As you know I’m a huge fan of working out and found that over the years I’ve really found a love for the gym and strength training (rather than it being an utter chore) . Though now that’s it’s changed a bit with COVID and I’m fully embracing and loving home workouts – something I never thought I’d ever be into. But whether it’s home workouts or the gym you’re into it or wanting to get started on, I thought this post might be helpful for anyone needing some good tips for working out, enjoy!
If you are new to working out, hitting the gym can seem a little daunting. Seeing all the equipment can feel overwhelming, and you may be wondering how even to get started and if you can remember anything from your induction. Well, the good news is that the fact that you are ready to get started and work on your fitness means you have conquered half the battle. Deciding to start working out can have so many benefits throughout your life, even outside the gym. So, if you are ready to get started, here are some of the ways you can get more from your workouts and begin to see the benefits of your hard work sooner:
Know What You Want to Achieve
Everyone has different goals for their fitness. Knowing what you want to achieve from your workouts will make it much easier for you to measure your results and keep your motivation levels high.
For some people, the reason they workout is purely aesthetic; they want to achieve their perfect body image and create a muscular, toned physique by focusing on bulking up certain areas of the body. For other people, the desire to be at an optimum level of fitness and make their bodies as strong as possible drives them. Whether you work out to make your body look a certain way, make it stronger, or improve your mental well-being, knowing why you want to do it will help you see the results and stay on track.
Nourish Your Body
Trying to work out when you have been feasting on junk food all day will make you feel pretty yucky. No matter how much you work out, it cannot completely counteract an unhealthy diet. But, nourishing your body with the correct fuel is sure to make you feel great and to see more benefits from your workout. Eating the correct amount of protein and following a balanced diet will help you to feel at your best while working out and afterwards. Don’t forget that staying hydrated is super important too, so ensure that you replace the fluids you lose.
Supplementing your diet can also help make your workouts easier and your results better by providing the body with the correct fuel it needs to perform at its best. Many people find that creatine powder is beneficial for their workouts as it helps the muscles to produce energy while you are training.
Some days, you may look out of the window, see that it is raining, and decide to stay in bed rather than visit the gym. Everyone has days where their motivation starts to fade, but finding ways to keep yourself as motivated as possible will ensure that you don’t give up on your fitness goals. To stay motivated, it is helpful to find a workout routine that fits easily around your schedule. Having set days when you work out should help keep your motivation levels high and make it easier to visit the gym.
So what is going on then with my running, or lack thereof?
Well, as I said in previous posts, not a whole lot. I haven’t run properly since Chicago – six weeks ago. I’ve attempted to run to see how things feel, like an “up the road jobby” with Alfie or an attempt at parkrun.
The attempts to run were never with any real belief that I would be OK. My knee doesn’t feel right but I wanted an insight into what exactly felt wrong. Does that make sense?
I went to parkrun on Saturday in my running gear but with the very low expectation of finishing. I had my jacket on a nearby branch to fetch when (not if, but very much when) the discomfort would begin.
My knee hasn’t been right since the week before the Chicago marathon when it randomly became swollen the Monday after the Bournemouth Half Marathon, despite having felt nothing wrong with it at the time or after. Since the marathon it’s been very stiff and achy. It also has a rather disconcerting click from time to time.
Seeing my physio helped to a degree but ultimately it remained stubbornly the same. I had tape put on it to see if it was a tracking issue of my kneecap but it didn’t really improve things. I also took time off completely from leg exercises (such as squats and lunges) and cardio.
The stair machine and swimming weren’t really bothering it but I couldn’t say for absolute certain. I mean it felt OK when I did it and afterwards, but who knows really if it was just prolonging the issue? So I stopped. But again, there was no improvement.
So after the recommendation of a sports therapist, I booked an appointment with a knee consultant and went to see what he thought. I did this privately. While I have a huge amount of respect and love for the NHS, I realised I’m not really going to be seen very quickly due to the nature of this injury. It’s a very low level issue compared to what I imagine other people might be suffering who need to be seen more urgently. I acknowledge that I’m very privileged and grateful to be able to take this road and get seen so quickly.
