Category Archives: Strength training

Stretching and strength

Some of you might remember that I had a terrible time late last year with my sacroiliac joint (the joint where the lower back meets the hips). Well, it’s playing up again. It’s threatened a few times over the past twelve months but somehow I’ve managed to stave it off. But not this time.

My sacroiliac joint ligaments are loose. I’ve had all sorts of tests and seen specialists. The results are always the same: a loose sacroiliac joint. The bad news is that it can’t be fixed. The good news is that I can’t make it any worse. I like the good news part.

I aggravated the joint last week when I stepped off a log awkwardly and jarred my back. I have been to the physio and that helped a bit but I know from experience that only two things will make the pain go away: time and core strength.

So today, instead of going out riding, I have spent an hour doing crunches, plank, leg raises, push ups, squats, lunges, stretches and have rolled my calves. It’s been a few months since I did any strength exercises so I’m sure my performance will improve too.

Total: 1 hour strength and flexibility.

C25K Week 2 Day 2 – Tempo

My hip clicks as I start my C25K session. During the walk it’s audible but not painful. My Virgo mind goes a little crazy thinking about what it could be. But I settle my mind and remind myself that this is a normal symptom of the looseness in the ligaments in my SIJ. Once I realise this, I relax and settle into the session, accepting the clicking noise isn’t good but also isn’t a new injury. It’s probably just a sign I actually need to part with some cash to buy an SIJ belt. I don’t hear my hip as I run.

Today’s session was the same as Tuesday’s but I did it on a flat course. I ran on a mix of surfaces including uneven and ungraded 4WD tracks through the grass field, a graded gravel road, a concrete footpath and bitumen roads. I focused on using the new technique my physio is helping me with. It’s based on chi running. I am trying to keep a mid-foot strike, forward lean from the ankles (not bending at the hips) and my feet under me.

After my run I completed part of the Pushups for Pink App program. I’ve still got it set on 5 minutes easy, which is too difficult for me. But I made progress compared with Tuesday’s routine. The program I am currently following include 30 seconds each of:

  • standard push ups (completed full 30 seconds)
  • hands elevated push ups (completed full 30 seconds)
  • feet elevated push ups (completed 15 seconds)
  • wide grip push ups (completed 15 seconds)
  • diamond push ups (completed 10 seconds)
  • knuckle push ups (completed 10 seconds)
  • rotational push ups (completed full 30 seconds)
  • single leg push ups (completed 15 seconds)
  • right elevated push ups (completed 10 seconds)
  • left elevated push ups (completed 10 seconds).

I find push ups tough. I guess it’s probably because I run and cycle more than I use my upper body. The program also includes medium and hard options, and 7.5 and 10 minute durations. I currently just aspire to be able to complete the easy 5 minute routine.

I also completed my pilates exercises. I am really starting to feel a difference in my core strength, despite only doing 3 sets of 6 of each exercise 3 times a week when I’m supposed to do 3 sets of 10 exercises every day. It takes me ages to do my pilates exercises because I have to go slowly to get the form right. The exercises I do are:

  • abs prep
  • pelvic tilt
  • basic back extension
  • clams
  • leg lifts
  • leg slides.

These are all just basic exercises but they are a challenge for me, particularly the pelvic tilt and leg lifts. The great thing about them is that I can just do them in front of the television.

I finished the session the same way as I started: by stretching.

Total: 4.16km run/walk.

C25K Week 2 Day 1 – Hills

Hill running session by Andrew Gills
Hill running session, a photo by Andrew Gills on Flickr.

It’s 29’C at 5:15am and the humidity is climbing. I’m awake and sweating while doing my pilates exercises. I’m getting better at them but am still only doing three sets of six repetitions for each exercise. I figure it’s better to have good form than to do more repetitions. And right now, it’s difficult just getting my form right. I can really notice the lack of stability in my right hip but I can also feel the improvements in my core.

At 6:10am I set off down the road for my Couch-to-5k session. I might as well be swimming I’m so wet except that it’s smelly sweat, not deliciously clean-smelling chlorine. I am up to Week 2 Day 1 and my session is:

  • 5 min brisk walk
  • 20 mins x 90 sec running, 2 mins walking
  • 5 mins brisk walk.

Hills used to be my strength as a junior runner and triathlete but over the past eighteen months they’ve been my weakness. But now that I’m starting from scratch, I am going to address this weakness. I am inspired by Run Nature’s blog and a post she wrote about joining her friend on hill sessions. So Tuesday is hill running day. We have some nasty steep climbs in the bush near my home and I want to be able to run them comfortably. They are not mountains by North American or European standards, but they rise sharply from sea level to about 70m above the sea.

