What’s in My Home Gym (Complete with Non-Instagram-Worthy Photos)

I am asked somewhat often about the gym equipment I have at home. I thought I’d do a quick post, with some unedited, un-posed photos. Because we were all up late at a seder last night, and I couldn’t be bothered to make them look nice.

A 15kg barbell. Commonly known as “the women’s bar” in Olympic weightlifting and CrossFit.

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The white thing next to it is a PVC pipe from Home Depot. My three year old calls it the “ABC pipe.” Used for movement patterning and mobility work. Some people use a broomstick for the same stuff.

Various bumper plates (5kg, 10kg, 15kg, 20kg, 25kg), change plates (.5kg, 1.25kg, 2.5kg, 5kg) and fractional plates (.25kg, .5kg, .75kg, 1kg) to load onto the barbell, and collars to hold them in place.

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A heavy rubber honeycomb mat that stays put and doesn’t slip, and protects my floor. (Note to self: needs washing). Fun fact – the mat itself weighs around 100 lbs. It’s not going anywhere.

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A squat rack that is in two pieces so I can shove it into a corner when it’s not in use.

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A flat bench.

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Chalk. Which I hate the texture of, but my kid loves it and I occasionally catch him playing in it.

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A foam roller and lacrosse balls for recovery work.

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A 20lb kettlebell which I have not used in a while.

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A yoga mat which is mostly used by my kid. Pretty sure a cat barfed on it and it needs washing. (The knife is wooden and it belongs in my kid’s toy kitchen).

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Assistance bands (two different weights). These live in my backpack or in my car. I use them when I go to the park to hang from bars to improve grip strength and shoulder mobility. And maybe one day I might do assisted pull ups with them.

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A doorway pull up bar and a pair of gymnastics rings. I used to do ring rows with these and I haven’t used it in a while. I hesitate to hang from it using bands because I weigh more than the weight limit, but if I do ring rows, my feet are on the floor taking some of the weight.

Sometimes I hang it up and let my kid play on it. He likes to grab the rings and swing.

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My kid’s toy barbell. He got it for his birthday. There was a picture of someone setting up a snatch on the box. I asked my kid “what do you think is inside?” He answered “some guy weightlifting?”

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And there you have it! What’s in my home gym. If you are looking for suggestions for setting up yours, I collected some other links here.

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Ripple Effects – Helping Friends and Growing Things

Yesterday was a great day. I felt great physically and mentally. I had gone to bed by 9:30pm for the prior two nights.

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Ready to take on the day!

One thing I feel really great about was that I was able to spend some time helping a friend who had been in a car accident last week. Kiddo and I went grocery shopping for her, and then I folded some laundry when I got to her house while our kids played together. I feel really satisfied and happy that I was able to do this, not only because it helped my friend, but also because in the past, doing this would have wiped me out and taken a lot of “spoons” for me.

Truth: In past years I have accepted a lot of help from family and sometimes from friends, for basic tasks around my house. Everyone says that is normal when you have a baby, and to be grateful for any help offered to you. And I am very grateful. But part of me always felt guilty accepting the help, because I knew that I would likely not be able to offer similar help to others in the same position, because I didn’t have the energy. So I am really glad to be able to offer help to others now.

Afterwards, kiddo and I walked over to the garden to water. No germination yet. Maybe today we will see some lettuce sprouts.

Another thing I feel great about is that my legs were recovered enough from the prior day’s deadlifts to work some olympic weightlifting technique in the morning….and still feel energetic on my feet throughout the day afterwards! Took my kid to gymnastics, did the grocery shopping for our friend, walked to the garden, walked back home uphill with my tired kid in a carrier….and my legs managed all of it without feeling too spent!

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Three New Habit Ideas for Spring

We are finally getting some spring weather, and I am finding that is making me feel very motivated! I have some ideas for new habits I would like to add to my list:

  • hang from bars at the playground to build pulling strength (if you are interested in building up to doing a pull up, check out the Facebook group Training With Michele Burmaster and once you are approved, search the hashtag #pullupcrew2016.)
  • run a lap around the block or around the reservoir near my home, because I’d like to build some cardiovascular conditioning
  • Try to get to bed by 9:30pm

I find myself tempted to try these all at once. I have to remind myself about all the statistics that say one habit at a time is most likely to succeed. I just started a new habit to work on this weekend so I should probably wait on these.

