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Going to a Normal Gym as Someone Who Has Never Gone to the Gym Before

Our member Steph shares her experience of going to a “normal gym” after attending our Strength Circuit sessions. Thank you, Steph!

Never would I have imagined that I would willingly, and with enjoyment, be going to a local gym before joining the co-operative gym! I think that is such an amazing thing. Everything you get from going to the co-op gym is so transferable – it’s a gateway to all sorts of things you could do with your body that you didn’t know yet.

I think the main barrier I had about going to the gym regularly by myself was a lack of knowledge and motivation. Going to regular gyms often means (though not necessarily) trying to ignore certain elements of macho bullshit which a gym space seems to fuel. Going to the co-op gym means that you learn technique in a really nice, supportive and unpatronising way. Also, the sharing and teaching of your fellow lifters means that you learn certain cues like ‘spread your toes’ even better. And knowledge equals power! I kind of imagine this a little bit like becoming my own coach – though it’s good to check with others on technique!

The kind of coaches you might come across regularly can seem intimidating… There is a whole load of language to learn. There are people who spew it at you like you’re an idiot for not knowing. There are people who actually use “come on you girl” as an insult. Trying to deadlift after hearing that is hard! Trying to ignore the screaming in your head is hard! I don’t want my gym session to instead turn into righting the wrongs of gross people. I want to lift!

What I am practicing at the moment is overcoming that and concentrating on what I would like to learn and get better at, and I am enjoying practicing this before starting work in the morning. This is where knowing the technique comes in. Knowing what to focus on simply means you focus on it. Learning the technique means you know what you alone are doing, and you can get on with it. Nevermind that you are the only woman in the room, nevermind that – omg why are they counting out loud, you are throwing me off pal! But then there are nice things, like noticing other little exercises people are doing, or noticing when someone is on the same ‘push’ and ‘deadlift’ day as you!

A little trick I have when walking into the weight room, maybe a little intimidated trying to find a spot in a busy room, is to put my shoulders back and pretend I am a man and deserve to take up space. But politely! Hey, if going to the gym teaches you anything it’s where to put your shoulders, so you might as well use it.

I guess what I am really trying to say is that knowing how to do stuff is empowering and so is feeling strong, so hurrah to the co-op gym for giving us that!

If You Can’t Sit Less, Sit Differently

In the UK, adults of working age sit down for an average of 9.5 hours each day. As we get older, this increases (source). We’ve all heard how sitting down is terribly bad for us, but what can we really do about that? Most of us are employed in ways that involve being sedentary and wouldn’t be willing or able to quit our jobs just so we can sit less. Read more…

Understanding Programming: Volume, Intensity & Stress

One of the programmes we use for our Strength Circuit

Working out alone vs. working out with others

When I became part of the BCG I had previously spent a few years working out by myself in commercial gyms. I’m not going to spend too much energy on dissecting just how horrible those kinds of spaces can be, but that was a secondary consideration at the time; I was training by myself purposefully, and with the intention of interacting with others as little as possible. I wanted to get in there, lift, and get out.

Training for me was, and still is, the primary way I combat my depression and anxiety. Getting under a heavy barbell, squatting it and trying to stand up again, takes pretty much 100% concentration, otherwise you end up squished. This level of concentration is incredibly calming. A lot of the constant mental ‘noise’ that I experience goes away, and stays away, at least for a short time. So the point of training for me was also to reach that point of intense focus. Suffice it to say this is not a very sociable state to be in. Read more…

Getting Stronger with Bristol Women Climbers

Bouldering at TCA

I have always been the first one up a tree whenever I spotted a good one to climb, or the concerning adult crashing kids playgrounds in order to use the climbing wall – and yet it took me to the age of 24 to actually make it to a climbing center. The only reason I did that was through the Bristol Women Climbers group, organised by Lorna Cooper. Read more…

From a Mile to an Ultramarathon on Bristol Footpaths

A lush old track in Dyrham

After I wrote the post about running, a few people said they like the idea of using routes that are less urban, so I thought I’d share this spreadsheet that I made. Read more…

In Praise of Not Specialising (and Lara Croft)

Warming up for a Strength Circuit

Specificity

One of the first things you are taught as a coach is the principle of specificity. This is usually summed up as “Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand” (the SAID principle), meaning that the body adapts to the specific demands placed upon it.

The researcher Chris Beardsley published a nice series of articles recently about this that are worth reading, if you find this interesting. In one of them, he lists how strength can be specific to:

  • the type of load being used
  • the direction the force is being applied against the load
  • how quickly the force is being applied
  • how many reps are being done
  • the range of motion used
  • the muscle group being tested
  • the type of contraction the muscle is doing (concentric or eccentric)
  • the stability of the surface being tested on

This is because of adaptations to bones, connective tissue and musculature as well as to the way the brain interacts with the muscles. You might hear this all summarised in the phrase “strength is a skill”. In order to get better at doing something, you’ve got to practice it. Read more…

Making Running Alright

This spring I got bored of training. When I first started going to the gym, I’d decided on some particular bodyweight-related amounts that I wanted to be able to deadlift, squat and bench press. Reaching those milestones felt fantastic and I’d assumed that I’d then just try to maintain that level of strength for the rest of my life and that would be that. The problem is that even maintenance of strength takes quite a bit of time, and I noticed myself feeling less interested in doing this because it all felt a bit vague and incomprehensible. I had a sort of existential crisis of, “oh, well this is it now FOREVER”. I know that resistance training is good for me and worth making a life-long habit of but I wasn’t finding it very exciting anymore. Read more…