After my C25K session, I came home and did a push-up session using an app I downloaded from Exercise for Pink. I’ve set the app for the easiest level and just five minutes but still I can’t yet complete the whole circuit, which contains nine different pushup exercises. At just five minutes, the session is short but it’s intense. It felt good to do it. I think it would feel great to actually complete it one day.

Total: 5km run/walk, 40 mins pilates, 5 mins push ups

First session of the new year

Sun salutations

Sun salutations

Today is the first day of my journey to running a 100 miler. At this stage, that’s my ultimate running goal. The distance is calling me the way The Landy is called by Everest. I’ve spent the full southern hemisphere spring in rehabilitation mode but since this morning my physio and I have switched to ‘moving forward’ mode.

I have to give Paul Trevethan at Body Leadership Australia a big shout out because he’s been wonderful. From the moment I walked into his clinic he listened to my needs, fears and frustrations. He’s responded to my text messages asking for help and he’s squeezed me in when I’ve urgently needed his healing hands. He’s never told me I couldn’t do anything but has been honest about the areas of my body I need to look after (and he’s never said “I told you so” when I failed to listen).

Tonight I did my stretching routine for the first time since October. I also did two rounds through the Hatha Yoga Sun Salutations. I only did them gently and tentatively but it’s a start. I start yoga classes on Tuesday 18 December and have already told my instructor about my SIJ so she’s going to help me avoid exercises that might flare it up.

I have also done three sets of five exercises each of my pilates exercises: setting my stomach, clams, knee raises, rocking my knees side-to-side and hip raises. My core strength is terrible. But I am practicing these basic moves until I start pilates classes on Monday 17th December with my physio’s wife (also through Body Leadership Australia). The great thing about taking pilates classes with my physio’s wife is that she will know my limitations and core strength needs.

My physio is looking at ordering me a sacroiliac joint brace and has taped me up in the interim. It’s all systems slowly shifting into “go”. I’m being careful not to overdo it and will continue to be guided by both my body and my physio. But it feels good to be making the first step towards my 100 miler goal. A goal that might take a while to reach but one that promises an interesting journey.

Pilates and another walk

I left work at 5pm today because my partner was home after a week of night shift. We’d promised each other an evening walk and I was excited about it all day.

We walked a 3.5km loop through the vacant paddock, down the gravel road between the tall gum trees and back through our pretty neighbourhood. We caught up after being ships passing in the night for a week.

After dinner I did my pilates exercises. This is one of the positive outcomes of my injuries. The physio has given me a series of pilates exercises to help me strengthen my core. Every day I have been doing three sets of ten repeats each of:
– leg slides
– leg lifts
– clams
– wall gluteals
– about prep.

I find the exercises challenging because my abs are weak, something that was probably compounded by the total abdominal hysterectomy I had in 2002. But I am noticing increased abdominal control, which I know will be beneficial when I start running again.

So today’s total is actually 8.5km (this morning’s 5km plus tonight’s 3.5km).

A solid gym session

Image coutesy of idea go /

I never thought I’d like going to the gym to do weights but I have to say I am enjoying it. I feel strong when I pump iron. I don’t lift big weights because I don’t want to get huge but the weights I lift are a suitable size for me right now.

I am not a big fan of stationary aerobic equipment but I am learning that they can be beneficial. For example, I’m sure my road cycling will improve through my use of the stationary bike. The stationary bike encourages me to spin. There are no obstacles, hills or corners to negotiate so I can teach my legs to keep up a higher than usual cadence without complaining. I’ve always been the type of cyclist who pushes big gears and breaks bottom brackets. Perhaps a few months watching the cadence metre on the stationary bike will encourage me to become a cyclist who is able to spin efficiently all day long instead of being the guy who keeps having to stand on the pedals up every little hill and then rest my legs on the way down.

The rowing machine also has good purpose for me. I can use it as an alternative to cycling and swimming to recruit more muscles to the aerobic exercise. It’s not all that exciting sliding back and forward on the spot but I do get a kick out of watching the measurements on the display. There’s an instant gratification to being able to see that I’m rowing at 43 strokes per minute or passing each 500m mark. Also, rowing is a sport I just don’t have the equipment to do out in the real world. Not only do I not have a boat, but even if I did it would quite difficult to get it to the water on my motorbike. I can feel my back and thigh muscles toning as I use them to row.