When I do feel ready to try one, I’m guessing it will probably be the first one (hanging from bars at the playground). The playground that is next to the garden is full of great bars for hanging.

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Lots of pull-up potential

And I wouldn’t need to buy any special equipment for it, unlike running, for which I’d need to pick up some appropriate shoes and bras. I already own some assistance bands to use if I want them. Also, I wouldn’t have think about things like scheduling it around “leg day.” Hanging from some bars wouldn’t conflict much with what I am already doing.

For now, I may start playing with these items, but not setting official goals or really working on them too hard. I got myself to the garden today, so this habit is off to a good start!

Wondering how I figured out which habits to work on? I wrote a series of posts about my process. You can start here.

Wondering how I track my goals? That’s covered in the third post of the series, and also in this post.

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A Great Day!

I had a fantastic day today!

I started off in a really grumpy mood. I hadn’t been to barbell club in a while and I wanted to go alone. But my husband had physical therapy and I was grumpy about bringing my kiddo.

It turned out great though. Kiddo ran off his energy by running laps around the training rig and playing with various balls and jump ropes he found, as well as the dogs that were visiting today, and his lunch, and his toy barbell.

Once I started lifting I felt better. My lifts felt great today and it turned my mood around! I did snatches, clean and jerks, and bench presses. Even though I am only doing olympic lifts once per week now, I felt good about how they went. And my bench press form is improving. Like a real powerlifter with my back arched and my ass off the bench! I also got some tips on setting up a sumo deadlift, which I will try tomorrow when I do my deadlifts.

Afterwards I got to go out by myself. I got a new phone for my birthday and I went to get it activated. I can’t tell whether I am more excited about the new phone or the CPAP machine I am getting on Tuesday.

And then got myself some treats. Something from a local candy shop called a fudge caramallow I think? And some Vietnamese food. I ate them for dinner. Om nom nom. Oh, and a jasmine limeade while I waited for takeout and played with my new phone. (Oh, THAT would be why I still have so much energy this late at night. The green tea in the limeade…)

I am excited to go watch a weightlifting competition tomorrow! It will be my first competition I am watching in person (as opposed to online).

Weekend update – New Wendler Cycle, New Habits, and other Miscellany

Nothing exciting today. Just a weekend update. Boring ass real life on the habit train….

Last week I finished my first cycle of Wendler 5/3/1 and this weekend I started my second cycle. So far it’s going well. I like the flexibility. I can spend less than 20 minutes per day if I want….or if I prefer I can combine days. I like how I feel so far.  Some days I’ve lifted first thing in the morning. Other days, after my kid goes to bed.

For this cycle, I am going to try including Olympic lifts 1 day per week, and see how that feels for me. I did them last night while watching Grease Live with my husband. The clean and jerk still felt pretty easy. The snatch felt a little awkward after a four week break.

I’ve been having some issues with my medical insurance not wanting to cover the recommended follow up testing for my diagnosis. Looks like I will probably be getting a machine soon, however. Fingers crossed! Now that I know I’m not breathing well at night, I want to fix it as soon as possible.

I went in for some routine bloodwork and weighed myself on the scale at the lab. The scale confirmed what I already knew by the way my clothes fit – I had lost a few pounds since I last weighed myself 3 months ago.  I didn’t do anything to intentionally lose the pounds; I just continued with all my habits, with the addition of using my new intuitive eating skills.  I’m trying not to get excited or put too much pressure on myself. It’s more difficult than it sounds.

It’s been about 5 weeks since I added a new habit. I am adding two more habits to my list today:

  • eat a vegetable with at least two meals (goal: 150 days by the end of the year).
  • do something myself instead of asking my husband to do it (goal: 150 days by the end of the year).

I’ve already been doing these items more than usual, so I’m pretty sure I can succeed with these goals.

Minimalist Lifting, Week 2 Training Log

I am about halfway through my second week on a more minimal lifting program.  Here are some thoughts and observations.

