Friday, February 21, 2014

My 2013 Fitness Failure

I've posted a handful of times here about fitness and strength, but I've been mum on the subject for a while.

Here's why: 2013 was an awful year for me in terms of working out.

A lot of it was bad luck. I suffered a series of minor injuries (for the record, none of them were caused by using weights). These were spread evenly throughout the year in such a way as to make it very difficult for me to stay on a workout program.

The culmination of this was my fall with Steen. I had just gotten settled into a really great kettlebell program and was seeing some great gains and feeling excited. And then Steen had his totally inexplicable fall while we were cantering, which left me with a rib injury that is still nowhere close to healed.

My 2013 workout goals were pretty big. I wanted to complete the ROP with the 35lb kettlebell. I also wanted to do multiple consecutive pull-ups.

This didn't happen. It didn't even come close to happening. A year ago, I could press the 35lb bell multiple times on each side and manage one pull-up at a time. Right now I am not convinced I could press the 35lb bell even once. And a pull-up is totally out of the question.

Since falling with Steen, I've been doing a lot of lying around. It would seem I have costochondritis, which is a major bummer because healing time is six months to a year. In some cases it can be chronic. I've been on a cycle where I rest and rest and rest and see a slight improvement in the pain. Then I do one little thing and and all the progress disappears.

Things are better than they were. I can sit in my desk chair for a few hours at a time. Horseback riding causes only a minimal flare up. But I'm really getting sick of sitting around doing nothing. So on Monday I started a kettlebell program (tailor-made for me by my personal-trainer/husband) that is arranged to help me get a workout with minimum aggravation to the inflamed tissue in my ribs. What I'm doing is squats, swings, and get-ups. With the squats, I rack a weight and hold it on my left side. With the swings, I hold the bell in my left hand. With the get-ups, I only do them on the side that doesn't strain my sore ribs. I'm doing all of this with either a single 26lb bell, or no weight at all, depending on the exercise and how I'm feeling.

So, it's a lopsided workout. But it's way better than no workout at all.

My fitness goals for 2014 are, by necessity, rather modest. I want to get healed, and get my basic strength back up to a reasonable level. If I could complete to ROP with the 26lb bell again, that would great.

Also, I have decided referring to my weights by number isn't very fun or inspiring. Meet my bells:

This is my set of 26s, Phil (right) and Paul (left). They are named after the duo of announcers that commentate on many international cycling events. When I'm not injured, I use Phil and Paul for squats (one in each hand), clean and presses (one in each hand), one-handed swings (one at a time), carries (one in each hand), and get-ups (one at a time). I am ridiculously fond of these two little hunks of metal.

Then we have Boris (right) and Natasha (left). I use Natasha for swings and squats, and sometimes pressing. If I ever progress to doing the ROP with a heavier bell, she will be my constant companion throughout that process. Boris mostly belongs to Brian, but I do swing him sometimes.

We also have Vladimir, the 70, and a random selection of other as yet unnamed, heavier weights. I will occasionally use them for weighted carries and swings, but they are mostly Brian's team.

What 2013 Taught Me

A few years ago, I thought of fitness as linear. I thought you'd just get stronger and stronger as you kept working out. I also thought of horse training in a similar way. The more you ride, the better your horse gets, right?

But nothing about life is linear. There will be setbacks, in fitness, in horses, in life. The important thing is to stay flexible, stay focused, and always have a goal. Even if it's a modest one.


  1. That last section pretty much sums up the last few years for me. I've had to readjust my goals and expectations quite a bit. I think modest goals are good sometimes, nothing can just keep growing forever.


    1. Yeah. People are always asking me why I don't hire someone and grow my business. The answer is because I'm happy with it as it is. I think our belief that growth is always good is not a healthy part of our culture. But still, backsliding never feels good. Which is why little goals can sometimes be the key to getting back on track.

    2. Heh, people are always asking me if/when I'll be tenure-tracked or full time, but right now I'm pretty happy where I'm at. Maybe there will be a time where I want the added responsibility, higher pay, and more respect, but for now I like the freedom of being an adjunct.

    3. I know! More time working means less time with horses, and that is not a desirable outcome. Who wants that?

  2. Ow. Ow. Ow. The rib thing sounds so painful, not to mention frustrating. Maybe, if nothing else, working your left side will help you become more ambidextrous?

  3. Yeah, I do think the silver lining will be more strength in my left side. And I'm finally starting to feel like healing is happening at a slightly more consistent pace.


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