So last week I had my appointment. The outcome of which I knew would be needing to have an MRI. There’s only so much that can be diagnosed from the outside, an MRI would (hopefully) clearly show what was wrong – or at least cross out a bunch of things. I had my MRI on Friday… and now I wait until Thursday for the results.
In the meantime I’ve still been going to the gym. I’m avoiding squats and lunges but I can still work on keeping my glutes strong with hip thrusts, kickbacks, resistance band work etc. As Kyle has now been coming to the gym too I’ve been able to work on my bench press and get to a new PB of 34kg for 5 reps. I’ve never had the confidence to really excel in this area because the fear of dropping the weight on my face has been STRONG.
I’ve added cardio
back into my routine again in the form of the elliptical machine, which doesn’t
cause my knee any issues. I’d like to do the stair machine but because there is
so much knee flexion in it I’m worried it might be hurting it without me realising.
So basically, I’m just tootling along for a bit with no running or major leg
I’m itching to find out what Thursday will bring with the results. Worst case is that I need surgery. My meniscus might be slightly torn (which would explain the disconcerting clicking). Or it could be something else. If it’s surgery I’ll deal with that as it comes.
My plan of action is…well, to get a plan of action. I want to know what I can do and what I shouldn’t do. If they tell me I can’t run for 6 months but I can do X and Y, then you better believe I will be doing that with the focus to come back stronger. I just need to have a goal and a focus. I want to run so badly but equally I know I need to sort this issue out.
I have days where I feel like crying and pounding my fists because it doesn’t seem fair. I work so hard in the gym. I’m not stupid with my training. I eat well and recover properly. Why can’t I run all the miles and marathons like everyone else? But I give myself a little shake (well, in reality Kyle and my parents talk me back to reason) and I focus on the good stuff. Because there’s a lot of that in my life thankfully.
I wanted to write a post about my hamstring tendinopathy experience.
This might be fully pre-empting things but I feel somewhat confident I can write this post and that I’m mostly out of the woods).
The affected area was the top of my hamstring, right below my bum cheek. It wasn’t sharp or stabbing pain, more like a throbbing, dull ache. At the beginning I could feel this while walking, while lying down and especially when sitting. Sometimes I would feel an ache in my lower back and down my hamstring.
Running made it feel uncomfortable so at first I avoided this to let it calm down. Though I saw a very good physio who I heartily recommend (South Physiotherapy), it didn’t really help. I had acupuncture, massages, ultrasound… I still felt the discomfort.
I wanted to write this post because during my hamstring tendinopathy injury I read a lot online which was very negative and without solutions. I realise the spirit of the Internet and forums for health issues is not like a diary whereby people write about their issues, solve them and then go back to update people. When you’re fixed, you don’t go back. You just carry on with life. But I wanted something to put out there that might be helpful to someone like me. I know I’d have found this helpful.
Obviously I’ll preface this saying that I’m not a physio, doctor, coach or any sort of professional who has more than half a brain. I’m merely explaining how I overcame my issue. Whether it’s the full-on correct way or if it’s just something that works for me, I don’t know. But if you can take away anything from this post (if you have this injury) is that there is hope!
Though there appears to be minimal research out there for hamstring tendionopathy, what the two sources above agree is having a three step approach. The first step is to let the hamstring settle a bit. You don’t want to be doing hardcore leg strength workouts and you should probably stop running, especially avoid any sort of speedwork or hills which will aggravate the hamstring directly.
The not running part I was really good at. I stopped running completely for seven weeks. In hindsight, I don’t believe I needed to take this much time off had I not aggravating things further with trying to do too much strengthening and rehab at the gym in the early stages. But I read too much online, got carried away and attacked my hamstring with all manners of strengthening, from hamstring curls, Swiss ball bridges, sledge pushes and glute kickbacks. All of which I felt directly in my top hamstring but believed this was it “working” only to find the next few days it was far more niggly and nothing was improving. I also tried to replace running with using the elliptical machine, but this aggravated things too.
What I should have done at the beginning was focused primarily on isometric exercises. These are when you hold your muscle tightly. Nothing moves, but you’re squeezing the muscle. We’re talking static bridge holds. Eventually once I got past my over-enthusiastic gym endeavours and took a step back and focused on the bridge hold, things got calmer. The niggle was still there, but now it wasn’t getting worse or bugging me all the time and the isometric exercises were providing relief.