If you read about the Wendler 5/3/1 program online, you will see that each day has you do 3 sets of the main lift. There are different templates you can follow for assistance work. The templates have names like “Big But Boring,” and “The Triumvirate.” The template where you do just the main lift, with no assistance work, is called “I’m Not Doing Jack Shit.”

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Simplifying My Fitness Plan So I Have Energy for Real Life

I’m noticing some uneasiness about my new fitness plan. I’m simplifying it a lot, because I have more responsibilities while my husband can’t do housework or drive. Jennifer Campbell of Healthy Habits Happy Moms suggested that I may need to re-examine my expectations for myself and my habits while my husband is laid up. I didn’t want her to be right, but I quickly learned that she was. Plus, it is winter and my kid is driving me a bit crazy anyway. So, my new fitness plan is as follows, for as long as it serves me:

  • One lift each day, using the Wendler 5/3/1 template. Wendler’s program uses the back squat, deadlift, bench press, and military press. I’m gonna add a day of Pendlay rows because I can’t leave well enough alone. So that’s 5 days of lifting, for maybe 20 minutes each. 30 minutes if you count warm ups and stretching/rolling. Hopefully fast enough to be done before my kid drives me batshit crazy.
  • Olympic lifts technique practice if/when I feel like it, to keep technique in my muscle memory. Nothing too heavy. Or not.
  • Walking when the weather and my schedule allows.
  • Doing “on my feet” tasks around the house as I feel like it.

It feels too….easy? Short? Mild? I’m not used to having so much gas left in the tank to handle household tasks (but that is the point of simplifying so I guess it is working). I’m not used to having a clean living room that I cleaned myself. I’m used to my muscles being tired so that lying on the couch feels good. I’m used to my legs being tired and needing to rest a lot. I’m used to being more sedentary when I am not actually lifting. I’m used to not wanting to walk up the stairs to get something. I’m used to my living room being more cluttered. I’m used to my husband doing some housework, and me doing less housework. Now that my husband is injured, I’m doing almost all the housework….and I’m keeping up with it for the past few days myself, and not feeling tired and resentful about it.

Noticing that life feels easier to handle is GOOD. My mental uneasiness, however, means I clearly have some beliefs to work through – such as “exercise needs to be intense in order to do anything.” Or, “being tired means my training is working.” Or “being tired means I’ve done something” or “not being tired means I haven’t worked hard enough.” I thought I was over these beliefs, but clearly I’m still hanging on a bit.

I also have some nagging thoughts like “what if I lose all my progress on the Olympic lifts?” To that thought I respond that nobody is paying me to get good at those, and that my number one priority is my health and my family. If that means taking a little break for a while to do something else, that is okay. Once a hobby adds stress to my life during a time period when I have plenty of stress from other areas, I can stop telling myself that it is helping my  health.

Over the past month I’ve also challenged some of my food beliefs and been happy with the results. We are eating a lot of sandwiches, salads, and cereal in our house these days, in order to minimize cooking. I am buying packaged sauces and dressings rather than making them from scratch. It’s helping us get more flavor variety into our meals without too much work. I’ve been eating a lot more salad. My favorite salad dressings right now are Annie’s Papaya Poppyseed, and Brianna’s Blue Cheese. I have a bunch more I want to try. We’ve been eating off disposable dishes, and I’m just now starting to phase my regular dishes back in, now that I have some extra energy.

So, just as I am adjusting  my family’s food plan to minimize stress, so too I am adjusting my movement activities to do the same. Yesterday I went to barbell club and did bench presses, some light snatches, and some experimentation with hanging from a pull up bar using bands. Today I did deadlifts at home. My hamstrings and glutes are like “oh hey! We forgot about deadlifts.” But my legs still had enough energy in them to keep up on the dishes today. We used some disposable and some regular dishes. Because it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. I can phase the regular dishes back in gradually, and see how it’s working for our sanity.

My kiddo was sick today, so I had plenty of quiet time. It was a much needed recharge day for me.

Here’s to a week of feeling oddly energetic! I can get used to this :).

Realization: My Workouts Should Not Drive Me to Drink!

To be fair, it isn’t really my workouts that are driving me to drink. It is my three year old.

I’ll back up a little.