And, of course, there’s always the guilty pleasure of checking myself out in the mirrors as I lift weights in the free weights room. 😉

Today I started with 10 minutes on the triathlon-style stationary bike, riding at 110-115 RPM and covering 5.4km. I followed this with 10 minutes on the rowing machine, stroking at 43 strokes/minute and covering 2,180m.

I completed 3 sets of 8 repetitions in the weights room:

Exercise Weight
Incline dumbbell bench press 12.5km / dumbbell
Leg curl 45kg
Seated row 35kg
Bent arm pull-over 7.5kg + barbell
Chin up 6 + 4 + 3
Dumbbell bicep curls 10kg / dumbbell
Back ext Body weight
Decline crunch Body weight

I completed my workout with a 5 minute cool-down on the reclining stationary bike, riding at just 90RPM and covering just 2.1km. I usually try to do 10 minutes after my weights workout but I didn’t have time today because I was getting a lift to work.

Total: Weights +

  • 10 mins stationary bike @ 110-115RPM covering equivalent of 5.4km
  • 10 mins rowing machine @ 43 s/m covering equivalent of 2,180m
  • 5 mins reclining stationary bike @ 90RPM covering equivalent of 2.1km.

Bike and gym

Image coutesy of digitalart /

I felt a little bit like the character in this image when I rode my bicycle down to the YMCA this morning. Sure, I was riding a road bicycle, have olive skin and dark hair, and it was drizzling but other than that, this could be a self portrait. I didn’t bother getting dressed up in my cycling kit, preferring to just wear board shorts and t-shirt for the 10.2km ride to the gym.

For the most part, the ride felt good. My legs definitely aren’t used to the pedaling motion anymore after not cycling for a few months while I’ve been focusing on my running. So I felt like I was getting a workout. My left foot did complain a few times but it felt good when I focused on maintaining a consistent spinning motion, rather than jerking my feet around with poor technique. I certainly preferred being out on my bicycle to sitting on the stationary bike.

My gym set was solid today. I’m still working out what weights work best for me so stuck with the same size dumbbell for the dumbbell exercises. I don’t want to jump up too quickly so just went 1kg heavier than last week when I did almost the same series of exercise. Over the coming weeks I will naturally find the correct weights for me for each exercise. I figure I keep increasing them together and some muscle groups will tell me ‘stop’
while others will allow me to continue increasing until they reach their optimum point.

Exercise Weight
Leg extension 25kg
Scissor leg lift Body weight
Dumbbell overhead press 8kg / dumbbell
Push up Body weight
Plank Unable to complete due to foot pain
Dumbbell shrug 8kg / dumbbell
One arm dumbbell row 8kg / dumbbell
Leg curl 35kg
Lat pull down 30kg + 32.5kg
Tricep extension 30kg
Crunches Body weight

I’m feeling good at the gym. I feel like I’m doing the right thing for my body (regardless of whether I am injured or fit).

After my workout I cycled back home. I rode slowly because I don’t want to overdo anything on my shins or foot, and because I want to remember the joy of cycling.

Total: 20.4km bike and weights

It’s fun to play at the YMCA

Image courtesy of chrisroll /

I intended to do a yoga class at my local YMCA today but I misread the class time. It didn’t matter though because I enjoyed the workout I ended up doing.

I started with 10 minutes on the fancy triathlon-inspired stationary bike. I rode fairly hard today, sitting in the 110-115 RPM range for the whole set. The bike computer said I covered the equivalent of 5.25km.

I followed that with 10 minutes on the rowing machine. I haven’t used a rowing machine in years but always like them. I rowed at an average of 40 strokes/minute and covered the equivalent of 1,997m in the 10 minutes. I could cheat and call it an even 2km but I would only be cheating myself.

After my 20 minutes of cardio I had a nice light sweat going. I then did my weights sets. I got most of the workout from the Outdoor Athlete book I’m reading but couldn’t do two exercises. I added back extensions and bicep curls to the program to replace those two exercises. I completed three sets of eight repeats with 90 seconds rest between each. I kept the weights moderately light because it’s the first time I’ve done this routine.

Exercise Weight
Incline dumbbell bench press 10kg / dumbbell
Leg curl 40kg
Seated row 30kg
Bent arm pull-over 7.5kg + barbell
Chin up 5 + 3+ 3
Dumbbell bicep curls 10kg / dumbbell
Back ext Body weight
Decline crunch Body weight

After my weights set I finished my session with 10 minutes on the reclining stationary bike. I rode at an average of 110RPM and the computer said I completed the equivalent of 5.2km.

My foot felt good during the stationary bike sets so perhaps I will try cycling a real bike sometime this weekend to see how it holds up.


