establish new routines, it is helpful to know what you did your previous workout and to have a specific goal for each training session. Logging workouts helps you remember the appropriate weights to use. Beginners struggle most with remembering not only which exercises to do, but in which order, how many sets, reps, etc. because everything is new to them. They’re not yet familiar with the names of exercises, the loads they used, etc. so training logs for beginners are essential. I have been journaling for several years now and still write notes in the margins to remind me of proper set-up and/or form on certain exercises.
Tracking results and being able to check your progress lets you know if what you’re doing is or isn’t working. If you make notes about your workout, you are also less likely to spend time chatting between sets or resting too long. Seeing your gains on paper will reaffirm that you are progressing, and as a result motivation will likely increase or stay high.
The basic benefits of journaling
- Faster learning
- Remembering weights
- Having information to analyze
- Tracking progress
Working out with weights will not cause joint pain.
Improper technique, insufficient rest, or poor nutrition might be contributing to your grief.
Joint pain is one of the most common problems among strength athletes. It’s something younger lifters rarely think about when lifting and too many seasoned lifters wish they had when they are forced to stop lifting due to years of stress on joints. Joints require mobility, stability, and motor control. Proper weight training has been found to improve joint health, return functionality and decrease pain. Regular exercise of the joints replenishes joint lubricants and builds cartilage. Stronger muscles from weightlifting exercises offer more support to the joints.
Joint pain can be a slow progression over a long period of time. Repeated injuries can lead to chronic joint pain. If you are experiencing pain from your weight lifting routine, you are probably doing something wrong. Chances are one or more of these factors can be attributed for your pain:
- ü Insufficient warm-up prior to lifting.
- ü Over training. They train too long and/or too often
- ü Using overly heavy weights/low reps more often than they should
- ü Insufficient rest/recovery time to allow joints, tendons, muscles to recuperate from intense work.
- ü Poor form and less than perfect technique during heavy lifts
- ü Inadequate vitamins and nutrients.
- ü All of the Above.
So let’s say that you are not guilty of the above 7 mistakes but still experience joint pain. It could be bursitis, tendinitis, arthritis or the like causing aching joints.
ARTHRITIS: Osteoarthritis, by far the most common to bodybuilders and athletes is caused by wear and tera on the joints. It is characterized by a deterioration of the cartilage at the ends of the bones. The once smooth cartilage becomes rough and causes more and more friction and pain.
BURSITIS: Joints contain small fluid filled sacks called bursae. The bursae assist in muscle and joint movement by cushioning the joints/bones against friction. Inflammation from various causes (See above 7 mistakes!) results in a chronic pain called bursitis.
TENDINITIS: Tendonitis occurs when tendons around a joint become severely inflamed from overuse, micro-injury, etc. It is probably the most common cause of pain to bodybuilders and other athletes and also the easiest to treat. But if left untreated, as when people just try to “work through the pain”, it can lead to much more serious problems.
Many medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, or treatments like cortical steroidal injections, address only symptoms and not the cause of the problem. In fact, research has shown just the opposite; by merely masking symptoms, they may do more harm than good in the long run .
And the ever popular “stay off of it “ advice just does not fly with highly active people. The good news is that natural compounds and other dietary supplements may be helpful in supporting joints before, during and after lifting sessions. If you are a lifter, joints require optimal nutrition to help you perform and recover.
Supplements to Consider:
GELATIN: A growing number of studies now show that just 10 rams of hydrolyzed gelatin a day is effective in greatly reducing pain, improving mobility and overall bone/cartilage health. Knox (the Jello people) have a product out called NutraJoint. It contains hydrolyze gelatin, calcium and vitamin C.
- Diets rich in Vitamin C, D, and Calcium are important for optimizing joint health.
FLAX OIL: (Omega 3 Fats.) One of flax oils many, many benefits are those to improve overall joint health. Flax oil is high in essential Omega 3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids, from fish, flax, etc., have been shown in scientific/medical literature to reduce chronic inflammation of any kind. The recommended dose is 1-3 tablespoons/day. Boost your intake with fatty fish (tuna,salmon,etc. ) walnuts, and flax. If you can’t get it through food, supplement with 1-3 g of EPA/DHA per day from fish oil.
WATER: Drink more water. Water helps to lubricate the joints. Aim for ½ – 1 oz per pound of body weight per day. Or at least aim to drink 5-6 20 oz bottles of water per day.
FIBER: Focus on high fiber foods, and whole grains with at least 3g of fiber per serving. Fiber controls blood glucose and therefore helps to control inflammation.
GLUCOSAMINE/CHONDROITIN SULFATE: Researchers have found both effective for promoting joint health . Found in the body naturally, glucosamine is a form of amino sugar believed to play a role in cartilage formation and repair. Chondroitin sulfate, on the other hand, is a large protein molecule or proteoglycan that gives cartilage elasticity. Numerous studies have shown that regular use of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate offers pain relief similar to that offered by anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen or aspirin, but minus the gastrointestinal upset that may accompany long-term use of these medications. A daily dose of 1,200 mg has been shown to reduce joint pain.