While the weather was warm, having a porch gym has served me well. I could lift on the porch while my kiddo played outside. If it took me an hour or two to get my warm up, lifting, and mobility and recovery work in, that was usually fine. My kid would play, eat snacks, and generally entertain himself.

Now though, it’s winter in New England. The gym has moved into my living room. My husband is injured and can’t play with my kid as much, and it’s too cold to get out much at all. Basically, my three year old is bored, and in mama-obsessed mood. He wants a lot of attention from me. And yes, he gets out of the house. He goes to his babysitter a couple days per week where he plays with other kids and goes on outings, and I take him to gymnastics class and swim class and the library and the grocery store and…..it’s still not enough. Especially since my husband and I were sick for a couple weeks on top of everything. My three year old is bored.

I’ve been trying to get back into my routine of lifting 3 times per week, for 1-2 hours start to finish.

Yesterday, I really had trouble getting going. I didn’t really want to lift. I wanted to go for a walk. It was sunny outside, and 27 degrees, which was the warmest it had been all day. I didn’t listen to myself though. I didn’t want to throw off my lifting schedule. In truth, it made me a little nervous to do it. So, I decided to lift instead.

Within the first sets, I noticed I felt irritable. I tried to get my kiddo to go upstairs and play with my  husband. No dice. He spent the whole workout running laps around the living room and trying to climb all over me between sets.

At one point, I decided to try a bench press. One of my coaches at barbell club had shown me how to do it the way the powerlifters do it. I got my rack out, figured out the height adjustments for benching, figured out where to place the bench in my set up. I got myself in position and ready to do a bench press.  I was about to lift the barbell off the rack.

And then something soft hit me. My kid had taken a sock and launched it at me, slingshot style.

I sternly told him that it was not safe to throw things at me while I am lifting, and carried him upstairs to my husband.

He still made his way back downstairs before the end of the workout, and climbed on me while I was stretching. And climbed on me for a while afterwards. He hadn’t napped. I made plans to go buy wine and cook some macaroni and cheese as soon as I put him to bed. Comfort and decompressing was needed.  As I was cooking dinner, I realized “I should have just gone for the walk I wanted to. I’d probably be in a much better mood right now!” I had a great time watching the Bachelor and felt better when I went to sleep.

And then it hit me….this isn’t working for me right now. I shouldn’t finish my workouts so stressed out that I need to decompress from them. And right now my kiddo is making that a reality.

The positive side is, having equipment at home gives me loads of flexibility to make changes! What if I tried something different? I’ve been wanting to try more powerlifting again (after taking a break for a while to focus on Olympic weightlifting). What if I just committed to one exercise every morning? I could do a Wendler style 5/3/1 program or a Stronglifts 5×5 model. I could make a schedule, for example: Monday deadlifts, Tuesday bench press, Wednesday squats, Thursday overhead press, Friday Pendlay rows. Each morning I could spend less than half an hour on a lift. While my kid ate breakfast. I’d be able to crank it out and be done before he started driving me batshit crazy. I could do it even on the three days of week that I go to work. On days I stay home I wouldn’t be too tired afterwards to do all the extra stuff that is on me to do while my husband is injured. I could maintain and even increase my strength. I could maybe do an Olympic lift on Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday if I feel up to it if my kid is entertained, but I could take a break from focusing on them.

And I would be able to take a walk in the afternoon if the weather is nice enough that I actually want to.

So, this morning I came downstairs and did some sets Pendlay rows as my kid ate breakfast. And wrote this post. It feels strange to just do one exercise and still have this much energy after a workout.  And it feels nice to be done with a workout and not be ready to drink. Let’s see how this goes!

Happy Habitiversary to Me!

Today marks the one year point for when I set my first habit goals and set up a spreadsheet to track them . I’m calling it my habitiversary. I’m not sure I like the term; let me know if you think of something catchier ;).

I started with a just a couple, and now I have a color-coded rainbow spreadsheet to track many habits across many areas of my self-care. Not to mention a blog, and a series on how to help others get started making successful habit changes.

When I started last year, deciding to track healthy habits instead of a number on a scale or clothing size was unfamiliar territory for me. I decided I wanted to be open to whatever outcomes would come.

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