So, stage one: only do isometric exercises for the hamstring. The best example of this is literally the bridge hold (with a long lever base so it’s your hamstring working not your glute – so push your feet out further from your bum). Increase how long you can hold. Then when you’re solid with that, move to single leg and push the time on that. You can do this just lying on the floor, or you can do (as well as) putting your feet on a raised platform, like a coffee table.
Avoid at all costs: squats, lunges, glute kickbacks, hamstring curls (lying or sitting) and anything that makes the hamstring feel worse the next day. Tendons are a funny thing – it can take 24 hours before you realise you’ve screwed it up. Try and avoid long periods of sitting; get up and move around frequently. DO NOT STRETCH the hamstring. Don’t be tempted. It won’t feel better, it’ll aggravate it. It is literally the worst thing you can do to it.
Stage two is now where you can do a bit more. I found using the lying hamstring curl machine on the affected leg worked wonders. At first I aimed for high reps low weight but actually what really changed the game for me was low reps higher weight SLOWLY (heavy slow resistance).
What you should aim for is a weight that becomes challenging on the 8th rep. Aim for 8-10 reps. Don’t push through pain though! Pain is NOT a good thing. 3/10 discomfort is your marker. Your hamstring should feel tired afterwards but not painful at the time or later.
This is also when you can start to add a bit of running back in (again, no speedwork or hills though). It will still feel uncomfortable but if you have sharp pain, avoid and go back to stage 1. Mild discomfort that doesn’t get worse and that disappears after 24 hours is OK.
During this stage I
also focused a lot on improving my adductor strength. I wanted the surrounding
muscles to be strong. I used the adductor machine at the gym (that awful
machine that people a few years ago used thinking it would zap inner thigh
fat). I also laid down, put a medicine ball between my knees and gently
straightened my legs out, then drew them back to my chest while all the time
SQUEEZING the ball. This is a killer for the adductors and the core.
I still avoided
squats and lunges but ramped up my glute work with resistance band walking,
clams and heavy hip thrusts. Basically I was gently rehabbing my hamstring
while super-powering everything else.
Running was frustrating (for me and everyone around me who had to hear me moan). It was still uncomfortable. Having a physio “re-align” my hips helped unlock me and changing my trainers definitely helped but it was more of a case of being sensible with when I did the rehab and when I ran. And keeping things easy and short – building up gradually. And trusting the process.
So many times after a run I was lost in my negativity and ready to give it all up. I’m very lucky to have such a patient and loving network of support around me. Even my mum, who’s a big supporter of my running but in general doesn’t care for the details, would ask more questions after every run, worrying for me and wanting things to be better. Kyle of course was a pillar of strength for me during this time.
But gradually things got better. My hamstring would niggle less, become uncomfortable later and later during a run. Afterwards it would feel better. I remember when I ran eight miles and that night I felt my hamstring gently throbbing while I laid in bed and I worried and worried. The isometric exercises helped calm things down and acted as a good pain relief. And taking bigger gaps between each run helped. Then long runs stopped bugging me during the night. My body was healing quicker as it adapted.
Stage three is adding back in things like squats and deadlifts. I’m not quite there yet. I think I could add them back in but with Chicago literally round the corner I want to avoid anything that aggrevates my hamstring.
I’ve ramped my long runs up (two 15 milers under my belt) and feel confident I’m heading in the right direction and not putting my hamstring at risk of regression. Obviously 26.2 miles in a few weeks is really going to test things but my plan is to be sensible. Realistically I am terrified and worried of going back to square one. If this wasn’t Chicago I would have canned it.
Basically my advice for this injury is: it will take time to recover. There is no magic pill, no trainers, no massage technique, no amount of icing or medication, no stretching or foam roll battering that will make everything better.
Rest is also not
best. During my injury I had friends and family, who were enduring my continual
frustrations, saying I should stop everything I was doing. Stop going to the
gym. While I will fully admit that there were a number of weeks I shouldn’t
have gone quite as ham on the rehab as I did and should not have tried to
replicate my running on the elliptical machine, rest would not have solved my
issue either. This injury requires rehab which involves strengthening and
monitoring. Gently getting into a position where you can actually build your
hamstring back up without reaggravating things. It’s a delicate balance.
