Greetings! As some of you are likely aware, NSW is currently in lockdown. Consequently, gyms are closed. At the start of this year, I got into running (which I wrote about in an earlier Challenge and I still do this religiously. However, I have found myself seeing a physiotherapist because I have not been doing any strength training since gyms closed and it messed me up.
Running is a fantastic workout, I often find myself running 40km a week and it is now the only outing I get to do regularly. What people often don’t realise however, is that the key to improving your running is incorporating strength training. Strength training strengthens your joints; which makes running easier on your body, limits injuries and also makes you faster since you don't have to put in as much effort. Strong legs are obviously important because running uses your legs – crazy, right? Core strength is also integral as your abdominal muscles are what keep you standing up and stabilize you when you run. Long story short; my knees clock out of their shift early when I run whilst my hip and quad muscles are fully out of whack. I have this dream about training for a half marathon which is about 23 km and I need my body to actually work correctly to do that.
For some reason, this lockdown has hit me much harder than last year and I have felt unmotivated, gross and I am struggling with doing university online. As a result, I have decided it's time to create some routines in order to give my life structure.
First, I went and found my mum’s old dumbbell set. Unfortunately, these weights range from 1-5kg which is enough for me to do some endurance upper body exercises, but not enough to actually strengthen my glutes or hamstrings. However, I cannot bring myself to spend hundreds of dollars on heavy weights and can certainly not afford a machine. I was complaining about how hard my life is because my parents will not buy me a home gym set up (first world problems, I know) to my physio, who recommended getting resistance bands instead. I have always associated resistance bands with ‘booty bands’ and exercises promoted by ‘fit-tea’ influencers who claim they will give you that Brazilian Butt lift effect. In these viral videos, they normally do 500 donkey kickbacks, squats and lunges. Because I think that's ridiculous and don’t trust fitstagram, I had overlooked resistance bands as a whole. But let me tell you, they are absolutely a lockdown workout essential. Within two days of getting these bands, they had proven their worth to me. You can get them cheap from Kmart or spend more at Rebel and there is so much variety. I have found them really useful for lower body strength work.
My first week of workouts sucked. I wanted strength but I found it really difficult to motivate myself in the quiet calm environment at home. The area I claimed to exercise in was next to my bedroom, so I often felt the call of my bed and wanted to lie down and watch tiktok instead of doing my squats. After two weeks I felt kind of stupid and didn’t think I was achieving much. I went for my runs and then came back and did my silly little strength routine which reminded me how much I had lost from two months of lockdown. The tape my physio recommended for taping my kneecaps in place was from Chemist Warehouse, so naturally I chose to get the fluoro pink colour to make myself feel better. This made me feel marginally better about my life and state of current affairs. Unfortunately, I am allergic to most adhesives so I was very itchy all the time and now have the world's bumpiest knees. I also tried rainbow tape which was a real game changer and definitely got attention when I was out and about. I didn’t do my physio stretches at one point because the lockdown sads were so intense for me. I definitely did my fair share of moping around being miserable and unwilling to do anything to fix it.
Alas, my physio appointment was now in a week. I get along with her like a house on fire, she is unknowingly, my accountability partner. Solely to avoid disappointing her, I began doing my physio exercises again, putting in the werk!
After that week, there was absolutely a decrease in the amount of knee pain I had when running. When I went to my next physio appointment, she was stunned. My knee caps which are famous for moving around were staying in place, my hip muscles were balanced and my running stride was excellent. It will take about 6 more weeks to fully build up the strength I am looking for, but this was a very exciting milestone and helped me stay motivated. I now no longer have to tape up my knees before running and think I am actually getting faster. Realising the impact these exercises and strengthening had on my legs definitely motivated me to keep going.
I will not lie, I still feel lazy when I do my lil strength thing but I think that the broader setting of living through a pandemic has definitely made me feel pretty hopeless and forcing myself to do things sometimes pays off really nicely. The perk of doing this at home is that I don't have to get dressed, so if I do it in the evening I can just wear my pyjamas which is fantastic for me. Here are the things I have purchased to assist me in becoming the strongest bitch ever.
Yoga block: this is a great thing to hold when squatting and keeps your posture good
Resistance bands: these girls put in the work and add resistance to your workouts
Yoga mat: I am very precious and fragile so need a padded surface to lie on
5kg dumbbells: these are actually pretty good for my pathetic little biceps
Ankle weights: not only do these make hamstring curls harder, but they also mean if you are stretching in a weird position your feet will be more anchored which is nice
My pro gamer move is actually to slow down strength exercises such as bicep and hamstring curls because often the weights are too light to be super effective. By using more control on the movement will make it harder.
My current routine is:
This weird crab walk with a heavy resistance band around my legs which absolutely shreks my abductors and adductors
Planks which I have a love/hate relationship with
Clamshell, which is where you lie on your side with your knees bent and lift one knee up and out idk it's hard to explain
Hamstring curls with the leg weights
Leg extensions, which I do by sitting on a stool, wrapping a resistance band around its legs and then extending my legs out straight
I am aware that my humble set up is not hardcore, or very impressive but I cannot bring myself to invest in something that I won’t use long term. If we are still locked down by Christmas, maybe then it will be time to reconsider that choice.