Back to the 5 day split

Well after toying with a 3 days split, which then evolved into a 4 day split, I have come back to a familiar place the 5 day split. I’m not sure why I keep changing things around because I always gravitate back to the 5 day split. I guess the reasons for this are fairly straightforward:

  1. My workouts are a little shorter and less exhausting because I am focused on one or two muscle groups. This makes it all more enjoyable instead of looking at a long list of exercises and wondering when it will all be over.
  2. With the 3 or 4 day split I had to cut out some sets, but with the 5 day split I can keep adding reps and sets so I am able to do more work and put more stress on the muscles. A harder workout means faster gains in strength and size.
  3. It fits well with the work week, so every night when I get home I can look forward to a workout, keeping me focused on fitness and away from other less healthy activities such as eating or drinking.

The only negative with the 5 day split is that it consumes 5 of the 7 days in a week, and if something else comes up you can potentially miss a workout.

This is my 5 day split (high level)

  • Chest & Triceps (Day 1)
  • Biceps, Forearms, and Delts (Day 2)
  • Legs (Day 3)
  • Back (Day 4)
  • Core (Day 5)

Remember you don’t need to perform the split Monday through Friday, it is more than feasible to just perform the workout starting on whatever day of the week.  It is advisable to give yourself a rest day after completing the 5th day of the split routine, because even though you have divided up the muscle groups others still participate in an assisting role. I like to keep track of my workouts with a Google sheet (spreadsheet), so that I can record the date of the workout, weight, target reps, actual reps, and any notes for adding reps or sets next time. If you are currently doing total body workouts or shorter split routines, try the 5 days split and enjoy the gains you will make. Who knows you might just look forward to your workouts.

Namaste

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The inactivity downward spiral

After a somewhat exhausting weekend and not getting much sleep I decided to skip my Monday morning yoga session, and then to top it off I get home tired out and decided not to do my strength training session. I was headed in the wrong direction when it came to my workouts. Of course skipping the workouts on Monday made me feel even more lethargic and tired.  Funny how when you feel tired and do the workout anyway you begin to feel better. Maybe it is just short term memory, but you tend to forget that the workout will re-energize you even though the thought of getting started is not that appealing. When I got up on Tuesday morning I half hardheadedly did some of my usual yoga workout, and then feeling burned out from working all day I skipped my strength training workout again. Finally I got my stuff together and then on Wednesday did my strength training workout, which of course made me feel better. You can see why it is so easy to get into this inactivity downward spiral and it then becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. The typical excuses for missing workouts might include:

  • I didn’t get enough sleep last night
  • I’m too busy and need to do something else
  • I have an injury, however minor
  • I’ll just skip this one workout and it won’t matter
  • I’m not mentally up for it

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All the above are not great reasons for skipping a workout.  Sure there are times when something might come up that is a higher priority event but those should be the exception. I like to build a little buffer in my strength training workout so that it can slide by a day or two and I can still accomplish it within a week. I do a 3 day split and this allows me some flexibility, but flexibility is not a license to succumb to the typical excuses stated previously. Remember inactivity begets inactivity and movement begets more movement. Don’t let your excuses prevent you from performing your workouts. The next time you say I’m too tired, or I can skip this one, drag your self off the couch and just go do it.

 Namaste

More Yoga – working around pain

As you may have guessed I am not in my twenties. With age comes a phenomena called something always hurts. Now I’m not whining, and it isn’t the can’t get out of bed type of pain, but instead you always seem to be nursing some sort of muscle pull or strain. If I decided to take the day off from my yoga or strength training routine every time I had something that hurt I probably wouldn’t get too many workouts in, so I am going to suggest there are ways to work around these nagging pains you might be experiencing.

Let’s take my yoga practice, something I really love doing, but there are times when I need to be smart about what poses I undertake when nursing one of those minor injuries. Recently I had what appeared to be some form of a pulled muscle around the rib cage, so one of the poses I do is APANASANA Knee to Chest with a supine twist which is where one leg is bent and essentially goes over the other leg that is straight (see picture below) had to be temporarily eliminated. As you know there are a number of asanas where twisting around the spine is par for the course, so I also stopped doing things like MARICHYASANA III Seated Twist (below). About a week later the pain around the rib cage subsided and I was able to resume those poses that caused the most pain, while still maintaining my practice.

Apanasana supine twist

APANASANA Knee to Chest Post (supine twist)

marichyasana III

MARICHYASANA III

I’m not advocating you eliminate all asanas where you feel a bit of pain, just those where you know you are making the injury worse and probably compromising a speedy recovery. I don’t care if you are 20 or 60 you will encounter muscle strain and pulls from time to time, or if you are like me you will always have some nagging pain to deal with, but don’t let that stop you from maintaining your practice. Be smart and work around those injuries, and get what you can out of your yoga practice; remember you can modify many of the poses to work around that injury. So when I was dealing with the pain around my rib cage I opted to do a simple APANASANA bringing the knee to the chest without the supine twist until I had healed my body. Look for those opportunities to make modifications or temporarily eliminate certain asanas, but don’t stop practicing.

