When strength training became part of my life two years ago, and I mean really a part of my life -
like having that 3 pm caffeine hit even if it’s made by a bad barista – I needed to figure out how to incorporate it into vacation time or work travel. Sure, these are often times where I can’t go all out and am purposefully taking extra time to do things that don’t get daily (or even weekly) attention. But my muscles don’t know that and still crave attention, like toddlers who call out for love and care.
my muscles don’t know that and still crave attention
This weekend, I was at a writer’s conference. And all the spare time was used for, well, writing, talking about writing, and then more writing. But my body is not used to sitting still that much all day. I’m a teacher who is on her feet chasing 9-year-olds. I swim 3-5 hours a week. I run and row for another hour. And strength or core training is almost daily in one form or another – be it for 15 minutes or 90 minutes. I needed to get at least one good, solid workout in. (And the 2 inches of snow in Upstate New York wasn’t exactly conducive to a couple quick runs…)
Most conference centers have well-equipped fitness rooms but this weekend, I came face to face with one that posed a challenge. I entered a basement room with the sign reading “Fitness and Games.” Behind a pool table and up against the wall, I found a disorganized bunch of dumbbells thrown to the ground next to a slowly deflating Pilates ball – all squeezed in next to a ping pong table. There was barely room to even do a side lunge. This was one fitness desert.
But then I got excited! It’s an opportunity. I can work with this, somehow, I thought. Life is testing me to be my own trainer today. Then, on closer inspection, I saw that some key weights did not even come in pairs. There was a pair of 5s, a pair of 10s. No 12s. No 15s. A single 20. A single 25. A Pair of 35s. And so on. You get the gist.
This obstacle could have been a final excuse to walk away, to dampen my open-minded eagerness. But there is a wonderful quote from BKS Iyengar, lauded leader of Western yoga practice and pedagogy, that goes like this: “Sometimes the body says, ‘yes’ and the mind says, ‘Excuse me today.’ Sometimes the mind says, ‘Yes,’ and the body says, ‘Excuse Me.’ I always say, “Let us go ahead.’”
In this room, it seemed like the weights were saying “Excuse us today!” So, I said, “Let’s go ahead.”
How to organize a workout while your space is disorganized.
I’d have to be truly intentional with the exercises I chose, given my materials. I pulled from routines I’ve followed with my coach, took ideas I got from a couple articles I read this week, and used a fitness app I had handy where I could record my activity.
Here’s what I did. First, I lined up the dumbbells so I could see exactly what was there and then I thought about exercises I could manage in a narrow, long space. And I pulled out a yoga mat to keep nearby for active rest and stretching.
- Warm up with Inch Worm to Plank and Push Up (8 times)
- Warm up Bent Over Rows (2x10 reps) with the 10s
- Heavy Single Arm Rows (3x 4-6 reps) with the one 25 on hand
- Active rest with ab crunches and table top legs
- Renegade Rows (3x 10 reps) with the one 20 on hand
- 30 seconds rest in between
- Warm Up Dumbbell Over Head Press (2x10) with 10 pounds
- 15 seconds rest in between
- Dumbbell Over head Press Set (3 x 12-15 reps) and here’s where it got more creative. I held the 5 pound weight and 10 pound weight together. It added an extra challenge
- Active rest – single leg planks (8-10 for each leg)
- Farmer Carries (4x down the hall and back!). I used the 35s for these. But I could have gone 40.
- mountain climber to pikes
- oblique mountain climbers
- mountain climbers
this conference weekend was the ultimate test of that.
I used to think I should take a break when I’m away – like 100%. And this conference weekend was the ultimate test of that. But now I realize, that’s not necessary and it’s no fun. With fitness always in my life, I actually look forward to finding out how I’ll incorporate it away from the gym. It’s a time to be creative. And instead of making something out of nothing, it’s really about discovering what’ll work best with the options I find before me.