  • 10 mins stationary bike
  • 10 mins rowing machine
  • 30 mins weights
  • 10 mins reclining stationary bike.

Getting back up again

Last night I joined a gym for the first time in years. This foot injury seems like a good opportunity for me to work on my strength and flexibility; things I’ve not paid much attention to since I started this whole ‘get fit again’ thing last year.

It felt familiar to walk into the gym this morning to do my first session. I have a book The Outdoor Athlete in which are listed a range of strength programs specifically suited to outdoor athletes, like mountain bikers, hikers, trail runners and mountaineers. The programs are separated into phases from ‘return after absence from gym work’ through to ‘strength and endurance’.

I am starting out with the easiest two routines for the next 2-3 weeks. It will allow me to assess where my muscular strength is at and build on it safely. My goal is not to bulk up but to strengthen my body to help reduce the risk of further injury after the ones I have are healed.

I started my session with 10 minutes on the stationery bike. The gym has some nice triathlon bike inspired machines complete with tri bars and fully adjustable saddles. While it was boring, I was able to settle into a nice 105RPM cadence for the full 10 minutes and didn’t once have to worry about a traffic light or idiot in a car trying to kill me. So there were some benefits.

After my aerobic warm up I hit the weights. I started out light today because my body’s not used to doing repeated strength movements and I don’t know what my limits are. I did 2 sets of 12 reps for each exercise with a 60 second rest between each set.



Barbell back squat


Dumbell overhead press




Dumbell shrug


One-arm dumbbell row


Ball leg curl


Lat pull down


Leg extension

30kg / 20kg

The barbell back squat put a bit too much pressure on my injured foot so I need to find an alternative exercise; I’ll do some online research today.

After pumping iron I returned to the aerobic machines. I started out trying the eliptical machine but it hurt my foot too much so I swapped to the reclining stationery bicycle. I cycled for 10 minutes at 115RPM. I wanted to keep my legs spinning, rather than pushing heavy loads because I’m currently not allowed to cycle uphill due to the strain I put on my calf at the weekend when I aggravated my shin splints. I think the high RPM cycling is probably really good for me though because I got a good sweat up and it will help me increase my cadence both when cycling on the road and when I get back to running.

Total: Weights + 20 minutes stationery bike.

Cross training in the garden

Heavy work = good cross training

After going out for a run with Brisbane Bayside Runners and Walkers this morning, I got stuck back into the garden. I spent 4-5 hours yesterday and 3 hours today working hard in the garden to create a new garden out of what was a weed fest. It is proving to be excellent cross-training.

The weed fest

This is the task that faced me a few weeks ago when I spent two full days pulling out the huge and plentiful weeds, loading them into a ute and taking them all to the rubbish dump.

How it looked yesterday morning

Yesterday morning I decided to start creating the new garden bed that will replace the weedy mess that has grown in the bottom garden. To achieve my goal, I had to dig out all the grass using a mattock and spade. It was backbreaking work in the hot sun. Over the past two days I managed to remove the top layer of earth, including grass and roots for an area 25m (82 feet) long and increasing from 1m (3 feet) to 2.5m (8 feet) wide.

The hill; hard work with a loaded barrow and flat tyre

I had to shift every heavy load of dirt and grass to the front of our block, about 70m from where I dug it up, where we have a low point that needs to be raised. To get it there I had to push the wheel barrow up a short steep hill that climbs 2.5m in height over the space of about 10m (25% grade). To make things even more interesting, my wheel barrow has a flat tyre. Not just a soft tyre but one that is totally flat because it got a nail through it a month ago.

The result

After removing the rubbish, I dug large deep holes for each plant. Our soil is heavy clay so it was hard work digging the one square metre (10 square foot) holes about 2ft deep. I then filled the holes and surrounding garden bed with topsoil. To shift the 1.5 cubic metres (2 cubic yards) of toptopsoil I had to shovel it into the wheelbarrow out of the ute. I then had to push it downhill on the flat tyre. I then planted the shrubs and mulched the area with 1 cubic metre of forest mulch.

I still have another 20m (60ft) x 3m (10ft) to dig out, plant up and mulch. I’m sure it will make great cross training for another day.

The end result will be amazing. We’ve planted native plants that flower and attract bees. This will both prevent the weeds taking over again, create colour and, importantly, entice bees to our garden so they can pollinate our vegetable and fruit trees so that I can fuel my body with high quality home grown organic fuel.

Total: 6.5km club run at unknown pace and 3 hours heavy gardening.