Namaste

More……..Yoga

ashtanga yoga

More…………………….Yoga!

Fortunately I have been able to stick with my yoga practice in the Ashtanga tradition of six days a week.  I was doing this at night but during the last two weeks have switched to mornings so that I could resume my strength training in the evenings. After somewhat mastering some pretty fundamental asanas I have added the Ashtanga version of the Sun Salutation to the beginning of my practice. The Sun Salutation is done 5 times, and then I move on to standing and balancing poses, then to supine and floor poses. The whole routine/practice looks something like this:

Sun Salutation

Sun Salutation repeat 5 times

  • Standing Pose (Mountain pose with feet together)
  • Standing Pose (hands together above head)
  • Standing forward bend
  • Standing forward preparing for staff pose
  • Chaturanga Dandasana – Plank
  • Upward facing dog (cobra)
  • Downward facing dog
  • Standing forward preparing for staff pose
  • Standing forward bend
  • Standing Pose (hands together above head)
  • Standing Pose (Mountain pose with feet together)

Standing & Balancing Poses

  • Half Moon Pose
  • Chair Pose
  • Triangle Pose
  • Warrior 2 Pose
  • Side Angle Pose
  • Standing Knee to Chest (or knee back)
  • Tree Pose

Supine & Seated Poses

  • Two Legged Platform
  • Knee to Chest Pose
  • Bridge Pose
  • Both Knees to Chest Pose
  • Supine Leg Stretch (leg up with strap)
  • The Sunbird Cat Stretch
  • Child’s Pose
  • Hero Pose (knees bent sitting on legs)
  • Easy Seated Pose
  • Butterfly (feet together)
  • Staff Pose
  • Head to Knee Pose (use strap, hurdlers stretch)
  • Seated Twist

I like to follow up the yoga practice with 5 – 10 minutes of meditation, which helps me prepare the for the day ahead, which is one of the reasons I switched to doing yoga in the morning as yoga and meditation seem to work so well together. I’m a long ways from moving into the Primary Series asanas as I am still mastering the Sun Salutation and other fundamental poses mentioned above, but everyone needs to start somewhere. The results so far have been outstanding as I am gaining flexibility, my back is feeling better, and am starting to become a bit calmer. I would love to hear about your yoga journey and follow your blogging related to this topic.

Namaste

Observations of switching to a full body routine

full body routine

Now I have always been an advocate of using split routines for strength training so that I could keep my workouts short and focus on limited muscle groups.  I also kind of dreaded trying to work my whole body in a single workout, so maybe there was a bit of laziness on my part.  A couple months ago I began to study yoga and started practicing 6 days a week in the evenings when I would normally do my weight training.  Now I wasn’t about to give up weight (strength) training so I consolidated my routines into a single day that would accommodate my yoga practice on the other 6 days a week.  I thought that I was going to lose strength and conditioning as I did need to trim some exercises and sets out of my strength training program to fit everything in to one session and not kill myself.  In reality the loss of strength or conditioning has not occurred, so I am going to hypothesize that there are several reasons including:

  1. The yoga is actually helping me retain my strength.  If you have ever performed yoga poses you know that they take a great deal of strength, so not only are you taking the opportunity to stretch but you are also using your muscles to balance and hold poses.
  2. It turns out that even though I had to cut out some sets to fit everything into a single strength training session, the fact that I was using supporting muscle groups going from chest to triceps, to biceps and shoulders, to legs and to back.  When I was doing a split routine I would work a muscle group and that was it, with a full body routine that same muscle group gets utilized just minutes later to support the focus on another.  For example after working out my shoulders, I would later do some back work which would again engage my shoulders in a supporting role.
  3. It turns out that at my age I might not need to torch my muscles with weights multiple times in the same week.  So my recovery period is longer and this might actually work to my advantage.
  4. One last thing, when you know you are only going to lift weights once during the week you make sure it counts, and you are less likely to miss a workout.  When I was doing a split routine I would occasionally slack off and just skip a day and my schedule would begin to slide.