In terms of cross
training, I found the stair machine to be the best thing. Cycling (including
spin – which was horrendous for it), the rowing machine and the elliptical
machine really didn’t work. But ultimately it’s the strengthening of the
hamstring that is the way forward.
Sorry for such a
waffle but I wanted to write down my findings for this. If this helps just one
other person, then I’m happy.
I really don’t want to jinx things, but it looks like things are definitely getting there with my hamstring.
I obviously need to continue to play things safe and not suddenly be like wheyyyyyy 18 miler booooom. This hamstring injury (hamstring tendinopathy) is one that can easily be triggered again and regress. So I continue to proceed with caution. But *whispers* things are going well.
Daily discomfort is minimal – if it’s even there. Previously when it was at its worst, I’d feel it All. The. Time. I’d feel it walking. I’d feel it lying down. Now it’s rarely ever there. And happily sitting doesn’t trigger it anymore.
Most importantly, running isn’t an awful experience. There were runs at the start (like only a mile or a tester run) where it’d feel so uncomfortable that I’d feel this great stab of fear thinking “I cannot run 26.2 miles like this” and really doubt getting more training done. But now the discomfort is minimal. It’s still there, but every run it gets a bit less.
I ran 12 miles at the weekend and it was a run that gave me great confidence. Yes it did feel uncomfortable towards the end, but not the worst discomfort I’ve felt over this injury.
And the rest of the day it felt fine! Even the next day it felt absolutely fine. My first few runs when I was coming back I’d feel my hamstring discomfort a lot more post-run and that night and the next day, then it would die off again. But now it’s not there anymore.
Running those 12 miles felt like an absolute joy. Listening to a podcast, zoning out, having that time just running for a long time. Yes it was hard (Jesus how did 12 used to feel so easy??) and yes it wasn’t perfect, but it was so much better. I know I’m at that point in the injury lifecycle where it’s going. Every day is better, every run is better.
After speaking with a professional who knows a lot about this injury, he advised upping my hamstring strength routine and planning out my runs in relation to that a bit more sensibly. With the strength I was previously taking the weights very gently on the hamstring curl machine (as to not cause any regressions) and doing about 20 reps at light weight. Now I’ve upped the weight and I do around 10 reps, so it starts to get tough at the last rep. And he gave me a few more exercises to incorporate which focus primarily on my hamstring.
Previously I was very much focused on my glutes. But now I’m focusing on my hamstring (I still work my glutes and the surrounding muscles but the focus of my rehab is most definitely the hamstring now).
Just to be clear though, if you’re suffering from this issue too, you need to have a gentle and gradual build-up. It’s taken me many weeks to get to this point and it was only after talking to this specialist and him checking my strength and mobility that I was given the all clear to fully work the hamstring harder. The first few weeks of this injury you wouldn’t necessarilly do that.
I also asked if he
thought me doing Chicago was sensible or if I’d do myself any long term damage.
He said as long as I didn’t regress or get worse, Chicago would be fine. This
is EXACTLY what I needed to hear. Someone who knows their stuff giving me solid
advice. My mind is so much calmer now.
So going forward I’m
running three times a week, one of those being a long run. Though realistically
I won’t be going that long… probably 16 miles top. And between that I have set
hamstring easy and hard days. So far so good! My hamstring is responding well.
It’s getting stronger. The discomfort is getting less.
The thing about this injury is that you have to be patient, be sensible and not neglect rehab. It won’t get better on its own with rest. You have to push it and strengthen it. But it’s a very fine balance of not pushing it too hard and knowing when to back off. I think the past 15 or so weeks have evidently shown this for me! I’m going to do a more thorough post later on how I combatted this (though I don’t want to speak too soon because this could all fall down again!!).
I’ve read a lot of forums and I just want to put something positive into the Internet about this injury because so much of it was doom and gloom and never feeling normal again. I’m not quite back to normal, but eventually (all things being well and me not being an idiot) I hope to provide a bit of positivity from what I’ve learnt and experienced. (TOUCH WOOD!!)
Have you ever had a long-term injury?
Do you do regular strength work to keep an injury at bay?