It is never too early to take good care of your joints so that you are able to work out longer and more importantly remain pain free. Always begin your workout with range-of-motion exercises or an aerobic warm-up . Lift with perfect form. Ice your joints following exercise to reduce pain and swelling.
Joint pain should not go untreated. Don’t try to self diagnose. Be sure to get an opinion from a trusted sports doctor first to determine exactly what your problem is.
“… There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” Bruce Lee
Workout plateaus are nothing new. You are hitting the gym routinely. You feel more energetic and look better, but suddenly now you‘re not feeling the burn anymore. The scale stops moving and your body becomes immune to the stress of exercise. You have hit the wall. Fortunately, it usually only takes a few changes to overcome a workout plateau.
The key to overcoming plateaus is change.
Changing up just a few things can make a big difference. Our bodies are highly adaptive and are constantly working to maintain homeostasis—so the workout that was so challenging and making you sweat and burn calories 6 weeks ago is no longer. Changing your approach or routine will help you blast through frustrating plateaus. Remember the body acclimates to repeated challenges, making it necessary to make changes every four to six weeks.
A few suggestions from Web MD:
Pump it up. Instead of 40 minutes on the treadmill, pump up your metabolism with high-intensity intervals. Do four minutes of any cardiovascular exercise as hard as you can; then two minutes of strength-building exercises (using free weights or weight machines). Repeat this “harder/easier” cycle five times. (The magic cardio-to-weights ratio is 2-to-1.) Your
post-exercise metabolic rate and fat loss will increase much more than if you exercised 40 minutes steadily at an average pace, and you’re also building lean muscle mass.
Shake it up. Walking doesn’t do much to help you lose weight, even though it’s good for your health. Instead, mix up your cardio intervals by throwing in new things every week: the elliptical machine, the recumbent bike, the rowing machine, the stair climber. Keep your body guessing.
Start it up. The one time when simple aerobic exercise can really boost your metabolism is in the morning. When you first wake up, your liver has burned through your carbohydrate stores, and light aerobic exercise can jump-start the fat-burning enzymes in your liver. So start your day with a brisk walk.
Count it up. You might think you’re not snacking between meals, but it’s easy to miss the bites of your kids’ leftovers you take here and there. For a few days, record everything you eat. Make sure the extra food you take in is accounted for — either by cutting out your dinner roll or by doing an extra high-intensity interval.
*Varying your activities or cross-training is important to avoid or break through plateaus. But while changing up type of activity is important, it is also important to implement variations in intensity.
Specify different days of the week as low, moderate or high-intensity days. Grab a new partner to work out with. Get out of the gym and move your workout outdoors. The mix-up of activities will also keep your workouts enjoyable, thus helping with motivation as you break through the wall.
And if you’re not strength training, now is the time to start. A pound of muscle burns more calories than a pound of fat. And you want to replace fat with muscle to increase the amount of calories you burn a day. If you are already lifting and have hit your plateau: You MUST step up the intensity of your strength training program. Bump up the frequency of your training from twice to three times a week. Increase the amount of weight you’re lifting to challenge your muscles even more or try a more challenging exercises.
But plateaus do not necessarily mean you need to work harder or spend more days at the gym. It may be time for an active rest. Proper rest and recovery from working out is so important, it may just be the deciding force behind results and no results. Consider taking a few days, to up to a week off from structured exercise, and instead take leisurely walks, play ball with the kids, or take a yoga class. Active rest rejuvenates the mind and the body and allows for overworked muscles to rest and rebuild. You will return to exercise stronger and ready for new challenges.
Active Rest: Because you just can’t train ALL out, ALL the time.
Resting is an essential element of training… as long as it is active.
Active rest is light exercise performed on non-training days at an easy pace with little stress. The low-intensity assists blood circulation which in turns removes lactic acid, reduces blood lactate and speeds muscle recovery for your next high-intensity session. Active rest is NOT the assigned times in between sets of exercises during strength-training and it is NOT the recovery during interval training during a cardio session.
In the recent past, athletes were encouraged to rest completely after a competition or on a day off. But newer research shows that engaging in low-intensity exercise during “rest” is better for maintaining fitness levels. Low-intensity exercise flushes out lactic acid and delivers healing oxygen to the muscles. Active rest activities are easy recreational movements… so keep intensity at levels lower than regular training.
The guideline for this is to exercise at 65% of your maximum heart rate. To determine that, calculate 220 minus your
age, then times that number by .65. Otherwise, increase your breathing and heart rate to slightly above normal level. Be mindful to work hard enough so your body can exercise effectively, but not hard enough that you produce more lactic acid. Getting your blood pumping will help flush away waste products like lactic acid that can build up in muscles post exercise. You won’t be blinded by sweat, but you’ll get a good glow on.
