Up until near the end of August, my cross-training for roller derby mainly involved at-home workouts (using Youtube videos like this one), semi-regular jogs and spin classes. This changed at the end of August when I bit the bullet and finally joined the gym. Yup, you heard right; I’m a regular gym goer for the first time in – quick maths alert – 10 years (!!). Also how dare it be a decade since I was 18.

Although I’d been doing some limited free weight stuff at home using dumbbells, joining the gym has been my first proper taste of weight lifting including using a barbell. Barbells can be big scary things when you’ve never used one – I was certainly intimidated by them, worried that I’d hurt myself or even just look like a clueless gym noob. But I fear the barbell no longer! In fact – I kind of love it.

Lifting heavy* weights has been kind of a revelation to me. I grew up with a lot of bullshit messages about how women and girls should ‘get fit’ that mainly centred on lots of cardio and prancing about with little dumbbells as heavy as tins of beans. While the tide does seem to be turning on this (see: Girls Gone Strong), women are often still advised to work out differently to men. The more I read, the more I find myself siding with the growing movement that says women should lift heavy shit just like men have been advised to for years.

So since the end of August, I’ve been going to the gym twice a week and doing just that. I’m a bit of a cheapskate so I opted for my gym’s ‘super off-peak’ membership, which only allows access from 7am-10am. This means all my gym sessions are pre-work, which I actually really like. Luckily my gym is where I work, so it’s super convenient for me.  Upsides: a feel more awake all day and don’t have to battle the hordes for equipment. Downsides: I have to get up at arse o’clock and am hungry as a freakin’ HORSE all morning. Swings and roundabouts.

I’m still refining my ‘routine’ and haven’t settled on an exact sequence of exercises yet, but there are some things that I tend to do every session:

And these are some things that I mix in:

So, in September a typical workout for me looked like this:

  • 10 minutes on a spinning bike working up a sweat doing intervals (I like to do this to get my blood pumping since my muscles feel so cold first thing in the morning, but I’m not basing this on any particular science!)
  • Deadlifts 3 sets x 8 reps (60 second rest in between sets)
  • Goblet squats 3 sets x 8 reps (60 second rest between sets)
  • Romanian deadlifts 3 sets x 8 reps (60 second rests between sets)
  • Dumbbell shoulder press 3 sets x 8 reps (60 second rest between sets)
  • Glute bridges 3 sets x 15
  • Bicycle crunches 3 sets x 15
  • Push ups x 10 (just!)
  • 60 second plank
  • Stretches (including the stretches demonstrated here)

This is about the amount I can get done in the hour I have to workout. I try to space out gym sessions and derby practices throughout the week; at the start of September training in rookies this meant gym Monday + Wednesday, derby Friday, and towards the end when I moved up to training with the  B team this became Tuesday+ Friday gym, derby Wednesday + Sunday. I’m enjoying the weights so much I’d like to spend a little more time in the gym, buuut I’m also aware that rest days are important for recovery so I’m restraining myself for now.

* When I say ‘heavy’ here, I’m meaning weights that I can do around 8 reps of in a set. The actual amounts I’m lifting at this stage will be peanuts to some people (and maybe even too heavy for a few), but since I’m not in competition with anyone the only personal best I need to beat is my own. In 6 weeks I've managed to add 10kg to my barbell weight which I'm pretty bloody happy about!

Image source: Carlos Varela, Flickr CC

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