So life is pretty good right now. I feel in a very happy place.
My job is something which I’m really pleased about. I look forward to going each day and the challenges I’m given. Now that I’m fully in the grind, as it were, I feel confident and happy. Of course I still have days when i haven’t a clue what I’m doing but everyone is always so helpful and friendly that I never feel stupid. It’s been so long since I’ve felt excited about my career and I hope this continues. Of course it’s nice to work in an industry I’m passionate about as well but it’s not just that. sure the subjects I deal with are to do with cycling and running etc. but the tasks I do could be applied to any ecommerce and digital marketing industry.
And speaking of good stuff at work…As I do a lot of running and people at work know this (I tend to do a lunch time run – runch if you will – twice a week) I occasionally get some freebies to try. Recently I was given some adidas Ultra Boost X’s to test out. I can’t quite work out my feelings about them though.
Walking around in them felt very odd and not particularly comfortable as they were quite tight fitting across the tops and heels of my feet. But when running they felt great. Very bouncy and soft, and like they propel you forward. I love the colour of them and the knit look as well. Very in Vogue (like I know what’s in fashion, ha).
Along with testing the trainers I was filmed with two other girls from Wiggle not only running in the shoes but also answering questions about how I found them. I’m sure I turned into a bumbling blithering idiot on camera but it was a fun thing to do at work.
I was also given a pair of adidas shorts. I love these! They’re great to run in – crucially they rarely ride up and they’re my favourite style. I so much prefer shorts to run in than leggings! Which is funny because we all know how big a leggings fan I am in other areas of life 😉
Speaking of running then… My runs continue to be doing OK. I had a nice social nine miles with Mike last week after work and thoroughly enjoyed it. Mike and I used to do these Thursday night runs all the time and now the evenings are lighter I think we’ll be doing them more. They’re nice easier paced runs where we chew the fat and catch up while getting a slightly longer run in – usually 7-9 miles. I hope to do some more of these 🙂
I also did a good progression tempo run on Tuesday. I started around 8min/miles and got down to 7:08min/miles. It was quite windy so I didn’t manage a royal flush negative split but I felt strong and smooth running. I don’t want to do any crazy speed work right now because I’m still paranoid about injury and don’t want to risk the Brighton Marathon. But I feel like my running is naturally just getting stronger. As I always though, fingers crossed. It did feel good though sailing along at some speed rather than questioning every footstep and wondering if the niggle was still there.
My gym visits are also going well. I still go around three to four times a week and I’m honestly still loving it. It’s part of my morning routine and gets me going for the day. My routine is usually two strength circuit workouts, one legs/glutes day and one back day. One circuit workout is usually focused on upper body and the other on legs and glutes again. An example for upper body is something like this:
Rowing machine (3mins)
20x press ups
12-15 overhead presses (depends on weight for no. of reps)
12-15 upright rows (again, weight dependent)
15-20 front raises
20x Russian wists
Plank (1 min)
Lower body circuit goes something like this:
Rowing (3 mins)
15-20 hip thrusts (15w/ barbell, 20w/ resistance band only)
20x kettlebell swings
20x squat jumps
Walking lunges (1 min)
Wall sit (1 min)
20x leg raises
I like the circuit workouts as they’re quite go, go, go and keep my heart rate raised while working my muscles. It keeps me entertained! But I still enjoy the pure strength stuff too. It’s just a balance. I try and plan what I’m going to do at the gym the night before. That way I don’t turn up to the gym without a clue and walk round aimlessly. Plus at that time in the morning the less thinking I’m required to do the better!
My only annoyance with the gym was the fact that there was no hot water there on Monday. It was BALTIC. It was lucky I didn’t have the wash my hair and so basically just stood next to the stream of ice water and splashed myself in an attempt to wash.
Luckily it was pretty much back to working the next day when I did need to wash my hair. I’m not sure I could have taken the brain freeze otherwise. This is what you get when you pay £18 a month eh! But I love how conveniently my gym is located and the fact that it’s open 24/7. I’d happily have a cold shower no and again for that sort of accessibility and cost.
So yes, life is good. Things are going well. Happy days indeed.
Do you go to the gym?
Do you like to do more cardio or strength workouts at the gym?