Examples of active rest activities for strength athletes would be yoga, hiking, biking or walking. If you are an avid spinner, you may try a round of tennis. Swimming, gardening, or tossing a Frisbee with the dog; you get the picture. Leave the stopwatch and heavy weights for training days. Workouts should be at least 20 minutes in duration.
If you don’t actively rest, you risk burn out: a condition when stressors become too great in relation to your body’s ability to adapt. As a result, your training can be derailed for weeks or months to regain energy due to over-training. That’s why variation within your training week is important. The light days make the heavy days possible. They should enhance your more intense workouts and they should be equally enjoyable. If done right, scheduled active rest days will prevent over-training, injuries and mental fatigue.
Don’t confuse a day of ACTIVE REST with DOING NOTHING or having A LIGHT WORKOUT DAY.
ACTIVE REST days allow you to get your heart rate elevated and blood circulating. Also, remember an ACTIVE REST day is not a day off from good nutrition!
Over-training occurs when we strive to improve performance and train beyond the body’s ability to recover.
Many athletes train too hard and too long. Over training takes place when muscles are not given the necessary recovery time. Unfortunately the desire to improve often results in over training. Many spend way too much time in the gym. When their efforts fail to give them results, they increase their workout time. And when that doesn’t work, they increase it more and eventually become frustrated, deciding that they just can’t build muscle no matter what they do. But, what is so difficult for many of us to grasp is that muscles will not grow or become stronger without sufficient recovery time. —In fact, quite the opposite takes place. Performance suffers, and often injuries occur.
Athletes strive to push to maximum ability in order to improve. However, when training exists without allowing for recovery time, muscles stay in a stressed condition. It is normal for muscles to be sore when worked hard but be aware that there can be a fine line when balancing training intensity and overtraining.
In order to maximize and obtain desired results, it is vital to plan rest cycles into your training plan. This will help prevent overtraining. During the rest period:
- eat carbohydrates
- get a full night’s sleep
- drink plenty of fluids
- eat carbohydrates
Adequate rest cycles helps the body fully recover glycogen storage in muscles and liver, and enzyme systems within the muscle cells. During the rest period these systems overcompensate for the workout, which (if you have sufficient rest) causes your muscles to increase strength. The recovery period is very important to avoid overtraining muscles.
The Dangers of Overtraining
Simply stated, overtraining is when the body becomes overwhelmed by the demands being placed on it and is often referred to as “burn out”.
Muscles must be given time to heal. Recovery time varies by individual and the intensity of the workout. If your muscles seem to stay sore, take a break from training.
When the body incurs more damage than it has the opportunity to repair and rebuild, we become in danger of overtraining syndrome. The goal of weight training is to initiate small tears in muscle tissue with the expectation that the body will then repair and rebuild that tissue to be stronger. These tears are necessary to stimulate muscle growth but they are, even if just temporarily, muscle damage.
If the body is not allowed the opportunity to adequately repair this damage, overtraining ensues. OTS (overtraining Syndrome) is a progressive condition. If the training cycle continues beyond the body’s repair capabilities, OTS will continue to advance and further averting gains in the gym.
Symptoms of Overtraining:
Be receptive to the symptoms of muscle overtraining. Some of the signs are:
- increased fatigue
- physically tired
- exercising often but not improving
- chronic and persistent sore muscles
- pain in tendons when moved
- lower resistance to colds, sore throat
- easily angered; depressed
How much rest does the body need?
The rate with which the body can properly repair and rebuild muscle tissue will vary by the individual.
Determining the correct training volume and intensity, eating the right foods, and getting the right amount of rest and recovery are all factors to be taken in to consideration.
To avoid OTS, give the body the opportunity to repair the damage
– You must give the body adequate rest.
Supplementing with glutamine has also been shown to speed up recovery.
The intensity in which you train impacts how much recovery time you need. If the ultimate goal is to increase muscularity and gain mass, then training must be done with maximum intensity. That said, and done correctly — a mass gain training session places great stress on the body.
To achieve maximum muscle gain, you must respect the value of adequate rest to the muscle building process. To work past a plateau, increased training can sometimes be effective but just as likely; backing off may be the answer to restarting muscle growth.
Proper nutrition is vital to recovery for strenuous workouts. Diet plays a huge role in any muscle building program. It helps regulate hormone levels, provides energy, and provides the raw building blocks used to create new tissue. A couple of very important things to consider: Don’t skip breakfast. Skipping breakfast is very catabolic, and can promote muscle loss. Don’t allow too much time between meals – eat small, frequent meals. If you’re trying to build muscle mass, you have to constantly feed your body quality foods so that it never has the chance catabolize muscle tissue. Eat every 2-3 hours to ensure that your body remains in an anabolic state.
Rest and recovery is essential when it comes to avoiding over-training. Aim for at least 7 hours of sleep nightly, and try to keep to a consistent schedule. As for recovery time, incorporate days off between weight training workouts. Try to have one rest day between strength-training sessions, and do not train the same muscle groups on consecutive days.