I’m not advocating that you drop you split routine, and for myself I would have stayed the course if it were not for the demands of my yoga practice, but to my surprise the full body routine has its advantages.  Maybe another epiphany here is that you don’t have to give up weight training because you love yoga or Pilates or running or some other form of training.  You can find a way to adjust your schedule and still get the benefits that these multiple disciplines provide.

dumbells on a rack

Namaste

More Yoga Really?

kino-crescent-lunge

As I may have mentioned in a previous post I have hopped, jumped, thrown myself on the yoga bandwagon, and thought I would give you a few reasons why.  I started reading “The Power of Ashtanga Yoga: Developing a Practice That Will Bring You Strength, Flexibility, and Inner Peace” by Kino MacGregor someone who studied under Jois the person who devoted his life to teaching Ashtanga yoga.  One thing Kino talks about in the book is the importance of regular practice, meaning 6 days a week.  The reason being is that if you attend a yoga class, and maybe practice yourself another day in the week you will not progress.  I’m not saying you will not benefit from practicing two days a week, but you probably will not increase your flexibility or really gain the peace of mind that comes with daily practice.

Last week I performed my yoga practice of about 30 asana’s six days in a row, and it was amazing how my hamstrings and back are beginning to show signs of increased flexibility.  This is actually becoming very addictive as I am practicing at night after work, and look forward to it all day.  Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t practice yoga one, two, or three days a week; if nothing else it is a wonderful form of exercise.  I think the reason Kino advocates 6 days a week is that the body needs more frequent exposure to the poses before it begins to transform the muscles and tendons to allow you a greater range of motion.  As for myself I am still working on some pretty basic poses in preparation for embarking on the Ashtanga primary series expounded upon in the “The Power of Ashtanga Yoga: Developing a Practice That Will Bring You Strength, Flexibility, and Inner Peace”, but we all have to start somewhere.

Yoga

Well my journey continues, and in a couple of weeks I will embark on the Ashtanga primary series, and give you and update.  I would recommend if you want to learn more about Ashtanga yoga that you read Kino MacGregor’s book, it is extremely well written and easy to understand.  The book is only $14.95 at Amazon and is 240 pages with great photography of Kino performing the poses.

The Power of Ashtanga Yoga: Developing a Practice That Will Bring You Strength, Flexibility, and Inner Peace

Some other good sources for learning more about yoga include:

Yoga Basics – lots of great information, how to, meditation, etc.

Yoga.com – very cool stories and videos

Yoga Journal – probably the most popular yoga magazine

 

Namaste

Definition of Namaste: In Sanskrit the word is namah + te = namaste which means “I bow to you” – my greetings, salutations or prostration to you. The word ‘namaha’ can also be literally interpreted as “na ma” (not mine). It has a spiritual significance of negating or reducing one’s ego in the presence of another.

Ashtanga Yoga

As promised I wanted to spend a little time writing about Ashtanga Yoga.  Ashtanga Yoga most often refers to the system taught by Indian yoga master K. Pattabhi Jois, and is sometimes called Ashtanga vinyasa yoga.  

8LimbsTree-300x283

Ashtanga yoga literally means “eight-limbed yoga,” as outlined by the sage Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. According to Patanjali, the path of internal purification for revealing the Universal Self consists of the following eight spiritual practices:

Yama [moral codes]
Niyama [self-purification and study]
Asana [posture]
Pranayama [breath control]
Pratyahara [conscious withdrawal of energy from the senses]
Dharana [concentration]
Dhyana [meditation]
Samadhi [enlightenment]

Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is different from many yoga classes in the west in that the order of asanas is completely predefined. A practice will comprise four main parts:

  • an “opening sequence” Sun salutations
  • one of the six main “series”
  • a back-bending sequence
  • a set of inverted asanas, referred to as the “finishing sequence”

This type of yoga is not trivial and can have 75 or more asanas taking 1  to 2 hours to complete.  The main series actually has 6 different levels if you will from:

  • Primary series is called Yoga Chikitsa
  • Intermediate or second series is called Nadi Shodana
  • four advanced series are called Sthira Bhaga

Those performing Ashtanga yoga are encouraged to practice 6 days a week, preferably in the morning, and to take rest on Saturdays as well as the days of the full and new moon (commonly referred to as moon days by ashtanga practitioners).  This form of yoga is very athletic and challenging so be prepared to work hard to complete your sessions.  You will not only build flexibility but also strength, which are a couple of reasons why Ashtanga yoga is so popular.

This is by no means a comprehensive explanation of Ashtanga yoga, and I would encourage you to do some additional research.  What I determined is that this is not appropriate for those of you who have very limited time to devote to a yoga practice, but at the same time it can be done by a novice and is something that you can grow into because it does have different levels.  Probably the best way to get started is to seek out a yoga studio that teaches Ashtanga and talk to a teacher, and you can also check out books or DVD’s at Amazon who seem to have a pretty extensive offering to choose from.

A quick update, I just purchased this book from Amazon because it addressed the Primary series and because it was rated so high.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Power-Ashtanga-Yoga-Peace–Includes/dp/1611800056/

Namaste

Yoga Sunset